FROM ORCHARDS, FIELDS, AND GARDENS
Written contributions by David Szlasa, Gracia Haby, Gwen Shlichta, Katrina Rodabaugh, Kerstin Svendsen, Laura Olive Sackton, Mary, Kathryn Wyle, Molly Sutton Kiefer, Shakirah Simley, Shari Altman, Tamara Sarina Martínez
Artwork by Abby Powell Thompson, Anna Emilia Laitinen, Annamaria Potamiti, Camilla Engman, Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison, Gwen Shlichta, Heather Smith Jones, Jennifer Hewett, Jill Bliss, Katrina Rodabaugh, Lena Sjöberg, Mati Rose McDonough, Maxwell Holyoke-Hirsch, Mistubako, Nidhi Malhotra, Oona Ratcliffe, Sarah Rubens, Shari Altman, Terese Wallbäck, Yu-I Chan
Edited by Kerstin Svendsen
For Kerstin Svendsen’s From Orchards, Fields, and Gardens: Art and rememberings celebrating sustainable agriculture and good food we made two collaborative collage pieces, A fantastical garden of the mind and They had constructed their own garden from what they had, and Gracia contributed a written piece, Recalled.
The authors remember activities, people, and places that shape(d) their appreciation for small scale food production and processing. Beginner small scale farmers, a young jam making entrepreneur, a scientist, poets, and artists recollect exploring grandparents’ gardens, gleaning walnuts from a walnut orchard, studying honeybee colony collapse disorder, planting garlic, and more.
It is the layout I remember first, the long passageways created. When I think of my grandparents’ garden in St Arnaud, it is a garden laid out in three long rows, allowing you to walk the length of the bed from either side, picking peas or hoeing turnips. A grapevine that ran the length of the three sides framed the garden whole, a neat belt to its green corridors. It may not have been so. It may not have been quite so long. For that you will have my memory to take. I recall it thus; it was thus. Memory is not for the factual reliance when it comes to any book stored in the mind.
There was sun suspended perpetually high above. There were plants taller than my height of five years lived, stretching the length of their wooden stakes, giving all the appearance of puppets pulled from high. Green beans grew and strawberries could be surreptitiously picked by hand. There were no leaves brown or laced with holes. It was an immaculate functioning garden and it belonged to Frank and Thelma. By their hand, it flourished. Cauliflower, carrot, potato and tomato, they were all there, vegetable peel from the kitchen, and tealeaves too, a composting role to play.
Garden and house divided by expanse of concrete, hot underfoot, before tunnel entrance to green growth. Through the garden I roamed (though in truth I expect this was more of a bewildered child’s shuffle), with a Siamese cat in tow. No, it was I following the cat. Ming or Dixie, perhaps both. There was produce I know not the name of, and flowers too, jonquils yellow. Beetroot, pumpkin, silverbeet, rhubarb, cabbage, onion, turnip, and swede (rutabaga), my mum later tells me, all grew. Nothing fancy, everything simple. However, most of all I recall the smell of the tomato plants in late summer. It remains a still favourite scent. I pick a leaf, crush it in my palm, and then hold it to my nose, the aroma freshly trapped. I did this then. I do this now, though perhaps with greater finesse and dexterity.
My grandparents are no longer alive, the house and its magical green garden sold well over twenty years ago now I have only my memories and my mother’s memories to tell me how it was, and photos to correct or in agreement nod with how I imagined it to be. The garden was a world away from my daily existence. It bore no familiar hallmark. It was deliciously alien, and best of all, it was all mine, to be surveyed, discovered for a period largely on my own, a world sans the long legs of adults and their loving cautious gaze fixed in my direction. In truth, they sat on a wooden bench by the backdoor, eyes no doubt upon me, heads locked in conversation, perhaps nursing tea, cups on their laps. Perhaps silent, hands clasped. It was unlike my home by the beach. It was rural and it was not near the ocean. For splashing and floating, there was a local pool, less welcoming to me than sea.
A garden that looked like others in its street, I expect. A garden in a former gold mining town, between Avoca and Donald on the map, well tended and laid out so as to make full use of the sun and his patterns. It provided them their needs. All vegetable, all fruit. It makes me long, at memory of it, for a similar green-earthed patch. To compensate, I have two tomato plants recently planted growing in my own garden. I am hoping for great things from them. One in a basket, the other in a large tub, they are drinking in the sun, the full picture of a life dependent upon it. Undiscovered still by the brush tail possum and caterpillar, their tomato plant fragrance reminds me of being a small child in my grandparents’ garden, the scent of a crushed or squished leaf in palm capable of throwing me back to days past.