Thursday, 4 June 2015

Independence Days Challenge: Week One

Let's get this party (challenge) started!

I have been re-reading the book Independence Days by Sharon Astyk, so I can discuss it here, chapter by chapter, each week. But boy, I am just tempted to quote the whole book! So if you can find it at your local library, borrow it from a friend or want to purchase it for yourself, I would say it is well worth it. I first found the book at the library, borrowed it, read it in one day. Then borrowed it and re-read it a year later. Then finally just bought it for myself!

So I will just start out with a quote of a quote. Sharon Astyk credits Carla Emery with the inspiration for Independence Days. Carla Emery wrote The Encyclopedia of Country Living: The Original Manual of Living Off The Land And Doing It Yourself. This is another book worth checking the library for. It literally has an entry for anything you can think of about homesteading and self-sufficiency, right down to midwifery if you need to deliver a baby by yourself!

In the 70s, Carla even had a School of Country Living, where you could take day or live-in classes.
This is the quote that influenced Independence Days:

'All spring I try and plant something every day - from late February, when the early peas and spinach and garlic can go in, on up to mid-summer, when the main potato crop and the late beans and lettuce go in. Then I switch over and make it my rule to try and get something put away for the winter every single day. That lasts until the pumpkins and sunflowers and late squash and green tomatoes are in. Then comes the struggle to get the most out of the stored food - all winter long. It has to be checked regularly, and you'll need to add to that day's menu anything that's on the verge of spoiling, wilting or otherwise soon becoming useless. Or preserve it in a new way. If a squash gets a soft spot, I can gut it out and cook, mash, can or freeze the rest for a supper vegetable or pie, or add it to the bread dough.
You have to ration. You have all the good food you can eat right at arm's reach and no money to pay .... until you run out ......
People have to choose what they are going to struggle for. Life is always a struggle, whether or not you're struggling for anything worthwhile, so it might as well be for something worthwhile. Independence days are worth struggling for. They're good for me, good for the country and good for growing children.'

Carla Emery's Encyclopedia for Country Living pgs 493-494

Long quote, I know, but if you refer back to the steps, you can see where they are coming from. I have always felt that people need to work, and you can either work for pointless stuff or work for real life, important things.

In my challenge, I feel that every day is unrealistic for me, so am aiming for once a week. In reality, if you were really trying to totally feed your family yourself, it would have to be every day. But I am building up slowly! No point setting yourself up for failure from the start!

So how have I gone this week?

1. Plant something

Three daisy bushes to fill in along the garden fence line (not really food productive, but I am looking at flower production too), as well as three punnets of flowers - pansies and carnations (again just for pretties!)

I also planted a packet of pea seeds. I hope one year to have enough peas actually make it out of the garden to shell and freeze them!
It is time here to purchase citrus trees. The only tree we have is the lemon, so I would like to add some more citrus. All the family love mandarins. As a child, I wouldn't eat them unless the 'strings' were taken off! I still don't like them. So I was after some recommendations for the best variety. We prefer mandarins that are loose skinned and have minimal 'strings'. Any ideas?

2. Harvest something

The lemon tree is bursting with lemons in various stages of readiness, so lemons will probably feature quite prominently for a while!

Eggs, but not many. The weather is just getting too cold.

Mint and chives are still growing, but nearly time to chop all the mint back as it is starting to suffer from the colder weather.

3. Preserve something

Lemons, of course! Lemon curd or butter (whichever you prefer!). Only two jars as the chooks are producing eggs very slowly and erratically as the cold weather sets in.

4. Minimise waste

I guess nothing specific in this area, other than my usual practice of avoiding packaged items as much as possible. Now that we do not have the dairy cow, milk is a major problem for me. So many plastic cartons for our family! 

I watched this DVD, Garbage Warrior, about Michael Reynolds, the architect for 'invented' Earthships.

I have always been drawn to Earthships - they look wonderful, use waste in their production, save energy in heating and cooling and are just uber cool!

He talks about the use of bottles and describes them as looking like stained glass jewels. I agree, they look beautiful.
This would be my ultimate dream, to buy a secluded parcel of land and build a house from waste and materials on the property. 

5. Want Not

I am working on a decluttering, organising project at the moment, involving my collection of Earth Garden and Grass Roots magazines.  Both these are Australian magazines that started over 40 years ago during the back to the land movement and are still going today, albeit in a more modern format. I must admit to hankering back to the older formats!

I have collected a LOT of these at garage sales and op shops over the years, as well as Mother Earth News and Organic Gardener.
I am hoping to catalogue them all, so I can actually use the information. You know that feeling of 'I know I have read an article about that somewhere', but who knows where! It will also be a wonderfully enjoyable winter activity, sitting in front of the fire and reading all this amazing wisdom. 
Then I need to find a way to store them, so they are still easily accessible. At the moment, they are all in boxes in the shed. 
Once I have these organised, I will not want for information ever again!

6. Cook something new

I tried a new meatloaf recipe (see this post for the recipe). Meatloaf has not been one of my favourites, but I had this one at school and decided to test it out for home. We have rather a lot of beef in the freezer to use! The boys declared this the best dinner they have ever eaten! Looks like meatloaf is on the permanent menu at our house!

7. Manage your reserves

I really need to do a pantry and freezer inventory to sort out what we have. I am running out of spices and nuts, so need to do my bulk wholesale order soon. But I need to inventory first - this is a priority for this week!

8. Work on local food systems

This week I swapped some limes with a friend in return for some of our mince. I got a huge bag of limes, which you would never, ever buy, as they are so expensive. Yay! So limes on the preserving list for next week.

I am also meeting next week with some friends from the local Permaculture group to discuss setting up some sort of small farm system, whereby we all grow on our small farms and maybe sell as a group or all promote each other's farmgate sales. It is very much at the infant stages, so we will see what format it ends up taking. Very, very exciting!

And just some interesting links to read:

A Month of No Groceries

The Powerful Possibilities of a Simple Life

A Special Pantry Series - includes 100 tips on why, how and with what to stock your pantry

Hope you all had a great Independence Days week! Please leave me a comment with a link back if you are doing this too!

Happy gardening!


  1. Oh i am sooo jealous of your garden already! Now that i am finally getting to it, i am noticing more and more in my neighbours gardens! Goodness knows what they think of me, peering over their fences when i walk past! haha
    Those magazines look fab! Maybe a filing cabinet?

    Mentioning limes reminded me of the book Little Women, and the "Lime Incident" i'll have to dig it out and re-read it :)

    Thanks for the links too, that's my evening reading sorted

    1. Thanks so much for visiting! Soon you'll be like my grandma. She used to always just nip a cutting off a bush as she was walking past people's houses - if it was hanging over the footpath, it was fair game! She had an amazing garden and all grown from cuttings.
      Love Little Women. The lime incident is funny. I love it in the movie with Kirsten Dunst.
      Hope you are getting some good gardening weather. Raining heaps here, so the planting will have to wait for a day or two.

  2. It looks like a very interesting book. I have never read either of the magazines. Do you need to subscribe to get them? I also love the look of the glass bottle houses. Another building medium I have been drawn to and have even researched for building has been straw bale houses. I think they are lovely.

    1. I used to subscribe to them but am trying to save, so now read them from the library. I have picked up most of mine secondhand as I didn't find them until they had both been in publication for over 20 years. Depends on where you live!
      I love straw bale houses as well. That is what I always would have liked, but I am loving the Earthships due to their amazing ability to turn waste into something useful and beautiful.

  3. I'll have to enquire next time I'm at the library.

    1. I think they will be there. I can imagine Dubbo has a bigger library than we do in Hamilton and we get both magazines.