Not everyone would agree enthusiastically when their son, home for the summer holidays, suggests “let’s dig up the front lawn and plant potatoes”. Pam, however, understood Bruce’s vision and now their entire garden, in suburban Howick, is an abundant food forest. Chickens wander past the swimming pool, beans climb all over the fences and pumpkins decorate the veranda. I am in awe of what they have achieved and how much nicer curved swales, ridges and rambling pumpkins look than flat lawn (which would have to be moved – a very uncool, un-eco thing to do).
Pam and her family have been inspired by environmental movies they have watched, in particular ‘Power of Community’ about how Cuba successfully converted to organic farming when their oil supplies dried up. “We realised the need to move away from non-renewable energy and the importance of thinking differently about our future.” The Transition Movement, which is growing rapidly around the globe, is also a big influence.
Pam is learning as she goes, by observation, trial and error. Last year she harvested 54 pumpkins, but this year not nearly as many. She tried starting them off in seedling trays and transplanting them, but they obviously didn’t like that. “My favourite plants this season are the climbing beans which just took off on the trellises. I never thought there was such a diversity of beans – I have splotchy white and black ones, little yellow ones, big flat ones with red scribbles and some dark pink ones too. They are so beautiful in their glass jars that I’m not sure I will be able to eat them!” Pam thoroughly enjoys quiet times on the verandah with a bowl of dried beans on her lap. “The joy of picking and podding your own beans or peas is incredible,” she says with a grin, “the patterns are so beautiful, like miniature paintings.” Another favourite is easy growing and nutritious Amaranthus, the leaves of which are cooked like spinach.
Determined to have as low an eco-footprint as possible, water tanks and solar geysers have been installed at the Haynes’ homestead. A homemade composting toilet is Ross’s latest addition, and appears to be working. “This is all so do-able”, comments Pam, “these small changes are simple and one thing leads to the next.” With like-minded friends and neighbours, they have formed the Howick Homesteader group who meet regularly in one another’s gardens to share ideas, seeds and surplus produce. During the last holidays, Duncan built her a seedling table from alien wattle poles, so she plans to get a lot more organised, sowing in succession by next Spring – don’t we all!
Pam will be sharing her ideas at the Sustainable Living and Indigenous Plant Fair from 27 to 29 April at the Royal Show Grounds in PMB. This is an opportunity to shop for a wide selection of planet-friendly indigenous plants, fruit trees and vegetables and stock up on inspiration for your homestead garden. Alongside, numerous stalls will showcase solutions for sustainable living and offer ideas for getting off the grid. Interesting environmental movies will be screened throughout the weekend, interspersed with speakers on fascinating topics focussed on low-carbon living. A Green Restaurant will provide delicious food to keep eco-conscious energy levels up.