Thursday, May 27, 2010

Other community gardens

Last weekend was so eventful the reason for the pillaging was passed over quite perfunctorily. I need to do justice to the wonderful day we spent with fellow community gardeners last week. Yes, there are more idiots who community garden, in fact a whole busload of them. Under the auspices of a university project we toured around each other's garden.
It was hard to feel modest - ours was by far the best! The best in so many ways. Being a guerilla garden - still no claimants for the land - we do not have any interference from council. Ms Mova pointed out that we don't have the council funding available either hence our rather rapacious attitude to the deserted community garden. It really wasn't me standing proprietarily on some timber texting the Ideasman to come with trailer.

There was a garden on church ground, (spiritually sound) and a garden on the Diggers Club. If your veggies don't grow you can drown your sorrows or gamble your produce away if they do!

We visited two council gardens, very different in appearance but all with the same intention: To bring community together. We saw sweet potato plots, mixed individual vegetable plots, a mandala in the making, a newly planted orchard, a hedge which wasn't a hedge (for council purposes), open land, a pizza oven and a collection of Waste is Art sculptures. Now, we can compete with the sculptures - ours are moveable, changeable and disposable! Lots of waste. Perhaps the windblown shed ( a victim of last night's storm) could qualify too.

At one garden we were told that the gardeners had a real handle on things. Each gardener is issued with a handle for the water tap on purchased plots! One feeling soul said that every seed we plant is a political statement. Another said that education is happening at a lot of different levels. Mostly ground level I presume.
We heard that 'they' don't understand vegetables. I must admit I have difficulty translating-especially the squeals when they are untimely ripped from the earth. someone referred to companion planting, not only plants but people. Wonderful!

I came back filled with ideas of making our council strip a wonderful orchard full of pawpaws, lilli pillis, tamarillos, finger limes and native raspberries. I will touch a local native plant nursery for some donations I feel. Oh, I remember I owe them some money for my last lot of lomandra and lilli pillis! We love the idea of an open day to celebrate our first anniversary, sustainable living workshops circulated around the different gardens, a bus tour to visit all the gardens as part of a sustainable living push.

We heartily agree with the motto of another garden Grow With Others.

So there we are. What did the other gardeners think of ours? At the end of the day the only words I kept hearing repeated were, Cocktails in the Garden! Sounds like we have a winner and hopefully a few new visitors this weekend!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

If you go down to the garden today..

You're sure of a big surprise. If you go down to the garden today,you'd better go in disguise. We should have done so I believe, balaclavas and trenchcoats would have been good. There we were 'asset stripping' I said, although Mr Ideasman said it was called pilfering. So there we were standing in an abandoned community garden dismantling a shed, piling on the timber boards, shade house, fencing and various deserted plants. Another car drew up and the race was on.
We stood on various items, moved others to a collecting pile and transformed into grasping, gravalicious scavengers. Determined to take whatever we could, we carried the shed onto the back of the trailer. Looking like a shaky snail we set off, avoiding speed bumps and main roads. To no avail; a small bump saw the frame buckle and bend and the shed fell down onto the trailer mudguards, a bit like losing its knickers, flapping around its ankles.

Ms Mova and I had been on a Community Garden tour arranged by the University of Newcastle researching the whys and wherefors of community gardens and visited this garden which had had to relocate due to its owner, the Department of Housing, deciding that they needed to again build some housing on the site. The participants had pretty much taken all they wanted and there were a few items there that might just come in useful for a guerilla garden!

The inclement weather today found a group of us dodging rainshowers and making several trips to this wonderful garden. Recycling items possibly for the third or fourth time. Ms Designer kept her hat on and the feather didn't even look bedraggled. I think it was reacting to the 'chuffness' its mistress felt whilst purloining the garden.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Those little ladies again!

Working in the garden the other day, Ms Mova's sister-in-law pointed out that she thought the hens were outside the fence. "Oh no, they just look like they are," reassured Ms Mova. But sister-in-law's eyes were sharper and sure enough the little ladies had scraped away enough mulch from the fence bottom to find their way out onto the nature strip. (Now there's a misnomer. A strip of bare grass with two flimsy looking avocado trees and a non-productive jacaranda!) Once the ladies were back in their very lovely, long run the intrepid gardeners set about piling more mulch around the base of the fence reinforced by wood and tin to deter further houdini tricks. Those chickens certainly learn the magic!

In fact they do a very good trick of exchanging pens. The darker ones go to bed in one pen and seem to be in the other pen in the morning. Clever that! Some wise person did point out to me that perhaps they had been put away into the wrong pens, but I think not.

Still on the subject of chickens I arrived at work the other day and on glancing down as I do when about to lift my bike up the step into the building, I noticed a piece of eggshell on the ground. Funny, I thought, no trees for that bird to have had a nest in. Then I saw that the glass door was decorated with the remains of a thrown chicken egg. Do 'they' know what they do? Do 'they' realise how much effort went into the production of that exquisite ovoid? If 'they' had heard the cackling and encouragement that goes on with the laying, would 'they' have been so game to waste it? What a strange habit 'egging' is. Looking at this advice - better not!

The tank is great, already delivered and ready to go. Well sort of. Ideasman came up with the thought of building up bases for them so we could gravity feed a reticulation system. Sounds good. Is this similar to lying on the ground with a straw pouring liquid (possibly alcoholic) into your mouth?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The lentils are coming!

I mean the TANKS are coming! Well, the lentils are coming up which is nearly as exciting.
Little spindly pea-like plants cheerfully emerging where the lentils were hopefully cast. But the tanks - how wonderful for a garden that has been existing on heavy dew and Ms Mova's ever-increasing water bill!

We braved the cold this morning, a very early start in the garden, a 7 balmy degrees,
we chatted to the local PR, keep the natives sweet, man from our noisy concrete company neighbour who is willing to drop off a 4,000 litre tank for us to look at and if we like, 3 more. I think we like. Plumbing and pump come included and together with plans for a wind turbine to run it we should be self-sufficient in the near future! Mr Concrete said that he was moving to Newcastle and wondered about our lovely suburb. Ms Mova commented that this would be a good idea and he could personally phone in noise complaints to himself. Thankfully I don't think he heard. Let's keep the natives sweet!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hot chilli oil and pass the dutchie?

Down in the garden this weekend I was admiring the chilli bushes full of chillis going to waste. Red ones, yellow ones, green ones and some multi-coloured red and green. Was there no-one who liked it hot? The manure carrier and myself picked as many as we could stuff in our pockets and returned home to pack a tall ex-vodka bottle full and pour in wonderful green virgin olive oil. Mmm hot stuff! Of course us gardeners don't drink vodka! The bottle with nary a drop left was stuffed down by the recycling by an itinerant visiting daughter. Not being one to waste a gift horse down in the mouth - I sniffed the remaining whiff.

Talking about whiffs, well spliffs actually, Ms Mova, a fellow book club member and myself were gathering comfortably around to watch the latest month's choice (Mao's Last Dancer, cheating you might say, when Ms Mova leant over and whispered conspiratorially. "Would you like some?" she made her offering, I took some onto my hand, sniffed and passed it on. "How about you?" Our earnest faces creased, we burst out laughing - a sign of the times, here we were passing around a tube of hand cream!

The brazier was stoked, the lamb chops were marinating, not a chicken wing or leg in sight unless you count the feathered ones, the lights were ready but the weather did not co-operate. Our first barbeque in the garden was not to be. Steady rain all day dampened our ideas but not our enthusiasm and those of us brave enough gathered at Ms Mova's, on her deck and listened to the pitter patter of the rain and the sizzle of the various offerings on the well-tended barbeque and poured wine and talked and laughed. So those of you timid souls - make sure you come next time. We enjoy ourselves no matter what. We are built of stern stuff, us gardeners!

Another day. Sitting down relaxing in the garden Ms Mova confided, "I never wanted the chickens you know. They didn't fit into my plan for the garden." She gazed wistfully at the clucking hens trying very hard to convince us that they really don't get any food and said, "I fell in love with them from the first day they came. They are absolutely wonderful!" Ms Tagalong, as usual, has to agree!