Volunteer Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis — The Sky’s the Limit

The sky’s the limit in terms of the work which goes into keeping a community garden running. Even more so, when that community garden is in the midst of doubling in size.

But for Southern Beaches Community Garden volunteer Tony Curtis, he’d really prefer to have it no other way.

SBCG volunteer Tony Curtis
I eat work for breakfast

For nearly forty years, Curtis worked as a rigger and a dogman. Setting up and dismantling worksite cranes along with assisting in all facets of the construction process. The building of many of the high rises which today are so ubiquitous on the Gold Coast in which he was born and raised.

The work agreed with him. Enough so that, along with his three brothers, he’d end up owning his own rigging business, Curtis Steel & Rigging, for eight years.

Taking a quick break from building another wicking bed plot, Tony admits he loved the rigging work and the industry as a whole. The industry was good to him and he says he always enjoyed seeing the progress made at the end of each day.

Volunteer Tony Curtis
Always making friends

But that was nearly five years ago. And despite his rigging days now being behind him, the sixty-something ex-rigger has found a new way to satisfy his industrious proclivities.

Today, when not flying his extensive fleet of large, remote control airplanes, Tony and his trademark weathered leather full brimmed hat, can be found in the SBCG at least three days a week. There he’s been a member assisting in various garden tasks for almost a year. But most recently, he’s been instrumental in leading the charge in constructing the recently expanded premise’s new garden plots.

Thirty-six at last count. With more on the way. A roll call of success Tony is quick to attribute to the organisational skills of those he’s surrounded by.

“Getting things done is a matter of having all the right people around you and the right equipment to do it.”

Volunteer Tony Curtis
Getting it done, one bolt at a time

Tony lists names such as Kerry Hurse, Mandy McKinnon, Steve James, Nic Day, Dianne Casey and Deb Robson. Friends and fellow volunteers who Tony says are instrumental in providing the elbow grease in getting the heavy lifting accomplished.

“They all enjoy the work, and I think it’s the same as me, we’re getting something done. They enjoy that side of it.”

As for the planning and procurement of various necessary equipment, Tony doesn’t hesitate to give credit to SBCG President Di Gunther, Vice President Arch Cruttenden along with Ron Hasketh who oversees the Expansion Committee.

“Organisation is nine-tenths and if it’s organised properly, the job’ll go properly and Di and Archie always try to keep a step ahead and I enjoy that side of it.”

And President Di Gunther is happy to let Tony’s master plan continue playing out as it has been the past four to five months.

“We will not stop until Tony says so,” says Gunther. “There has been no other member who has the skill, ability, leadership, respect or integrity that Tony’s quiet presence exudes.”

It’s lofty and well-deserved praise. Especially good for a guy whose definition of gardening until only a year ago simply implied mowing his lawn.

volunteer Tony Curtis
Tony helping with the mulching

“I’ve always had my own property since I was 17 or 18 old so I always looked after the yard. I’ve never been big into gardens. Just as long as they looked neat, I’ve always been happy. But since I’ve come here, I’ve got an interest in learning all the different stuff.”

Some of that different stuff, he says, revolves around wicking bed construction. And then there’s the fruits and veggies of his labour. A thriving list that includes radishes, lettuces, kale, tomatoes, and, even, a small lime tree.

As for gardening tips, the ex-rigger likes to keep it simple by keeping an eye on the plots of his more experienced gardening friends. “You have to look around, see what stuff is growing the best and which is getting least affected by any bugs we do have and that’s what you grow.”

But ultimately, it’s the garden in its ever-expanding entirety that Tony seems to derive the bulk of his satisfaction from. On this day, when not admiring the periodic small planes flying low over the garden on their final approach into the GC Airport, Tony is quick to point out the hive of activity around him.

New plots being filled. Old ones being watered. Families in the park and playground. Numerous inquisitive faces taking in the sights and

Volunteer Tony Curtis and friends
The centre of it all

various areas of the garden.

There is no mistaking the garden’s expansion to the north side of the SBCG clubhouse has given the garden added exposure. And it’s irrelevant whether it’s the garden reaching out to embrace the nearby playground and public park, or vice versa.

Because, all that matters is, on this day–as has increasingly been the case–people are everywhere.

And Tony Curtis couldn’t be happier. “I’m proud to be a part of it.”

 

 

 

signing the new lease

A Long Time Coming

 

signing the new lease
Mark, signing the new lease

A Long Time Coming

It’s been a long time coming but it appears the hard work of so many Southern Beaches Community Garden members has finally paid off. For a while, there’d been talk and plenty of whispers on the grapevine about the expansion of our little community garden. But, as the saying goes, good things come to those that wait. Or, in this case, diligently persevere.

Yet, as the pictures included here can attest to, the wait is over. Eleven and a half years since first being incorporated, expansion is underway.

Back in 2010, equipped with little more than gumption and a lease from Gold Coast City

garden expansion site
New garden expansion site

Councillor Chris Robbins, an agenda was set. To commandeer a plot of land located directly behind the Tugun Community Centre, and turn it into something special.

This being a community garden that would allow for the general sharing of sustainable and environmentally friendly gardening ideas and knowledge. While also serving as an outlet to a healthy lifestyle and an overall better quality of life for the community as a whole.

 

building garden plots
Building garden plots

Humble Beginnings

Just getting the lease would prove a major first hurdle as original plans to set the garden up in Palm Beach were knocked back. Council’s reasoning being, such a plan would never get enough traction to prove successful. But many early members had a vision that they simply wouldn’t allow to be vanquished. Members such as Margo Janes, Chris Ettelbuttel, Mark Bibby and Michael Ratcliffe. And more. Each and everyone who worked relentlessly to get things off the ground.

Such determination would prove instrumental as local council’s scepticism very nearly proved correct once the ground was finally broken in their new Tugun home. Because it’d be then that the approximately 40 ambitious new SBCG members would be confronted with the reality of various obstacles impeding the success of their fledgling community garden.

There being nowhere to store various tools and equipment, members were forced to liaison with neighbours sympathetic to the gardeners’

Tony, volunteer extraordinaire
Tony, volunteer extraordinaire

plans. Neighbours who allowed SBCG materials to be stored on their property during the construction of the garden’s first plots.

And then there was a water issue. The issue being, there simply wasn’t much to be had. At least, none other than from a single spigot located in the middle of the nearby public park located a hundred metres away.

So those early days saw more than their fair share of toil. Like busy ants walking to and fro constructing, filling and watering their new community garden’s plots. Plots that would serve as the initial beachhead for so many to follow.

And follow they have. To the tune of 100 eventual total plots for a present garden membership tally in the vicinity of 150 members.

Community Involvement

Members that, over the years have lent their time and energy in helping various organisations accomplish their own agendas. Groups and organisations such as The Thrower House, Blair Athol Homeless Shelter, U3A (University of the Third Age), the Endeavour Foundation, Centrelink and more.

And then there are the community-building efforts of putting on free workshops and attending various annual festivals. Festivals which you can always find SBCG volunteers distributing free seedlings to young and old alike. Events such as the Bleach and Swell Festivals in Coolangatta, the Check It Mental Health Festival in Southport, the Tallebudgera Flood Relief Effort and most recently the Hide and Seek Markets located around the southern Gold Coast.

successful garden expansion
Garden expansion plots everywhere

Eleven and a half years of sharing our community and environmentally friendly driven passion for sustainable gardening. And forging new friendships along the way. Working relationships with the Gold Coast City Council’s Gail O’Neill, the Tweed Pony Club, Somerset College, the Bendigo Tugun Community Bank, Climate Wave Enterprises, Bunnings and countless local community mowing businesses, butchers, builders and nurseries.

So, thank you to everyone that has had a hand in helping bring this special moment to fruition. It’s been a whirlwind ride but one that proves anything is possible.

Especially when it is done together.

Red Wiggler Composting Worms

Red Wiggler Homecoming

A week following our big day, an even bigger day–in the form of a Red Wriggler Homecoming–was in store for the Southern Beaches Community Garden.

Red Wiggler Worms
Tom Symmons from Worms Downunder

It’d be then, on Thursday, March 5th—amidst grey skies and torrential rain—Tom Symmons from Worms Downunder (based out of Chandler, QLD) would arrive with the SBCG’s newest, most anticipated members in tow.

Worms. But not just any worms.

Red wiggler composting worms. Lots and lots of them.

Five kilograms or, to be a bit more precise, something in the vicinity of 20,000 worms.

Delivered and spread out amidst their moist cocopeat and straw bedding inside the SBCG’s Double Grande Worm Habitat, the red wigglers would begin their settling in process.

It was an impressive sight, seeing those little magical creepy crawlies set loose in their new home. But, not nearly as impressive as the Red Wigglers themselves. At least, according to the incredibly thorough and enlightening literature provided in the Worms Downunder information pack.

For example, did you know the worms:

Red Wiggler Worms
Getting Settled In
  • Breathe through their skin as they don’t have any lungs
  • Are hermaphrodites (they all have both male and female reproductive organs)
  • Are sensitive to light to the point where paralysis can occur within one hour
  • Can die if their skin becomes too dry
  • Cannot regulate their body temperature as they’re cold-blooded

 

In addition to body temperature, ambient temperature plays a major factor in the rate at which the Red Wigglers feed. Too high or too low a

temperature takes the worms out of their ideal comfort zone, greatly reducing the amount of food they consume.

However, in an ideal, well-maintained environment, Red Wigglers are capable of eating anywhere from 50 to 100% of their body weight in organic matter PER DAY.

Red Wiggler Composting Worms
Red Wigglers–A Garden’s Best Friend

So it stands to reason, then, the more worms, the better.

And the best part…?

You don’t have to worry about having to cull any of your Red Wiggler worm population as the little critters are as clever as they are hungry. Clever in that their reproduction is self-regulated in direct proportion to the size of their environment.

Regulated to the point where, in ideally maintained conditions, the worms can double their numbers once every three months.

Which, for the SBCG’s Double Grande Worm Habitat, will eventually equate to 80,000 Red Wigglers…

All doing their part in processing upwards of 40 litres of green waste a day, producing nutrient, soil-enriching worm ‘castings’  and helping to remove vast quantities of methane producing green waste from our local landfills.

A win-win for the SBCG and the local community alike.

 

 

 

 

 

Bendigo Bank Community in Action

SBCG & Tugun’s Bendigo Bank — Community in Action

If you wanted an example of community in action,  a visit to your nearest community garden would be as ideal a stop as any.

And Tugun’s Southern Beaches Community Garden would be no exception. From garden beds which need building,  grounds that need tending, compost bins that need turning and pony poo runs that need manning…

There’s plenty of work of the volunteer variety to go around. And, yet, that would only be half of the ‘community in action’ story.

Community in Action Stalwart Allan Merlehan
Tugun’s Bendigo Bank Manager Allan Merlehan

Because, without funding from generous donors, all that work doesn’t even get off the ground. And in the case of the SBCG, chances are extremely good that generous donor would be the Tugun Branch of Bendigo Bank.

Yes, since the garden’s inception in 2009, Tugun’s Bendigo Bank has offered the garden’s members and the community, in general, its unwavering support. A level of community support that is extremely rare.

And one person that knows this better than anyone is Bendigo’s Tugun Branch Manager, Allan Merlehan.

So, that said, we at the SBCG wanted to show our gratitude by giving Allan the floor. To give him the opportunity to answer a few questions and, in doing so, to shed a little light on the banking mindset that has helped to separate and distinguish themselves from the rest of the banking, big player herd.

All while simultaneously helping the SBCG grow as much as it has.

 

So, Allan, how long have you worked for the Tugun Branch of Bendigo Bank? As a banker in general?

I’ve been at Tugun for I0 years and in finance for a total of 36.

Was there anything overly unique or special about the bank that sort of drew you to the place?

The ‘Community’ focus was one aspect and the other was they had bank managers with authority in their branches, so you had decision-makers at ground-level.

Having worked there for as long as you have, what do you feel makes Bendigo Bank different from other banks?

The bank’s focus on the customer & the community.

On average, how much does Bendigo Bank put back into the community each year?

Our branch directly sponsors about $90k.

When do you remember first hearing about the Southern Beaches Community Garden and how has the Tugun Branch been involved with the garden?

I heard about them very soon after I arrived in Tugun in January 2010. Since then our Tugun Community Bank Branch has provided over $32,000 in funding to assist with projects such as the propagation tunnel, water tanks, a covered seating area and a trailer.  Our directors and staff have also volunteered in a working bee.

What were your first impressions of the organisation?

They immediately came across as a group of determined people wanting to improve their local community.

Since then, what have you found most interesting or impressive about the garden?

How the garden has continued to evolve from the initial concept 10 years ago to what it is today.

Bendigo Bank Tugun Branch's Maris Dirkx and SBCG friends
Bendigo’s Executive Assistant Maris Dirkx and SBCG friends

Do you find any similarities between the goals of your bank and the SBCG?

The goal of connecting with your local community & endeavouring to make a difference.

After so much involvement with the garden, what are your thoughts as you walk around the grounds that, over the years, you’ve had such a significant hand in helping to shape?

I believe it is the members who have had a significant hand in shaping the garden into what it is today. We have assisted where we can, but it is the determination and hard work of the committee and the members of the SBCG that has brought that concept 10 years ago into a reality.

Of Bendigo Bank’s Tugun Branch’s many contributions to the local community, is there one that makes you most proud? If so, which one and why?

I am proud of all our contributions in the community, whether that is in a dollar value, the sharing of knowledge or the volunteering of time. It’s not so much the contribution, but what it enables others to do, that makes a difference for our community.

MP Karen Andrews & SBCG Members

The Big Day

For the Southern Beaches Community Garden, February 28th would be the big day.

Double Grande Worm Habitat
Double Grande in Transit to its final home.

An auspicious coming together of garden members, neighbours, McPherson MP Karen Andrews and the owner of Brisbane based Worms Downunder, Jen Symmons.

The day would see the delivery of the SBCG’s new baby; a Double Grande Worm Habitat from Worms Downunder based in Chandler.

Compliments of MP Karen Andrews’ Communities Environment Grant, once set up and fully operational, the Double Grande Worm Farm Habitat will be ready to handle upwards of 40 litres of green waste per day.

In doing so, the Double Grande will help remove approximately 3 tonnes of biodegradable waste from landfill per

Double Grande Worm Habitat Demo
Worm Farming 101 in session care of Worms Downunder owner Jen Symmons

year…

All while creating soil enriching worm castings considered by many to be some of the best all-natural fertiliser found anywhere.

Yes, the excitement and anticipation was real.

Real enough to create an adrenaline fuelled, engineering inspired epiphany of sorts. One that would see the garden’s new 200 kilo worm farm put on three rollers and pushed and navigated through tight quarters the last 25 metres…

Eventually into position at its permanent home beside the SBCG propagation tunnel located in front of the garden clubhouse.

MP Karen Andrews & Jen Symmons
Worm farm banter between friends

And it’d be there where, five hours later, the Worms Downunder owner would take the helm by giving various garden members, along with an inquisitive Karen Andrews herself, an in-depth tour and description of the community garden’s newest attraction.

It would take a bit of imagination on everyone’s part. This, because the process of properly setting up and wetting

SBCG Tour for MP Karen Andrews
Garden Tour compliments of SBCG President Marian Evans.

down the habitat’s straw and coco peat’s bedding requires that the worms be delivered at a later date.

But even so, the combination of the habitat’s various moving parts coupled with Jen’s thoroughly informative talk on vermiculture painted a picture that kept everyone fascinated.

All of which proved the perfect segue for a private garden tour for the MP and her assistants compliments of SBCG President Marian Evans.

MP Karen Andrews & SBCG Members
MP Karen Andrews and new friends.

A tour which, once complete, would see the MP’s party departing with a couple potted plants as mementos of their time at the SBCG.

And the SBCG with rewarding memories of their own.

And more importantly, with the inclination to get their Double Grande Worm Habitat running at maximum capacity as quickly and effectively as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

Gail O'Neill & Friends AGM Gathering

SBCG’s November 2019 Annual General Meeting

Hello again,

It’s been a busy year at the Southern Beaches Community Garden here in Tugun with the Annual General Meeting held on 23 November, 2019 at the garden clubhouse a testimony to this.

With Division 14 Local Councillor Gail O’Neill and Director of the Tugun Community Bank Board, Bob Marshall in attendance, out-going SBCG President Di Gunther was able to highlight an extensive list of achievements and general progress over the past year.

Of course, it being the AGM, the ratification of new committee members (including filling the newly created position of Community Engagement Officer) was at the top of the day’s to do list.

As such, the current SBCG committee members are as follows:

President–Marian Evans

Gail O'Neill & Friends
The SBCG welcomes Councillor Gail O’Neill to their AGM.

Vice President—Duncan McLay

Treasurer—Mark Bibby

Grants Coordinator—Emma Scott

Secretary—Arch  Cruttenden

Membership Secretary—Doris Claussen

Community Engagement Officer—Di Gunther

Ordinary Voting Member—Peter Barrett

That accomplished, out-going President Di Gunther detailed a lengthy list of activities, developments and general accomplishments experienced by the garden over the past twelve months.

In regards to the garden grounds itself, one of the biggest developments this year was the result of an extra ordinary meeting held on 25/2/19 to discuss water supply issues. The consensus would be that the majority of SBCG gardeners want both rainwater collection and irrigated town water provided. This motion agreed upon, along with the continued support from Councillor Gail O’Neill on the matter, thus suggests the eventual expansion of garden beds is no longer an issue of ‘if’ but only of ‘when’.

Additionally, the SBCG continued in its ongoing endeavour of sharing sustainable and environmentally friendly gardening ideas and knowledge via free workshops in and around Southeast Queensland. Some of these included providing seedlings and potting workshops to:

  • The Palm Beach Bleach Festival
  • Coolangatta School.
  • During the Ocean Walk grand opening in Tugun.
  • The Shout Out Festival at the Tugun Skate Park with the help of Thrower House Participants.

 

The SBCG also continued its ongoing partnership with the Thrower House by actively participating in the Thrower House’s Easter Holiday Program while Judith Kilburn provided three free calligraphy courses to the Thrower House as part of their holiday program.

And a Hugelkulter and Wicking Bed workshop was put on for University of the Third Age and other community members by Mel Strange and Fran James.

As the above listed examples suggest, the SBCG and its 125 members were busy. And the best part…it’s only a small snapshot of EVERYTHING that was undertaken and accomplished. For the complete list, feel free to go to our website contact form and request a copy of the President Report be emailed to you.

Look it over and it’s a very safe bet you’ll be quite impressed with all this little garden club involves itself with and accomplished over the past 12 months.

In doing so, you will, no doubt, be equally impressed with the generosity of the grant providing benefactors that have provided so much of the resources to help the SBCG accomplish so much of what it has.

First and foremost on that list being the  Bendigo’s Tugun Community Bank.  Since day one, this group has backed the SBCG with this year’s grant donation of $4,200 for a new trailer bringing their total donations to the SBCG to nearly $30,000. It’s an impressive amount of money and we at the SBCG cannot say thank you enough for such steadfast generosity.

Additionally, the Gold Coast Airport awarded us just of $500 which will be put towards an irrigation system in our propagation tunnel while Mr. Ron Hesketh rounded up the troops repeatedly and, in conjunction with both Bunnings and Harvey Normans, helped fill the SBCG coffers compliments of numerous sausage sizzles.

And finally, there was the success in another very substantial grant, compliments of MP Karen Andrew’s Community Environmental Grant. The grant in conjunction with environmental eco-warriors, Worms Downunder, will allow the SBCG to purchase a ‘Double Grande Worm Habitat’ worm composter.

The addition of the Double Grande will allow the SBCG to process up to 40 litres of food and organic waste per day leaving in its wake ‘worm castings’, these being some of the most highly prized and nutrient rich, all natural fertiliser around. Access to such castings will be utilised as fertiliser for garden members and community members alike and will help to greatly reduce the vast amounts of biodegradable waste that unfortunately ends up producing harmful methane gasses in our already overflowing landfills.

The Double Grande Worm Composter is an exciting arrival to the SBCG and will be located beside the SBCG propagation tunnel.

Stay tuned for more posts regarding its pending arrival and other ongoing developments in the garden. And, again, for a complete run down of ALL of last year’s garden activities, go to our website and request a copy of the SBCG President’s Report be sent to you.

We hope to see you getting your hands dirty soon.