Friday, July 25, 2008

Living a Simple Life, and Living it Well!

I have just been reading this great blog on living simply and being as frugal and self sufficient as possible, and I must say I am inspired and invigorated! I have been reminded of many a thing of great importance to me, such as being gentle with the earth and having minimal impact on the environment, being close to nature and growing your own food, spending less and being satisfied with what you have, and being creative with fewer resources rather than constantly buying and consuming and disposing of. These are wonderful things to be reminded of!

I have always valued these things, but over the last few years I have become rather lazy in my commitment to them. I think as our household income grew over the years, and buying things became easier and easier, I became quite the capitalist consumer. I fell a little in love with this model of living that is thrust upon us by society at large, that of working and purchasing and throwing away, a life isolated from one's environment, isolated from nature, and isolated from the effects of one's actions on the planet and it's inhabitants, such as the huge amount of resources used, natural environments spoiled by contaminants, land degraded by commercial farming methods, air polluted by factories and cars and electricity generation, and animals suffering for our pleasure. Not to mention the millions of people over the world who are affected by slave labour or who are grossly underpaid, and have awful living and working conditions. All of this is the effect of the obese capitalist Western lifestyle. Over the last few months I've had a growing awareness of the distance that has developed between my morals and the reality of my life, and I have been slowly trying to bridge that gap. Reading the blog has inspired me to make more of an effort in this area, to speed things up, to go further than I have been going lately, or ever before, and to finally put things right.

This is a very good thing. It makes me feel good in the pit of my tummy, a sure sign I am on the right path. And where does this path lead me? It leads me towards a life that sees me growing into my full potential as a human being, living in the greatest harmony with my surroundings, and with a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude for all that I have. It leads to what I would call a bloody good life.

OK, so growing your own food is a huge part of this living simply and sustainably thing. Ever since I was a wee one I was heavily into gardening, of all kinds. I have always had a particular fondness for combining my two great loves, gardening and food, so the vegie patch has always had a very special place in my heart. The photos in this blog are of things I from my garden. (The first two photos are of three different kinds of beetroot, and the last one is a punnet of rainbow chard just before planting.)

So until now, my vegie patch has been a place of indulgence, really. I have grown vegetables, often from seed, for the sheer pleasure of gardening itself. With the exception of the amazing tomato, my favourite food plant of all time, my crops have been intermittent and sporadic, and have been secondary in importance to the process of growing, the joy of planting seeds and watching them sprout (a very special time), helping them become seedlings, planting them out and caring for them into their old age. It has given me countless hours of untold pleasure, it really has, and I imagine it always will. But something has been gnawing at the pit of my stomach for a while, and I have been ignoring it for long enough. I have never even come near to growing a decent fraction of the vegetables that we consume on a day to day basis. Like I said, the tomato is the exception to this. Each year I grow kilos and kilos of wonderful tomatoes, often five or six different varieties, and from mid-summer into autumn we are self-sufficient tomato wise, with enough for sharing (another special thing). Other than the tomato, however, and the odd crop of lettuce, silverbeet and zucchini (anyone who has ever grown them knows the feeling of a glut of zucchinis, which seem to grow an inch every time you turn around) the things that I harvest are considered special treats, things to delight in and savour. I have never planted in the numbers required to really feed us, or staggered my plantings to ensure a long harvest period, or devoted the required space for a serious kitchen garden.

But I think I've had it with this type of middle-class indulgent gardening. It's been fun, lots of fun, but I think now it's time to turn my skills and my enthusiasm into something the whole family can really, truly, tangibly benefit from, in terms of nutrition and cost. I want to grow an organic vegie garden that I can really rely on to feed us well, for most of the year.

I'm a little daunted by this task to be honest. This will need some serious garden space, and some real time and effort. But to be honest, everything that's involved is stuff I love doing, it's just that I need to do more of it than I ever have. There are harder things to swallow in life than doing more of what you love than you have ever done before. I think I'll cope!

I'm really quite excited. Spring is just around the corner so this is the perfect time to start planning what I will need and order my seeds (yay!!). I've got a compost heap just bursting with goodness, thanks to the wonderful Mat who took over maintenance duties at some stage (much to my surprise and delight) and I've got a few garden beds in mind that have a couple of straggly flowering bushes on them, and that had better get ready for a good overhaul.

There are many other things discussed on the blog such as stockpiling, making your own cleaning products and not spending unnecessarily, all of which I want to incorporate into my life, but this is the bit I'm most excited about, to be honest.

And I can't help but think this is wonderful stuff for Indi to see and be involved with as she grows older. Having her around is a real incentive for me to be really authentic to my beliefs and my ideals, and to model the things I hold dear. I can see myself really evolving into the person I have wanted to be for so long. It feels like it's time to stop dipping my toes in the waters of life and really take the plunge. As with all big jumps into the deep end, it's a bit daunting and a bit scary and threatens to challenge me more than I've been challenged in the past, but if there's one thing that new motherhood has taught me already, it's that I have more strength, endurance, patience and drive within me than I have ever given myself credit for, and I reckon it's time to put it to good use!


Amanda O. said...

Down To Earth is one of my favorite blogs too! So much of what she says just really resonates with me and reminds me to stop tippy-toeing around some of the things I've tried and fully live my truths.

Good luck in starting a full fledged garden... we're pretty much in the same space, only I think I'm a bit behind as we're going to go from raised beds to plowing up a bigger area in the rear of the house and prepping the soil.

I also totally agree that it's good for the littlies to see authentic living and have their fingers in the dirt. I know I can see it in La when he's participating in growing and caring for our place and animals. :-)

Nalin said...

Amanda, seeing La in your gardens, surrounded by dogs and chickens, is a wonderful thing, he is a lucky boy to be so close to nature at home.

Thanks for the luck! I have decided that a big patch of lawn will be turned into vegie patch, so I am in the same space as you, creating the beds before anything can be planted. Although according to Jackie French's book here, this is the perfect time to do it as it is really too early to plant anything. I think we've got until about October really, which is good coz the beds need a bit of time to settle into themselves before everyone moves in (i am in the habit of talking to/about my plants as people). I'm really gonna throw myself into this, I'm very excited!

Amanda O. said...

Don't worry your in good company (mine!) as I tend to do the same refering to trees and plants as people... ^_^

Your planting time also sounds quite sim to our goal. Super heavy clay-lime compacted by years of overstocked cattle = lootsss of work to do though! LOL

Renska said...

Thanks Nalin, you have inspired me again to really get going on our vegie patch, heaps of work to do before we will be able to grow anything but it will be worth it!

Nalin said...

Great Renska! It seems the inspiration is flowing from person to person, how wonderful! And yes, definitely worth it!!