Listening to the Wise Woman’s call: healing for jarrah trees

Listening to the Wise Woman’s call: healing for jarrah trees

Book review of “Shades of Green: finding a middle path through the forest”

I’m sitting in the bush reading “Shades of Green: Finding a middle path through the forest”, the final opus of Chrissy Sharp, co-founder of Balingup’s Golden Valley Tree Park. A friend and I snuck away not long ago to a quiet campsite in the south-west of Western Australia, the very part of the world that Chrissy advocates for in her work. It feels apt to be reading this book here.

 

 

What can we learn from author Chrissy Sharp, who dedicated her life to study, and advocacy for our south west forests?

Interweaving stories from her life and career as an activist and Green’s Member of the WA Parliament, “Shades of Green” walks us through the present state of our jarrah forests, extending from near Boorloo Boodja (Perth area) across to Kincannup Kinjarling (Albany area). I’ve learnt a lot from Chrissy’s book; it’s powerfully resonant, presenting complex environmental issues in ways I easily absorbed and understood.

In this special blog for International Women’s Day, I’ll share the key concepts I picked up reading “Shades of Green: finding a middle path through the forest”, and personal reflections.

The call to action is made all the more powerful given sadly, Chrissy has now passed on. In its essence, it calls us to steward young regrowth forests. Heal our jarrah.

Chrissy’s call to heal jarrah, and steward South Western Australia’s regrowth bushlands

Chrissy dedicated her life to study and advocacy for forests. Her most pressing concern, voiced throughout her book, is for areas of bush that have already been logged. It’s the regrowth bushland that direly needs our collective care and attention.

Most of us from this part of the world have a relationship with the jarrah tree, whether we’re conscious of it, or not. And given how far jarrah travelled, many people around the world will have benefited from the gifts of this timber, too.

Where it’s been logged, the bush is growing back, yes. But it’s growing back in a very different way to how it grew prior to the disturbance of colonisation and industry.

So what’s the problem? Here’s a few key points from the book.

  1. Regrowth stands are dense – too dense, like thickets
  2. This makes growth stall – there isn’t enough light and water to go around
  3. Drier, dense bush is likely to burn hotter and faster (increased wildfire and firestorm risk)
  4. Water stress is compounded by our drying climate
  5. Bauxite mining – what I learnt deeply disturbed me. Best read in depth in the book.

Previously logged areas are growing back, but they’re so densely treed that growth is stalling. Water stress is increasing in these areas, in particular, as the young trees in the over-populated bushland compete for declining reserves.

Competing for water, and light, these dry bush thickets have greater potential to fuel wildfires, and even fire storms. A fire storm can occur when a wildfire is burning so hot that it starts to create its own weather system. Reading about this gave me the final kicker I needed to ring up my local bushfire brigade and offer to volunteer.

How can we respond to the need to steward regrowth jarrah forests?

To address regrowth density and its associated issues, in Shades of Green we learn about “ecological thinning”, which is a much more difficult challenge than one might initially think.

When cut, jarrah trunks usually regrow, “coppicing” into multiple trunks. You’ve cut the tree to thin the bushland out, but if left unmanaged, in time, you’ll have as many as four trunks where you had one.

Next time you’re walking in the bush, have a look. You’ll probably see coppicing jarrah trees. This is why follow up, long term management is needed, including the use and application of herbicide to prevent stump regrowth (DBCA).

The role of herbicide in jarrah forest ecological thinning

This is about nuance, as we learn in the book with Chrissy’s ever-evolving approach to forest advocacy, from her early days as an activist, and later, as she lived into her influential role in politics.

There’s no easy answer, and that seems to be part of this “middle path” contemplation too. With regard to herbicide use in ecological thinning the jarrah, I can’t see any alternative. It seems to be a necessary, transitory tool whilst the forest is tended and reshaped, in order to create the strongest possible foundation for its yet precarious future.

The role of fire in bushland and forest stewardship

By the time they’re about three or four years old, jarrah seedlings have developed a lignotuber that enables them to persist through both cool and hot burns.

Traditionally, the Noongar people managed the forest and the jarrah for its particular traits and tendencies, with knowledge honed over tens of thousands of years. Their regular, cool burns thinned some seedling trees before the lignotuber developed enough to assure their livelihood through fire.

As a result of this nuanced stewardship, my migrant settler ancestors arrived in Manjimup to tall, well-spaced forests featuring trees of all ages. There are still some old people around here who remember being able to gallop horses through – hard to imagine if you’ve spent much time in regrowth bushland. Of course, we don’t have that now.

What we have, Chrissy warns, resembles something in great danger of not surviving at all. So what is being done?

2024-2033 Western Australian Forest Management Plan

The 2024-2033 Western Australian Forest Management Plan closed for public comment in late 2022. I wonder how well the government will resource the need for ‘ecological thinning’ on a vast scale. Is what they propose to do going to be anywhere near enough?

Some say forests should be ‘left alone’ for conservation, but I don’t support this approach. After reading Chrissy’s book, I find myself listening, as she suggests, for the path of active stewardship. This is the mindset I bring to disturbed, ‘cultured’ land around human settlements and farms.

For our southwest forests, I’d like to see collaborative stewardship. An active management, in which all community members take responsibility, in some way or another, for the future of our trees, and the broader ecological functions of our forests.

Walking together, finding the middle path

Written in an engaging, conversational tone, this book is not for the light-hearted however. Presenting challenges hundreds of years in the making, which don’t have any readily apparent easy solutions, it presents a conundrum. And it is the clear facing of this complex issue that appears to have pushed Chrissy to change as a person, to find the capacity for holding greater tensions, while at the same time, continuing to do everything she could to help.

Chrissy’s life story affirms the need to walk together, despite our differences. In amongst all of the things that we need to do in our lives, Chrissy found her imperfect balancing act, attending to her family, her homeland farm, and to matters beyond her own immediate needs.

I invite you to consider what really matters, beyond conventional notions of immediate human family, and needs. Uncover that which is meaningful for you and the greater web of life. Let this inform a way of living into reciprocity with our place.

For Chrissy, it is the jarrah. And certainly for me, and for many of us in this bio-region. From what I’ve learnt in “Shades of Green”, her lifelong engagement with her passion projects bore fruit in ways well beyond what she might have initially conceived.

Chrissy didn’t do it alone, and we don’t have to either. Together, heeding words of guiding elders like Chrissy, we must continue on to discern a middle path toward earth regeneration.

We too can make our way through the forest, knowing giants, real and metaphoric, stand with us as we go.

Buy  “Shades of Green: finding a middle path through the forest”   (Vivid Publishing)

For more on south west Australian forests go to:

Forests For Life (South West of Western Australia)

Forest Management Plan 2024-2033 (Western Australia)

South East Region Conservation Inc. (New South Wales, Australia)

  

Personal reflections on my relationship with jarrah

Inspired by “Shades of Green: finding a middle path through the forest”

 

What do our trees need from us all now? This is a threshold, a window in time. Chrissy’s book “Shades of Green” urges us to look up right now, and listen. When we’re with bushland across the south west from Boorloo boodja (Perth area), and down through to Menang Country of Kincannup-Kinjarling (Albany), we might ask: what is this present time, and place asking of us?

Reading this book, I’m being stretched larger. I keep looking up at the remnant bushland to the west of Stellar Violets, to the trees. I reflect on how much the jarrah had given me through my life, how jarrah has kept me warm. It’s always been the fuel for our hearth fires. It’s the dining table at the house I grew up in. It’s at the heart of our lives.

I imagine the feel of jarrah in many houses I’ve lived in, all over the south west. The warmth from the woodfire, the creaking boards and smooth finish underfoot, connecting the feel of one house to another, providing a supportive foundation for many of us.

We know the feeling of a cold breeze whistling up through gappy floorboards in winter. Home smells like woodsmoke, and we can hear the rhythmic axe, we’ve been at the chopping block, swinging it back above the shoulder, bringing it down for an easy, satisfying split. Splitting, and burning dry jarrah, it’s easy. It feels good. And it’s quick, compared to how long it takes for a jarrah tree to grow. And that’s sad, when we start to feel into the timescales. It took thousands of years to become what it was, and within 200 years or so, it’s almost irreparable.

So how can we balance all this? Where is this ‘middle path’ Chrissy calls us to walk?

An old sentry jarrah tree in remnant bushland on our farm ‘made itself known’ to us for the first time last year. Others, we know by their stumps alone. Somehow this one escaped the axe, remaining hidden until an old local tipped us off about its presence. I went looking for it early one morning. After circling around for a while, I found the awesome old one. And it’s not just awe I feel, but grief too, for what’s lost. That there are so few like this one, now.

As Chrissy remarked, people tend to be seduced by the beauty and grandeur of karri forests. The jarrah and marri on the other hand, might be more easily overlooked. ‘Scrubby bushland’ is what we drive past on the way to ‘somewhere better’.

Most of my generation have barely seen an old growth jarrah tree, let alone stood in awe among a vast stand of all ages. Shifting baseline syndrome abounds: incremental change is slow enough such that it isn’t noticed as one generation changes to the next. It’s as though that ‘scrubby bushland’ was always like that. Disturbing, realising this.

My ancestors came here five generations ago, when old growth jarrah is all they would have seen. Since then, much has changed, and been taken away from this place. My people have taken, and taken, from the land in order to make lives of a certain kind here. The jarrah has been taken, sold, and sent all over the world. There’s an obvious debt to this land, and these forests. In a way, I’m living off the back of those fallen trees. All that heartwood.

What would it take to repair the over-consumption, and ecological destruction?

What would give our forests the best chance of continuing on, even if already changed irrevocably, into a drying climate?

The final paragraph of the afterword in Shades of Green had me break down in tears,

“The best she could hope for is that the words she left will foster healing for the jarrah.”

Something there was felt in the depths of my soul. “Words… foster healing for jarrah.” Chrissy has lived her life, and though I didn’t have the chance to know her, I feel how much heart she gave during this book. Her inspired life story is a gift that needs to talked about, kept alive, and carried on.

I’m not yet sure how I will carry forth this wisdom into advocacy for change but know this: Chrissy’s wisdom, and nuanced perspectives have lit a candle for the middle path in me that will be carried till my last breath.

Buy  “Shades of Green: finding a middle path through the forest”   (Vivid Publishing)

Golden Valley Tree Park, and the Balingup Small Tree Farm

Chrissy was instrumental in the creation of the Golden Valley Tree Park, an outstanding collection of trees from all over the world located in the town of Balingup, south of Perth. Her husband Andrew, and family continue to run the Balingup Small Tree Farm, from where we’ve purchased many strong young trees that are beginning to flourish at Stellar Violets.

 

Dreaming of aborous glory: Planting Trees for Mum on Mothers Day in 2015

Dreaming of aborous glory: Planting Trees for Mum on Mothers Day in 2015

Travelling and gardens don’t marry well. Maybe this is why recognising my inheritance of Mum’s passion for gardening took time to make itself known.  I wandered gardens in faraway places, even had a cry in a meadow at Kew, because it was beautiful, and she had loved it there. When I found home back here I grew up, I started a garden.  And these days, not much feels better than planting, especially on Mothers’ Day.

How fortunate that we can spend a morning on a highway verge to plant a stand of trees that I hope will be growing a hundred years from now. There is much to be grateful for. This is the third year I’ve joined a merry little crew to plant Trees for Mum​ on Mothers’ Day. A little more barren land now holds the promise of… arborous glory! I just discovered the word “arborous”, it popped into my head and I had to check whether or not it was in the dictionary. It was. Sounds like a cross between amorous and arbor – Tree Love. So that’s my piece for today, after receiving this neat little film from my friend and fellow tree enthusiast, Peter Bowdidge​.

A barren highway verge + Fifteen Scarlet Oak Trees + dedicated volunteers celebrating Mothers’ Day + incredible support from Manjimup Shire + a local business donating time digging holes (cheers Cain Contractors) = a fantastic Trees for Mum, in 2015. We’re grateful to everybody involved for helping us make Mothers’ Day meaningful with Trees for Mum.

How to make compost in six easy steps

Compost is key to thriving fertile gardens and farms. It helps grow nutrient-rich fresh organic food that’ll make your whole person sing!

Once you have the ingredients and you’re ready to start, it’s simple, like making a cake. If possible, grab a couple of friends to help you – it’s easier, and more fun.

Step 1: Select a space

1×1 metre minimum, but you’ll need extra space next to it to gather together your materials. A shady spot is ideal during summer.

Step 2: Prepare the site

Dig out any grass where your compost heap will be so that is sits directly on the earth (readily accessible to earthworms!). If you can’t do it on dirt, don’t worry, you can still compost on paving or concrete.

Step 3: Get material 

Get as much compostable material you can from wherever you can. Your garden, neighbours’ gardens, local coffee shop, local businesses etc. There’s lots of stuff around for free if you’re willing to ask, and diversity makes a good heap.

Step 4: Create a “frame” for the heap

Place some bushy material/long twiggy branches on the ground. These will help maintain air holes to allow the microbes to breathe. If there are no holes for the air to get in, the heap may turn “anaerobic” and start to stink.

Step 5: Get water on hand

Be ready to run the hose the whole time you’re preparing the heap, ensuring every item gets soaked as it’s added.

Step 5: Making Compost Lasagne

Got your ingredients together? Got water? Now grab a garden fork or shovel. A multi-prong fork is easier to move material with, you’ll soon discover. If all else fails – bog in and use your hands!

Method

1. Add 3 fork or spade-fulls of brown/carbon material

2. Add 1 fork or spade-full of green/nitrogen material

3. Water each layer very well as you add it

4. Repeat until you’ve got a large pile, anything up to about 1.5 x 1.5 metres If you’ve got bulk material, try 3 wheelbarrows of brown/carbon, to one wheelbarrow of green/nitrogen.

Step 6: Cover the heap 

Cover the heap with dry lawn clippings, straw, hay or another brown/carbon material.If you don’t have any of that, score an old bit of carpet or hessian.This helps insulate the pile and detract flies and other pests.

Congrats, you’re now a Microbe farmer. Remember, always keep the pile moist.

Like us, compost needs food, air, and water. Your heap is a farm of billions of microbial life forms. They live on organic matter, air and water, so make sure that your compost heap is always moist.

How long will it take?

Our method is slow – we don’t turn it. We don’t hurry it.

Patience is bitter, but her fruits are sweet

~  Jean Jacques Rousseau (La patience est amère, mais ses fruits sont doux)

It takes several weeks to a few months – once the heap has cooled to the same temperature as the soil, and most of it has broken down. You should be able to squeeze a handful together into a sticky ball; it’ll smell earthy, and slightly sweet. The twiggy branches from your “frame” will still be there – just use them in your next heap.

Get to it! We’re here to answer any of your questions. Comment here, or connect with us on Facebook, or in real life, here in Manjimup, Western Australia.

The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock

Stumbled across an author called Maureen Murdock this afternoon. I wasn’t a paragraph into the synopsis about her book The Heroine’s Journey when I burst into tears. Maureen is my mum’s name. And the idea of mapping the contemporary woman’s psycho-spiritual journey resonated deeply. I’ve been quietly experiencing feelings of sorrow and loss anew the past couple of months, though mum passed 13 yrs ago. Reading a little from The Heroine’s Journey and studying the below illustration has helped me to see why, from a mythic journey perspective, I’m revisiting my relationship with my mother at this time.

The journey isn’t necessarily linear, with one step leading to the next. Some steps may be experienced simultaneously with others, and some not at all. We might jump to one then seep back to another. All in all, I’d agree that this journey inward is a powerful metaphor for women to connect with. We can support each other, and remind each other that every step is “perfect” for each person. There’s no getting ahead or being behind.

Symbolically, our journey is one inward. So this afternoon it dawned on me that the drawing I’ve subconsciously doodled for years – a spiral inward – is symbolic of my own mythic heroine’s journey. The inward spiral is a metaphor for the woman looking within or going within for the answer that is already there, though perhaps dormant, or as yet unseen. And the so-called unseen is often right in front of us.

The opportunity is to come to experience ourselves as a devine being or mother, goddess, wise, ‘wholing’ (becoming whole) person with growing self-awareness and self-knowledge.

The man’s mythic journey, as detailed by Joseph Campbell, is different. Spiralling out from a central point as he sets off on adventure, the heroic man encounters danger, experiences doubt and eventually must overcome adversity, or beat his demons and dragons. He is “the fool becoming wise”. He may then discover a boon or riches, which he can choose to bring back for the benefit of many people.

As I understand it, all people have the opportunity to take the heroic journey through life to wisdom and self-knowledge. The crucial step is integrating both masculine and feminine energies – to become balanced, centered human beings able to offer our unique gifts to others, without sacrificing our own needs.

But it is one thing to understand all this intellectually, and quite another to have experienced or integrated it.

We often assume that simply because we understand something intellectually…we have actually realised it. This is a great delusion.

– Sogyal Rinpoche, a Tibetan spiritual teacher

Maureen’s book is a response to Joseph Campbell‘s seminal work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, about the archetypal hero’s journey in world mythologies. If you’re not aware of Joseph Campbell’s work, you’d know the Star Wars trilogy?  Director George Lucas credited Joseph Campbell with mapping Luke Skywalker’s heroic journey. Joseph’s work has inspired the narratives of many other notable 20th century filmmakers, writers and artists. Though the hero’s journey is perhaps the world’s oldest, most repeated narrative, Joseph Campbell articulated the pattern, and wrote of it in his book.

Which makes me wonder – where might other patterns exist that we haven’t seen?

If I had to choose one place to look it would be Nature.

Credit: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA

 

A brief, beautiful time with Manjimup’s beekeeping couple, Curly and Jean

A brief, beautiful time with Manjimup’s beekeeping couple, Curly and Jean

Curly flipped a latch and slid open the shadecloth door. Breathing in with pleasure, I looked around. The air was richly scented with beeswax. Old hand-made frames and brood boxes were stacked to the side, some with loose wires needing repair. There were also some plastic tubs and a bookshelf I could have “for $15 today”.

Curly and Jean have been keeping hives in our orchards for years and years. I called in unannounced after work on Friday, keen to see if Curly and Jean would be willing to tell me, and maybe others, about beekeeping. They asked me if I had to be somewhere. I said no, so as I’d hoped, they suggested a look down the back at the hives.

Jean said she had been forgetting things. It was a problem. Curly, Jean pointed out while we looked over the brood boxes and  frames, is quite messy. Curly agreed, but added that he wasn’t dirty messy, and there is an important difference. Dirty messy isn’t good at all. Jean had been sick recently, and said regretfully that she hadn’t been able to tidy the shed to her usual standard. 

Curly said, “I just go here and do this, then I go over there and do that.”

I remarked that Curly sounded a bit like “my Simon”. And if he was, I’d likely be right in thinking I had a pretty fine man by my side. Jean nodded.

“There’s a lot worse things a man can be than messy.” 

After a chat in the honey processing room, we went to see the hives. It was late but the sun was still hot. Never walk in front of a hive, they said. Where’s the front? See there, where all the bees are going in? Oh. Ok.

Digressing from bee-talk, Jean pointed out her ginkgo tree. She planted it from a seed six years ago. A mythological tree of hope, or grandparent-grandchild tree, so called for taking three generations to mature. Hers was flourishing, small, but ever so lush. There was also a giant wormwood bush in the tidy yard, and plenty of veggies. Most of the out-buildings and things around seemed to have been fashioned by Curly.

He was chuckling about the queen bee’s ability to have babes for five or six years after one single session with a drone.

“She flies up and up and up,” he said, “and gradually the weaker drones fall away. The strongest wins her. That’s pretty much all the drones hang around for, every few years they get a chance to have the queen. You start with a super, then a brood box, then a lid”.

“That’s the sugar-water, for feed when we go on holiday in winter,” Jean added.

To my delight, Curly invited me to come and “suit up” and collect honey with him on Monday. Jean said I could wear hers. So 9am it was.

9am it was meant to be.

But I didn’t see Curly or Jean today. Soon after I left them on Friday, Jean had a stroke. Curly went with her to Bunbury to the hospital. Then, Curly himself had a heart attack, I was told. I’ve tried to find out how they are. I’m wondering, too, how are the bees? Jean and Curly said noone was keen to take them on.

We were just there, on Friday afternoon, chatting away in the little kitchen, and I thought to go right at that time. But I never go there. I’d only ever dropped by once, to buy some honey.

Curly had explained you need to take good care of hives, it’s very important. You can’t just leave them out the back and think they’ll take care of themselves.

Maybe Friday was the only day for me and Curly and Jean. Whether or not it turns out that way, I know I have to think; what a precious afternoon, then, was Friday. How privileged am I, to have had a chance to spend two hours with Curly and Jean? To have been able to see them together like that, to sit and listen and learn. To observe their love and passion for each other and their bees, in that dwindling late arvo sun.

That’s where I used to boil the wax, in that tiny shed, Curly smiled, pulling the door closed.

And even now I can smell it, rich, natural, mixed with the heavy fragrance of jasmine by the old gate.

_______________

“Undo the hive,” he said.

I remembered how from last time, on the failed “queen bee assassination mission” in early January.

“Now loosen the lid, that’s right.”

I wedged the tool in gently at each of the four corners to break the waxy seal. Curly puffed a little more smoke through the vents into the hive. At a quick glance, we could see there was no honey, thanks to the “lazy, unproductive” queen who still reigned, but Curly wanted to check the frames and replace any dirty ones before moving on.

I glanced down. Frowned. My hood zip and velcro zip “lock” had somehow come undone at the front, leaving a gaping hole. And lo, an opportunistic bee had come along. It buzzed nonchalantly about, five centimetres from my face and major airways. Gulp.

“Um. Curly. There’s.. a bee.. inside my hood!”

“Alright, just take it easy and walk over here,” Curly said. His cool as a cucumber attitude rubbed off. I carefully moved away from the hive.

“The most important thing, is not to panic.”

OK. I was doing pretty well. But couldn’t he now hurry up and unzip my hood and get this bee out of my face?

“We’ll just… see if we can… ” he mumbled and circled around me.

What was he doing, I wondered? I held my tongue, inside my mouth so it was safe from the bee, and stood very still.

“There’s two in there.” My friendly sidekick for the day, Cassidy, offered me a comforting update.

“There. Got it.” Curly sandwiched the bee.

“Dead bees in your bonnet’s better than ants in your pants!” Curly roared with laughter as we surveyed the damage.

Next, off came the lid of the second hive, revealing dripping honeycomb, stuck to the lid and bulging out of the full frames. My mouth watered. The aroma was enough to make me almost forget there were upwards of five thousands bees within 50cm of my body.

My task was to lift a frame, gently brush several thousand bees off each side, then pass it Cassidy, who was to brush off the rest and place the frame into a plastic tub on the ute, for transport to the honey processing room. Soon enough we had fifteen frames to process, so after a quick break for a cuppa with Jean and her daughter Rainie, we got to it.

Removing the wax with a hot electric knife, to expose the honey. Somewhat like peeling an orange, albeit tricky.

Oh no, I have honey on my finger, what to do?!

Why, hygiene of course! Wash our hands just like the Food Safety Act says!

Back down to business. Curly placed the capped frames in the centrifugal honey extractor, spinning two frames at a time for five minutes each side. The honey sprayed off onto the stainless steel machine tub and dripped down to the bottom, where there’s a valve to let it out. Through a strainer to filter out any stray wax, and there we have it!

Some time later

We’ve been out of town a few weeks, and you know, the thing I really needed to do, that I hadn’t done yet, was go catch up with my lovely beekeeping friends, Curly and Jean. Thought I’d take them a few apples. I nearly went a couple of times, but something or other got in the way.

Today in passing, my sister said, did you hear about Jean?

Jean who?

Curly’s Jean. She died. I thought someone would’ve told you. Monday or Tuesday.

A few moments earlier, I’d been high-fiving Simon with joy. He’d brought in the Stellar Violets Inc certificate of registration; it had finally come through in the mail. Now this. If I’ve ever had a bitter sweet day, it’s today. My love to darling Jean, now at peace, and her family. She was as lovely as the honey she and Curly harvested together all those years.

Then, only a couple of weeks after Jean passed away, we said farewell to our dear bee-keeping mentor, Curly, as well. At Curly’s funeral, we learnt a lot about him that we didn’t know. He had once fancied himself a deer farmer in Rocky Gully, spending all his money on setting up high, secure fences to ensure he’d be passed and approved by the Ag department. Boxes all ticked, the deer arrived and were freed into the paddock. Can you imagine Curly’s heartbreak then, as they immediately escaped not over, but under the fence? The Ag department denounced him and pursued him for damages, but eventually the case was dropped, because no-one ever found any of the escaped deer.

Curly was also a fabulous ballroom dancer, we were told. I’m inspired to hit the old-time dance halls around Manjimup and learn to hone some skills.

We waited a couple of weeks after the funeral before contacting Curly’s son, Eddie, to see if he had decided anything about the bees. I thought perhaps someone in the family might be inspired to take them on. I also figured I could at least offer them some support or help to call on anytime, if they needed it. And if no-one wanted the bees, I’d do it.

I had a chat to Eddie and he has decided to take on the bees. Living in Perth and fly-in fly-out might pose some challenges, but he’s keen to try. So I said if he needs any help any time in the future, I’ll be around and happy to lend a hand. And so our first tale of bees draws to a close.

When we’ve decided on a location to begin Placemaking for Stellar Violets, we’ll look to keep bees, or perhaps invite someone to keep their hives on our little garden farm. In the meantime, when I breathe in the fragrance of beeswax, and when I hear the sound of bees abuzz, and dip my spoon in honey, I’ll always think fondly of Curly and Jean.

Jean’s ginkgo.