Sustaining sustainability

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Those of you who know me well know that I am an avid consumer of 'foodie' magazines. In the March edition of Australian Good Food (a relatively new magazine and my current favourite), they discuss Alice Walters' book "The Art of Simple Food". I don't own the book (although I'd love to!), so I can't comment on it directly. However, my understanding is that it encompasses simple food (what we would refer to as 'stodge' in my family) with an eye to encouraging sustainable living with a few good principles. Sustainable living has been a passion of mine for a while now, and my own goal is to provide as much of our own food as we can. This is limited of course by renting but, here at the convent, we have a young vegie patch that is just starting to give us harvestable produce and a few established fruit trees. We've also gone down the livestock path in the past but have now decided to put off the second attempt at that until we have our own land to run them on. What I find interesting is rarely do you find a good, well-explained list of things you can do easily without entirely giving over your life to running your own market garden. So, here's mine:

* Grow as much of your own food as you can. Don't put anything in the ground unless you can eat it. is a great resource for working out what you should be planting now and when you will be harvesting it. It can also send you planting reminders on a regular basis. Every couple of months I use my email reminder to decide what to plant next. Currently I'm harvesting zucchini, bok choi, basil, mint, rosemary, and a few other things. Shortly I'll be planting cabbage, onion, silverbeet and cauliflower. This keeps the garden turning over nicely and also means the kitchen gets a variety of different things to keep it interesting.

* Compost everything organic. There's no reason why any organic matter should go to landfill. We have a worm farm for vegetable scraps, any garden clippings and weeds go into the soon-to-be-filled-with-chooks chook yard, the bug-eaten bits I pull off the vegies in the ground (the bok choi has a lot of this) get left in the garden to mulch down.

* Keep environmentally helpful animals. Chooks are great. Not only do they produce food (eggs at least, even if you don't relish the idea of plucking a chook directly), they also - when kept responsibly - turn over and fertilise the yard. Our chook plan is moving along slowly but surely. We have a large enclosed yard, previously used for dogs, and a smaller 'chook tractor' made to my Dad's own design out of poly-pipe and chicken mesh. The idea is that the animals will be housed in the yard overnight to keep them safe, and a few of them will be motored around the lawn during the day. If you do have environmentally destructive animals (we have a cat) make sure that they are locked up at night and that you do all you can to prevent them from harming the native animal population (like belled collars).

* Think about what you put into the environment. Be aware of the chemicals you use, especially outdoors. Try and think about how these things leach into the soil, and into our waterways, and question those things that you do by habit.

There are also important things like buying locally, eating seasonal food, and keeping your cooking as simple as possible. Two or three top quality ingredients can make a much nicer meal than 32 obscure items that you had to source by mail-order from some obscure deli in Melbourne. In other words, a simple lamb roast with garlic and rosemary from the garden can often provide a lot more satisfaction than the most exquisite four-course a la carte meal.


Fiona said...

I love our fresh rosemary! The last two rental place we've had have had well developed bushes :)

Loquacity said...

Yes, rosemary grows really well once it's established. I'm busy trying to get a good established bush going in a hanging pot, but I keep making lamb roasts and snavelling bits off it ;)

Valeri said...

My wife and I are setting up a veggie garden so we can eat our own veggies and fruits. We also want to get chooks but one of our boys has egg allergies so we have to wait for him to grow out of it.
He actually has allergies to dairy, egg, soy and nuts so we have to eat healthy and simple until he grows out of these allergies.

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