A strange thing happened recently. After 6 years of blogging I lost my ‘voice’. One minute it was there, then it was gone. I’ve countless drafts sitting in my google docs, but none made it here and I was beginning to wonder if my blogging voice would ever come back. Perhaps it was something to do with the flu bug I’m now sharing my fourth week with, but gone it was and it’s only as a result of taking these photos that I’m tentatively easing my way back in.
Until this week outdoor activities have been at a minimum. Yesterday that began to change as Mr G and I managed to take advantage of the spring sunshine and we headed out for a walk. It was an amazing experience as the reintroduction into the wild was bursting with spring sights and sounds and I’m really thankful we took the time to do so.
We walked at a steady pace for fun and not exercise. Because of this, we were able to hear and watch the various birds twittering with one another and just caught the sound of twigs snapping, alerting us to a fox running for cover in the distance. We listened to streams trickling through the undergrowth as they headed down to the river. When we stopped for a few moments and were really quiet, we were able to hear the soft, deep sound of male frogs calling for mates throughout the woodland.
We are in awe of the amount of frog spawn that’s been laid in the puddles and ponds in the forestry. After the big machines and lorries departed, they left behind deep tracks all around the clearings which the frogs have taken full advantage of. There isn’t a single track that we could see that wasn’t full of the gelatinous spawn. We could hear the adults all around us but could barely get a glimpse. Whether they heard our tracks or could feel our vibrations on the pathways I’m not sure, but it was nye on impossible catching a glimpse of a frog, bar this one that we rescued before our young dog was tempted to play with it too enthusiastically.
Hopefully, I’m now turning a corner on the energy front as I’ve so many plans and ideas in the pipeline it’s starting to get frustrating. I’ve also been blessed with the help of an amazingly enthusiastic and upbeat work experience woman, Frances of Healing by Franc, who’s enjoying learning about the intricacies of running a small, social enterprise as she studies for her own Fetac 5 in Horticulture.
Having the responsibility of a trainee has allowed me to really focus on the weeks ahead and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in. Here’s some of the plans.
The Community Garden Network (CGN)
After a week of day time TV, I couldn’t stand it any longer so sat down and wrote down my goals for the year, both personal and professional. My enthusiasm for community gardens hasn’t diminished at all and in fact, the more I see and hear, the more I’m convinced we need an active community garden network to support and help one another.
I took the opportunity of some quiet time to spruce up the new cgn.ie website and as a result, feel that it’s finally starting to take shape. We’ve begun mapping the community gardens, something we were unable to do on our forum site. We now have over 165 community gardens mapped, with the majority of Northern Ireland still to go. I’ve also begun to add In Focus posts on the CGN blog written by various community gardens; an idea I started on the Greenside Up blog but feel the real home of such posts should be on the CGN blog.
A section that’s been proving popular on the CGN website is the newly created Training and Education initiatives, as well as Synergies with other agencies and organisations. These are both tucked under the Resources section which apart from giving tips on how to set up a community garden, also include information on setting up food co-ops, community cafés and buying clubs, an idea Frances and I are about to start exploring with neighbours.
As a result of spending a few hours dedicated to this project, plans for the community network have fought to get out of my head and as a result, we now have a draft strategy document in place for the coordinators to work towards and we are actively looking for funding avenues to help us continue our work.
Creating Local Community Garden Networks
Talking of funding, at the end of last year I heard I’d been awarded a small amount of Local Agenda 21 funding to create a Carlow Community Garden Network and explore the possibility of community gardens becoming Eco hubs, or places of adult environmental learning. I’m in the process of planning a workshop in Carlow in April and am very much looking forward to helping representatives of the dozen or so gardens in Carlow sit down in one place and introduce one another.
Working with Community Gardens
Last year I was funded by Carlow Kilkenny ETB to work with a small community garden in Glenn na Bearu, Bagenalstown and I’m thrilled that more funding has been granted to this wonderful group to enable me to head back to them in April. Last year we ran a session on garden design and as a result, they helped design a bigger and better community garden, adding several more raised beds. If you’re local and reading this we’d love to see you in the garden on Wednesdays for the practical workshops, tea and cake. All are welcome.
More community garden projects will be coming on stream after Easter; if you’re interested in hearing more about them sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss out.
Working with Individuals
In a couple of weeks I’ll be welcoming budding gardeners into our own kitchen garden and sharing the basics of propagating with them. From seeds to cuttings, layering and bulb division, we’ll be looking at several ways we can start growing food, shrubs and flowers without it costing a bomb. To accommodate the workshop the polytunnel has been repaired and tidied, the willow fedge and autumn fruiting raspberry canes have been pruned, and the garden in general is getting a good tidy up. Now if only the lawn would dry out I’d even be tempted to cut the grass.
There’s still a couple of places left on the first workshop in March so if you’d like to join us, you can read more about the course details here.
Synchronicity is a wonderful word and within hours of writing down my goals, ‘coincidences’ began to happen, one of which, was an email landing in my inbox about a facilitation workshop that will be taking place in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary. As the opportunity to facilitate conversations about community gardens and the environment begin to happen, so too does my wish to learn more about guiding them. I can’t wait to learn more about the art of facilitating from a couple of men I greatly admire in this respect, Davie Philip and Chris Chapman who worked with us in the very early days of the Community Garden Network.
Once we begin to look, there’s so much going on in communities that can engage us and give us the opportunity to meet like-minded people. Community gardens in particular have a massive potential to become outdoor education centres for adults, giving us the opportunity to step away from our screens or work, busy or lonely lives for a couple of hours and learn about nature, wildlife, food and the environment with others.
They are ideal places to go if you’d like to start gardening but don’t know how, if you live in a flat with no garden or live on your own with too much garden. Community gardens give us the opportunity to make friends, sharing the work and sharing the harvest.
Are you tempted? If so, take a look at the map above and see if there’s a community garden near you.