A personal diary about life in a country town, Bungendore NSW Australia

  3 April 2004
Left: The pomegranates were smaller this year from the very dry season and most of them split after recent cold nights. Above: The leaves of the small tree turn yellow and fall quickly. The dry bird bath was a handy temporary container.
Artful in autumn

Sometimes I 'make' pictures that tell a story for this Diary. I don't 'invent' them, I'm the kind of photographer that says 'hey that looks lovely in this light' and I get my camera. Setting up a shot to tell a story and being able to control its elements is closer to 'commercial' photography and I don't think I'm that good at it. The images in this Another Country Diary are more like rportage. I see something in the world around me and I've learned how to capture it reasonably well. But if the position of one object could be improved so that it looks better or the composition works nicer if it's moved a bit, I'll do a quick Photoshop retouch. I don't feel that I'm falsifying the truth in the reportage, in fact I feel I'm improving it, making up for the fact that I didn't hit the release at the 'decisive moment'. Sometimes it's a simple as I'm technically unable to get the image that I want. 

An example where you can see immediately what I mean is the 'bloody fingers and cockatoo' photograph that I wrote about here. The depth of focus didn't allow me to have my 'bitten' hand and the 'biter', the cockatoo, both sharp. So I combined two shots. Most people say 'the blood looks fake' not that the image looks fake. It's not, it's just that there's a gap in time of about ten seconds between the two images, and the composite has collapsed that time gap to tell the story.

Doing things that are 'artful' is important and supported much more in some cultures than others. It is why we try and create our living spaces in an attractive way, redecorating, rebuilding to capture some moment in that space that makes us feel good, peaceful, happy or 'recharged'. It's why as gardeners we fight the weeds and seasons to make gardens that flower for a short time looking beautiful and then just as quickly look dead and untidy.

I don't do much about creating my living spaces to look attractive, but I appreciate architects that do. Recognising the beauty that is already there isn't that hard however, which is why I've always lived in old houses that have that character already. And it's why I enjoy living in the country. The natural world is always 'artful' and sometimes it sits still long enough to let my photograph it, so that I can show others why I think it is attractive.
Which brings me to the pomegranates and sitting them in the fake sandstone bird bath because I ignored my mantra 'Never go down to the garden in harvest time without a pocket knife and a plastic bag'. As soon as I did it, I realised I had to get my camera and  photograph them. The light, the fruit and the roughness of the tacky bird bath all looked right. Artful.

Pomegranates. Punica granatum. They are believed to have originated in Iran where they still grow wild. The fruit grows on a hardy, long living  small tree, that depending on your winter climate stays green or will lose their leaves. In Bungendore, they turn bright yellow and fall quickly when the nights drop below 10C degrees. Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion to Food  says the fruit was well known in ancient Egypt and that when Moses was leading the Israelites to the Promised Land, he had to reassure them that they'd find there the refreshing fruit they'd left behind. Homer mentions it so the ancient Greeks knew of the fruit, and the Romans seem to have discovered it via Carthage in North Africa. Carthage was called Punis in Roman times so the fruit became mala punica the 'apple Carthaginian'.  The species name granatum, (and also the Spanish Granada) and the name pomegranate, refer to its many 'grains' or seeds. If you've ever eaten a handful of the seeds you'll appreciate the dilemma of whether, after eating the soft scented pulp, you should swallow the seeds or spit them out. Davidson points out that this is a problem going back to classical legend.

"Persephone, daughter of Demeter the goddess of fruit and fertility, was carried off to the underworld by its god Hades (Pluto). Demeter, in her efforts to force her daughter's release, prevented earthly plants from bearing fruit (thus creating winter, a formerly unknown phenomenon).

Persephone for her part, vowed not to eat while in Pluto's kingdom, but eventually succumbed and ate a pomegranate. She spat out all the seeds but for six, which she swallowed. When Pluto finally gave in to Demeter, he was allowed to keep Persephone for six months of every year because of those seeds, and this is supposed to be the alternation between winter and summer."

Spanish sailors took the fruit on voyages because its tough skin helped it travel well and it became established in southern USA and in California in the 18th Century. It traveled to Asia and is mentioned in India and China around the first century AD. Although its seeds are  spread by birds it doesn't grow true by seed, and cuttings are the most reliable way to propagate it.

If you get a good large pomegranate it makes collecting the seeds easier and worthwhile (slit the skin, and scoop the fleshy seeds out with a spoon leaving the white membrane between, which is bitter). If you just want the juice, you can microwave them briefly, roll the fruit hard to crush it and the juice will flow out easily. Commercial concentrated pomegranate juice is called grenadine.

 They're a sensuous and extravagant fruit, the source of lots of other legends but if you are eating the fruit uncooked, remember Persephone and spit.


















The bird bath had been bought as a Christmas present for Jan's dad, to be a replacement for a recently broken one. We wrapped and lugged it down to Melbourne and then found that Jan's sister had already bought him one, much nicer and more tasteful. We ran out and bought another present, and it came home to live in the back garden. It is filled only when we have a hose in hand, which is not often because we've set up a good drip and spray irrigation system for the vegetables. So it's mostly dry. Sorry birds.


... a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;
A land of wheat, and barley and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive and honey;
Deuteronomy 8,7-8.

  Fred Harden 2003-2004 <thinktag> After a few days, these entries are added to the Archive Menu

Bungendore Country Diary by Fred Harden