A couple of years ago my digestive health had deteriorated to the point where eating anything, even as simple as a carrot, caused enormous pain. Throughout my twenties, I’ve had symptoms of what doctors politely called ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome.’ But there is nothing polite about IBS when it’s happening to you, quite the contrary.
By late 2009, my gut was ruling my life. I didn’t know what I could eat, what I couldn’t eat and what was causing my intestines to feel like they were on fire.
After losing five kilos in three weeks (10% of my body weight!), I booked in to see a Mora therapist in the hope of finding some answers.
My partner, Chris, drove me to the appointment as I was at the backseat, curled up in the foetal position with pain. I’d packed my toiletries and a change of clothes, planning to check myself into hospital on the way home if there were no answers.
The therapist found Giardia and other parasites had burrowed into my intestines, making me highly sensitive to many foods that I could have ordinarily eaten with no problem.
My resulting ‘leaky gut’ had also become sensitized to chemicals, meaning eating conventionally grown (chemically grown) produce resulted in endless hours of inflammation and a sensation not unlike how I imagine drinking molten lava would feel.
“If I’m ever going to feel safe eating anything again, I’m going to have to grow my own organic food.” But where to begin?
How on earth was I going to do that?
I didn’t even know how to make a garden bed to keep all the soil from spilling out. A few weeks later I received an email about a free information session on Permaculture at the library.
I booked in, and immediately I was hooked by the elegant design of herb spirals, the logical progression of bananas around a circle, and the truth behind the abundance of systems living on the edge. I had to know more.
So I joined the local community garden in Peregian Beach where I learned about organic gardening from the knowledgeable members. I was surprised to discover the garden had been designed using smart, logical and practical Permaculture systems, which were also beautiful and tranquil.
My kale seedlings took off in the plot I rented, and I found I could grow things successfully, without hours and hours of effort.
With growing confidence (pun intended), I decided it was time to buy my own piece of land, so I could grow more food. After searching up and down the east coast for the perfect, affordable place, Chris and I moved to our one and a half acre property in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in July 2010.
I have to plan how to grow enough organic food to satisfy my needs. Now, that my digestive system is almost healed.
Seven months later and there’s more food in the garden than I can eat. I've been giving away bags of mandarins to friends and neighbors. The eggplants are finishing the season after months of produce. I've planted kale again and the leaves are so juicy I eat them straight off the plant.
I just pulled out the cherry tomatoes out after they supplied a punnet's worth of fruit every day for eight weeks. The ginger is showing its knobbly roots and has been flavoring my fresh juices. The lemon tree is still holding fruit after six months of supply. The strawberries are sending their runners out for next season. Comfrey, lemongrass and Brazilian spinach are flourishing. And, last week I stumbled across my first sweet potato. I was so happy to discover it. I actually cried. It tasted like roses when it was roasted.
I’ve learned to emulate aspects of nature in my backyard, making my life easier and the garden more productive.
I’ve surrounded myself with gardening experts who live and breathe organic gardening. I’ve joined Permaculture Noosa, one of the longest running Permaculture groups in the world, and I’m on the driving committee for the new Cooroy Community Gardens.
Necessity drove me to learn about organic gardening, but I am so passionate about the health benefits and positive environmental impact growing your own food has, I want to share it with you, so you can have the best food for yourself and your family.
It’s a great feeling to be empowered with a stronger connection to the earth and natural systems. But don’t be scared, it doesn’t have to take over your life.
You can grow loads of food in pots on your balcony in less than twenty minutes per week, or you can have a single raised garden bed in the backyard and by using some clever, simple methods be largely ‘salad’ self-sufficient.
Be sure to join up for ‘Sprout’ my free weekly newsletters for tips, others’ success stories, plus a few laughs on growing organic food. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming; in fact, growing organic food is fun, rewarding and pleasurable. Not to mention great for you and your family’s health. Plus, it’s probably the most effective and doable activity you can participate in to help heal the earth.
Organic gardener Nicola Chatham shares tips, videos and fun stories in her acclaimed free weekly newsletter Sprout!.
If you want to grow your own organic food at home, have more fun in the garden and create abundance in your life, join Sprout! and get your FREE guide 'Discover Your Green Thumb' now at http://www.nicolachatham.com/