Wow there’s a lot going on. Not quite sure how that makes sense, since it’s now dark, cold though sadly not wet! I guess when people would rather be inside they are more likely to plan things rather than just get out and do. Either way here’s a brief post with some ideas and events.
Our inspection occurred and Darebin council were pretty positive about what we have done. We have to jump through some paperwork hoops and notate everything we’ve done but it’s pretty exciting that they have not only provisionally approved what we have done but also want to promote this as good practice. We spent the weekend digging up the last of the grass, planting more natives and spray painting the logo’s on the boxes. We also started covering the ground in mulch, though this is quiet slow since it’s happening one cargo bike load at a time. I think it looks great though.
We’ve entered our plan with the ‘Reclaim the Curb’ competition with plans to ‘blitz’ five more nature strips and place up to about 12 food boxes and more fruit trees up and down the street. If it all goes well then we will have a ‘box building day’ and street celebration, so wish us luck!
I’ll also be heading down to Transition Darebins ‘Share, Make, Mend’ day (http://transitiondarebin.org) . This is a great event focused on developing skills to lower our consumption through repairing, maintaining and sharing what we already have. It’s a collaboration between Transition Darebin and the Sharehood (www.thesharehood.org) so if you happen to live around the area then check it out. If you don’t then why not check out your local Transition town, it’s a worldwide movement that is full of positive people seeing the importance but also the opportunities in dealing with climate change and peak oil in a planned way.
The idea of this blog was for me to inspire others to take action, but I’ve got to say that the comments from ‘The Johnson strip seeks approval’ have in turn inspired me and stuck well in my mind. My Myers-Briggs said that I was easily excited by a new idea and I guess this proves it. The more I think about it though the more sense it makes. Why not use the spaces next to the railway stations, that have beautiful slopes, little use and a supply of fresh water for urban food forests. Couple with this a timely email for a grants program run by our local newspaper and it’s become too good an idea to not have a crack at. I also love the idea that maybe the empty rooms could also be used. Imagine having a series of community tool stores located up and down the train station, “no pot-hole diggers here?, we’ll get it sent up the line and it will be here in 20 minutes. In the meantime maybe you can help spread some mulch with the rest of the crew!”So over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be talking to as many groups as I can think of because to be honest the success of this rests on some REALLY good design, so if you’re a Melbourne based permaculture designer who’s looking for a challenge then send me an email (Paul@treadinglightlyblog.com) and who knows maybe this will go from dream to reality.
On this, a previous winner of one of these grants, ‘The Lemon Tree Project’ has teamed up with the some others s to offer a pop-up-festival. The deal is they give you a free lemon tree as long as you pledge to plant it in a communal space.
Your train line forest idea has been on my mind since I first read it too. I’ve been pondering the difficulty you pointed out about watering the trees in the strips between the stations. At the same time, I’ve been reading up on local bush food, and putting some seedlings from Ceres in pots out the back, particularly murnong daisies (with a thought that once I’ve got the hang of them, I might go and do some guerrilla planting on the creek bank across the road, where by rights they belong). So it occurs to me that, in the absence of easy water, the forests between stations could be perhaps less intensively food producing, but with more of an emphasis on local native species that require less intesive water inputs but produce bush foods.That would mean, from my reading so far, things like lots of flowering shrubs – which produce nectar that can be made into sweet drinks… or which could support beehives – some fruit trees and fruiting ground covers, and the murnong yam daisies. And of course, as I’m a total newcomer to the bush food thing, I’m sure there are experts at Ceres and the Fairfield indigenous nursery who would know about suitable plants and appropriate ecological relationships to put them in…
I will keep reading the saga of the boxes and council approval with interest. If it ends up something the council actively promotes, it will hopefully make it much easier to persuade the landlords.
Yeh I think you are spot on. We need to be intelligent about how we plant, I keep walking past a beautiful planter box at the corner of Gertrude Street and Brunswick street in Collingwood that was probably once planted with lush green vegies, but without the means to water and maintain it, it has become a dusty ashtray.
I think there are a number of different components that would need to be incorporated into the right area.
– Wicking boxes are great close to good public access (so right next to footpaths) but they need to be close to where an individual can maintain them. So nature strips or in a community space with a tap. This means they can be kept productive all year round and are done ‘little by little’ through regular attention
– Natives, yeh I reckon that some of your ideas are gold for between stations that are ‘marginal’ at best and downright inhospitable at worst. From talking to people from ‘Our Apple Tree’, I know that you need to be able to maintain vehicle access (and probably large vehicle access) to the train lines and I also wonder about having a relatively open understory at least close to the footpath for safety (or at least the perception of) but I’m not sure about this last bit. So natives, habitat, birds, flowers….love it.
– I think there are a couple of places, particularly around the stations that have uninterrupted connection (ie no paths) to a building and have a slope which have potential for ‘food foresting’. Passive irrigation, supplementary water collection and use, and most importantly very clever planting could make these places resilient and productive. There’s a good example of this at the south eastern end of Croxton Station but from memory Thornbury is you ‘local’. I can’t remember off the top of my head but I’m thinking something like the north east side, just south of the underpass. It’s not required as a walkway, you could harvest water off the building, good slope for some ‘swalage’ and even a scout hall to recruit some volunteers.
I’ll keep you up to date about where this goes, but thanks for your comment and keep me up to date about how the bushfood planting goes.
I popped in on Share Make Mend (and did some nice chatting to other mums while my daughter got her face painted), and then, since she fell asleep in the pram on the way to the station, walked home up the west side of the train line, rather than trying to catch the train (so, from Merri to Thornbury). Between Merri andNorthcote is interesting. Merri Common already has a native forest -room for a food producing understorey? The train is in the cutting a lot of the way, and I can’t imagine Victrack or whoever would be keen on people scrambling up and down the steep verges to maintain plantings. But they’re obviously not trying very hard either. There were a few places where some erosion stabilising plants might have been nice, and a also quite a lot of volunteer edibles/useful trees had got themselves established in the benign neglect, including a small oak! In some places, the houses that backed onto the Eastern embankment already seemed to be guerilla foresting the bits of land right outside their back fence. As you approach northcote there’s a more formal little enclosed garden space on that side, perhaps the one you visited? And the big community garden on the west side slightly later. Outside the monastery there’s actually an avenue of trees I didnt recognise at all, that seemed to be in the process of fruiting/nutting. Plenty of space for more plantings around them though. But the main opportunity along the steep or built up bits between Merri and Croxton may be the cyclone wire fences meant to keep people off the train line. Perfect for passion fruit or other climbers. Or vertical gardening if you’ve got a nearby labour force and water source.
Croxton is already a community haven – you’ve got playgrounds and barbecue in situ! I’m jealous! I kicked an escaped soccer ball back to a family playing there. And the effort they’ve put into the drains suggests there should be plenty of runoff that you could catch in swales instead. In the equivalent place at Thornbury, the water just sits in ditches all winter. It used to at least benefit some scraggy old elms, but they’ve just ripped all those out inthe last month or so. And poisoned all the ‘weeds’ leaving big bare patches of muddy scorched earth, the fools. I suppose I should try and find out if they have a plan of any sort or are just destroying nature on automatic. But at least in appearance, there are paddocks on each side of the station that currently have zero use except for someone taking the occasional diagonal shortcut to the station. And there is quite wide, flat land around the train line on both sides, with some native plantings, for much of the way between Croxton and Thornbury, that probably does have some real potential for being gradually upgraded to a bush food oriented open woodland. Which isprobably what it was pre-colonially anyway. It occurs to me that since I keep reading about how most of the native grasslands of the northwest are nearly gone, there might be a way to do something useful with even the bits that Victrack needs to keep grassy and shrub free for acces.
Anyway, it was a nice way to look at things on a nice walk. And now I must dash to get my daughter to childcare and myself to the station to start the working week…