Workshop member Tim Jeffries spent 10 years studying theology at university but says he has “probably learnt more about spiritual things in the garden”.
The youth worker also finds tackling D.I.Y. projects at his Geelong home good for his soul.
“Designing and creating is a restorative process for me,” Tim explains. “Most of the work I do with is people. Often you don’t see results, too often it can feel like things go backwards rather than forwards for people.
“D.I.Y. allows me to do some work that has concrete results. So it’s good for my soul and great for my mental health. I'd like to think it’s a pretty good coping mechanism.”
Surprisingly, when Tim bought his first house with his wife Jay he told her he wanted “something fully renovated with a low maintenance garden”.
“We bought one just like that and suddenly I had an urge to dig up the boring garden and plant stuff. It’s been trial-and-error, lots of fun trying things out and fixing them when I fail the first time.”
Tim struggles to pinpoint where his interest in D.I.Y. comes from, but his father “tinkered a lot” and “always had projects on the go”. “A bunch of my ancestors were farmers so maybe it’s in my blood,” he ponders. “I think there’s something wholesome, something truly human about growing your own food and creating your own home.”
A father of four kids aged eight and under, Tim spends plenty of time hosting family and friends at his home but also enjoys running, spending time at the beach and keeping active any way possible.
Tim says he has been fortunate to have friends to learn D.I.Y. skills from. “Initially my mate who runs a landscape construction business and now my neighbour who is a semi-retired carpenter. I pretty much only have to touch the power saw and he sticks his head over the fence with an offer of help.”
With his passion for D.I.Y. and gardening, Tim was immediately drawn to the Workshop community. “I stumbled across the Twitter account before things were up and running and loved the idea. Obviously I love D.I.Y. and people but learning is also a passion of mine and so I think this is a great space.”
Tim believes his most successful project to date is his front fence vegetable beds, which have also proved a hit with the Workshop community. “They certainly get the most attention,” he says. “I think they’re functional, beautiful and they build a bridge between our house and the street. They connect us with people who walk past around food which is something that unites us all.”
The genesis of the project was primarily safety, but also a sense of community. “When we bought the house there wasn’t a fence and sometimes cars speed down our street. We wanted to make sure our kids couldn’t easily run straight out onto the road but at the same time we didn’t want to build a wall between us and the footpath.
“We like the idea of connecting with our neighbours, of building relationships with those around us and sharing what we have. The idea of incorporating a garden bed into the fence came to me one day and it seemed to tick all the boxes. It’s certainly worked, it’s been a great place to grow and share food. Most people who walk past check it out and lots of them stop to chat if we’re around. There are lots of people around here who enjoy connecting with their neighbours so it’s a great place for that to begin.”
Like Workshop’s @CathM, Tim believes “soil is everything” in gardening. “Get a composting system happening and nourish your soil. The rest pretty much takes care of itself.”
Tim’s most successful crops have been tomatoes. “We’ve had incredible crops of tomatoes every year since I started growing vegies,” Tim says. “Compared with anything store-bought they’re amazing.
“I also had great success growing a strawberry patch at our last house so I set one up as soon as I could since moving here. They really came on this year, it’s so fantastic to be able to grab them from the garden and stick them straight in the kid’s mouths.”
While Tim says he has “so many little projects on the go”, his next goal is some new vegie beds. “Maybe some wicking beds,” he says. “My front yard is only half-way finished. I’m keen to build these beds so I can create the paths around them and plant out the edges with indigenous plants.”
The best piece of D.I.Y. advice Tim says he’s received is "it’s all in the planning." And if he ever hits a snag while working on a project, he chooses to sleep on it. “I’ve learnt not to rush ahead and try to force it,” he says. “The answer comes eventually, usually when I’m meant to be doing something else.”
When asked about his favourite tool, Tim nominates the humble shovel. “I’ve dug out two front yards full of lawn with my trusty shovel. It’s not inspiring work but it’s very rewarding when you’re done. Plus I can have a few guilt-free beers afterwards.”