This is indeed a place of abundance. Whenever there’s stuff growing, there’s something to harvest – either to consume or to keep or to reuse.
In the summer months we’re out picking (especially in the raspberry jungles) morning and evening, and spending our evenings surrounded by jars, bottles, pans and colanders, and every imaginable kind of sweetener other than sugar. We make jams, syrups and sauces, we bake, we freeze, we bottle, we juice, we dry, we steep in genever…
We’re constantly stashing our extras in the freezer, and Chrisje always makes huge pans of soup so she’s got some over to freeze. When the tomatoes glut, we make and bottle sauces, and our potatoes, beetroot, carrots and root veggies last out the winter in sand. The pumpkins hang around at (unheated) room temperature crying “eat me” until we do. And of course, there are always fresh veggies for lunch when there’s anything growing in the garden.
Seeds – Beyond collecting seed for next year’s planting and for swapping at seed exchanges, this year we’re experimenting with dried beans to add protein for the winter months. I also love having dried peas to add to my seed mix for salad sprouts – they’re not so easy to find in Brussels health food stores.
Organic matter – Although not everything that grows is edible, on a permaculture holding everything plays a part. Over half of the land here is not under food crops, but gets a short back-and-sides with the scythe every few months, delivering up beautiful heaps of hay for the apple trees, the fruit and vegetable beds and the humanure processing pile.
Peelings and food leftovers go to the chicken, who dutifully wolfs them down and converts them into protein in tidy ovoid shells. She also gets the buckets full of apples that just naturally fall into her terrain in late summer and autumn. I suspect that during those months she is permanently tipsy.
Nor do we despise what many would call ‘weeds’. The omnipresent horsetails and nettles get mixed with the comfrey into potent and evil-smelling food for the veggies. Horsetail tea is also a potent fungicide. The thistles, brambles and ground elder all end up as precious brown compost materials that actually make it into the compost heap, which Ria manages in such a way that there is always compost ready for use when needed.
Rainwater – this might be Belgium, where it always seems to rain, but when you have a garden, you notice the droughts! We can tell the state of play by the amount of water in our little pond – a couple of times this year the frogs have had to take refuge in the mud at the bottom. Slowly but surely we are expanding our water harvesting capacity. Good guttering at front and back of the house, feeding into the rainwater cisterns, and now we’ve even guttered the woodshed. We use the water from the cisterns to flush our one conventional loo and water the garden when it’s dry.