Every day in August – and now in early September, I stride back and forth across the paddocks helping to shift electric fences. Each one takes about half an hour so I have had plenty of time to reflect while I get my daily exercise.
These days we’re a well-oiled electric fencing team, my farmer and me. But this wasn’t always the case…
Teaching at Garston School was never boring, and we’ve had a fair few “education adventures” over the years. One of the best was the wonderful week when we brought an old gold mining shanty town to life.
Blue gums line the gravel road that winds past our dusty little farmhouse. Look out to the west. Once you could see for miles, but not any more. Now your gaze stops at the towering gums.
Why are they still there, blocking my view?
Eucalyptus trees, as blue gums are more properly called, are a hardy bunch with more than a few annoying features.
You couldn’t call them pretty trees. Their bark peels like last week’s sunburnt skin littering the lawn with long brown stripes. Branches sprout every which way and their dull green leaves hang limply from every twig.
There’s nothing quite like crunchy, crisp apples straight from the tree. But if you ask your great-granny about her youth, I guarantee she’ll say, “Apples tasted better back then.”
And it’s true!
Since the 20th century we’ve let many old varieties of fruit and vegetables slip quietly into oblivion — and with them have gone taste… aroma…and diversity. Count up how many different apple names you can see on the supermarket shelves. You might see six, but years ago there would have been dozens throughout the country.
It’s both sad and dangerous for the environment that we’ve lost so much plant diversity in the last hundred years. That’s why we treasure the oldest tree on our farm.