Making a large batch of cumquat marmalade is a perfect time for deep contemplation. Not so much of the fruit themselves, but using the opportunity to completely dissolve into the task of cutting the flesh open, separating the pips, and cooking it up.
It’s a long labour of love if you have cumquats like mine, with small balls of juicy tart fruit that are filled with those pectin producing seeds. You need them out, but you also need them to set your marmalade. Cut, separate, simmer, stir stir stir, test, and bottle. While there’s not a lot of room for nodding off here, you do still need to pay attention, there’s also room for having a good think.
And so the wonderful dissolving process begins.
With hands busy, the task of making marmalade that tastes like sunshine in a jar begins, and with that, like many creative and repetitive tasks- the mind is set free.
To wonder at will, delving deep into ideas that often few other tasks in any given day allow. You need these kind of activities now and then. Busy hands creating something, but also time to slow it all on down, contemplate the intricacies of life, ponder on the importance of speaking up, our moral values as a society (or maybe just how good that sunshiney marmalade is going to taste with a few squares of dark chocolate tonight.)
When I gave birth last year here at home, there were already long held plans of what I was going to do with my placenta. I wanted to plant it, to honour it and give it the respect it deserved by planting a tree over it. My only slight problem, was that I didn’t have access to dirt, real in the ground dirt.
My images of planting a tree, that would one day be metres and metres tall, providing shade and perhaps some sort of food that my grown up children could eat from, would have to be slightly deviated from. (We live in a rented apartment, with a small shared courtyard.) There were no substitute backyards to choose from for us and I wasn’t convinced some guerilla gardening placenta style in our local park would work with long term results.
So with that in mind, we kept it frozen in an ice cream container until the right day came along.
Finally the time felt right. A large pot was bought and filled, ready to take in the precious cargo. I still hadn’t quite decided on what plant was going to go in, but I was ready to make the first step in honouring our placenta. After some whispered personal words, and a few fascinated pokes, prods and careful watching from the little people. I covered it with soil. Loosely covering the top of the pot with another pot, so no neighbouring dogs would try to investigate. I could then let the placenta gently break down before having something planted over it.
One month went by, and it had completely broken down. Every little part of it. You would never have known what was once there. Magic.
Now I just had to decide what to go over the top?
I narrowed it down to a citrus or an olive tree. Something that could handle being in a pot and wouldn’t mind the somewhat brief sunlight that my little courtyard could offer it. I talked with Nick from Milkwood to see what he suggested and a cumquat came up. I felt a bit mean initially, as I was the only who actually liked them. But I did like them, actually I loved them, and maybe one day this little girl would love them too. What sold me completely was standing before the ‘Australian Cumquat’ in the nursery and seeing the sign say, “hardy” and “well suited to pots”. I think this was our plant.
I have had a few strange looks from people when I’ve mention what we did. However, now the idea of just tossing the placenta in a bin or incinerator sounds far more ridiculous and less than respectful to me. Our ‘Australian Cumquat’ has been planted, and along with it some companion plants along side it, (trying to think along permaculture lines.)
Chocolate Mint, chives, and alyssums for keeping moisture in, (instead of using mulch and being useful at the same time.) Plants chosen for being edible or encouraging of bees, hopefully not going to compete for too much root space and fragrant enough to deter pests. Two pots either side of this now also have regular mint and lemon balm. On the other side rosemary- which also flowers, encouraging bees and has a pest deterring fragrance. Above the cumquat on the fence line, more sweet scented alyssum.
I’m hoping I’ve got it right and these plants will all be happy where they are. At the very least, I’ve now got a tiny once concrete corner that is already bringing joy. Just knowing that in our tiny backyard space, our plants are doing what that precious placenta first set out to do, bringing life.
A tree of life.
If you are thinking about planting your own tree of life, some sites that might be helpful.