Tonight we had a good dinner. It was a lamb and roast vegetable salad. What did I like about it? I liked that everything except the balsamic vinegar was local. The pumpkin, sweet potato, red onion, cucumber and half the tomatoes were from the local farmers’ market and rest of the tomatoes and the lettuce were home grown, the lamb was from a local biodynamic farmer who we met through my parents, and the olive oil was from my parents’ grove and pressed on site. These days it’s not easy to have a meal like that.

When it’s 40 degrees outside and the magpies are open-beaked and sluggish, salad is a good choice. It was delicious. The other big plus is that when you get food locally like that, there’s a lot less packaging. Unlike in supermarkets, there are no styrofoam trays, there’s no cling film, and it’s easy to take your own bags. The only plastic was on the lamb backstrap and, so far, I haven’t figured out a way around that. But V (the lamb farmer) cryovacs all his meat so it’s not quite as bad as the butcher.

As of the last month or two, we have reduced our meat consumption to about twice a week. It’s nice to know that when we do have meat, we have actually been to V’s farm and met the guy and trust and like him. We tried raw corn from his vegetable patch too. It was exquisite! I never expected to eat raw corn. I am looking forward to when our own corn plants mature.

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a free-range ham from a nearby butcher for our Christmas ham (for both my family and P’s). When we picked the ham up on Wednesday, I found organic chicken as well. You pay through the nose for this stuff. Organic red capsicum at the vegetable shop next door was over $20 per kilo and yet I haven’t been buying it because it was $9 a kilo at our local grocer. While I rail at the prices, I tell myself that if you pay that much for food, you really value it. I will make sure every skerrick of those drumsticks gets consumed and if I can, I’ll use the bones to make stock. Unfortunately, the kids don’t have the same attitude but we’re coming down harder on them about wastage these days. Our little boy wasn’t allowed to leave the lunch table until he finished all the food he’d enthusiastically loaded onto his plate.

Funnily enough, I wandered outside to pick some lettuce and identified that one of them was big enough to be picked whole. It has a good heart and looks amazing. But my daughter planted the lettuces and calls them her own so I figured I’d better get her to come and pick it. She outright refused. She said she loves her lettuces and if we pick the whole thing, it won’t grow back. I couldn’t help smiling. Imagine if it was chickens or pigs or ickle pickle lambs? It just goes to show, getting attached to anything can slow your eating.

Kids really make you think. On hearing about veganism, our daughter said: “But aren’t all vegetables animal products? You can’t make them without bees and worms, right?” I shrugged and smiled. Perhaps she’s right.

My other big step, relating to food and packaging, is the purchase of a tiny one-cup teapot from an op shop and also a one-cup coffee plunger. The coffee plunger is a $4 luxury. P doesn’t drink any caffeinated beverages and so indulging in plunger coffee for one has seemed ridiculous. But with this little device, a whole new world of bliss has opened up. But the little stainless steel teapot was different. I was pleased with the teapot ($2.50) because having leaf tea will reduce the wastage (from tea bags) just a tiny bit more. And I take a small amount of pleasure in rinsing out the pot and using the rinsing water to feed some water-hungry plant in our desperate garden.

The smoke is rolling in again as I write. Each evening, a blessedly cool breeze arrives from the east and, not long after, a rolling wave of smoke coats the countryside. Of course, better the smoke than the fire. And I know we are lucky. With our solar panels, we got ducted reverse cycle air conditioning. So we are not dependent on the breeze to cool our house. As I picked vegies tonight, crouched close to the baking earth, I remembered to be ever so grateful that I had a cool house to escape back into.

Smoke smothered sun

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