2009 and 2010 was the start of my deeper education into the plant-based lifestyle. I had spent 6 months living and training at the 'Tree of Life Centre' and was wondering what to do next with my life. After changing my diet to a 100% plant-based diet, I thought it would be a good idea for me to learn how to grow my own food. I just felt like it would be a good thing to do.
I had NO clue about how to grow food. I had never grown a vegetable in my entire life. Not knowing how to grow food made me feel a little bit stupid, the thought went like 'I should know how to do this right?!' Suddenly gardeners became my super heroes.
Through a sequence of events, I came across a school called 'Michael Hall', it was a 'Rudolph Steiner' school. They were offering a 2 year biodynamic gardening apprenticeship course. I read the course outline and became totally excited.
I went to the school and met the garden teacher Dorothea. She was also a vegan and so we had a lot of things in common. Dorothea grew up with her parents gardening, so growing food for her was not even second nature, it was first nature. I've never met a more passionate gardener in my life, even to this day. I owe a lot of gratitude to that lady, I think I was a tough student.
I found gardening very romantic in theory, but very hard work in practise, especially as I grew up in a city and had no experience or exposure to living on the land at all. Every task I learnt was brand new to me, some days I loved it, like picking Dandelions in the spring sunshine to make into tea remedy for the plants was especially delightful, some days was not so pleasant, like digging fields up in Winter to take out couch grass which was especially gruelling. In fact, most tasks in the summer time were splendid, even digging fields. In the summer I would just don a pair of shorts, tread bare foot and work bare chested, soaking up the sun, feet in the soil, thats when gardening was romantic poetry at its best. I miss those days.
The best job in Winter was shifting the horse manure. When the frost was down on the ground making me cold, the horse dung was steaming hot keeping me warm. When the manure was delivered we had to move it by hand (spade in hand) into piles and cover it with hay. It was a heavy job, and the graft of working mixed with the heat from the horses gift of central heating, I was at my happiest in Winter knee deep in shit!
The 2 years went by so quickly, I learnt a lot, although I still feel quite the novice, and gardeners are still my super heroes.
Below are some of the only pictures of the garden. It might stir the romantic in you. (sorry there no Winter shots of me stuck in horse shit)
I hope in the future I will be able to once again get myself back on the land. I've been living back in the city for a while now and I worry sometimes I might have forgotten all my gardening skills. One of the books that got me started becoming excited about growing food was a series of books called 'The Ringing Cedars'. It definitely portrays the romance of gardening, I warn you, after reading them you may decide to quit your job and head for the hills- that's what I pretty much did!
If you've never tried gardening I sincerely encourage you to give it a go. There are plenty of farms and gardens that need volunteers. Fruit farms love volunteers in the high summer as there is so much fruit to pick. Its such a great community feeling and awesome for families to go along and spend some quality time together harvesting food, learning and sharing. Search for your local farms and gardens and pay them a visit, you might be surprised!