As a journalist, one of the questions I often find myself asking people is ‘how did you come to be interested in your field’. For myself, I’d have to answer – either as a writer or a gardener – that it all comes down to an apple tree.
This apple tree once grew in a vacant block next door to my paternal grandparents’ house in the upper Blue Mountains. Every year in mid-autumn, we would take several plastic bags, head over to the tree and pick some of these apples.
I have no idea what type of apple it was – I remember the fruit as being red and green and incredibly sour (much, much too sour to be eaten, although this didn’t stop Mum and I trying as we loved sour fruit). But it played an important role in me deciding to become more involved in gardening.
I do have a few other early gardening memories, such as eating the strawberries growing in the backyard and helping my parents carry loads of soil to build new garden beds. My parents have a picture of me, aged maybe two or three, standing in their front garden and holding out a large white busy lizzy (Impatiens walleriana) that I’d just picked; and there are stories of how they could never grow poppies successfully because I loved picking the ‘furry’ buds.
However, this apple tree (I’m not even sure what type of apple it was) showed me the fun of harvesting fruit and eating it. When I was a bit older, I had a small garden bed where I tried to grow my own strawberries, and succeeded in growing a reasonably prolific gooseberry bush. Later, I read books about growing fruit, herbs and vegetables and dreamed of my own potager.
It even played a role in my deciding to become a writer, as it starred in my first ‘published’ story as a writer in Year 2. My teacher had to leave our classroom for a short period of time and to occupy us, suggested that we write a story about eating an apple. Surprisingly, given my love of fiction (then and now), I promptly produced a non-fiction piece about picking apples from this tree, as well as family trips to the orchards in Bilpin and an apple tree on my grandparents’ property, Dalveen.
My teacher then decided that my piece – as well as a fiction piece from another student, which (if I’m remembering properly) was about eating a white, pink and blue striped apple – should be written up neatly (this took ages, as my handwriting was and still is terrible) and put up in the window of one of our local banks. I was so proud of this.
The vacant block was eventually sold and the apple tree cut down to make way for a house. However, I still remember it fondly – every time I see a tree growing in a vacant block or besides a road, when G and I take trips to Bilpin in the autumn, or now when I look out into our own orchard.