When I garden, I don't waste my time. Mother Nature has a way of making things as difficult as possible just to keep us on our toes and, over the years, I have developed a system that maximises return and reduces effort. In other words, I work very hard to be lazy!

For instance ... I grow things I know will be highly successful, are easily preserved or stored, and are economical to produce both in time and money. Experience has taught me when to concentrate my energy and when to not bother, and my animals have taught me how to double the value of my labours by growing things they will eat after I have taken the best bits for me.

I'll give you some examples:

Silver beet – I hate the stuff but it is so easy to grow and I just love picking great big armfuls of it and throwing it over the fence to the pigs. Neighbours and friends know they can always come and help themselves if they want some so it also grows goodwill

Beans – not a vegetable I particularly like but they grow really well and are a great bartering commodity

Peas – I don't bother. Watties does it so much better than me. For the time and effort it takes to grow, pick, pod and freeze them, it is cheaper to buy them when they are on special

Corn – perfect. Expensive to buy, easy to grow, provides lots to eat for both me and the animals and is also a great barterable

Pumpkin – Plant, water to establish and leave alone. A great vegetable to cover last year's compost heap and they provide an excellent supplement feed for the house cow during the winter

There are times of the year when the commitment to a vegetable garden is too much - Mother Nature has taught me this and who am I to argue with her. My early garden takes the most effort as this is where my year's supply of cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli is created. This is when the early salads are grown (because at this time the ones in the supermarket are so expensive) and this is also the time when the future drought greens are established meaning that not much needs to be done to them later when it's too hot to be out in the garden all day. This means my freezers are full before the white butterflies arrive to make things very difficult and disheartening, and my early season giveaways are beginning to return as an interesting collection of items I would never have had the time or patience to cultivate or nurture properly. Blackcurrants turn into plums (the woodpigeons get my plums) and apricots (I don't have apricots but a friend does), raspberries and beetroot turn into peppers and celery has been known to return as eggs! My philosophy is ... if it is too hard or too time consuming, or if there is too little return for the effort, it doesn't get grown. I'd rather be out riding on my horse.

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