Fancy an amble through my first month of my conscious living quest?
This month, unintentionally, my focus has mostly been on food. It’s partly because I signed up to an online course about whole foods, so I’ve naturally been thinking more about what I eat and where it comes from. It might be because it’s dark and cold in the evenings, and stirring a pan of something hot and bubbling is quite appealing. It might be because there’s been a few sunny days that have lured me out into the garden.
Or maybe I always just focus this much on food…
We have a balance with food in this house, as I suspect most people do. We do like to eat locally grown food, but I just cannot bring myself to pay £6 for a jar of local honey right now, and there’s also plenty of bananas eaten here too. We like to cook from scratch, but also have a fondness for instant noodles and fizzy pop. Lots of our food comes from the fruit and veg shop, some from the supermarket value ranges, and some from the shop that sells end of line and nearly out of date food.
It’s an understandable, and common, mix of supporting local farmers, boosting the market for organic food (a little), and thrift, convenience and habit.
Mostly I’m happy with it. I’d prefer it if less came from the supermarket, although I am grateful that our most local supermarket, and the one we use most often, is The Co-op, which at least has pretty sound ethical credentials as supermarkets go. I’d also prefer to eat a little more seasonally. And I’d quite like to know exactly where more of my food came from.
There’s several ways of tackling this. There’s a whole foods cooperative very local to us – they have a great range of organic fruit and veg, and all kinds of other things. I don’t shop there regularly (and this is really daft) because I’d have to walk down a large hill and then back up again (just writing that makes me want to run down there immediately and stop being so pathetic).
But it’s not all about buying food.
This month I’ve been doing a bit of preserving too. That up there is fennel seed, saved from our giant fennel in the garden. I using it mostly for fennel tea, although I’m told it makes a pretty tasty ice cream too. I’m proud to say we’re entirely self sufficient in fennel! We’ve also made about 14 jars of marmalade – obviously we didn’t grow the oranges, but I’m all for using up a glut of seasonal produce rather than having it go to waste. We mostly make all our own bread too.
I’ve started planting seeds for the garden, and for the first year I’ve made a plan of what to grow and when to plant it. Today I’ve planted a couple of types of peppers (and a few flowers, which aren’t edible, but I just couldn’t resist…)
I’ve also been rediscovering sprouting, which if you’ve never done it, is THE easiest way to get your own salady foods. For some reason I can’t quite master sprouting chick peas, but aduki beans and mung beans are ace, and I’m aiming to always have at least one jar on the go. Might do a post about that soon.
One of the other things I wanted to do as part of this conscious living shake-up is to get more involved in community food growing, not just in my garden. I’m lucky to have a Transitions Town group in my local area, which I’ve been a (not very active) part of for a while now. We’ve got a small community garden not far from here, and I finally got round to going again last weekend.
I’m glad I did! Some very tasty parsnips, and we’ve been eating rocket for every meal since! It’s a nice mix of people involved, and there’s a lovely big polytunnel to shelter in when it’s raining. I’ll write about this properly soon too.
Oh! And I spent a day volunteering on a community farm a few miles away. They have chickens, pigs, bees, turkey, and all kinds of veg. It’s run cooperatively, each member pays a small amount, and attends 2 work days a month on the farm, and also pops in to feed the animals. I won’t be joining as a member this year, it’s too much of a time commitment for something that’s a few miles away, but I might consider it when I have more time. I quite fancy having a share in some chickens… And I’ve not eaten meat for years, but if I knew exactly where it was coming from, and was able to actually help to rear it, well, then I might reconsider.
Last weekend I also popped to the city farm (are you keeping note of the difference between the community garden, community farm, and city farm? There’ll be a quiz later!) They had a seed swap event, and I took along a pile of seeds that I was never going to grow (why did I ever think I’d grow aubergines?), and swapped them for things I will grow. I’d not been to a seed swap before – it was a little daunting, but SO many good things to choose from, many of them saved from people’s gardens. Well worth a look if there’s one near you, and much cheaper than buying new seed.
Other than food…
I’ve made both soap and face scrub this month – both things I now won’t have to buy, and both with a very small number of simple ingredients. I’m happy about that. I’d like my soap making to be more reliable – and I’d also like to do a bit of an experiment with making soap from local ingredients (olive oil and coconut oil are not grown around here! Rapeseed is though…). I wouldn’t mind finding a way to make shampoo either – I’ve got a plan for that one, coming soon. We made candles too – a good way of reusing something that would otherwise have gone to waste.
I’ve driven around rather more than I’d like this month – although that’s mostly because I’m still not up to full buttling speed, and can’t walk as far as I would normally. Once I’m feeling better, I’d like to get back on my bike a bit more too – easier said than done around here, it’s rather hilly!
I’m not sure I’m going to come to any conclusions here, this is more about me acting in a more conscious way, thinking more about what I’m doing, and making small changes to things I’m not entirely happy about. I’m not going to entirely change where I buy my food, but I will try and grow a bit more of it so I have to buy less, and then what I buy can perhaps cost a bit more.
But just by committing to writing about it, I’m finding little changes are creeping in. I’m saying ‘yes!’ to some things, and letting go of others, even if only temporarily. It all counts.
Just before I stop rambling on (and I will stop, I promise!), I wanted to say that a big part of this living consciously malarkey for me is choosing consciously how I spend my time. I’d rather spend it making marmalade, pottering in the garden, helping on the farm, than sitting in front of the tv or the laptop.
Having an office job, there’s rather a lot of computer time round here, but when I consciously think about the other things I’d rather be doing, I find I make time for them more, which makes me happy. Another thing I’ll write about soon…
Phew! I’ll stop there I think! Have any of you made any little changes? Thought more consciously about some things that you do?