Wednesday, 30 March 2011

March Madness

March is a crazy-busy month, harvesting all the fruits of spring and summer's labours.  We have picked tomatoes of every description - teensy yellow ones, small red cherry tomatoes, humungus heritage brandywine pinks, droopy acid-free Romas, yellow Taxi tomatoes (yup, that's their actual name!) and sweet-as orange ones (the latter I forget the name of as I bought it as a single plant, and I usually plant my own ones from seed).  Now I read somewhere that as a rule of thumb, one should plant one tomato per family member.  There's four of us (Shanti, the cat doesn't eat tomatoes) and at last count (not counting the ones that God plants haphazardly around the place) I had 48 plants.  So at the beginning of March, I was collecting up to 3-5kg of tomatoes each day!  Freezing them was one way of coping.  Some were made into tomato soups, tomato sauces, pasta sauces and of course, copious tomato salads!
We usually freeze enough to last the whole winter, in fact, there was surplus left over from last year which I still had not gotten to by February this year!!  They were quickly thrown into the slow cooker for a pasta sauce!  Did you know that apart from the tomato being the symbol of the NZ Heart Foundation, it is the Signature food for the heart!  That's what the Ancients taught!

The other foods we have been harvesting masses of are onions, courgettes, (which I managed to grow vertically, tied to a bamboo teepee), beetroot, gherkins (we have enough pickles for 2 families!), capsicums, pumpkins and then there's the fruit - Chilian guavas,apples (alas, with coddling moth), and just recently, cherry guavas, feijoas and figs.
We already have enough jam to last 2 winters - I think we might be giving away some home-grown preserves, chutneys and jams for gifts this year!
As a rule of thumb, my jams are made with equal amounts of fruit to sugar.  I usually try to get away with using a little less sugar but have to be careful as sometimes my endeavors have ended with runny jams.  I use an organic golden sugar from Ceres Organics.

The craziness of March is bearable only because of the knowledge that everything is slowing down.  The garden is finishing it's flourish of harvests, before slowing down for a winter slumber party.  I like to take my cues from nature, slowing down over winter too.  Not for me, the donning of winter woollies, rain parkas and wellington boots to bravely garden in icey temps!  I am definitely not cut out for cold weather pursuits!  Besides, our pantry is literally groaning under the weight of summer harvests, so there is little need to grow much more.

So for now I valiantly trudge on, pruning, harvesting, mulching and preparing our garden for The Big Sleep.  This weekend, we have just covered the bare ground which once boasted pumpkins, tomatoes and capsicums with a thick blanket of cardboard, newspaper and hay. That part of the garden sleeps.  Shhhhhh.................

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A bit of background

We are a family of 4, Mike, me and two teens all living with our cat whom we couldn't decide on a name so all hopeful suggestions were slung together to create a name of note :  Shanti Shakti Shiva (named from some of the gods in India) Punjabi (where our neighbours were from) Kamikaze (from her antics when still a little ball of fluff, when she would go hurtling after a ball or toy carelessly tossed for her and unable to stop in time, she would go head-first into the walls and then sit and shake her head) Green (our surname of course)!  Shanti, for short.

She is a little bit of this and a little bit of that, so she is a tri-colour tabby and she rules the roost.  Sleeps on anything new, or newly positioned, clean folded laundry, newspapers (while you are trying to read them), the computer keyboard (for attention) and even the newly vacated laundry drier, still warm.  I fear one day, I won't see her hop in and then I'll bung in some semi-dry clothes and send it for a whirl, cat and all...........
Anyway, this was really about our background, and although I digress a little, she's always there, in the background!  Major events.  Even gardening.  She LOVES the garden!  A real little gardener in her own right.  She is never too far away from a pruning or weeding job, in fact, she will sometimes lie right under a tree we are pruning!  
Anyway, we live with our cat and we grow up to 80% of all of our food ( perhaps a little less over winter, but still then we live off a lot of our preserves and frozen produce).  We have a Mediterranean-cum-Indian style home surrounded by about 600m2 of garden, which is intensively cultivated with edibles.  Both Mike and I work full-time outside the home and then come home to a "farmers" lifestyle, albeit on a much smaller scale.  We contemplated a lifestyle block but we're pleased we settled for a section in our little village as we see too many "life-stylers" without a life!  And when the going gets too busy, Shanti will instinctively hop up on our laps and lie down for the long haul.  And who has the heart to push a contented feline off their lap?? Not I.  And there is wisdom in that - taking a little rest during the day is good for our health.  
Our food is grown organically, though I won't lay my head on a block to keep it that way - there are some coddling moths I have been fighting organically for the last 5 years (unsuccessfully) and now hard-core chemicals are looking rather tempting!

So there it is............. a big of background. I wanted to put this together to show others that it IS possible to grow your own food, live sustainably as possible, keep a 40hr a week job and come out better off for having done it all the way it was meant to be - simply living.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Creation

Here we are, blessed to be living under The Long White Cloud, where everything grows at double-fast lightening speed!  The desire to grow things under God's vast sky began as most things do - they simply happened, one step at a time. Until we look out over our little backyard and feel awe at the immenseness of the project which became our journey, our life, our direction.
Might we mention that S word..........sustainable living.  Sometimes, as I toil over a hot stove, making pots of relish or jam out of any number of abundant fruits and vegetables, I wonder about the wisdom of it all.  Then I ask the question, "Is this a blessing, or is this a curse?"  I mean, how many pottles of plum jam or marrow chutney can one small family of four really eat?  It's the curse of never wanting to waste any precious food, though my long-suffering husband will often patiently explain that I don't really need to start cooking a pot of feijoa jam up at 9.30pm in case they all go to waste - he kindly points out that they will end up in the compost and feed the food we are growing anyway.  But I cling doggedly, to my detriment, at my foolish pride - I can't waste anything we have grown - it would be a sin!
Foolish foolish pride, as I hear him sleeping peacefully upstairs, while I toil away, ladeling hot jam into equally hot jars!
Anyhow, this is now the life we lead.  Both of us work full time away from home, and then we "farm" our little piece of urban land with intensive edible landscaping that possibly feeds us 80% of our food intake.  It's a mammoth task but it is attainable.  The hardest part is the creation of the dream.  The rest is easy.  Just one step at a time, one seed at a time, one hole dug at a time...................