Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Community garden and what is resilience?

Yesterday I had planned to write something about my poor garden as the dust blew in and the promised rain failed to materialise.  The weather is being pushed by the remnants of cyclone Olga that caused heavy rain in Queensland, inland towards Lake Eyre and,  yesterday, as far south as Jamestown...  a couple of hours north of here.
Adelaide received a little bit overnight,  but it appears that we have missed it this time.  I'm glad to have at least another 20,000 litres or so sitting out there.
Today I am preparing another small patch of ground to plant some brassicas.  These seem to do well here, even in the summer,  and we'll avoid the early winter "famine."
The cucumbers aren't producing yet (they went in a bit late this year)  but they are looking really healthy.

These silver beet plants have self-seeded and grown where I dump the washing up water and we have eaten quite a few leaves from here.  

...and here is dinner...tomatoes, zucchini, basil and some of the leaves from outside.  

... with lentils and rice, this will be along the lines of kichari as I'll be home a bit late from the DAP meeting.

It is quite cloudy today and a good day for doing some garden work... I've shovelled,   dug,  mulched and watered... and I planted a few more beans.
The rest of the yard looks very dry.  This eremophila is one of the few plants that seems to thrive in this weather...  with no water at all.  The honeyeaters love its flowers too.
This is another native bush... and some manage to survive the summers by dropping most of their leaves and looking dead!  It does this every summer,   and there are a few grey-green leaves still attached to the woody stalks.


This is amazing also... behind the chicken shed is this rainforest remnant.  The woman who lived here before I did had dozens of pot plants out here,  and I presume that this one escaped!  It gets no water either,  and manages to survive...


Behind the chicken shed as well,  is this pepper tree,  among others... there are several there.  These trees are native to India, but grow very well with very little water and so have been planted all over Australia, or at least this part of it.  They can be very invasive,  but will always provide at least a little bit of shade in the summer, despite losing some of their leaves in the driest weather.

The row of pepper trees here overhang the chickens yard... they provide shade during the summer and in winter,  they remove excess water that might otherwise lay on the ground.


It has been hot and dry enough that the lemon verbena hasn't flowered.  The buds just dried out and shrivelled up.  Perhaps the plants will try again later in the season...


And here,  near the chickens are the aestevating artichokes....
....  before long,  this area will be fenced so that the chickens will have the run of it in order to have them eat all of the earwigs before the winter plantings...
... and back towards the house....
...  very dry and needing some cleaning up,  but in the distance is my campervan.  It is back in good health again,  and parked in the shade near the street.  
This is my insurance policy.  People ask (when discovering that I have no house insurance) what I will do when the house burns down.  Apart from the fact that this isn't very likely....  being built of stone and iron....  but if it should happen,  I have my trusty van.

I have been reading the news,  thinking about self sufficiency and resilient communities.

Yesterday, a visit to the community garden that is looking healthy and happy, made me think...  our community is doing well, despite the current political climate, for it is the political situation that continues to make lives difficult.   News from our federal parliament continues to relate, however ineffectively,  to climate change, carbon emissions and the various schemes to reduce this pollution and "save the planet".  In fact the planet is fine,  it will survive,  it is the human population that may not!

The climate debate remains a fraught issue with some politicians wanting to make some changes  (as long as it doesn't cause any distress to the financial sector), some who don't believe in climate change at all and those who are attempting to make a compromise in order to maintain the option of behavioural change (and pollution reduction) in the future.  By using this terminology,  I am indicating my belief in and concern with anthropogenic climate change....  though with more and more hot dry days and record breaking heatwaves with temperatures in the 40's (over 105F) it seems to be a "no brainer"  from  my point of view...  climate change is happening and we are already beyond mitigating all of this change....  we need to adapt as soon as possible.  I suppose that's what I'm doing here in Kapunda,  preparing for peak energy, environmental changes and all of this, concurrent with a serious economic event... the "global financial crisis"  as it has become known.

I think that this is all related.  It is no accident that the carbon levels have increased exponentially at the same time as oil production has accelerated as fast as it could be extracted...  and material consumption has increased absurdly, to the point where material goods (often useless) are stockpiled as people build larger houses or rent spaces to store their posessions.

Historically,  all people have worked to supply their needs...  and once that was achieved,  there was time for recreation.  Not only that,  but much of the production was done "in house,"  particularly by women, making resource consumption significantly less in the past.  In recent years,  there has been pressure to buy additional products and services that are surplus to real needs.  This pressure is driven by companies that are able to profit from demand that they create by using various marketing techniques, advertising tricks and planned obsolesence.  This has caused a huge increase in the consumption of resources and related polluting emissions.

This level of consumption by modern western societies is not sustainable in the long term.  It will not continue.  The only decision needed now is whether the changes to our way of life (and consumption patterns) are made voluntarily and in a measured way...  or whether there is catastrophic change that happens anyway, without any planning.   Changes in lifestyle are coming, whether we plan for these or not.

Some of the changes are obvious.  Less energy for taransportation (and everything else) means local production of food and other necessities.  An increase in the cost of energy must cause an increase in the cost of products and services, and the need for localised (and even "in house")  production again.

These kinds of changes are enhanced and supported by a strong community, and that is what I found at our community garden yesterday.
The garden has been planned for some time and after the usual kinds of start-up issues,  some parts of the garden are planted.  So far there is a border of native plants,  several vegetable patches and some areas of succulents, all mulched and watered... and there are a number of garden beds to go... just waiting for some more work and plantings.   Students from the high school are ready to work there too.
Yesterday afternoon it was a picnic that I attended... no reason...  just a 'get-together"  to see how it is all going.  Some people were coming and going "between meetings"  (there are plenty of other events around the town) and planning an assortment of activities.  We checked on the progress of the various vegetables,  thought about what else might be useful,  where a garden seat might go and I thought that a sculpture would be wonderful.  Twenty-five brains are better than one!
It was a hot, dry day,  and so we moved our chairs to take the best advantage of the small amount of shade.   We drank cordial (Australian style,  not the alcoholic versions of my North American history) and snacked on various foods brought by the participants.  As I sat there,  I couldn't help but reflect on the fact that the resilient community that so many people are in the process of building is already right here and I am a part of it.  I have read about resilient communities that have street parties or make compost communally,  but I think cake and cordial in the garden works as well.
I have described to city people how a walk to the post office can take three quarters of an hour... just because there are so many people to meet and  greet... and so much news to catch up on... I suppose that this might be labelled as "gossip"  but in fact it is the trivia and empathy that one finds along the footpath that sustains the community.
There are all of the usual main street shops, including a butcher and a baker,  a drapery shop that is well enough stocked that you can buy any socks, underwear, some clothing and sewing supplies,  library,  grocery and second hand shops, chemist and "dollar" shop.   It is a secure feeling to know that everything that you need is right there in the main street, and isn't that what a resilient community consists of?   Even a trip to the community garden shows just how "intact" this community remains,  for this is how all of our towns must have been some years ago.  This is a resilient community.

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