1. Homes
  2. Outdoor Spaces

Survival tactics: the home-grown produce challenge

Feb 28th, 2011
Photograph by Sharyn Cairns/ACP Digital Library
Feb 28th, 2011

When Amy Willesee challenges her family to make do with only their home-grown produce for a week, everyone is game... after some key negotiations.

The flow of Jezebel's milk has slowed, taking the pressure off Mark's hands and helping with my storage quandaries. So now that the days of eating cheesecake for breakfast are behind us, the addition of dairy to our backyard supplies has prompted questions about how we could cope on only the food we grow here.

We have plenty of meat, eggs and, of course, dairy for protein. There's always something green to eat, so that should keep scurvy at bay. Fruit and nuts are a weak link; we have plenty of trees in, but most are too young to produce. Nevertheless, I broach it with the family one morning over breakfast. “How would you all like to do a food challenge?” (I'm pitching to the MasterChef generation.) “What if we try to go for a week eating only food we grow ourselves?”

Seven-year-old Rosie is enthusiastic. Mark looks curious, but four-year-old Daniel barely looks up from his Weet-Bix. “You wouldn't be able to have oil and vinegar on your salad,” says Mark. Rosie does a swift about-face: “I'm not doing it.” The vinegar thing provokes second thoughts in me too. But it's only a week.

I start wondering what else we'd miss. Flour, definitely. Things might taste a little bland without salt but surely we could make do with the lemons, chillies and herbs. Oil? I would miss that, but there'd be butter and lard as alternatives. Tea and coffee? We could dry some chamomile or make mint tea, but it's not quite the same. Which brings me to sugar. Beehives are still on our to-do list, so we couldn't even substitute with honey.

My sister comes up with the solution. “Why don't you let each family member choose one ingredient they can bring from the outside world?” I put this to the contestants – I mean, family.

“Okay, well I choose vinegar,” says Rosie, without hesitation. I had banked on this. We can still enjoy our salad and pickled vegies.

“Chocolate,” says Daniel. “Are you sure?” I ask. “Because I probably won't buy you any anyway.” “Okay, tomato sauce,” he says.

“I think I'll choose flour,” I say. “That way I can make bread and pasta.” Mark mulls it over. “Alright, I'll bring butter. That way you'll be the bread and I'll be the butter.” It's a romantic thought, but on further reflection we decide salt is more significant. I'll just have to make the butter myself.

“Do we get to vote someone off?” asks Mark. “Well you won't vote me off because I do all the cooking,” I say. “And you won't vote me off because…?” he asks. “You take care of the animals,” I say, not wanting to fill his early-morning shoes. “And you won't vote me off because I need to be a big sister to Daniel,” Rosie says. We all look at the four-year-old who chose to bring tomato sauce...

Getting started

Need inspiration for your own challenge?
A Year of Slow Food: Four Seasons of Growing and Enjoying Food in the Australian Countryside by David and Gerda Foster (Duffy & Snellgrove)

Living the Good Life: How One Family Changed Their World From Their Own Backyard by Linda Cockburn (Hardie Grant Books)



Post a comment on this story