The sap is filling up the buds, and out of a stand of the inappropriately named Red Delicious apple trees, will come 25 or so heritage varieties. Most of them are boutique. Some are for cider. All of them have been chosen for their flavour. A couple you might recognise the name of, but not the flavour when eaten straight off the tree. In three years’ time, possums and our abilities willing, the orchard will bear fruit again. Lots of fruit. For about half the year. Apples such as Lady in the Snow. Kingston Black. Vista Bella. Twenty Ounce.
We had an expert in to lend a hand. Tony Hammond used to have 70 acres of orchard, so he’s grafted a tree or two before. And his work was so neat, so considered, and so careful, that every graft has taken, so far as we can see. A handful of buds have been nibbled by possums; the rest are now shooting skyward, turning what could be a graveyard of apple trees into a new beginning. I’m impatient to sample the crop. But if the last year is anything to go by, the next three will whiz by too.
All the new trees we’ve put in the ground are in leaf. A relief to see after the haphazard planting and struggle with wet ground. Underneath the soil lies a seemingly impermeable layer of clay. Cygnet cement they call it. So the holes for the trees, well, some at least, filled up with water as we went to plant. The risk is that the roots will rot. It’s old orchard country, so at least the apple trees should survive. So far, the hazelnuts, the quince, the plums and apricots are all thriving too. Fingers crossed.
The seasons have already swung. First snake sighting. First use of the pump to water the garden. Rats are gobbling the newly planted asparagus buds. Slugs the beans, peas and more. In the ground are corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, more radishes, carrots and lettuce. My favourite lettuce, Drunken Woman, is eating exceptionally well. Not sure if I like it because it always thrives. Because it tastes good. Because the leaves are blousy but not limp. Because of the name.
I’ve been out fishing for the last little while. Actually, there was only one real day on the rod, another few on a Huon Pine ketch getting out to Maria Island and back. I caught plenty of things with gills and fins, but most were gurnard, a tricky fish to fillet; those I was with reckoned it was best thrown back. The perch, the flathead; they made the frypan, along with a single abalone, cooked on a deserted beach.
We try to make use of November’s long days. Already we can use the light to our advantage, with the glow in the sky lingering past 9pm. It means a bit more time outside, but, mostly, it just means we can knock off when we want to, rather than being rushed to get indoors, which is what happens in mid winter.
In the run up to Christmas, there are plenty of projects to keep me busy. Some involve cooking. Some gardening. Some animal husbandry. A few involve new plans and big dreams. And, hopefully, there’s time in there somewhere to put a line out fishing again.