People all over Australia are rejecting the fast-paced, disposable way of life, where convenience conquers common sense, especially in terms of what they eat, where it comes from and how much food they waste.
Among them is Bec Pollock, who will be teaching Floriade visitors all about a relatively new social movement she is a part of called “urban homesteading”, a kind of renaissance for thrifty ideas that were commonplace in Australian homes only a couple of generations ago.
“It’s about doing things for yourself and your family to provide essential elements like food, or maybe crocheting your own dishcloths, making your own beer or sewing, and then sharing it in the community,” she explains, as she shows “CityNews” her extensive backyard food crop, chicken run and beehive.
“It’s a hobby, really,” she says. “I think more and more people are doing it because they are dissatisfied with the food industry or they feel like they’ve been sitting at a computer all day, and they want to go home and do something real.
“I used to call it ‘old lady skills’ until I heard the term ‘urban homesteading’; a lot of it’s stuff my grandma used to do.”
Once you have your own backyard mini-farm like Bec’s, you have to do something with all the food that’s produced, or your effort is literally wasted. The answer is preserving, a key skill for any urban homestead that Bec will be explaining at her Floriade presentation called “Preserving the Harvest”.
“It’s an introduction, so it covers some basic techniques like dehydrating, bottling, pressure canning and lacto-fermenting, which is becoming a bit more popular these days.”
Lacto-fermenting, she explains, is the process used to make sauerkraut, sourdough bread and the Korean condiment kimchi, using lactobacilli, the same good bacteria found in yoghurt.
Bottling is the simplest, but only works for naturally acidic foods such as tomatoes and most types of fruit, resulting in things such as pasta sauce, chutney or jam. All you need is a big pot of boiling water and some empty jars.
“It is a pretty big piece of equipment and it’s got gauges and clamps and that sort of thing all over it, and it’s not super cheap yet, either. I did the regular bottling for about three years before I graduated to the pressure canner, not that you have to do it that way.”
Bec is well aware that not everyone can put as much time and effort into urban homesteading as she does, and that not everyone finds it as much fun, and says she’s got a range of tips for people who lead busy lifestyles, too.
As for Bec and her husband, who has been practising with a bow-and-arrow and plans to soon try hunting feral animals for meat, she says it’s mainly about a feeling of “resilience”.
“If my husband lost his job or one of us got sick and couldn’t work, or the food prices went up, we’d be okay. Those sorts of things are important to us.”
Floriade runs until October 13 in Commonwealth Park. More information at floriadeaustralia.com