Greeting the Yard


site plan sketch july 11 2010
[The Yard, July 12, 2010. North is roughly to the left of the page…]

Today at lunchtime, Diego and I agreed to meet on site, to spend a little time with the yard, to hear what it had to say.

At the cafe, we bumped into Jess, who I seem to meet almost every time I come to the college. She’s very studious, which is commendable. Even more commendable is the fact that she’s at the college very regularly, and keen to get involved with the garden. So she came along with us for our first visit.

At the cafe, we met Betty, the totally charming cafe lady. VERY keen to take part is Betty. She says she feels terrible throwing away the food scraps from the kitchen, and so will be an immediate supplier of compostables for the garden. We beamed at each other while she told me about her backyard in Marrickville (she grows an abundance of sugarcane! or rather, it grows itself!) and she promised to bring in a multitude of herb cuttings to get us started. All of this before we had even greeted our yard.

We don’t know yet what will happen. On our current understanding, we have six months to get something rolling, working on a very part time basis. Our thinking right now is to tread lightly (rather than swoop in with something spectacular), to do a little each week and get some small results soon, allowing the yard to head in its own direction as it goes along. We don’t have total autonomy: especially in the early days, we’ll have to make sure the college is happy with our progress, but we hope that confidence and trust will be one of our early harvests.

Above, here, I’ve put today’s sketch – “the yard as it is now”.

Plenty of opportunity for rainwater harvesting from the corrugated iron rooftops; plenty of space, filled currently with ancient spongy kikuyu or buffalo lawn and flatweeds; plenty of sun, plenty of shade, depending which side of the courtyard you look at. There are some existing well-established trees – frangipani, palm trees mainly. There’s an old mercedes benz painted white; there is a “grass-farm” in the far corner, already being tended by artist Liz Day. There are cute old concrete paths cast in hexagonal shapes; there’s an art library next door. There are a few taps for fresh water on site.

And there’s a mouldy old shed in the corner!

4 thoughts on “Greeting the Yard

  1. In my comments all through the TENDING site, I will offer context and provocations and speculation, sometimes concerning garden arts generally and sometimes concerning the specific opportunities and challenges of Callan Park as a garden site.

    Here, below the double line, is an inspiring article that I read a long time ago, concerning community gardens in Havana. There’s also a great feature on Havana gardens in the British TV series ‘Around the World in 80 Gardens’.

    ‘Havana’s Popular Gardens:
    Sustainable Urban Agriculture’
    By Scott G. Chaplowe
    Reprinted with permission,
    from the WSAA Newsletter, A Publication of the
    World Sustainable Agriculture Association
    Fall 1996, Vol. 5, No. 22
    Scott Chaplowe, MA, conducted graduate field research in Cuba in November
    1994 and August 1995 for his masters thesis in geography at UCLA. He has
    recently worked with WSAA Los Angeles as a writer and editor on the United
    Nations’ report, The Emerging Role of NGOs in African Development, and on
    the upcoming WSAA book, For All Generations: Making World Agriculture More

    With the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and its economic support in 1989 as well as the
    tightening up of the US economic embargo, Cuba suddenly plunged into its worst economic
    crisis since the 1959 Revolution. Officially dubbed the Special Period in Time of Peace,
    the ongoing economic crisis has had a devastating impact on Cuban food security. Cuban
    agriculture, which was highly dependent on chemical inputs from the Soviet Union, suddenly
    confronted a reduction of over 50% in oil, fertilizer, and pesticide imports. Meanwhile, food
    imports also dropped off as Cuba’s total import bill shrank by up to 70% between 1989 and
    1993. As Fidel Castro himself stated in 1991: “The food question has the number one
    The effects of the Special Period and consequent food shortages have had greatest
    repercussions in the city of Havana. With approximately 2.5 million people, Havana has
    about one fifth of Cuba’s total population and is the largest city in the Caribbean. In addition
    to the decline in food production needed to serve the capital, there is also a shortage of
    petroleum necessary to transport, refrigerate, and store food available from the rural
    agricultural sector. Thus, it is no surprise that Havana has been designated as a priority in the
    National Food Program; urban gardening has figured critically among the many measures
    taken to enhance food security.
    While Havana’s urban agriculture has taken on many forms, ranging from private gardens
    (huertos privados) to state-owned research gardens (organicponicos), Havana’s popular
    gardens (huertos populares) are the most widespread and accessible to the general public.

    Popular gardens are small parcels of state-owned land that are cultivated by individuals or
    community groups in response to ongoing food shortages. The program for popular gardens
    first began in Havana in January 1991, and has since been promoted in other Cuban cities. In
    1995, there were an estimated 26,600 popular garden parcels (parcelas) throughout the 43
    urban districts that make up Havana’s 15 municipalities.
    The popular gardens range in size from a few square meters to three hectares. Larger plots of
    land are often subdivided into smaller individual gardens. Garden sites are usually vacant or
    abandoned plots located in the same neighborhood if not next door to the gardeners’
    household. Land for the gardens is obtained through the local government body (the Poder
    Popular) at no cost, as long as it is used for cultivation.
    Participation in the popular gardens range from one to seventy people per garden site. The
    majority of gardeners are men, although women and children also participate. Popular
    gardens are usually organized around a household, but it is not uncommon to find
    arrangements in which more than one household shares or subdivides a garden site.
    A wide selection of produce is cultivated, depending (on family needs, market availability,
    and suitability with the soil and locality. In addition to vegetable and fruit cultivation, some
    popular gardens also cultivate spices and plants used for medicinal purposes.
    Garden productivity has been achieved with minimal external inputs, applying principles of
    organic agriculture that are low cost, readily available, and environmentally sustainable.
    Gardeners seldom use chemical fertilizers, relying instead on organic fertilizers in the form
    of chicken or cow manure, compost from household food waste, and occasionally
    vermiculture (the use of worms). Also, there is no great demand or availability for chemical
    herbicides, as weeds are easily controlled by hand weeding. Inter-cropping is commonly
    practiced, and vegetation stories are sometimes used with taller trees and plants acting as a
    protective canopy for lower crops. Farmers often maximize the use of land by cultivating
    crops which produce in the ground, on the ground, and above the ground. A popular
    combination includes cassava, which provides abundant shade, sweet potatoes, which
    provides good ground cover, and occasionally beans, which fixates the soil with nitrogen.
    The popular gardens have not been problem-free. Some major constraints include the
    scarcity of available land in densely populated areas; the scarcity of water, particularly
    during the dry season from November to April; the poor quality of the urban topsoil, which
    is often littered with garbage, glass, and shards of concrete and other building materials;
    plant disease and pests; and theft of garden produce, which is largely due to the ongoing
    food shortages.

    Gardeners have several resources to help address their problems. Foremost are the gardeners
    themselves, who often organize into horticulture clubs (club horticulturas). These clubs
    pool resources and experience, and facilitate the dissemination of information and technical
    knowledge among gardeners. Clubs meet regularly to exchange seeds, produce, tools, and
    ideas, and some organize workshops on organic gardening and events to involve and educate
    the community, and maintain model gardens. When necessary, clubs organize regular watch
    duties to guard gardens from robbers. Today, there are over 400 horticulture clubs in Havana
    registered with Ministry of Agriculture.
    Another key resource for the popular gardens is the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI), which has created a special unit to promote and support urban agriculture. Agricultural
    extensionists from MINAGRI advise and disseminate knowledge based on the principles of
    organic agriculture, and usually play a pivotal role in the start-up and functioning of the
    popular gardens and horticulture clubs. MINAGRI also operates eight House of Seeds (Casa
    de Semillas) in greater Havana. These centers sell agricultural supplies to the public that
    would otherwise be difficult to obtain during the Special Period, such as vegetable and
    medicinal seeds and seedlings, biological pesticides, organic fertilizer, and tools.
    In addition to MINAGRI, both national and international NGOs have also played a
    supportive role for the popular gardens. For example, the Australian Organization
    Permaculture International (the Green Team) works with the Cuban Counsel of Churches
    (Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba) to offer seminars and workshops in permaculture. One
    gardener who had participated in a ten day workshop proudly stated, “I no longer complain
    about the poor quality; I do something about it.”
    Havana’s popular gardens have performed well in their five years of existence. While
    gardeners are by no means self sufficient in their food needs, they are able to provide
    essential vitamins, minerals, and starches crucial to their diets, as well as medicines and
    spices in short supply. The gardens have revitalized many traditional crops, particularly
    starchy root crops (viandas), and they have helped to reduce dependency on outside food

    In addition to increased food security, the gardens have also empowered many individuals
    and communities. They have renewed solidarity and purpose among the communities,
    sustaining morale during the ongoing economic crisis. The popular gardens have helped to
    build community pride; they clean up vacant urban spaces that had once been local dumps,
    replacing these eyesores with greenery. The gardens also serve as a source of leisure,
    exercise, and relaxation for many gardeners, a refuge where they can work with the land and
    reconnect with nature. One gardener referred to his garden as a family park where he liked
    to spend time with his grandchildren.

    The future for Havana’s popular gardens hinges to a large degree on the political and
    economic future of the country as a whole. Just as political and economic forces have
    produced the gardens, their sustainability will likewise be determined by these two forces as
    Cuba is inserted into a new global economy. As the title implies, the Special Period is not
    perceived as a normal state of affairs, but rather an interval between the fall of the Berlin
    Wall and the lifting of the US embargo. Some are convinced that when the embargo is lifted,
    Cuba will revert to chemical intensive agriculture and foreign imports for its food,
    particularly to serve urban centers like Havana. Whatever lies ahead, the current food
    shortages will most likely recede following the Special Period. Will the popular gardens
    continue in the absence of a severe food shortage?

    This uncertain future is not lost on those committed to the popular gardens. Many involved
    with the gardens have tried to achieve more than food security by investing in the
    community, especially through horticulture clubs, and encouraging local participation and
    decision-making. This approach stresses grassroots principles through the collective
    organizing of gardens that involve, educate, and reinforce the community and its gardens. As
    an extensionist explained: “It is important to create a culture to sustain the movement;
    horticultural clubs and other community efforts do this.” Such efforts at the community level
    are important in that development solutions are typically more sustainable when they involve
    and empower the local people.


  2. Unsurprisingly, there are hundreds of years — well thousands, probably — of politics around the uses of the Callan Park.

    Here, below the souble line, is a useful timeline-account that was published on the Leichhardt Council website recently.

    This is the context in which a modest little collaborative garden tries to bloom.


    Document on the website of Leichhardt Council

    ‘History of Callan Park (Rozelle Hospital) – Key Timeline dates – Up to October 2008’
    Rozelle Hospital Conservation Management Plan Jan 2002 Tanner & Associates Pty
    Ltd (pages 24-29)

    Rozelle Hospital Sydney Master Development Control Plan March 1990 Health
    Works, NSW Department of Public Works

    Friends of Callan Park The Future of Callan Park: A suggested Vision and Way Forward 4 August 2003

    20,000 – 30,000 years ago Aboriginal people live on the shores of Sydney harbour before the Europeans settle the area. The people living
    around the site of the Rozelle Hospital were the Wangal clan or band, as evidenced in remains on Callan Point. The Wangal people were part of the Eora or Dharug tribes.

    1819 – 1821 Gentleman’s Estates were created from original land grants to Butler, Austen and Ralph, which influenced European settlement in the vicinity of Rozelle Hospital.

    1837 – 1844 Significant Gentleman’s houses erected on the estates within the land that now forms part of Rozelle Hospital – including Garry Owen House (c.1837-1839), Kalouan (c.1840-1844), and Broughton House (c.1841-1842).

    1864 Report in Parliament on “Present State and Management of Lunatic Asylums.” General public controversy over conditions in asylums.

    1865 Garry Owen bought by Gordon and renamed Callan Park. Barnet becomes Colonial Architect. Visits Gladesville Hospital and is shocked at the conditions there.

    1873 Callan Park Estate, 104 acres, bought by State Government as site for a hospital for the insane on 19 December, 1873.

    1878 Kalouan sold to the current owner of Broughton Hall (formerly Broughton House) and amalgamated into a single estate.

    1880-85 Callan Park Asylum constructed including Kirkbride Block Cottage Wards.

    1888 Callan Park Asylum already grossly overcrowded. 998 patients (designed for 666 patients).

    1900 Complaints of overcrowding at Callan Park, results in enquiries and Royal Commissions.

    1915 Current owners of Broughton Hall place Broughton Hall at the disposal of Commonwealth Government – becomes Australian Army Hospital No.13 – Caring for ‘shell-shock’ soldiers from WW1.

    1918 Commonwealth Government resumes Broughton Hall.

    1921 Broughton Hall Psychiatric centre opens for first voluntarily admitted patients under superintendence of Dr. Sydney Evan Jones.

    1920 -1940 Development of Broughton Hall gardens by Jones who believes that gardens have therapeutic value in the treatment of mental patients.

    1960s-1970s Gradual decline in patient numbers due to changes in mental health practices.

    1976 Broughton Hall and Callan Park amalgamated to become Rozelle Hospital.

    1983 Richmond Report recommends scaling down of Rozelle Hospital and investigation of alternative uses for under utilised buildings.

    1988 The Barclay Report sets out standards for Psychiatric hospitals and related community facilities. “Blue Print for Health – A New Direction in Mental Health Services” sets out capital works programme to meet recommendations of
    Barclay Report. Construction of new hospital buildings and phasing out of Kirkbride Block for psychiatric care. Repair of Garry Owen House undertaken and subsequently adapted for use by the NSW Writers Centre.

    1989 The NSW Department of Works invited to prepare a Master Development Control Plan for Rozelle Hospital to provide a programme for the future redevelopment of Rozelle Hospital in keeping with the “Blue Print for Health”. Current beds at hospital totals 530.

    1992 Kirkbride Block leased to University of Sydney for occupation by Sydney College of the Arts.

    1999-2000 Reduction in beds at Rozelle Hospital to 244.

    2001 April 2001 – The Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, Dr. Andrew Refshauge, informs Leichhardt Council that he will become the consent authority for development at the
    Rozelle Hospital site.

    Subsequently during 2001, Leichhardt Council resolves to provide coordinating support for the production of a community vision for Callan Park. A document to develop a community
    vision is circulated to 30,000 households and businesses within the Leichhardt LGA. A community vision is subsequently prepared following the completion of a comprehensive community survey.

    2002 July 2002 – Draft Master Plan for Rozelle Hospital released for public comment by the NSW Government. Master Plan prepared by the Urban Design Advisory Service for the site owners, NSW Health. The proposal includes use of parts of
    the site for private residential purposes. Associated with the plan was the construction of a purpose-built mental health unit at Concord hospital to replace the Rozelle

    August 2002 – Telephone and Letterbox flyer polls
    undertaken by Leichhardt Council to determine community attitudes to the draft Master Plan, which show that there is a high level of public support for Council’s & others (Friends of Callan Park etc.) opposition to the Master Plan. October 2002 – In response to widespread community concerns, the draft Master Plan was withdrawn by the NSW Government.

    The NSW Parliament subsequently passed the Callan Park (Special Provisions) Act 2002 No.139. This Act was assented to on 24 December 2002. The Act amongst other things aims “to ensure that the whole of Callan Park remains in public ownership and subject to public control.”
    2003 – 2004 Leichhardt Council, Friends of Callan Park and others maintain discussions with the State Government on the importance of retaining a mental health facility at Rozelle Hospital and the need to plan for the future of the site.

    April 2004 – Leichhardt Council resolves to establish and resource a taskforce, chaired by the Mayor, Councillors, Friends of Callan Park, precinct nominees and Callan Park Tenant nominees to strongly pursue adequate government funding and community representation for the practical establishment of the Callan Park Trust and to initiate the process of master planning for Callan Park in line with the community vision adopted by the previous Council.

    2005 October 2005 – Leichhardt Council moves at the Local Government Conference that the State Government reaffirm the position that Callan Park remain as a specialist mental health facility and reaffirm the establishment of a trust for the ongoing management of Callan Park, to adopt the Callan Park Trust bill, and it be tabled in parliament for
    enactment, and further that the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning release promised funds for the development of the Callan park Masterplan. The motion was unanimously supported by the Local Government
    Association of NSW.

    2006 February 2006 – Leichhardt Council renews its commitment to developing a Masterplan for Callan Park and continuing to pressure the NSW Government to retain and upgrade the
    specialist Callan Park psychiatric hospital.
    September 2006 – Council undertakes a further
    comprehensive community survey to assist with the development of a Masterplan for Callan Park.

    2007 July 2007 – A 26 member Community Reference Panel is established by the Minister Of Planning Hon Frank Sartor MP to deliver feedback on proposals for the future of Callan Park. The panel is to comment on Masterplan and tenancy
    proposals including those put forward by the University of Sydney. Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority appointed to undertake the preparation of a Masterplan for Callan Park by the end of November 2007.

    November 2007 – On 30 November 2007, The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority finalises the Draft Callan Park Land Use Plan and places it on public exhibition.

    December 2007 – Leichhardt Council resolves to object to the Land Use Plan as currently proposed for Callan Park because it would amongst other things: Lead to over-development at Callan Park.
    2008 February 2008 – Leichhardt Council resolves to reject the Callan Park Land Use plan because amongst other things;
    -The plan is predicated upon the relocation of public services for the mentally ill away from the current Callan Park location;
    -The bulk of the site will be used by the University of Sydney, rather than as a psychiatric hospital; and
    -The Land Use Plan proposes a substantial increase in floor space. This will result in unacceptable overdevelopment of
    Callan Park.

    Mid-2008 — Council subsequently submits the above objection to the
    State Government with the results of a randomly selected telephone poll and self select survey of residents concerning the draft Land Use plan. The results of the surveys indicate that there is a high level of public concern with over-development and loss of heritage features within Callan Park, associated with the draft Land Use Plan.


  3. I was very glad to join the yard visit and to witness you and Diego listening to what the yard had to say. I liked how you both seemed like garden investigators – poking around in the soil, the down pipes, speculating on drainage, rainfall, patterns of shade and of sunlight. I think you were both very receptive to what the yard had to say.

    And I like the title of your sketch – “the yard as it is now”. Makes it sound like this yard doesn’t know what it’s in for!

  4. Ross, sorry for taking so long to comment on the above research, it is just so much to chew on.
    I am fully aware of what happened in Cuba in mid nighties, to today, and i also took part in a couple of meetings of the ‘Save Callan Park coalition’, so i had a bit of grounding about the issues at stake.
    I truly think all of thios material should be moved on a static page rather than hiding it way in some comment box.
    we’l work towards it.
    thanks so much for your help Ross!

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