Big change is happening in my life at the moment. I have returned to full time work for the first time since my son was born nearly nine years ago now. Nine years. The time it has taken to see two children off to school and to restore my professional life to the point where I am again appropriately employable. I love my job with the Southern Otway Landcare Network. In it I am working to serve the needs of the community, not a corporate machine. I am advocating for the needs of people at the grass roots level, aiming at the ambitious goal of enhancing and restoring the productive capacity and biodiversity of this beautiful stretch of country surrounded by wild ocean and National Park. My work makes me happy.
My husband, on the other hand, is not currently working. The reason for this is because he is going to be building us a house. A house built on a small property on which two generations of my family currently live. It will be a modest but undoubtedly lovely home and 4 generations of us will eventually live together. This is normal for me. This is how I was raised and how I want my kids to be raised.
We hope that house will run as much as possible on renewable energies and expect that a significant portion of the cost of the build will go towards covering it with solar panels. The new house will have a garden, a big one. Perhaps not big enough for livestock but certainly sufficient to supply 8 people with fruit and vegetables. We already have a chicken house. I think we built this as a surrogate for the actual house as we waited torturous months for planning permission. In it we have 6 hens, 1 rooster and 2 Indian Runner ducks. Beautiful creatures all and two of them already providing eggs. This one structure has generated a landslide of activity: the creation of a compost heap, the installation of ponds to grow duck weed, the planned installation of raised garden beds. My husband is deeply inspired by the emerging garden and a very great pleasure this is to see.
I could wax lyrical about minimising our footprint and living lightly on the Earth, communing with nature etc. All this is well and good and to some extent true, however we find our primary motivation arises from an increasingly overwhelming desire to stick it to the man. To stick it to the man who almost bankrupts us with the purchase price of his electricity each winter. To stick it to the man who modifies our crops and owns the intellectual property of our food resource. To stick it to the man who encourages us to atomise into tiny isolated nuclear family resource consuming units. To stick it to the man who wants to make us a wage slaves to corporate need. To stick it to the man who floods us with toxins and chemicals and drugs and processed horrors that will surely kill our life’s spark.
Are you getting the picture? We will no longer comply. We will feed and power ourselves to the best of our ability. My husband will write and grow food and I will work within and for my community. We will look after our own elderly and our own young. Most weekends now my family come together to prepare for this transition. We work hard and practice the skill of negotiating multiple needs. In the middle of this work we come together for food, a small act that seems hugely ancient and symbolic, but also completely simple. Today we sat down to a plate of fried local garfish dressed in a simple garlic lemon sauce swimming with nasturtium pods I had foraged at work and cured in salt. We shared jugs of iced elderflower cordial (a gift from a friend) and finished off with bowls of my own dark chocolate sorbet. If that is not the good life, nothing is.
Garfish with lemon and nasturtium butter
- 1/2 kg of garfish or sardines, flattened along the spines if garfish
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- Dollop of olive oil
- Good knob of butter
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon of cured or brined nasturtium pods (replace with capers if unavailable) finely chopped
- Couple of sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a medium hot pan, throw in the garlic. Throw the gars in spine first and press down to flatten out (a local fisherman told me this dissolves the fine bones). Fry the gars or sardines on both sides until cooked and then remove from the pan. Throw in the butter, lemon juice, pods and herbs and toss until combined. Serve sauce over the fish and season with a good grind of salt and pepper.