I have always dreamed of self-sufficiency. When I was a child, I used to draw elaborate maps of farmhouses with vegetable gardens, fruit trees, fields and animal enclosures. In my childhood fantasies, I saw myself growing everything I needed myself and keeping animals for eggs, milk, meat and wool. And I’d live near a stream, so I’d have water. Easy-peasy!
It never occurred to me that to have meat, those animals would have to be slaughtered – and I would have to be the one to do it. I never thought of the incredibly hard work involved in planting, tending trees and harvesting, not to mention cooking, baking and brewing everything myself. In my dreams, the sun always shone and there were no sick animals, broken fences or hay fires. I didn’t think of money. What child does? It was just me, the animals and the plants, and we would all live happily ever after, in harmony with nature.
Sadly, as I grew up, I found out that reality wasn’t as romantic as I’d imagined. In the Netherlands, I had always lived in cities and in apartments. When I came to the kibbutz, I learned about hard work in the fields and the cow shed. I also found out about some very ugly sides of agriculture and dairy industry. Things that didn’t go well with my animal-loving, nature-worshipping side. I decided keeping animals for profit wasn’t for me. I was going to stick to pets.
But vegetables – that was something else. As far as I know, vegetables don’t suffer when they are picked. And now I wasn’t living in a city anymore, I had the space. It would be great to have organic veggies free from pesticides in our own garden. A vegetable garden was the way to go! As soon as I got out of the baby-induced haze of my first two boys, we set to work.
My husband and my brother-in-law built this veggie garden especially for my birthday and set up an irrigation system. I was so pleased! Now we would have wholesome, plentiful vegetables for our own kitchen!
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way. Yes, we did get a few veggies – mostly aubergines, which none of us really liked to eat. And in the winter, the broccoli grew quite well. But the tomatoes were eaten by strange green bugs, the carrots never grew longer than an inch and the strawberries got scorched in the heat.
That was when I realised that not only was I a city girl who knew NOTHING about growing things, I also was a spoiled Northern European fussing about in a semi-desert climate that totally threw me. It was about time I learned how plants worked, how earth and soil worked and how the climate here worked. I bought “Gardening for Dummies” and quizzed my plant-knowledgeable brother-in-law. Then I had my third little boy, started the pet zoo and was insanely busy. The veggie garden plans got sidetracked again.
Now, I just realised I have become self-sufficient in one small way: eggs. I haven’t bought eggs for two years. Hens, quail and ducks all lay eggs and some of them so plentifully that I don’t know what to do with them. I have started feeding the duck eggs to the street cats. My friend S. swears that they are much tastier than supermarket eggs. I don’t really taste the difference, but I definitely see it: the yolks are big, rich and almost orange. I love knowing that I am eating healthy eggs laid by my own happy, free-range birds.
This made me remember my old vegetable garden, and encouraged me to try again! Also, my youngest boy is obsessed with seeds and tries to plant and grow every seed he finds. One day, Lotem (4 years old now), ate a tomato and insisted on planting the seeds. The same with sweet pepper, watermelon and the fruits from the mulberry tree behind our house. Interestingly, they all grew, just like the macadamia nuts and some other tree seeds, which I really don’t remember what they are.
So this is our new veggie patch-from-scratch, which has recently yielded its first cucumber! 🙂 My kids were so excited. They shared it out evenly between everyone. I hope the funny flat green beetles won’t find out where the fruits are this time!!
We’re continuing with baby steps on our way to a real vegetable garden! 😉 Any tips or advice from you pros out there?