The first thing we did at Wombat Hill on that wintery August day, almost three years ago, when we settled on this piece of land, was to plant two apple trees and a mulberry. The mulberry tree has grown enormous but we compete with the rosellas and king parrots for fruit so have only managed a handful so far – will this be the year we net the orchard? Hopeful. The apples have grown into lovely shapes (I love how when I actually care for a plant and watch its growth, the way it puts out its branches and buds, I learn so much. I become aware of its unique identifying features … and then wish I could pick up a delicate water colour brush and reproduce just that curve of a branch, the angle of its leaf, the colour as the sun strikes) and this season I picked about 10 huge Granny Smith apples – they are the size of small pumpkins and deliciously tart – perfect for pie.
We stood looking at that gently sloping, eastern side of the house garden and decided yes, that would be a lovely spot for a small house orchard. And there was a particular depression in the land that made us wonder what else had once been there – Julian decided it would make a good pond. So with hand and shovel, barrow and bucket, digging began. Then the ducks arrived and it seemed just perfect that they should live in said orchard with the pond. Are we there yet? Not quite. Many more fruit trees have been added – more apples, peaches and pears, pomegranates and plums, almonds and walnuts, even a hawthorn. Everything is a slow labour of love around here. Julian has read up on ponds and studied their optimal shapes – layers of shallow and deep and banks for plants and rocks. We have dug and dug and dug – and last spring achieved the perfect depth with just the right layers – and then days before we could finally wrangle the huge expensive liner into the pond, it rained. We were glad for the rain. Oh how we needed it, having endured a very dry winter – and just bought water. But the ducks and geese leapt in to that freshly filled pond with glee and as the water slowly evaporated over the coming weeks, we noticed that all that careful shaping and digging was once again reduced to the smooth sided evenness the ducks produce with their swimming and bank nibbling.