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visitors since May 12, 2002
May 3, 2003
The care and feeding of concrete and moss

As the not-so-proud renter of one of the world's worst backyards, I have a particular dislike of the phrase "not in my backyard." As far as I'm concerned, the problems of the world are welcome in mine, as long as we can find some way to fit them all in. It's a small backyard. You walk through the back door into a tattered wonderland of urban minimalism.

To date I've spoken little about what's out there, apart from the drainpipe, which, as long term readers know, leads somewhere interesting. As far as inner city backyards go, ours is depressing. It's a tiny display of concrete, bounded by a fence on one side and a series of ramshackle sheds on the other.

The sheds are used occasionally as a last ditch storage area, but their main function is to provide a place for the Terror From The North to roost. The Terror From The North is the vine growing from next door. It's rearranged the corrugated iron on top of the sheds, and it's eaten most of the guttering. It shows every indication of still being hungry.

The Terror From The North means that our backyard is almost always wet. Long after it stops raining, water keeps dripping on the concrete, because there's not enough guttering left to guide the water anywhere else.

When I first moved into this house, I expressed frustration with the ever present moisture snuggling on our concrete. I expected Guan-Ji to see my point and to agree emphatically. Instead he just shrugged and said "I prefer to think of it as a water feature."

It was his way of saying that there was no chance of getting the roof or the gutter fixed, and to accept this.

As time went on, I started thinking that what our damp concrete yard needed was some kind of greenery of its own. Earlier tenants had made a half hearted attempt to create a garden bed with some old bricks and a few bucketloads of soil rich in noxious weeds. Eventually I dug the weeds out and added more soil, and planted tomatoes, jasmine and a sacred bamboo.

They were the first things I'd ever planted, and the process was a kind of religious conversion. I suddenly started caring about these plants a great deal. I liked the sacred bamboo so much that I'd regularly walk outside to see how it was doing. "Regularly" as in "every few minutes."

After starting the garden, I grew accustomed to looking after plants and learning more about them. Doing this felt like growing another pair of eyes. Everywhere I went I noticed plants that had grown to maturity without any contribution from myself at all. In front of my startled eyes, another Fitzroy appeared.

Hasten quickly, astroturf of the future

A couple of weeks ago Arena planted some nasturtiums around the tomato. (Nasturtiums are a kind of flower, but I only found that out a couple of weeks ago.) Initially, not much happened. In fact, nothing happened. It was all very disappointing. When she was away over Easter, nasturtiums sprang up everywhere. It was all very exciting. I emailed her daily reports of their activities and included some digital photos. It was a great time to be in our backyard, and she wasn't there to see the action.

But she was back in time to see the next, unexpected development. As if inspired by the nasturtiums, the concrete itself sprang to life. Despite its forbidding exterior, it now sports a light covering of moss. It's a rare concrete that can grow moss, so I guess I should feel honoured and proud.

But what I actually feel is greed. I'm hoping that the moss gets to astroturf thickness in a matter of weeks, so I can install a mini golf course.

There's only enough room for one hole, but never mind. It'll be the only course in the world where you can putt a ball into the only known entrance to the Elaborate Underworld Beneath.

     Posted by Sean Hegarty at 07:13 PM in the Reflective category | Comments (0)
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