Dirty Nails Survey: Duncan Trousdale

Duncan Trousdale is one of the friendly faces behind Odgers & McClelland Exchange Stores, the 120 year-old general merchants he owns & operates with his powerhouse wife Megan & their three beautiful children in Nundle, northern-inland NSW. A hardworking family man, veggie gardener and certified dirt sniffer, Duncan exudes a warm, easygoing charm typical of Australian country folk. We caught up with Duncan to find out whats getting under his fingernails lately… 

Can you please tell us a little about your life with plants? It started out when I was a kid in Camden. I had a small vegetable patch atop an abandoned septic absorption bed and subsequent great armfuls of beans, lettuce, and eggplants etcetera that I would cart up to Mum. During my cool student years, I had the decidedly uncool (then) habit of remediating a series of neglected inner city rental jungles and setting out vegetable patches. Moving back to the country was always on the cards for me, so when Meg suggested the shift I jumped. Since then the canvases have grown bigger but that same childhood urge to dig and plant still remains.

What’s getting under your fingernails right now? Lanolin (and blood) from sheep work, grease and paint from a car renovation and dirt from the amazing variety of soil types that occur on our eight-acre block.

What story would your hands tell us about you? My double life. For a shopkeeper my hands can be pretty horrible.

The weeds don’t care if my hands have gone a bit soft, but I’m not sure customers appreciate ingrained dirt and lacerations.

How do you feel about dirt? I’m a certified dirt sniffer. I’m one of those strange people that’ll have a bit of a squiz under the grass cover or leaf litter. Finding earthworms thriving in a pasture soil will set me up for the day.

What are you growing right now? Nundle is very cold (well below zero minimums), and often dry in winter, so not a lot. Brassicas, garlic, beets, peas and broad beans are at the core of our veggie garden. I’ve been planting out a new tree lane along our drive with indigenous eucalypts and replacing a beautiful young cottonwood that was burnt in a grass fire last year. I’ve also been trying to coax two young lemon-scented gums (Eucalyptus citriodora) from my more temperate childhood garden through a Nundle winter.

Gloves or no gloves when working in the garden? No gloves.

What did you learn from your father about gardening? Dad was a natives enthusiast and the large garden I grew up with was dominated by them, but the pockets I sought out as a young kid were planted with exotics – mulberry trees and willows. I guess it’s a negative lesson, but I still carry that prejudice when it comes to the house garden.

Tell us something about gardening we can’t find in a reference book. E. M. Forster was right. It all turns on affection.

If you were a plant, what would you be? White box (Eucalyptus albens). White box hills mean home. Things aren’t quite whole when away from them, so they must be it. To have just a little of their toughness and utility would be nice too.

Do you have a remedy for gardener’s hands? If so, please share it with us! Don’t much worry about them, but if you get those terrible winter splits and crevasses, Badger Balm for Hardworking Hands is pretty miraculous. Coincidentally, we sell it!

Odgers & McClelland Exchange Stores can be found at 81 Jenkins St
Nundle, NSW 2340. Check out their WEBSITE / INSTAGRAM.

All images supplied by Megan Trousdale.