a bright future in lalor

Last weekend we were over at  Links community garden  starting off a new IBC continuous flow worm ranch. We chatted to the founder of the garden, Matt Odgers about his inspiration for the project, what it's like in Lalor and where he hopes the garden to be in 5 years.

Last weekend we were over at Links community garden starting off a new IBC continuous flow worm ranch. We chatted to the founder of the garden, Matt Odgers about his inspiration for the project, what it's like in Lalor and where he hopes the garden to be in 5 years.

What's been happening at the Links community garden lately Matt?

Well, when we heard from you we decided to get on board with Melbourne Worm ranches because we already had plans to start a worm farm. We were thinking of going with a bathtub style and hadn't even thought of using an IBC - although we do use IBC's for garden beds. We have heaps of great resources being offered to us at the moment.

There is also a local lady that visits our garden who gets food close to it's used by date, or maybe the supermarkets don't think it's pretty enough... She feeds people in the city and also brings extra food down to the garden. People can grab what they need and then anything that is actually too old to eat gets composted onsite.

* We got to take home a huge bunch of bananas and 2 loaves of gluten free bread that we put into the freezer. Score!

We just put in a ground level indigenous garden bed and always have our eyes open for great plants, especially edibles. We got a black currant bush from Bunnings last week for $5 and put it in with the strawberries.

I made a lot of this stuff myself. I set up that little chair (super cute hand crafted chair), set up that little tipi and composting area, previously there were only a few people that were interested in helping, but there haven't been less than 6 people at our weekly meet ups in awhile...even when it's raining!

 

What was driving the set up of the garden?

For many years I have been going past the space on my way to work in the city thinking someone should do something with it. You can't get more central...it is right by Lalor train station, there are 7 bus lines and 2 main roads. Its been a dead space for ever and occasionally a dumping ground... people were just dropping their stuff off here and it was a liability for the council.

Two years ago I wondered if I could be the one to do something about it. I started doing some research online and got in contact with 300 acres. They have a 'how to start community garden' booklet and that helped me contact the right people. This led me to Vic track who owns the land and since then they have been sending me forms and I just keep filling them out!

There is a community liaison person at the City of Whittlesea who has been really good. So many people at the council have been supportive of the garden and have helped us in any way they can. We have also helped them out – we dont spent too long planning – too much planning can mean not enough doing!

 

What do you see for the garden over the next 5 years?

This was going to be a traditional community garden but we are now hoping this will be a sustainability park. There are a lot of small groups in this area– the Chinese association, the Macedonian association who don't have their own space. They are just using the council space and we realised early on that we have a lot of space that only gets used a couple of times a week. We have put ourselves out there to get a tram which will be used as a community hall and a shipping container to be converted into a cafe. There aren't a lot of spaces for young people to hang out and we hope this space will be utilised like that. When I was a kid there was a youth cafe nearby...it was much better than hanging out at the shopping centre! I know what its like to be a kid and I feel really happy to create a space that is free for people to use. People can come down here and have a tea or coffee and feel welcome.

 

What is Lalor like now and what do you think will happen in the future?

Lalor is a really great place – there are lots of Middle Eastern and Asian shops and a great variety of different foods available. There are lots of different people living here. There is an aging community but this area is going to change a lot in the next 5 years. At the moment it's not known for being that inclusive and we want to change that.

In the 40's and 50's it was all veterans of WW2. The first part to be built was the Peter Lalor housing estate. It is Australia's only war memorial housing estate. That is just the three blocks across the road from the garden. The Vasey kinder was the original building until the last few years and it was purposely built for the community back then. The design was thoughtful... it was at the centre of the housing estate - the safest spot if any of the kids wandered off! Lalor has a really cool history.

If you want to get involved contact Matt on the facebook page and also check out their proposed project here. Looking forward to see how this project progresses!

SOS for the planet...

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Northcote Bake Shop

and Reservoir Worm Ranch

want you to

SOS (Save our scraps)

for the planet

 

It is estimated that Australians waste around $8 billion worth of food each year and it was found that food waste accounted for 41 per cent of the contents of home wheelie bins in Melbourne.

Obviously the best option is not to waste so much food...so here are a few tips to try and reduce food wastage at your place:

1) Make a list of all of your pantry items and have a weekly shopping list to keep you on track!

2) Label your left overs with dates and freeze anything you won't be able to eat in the next couple of days

3) Be ready to turn one dish into something else...eg. Extra rice from your curry tonight can easily be fried rice tomorrow

4) Grow your own herbs so you don't have to commit to a whole bunch at the green grocer

5) Get involved in a local food swap

We usually give any food that we can't eat to our chickens...eg we will cook up a slurry of pumpkin skins and polenta...they love this! Sometime there are scraps in the kitchen that can't be used though...banana peels, egg shells etc this is where the worm ranches really shine.

So, we are installing worm ranches to help cafes deal with organic waste that can't be used elsewhere. Are you interested in having your waste diverted to a local worm farm? For less than $5 per week we can divert your waste to your local community garden worm ranch. If you are keen to be involved email us at hello@thesunshineproject.com.au and we will get you started as a worm ranch ACTIVIST and let you know when the worm ranches are coming to your area.

'But what about the turtles Mum?'

Photo of Hiruni thanks to Josh Waddell -  www.farflungfilms.com

Photo of Hiruni thanks to Josh Waddell - www.farflungfilms.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 minutes with Hiruni Peiris, co owner of Northcote Bake shop.

The Reservoir Worm Ranch will be collaborating with Northcote Bakeshop to help divert their organic waste from landfill. We will be raising funds in the Bake shop during the month of August to cover the costs of their IBC installation...stay tuned for more details on this. 

You co own the Northcote Bakeshop with your husband and have two kids! You must be super busy! Tell us a bit about your journey to this point.

Previous to this job I worked for Louis Vuitton on Collins Street for 5 years. I started there right out of high school and I started focusing on training staff. I did this for 3-4 years. I took maternity leave and in the interim my husband Peter opened the Bake shop with his brother in law. I started an Education degree and was just coming into the Bake shop on occasional Sundays to fill a few gaps washing dishes etc.  I slowly started getting more involved and then I never went back to my old job! It worked really well and gave me the flexibility I needed for our son and I have a HR background that has proven to be really valuable here. Peter’s background is mostly hospitality, he has done it for a long time and I think our skills are great together.

The sustainable thing started after a visit to the aquarium with our son Elijah…here was a turtle exhibition and he pointed out that we use a lot of the things that are killing the turtles at the Bake shop… plastic bags and straws etc. He was probably four years old at the time! This started us down a whole new path of sustainability in our business.

 

Who do you admire or view as a mentor and why?

I have so many mentors for different parts of my life… I feel like someone that stands out to me is Mother Teresa….the selfless giving is really inspirational. Sometimes we do things and subconsciously or unintentionally we are wanting people to do something in return…like maybe even just say thank you…and she kind of did so many things and never, ever expected anything in return. I admire that selflessness. There are also people that are around me every day…for example a customer that has now become a friend who is always there to guide me… I also look to people who have achieved things that I am wanting to achieve to guide me in the right direction.

 

What are the three attributes that are most important when running a small business? 

Um… Lately I probably think transparency…in terms of both information and products. I feel like plain old hard work is important! Some days are good and bad and hard work gets you through…oh and resilience. You can get knocked down 5-6 times a day…the dishwasher has blown up, there is something wrong with the electricity etc…and you need to ask yourself what am I going to do with that? 

 

Why did you choose to be a worm ranch activist?

I feel like it’s my duty to my neighbourhood to divert waste. I feel like if you learn something you can’t unlearn it and those things really bug me at night. If I have learnt something and its something I need to action, the little voice in my head will be like…’Hey…what are you doing about those straws?’... so I just get it done.

 

What do you hope to be doing in 5 years?

I want to be happy with the decisions I have made and the reasons I have made them…whether it be for the business...or my children, or my relationship with my husband…its a little cliche but I want to be my true self. I just think honesty in terms of what I believe in and portraying that to others is important. I want to be a good person for myself, my husband, my children, our staff and my friends…If I can look back in 5 years and think I did the best that I could with what was given to me at the time, I don’t think you can ask for more than that! Things change so quickly and I don’t really know where I will be then!

Thanks for your time Hiruni! It was great visiting you:) See you in a couple of weeks to check on the worms :)

The Good Fight

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Image from @TaranakiFarm

At first when I saw these posts pop up on my facebook I thought some one must be over reacting - 'Vegan sabotage' and 'Vegan harrassment continues' seemed to be a bit over the top. But, as I began following the story of what has unfolded just north of the city in Melbourne I have been really shocked and disappointed by people's actions.

To cut a long story short a bunch of activists raised their opinions online and then went down to Taranaki Farm in the middle of the night to 'free' 200 birds from 'captivity.' The chooks were left vulnerable in the middle of the night and slaughtered by predators - a truly awful thing for the farmer and his team to find in the morning... I can't believe this could have been the goal of any person and I am guessing this has come from a massive disconnect between the activists and the realities of living on a farm and raising animals. Maybe they really had no idea this would be the outcome?  I made a comment about leaving my chickens out after dark in one of my posts that might sound like it's not the worse thing in the world but actually it is pretty scary to think about our chooks up against a fox. Terrifying.

I can relate to the online bullying and remember when a bunch of idiots were writing negative reviews online about our cafe and I was beside myself. I really feel for this guy and I want to be supportive in some way. I figure the only way to really do this is to say 'Ben, keep fighting the good fight! You can't lose when you know you are doing the right thing.' And of course to buy products. 

The shop is open Thursday-Saturday 8:45-11:45 and I am heading down there this week. Anyone want me to pick something up for them?

The gift of giving and trading

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Excitingly, this last weekend has been our best ever food swap/gifting weekend ...even better than the times when we have turned up to food swaps and have kind of expected to come home with something different to what we showed up with.

It was a busy Saturday of talking about our goal to reduce cafe waste at the Highbury Makers Market. It was great to connect to some new people and see how interested everyone was.

 We had a restful Sunday - first stopping in to visit Tammy...one of our worm ranchers who needed to move her ranch to a new location in the garden. It was definitely worth moving to a new spot with better drainage and better accessibility from all sides. As a thanks she made us blueberry and banana bread and also sweet potato hummus...awesome to have snacks for work this week without having to make them myself!

We also connected to an awesome gardener Erica or @greenthumberland from North Coburg who came down to check out our worm ranch and brought us some of her home made Fig and Pear Paste (as pictured.) I ate it with some Mersey valley cheddar and this is the first time in ages I haven't been missing soft cheeses - cheddar was a perfect match. This is the recipe she used and she had so many figs she got to make two batches! So impressed!

Kathy at our garden gave us some parsley and our friends Amy and Shawn brought some home made sauerkraut, which we swapped them for some eggs and Jason's fire tonic - recipe to come soon for this one.

And as if that's not enough we visited the Seeds guys in Brunswick yesterday for a bit of compost turning and calundula seeds saving and got to take home some eggplants and basil. 

Feeling warm and fuzzy all over with all of these great folks around! 

 

How I ended up with 19 beautiful eggs in my fridge...

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As soon as Jason saw the place we are now living in in Reservoir he immediately decided we were getting chickens. He talked about it while we packed our boxes and I didn't want to shut him down too soon but seriously...chickens were going to be way too much work and we had other things on.

We weren't even close to settled in when we went exploring the old Thomo trash and treasure market. I'll call it this because that's it's real name – even though I usually resist calling Thomastown 'Thomo' – a long story about growing up north side that I won't tell now.

So, we had heard that there were chickens for sale and we were right! (And also soap without packaging and the old school real hot jam doughnuts, so it wasn't a bad day at all.)

The started asking myself loads of questions and feeling really anxious...

  1. How was I going to fit in extra chores?

  2. Would they become the victim of foxes and would I have a nervous break down if I woke up to a blood bath?

  3. What would we do with them if our living arrangements changed?

  4. Would I be scared to touch them?

It turned out that Jason said he would manage all of the chook requirements and he recruited our four year old niece Matilda (currently living next door) as his assistant. They would get them out together in the morning and feed them, let them scratch around all day and Matilda would put them away after kinder. Slowly I realised that if a 4 year old isn't scared to pick up a chicken then I shouldn't be either. After chasing after them a few nights in a row I perfected my 'approach from the back and quickly swoop in' approach and I am fine now.

I have come to realise that chickens are amazing. You don't need to play with them, so they don't take up a lot of time, but they are always there keeping you company while you are hanging the washing out.

We have had lots of friends visit and Ronnie and Emma are super friendly. We have had a least 2 offers to house them if our living arrangements change and I feel sad about the idea of them not being with us one day.

I have forgotten them out one or two nights and come home in darkness to two chickens huddled on my front door step and lots of crap to clean up. I felt like a bad mum forgetting them out there. I started imagining them shivering and counting down the minutes until I got home to save them and put them to bed. Finally I realised I was being dramatic. It's probably unlikely that foxes are out at 9pm (as opposed to 3am) and I just popped them in their coop and they lived another day.

We are getting lots of eggs! So many eggs now that I can start giving them away. At the beginning they were small and looked a little odd, but now they look just the way you would want them to. A great size with a nice fresh yellow yolk.

A life of abundance with seeds..

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POST FEB 20

This blog post was originally going to tell you how I went about saving our zucchini seeds last week. It's not a secret thing that you couldn't find out for yourself... I just googled it and came up with this article which I have used to seeming success. Pretty easy actually. We have had more zucchini, tomatoes and herbs than we can eat this season and it's all thanks to our friends down at Seeds Communal Garden who gave us a few seeds and plants months ago. Oh, and our sunflowers are doing great too!

I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to start saving seeds. When I think back to what has inspired me to do this I first remember a night listening to the amazing Alice Waters at the Wheeler Centre in 2014. I was initially struck by all of the obviously awesome things she has done – founding one of one of the most iconic restaurants in history, establishing a wonderful edible school year program and in general being a a kick ass, fearless woman in the hospitality industry. When I think back to that night after many years I almost always think of one thing she said when she was asked why she 'smuggled' a variety of lettuce seeds from France to the US in the 1970's. Her answer was quite simple and something along the lines of 'Seeds are for the people.'

I've thought a lot about this and I believe it too. Of course I care about saving diverse seeds. I care about accessing interesting and beautiful fruit and vegetables from different parts of the world. I want to have access to seeds that have worked in my garden before. I want to save money and not have to buy seedlings every year... but above all, I want to live a life of abundance where I have more seeds than I can use. I want to share my seeds with people and know it means they will in part be feeding themselves for free this year. Looking forward to our next crop!


 

too many peppers...

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I'm terrible when it comes to sharing recipes, I mostly don't use them but I do have lots of food ideas. I will try to share one or two dishes inspired by each season as we go through the year.

This is an important week in my baba's garden. Peppers, peppers and more peppers. And tomatoes. We have grown our own tomatoes this year, which is exciting. Baba tells me that her tomatoes are 'rubbish,' but as always I see them and they are hands down bigger, juicier and all round better than mine. And mine are pretty good.

My dad's family was born in a small village in Macedonia, a place called Neret. This is the land of good banana peppers. They're not regular capsicum, to be clear. They are longer and skinnier, the roast faster and they are more difficult to peel and de seed, which is why for years as a teenager I resisted taking any peppers from the garden.

Back in the village they would be pickled, dried, roasted, fried, stuffed...and probably more. Fetta cheese usually played a part in these dishes somewhere. I was thinking of an old favourite that we used to serve at the cafe late in the summer time. They were very familiar flavours for me, shared in a more modern way. I don't know if Baba would approve!

Vine ripened tomatoes, roasted red peppers, brioche croutons, persian fetta and poached eggs

Tips for making your own:

We don't do anything fancy to the peppers, just roast them, slip the skins off, add some olive oil, garlic and salt and they are so good...make a lot and you can keep some for schnitzel sandwiches later in the week.

Tomatoes need to be home grown. If you don't grow your own, make friends with someone who does. Make sure you slice them just before serving and season with salt and pepper.

I could give you a brioche recipe but who has time for that? Okay...some one will have time and I am jealous. Here is a good recipe for you. Just cube into croutons and grill on each side.

I've eaten all kinds of fetta cheese and I'll be honest and say I don't mind even the cheapest Bulgarian version. Meredith goats is delicious, but if the budget doesn't stretch that far the IGA's in Reservoir and Thomastown are tops.

Poached eggs and a few peppery rocket leaves really finish it off. Make sure you dress your leaves in a lemon vinaigrette :)

Here you go...very common in Neret, late summer.

Here you go...very common in Neret, late summer.

Why we choose to grow veggies at the community garden instead of in our backyard...

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For the first time in our adult lives we are living in a house with enough space in the backyard to grow a serious amount of vegetables. This space is big enough to grow food for an entire family comfortably, with lots of food left over to share around.

Growing your own veggies has all of the obvious benefits - they taste far more delicious, there are zero food miles, zero packaging and it's a wonderfully active life style (imagine turning compost, not picking zucchinis!)

We have access to space right outside our door but why is it that we choose to grow the majority of our veggies at the community garden, not in our back yard?

1) WE ARE BUSY - We both have busy full time jobs and we are often struggling to keep up with exercising, hobbies, families, making most of our own food and volunteering. Sometimes we don't have time to water the garden and we can't always call on people to drive around to our house to water. The awesome thing about the plot is that other people are around to help!

2) WE CAN SHARE AND OTHERS SHARE WITH US - At the moment we have an abundance of zucchini. They are huge and two of them made the most delicious side dish for 10 (yes ten!) people the other night. We trade food with others and can also drop off around the corner at the Food is Free box on Cuthbert rd.

3) WE DON'T OWN THE HOUSE WE LIVE IN - and late last year we came home to a yellow planning permit placed on our front fence. Soon our amazing big yard will be turned into 4 town houses. We aren't against this per se, but soil rejuvination takes a long time and this isn't a good use of our time.

4) COMMUNITY GARDENS NEED PEOPLE - Gardens need people and while some people join to meet others, it is totally fine for you to join in, even if you are shy and do your own thing. Gardens need you to pay yearly fees to help them tick over (it's only $100 a year btw), they need your elbow grease to weed and trim trees, and most importantly they need your ideas to help propel them into even more awesome gardens in the future.

If you would like to garden with us, get in touch! Our plot is at the East Reservoir Community Garden - 7A Strathmerton St, East Reservoir.