I suppose this is going to be an article about what I intend for this site, and a little insight into me.
The origins of this site, and of where I am now in my life, go back right into my childhood. As a child, I was absolutely fascinated by books about children who, through various dark dramas, were cast into the world to look after themselves. I can’t even remember the names of most of these books, although I think the adventures of either The Secret Seven or The Famous Five featured from time to time. Children who had to take care of themselves, who secreted sausages and bread and cheese and chocolate and lemonade away in caves so that, when needed, they could escape from the dark world of adults. There was one amazing book, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, where a group of children had to embark on a long and difficult journey through dark industrial Victorian Britain, and they managed this through their own skills and lots of raw eggs slipped down feverish throats.
As a child, because of my own dark childhood, I dreamed – fantasized – about a world in which everyone died but me. Yeah, a bit gloomy, I know! (I’ve moved on, since.) When I was about 11 or 12, The Omega Man came out, starring Charlton Heston, and I was mesmerized, because it fitted so perfectly into my own childhood fantasy.
I grew out of these fantasies, but my admiration of people who achieved independence because of their own self-reliance in life continued to enthrall me. In my twenties I loved the Jean Auel books, mainly because her female protagonist was so amazingly resourceful (having invented everything the modern world depends on, including microwave ovens and cling wrap). In more recent years I met a modern day Auel woman, living atop a mountain here in Tasmania, not a whit dependent on all the products and appliances that consume most of our lives, but managing with a rough hut, a leaky caravan and an outside fire pit. I had the best meal of my life there atop that mountain and from that fire pit, and it was the simplest – just some rough bread, some oil, some lamb spitted over the fire.
All of this intrigues me, and it speaks to something very deep inside me. I feel very drawn to the self-reliant life, and have enormous admiration for people who have somehow escaped the product-driven consumerism of our daily lives to live a simpler, more meaningful and more self-reliant life – people like John Seymour (oh, his wonderful books!) and Barbara Kingsolver’s experiment of self-sufficiency in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It is not simply that in the doing a person can achieve some independence from the grip of consumerism, but that they manage to live a life more attuned to the natural rhythm of the seasons, that treads much more gently on this ravaged world of ours, and that encompasses a world of personal satisfaction.
Over the past 15 years or so I have also become aware and highly concerned about two other issues: what is happening to the global climate (and environmentalism in general, I guess), and the amazing (but generally unrecognized) fragility of our own highly destructive modern way of life (the depth of that fragility is a topic for another day). I realised that I had become a person who, while believing in environmentalism, and mouthing all kinds of concerns about how our modern way of life was steadily destroying the planet, was nonetheless encouraging this destruction by the use of countless products and appliances that, frankly, I didn’t really need.
So, over the past ten years or so, I have been moving ever more toward a simpler and, so far as I can make it, a more natural way of life. I recognise fully that I still live a duplicitous life – making use of so many modern conveniences while espousing environmental concerns – but I am doing what I can to shed as much as I can.
I do what I am able. I literally live, as much as possible, that philosophy of Voltaire’s that I used to teach my uni students so long ago: I reject the lights of Constantinople and prefer instead to cultivate my own garden.
I know I don’t do enough, but each year I try to do a little more. I grow as much of my own food as I can, and I shop as locally as possible (both to support members of my own community, and because the less miles each of the products I buy has to travel, the better). Every year a few more commercial products slide off my shopping lists, and I feel a little freer. (I mean, did you realise that your hair actually feels better without using shampoo and conditioner?)
So this blog, and the Nonsuch Kitchen Garden website generally, is here to document my journey, and hopefully to encourage others to think a little more deeply about their lives, and how they live them, as also to maybe influence people to try out some of the ‘old ways’ of living a life (kitchen gardening and preserving are the two I am mostly concerned with). The main reason I’d like to influence even just one person is not so much because it reduces our environmental impact (although it does), or because it may encourage you to be a little bit more independent of the global corporations which rule our lives (although it will), or because it is a far healthier way of life (which it most certainly is), but because it is such a happy way of living.
This all sounds so pretentious, doesn’t it! But it is the happiness aspect of it all, the deep personal satisfaction I get from being able to grow and produce so much of my own food, that drives me. I haven’t eaten so well in all my adult life as when I started to grow and produce my own food. So that is what this site is about, at least for me – sharing some of that deep personal happiness.