Nourishing Hope: Late Winter in My Garden

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For months and months now, I have been sad. It's a feeling of ennui, disengagement and disillusionment compounded by reaching an age I'm struggling to come to terms with, the pandemic, climate change, and any number of things that I'm finding difficult to detach from. But this week, I felt a smidgeon of hope - like a dust mote catching the late afternoon sunlight, a dewdrop on a spider's web or the thin veil of a dragonfly's wing, it was tiny, and fragile. Still, it was hope. I felt it in the garden, listening to birds, and music. It felt like my heart was opening again, after a long winter. I cupped it in my dirty hands and kissed it. Grow, dear hope, I breathed. Send your roots down into the earth. Unfurl your tender shoots and soft leaves. Grow.

As this tender feeling spread throughout my bones and pressed up against my rib cage, I felt energized, revitalised. It's late winter here in Australia and Spring starts in exactly a month's time, on the 1st of September. Our seasons don't really make sense according to a northern calender. I appreciate the first people's seasonal calender: here in this part of the country, there are six seasons, not four. I appreciate the attention to observing the birds, fish, flowers - it is a calender that pays close attention. It's certainly been the season of cockatoos as they screech above the flooding river, and we we've been visited by a group of less common gang gangs, up to 15 of them creaking like rusty shed doors in the cold winter air.


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Wathaurung Seasons

August is usually wet, windy and cold - much like July. We have a minimum of 6, and a maxium of 13, on average, but on a day like today when the sun is out you'd be forgiven for stripping to a tshirt whilst working in the garden. I thumb garlic into the ground to utilise it's strappy leaves in cooking - it's too late for planting more on top of the crop I planted at Easter, which are doing well. Fennel and kohl rabi are forming, but the broccoli isn't heading too well - never mind, I eat the leaves and shoots well enough. Chard, parsley, kale, spring onions, swede and beetroot form part of our garden diet at this time of the year.

In the greenhouse, the miracle of capsicums and chillis continues - I've never successfully overwintered them or eggplant, but under the cover of plastic, they keep ripening. I'm thrilled. Jalapenos in mid winter are orgasmic, a taste sensation that releases endorphins and chases away my blues.

I love how a few scraps become lunch, defying the exact and purposeful ingredients of a recipe book. We eat omelettes because the chickens have begun laying, though they're plopping eggs mid yard as if they haven't quite figured out how to nest in the appropriate boxes. Garnished with harissa, olives and bright calendula flowers, it becomes a gourmet feast.


The narcissus and daffs are cheerily nodding away, telling us Spring is truly in the air, and there are other flowers too - violas and pansies, lavender and calendula. Winter seems shorter this year - that worries me a little, but like many of us, I push it to the back of my mind and concentrate on what joy is in front of me. What else can one do? Floods in Germany, fires in Turkey and Greece - what can a humble gardener do but carry on and keep planting?

Yesterday we took a drive down the coast and up through Apollo Bay to a herb nursery to see what they had - I was delighted to find elecapane and chamomile, which I need to find a space for, and a calendula plant that had originally, along with the chamomile, come as seed from a trip she made to Germany. I liked these origin stories alot, especially since my German grandmother's two herbal allies were always chamomile and calendula. With herbs on my mind, I planted white sage, echinacea, chamomile, mullein and thyme seeds. I'm new to this polytunnel lark, but I thought I'd experiment with starting some summer seeds early. Consensus in our local online Facebook group was that it was a good idea to start them over the next few weeks, so in went a few cold tolerant tomatoes, and some chilli seeds. Despite @minsmallholding's note with the seeds she posted me (purple maui chilli) about getting it in her eyes, I still managed to plant them and then rub my own eyes, resulting in an an hour or so blinking and stinging. Coupled with slipping over in the garage and banging the back of my head so hard I have a golfball sized lump, I thought it might be time to come in and have a bath, and write this reflection - although perhaps not both at the same time.

And that's where I leave you, dear greenthumbs and lotus hearts - don't forget this week is #gardenjournal challenge week, where you have a chance to win up to 30 HIVE for writing your garden journal. Head over to my profile to check out the guidelines, and drop your link there.

With Love,

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