A lesson in life

An industrious summer season of particularly prolific holidays, producing blankets and bottles of pickles. Lessons in life are picked from a vegetable garden along with its harvest.

Chantal really enjoys crocheting. It was her lockdown project. Using the plentiful YouTube videos available she taught herself to crochet. The vibrant choice of colourful yarns as well as the calming effect of repetitive patterns framed her preference for making blankets. Several already lie across beds and sofas.

Always on the lookout for her next project she was thrilled when, in October, her son asked her to make him a blanket. He chose his colours and settled on a granny square style. One very large granny square.

“How’s my blanket coming along, Ma?” Judson asked at the entrance to December month.

“It’s going well but it won’t be done by Christmas, I’m afraid. Definitely by your birthday,” replied Chantal. She had measured her progress the day before. March was a reasonable time to give herself and her son for its completion.


One of the many beautiful crochet creations that adorn space around our home. Cat sold separately.

Chunks of time to crochet

Although the beginning of December was a busy time, somehow there always seemed to be big chunks of opportunity to sit and crochet. As Christmas approached Chantal realised that actually she just might finish the blanket in time. She stepped up her pace. No more reading while crocheting, now it was full focus on the hook and yarn.

The thing with a granny square is the bigger it gets the longer each side takes to complete. With her eye on the clock, Chantal measured how long it was taking: 15 minutes a side, then 20 minutes a side. She calculated what still needed to be done.

“Oooh, I’m not sure if I am going to get it finished!”

“But you have to,” said Matthew, “Just keep on going.”


And Chantal did, late into Christmas eve, falling into bed when her eyes started watering from fatigue. Waking up early on Christmas morning to crawl to the kitchen where the mound of blanket lay to finish off the final round.

It was done! Carefully folded and tucked into a large paper bag and hidden behind the tree where it stayed until later that morning when Judson popped by to wish us and swap gifts. As all the gifts were handed out and unwrapped, we gathered the recycled gift boxes and bags into a pile.

“There is still one more,” said Santa Matthew, tugging it out from its hiding place and presenting it to Judson.

“What, for me?” he said, taking the tissue paper off the top. “Ahh my blanket, you finished it!” He pulled it out of the bag and wrapped it around himself. “I love it!”

The satisfaction of making something that someone wants and then still surprising them with it makes the effort so worth it. Much better than simply spending money on arbitrary gifts.


A time for joy and giving, and what more precious gift than that of one’s time, effort and creativity.

Caught the industrious bug

Matthew caught the industrious bug and on New Year's Day, while many were nursing hangovers, full tummies and lying prone, we found ourselves in the kitchen. We have a vegetable garden which provides either too much or nothing. It is the way of vegetable gardens. This year we had a wealth of produce that needed processing.

Our neighbour’s neighbours had an over abundance of marrows this season. Despite having four adult children at home, there are only so many marrows one can eat. They shared their ample crop with family and friends alike. We received an overflowing bag from them that we in turn shared with others. As we said, there are only so many marrows you can eat.

“We are losing friends,” said Jo wryly when we bumped into her and Lance, carrying a large bag of their harvest, “They see us coming and think we are going to give them more marrows.” They were on their way to meet an unsuspecting couple for pre-Christmas drinks.

“Well, it’s a marrow Christmas this year,” laughed Chantal as she moved Matthew on swiftly.


A cabbage of wondrous size and delight.

A kimchi attempt

Back to new year’s day where our veggie patch had gifted us a crop of beetroot, the largest cabbage we had yet to harvest and a huge pile of chillies. The beetroot was easy - boil, peel, slice and pickle. The cabbage? Well what can one do with all that cabbage when there are only two of us?

You make kimchi as a start. Never mind that we have never tasted kimchi, we just know that it is pickled, fermented and full of chilli. And garlic, pear, ginger and onion. We toiled at the cleaning, slicing, and salting of the leaves then made the paste and the pickle base. After stuffing two large jars and one small one full of the covered cabbage we had had enough. No more kimchi!

There was still a significant amount of cabbage left. We made coleslaw with half of it and gave the balance away to our happy housekeeper the next day. We feasted on coleslaw for a good four days, that’s how much there was.

It was close to 7pm when we surveyed our bottles, and our now clean kitchen and felt very pleased with ourselves. We were also quite exhausted from our home industry escapade and collapsed in front of the TV with cheese, biscuits, and coleslaw and a satisfying glass of wine for supper. The chillies would have to wait.


Kimchi dates back to ancient Korea, around the 7th century. It started as a way to preserve vegetables during cold winters. It’s low in calories but high in vitamins A, B, and C, and essential minerals like iron, calcium, and selenium.

A lesson in life

Having a vegetable garden is a real lesson in life. Nature is naturally abundant, but you can’t control the weather. Or the numerous visitors that enjoy the feast too. We wage constant war on slugs who are impervious to egg shells and planted cups of beer. We swear loudly at the rose beetles who gleefully chomp holes in leaves when the rain washes away whatever organic substance we have diligently sprayed on. One year the tomatoes thrive, the next they shrivel. Swiss chard grows into trees while the brinjals hang limp and go yellow from too much rain.

It is satisfying to share our wares while we compare notes on what worked and did not with Jo and Lance. It is also sobering to know how hard it actually is to grow organic vegetables and comforting that we don’t depend on our crop for our livelihood or our sustenance. We have a renewed admiration for organic farmers who honour the soil and mix their crops. We are deeply grateful for what they do.

Every time we bite into a piece of beetroot, or kimchi we are conscious of what it took to get it to our plate. There is nothing quite like doing it yourself to make you even more thankful for the effort it took to get the food on your plate. At every meal we say this as grace, derived from one that Tristan learnt at his Waldorf primary school:

Sun, earth and air
Have brought by the Universe's care,
That the rocks, plants, animals, people, birds, bees and trees live and thrive.

Praising Life for this food,
In truth live we would,
Bearing beauty and good.

Blessings and thanks on our meal,
And all who make it possible,
May it nourish and heal.

Until next time.

Yours in feeling,
Matthew & Chantal


P.S. - The chilli relish turned out great too. The perfect blend of heat and taste!

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