Voluntary Simplicity: In the Garden


Simple living, or voluntary simplicity isn’t a new concept in this household, but it is one that gets constantly edited, it evolves and gets reassessed as needed. It’s also something that while my children have always grown up with it, as this stage of their lives I’m finding I’m explaining more of why we make certain conscious decisions, and the longer term effects of those decisions. The why we do things and not just because.

Sometimes I can feel like I’m all over it and other times it feels like I’m floating in mini version of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The good thing about that though, is despite occasional overwhelming feelings there’s always something that shifts and then counter balanced by a complete sense of fully bodied satisfaction, (and that is always a good thing.)

Just over 12 months ago we swapped small apartment inner city living for a house in a smaller city, and surrounding suburban area. It’s close to shops, schools, transport and health caregivers when needed.

Another important choice for us was to be able to grow things. So now with the multiple neighbours that I know by name, there came a fairly blank canvas space of a backyard.

Making that move meant initially we didn’t have a lot of things that we would need (like) to embark on growing a lot of our own vegetables. Wheelbarrows, spades, pitch forks etc weren’t items that I had needed to access with a previously small shared concrete city courtyard.


To get started with our growing, somethings we bought straight up, (I knew there would be an initial outlay of items as our number one aim was to get things growing. We wanted to eat from our back door step!) Somethings were given to us, somethings passed on to us as were no longer needed by the original owners. Somethings we bought second hand, and some the things we simply borrowed.

Ultimate Goal? To be growing as much as possible utilising the space we have, keeping costs down and equipment to a bare minimum.

How did we set about it and how do we continue to manage it? (As I mentioned it’s a constantly evolving process.)

Gumtree- either bought second hand or freebies, also been great for selling things we no longer needed to keep clutter to a minimum and redirect $ to something else more useful.

Borrow- lawn mowers we borrowed two before buying our own push mower. I still get a smug sense of satisfaction of hearing virtually nothing when mowing the lawn. As more grass gets turned over for edible growing space, I’m hoping the lawn mowers use will gradually decrease.

Trade- Somethings I refused outright to get, and a whipper snipper was one of them. Borrow one sure, but I didn’t want to buy one. (Actually we never did end up borrowing one either.) Living in an area where people pride themselves on their grass care. I asked a neighbour if he would trade the occasional edging out the front for baked goods. He could sleep easier knowing our edges were looking less scruffy and my conscience was clear knowing we didn’t have a garage full of implements that might be used once in a blue moon.

Hire- And if we do change our mind on using that whipper snipper, or anything else for that matter. Well I can hire one from a household a couple of km’s away at an hourly rate from Open Shed. (Another awesome example of the share economy.)


There will always be a juggle between keeping/finding/sourcing things that might be useful in the future, (but have no immediate use) and keeping our gardening gear to a minimum, (that’s our reality and the way we’ve chosen to do things in this period. While tools are a fairly easy decision. I’m finding more and more discarded wood finding its way in as it has the potential to be made into something else entirely. I’m ok with that, as mentioned in the beginning, it’s an evolving process. Choices are made, as opportunities present themselves.

Conscious decisions over unthinkingly just taking… this is our version of voluntary simplicity, in the garden.

Helpful links


Open Shed



The Garden that Grows

garden || cityhippyfarmgirl

It’s 5.30am and there is a grey stillness to the morning. Although light the sun won’t properly rise for another 15 minutes or so. The quiet hour, the garden hour. It’s summer holiday period round these parts and a different rhythm that doesn’t get found often. Mornings have been spent in two ways of late. Either by the waters edge or here, in the garden.

After a year now of creating beds, building soil profiles, planting, transplanting, weeding, growing, harvesting and eating. This small city garden has just now gone through 4 seasons.

We’ve tracked shadows during the colder months, picked 10’s of kilos of tomatoes during the warm, and frowned over countless unseen critters and their impact on our growings.

This is something that has been a long time in the making. Where small potted plants gave way for a variety of raised garden beds. There are still lessons to be learnt, corners to build up, and plants to try out, but it’s a start, and a wonderful one at that. A tiny corner to take refuge from the noise of the day, a place to grow vegetables and ideas. A pocket of edible greens in an otherwise landscape of lawns.

It’s not perfect, and there are still a multitude of lumps to work through, but it’s got sun, soil, water, and enthusiasm. With that goes a multitude of possibilities.

This is the garden that grows.


More garden posts…

…and then the slugs moved in.

Best flowers to grow for you and your bees

Compost, sharing the love

The City Permaculture Garden- 10 lessons in 3 months

When you are creating a garden from scratch, and prior to that, most of your gardening glory has been generally from the potted kind. Lessons are going to be learnt, and swiftly so. I thought I would share ten recent lessons, (and I’m sure as eggs, there will be ten more waiting in the wings.)

kale || cityhippyfarmgirl

10 (City Permaculture Patch) Lessons Learnt in 3 Months

  1. Australian summers can be bloody hot. This past one was of no exception. Soaring temperatures make it hard for little seeds and seedlings to cope. Lesson Learnt? Stunted growth and inability to simply give growing from seed a fair crack- it’s just too damn hot.
  2. Shade cloth. Yep, you need that stuff over summer. While I was eccstatic that I had more sun loving hours to play with for growth. Lesson Learnt? During the middle of a summer day, shade cloth was a must when the garden was so unestablished. Later on down the track I’m hoping there will be other plants to offer more shade for growing the smaller delicate stuff.
  3. Soldier Fly Larvae, all kinds of beneficial awesomeness in a small segmented critter type way. Lesson learnt? Certainly not the maggots you thought they were first up.
  4. *Compost, dead easy to set up and maintain. While there was certainly an initial juggle of ingredients as I hadn’t played with these kinds of bins before, there are now two going strong. Lesson learnt? For me composts which at this stage are a bit heavier on the nitrogen based ingredients, lime is definitely necessary. compost || cityhippyfarmgirl
  5. Critters. There will always be a battle with critters. Growing your plants from seed, nurturing those seedlings, planting with loving care, only to not pay attention to them for 24 hours and find them being turned into seedling latticing by overly confident caterpillars. That’s just bloody disappointing people. Lesson learnt? Caterpillars, they can be truly little stinkers.
  6. Soil. Ahhh, I get it, I totally get it. Why people can get so enthusiastic, animated and obsessive about the stuff. It’s so important, so incredibly important! Ongoing lessons, on getting the balance right for optimal growing. Soil was bought in and it simply just didn’t have enough good stuff in there despite the labelling. Lesson learnt? If you have diversity in your soil, you are going to have much better growing conditions.
  7. Aphids. Persistent little buggers aren’t they. I’m delighted to have a wonderful amount of ladybeetles in the garden. However no amount of beneficial garden bugs could hoover through these critters. Lesson learnt? Do something about them when you first notice them…sincere apologies cucumbers. zinnia || cityhippyfarmgirl
  8. Zinnia. Incredibly easy to grow from seed, with seemingly very little effort. They have made a great barrier to protect more delicate growings, they bring in lots of happy pollinators, and are beautifully bright and colourful. Lesson learnt? Come the slightly cooler weather and mould can set on the leaves if sown too close together.
  9. I already knew it, but it really has become abundantly clear. You put the extra effort in, you reap the rewards down the track. Good planning is essential, along with some good old fashioned, blood, sweat and tears. (If tears aren’t needed, some some good old spirited pirate style cursing is always a good all rounder.)
  10. Tea, tastes rather excellent while wandering around your slowly establishing garden in the sweet autumn morning light, or alternatively that glass of wine in the late evening. Lessons learnt? By the end of the glass of wine, I’m less bothered by the aphids and this wandering around your garden? Yes, a person could get used to that, oh yes indeed.permaculture garden || cityhippyfarmgirl

I recently did another post all about becoming a compost geek over on the Milkwood if you are interested. Compost, it’s damn important stuff!

Permaculture and Creative (urban) Living

permaculture and creative urban living

Having been throwing myself into all things permaculture minded for the past good few years, it was a little tricky looking over at all the identical perfectly mown lawns and not think of how I would like to quietly rip a good proportion of all that grass up.

Sure it wasn’t mine to rip up, but what an enticing dream it would be.

Instead of perfectly manicured ornamental gardens with impeccable weed free edging, there instead might be a line of fruit giving trees all the way up the street as far as the eye could see. All within easy reach of the foot path, all for people to pluck as they needed, and as often as taste buds sung out.

This line of fruit trees would also give a little shade to those that chose to walk the many uphills under a blazing summer sun. The ones that forewent the air-conditioned comfort of cars, that would drive on unseeing to all that food yet to be foraged by knowing fingers.

Or maybe there would be a canopy of beans to walk through, that might be right next to a forest of nuts and bananas, a pedestrian round about, with herbs circling in a mandala kind of fashion.

The possibilities are deliciously endless and certainly not restricted to the street side. So how does permaculture entwine with creative living?

Well in my mind they lie hand in hand, it’s an ability to think outside the square. To be able to create and be adaptable to the environment that you’ve been placed. Making do with what you have essentially, and in a sustainable fashion, thriving from within it. There are patterns, there are creations, and there are probably a multitude of pops of colour.

finding patterns

finding patterns

The more formal definition of permaculture…

What is Permaculture?

‘Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.’ [David Holgrem]

Finding a definition of creativity is a little harder to narrow down. There are so many branches to the word, and as there should be, the word in itself is a creative one of which meaning depends on the user alone.

Not restricting the word to the art world, I did like this line though when reading through the many variations…

‘Creativity is the ability to transcend the ordinary’

And that brings me back to those perfectly damn mown lawns again.

Whether you live in a busy city studio with a cat named Peter or an off grid farm that is the dictionary definition of diversity. What would you do with a street full of perfectly manicured, grassed gardens? Tell me… or even better, what HAVE you done? I’d lovvvve to know.


(This post is 1 of 3 in a series on creativity.)

Extra Bits 

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou

Permaculture Principles– a mighty resource that will get you started.

Buderim’s “Eat Street”Urban Food Street, a neighbourhood initiative that started from a conversation about over priced limes 7 years ago. This initiative now covers 11 streets, with people moving into the area, because they want to be involved.

Urban Farming- The Leaky Pipe