Food + Garden = Green Pop-Up Information Events by Brooke Tunbridge

Concerned about the greener 3-bin service starting on 30th July in Lake Macquarie? Or perhaps you're excited for this change and want to know even more about it. Over the next three months, Council’s Green Team will be popping up in a variety of locations across Lake Macquarie to provide advice and answer any questions the community may have.

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Sweet Suburbia by Kian West


Sweet Suburbia


So, just for a moment I want you to visualize your dream neighbourhood. What does it look like? What kind of vibe does it have?

I would guess that most people want to live where it's safe, peaceful, fun and close to stuff. My idyllic image of suburbia includes cycling around, community gardening, knowing your neighbours on both sides, friendly nod's from opposite sides of the road, cups of flour and Friday night drinks.

There is a certain comfort to having good relationships with the houses around you, and it makes those moments when you are home alone that little bit less scary when you know you can always squeal out to a neighbour if a knife wielding hooligan barges in to the living room.


These kinds of tight knit communities don't just happen though. It takes time for people to get to know each other and establish trust. Being the new kid on the block is a little daunting at first, and it's easy to screw up first impressions. About a week after moving in to my new apartment I made the silly mistake of inviting friends over to my house after the pub. The first impression I made with the people living below me involved Britney Spears at 3am. Didn't go down well, stuffed up big time. I thought, 'How do I recover from that embarrassment?'


Apologetic notes in letterboxes and bunches of free kale was a good start I felt. Seemed to work.


I am inspired by a few wonderful neighbourhoods around Newcastle, and I would like to share with you a little bit about Tighes hill. Over the last few years I have watched the community completely transform the social landscape of the place.


It was once a quiet suburb, with all the usual trimmings (occasional vandalism, pollution, post-industrial wasteland...) but then I met two wonderful women – Nola and Meryl – who introduced me to the grass roots of the Tighes Hill community.

Nola has always been the kind of person who likes to make things look better, and she had her eye on a barren concrete wasteland which was attracting teenage delinquents. Nola, with the support of Meryl and a handful of others, distributed some flyers to the surrounding houses about the idea of creating a community garden on the site. The idea took off and support flowed in. It's fun to be involved in slightly naughty, guerilla projects.

From these simple beginnings, Tighes Hill Community Garden was born and continues to flourish (one of Newcastle's best). The garden acted as a physical space where people could meet and get to know each other. A safe open space was all that was needed to get people thinking about the ways to create that urban village feel. A resident procured a coffee machine and turned their back shed into a cafe, a choir was born, book clubs and kids groups formed, and cocktails in the garden on friday nights became a permanent fixture. The Suburb became a place which allowed people to do things; where ideas could be supported.


I dont know about you, but I really like knowing the people who live around me, because all sorts of fun things come out of the wood work when you get to know people. If Nola and Meryl had not taken those first steps to bring the community together, it would be a very different place.


If you don't know your neighbours, I would encourage you to reach out and say hi. Maybe it's time you wrote a sorry note for the Kelis at 3am.


Tighes Hill Community Garden can be found on the corner of Kings Road and John St.


-Chris Brown







nm_web_images_10-Minus the naked people, and the religious undertones.When I am asked about community gardens, most people are pleasantly surprised when they learn that there is almost 20 community gardens in the Newcastle area, almost one in every suburb except a few of the snooty ones. Some are as big as a bowling green, some as tiny as a few herbs on the street, but they all share the same ideology, growing food on a very localised scale. The intent behind these green spaces come about from delightfully diverse assortment of political persuasions - from groups who want to exercise practical political acts right through to a single person who just wants some fresh mint for their Saturday afternoon Mojito without thinking anything of it. Nonetheless, they all share the same crux; Stuff the big stupormarket chains! We can grow it ourselves, and we can grow it bloody beautifully. The popularity of Community Gardens has exploded over the last 5 or so years, but the concept of community gardens has been around since the mid 70's. The first was in Melbourne and the idea exploded. The garden I run in Belmont started in 1994 but it wasn't until the early 2000's for the idea to catch on in Newcastle. Since then, some very much loved projects have flourished and continued to evolve according to the community's needs. One of Newy's best which I will share with you in this issue, is Sandhills Community Garden. Hidden behind the train sheds in the foreshore park is one of Newcastle's greatest community assets – an edible forest with winding terraced paths and luscious herb and vegetable beds. There are no fences or gates, and therefore it is incredibly inviting. Cheerful flowers, rich aromas, contrasting foliage and diverse insect and bird life all add to the gardens charm. Established fruit and nut trees are scattered along the hillside, under planted with herbs, veggies and other edibles. The garden's caretaker, Christine and I have talked at length about the concept of foraging for food – taking a little from one plant, and moving on to the next. The focus for seasonal veggies tends to gravitate towards plants which produce quickly, over a long period. Don't expect to walk out of the garden with a kilo of spuds and a watermelon, these things take time to develop and are often quickly snatched up. Veggies and herbs such as asparagus, kale, rocket, peas and beans can be picked daily and are the heroes of this garden. Take a little, leave the rest for others – that's the garden's philosophy. What a meditative and grounding act it is to wander through the garden and collect a handful of greens for a quick stir fry. It's very rewarding to donate a plant to the garden and know that you are helping to provide free, organic, living food to people who really appreciate it. You can find more information about Sandhills Community Garden on their website, or you can pop down and see Christine most afternoons.CHRIS_WEB Lots of Mulch, Chris Brown