Voluntary Simplicity: In the Garden

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Simple living, or voluntary simplicity isn’t a new concept in this household, but it is one that gets constantly edited, it evolves and gets reassessed as needed. It’s also something that while my children have always grown up with it, as this stage of their lives I’m finding I’m explaining more of why we make certain conscious decisions, and the longer term effects of those decisions. The why we do things and not just because.

Sometimes I can feel like I’m all over it and other times it feels like I’m floating in mini version of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The good thing about that though, is despite occasional overwhelming feelings there’s always something that shifts and then counter balanced by a complete sense of fully bodied satisfaction, (and that is always a good thing.)

Just over 12 months ago we swapped small apartment inner city living for a house in a smaller city, and surrounding suburban area. It’s close to shops, schools, transport and health caregivers when needed.

Another important choice for us was to be able to grow things. So now with the multiple neighbours that I know by name, there came a fairly blank canvas space of a backyard.

Making that move meant initially we didn’t have a lot of things that we would need (like) to embark on growing a lot of our own vegetables. Wheelbarrows, spades, pitch forks etc weren’t items that I had needed to access with a previously small shared concrete city courtyard.

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To get started with our growing, somethings we bought straight up, (I knew there would be an initial outlay of items as our number one aim was to get things growing. We wanted to eat from our back door step!) Somethings were given to us, somethings passed on to us as were no longer needed by the original owners. Somethings we bought second hand, and some the things we simply borrowed.

Ultimate Goal? To be growing as much as possible utilising the space we have, keeping costs down and equipment to a bare minimum.

How did we set about it and how do we continue to manage it? (As I mentioned it’s a constantly evolving process.)

Gumtree- either bought second hand or freebies, also been great for selling things we no longer needed to keep clutter to a minimum and redirect $ to something else more useful.

Borrow- lawn mowers we borrowed two before buying our own push mower. I still get a smug sense of satisfaction of hearing virtually nothing when mowing the lawn. As more grass gets turned over for edible growing space, I’m hoping the lawn mowers use will gradually decrease.

Trade- Somethings I refused outright to get, and a whipper snipper was one of them. Borrow one sure, but I didn’t want to buy one. (Actually we never did end up borrowing one either.) Living in an area where people pride themselves on their grass care. I asked a neighbour if he would trade the occasional edging out the front for baked goods. He could sleep easier knowing our edges were looking less scruffy and my conscience was clear knowing we didn’t have a garage full of implements that might be used once in a blue moon.

Hire- And if we do change our mind on using that whipper snipper, or anything else for that matter. Well I can hire one from a household a couple of km’s away at an hourly rate from Open Shed. (Another awesome example of the share economy.)

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There will always be a juggle between keeping/finding/sourcing things that might be useful in the future, (but have no immediate use) and keeping our gardening gear to a minimum, (that’s our reality and the way we’ve chosen to do things in this period. While tools are a fairly easy decision. I’m finding more and more discarded wood finding its way in as it has the potential to be made into something else entirely. I’m ok with that, as mentioned in the beginning, it’s an evolving process. Choices are made, as opportunities present themselves.

Conscious decisions over unthinkingly just taking… this is our version of voluntary simplicity, in the garden.

Helpful links

Gumtree

Open Shed

 

 

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Eco-living Fair

As much as I often think, oh I wish we lived out of the city. It’s days like these, I think… damn I love our city. I love having the opportunity to go to things like this. A community fair in celebration of all things sustainable- it was a great morning out.

The Eco- living Fair just keeps getting bigger and better each year. More stalls, more demonstrations, more information being passed around and most importantly, more people. As without people…well, it’s not going to be quite so good is it.

Some snippets from the day…

 Have you thought about joining Slow Food Sydney?

 Paint your own umbrella for the kids.

 Food Co-op spreading mandarin love

Urban Bee Hive Honey  is all from Sydney urban hives.

A very knowledgable little friend of Monkey Boy’s who explained this (rather awesome) renewable energy concept that is awaiting approval in Australia. Monkey Boy then explained it all to Mr Chocolate a little later, (and that’s how enthusiastic information gets passed on, kids!)

colourful stilted entertainment

 valet bike parking and free bike maintenance

 a free plant for anyone that wanted one from the local council nursery

and everyone needed a hat.

*****

What have you been up to this fine weekend? 

Any eco-living action?

Fruit and Nut Rye

There is something about truly wholesome food that feeds the soul. A simple seasonal dish, fruit and vegetables picked at their best. Honest food that nourishes, heals and restores.

It could be something as simple as revitalising an appetite or tantalising those taste buds. Inspiring to cook better. I was watching a cooking programme the other day and got so excited about the simple ingredients the chef was using. The presentation was beautiful, the colours, the textures and also the fact that it took just a few minutes to prepare.

Food is exciting. It can be wonderfully vibrant. It brings people together. The textures, the smells, the colours all mixed together can do so much. As I quite often write, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to take half a day to prepare.

Packets don’t have the same effect. Jars are unlikely to as well. Fruit and vegetables with their genetic diversity dumbed down for convenience and then stored for great lengths of time do not have the same qualities and effects of their seasonal local heirloom variety counterparts.

I love sweet things, and don’t have any issue with sweet recipes in moderation. However I do think that in our society sugar is being used as a substitute for taste. Salt is right along side it. A product lacking in flavour, health, anything nourishing what so ever will be added to. What with? Sugar and or salt. It deadens the taste buds, you want more, your satisfaction levels get confused and more gets consumed. Using ingredients that are easily identifiable, and letting their real flavours shine through brings dishes to the table that make a person smile.

Listen closely to a small child with their favourite simple piece of fruit, and more often than not, slow enjoyable eating sounds will be heard. A sun kissed strawberry brings nothing but happy slurps and red stained fingers and mouth. Taste buds heightened and ignited. A lesser strawberry would still be consumed, but leaving no satisfaction, taste buds lying dormant and on finishing it, you’ve already forgotten about it and moved on.

Bread is no different. For this bread I wanted something that nourished every part of me. A couple of slices for breakfast that would leave my taste buds awakened and my body energized.

Fruit and Nut Rye

300g starter

200g strong bakers flour

100g rye flour

50g linseed

100g sultanas

50g chopped pecans

25g unprocessed wheat bran

1 tsp dark malt flour

275mls (approx) water

1 1/2 tsp salt

handful of raw almonds

Mix all ingredients together except the salt. Resting period for about 40 minutes. Add the salt and mix again. Two long proves with a quick knead in between. Shape or pop in an oiled loaf tin, making sure you throw in a handful of whole raw almonds at the bottom of the tin and bake at 240C with plenty of steam. I baked this one for about 40 minutes. Then gently flipped the loaf out of the tin and into the oven again for another 5 or so minutes, bottom side up, to toast the almonds a little more. Cool on a rack, then wrap and leave over night before cutting into.

This post submitted to the wonderful yeastspotting

a tiny gas meter box garden

This, to many people with lovely edible gardens, back yards, ample sun, and green fingers will probably not be the post for you. This is a story of a couple of happy pots that despite their partial sunny aspect, and unlikely sitting position (on top of a gas meter box) are surviving.

When we first moved here, I was desperate for some greenery. I spent quite a bit of money on containers, seedlings, soil, potting mix, mulch, and hangers to go off the fence. The Monkeys and I trawled the streets looking for more containers we could grow things in. Carting them back home with high hopes of a sea of green down the side of our flat. Time went by, and I did grow things. I tried to companion plant, I looked up seasonal planting guides and tried to make smart choices with what I chose to grow. Some things grew, some things were eaten to stumps by usually slimy creatures of one kind or another. I looked up natural ways to get rid of pests. I went out at night with a torch to protect my little patch of green. I would check on these same pots as soon as I woke, looking anxiously out my window to see if they had survived the night.

Unfurl yourself slithery beast from those delicate green tendrils. Begone, and never darken my gas meter box again!

Time went by and I had got to the point where I was putting more and more money into my poor little pots. I was getting nothing back in return except for disappointment and frustration. Getting the right levels of acidity, sunlight, depth of potting mix was getting too tricky. Edible gardens in pots was just too hard for me with the partial sun aspect and resources that I had.

I gave up.

I planted flowers. Flowers that would hopefully attract bees. Maybe that would be something, a tiny something I could do.

Time went by and the pots slowly called to me again. I really wanted to grow something on that darn gas meter box and falling down paling fence. I didn’t have an acre, or a backyard. All I had was a bricked sideway apartment block.

I thought I would try with just one pot. Don’t worry about the rest of the pots sitting stacked up. Just focus on the one.

Rosemary. I popped in some worm castings, gave it some daily whispered love to its green stems… and bless my Birkenstocks if it didn’t grow!

It is growing, still growing. I tentatively added a blueberry, and it still survives. My dad gave me some mint. Despite being eaten to green stumps by minute caterpillars, it’s still with me too. (I went out and plucked the caterpillars off twice a day until there was none left.)

Mama, why are you throwing the caterpillar towards the road?

It needs to go for a WALK!

I got optimistic and planted some Italian chilli seeds, within a week green shoots were coming up. Big green leaves…hmm, I might not have the greenest thumb around but unless I’m wrong, Italians don’t grow chilli in the shape of cucumber leaves. (Presuming that’s what it is)

I also had a geranium in a fence container, two capsicums sprung up as a surprise package and seemed to suck out all of the life of the geranium while it looked pretty good. They then battled for top dog, couldn’t decide who was going to be boss so it seems they both have given up and are now looking a little exhausted from the whole ordeal and worse for wear. Never mind, I can console myself with my little patch of greenery to the right.

My little green gas meter box garden.

******

* If anyone can answer a couple of my ‘I’m not so sure’ questions, I would be very thankful.

1/ What should I do with my chilli/ cucumber plants? Should I haul one out? Which one? (Given, that it’s a miracle they both look happy, and I’m a little nervous about moving either while they look so…alive.)

2/ Is it really a cucumber? Zucchini…god forbid in that tiny pot, pumpkin?