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Letter From The Other Side: Friendly Worms

...Most good cooks have a recipe from great-grandmother’s cookbook for plum pudding or Christmas cake; likewise all keen gardeners have THE special recipe of great-grandfather’s compost making...

In a deliciously long letter to her friend Del on the other side of the State Cynthia (Liz Thompson) tells of dogs, Gang-gang parrots and friendly worms.

Dear Del,

It is hard to imagine how you must be feeling. To sit in the dark, with a barrier of surgical dressings between you and the world, your books, electronic media and the radio work which has been your life. The isolation must be shaking your foundations to the core.

I know you are not able to read this letter but I hope some kind soul will read it to you because during this stressful time you may like to hear of what is happening. I shall do my best to keep you up to date with news from our small part of the world and paint the pictures and characters with my words in such a way that your active imagination will enable you see it all happening as you listen.

It is autumn here as you know and the grey-green eucalypt and dark pine forested hills make a backdrop for the town where the streets and the valley are ablaze with every colour of claret, red and gold. It is also the season for the game the Gang-gang parrots play. It is called ‘drop the Liquid Amber seedpods on the dog’s heads’. They are a parrot which is grey and pink, rather like a Galah but larger and only their heads are a bright pink. When communicating, their voices sound like unoiled doors opening and closing and a tree with a dozen or more feasting on the seeds could be mistaken for a meeting of drunken town councillors.

Before dropping the pods which are about the size of large walnuts, they hold them in their claws the way children enjoy an ice-cream cone. When they are finished with them they aim the pod at anything passing underneath. The dogs pretend they don’t know what is happening and enjoy the fun until the aim becomes too good and they are hit in the eye or somewhere else they object to. They then wander away to sleep out of range and the birds fly off to find another accommodating mutt.

This time of the year is a feast of seeds and berries for all the birds and I’m sure despite the strong views held by many people concerning exotic trees being planted within the forested areas; the native birds have delighted with the northern hemisphere’s culinary additions to their diets.

The principal occupation and exercise for people at this time is the sweeping and blowing of autumn leaves into enormous piles ready to be heaved into mulch and compost bins.

Anyone mentioning within hearing of the most avid members of the gardening fraternity that compost as a subject really doesn’t hold their interest, would I think, receive the sort of look that is given to someone who has just committed the worst of social faux pars.

The type and design of the favoured compost bin is a topic which can fill an evening’s discussion. There are the rotating ones, the big traditional bin which has to be turned by hand, smaller neat lidded varieties and our favourite, the worm farm composting three story mansion.

We have five varieties of friendly worms munching their way through everything we place in there for them. They never complain about the cooking or the way it has been served.

I have read in a scientific journal that they are quite social creatures and if the amount of castings and the increase in the population of our mansion inhabitants is any guide, the article must be correct.

They make good neighbours in that despite their numbers they are extremely quiet, no carousing even when cake and biscuits have been served and they keep to themselves. They must have a very active life and produce enormous amounts of worm ‘juice’ which is great when diluted for seedlings or for using as foliage spray.

Where two or more people are gathered together outside shops, churches or just standing in the post office queue, you can guarantee the making of compost will become a hot topic. It may be avoided at funerals, although I doubt that the practical down to earth country people would consider it to be an entirely taboo subject.

Most good cooks have a recipe from great-grandmother’s cookbook for plum pudding or Christmas cake; likewise all keen gardeners have THE special recipe of great-grandfather’s compost making.

Compost is an essential part of any garden here because of the poor mountain soils.

A rather reclusive chap who lives in an old defunct pub took to making his compost in the pub’s cellar because it was damp, not well maintained and wasn’t much use for anything else. In fact if he doesn’t do some maintenance on the building soon, he may find the pub will descend into the cellar and he and his family will be living in a damp bungalow.

He is known to have the sort of temper that if the wind is right and he is hopping mad about something, he can be heard on the other side of the valley.

One quiet afternoon last week when even a sneeze from one of the genteel ladies of the retirement village would have disturbed the peace, he began yelling all sorts of retribution he planned for his children and down trodden wife.

This noise was disturbing his neighbour, a man who has spent his life chopping trees in the forest and hauling them to the timber mill and developed a great deal of muscle in that time. His size can block the light as he passes through most entrances. He is kind but generally a person not to be messed with.

His quiet afternoon in the garden was being spoiled by the twerp next door so he decided to try and cool the situation. He poked his head above the fence between their homes and asked what the trouble was all about.

‘Come and see.’ invited the pub dweller. ‘Come and see what those brats of ours have done in the cellar. They’ve only taken some dishes down there and smashed them all over the place. Wait till I get hold of the little bugger’s this time.’ He threatened.

The neighbour followed the irate chap down the rickety ladder into the dimness of the cellar. He could see round white objects scattered across one section of a bench. He lifted one up and put it to his face.

‘You stupid melon headed idiot,’ he said slowly. ‘Why don’t you check your facts before you start abusing the poor kids? Here smell this’ He held the white object out toward the other man.

“Oh…..Oh yeah.’ He sniffed at it. ‘I forgot I had tried out some mushrooms down here to see if they would grow. They’ve done alright haven’t they?’ He wheedled.

The neighbour tossed it at him and hauled himself back up into the light.

‘Stupid bastard’ he called back over his shoulder.’ I wish they had been toadstools ya’ silly fool.’

The poor little wife smiled at him gratefully as he passed her. He wiggled an eyebrow as he muttered. ‘Should shut him up for a while, love.’

My letter has been a long time dawdling its way to you because my computer had some kind of seizure and needed to be taken away by our little I.T man. I have to admit every time I see him I come over all motherly and want to keep him here and place him on an extended diet of boarding school stodge.

To be without the computer for so long left us quite a lot of time to redesign the vegetable garden.

This is now completed and we have the bad backs to prove it.

One day after a few hard hours of work we were slouching about on our couches enjoying the luxury of a job well done and reading our books.

I became aware of the dogs becoming restive and looked up to see an extremely large tourist bus sitting on its haunches outside our front fence.

It loomed over our garden as the flashing of camera’s twinkled through the windows the length of the vehicle. One woman even left the bus to lean across the fence to get a better angle of our Honey Locust and the Golden Ash.

We had been warned our street was on the tourist route during autumn but of course had forgotten.

The blinds will be closed a little more until the end of the season because I’m not keen to be caught by people taking photographs as I lie on the floor trying to exercise my spine back into its allotted place.

Many of our businesses rely on the tourists and that is fine by us because I think quite a lot of these people need to see the country where the sheep, cattle and other assorted animals can be viewed with their coats in place and not just when they have been undressed, had their insides scooped out and what is left of them is on display in neat little plastic wrapped trays on the supermarket shelves.

I had better go out and rake more leaves for the worms with our new rake which is quite wide. In fact I had great trouble carrying it back to the car and nearly collected a small group of children who were floating about loose on the pavement.

The leaves will soon be gone and we can expect the snow and the skiers to arrive.

I shall be interested to hear all the anecdotes you have heard while being in hospital. The place must be seething with them.

Your flower child friend,



Do visit Liz's entertaining Web site http://elizabeththompsonmywrite.blogspot.com/


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