Grandpa had fig trees in his backyard to remind him of home, and when we lived in his old homestead where I grew up, one of my earliest memories is climbing these trees to pluck the swollen, soft, almost black fruit with the sweet red flesh inside while he waited. I absolutely adore figs fresh or dried and don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner, but when we started an orchard, I planted first a fig tree in memory of my Grandfather, and every tree has been planted with my Grandpas spade.
I found this out by accident as I have had this spade forever but when I took it to get sharpened in readiness for said orchard, the guy turned it over and asked, did I know that this spade was probably a hundred years old or more and likely to have been used by gumdiggers? I realised then that this spade I had got from Mum when I had my first foray into gardening, had come from Grandpas old homestead and was probably the one he had used in his immaculate vegie gardens. Then I knew, that while my Grandfather had passed away as I began my new life as a wife and Mother, he had been with me every time I had pulled that spade out and gardened. Every step of my journey he had been there.
Gardening is one of the sweetest things I know. Its like making music. Its a real joy to weed and plant and reap the rewards of fresh fruit and vegetables. To pick flowers for a vase. To watch seasons come and go. To see children make huts and play around trees that grow old with them.
To share these joys with friends and family is even sweeter. Taking grandchildren out to find the first Wisteria buds before they hang heavy on the vine, to sample the grapes and quickly pick as soon as the sugar rises beating the birds, and to delight in the first snap of beans freshly picked, perhaps never to reach the table is a delight.
I know also that I share that joy with my Croatian family who spend summers on Brac near the spot where my Grandfather was born with his many other siblings in a tiny cottage. Every summer they go there and harvest and pickle and dry and bottle, just as they would’ve done over 100 years ago when my Grandfather left there with 4 of his brothers in 1911. This family is from the one brother who did return and almost 40 years ago I began writing to my Croatian cousin Tatjana. I had never dreamed that one day I might make my way there, but after her visit here last year, we resolved that this was one thing we must do.
And so 2013 was dedicated to planting the orchard, and 2014 is to traveling to Brac. Two very big steps that I will write about so I can share both with children and grandchildren. Feel free to join us as I document that journey.