Saturday, 1 November 2008


Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Most people would presume that there’s nothing simple about a family of eight. We are two adults in our 30s with six children aged 4 to 14 years.

I’ve always been interested in living simply. As a teen I loved to buy a bargain item of clothing from the op shop and help Mum alter it into the perfect outfit. I’m not sure Mum understood, but she was always supportive. I’ve planted things into the earth my whole life, for me that’s just part of being. My husband doesn’t have a similar background, but he’s green at heart and a very practical person. My enthusiasm and his understanding compliment each other.

We’ve almost always lived on one income, and sometimes it was a low income. All the tricks of a simple, organised, frugal lifestyle meant that life almost always feels abundant. And it’s that feeling of abundance and the gratitude for enough that has encouraged me to continue with living simply even when we’ve been able to afford to be more frivilous.

You don’t need to be a green thumb or a domestic goddess with endless spare hours each day to live more simply. That’s why it’s called simple living. We regularly make changes in our lives to save a little money or tread more gently on the planet (and those two often go hand-in-hand). These positive changes make such a difference not only to our own lives, but the future of our society. Each one of us can make a difference. Choosing the simple or green option doesn’t mean we’re missing out on anything. Simplicity really is abundance in plain clothes!

My passions are growing food, and encouraging children to connect with nature. We homeschool our tribe, which allows us a lot of time to simply be in nature. We’ve managed that in an urban backyard as well as here on the farm. As a child I lived in high-rise units for a time but still had contact with plants and animals every day. Children need nature more than anything – and for so many children it’s the thing they have the least contact with! Our children are blessed to have lots of space to roam, animals to care for and care about, and encouragement to plant seeds, nurture the gardens and reap the abundant rewards. Snacking from the vegie patch tastes so good! I write seasonal and gardening columns for Australian and international magazines and websites, where I share ideas with other families who understand the importance of balancing the lives of our little ones with time outdoors, noticing the seasons and creating family traditions.

Years ago I used to read books about food forests and wish for more land, more time, more money to set up the gardens… I was missing the point. There was enough in my life already – seeds to save from the vegie scraps, green waste to compost, a plethora of books in the library and kind-hearted neighbours from whom I could learn, and swap seeds and produce with. And so the garden grew. And it grew onto a spare block of land next to our house. And materials were recycled and we waited until the things we needed came our way. And the garden kept growing – big, abundant patches of food plants, chickens for eggs, entertainment and fertilising manure, fruiting trees and vines, rainwater tanks, a roadside stall to make a little pocket money from the excess… And it rarely seemed like work. Then it came time to move. We’ve come to the perfect place to create the food forest, and have one hundred times the skills we had back in the days of wishing for more, more, more. There is a season for everything in life, after all.

"Simplicity really is abundance in plain clothes!"