I'm always at a loss away from my garden. What to do with the left over cornflakes and bread crusts when there are no chooks to feed? Where do the meat trimmings go when there are no dogs sniffing around for sneaky treats? What to look do outside when there are no tomatoes and plums to test for ripeness? Thank goodness my parents have a compost bin- I'd otherwise be shaking in the absence of recycling.
To take the edge off things I haunt the neighbourhoods of my travels, peering over fences to catch a glimpse of gardens. If I find a veggie garden behind a back fence I'll return again and again until I must surely be in danger of being arrested for loitering. But Brisbane houses don't lend themselves to peeking - there're too many high fences and deep setbacks from the road. So yesterday we drove (and drove and drove and drove - my, but Brisbane is big) to one of my favourite places here - the Northy Street City Farm. It's a few huge blocks of 'permaculture' by the river, in the middle of an inner suburb. It's peaceful and sprawling and soothes my need to stroke some produce.
My Dad is never impressed by the place - he says it's all pumpkins and weeds, and there's not a lot of food emerging from a very big and potentially productive space. That's true enough (although there's a little more besides the cucurbits) and yesterday I was a little underwhelmed by the state of the gardens. But in that farm I recognised a space that is used. On Sundays hippies and middle class mothers gather at the organic markets under the Moreton Bay figs, their kids rollicking in the playground made from trees and bits of trash. There's a cafe in a shed selling chai and food cooked from the garden. My favourite nursery, Edible Landscapes, which is a wild and messy place, is hidden behind a fence, filled with the makings of a garden in my alternate, Brisbane life. People wander and chat and play music. For all its wildness and lushness - it doesn't look much like the farms of our childhood stories - the place is welcoming to people.
In many ways I take after my Dad when it comes to gardening - I look for maximum productivity, whether by permaculture or straight weeded lines; it must the farming stock we come from. I tend to forget the garden is a place to be in, not just a space to work in. The City Farm was so seductive yesterday, with its offer of a living space, not just a working space, and it's making me think about my garden is some very different and liberating ways ...
After the City Farm we drove out to Kenmore for lunch with some friends. I like them but don't know them well - they're from Al's days as a public servant. They are a lovely couple but very together: no cracks in their ceilings and no cracks in their facade either, if you take my meaning. I always feel a little rough around the edges near them, and wish I'd brushed my hair and lost 8 kilos before arriving for lunch. And yet they didn't raise an eyebrow when Nell ate the turquoise playdough or Lu repeatedly attempted nude-ness and climbed to some inappropriately high places when I was drinking wine and not watching her movements. They pretty much share a set of the same ideas that we do, though you'd never guess it to look at the families together. You can find like souls in the most unexpected of places.