Tam Halls reflects on her time in the Galapagos Islands, and considers what she and the whole Halls family can do to live more sustainably now they’re back home in Devon.
Whilst we stayed on Santa Cruz I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful and inspiring woman called Karina de Daniel. We met at her home, in the middle of a soaring bamboo forest in the highlands, where Karina has lovingly developed one of the only organic farms on the Galapagos.
I didn’t expect to meet a very heavily pregnant farmer, but sure enough Karina paced up slowly from her allotment to introduce herself and to show me around her farm. She proudly pointed out her experiments of using different styles of planters, to reduce unnecessary expansion of introduced species into the wild. She showed me her seedling and potting canopy and explained how the she moved by hand tonnes and tonnes of lava rock from her ground to produce a rich and fertile area of soil for planting.
She’s obviously worked incredibly hard to get to the stage she has, giving up her full-time work in development to concentrate on producing organic and sustainable food for the island. She completely inspired me to make the most of the area of land we have at the back of our house, a perfect space for a small allotment for an aspiring green fingered, wannabe grower. Growing your own requires time, effort and some space, and we aren’t all always in a position to be able to do so – but if you can find some space and time; you reduce waste, plastic packaging and produce some tasty food in the process.
Do try this at home
So back at home, after the East from the Beast had ravaged our land and true spring had finally sprung in all its glory, it was time to get my hands dirty. The space for our allotment is home to our two rescue hens at the moment. They’ve done a decent job of scratching up the earth and keeping some weeds at bay. But it looked like a very sorry piece of land to me. From my little knowledge of vegetable planting and allotment keeping I did understand the best thing to do is just get plants in the ground. So, this is a year of experimental planting. I’m not sure what will take well in our ground and what will wither the minute it meets the soil, so this is a chance to gain knowledge of what we can and can’t realistically grow.
Ivy our rescue puppy loves to dig, so she accompanied me down to the allotment and helped dig up a small area. We raked and dug some more, and finally spread a good layer of compost over the ground – our ground being pretty claggy and heavy. My chosen vegetables to experiment with are mangetout, radishes, lettuce, allergretti (a type of samphire), aubergine, courgette and I’m trying mini-cucumbers and cherry tomatoes in the garden at home. I’ve chosen foods that the girls love to eat – and us too. There is nothing better than using your own home-grown food in your recipes at dinner time.
By the time I had finished digging, raking, shifting and lifting, my back ached and the sun seemed so hot I felt like I was back in the Galapagos. Gardening is not for the faint hearted or weak in the core… and so we had a little breather and took a step back to look at what we had achieved. I’m pretty pleased with the result, however small it maybe, it could be the perfect kitchen garden. I’m learning lots – including how it’s necessary to rotate the crops to different areas of the allotment every year and how to grow veg in succession so you keep harvesting your favourites all throughout the summer and into the autumn.
The hard work is not over, of course, now comes the weeding and watering and waiting… will my legumes be victim to legions of aphids or my nightshades fall foul of slugs and snails? It’s definitely a labour of love and I truly hope that we can successfully grow, albeit on a much smaller scale of Karina’s, some delicious & organic veg.