The past six months have been extremely hectic.
November & December are always busy with events and the mad rush to somehow clean everywhere (home and work!) by Christmas Eve, or the day before you leave for holidays.
The first two weeks of January included the finishing touches on our beautiful new Library, and whilst the plan was to then only do small jobs for the remainder of the time - no... we decided to completely gut the bike track area, including dry creek bed and 20 years worth of chip bark, just to make it look 'fresh'.
After this the realisation of participating in a (serious) season of surf boat rowing with an extra decade under the belt, renovating a house, running a business and taking care of a family was not as carefree as I recall from my 20s!
After a disappointing cancellation of our National Titles we were straight off to Ireland for the best friend's wedding, only to return at the beginning of May.
I blinked and six months just flew by.
Now that the calm is setting in (thank goodness) and I have time to partake in the 'think tank' jobs, it has dawned on me over the past fortnight that we have been missing something these past six months.
We have actually lost our greatest teacher.
Duncan McNaught fist began sharing his knowledge with our children back in 2013, when my own daughter Niamh was in Kindergarten. From that first Urban Food Street adventure a wonderful relationship formed.
Over the next few years we became much more frequent visitors to Food Street.
Our children harvested rosellas, turmeric, sweet corn, pumpkin, cabbages, lemons and much more.
We dug with our hands, washed produce with the hose, cut with the secateurs, tasted with all of our senses!
Duncan always kept us on task "Come on guys - this is serious work we're doing now!"
One could quite easily underestimate the learning environment that such a place is for children.
Not only were the children gaining knowledge on various types of produce, there were so many other important learning opportunities occurring simultaneously.
We'll start on the physical. Obviously walking to and from and around Urban Food Street was big enough in itself, but then all of the other muscle groups like squeezing the hose or a pair of secateurs, digging into the ground with your hands or a shovel, carrying produce, or using your hands and fingers to peel.
The there is the social. During our visits to Urban Food Street the children are talking to each other, to Duncan, to other residents or people walking their dog. They are asking for things and taking turns. They are discovering new words for their ever growing vocabulary. They are curious and not afraid to ask.
My favourite was a question from Shi Qi (4 years old) last year who interrupted Duncan mid sentence to ask him "But Duncan, why are you so old?"
Duncan laughed like anything, took it in his stride, said something about how old he was and then continued with what he was sharing with the children about.
And we can even mention the more 'academic' outcomes too if that floats your boat. On many walks to Urban Food Street children began to point out the house numbers and then they began to look for them on the walls and letter boxes, and recite the numbers on the front. The older children would then share that knowledge with the younger children. Number 10 is actually in a big tree. Then there are all of the street signs along the way, not to mention the Urban Food Street community chalk boards (telling of upcoming working bees etc.) and also the little produce signs.
And let us not underestimate the most important outcome for all of our children - wellbeing.
The children being able to spend a few hours of their day wandering around the verges of Urban Food Street with their friends - actually, not just children - anyone!
We could go on and list community involvement, sustainability, health, safety and many more, however I think you get the picture.
As we visited more and more, our children began to share their knowledge and skills - to the point that our families became curious. Then began our quarterly family walks, a beautiful start to the day with a 45 minute walk around the verges led by Duncan and finishing with a complimentary breakfast.
These mornings were such a highlight - with many families bringing grandparents, uncles, aunties, older brothers and sisters, babies in strollers and family friends. They were always filled with questions (from all ages!), sharing of knowledge and lots of laughs.
Six months ago the residents of Urban Food Street each received a letter from the local council stating that they would need to get permits and $20 million public liability insurance if they wished to continue growing, after a complaint was made about the appearance of the street and the safety of the verge gardens
At the time, we shared our sympathy and offered our support.
But I fear it is too late and perhaps we could have done more.
And now we pay the price - we have lost a valuable part of our program and our community.
Yesterday we were all in shock with the news that the council moved in, cut down, and massacred all of the fruit trees growing outside Clithero House (Duncan's house). They did not even stop to allow the residents of Food Street to save the produce which was all ripe and ready, and in huge abundance.
What message are we giving to our children by vandalising this community?
In an age where we are apparently promoting sustainability, we tear down mature fruit trees laden with the best produce around and just toss it in the bin. In an age where mental health disease is at an alarming all time high, we ask such an initiative which has boosted local community health and wellbeing in immeasurable amounts that they pay Public Liability Insurance. In an age where families are becoming more and more disengaged with each other we cut out the heart of a real community.
8 years of passionate, hard work to hopefully make a change for the next generation... just taken away.
I have never witnessed any of our children walk into a lemon tree, trip over a cabbage or crack their head open on a nasturtium leaf. What I have witnessed in Urban Food Street is a beautiful and caring environment for our children to share, learn and grow in - a 5/5 on The Leuven Scales for Well Being and Involvement.
Those with children, or working with children would hope not only that their children are happy and involved, but that they also know right from wrong.
On a walk down to UFS to witness the destruction yesterday, my little friend Flossie told me "They're very mean!"
She nailed it.