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Growing local

While I'm outback pottering about in the dirt, my other half is slaving away on the veranda making mosaic and Pique Assiette whoopee.

It goes to show how productive the outdoors can be. 

Pieces of china and tiles recycled as artefacts.

Fuelling this engagement are regular visits to dump and Op shops --always with an eye to something that'll 'do up nice'.

Every Saturday fortnight we hold a Mosaics Club meet-up on the veranda and there is a hands-on frenzy of layout and decoration as pieces of colour and texture are reassembled by keen hands.

As chance would have it I now get to sell some of my garden produce to this milieu and the mosaics are outletted through Plum Divine at Artrageous in Deagon.

So who woulda thought?

If you have ever been to Park Güell in Barcelona -- designed by  Antoni Gaudí you'll know that there are gardens...and then there are gardens!

My problem is that my veg is so rampant that I'm losing the mosaic items in the garden among all the greenery.


As it is, when young children come over for workshops (weekly) I'm frightened we may lose them in the undergrowth such that when the mums come around to pick em up we may have to send out a search party.

This goes to show that an outback garden can be engineered into a magical place; full of bits. Different plants. Different vistas. Objects d'art.

But that's the thing you see. A garden may be a place of meditation but it can also be a place of great excitement and wonder.

Yes...and food.

Indeed, our house-- our lifestyle, -- begins at the back door. 

We eat out there. Grow things. Make with the art. We live more there than inside.

That the setup is maintained by manure, urine, grass clippings and rubbish ferments may seem a surprising irony.

Broken bits of crockery sure seem right at home as the rule of thumb is recycle -- either up-cycle or rot.


At the school community garden today(pictured right) the intense engagement of the Under 8s -- the thrills -- is a great reminder of what a wonderful asset a simple vegetable patch can be.

This term we have tried to introduce the children to 'the garden' and gardening via the hard yards of starting from know, with weeds.

As the classes ferry through the weeks of the term, it is the wonder of change and growth that registers amongst them. Nature puts on a show and we get to play MC. 

"How high is the corn? Do you remember when we planted it? What do these plants need to grow?  Who can tell us what this is?"

Indeed, while we grow produce to distribute -- to the school tuck shop, the local cafe and community club -- and to supply the occasional garden grown lunch experience (as it turns out among the parent mix is one of Jamie Oliver's chefs who shows the kids, say, how to make pizza!) -- what impresses me the most is the wonderment.

If you want to appreciate a zucchini or an corn stalk mix it with a bunch of kids in a veg garden.

This means that each year the best we can offer these kids is not so much 'a' garden but a new one. We are duty bound to give them an experience of the cycle of life and growth and renewal.

Of course --as the parents tell me -- the side effect is that back home these same nippers are now eating their greens...

So while I've got my own patch a'happening outback and have tweaked it  to serve our needs, the true art of the kitchen garden is the sharing.

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Comment by Andrew Cumberland on March 22, 2016 at 21:01

If I were a hat wearer, I would doff it to you, good Sir.  Please accept a "virtual doffing."  Most impressive. 

Comment by Dave Riley on March 22, 2016 at 11:07

I think the research on school gardening suggest that any project must be part of a continuum..and any gardening momentum needs to begin in primary our case; the kinder has a garden and worm farm too.As far as I can guess it also needs to be curriculum integrated -- rather than 'extra-curricula' -- because primarily it is a lifestyle/nutritional thing we're after. 

The problem is that teachers don't get taught to garden so it isn't a standard educational tool.But creatively addressed you can draw from the garden: mathematics, biology, science (eg: pH), cooking, nutrition, exercise, art, and sundries. 

Bottom line is getting the children to respect food. So really you are in partnership with a good tuck-shop program too.

Each term we push the envelope..but the school community, esp the parents, are very supportive. The way we do it, currently, is that we get to discuss with the supervisory teacher the lesson needs to come so we organise plantings and tasks to suit. And with the heads, the broader term context gets engineered.

Last year the garden was also deployed as a reward and as a cooling off milieu for the problem kids. A distraction from acting out. As only a select number of children were gardening on a regular basis the parents started complaining.

So now the whole school is rotated through -- albeit in short sessions.

But a volunteer input is really the only way  these gardens can survive and build ongoing presence.The teaching environment can be very unstable. To expect a school to run and administer  a garden is a hard ask given term breaks, teacher schedules/work loads and curriculum pressures.

I doubt it is feasible long term without this community connection...You can't expect the groundskeepers to do it. 

Comment by Susan on March 22, 2016 at 7:42

Thanks Dave - love seeing all that art work.  I too am running a school garden but not necessarily as successful as yours as mine is aimed at teenagers. I do have a few kids who are really getting into it and have enjoyed harvesting basil and chillies - they will, I hope stick with it.  The enthusiasm for all things outdoors is rather lacking in teens in general.  To be fair, when I was a teen, I was not at all enthusiastic for the garden and my grandfathers wonderful patch which we "helped" maintain (ate the strawberries, beans and peas and complained loudly when we had to help do any work) and would rather have been inside watching TV. 

Comment by Christa on March 18, 2016 at 10:11

Love your blog, Dave.  You show so much energy, and it is no wonder your garden is turning into a jungle.  Your work with the schoolkids is what we need to do more of, especially nurturing their love for gardening and seeing things growing.     Wouldn't it be great if we could get some schoolkids to do a garden visit, I know that there would be a lot of red tape and safety conscious teachers, but that is maybe a way to put the idea into their minds.

Helen's mosaics are so creative and Artrageous is not far from our place, I must have a look.   I would love to do an aussie flag in mosaics for the garden, and put the word "home" under it.

Comment by Barbara Tealby on March 18, 2016 at 9:31

The mosaics are amazing, Dave. What a talented lady! Putting a bit of magic into the gardening is a great way to go with the kids. Come to think of it, for grown-ups too.

Comment by Dianne Caswell on March 18, 2016 at 8:44

These are absolutely beautiful. Having visited Dave & Helen's home on 2 occasions for GV's, I can say that it is like a wonderland with Helen's Mosaics scattered throughout Dave's Magical Garden. 

Comment by Lissa on March 18, 2016 at 4:59

Helen does beautiful mosaic work for sure. The Plum Divine shop at Deagon is well worth repeated visits through the year to check out the latest original art works for sale at a reasonable price.

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