It was almost time for the Global Working Day for Earth, when the largest number of people across the planet ever in living memory would be doing something for the earth.
My lucky number 7 had arrived just before the auspicious 10-10-10 date and this day I was a year older. And a year more grateful to still be granted my share of this planet’s precious resources.
I decided to dedicate my birthday to planting food for the coming season and having my own Work Party in the garden. It was supposed to be spring, although it was a cool and rainy day in the Cape.
We cleared out all the old growth and plants that had gone to seed, trusting that they had managed to spread their offspring to arise among our new seedlings. There is nothing like food simply just arriving out of the blue, or green, to feed you. Last season we were gifted in this way by about ten gooseberry bushes! How happy I was to note those neat little nets enfolding yellow berries inside.
Normally I suspect these uninvited guests to emanate from my compost, which doesn’t get hot enough to kill all seeds. I never need to plant tomatoes and fennel just jumps up everywhere. But you don’t turf any part of gooseberries into the compost, so where did they come from? The birds carry them into our garden via their droppings, I was told. Another good reason to garden for birds – they do so much more than add to the beauty and ambience of your space.
Closed circle goes round and round
Now in goes a good wheelbarrow full of well-fermented compost from the heap. All food scraps from our kitchen end up there, together with leaves and cuttings. Ideally you’d add some manure too, but we seldom get around to that. So all nourishment travels around in a closed circle here. Organic food feeds us over and over; directly and indirectly. Feeding the soil, feeding the plant, feeding us again. Now we are perfectly in sync with nature’s cycles. And of course we start off with organic food and grow everything organically.
I like purchasing seedlings from a farm nearby, where you get them for 60c per plant. This is the wholesaler that supplies all the nurseries in the area.
You get a couple of huge polystyrene trays full of plants for about R60! And then there are still people who believe that living organically is expensive. Where can you find cheaper and healthier food than home-grown organic veggies? Certainly not on this planet.
Mulch keeps the moisture in
In the drizzle I collected our new babies for the summer: spring onions, lettuce, broccoli, coriander, beetroot with lavender and marigolds for pest control and beauty. And then green beans and squash to trellis up the fence. I just love knowing that I can provide truly nourishing food for my family in the coming season, whether we make money or not. Then the soil is covered in mulch, to save evaporation and therefore water.
To ensure a constant source of seasonal home-grown food, you ideally plant or sew every week or at least every few weeks. A sacred task for a Saturday or Sunday. This way we need to brave the traffic and the shops less and less and can avoid pricy, over-packaged and sprayed vegetables.
A celebration was to be had that evening. We harvested what was available and planned the menu around the baskets of nourishment on the kitchen table. Spinach seems to be always in abundance here, and I absolutely love chickpeas, so a delicious Spanish chickpea and spinach stew with strong cumin overtones delighted us all.
Garden food for a family party
I also picked fennel bulbs for the first time. I had probably left them in the garden for too long, as they were a bit tough. Yet the Fennel Gratin was flavourful and appreciated. Lettuce, chives, mint, parsley, rosemary and tomatoes provided the salad.
Dorian made his famous turkey dish – exceptionally high in tryptophan, so really good for mood, neuro-transmitters and therefore the brain. No, we don’t have them in the garden, only Egyptian geese and hadedas. (Not that we’re planning to eat them.) Next I want to get chickens for eggs and ducks to control the snail population.
Dessert was where the gooseberries came in. I made a ‘lemon and almond polenta cake,’ served with garden-fresh gooseberry sauce and thick organic Greek yoghurt from the Organic Farmers’ Market.
Deeply reconnecting and collaborating with my earth mother to keep us fed and healthy was the perfect way to spend my special day â€“ and closing it with well-nourished family and friends sealed it as one of my best ever.
By Elma Pollard