Having been born into a landless city-based family with a gift for engineering, rather than a farming family with a bunch of acres to bequeath me, has meant that my home garden stands in lonely stead for the life I would have loved to have led on the land.
But honest introspection forces me to admit that I probably would have made a lousy farmer, spending all my time in the shed trying to invent a better plough, rather than being out there doing the ploughing that was needed.
Still, its that love of growing plants that has shaped my professional career, and I’ve become that guy who builds measurement tools for farmers.
And so it was that my latest efforts took me many hundreds of kilometres down the Murray Valley Highway into the vast commercial almond orchards of western Victoria. Here, almonds are grown on a grand scale – this single property grows only almonds, over an area of 1200 hectares (3000 acres).
Driving for many kilometres through stands of blooming almond trees in the last days of an Australian winter made the long trip down worthwhile.
But for sheer scale, the piles of almond shells stacked up outside the almond processing plant took the cake. Giant trucks and earthmoving equipment, plus conveyor-fed stock-piles, gave some sense of just how many almonds are produced over this vast area.
These almond shells are spread back on top of the local soils to improve organic matter or processed further into cattle feed or compost.
I clammed up and didn’t mention to a soul my single ancient almond tree at home in our kitchen garden.