Fam­ily cel­e­brates a green Christ­mas

A green-fin­gered cou­ple is carv­ing out a self-suf­fi­cientlifestyle in sub­ur­ban Auck­land. Julie Craig shares her fam­ily’s se­crets to a green and sim­ple Christ­mas with reporter Jess Lee.

Central Leader - - NEWS -

You won’t find the Craigs hunt­ing for a tur­key in the frozen food aisle of the su­per­mar­ket this Christ­mas.

In fact, you are un­likely to catch them in a su­per­mar­ket at all.

Julie and Derek Craig have been liv­ing sus­tain­ably in cen­tral Auck­land for more than a decade and things are no dif­fer­ent dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son.

In­stead of a tra­di­tional roast tur­key with all of the trim­mings, their fam­ily will tuck into a fresh poached fish, home­grown roasted veg­eta­bles and home­made tiramisu on Christ­mas Day.

The part-time teacher and her gar­dener hus­band switched to­wards a more self-suf­fi­cient life­style in or­der to save money and set an ex­am­ple for their two chil­dren.

‘‘We make as much as we can be­cause oth­er­wise we have to pay for it,’’ Mrs Craig says.

They grow their own fruit, veg­eta­bles and herbs in their gar­den and make ev­ery­thing from pasta, cheese and sausages to sweets and beer.

‘‘When I grew up we were ex­tremely poor and of­ten there was no food in the cup­board,’’ she says.

‘‘I re­mem­ber go­ing to my grand­par­ents and there was al­ways tri­fle – so the com­fort of the gar­den and the home­made things was huge as a re­sult.’’

It is clear be­fore you even pass the Craigs’ front gate that this is no or­di­nary cor­ner of sub­ur­ban Mt Al­bert.

Even their berm is full to the brim with wild flow­ers and green­ery and alive with bees.

‘‘Ev­ery­thing we’ve got in here has got to have some ben­e­fit. It has ei­ther got to feed us, shade us or be ben­e­fi­cial to another plant.’’

Recipes from war­time and De­pres­sion era cook­books have helped shop­ping lists.

‘‘They used all ba­sic in­gre­di­ents, there’s noth­ing


their fancy,’’ Mrs Craig says.

‘‘I add gar­lic and gin­ger and things for our taste but it al­lows me to be re­ally fru- gal in­stead of go­ing to the su­per­mar­ket.’’

Gift-giv­ing is also much sim­pler un­der their roof. Home­made lol­lies, muffins or cakes gifted on pretty plates go down a treat, while hand­made dolls are a hit with chil­dren, she says.

The fam­ily de­cided two years ago to forgo the su­per- mar­ket en­tirely for a whole year and live com­pletely off their gar­den while bar­ter­ing for any other items they needed.

Nowa­days when they do need to buy some­thing they choose to sup­port lo­cal stores and grow­ers.

Cut­ting back on es­sen­tials and chang­ing their habits wasn’t easy but it’s all been worth­while, Mrs Craig says.

‘‘At the end of the day you can have as much money in your bank ac­count and, sure it helps, but the great­est thing is hav­ing a com­mu­nity and peo­ple have for­got­ten about that,’’ she says.

‘‘Peo­ple put up fences and close them­selves in, and I un­der­stand that, but you have to be in touch with peo­ple that are near you and value them.’’

Sadly this will be the fam­ily’s last Christ­mas in their rented house as it is be­ing put on the mar­ket.

But Mrs Craig is con­fi­dent they can build it all from the ground up, once again.

Pho­tos: JESS LEE

Good life: The Craigs lead a self-suf­fi­cient, green life­style in their sub­ur­ban Mt Al­bert home. From left: Derek, Julie and Meaghan Craig with Bob the dog.

Self-suf­fi­cient: Left, the Craig fam­ily makes as much food from scratch as they can.

Home­grown: Above, Julie Craig fills her pantry with home­grown and hand-dried herbs, teas and spices.

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