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I Am: Community is an oxymoron seen on a housing development in Australia. But it certainly is a good way to describe some of my efforts in ‘doing community’ as a part-timer.

Being part-time in a society which is mostly working full-time means it can actually be quite a lonely experience. Especially when many of the projects I’ve come up with are my own, and not so much someone elses.

Therefore I’ve found the last few months a tad isolating, even though I’m trying to engage with community more.

The joining a rugby team thing was one such example, of trying to connect, and in fact isolating myself more. This was because I was out two nights a week, plus doing extra trainings by myself and then out a big chunk on Saturdays and I found I was missing out on being around for events at the church, I was only getting to eat with Jo on a Monday night, because of Maori classes on Wednesday nights, and our community takeaways dinner on Fridays. And because I was playing for a club which isn’t in Mangere, I wasn’t really connecting with locals anyway. So I’ve scratched that endeavour, despite it being really enjoyable.

Another thing, has been this community garden. It’s been really cool to see the transformation from lawn to luscious vege patch, but because my neighbor is often out working, I’ve done a lot of it alone. Again, my efforts to connect get overtaken by my fixation on a task, which means I push on alone. While the task has been completed, the intended goal of the task has kind of been forgotten.

I’m finding I need to reach out to others who are also trying to do part-time stuff and if I’m less task orientated and more keen to connect with others, even if it means my tasks don’t get done as quickly, I’ll enjoy the process a lot more, rather than blithely digging holes to build a garden that no one really knows about.

I guess this is just a learning hump which comes with this lifestyle choice.

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The Constant Gardener is certainly how I feel at the moment. Whoever thought starting a garden would be so hard. It’s pretty much been my full-time occupation over the last two weeks.

We started with a jungle of weeds, and a patch of thick Kikuyu grassed land.

I started with the front of our little flat. After a day’s battle with long grass, a few ugly flowering weeds and a wheelbarrow with a flat tyre, we now have a little patio of sorts and an extra bonus of a rose bush.

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The patch of grass on our back lawn has now been turned into a garden with the help of my Samoan neighbor and a lot of the kids around the street who are on school holidays. We’ve planted a chilli bush, a raspberry tree, a rosemary plant, coriander, echinacea, basel, silver-beat, broccoli, rocket, spring onions, radishes and broad beans.

It wasn’t easy-going. The rotary hoe we hired seemed to have a mind of it’s own and I feared for my friend’s feet and anyone nearby as it careered in any direction it chose. I also missed the return time but thankfully the hireage company didn’t charge us for the late return.

It’s only early days, and the jungle of weeds defecating it’s vile roots along our back fence is still there.

But it’s pretty cool seeing the fledgling plants all lined up in their little rows. So far the CDs on polls are keeping away birds (and potentially evil spirits) and it goes to show there’s some use for those bargain bin buys from the 90s.

Who knows if it’ll be a success, but hopefully a few more people around the area get in on it and the harvest reaps more than just good food, but some friendships. For now, I’ll be trying to weed out the remnant Kikuyu roots and working out a way to organically keep snail away.

Any suggesting would be much appreciated.

Jo and I have been trying to make the move into vegetarinism of late. Or at least give part-time vegetarinism a go.

Reasons:

– to save money by not buying expensive meat.

– to reduce our complicity to cruel and inhuman farming practices. Much of the meat we eat has pretty much been tortured to death, pumped full of drugs or harassed most of its life.

– to lose weight ( that’s for me, not jo).

– to live a bit more simply. Who said every meal needs, a meat, a vege and a carb. There are plenty of filling and creative ways to make dinner without sticking to this formula. And I find that I usually end up eating to much when I make something from each of these food groups, thus the pot belly.

And so we’ve been trying out some creative meals of late.

Here are some recipes of my personal favs that we’ve recently partaken in.

Jo made this mean falafel burger meal. real filling, and the crispy burnt bits of the falafel are even tastier than the crispy burnt bits on a sausage or meat patty.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/5605/falafel-burgers

Cousous salad. This literally takes 10mins from start to finish to make, and I made too much by mistake because it’s hard to believe such a small amount of coucous will fill us for dinner. But it really does, and so I had plenty for lunches.

http://www.foodinaminute.co.nz/Recipes/Couscous-Salad

Potato and bean curry

I made this in England, and it was bland-city. So I’ve tried it since and doubled up on the spices and it was rocking!

The recipe is my own -so I can’t paste a link. But just think beef curry, without the beef and two-times the spice. Oh and the potatoes and beans.