Back when I was a young single bloke with a head full of dreams and a few dollars in my pocket I purchased John Seymour’s book ‘The complete book of Self-Sufficiency’; life was never the same thereafter.
Looking back over the intervening forty years, I must admit that I was charmed by the drawings and the idealized lifestyle portrayed. It took me decades to realize that self-sufficiency was only for the rich, much like the formula for becoming a millionaire: “Start with $10 million and work your way down from there”
‘The complete book of Self-Sufficiency’ was written by an Englishman in England. If I needed to drain a field, jug a hare, pluck a pheasant or choose between a horse or a tractor to plough a five-acre plot in the English countryside this book would have been perfect. For a backyard gardener in the fiery climate on the Adelaide Plains in South Australia I had to start from scratch. So
Tip #1: Start soon, because it takes decades to understand your patch of soil and your local climate.
Of course, five acres in the city – where I needed a job to support a growing family – was never going to happen, even for a dreamer like me. So
Tip #2: Buy your house for the land, not the house upon it.
I did that, and spent another thirty years fixing up the house so that the cook could suffer to live in the place. But houses can be renovated; if you don’t win some garden soil from the real-estate agent the small self-sufficiency of growing ones own fruit, herbs, eggs and vegetables will be a dream still-born.
Earning a living, studying, raising children, staying married, staying in touch with extended family and friends – these are all things that eat into a gardener’s gardening time. So
Tip #3: If you want to live off a garden, you have to live in it.
But at a more fundamental level, kitchen gardening is a very time-consuming life-style; if watching sport on TV or endless rounds of socializing is what rocks your socks, you’d better stick with the lawn and the white roses.
If you’ve found a patch of garden behind your house that gets full sun and is not invaded by tree roots, then
Tip #4: Buy compost, not stocks and shares
Enrich and protect your soil: healthy soils produce healthy people. Kitchen gardens will win you small returns in savings at the local shops but big returns in exercise, sunshine, friendships with down-to-earth people (other gardeners), a connection to nature and the satisfaction that only growing your own food can bring.
More next week, I guess…