01 May 2012

Slow Living Month - April

A touch of colour in the City Garden on a cold, wet day
There's something about the weather in Autumn that makes me a bit melancholy and reflective, but at the same time filled with inspiration for creative pursuits and possibilities...

Anyway, it's time to once again link up with Christine at Slow Living Essentials for a look back at the achievements of April as part of the Slow Living Project.

I've really started to get the hang of sourdough baking in the last month.  I've been baking a loaf of bread every few days, experimenting with different recipes to find which ones I find the most reliable, tastiest and easiest to fit into my day so that there is fresh bread in time for breakfast. I also branched out into sourdough Hot Cross Buns at Easter and then modified that recipe to make Apple and Cinnamon fruit buns, which were very popular and can be eaten all year!

It's taken a while but we have settled into a routine of planting from seed in the Country Garden.  Our seed collection continues to grow and I am regularly saving seed from our plantings.  This month I've been preparing basil, rocket, water cress and the big orange pumpkin we grew (not sure what type it is - does anyone know?) seeds to add to the collection.

I made a decision quite some time ago to try to eat organically, and with increased knowledge and commitment to food health and sustainability, we have now adopted this as a part of our normal routine.  We have never eaten a great deal of meat, and when shopping at farmers markets we always seek out producers of organic, truly free-range (and heritage where possible) meat.  I've realised in the last month that it's time to really commit to this part of my diet. So, I'm consciously working toward reducing my consumption of meat even further, only buying that which has been grown and killed sustainably and humanely, and only fish types which are considered a "better choice" by the Australian Marine Conservation Society in their Seafood Guide.

My vegetable self sufficiency (refer to the chart hidden at the bottom of the page) was back up to around 85% this month.  Purchases included potatoes and tomatoes as the ones we grew are all finished (I'm still grieving the end of the tomato season!), some delicious heritage carrots as they are only just coming on-line in the Country Garden and a few other things that looked too good at the farmers markets not to buy.  But if it really came down to it, we could survive on what is currently growing in the Country Garden, and that's a great feeling!

This month I've harvested:
Carrots, Leek, Capsicums, Baby fennel, Celery, Silverbeet, Cavelo Nero, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Rocket, Lettuce, Beans, Beetroot, Eggplant, Spring onions, Radish, Basil and Parsley.
Check out my A Busy Day in the Country Garden post for some of the things I planted in April.

Last month I mentioned that I'd learnt how to crochet Granny Squares, but I hadn't yet managed to produce one with few enough faults to photograph.  I've persevered and here's where I've managed to get to... only problem is I don't know how to stop going round and round - you could keep going forever - I think this is on its way to becoming a Granny blanket...!

This month I continued to read about permaculture, and also investigated options to undertake the Permaculture Design Certificate course, which I have discovered is offered locally, so I hope to be able to do the course next year.  I've also started using Twitter a bit, not for the inane tweets of celebrities, but because I've found it's a great way to pick up links to interesting writing and events about urban and food sustainability initiatives and creative people producing, teaching and doing amazing things.  Still not very good at actually tweeting anything interesting myself...

While catching up with a friend of mine for a drink this month, we started discussing the concept she is working on for a book, as well as a few ideas that I have been floating around in the recesses of my mind.  We have decided to set up a formal "inspiration session"each month to help motivate each other to actually achieve these projects.  I have another friend who has also had a book floating around in her head for years and recently joined an online writers group.  As she said to me, the only difference between her and the people on that website who are published authors is that they actually sat down and wrote the book!

In between days of heavy rain, M and I have been trying to make the most of Autumn to get out cycling in the fresh air, so we've been on several decent bike rides on weekends and over Easter.

It's also now been a year since my aunt and I decided to set up the Country Garden (I'll have to write a proper post on my reflections and learnings from the last year soon!) so we celebrated by going back to the same restaurant for lunch that we had sat at a year ago when we had looked out at their beautiful kitchen garden and suddenly turned to each other and said "We should do this at Shantell!"  And we did... :-)


  1. Well done on your months achievements!

    1. Thanks Wendy, sounds like you had a great month too.

  2. Sounds like a fantastic harvest you are having. 85% vegetable self sufficiency is fantastic. I have never actually counted mine...I think that would be an interesting challenge. And great work on the granny square.

  3. Hmm, I agree - the end of tomato season is a cause for grief!!
    Loving your vegie chart idea - it would be good to look back on in the leaner months!

  4. Thanks Natalie and Evi. The chart is a really good, simple way of keeping a track of what is happening in the garden. I think it will be good to look back on it after a whole year. And I agree Evi, one of the reasons I started it was to motivate me in winter when it's cold and wet and nothing seems to be growing that there is light at the end of the tunnel! The chart came from Jason at Zucchini Island. If you click on "Join the Challenge" next to the chart, I think it takes you to his blog and you can pick it up there. He's very scientific about weighing and calculating everything. I use a much less rigorous guesstimating method but I think it's still reasonably accurate!

  5. You have had a busy month! Love your sourdough, I am having a go at making my own starter this month as we love it but dont have a bakery in our town that sells it even!

    I am a massive granny square enthusiast and have one on the needles at the moment too.

    1. Good luck with the sourdough Lisa, it's so nice to have really fresh bread!

  6. I'm laughing at your soon to be granny blanket... it looks great so far. :-)

    Your book inspiration dates sounds like a great idea. I have a book that is... well, what's a few steps below languishing? :-/

    Congratulations on the Country Garden's Anniversary!

    1. Well OK, I admit it's got a bit of a way to go before it obtains "blanket" status...!

  7. Sourdough is one of our favorites here, although I've rarely met a hearty, rustic bread that I didn't like. I also find it's fun figuring out ways to use up extra sourdough starter too. The most dangerous recipe was a chocolate sourdough cake! I really like the look of your raised garden beds. What do you use for the hoops for the netting?

    1. I'm definitely going to look up sourdough chocolate cake recipes! I had never thought of making cakes with it...
      The raised beds came as a system with the hoops and covers. The ends of the flat metal hoops fit into tubes in the beds, then you put the covers over, then there are thin wire hoops that slot into the flat metal ones to hold the covers on. There are white covers for winter and green shade cloths for summer. It's a really great system, made by a local manufacturer here.

  8. I started making sourdough too...look forward to seeing your rug finished :)

  9. I was kind of joking about keeping crocheting into a blanket, but then I actually saw one that had been crocheted like that instead of in little squares and it looked great, so maybe...!

  10. 85% self sufficiency is great. I need to include what I raid from my parents garden to hit that mark. For me I always fall down on carrots - I can never grow enough and the ones I do grow don't usually taste better than shop/farmers market bought ones so I have pretty much given up. Onions are my other big problem - I always end up buying them too.

    1. Yes carrots are really tricky. I thought they'd be one of the basic things to grow, but they're not. I reckon they are worth persevering with though, they taste fabulous when they work! I've been growing Purple Dragons and the heritage mix from Diggers. We grow lots of spring onions which I try to use instead of onions when we don't have any of those (most times!) but sometimes you just need onions. Potatoes, tomatoes and corn once our stash are eaten, and asparagus in summer, are the things I can't live without.