Liz Zorab is a gardener, homesteader, author and video creator. Together with her husband, she shares their journey to self-sufficiency at Byther Farm, their small homestead in Monmouthshire. She is also a regular contributor to Permaculture.
Permaculture is a visionary magazine that gives readers the tools needed to create productive and resilient homes, gardens, economies, relationships, schools, farms and communities. Articles range from no-dig gardening, food forests and cutting edge community projects to renewable technologies, regenerative agriculture and DIY & upcycling projects.
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1) When did your interest in permaculture & gardening begin?
My interest in gardening started as a small child, but I really fell in love with nature and its amazing capacity to grow in my early twenties. In my fifties I discovered that many of the gardening practices I used were in line with permaculture principles. From there I was excited to learn more, to fill in the some of the gaps in my understanding and knowledge and to learn how the pieces of the puzzle might fit together. That journey of learning and discovery continues and I never want to stop being amazed by nature’s capacity to grow.
2) How long have you been involved with Permaculture magazine?
I’ve been reading Permaculture magazine for about 7 years and started writing articles in 2020. Maddy Harland, editor of Permaculture and co-founder of Permanent Publications, had watched my videos on YouTube and approached me to write not only an article for the magazine, but a book too. One of the delights that I’ve discovered about writing is that as much as sharing information may help or encourage the reader, the very process of writing has been empowering and taught me more about myself that I could have imagined.
3) As the cost of living crisis worsens, what is your top tip for filling your garden but not emptying your pockets?
It may sound obvious but plant what you like to eat, not just what you like to grow! And I also suggest that you concentrate on growing high value food. This way you are only buying the cheaper items in store. Eating seasonally and making small changes in how we prepare and cook food can also have a positive impact. I think that we have become too used to having access to most foods all year round, but when you eat seasonally, you can rediscover the joy of tastes of a particular crop as it comes into season again.
That said, I wouldn’t want to go back to only eating what we can grow in the garden because I value the diversity of foods and drinks that the global food chain can offer. But I don’t need food that could be grown at home in the right season to be on my plate ‘out of season’ by being flown half way around the world. I’d prefer to save those food miles for foods that we can’t grow at home at any time of the year.
4) Is there a particular Permaculture contribution you are most proud of?
Yes, but it’s not one that you’ll read in the magazine. Or at least, not written by me!
I am so pleased that I’ve been able to encourage others to write about their journeys, to share the amazing lives they live and the bountiful gardens that they tend. While I enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts and observations, I find it much more exciting to watch friends and colleagues blossom and shine as they tell their stories and share their wisdom.
5) Your book, Grounded, is the story of your gardening journey. What has been the most challenging part of that journey so far?
Accepting that I can’t ‘do it all’. This was a serious struggle, but once I had acknowledged it and understood that it isn’t necessarily desirable to do everything, all the time, I felt liberated!
I was suddenly free to work on one small area of the garden at a time, to tend to just that area in front of me, to give myself time to experiment, learn and understand, but most importantly, to give myself permission to fail without feeling like a failure.
6) And finally, have you got any new projects coming up soon you’d like our readers to know about?
My second book will be published in April 2023. In The Seasoned Gardener I explore my gardening year, the rhythms and patterns of growing and harvesting food and a celebration of the extraordinary abundance that nature provides. This book charts a deeply personal journey, filled with joys and triumphs and a healthy dose of mistakes and flaws, or as I prefer to call them ‘learning opportunities.’
The Seasoned Gardener offers hundreds of practical tips, including how-to guides, observations and inspiration for both the beginner and practiced gardener alike. But more than that, it is also a story of our relationships and interactions with the natural world, with all the subtleties, the dramas and the humour that I observe along the way.
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Thanks very much for your time, Liz. It’s fascinating to hear about your journey to self-sufficiency and how you’re spreading the word through your books.
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