Undercurrents

February 25, 2018

Andrew's family has farmed the land in this area for nearly 150 years.  A tiny shack stands at the back of the first farm they owned.  Now derelict, its two small rooms housed a family of 11 until their fortunes improved a few years later.

 

 

It's fair to say, then, that farming runs deep in my husband's veins.  He cares for the soil, stock and water as a caretaker might protect precious resources for a future generation: in fact, there are few greater responsibilities.

 

I love to remember, though, that this farming story, layered from one generation to the next, is only a very short chapter in Australia's agricultural history.  Language and cultural differences have made it harder to call upon the wisdom of the first Aboriginal people who occupied this land.  In fact, the story of Aboriginal agriculture was taught to me as a tale of nomadic hunter-gatherers, who roamed in tribes looking to reap the bounty of serendipitous animal sightings.  Now, I am learning instead of a profoundly collaborative and sophisticated approach to cropping, trapping and fishing.

 

 

This photograph is of a midden, a heap of discarded remains of shellfish consumed by our local Boandik people over the centuries.  The local flint stone was carved into tools to open the hard shells, and many can still be found on the surrounding dunes today.

 

 

Sites like these remind me of the profound spiritual and physical connection Aboriginal people had to the earth.  The grandeur of caves carved out by the nearby ocean inspire a similar sense of awe and timelessness.

 

 

I am inspired to re-imagine Australian agriculture, even if only at an individual, experimental level.  The nutritional density of many of our indigenous plants meant that small quantities provided sufficient nourishment for a flourishing population.  Plants endemic to the region also demand much less of our soils and water, or even act to supplement and protect the land.

 

 There is also the joy that comes with pausing to observe more closely the diversity and brilliance right here around us.  Farming monocultures have an important role in feeding our burgeoning population, but the resilience of these tiny plants reminds me that nature always has a way of finding balance.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

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