Give-away gardens are a beacon of hope. They bring out the best in people
and remind us of the love that permeates this sometimes dark world.
Thank you to whoever enjoyed the garden’s vegetables and left this lovely note
in my mailbox.
The roadside garden has been well patronised all summer. One morning, when I went to my mail box, I found these dear little ‘thank you’ gifts from folk who’d enjoyed harvesting the vegetables.
I like it when the ‘Free to Harvest’ sign on the roadside garden brings people to our home. This morning, before we were even out of bed, Yashoda Dulal Das (John Herbison), who is on a year long journey with his brother, Brendon, in a cart pulled by their horse, Sampson, called to ask for water and a charge on his mobile phone. He said anyone who had painted on a roadside sign: ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks’ and was offering free vegetables, could be trusted to give water. So, on this peaceful Papatowai morning, while those of many faiths around the world were busy fighting each other, Hare Krishna met Christian and left with some good vegetables.
I just couldn’t garden without the help of these two wonderful boys, Ambrose and Angus. Today, a passing tourist spotted them and asked: “What do you do with them?” To which I replied: “Love them!” (As the tourists were helping themselves to silver beet from the roadside garden, I didn’t like to say: “And I nab their 4 buckets of donkey pooh a day for the vege patch!”)
The roadside garden has been buffeted for three weeks, now, by gale force winds. ‘Enervating’ doesn’t even describe how exhausting it is to garden in these ghastly conditions. Yesterday, I actually found myself sheltering the shelters covering the silver beet seedlings! But things are growing, all the same: cavelo nero, cone-head cabbages, spinach, coriander and parsley. And broad beans are popping up through the ground. The gooseberry bush is in flower and the rhubarb is covered in fresh green leaves and pretty bright stalks.
Sometime, the passersby who stop to gather food from the garden leave little gifts. Often, it’s a thank you note which I find, sometimes many days later, blown into a bush and covered in delicate dew drops. Once, I found a bottle of beer ‘planted’ in the garden (perfect for hot-day weeding!). Another time, someone popped three packets of seed into my mail box. This week, a treasure appeared when a local farmer deposited a bale of haylage beside the garden. It makes wonderful mulch and is also a great medium in which to grow potatoes. How lucky I am to have such thoughtful neighbours.
On an amusing note, I see that wild honesty has colonised the roadside garden – very appropriate given that the garden is self-regulating and relies on the honesty of those who gather from it to take no more than they require. Clever flower!
I have no idea why, as kids, we called gooseberries ‘gooz-gogs’, or why most kids nowadays have no idea what these berries are. So it was sheer pleasure last summer to watch a whole family of children who knew all about them, and just loved crunching on them. They came back and back to the roadside garden every day for a week as the stripy green fruit began turning red. When they polished off the last one, I invited them into my own garden and they had another feast!
I grow two types of gooseberries, a fruit that values a cold winter and a cool-ish summer. The first is a desert gooseberry which was given to me by a friend now in her nineties. Its berries are smaller than other varieties but despite never turning red (or even pink) they becomes translucent in early summer, and are so sweet that they never makes it into the house – we just stand in the garden and feast on them. The second type is probably ‘Pax’, and its berries grow very large – about a third the size of a hen’s egg. They turns red if left on the bush but are never super-sweet no matter how ripe they get (those kids visiting the garden didn’t seem to mind!). These gooseberries are great for the freezer, and in winter, the ones from our own kitchen garden get turned into gooseberry shortcake whenever we have a community gathering.
Right now, the roadside garden gooz-gogs are sporting delicate little berries. I fed the bushes loads of seaweed and donkey manure during their dormant winter period so I don’t need to do anything more to help them on their way – the wax-eyes will attend to any aphids, hopping through the branches and gobbling up the pests, and the wet conditions we’re having at the moment will soon bulk up the berries.
I can’t wait for the return of those gooseberry-gobbling children come summer!