Last week this time I was in an advanced state of panic. The kids were sickening, I was tired, work was ramping up, the house was in its usual state of chaos, and I was weeks behind with my studies. Fun and all as this whole Greenest St thing is, I needed a few weeks off to hide behind my suburban picket fence and crochet, or watch the baby sleep, or do housework (not).
But as the Kapiti Council’s Green Gardener Hannah reminded me, “there’s nothing like a deadline to make things happen”.
And thanks to that inspiring synergistic thing that happens when the too-busy, overloaded, pre-occupied members of a suburban street reach beyond their picket fences and each person takes that small and otherwise insignificant step that they CAN do, our community garden is now a great leap forward!
Yesterday as all the kids returned from school and the commuters returned from work we gathered in the street around the piles of baking left over from the day. The IT boys from BNZ in Wellington were wrapping up after a hard day’s graft breaking down pallets and rebuilding them into raised garden beds, the kids were shovelling mulch into wheelbarrows and ferrying it from our old garden site to the new one, and the big people were layering mulch and horse poo and lime and twigs in our flash new gardens.
As I staggered upstairs at the end of the day it was hard to believe what we’d achieved. So many little pieces that all came together somehow. For some of you this might be everyday stuff but for me it bordered on miraculous even though I’d had the privilege of being on the inside as it looked like it wasn’t going to happen, time and time again, and yet it did. But more than that, what was so amazing to me was how each person somehow came forward and contributed their bit at just the critical moment. That – I reckon – is community.
And for those who want to know how you get a community garden kick-started in a week, here it is:
I should start with a word for our sponsors:
– the BNZ boys: you rock! Shane and his team of self-proclaimed “coneheads” put in a solid day’s work breaking down pallets and turning them into raised gardens for us.
– Mike and Mike and Mark from Placemakers, Kapiti, for donating timber, pallets and screws
– Craig from Monkeyman Services (0800 466 659) for a ton of mulch and hedge clippings.
– Don and Nigel from Carpet Court Waikanae for a load of recycled carpet
– Mulch4U for piles of mulch
– Stan Goodman from Goodman Transport for being willing to loan us a truck to transport an 8.5 tonne loader when that looked like being the quickest and cheapest way to deal to those darn blackberries (go figure!)
– Charlotte from Composting NZ for compost and wood shavings
– Nga Uruora for the loan of their loppers and machetes
– Adrienne and Tristan Embury for stepping in to give us the use of their land for our community garden when an estate agent knocked an “Upcoming Auction” sign into our previous venue
– Jake, Stacey and Hannah from the Kapiti Coast District Council for all their support and practical assistance through the project.
– The man on Hillcrest Rd who spotted me raiding his recycling bin for cardboard boxes and donated 3 passionfruit vines to our cause.
And from the street…
– My kids for watching Darkwing Duck on repeat and missing out on bedtime stories for a week while I worked the phones and sent a gazillion too-long emails.
– Steve for donating 40kg lime and the use of his precious power tools to the cause, for keeping our household afloat while I was preoccupied, and for stepping in to clean up after everyone left
– Vicky, for providing her home and garage as a base for the BNZ team, supplying tea and filter coffee, making sandwiches and a fruit platter, phoning around chasing pallets and grass-clippings, doing countless trips to pick up old carpet in Waikanae, and for being on the ground all of D-Day to make things happen.
– Glen for organising ground-clearing machinery and a trailer for us, fetching a mountain of old carpet, and staying focused on finding a solution to our blackberry problem through what became a very convoluted process
– Glenda and Chris for shovelling ten or more garbage sacks of horse manure, paying for it, loading it up and driving it home, supplying tools, helping mark out our gardens, and baking muffins.
– Prue for making sandwiches and muffins, driving to Paekak to collect machetes and loppers, being on the ground all through the day, and for being the last person left tidying up at the end of the day.
– Renee for putting her trailer-navigating skills to work doing a heap of trips to pick up carpet, loading it up, bringing it back, and laying it all out on the section. The girls for getting all the kids motivated to move barrowloads of mulch.
– Bonnie for recruiting Aiden and Lance to the cause and putting in some hard graft moving mulch and laying carpets.
– Sam for being the first person to step up, supplying us with a heap of timber, tools and bikkies for the troops
– Rachel for organising lunch in between looking after a 3 month old, and allowing her garage to become base camp for the day, supplying power and food for the team. Clinton and Iain for doing the trip to Placemakers to pick up donated wood, screws and pallets.
– Kelly for offering to do lunch for everyone, supplying food and tools, being on the ground with two preschoolers in tow, and sacrificing family time with Iain so that he could put in an afternoon’s hard graft with the BNZ team making the raised beds.
– Dora for supplying pallets.
– Pamela for supplying baking, making food for my family, and looking after my snotty two year old for the morning so I could be on the ground.
– Angie for rounding up a pile of cardboard for us and supplying baking and tools – as well as for son Joe, who inspired us to build our garden from recycled pallets.
– Gytha for organising coffee grounds.
– Anne for phoning around for free mulch to add to our collection.
– Rachel and Brendan for making their trailer and tools available to the street throughout the whole process. Brendan for getting to work with a scrubcutter clearing the section before the BNZ team arrived. Maya for moving mulch, and yummy baking from Rachel too.
– Shona, Paora and Tama were all over the day. They connected up with Composting NZ, organising us 4 loads of compost and an unlimited supply of wood shavings. They spent hours ferrying and shovelling compost and then filling the raised beds. They tracked down pallets, supplied tools and polythene, did baking, and the boys put in some hard graft too.
– Matiu and the boys for moving mulch and compost to fill the beds.
– Charity and Shanon for tools, baking and delicious home-made lemonade. Charity’s expertise with layered gardens kept us on track as we filled them up, and we’re promised artichokes and strawberry plants from her garden to get ours started.
And that’s just what I can remember now. I’m sure there were countless other contributions that aren’t listed here, along with the back-stories about how people rearranged their lives to make this happen. I never lose sight of how new this all is to us. We’re wired for community but suburbia has somehow bred it out of our day-to-day lives. It’s no easy thing to shuffle our comfy routines on a moment’s notice and to give priority to something that will take a little time to show benefits to those immediately within our own four walls.
It’s just the beginning but what a beginning it is. I am truly proud to be a Rainbow Courtier. (And if any of you want to become Rainbow Courtiers, there are some sections going real cheap on 24 March)