FOR the Urban Bush-Carpenters’ first job of the year, I arranged to meet Houda at 10 am on Saturday at the South Melbourne Park Towers community garden.
We were late, predictably. But Houda didn’t seem to mind – she was waiting patiently on a bench in the shade, with a trolley and a thermos of coffee. The garden allotments were lush and pretty at the base of the imposing public housing block.
Cultivating Community – a not-for-profit group that supports community gardening – had asked us to clad two huge steel basins with timber and build a slim, wheelchair-accessible, raised garden bed. And to do it at short notice, in time for the garden open day on Saturday 5 February.
We began at our customary slow pace by sitting for a fine while and devouring Danish pastries. Houda poured us a small cup of Lebanese coffee – the first of many treats she brought for us throughout the day.
“It’s strong and sweet,” said Ste, who looked tired from the night before. “The ideal qualities of an Urban Bush-Carpenter.”
Houda told us she used to grow lots of food on her land in Lebanon, but had left nearly 30 years ago because of the Israel-Lebanon war. The community garden at South Melbourne Park Towers opened three years ago, and it was the first chance she’d had to grow veggies since arriving in Australia. She has become the garden’s caretaker.
We had a simple job, and once Houda gently suggested that it was time we begin work, we hopped to it. Geoff and Andrew measured and cut the lengths while Ste and I bought the long ‘bugle head batten’ screws (which have an internal hex drive, the kind an Allen key fits into). They’re good heavy-duty fasteners for timber joins because they give a no-fuss countersunk finish – they don’t stick out, like a chunky-headed coach screw would.
We made rectangular collars, stacked them together and slotted the sinks in. The containers will host a nectarine and an avocado tree – may they fruit abundantly. We didn’t have enough timber for the wheelchair-friendly raised garden bed, so we’ll return one night this week to finish it off. All in all, Houda was pleased.
Houda, Andrew, Ste and Michael.