Homesteading: A way to be self-sufficient
‘Homesteading’, today, can be considered as self-sufficiency, growing one’s own vegetables and fruits, basically following a lifestyle less dependent on food or household items from supermarkets. Adopting a ‘growing-it-yourself’ or ‘making-it-at home’ policy wherever possible.
How I found Maria
My first introduction to Maria de Mello (now D’Souza), was through a friend’s facebook page. Merwyn converted a patch of barren land around his home into a fertile patch. He grew banana plants, spinach and ‘tambdi bhaji’ (red amaranth), generously giving out the surplus. Apparently, he had adopted the concept of Homesteading. Maria had spread the good word. Merwyn was a friend of ‘The Goan Homestead’ on facebook. This caught my attention. An unusual name, I thought, so I decided to probe. That’s when I chanced upon Maria.
Some of Maria’s products
‘The Goan Homestead’ Maria’s facebook page, displays many products of healthy homegrown vegetables and fruits. Mango jams, guava jams, tendlim (gherkin) pickle, raw papaya pickle, mango and lime pickles, all home-made by her. Maria’s list of goodies includes Grape wine, Grape vinegar, pure and natural coconut oil among others.
A gentle and sweet countenance, soft spoken, always smiling and willing to oblige, is Maria. She seems like the girl next door except that her determination is hard to match up to.
Vera de Mello, Maria’s mother, made pickles of any fruit available from her kitchen garden. As a young girl, Maria watched her mother keenly. At that point, college life occupied her. Her interest in Homesteading took root only after meeting and marrying Leo D, whom she met in college. Maria credits her mother-in-law Piedade de Souza too. Leo’s mother excelled at making non-vegetarian pickles like prawn balchao and kingfish molho, said Maria.
Promoting and growing plants with health benefits
Wanting to grow some rare fruit trees in her home garden in Moira, Maria realised saplings of fruit-bearing trees like avocado were only available on order. Also available at a high price, being imported. This was ridiculous, she felt. Therefore knowing the health value of avocado, Maria decided to get seeds of the avocado plant and grow saplings. Through this she increased awareness of the fruit, helping others grow it locally.
Today, with her mother’s help and expertise, Maria sells many plant saplings grown organically like Soursop and Avocado. The saplings are planted in polythene bags and sold when they are one-and-a-half years old. Till date, thousands of saplings have been sold.
Cultivate every patch of soil
She tends to her own green patch at home and pickles most of the fruit she grows. Encouraging and helping people in homesteading. Any tiny patch of land around your home can be put to good use, explains Maria. One can grow some useful plants like fruits trees, vegetables, herbs or flowering plants for pollination. Maria does not encourage growing exotic plants. To Maria, every patch of soil is cultivable.
Personally handling the process right from chopping to cooking and packing
For Maria hygiene and quality are of prime importance. Chopping and mixing and hygienically preparing all her products herself with the highest quality ingredients. Sealing them in vacuum pouches, ready to carry abroad. A very important feature pointed out by her – that her jams and pickles contain no artificial colour or preservatives as they are cancer causing she says. Most food products today contain these to increase their shelf-life.
Orders for her produce keep pouring in. Her main source of advertising is by word-of-mouth. Selling mainly through her facebook page ‘ The Goan Homestead’. Her 20-odd products get all sold out within no time.
Maria’s key to success
Without the support and help of her husband Leo, her accomplishments would not have been possible, she adds. He always stands in the gap, helping with chores or tending to their two cute little children when at home.
We wish Maria all the success in her Homesteading venture and hope that many more follow her example. ‘The soil in Goa is so good, anything planted grows’, as the saying goes. With that in mind, we urge all our readers to make ‘Homesteading’ their new lifestyle. What better way to ‘Go Green?’