Community is everywhere, it is more than one person doing something, it is communicating, it is a life like your parents lived, it’s hard, and it’s easy. It can be a challenge. For me community meant thinking differently. Community involved talking, crying, laughing, agreeing, disagreeing and communicating so we are all happy with the communal outcome. Community is listening, understanding and overcoming. Community is support. Community is leaving your front door open, always. Community is important. I never realised how important until I was ready to grow, to become part of something more than just my own goals, until I was ready to share my life with others. This past month I have been back to the Maldives to visit my partner, we have a young dog, cute, handsome, very naughty but always there, I left him with my friends, it was difficult because I have so much love for this little ball of energy and I trusted him to other people, these people have and are my community.
Life is change, everything changes, in our small home, in the house behind the hill, there are now six adults, one baby, three dogs, three pigs, 11 chickens, an undisclosed amount of mice and one stray cat. We keep the fire lit, we share responsibilities and we are happy and I want to be happy. Our neighbours I know by name and entrust them with everything we have, when we are all away, the two ladies from up the hill water the glass house, and the family in the farm house next door look after the dogs and the son, Emmet, feed the hens.
Since moving to Ireland I have helped and been part in many ways in the Moy Hill Community Garden, this was new to me, a life outside of the communities of family and friendships, and my first look into what true community living is. The Garden started a few years ago when a couple of now close friends had chat about how they needed a space in the community to relax without being inside a pub or on the beach. It started with some unused land with no planning permission, no risk assessments, it began fearlessly with no funding. A couple of years later, there are raised beds, fruit trees, a young orchard, poly-tunnels, an underground glass house, a tool shed, a compost toilet and a community veg table. People are sharing skills, artists, carpenters, growers, website designers, musicians, dancers, business men and film makers, writers and every person from every walk of life are involved in a wonderful bright and positive environment that is safe and homely. People are learning new skills. Those who shy from physically demanding tasks can cook, they can paint, feed the chickens, or simply walk their children around the garden, there is always some way to be involved, its all fun and every aspect of life in the garden is created with a desire to connect and educate. The veg is harvested weekly and given honestly to the local community, those who work hard on the land take a hard workers share, and the rest donated. On harvest night there is an outdoor cook-up in the garden come rain or shine. People talk and people smile. There is an open gate ethos, everyone is welcome, it is a strange concept in this modern young world of friendship requests, online dating, and three phase job interviews.
A few minutes down the hill at the Primary School, lessons are taught in Irish Gaelic, they now have raised beds and a ‘bug hotel’. Several horticultural students from the local college come to learn for work experience, it is instantly gratifying and everyone benefits. Pupils from the local Steiner Waldorf School in the next town along come to the field and help plant the seedlings, harvest the produce and learn that gardening is fun. It is far from the lessons of religious education and geography, but shouldn’t we be learning about the land, about the trees, about what it means to be natural? At what point did we forget that we are a part of the ecosystem and not in charge of it. They are learning organic agriculture. They are growing, we are all growing and in each change of the guard we must trust the future of the world into the children’s hands. They are the next generation and we hand them the keys, the knowledge, the lessons they need, so should we not equip them with as many skills as possible?
This Community Garden project uses food as the connection, as the language that binds us all together, ages, genders, cultures and classes. We are learning to interact differently and slowly changing our behaviour. We want to be part of the solution not the problem. It is not an original idea but it is a movement towards a replicable model. I don’t believe people when they say small changes are insignificant. I have seen the power of small actions. Even in me small changes are hard but they can make a huge impact. Every change is real, every smile makes a difference and is contagious and like all things we slowly grow.
There are vast and overwhelming problems in the world, each with a complex answer. Government and big business have to discuss the ways in which to tackle global problems that affect every living creature on this small and wonderful planet but at the moment in my life, I can become part of a solution, I can make small and significant changes to make a positive impact.
In our small community some of our views may differ, we may disagree or feel anxious at times, but as long as we are conscious, we communicate and we surround each day with positive thoughts, we will negotiate with nature a better world for our grandchildren. We want to live as sustainably as possible. We want to plant trees that we may never live to see grow tall. We are just a few people, with spades and seeds, with time and energy, but we are passionate. If we can’t create a movement in ourselves, in our small household community, how can we create peace in the world? We live in a very blessed time and place, and we are all part of the solution.
Of all the amazing experiences I have witnessed in a small amount of time, the paramount is now being happy with leaving my world here with the people I trust. It is knowing that each day the people that surround me will help me if I need, that when I get home a friend will pick me up from the train station and even though the house will be a mess, my car used and without fuel, there will be a pot of food on the stove, the vegetables will be growing and strong, the fire on and someone to welcome me back in to the world that I now know as my community.