I’ve never been much of a gardener. I love the garden- trees and herbs in particular- but for whatever reason, it’s never been a thing for me, until fairly recently when I just got stuck in and tried. And somehow produced some nice crops in fact: broccoli, butternut, aubergine, lettuce, tomatoes, mielies, chillies and even artichokes which I believe are the food of the Gods. Mostly I forgot to even check on them so in all honesty, it wasn’t me but my wonder gardener who tended them.
But once I’d picked them, not quite knowing whether there was a particular method ( do I tear or cut off at stem?) or what to do with the leftover stem, I wasn’t sure what to do next!
So, when I saw that Tabby and Alex of the former fabulous and famous Graze restaurant in Stanford were putting on a Garden Day Workshop about organic composting, harvesting, sustainable living, I jumped at the chance to explore their farm and see what I could learn. My ultimate goal: to decrease my veggie bill at Pick ‘n Pay and eat out the garden.
Well, it exceeded expectations. Tabby & Alex offered a really worthwhile workshop, sharing their knowledge of literally living off the land with an assortment of pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, bees rabbits and an array of fruit and vegetables, some of which I had not even heard of. Like a tamarillo and a papino melon.
The morning started with a delicious cup of freshly brewed coffee and rusks and an introduction to the rest of our group- twelve in total. I grabbed my gloves, secateurs, and a notebook when I realised that Alex had much to teach me and I had to write it all down!
First stop: the compost heaps which were (as it is supposed to be) hot and steaming as he plunged the fork deep into them and turned them over. There were in fact 3 in various stages of readiness which seemed like the sensible thing to do.
Next was the business of planting and harvesting. After answering many questions as we passed tractors of chickens, ducks and an assortment of all kinds of veggies, we were split into groups and put to work! Our group of four were to harvest the potatoes. Had you asked me if there was something beneath the lonely stem sticking out the ground, I would have said no. But the earth supplied handfuls of various sizes and colours. It was quite remarkable. Other groups harvested some asparagus and others planted various other crops.
It was a scorcher of a day and after a few tips on growing from seed – either in rows or merely dispersing – it was time for lunch. All from the garden of course.
With seemingly little effort but clearly such natural skill, Tabby produced the most delicious lunch of artichokes, asparagus, beetroot hummus, beans and bean sprouts wrapped in rice paper, pickled artichokes, pickled coriander and a relish made from loquats and the most delicious sourdough nettle bread with fresh jugs of naturally fermented mulberry juice. All freshly produced from the farm. It was a feast! What was also fun around the lunch table was our discussion which ensued about veganism and vegetarians. It was so interesting to me how they had somehow managed the perfect circle of life: spoilt crops being fed to the pigs or chickens who after living a free- range life on the farm would later end up on their own plates and how the chicken/ rabbit carcasses would be ground down again to provide bonemeal for the compost to feed the crops and start the cycle all over again. And used the rabbit skins to make handbags!
After lunch we were shown how to grow crops from seed, using the inner cardboard of toilet rolls and egg boxes as perfect containers- which again would be recycled in the compost heap- given some tree planting and pruning tips and shown around the herb garden with an explanation of some of their medicinal uses.
Few in the city can match this kind of self- sustainability but I found many aspects of it so wholesome and appealing. I could have spent a month or two more there before I had saturated my knowledge.
Luckily, Fuzzy the (albino) pot-bellied pig somehow never managed to match up to the standards for food but became a favourite pet. It all seemed to be in perfect balance.
There are many more workshops being planned. Pop over to Instagram @graze_cafe where they share most of their news and upcoming events. Wonderful stuff!