Homegrown Christmas

Posted August 21st, 2009 by Penny Wise

I hate to admit it but I seem to have married a pretty useful sort of a bloke. Years of farming have turned Noel into a bit of everything from vet, builder, fencer, lumberjack, plumber - and very definitely a gardener. Just as well one of us makes up for my having black thumbs but where plants are concerned he seems to have the Midas touch. Whatever he plants, whether flowers, fruit or vegetables, it just grows. Who knows, maybe he goes and talks to them like Prince Charles when the rest of us aren't looking! Whatever the secret, I didn't realise until today just how much food we have growing around here - and it's all thanks to Noel. Well, Noel and Linda Cockburn actually. As soon as I picked up Linda's first book 'Living the Good Life' a couple of years back, I fell in love with the idea of self sufficiency. Fortunately Noel did too - the only one of my demands he refused to give in to was allowing me to get our own goat to milk; his argument being I have enough trouble getting myself and the kids organised in the morning without having to fit in milking a goat into the bargain as well.

Still, that marked the start of making a serious commitment to growing our own food. We also invested in Linda Woodrow's 'The Permaculture Home Garden' on Fiona's recommendation. We both read through it and I learned heaps, but Noel is the one who has always put in the hard yakka. From talking to others it seems to me a lot of people are still scared to give growing fruit and vegies a go in case they somehow get it wrong. The thing is, there are no hard and fast rules. It's your garden and you can plant what you like in it, any way you like. Vegetable gardens don't all have to look like something out of a picture book, all immaculate with everything growing in nice, neat rows. Good heavens, you want to see Noel's vegie garden, it's so chocka I can never find anything! In fact, he forbids me to go in there in case I inadvertently tread on something. The important thing is that you've got your plants in the ground and they're growing. One of the great things about gardening is that you can learn as you go; you don't have to be an expert before you start. Although it does help if you can at least remember to water your plants, which I'm afraid is not one of my strong points...

Which is exactly why Noel is in charge of growing all our food and a sterling job he does too! Just yesterday he came home with three different varieties of seed potatoes - the idea being that they are all ready to harvest at different times, giving us a constant supply for a good portion of the year. If he plants them now the first lot will be ready in November, the second should be ready for Christmas and the last lot will be ready by the end of summer. He's also been busy planning and planting more fruit trees recently with the same idea, to keep us fed all year round. I took a quick walk round this morning and was amazed to count this little lot:

2 x nectarine trees

3 x apple trees

1 x Nashi tree

3 x plum trees

10 x feijoa trees

1 x grapefruit tree

1 x avocado tree

1 x pear tree

3 x mandarin trees

3 x peach trees

1 x fruit salad tree

1 x cherry guava

1 x pomegranate tree

1 x apricot tree

2 x tangelo trees

3 x orange trees

2 x lemon trees

1 x lime tree

1 x passionfruit vine

1 x raspberry bush

2 x grape vines

Goodness knows how many strawberry plants!

As mentioned, where possible Noel has planted different varieties of the same fruit so that we can enjoy them at different times of the year. Clever old thing isn't he?! He can't wait to get back into the vege garden now the winter months are over. He always complains its a boring time of year when he can only harvest broccoli, cauliflower, silverbeet and pak choy but I'm not complaining, it still saves us a heap. Like him though, I'm also looking forward to the summer when we have tomatoes, sweetcorn, zucchini, beans and salad greens coming out of our ears. Cooking dinner is so much more fun at that time of year; so much easier and cheaper too. Just throw some meat on the barbie and go and grab whatever's ready out of the garden to go with it. Brilliant!

I've been meaning to tell you for ages about our plans for Christmas - I know it's still months away but already we're planning for the best Christmas ever! We spend every second Christmas at home and this year is our turn to host it. I've always been a stickler for a traditional Christmas - roast turkey and all the trimmings, mulled wine, you name it but this year we're doing something different. We are going to have our very first home grown Christmas! This means everything at the dinner table will be either grown or caught ourselves. We will be feasting on anything from fresh fish, crayfish and scallops to lamb and venison. I'm even tempted to have a go at making our own wine! With regard to gifts, guests are allowed to buy something if they so wish but the rules are that everyone has to bring at least one thing which is home made, whether it be mince pies, a festive wreath or tree decoration - whatever they like. We stopped sending cards a few years ago in favour of e-cards but all Christmas wrapping paper will also be home made.

If anyone else has any ideas of what else we could do or make for our homegrown Christmas we would love to hear them! We're really looking forward to it and I'm excited about showing the kids what a fabulous Christmas we can have on next to nothing. Every year for years now I have put money in a special account each week to help boost the coffers at Christmas but not this year - I cancelled it. I have a feeling we're going to be just fine without it!

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