The Neighbourhood Patch
Good Organic Gardening|September - October 2021
The only thing better than one suburban garden is several households sharing the bounty
Jana Holmer

Hamlyn Heights perches on a windy ridge overlooking Geelong’s Corio Bay. Named after 1940s resident Sidney Hamlyn, the suburb is noted as the childhood home of actor Guy Pearce, whose international career began in the cast of Neighbours.

How appropriate then that Dr Saranyu Pearson is such a good neighbour. As a holistic veterinarian, she runs her practice Paws to Heal from her home in Hamlyn Heights, advising her clients on the importance of nutrition and the natural environment to animal health.

She’s actively involved with the Sri Chinmoy movement and participates most years in the Sri Chinmoy Oneness Home Peace Run, a global torch relay.

She’s also a member of Transition Streets Geelong, a community group that fosters environmental awareness and empowerment through energy self-sufficiency and connection to place.

Eight other households are involved in the project, growing home produce and incorporating water-saving techniques. Their motto: “Let’s turn our streets into neighbourhoods.”

Saranyu’s corner of the neighbourhood is a 100sqm garden in her front yard, with eastern and northern sun for most of the day. “The idea was to create an edible food forest that was visible and accessible to the neighbourhood,” she says.

In fact the eventual plan is to turn the entire block, front and back, into a productive food space.

A GROWING PASSION

In many ways, Saranyu is following family traditions. Her English-born father Len always had a vegie patch. Her mother Sylvia worked hard to bring up the children, trying to cook nutritious meals and make the most of what was available. She always kept a cow or a goat for milk and would make her own butter and baked goods.

Then there was Aunty Shirley, who married Uncle Harold, a farmer. Growing up in Castlemaine, Saranyu remembers her regular trips to the sheep property in central Victoria: “It feels like we were there nearly every week or two.” Aunty Shirley would fill her bathroom with preserves in the lead-up to the agricultural show.

Saranyu always loved trees and flowers and developed a deep appreciation of the soil and water without really thinking of it. She grew up helping Aunty Shirley bottle and preserve fruit, foraging for mushrooms and eating locally grown fresh foods.

Still, though her passion for good food and cooking never faded, it wasn’t until her children had grown up that she rediscovered gardening.

The inspiration for the edible food garden came from the local peri-urban rural lifestyle movement, which she saw in action while making a house call. It was a natural fit, as Saranyu had studied ag science before becoming a vet and believes that agriculture and animal medicine are intimately related.

ORGANIC BEGINNINGS

With such beginnings, there can be no other path for Saranyu but the organic one — even if it can take a while to rejuvenate and replenish the soil. She’s passionate about fresh, clean food and “the Earth deserves better treatment than a bombardment of chemicals”.

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