‘I’m currently harvesting a great crop of Drosophila melanogaster from my compost bin.’
Remarked my neighbour over the garden wall. Remembering secondary school biology experiments, I nodded wisely and responded,
‘Me too but mine are in my office.’
There would have been a time when an abundance of desk-bound fruit flies would have shocked me. Not any more. My home office is currently doubling as a greenhouse. This former spare room isn’t alone in its multi-occupancy status. The kitchen has developed into a sourdough micro-bakery, and the lounge has gained additional status as a flour warehouse.
There would have been a time when all of this would have annoyed me but these days I find it exciting. Please allow me to explain.
A couple of years ago I enjoyed a session of business coaching. I learned many useful business skills but the one thing that has really stood the test of time is the idea that for me, business success relates to the concept of livelihood.
It was a seminal moment. I realised I wasn’t out to conquer the freelance writing world, make millions of pounds or mash my rivals into submission. All I really wanted was a livelihood. A way of living that would provide the physical and emotional necessities of life for both me and my family.
Which is probably why, when March lockdown reduced my income, I didn’t panic (too much). I worried of course but turned my thoughts to how I could use my newly spare time to ensure the continuance of those necessities. So I turned to gardening. Permaculture gardening to be precise. All summer and autumn I have grown, foraged, baked, and preserved food for my family.
With a small, north-facing garden, we haven’t even come close to self-sufficiency. However, I’ve realised this doesn’t matter. What’s more important is that this year has helped me redefine my ideas of personal productivity. Whereas my previous ‘good days’ were all type-till-you-drop ones, they now also include garden and kitchen tasks. My concept of ‘work’ has stretched, leaving me more satisfied than I have felt in many years.
Which brings me to productivity. The business world is full of it. As a species, increasing our productivity should apparently be our end goal but what is this doing to us, our loved ones, and our planet? Perhaps if we all focused for a while on the idea of livelihood, the concept of just having enough, we might find ourselves in a happier and healthier place.