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.