David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

28 May 2009

A turnip for which books?

Last week, prior to the official 'planting' of Tom Nicholson's book Monument for the flooding of Royal Park, I sought confirmation (thank you BG) about the edible plants once eaten around here, the western central Victorian district formerly inhabited by the Dja Dja wurrung, Watha wurrung and other tribal groups.

Volcanoes were still active in western Victoria as recently as 10,000 years ago. Their lava was basalt, a molten material that flows easily, creates plains, then breaks down quickly to produce a fertile soil. When the white settlers arrived in western Victoria, the volcanic ground was abundant with an edible yam daisy, a tuber known as murnong. Above ground the murnong/yam daisy appears somewhat like the dandelion plant, with a drooping yellow flower.

Women gathering murnong and other food,
as sketched by squatter Henry Godfrey, on November 1, 1843.

Drawing from the artist's sketchbook,
La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

( from here )

The squatters' sheep appreciated the murnong too, and soon eradicated the bulk of it : a staple indigenous food source.

Time passes, and passes again. It is a decade or more since I first heard BG, on one of his tours of local indigenous history, talk about the volcanoes, the soil, the murnong, the Dja Dja wurrung and others who lived from of these fertile grounds. When I saw the following image and read the accompanying article, the print version was headlined A turnip for the books, I remembered BG telling us that after the yams were gone the new people realised the land was also excellent for growing potatoes, which it is, and I wondered (A turnip/potato/murnong...) for which books? Thoughts of unwritten books and lost libraries.

This image of the Actor of Looking is from last week's edition of our local newspaper The (Daylesford) Advocate.

The Advocate
19 May 2009

GIANT turnips have sprouted in Springmount paddocks, providing hearty meals for the sheep.

Springmount farmer Rod Taylor said he had three paddocks with turnips as big as 28cm by 20cm thick.

"Anybody I've told doesn't believe it until you pull them out of the bag,'' Mr Taylor said.

"My wife tells people we've got turnips as big as Rod's head.''

The turnips were keeping his 66 sheep going because the grass in the paddocks had suffered due to the hot weather and no rain, he said.

"The sheep wander into the paddocks when they want a good feed of turnips and then wander away to eat grass again,'' Mr Taylor said.

He said the over-sized turnips had been grown without water or fertilizer, and they had been a month late sowing them.

Mr Taylor and his wife Margaret have been at the property for 25 years and grew the turnips with fowl manure, lime and by deep ripping the soil, he said.

He said the company where he had first purchased the seeds in Ballarat was shocked by the size of them.

"They said I've seen some turnips but that is ridiculous," Mr Taylor said.