cash? no thanks I’ll take the fruit

A swim at the lake after school was a good call. The day had been busy and the heat relentless. I walked straight into the water, clothes and all. I figured being covered in wet clothes would be quite comfortable for what lay ahead. We headed to the orchard with empty baskets in the back of the jeep, anticipation of the bounty hanging from the trees. The sun was still hot, the air dry. As we pulled into the drive I looked over to the trees, fruit everywhere. This would be a rather productive evening.



About eight years ago I was down on my luck. I’d been out of work a while, actually I’d been made redundant as a result of unfortunate workplace politics. In a way it was a good thing, hindsight’s a wonderful thing. Three months I sat idle. I struggled on many levels, the usual stuff. Not working was something I wasn’t used to. I loved to work and this time off was the pits. More so because of the way in which I’d wound up unemployed. But thats another story, one of which I’m happy to leave hidden away never to be thought of again. The upside of the story is that this bloke called Pete took a chance on me and gave me a job, even after I was late for the interview. He was my boss for many years, more importantly he was also my confidant, my friend and at times my spiritual sounding board. The man’s deeply religious, an admirable quality in a man, that is they live by way of their beliefs. I don’t mind JC’s story, in fact I think it’s probably one of the best messages out there. The simplistic and sensible message of love one another as you would liked to be loved, wow, what sense.



Pete, however, is a man true to his beliefs and is a wonderful human. A rarity. A one off. So when he asked for some labour help with laying a concrete slab for a new garden shed, there was zero hesitation. The slab was laid a few weeks ago now, it’s dry and a permanent mark of our work, but more importantly a stable floor for Pete’s new garden shed, that we are yet to erect.


Late last year, just before we parted ways as work colleagues, I’d suggested to Pete that I’d have a bit more time on my hands and offered my services for odd jobs and such. In lieu of cash payment the concept was that I preferred to be paid in fruit, as I sadly lack an orchard as impressive as his. When I say impressive, I mean this place is a paradise. It’s been a labour of love for Pete, who seems to be constantly adding to it. Each summer I’ve walked those tunnels under the fruit trees, that have often bulged under the weight of rare variety fruits. No supermarket regulars will you spot here, variety is the name of the game. And not just for the sake of it, no. The range of varieties allows Pete and his family to enjoy the long season of fruit as different varieties will ripen at varying times, spring to summer and into autumn. Pete tells me he’s even discovered an apple that takes so long to ripen that he had still had fruit still on the tree in early spring. Amazing!


For me, as a renter again I miss not having my own fruit trees. In fact it’s been years since I’ve had a productive bunch of trees of my own. One day if I’m lucky enough to be able to buy a few acres I’ll plant the majority of it in food bearing trees, shrubs, climbers and creepers leaving only an acre or two for livestock. Why? Well it’s practical. I don’t have to kill anything with food plants and there is minimal cost in feeding them. But for now, when Pete needs me around I’m happy to work for fruit.

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  • Robin

    I’m working away at increasing my tiny orchard. I have apricot and peach trees planted but am not sure they’ll survive this blizzard, plums, lots of apples and cherries. It’s a good feeling to know that in a few years I’ll have fresh fruit from the apricots, peaches and plums; and a few years later there will be enough to start putting up for winter. I didn’t realize how much security I would feel having fruit trees.

    You came home with quite a bounty. Very nice!

  • Ruth

    we had a convo with our lads this week about JC.
    And about his real story – the story of living with LOVE- being lost in amongst the mumbo jumbo.
    it was the conversation that i mention in my latest post. about being open minded.
    it started as a result of talking about religion in school and how the message of love is sometimes lost in the teaching. shame. and how being open minded helps you listen and to really hear.
    and yes to planting food producing trees. we have slowly been doing that at our place.
    lovely post about your friendship too Rohan.

  • deborah lee

    beautiful photos. I’m smiling..

  • leaf (the indolent cook)

    Nice payment method! I would love to have my own garden with fruit trees someday, too.

  • Brenda

    great bartering system! We’re planning on planting a fruit orchard this coming Autumn…I can’t wait till I’m picking my own produce xx

  • Steve

    I also have apricot, apple and a peach tree. The apricots had heaps the last few years, which means jam and dried fruit for the family.
    I was looking forward to a good crop of peaches too, but one day a raucous bunch of parrots (didn’t see them so don’t know what variety) descended and destroyed the lot! Didn’t eat much, but chewed and dumped them on the ground. Dead loss.

    But I don’t mind sharing with some of the birds, and I hate putting up bird mesh.
    So I just have to accept that some years I’ll lose some. Sigh.

  • mimi

    I would work for that fruit…

  • Virg.

    We live in inner Melbourne and had an ancient apple tree growing in the lane way. It provided shade and abundant fruit for all the neighbors, but mainly the possums. New owners saw the beautiful old tree ripped out and replaced with a shiny tall galv. fence.
    I felt it was a kind of territory marking gesture.
    With no more fruit, the possums ate all the apricots on our tree, then stripped all the new buds the following year. The tree died. Then they ate the peel on the lemons leaving the nude flesh dangling.
    I wish the council would plant fruit trees instead of ornamental pears.

  • Selby

    Oh yes! To wandering in a beautiful orchard:)

    Gorgeous photos Ro- love that light!:)

  • Paul Huckett

    I’m lucky to have a few acres which had a dozen or so fruit trees when we moved here 15 years ago.We have added a lot more , mostly older types, but a few modern apples and cherries too . For ease of watering, fertilising, weeding, and netting from pest birds and sun scald, I have then on 50 mt long trellisses -the wires spaced to the KNNN System — that is , at knee, navel, nipple, and nose height. I read somewhere ages ago that you plant veges for your children , fruit trees for their children , and nut trees for the children of their children ! The endless span of nature ……..

  • Darrun

    iS that thelAdy with funny hAt

  • Belinda F

    Awesome post. I love the idea of the barter system, and a food co-op too!
    How does this guy get rare varieties of plants? I try to source some for my own backyard but its difficult to find varieties different from your everyday usual stuff.
    I’d love to get a cutting of that long-ripening apple! that’s fantastic!

  • head in the sun

    We are just about to pull up stumps on our place with an orchard – ie:quince, apricots, apples, peaches, nectarine, lemons, mandarins, oranges, grapes, white mulberry, loquat, black mulberry, limes, olives and pomegranate – and move into rented accommodation for 12 months. It’s going to be an incredible wrench.
    But, I’m going to build myself a potted orchard – there are lots of dwarf varieties around. A bit of a nuisance when we move again but I don’t care – you can’t beat real fruit from the backyard.

  • head in the sun

    I was just wondering. Do you go hunting for kangaroos too?

    • rohan

      No it’s illegal in my state with out a destruction order from the DSE.

  • head in the sun

    And what about cheese? Have you had a go at making that yet?
    I’d like to have a crack at making feta.
    And what about your smoking shed – is that moveable – are you going to be able to take it with you?
    That’s it – no more questions.

  • amber

    Wow loved reading this story. I have to say though by the passion in your voice get a fruit tree now, i have studied permaculture and i am always trying to tell people dont wait to get a fruit tree or something growing do it now. In a pot if a small space or of larger in the ground as your tree may inspire the next person who lives there to grow their own foods and so much better the world will be.
    As for Pete true people spot true people and he saw a winner in you and that is not hard to see, even from over here. Happy days sweet lady xx

  • Heather

    At the risk of sounding ignorant, what kind of fruit is in the crate? The green/brown ones with the pits splitting out? Are the yellow ones a pear or apple? Thanks!

  • Joy @ OSS

    I love you writing but your photographs are mindblowing.

  • S

    First vegetables, then fruits…next, mushrooms and we’re good to go! Have you tried growing your own mushrooms?