My introduction to poultry was through my grandfather (pappou). He’d been a farmer in Nyngan, in country New South Wales, but by the time I was born, he and my grandma (yin yia) were living in Randwick, in Sydney. Their backyard was a wonderland that set me on my path.
It was one of those deep backyards. You came out of the house, down some stairs, past a laundry, then down to ground level. There was a large olive tree, and between the tree and the house was a concreted area with tiered shelving where he had hundreds of orchids in pots, and a table and chairs.
Deeper into the garden was where my grandfather grew every vegetable imaginable, including okra, potatoes, carrots, zucchini, capsicum, chillies and cucumbers. The cucumbers were in a section with melons and other ramblers, and we loved it when he said, “Go in there and see what you can find”.
He put carpet under strawberries and cut holes for them through the carpet. I’ll never forget what it was like to eat fresh strawberries off the ground. They were like sugar bombs going off in your mouth.
At various times, there were sweet peas and other flowers – zinnia, ranunculus, calendula and phlox to name a few. He always had pollinator plants scattered around. Flowers were valued not just for their beauty; it was understood they were critical to the garden’s success. My grandfather had never been educated formally in any of that, but he knew the science because he lived it. I love that aspect of gardening – it’s great to learn, or to teach others, about the principles of sustainability, but when you put it into practice, and observe it for yourself, and see all the nuances and subtleties – well, that’s when the application and connection of the dots really escalates. People get excited about it. You’ve given them enough of a cue, and they’re away.