The 100 Garlic Project

Introducing our newest contributor, Deanna Chiong who has embarked on an exciting discovery of developing a sustainable lifestyle for her family and community around her. Based in Melbourne, Deanna gives us a sneak peak into the heart of her passion…

5 years ago, my family relocated to Melbourne, Australia. The almost-immediate transition from a full-time church staff to a stay-at-home-mother was dramatic to say the least, and I found myself stepping into an adventure of discovery.

Along this journey, I discovered my love for gardening. If you had told me about my affinity for gardening 4 years ago , I would have never believed it because before then, no plants had ever survived under my care. Now, however, I’m beginning to grow in my experience and knowledge of the world of gardening, sustainability and permaculture.

We have a small garden plot near our home and I have learnt many precious lessons through my moments working on the land as well as interacting with seasoned farmers. To date, I have 50 types of herbs and vegetables that we use daily at home when cooking for our family or our friends. This has also given me a new level of understanding of the scriptures than ever before, especially when authors of the bible use agricultural metaphors.

Winter has always been a bittersweet season for me – while I enjoy the cold, the lack of sunlight really makes me miss sunny Singapore more than I think I should. In the world of gardening and farming, winter is a season that is greatly revered because the winter conditions set the tone for the following growing season. A cold and wet winter will allow farmers to store their supplies of water for the rest of the warmer months. The extreme cold will not only help to kill weeds within the soil but also increase its water retention.

This winter, I embarked on what I call the “100 garlic project”. We hope to grow enough garlic by 2017 for our household consumption and have some left over for replanting as well as for giving away to neighbours and friends.

I chose garlic because besides it being nutritious on many levels and a daily must-have in our Asian cooking, garlic is not the easiest to grow. Growing garlic is not for impatient gardeners; besides good soil preparation, we will need to set aside a designated space to let the garlic cloves sit in for at least 8 months. Garlic is typically planted in late autumn and only harvested the following summer. It requires constant care with manual weed removal and the supply of mulch to keep the soil moist and protected. It takes obedience, patience and extraordinary faith to grow garlic. This reminds me of how God put Adam to work in the garden in Genesis:

“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” (Genesis 2:8-9)

Being sustainable is a big deal to me and to our family. I haven’t been so impacted by the reality of man partnering with God in the whole ecological climate of this earth until I started gardening. I am constantly reminded that God is the creator of all things including nature and the things that grow out of this land. I believe that I have learnt much about the truths of God through my daily grind with my little garden plot. As I work through the soil and see its fruits, I can understand how He can and will provide for our daily needs in different measures. My small plot of land like a little Eden to me.

Gardening has opened my horizons to discover God in the most intimate of ways. His creation of the sky, earth and every segment of nature has never intrigued me more.

I hope that I will one day own a self-sustainable farm where I can grow organic produce that can help feed the poor and needy locally and around the region.

Deanna working on her little community garden.

Deanna working on her little community garden.

Planted and ready to grow.

Planted and ready to grow.

A braid of garlic.

A braid of garlic.

Deanna married to John is a stay-at-home-mom to 3 children and currently based in Melbourne, Australia. A former staff of COOS, Deanna loves to create art, enjoys experimental cooking and is an enthusiastic organic gardener who dreams of one day using creative therapy and food to reach out to the marginalized throughout Australia. You can follow her on Instagram @deefatfarm or @weareakrylic

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