Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Crop & Swap

The Big Swap

Our old neighbours in Umina, David and Nancy, are 86 and still gardening. Surprisingly their passion for veggie gardening was only really ignited three years ago when David first happened to hang over the fence and notice our two small raised garden beds. At the time we grew lettuce, spinach, shallots, carrots and garlic...that was it.  Unbeknown to us David was incredibly fit and competitive for an 83 year old. Within 2 weeks he had single handedly built 4 garden beds twice the size of ours, researched green manures,planted  ten times the amount of vegetables than we did, and to top it off would hang himself by the ankles in his garage to improve circulation...we're not kidding (it was a disconcerting sight to behold).

Anyway, in time it seemed perfectly normal, and after many gardening tips had been exchanged over the fence and summer was drawing to a close, David had accumulated more cucumbers than any retiree needed and so, handed us a big bag of them over the fence (we have never had luck with cucumbers). It only seemed natural to give him something in return. Later that evening we left a bag of our lettuce on their doorstep, without even realising it at the time, we had made our first neighbourly produce swap. From that point on we became good friends. Just as with any friendship, it's the act of sharing that brings people together.

Joe and I got talking later that night about how neighbourhoods can be lonely places. We didn't know anybody else in our street after having lived there for a over year and no doubt this is a common experience in many neighbourhoods. A small seed had germinated.

When my sister and her husband moved to the mountains a year ago we got talking. We wanted to unite our interests in gardening and the community. After many a Thursday night dinner, bottles of red wine and enthusiastic banter, the idea of the "Crop & Swap" was born.

This November we are beginning a community fruit and veg swap at our local hall. Just as we had done with David and Nancy, neighbours can swap home-grown fruit and veg and maybe even home-made breads, teas, seedlings, seeds and recipes. but more importantly, neighbours can meet each other, make friendships and share those all important gardening tips about varieties that grow in their local climate, or chat over a chamomile or peppermint tea, grown a stones throw away. We are excited to see how the idea develops and hopefully it will grow into something vibrant and positive!

The Big Sell
Between now and November we want to drum up as many followers as possible. This weekend we are doing our first covert crop & swap advertising operation. Just like David, we too will be spying over neighbours fences, sussing out who has a veggie patch  or a laden lemon tree then drop a flyer in their letter box. Flyer's will be going up in all the cool local cafes, and we are even thinking of putting an add in the local rag. We have already started a ''Crop & Swap" blog (http://www.cropandswap.blogspot.com/) where people can get more information about dates and details. The Blue Mountains already has a vibrant interest in growing fruit and veg with groups such as the slow food movement, the fruit and nut tree society, the permaculturalists and the seed savers. With this sort of enthusiasm, we're hoping the Crop & Swap will thrive.

With the Crop & Swap deadline looming we have been busy preparing the garden to have produce ready to swap by November. The front yard has undergone a major garden makeover...we will be back soon to tell you all about it.