Whilst peeling apples to bake a pie, Bec Pollock recalled a tip about turning apple scraps into vinegar. She bottled the apple, took a photo, and submitted it to the My Food Story competition. And won. More recently she shared photographs of her Painted Mountain Corn. Who was this painted-mountain-corn-growing-apple-scrap-vinegar-making-photo-competition-winning person?
Bec is a Canberra-based homesteader.
Eight years ago she and her husband grew more aware of an uncertain future—peak oil, climate change, food security, economic crisis—and began to wonder how they’d provide for their loved ones. They saw an answer in back-to-basics living: growing and preserving food; keeping chickens or bees; and practical crafts and projects.
Is this something that mere mortals can do?
According to Bec, it takes organisation, passion, determination and a willingness to sacrifice other things… like housework. I sensed she was incredibly driven, yet still I wasn’t quite sure about how one fits this into life.
The bulk of the infrastructure—the garden beds, the fruit trees, the chook house and run, the greenhouse—was created when her children were young. The partnership with her husband made it work. They took turns. When he was outside digging, she’d feed, bathe and put the children to bed. When she needed time to plant, harvest or water, he’d take care of other chores.
“We immersed ourselves into homesteading. We didn’t watch a lot of TV, and I read reference and ‘how to’ books, instead of novels. Instead of playing weekend sport, we’d tackle a project, or go to community events. Instead of movies and dinners out, we’d do short courses, and spend time preserving. Our weekends and annual leave mostly involve staying home, and getting jobs done,” she explained.
Instead of consuming and leisure activities, they were driven to learn and focused on production activities.
They gain satisfaction from their accomplishments, as well as the process of growing, troubleshooting, connecting and planning. They enjoy the fresh air, exercise and eating delicious, fresh food. They like to think that their children reap the benefit too.
“Our kids know about simple things like the life cycles of what they consume, and also, they gain a sense of accountability. Even if they aren’t planting seeds, picking tomatoes and scooping chicken poo every day,” says Bec.
Homesteading is less demanding now that the infrastructure is set up and they’re more experienced. Bec has more time to enjoy it too since she’s reduced her working hours and their children are in school.
“It also helps that I’ve become Zen about the weeds,” she said.
Still, sometimes they find the issues too overwhelming and need to retreat.
“Do what needs to be done, and enjoy it, without thinking about the why,” she advises.
The Homestead Diaries
- Bought a house with existing apricot, nectarine and plum trees
- Converted border garden beds to an organic kitchen garden
- Added two apple trees (Jonathon and Granny Smith double graft, and a Fuji), raspberry canes, blackcurrant and blueberry bush
- Began composting, added a worm farm, added solar panels and started using grey water
- Started preserving by bottling and drying food
- Attended a Backyard Organic Growing with Permaculture Principles course
- Added a rainwater tank and more fruit trees (another apple, Coxs Orange Pippin, and a Doughnut peach)
- Joined community groups, including PermaBlitz ACT
- Hosted a Permablitz—added three Hugelkultur garden beds, a large Sheet Mulch (No-dig) garden bed and four large raised Wicking Worm Garden Beds
- Completed an Introduction to Permaculture course
- Started The Urban Homesteading Club (Canberra & Surrounds) on Facebook
- Undertook a Beginners Crochet course and a Chooks in the City workshop
- Added six Pure Breed baby chickens—three were roosters and went to live on a farm near Canberra
- Started lacto-fermentation
- Started pressure canning low acid foods, like stock, meals, vegetables
- Set up Warre beehive and obtained a swarm of bees
- Added three more Pure Breed Chooks
- Attended a Natural Beekeeping course through Milkwood Permaculture, with Tim Malfroy
- Started a small business, Growing Home (currently on hold)
- Installed a greenhouse
- Started growing in the greenhouse
- Volunteered for Urban Agriculture Australia for six months
- Conducted presentations at Floriade
- Taught a Preserving the Harvest workshop
- Harvested their first batch of honey
Eat at Dixibelles
The Urban Homesteading Club (Canberra & Surrounds)