February 12 2015
The joy of homecoming, recognition, is immediate, but it takes a while for the buzz of the drive and the city to leave me. I check the chooks. They look to see if I’m carrying the white bucket with their scraps, or even a caterpillar on a kale leaf, but I’m empty-handed and they ignore me. I walk around the garden. Finally, the zucchini have a decent crop and not just flowers and enormous leaves. I find an escapee at the back – it was probably tiny when we left last Saturday but it’s nearly 30 cm long now. The new zucchini – the Christmas present seeds – are already producing ball-shaped fruit, one way past tennis ball size. Should I pick it? The self-sown capsicum – the only sort we seem to be able to grow – has got half a dozen green capsicums. One down the bottom is turning red so I pick that. Tomatoes have started coming up where the beetroot came out, vying with the pepinos for space on the bank, apparently trying to outdo each other for the prize for the plant that spreads the most and produces the least at the moment.

Further along, the Jap pumpkins continue their rush down the hill, but they’re doing the right thing, with a satisfying number of flowers turning into little bulbs of green-striped pumpkins. The strawberries are breaking free of their cage – the one tiny area of order in this chaotic garden, where the strawberry plants are in a row, surrounded by mulch and looking something like a gardening photo – but their runners can’t be contained or rerouted any more and the cage will have to be expanded. The mandarin tree which has struggled for three years, and which we noticed only last week has finally started to thrive, is looking less happy. Some small branches are almost bare of leaves, and other leaves have large chunks taken out of them. Nasty looking caterpillars, orange, brown and white, have invaded. My secateurs are the nearest implement so I chop the ones I can see in half and hope I’ve got them all.

And now, my dinner of zucchini and pasta eaten, the night’s cool air around me, moths the size of small birds battering against the flyscreen, the slow chirrup of frogs and crickets an undecipherable background blur, I’m here.