Every other symptoms, not fever, hits when one atom of hay hits your eye, nose, lung or skin. Choking, stinging, itchy gushes of clear fluid flow from several cranial orifices. Its that time of year here. Stay away.

Or take the antihistamines that transport you to that place where nothing matters or ever will.

It ain’t walnuts causing this. Its the neighbour cashing in on his crop of oats, rolling them into bales and slipping some into silage plastic.


Wangaratta must be Australia’s most stereotypical Australian regional centre. Its white bread, sliced: don’t you have a knife? Not like Shepparton; Europeans before the war, Asians since and most recently Middle East and Africans. The road from Shepp to Wang passes through the orchards of the Varapodios, Boumbous and Kalafatis on the eastern borders of the town. Soon, you are in canola, wheat, sheep and beef; intent on making the transition to Wang.

Dookie is the first stop. No lunch at the pub. Its closed on Mondays. Just out of town someone is digging a dam, revealing the deep blood red soil, metres deep, moist and fertile, edible like Christmas pudding waiting for white sauce. It is sinful to contemplate using this resource for anything but horticulture. More and more, vineyards are making use of this treasure. Tallis wines, for example.

Devenish is the next town. Most homes make use of their flagpoles.

The single lane of bitumen from Devenish is the alternative to the Hume Highway to Wang. You meet few cars, but if you do its best to slow down before leaving the tarred surface, get off the track and avoid stones thrown up by the other. Today high winds nudged the car. It was risky, more than taking the Hume, but fun.

This back-way was a most atypical way to arrive in the most typical Wang; its plane trees, churches, red brick homes, cafes, courts, schools and public buildings.

On the way home, we stopped in a David & Stella’s to learn how things were going. The wind could blow you over. The hogweed has set up home and forming a layer of carpet in the tree-lines. David bought the 400 L sprayer and had applied Basta via the dome. He was waiting to see what would happen.

‘It takes ten days to show impacts. What concentration did you use?’

He had used half the required amounts. I explained that at that concentration, it will have no impact. I have tried to use a similar dilution and had to wait two weeks to learn of my failure. Meanwhile the hogweed occupies more and more of the treeguards.

It was pleasing to see the seeds of the rootstock poking their heads up through the soil. 50% have appeared. They will all come. They have popped a treeguard on each one. Once all have sprouted and treeguards are in place, will allow them to spray the treeline with Basta at the correct concentration via a T jet on a boom. It is crucial to stop the hogweed from taking control of the treeline. If it takes over, spraying it leaves a dead lattice work of wire-like stems that can only be removed with a whipper-snipper.

Deep space of the walnut orchard

Tractor work is akin to an astronaut hurtling through space encountering the light from distant, sometimes vanished worlds. Through the early morning dazzle of incandescent leaves lit by the nearest sun, are the most ancient memories; rootstock that has been repeatedly felled yet continues to thrust up limbs for budding. These tempting fresh leads should be ignored. They lead to the heartache of continually pruning the accompanying suckers.

Next in time are those trees budded last year. These are repeat offenders, recidivist rootstock, best ignored, but not last year. They are now our legacy.

Between the established trees are the beanpoles budded several years ago. They often stand over 2 m tall, with a single trunk and multiple dwarf branches.

The ‘chandler’  are spindly ballerinas. The ‘sandiland’ are stocky. The pollinators are just in leaf. These three varieties provide the justification for the tractor journey but when you are en route you realise the true extent of the orchard population. Apart from the time capsules of successive budding success-rates, you come upon galahs, crows and sparrows dining out on leftovers from one neighbour’s oat harvest; the other’s kids on motorbikes, ATVs and buggies.

Stumbling upon the existing evidence of walnut progression to maturity is like sighting the light from deep space stars.

Peter Carey

Like Tim Winton’s, I find Carey’s books are a conversation. In ‘Amnesia’ Carey invokes the second person to emphasise a point and to respond to my thought. We laugh. We have known each other for a long time, through many novels. A trust has developed.

When Peter appeared on ABC, interviewed by Leigh Sales, within days of Gough’s passing, speaking about ’75 conspiracy theories which obsessed the main character in his recent publication, I needed clarification.

I am now at 11% of the way into ‘Amnesia’. I cannot find pages on kindle. We have resumed our usual banter. We share the insanity of a journalist and a potter sending their kid to a private school. 75 has been mentioned. There is another character in a similar sticky situation to Julian Assange. I detect a pattern.

I know Peter lived in NY. He may still. I once tweeted John Birmingham about his novel about a cataclysm that befell 98% of the US. My concern was that I would be reading the novel going through US customs. He responded that he had done a  speaking tour of the US about the book, so not to worry.

I hope Peter will be allowed to undertake an equivalent speaking tour about ‘Amnesia’. With 89% of the book to go, he has a lot of explaining to do.

Lavender & roses

Our climate embraces extremes. Summer can be over 45 C, yet drop to -5 C overnight in winter. Many plants are fried, others turn to ice-blocks to thaw in the morning. Under these conditions, roses thrive.


Lavender provides the gallic to a house deemed postmodern French provincial mongrel.


Daisies, crab-apples, elms, gums, privet and maples do OK too. But its important to keep water up to them; by maintaining the irrigation system.


The poly pipe to this lawn sprinkler did not lie east-west. It had one input from the north. It makes sense, now, that there would only be one pipe, unlike the orchard sprinklers that are dotted along 200 m of poly.

Copper, kelp & summer oil

Its time to protect and promote the emerging new growth. Copper blocks bacterial blight, kelp speeds root and flower development; while summer oil gives bugs and fungi something to consider.


Our sprayer is highly effective in covering the walnut trees that are reaching higher and higher each season, with the soupy mix. To get the jets up and out so far, the PTO must travel at about 520 rpm and the tractor moving forward at 4.4 km/hr. Kubota keeps the gearing simple. There are two gear sticks. One has three gears – hare, tortoise or snail : not requiring any explanation. The other has six conventional gears. Thus there are 18 gears; with each having a half gear option which I never use, but I’m sure our neighbour does when he is harvesting. In the picture, I am in tortoise 5th gear. As the trees develop more canopy I descend to 3rd gear and 3.3 km/hr. The speed is slow but at this time of year the view is spectacular, rich with the promise of a bountiful crop. There are 130 rows, each of 200 m in length. Do the arithmetic.


We are lucky to have a considerable distance between the orchard and the house. The prevailing winds blow any drift away.