Habit is habit

As I well know, it’s one thing to know how to do something but another thing to actually do it! On June 11th I set myself the challenge of gardening as if my life depended on it and since then I’ve been harvesting something from the garden every day. It had seemed as though it would be such an easy thing to do but, in fact, actually moving towards using, let alone producing, all your own vegetables requires a major shift in both thinking and behaviour. Suddenly, instead of just quickly throwing something together for dinner, I’ve had to think about what’s available in the garden and then about how to create a meal around it. I’ve had to, for example, take the time to make a stock with what I’ve got, rather than buying a packaged variety readymade from the shop.

I’ve also had to allow the time to harvest the food … more than a full working day just to harvest potatoes … and there’s still more to dig up! Surprisingly, by comparison, it took me only two hours to plant enough greens for most of what I’ll need in Spring.

My old watertank gardens now include celery, over 50 spring onions, red kale, curly green kale, cavallo nero, broccoli, kohlrabi, red and green cos lettuces, beets, bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna and red onions.

There are also the disappointments – like the disappointment that the last big frost burnt nearly all my lemons and they’re now turning to pulp. My cumquats and mandarins are much hardier and are perfectly fine, but I’m definitely going to have to relocate my lemon trees. Thank goodness I can still go to the shop and buy lemons to replace my failed crop – and thank goodness I still have time to re-establish my lemon trees in a better spot before the time comes that I may really have to be reliant on them.

Because I’m needing to replant regularly to replace the food I’ve harvested, I’m also making notes of what I’ve had to buy to supplement my own produce … mainly carrots, peas, sweet potato, beans, garlic and onions at the moment. In spring I’ll need to start planting lots of these to ensure next winter’s food supply.

To put it in a nutshell, I’m having to create completely new habits as I become a producer, not just a consumer. It’s quite daunting to think about how much I’ve been taking out of the world and how little I’ve actually put back in comparison.

Here are some other “supermarket shelves” I’ve been stocking up for next Spring … raddichio, beets, kales, broccolis, lettuces,onions, bulb fennel and bok choy:

In the last few years I’ve developed the habit of working constantly and then somehow quickly throwing together a meal at the last minute … buying nearly everything because it was quicker and easier … even if there was food in the garden.

Now my day starts with thinking about what I can harvest, what I can plant, and how I can create an interesting meal with what’s available. I do have the luxury of flexible work hours but I’m also going to need to persevere and to hone my skills and planning so that living out of the garden becomes my new habit … and so that I can become just as adept at it, as I am at shopping!

Mark Twain once said, “Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

It’s clear that gardening as if my life depended on it is something that’s going to take quite a lot of time and perserverance until it becomes second nature, or a habit … as it once was for everyone.

But, amongst all the many good environmental and financial reasons that originally motivated me, the strongest incentive has proven to be that growing your own food is so bloody delicious and enjoyable!

So then, what do 10 days look like when you’re trying to change your habits from being just a consumer to being a producer as well ….. especially during a Blackheath winter …..

Sunday 14th June

• Harvested the last of the lemon verbena leaves to dry and use for tea over winter and picked a large bunch of black kale or cavallo nero for a big pot of kale, potato and red kidney bean soup.

After dinner the boys were intrigued by my seedsaving so I showed them the fiddly task of saving tiny lettuce seeds to replant in spring. They spent the next few hours seeing who could create the biggest pile of seed:

Monday 15th June

• Last year my brussel sprouts were attacked by bower birds and didn’t give a crop but I managed to keep them alive and I’m harvesting tender little brussel sprouts right now … delicious panfried in butter with salt and walnuts

• To stop them spreading through my garden I also planted jerusalem artichokes in pots and today I easily harvested these lovely small round ones which I tossed in oil and baked ….

Tuesday 16th June

• Snapped off some crunchy celery stalks (which I grew from heritage seed last season)  and made my favourite juice of celery, apples and ginger

• Also filled the kitchen with the delicious odour of stock cooking over a hot stove for a few hours (fairly energy intensive but at least there’s no embodied energy in packaging and transport) …. the photo at the top of today’s blog shows my leek, thyme and parsley which I combined with celery tops, bay leaves and shop-bought carrot to make a divine stock that I then used to make a sweet potato and pea risotto for dinner.

…. can’t help feeling that this must be making me healthier too ……

Wednesday 17th June

• Potted up my Yakon “corms” after harvesting the tubers … need to decide where I want them to be more permanently planted; also sorted through all my potatoes and but the biggest ones in a bin to store …. will eat any that have been cut or damaged first

• For lunch I made pumpkin soup with a semi ripe pumpkin from the garden … added some sweet potato, potato, ginger and orange juice.

• For dinner I harvested broccoli, yakon, rocket, red mustard, sorrel, cos and radicchio

• Also made some hazelnut choc chip cookies imagining that this time next year I’ll have my own hazelnuts! …  and while the oven was on I toasted leftover eggshells and then crushed them to give back to the chickens … more calcium, via the chickens, for my soil and part of the grit that they need to digest their food.

• After dinner, soaked some fenugreek and broccoli seeds overnight to make sprouts …. most of the seeds I’m saving can also be used to sprout salads … a great backstop in winter … especially as the plants usually produce far more seeds than you need for replanting.

Thursday 18th June

• Harvested a large plate of greens for stir fry – red mustard, bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna and spring onion

• Managed to salvage a few scarlet runner bean seeds from the pods that were turning to mush with all this rain – this has been the first year that my bean plants came up again on their own … let’s hope they’ll be true to their name (7 year beans)  and come up on their own for the next 6 years!

Friday 19th June

• Harvested some purple congo potatoes from under the Walnut tree but decided to make a pizza for dinner using the artichokes I bottled in oil during summer … they’re so delicious I can’t imagine this jar lasting too long … at least when the artichokes are gone we’ll be able to use all the flavoured oil ….

Saturday 20th June

• There’s one microclimate behind the house where the nectarine still hasn’t lost its leaves and the mint is growing in abundance ….

so tonight I made a delicious mint pesto using the chilli oil I made earlier in the year and with the limes Danielle gave me….

Sunday 21st June

• Today it was cold and wet so I dashed outside for some of the last sage leaves, scrubbed up some potatoes and rescued some of the broadbeans that I’d saved and frozen …. had a delicious broadbean in sage cream sauce over potato gnocchi meal …. real comfort food.

Monday 22nd June

• Today we ate the fenugreek sprouts in a salad of radicchio and cos … they took 3-4 days to grow

Tuesday 23rd June

• Today we had the broccoli sprouts (they took fractionally longer than the fenugreek sprouts, but I like them better), more brussel sprouts with walnuts and more potato!

• I also did another round of potato harvesting and, given that I only planted them at the end of January, it’s great to find half kilo ones like this …. all 4 of us were fed by one potato tonight!

Wednesday 24th June

• A few days ago I was moving a pumpkin and accidentally broke off the dried stalk …. when I looked at it today it was starting to rot at the point of the broken stalk so I decided to make Bread Koftas in Pumpkin Curry tonight …. YUM! Saved all the seeds (which are delicious as well) and will make pumpkin soup later in the week.

Fortunately coriander grows better in winter than in summer because it doesn’t keep bolting to seed but at least last summer’s bolting means that I’ve had plants self seeding. As a result I was able to pick a large bunch of coriander to make the bread koftas …

They’re a great way to use up bread … you simply take the crusts off 6 thick slices, combine with 5 tablespoons of natural yoghurt, and then 20 minutes later add 3 tablespoons plain flour, the chopped coriander, 4 green chillies, 2 pinches bicarb soda and salt to taste. They’re then deep fried and added to the curry later.

Fortunately I managed to scrounge 4 little green chillies off the dead chilli bush and, while they looked the worse for wear, they still packed a doozie of a punch!

So there it is … 10 days of saving money by shopping in the garden and we Online levitra haven’t eaten better for ages.

I’ve still been doing political things but, oddly enough, am not as inclined to blog about them because political action has now become second nature to me …. habit, in fact.

Nevertheless, just briefly, I’ve helped promote and attended a film screening of “Grow Your Own” to raise funds for a Permaculture Project for the Women of Konso in Ethiopia, I’ve collected signatures to stop a koala enclosure at Echo Point, I’ve done a radio interview about Slow Food, I’ve continued to lobby for a gross feed in tarrif for solar panels (NSW finally decided on a net feed in tarrif which means you only get paid 60c per KW hour if you produce more electricity than you use … as if! ….  a gross feed in tarrif would mean you could get 60c for every single KW hour you produce … a great incentive for businesses in particular to go solar), I’ve met with a local church to look at setting up food gardens on their grounds and I’m writing a letter against genetically modified food …. the political struggle for action continues to be enormous and absolutely essential …. but most of all my heart goes out to the wonderful indigenous people of Peru who lost family members in the last few weeks battling to save the Amazon rainforest  ….. click here to read about how crucial their actions were for the whole of humanity.

5 thoughts on “Habit is habit

  1. Ronald Bastian

    Hi Lis,
    When reading about the “Frostbitten Lemon Saga”, I was thinking about the possibility of “Swapping” produce, whereby, if one person has “too much” of anything at a given time, they might wish to swap their excesses with someone else who has the same problem but with another vegie or fruit. My “Lisbon” lemon tree in Oxley Park must have over 100 ripening juicy lemons on it now and is protected from frost by my 5000 litre water tank. Maybe a network could be raised for those wishing to “post” what they have to either give away or swap. Any Comments??

  2. Lis

    Ronald I think that’s a great idea … we could start via this website but there are also other groups that have started in the Blue Mountains to do just that. I’ll try and put more info about them on the Permaculture Institute Site over the next week …. check out http://www.bmpi.com.au … There are also groups like freecycle.

    I could swap you some seed potatoes, jerusalem artichokes, comfrey, red mustard or packets of seed for some lemons … I AM SO JEALOUS!

  3. Danielle Wheeler

    Glad to see my limes getting their 15 seconds of fame! Nice post, Lis.

  4. Natalie

    Hi Lis!
    New reader to the site – so glad I found it! How I would love to live in the Blue Mountains, fingers crossed, one day in the nearish future! And how I covet your garden! I am very slowly (but surely) trying to grow a lot more of what we need around here, and am pretty pleased at the moment that I can harvest enough greens for a salad and mint for a cup of tea daily, plus bits and peices to feed the bunny and chook. I need to get the successive sewing thing in order though, it’s either glut or sparse at the moment. And thanks for the Peru article – I am heading over there in a little over a month for a trip of a lifetime! I CAN NOT belive that in this day and age there are still people, governments even, that can so blatantly fly in the face of our current situation and think they can get away with it. Power to the people!
    From the sunny Central Coast (NSW)

  5. Matthew Lynch

    great blog – people are still reading!
    fascinating insight into the hows of taking action, one small step at a time. thank you so much for sharing your inspiring work!

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