Exploring The Hiddeness Of Life … In the Mulch and Earth of Life

In the Mulch and Earth of Life …

…The Story of Ken Aitken’s  Growing up in Northern New South Wales in the 1950’s and 1960’s and Brisbane in the 1970’s to 2006.

Ken’s Memories and Impressions ______________________________________________________________
The House in January 2006 …. …. Fifty Years on.


The House is rented out by David
Dubens ….. the new owner
The Kitchen Area
Chapter 4:
House across the creek:
1956 – 2006
Mixed Vegetable Garden
being Grown by the People
Renting the House
The Alcove Eating Area
The Hall
Bedroom No. 1
Master Bedroom
Bedroom No. 2: Ken’s Old
The porch outside has been built. House with steps to the ground …..
was just an unfinished area in 1995 when the property was sold
The Lounge Room of the House
Natural geographical features of the
• One of the main features of the site was
the creek ….. it was a series of large pools up to
fifty metres across, rapids and boulders edged by
glass clear waters with darker shadows streaked
with lighter translucent sun shafts falling through
the edging trees in lighter colours. Water from the
top rapids flowed into the first main pool which
was our swimming pool which then flowed over
tan-coloured rock shelves …… to flow into a
deeper dark green pool below which was a much
longer pool.
In these pools we went fishing and swimming as
kids ….. see diagram and photographs below.
• Left hand side of the creek: Was where we
entered the water ….. the bank sloped down to
soft tan – brown river gravel then into shallow
water …… this was where the creek flowed slowly
around the outside southern edge of the pool …
sand and gravel partly covered by organic matter
….. fallen leaves are 200 – 300 mm deep … water
is 500 mm deep here ….. whenever you walk
here, it releases clouds of gas bubbles ….. one
day in the early 1960’s with my chemistry set and
books, I leant this was marsh gas or methane gas
which was being released from the decomposing
leaves …. The gas was trapped in the gravel and
mud and was released when the surface of the
gravel was broken.
I caught some of this gas in an inverted waterfilled
glass jar where the bubbles arose and displaced
the water ….. I put a lid on the jar and took it back
to my chemistry set ….. I lit the gas and it burned
with a slow blue flame like methylated spirits …..
so I knew it methane being released from the
decomposing leaves.
• Floods and cyclones: which came nearly
every year in the 1950’s, 1960’s and early 1970’s
….. swirling air would form into a low pressure
system over a whole region and would initially
gather up in the Coral Sea up north …… forming
into a rain depression or cyclone which would
rotate clockwise to pass moisture laden air onto
the coast from off the sea …… then it moved
progressively down the coast to cross our section
of the coast in the eye of the cyclone …. This
meant the eye of the cyclone was only moving dry
air off the land into itself which swirled around to
become moisture laden air directed onto the coast
from off the sea …. then the eye had crossed over
that was the end of the cyclone.
When I was home in the 1950’s and the 1960’s I
remember some of these things:
• How the rain and wind lashed around the
• How I often played dams and paddle wheels
made out of empty wooden cotton reels in the grass
drain which cut across the hill behind the shed
• The tossing waves of the swollen creek
• The flying fox over the creek at the engine
room to get to Mullumbimby High School (1961 –
• Dad put in two stout posts on either side of the
creek with a double banana wire between them …..
the whole family would jump on separate pulleys and
pull ourselves across to the other side ….. Each
pulley had a short rope and thick stick between your
legs … I remember my feet barely a metre off the
tossing brown water as I pulled myself over on the
pulley,…. I walked with my two of my brothers up to
Wilsons Creek Rd. to catch the High School bus into
Mullumbimby ….. then doing the same in the
afternoon after school.
When a cyclone was coming down the coast and
creek had come up, the flying fox enabled us
freedom of movement in a cyclone …… Dad would
drive the vehicle across to the other side of the creek
and leave it there …… We could always go as a
family into town or church when the weather was bad
and creek was up.
We would hear on the radio the progression of the
cyclone down the coast and when it was expected to
cross our section of coast. The creek would be
transformed overnight into a huge tossing and
surging sea of muddy water filling the whole creek to
a depth of ten to twenty metres …… the rain just
The Creek in Full Flood After Cyclone
poured down day after day till the eye of the
cyclone passed on and out to sea.
When the rain had stopped, we would troop as a
family down the creek to see how high the creek
came up in the middle of the night as invariably
the eye of the cyclone had passed over in the
middle of the night ….. it could come up around
ten to twenty metres in height. We would then
often go down the engine room to see if the flood
waters had come up anywhere near the engine
room at the crossing …. It had been very high if
had come up to there.
Description of the creek: our section of the
creek consisted alternating variations in the creek:
• The top pool which was our swimming
hole as it had a gravelly sloping bottom
going over to a two metre deep rocky
bottom with a 250 mm underwater rock
we could all swim to. The pool was about
30 metres across by 75 metres long
• Then a narrow constricted passage which
glided over a 300 mm deep rock shelf top
flow into a lower large pool … about 75
metres across by 200 metres long
• Then there was a series of large bouldery
rapids for another 200 metres
• Then there was Pool 3= Lower Pool. It
was about 50 metres across by 75 metres
long …… we rarely swam in here as there
was not a good entry to the pool plus it
was an uneven depth that was green and
mysterious. I only fished here as it was
good for catfish.
• Then there was a series of large bouldery
rapids again for another 200 metres down
the concrete creek crossing which Dad
built in the early 1960’s
For me I was constantly exploring right down and
above our section of creek. Virtually every tree
grove, pool and boulder has some memory for
me. I was out at the old property meeting the new
people in 2001 and 2006 as the farm had been
sold in 1995. See the descriptions and
photographs below.
Pool 1: Photograph above shows the 1.50 metre high
rocky boulder wall on the far side of the pool. This
wall sloped down two metres to a rocky bottom with a
250 mm underwater rock shelf we swam to.
Pool 1: The top pool ran from a sloping gravelly
bottom on the left hand side of the creek and sloped
over to a 1.50 metre high rocky boulder wall. This
then fell a further two metres to a rocky bottom below.
A 250 mm deep underwater rock shelf projected out
from this wall. The photograph above shows the
surrounding rainforest trees.
Verbal Description …. A Journalling
Experience of Pool 1:
….. I am sitting between the upper and lower
pools …. The upper pool is a still pool with slight
ripples on the surface from the incoming water
from the rapids on the topside of the pool … there
are shadowed shades of water ….. dark green
with streaked patches of lighter light-lit water …..
tiny white froth flecks moving gently down on the
smooth water surface …… the pool is edged with
tall trees 50 metres or so high …… some of them
are water gums as in the photographs below.
…. There are various assorted rainforest trees with
small subdivided dark leaves in loose clumps on the
edge of stretching thin branches …… trees overhang
the pool now ….. in past years it was more open and
sunny …… A Bangalow Palm to 3.00 metres high
grows upwards as dark green graceful palm fronds
from beyond the boulder
On the right hand side is a bouldery slope of small
boulders ….. 200 – 300 mm in diameter ….. the
boulders are mainly 100 mm in size and traverse
down the slope ….. some of the boulders are covered
in pads of moist green moss ….. exposed 100 mm
tree roots mingle with the boulders …… a large 600
mm rainforest tree butt ends the sloped shoulder.
Through the creek bush comes repeated bird sounds
(currawongs) the sounds cascade down among the
forest trees …… bird sounds, the gentle sounds of
moving water and the soft sounds of moving leaves
in the occasional breeze interweave together through
the rich greenness.
The upper end of the pool is backed by a watergum
forest in trim 100 – 200 mm cream – fawn smooth
trunks …. Often in multiples of two or three trunks
arising next to each other ….. occasional trunks
marked out in smooth cream bark but other trunks in
darker bark …… lomandra sedges in dark green
blades …. Tussocky at the base near the waters
edge ….. soft filtered light alights on the dark green
leaves alternatively with dark then light green leaves.
The series of large bouldery rapids from
Pool 3 for 200 metres down the concrete
creek crossing which Dad built in the early
Personal Experiences of the
Flying Fox Wire across Pool 1 as
well … was for getting to the house if the
creek was in flood ….. one day Dad and
Gerald coming down a pulley and just
missing the floodwaters. The other flying
fox wire was right down the creek further
at the crossing and engine room area of
the creek.
Helene Aitken (nee Jenkins) before she married Gerald Aitken, my
brother in 1973. ….. going over on the wire in a flooded creek time at
the swimming pool
Upper end of Pool 1 is edged with bush boulders and
sedgy lomandra grass. Water gum trunks ascend in
an open forest behind the water ….see photograph
• Swimming in the creek: as a family
at the end of hot summer days ..… we used to
leave our wet clothes to dry on the clumps of
reeds ….. swimming with my brothers in our
later years in Pool 1.
• Family Outings:
Day Trips to Byron Bay to see the whale
catching …. Seeing the long Byron jetty way
out into the ocean when the whale catchers
came in ….. the slip – way up which they
snigged the whales …… the tram that they were
then loaded onto …. the whaling station …..
sharp flensing knives on wooden handles being
wielded ….. cutting a huge side off the whale
like a huge fish fillet as they snigged with a wire
rope and hook …. the side up to the slipway to
be boiled down
Pipping with Dad and us boys in the sand and
water near the edge of the jetty …..twisting our
feet in the sand for the feel of the pippies ….
Hundreds of pippies for the chooks …. Also
earlier than this time, going to Byron Bay up
from the jetty …. Schools of mullet coming in
….. the commercial fisherman rowing with their
nets and pulling them up on the beach … we
were helping them to get them out of the nets
…. Going to the fish co-op up from the jetty and
buying a few … Dad filleting them and throwing
the backbones down the back behind our two
room packing shed … I remember looking at the
bare backbones the next morning.
Camping At Brunswick Heads: We would
often camp at Brunswick at Massey Green
Caravan Park in a tent in the Christmas holidays
in the 1960’s. In the early 1960’s there were just
bare sandbanks along the entire river to the
estuary bar leading to the open ocean. The
trawler Fleet would be moored at a series of
wooden posts with a wooden ramps. When the
tide came in, the ramps would be cut off by
deep water behind the ramps. Groups of
teenagers would fish with handlines off the
ramps and off the backs of the trawlers. You
catch bream, whiting and the occasional
I remember fishing with handlines with Dad
along the sandbars going out towards the bar. In
the early 1960’s that all changed. The local
council began to build basalt boulder walls all
along the river from a purpose built trawler
harbour to walls that extended the bar out
beyond the beach on the north and south
side of the river. This was to give the
trawlers a safe passage at any tide … to
exit of or enter river. It was otherwise very
dangerous to exit of or enter river on a
lower tide. The trawlers could easily
capsize with the rough water. See the
photographs below:
The Brunswick River with clean green
water and far tidal rock wall. The upper
channel goes up New Brighton north of
Brunswick Heads. The rock wall shown
was a place of spearfishing in the mid
1960’s with a homemade speargun.
The Brunswick River with wall that
extended the bar out beyond the
Saturday Nights At Brunswick Heads:
Often there would be communal Saturday
night music concerts in the early 1960’s in
the park where the footbridge goes over to
the surf beach. We would go down as a
family to hear the concert. One the songs
was ‘What A Lovely Bunch Of
Coconuts’ was a favourite. See the
photographs below:
The Brunswick River how it used to be in
the early 1960’s with clean green water
and sandy estuarine beaches.
The local council began to build basalt boulder
walls all along the river with a purpose built
trawler harbour in the early 1960’s.
Fishing Trawler going out to Sea
Saturday Nights At Lismore: Occasionally we
go over as a family to Lismore on a Saturday
night in the early 1960’s to window shop in the
shops in the main street. This was a big family
event as there was no television for consumer
advertising. Lismore was big regional town and
if you wanted to see what was happening, you
went over to Lismore and looked in the shop
windows. I was walking on ahead of the family
and came across this square box with a square
glass screen in it with a moving and flickering
black and white picture playing across the glass
screen. It was my first experience of television
which had come to our regional area.
Soon after that, our neighbours, the Grahams
who had a house near us, suddenly showed a
tall metallic aerial above the roof of their house.
They had bought television into our area. With
their agreement we would go over on an
occasional Saturday night and watch innocuous
shows like ‘Bonanza’.
• Canoeing: I used to make these canoes
out of a couple of hardwood weatherboards
fasten together with nails at the front ….. this
frame was then covered with the cream painted
tarpaper from off the walls of the converted
packing shed across the creek …. Any possible
leaks were then poured over with melted tar
obtained by from disused batteries used in the
old valve wireless we had then ….. With use,
the canoe developed a leak from the abrading of
the tar paper … I could paddle it to the far
shallows before it sank …I was showing off one
day before some visitors on the bank with Mum
and Dad … in my good clothes …… the
canoe sank before I barely got launched
… I was feeling silly in my wet clothes
• Fishing in the creek: there was
always a great sense of wonder and
excitement for me personally ….. fishing
off the middle rocks between the upper
and lower pools ….. for catfish, eels and
especially mudgudgeons ….. small fish of
maximum length of 175 mm ….. a
monster at that length ….. I would catch
them on a short bit of line tied to a straight
willowy tree branch with a small hook and
sinker and a cork float ….. you could see
them from 3.00 metres on the tan
coloured river gravel on the pool bottom in
the clear water …. a tin of worms could be
obtained by turning over Mum’s garden
edging stones and finding them
underneath in the moist red – brown soil
….. worms which were thick and lively
attracted the mudgudgeons with their
twisting movement on the hook …. I would
take my small catch proudly up to the
house and I would get one of Mum’s
Vacola bottling lids on the slow
combustion wood stove and cook my
catch of fish in the 100 mm wide lid.
One big mudgudgeon I kept for about a
year in a cut down old concrete wash tub
near the tap near the upper laundry shed
…. I turned it into an aquarium with 50
mm of clean river gravel in the bottom and
a small blue flowering water lily obtained
from way across on Watson’s land from
the billabong on the edge of the big
Wilsons Creek Dam ……. I used to feed it
with worms everyday …. Eventually the
fish would rise up and take worms from
my fingers 20 mm out of the water.
We didn’t eat catfish as they didn’t have
scales as per the Biblical injunction in the
Old Testament ….. I often gave these
away to the Graham’s, the neighbours on
the adjacent property next door.
Canoe Frame of old flooring planks
covered in tar -paper
The footbridge goes over to the surf
In 1992 fishing with Peter and Brett Aitken
(Gerald’s boys) on one of the infrequent family
holiday visits to Wilsons Creek from
Adelaide….. Brett catching an eel …. See
picture below.
• Skin Diving in the creek: I made my
first underwater mask out of a section of inner
tyre tube stretched over a small face – sized
frame from a cut down wooden lid of a banana
crate which enclosed a single glass from a
disused torch ………. Sealed with tar obtained
from spent batteries from the old style of valve
radios ….. I eventuated graduated to my first
store-bought mask which fitted more snugly in
waterproof manner …….. I remember swimming
up the top rapid shallows ….. the clear tumbling
and eddying water among the rocks …… seeing
the beautiful minnows cavorting in a school of
glimmering gold with a stripe of crimson on their
Pool 2 = Lower Pool: …… we rarely
swam in this pool as it didn’t have a very good
entry point into the water as kids ….. was
suddenly up to 2.00 m deep at the top end when
it flowed over the top rock shelves then
eventually got to 1.5 m then into underwater
boulders at the far end at 100 + metres.
Description: a dark green rainforest pool
overhung on the north-eastern side by 50 metre
high brush box trees …… smooth tan
trunks spreading into elongated branches
ending in bunches of very dark green
lanceolate leaves ……. Small white
flowers eventually retracting into dark
brown cupped seed capsules ….. bark is
tan coloured with smooth but fibrous
texture …… A steep 45 degree bank of
red soil ….. descends to the edges of the
pool …. Interspersed with large rainforest
trees and occasional tall thin trunked
Leichhardt’s Treeferns …. Elegant black
trunks with an expanding whorl of 2.0 m
long fronds …. bright summer sunlight
broken up into shafts of golden light in
amongst the tree canopy ….. they strike
the glass – like water in bright shafts of
liquid gold probing the green depths
amongst boulders and the occasional
sunken log … the shafts of light give way
to solid shadows of rainforest green in the
depths hiding the big 2.00 m long eel …
the light in other areas searching the
washed tan – brown – cream river gravel
creek bottom where the 400 mm long
catfish has made it’s concentric ringed
nest of graded gravel ….. the centre is a
coarse gravel gives way to ripples of
lighter gravel ….. the dark shape of the
catfish gracefully glides out over the pool
depths and slowly circulates over the
ringed shapes …… the centre of the rings
is where the eggs have been laid.
On the south western side of the pool is a
blue quandong tree (Eleocarpus grandis)
….. now grown to 100 metres high in 2005
….. it had grown from a ten metre high
tree in the 1970’s ….. a very fast growing
tree with light fawn bark in splotches of
darker browns merging with lighter browns
…. 150 mm thick branches are splayed
outwards in radiating pattern of ten metre
Pool 2= Lower Pool: …… looking down the
pool of open still water edged by boulders and
rainforest trees
long limbs …. Branches end in bunches of dark
lanceolate leaves with serrated edges ….. in the
right season, the tree has 30 mm. green
globular fruit which eventually turned dark blue
…. the leaves were a mixture of dark red and
others being dark green …. These trees are
frequent creekside trees and when the fruit falls
into the creek or eaten by birds, the flesh rots off
to leave a 20 mm wavy crenulated woody seed
which gets washed down the creek with the river
gravel in floodtime …. this often sprouts by the
creek into a new tree to form fringing rainforest
along the creek.
Pool 3= Lower Pool: …… we rarely swam
in here as there was not a good entry to the pool
plus it was an uneven depth that was green and
mysterious. I only fished here as it was good for
catfish. A sloping rock shelf rolled down into the
pool on the eastern side of the pool. See the
photograph below.
• The owls nest: on the other side of this
pool was a large rainforest tree. One afternoon
in the early 1960’s I found a tawny frogmouth
owls nest in a fork of this tree. For some reason
I impetuously decided to knock the nest down
with a long stick and when it fell down it had four
baby chicks in the nest. My mother was really
cross with me for knocking the nest down. It is
something which I didn’t repeat again.
See the website:
Sheet Rock on the Other Side of
the Creek: …… My memory is of Mum
and myself over on the rock platform
beside the creek across from the owls
nest tree …. when we had barely moved
into the house … I was making moss
houses out of all the green moss on the
basalt rock.