When I was a kid, growing up in the 1970s on the outskirts of London, there was a TV sit-com that I adored. A quirky, optimistic show with wit and warmth, in the best tradition of British comedy. It was called The Good Life, with Felicity Kendal and Richard Briers.
It was the story of an irrepressibly resourceful couple in a snooty middle-class suburb of London, who absconded from the rat race in pursuit of self-sufficiency. How I loved that show, and the curiously romantic idea of ploughing up one’s lawn to grow potatoes and keep a brace of pigs …
Australia-bound for the Good Life
When my wife and I moved to Australia in 2002, we finally had the space to pursue our own Good Life (sans porcine companions). We were keen to grow a significant proportion of our own fruit and veg.
I have been baking sourdough bread more-or-less regularly since March 2013. ‘More’ in the first flush of my enthusiasm; ‘less’ when the routine became a chore after a few years; ‘much more’ since the coronavirus pandemic has given my leisure pursuits a more homely focus.
My sourdough culture has survived the vicissitudes of those eight years remarkably well: it remains ever ready and willing to rise to the occasion. This loyal little community of bacteria and yeasts has stuck with me through the lean times (six weeks in the back of the fridge while I was travelling in Europe) and the times of plenty (two loaves a week during the pandemic).
My wife and I started beekeeping in 2012. We were interested in permaculture and organic gardening and had been keeping hens for a few years. Keeping bees seemed the obvious next step in creating a productive suburban garden.
At present we have two beehives in our garden. In the past we have also kept bees at our friends’ property. Beekeeping can be labour-intensive or laissez-faire, depending on the beekeeping practices that you adopt.
Here are some of my recommendations for would-be beekeepers, based on our experiences.