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new year

Lifestyle

Grounded

January 14, 2014
Sunrise 14th January 2014

“It’s a new dawn, a new day….”

Do you start the year with resolutions, plans and goals?

I gave up on the “I’m going to eat an apple a day, or walk 5 miles every other” kind of new year resolutions as they invariably fall by the end of January. I am however, a strong believer in committing goals to paper and working towards them. Lorna Sixsmith wrote a very helpful post a short while ago explaining how to make and stick to business goals – there’s no point making any kind of goal if you don’t figure out a strategy how to see it through!

Catherine Drea of Foxglove Lane on the other hand uses a single word to guide her throughout the year. Looking back at her beautiful photographs over 2013 it’s now very clear that her word was ‘light’ as she plays and features it in so much of her photography. This year I’m looking forward to seeing how Catherine’s word ‘pilgrimage’ works out for her.

Roisin Markham has chosen three words to help her through 2014 and as our friendship has developed over the past couple of years, I can see that each of them is perfect for her personal journey right now.

And so to my own word. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to think too much about choosing one – it chose me and it screams at me when I close my eyes and try to think of an alternative!

“GROUNDED”

As a gardener the word grounded has many obvious connotations but my use of that one, simple word is in relation to my plans for Greenside Up.  In 2009 (perhaps naïvely) I made the bold statement that I wanted to help as many people to grow their own food as I could and in doing so, I set up my small, owner managed business. Initially I offered a personal consultation service but that quickly grew to workshops and by tutoring groups, enabled me to share my knowledge with so many more of you.  That in turn led me to blogging and community gardening and as my passion for both has grown and I approach my fifth year in business, I now have a much clearer vision of the direction I wish to take Greenside Up.

Badge

One thing I’ve learnt however, is not to rush things. Despite a bubbling excitement that’s growing stronger the closer I come to sharing my plans with you, I have to stay ‘grounded’, not only to the adventures ahead, but also as a reminder of what drives me:

“I want to help people to grow their own fruit and vegetables, to have a better understanding of food and where it comes from, which in turn will help us all to lead more sustainable lives, wherever and whomever they might be.”

Wild Cornflowers

Do you have a single word that will guide you through the year ahead? It will be interesting when we look back next year and see how we all got on. 

Lifestyle

2012 – A New Dawn, A New Day

January 3, 2012
2012 A New Dawn, A New DayIt’s that time of year when we sit down, look at the year gone by, the year ahead and plan our coming goals…

But I haven’t yet! As a working mum with a shift working husband one aspect  that I’ve had to resolve myself to is juggling family life. That includes taking time off with our children and/or working at midnight when they’re in bed and/or shutting myself in the bedroom with the netbook for some peace and quiet.

So here we are on the 3rd January. I have another week at home (mostly) enjoying their company and although I haven’t sat down yet and written a list, I have been thinking about the year gone past and the one ahead.

2011 was the busiest yet for Greenside Up with new Community Gardens starting up, the launch of the community garden network at the GIY National Conference, finding out I was a finalist at the Irish Green Awards and again at the South East Women in Business Awards. Mr G built raised beds, whilst I helped individuals start up, taught at night courses, spoke on radio interviews and, despite my nerves, spoke at several events about my passion – veggies and community gardening. I’ve  met so many lovely, enthusiastic, talented, genuine people in the couple of years since starting Greenside Up I feel blessed and I’m really looking forward to meeting them again, and hopefully meeting more.

However, the great thing about a new year is that it’s a dam good excuse to start afresh.

I love opening my brand new diary and the pages are bare. The uncertainty of not knowing what events will be unfolding and filling the crisp pages is exciting.

I’m feeling amazingly motivated about helping more people grow veggies, as well as looking forward to starting a fresh year with the community and intellectually disabled gardeners I’ve been lucky enough to work with in the past.

I’m also looking forward to starting afresh on our own plot, trying out some new varieties of vegetables, maybe some new methods, and am determined to make more wines and preserves this year too.

So in the words of Nina Simone “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life ….” bring on 2012 and whatever challenges it unveils….

Lifestyle

Reflecting on 2011 and Looking forward to 2012

December 14, 2011
How many meals could you make from this small basket of food?

How many meals could you make from this small basket of food?

Since launching a couple of years ago I’ve been encouraged by the resurgence of interest in providing food for ourselves – whether it’s through growing vegetables or keeping animals and bees and becoming more self-sufficient.

Our future is so uncertain (both environmentally and economically) that it’s heartening to see people take control of a small part of their lives (if you can call eating a small part!)

The interest in school gardening at primary level is massively important for our children’s futures and with initiatives like SEED and transition year students starting to grow vegetables, many more youngsters will start to benefit from gardening projects in their schools too. GIY Ireland have had phenomenal success with groups meeting up monthly in almost every town in Ireland, enabling people to come together and share their knowledge. Garden centres have been welcoming the revival in grow your own, which must be helping to keep their doors open in these very hard pressed times as well as keeping local people in employment.

Community Gardens

As well as various other projects for Greenside Up, 2011 saw a developing interest in community gardens. My passion for this area of gardening grew whilst I was helping start their community garden in the spring of 2010. The sense of friendship, laughter, teamwork, appreciation of nature and satisfaction from learning new skills cannot be underestimated in today’s climate.

Bagenalstown Community Garden

Bagenalstown Community GardenersFor the growing season this year I was delighted to be invited back to help both old and new gardeners once again.

In March, after mixed success at encouraging new gardeners, Bagenalstown Family Resource Centre approached Carlow VEC and for 15 weeks I was able to help a group fill the raised beds with seeds and seedlings.

Ballyhale Community Garden

Reflecting on 2011In April Kilkenny VEC were able to fund a gardening course for a group of active retired people in Ballyhale which has resulted in a small community garden being established in the land beside the local community centre.  A variety of age groups were involved and I was delighted towards the end of the six weeks to welcome grandchildren of some of the participants along too.

Millennium Court Community Garden

millenium2I learnt a great deal from the older participants of that group – from how things were done in the olden days to lots of reuse/recycle tips.

I especially enjoyed hearing about old leather boots being cut up and the material being used to make door hinges!

Then in October Respond got in touch and I was asked to help a brand new community garden project in Kilkenny at Millennium Court. We started with four mornings and are planning a full Fetac Level 3 course in Outdoor Vegetable Crop Production for the spring months of 2012. Set in the middle of a housing estate almost all the participants are neighbours and we can already see the benefits to the community of them all growing vegetables, both at the Community Centre and in their own gardens, swooping and sharing their produce and vegetable recipes.

Without the funding it’s unlikely that these groups would have started and I sincerely hope that whoever decides where funding is allocated, they too see the incredible benefits of these gardens to communities and individuals alike.

Reflecting on 2011Plans for 2012?

More community gardens I hope! My own local parish of Leighlinbridge will be starting one in the early spring which I’m really looking forward to getting involved with.

Now that FETAC have introduced their new level 3 course I’ll be able to offer accredited courses aimed at people who want to grow their own food. I’m especially looking forward to delivering this as I continued with my own training this summer by undertaking a FETAC level 6 Train the Trainer course and will be able to implement the recommendations made.

I’m also coordinating a new All Ireland Community Garden Network group (official name still to be decided) with representatives from all over the island due to meet up in the new year to decide where we go from here. This is a very exciting project as it’s hoped that it will be supported by various interested parties around the country and will benefit many, including those of us who work with the gardens, local councils and of course the gardeners themselves.

It’s very easy to get disheartened by all the negativity and uncertainty that surrounds our day to day lives at present, but we’ll get nowhere by allowing those thoughts and feelings to take over. Growing food for ourselves and our families is empowering. It helps our budgets, it brings us closer to nature, it’s good for us and it gives us the choice over what we want to eat.

So if you’re not already growing your own, will it be your resolution for 2012? Or if you are, will you be growing even more?