On the 25th June, I headed back to Kangaroo Island as I wanted to be there to help with the distribution of 170 fruit trees donated by Balhannah Nurseries to fire affected gardeners on the Island. You might recall they donated nearly 300 trees in June 2020 which was for those who had lost their gardens and were ready to plant again. At the time Balhannah Nurseries generously agreed to donate trees across two years, and they kept their word, despite the fact that there is such a shortage of all plants, particularly food plants. This year the trees were distributed to those who lost their homes and gardens, are in the process of rebuilding and are now ready to plant fruit trees. I am already hatching a plan to be able to supply more fruit trees next year for those that weren’t ready this year as many homes are yet to be started, so watch this space.

By coincidence, this fruit tree distribution was on the weekend that Gardening Australia’s bushfire special aired. I hope that you had a chance to watch it, but if you didn’t, please check it out at https://iview.abc.net.au/video/RF2005V020S00 as it was an incredible episode and worth watching, whether you are a gardener or not. It included two stories I filmed over on Kangaroo Island – one about the Parndana Community Garden we created following the fires, and one about the incredible Kangaroo Island flora regenerating after the fires. Those involved in the story we filmed at the community garden had already decided to have a shared meal and watch the special together at the Parndana Bowling Club, so I was able to join them. I arranged a surprise Zoom chat with the one and only Costa Georgiadis before the special aired, and that was perfect. The special was so well put together with an amazing balance of stories, and it started with the story of our community garden. Watching it with the people involved in helping me build it, those who maintain it, and some of those who lost their homes and have been harvesting from it, was very emotional for all of us. The stories that followed made up the perfect mix of information, inspiration, and incredible tales, so that by the end you felt hope for the future. When it ended, we debriefed over desert, including Maree’s famous sponge cake. It was an incredible night, and I can’t find the words to describe its impact on me.

The next day we were able to utilise Terry and Sheryl May’s large agricultural shed just outside Parndana for the fruit tree distribution. Last year this shed sheltered us from torrential rain, and even though it didn’t rain this year, the shed gave us shelter from the wind and made everything so much easier. Living Colour Nursery gave me punnets of vegie and flower seedlings to give away too and Edinburgh Parks Nursery gave me trays of native plant seedlings. Check out the photos here ………………

Having access to fresh vegies and fruits is something many of us with gardens take for granted, and those who live in cities and towns have ready access to commercial produce all the time. However, for people who live remotely, such as those on the western end of Kangaroo Island, the shops are several hours away and the produce available in them is limited in range, quality, and quantity, and its already had a huge trip to come down from Adelaide. So, while food security may have only become front of mind for those in cities since COVID, those living remotely have always been aware of its importance. This is what drives my passion to help those who lost their homes and gardens to bushfires on Kangaroo Island.

The following day I did a talk about fruit trees at Linden Lee Hardware in Kingscote with funds raised going to the Community Garden. This talk was focused on how you deal with bare rooted trees and how to prune them. This old Gardening Australia segment explains what bare rooted trees are, how to plant them and why it’s important to prune them after planting https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/bare-root-planting/9438044

While over on Kangaroo Island I did manage to revisit some of my favourite places on the western half of the island which was devastated by Black Summers fires, like Western River Cove and Hanson Bay. I also headed back to Flinders Chase National Park. The natural vegetation is regenerating, and many areas look lush and green, even though you can still see the blackened trunks emerging from the green. This Island is extraordinary and the people on it are extraordinary too, so put it on your bucket list if you haven’t been, or make a time to head back if you have been before.

While on the western end of Kangaroo Island, I called in to see the wonderful Roni Cohen. I filmed a story with Roni and Kathy in 2019 several weeks before the fires which started on KI on the 20th December, and amazingly, while the fire did burn their property, their orchards and home were spared. The bushfire episode of Gardening Australia started with a glimpse of their property and as I was watching the story about the Parndana Community Garden with those involved in the filming, I heard Roni’s young grandsons who were in the room with their mum, recognise the footage and the home. Roni and Kathy’s story was so inspiring that I think it’s worth watching again https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/island-eden/12053792 .

Photographs from June 2021