Archive for April, 2012

The Thrifty Gardeners

Among my library finds this week were two real gems which have long been on my amazon wishlist. The Edible Garden and The Thrifty Gardener by Alys Fowler. I’m in the process of planning our veggie patch, or food garden, as Alys would prefer. Her gardening situation is about as far from mine as possible. She gardens in the cool, fertile soil of England, where her major pests and predators include moles and hedgehogs, whilst her chief concern is how to extend the growing season through the British winter. My garden is in the backwaters of hot, windy Brisbane. My major predators will be possums and native turkeys (yes, turkeys). My climate is so warm that is seems, to my infinite sorrow, unlikely I can grow garlic. If I’m honest, the real allure of the books was Alys’s wild hair and charming, punk permaculture aesthetic.

And yet, organic gardening has common threads, the world over. Feed the soil, let the soil feed the plants. Imitate nature, not the farmers’ fields. Live with the holes in your lettuce. A hole-y lettuce leaf is better than a sprayed one.

While Alys’ thrifty ideas are getting me riled up with enthusiasm, there have been a few checks to this process. Even a thrifty gardener needs some cash, apparently. Wine crate pots are certainly charming, but they aren’t free here. Cheap potting mix is about as fertile as a pile of rotting socks. And Bunnings’ lowest prices are just the beginning of a long list of garden inputs that adds up very quickly. Lucky the girl who has a mum to buy a pair of gardening gloves and a hand trowel or two.

A thrifty gardener, it seems, must wait. Wait while the compost bin does its thing. Wait while the green manure brings life back to the soil. Wait while the toilet rolls pile up for seed raising. Wait while tools and hardware are thrifted or borrowed. Wait while the bank balance recovers enough to buy bales of mulch and bags of sheep poo.

But there’s plenty of fun to be had in the meantime. Like perusing the seed catalogues of Eden Seeds or The Digger’s Club, or searching out local sources of manure and knowledge, or cheering on a husband who’s building a cage to keep out possums and bush turkeys.

Oh, and reading books by a British girl with amazing hair who is growing food, like you are, on the other side of the world.

Alys Fowler, The Thrifty Gardener

Alys Fowler, "The Thrifty Gardener"


Making Do

On Tuesday, a twenty foot shipping container arrived at our new house. It contained a mixture of things stored away since we first left for Germany and things brought over courtesy of the University of Queensland.

It’s been well over two months that the four of us have been living from two suitcases and a portable cot. The same four or five changes of clothes, the same bedtime stories, a small pile of bibs and a bundle of carefully selected knitting needles; this outfit saw us through several weeks in Sydney, a month in a rented granny flat and two weeks in an empty house where we supplemented the arrangement with borrowed camping gear. It was, at times, tiresome to say the least. However, I also did find it rather liberating. It’s so healthy to be reminded that our stuff is just stuff. I also found it just a little exciting. Being low on play things (for both grown ups and children) and high on time to fill meant being more resourceful. I quickly fell in love with Brisbane City Library. The nearest op shop supplied us with craft materials, a three dollar ice block mould and a blender for milkshakes and baby food. Some glue, pavement chalk and the odd sticker, and we more or less kept ourselves in thrifty fun for two long months. If I’m honest, this is the kind of fun I always plan but never make time for when Lego or Play School are at hand. And while I’m thrilled to be reunited with my sewing machine and the remaining ninety percent of my wardrobe, I hope I’m less inclined to think of these things as any more than stuff.

Winter sun

Thanks all for the encouraging comments. I’ve felt better since I wrote. I’ve even been looking at photos, and thought I’d share some here. We had very mild weather for December and much of January, and these are the days I’ll remember. One in the sling, one hand-in-hand, clear skies, bright sun, icy chill.

In Brisbane


1. Person who resides or originates from Queensland, Australia.

2. Type of timber house, popular between 1840 and WWII, designed to maximise airflow and minimise extremes of heat.

First thing that happened after we collected our bags at Brisbane airport: got stuck in an elevator for thirty minutes. Nice one Brisbane. Again, I’ve delayed blogging about this latest seismic shift for the Wright family. Reasons include: a worrying illness, a frantic househunt, my card reader not working (and my fear that photo-less posts aren’t sufficiently interesting) and I must admit, homesickness for Germany. This last one is possibly the main reason, the real reason. I’ve been unwilling to open this blog and think about where we have been and where we are now. Why am I “homesick” now that I am “home”? Perversity of nature I suppose. My nature, specifically.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about where to take this blog now that my time overseas has ended. Instead of an ancient, foreign city to see through my eyes or lens, there is only suburban Brisbane. I’ve heard it said numerous times of late that Brisbane is Australia’s new hot city. And true enough, there is plenty to discover here, and I have plenty to say about the experience of moving back. But my posts will have to be less visual, if only because a new computer is not high on the list, and also because each photo takes me a very long time to resize and upload whilst my children occupy me for a very long time each day. If anyone can solve the slow photo issues for me, I’m all ears.

What I’d like to say is thank you, dear readers, for walking with me these last two years, when I was very far away (or close by for those in Germany). For now, I’ll keep writing when I’m able, or when it helps me, or when I have a thought to share. I’ll do my best to be interesting, and I’ll post photos when I can. Perhaps, rather than avoiding these painful feelings that accompany thoughts of Germany, I’ll make use of them here, somehow.

About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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