How would you quickly describe yourself to others?
I’m a green thumb, nature lover from the suburbs, and my husband is a tech nerd from the country! We are both a bit artsy, love science, and love food.
How did you get started with your blog/Instagram page/etc?
I wanted to record our garden as it changed. I felt my personal FaceBook page was not the place for it, so I set up Instagram so that also posts straight to Tumbler, and people started following. My small following seemed to enjoy it, they gave me great advice and got just as excited as I do when we start a new venture. This has just added to my enjoyment in the garden. It’s a great online community. I love being a part of it!
Did you start when you began your transition to live this life style?
We have had a clean lifestyle for a few years now, though I would very much call us newbies! Sparked by a couple of difficult pregnancies, (the last one I developed insulin dependent gestational diabetes), our family turned our eating and exercise habits upside down, and we didn’t turn back. We started with small steps: cooking our food from scratch, (no processed food, etc), and I only recently started making our own cleaning products. We now compost most of our waste or recycle it. We have plans for clean heating our home and being as self sufficient as possible – we will get there, time and money allowing.
I only started blogging when we bought our first home last year. We have learnt so much from the online community, so now we are trying to give a little back.
Have you always been growing your own food? If not, what sparked your passion?
I have gardened for as long as I can remember. One of my first jobs was in a garden center. At times my garden has been no more than a tomato or chili in a pot. Other times we could set up full veggie patches with chickens. It was dependent on the rental property we had at the time. This is our first wicking bed set up, and we are very excited to get started on our aquaponics greenhouse that we have been researching for the past couple of years. We are on a tight budget, so we reuse as much material as we can (Our wicking beds are used pallets and repurposed lintels from our old pool shed. My passion has always been there; however, I had to work on my husband’s – his main passion is eating the food!
Have you ever made mistakes or failed doing something? How did you overcome any obstacles?
Mistakes, ah, so, so many! I know my plants, but I’m a definite newbie to the tools. While I’m getting the hang of it now, the beginning was very slow. We had to work out how to dismantle pallets so that they were still usable pieces of wood. Then building the cladding for the wicking bed caused a few disagreements between my husband and I on how it should be done!! Hubby decided to leave me to it in the end.
We have also had a couple of leaks in water outlets; we put the water inlets and outlets on opposite sides of the bed, which means we have to runaround when we are filling the water reservoir. My cabbage and peas were both infected with fungi this year, so we lost both crops! (My seeds were cheap imported, so we will be buying local from now on). The frost has turned into my worst enemy. I had never had to deal with such severe frost as we get in Ballarat. Though it has produced some of the best kale I have ever tasted – very sweet. We have made plenty of mistakes, but it is the best way to learn! (Well for me, anyway). It’s all experimenting, finding what works. Ooh, almost forgot about my mushroom flop, Ive been meaning to update on my Instagram about that.
Have you ever dealt with a person who disregards your life style?
Sure, but if they are disregarding mine, good chance I’m not impressed with their life style choices either! I get a lot of the sideways head and “Why?” Why spend so much time and effort? My answer is generally, “why not?”. It’s one of those things that until you do it yourself you don’t fully comprehend how good it is, bit like yoga! I don’t think it is a lifestyle you can push onto anyone. We are not all gardeners after all, nor are we all academic or able to create great art. But, if I can make a difference, be it a small one, to the environment and world around me, why would I not? One of my favorite sayings is “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito! (Dalia lama or African proverb!) Small changes to your life can lead to so much more.
Another statement I get is “you’re a stay at home mum, you have all the time in the world – It’s impossible with a job!”. For which I suspect they are making excuses for themselves! Sure, you can be busy with work, doing long hours, working weekends more often than not in a job without much joy, making someone else rich, but me, I work hard making a home that feeds my family and is cheap to run, while I study an area (nutrition and psychology), that is close to my heart and will hopefully, one day, pay for the holidays and bigger garden I have been dreaming about! Not sure who the crazy one is in that scenario. I’m still baffled by those that think three kids is not a full time job!
What are some of your greatest rewards with a lifestyle such as the one you live?
Good health just naturally follows. Growing your own organic food saves you money, though we still have to buy some. We are not yet producing enough to live off. My kids have become more interested in what is going on, too. The waste that leaves our house is minimal, due to composting food scrapes, avoiding having to buy packaged food, and when I do I save most plastic containers for seedling trays or pots (yogurt tubs are grate). That alone is pretty satisfying for me. The health benefits for your mind are amazing, symptoms of anxiety and depression can be reduced! People don’t realize what a bit of sun (vitamin d) can do for you, add to that a little dirt and you’re a winner! It helps me feel connected and calm, and it’s just so cool, picking a veggie or fruit that you yourself grew from seed, what more can I say!
What tips and tricks would you like to share with other people?
Research and plan your garden, it has been a big part of ours. I’m not a neat-freak in the house, but I seem to be in the garden! The gardening community, online and locally, are a wealth of information, so ask questions, lots of questions. YouTube is fantastic, check it out, but beware the vortex! Patience, lots of patience. Love your bugs, sometimes putting up with a few of the not so good bugs will attract beneficial bugs that helps create a happy little Eco system in your garden. Learn about the climate in your area. Melbourne, where I lived previously, is only one and a half hours from Ballarat, my new home, but the climate difference is huge. I feel like I’m trying to grow veggie in a freezer some days!
If you are planning to use pallets in your garden look into what stamps mean what, example they mark what they may or may not have been treated with. Especially if your dirt or animal will be come in to contact with them. From what I have read Australia has the worst problem with this. America and Canada have banned most of the problematic chemicals from their pallets. Also, be careful where you grab your pallet from. That lonely looking pallet on the nature strip may well have been there for months but if it has any markings like a name Chep, Loscom come to mind, on it it still belongings of that company, if you take it, you’re a thief.
Start small, it will grow if you let it!
What are some of the other things you would like to have other people understand about living a healthier and self-sufficient life style?
I’m of the belief we as humans can not continue down the path that common consumerism has taken us. It’s a lazy way of life. People are so busy being busy, too busy to recycle, or so busy they have to eat that plastic, microwave rubbish. People want new things, always throwing out the old (cyclical consumption). I could go on for hours about our current government and them trying to shovel coal energy down our throat, but I wont! I get so overwhelmed with the helpless feeling of “what can I do?” I’m not claiming I’m not guilty of the busy lifestyle, but I can definitely say I have been a happier person living off my own food and striving towards self sufficiency. In my opinion, we need to get back to basics not only for our environment, but for our own sanity and for our kids. Another favorite saying “I don’t believe we were put here to work”. Another favorite? ” Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life” both said by I’m not sure who.
What are your favorite plants to grow in the garden?
I’m a bit basic I LOVE my chili, tomato, herbs lots of herbs are always good. I’m really looking forward to getting our apple trees in! I only grow what I would eat regularly
Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you?
While I talk about my big garden here, I realize not everyone can live this way. A lot of people are in rentals or flats. I just wanted to say you can still make a wicking bed, just on a smaller scale and take them with you when you move. But, more importantly, I think those of us who are lucky enough to grow so much produce should share when they can. When I moved to Ballarat I was blown away by the community. We have people sharing seeds, seed potatoes, manure, etc. It is a large city/ county town that still cares about one another. We need to cultivate that community attitude back into the suburbs and our big city’s. I really feel food and growing it could help do this.