Many hands, light work, win win.

Okay, so I'm over the rain – are you??


Sure it's a great backdrop for sleeping peacefully through the night, especially when it's soft constant rain. And the earth loves this to bits. But even the earth seems to be saying "ah, what's going on here? I'm looking like a drowned cat!".


And the grass ... I simply cannot keep up with the growth. Keep in mind the block at Fifth Ave Katoomba Retreat is over 1000 sqm. I'm not sure of the exact size. But it's big. So we're talking two hours of continuous mowing as a bare minimum. Now, after 25+ years I need a new approach.


The grass has to go.


I've started looking at Pinterest for ideas, specifically typing in the words "what to replace grass with in large backyards – on a budget". I'm not liking the results. It's okay if you're into painting fallen logs in a myriad of colours and placing them as sleepers. Or if you like the idea of converting crates into a wall bar and outdoor lounge area, complete with a rug and scatter cushions.


I really like the suggestion to plant a veggie patch. However, we've done that. Tick. That's despite a very wise local once telling me "do not attempt to grow anything above ground". We failed to heed that advice, supplying the local birdlife a constant donation of fresh produce. In any case, I would need a small army to tend to that block size full of veggies.


So I'm still flicking through inspirational and beautiful images which are not proving to be very practical.


In my grandfather's time, the custom was to hire people to help maintain your plot of land. As he had a lot of land, he hired many people. It was seasonal work but what's interesting is that they not only got paid with money. They also received three meals a day including wine. Now that's some kind of remuneration! Not to mention keeping people employed.


During one of our recent cooking classes, one participant enthusiastically said he'd happily be my apprentice in the kitchen in return for being fed. That may have been a light bulb moment for me.


Last week, whilst pulling out a patch of grass no bigger than two metres by three (which took three hours and nearly killed me), I thought my grandfather's system might appeal to locals happy to work for an hour or two in exchange for my Italian meals – both onsite and to take home as their dinner. It could work. I'm way better at cooking than pulling out grass.


There are plenty of groups who may already be doing this. Usually they work as a co-op or take turns working on each other's gardens over various weekends, in exchange for a cup of tea and good company. Communities working together and achieving some spectacular outcomes. Both flower and vegetable gardens. I'd love to see this huge block of land be converted into growing food. I know if my Dad was still alive, he'd jump at this idea. I still feel guilty when I recall the time he asked if he could square off the area devoted to his vegetables. Not only did I say no, but I got angry with him. Now I'm kicking myself. But you know what they say about hindsight ...


Caption: Looking back at these photos, my parents have grown so much produce over the years. This is a very small selection. I'd love to see this continue here.

Ironically, my own daughter asked me what do I want to do with Fifth Ave when I die. I'm 55. At first I laughed at her directness. Then I thought about it. Considering she won't even sit outside when she's here is a clear indication she won't be following in my footsteps. Heck, she's already thinking about selling it and I'm not even dead! Still, I have to admire her no nonsense approach. My answer was I'd love to see people coming here to grow food, which they could share amongst the community, and with her. Who knows, she may even appreciate homegrown organic produce by then.


So back to how to solve my problem of removing the grass at Fifth Ave on a budget.

Who's up for a cup of tea? Maybe a pizza? What about a take home lasagna!


ps: if you're craving some "green time" and just want a few days' escape, Fifth Ave Katoomba Retreat is a 90 minute drive from Sydney. Did you know that removing grass for two hours is a great way of releasing frustration. Especially when it stubbornly refuses to budge.






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