This blog tracks the ongoing changes of my garden, and the wildlife I try to attract to it. It's a nature blog. It contains my thoughts and musings about anything and everything to do with nature - gardening, book reviews, philosophy, travel, science, history, art, design, politics. Catmint is my signature plant because it has all the qualities I value in a plant: resilience, beauty and the capacity to spread prolifically . Unfortunately it's not indigenous. If I was starting again I'd probably choose an indigenous plant.
Imagine a world where people have managed to overcome the need for sleep.
In her short story Disappearance 1 Jeanette Winterson has imagined such a world. In this world sleep is seen as expensive, antisocial and a waste of time.
Sleeping is dirty, unhygienic, wasteful and disrespectful to others. All public spaces are designated ‘Non-Sleeping’ and even a quick nap on a park bench carries a $50 fine. You can sleep in your own home but all new beds are required by law to have a personal alarm clock built into the mattress. If you get caught on a bed-check with a dead alarm, that’s another $50 fine. Three fines and you are disqualified from sleeping for another year.
So what else do people lose when they lose sleep?
People lose their dreams.
In my city of dreams the roads lead nowhere; that is, they lead off the edge of the world into infinite space.
People lose the intimacy of sleeping together.
Let me sleep with you. Let me hear the things you cannot say.
People lose their relationship to nature.
…I decided to go to the park and feed the rubber ducks. The real ducks died because so many people were feeding them in the new 24-hour working day that not a drake nor a duck had a moment to itself. Some sank under the weight of soggy bread, others exploded. The rubber variety are much more adaptable.
So what has this to do with gardens?
Using data derived from Google Maps, academic Tony Hall discovered a relationship between the shrinking of the Australian suburban backyard garden and increased working hours.
In the last ten years the outer suburban landscape in all Australian cities has changed dramatically. It no longer consists of large gardens and large trees. Instead there is a sea of MacMansions - large houses that cover the whole block right up to the boundary. This change coincides with the increase in working hours and the corresponding decline in leisure time.
In a time-poor society, gardens are expensive to maintain so are no longer valued.
I garden because it makes me happy. Happy for me means calm, meditative, focussed.
I’m not good at multi tasking. When I’m driving and chatting the passenger will often point out that I am slowing down. So I find I have to choose between efficient driving to a destination, and having an interesting conversation.
I love blogging. There is a heady excitement in making a growing number of cyber friends all over the world. Numbers tell us how we're progressing. How many followers do I have? What is my latest ranking on Blotanical? How many people have commented on my latest post?
It’s not a hardship, it’s a pleasure to visit the blogs of cyber friends, and leave a comment to show that I’ve been there and have appreciated their efforts. I mostly do this in the evening when I have the time. But after a few hectic enjoyable hours I find it difficult to get to sleep. My head is buzzing. It doesn’t just feel like stimulation, it feels like over stimulation.
We use the metaphor of visiting blogs. In real life it would be considered odd and rude to rush into someone’s place, make a brief comment and quickly rush out to go to someone else’s place.
In the virtual world I’m going to try to resist the seductive tyranny of numbers. Some evenings I will skim the surface and visit lots of blogs. But sometimes I will try to visit just one or two blogs, and take my time there. I hope to stay long enough to enjoy a virtual cup of tea and a good think.
The Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia, comprising a rich, biodiverse environment that supports huge numbers of plants, reptiles, mammals and birds, including the largest colonies of freshwater birds in the region. In 1997 the area was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
There are 170 floating villages on and around the lake. This lake is incredibly important for the welfare of the Cambodian people because it supplies 70% of the protein in the form of fish.
Cambodia is a very poor country and consumption of the lake’s resources is intense. Habitat destruction of the lake’s flooded forests, poaching, pollution and illegal fishing practices decimate fish stocks and degrade the environment. This in turn impacts upon people’s capacity to earn a living, sustaining themselves and their families.
Osmose is an organization working in the area since 1999. Realizing that you can’t conserve the environment without helping people, Osmose’s goal is to support both the conservation of the Tonle Sap environment and the sustainable livelihoods of the floating village communities.
The Osmose project has been remarkably successful in its community education program and its ecotourism program.
Bird numbers had declined because poverty forced people to collect the eggs before they could hatch. Now those same people are employed as rangers committed to protecting the eggs they once collected. Consequently the birds have returned in great numbers. One example is the Oriental Darter, on the brink of extinction but now a common sight.
However there is a new threat to the ecological balance and the welfare of the people who live on and around the lake.
The Chinese have built a number of dams upstream on the Mekong River. The Cambodian, Thai and Laos governments – that all share the Mekong - are also planning dams in their efforts to modernize their countries and create hydroelectricity.
The fish in Tonle Sap are migratory. They spawn upriver in the Mekong then swim downstream and grow to maturity on the lake. Dams on the Mekong prevent this and people who depend on the lake are rightly worried. I was there at the start of the rainy season and the lake water level was unusually low.
You can have lots of fish and birds on Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia or you can have dams on the Mekong River to produce hydroelectricity. You can’t have both.
The garden's grown a lot. Partly because of the rain and partly because I am (finally??????) getting more knowing about what I want and where I want it. So there is less moving around. Or maybe I'm just getting more accepting that perfection really is impossible and nothing looks great all the time.
Everybody's happy about the rain - except, of course, people adversely affected by flooding. I just hope the plants in my garden don't get too soft and expect it to go on forever. When it gets hot and dry again they will be expected to dig down deep with their roots away from the heat and towards the moisture. All they can expect from me will be a nice mulch blanket, appreciation and encouragement. But no watering.
For friends who want to know when my garden will on TV: it will be on Gardening Australia on Sept. 18 at 6.30pm and repeated on Sept. 19 at 1pm. If you miss it, or for people in other countries, you can see it on the Gardening Australia website.
Wikipedia defines virtual reality as a term that applies to computer-simulated environments that can simulate places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds.
Greg Egan’s mind-blowing science fiction novel Permutation City is about virtual worlds and artificial life. Unlike gardens we are familiar with, which obey the laws of nature, gardens in cyberspace obey whatever laws the programmers have written for it. ‘Thomas sat in the garden, watching the robots tend the flowerbeds. Their silver limbs glinted in the sunshine as they reached between the dazzling white blossoms. Every movement they made was precise, economical; there was no faltering, no resting. They did what they had to, and moved on…
'...The stillness of the garden began to unnerve him. There was a blankness to the scene he couldn’t penetrate, as if he was staring at an incomprehensible diagram, or an abstract painting he couldn’t quite parse. As he gazed across the lawn, the colours and textures flooding in on him suddenly dissociated completely into meaningless patches of light. Nothing had moved, nothing had changed – but his power to interpret the arrangement of shades and hues had vanished; the garden had ceased to exist.’
Although this does seem weird and futuristic virtual gardens already exist.
Way back in 1994 a project called Nerve Garden started – describing itself as a public terrarium in cyberspace and a work in progress designed to provide experience of a virtual terrarium which grows, decays and evolves just like a “real” ecosystem.
A more recent example is an app called iZen Garden developed for the iPad. It is advertised as offering “All the peace and tranquillity of a Zen Garden, without the sandy mess!”
I haven’t visited Second Life for quite a while and have never surveyed the gardening scene there. But the opportunity is certainly there to garden and get whatever results you want, with absolutely no messy bits!