Hello Again, Sydney

One Sydney-sider's experiences moving back to Sydney after a long absence overseas.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What we did on our summer holiday

If I told you that one of the highlights of our end-of-year holiday was building a compost heap, you might assume that the trip was a bit of a fizzer. But bear with me - watching grass decompose is a lot more exciting than watching it grow.

We spent Christmas and New Year on what is becoming a yearly pilgrimage to Tasmania. My brother and sister-in-law live on a property about an hour outside of Hobart, and for us city folk, it's a huge gulp of fresh air. At the risk of sounding like a try-hard hippie, you do feel more in touch with the land and the turn of seasons there. This year we noticed the grass was a little bit dryer than last year, and it hadn't been cut or bailed yet. The berry crop was huge (no complaints there) and the cherry farms in the area hadn't started picking yet (major disappointment, obviously).

The house isn't connected to town water so they're really dependent on regular rain. A good shower can mean that they don't have to go out and water the veggie patch and orchard (saving them a couple of hours' work), so dark clouds are welcomed over the horizon. As we sat around chatting at night, I'd find myself getting unnaturally excited by the sound of drops on the roof. "It's raining!" I'd say, probably grinning like a madman.

While we're there we try to help with odd jobs, and this time we joined in building a compost heap. We followed a special "recipe", based on something called bio-dynamics - a theory of farming developed by Rudolf Steiner. You might have heard of Steiner schools - his ideas on education form the basis for those. He's also well known as a philosopher and he even dabbled in economics. "He had his fingers in a few pies, didn't he?" I commented to my brother. "Mate, you haven't got enough pies for all his fingers," was his reply.

As we worked it was a bit like making a lasagne, except with wet grass, hay, dirt, chook poo... ok, ok, it's not sounding much like lasagne, is it? But I'll persevere with the metaphor - we tossed on salt (crushed eggshell), pepper (basalt dust), special herbs (nettle, comfrey) and, finally, a special preparation which my brother keeps in a jar buried at the bottom of the veggie patch. Very secret farmer's business. Here we are congratulating ourselves on our work.

When we finished the heap stood pretty tall, but over the next week it settled down. The day before we left my brother took me over there, stuck a wire into the compost for a minute, then pulled it out and told me to touch it. It was hot! That's the material breaking down. My brother's smile was like the one I had when I was listening to the rain.

On other matters, it's already the second month of 2009, and as you can tell, my New Year's Resolutions didn't include updating this blog more regularly. It does feel that as Sydney becomes the norm for us, and Bogota recedes into memory, I've got less and less to say about the differences between the two places. Never mind. The plan is still to go back eventually, and when I do, this blog should come in handy.