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Family, Phenomenology, and the Great “Do You Wash the Salt Off” Debate

Jack and Kaela

Sisters and brothers, cousins and second cousins, grandmas and great aunts.  Nineteen of us this time and missing just a few for the annual (most years) few days at the beach.

It was nice this time feeling the change in the generations.  My sister and I firmly in the great aunt’s generation, our daughters stepping firmly into the mothers’ roles, wrangling great gangs of kids, “nobody is coming to the beach until they have a hat and sunscreen on”, “you have to eat something or you’ll get low blood sugar and be miserable and cranky”,  “find an aunt to watch the little kids in the lagoon and I’ll take the big kids out into the surf”.  Grandmothers and great aunts taking long beach walks talking about vocation and staying fit.  Long conversations about the ordinary extra-ordinariness of new babies and teenage angst and aging. Including by proxy ideas from grandad, died this time 5 years ago.

Two year olds and five year olds and twelve year olds and young adults and all the generations of parenthood and grandparent-hood and great grandparent-hood sharing and comparing the challenges of each life stage, and how to live them to the fullest.  I know too many people stuck in one life stage or another – young adults stuck in the dependence of teenagerhood,  Peter Pans in their 40s afraid to become men,  grandparents reverting to sex and drugs and rock and roll, exploring the world and trying to decide what they want to be when they grow up. One of the things I appreciate about my family is its midwifery of us through the stages, maiden, mother, crone, better and better.

Ollie Tayla and Kaela collecting seaweedJack and Emma collecting seaweed Kaela and Bella collecting seaweed
And, on top of all the phenomenological stuff, there is the practical issue of collecting seaweed to take home. Jack and Michaela, Emma and Tayla, Ollie and Bella helped me collect.  The best is half dry so it isn’t too heavy, shaken out of sand, varied kinds.  At home I tip the bags out in the driveway and give it a little hose off, not too thoroughly, just enough to wash off most of the sand and some of the salt.  Then I put it all into a barrel and cover with water and allow it to ferment.  Every week or two, I take a bucketful of greenish water out, dilute it, and use it to water the seedlings in the shadehouse, the potplants in the bathroom, any fruit trees or garden plants I think deserving of a treat.  Then I top it up again with water. Eventually the brew gets weak enough that I decide a beach trip is needed, and the magic pudding barrel is filled up again.

It’s especially valuable having a nice thick new brew this time of year.  We are past the summer solstice now, and heading into the wet season in my part of the world.  It’s time to start planting seeds of leafy greens again in the shadehouse and they specially like the micronutrient boost in seaweed brew. The curcubits in the garden are at risk of downy mildew and a bit of seaweed brew helps keep it at bay.  And it’s coming close to the best season for planting trees, and a bucket of diluted seaweed brew helps them recover from transplant.  So thank you nieces and nephews, sisters and brothers, mother and daughter, on every level.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Emilia January 19, 2016, 5:13 pm

    Lovely, lovely post Linda – wonderful memories.

    I find that i have to dilute my seaweed brew quite a lot, otherwise it burns the seedlings. Have you any any suggestions regarding this? Also, I would like to make myself a tiny shadehouse for seedlings, that is resistant to strong wind. I would really appreciate any tips, of maybe a few pics of your own shadehouse? Thanks very much.

  • Linda January 21, 2016, 12:29 pm

    Hi Emilia, I dilute seaweed brew about 1:10 – a one kilo yoghurt container full in a 10 litre bucket. With a new brew I might go a bit lighter, with an old one a bit stronger. If I am using it on soil around trees I can go stronger, if it is being used on leaves or seedlings I go lighter. If the soil is really dry, I water first.

    My shadehouse is just four poles in the ground with a gable roof covered in shadecloth. Mine is bigger than I need it these days – I used to fill it up when I was growing lots of native seedlings for our riparian reveg project, but these days the forest is doing such a good job of self-seeding that I don’t grow seedlings so much. Mostly I just help move seed around, picking a pocketful as I walk through from anywhere too dense for more trees to succeed, and throwing them out where we are clearing lantana in our Wednesday morning Landcare sessions. I shall do a post soon about using the shadehouse for you.

  • Emilia January 25, 2016, 5:37 pm

    Thanks so much, Linda.

  • walter February 13, 2016, 8:49 am

    hi Linda its Wal from your TAE class here. I use comfrey for the same reasons and the benefits are no salt and can be grown onsite. The nutrient breakdown is similar to seaweed. Have you tried comfrey?

  • Linda February 13, 2016, 9:04 am

    Hi Wal. Yes, love comfrey in compost. And I also use azolla, which grows in our dam.

  • Rob Forbes February 21, 2016, 2:35 pm

    Hi Linda, I just stumbled upon your current blog and your writing sparked memories of your book ‘The Permaculture Home Garden’. You probably hear this often, but reading your book in 1999 or so changed my life. The first thing I did of course was to make a chook dome! Your inspiring writing planted the seed of a dream for me to make a living from growing vegies, and that dream has finally come to fruition this year after 17 years of growing vegies in virtually all of my spare time. So, thank you!

    There is so much I could ask you, but here are two questions: on what scale do you currently grow vegies, and have you altered any of the key methods you use in your garden since writing this classic book? Thanks so much, Rob Forbes.

  • Linda February 21, 2016, 2:48 pm

    Hi Rob,
    thank you. I’m blushing. I’m so pleased you are making a living growing vegies. I think it is just about the most fulfilling vocation there is. This post, about 5 years old now, probably answers it: http://witcheskitchen.com.au/why-i-dont-use-chook-domes-any-more/

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