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Many good things have come out of the lockdown, believe me.
We are discovering ourselves, for one thing. At the same time, we have connected with others whom we find compatible and engaging. We are learning what we can achieve in a time of considerable pressure and anxiety. These processes necessarily tend to be virtual. We reach out through our keyboards and screens for encounters which our commuting or busy schedules would normally preclude. I can be in the room with the orchestra, the rapper, the philosopher, all before breakfast, and while the sun melts the heavy frost, the first of winter. I am also rediscovering old friends on my bookshelves – Winston Churchill, of all people. And the vegetable plot in which I am the under gardener has never looked better.
I am not alone in this process of self-discovery. Early in the lockdown, seeds started to disappear from grocery stores, nurseries and garden retailers: people anxious about their food supplies were looking to reap their own harvests, some perhaps establishing mini-gardens on their balconies or in their yards. Some even established growing beds on concrete. There was
a huge increase in online searches for information on growing vegetables; Choice magazine ran
a prescient feature series on starting a vegetable garden and growing your own as early as 3 January. This is accessible at www.choice.com.au/outdoor/gardening and it is a small miracle of concision. I have bookmarked it for future reference.
I commend it to you. It includes a useful summary of resources for the beginner gardener.
For Tasmania, this includes Steve Solomon’s Growing Vegetables South of Australia, and Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion, which is designed for a family of four but is scalable. It provides an invaluable week-by-week program for growing, harvesting and cooking vegetables.
Stephanie founded the Kitchen Garden Foundation which encourages Australian schools to introduce vegetable growing into the school curriculum. Her work was recognised with the award of the Order of Australia.
And in these pages we have the invaluable monthly advice of Kate Flint, a long-time gardener in the Huon Valley. Her monthly columns are highly collectable and, in a region of microclimates, totally relevant. She brought growers and cooks together through her Facebook page, blog, and stall at the Cygnet Market. She was involved in the founding of the Crop Swap, Cygnet and Surrounds. In a spirit of abundance, generosity and fairness, the group’s 700 members swap, donate or share excess produce or anything edible or food-related, such as seeds, cuttings, recipes, and cook books.
Groceries large and small are running out of flour as many of us are firing up our long-neglected ovens and discovering the joys of baking our own bread.
And I know that not all of us have access to ovens, or even kitchens. Recent years have seen an increasing trend towards appartments with kitchenettes or access only to shared kitchens, especially in cities such as New York. Comfortable and busy urbanites were thought to be eating out all the time, and did not have the time or inclination to bake for themselves. What were we, what were our building regulators, thinking? This has been one of the many lessons of lockdown.
Global food security means having enough food for all people at all times. It can lead to a preoccupation with the gross volume of food produced, at the expense of proper distribution. It’s not gross availability that has led to a dearth of some items across the country.
Flour shortages were driven by sharp changes in demand, and the concentration of producers: there are only four flour-milling enterprises in the whole of Australia. They are prone to the inflexibility and inertia of large manufacturing entities. So we have been able to buy 32kg bags of flour, but not 1kg ones.
But like breweries, craft millers are springing up everywhere. In England, a flour mill mentioned in the Domesday Book has been brought back into production. Growing and milling grain at home may be a step too far for many of us, but it would be worthwhile finding an artisan flour miller. Until recently, the Callington Mill in Oatlands produced stoneground flour for retail. It has now shifted its focus to processing barley for
a whisky-distilling operation, a new and perhaps more profitable venture. Restoration of the working windmill was a demanding labour of love for over a decade. More than a century after it was built in 1837, the sails turned again in 2010. The mill is now owned by the Southern Midlands Council and the complex is open for inspection – when our travel restrictions are relaxed.
John Fleming II
The knotty art of giving
Giving in its many different forms is part of our societal DNA.
Most of us have been brought up to think that giving is better than taking. Giving to help out someone in need is something most of us are automatically conditioned to do. The Bible mentions giving in many instances, including in Acts 20:35, which teach that there is joy in giving when it is done with pure motives: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Most religions and philosophies have something to say about the subject of giving and generosity. This is not a religious lesson, but an observation.
Recently, I have been thinking of the dilemma of over-generosity, especially in relation to the phenomenal success of Celeste Barber’s bushfire crisis fundraising efforts through social media. Barber’s spontaneous campaign resulted in over $51 million being raised to support an organisation close to her heart, the “local fire brigade”; her target had been just $30,000.
At the time the campaign kicked off, in the heat of the fires raging in Australia, my London-based son asked, “Have you heard about Celeste Barber?” Because of
her fame as a celebrity, actor, comedian and her Instagram following, Barber motivated extraordinary generosity from people around the world. At the time, I agreed with my son that her actions and the response were wonderful, but I did say, “I hope she has got the correct procedures and processes in place – it’s too easy to get the donation thing wrong.” My son was surprised, but I said that unless processes and legal controls are put in place, there can be many pitfalls. Failing to think before you act may mean that funds do not reach their intended targets. Fundraising is complicated, with rights and responsibilities
Without revisiting the saga that has affected Barber’s fund, this is a good time to think about the correct way to go about collecting money for a good cause.
I thoroughly applaud what Barber has achieved and I sympathise over the obstacles she has encoutered: many of those in need – the bushfire victims donors may have thought they were helping – have not been helped. This is due to the legalities underlying the way the fund was set up. You can trace the story of her unsuccessful application to the Supreme Court, which sought to have the money distributed more widely. Her motivation for the fundraising was in good faith, with a kind heart. Donations were given in good faith by people with kind hearts.
The lost art of tin rattling
Way back, I managed fundraising, marketing and public relations for a local branch of a national and internationally known organisation. Fundraising was carried out on many levels with many services and needs catered for: from everyday welfare concerns through to high-level humanitarian work and disaster relief.
Fundraising is an industry. The mundane, primitive days of ‘tin-rattling’ have all but disappeared, superseded by super-duper, instantaneous online fundraising, but they were a part of the mix. Personally, I found it a bit crass. Thrusting a tin under someone’s nose is confronting, time-consuming, not especially lucrative, a bit degrading and hard work. The essential administration and control of the process, the volunteers, and the collection and tallying, is hard work. In some societies it is seen as begging. The upside of the process is an increase in public awareness of the organisation.
No one has to give if they don’t want to. Most people have
a pet charity or cause, usually related to someone or something they know about or care for. When I collected money on the street, someone would invariably say: “I don’t give to charities.
It doesn’t get to the people who need it. It goes on administration.” The comment is often an excuse to refuse the organisation. It’s true there have been examples of abuses. But I would sometimes reply: “Well then, isn’t it wiser to give to an organisation that is transparent and accountable, with good legal and administrative methods, where you can find out where the funds are used?” Trite, but true.
Don’t stop giving. Giving is good – but do stop to think about it – who, what, where, when, why and how. Everyone will win in the long run. Social media isn’t always the best way – it’s just the modern version of tin-rattling.
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