Kitchen Garden Guides

Friday, June 24, 2011

My philosophy

The paths that we take in life, although they may dart here and there and sometimes seem to lead to nowhere, do, I think, follow the theme we were born with, or developed in young childhood.

When I was 2 my parents bought a shack on the beach, only 45 minutes from our home, but far, far away from our home life. I am lucky to have the poster of it in my kitchen here. There, I spent every waking moment on the beach; wind in my hair, sun or rain on my face and my fingers playing in the sand, in the rockpools and through the hair of our 5 dogs who were my companions. My brothers are both 10 or more years older than me so I spent a lot of time alone with dogs and the sea. We went there at least one weekend in 4 and for nearly every school and uni holiday for 20 years.

We used to put a little net out in summer. I would paddle my canoe out and collect the fish at 6am, before the crabs got up. I was very young and I suppose my parents were watching me, but I felt hugely free and independent from that young age; just me and the sea. I learned about the waves and the wind. Launching my canoe was all about timing and I enjoyed the challenge. Often it was glassy calm in those sheltered waters and I could see to the sand on the bottom as I paddled.  I frequently shared the early morning with dolphins and sting rays and once even a seal. The net was crusty with salt and often had coloured seaweeds entangled in it. I loved the feel of them in my hands as I removed them from the net but once I had collected the 2 or 3 fish caught overnight, I would paddle madly back to shore before the slimy bodies of the fish slid from the front of my canoe, to the back where I sat. I never thought to take something to put them in until this moment!

In winter the waves crashed on the shore, not far from the shack and I slept to the feel of the shack being slammed with the wild wind and pelted with rain, the roar of crashing waves and the snoring of a dog or 2. There were a few other shacks in the row below the cliff and, luckily for me, there was often someone to play with. In winter we'd run down the beach to where the waves for body surfing were biggest, dive into the freezing cold sea without hesitating, and, with our towels flapping in the wind, we'd race back to hot cocoa and scones. It was paradise for me.

This close connection with nature and growing up feeling I was a part of it and not that it was separate from me, has given me a connection with the earth that few people I know have. I keep it to myself mostly because it is not easy to explain in full. But the philosophy I live by is to live with the earth and do least harm. This means I need to know about food; where it comes from and how it is grown and processed. I do not want to damage anything, just to feed me. All creatures are equal. I would rather eat a kangaroo shot in the wild, than any farmed animal because the kangaroo does not require the clearing of forests, the building of fences or the use of machinery. Best, is eating feral meat, shot on the hoof; wild goats, pigs, rabbits, deer and camels, in S.A. Then I would be helping the wild animals and plants by reducing pests the destroy their native habitat.

Some people say being vegetarian is best. I don't agree, here in Australia. One animal shot dead in the wild would feed me for months, with no other destruction to anything. The rest I grow or collect or buy locally, except for spices and coffee and the odd bit of soy sauce etc. This may not be possible to feed the world but it would certainly help if more feral meat was available here in Tasmania, as it is in South Australia.

Everything I eat has come into my kitchen through close scrutiny, and I read labels constantly, trying to work out what to buy or not buy. It is part of who I am, part of inner me. My whole life I have felt this connection with the earth and the need to teach others to take care of what we have, to look at what you do and do least harm. It reaches into every corner of human existence, not just our food, and needs careful consideration as humans divorce themselves more and more from reality.

Make the connections and do least harm.


africanaussie said...

Very well put Kate. You don't just say things, you put a meaning behind each statement. I like the idea of treading lightly on the earth.

Linda Woodrow said...

I had that kind of "wild" experience as a child too, at Stradbroke Island off the coast near Brisbane. Like you, I think it has had a profound effect on my values and sense of the sacredness of the living earth. There is something about lighting a fire on the beach to cook a fish you have just caught that gives a child a sense of being part of a web of life,feeling both safe and sustained by it and hugely protective of it. My kids got this experience too, but I wonder how hard it will be for them to pass it on to their kids.

Heiko said...

Thanks for taking us back on this journey. How lucky you were! I grew up in a ghetto and could only dream of things like this. But I followed my dreams, and if I can everyone can. It's about our survival on the planet.

chaiselongue1 said...

An idyllic picture of your childhood as a basis for your philosophy, Kate. In a different way my split childhood between running wild on a Welsh mountain in summer and seeing and living in Mediterranean countries in winter gave me a similar basis for my philosophy, which like yours is to make connections and do least harm. I agree with you about eating meat - it's a bit different in Europe, but even so, as I've argued on my blog for years, self-sufficiency and sustainability is impossible without eating meat.