I wish it hadn't changed

3 June 2007
It’s a sad fact that in the last century we’ve gone from being a nation of backyard food gardeners to a society with huge debt and houses that run almost to the boundary fence to maximise indoor space, at the expense of outdoor gardens. When I was a child, the kids in our neighbourhood played together, formed cricket and netball teams, climbed mulberry trees to get leaves for our silk worms and watched as heads were chopped in the chook house to provide a special lunch. Now the streets are empty, no one is forming teams and computer games are controlling the head chopping.

We are separated from our food now. Many people are happier to eat a burger of unidentifiable meat, soggy lettuce and “dressing” than they are eating a fresh backyard tomato that’s had a bug on it. People like their food to be sealed up and sterile.

In many respects we are separating ourselves and our kids from nature. Things common in the past are no longer taught – constructing and flying kites, knitting, camping out, flower and leaf pressing, collecting eggs, bird watching, growing sprouts, looking at the stars at night, spotlighting possums and a hundred other things are rare rather than common now.

I wish it hadn’t changed.

In my endeavour to change what I can change, I tell everyone who stands still long enough in my real life about how to make their own laundry detergent. If they ask, I’ll tell then how to make lemon cordial, jam and soap. When I knit in public, I’m amazed at how many people watch me. Sometimes a quick demonstration is carried out. We need to teach each other whatever we can so these skills aren’t lost.

Is anyone else doing this? Are you trying to teach what you know?