As the phone rang, I knew I’d never see her again.
It was an unexpected call from Mum, but I knew even before I heard her say, “Mum’s dying.”
Have you ever just known something like that?
It was a four-hour drive to get to Nan’s bedside. She had a series of strokes, and they didn’t think she would regain consciousness. She once told me that this was her greatest fear: a stroke.
I made it in time to say goodbye and for Mum to beg me to take her home. Nan passed on as we drove out, but Mum didn’t want to be there.
All of her life Nan had lived on dairy farms in small country towns, growing her own food. Her gardens were amazing and the only shopping she did was for bread, butter, and sugar. Sometimes extras were needed for her award-winning baking. Aside from that, food-wise, they were self-sufficient on the farm and she was healthy.
I remember when I was 16 years old and her husband, my grandfather, died. They were from a different generation and she didn’t know life without him, so she came to the city to live with Mum and me. Everything was such a shock to her.
It was in the supermarket that I learned something that has stayed with me. When she saw the organic fruit and veggie section, she asked:
“What have they done to the food that it is not natural?”
I thought of the sprays Mum used on our veggie garden at home and started mentally comparing the two types of gardens I knew. It didn’t take long for Nan to get sick after living with us, where most of the food we ate had hidden chemicals. Nan kept busy with us and seemed happy, but I knew that she didn’t like the taste of the food we ate. She scrunched up her nose at every meal—she could taste it.
Within years, she became diabetic, had heart issues, and felt depressed. I know that grief can take its toll; I’ve experienced a lot of grief in my life. But this was different. She never ate healthy, chemical-free food again, and to me, that was the difference. Her health deteriorated.
In my 20s, my partner and I, after watching Nan get sick and pass away, decided that we didn’t want that fate. We wanted our health now and into our older age. We wanted self-sufficiency, but we were renting, and to have a garden we had to rent crappy houses that weren’t maintained.
In one case, the water leaking into the house was so severe that it shorted the electricity and we had to move because we upset the landlord by demanding that everything be up to code. But that was the choice we made to have healthy food—we had to live in crappy houses. When we moved, all that money was wasted on the landlord’s garden.
How our food has changed and how we can reclaim it:
It all started with an article dangled in front of me by my partner: “You love keeping fish,” she said.
It was about a system using fish waste to fertilize your veggies. At first, it was hard to get my head around the idea until I saw the video about: aquaponics. Now, it made more sense.
A system off the ground, which could be made from new or recycled materials, where the fish waste provides nutrients for the veggies and then the veggies filter the water for the fish.
A beautiful, harmonious ecosystem.
We built it while renting, moved, and rebuilt it, and the healthy, abundant vegetable harvests were amazing. Plus, it’s fast growing, water saving, and chemical free.
I remembered the new design I did for this ecosystem, and I thought of Nan. She would have approved. She and Pop loved eating fish and they loved their veggies, and I was determined to improve my health and not live a life full of chemicals and illness.
I’m now 42 years old. Mum passed away early with chronic health problems, and my brothers and father both have extensive health issues. I don’t. I eat real food: food that is free from chemicals, additives, sugar, and preservatives. Food you can taste the nutrition inside.
I feel like I have closed the loop within my family with the help of an aquaponics ecosystem. I have gone back to a healthier way of growing and eating food. I have gone back to a healthier lifestyle of eating real food, like my grandmother. I know she would approve.