It's amazing how complicated life can become in the attempt to simplify it. Among the many lessons I have learned via trial and error in my garden is one that garden designers are always trying to tell us - Plan BEFORE you plant. In my small suburban plot I now have trees that shade precious vegetable beds, bushes that have suckers springing up everywhere and plants that thrived now suffering from deprivation of light and nutrients from other plants being planted too close. So in my efforts not to repeat the mistakes of the past I enrolled in TAFE's "Sustainable Horticulture" course aka Permaculture design. This was a fantastic course that not only covered Bill Mollison's basics of permaculture ie. zones, planning for your climate, water harvesting, soil protection etc but also biodynamics, animals, and community resources. However, the most beneficial part of the course for me turned out to be the individual plant presentations that each student had to complete. This assessment was designed to broaden the minds of us anglosaxon students as the plant choices were all ones that grow easily in subtropical climates (not English ones). Needless to say that the students from Asian backgrounds were a fantastic source of information and experience with many of these plants which included
I had heard, if not seen or tasted, most of these. Needless to say that the one I picked out of the hat was one I hadn't - Jicama!
In my not so youthful exuberance, and not having commenced any of the assessemnt yet for the first course, I also enrolled in a pruning course in order to arm myself against Stefano's history of poor pruning (namely cutting ALL the buds from my wisteria BEFORE it flowered.
So I ended up studying two nights per week, working (reduced) to 1 day per week in the clinic, coordinating the adult education classes at the kids primary school (http://newfarmss.eq.edu.au/wcmss/index.php/pc/community-education-program.html)
on top of the usual logistics of my own children's activities. This was all manageable until my father decided on a prolonged stay in hospital with a broken hip which led to further health complications. Thankfully he is home now and mending well but it reinforced for me the need to have quantity time not just quality when you are juggling both young children and ageing parents.
So I have wound up my clinic for the time being and am prepared (?) for Christmas so hopefully in January I'll have more time to apply my new found knowledge to actually designing the garden on our new plot. Or do I hear more horticulture courses calling?
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Over the years & especially during stressful periods of my life, I have watched on enviously as my cats have played, slept or just generally enjoyed their moment in the garden and the sun. Why can't my life be that simple? - I would ask myself - and then promptly chastise myself for being lazy. Is being content with doing and having less just an excuse to be lazy or can it be a better way of living?
As a child I was never particularly interested in gardening but my naturopathic studies and growing interest in healthier more nutritious food has led me on a journey to growing my own fruit, veges and herbs. During this time I have also been drawn to reading books such as Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal Vegetable, Miracle" http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/, Linda Woodrow's "Permaculture for the Home Garden" and Linda Cockburn's "Living the Good Life". Meanwhile Stefano had been travelling on his own journey in response to the worsening drought in Australia. This led most Queenslanders to become more conscious of their water use but Stefano went on to examine our family's resource use more widely - our power, our waste, our consumption in general in an attempt to reduce our ecological footprint. To this end we have made many changes, including solar panels, water tanks, insulation and much more. Luckily for us it seemed we were both moving to the same conclusion from different starting points ie. to live more in tune with our natural environment and thereby lessen our impact on the earth and improve our health at the same time.
We remained content to plug away at our inner city patch retrofitting the house where possible and growing a small amount of food but I think my resolve to move was crystallized by 2 different guests that appeared on Richard Fidler's "In Conversation" on ABC radio, within a week of each other.
The first was Richard Louv talling about his book "The Last Child in the Woods; saving our children from nature deficit disorder". What he spoke about really resonated with me and how even though as a family we often go camping or bushwalking, the children were craving more access to green space more regularly. The old quantity versus quality debate. I've long believed in the importance of building greater resilience in our children, as well as ourselves, and as our children enter their teen years they are constantly being tested as to the strength of theirs. Richard speaks often in his book about the power of nature to restore our equilibrium, reduce the impact of stress and increase our resilience. He quotes Rachel Carson " Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts"
The second guests were the authors of "Slow Death by Rubber Duck", Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. As scientists these men set out to examine the research and use themselves as guinea pigs to assess the extent to which every day chemicals are affecting our health. Chemicals such as teflon, anti-bacterials, plasticisers and more. Their results surprised and alarmed even themselves. Some of the chemicals they report on have now been banned in the USA but are still used here in Australia.
All of this cemented our desire to surround ourselves with more of a natural environment but would the children see it the same way? Would they be happy to leave the convenience of the inner city?
Their shouts of glee and the sight of all 3 of them running with abandon across the expanse of our new land soon answered my question.
Living more simply is not about being lazy or opting out or giving up but about working to create a better balance for ourselves and our children.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Well we've finally done it! Yesterday we signed the contract on this 5 acres in Samsonvale. This is something we have talked about for over 10 years. Can we city people cope with a move to the country or are we just romanticising the whole notion of the simple life? During that time I have tried to grow our own vegies on our 400sqm plot in the inner city with mixed success. Winter is the best time here in the subtropics so I now have growing tomatoes, silverbeet, beans, kale, broccoli, carrots and beetroot; along with our small collection of citrus trees - lemon, orange, lime, mandarin and lemonade
Everyone time we thought about moving we would get scared about the travel, changing the kids schools, work, leaving friends so we would convince ourselves that our small garden was enough but after a visit to a beautiful open garden in Toowoomba we decided to just have a look at what land was available. Then we found it - all 20 000sqm of it!
So now begins our journey in planning and designing our home and garden including, veges, fruit, nuts, chooks, cow and calf, cats, dog and maybe a horse if Gessica gets her way. As an architect, Stefano, has been waiting a long time to design his own home from scratch and as a herbalist, I can't wait to have a large enough herb garden to start making some of my own remedies. But for now we must be patient as they finish the subdivision and we get our own home ready to sell.