Life is pretty good at the moment, I am feeling very creative, have loads of energy, spinning too many plates and as usual when I get like this I worry that I am reaching some dizzy height before the fall. I am hoping that it is just my natural pessimism rather than recognising the natural pattern of my life. Every silver lining has a cloud.
But why worry? Well because it is September, the summer is over and my garden, my life, is moving into that autumn phase, which here in Ireland it means damp soggy days and the build up to the winter storms ahead. There we go dark clouds on the horizon.
But if I am really honest I’m sat here going NO, not this year, not this time, I am so excited about what lies ahead I am finding it difficult to contain myself and even harder to express it as the white screen fills up with what I am writing. So where to start? Things might get a little jumbled, I’ll just jump in.
On October the 3rd we have a TV program, Grow Cook Eat coming down to film at the Community Garden. If you have read my blogs before you will probably already know that I started a Community Garden down at our local community centre just outside the village. It wasn’t easy to set up, I live in a very rural area and most people are like, “why do a garden, what’s the point?” We are surrounded by land, it is a farming community and probably everyone has access to a potential garden plot, it is not like a city where growing space is at a premium. Well I think a community garden is more than just a growing space, it is a place where the community can come together and I have seen some initial signs of that.
Most of the people and there are not as many as I had hoped, that have come down to the garden are not “local.” They are mostly people who have moved into the area, those who have chosen to move, not those who were born to this country lifestyle, these are often termed “blow ins,” which is a term that some think of as a negative label. Blow in and then blow out, transients not local. However I like being a blow in, I’m not here by an accident of birth, I’ve travelled all over the world and could live anywhere but this is where I decided to set down my roots and bring up a family, I’ve only got myself to blame but I know I chose well.
The community garden is a place where everyone can come together and integrate; meet people who share a common interest. We can contribute and show pride in our community in a shared place that both displays the beauty that surrounds us and learn more about our environment.
The garden is educational, we have had kids from the local playgroup & primary schools visiting the garden and we can show them some of the wonders that nature provides and maybe inspire the next generation to appreciate and consequently care for the world that surrounds them and God knows we so desperately need that!
I am hoping that I am preaching to the converted and that you are saying to yourself, well that’s bloody obvious, why is he banging on about it? But in reality I am having to explain why a community garden is a good idea and tonight I will be trying to express that to our local community councillors in order to get some support so when this national TV program comes to our small and very new community garden that we can show them that the community is right behind this project. Their program is all about encouraging people to grow, cook and eat local produce and I want our garden to be a place where people can learn to do just that and so much more.
They rang me a couple of months ago to ask if they could come to do some filming so I was prepared and have had it in the back of my mind and I have gone to the garden almost every day this summer as I volunteered to look after the 3 polytunnels that the community council use to provide vegetables to the social centre and our local meals on wheels scheme. But when they sent me an email last week saying would the 3rd of October be ok I have been galvanised to put some of the plans for the garden into action.
The wood for the fencing was delivered sometime ago, this is not only to define the limits of the garden but also a framework for the wind break material, this is badly needed as the site is exposed and the trees I planted for hedging will need protection if the garden is to thrive. I hope eventually that this mixed hedge of hawthorn and crab apple will do that wind break job and provide fruit but it will take time to establish in order to provide protection for the rest of the garden, I’m sure you get the idea.
Well that wood needs to be put up and you would not believe how difficult that has been proving to be. There is the physical side of things, the garden is built on rock and the post have to go into that and along with that there has been some (a lot of) discussion on the best place for the fence, not by those who use the community garden but by those who seem resistant to even the idea of the community garden, hence this evening’s presentation to “persuade” the community council that the community garden is a good idea and help put up the fence.
There has to be some kind of analogy there with barriers being built and boundaries being crossed but I’ll leave you to make it yourselves.
I have got to say though the contrast in attitudes is amazing as there are so many people who share my enthusiasm about the garden inside and outside of the council and who are so supportive and helpful that I know the battles are worth it and they give me the energy to keep on swinging.
I don’t think there has been one day this summer where someone has not said something positive to me about the garden and complimented me on what I am doing and of course that is great and very encouraging but what I really want from them is not to compliment me but to take ownership and pride in the garden themselves, I need them to see it as their garden and their community and look what WE can achieve if we pull together. I know it only started in January and this will take time and I am hoping having a national TV series coming to this remote little corner of the country will go some way to achieving that goal.
The signs are there, the writing is quite literally on the wall. We ran an “Adopt a Pot” scheme which has been so well supported it shows we are on the right track, over 40 pots now sit on the fence displaying names of local business, members of the local community as well as those from much further afield who for a myriad of reasons want to show support. We have a couple of pots which family members have sponsored commemorating those who have now left us and I occasionally get a little emotional that they have chosen our garden to remember them and I hope we can deliver a place where their memory will be honoured.
One of our major plans has been building some raised beds for growing vegetables. This of course could be done in many ways and making a decision on the best course of action has been difficult and I would have rather had a few more people share that responsibility with me as it is a tough choice and spending our community garden money should be shared but I have decided to use recycled plastic wood. We have raised enough money through an award from GIY (Grow it Yourself Ireland) and Energia and a table quiz during the summer to buy materials for at least 4 raised beds and from day one I have been building up the soil in a corner of the garden to fill these beds and 2 weeks ago a local builder donated 2 tons of topsoil, which is a major step forward (shout out to the bad boys Diarmuid and Dáire of O’Regan Goleen Development Ltd).
We have room for at least 6 beds so I have been asking around, the beds themselves will cost €100 each (not including delivery) so I thought I might see if anyone would like to sponsor a bed, this recycled plastic timber is supposed to last 40 years so it is not a bad investment for €100. We had a trade delegation from the US State of Maine visit our village. I know it sounds incredible, our village is tiny but we are well connected (Local man Michael Kingston brought them down to West Cork) and I asked one of the delegation representing a life science company (Julie) if they would like to sponsor a raised bed, would that not be amazing or as they say “awesome,” and I was telling our local TD Michael Collins (not to be confused with the famous dead one) the story of how audacious I had been in asking them and blow me down with a feather didn’t he reach into his pocket and sponsor one himself!
This got me thinking and I asked Mark at the spectacular Barleycove Hotel, who is always willing to support the community, if he fancied helping us out and the next minute I am walking out with another raised bed sponsored! So I will be ordering plastic wood enough for 6 raised beds! If I can get the others sponsored we can use the money saved for a seating area, I would so love to see some of the elderly members of the community sitting comfortably enjoying our garden on a nice sunny day, with maybe a couple of grand children playing or exploring the flower beds, what a scene that would make.
I know that most people who get my blog will probably have given up reading by this time, we have busy lives and who has the time to read my ramblings but would you believe there is a load more.
I was chatting with a local man about the village and gardening and telling them about what we were trying to do in our community garden and a couple of plans I had in mind. I would love to see a proper path through the garden, one that those elderly people I was imagining earlier would use to get to that imaginary bench and he asked if I could show him what I meant. So off we went to the garden and I showed him the path I had dug out some time ago th
t is now over grown with weeds and full of stones I have taken out of the flower beds. Now he was the right man in the right place at the right time and he is Ritchie Barry who runs West Cork Civil Engineering, they do loads of construction work around the area and he told me that a path using 3/4inch gravel down and a compactor would do the job and leave it to him to sort this one out! I really can’t believe it, that dream, that imagining could just become a reality.
He also told me that if we had a problem putting in the fence posts in due to the underlying rock that he might well have a rock breaker that would do the job. He is an enthusiastic gardener himself and he understood the purpose of the garden without any prompting from me. We chatted a bit more about the garden and I showed him round the polytunnels warning him about the leaky tap that has been the bane of my life this summer, the next day when I visited the tunnels I noticed the tap wasn’t leaking anymore, he had been in there and fixed it. That might be a small job for some people but to me it has been a thorn in my side and a real act of kindness from one gardener to another, I gave him a cucumber, seems like a poor exchange.
I started this community garden because I wanted to give back something to the community and gardening is what I do so it seemed logical. I am into self sufficiency, I often think that I have thoughts, opinion and views that don’t fit into the norm, I have learnt to be an outsider, a blow in and in order to get on I try not to rely on others so I won’t be disappointed if I don’t get any help. I set up the garden and fully expected that I would have to do most of it myself, what I didn’t expect was that there are others, more than I knew, who were willing to help and collectively we can achieve so much more. I am beginning to realise that some of the problems in regards to creating this garden actually lie with me, I need to learn to ask for help, I need to provide the opportunity for others to get involved, I know my attitude of self sufficiency gets me just so far and protects me from my own failures, I understand the garden bit but I have to learn a lot more about the community side of things, I have to start to trust in others and to open the garden gate and invite the community in.
To this end I have got in contact with a couple of friends Adam and Kloe who have started their own incredible garden project over in Glengarriff (https://www.twogreenshoots.com/). Adam is a Royal Horticulture Society trained gardener with loads of experience and Kloe has qualifications in Zoology with Conservation, Sustainable Development and an impressive résumé working in various community groups, they are both so creative, enthusiastic and experienced, it might be a bit over kill for our small community garden but why not get the experts in to help with the planning and they have agreed to take a look and see if they can help us create a unique space within this unique and amazing community. Did I tell you I was a bit excited?
Oh and Art College starts today.