The Thrift of Companion Planting.
I use companion planting in the garden because I cannot see the benefit of growing your own if it is going to be sprayed with chemicals. Today’s blog features a little book I was given in the early 80s which has been a constant companion ever since. But first I need to tell you a story about its giver. I will call him A.
I met A in the late 70s, he was almost 70 then and I met him through a friend who was a nursing sister at the country hospital in the small township in which I lived. A was hospitalised due to a severe chest infection but while he was in hospital it was discovered several badly decayed teeth were contributing to his malaise. This resulted in my then husband being called to remove all of A’s remaining teeth and make him dentures. A recovered well and went on to live well into his 90s, although not quite making it to 100.
A was born in England the only child of poor working class parents. At the age of 15 he came to Australia, alone. I understand The Salvation Army was instrumental in securing him a passage and after he arrived, he bought a pushbike and rode from farm to farm working as a farm hand. I felt for his mother, seeing her only child go to the other side of the world without any likelihood of seeing her son again. A told me that as hard as this was for her, she was happy to see him have this opportunity as she was certain there would be no such opportunity for him had he stayed in England.
During WW2 A joined the Australian Air Force and working as ground crew, served in Papua New Guinea. After the war A was granted a piece of farming land but A’s piece of land was way up a valley and then up a mountain and was accessible only by 4X4 wheel drive. But this wasn’t a problem as A never owned a car; when he wanted to go to town, which was not often, he would ride his horse down the mountain to the nearest farmhouse and his neighbour would give him a lift into town. A lived in a rammed earth mud hut built with his own hands and slept in a little rammed earth nook with one open side; in the winter he could reach out his hand and touch the snow. He did not have electricity, his water, fresh and clear came from a nearby spring. A had never married.
But if you are thinking A had not achieved much in his life or that he was not a very intelligent or educated man, you would be very wrong. A was a revolutionary conservationist long before it was cool and trendy to be one. He worked with the earth, provided for his needs from it, was self educated and very widely read, he dabbled in art, understood what his body needed for physical health and was deeply spiritual. He identified as a Rosicrucian, his favourite book was the Bible which he read daily and he lived a humble, loving and peaceful life.
It became obvious that as A got older it was not practical for him to stay up on top of his mountain in comparative isolation, so in due course he moved to live with some other friends of ours who shared a similar life view. For years following A lived with this family, working in their garden and helping out and in the winter months he would come and stay with us in a warmer climate and there he would work in our garden, enjoy the sunshine, his painting, reading, our many conversations and interact with the children. My toddler son could not pronounce his name and called A “erring boy”, which A found entirely amusing and quite complimentary.
In this way leads onto way life, it truly is the little things that make life memorable. My Companion Planting in Australia is almost 40 years old. Every time I reach to bring it down from the shelf to look up something I thank “erring boy” and this ANZAC Day I will remember him and thank him again. They sure don’t make them like him these days.