Some thoughts on community gardening....

For those of you who don't know, I (along with Mr. Coleman and the kiddies) are very privileged to live in a community house in Foostcray (inner west of Melbourne) which is run by the Footscray Salvation Army Community, a community that is like family to us. We live in an upstairs apartment, and in the large downstairs part of the house we offer housing to different people who cross our paths. Currently we are living with good friends, an Australian family who are preparing to move to Cambodia and live/work alongside neighbours in a slum. We are also living with Asylum Seekers from East Timor, a lovely mother and her son. The house is also used by the community for dinner programs, kids clubs, outdoor soccer, a community garden and other stuff. Living here can be nuts, but I love it. It's such a privilege to share my life with such interesting and diverse people in such a deep, real and day to day way.

Anyway, I recently wrote an article for our community newsletter about our Community garden. I thought I'd share it with you here today, along with some pics from our garden. As the weather hopefully starts to warm up soon, I hope you all feel drawn outdoors and to your gardens, whether it’s a big back yard, a plot, a pot plant, or some herbs growing on your kitchen window sill.

*Just a warning, in this article, I refer a bit to "God"...I grew up with a belief system that involved the idea of a "God," and being the traditionalist that I am, I guess it's still how I refer to whatever it is out there that makes me feel that there is something bigger going on in the world then just us mere humans, yet also so close and personal too. Please don't feel I am preaching any sort of religion! I quite like the idea of a Mother Nature! Feel free to exchange the term God for something you are more comfortable with, (I like the word "Mystery" at the moment!) Or ignore complety if it's not your thing!

“If you build it, they will come.” I have always hoped that this famous line would sum up the Foostcray Salvo’s Community Garden. However, I think the more apt saying to sum it up over the years would have to be “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!” A community garden in concept is such a wonderful thing: a shared space that a group of people can feel a sense of ownership and pride in. A place where we work with the earth that God has provided us, and as we watch creation grow, learn something of the mystery of God and ourselves in the process. A place where (in our case) marginalised members of the neighbourhood could engage in an activity that is healthy both for the soul and body. A place where we can challenge the consumerist lifestyle we are all caught up in and appreciate the slow process of growing one’s food, and the amount of time and patience and faith it takes, and consider a more ethical way in which we should approach out food consumption. Much to my disappointment though, I feel that over the years we have tried numerous ways to encourage people within the community to get involved in the garden, but it just hasn’t happened. While I feel that a core group of us have spent the last 6 year “building it so they will come”, it always remains the same small group of us trying our hardest to take care of our large (and at times, overwhelming) garden.

After trying so many different tactics and ploys to encourage other people to get involved, I decided a few months ago to just let it go for awhile…. And I’m not sure if this is God’s idea of a joke (or a valuable life lesson!), but since I did, I’ve started to notice the community engaging in the care of our garden in a way I haven’t before…slowly, but it’s a joy to see.

-Our East Timorese housemates are taking pride in the place, often watering the garden and sweeping up the patio area. They have planted some vegetables that we are not so familiar with in Australia, and (the mum) has enjoyed sharing something from her own culture with us, teaching us to cook with these particular vegies.

-Many of the children in our community have planted things this year, and are so excited watching these little seedlings sprout. We’ve got spinach, coriander, lettuce, beetroot, daffodils, garlic, and tomato plants all starting to look quite healthy.

-Some of our friends who join us at our community meal have started showing an interest in composting the scraps from the cooking, and have also helped out picking the salad leaves from our garden for our dinner.  

-And to remind us that the earth is God’s, and God is a mystery, we are once again finding potatoes growing in funny places.

Mezz xx

1 comment:

  1. I love your garden. It will be interesting to see what part it will evolve into playing in the life of your community. No doubt God has a plan...He may even let you in on it sometime! Meanwhile, enjoy what the garden offers you (and people like me who come and plunder your spinach!), and see where it leads. As long as it's not down the garden path....... xo