Thoughts and links

A couple of things that have come up that pertain to the last few posts.  Den of Chaos (I love her blog) talked a bit about the difference between ‘rest’ and ‘inertia’.  A valuable distinction, and one that I’ve neglected a lot this year.

Sara sent me a link to this post about changing habits, which really hit the nail on the head.  Pretty much all of my ‘resolutions’ could be summed up by the phrase ‘be more conscious’.  More on that later.

And in return I sent her this post.  This, among others on that blog, inspired me to write down anything at all, and to make them things that I could actually do.  That is why I said ‘ride in 1-2 times a week’ instead of ‘ride my bike more’.  And I can say that I don’t know if I would have ridden in at all last week if I hadn’t put it like that.  I would have thought ‘I’ll make up for it next week.’  Instead, on Monday when I was whiney about it, I thought ‘if I ride in now, I don’t HAVE to later in the week if I don’t want to.’  So I rode in.  And then on Wednesday, I thought ‘well, I will feel really pleased with myself if I max out my goal.’  So I rode in.  If I treat my brain like a three year old, we get a lot more done around here.

Also, I now have  a new obsession: the garden in my new house. 

The week before christmas I decided I wanted to plant a native garden, leaving some space down the back for veggies and maybe chooks later.  My sister, who did a whole course on this at uni for her architecture degree, told me it is called a ‘wirra’, and lent me some books on it.  (The best one has headings in Papyrus and all the text is justified.  I am finding this makes it very hard to read.  I am a snob.)  I also found this really good website.  It has loads of information and, if you’re in Adelaide, a list of local growers, as well as this great map that shows you what type of plant life originally grew where you live.  It can then also search for appropriate plants to meet certain conditions (attract butterflies or birds, provide shelter or food, etc).  There are plenty of similar resources for other states, if you look.

But this week, Bek has been telling me about Linda Woodrow’s book, the permaculture home garden.  I bought the book through the bookshop at work (should get it in a week or two), and started googling.  I am now thoroughly in love with the idea of a mandala garden.

mandala garden

The idea of setting up a garden for the minimum possible effort is infinitely appealing to me.  Also, chickens.  And a chicken dome

I realised, though, that I had this sense of fear about it.  Of… dread almost.  Of ‘it’s too hard’.  Not about the garden itself – I know how to do most of that except maybe the planning, but the book, apparently, provides step by step planting guides for the nervous and inexperienced.  No, it was about the end result.

I realised that I was scared of growing my own food.

What?!  Why on earth?  I boiled it down to two things.  One is, growing your own food makes you realise what a scarce resource it is, and how labour, water, and energy intensive it is to produce.  I almost never succeed even at herbs, because I am too afraid to pick them.  Mine always look so scraggly and impoverished.  But of course, constant picking helps make herbs bushy and luxurious.  So the answer to this is two things: the permaculture aspect of this method is somewhat soothing, because it is circular.  I can see the plan for it – even when the garden bed is bare, it’s not done. The chickens are on it, or it’s waiting for its next season’s plant, which is already planned.  It is not empty or wasted space, it’s not failure. 

The second part of the answer is: yes.  Food is a scarce resource, and that is precisely why it is worth growing your own.  It snaps you out of the idea that there is always more at the supermarket.  Don’t go and buy any of the abundant (but limp and tasteless) basil.  Pick the leaves off your own scraggly plant and be thankful. 

The second fear links back to consciousness.  I realised I was scared of what I would do once I harvested my imaginary bounty.  I would no longer be able to leaf through a magazine until something caught my flagging attention, trot off to the shops and spend money on rare and out of season ingredients, and plan out my meals that way.  I would have, instead, to consider what I had on hand, and work from that.  That takes effort!  Ok, so, less actual effort than reading a mag, making a list, shopping for a million things and lugging them home by hand.  But FAR more consciousness.

And once I realised that, I was even more sold on the idea.  Ok, I’m still nervous.  I’m still worried that this will be a fad and I’ll lose enthusiasm.  That it’ll be a lot of work, and I will get tired and want to quit.  I don’t think that those are unfounded worries.  But as that post from the Den of Chaos says, what kind of life do I want to live?  It’s no use saying I want to make my own food and clothes and live sustainably and simply and well if what I acutally do is let my tomato plants die in the first heatwave and buy crappy supermarket vegetables and sweat shop clothes.  Ok, so it’s more effort.  But what am I saving the effort for?  And don’t I spend that much effort feeding myself anyway?  I don’t mean shopping and cooking, I mean at my job.  Why do I work?  To feed, house and clothe myself.  Anything else is extras.  And I love the extras, but… maybe not as much as I’d love working less?  Knowing (and remembering) that I can do things for myself – things like feeding and clothing myself, being a bit less dependant on things beyond my control – gives me options.  Maybe not options for right now, but still.  Options.

Life isn’t about expending the least energy possible.  It’s about enjoying things and getting value from your time, even if that’s hard work.  And a garden I can eat from (with a native one around it) is worthwhile and valuable.  Here’s hoping I can maintain my enthusiasm!


7 thoughts on “Thoughts and links

  1. Great to hear your enthusiam. We had a chook dome where we used to live and it worked well, I think Linda’s book is pretty accessible, sometimes things you read seem so complicated. It is challenging to eat seasonally. I bought supermarket carrots yesterday and was very concious of them being out of season. It’s interesting how growing you stuff can change you perspective on that. I am not ‘legalistic’ about it by any means but I am much more conscious about whats in season now. We have an abundance of garlic, onions, beans, zucchinis, cucumbers, potatoes, stone fruit, apples (they are an early sort and our climate is really too hot for them- great flavour but bad texture so good for juice), straberries, herbs…you can make some good meals out of that. Last night we ate chicken from our place too.
    I like what you wrote about life- “It’s about enjoying things and getting value from your time, even if that’s hard work.”

  2. I felt much more confident about my veggie garden, and my capacity to produce food for us, when I decided my mantra would be “just plant more”. It’s not terribly scientific, but it works well enough for us. Obviously we also throw a bit of water around and make compost and stuff, but I try not to worry too much about getting those things to some optimal level, I just keep planting til something works.

    It did take a bit of adjusting to find recipes that work with the food available rather than the other way round, but the internet is excellent and responds to you searching by vegetable for ideas. I was given the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden book for Christmas and it’s a good resource, particularly if you don’t have many cooking or gardening books already. Jackie French’s gardening books are also good for improving your confidence, but you may find you get annoyed at the way they’re organised and (not well) proofread.

  3. A good blog for you also is this one and it is a good mantra as well.

    Post-Puggles I want to turn my hand to more gardening – spend at least 3 months of the year doing so. At the moment there are tomatoes galore still though!

  4. Growing your own food is very rewarding and fun – the hard work is there but be comforted in the knowledge that the chooks in the domes of the mandalas will do much of the work for you as well as much of the bug control and fertalizing.
    Growing your own food also introduces seasonality to your diet and is great for the planet as food miles are reduced astronomically.
    Have fun with your garden as we do – it is a lovely place to “be”.

  5. “I bought supermarket carrots yesterday and was very concious of them being out of season. ”

    We got carrots at the farmers’ market on Saturday, picked fresh – I think you can grow carrots pretty much year round, as long as you don’t try to grow them across seasons, which makes them bolt and go to seed.

  6. Good luck- I have to say I’ve had multiple attempts at establishing gardens over the years, and I still have A LOT to learn. It is a wonderful learning process though.
    I also heartily recommend Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion for plenty of inspiration and information (I think you can get it at a reduced price from Target at the moment, as it is quite a pricey book), and also Jackie French’s Backyard Self Sufficiency.
    There’s plenty of work involved, plenty of trial and error, but I do find it incredibly satisfying and inspiring to discover (for example) that I have fresh parsley at my doorstep, and that there is the prospect of a couple of beans and broccoli shoots to add to tomorrow night’s stir fry. If you’re happy to play with it- explore and experiment and discover as you go, then I’m sure your enthusiasm and harvest will continue to grow!

Whadya reckon?

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