My husband Tom and I live with my 11 year old son in a small Queenslander on Australia’s Sunshine Coast. Our property is 34 acres, which we have converted to a permaculture demonstration site. We now run permaculture and self-reliance courses on the property.
Geese and chickens in the resource paddock, and goats on dam wall
Tom comes from a farming background. When he grew up there was no money or time (or a phone) to call someone when something broke down. So he learned from a very early age to fix things himself with whatever was available. He also learned that everything can become a resource, and knows what to look out for. A lot of people we know call us and ask us whether we would like something they are about to throw away. We hardly ever say no. Everything may have a use sometime.
Some of our cows checking out a pile of mulch, which was dropped off
when some trees had to be removed in the area.
I have a passion for cooking and food processing. I love living simply because it makes my life simple. This lifestyle wasn’t something I consciously set out to live, but it has become very satisfying.
Homemade beef and pumpkin curry with mildly spiced Taro and ChokoChilli Sauce
The first thing was not having a television. Television, the drug of a nation, breeding ignorance and feeding radiation (to quote some wise words from a song from the eighties…). We watch a movie on occasion, but we do not watch commercial television at all. This frees up all this time to follow your passions, read, spend time together or learn something.
Marimba playing, one of our favourite pastimes. Pictured is Kkarimba,
our local community marimba band, together now for 7 years.
We hardly buy any food. I may buy some organic tomato sauce if we do not have enough tomatoes and some coconut cream, but our meat, most of our fruit and vegetables are all home grown.
At the moment we cook on natural gas, but there are plans to make a biodigester for the manure created on the property, so that we can cook with methane gas in the future. In winter we mainly cook on the wood stove, which heats the house as well.
Our woodstove with pots of tea, lunch and bread rising on the top shelf
Our water is heated by a solar hot water service which we were able to buy cheap second hand because it had a crack in it. Tom fixed the crack and it works beautifully. If we do not have any sun for a few days, we light the booster, which is a wood fired system made up by Tom.
Our wood fired water heater booster
We live a fair way out of town, so unfortunately still need the car to get us places. We try and only use the car when we have a number of things we need to do, lists are made over time and taken when we need to go into town.
We try and re-use / recycle everything on the property. We make our own compost, fertiliser and mulch and try to have as minimal outside input as possible at this stage. We are aiming for less all the time, it is a process that may take a little time though. We catch most of our own waste and compost it or keep it for later use.
Tom and a WWOOFer turning the 18 day compost
We have found that life becomes simple when you live simply. There is so much joy to be found in life, and that only becomes evident when all the other outside stuff is not there. Hands in the soil, making and eating your own food is so rewarding, both mentally and physically.
Our kitchen garden
We cannot be self sufficient without a community, so we would never claim to be self sufficient. Fossil fuels are still used, so we are a fair way off yet. But we try to be as self reliant as possible. Tom services the cars himself, and if anything breaks he fixes it. We grow our own food and deal with most of our own waste. We are responsible for our own water (water tanks), including drainage and retaining of water. If money runs out tomorrow we will still be able to feed ourselves. That is a comforting thought.
One of our water tanks, doubling as a vine grower
We are so passionate about our lifestyle and how it empowers us, we now run courses on the property, including a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course, Self Reliance Skills course, Earthworks and Sustainable Building courses. We also run a 10-week Permaculture Lifeskills Internship for people who are keen to live it. We aim to provide education for truly sustainable living to affect world change. It is wonderful to see people empowered after doing a course with us, realising that they can do things themselves.
Tom teaching a group of PDC students
I am a firm believer in being the change I want to see in the world. Life needs to become simpler if we want to be able to live on this planet for a few more generations. We can only start with ourselves.
Tom and Zaia Kendall head the Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia and run regular permaculture and self reliance courses and internships. Visit their website to find out more about them, what they do and the courses they run at permaculturesunshinecoast.org.