A fallowish season


tending, august 2011, by kirsten from milkwood

Yikes, it’s been two months since the last blog entry!

Diego and I have been very busy, together and separately, which has (besides the events chronicled in the previous post) kept us away from our gardening.

We both worked our butts off recently on something else which, like Tending, was also of a “greenish” nature – the Green Bans Art Walks, in Woolloomooloo. Diego was our tireless project manager, and it was a huge project. It was our way (in collaboration with many others) of getting in touch with a small corner of Sydney’s spatial activism history. Via the Green Bans, The Builder’s Labourers Federation effectively put a halt to dodgy commercial building developments. These bans were first implemented in the early 1970s.

I’ve also been working on Yeomans Project with Ian Milliss (who, coincidentally, was one of the squatters on Victoria Street which collaborated with the BLF on the green bans).

And Diego’s begun a long-awaited site-specific project out at Casula Powerhouse Art Centre, called Wild Stories, which should see him involved in a manure-load of foraging, in the local environment, running weed-cooking classes, facilitating community skill sharing and story-telling.

And while we’ve not been around at TENDING much, it’s been growing itself quite well in our absence, thank you very much (and, it must be said, thank you very much also to Aanya, our local hero of Balmain who keeps popping in to plant and pick with her young son Rufus).

I was curious to see how the garden was going, and so it was pleasing to see this blog post by Kirsten from Milkwood, with the above photo and more.

Judging from Kirsten’s photos, the plethora of peas we planted with Aanya have become superabundant, and it looks like our broadbean planting has been going well too (though we won’t see the fruits of that investment til November). And I’m very curious to see how the large scale garlic crop is going…

Kirsten had popped in to visit Ross, our benevolent overlord, and talk through some possibilities for Milkwood to do some permaculture workshop teaching activities down at SCA and TENDING. I really hope that comes to pass!

Oh, and the other reason(s) I’ve been busy and away from TENDING are also, in a way, related to the growing of stuff. Lizzie (my partner) and I are having a baby! And we’ve moved down the coast to boot.

Anyway, TENDING we miss you! I’ve put in some tomato seeds down here, and hopefully soon Diego and I will converge (with seedlings galore) for a little spring plant-in day.

…’til then, Tenders!

on change, and how organic that is


..few things, first, last week I went along to one of the saddest moment of Tending (if not the only one): Betty, the manager of the Cafe’ at SCA didn’t get her contract renewed, so left the Cafe’!
On Thursday a number of people came along for a bite and a thank you. One last bite at Betty and staff’s food and a thnkyou, for that food, the laughs, the chatty times, the support, the hints and advises, and -as for Tending’s direct benefit- the plants, the compost, the coffee, the cakes, the recipes, the keen involvement and general great, outstanding support..
Now you understand why I feel sad about the departure..


But as they say, bad news never come alone, they come in triplets.
Second bad news is that Tending didn’t get the funding it applied for, which means we are now officially in limbo: the end of June marks the end of the year ‘contract’ originally envisaged by Ross Gibson, to start off this pilot adventure, and indeed it has been an adventure, and a far-fledged one on that regards too.
We are still waiting for another application lodged in which might rescue the research project, but as it stands we will have to cull our enthusiasm and hold back our dreams of food forests, effective integration of agricultural practices within an art curricula and definitely, most definitely, no wink at relational art as a legitimate tool for social interaction..
Third reason to be sad is personal, weeds.
As the news came in that we didn’t get the research grant, the campus management decided to act on some complains from the public, who allegedly were concerned for the safety of Callan Park, particularly in regards to the possible encroaching of weeds on the surrounding areas.
It was also felt that a general tide-up of the courtyard were Tending is hosted was due, to satisfy care-taking commitments in regards to Richard Goodwin’s artwork Carapace.
It is my experience as a crusader battling for the reappraisal of the value of ‘weeds’ (whatever that might mean), that most gardeners and ground keepers understand my concerns and appreciate the logic behind it. They are tightened up by the constrictions of presentation though. When something looks ‘unruly’ it is deemed to be messy, unhealthy, poorly managed and therefore un-economic.


The people coming over on the week-end did an amazing work, there was a lot of organic material in that back block, which got collected and removed. They went around and pruned the bushes, see here the cassia (I believe) and the frangipani.
Me and Michele were a bit concerned about the use of Round-up though, which apart from the fact that it is highly un-ethical to use the poison anywhere near growing vegetables, it is also illegal within the boundaries of the Leichhardt Council.. carefull guys, you might follow-up on some complains by a dissatisfied citizen, yet you might also be liable for using restricted products on public land..
With all due respect of course.
I’ll finish off with a cartoon I made to complement an article which hopefully is gong to be published on the Plant Protection Quarterly, the leading scientific journal from Australia featuring local and international original papers on all aspects of plant protection:


on how to plant garlic, or rather, a rainy day


Today was absolutely wet. The ghastly rain of the past week didn’t stop yet.
So braving the weather, we went off to Tending.
We started the day collecting a bunch of dirt from Glenn, the chief gardener from WHOS, the help center situated in Callan Park.
This association deserves a dedicated posting, so today I’m just going to talk about the rain:

Bucketing down..

Luckily we had the chance of putting down a garlic bed, in the intermissions, as it is getting late for it. Apparently the garlic should be planted by solstice (next week) so we were kind of in a hurry..

Below is Lucas explaining what, why and how of the garlic planting:

Tending’s review



A sharp and wholesome review appeared on RealTime Magazine #103, by Alana Hunt.
Below are a few paragraphs that I particularly enjoyed:

There is a genuine warmth and unpretentiousness that characterises the project both in person (on site) and via the blog (online). Characters emerge in the unfolding narrative of Tending—characters that can just as easily be plants as people.


But Tending is not an artistic process without products. Indeed, gardens themselves provide ideal places to explore the dynamic between process and product. As Ihlein explains, “one would quickly tire of digging the soil if, season after season, there were no yields.” Some products Ihlein and Bonetto have seen emerging from the collective labours of Tending include: physical pleasure; a clear mind; some lettuces, cucumbers, pumpkins and lots of basil; knowledge about what to plant at different times of the year; new friendships; heated discussions about the definition of art; some small wages; a series of guest lectures; an open-air studio; an improvement in soil quality; a restful place on campus…

Read the full article here.