Monday, March 31, 2014

Dreaming of The Simple Life

My path towards the simple life goes back a few years ago when we were staying with my in-laws in Melbourne.  At the time I was married with two kids living in a big house with a pool, 3 cars between 2 people, a camper trailer, big shed and only 6 kms from the city.  I did however have the perfect house that I built for my family but sadly for me not the perfect marriage.  I could no longer tolerate the extra marital affairs (and these weren't one night drunken stands, they were varied and long term relationships, when I was pregnant and when I was not pregnant).  I even emailed one of girls and told her to stay away from my husband but to no avail, because it was my husband who wanted to have his cake and eat it to.  When I say that, I mean he wanted the wife at home raising the kids, the big house in the suburbs and he also wanted to go out partying, drinking, sleeping around, and generally acting like a spoilt teenager and couldn't understand why I was not happy about it.

I remember fronting up to Relationships Australia by myself one week before giving birth to Sienna thinking how on earth am I going to get through this.  I sat there in tears thinking here I am about to have another baby and yet my husband was drinking by himself stupid until the early hours of the morning every night whilst he chatted up his many girlfriends on the phone all the time while I was there.  It was so disrespectful on so many levels but I couldn't change his behaviour, he had to be the one to do that but he didn't want to so he didn't.  We finished building our dream home only to move into it without the dream marriage, well for me anyway.  I felt hollow inside because I was heartbroken and crushed and my life was now a fake because I had to pretend to be happy because I had everything.  Only I'd gotten to this place in my life but there was no trust in the marriage and no respect by him for me.
Being the mother of a 9 month old and 2.5 year old leaving a marriage like that is not really an option.  To beg and plead to your husband to wake up and stop drinking and cheating or your family won't be around was not enough for him to change.  He happily went along to weekly marriage counselling to avoid me from ending the marriage there and then and talked the talk but did not walk the walk.  All of this just delayed things and promises were broken and yet I was still trapped unless I wanted to head home to Mum's with two young children and nothing else.  

It was frightening, in the marriage, outside of the marriage and it all seems over whelming about where we would live, how we would end up, how our life would look like.  In fact stress is still very much a part of our lives because of this person but that's just how it is.  When I say our lives, I really mean me because of the actions of a certain person still manages to cause great deals of stress to this day.

When my little family was in limbo (ie in the marital home without him living there but obviously paying dearly emotionally because someone was still in control of our lives) it was very stressful.  One thing I have learnt is that you can't change or control other people however I could only control my own life so the first thing I did was set up my veggie garden instead of putting it on hold.  I kept thinking there is no reason to set up a veggie garden now because the house will have to be sold and that could be soon so nothing happened.   

Eventually I went ahead and just did it and set up our two little veggie boxes from Bunnings and put my veggies in and those two little 1.2m x 1.2m were my lifesaver.  Going out to collect tomatoes, cucumber or lettuce for my lunch gave me a huge sense of satisfaction and the feeling inside of complete and utter happiness.  Happiness that couldn't be bought.    That little veggie garden was total therapy and I got such a kick out of it.  Sienna would go outside and pick lettuce for her sandwiches for kindy and bring it into me and I used to think it was so good for her.  James on the other hand loved the veggie garden but didn't love veggies - go figure.  He does now eat lettuce but that's about it.

When we had an oversupply of tomatoes we would give the kindy teacher and assistant a little brown paper bag with cherry tomatoes in them and they would be smiling from ear to ear and very grateful.  The next day we would hear from them that they were the best tomatoes they had ever eaten which again put a smile on our faces.  This little veggie garden was pure happiness.  My sister would come over and pick some lettuce or take a cucumber home and it felt great to be able to give to others.  Have a look at this photo below...early in the morning with a little bit of dew on the grass my children look angelic.  James was into Ben 10 at the time and Sienna dressed in fairy dresses but they were out there checking on how their veggies were growing each morning.  

Going back to the in laws whom we love very much, Nanny & Pop have a lovely veggie garden at their place in Melbourne and when we would stay there Nanny would send Pop downstairs with James to collect some salad stuff for lunch or dinner and I just thought that the food tasted amazing, right there in your backyard we would be eating beautiful home grown food.  I was so jealous (in a good way ie I wanted a veggie garden of my own) of what they had created for themselves.  Here's Pop in his garden.

Whilst in Melbourne I would ask questions about growing things, read through all their Gardening Australia magazines including going to their bookshelves and reading the magazines that were 2-3 years old and dream of growing veggies and having chooks one day.  I didn't know how I was going to have chooks because I was a bit intimidated by them to be honest.  As kids we had cats but how was I going to handle a chook I didn't know but it sounded really great to be able to eat fresh eggs.

While I was in Melbourne I would visit the local Borders Bookshop (which no longer exists) and would search the store high and low for books on these things and just wanted to read more.  I bought three books over a period of days and the first one was called "A Slice of Organic Life".  The cover looked organic, it had a chook on the front and the list of things on the front read:- bake bread, plant a tree, shop locally, keep chickens, grow salad on a windowsill, pick berries, collect rainwater, make jam, raise a pig, save energy, compost, design a herb garden, preserve your harvest.  All of these things sounded so "grounded" to me and I read the book cover to cover in Melbourne in between cups of coffee and sitting in Nanny & Pop's back garden with James and Sienna playing.  I loved that these grandparents (my ex's parents) were so involved with James and Sienna and bringing us "down to earth".  I remember Nanny teaching James about counting and grouping pegs together on the concrete while she was pegging the washing.  James, how many pegs altogether, how many groups of pegs are there, how many pegs in each group.  It was beautiful to watch and beautiful to be around and yet it was so wholesome and I loved being in their home and back yard.  Pop would be pottering in the garden, James would be tinkering with him and Sienna would be chasing or playing with their cat.  We have such fond memories of our visits there.  Nanny and Pop are very much involved in James and Sienna's lives from week to week and in fact this week they both received a postcard in the shape of the Tasmanian Devil as they are in Tassie on a little holiday.

One of the other books I purchased was "Organic" by Don Burke of the famous "Burke's Backyard" (sadly which no longer exists as well).  This book is Australian and is a guide to growing organic food, raising chickens and beautiful cake recipes using zucchini.  My mother in law has made it and said it's great. It showed a family new to veggie gardening how to set one up, what to plant and how to crop rotate.  It has a detailed description of individual veggies when to pick, how to harvest and how to store.

The other book I purchased was called "Vegie Patch" How to grow your own food.

Note: These books whilst not available at The Book Depository UK would be available other places.

I would read about some of the aspects of the simple life and couldn't get enough of it but that dream was so far off the horizon because I didn't even know where we would be living.  I also knew that there seemed to be an "all or nothing" when it came to this type of thing. If you were a hippy you would be growing veggies, not spending a lot of money and not using much electricity etc.  Most of us thought to have the "organic type of life" you really had to live in the country with lots of land.  It seemed odd for people in the city to be growing veggies and keeping chooks but these things gradually started to creep into suburbia.  When my mother was young everybody had a water tank and everybody kept chooks.  When I built our big house we put in 3 water tanks off our shed because Brisbane was in a drought and water tanks were necessary, so everything old was new again like a cycle.  

Once again while the kids and I were still living at our marital home by ourselves I decided we were getting chooks and the chooks could be moved with us, if and when the house was sold.  I was not waiting any longer to live our lives and we went ahead and bought our first two chooks called Coco (James chook) and Fluffy (Sienna's chook).  Thanks to Pop for putting our chicken coop together when he was visiting from Melbourne otherwise it might still be in the box.  He had two fabulous helpers James and Sienna however I'm not sure how much help they were too him but it's all part of the learning experience.


Some of the food we grew in these two little veggie boxes was some of the most satisfying food we had ever eaten and along with the health benefits of food being grown without chemicals, the kids could see where food came from, help garden and it made us all feel good.

And this photo in front of the veggie patch....don't you love the body language.  Sienna is a hugger and you guessed it, James does not like his sister getting all mushy on him.

With all of this I think "simple living" evolves over time and as Rhonda says in her book "Down to Earth" and her recent "Simple Life" Penguin Special book simple living" is different for everyone.  Simple Living can be learning how to make jam or baking biscuits from scratch and there's no finish line. My book arrived at my doorstep this morning so at lunch time I made myself some lunch and a cup of coffee and read the little "Simple Life" book from front to back.  It's a lovely little read and that's why I was thinking about how I got to this place.  Yes, my house has too much stuff in it and needs decluttering, my veggie garden needs some TLC this weekend and I need to make another batch of soap but I know what I want for myself and my kids and that is "down to earth, back to basics" living which is Simple Living.  Rhonda mentions in her book if you don't like hard work and you want everything done for you Simple Living is not for you because we all know that it would be easier to buy soap from the shop, buy pizza bases at the supermarket rather than make your own and simple living means you need to be organized.  However the satisfaction and happiness that comes from learning these skills and/or making and doing some of these things is incredibly rewarding.

I recently wrote about what we have achieved on our path to simple living here and sometimes I'm organized and other times I'm not, but I strive to stay on track because I know where I'm headed.  It's about me guiding two very young people and teaching them about these life skills that will help them grow up into independent young people.  It's about sitting down in the evening together at the dinner table and talking about our day.  It's about showing them how to make bake healthy snacks and caring for pets.  It's about giving cheese making a go even if it seems scary and putting it on home made pizza's.  It's about doing the best we can and having each other to love and laugh and to be silly with.  We do things here on a small scale but what we do we really love.  We recently grew corn and we only had a small harvest because we only had a few plants but the joy those few cobs of corn gave us, watching the corn grow, to putting it on our pizza is priceless.

So from all those years ago in Melbourne when I read an article written by Rhonda in the Burkes Backyard Magazine going to Borders Books looking for books on this simple life it's great that Rhonda's Down to Earth book was published and that she's also writing these special little books.  I like the fact that everyone can design their own simple life, what suits one family may not suit another.  If you have no desire to ever make soap you don't have to, pick and chose things that interest you and add a new skill to your list whenever you feel you've mastered the last one.  There is a lot of work, planning and organizing that goes with simple living however there are so many rewards that money simple can't buy.  We can start along the path of simple living even when our lives are in complete turmoil as mine was when I set my veggie garden up.  We can start growing veggies in pots if we live in a unit or if you don't have a lot of time but enjoying one little new thing is rewarding and satisfying and sharing our knowledge with our like minded friends.  We are all carving out a life for ourselves and we can direct that life towards rewarding experiences that go along with simple living.  As the catch phrase goes, it's about the journey, not the destination.   


  1. I don't have time to read all of this right now. I have read as much as time allows and I am thoroughly enjoying it! So inspiring and I also feel such empathy for the struggles you have gone through! Keep up the good work on your blog! I really enjoy it! I will come back and read the rest as soon as I am able!

  2. Kathy, what a strong lady you are and what a great mum too :) I totally agree that gardens are good for the soul! x

  3. Bravo !!! I had no idea this was your was hard enough with 2 early twenties kids, how you managed with 2 littlies is amazing.... sooooo much worry and stress, well done .
    So good that you are on track and enjoying life now.

  4. I read your blog today and can only say "what a fool " the man you married was. I look at your two beautiful children and can't believe the stupidity of some human is his loss and you are doing an amazing job with your young family. The "simple life" is not that simple but so rewarding...I also found the book "a slice of organic life" along my simple life you I read it from cover to cover and continue to refer to it...just wish I had more land so I could have livestock, not just my chooks. I sincerely hope you continue to find joy in life and can move forward to a new relationship. you are a very courageous woman and deserve to be respected and congratulated.

  5. You are a very strong woman Kathy and a fantastic role model to those two beautiful children of yours.

  6. Oh Kathy you are such a strong, courageous woman!! What a terrible situation to bounce back from. Your ex is the loser in more than one way. You should be so proud of the life you are living and showing your children. I wish I could give you a tight squeezy cuddle right now. Warmest of regards, Jan x

  7. What a journey you have had so far Kathy, I feel for you and your children. The situation is not ideal, however you have kept moving forward and are taking charge of your own life.
    To see that at one point the big house and all that goes with it was the dream and then to discover that really it is the simple life that gives meaning, that is a great journey.
    Sending you warm thoughts and encouragement to keep going. Lee

  8. Kathy, what a heart wrenching story! :-( Life can be so hard at times but I can see that you making changes towards a simple life and that that is giving you joy. Your children are beautiful and your veggies look great. Well done!

  9. What a wonderful post and an amazing story. You must be a very strong person to do what you did, I hope you have found happiness :)

  10. Hi Kathy, you and your beautiful children have had an incredibly tough journey. It is credit to you that you have created a safe haven and home for your children. It is interesting that your journey led you to nourish your soul with simple living. What a gift you have found through adversity.

  11. You've done an amazing job Kathy, and true life is always a journey. Like a garden it is never finished. An old friend said that to me when I was a young mother . I had mentioned that our garden was finished...little did I know....I'm now a grandmother a few times over and still ready for learning...the next stage being husband retiring and our new adventure on the pension. Take care and have courage.
    Alexa from Sydney and blogging at

  12. Hi Kathy,

    Just catching up on your last few Posts here. Goodness me, you've done such an amazing job to come out of that rough old time to the place you are now, a place of love and happiness with your beautiful children. Thank you for sharing your journey....

    Mel xxx

  13. Wow, you are very strong and I feel humbled to have heard your story. Thank goodness for Dads yours looks to have built a fantastic chook house and been a rock during the harder times. It doesn't matter how big or small your boxes your veggie garden looks to be loved.

    1. Very inspiring, I'd love to have a veggie garden too