The joy of living self sufficient

Imagine eating as many organic grapes, sweet as candy, as you can. The pride you feel with a colorful salad from the garden, edible flowers on top. Or the joy of crispy potatoes, full of taste, fresh from the soil.
Growing your own food is so different from shopping for it!

Enjoying a good, natural meal
Enjoying a good, natural meal

Have you ever tasted a juicy & sweet homegrown tomato after you had one from the supermarket? Did you ever do a blindfold test with just another apple and one freshly picked from your organic orchard? Or have you heard the incredible difference in sound when cutting a bought potato and a fresh-from-the-garden-one? (“pfffffft” versus “kkggt”)

Convenience food is convenient, but eating can be so much more than just putting something in your stomach! I can get excited by the looks of the first ripe yellow tomatoes in early summer. Or a green apple that turns red. Or can you imagine the joy of bright green lambs lettuce or claytonia when the winter snow is melting! The first fresh greens!

Reasons to live self sufficient

For some people, living self sufficient is like returning to their roots. And I can imagine that this back to basic approach is appealing! Even when I lived in the city, I loved to “hunt” and gather food (fruits, nuts, goose eggs) from public parcs.

In the USA you can see more and more people preparing (“prepping”) themselves for “when disaster strikes”. They build up a self sufficient life out of fear for natural disasters or unexpected attacks. Also an option.

For others it is a money thing. You can save a lot of money by growing your own organic food. Not only on food but also on the doctor’s bill and the fee of a gym.

Our reasons for living more & more self sufficient

Fleur picking dandelion flowers
Fleur picking dandelion flowers

Our reasons for living more self sufficient are born out of love for nature, self respect and an urge for living healthy. I am at the point that I’m not able to call these bright colored shiny candy things “food” anymore. And thank the universe: our kids (11 & 4) think alike! They don’t trust things in plastic packaging that others call “food”.

For me living (food) self sufficient fits into my values and vision. I value sustainability, renewability, independence and love and good care for living beings. It also fits into my wish to incorporate permaculture in all aspects of my life.

I also enjoy our simple way of life. We eat what nature provides so our choices are limited. And that is a GOOD thing!
We love a more natural living, with the cycles of nature. In winter we live inside and take care of our personal insides. In summer we’re outside and more open to the world. When the snow melts, we’ll be able to pick claytonia and lambs lettuce. When the wild strawberries are ripe, we can exchange our winter clothes for t-shirts. When the apples are falling, the weather gets bad. And when the rose hips are sweet, it will be Christmas soon. (Who needs a calender!)

Vision

Imagine a world where everyone would live self sufficient and mind his own business!
Live will be about living, and taking care of the earth, your food and your body. We can skip the whole idea of money or ownership. Life will be more about creativity and what you can exchange with your neighbors for more variety.

The “mind your own business” part is to make sure there is no jealousy, suspicion, greed or war. Not necessary because nature gives abundant. Put 1 grain of corn in the soil and you’ll get 200% – 300% return on investment! And add a 0 or two with fruit trees.

So when I am queen of the world, my only law will be: live self sufficient and mind your own business!

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Designing this year’s garden

At the moment there’s a good layer of snow in our garden, so this is my time of the year to start with a blank sheet of paper and design this year’s vegetable garden! I love to think ahead about all meals we will have in the coming seasons, what ingredients we need & what extra’s would be nice. I like to fantasize about a 3D explosion of colors, scents and how to realize that.

To get inspiration, I like to browse around on Pinterest, and re-pin the pictures that inspire me for our own garden. You can have a look at my collection of nice garden pictures on http://www.pinterest.com/barbarascheltus/garden-inspiration/


Design starting points

Polyculture at Bogata SumaWhen designing our garden I use a few “musts”. Everything in our garden must be:
1. ecological,
2. decomposable,
3. harmonious, and
4. adding at least 3 benefits.
Those benefits can be: edible, bee or bird attracting, repelling bad bugs, good companion plant, adding nutrients to the soil, food for animals, nice to look at, nice to smell, providing shade, making good mulch…

It must be ecological because I love the earth and its beauty and I don’t want to destroy or interfere too much with artificial things. So that also explains why I want only decomposable materials. Wooden sticks for my peas to climb in, hemp rope where needed and no plastic will be seen in my garden.


Polyculture at Bogata SumaCrop rotation at Bogata Suma

I start the design process with choosing a main vegetable family for each bed. You should know that my garden has many round patches where I grow many different plants together. So when I speak about my tomato bed, there is definitely also basil and parsley in it, carrots to loosen up the soil, chives, marigold flowers, and perhaps some lettuce in the shade.

This “ main vegetable” I choose according to my crop rotation system:
1st year bean family
2nd year tomato family
3rd year easy greens,
4th year cabbages.

If I would grow the same vegetables in the same spots every year, my soil would be depleted from nutrients. But with crop rotation, the previous crop could even provide the nutrients for the next one! Like legumes which fix nitrogen in the soil. I don’t pull these plants out, but snap them off so their roots stay there fixing nitrogen. And after these nitrogen fixers, I grow tomatoes in the same place. (more on crop rotation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_rotation)

Polyculture example 1
Polyculture example 1. You see lots of marigold flowers between the strawberries and lettuce.


Polyculture at Bogata Suma

Because we also do polyculture (multiple crops in the same bed), it is a bit difficult to be strict with crop rotation. So that’s why I always take a “main vegetable” around which I sow and plant companions in this bed.

Why polyculture? Because it makes bettter use of space (more 3D) and time (later crops germinate when the earlier ones are picked), because I like the abundance of colors and shapes, and I like to be surprised by lettuce under a big Swiss chard leaf. Or a surprise carrot in the shade of a tomato, that loosens up the soil under the tomato plant.

Another important (for us) benefit of polyculture: these surprises in the garden make us more creative in the kitchen! When I’m on the hunt for dinner vegetables, I find many useful herbs and ingredients that can go with it.


You’re welcome!

If you want to see or taste our garden yourself, you’re welcome at Bogata Suma!

Polyculture example 2
Polyculture example 2. Cabbages and a sunflower in the middle, marigolds around and all kinds of salad ingredients in between.