Sometime in the early part of last decade, my former employer gifted all their employees a tree for Christmas. Some people got olives, some got pohutukawa, some got lemons.

At the time, I was living in an inner-city townhouse and only had a small balcony and collection of pots to grow in. I received a pohutukawa, and swapped it out with a co-worker for a lemon, which seemed more appropriate (and useful) for my garden.

I got it home and put it in a pot, then promptly began to ignore it. By the end of the summer it was basically a stick in a pot as all its leaves fell off. But next spring the leaves came back and during our time at the townhouse it grew to a respectable size. I’m pretty sure it even grew us 3 lemons.

When we moved out, my flatmate agreed to take it to her new house and look after it while I went off petsitting for a few years. She would be the first to say she didn’t do the greatest job. I know that at some point she came home drunk and fell on it. But still, she kept it alive for 3 years, and I’m very grateful she did.

I picked it up in 2017, took it back to Waipu, and re-potted it into a plastic barrel that had been cut in half. I kind of dumped it in a not-ideal part of the yard where the chooks liked to take a dust bath in it. I never watered it. Occasionally I threw pig manure in the pot when I mucked out the pig-sty. Over the two seasons we had it there, it produced 5 or 6 lemons a year.

Then it got scale. Really bad. I did nothing about it for most of last summer. I am not a good lemon-mother. But I didn’t really want to bring the scale with us to The Outpost, so I made a point of treating it with Yates Mavrik before we moved.

It was one of the last plants to arrive, and because it was so heavy, it basically stayed where we dumped it off the trailer.

And that’s where it was for the first couple of months we lived here. While we moved in and took stock of our new living situation, the lemon started thriving. New leaves sprung up, branches extended, and there were just so many flowers!

Then I had a brainwave. I’d been looking for a permanent position for it when I realised clearly, the lemon is really happy right where it is! I ran the idea past Richard. He agreed it made sense. Plus we wouldn’t need to lug it to a new spot – it weighed at least 60kg by this point. So at the end of November, I dug a big hole and planted it in.

Now, a couple of months later, the tree has started putting out new leaves and flowers. Even more encouraging, it currently has more than two dozen lemons growing on it!

I’m doing a better job of looking after it than I ever have before. It gets the dirty dregs of the duck’s water a couple times a week. Ducks drink, swim, groom, fuck and shit in the same water so it’s gotta be chocka with nutrients. Last week I noticed a bit of scale popping up again, and had treated it within a few days.

I’m really happy with my little lemon tree. I’ve treated it very poorly in the past, but it’s always survived. It’s probably the second-nicest thing to come of that job (the first nicest being the people I met there). Hopefully it’ll grow us an unruly amount of lemons in the decades to come.