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Beyond The Beat: Hachiku battles slugs and soil with her ambitious home garden

Welcome to BLUNT’s experimental new column Beyond The Beat, where we catch up with some of our favourite bands and artists to chat about anything and everything except their music. The idea is simple: we’re keen to learn more about what our faves get up to when they put the mic down. Is that hardcore hero a secret baking pro? Does old mate death-metal froth a good walk through the botanical gardens on his Wednesday mornings? Or miss popstar supreme and her secret knack for bare-hand hunting – is it true? Let’s find out!

For touring musicians, things were especially dismal last year. No open venues meant no stages to play, which in turn meant no stained envelopes of crudely scrunched up $20 bills to hoard. So…how are our favourite bands supposed to eat?

Well, if you’re the Melbourne-native indie-pop trailblazer known to most as Hachiku (or to her mates and mum as Anika Ostendorf), you make the most of a shit situation to convert three of your favourite non-musical hobbies – building, gardening and cooking – into a means of self-sufficiency. The 26-year-old German artist has always loved her occasional treks down to the local Bunnings, where she’d gather free offcuts of wood to use in various – often spontaneously conceptualised – DIY building projects. When the first wave of COVID lockdowns kicked in at the start of March, she took it upon herself to build a veggie garden in the backyard of her sharehouse.

And she learnt a few valuable lessons, too – mainly that snails are fucking gross, and whatever Coles do to make their capsicums so plump and beautiful, it cannot be natural.

Okay, run us through the basics of this epic garden you’ve got kicking!

It’s been mainly winter vegetables. Today I made a curry that used savoy cabbage, Spanish onion, chilli and garlic from the garden. The spices and oil weren’t, but everything else in the meal was. It’s quite a prideful thing when you get a bowl of food and you can be like, “I saw all this stuff growing over there just a little while ago!” We’re trying to do some cauliflower, but that’s been a bit of a failed attempt because of all the slugs and snails – I’m still trying to get used to that part of it. Because you want everything to be perfect, and the second one of them doesn’t work out, it’s so crushing. So I’m trying to get myself into the mentality where if 70 percent of the veggies work out, then 30 percent is just collateral damage. I have to feed the worms and the snails too, y’know?

Have you always had a knack for gardening?

I never used to garden in Germany, but I think the weather was a bit too temperamental there. I started doing it in my last sharehouse where we had a little patch outside to put some things in, and one of my housemates was a professional landscaper and knew how to make a garden flourish. I think my main motivation was that if I started a garden, I wouldn’t have to spend as much money on food. But of course, just the amount of fertiliser you buy and the amount of seedlings you have to raise, and the amount of work you put into it… If I think about the hours that go into maintaining a garden, if I was to pay myself, I probably could be doing a lot more productive things.

Do you find being out in the garden a good way to take your mind off the stresses of your day-to-day?

It’s definitely my biggest method of procrastination. Like today I was meant to be doing some written interviews, but it was such nice weather out so I was like, “Nope! I’m just gonna go out to the garden and hang out there.” But I mean, half the time I’m annoyed at myself – it’s not a guilt-free pleasure. You’re out there being like, “Ugh! What am I doing!? I should not be doing this right now!” But it’s definitely really nice to just disconnect from the world for a bit. I’m lucky enough to have quite a big outdoor space where, especially during lockdown, if you needed to get out of the house and just not look at your computer for a while, you could do that.

I don’t know if it makes me happier – it makes me happy when things do well, that’s the most exciting thing that could happen in the day. But when you see the snails and the veggies that don’t grow right… Just before you called, I saw that one of the eight zucchinis I planted the other day was cut up by I think a bird, and rather than be like, “Oh, look at these seven beautiful zucchinis,” I was like, “Noooooo! This one didn’t work out!” Because we planted those ones from seed, and when you plant from seed, I think you get a little extra attached – you see this tiny little thing come out of the Earth, and you watch it go every step of the way.

It can be weirdly parental, right!?

Exactly! And then you wash them and you see how dirty it is when it comes out of the ground. Half the time that you spend cooking is just washing the vegetables, because there’s so much dirt and slime and stuff – you’re like, “Wow! What do they do to the Coles vegetables to make them so perfect!?” You definitely learn a different type of appreciation for the food. I used to shop at Coles and never think about where my vegetables came from. But when you grow them all yourself and you see what a capsicum looks like when it comes from your backyard… Compared to the perfect, looks-like-it’s-been-painted capsicum at Coles, you’re like, “Yeah… I’m not touching that.” I’m probably being a bit spoilt now, but I’m scared of those perfect supermarket capsicums now – what do they put in it to make it look so good!?

Do you cook everything you grow?

I’m definitely not self-sufficient or anything – it’s not quite there yet, unfortunately. I’d say every meal that we cook, there’ll be one ingredient from the garden. It’s really satisfying to cook with something that you’ve grown yourself. I did spend a lot more time cooking during lockdown than I usually would – but now it’s gone back to that necessity of, “I need to eat something, so I’m going to just make fried rice every day.” But during lockdown, I had a lot of fun looking through recipe books and just figuring out new ways of doing stuff. Even cooking rice, discovering that rather than putting water in it, you could put this sushi seasoning type sauce in it – it’s still rice, but it suddenly tastes really different. Discovering things like that has been really cool.

What were some of the best recipes you came across during lockdown?

I tried a lot of things from Ottolenghi’s cookbook, like shakshuka, which is a Middle Eastern type bean dish that we’d make for breakfast. Another one in his book was cauliflower cheese, which was so delicious. And then in the middle period where the first lockdown had just finished, I went to Savers and got some cookbooks from the second-hand section, and one of them had this beautiful beetroot leaf salad in it. We had a lot of beetroot that didn’t work out – I was furious because we tried growing it so many times – but I learned that you can actually use the leaves and make a beetroot leaf salad, so that was quite fun to try. I’m a big believer that no food should be allowed to go to waste, so with those beetroots, I was like, “Well, I watered you every day – you need to give me something.”

Hachiku’s debut album, I’ll Probably Be Asleep, is out now.