Now that most of the building is done on my tiny house, I find myself focusing on other projects to reduce my impact and contribute positively to the environment through my lifestyle. This was, after all, one of the driving reasons I chose to go tiny in the first place. One way I’m finding to do this, is to move towards more of a ‘homesteading’ lifestyle.
If you haven’t seen the Cabin Porn book (or website), pick it up and flick through – these cabins, shacks, tiny houses and huts all epitomise homesteading to me. It’s about getting away, off the radar, out of the system and back to the basics. I guess technically homesteading is about moving towards a lifestyle that is self sufficient. But it’s also a lot more than that, for people who choose to homestead. It’s about tuning out from allure of our uber busy lives and tuning in to the most important things – our food, our homes, what we consume and how we engage with the rest of the world.
So if that’s homesteading, me and my tiny house are all about it. I figured probably the easiest place to start was with the eating, because it’s rare that this isn’t the best place to start. Food is a necessity and good food is certainly a luxury. Food production is also is one of the largest consumers of energy and resources in our lives, so it stands to reason that what we choose to eat can have a big impact on the world around us. I’m still learning about the consequences of commercial, industrial food production but I’ve learnt enough to know that sourcing and eating local, organic food is a priority in my life.
So in the spirit of homesteading, and moving towards being more self-sufficient and more in tune with what I consume, here were my successes this season.
1. Growing food
My first vegetable garden was a collection of second hand pots in the front lawn of a rental property. I fought the possums for meagre helpings of tomatoes and zucchinis and began to learn the basics – seasons and pest protection and summer versus winter crops. My second attempt at growing food was a shared effort in my Mum’s veggie patch. I expanded my knowledge to learn about things like companion planting, improving soil and using mulch to reduce water loss. Over 5 years later, I’m establishing my first solo vegetable garden. I’m learning about permaculture principles, soil health, regenerative agriculture, wicking beds and so much more. For my first year growing veggies in the tiny backyard, trying to establish some crops in the heavy clay was really just a gamble. I managed to succeed with some easy winners though – zucchinis, tomatoes, eggplants, peas, beans, lettuce, silverbeet and these pumpkins! My first ever home grown pumpkins, can you believe it?
2. Preserving food
Given some seasons are far more productive than others, it makes sense to preserve local, organic food produce when it’s readily available. This not only gives me access to healthy food during the colder winter months when the garden is moping, but it also allows me to support farmers during the booming months. Barbara Kingsolver points out (in her wonderful book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) that farmers also need income all year round. This can be challenging during the shorter days and the cooler months, when produce isn’t as easy to grow. On the flip side, abundant summer produce can sometimes go to waste, when having a glut of tomatoes or zucchinis reduces their value. The best way to manage this situation is to stock up on thriving summer fruit and veg and pack it away for later in the year.
This was my first attempt at preserving tomatoes and I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of skill required. I’m sure there are more glamorous ways to preserve them, but I chopped them roughly, cooked them down, blitzed them up and used the ‘hot jar, hot sauce, hot lid’ method suggested by Grown and Gathered. Tada! 30kgs of fresh, local, organic tomatoes later and I haven’t bought a jar since.
3. Fermenting food
This is another new endeavour for me, and another way to preserve seasonal produce. My first sauerkraut wasn’t a raging success, but the second lot has been delicious. I’ve also been working on sprouting mung beans – with the opposite results! The first round of sprouts may have been a fluke but they sprouted happily, the second and third lots have both refused to cooperate. Further investigation may be required, something tells me it might just be too cold for the little fellas! I hear ya, pals. Stay in those pods as long as you can.
I’ve gotten out of the practice of blogging, with the ease of Instagram and Facebook for posting photo updates, but I do want to keep this record going. It still occurs to me that this is a charmed life I’m leading, it often feels too good to be true. It may not always be this carefree and luxurious. I’m conscious of that fact in a way that helps me acknowledge every day I have that is. This blog is part of my gratitude practice. There’s so much I have to share and remember about this life and I will commit to writing to more – partly for you, but mostly for me.
To many happy days for us all xx