I was very much a city boy through my childhood and teenage years, and I can’t say that I remember being very much connected with nature. Now that I’ve got two kids, it’s become one of the most important aspects of our family life. I want my children to become happy, healthy and grounded adults.
Part of this involves having a much closer connection to the food we eat and getting them as involved in our garden as possible. I can’t say they’re always as interested as I’d like them to be, especially in the routine maintenance work (unless there’s pocket money to be earned!) — but somehow they absorb it all anyway. It’s important that they know a carrot top from a cabbage seedling, and what oats and barley look like before you buy them at the shop.
When it comes to harvesting produce there’s usually a lot more enthusiasm and it’s a nice way to spend time outside working together, whether digging up potatoes, picking up fruit or crunching on a cucumber fresh off the vine.
We are slowly building up a food forest, and our fruit trees give us all a better sense for the cycle of the seasons. The kids know to expect plums at Christmas, then apples, then persimmons and feijoas (a big favourite) in autumn. We encourage them to pick and eat what’s there, and in summer not many berries make it inside the house before being eaten. It’s also a great way to give our children an additional sense of responsibility — our girl loves feeding the chooks and collecting eggs — and the sense of independence that comes with it. In fact she is sometimes lobbying for a full-on move to the country. She wouldn’t mind a larger flock to look after apparently, and perhaps a sheep or two on the side.
As far as we are concerned, we’d rather focus on turning our little slice of suburbia into a fully productive and self-sustaining piece of land — that’s enough to keep us busy for a while.