Monday, February 28, 2011

Top 5 things mum does to be as self-sufficient as possible

List by Tosca

"Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie."
- William Shakespeare

About 3 or 4 years ago mum announced she wanted to move to Kaitaia (where her father is originally from) permanently. It caused some amount of concern. After all, why would anyone 'sane' give up the city for paddocks, livestock and gumboots? My parents are, currently, in Taipa which is a seaside town about 20 mins outside of Kaitaia and, after having been here for a few days I've not seen any cows or gumboots on mum's front lawn. I still question her sanity but this visit has given me a chance to see what the fuss is all about ;)

Saturday afternoon we gathered shellfish, an activity I haven't done in too many years to count. I enjoyed it! Mum and I talked and caught up and traded gossip back and forth while digging for pipi and tuatua that would later become our dinner. In the back of my mind constantly, though, was the realisation that this was another form of 'play' for me. A chance conversation later that afternoon with a local made me see that this is actually a way of life for many others here in the far north district. Self-sufficiency is a matter of survival. Once I really saw that, I began to notice the things people here do as a matter of course - things that, as a 'townie' (as my mother calls me) I take for granted.

This morning we went back to the beach and what I saw amazed me - groups of people gathering pipi, adolescents diving for mussels and men fishing from the shoreline with little more than nylon, a sinker and pipi as bait. Curious about how mum and dad truly live I asked her what self-sufficient living meant for her. What I learnt was quite surprising. Mum's in this lifestyle for the longhaul and with a bit of help from her local library she's finding out what works and what doesn't. As she talked a whole bunch of things went click in my head - stuff I'd vaguely noticed or seen taking place but didn't really get that seemed idiosyncratic at the time but one thing in particular stood out: everything has more than one use. A seemingly idle comment from mum that, in the end, wasn't really, was, "It is possible to work with the environment instead of against it and still manage to live quite well."

Mum's now talking about owning a couple of goats, some hens and a dog to keep dad company during the day. While I may not understand why my parents decided to move to the far north, I do know that it's a lifestyle change and that they seem happier for it. As a total townie I'd been fairly skeptical about the shift before now but, having seen it, I've decided I'm going to buy mum some goats when she's ready for them (and there's something I never thought I'd see myself saying).

Honourable mention:
  • Precycle! by Paul Peacock - residents pay to take their rubbish to the tip just down the road. The $3 charge is minimal, mum tells me, but if you precycle - recycle before you buy - it's worth the money you save and better for the environment.

  • Frost bite : everyday food fresh from the freezer / Susan Austin
    Do you rush home from work hungry and tired, longing for a home cooked meal? Are you too busy to put in the time it takes to cook the meals you want? "Frost Bite: everyday food from the freezer" will show you how to prepare these meals to freeze and enjoy later, so you can have a beautiful meal in half the time it takes for a pizza delivery. Including recipes for meals and food suitable for freezing, this book is full of tips about the best way to freeze food including temperatures, storage time and containers. If the food doesn't freeze well you won't find it here.

    Mum's comment: Making food last is almost as big a deal as being able to catch it or grow it yourself and I've got a stack of books that actually suggest the best ways to prepare, cook and freeze kaimoana (seafood). It's not as hard as I thought it would be, it just means you have to think ahead.

    Organic vegetable growing : a practical, authoritative guide to producing nutritious and flavourful vegetables from your garden or allotment / Robert Milne
    "Growing your own organic vegetables will give you fresher, tastier and more nutritious produce with no food miles, fossil fuel use or packaging; and will provide you with the simple but enormous pleasure and satisfaction of supplying at least part of your own food requirements. This authoritative book provides detailed, practical guidance for those who wish to make the most of their time and whatever area of ground is available to grow vegetables the organic way. It looks forward to productive gardening becoming increasingly relevant and necessary as we are obliged to adapt to global trends, including climate change and diminishing oil resources that will adversely affect food production. The techniques described are applicable to any scale of gardening and are based on the author's thirty years of organic gardening experience, including twenty years of self-sufficiency and eight as a professional gardener growing vegetables and fruit in walled gardens." -- Publisher's description.

    Mum's comment: There's something exciting about using your own vegetables. It's not hard work, and it's a little garden, but it's satisfying. Yes, it's saving money, but it's also more than that.

    100 fish and seafood recipes / Rick Stein
    Presents 100 fish and seafood recipes from all over the world. From light meals and quick lunches, pasta, rice and noodle dishes as well food to share, this book includes a recipe for every level of skill and occasion.

    Mum's comment: When we moved here I only knew how to cook fish two ways and I was a bit worried I'd have to forego cooking with herbs and spices. I'm glad that's not the case! Rick Stein's stuff is great and while I can't do it all it's given me some great ideas.

    Food from the sea / Daryl Crimp, Norman Holtzhausen
    Details on how to catch seafood, cook it and eat it, as well as help with identifying what you've got on the end of the line, with lots of laughs in between.

    Mum's comment: Fishing in the city is often recreational or for sport. Here? It's a matter of livelihood. If you don't have much money you'd better be a good fisherman. Your dad's being in hospital made me realise that if anything happened to him I'd need to know how to do all this for myself.

    Mastering the art of self-sufficiency in New Zealand / Carolann Murray
    "With the increasing popularity of thrift culture, coupled with rising disenchantment with the consumerism of modern times, more and more people are looking to 'get away from it all' with a self-sufficient lifestyle. Many only dream of it, but ex-city slicker Carolann Murray and her husband took the plunge and acquired a 10-acre block outside Wellington. Through trial and error they developed proficiency in a number of areas, including: making wine and spirits; dairying, milking, making butter and cheeses; keeping chooks; sheep; breadmaking; renewable energy; vegetable and fruit growing; beekeeping and making soap. Line illustrations by Lisa Allen show equipment and demonstrate techniques. Carolann writes a humorous account of ten years spent mastering the art of living sustainably. More than that, she offers tried-and-true recipes and techniques for those who want to try it themselves. Before moving to the country, Carolann Murray enjoyed a busy urban lifestyle and worked as an organic beauty therapist. She is now an expert wool spinner, cheese maker and bee-keeper and regularly welcomes Wwoofers to the 4-hectare property she shares with her partner outside Wellington." -- USB University Bookshop.

    Mum's comment: Recycling and re-using are the two biggest things we do up here. You waste as little as possible. Most things can be used twice over or in surprising ways. Think about it: pipi are food for people but you can use it as fish bait for your hook, too; we eat fish but you can also bury the fish waste in the gardens for fertiliser; water from the washing machine can be recycled to use in the gardens - we live on tank water here and although I'd known about 'greywater' already - re-using domestic water - I'd not seen it done on this scale before. The whole area does it. Over time you do all of this without actively noticing that you're doing it.

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