Travels in my Backyard

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Walking through the cane paddocks to visit my grandmother was a daily childhood event. There were many much loved rituals associated with these visits, but the one that leads us to my backyard is about bringing the cows back to the bails every evening.

Occasionally, the cows would be Down the Dusty Road. As we meandered along the middle of the road  Grandma would alert us to points of interest. That rather large furrow like track crossing though the thick bull-dust was where a snake had passed by. What sorts of birds could have made those beautifully outlined prints in the dust canvas? So many birds frequented the wetland on one side of the dusty road.

The local golf course occupied the other side of the  dusty road. The lure of lost golf balls made us forget about snakes as we foraged competitively in the guinea grass, stamping the tall spears aside just as our father fearlessly did.

More often though, the cows would be Up the Hill. We kids would swing on the vines between the trees and jump around on the strangely marked rocks. We searched out wild passion fruit delighting in popping them open. Cherry tomatoes grew wild too and were a special find. We sucked on the bright red baby tomatoes till they burst satisfactorily in our mouths, fabulously warm in the afternoon tropical sun.

Grandma had a distinctive loud C’mon call to alert the cows that their day of wandering the Hill was over.

Many decades on, I am lucky that a piece of this same spot Up the Hill is now my backyard.

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There had to be some clearing leaving a pretty bare canvas on all but the eastern boundary where trees and scrub could be retained. The outlook to the west and parts of the south and north was fabulous.

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As a gardening novice, it was only when I understood the concept of garden “rooms” that I gathered confidence and saw possibilities. Important because it was always going to pretty much be a one woman show.

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Transitioning from the big picture concept to being able to enjoy my outdoor rooms was quite a journey. A cyclone struck in the first wet season. Fallen trees were a loss, no damage done but every remaining tree was stripped of its leaves, covering the entire yard like an amazing green carpet.

Every wet season in those early years, the perils of living at the top of a hill were revealed. Downhill neighbours in several directions scored topsoil, mulch, the odd plant. The temporary blue metal from the top of the driveway went the same way. The challenge was to get the boundaries firmly established and keep the new plantings alive through the Dry season before the Wet came again. It seemed I would never get there.

Not only that, I was contending with the wildlife. Come Spring, such as it is in the tropics, my bush garden becomes an irresistible lure for the mating rituals of the scrub (Brush) turkeys who also call this hill home. The male builds an enormous mound of leaf litter designed to attract as many females as he can. Adding my entire garden mulch to the mix apparently contributes to the allure.

This giant python got a shock when I decided we could not share the same garden. Bigger than the wrangler I called in to relocate it, it went to live in a much larger bush space.

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After many losses and missteps it is taking shape. Being up in the trees, the birds are at eye level adding to the indoor outdoor feel.

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Kookaburras regularly taunt from the nearby trees with their distinctive laughter. Even nicer when they pop in for a visit.

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Up the Hill no longer resembles the untamed scrub of my childhood in the many garden living rooms, but vestiges are retained. When not on world trails far from home, there are plenty of travels to enjoy in the garden.

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