Another Country Diary

Links to images and other pages are in blue, mouse-over pop-up comments are burgundy.

29 March '02
Ok, it's a cliché but it really is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Just look at the images. The mist shrouded Tarago two days ago as I went to Sydney early. I took the photo with one hand pointing the camera blind. Today, Good Friday, I've been working, mowing the lawns and under the fruit trees. The attention to the task has been broken often, as I've been picking fruit and bringing it to pile on the GT. (That's the Green Table, a small round metal outdoor table on our back patio. The GT appeared as a featured prop in a TV commercial years ago and I got to keep it. Almost everything from the garden gets photographed on it, on the way to the kitchen.) 
The end of the autumn fruit

Today there is the last of the black grapes, apples and pears, horse chestnuts and hazel nuts but the first of the quinces. The season's end is accelerating and it's a brought me a real feeling of melancholy. More so this year probably because I've been immersing myself in the garden so much more. The mood swings that come with these changes, as the sun arcs across this small yard, are real enough. 

I know I'm not a peasant farmer with the pressures to stock-up for winter or my family will starve, but there's something that hides below any intellectual knowledge that I'm a modern techno man, and it tugs inside. Autumn seems a winding down outside but I start to crank when the weather cools and the first frost hits. Autumn is my time of energy. I work better when it's cooler, I have more physical energy and all my major life changes seem to have been at this time of the season's cycle. I've been writing this and resizing the photographs while waiting for the sun to drop so I can mow in shade. There are dark clouds moving in so it's time to get back to it before it rains

31 March '02
Choose one. If the animation is irritating, that's how I feel.This Easter has been a little flat. It's got nothing to do with crucifixions or exploited third world workers making chocolate for our foil covered eggs. The sadness comes because our neighbourhood has lost something. 

The two biggest pine trees that marked the edge of the old estate (that our house was homestead and centre of), and which sat at the end of the dogleg in Rutledge Street, have been cut down.  The animation shows what a difference it will make for the streetscape and I've some images here, slightly larger that show what a lovely pair of trees they were. 

Being Easter I haven't been able to get to the council to ask why they changed their mind (a previous application by the first owner was refused). Phillip, the local tree cutter (who has helped us a number of times with broken branches and even a storm felled tree with a hive of angry bees inside), wouldn't cut it down without a permit I'm sure, so something has changed in how the value of these trees has been perceived by the council to the town.

Both Jan and I have been through anger, and now it's just a general depression. When we came here six years ago, the narrow corner block was grassed, with a row of pine trees along it. It was a pleasant bit of green space and offset the effect of the two weird alpine style houses across the road. When the owner couldn't sell it as a vacant block, the trees in the middle were cut down and he put a kit home up. The first owner was Paul, who had just separated from his wife and wanted somewhere to spend country weekends with his young daughter. However he worked early mornings in Canberra and found the drive too much, so he sold it just a few months later. When Colin and Penny bought it at a bargain price, they cleared a privet hedge that was our boundary and built a fence around it and a double garage. They were nice neighbours, and we had to put up with the fact that suddenly we had a view of mining camp aluminium huts from our western windows.

They sold it at a good profit to Dean (and with the proceeds bought a farm with lots of room for Penny's horses). Dean had got tired of looking after a large garden  of their self-built mansion at Elmslea Estate (even with a ride on mower), and wanted to move 'into town'. The tiny house isn't big enough however for their young family so they've started building a second story extension. We felt that although the double story was inappropriate for the style of the area, we couldn't really be grumpy old farts and  lodge a complaint. How do you stop people building rooms for their kids? And besides, the houses opposite are both two stories and our peak roof height is almost as high.

The two big pine trees took up pretty much the only yard space that was then left on their narrow block, so I guess that's why they had to go. I'll try and consider it part of the dynamics of country town improvement since we don't seem to have any council strategy that covers the aesthetics of rural living. Someone has obviously decided we don't really need trees to make it look like a country town. 

We know our kids don't appreciate trees anyway. They're nasty dangerous things that drop on you.

2 April '02
The pine trees have gone, and the sun on the wall isn't as niceI called the council and the 'officer in charge of approval for cutting down trees' called me back. Sue Robb confirmed that she had given permission based on a number of arguments that she didn't want to discuss. She pointed out how difficult it was to justify keeping pine trees and that people were encouraged to plant natives to replace them. We did however have a long talk about the value of existing streetscapes, aesthetics and the lack of a small town 'beauty' plan for Bungendore. She pointed out that the willows along the creek were a similar issue, but I didn't see that they were related. The willows were having a detrimental effect on the creek, and had grown to become invasive. These trees were not interfering with anything much, no power lines, and had been there when the property was purchased (and long before any council drains and pipes were laid). The inescapable fact is that their beauty will never be replaced by 'natives' of similar stature, at least not in my lifetime. I can't see that the view of the house that their removal has uncovered, is an improvement. 

On reflection what I felt wasn't addressed in our conversation was that one person could agree to a change that would affect the whole town. It's obviously impractical to ask everyone's opinion for each tree that might need to be removed, but the community could at least set some guidelines that Sue can use. If it will have significant impact on the rural character of the town and its heritage feel, I believe that would be the first issue we need to discuss.

I've sent her some images that she can keep on file. 

  4 April  '02
That's my mailbox. It's had that lean for a few years now. I think it was hit by the post person, on a wet day (there were skid marks). When I moved here, the first piece of communication with my community was a hand written note on one of those 'Mail item waiting' cards that said, "Please secure your mailbox to ensure continued delivery".

'Thanks for the neighbourly welcome' I thought, and tightened up the single nut that holds the pop riveted galvanised box to the rusty star picket. I thought that I'd be replacing it soon with a 'proper' one, fixed to the gate post. It wasn't worth fussing about a nut that was always coming loose. 

I had to ditch that idea when I found that this would have made it impossible for the postperson to deliver my mail because they were using their car for deliveries. They could easily drive across the lawn and over the sleepers on the edge of the drive and reach out the window to insert mail with the current box. If it was fixed to the gatepost then they would have to get out of their vehicle. Be nice to them I thought, leave it as it is.

Of course moving with the times, the postperson now rides a small motorbike (the main function of which is to let the local dogs hear her coming). It is now easy for her to manoeuver up to almost any type of mailbox, and her bottom need never leave the bike seat.

This started an idea that I've been toying with for over a year now. It's that a town could be defined by its mailboxes. Photographs of every mailbox and maybe some video of their owners talking about their mailboxes, would be a terrific record of a town. Some may be mundane but I bet most would have a story to tell like mine. 

I mapped out the area and I've decided that there is a town edge, where the boxes change to 'rural' and I'll stop the project there. The rows of boxes at side road intersections are a different story. (One I'll probably have to pursue. I was in the local cab being driven by June to the airport one morning. She told me that the picturesque rows of barrels and boxes were 'a target for the local hoons with a few beers too many', and that they 'took them out' regularly with the bull bars on their 4wd's, for some late night sport.)

I'll keep you er, posted, about the project. It's one of those where thumbnail images such as those below, don't show the essential  subtleties so I'll have to think about how I display them. I did however think the obvious choice for a narrator for the video, would be the postperson.

The 2621 postbox project begins

Fred Harden
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