Sunday, March 30, 2014

Don't you love a working bee?

The chickens are murmuring as Ms Tagalong and Mr Ideasman pass the gate. Hang on, they are supposed to be inside the coop, not roosting on the water barrel or squeezed between the chair and the railway sleepers.

The two latest additions to the coop, our beautiful black (Australorp?) and another Isa Brown had been kicked out by the others and had sought refuge by flying over the fence into the garden.

Purring gently they are encouraged back into the coop. It was the end to a very hot, sweaty and busy day in the garden.

Mr Ideasman had raised the roof literally on the water tanks. Something to do with the drop/fall. Ms Tagalong who had lent a little muscle to the operation nodded sagely.

The weeds were everywhere, mostly grass, probably from immature horse manure and the rampant sweet potato covered every walkway, let alone every bed!

Many piles later and a few beds revealed self-seeded lettuce, rocket and mustard. Great, good to get a head start on winter crops.

Each working bee participant got to take home some seed trays to nurture and bring back to the next session.

Spinach, endive, celery, dill, mustard lettuce, pak choy – can’t wait!

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Pocket Parks

So who knows what a pocket park is? Our guest blogger Melanie McKinnon is about to tell us.

A pocket park is a small park accessible to the general public. Pocket parks are frequently created on a single vacant building lot or on small, irregular pieces of land. Wikipedia

A Google search on this topic yielded lots of information not only about the benefits of green spaces in busy urban environments but also findings from specific projects around the world. Anyone who has visited New York will be familiar with the fabulous pocket parks that have grown up around the city. The impact of pocket parks in cities such as Philadelphia with high crime rates and dysfunctional communities is described in the following extract

Research from Philadelphia ‘has found that distressed neighborhoods where vacant lots have been converted into small parks and community green spaces are associated with reduced crime when compared to neighborhoods with unimproved vacant lots.  In some sections of the city, residents of neighborhoods with improved vacant lots also reported ‘significantly less stress and more exercise,’ suggesting that the improvements had an effect on residents’ perceptions of safety outdoors.'
I am sure most would agree that Tighes Hill boasts two outstanding examples of how the conversion of vacant sites into community gardens has contributed to the physical and emotional well-being of individual residents and to the general sense of safety and neighbourliness that exists within the suburb. More recently the residents of Mitchell St and surrounds used a vacant site on Throsby creek to create a pop up pocket park with minimal resources but maximum benefit for its users
And there can be no doubt that the work undertaken in Islington Park over recent years has had huge benefits in changing the image of the park, creating a stronger sense of ownership and community pride and contributing to the overall wellbeing of those who use the park.
There may be a number of potential pocket park sites around Tighes Hill ranging from larger spaces that can be used for recreational purposes to smaller spaces that once cleaned and greened may generate a stronger sense of ownership and pride. An additional benefit might be that those passing through our suburb see that we care about our physical environment
One such spot is a small irregular plot of ground on the shoulder of the bridge at the end of Bryant St  - anyone using the steps that lead from Bryant St down to Tighes Terrace will be familiar with the site. In recent times there have been some attempts to clean and green the area the most recent being to remove weeds, cut grass and lay mulch – courtesy of Kings Rd Community garden. 
In spite of the dry conditions cuttings of low growing shrubs have survived providing the motivation to persevere with the project. Not surprisingly the activity at the site has been the impetus for interaction with numerous passers- by whose comments have been encouraging and whose conversation has provided insights and stories about the suburb
Anyone passing this site is welcome to pull a weed or two or pour a bottle of water on the plants – identified by small wooden stakes at the site of the plant.
Is there an area crying out to be a pocket park near you?

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Washout?

Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong rubbed the sleep out of their eyes as they unpacked the car with the carefully prepared packs of chillies, lemon verbena, lemongrass, bunches of rosemary, pots of aloe vera and paraphernalia for the first appearance of a community garden at the Newcastle Show.

It was not promising. The rain had fallen all night, the ground was waterlogged, but inside the marquee it was dry if not cosy and warm.

The table was set, arranged and down came the rain. Streams, nay torrents raced through the marquee under the table and out the other side. Habitant in Harmony volunteers emerged from the sheeting rain like drowned rats. They should have got up early like Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong! Shouldn’t be rude, they dispensed some wonderful hot carob milk. (More about that at a later date)

As it was, it made for a very long, wet day with few viewers and even fewer takers. There was a highlight (there always is) Ms Mova and Tagalong were asked to judge the school scarecrow exhibition.
The task taken seriously they pondered, scratched their heads and carefully judged according to the criteria given.
Such wonderful prizes it seemed a shame more schools hadn’t taken advantage of the opportunity to show their artistic side.

Ms Tagalong dodged the showers and looked at the piglets, the baby goats and the very entertaining chickens. Some of them definitely needed to be kept behind bars.

Later, it was a damp, cool night for the Film in the Garden, but those who dressed up and came along enjoyed every minute of it. The group decamped to a member’s living room and were captivated by the charismatic Diana Vreeland.

The opening salvo set the scene.

‘You just have to arrange to be born in Paris. The rest is easy!’

What a character.

So don’t let the weather put you off, here at Tighes Hill Community Garden – it’s never a washout! 
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Air Gardens

Ms Tagalong is always on the lookout for gardens to report on. Gardens here, gardens there, gardens anywhere. Mostly her eyes are groundwards, maybe sweeping upwards to some bushes and trees.
Strolling along the North Bank of the Yarra in Melbourne her beady eyes were taken with some strange shapes swinging and twirling in the breeze above her head. So what were they? Cobweb encrusted coathangers? Weird and wonderful.

Stopping to read, she notes:

‘The concept is to suspend series of super sustainable rotating air gardens within the Melbourne environment.’Lloyd Godman is the artist.  It says Godman’s artworks are purifiers of the air as well as the soul, suppliers of colour as well as calmness, and filters of water as well as the human spirit.

Ms Tagalong calls to Mr Ideasman to see if his spirit feels filtered as she points out the recycled bicycle wheels wrapped in air plants. Enjoying a conversation with his Mum he barely glances and Ms Tagalong feels that perhaps his mind has already sieved out Ms T’s prattle.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lazarus - the chicken

The distressed faces of Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong said it all. They grimaced and gawped as the lovely Isa Brown, so vibrant a few hours ago fell headlong into its porridge. Eyes closed, she was limp in the hands of Ms Tagalong.

It might do to back up a little and say that as they were working in the garden on Saturday, they noticed one of the girls, who should have been happily tearing up one of the allocated beds, squatting down and seemingly heaving, tail down.

‘Might be eggbound, ‘ said Ms Mova authoritatively. Then added, ‘Shall I look it up?’ and went off to consult the Great God Google.

‘Could be,’ she said, ‘do you want to hear the cures? 1. Hold her rear end over a bowl of steaming water hoping that it will relax her to lay the egg. 2. Massage some olive oil over the nether regions and 3. Never put in a finger to get her to release it.’

Ms Tagalong was glad the last option was off the agenda.

‘Let’s try the steaming water,’she said. And so it was. Ten minutes after the steaming started, a few gentle pooping sounds later, the definitely off colour hen emitted a strangled sound and collapsed into some carefully mixed porridge oats and olive oil.

‘Well, there’s another one gone then. I wonder what it was for her to go down so quickly?’ Ms Tagalong said.

As Ms Tagalong gently lay her hands to the ground the lifeless chicken moved her head. She did, she really did. She opened her eyes and started pecking the oats in the container. Ms Tagalong and Ms Mova watched agape as she then took in water from the small stainless steel bowl next to her. She regained strength and in a few minutes was standing up!

‘Well I never,’ said Ms Tagalong, ‘I thought she’d died in my arms.’

But no, she was back. Ten minutes later she waddled back into the run and as she sat down Ms Mova thought the small pen might be better equipped to deal with an egg the size of which no-one in Tighes Hill had ever seen.

Don’t know if she ever laid the giant egg but she is happily pecking around today with the best of them.

‘Is this normal chook behaviour?’ pondered Ms Mova.

Any answersanyone?
Is this the offending egg?
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Veg out this year!

Hard to believe whilst the country swelters under the heat Ms Tagalong found a cool spot just a few weeks ago at the Veg Out Community Garden in St Kilda.

Strolling through the ‘co-ordinated whimsy’ from pirate ships to ranch gates Ms Tagalong came across Peter, a 3 years long participant, watering his plot.

‘It’s all about community rather than the plot itself,’ he said.

It certainly seems to be so with over $200,000 raised for local charity projects in the last 10 years, free weekly lunches for the homeless and a thriving Organic Farmer’s Market.

Ideally located in a former bowling club the garden has a working kitchen, classrooms, arts studios, pizza oven, mains water, tanks for watering and toilets. So lucky, thought Ms Tagalong as she listened wide-eyed to the upcoming plans for an extended ‘art fence’ a 3 year long-term project, saw the just completed vine structure and all the sitting areas and art installations.

Hugh, the Vice President relates how they rent out 150 individual plots with participation in 2 working bees for the year which helps install the infrastructure such as the sleeper surrounded beds, the bedhead trellises etc.

An added bonus to membership is the sampling of the 30 litres of wine they made last year!

Mr Ideasman struck up conversation with a lady with a very expensive chicken. A chicken who had had a $2,300 hysterectomy!  She now can’t lay eggs but still tries.  Mmm

So that's it: the community garden Veg Out in Melbourne.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Social, social, social....

Christmas comes but once a year but with the amount of Christmas parties and festivities around the neighbourhood you might be forgiven for thinking that it is a December-long holiday!

Friday night saw members of the Garden and the Community Group gather to share food, frolic and play music on a balmy Summer evening. No sooner had you surveyed the food table than yet another platter of delicious comestibles were added. Cake made with eggs from the garden, Vietnamese Spring Rolls made with mint and lettuce from the garden, elderflower cordial from the elder bush in the garden and so on…

Much food, drink and conversation later, the Thukes got going, singing and playing a medley of songs from their repertoire which got quite a few up and dancing, Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong leading the way with Red joining in, plus of course the inevitable Christmas Carols with some guest singers visiting from Melbourne.

One fabulous outcome from the evening is that Ms Tagalong is proud to announce that The Source Café is going to be using available produce from the Community Garden as we provide a mixed box of veg and herbs weekly. Thanks Source for providing us with an ongoing income and keeping it about as local as you can get!

After a stunning concert at the Treehouse on Saturday night it was back to the garden on Sunday for a debrief and celebration of the coal survey doorknocking campaign which has been taking place in the suburb. A good turnout and welcome results for all those living with the coal dust! Let’s just get those politicians onboard!

And what about the actual garden, Ms Tagalong hears you ask, well it is growing abundant, verdant, luxurious with produce needing to be picked. So come for your tomatoes and cucumbers, basil and lettuce, beans and kale. It’s a bumper crop before the hot, dry weather sets in again.

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