Groove in a garden

Open Gardens at Evette Sunset's Etre in South Austalia.

It’s a Sunday in South Australia. I get my groove on in a couple of gardens.

My groovy Sunday begins in the garden of environmental sculptor Evette Sunset. Her Willungal garden “Etre” is just 630 square metres, but she’s reshaped the old mechanic’s back lot into a thoughtful landscape of textures, moods, and food plants.

Evette is a member of Open Gardens. Homeowners like her invite visitors like me past their gates and into their yards. For about eight dollars (which goes to a charity) we can nibble tasty treats, sip lemonade, explore exotic and local plants, and mingle with other green thumbs.

The Groove Garden

When afternoon rolls around, I hop on the bicycle to pedal to The Groove Garden Café in the village of McLaren Vale (map).

Groove Garden in McLaren Vale, South Australia.
The Blues Casters at the Groove Garden in McLaren Vale, South Australia.

I join new friends Leith and Sue for the season opener of the Sunday-only, pop-up venue.

It’s an old church on one side and a towering gum tree on the other. In between, a performance stage, tikki bar, and tables of rhythm-and-blues lovers fill the space with music, colour, and energy.

Each week local musicians play blues, rock, country, reggae and folk music. Samra Teague organizes the open-air jam session between serving cheese platters and ice buckets of bubbly wines.

When the music winds down at six, I get back on my bike and hit the Shiraz Trail bicycle route back into my home base of Willunga. The rail-trail connects the villages of Willunga and McLaren Vale on its route towards Adelaide.

The bike ride is beautiful as always, and it’s a great way to keep the day groovy.

Coast to Vines Shiraz Trail.
Way-finding signage on the Coast-to-Vines Shiraz bike trail in South Australia.

 

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Squeeze some brown balls at the beach

Brown grassy balls on Middleton Beach in South Australia.

Now I know why so many Aussies in Canada play hacky sack. It’s their brown balls.

That is, it’s the brown balls of fibrous material that litter beaches in South Australia. They look like naked hacky sack balls, ready to bounce off your ankle.

I recently visited Middleton Beach with my friend Jared. While he sought waves on the water, I scanned the beach for artifacts.

Along with round stones and shards of surf board, there were millions of hairy balls that I affectionately called “beach potatoes.” They were generally smooth, matted spheres that had some heft when you gave them a gentle squeeze.

I did an image search on Google and it led me to a page on Wikipedia for Posidonia oceanica. If the balls I saw on the beach are the same, they are a very common type of sea plant called Neptune Grass.

“It forms large underwater meadows that are an important part of the ecosystem. The fruit is free floating and known in Italy as “the olive of the sea.” Balls of fibrous material from its foliage, known as egagropili, wash up to nearby shorelines.”

And further down in the Wikipedia entry, it says,

“This species is found only in the Mediterranean Sea where it is in decline, occupying an area of only about 3 per cent of the basin.”

The Mediterranean Sea? So either these mysterious beach potatoes are not Neptune Grass; or they are Neptune Grass and have escaped the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal. They then floated their little brown butts down to south Australia.

All I know is I think these little brown balls are cute—and they probably make awesome hacky sacks.

Brown grassy balls on Middleton Beach in South Australia.
What are these brown, grassy balls on Middleton Beach in South Australia? Are they Posidonia oceanica (Neptune grass) or naked hacky sacks?