Here we are, 151 days on Maatsuyker. Our remaining time here is alarmingly short. Our minds are turning to what lies ahead, what we leave behind for those who follow us, and what we have remaining in the way of supplies.
Planning to be self-sufficient for at least half a year took months of careful study into what we ate, drank, used in everyday living. How much toothpaste do we use in 6 months? Toilet paper? Washing detergent? Shampoo? How much vegemite, eggs, vinegar, coffee, rice, cinnamon, oil, olives, chocolate, bacon, nuts, cheese, coffee, almonds, turmeric, noodles, salt, sugar, pappadums, milk, roast lamb, flour, olives, butter, etc, etc, etc do you need for 6 months, not forgetting that we would be making all our own bread, beer, salad dressings, pizza, cakes, and everything else we would want. What could we grow that would fruit in time for us to eat it while we were here? What would be hard to provision for 6 months that we could make ourselves if we brought the right raw ingredients? Mayonnaise? Cheese? Pesto? Crackers?
Needless to say, we would be doing a lot of dining in…
As everything is transported to the island by helicopter, we were allowed no more than 700kg for all our food and gear (and I mean everything – doona, towels, gumboots, sleeping bags, whiskey, washing detergent, laptops, books, cameras, food, brewing supplies etc etc etc). Resupply of provisions was not guaranteed, and we needed to ensure we had emergency supplies if the garden was not productive, or if we ended up remaining on the Island longer than planned.
Once on the Island, all our food needed to fit into either the normal kitchen refrigerator, a small chest freezer, or the pantry in a way that would potentially see its way through a full 6 months.
As two trained scientists, spreadsheets were our go-to for planning. We also spent several months before we left processing and dehydrating vegetables and fruit.
Now, 5 months later, there are only a few things we could have brought more of – whiskey, chocolate, parmesan cheese – but nothing that we would perish without (well, apart from the whiskey…). Very little we brought too much of. And we have been enjoying an absolute abundance of fabulous food and drink.
David’s practice making sourdough during COVID lockdowns in Canberra has served us splendidly. Requiring around 48 hours to prepare, we have fresh sourdough every few days. David’s loaves would make the finest professional baker proud. His spiced sourdough (like a big hot cross bun but much better) is to die for, especially with a freshly brewed #Oomph coffee. Spiced sourdough recipe available for a price 😊
The Maatsuyker Brewing Company has been in full production since we arrived. We supplemented existing empty beer bottle supplies with old bottles scavenged from the bush on the downhill side of the track – where lightkeepers of old threw everything. We even patched up an old fermenter so we could run two brews simultaneously. 10 brilliant brews later, we have put aside a collection of 30 of the best bottles for the caretakers who will follow us, and the remainder are a perfect accompaniment to watching the sun melt into the sea at the end of a big day.
Gardening is an important part of our life on the island as, apart from the heritage potatoes that grow wild here, the gardens are the only source of fresh vegetables and fruit. The main garden with two growing tunnels sits below the track around 500m from our cottage where it is more protected from the wind and receives more rain.
The main garden is accompanied by a wind-ravaged little cottage garden outside our front door, an orchard of two ancient apple trees, and a “Secret Garden” which we revitalised early in our time on the Island.
We arrived to thriving silver beet, spinach, pak choy, parsley, mint, dill, lettuce, broad beans, carrots and kale, and we have since expanded this to zucchini, snow peas, green beans, sage, coriander, oregano, basil, radishes, rocket, celery, rhubarb and strawberries. In the coming weeks, our tomatoes, pumpkins, onions, garlics, eggplants, cabbages and the apples will also be ripening. We have germinated lemon and avocado trees, but they will probably take a little longer before anyone can harvest from them….
David has also brought his mastery of hydroponics to Maatsuyker. Using old aluminium framing from a solar panel array that blew away in a storm one evening some years ago, David has built our very own hydroponics jungle in the entry to our cottage where sun and warmth are best found. Two tomato vines, donkey balls and choc cherry (by the way, that’s the tomato varieties if you were wondering why I just included those words in this sentence), are now bursting with baby fruit and happily outcompeting the basil and coriander for light. The caretakers who follow us better like tomatoes….
In addition to all this, we were lucky enough to re-supply low parmesan, chocolate and whiskey stocks with the assistance of the work party that came here in December. And we have been very blessed with an abundance of gifts from December’s generous work party members, as well as several unexpected and equally generous visitors to the Island. Fresh eggs, avocadoes, mangoes, apricots, nectarines, plums, peaches, lemons, oranges, pumpkin, crayfish and abalone.
Dining in has been a gastronomic feast.
Unsurprisingly, our dehydrated vegetable stocks look much as they did when we arrived – sitting complete on the shelf. That is, apart from the dehydrated pineapple which we made a particularly superb batch of. None of that is left. We have plenty of toilet paper remaining. And who needs shampoo when you are alone on an island? In fact, with a little more flour (and the unlikely agreement of the next caretakers), we could live very well here for another 6 months….