The Sweet Meadow


Where the Wild Things Are

inspiration, living the sweet lifeAishe Besim
"Blue Eye", Sarande, Albania

"Blue Eye", Sarande, Albania

We often forget that we are nature. It is when we lose our connection to nature that we lose the connection to ourselves.
— Fem Gucluturk

Our cafe is closing for a winter break and I am bloody excited! I don't create well around chaos, so a chance to slow down and be present will help me draw inspiration from the magic and beauty of our incredible planet. 

I was recently reading about the concept of re-wilding, which, broadly speaking, referred to the ecological recovery and restoration of natural systems. Over the years however, the definition of the word has now begun to include the idea of re-wilding ourselves

The article explained it as, "...getting closer to nature, de-domesticating ourselves, and discovering our wilder selves. Through this, we may perhaps find a deeper, more authentic way to reconnect with our innate sensibilities and feel more holistically entwined with nature."

Of course, the idea that spending time outdoors is beneficial to our overall health and wellbeing is not a new one. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can have a profound impact on stress, happiness and healing. Walking outdoors gets our blood pumping and increases our intake of oxygen, invigorating our bodies and encouraging a supply of hormones that make us feel balanced and creative. Bathing in natural sunlight will give you a boost of immune-balancing vitamin D. Swimming in a cool river, lake or ocean is great for promoting mental wellbeing because it triggers the release of endorphins. It also exposes us to beneficial minerals and microbes that support the thriving biome found on our skin.

The thing I am most excited about doing over our 11 days off is switching off - literally. I plan on deleting my email app from my phone, along with logging out of The Sweet Meadow's social media pages.  It goes without saying that to feel more connected with nature, we really need to put down the technology. Some moments in life should be for fully giving yourself over to the experience and not capturing at all. When not looking down at our phones, tablets, or computers, we can become more absorbed in our surrounds and feel more connected. 

We'll be back on deck from Friday, September 7. Until then, stay healthy, be happy and get outside!

To slow time down, practice enjoying the moment. It is where we spend our entire lives.
— Wu Wei
Whitehaven Beach, Hamilton Island, Australia

Whitehaven Beach, Hamilton Island, Australia

Getting figgy with it

foodAishe Besim

If you've browsed around this website or my personal Instagram page long enough you would have noticed I have a slight obsession with figs.

I first tried this juicy fruit not long after I decided to go vegan three years ago. At the time, I was trying very hard to follow the 80/10/10 diet, a form of raw veganism that suggests that a diet of predominately raw fruit, with some raw vegetables, leafy greens and nuts and seeds, is the most ideal way of eating for the human body.

The diet encourages mono meals - which means eating just the one type of food (i.e. fruit) as a 'meal'. An example could be 8 bananas for lunch. Suffice to say, I found this style of eating extremely isolating, and eventually incorporated more cooked vegan food into my lunches and dinners.

But this is where my love for figs began. I was looking into what kinds of fruit grew locally at the time and figs, along with apples, pears, and quinces, were the top growing foods in my area, so that's what I started eating. Figs very much symbolize the beginning of a new way thinking that has changed my life in so many ways.

The humble fig was the first plant I chose when I asked illustrator Ash Bewicke to  draw seven plants  for me to use as branding for  The Sweet Meadow . No surprises, her fig drawing is my favourite. 

The humble fig was the first plant I chose when I asked illustrator Ash Bewicke to draw seven plants for me to use as branding for The Sweet Meadow. No surprises, her fig drawing is my favourite. 

I also find the history of this plant fascinating. Cultivated since the very beginnings of agriculture for their delicious fruits, fig trees have been relevant for many cultural and religious traditions. Adam and Eve covered themselves with common fig leaves, while the Koran quotes the fruit as a descendant from paradise. Buddha achieved enlightenment under the bodhi tree, a large and old Ficus religiosa, and many fig trees are treasured as trees with magical uses.

The sexual connection cannot be ignored either! References to the sexually suggestive shape of figs, the appearance of the inside of the fruit being associated with femininity (I was told the figs on a mock up of the store's outdoor sign looked like a vagina. I decided to go with just plain text instead), have been popular in many cultures. 

So yes, I'm fig obsessed. For someone that loves eating them everyday, I really don't have a recipe to share as I prefer eating them raw - just as nature intended. 

Planting seedlings

plants, how toAishe Besim
I like gardening - it’s a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself.
— Alice Sebold
lettuce seedlings

Learning how to garden has brought so much happiness to my life. Growing my own food is so rewarding - it teaches me how to be patient, how to nurture, how to let go, and how to start again. 

I started developing a keen interest in gardening after I began reading The Ringing Cedars book series, recommended to me by my naturopath. Soon after I started reading them I was told the contents of these books would change my life and while I didn't believe it at the time, I totally agree now. I don't think I would be about to launch a plant-based food business if I hadn't read this book series all those years ago.

The easiest way to start growing vegetables is to plant seedlings. It's so much fun planting things from seed but if you're green (pardon the pun) I'd stick with seedlings for your first season. I prefer to buy seedlings from a local nursery where I can, although I'm also a fan of Diggers varieties. I recently planted some cos lettuce in my autumn vegetable bed and have put together a few steps on how to go about doing this yourself.

1. Preparation should start at least two weeks before you actually plant your seedlings. I'm a fan of the 'no dig' garden method, which is all about layering materials on top of the earth rather than digging into it. Whenever I'm preparing to plant new seedlings, I always add fresh compost, cow manure and mulch (I like lucerne hay or sugar cane mulch, both available from Bunnings), and leave this to sit for a couple of weeks.
2. When you're ready to plant, water your seedlings while you loosen the area of soil you're going to plant in. Remove the seedlings from their tray and carefully separate each individual seedling, making sure you leave some of its root structure intact. 

tsm seedlings

3. I then place each seedling directly on top of the area I want to plant it in. This helps me work out spacing across the entire vegetable bed.

4. Clear away the mulch and dig a hole around 15cm deep. Position the seedling into the hole, adding some fresh compost around the base to secure it. I should point out I always take off my gloves at this point and use my hands (or even sometimes my feet) to make the holes in the soil, and I also spit into the hole before the seedling is planted. I got this tip from Anastasia, the woman that The Ringing Cedars book series is based around. She believes it is important for the plant to take in information about the person who plants it, and then, as the fruit or vegetable grows, it will enable its harvest to counteract diseases as well as "increasing his mental abilities and giving him a sense of inner peace." 

5. I then loosely add some mulch back around the plant, but not too much so that I avoid suffocating them. Water in your seedlings immediately. I use a watering can because I find it's more gentle than a hose. Check the soil daily over the next couple of weeks, making sure it's moist. You don't need to water everyday if it's been raining so just keep an eye on them and show them that you care. Seriously! That's another tip from Anastasia. 

During the cultivation time it is vital to communicate with the plant. And it is desirable to approach it and touch it during a full moon at least once during its growth period...It is essential to infuse the little patch of Nature surrounding you with information about yourself. Only then will the healing effect and the life-giving support of your body be significantly higher than from the fruit alone.
— Anastasia - The Ringing Cedars

This may sound way too 'new age', but there are countless studies showing the connection between the health of a plant and how much love and attention the owner gives to it. I recently read an interview in the amazing book Indoor Green - Living with Plants, with a plant lover from Japan. His special tip for taking care of plants was this: "Caring for and talking to them. When I give them water or look after them I always think positive thoughts from the bottom of my heart. Our plants normally grow very big. When I am busy and don't have time to talk to them they lose energy straight away."

The same book interviewed a Melbourne-based home gardener Georgina Nagy, who believes "...everyone needs to garden. I feel unwell if I have not been able to garden for a very long time. Even if I am very tired, I need to work with the soil and work with plants. After this I will come in bone tired physically, but my mother always said the same thing - 'You've now got colour in your face.' I just need that connection."

So try it and see for yourself. Love your plants and garden and it will love you right back. 

tsm watering