I opened a drawer in my kitchen and I knew I had become my grandmother. There was a ball of string, “lightly used” tinfoil, washed but used cheesecloth, twist ties, and, the very rare & very valuable, rubber bands. I don’t save these out of habit, I save them to use them & use them I will.
I grew up in smack in the middle of middle class America. We wanted for little & if something broke you threw it away & bought a new one. Maybe two. So hoarding twine & rinsing out plastic bags is new to me.
Growing up, I spent the occasional summer on my maternal grandparents’ farm in rural Oregon. Wes & Lucille Kimble were farmers and while I’m sure they had very little money in the bank there was always plenty of food & the farm was well tended.
My Grandmother read Audubon, Mother Jones, National Geographic and anything else she could get her hands on. She was not your typical farmer.
The farm was home to perhaps 9 dogs, twenty- odd cats, chickens, cows and the occasional orphaned child (or adult). If it was alive, it was welcome to stay a day or a lifetime. She refused to kill even the slugs, which are the bane of every gardener. The slimy creatures would be transported to the end of the lane in a bucket where they no doubt made their way, albeit slowly, back to her prized garden, only to make the trip down the lane again & again.
Grandpa believed in DuPont’s motto of “Better living through chemistry” and planted orderly rows of hybrid vegetables that he sprayed with pesticides. The result was perfect looking, but lackluster tasting, vegetables. Gramma had her own way and no chemicals ever touched HER garden, which was a rambling patch of tomatoes mixed with marigolds. Beans were planted next to dahlias. The concept of planting in rows was lost on her. She had a compost pile rich in chicken poop & household scraps.
It was during those summers that I learned to love gardening & cooking.
But gardening in Oregon was a cinch. The rich soil of the Willamette Valley made everything thrive. Portland also has no dearth of great nurseries. Saturdays were spent wandering their grounds, complimentary coffee in hand. I returned home with all sorts of seeds, plants, plant food, and pots… Good lord, the pots….
So here I am, an Oregon gardening girl on a coral atoll south of the equator where gardening. is. not. a. cinch.
The journey to the nearest “store” is a 2 hour slog with a bicycle, boat & car. There is no Portland Nursery or Garden Fever here. The soil is sandy & salty. We have 2 seasons: Hot & wet and hot & dry. My first 3 attempts at vegetable gardening failed miserably. It wasn’t until I had 400 bags of soil brought over from the main island of Lombok (Truck, porters, boat, porters, horse carts) that I had a modicum of success.
So it is with these circumstances that I find myself a homesteader.
I make cheese from yogurt, using the same scrap of cheesecloth over & over again until it has disintegrated.. Stale bread becomes breadcrumbs. Or chicken food. ( I have vagrant chickens that like to lay eggs in my shed)
I can use a bar of soap until it is so wafer thin the edges cut like a knife. I use a pressure cooker on a regular basis. Anything & everything can be made into soup.
I make homemade pineapple jam. And kahlua.
I have a compost bin made from bamboo & scrap lumber.
I am a modern day homsteader.
Currently we are growing tomatoes, watermelon, pineapples, pumpkin, basil, thai basil, kaffir lime, lemon grass & pandan. We have orange, mangosteen & mango trees… which have yet to fruit, but hope springs eternal. I also get about 3 harvests of a hundred coconuts each year, which I hear is very hip nowadays.
Next year I will construct raised beds from old cement bricks that I find laying about. Every time I ride past a junk pile I pick up a few & throw them in my bike basket… along with anything else that might be useful. Skills that will no doubt come in handy should I ever find myself homeless.
And whilst I am unable to have dogs, I do have about 10 cats. I think. Maybe more.
Me thinks my Grandmother would approve.