Neighbour: a person living next door to or near another; a person regarded as having the duties of claims of friendship, consideration, etc., of a neighbour; a fellow human being.
We live at the top of a T intersection of two residential streets. We actually moved from a rental in the street that abuts ours into our current house when we bought. We moved everything by hand. After about 2 hours the neighbour to our rental, who we were moving across the road, from finally came out the front and asked “are you moving from there, to there?”, “Yes, a whole 30 metres” was our reply. We liked the area and the house suited our budget and needs so we jumped on the opportunity. And then we painted, re-carpeted, cleaned, got married, went to Italy, came home and bought a dog.
When we returned from Italy it was early winter and the lack of window coverings and insulation made us realise we’d bought a well oriented, poorly designed ice box. Our across the road neighbours on the other hand have beautiful, big, well placed, north facing windows. Perfect for letting in that winter sun the Goulburn Valley is so well known for. And yet, they never open their curtains and shutters. Never. In one and a half years living here we have never seen them open. As someone whose job it was as a child to open the curtains each morning to let the sun in I am bemused by their reluctance to let the outside in. One neighbour is out in her garden often, taking care of her roses and meticulously trimming her edges and mowing her lawn; the other we see each morning as she drives to her job as a crossing lady, a whole 500m away from our house. It is this lady, the crossing supervisor, who I am dying to meet. Her front yard has perfect northerly aspect, no fence to cast shade and consists entirely of overgrown grass that is mown a couple of times a year.
I dream of turning this lady’s lawn into a beautiful, productive, edible garden that the whole neighbourhood can enjoy.
Fruit trees, berries, seasonal vegetables, a greenhouse, rambling pumpkins and melons, abundant herbs, edible flowers, bush tucker – I could dream for hours. I have created a Pinterest board with images of what her garden could be. I asked Daniel what he thought and he’s supportive, but I know it will have to be me who goes over and asks if she would mind if we took over her neglected patch of land. Our old housemates, who still live just down the road also think it’s a great idea. We could build a real community in the streets by utilising space that the owners do not use. We have an elderly lady down the road a bit who we say hello to on our early morning dog walks. She walks with a frame and can’t get into the garden as much as she would like, we could brighten up her yard, grow some food and keep her company all at the same time.
Gardens connect people. They invite conversation and encourage reflection. When we moved into our house the front yard was sparse lawn. We spent a lot of time getting it ready to plant a native Australian garden. It was hard work and required digging in metres of sand and top soil to ensure adequate drainage. Another elderly lady from a few doors down caught me in the garden as she was walking past and commented that she’d lived in the street for 50 years and this was the first time there had been a garden. She was so happy to see us out there working for something for the future.
To be neighbourly is to be friendly, to look out for each other. What better way to do this that to improve the streetscape, create a stronger community and grow fresh, nutritious food for all to enjoy. We don’t need a community garden, we need a garden community.