April 2022

The name of our property here at Newrybar in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales is Heartwood. We arrived here in late May 2018, in a tearing hurry to get stuff done like most people starting out the tree-change adventure. With rich deep volcanic soil and a moist subtropical climate I believed this to be a gardener’s paradise, and couldn’t wait to get started growing many plants that had so long been on my bucket list. First in were fruit trees, an orchard. There were already mature citrus trees and a magnificent pecan showering down its bounty as we arrived. We began to fill out the rest of the orchard with stone fruit avacardos, mangoes, and various tropical fruits. I was in so much haste to make up for all the lost years. Over 40 years I’d been a gardener, but this was my first chance to create a big large enough for sustainable self sufficiency.

Heartwood, December 2022

The name recalls Hartwood Gardens, a gardening business I set up in 1982, named after the street I lived in. Hart(a male red deer)wood brought to mind charming little woodlands I had often ventured through while tramping around rural England, and where I’d occasionally surprised a leaf munching deer. I liked the name. It seemed to resonate with my Celtic ancestry and passion for grand English gardens at that time.

But with the addition of a simple ‘a’ the name offers something of far greater resonance these days. Heartwood for me refers to both the vegetative and emotional realms. Heartwood is the wood at the core of trees that gives timber its great strength and durability, making it useful for so many human purposes. Heart refers to the source of animal vitality, as well as the home of human emotions in so many traditions. The name straddles that paradoxical border between Nature and culture that crops up so much in my writing. With the addition of a single ‘a’, Heartwood seems quite the appropriate name for my new home in Nature.

We have come here in my retirement so that I can grow things to my heart’s content. Myrna continues her psychotherapy practice in between renovating and managing the old farm house and dancing. It is she who has turned the ugly old farmhouse into a home of comfort and joy.

Heartwood, Sept 2021

When we first arrived here I had some vague ideas about what I wanted to do on the property, including: growing quality organic produce (vegetables and fruit) for the local community, establishing a beautiful ornamental garden, and possibly re-afforesting some of the property. I wasn’t really sure. I just wanted to grow stuff and create a happy home here. We arrived in the middle of a drought to a house uglier than a sackful of arseholes, browned off weedy paddocks, sagging rusty barbed wire fences and a collapsing shed. On the plus side there was a magnificent pecan tree producing the biggest pecans I’ve ever seen, some healthy, very productive citrus trees and the red gold that is the soil on this plateau. We feel so grateful to be here.

December 2022

April 2023