Monday is community garden day. It starts at 9.30am but (and don't tell the others), its still freezing at 9.30 so I go at 10, which is only marginally better! Today we were finishing off weeding and replanting one of the beds in the mandala section. It was a hell of a mess and had been since last year when the unusually high winter rains had flooded this medicinal herb area completely, eventually leaving a sodden, compacted, weed-infested chaos; with not a single herb surviving.
In another area, the rhubarb had been shaded out by extra growth on the fruit trees so it was decided to transplant the dozen or so rhubarb plants into this now weeded slice of the mandala pie. Everyone seemed to love rhubarb and talk was of magnificent rhubarb plots in childhood home gardens, recipes and how best to grow them.
Now, there are many different characters attending this gathering but this little story is about one. You may remember I have mentioned Liz several times before..... in relation to our sailing trips, the Thursday food forest and the kind giver of 2 great armchairs that fill my lounge with comfort. Well, Liz is intelligent, articulate, not afraid to call a spade a spade; often recounting decisions made in meetings, a keen environmental activist and knower of every single person who has ever passed through Cygnet, by water or by land!
This morning I happened to be surveying the happy scene of workers and listening to their chatter about rhubarb, as I arrived with my gardening tools, when suddenly Liz called out "Look, there it is! They didn't drown after all." and hurried off to find a bucket. I looked at where she'd pointed.... to me it appeared she had gone mad and had begun to dig up the path! All I saw was grass, which had been happily minding its own business and making a very nice walking surface between the beds until this minute.
Now, this whole gardening session lasts for a couple of hours and the longer it continued today, the more I was convinced that, in some previous life, Liz had been an enthusiastic horse radish farmer! Her excitement had been cause by minuscule blades of what was impossible, to the untrained eye, to distinguish from the couch grass. Before this mandala was shaped, horse radish had prospered here, but so had grass.... Ever as full of ideas as I am, Liz said to me "You dig up the path and I will save the shoots!" Well, Liz did not stop rescuing shoots and roots and spouting forth with facts about horse radish for 2 hours, nor did her enthusiasm wane, even as the others packed up ready to head off for a cup of coffee.
Finally it was agreed that every single piece of horse radish had been meticulously excised from where it had last been seen 2 years previously, and Liz had formulated plans for selling these rather unpopular plants to every one of the crowds of people she knows, all in the name of making money for the community garden. With a bucket of roots left for the workers to take home to eat, she was reciting recipes and menus even as the last person left the garden, mostly empty-handed. It seems that the average Australian is not as keen on horse radish as one originally from far north Scotland, especially one who, I am sure, must have once been president of the horse radish growers society in a previous life!