Friday, 20 November 2009


Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Recently I’ve been thinking about the things we do which take time, and how we adjust our lives so that we have time for these things. Or how we just do things from scratch to to learn, to understand, to appreciate… I often make the excuse that I'm doing something or growing something to teach my six homeschooled children about that thing, but the truth is that as a child of the modern age, I also need to learn some patience.

I’ve been growing some rice in a big plastic tub. It’s quite a big pot of rice. The grains grow as seed heads on a lush looking grass. My first crop yielded half a jar. We are a family of eight. Half a jar of brown rice grains doesn’t go far between eight people! A whole season’s worth of rice wasn’t even enough for a side dish. That really helped us appreciate the amount of land and water used for our usual 3+ cups of rice consumed with an evening meal once or twice each week.

We also grow pigeon pea. It’s a medium to large sized bush with many pods after flowering. The seeds can be eaten raw as a green pea, or dry similar to a lentil and traditionally used in dahl. Mostly our pigeon pea is a fodder tree for our animals, but sometimes the children and I harvest the dry seed, sift through and discard the imperfect ones and cook up a spicy feast. Processing the pigeon pea pods takes hours! Taking 200g of lentils from my freezer takes under ten seconds! Growing and processing our own might save us a couple of dollars at the most, but the main benefit is how much we learn about self-sufficiency and begin to truly appreciate our bulk-bought plant protein foods.

For the last few months we’ve been milking a house cow. Because of the recent dry weather, the milk we get equates to approximately the same price as the bio-dynamic milk in the local supermarket, taking into consideration the cost of feed and supplements. It’s about twice the price of the cheapest supermarket-brand milk. If we consider our initial investment in buying the animals, fencing, shelter and equipment, it will take us years to recoup costs! And that’s not including the 1+ hours a day I spend caring for the cows… But, to have abundant raw cow’s milk for our family is such a blessing. And to have learned about cows and calves, their food and care, supplements and health, milking, cheese-making and more is invaluable, to me!

From excess cream I have been making butter. I use a Thermomix (the food processor that does everything) to make the butter – so it’s fairly fast and not as messy as it could be! Before, I bought local butter in 500g blocks at the supermarket, stored a few in the freezer and took it for granted that I could grab one when I needed it. Now I make butter in bulk and freeze it in containers, but the effort involved, the time, the mess, using up all the buttermilk – it sure gives me a new appreciation for butter!

What sorts of things are you growing or doing from scratch that give you a new appreciation for the effort involved? Has anything surprised you? Do you think about things you consume in a new light now? I do.


megan said...

Working to improve our soil has been a test in patience for me. It would be so easy to just go out and buy a load of compost to be delivered. But, we are working on saving money for other much need things (like a hoop house!) and this is one thing that can be done with mostly hard work and patience. I would love to have that black, loamy soil right now, but it will be much more rewarding when I know that I've "made" it shoveling manure, saving scraps and turning the pile.

Really even things that cost us money, like the hoop house we are hoping to build, are a test as well. Collecting scrap lumber, buying hardware at garage sales and salvaging old doors all take time, but save money--and remind us we don't need have everything the second we realize that we want it.

Simple in France said...

Inspiring post! We don't have a yard or even a balcony right now so our growing is limited.

But as I move towards doing more on my own, I have found that there is a HUGE time investment--as in making all breads and pastas from scratch. In this case, I usually do save money, but certainly not time. You could even argue that the cost in time makes the work 'not worth it.'

But I think it's important to realize just how much energy really does go into our food--and to take note of the fact that we depend upon the added value of finite petroleum products to help us take shortcuts for our eating supply every day.

Bravo on growing your own rice!

David said...

The whole garden growing experience is all about patience. We live in such a now world that we have forgotten nature's way of doing things which is slow and steady. After 20 years of busy life I have returned to my country roots and welcome the slow pace of gardening with time to enjoy the beauty of flowers and the sounds of birds singing, the rustling of the wind in the trees, and just sitting on the front patio enjoying the warm sunshine. The simple things in life require the most patience but reap the most enjoyment. How did we get so far away from that? Gardening has a way of melting the world's cares away and give soothing refreshment to the soul. My first year back to gardening has been not only been a great success in produce, but also successful in building patience and enjoying the delayed rewards from it. I'm already planning for a bigger garden next year which will require more time and patience. Awesome.

Nebraska Dave

Kimberly said...

Yes, I have a much greater appreciation for everything now that I make most of what we use from scratch.
I am amazed at all the work it takes, but it is worth it. Gardening & canning are the biggest time takers, but they give so much back!!!
Everyone tells me they don't have time to do what I do. I wish they could see how much time they spend mindlessly shopping and watching tv.
I now longer consider this Simple Living-because it isn't simple! It takes a lot of effort to do the work and even just the planning ahead to make sure the work gets done. I call it Deliberate Living. It is a choice.

GooseBreeder said...

Great that people are starting to realise how much work is involved in food production and how inefficient it is on a small scale and how it is not economic use of water.Farmers' Markets are the way and shopping locally for the least travelled, support your local producers,cut out packaging and live more cheaply.
Recycle,reuse,restore and cut down on wants and what we think we need helps too.

Em said...

Yes, we have had those moments too :) It is great perspective to learn the process of slow food. I have a dream that every Australian could live and work on a farm for a year after they leave school; better still a self sufficientish farm.

Earlier this year I explored cheesemaking - from the simpler cheeses right through to cheddar. Loved the process and the learning, but it showed me so clearly how much time, planning, heat energy and water resources were used - not to mention how much milk it takes and how much whey can be left over - approximately 10L of milk for 1kg of cheese. It was a very interesting process and I will make cheese again when my friend's cow is milking extra, but probably the simpler lower-cost cheeses, and even then treat them as a luxury. I came to understand how cheese factories were born (efficiency of resources), and to realise again that we do not pay the real cost of our food.

It has made me yearn to see the real cost of food paid in Australia; to see everyday people appreciate the luxury of food security.

The garden brings those moments on a regular basis too; realising that if we relied on our vege patch we would have some lean times. Appreciating the security of farmed food, the deliciousness of seasonal food, and the blessing of being able to grow our own.