Down to Earth with a Little Sport
Other adjustments to life down under, such as the Aussie way of speaking, the reverse way that cricket scores are recorded, can be absorbed more easily and more quickly. Lord - or should it be Lord's? - only knows how one for fifty runs has the logic over the English version of fifty for the loss of one wicket. But I’ve given up trying to find out. The Aussies don’t know the answer themselves, and won’t explain.
I love cricket. (I’m writing during the antipodean summer). Test cricket, that runs for a series of five matches, each (potentially) for the duration of five days. You see, I’m old and can occupy myself while the radio broadcast entertains me. It is at its best listened to over the radio with a knowledgeable team of commentators who are objective, sympathetic and witty.
The Aussies are proud cricket supporters, not least because they treat sport, any sport, most seriously, hating to lose any contest, and regard the English as their bête noir par excellence. Cricket, however, is the national sport.TheTest Cricket series between the two nations is known as The Ashes, and takes place not less than once every four years, alternating between each country.
Moreover, cricket has a vocabulary that sets it apart from other sports - it’s quaint, esoteric and poetic. It incorporates words of common usage and transforms them into pictures of such strangeness: an idiosyncratic language that requires absorption and practice from early childhood to fully comprehend. A subject for a future musing.
But I digress.
I’m talking about gardening and the cultivation of plants. Incidentally, sorry to revert to cricket so soon - it does carry with it a gardening metaphor - when the batsman taps down the pitch to even out some unevenness with his bat, he is said to be 'doing some gardening'. Often, it’s regarded by observers as a sign of nervousness as he awaits the first ball by the opposition’s top pace-bowler that might well threaten his skull or, worse still, knock down his off-stump like a skittle.
But I digress again.
This growing season in the southern hemisphere has been my first venture into anything like horticulture. My aim has been to raise all plants from seeds - I am a proud gardener, or none at all. I do not wish to acquire seedlings from a garden centre that have been pre-sown and pampered by hands unknown, potentially accompanied by pests and diseases unknown. Seeds vary in quality but their worth only becomes apparent after germination, when it's too late. So, while I have had some successes, I confess to some failures. I admit to them all. Is that organic gardening?
Like every true gardener, I look to learn from my errors. I need to establish a good soil mix for my plants. I now realise that this takes perhaps a full season before planting. Perth was built on sand dunes, which ensures its soil is easily drained but, as a consequence, does not retain moisture. Water simply runs down, or often runs across the surface of a prepared bed. The local soil acquires an oily component that perhaps serves as an agent to mitigate against evaporation, but at the same time disrupts water absorption. The result is much wasted initial watering as I see the excess run down the footpath, to feed the weeds that will thrust up between the paving bricks.
In my favour, I was aware of the poor soil quality here. My failure was to recognise the extent of that inadequacy. I have applied three-year old compost to my plant beds in the hope of improving soil quality. The compost was home-produced from vegetable and fruit peelings, shredded paper, some grass clippings, crushed egg shells, etc, carefully preserved, turned, ventilated and matured; but it was simply not enough. The local soil is inert. The soil requires no less than 100% additional organic matter to feed plants and to ensure water retention.
I have had some successes in my gardening ventures. For one, I have learnt of the benefit of ‘worm farming’. The local soil is almost devoid of worms, which renders it virtually sterile. I am encouraging my worms, in my worm farm, to increase and to multiply as fast as they can.
More on that in next month’s musing. (A caveat: Perth’s summer temperatures are not worm-friendly. I have a tale to tell of near devastation).
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