Organic gardening and “The Good Life”

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Hello and greetings from the other half of A Kailyard in Adelaide. I hope that you are feeling refreshed and ready to embrace the opportunities that 2016 will bring. As Rachel is still on holidays I have volunteered to do my second ‘guest’ post which I hope you will enjoy reading. I am back into work and looking to create some lasting habits around managing stress, keeping fit and well, and most of all continuing to embrace “The Good Life”.

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For those of you who have been following a Kailyard you would be very much aware that when we started the blog two years ago its intention was to chronicle our gardening exploits, hopefully providing some inspiration, information and colour to others about ‘urban farming’ and to also share many tips on living more lightly on the earth. It’s what we at Kailyard call being “domestically sustainable”. No small task. To that end over the last six years we have, to name a few, put in tanks collecting over 5000 litres of rainwater, installed ceiling fans, and purchased solar power (and our supplier is a renewable one, not coal fired – yuck). Oh and yes, the front lawn; we have reduced this by around 40% and only ever ‘spot water’ to avoid the dustbowl that would inevitably occur otherwise. Grow food not lawns!!

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We joined a community garden called ‘The Happy Patch’ where we swap and share produce. One of our best experiences (remember experiences are better than things, cue “the Good Life”) was being part of The Seed Freedom Food Festival (SFFF) in September 2105. As part of this clan we met the best people and together shared our passion in promoting the power of the seed: non-GMO, non-owned, 100% organic. The festival promoted the necessity to have control over our food, which is an inalienable human right.

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Okay…so you ask: “What does this all have to do with the good life?” At a Kailyard we are aspiring to live the good life as we see it and as such it underpins all we do. It really is our philosophy, how we embrace and live life, share our passion, and ultimately, practically, why we grow the food that we love to eat. Shall we explore this a little?

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So what is “The Good Life”? The very first time I was exposed to this notion was when I was just 20 years old and studying Philosophy at university. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle spoke much about happiness and living a good life, believing that developing and exercising human capacities in genuinely worthwhile activities was part of this. Now clearly there may be some disagreement over what such “ activities” may well be; however, if we focus on some learned thinkers and aspiring teachers as well as thinking about what we love, what is important, and what gives our lives meaning we may make some sense of this. The Ancient Greeks also spoke of “Eudaimonia”, which can be loosely translated as being contented and achieving a “flourishing” state that is more than just being happy. While I am not a philosopher, I would hypothesise that living the good life should be about what we can give to others, being true to our values, not taking others for granted, living sustainably, and sharing any wisdom that we might gain along the way with others; then happiness will indeed be the byproduct of living a good life.

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The second time I was exposed to “The Good Life” was when finally, after many years of gentle but persistent nudging from my wife Rachel, we sat down together and watched the BBC series The Good Life starring Richard Briars and Felicity Kendall – sadly, Richard Briars is now gone, but not forgotten. This landmark BBC television series aired in 1975 in the United Kingdom and was part of Rachel’s childhood; with its endearing characters, witty script writing, and the powerful “simple living” message it remains just as relevant today as then. In fact I believe even more so. Sustainable living is not an option, it is a necessity. While we can’t all tear up our front lawns for crops, well hang on, wait a minute, yes we can. I’ll start again. While most Australians and those living in the consumeristic society aka “the rat race” can’t quit our jobs and go full time into ‘urban farming’ there is so much that we can do. When I am at work and people say “You have such a green thumb!” or state “I don’t have time to garden, I would love to though”, I often reply “Just start small and enjoy – it’s what I did.” The fact is while both my hands and indeed thumbs are frequently stained a rich earthy brown, never have they been green! Patience, persistence and love are the essential ingredients for us gardeners and I believe essential qualities too, in living the good life.

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The third time I encountered the “The Good Life” was when I stumbled across Hugh Mackay’s book The Good Life last year. Hugh Mackay, born in 1938, is a prominent Australian social researcher, and has published sixteen books. I won’t discuss Mackay’s conclusions here, just in case you wish to read the book for yourself, but what I will say is that for me at age 50 it affirmed many of my existing beliefs (always a reassuring notion). Most importantly it reinforced the central requirement to connect with others and I would add, to share what you know and what works for you. We all struggle, but we share so many of the same struggles in being human: when we also allow our differences to be accepted we can share so much more and ultimately be successful in building and sustaining thriving communities that benefit all members.

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So “The Good life” can be whatever you want it to be. Mackay states, “No one can promise you that a life lived for others will bring you a deep sense of satisfaction, but it’s certain that nothing else will.” This post really has just been a very brief exploration into what makes the good life for Rachel and me, and why gardening is our passion at a Kailyard. As a global community no matter where we live we all have a responsibility to continue to strive to live lighter on this fragile, beautiful blue-green planet. As we learn to better look after ourselves and the people, animals and ecosystems that we share our lives with, then we can all perhaps embrace the “The Good Life” and share this wisdom.

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These ideas are not new, but we can all encourage each other and share that wisdom in all that we do and in how we choose to live our lives. If we do more of this I am hopeful that this beautiful Earth we call home will continue and future generations of humans will have the privilege to be its caretakers.

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About A Kailyard in Adelaide

A Kailyard in Adelaide! We are working hard to be domestically sustainable in the foothills of Adelaide. As we both work fulltime this is not an easy task, but we do our best growing much of our own produce in our yard and in our community garden plots. We reduce, recycle and reuse as much as possible and try hard to not consume mindlessly. We have 5000 l of rainwater, a 5 kw solar system, and use a green energy provider for all our excess needs. Rachel: Mother, partner, teacher, writer, reader, crafter, cook, gardener, artist. Jamie: Father, partner, lecturer, therapist, would-be-politician, gardener, photographer, music lover.
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3 Responses to Organic gardening and “The Good Life”

  1. Great post, Jamie!
    The current (for a few decades) western obsession with ‘being happy’ tends to forget about ‘being good’ – that is the adults forget despite constantly reminding their children…
    Yet practicing goodness is what living the good life is really all about!

  2. Jamie says:

    Thanks Veronique I really enjoyed writing my second blog for Kailyard. I am glad that you liked it!

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