Monday, October 29

Luscious mulberries sweetened by nostalgia

Twenty – or was it thirty? – years ago we had to grub out a mulberry tree that threatened to cave in the side of the sleepout. It was the best-fruiting mulberry we'd seen, so we cut off a branch the size of a fencepost and stuck it into our chook run, behind the shed and just inside our fence.

That's the tree you see above, sprawling across our shed door on one side and over the neighbour's backyard on the other, and almost out to the roadway on our back street.

And every year, it still carries a big crop of fruit. Every year, dozens of people pull up, some popping the berries into their mouth and some filling basins to make pies and jam. Some kids still keep silkworms and gather the leaves.

When I go out to chat with the people and reassure them I'm delighted to see the fruit being put to good use, I often hear: "This takes me back to my childhood – we had a big mulberry like this in the backyard".

It's a great scene, but I'm saddened to know most of this tree will soon go the way of the quarter-acre suburban block. I'll try to keep a hacked-back remnant, but perhaps it won't be there at all next year.

I've almost finished building a boat, and whole branches must come down so I can get the craft out of the shed.

A developer has bought the cottage next door, and when the market picks up he will build a couple of big townhouses and no-one will want a mulberry tree hanging over the fence, with birds dropping purple stains across the washing. Even that jacaranda you see in the background, just coming into flower, is likely to go.

Still, that's progress. Isn't it?

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