Mangoes: WPC Growth

In Queensland, luscious mangoes signal our summer holiday season over the New Year. So juicy and delectable, they are best eaten leaning over the kitchen sink!

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A few years ago, my neighbour’s Bowen Mango tree used to produce so many mangoes, she couldn’t give them away … so she had it lopped!

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Whenever I see a mango tree, I remember an Indonesian story retold by storyteller Helen East. My version goes something like this –

One still, summer’s night the moon shone full on a tall, dark mango tree. Cicadas suddenly ceased chirping  and listened. Disgruntled voices were drifting up from the tree’s roots  “After all,” they complained, ” we do all the work and get none of the attention or thanks!”

They muttered on about how hard it was deep down in the dark earth, holding the whole tree fast, while keeping water moving up to the trunk, the branches, those leaves and all that fruit.

“Look at that lazy trunk, just standing there!” they yelled, looking up.

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Hearing this the trunk yelled back “ Not, so! My job is constant strain. Holding all this tree together in wind and storms is much harder. If I break, we all die. You forget too that I carry all the food back and forth to all parts. I’ve also had limbs chopped off for firewood, bark stripped by foraging animals: the pain of it all.”

Then the trunk added “It’s those leaves just hanging there, dancing in the breeze. I wish that was all I had to do!”

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Surrounding branches swayed in disagreement. They thought differently.

“How little you know, “ whispered the leaves in chorus. “ All day long we convert energy from the sun sharing it with the whole tree. We’re up all night releasing air for the tree while it rests. We shelter you all from too much sun. Heavy rains often tear us down.You wouldn’t want to have our job. Look at the fruits, all they do is hang around, grow fat and glow with pride when they’re ripe. There’s the kind of job we’d like!” they sighed.

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The fruits held their tongue at first. They knew it was because of their existence that this tree was valued. Then they indignantly pointed out how badly treated they were, often ripped off before they were ripe or gnawed at by bats and rats.

“We have the worst of all – such a short life. Though prized by humans, many of us can be left to rot at the base. The rest have to give ourselves up to be eaten, pulped, sliced and worse…”

A deep voice broke through the babble.

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“Enough! … I spend a long time waiting for my fruit to ripen,” said the husky stone.

“We fall together. If I am cast aside and land on good earth, we go on. When I dry out, I force my case to split open so the seed can begin to grow into a sapling. I remake all of you from my core when a root descends and a shoot ascends. Trees like us have flourished for thousands of years. We all have our part to do in the growing …”

Just then,  a woman came softly into the garden to look at the moon so the tree fell silent. And the cicadas began their rhythmic nocturne once again.

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Sources – Story adapted from Helen East’s retelling “The Heaviest Burden” in  BRAND, Jill, BLOWS, Wendy & SHORT, Caroline. The Green Umbrella: stories, songs, poems and starting points for environmental assemblies. London, Black, 1991:93.

Mango – Wikiwand article

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and also Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

I Spy Plovers

Cyclists hate the nesting season here. One speeding past with a magpie in hot pursuit once yelled out to me in passing,” Why do they pick on me?” He was in black and white lycra at the time so the birds probably thought he was a rival. Get too near magpies, or plovers, and they’ll dive bomb you! Kids often learn this the hard way.

Plovers don’t build nests … just scrape the ground and lay their speckled eggs there. They are, however, the most protective of parents.

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A pair of Eastern Plovers live locally. I’ve been paying attention to them for a couple of years. Their territory includes a bowling green and a soccer pitch across the road from each other. When I got a better camera, I was able to follow them more closely … they always kept an eye on me.

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This green keeper goes out of his way to let the faithful plovers raise their chicks. He doesn’t cut the grass too close, leaves ramps out so the hatched chicks can get out of the sunken green, led under the fence, encouraged across the gravel road, down the slope, under another fence and out onto the large field by their careful parents.
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This past year, though, in Nov and June, two sets of chicks didn’t make it past the puffs of grey, fluff stage. Saddened, I blamed nearby cats or butcher birds. Not a sign was left of them. I thought the pair would give up … but was delighted to see this in August.

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Walking along the fence line every time,  I finally caught a glimpse of three fluffy chicks, in the early morning. As soon as the adult spotted me, she called them back, under her,  with a clicking sound. I got to know what the different calls meant  like Come back quickly / Move out slowly / Don’t go too far / Hide – danger!

Eventually I was able to stop and photograph them.11092015c

A week later, they had moved their home into the middle of  the soccer pitch.

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Though, one chick had gone, the parents were never far away. One acted as scout, the other as shepherd. Soon I could get close enough to see how much they’d grown.

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They started ranging further afield and seemed to get used to me, this strange bird with a black beak and a green cap.

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They roamed together. Now, as big as their parents, the younger birds haven’t got their yellow wattle fully developed. I wanted to get a shot of them flying to finish the story.

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Months later, I’ve been willing them to fly. Several times, they’d wait till I’d given up with my camera, was walking away, and they’d suddenly fly past me, dodging like Spitfires. I noticed that the leader /scout would give three short screeches. (“Fly!”) then the family would follow. Sometimes, they were being dive-bombed by other birds like Magpies (and here, one Noisy Miner bird.)DSCF2854

Three short screeches … and I caught them taking off as a family, following the scout parent. That’s it. They’re on their way.

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The plover, also know as the Masked Lapwing, has many names in different Aboriginal languages. There’s an ebook called Pitthirrit the Plover for 9 – 11 year olds, available as an app on iPad / iPhone. Produced by the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, it’s a traditional story of the Gunitjmara people, the Traditional Owners of southwest Victoria, Australia. Available for $2.99  –  Updated 22 November 2015.

  Click or more info on the plover

This Australian site is a great help – http://www.birdsinbackyards.net

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All text and photos, except where highlighted,  by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.