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Friday, January 4, 2013


I've set a trap and baited it with rhubarb.
It's out by my letter box and so far, I've had two catches. I wasn't sure if the rhubarb would be enough to lure them in, so I added some cranberries and plums and spinach beet as well, in case they preferred leafy vegetables to fruits. I hung about behind the young mountain cabbage trees when I heard their furtive approaches, shuffling and scuffling up the road, as they do. Once they'd stopped to investigate my baits, such things are not usually found on the roadside and looked sufficiently out of place to draw their attention, I pounced. Not literally, I didn't want to startle them into flight. I sprang fuguratively, from my leafy cover, looking as unthreatening as I could, and excecuted the next stage of my capture plan. Chat. I'd netted some neighbours and I didn't want them to get away. For reasons unclear, I'm guessing it's something along the 'familiarity breeds' line, some of my neighbours are shy about visiting my garden. Visitors from afar have no such reticence and I'm often leading troupes of non-Rivertonians around the rambling and uneven paths of my forest-garden, showing off this and that. They seem to know what to look for too, having read about it here, or seen it on the telly when Al Brown or Te Radar visited. Some are a little taken-aback by the raw nature of my garden, others want to set up camp and stay. My neighbours however, view my treed, bushed and vined property with caution and need encouragement to step over the threshold. Thus the reason for the trap. I haven't sprinkled fruits and vegetables alongside of the road of course. I've planted them there; unconventional 'front of house' things, like glossy cranberry bushes and thickly stalked rhubarb, even a medlar that's certain to attract comment and give me a chance to say, come in and have a look at some other interesting things!
And it's working. Two of my street-mates have come in lately for a look around and didn't seem too spooked by the experience and it all began at the letterbox. I recommend the method. Instead of the usual street-side plantings (I see bottlebrush and roses), you might like to try some quirky, nibble-able things that could ignite a conversation about good foods or gardening or something remembered from a long ago childhood.
It'll give the postman something to mull over as well.
Over the road from my letterbox, is the source of what I thought was a Big Problem. There are ducks, maybe a dozen of them, living beside and on a pond that drains into the creek that, after passing under the road in a culvert, runs through my native tree garden, plashing over rocks that shelter native fishes and crawies and generally delight me when I sit beside it, watching the goings-on. But it's silting up. The ducks do as ducks have always done, they dabble and as they do it, silt gets disturbed and flushes down into my duck-free creek. When it gets to my side of the road, it settles, clogging up my riverlets and channels and smothering the previously fish-favourable habitat. And it's laced with guano – duck poop that's far too rich for the natural environment of my shaded stream. I've anguished over this. My neighbours love their ducks and I don't want to grizzle. I dug a deep 'sump' where the water first enters my land. It captures the silt very well, but fills up quickly and needs emptying regularly. I became a chore. It's heavy stuff, wet duck-poo and silt and it began to weigh heavy on my mind. Until one morning, when I was trying to think my way through another problem I have – hungry fruit trees, growing in my sandy, nutrient-deficient town orchard-behind-the-fire-station. Those apples and plums struggle due to the lack of substance in the thin ex-sand dune soils. Should I buy some sacks of horse manure and spread those around each of the 60 trees, I pondered. That'd cost money though, and I'm averse to spending on anything I might get for nothing, and of course, at that point I put two and two together and came up with duck-silt. My two problems were solved; I had food for my fruit trees and motivation to keep emptying the muck out of my creek. Elegant, you might say. I know I did! 

(This article, or something very much like it, was published some months ago in the NZGardener) 

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