The Good Life Spring 2016 by Ami Hillege

600 words 5 min read

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We are emerging from a very wet winter. However, local farmers who have lived in the Otways for years, tell me that this is what a ‘normal’ winter is like. Yes, we love the rain, and let’s face it, we need every drop. But there comes a certain point around mid August when we wish it would cease. Stepping out of the back door and into a pair of work boots requires careful balance and dexterity. The aim is to get clean-socked feet into the boots without touching muddy ground. This is not always a successful maneuver.

 

The pools of water that lie along the driveway don’t get enough time to disperse before more rain falls. There is a constant stream running through the property. The cows squelch deep holes into the mud, leaving the soggy ground pugged and difficult to navigate by foot. We string electric tapes around the zones that are even wetter than the other sodden corners of the farm, in an attempt to keep the compacting cattle hooves off the fragile earth.

 

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And then all of a sudden, everything seems to change overnight. The garden seems to take a deep breath, hold it for a few weeks, and then slowly exhales, breathing new colour and perfume into a monochromatic green landscape. When did those vanilla coloured almond blossoms appear? Didn’t we just prune those apple trees a month ago? And now they are showing the first signs of delicate pink blossoms! The spring bulbs have all started blooming. The irises show off their purple and yellow beards while the self-sewn orange poppies pop up among the soon-to-flower roses. The bees are dancing from one bloom to another, carrying their yellow pollen burdens on fuzzy legs back to their hives.

 

The sounds of spring are strident. The magpie and cockatoo hatchlings create a terrible din, the cockatoo calls much like the cries of human babies. As the young birds feed and grow in their nests, the parents take to the skies in aerial combat to fend off the circling hawks. There is a new lamb next door, and it bleats for it’s mother’s attention.
Now looking around of course I see hours of work ahead. The weeds are on the march, attacking any bare patch of ground. It’s a race to mulch the garden beds before these florae invade them completely. I’ve taken to pulling unwanted grass and weeds out of the ground, then simply letting them lie, roots up, right there where I removed them from the garden bed. They will break down and nourish the soil, at the same time providing a layer of mulch around the garden. Of course more mulch will be added to the beds, but this is for me a way of avoiding numerous trips with a heavy wheelbarrow to the compost pile! You might call me lazy, but I like to think of this shortcut as a sustainable and beneficial method of weed control.

 

The herald of spring also signals a change in our eating pattern. Instead of slow cooked stews and soups, we now snip delicate broad bean shoots from the tips of the plants, toss them in a pan with a couple of scrambled duck eggs and serve up a delicate frittata along with a bowl of baby spinach and rocket. The asparagus spears have started to poke white tips from their patch and we savor their sweetness lightly pan-fried with garlic and herbs. A glass of chilled local white Dinny Goonan Riesling rounds off a perfect farm lunch.

 

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Gosh, we love spring!

Ami

 

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