DIRT TO DINNER
- Keeping Chickens
- Natural Beekeeping
- Worm Farming
- Kids in the Garden
- Food Preserving + Storage Essentials
- Boiling Water Bath Preserving
- Fowlers Vacola Preserving
- Lacto-Ferment Vegetables
Contact Bec by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Here we are, ready to learn the skills and knowledge to provide some fresh food for ourselves and our families, whilst maintaining our ‘regular’ jobs and keeping up with our modern lifestyles. Everyday folk like you + me are embracing Dirt to Dinner!
Whilst there are many benefits to growing, raising, cooking, preserving, or all four, even starting one project or activity may seem daunting to you.
Sometimes you can feel overwhelmed by the obstacles in your path, or all the information and options available. It can be hard to make decisions, and get started. There may be time or budget limitations, or waiting for your family to all be available to do it together!
If you have already started, you may feel stalled, wondering if you are doing it the ‘best way’, or trying to wade through an overload of information, or somehow find time, energy or money.
A big lesson that we have learnt is that you don’t have to do it all at once. You don’t have to do it perfectly. And you certainly do not have to do it all.
So, how can we overcome any overwhelm or other challenges that have stopped you from getting started in the past (or that left you with a bunch of materials sitting in your shed, instead of a finished project):
- Plan with your family or partner. Making decisions by yourself can be hard, without anyone to bounce ideas off, so if you can plan it together, or at least get feedback, it makes it easier. If you are having trouble getting your partner or family on board, I have some solutions below.
- Know your challenges/ limitations, and be prepared to find options/ solutions that work for your family and your lifestyle. Things may not be exactly like you saw on that gardening show on TV, or in the glossy style magazine, but it will be YOURS and you can set it up to suit you and your family!
- Make time, get motivated and stay focused. Gosh, doesn’t life just get in the way of all good intentions! But never fear, there are lots of things we can do without requiring eight sets of arms, two brains and a large pot of your favourite caffeinated beverage.
- Break it down into steps & start small. What are the most important projects that you want to be able to do. Plan it in stages, and start with one or two projects at a time. (Plan the others as ‘future projects’ or maybe you’ll decide that what you’ve done is enough). Start with small, manageable, do-able projects, like setting up a worm farm, or pots of herbs. Read on for ideas on how to break it down into step by step plans to help you stay on track, including how to do your own Assessment and Design.
Joining the Dirt to Dinner Memberships means that you have a cheer squad of like minded people who want to see you succeed. You have my support, whether it’s a question about skills and knowledge, or to give you some inspiration (and a pep talk) to get you back on track. Let’s get started together!
The best place to start is with planning what you want to do (the dreams and ideas), and what you can actually do (what you have the time, money, energy and space to do).
By this stage you have probably been inspired by baskets full of colourful harvests, fluffy pretty hens, rows of jars full of your preserves, or freshly made healthy, homegrown food that your family devour… you can get ahead of yourself and want to have it all, and have it NOW… but before we start trying to learn how to do it all, let us decide what our priorities are.
What you see as ideal or optimal, may not be possible or suitable to your circumstances.
Instead of feeling dismayed, embrace what you do have. You might not have a lot of space or time, but maybe you can grow herbs. Perhaps you have more space, or a bit more time, and you want a vege patch and chickens? Or you are prepared to find space and make time because you want to do it all!
You can come up with a plan of what you want that is suitable to your situation and lifestyle, and a design of what will fit and where it will be optimally placed.
Sit down with your family and work through the Getting Started printable worksheets. This can help you work out:
- What are the top three activities you want to do?
- What do you want to achieve? What are your priorities?
- How can you & your family get inspired?
- What challenges do you face?
- What are some solutions to your top three challenges?
It’s not that you can’t do and have everything, but it’s a matter of pacing it in a way that suits your budget, your lifestyle, and your capabilities.
GET YOUR FAMILY INVOLVED
If your partner, kids, family or room mates are unco-operative or unsupportive, try these ideas:
- Inspire + educate them – find some resources to watch and read
- Make a plan – ask for their input, or show them you have a solid idea of what you want and how it can be done
- Promote positives – have fun & appeal to their desires and things they like (it could save us money, we will eat better, we can spend time together) – it’s a challenge, not a chore!
- Start small – start with growing vegetables, herbs or fruit trees in pots/ containers, or join a community garden plot, or look for a rent-a-chook option in your area (or mind some neighbours chooks whilst they are away)
- Have confidence – believe what you are doing is right, and there will be tangible rewards and benefits to show for it
- Find support – if you feel like your partner or family just don’t get it, join a local group to share skills and experiences wiht instead, such as a knitting group, poultry club, a ‘mens shed’, a gardening group, Permablitz, or an online community
Deciding to grow, raise, cook and preserve does require an input of time, money, and energy. You may also have your own challenging situations that you deal with. Some common challenges you may face, and ways to deal with them, include:
Whilst there will be some costs involved, you can reduce costs by being resourceful, using affordable and low cost solutions.
- Develop a budget to follow for each project
- Try to source free materials, use secondhand items, or repurpose items – check your local classifieds or ‘tip shop’, ask a family member or neighbour, declutter your shed and see what you have
- Borrow tools – there may be a tool library in your area (or you could start one) or ask a family member, friend or neighbour
- Consider it an investment, where the ROI comes in the form of fresh produce and healthy family!
LACK OF SPACE
Whilst you can grow produce in containers on patios, it may seem difficult to achieve what you want to do in an apartment or unit, or townhouse. Especially if your dreams involve milking goats and an apple orchard!
But it isn’t just your garden or yard, but inside your house, on your balcony, on your roof, down your street, and over your fence. It might be community gardens, school gardens, unused common areas, parks and reserves, verges, local farms and more. Whether you have a patio, or a semi-rural acreage, you can make the most of what you have.
- Grow in pots/ containers, grow vertically, grow inside, grow on windowsills
- Get bantam sized chickens, or smaller composting containers
- Look into community garden allotments, rooftop options, local schools, daycares or nursing homes that may have space suitable for you to co-op with them.
- Find out if a local farm or producer has opportunities to volunteer or work, or farm-sit, to be able to ‘get your hands dirty’.
LACK OF TIME
Make time by being organised, prioritise what you want to do. Create a roster for housework (or do less). Find time-saving techniques. Don’t try to do everything at once. Allow for the learning curve. Check out the next section for ways to ‘make time’ or ‘find time’.
RENTAL/ COMMUNITY RESTRICTIONS
Be aware of landlord and council restrictions be aware that if you are renting, live in an ‘estate’ or there is a communal housing board, there may be things you can and cannot do.
- Get creative with solutions, but make sure you get approval before implementing them.
- Consider a more portable/ mobile, or temporary, set up, such as containers, vege pods or aquaponics that can be set up on pavers and easily removed
If you travel for work, or have frequent relocations, this may mean you need:
- a more portable/ mobile, or temporary, set up, such as containers, vege pods or aquaponics that can be set up on pavers and easily removed
- need to have good supports in your area who can help out while you are away
- join a local community garden or city farm co-op
DISABILITY/ ALLERGIES/ OTHER HEALTH CONCERNS
Be aware of your limitations (you know yourself, or your loved ones best), problem solve and find creative ways to solve the issues you face. Try to see things as challenges to tackle, rather than issues that stop you.
- Research ideas, existing organisations or equipment that can help with your challenges
- Consider implementing systems that can take care of themselves (automatic watering systems) or that others can look after for you, for times you cannot
You may well have a bucket load of resilience and resourcefulness, because of what you already face in your life. Be a change maker, for yourself + for others!
EXISTING ANIMALS/ PETS
This may change how you set up your garden beds, fruit trees, chickens or bees, such as the type of garden beds or chook enclosures you choose.
RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
Don’t let the challenges stop you from making changes in your life (and backyard). You may need to ‘think outside the box’ and get creative with solutions. Get inspired by all the other people who have done similar things, or are doing it just like you are! Research into ideas, existing organisations or equipment that can help with your challenges.
It does take time and energy to set up any infrastructure, and complete projects, as well as the time it takes to do the activities on a daily basis. Whilst it can be so rewarding and enjoyable, at times it may be overwhelming, exhausting, confusing, frustrating and physically hard work.
Remember that setting up the infrastructure takes time, but once the initial project work is completed + you have mastered the skills, you will have more time and confidence to do the urban homesteading activities.
Being more organised can help, such as creating a roster for housework (or do less housework!), start meal planning, declutter and organise your house etc.
MAKE CHANGES TO YOUR LIFESTYLE
Sacrifice some non-essentials that you currently do, or make changes to incorporate your new activities i.e. playgroup becomes kids in the garden group, Friday afternoon drinks becomes Wine + Weed!
DO WHAT YOU CAN, WHEN YOU CAN
Don’t expect to do it all instantly. Plan your projects or changes to your backyard in stages, and tackle one stage at a time. It may take you, and your family, several years to accomplish all that you put on to your plan.
OUTSOURCE/ BARTER/ SWAP/ SHARE
A great way to build community, and you can get what you need without the pressure or expectation to do every activity yourself.
TAKE A BREAK
Have a break from the activities that can be put on hold, i.e. don’t grow through Winter, or donate/ give away produce instead of trying to preserve it all
Get out into the community, and meet others who are doing it too. Enjoy time in your own urban homestead. See the Be Inspired resources below.
REMEMBER THE BENEFITS
More and more people are starting to grow and raise their own organic food, make and create essential items from scratch, live more frugal, lower impact lifestyles, and connect with their community. I’m sure these are some of the reasons why you want to start growing, raising, cooking and preserving.
Keeping these benefits in mind can help you find the motivation and determination to get started, but also to bust through challenging times too.
- Being able to grow your own organic + ethically raised food, making it more affordable
- Good health from getting outdoors, connecting with nature, doing some exercise + eating better
- Less toxins, packaging + waste. Less pollution, carbon emissions + reliance on fossil fuels
- Awareness about the life cycles of what we eat + consume
- Satisfaction + fun creating, growing, trouble shooting + being productive
- Knowing where your food (+ other stuff) comes from. Looking after the land, the animals and communities
- You can swap, share and barter with your produce, preserves, craft and natural products
- Security of being able to feed and provide for yourself, your kids, your loved ones + your community
- A great way to get involved with your neighbours + community, helping to build resilience and adapt in place
Sometimes you just have to take ‘imperfect action’. Just start, take small steps, and keep on taking them… things will evolve and change anyway. Often once you actually start, the ‘worries’ and concerns disappear, and it’s not as scary as you thought it might be. This happens to lots of people! (Sure, some people just get crackin’ without a moments thought, but it’s OK to be the one who dilly dallies!)
Here is one way to break each project down into more achievable steps.
STEP ONE – PLANNING + RESEARCH
- What is desired/ optimal outcomes?
- What variations/ options are there?
- What challenges do you have?
- What is possible/ suitable in your situation?
- What is required? Do you have access to resources and tools required?
- What is your budget?
STEP TWO – ASSESSMENT + DESIGN
- What resources do you have?
- What positives/ strengths are there in your backyard/ space?
- What limitations are there?
- Do you need to adjust plans?
STEP THREE – GATHER YOUR MATERIALS
- Make a checklist for what is required
- Gather your materials and tools
- Have resources + instructions ready
STEP FOUR – SCHEDULE IN TIME
- Schedule it into your calendar, clear a weekend, or a month of weekends
- Make sure all participants/ resources are available
- Allow more time than you think you will need
STEP FIVE – CREATE IT
- Check you have what you need the week or day before
- If working with a larger group of people, delegate a team leader for the project
- Start building or setting up
One of the best things we can when starting on a new adventure, is to give yourself permission to make mistakes, and more importantly, to learn the lessons that come from those ‘doh’ moments.
Think of this as an opportunity to experiment, and work out what does suit you and what doesn’t (rather than beat yourself up because your harvest basket isn’t a rainbow, or your chickens preferred to live in the neighbours backyard).
ACTIONS TO TAKE
- Sit with your partner or family and work through the Getting Started worksheets
2. Use the Design and Assessment Tool to outline what you have, what you need and suitable areas to set up
3. Print the Project Planner to have ready when planning your first project as you work through the Grow, Raise, Cook and Preserve Guides.