Friday, 25 October 2013

Shoestrings Learner Garden Launch

Tonight i attended the AGM of Shoestring Gardening Inc and the official opening of the Learner Garden by Councillor Peter Maynard.  If you look back at some of my much earlier posts you will note that over the last year i attended a number of workshops run by Shoestring that were held at the Western Region Environmental Centre in Ridge Drive, Wyndham Vale.  At the back of these premises were the basic bones of a garden used to teach the principals of gardening on a shoestring.  It had a double storey playhouse right in the middle and some basic raised beds around the edge that had some misc plantings of herbs and veggies.  A green house had been erected at the far end in which seedlings were being grown for sale.  I know that the volunteers were frustrated by a lack of time, volunteers and funds but they had big dreams.

Through the course of the Growing Communities Workshops the garden was used to show in a practical sense hands on demonstrations of how to build a garden and grow your own veggies without spending large sums of money through recycling, repurposing or re-using everyday items.

Turning a Cubbyhouse Into a Chicken Coop
Keeping Chickens
Fruit Trees for Beginners

Many hours of hard work have been put in by many volunteers to create a garden that demonstrates how to garden organically and follow permaculture principals through the use of forest gardens, companion planting, chickens, composting and worm farms, wicking beds etc.

Well take a look at it now on launch night.   They should all be justifiably proud. I hope their dreams have been realised.

This little teepee has been made from simple sticks.  A great project for children.

The girls are loving their Chook House made from a repurposed cubbyhouse.  Lots of herbs and plants that aid chickens like wormwood growing around the fence line. 

Growing Plants in a hay bale

This teepee was really lovely and made once again from tall sticks and bending soft woods around them.   It was covered in snow peas.  

Our espaliered apple tree from the Fruit Tree Workshop

Simple wooden plank made up the raised garden beds. 

A unique way to house the plastic bottles that are used during holiday programs to make mini gardens. 

Seedlings galore - i cant wait to get my hands on some of them.  Nearly all are heritage varieties.

Herbs and flower all in together, being good companions

Container Planting for those without the space for garden beds.

These arches really set off the beds and create a room.  Later they will have beans growing on them.  Craig from Edible Gardens giving an impromtu lecture on why we need to take back control of our food system from the Big Supermarkets - his favorite topic.   Watch out for him on Youtube with Vasili's Garden.  I believe there may also be a book in the pipeworks.   
Vasili & Craig Castree - Grafting Demonstration
Type in Craig Castree in Youtube for other videos on Growing you own edible garden, fruit tree managements and his other favorite topic, bees!

Got to admit they have done an amazing job.  There are also examples of wicking beds and soon they will introduce aquaponics on a budget.  Cant wait for that one.  Its your one stop shop for information and practical examples.

The current set of programs are aimed at people that are not working of which there are sadly many in our community.  There are also large communities of people from countries like Karen, Sri Lanka, Polynesia and China in our midst.  Bringing these groups together is not just about gardening but helping them to connect with their local community. Holiday programs for children are provided at low cost and Twilight Markets generate a stream of income that is fed back into other programs.  Shoestring are also active on social media and hope to expand in this area to spread information and motivation to a larger audience.

Check out their Facebook page

One of the courses that i did was on Harvesting and Preserving.  Because of the lack of cooking facilities in Ridge Drive we had to go to another centre and due to renovations on their kitchen we ended up doing the course using little burners on tables in a conference room.  Well this will not be a problem anymore.  Since all the courses are FREE to participants the funding is either generated by seedling sales, consultancy fees to business/schools etc or through rigorously applying for govt funding or any grant that might be available.  Take it from me, applying and winning a grant is hard hard work. This i know, as Ive successfully applied for and received over 2 Million in Export & Marketing Grants over several years for my previous employer - FIGJAM!.  This little beauty was provided by a grant and will allow Shoestring to not only teach how to grow the produce but also to prepare them and preserve as well.  

One thing you can always guarantee at a Shoestring event is lots of laughter and great food.  Tonight was no different.  Lucky i hadn't had dinner.

Can't believe i didn't take more photos of the food table - perhaps my hands were full? LOL.  They were groaning with savouries, quiches, homemade sausage rolls, fresh veggies, fruit and dips.   There was one dish that was cooked on the BBQ (I'm not sure that this one qualifies as a BBQ, more like a cooking centre or kitchen) that went down a treat. It was Turkish flat bread with feta and chopped spinach.  It was simply folded over with the ingredients inside and cooked flat on the hot plate, cut into smaller pieces.  How simple, yet i handed them out and came back with an empty tray in moments.

We were also entertained with classical music played by Clare on violin and Charles on keyboard.  They were really good.  Thank you.

Down to the business end of the evening and with so many door prizes we were all pretty much guaranteed to go home with something.

Would it be wrong to re-gift this at Christmas.  I am growing these 3 already.  
Minutes of previous meetings were read along with the Chairman's Report, Financials and then election of office bearers.  While i would love to stay involved with these guys, i think, if I'm invited, that i would like to attend meetings when i can rather than take on responsibilities of being an officer where i could not give my all.  I tend to jump in with both feet, dig in too deep and then have to scramble to get out of the hole Ive dug for myself.  So I'll sit on the edge of the hole and dangle my feet in once and a while and hope that i can contribute something worthwhile. Thank you to those whodid volunteer and accept the roles of President, Treasurer, Secretary and Committee Members.

Special mention from me that was also mentioned in the Chairman's Report.  Karen Bembridge was previously a part time employee but she also volunteered a huge chunk of her personal time and effort. Given a period of uncertainty regarding funding she was forced to seek more permanent employment and had to let go of something that was very dear to her.  I wish her well and thank her for all her beautiful lunches, gardening advice, and big welcoming smiles.   My other thanks goes to Bronwyn Riddell for her wealth of knowledge on seemingly everything, her self deprecating humour that is hysterical and for her continuing service to our community.  We are all very lucky that she chooses to serve us.

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land of Oz


  1. I feel blessed to have learned all I did from the fruit trees Shoestring event earlier this year. It was a very down to earth event, aimed at everyone and the food after was delicious.
    That stove set up is wonderful! Bottling workshops? Cooking? You name it! It's spiffy!!!
    The gardens are looking fab too. :)
    I love hearing about how SG is going from strength to strength, no little effort on your behalf (and others) to keep it going too. FIGJAM indeed! ;)
    As for regifting, why not. Personally I like to tell people it's a regift but unless they read your blog they'd never know. ;)

  2. Lynda, what a great group, something to be proud of, being part of a group of people working towards such great goals.
    What really caught my eye was those FAB garden arches. I was trying to describe almost the exact same concept to my husband the other day for arches for my as-yet unmade raised garden beds. Did you buy them, or did someone make them for the garden. They are perfect - I can just imagine beans and mini pumpkins growing up them...

    1. Jo, they are from Bunnings. I want the same ones, except ill get my guys to build me some that can have their feet in my garden beds and mesh between the poles to support vines. I want to grow melons etc and so long as i support the fruit they should grow up and over. I dont have a big yard so i have to go vertical.

  3. Bunnings? seriously? i must say, I am very tempted..

    1. Yes but Jo they are not that strong hence my idea i would build something. More decorative. Perhaps they could be braced but i wouldnt hang melons off them.


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