29 September 2015

Our Garden Re-design :: Spiral vs Line

A few weeks ago, I looked out the kitchen window and said to Huz "I think we need to remove the spiral. We need straight beds if we're going to increase our yield". He shrugged and wasn't particularly fussed either way, a little sceptical about how much food we could actually get from our garden anyway. He'd never had much interest in growing veggies, despite his enthusiasm for everything else permaculture. Then a week later he spent the day diving into skills for growing food with Good Life Permaculture. He learnt everything from composting to market gardening, realised he already knew a bunch of stuff with his ecological background and years of gardening, and it all just clicked.  He decided it was all about two things: tools and straight lines.

Initially we chose a spiral shape for our vegetable garden in an attempt to slow the flow of nutrients, water and ourselves through the garden. We actively sought something whimsical that would take us out there and slow our own energy flow a bit, inviting us to linger. Knowing spirals to be pretty whimsical and therapeutic, it seemed perfect. An experiment in energy and growth and playfulness within a permaculture system.

The spiral worked really well for a while. We'd converted a large expanse of lawn to something productive. We'd managed to find a system of rotating guilds that flowed though the spiral with the seasons. It was pretty hippy-dippy ace. But it wasn't as productive as it could have been and the difficulty of integrating animals, particularly chooks, into the veggie garden bothered me. Plus a curved line can be harder to cultivate and a crop-rotation system in spiral format seriously messes with your head! Plus we'd managed to find that slowing of energy we craved, that space to daydream, around the edges of the veggie garden, in the food forest.

So right now, along with everything else in our lives it seems, we're going for a complete overhaul. Hundreds of convict bricks have been pulled up again and paths are being re-defined. We've begun the back (and arm!) breaking process of double-digging the soil as we create long, straight beds, slightly reminiscent of a French market garden.

It's the first time we've really dug a garden bed, always opting for raised beds in the past. But we're hoping to give ourselves just a little extra topsoil in our mega-heavy-clay-soil garden. We're observing and chatting about the history of certain patches of soil, what grew where and how and why the soil is the way it is. It's surprising the difference chooks can make to a small patch of heavy clay soil in just one month and how, even months later, you can tell that they've been there by the way the solid crumbles in your hands. We're thrilled that every little bit of effort we've put in so far has paid off. There are some seriously lush areas of topsoil there! We're so glad that our years as custodians of this particular patch of soil haven't been wasted, as slow as the progress seems to have been. It's also surprising how when you've lived somewhere for many years, you can still find remnants of those who've lived there before - old pipes, rusty pliers, broken teacups hidden beneath the soil. We're taking note and learning more as we go.

We're spending long days in the garden, working around the clock to make sure we get it going as soon as humanly possible. Each of us getting involved and taking a role into the construction of something we hope will help feed us and help the budget stretch a little further. We're buying way too many tomato plants at the RTBG fundraiser tomato sale. Huz is nerding out, planning crop rotations and putting his love of spreadsheets to good use. We're making sure we harvest the little bits we can from what's left from the winter garden, and feeling super excited to watch our spring garden evolve through future seasons.

How does your garden grow this spring? 
Have you ever created a garden you loved and dug it up to begin again?

Don't forget our next Seedlings Permaculture for Families e-course begins on October 1st - that's two days from now! A perfect time to dig deep and find your permie mojo. 

It's really important to us that Seedlings is accessible to as many people as possible. So before we begin, we're offering two full scholarships for this  round. If you, or someone you know, would like to join in but isn't in a position to afford it right now, please email us at hello@spiralgarden.com.au. We'd love to hear from you! 

Happy gardening! 

~ Lauren. xx

22 September 2015

Weekend Adventurers :: Sisters Beach

Never let it be said that we're not spontaneous… As Little Owlet's 9th birthday approached, in the depths of winter this year, so did a rather dreadful head cold. We'd planned a slumber party with some of Little Owlet's then dearest friends. It was to be her first proper party all of her own. But as the days drew nearer, so did the sniffles so we decided at the last moment to cancel the party, go with her next favourite option, save the birthday, pack up the car and head off to places unknown - North West Tasmania!


The last time Huz and I visited the north west was on our honeymoon. So it had been a while. We found a super lovely, affordable and comfy shack at the beautiful sleepy beach town, Sisters Beach. Leaving at lunchtime, car packed full of owlets and tissues, we arrived just before dark. Within moments we had the fire lit and hunkered in for what appeared to be one of the wettest weekends we've seen in a long time.


The next four days are a blur of long car drives, volcanic soil, impressive coastlines, amazing geology, sneezes, brain sponges, sideways rain, and rainbows. We spent hours pottering around Sisters Beach, looking at rock pools, shells, a cave and Little Owlet's namesake plant. We ventured to Table Cape lighthouse in squally winds and Rocky Cape National Park to see the beautiful colours and textures of the coastal heathland there.


On Little Owlet's birthday, we headed for a very quiet Stanley (Monday morning mid-winter is super quiet there!), to admire The Nut and have devonshire tea. Knowing Little Owlet's preference for all things old fashioned, we wandered through Highfield House, soaking up the incredible views and detailed stories of the house at its peak, while escaping the soaking rain.

Later that evening, we celebrated with cake, lego and hot chocolates. We mixed the cake by hand, with a fork, each taking it in turn to cream the butter and whip the icing. It was a slow and pretty much perfect birthday, all things considered. Lamenting our return home, we extended our stay an extra night allowing some space to flop and relax and take in things a little more slowly. We rested and enjoyed the modern, clutter-free space while the rain pelted down outside. I think it's the wettest holiday away we've spent anywhere. But it was refreshing and so much fun and very much needed. Even if we did all return home with the dreaded lurgy and a car full of tissues. Even if it did feel like everything was working against us. It felt like that was exactly where we needed to be.


Before we left we left Sisters Beach to come home, we ventured out on a small walk at the rocky end of the beach, to a place called Wet Cave, which was actually much drier than the area immediately outside it. But in Tasmania, rain often means rainbows so we were happy to see a beautiful one of those too before we headed home. We've vowed to return in warmer weather to explore some more of this beautiful part of the world. To breath in some of that cleanest air and see some of that amazing geology again, as well as all the treasures we missed! As small as it is, I don't think we'll ever tire of exploring the little corners and hidden nooks on this beautiful island. Each so different and breathtaking. Plenty of weekend adventures for many years to come!

Where have you been adventuring lately? 
Have you ever had perfectly imperfect rainy holiday? 

Happy adventuring!

~ Lauren. xx

21 September 2015

Unschool Monday :: What Happened Next

So we left you hanging there a bit, hey? Winter was long and difficult and rather awful. In the garden, we were unprepared for the repeated frosts that kept our plants from growing and providing much yield - it seemed to mirror everything else. Things got worse. It was ugly and heavy and heart breaking. The school forms were filled out with lumps in our throats and we very nearly did go ahead with Plan B. But we didn't.

It turns out we love what we do and the way we do it so much that the Owlets decided that school isn't the answer, for now. So we're putting some extra effort into keeping things bubbling along. Which is so much easier now that Spring is here. I don't think I've looked forward to a change of seasons so much in all my life! We've re-connected with some super lovely people who've brought so much positivity. Our connection with the Owlets has strengthened as they've appreciated our complete honesty and open arms. We've all learnt a whole lot.

Choosing to see a world full of opportunities, we've begun learning new skills, trying new things and redefining ourselves a bit. As good permies do, we're backing up our major functions. It's all a bit exciting and new again. We're working extra hard to hone the budget to accommodate a choir, and cello lessons - a long-time wish of Big Owlet's and just at the perfect time for Little Owlet, who has always adored music. We're trying our hands at making baskets and mosaics. We're visiting the Marine Discovery Centre, planning trips, hanging out at the beach…

We've been super lucky to have friends come to visit from the mainland, at just the right time, with children for Owlets to connect with. We've reached out to new friends. We've celebrated 10 years since we first arrived to build a life here. And our much-missed mainland family have booked in a couple of weeks down here for Christmas, which just feels like a huge hug.

We shook things up in our nest too, by moving ALL the furniture around and throwing out what we no longer need. And right now the garden is in a state of flux while we dig up our beautiful spiral to make way for some serious veggie production - part budgetary measure and part personal challenge. The Owlets are on board with that more than ever and we're reconnecting with the earth, the soil we're taking care of, and each other, as we move into our 11th year on this beautiful island. It's just about the biggest spring clean of our lives! The energy is good and positive and we continue on as unschoolers and life learners, as we always were.

Hugest thanks to the kind words and supportive shoulders that have been around these past few weeks. They've been so very needed and treasured. 

How's your spring shaping up? 
Have you been doing some spring cleaning?

Have a beautiful week!

~ Lauren. xx

8 September 2015

10 reasons why you should do a Permaculture Design Certificate.


It's been a couple of years now since I walked into a classroom, for the first time in years, to learn more about permaculture. At the time, I wasn't quite sure what I was in for. I'd had a little insight into permaculture design and what it meant, but practically, I wasn't sure what I'd get out of it. I thought maybe some enhanced gardening skills, maybe learning about composting and some hot tips for collecting water. Or something. But what I discovered while doing my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) was so much more…

I was met by a room full of people from all over the country (the world!), looking to learn more. Brought together with this one common goal - a desire for a simpler, practical, more connected way of living. We couldn't have been more different. But the enthusiasm that brought us together created this infectious positivity. Plugging away with books at home on my own hadn't managed to reach me nearly half as successfully, even though that's my preferred method of learning. It's inspired the way we've designed our Seedlings course, and we'd recommend at least one member from every Seedlings family undertake a PDC too. I can't believe it took me so long to get around to doing it and I think I'd do another in a heartbeat!


Oberon had a similar experience while doing his PDC, and later, his Permaculture Teacher Training. Permies are the best kind of people. So we thought we'd put down some reasons why a PDC is an amazing start towards living and breathing permaculture, just incase you're thinking about it...

1. Each PDC is different, drawing on the experience within the group and a range of learning styles are provided for. You can learn all sorts of skills and concepts you may not have expected.

2. You can make friendships with wonderful, likeminded people. They say the key to making friends is spending time together. Spending 72 hours with people, sharing knowledge, ideas and space tends to bring you closer. There may be hugs, challenging conversations and interesting perspectives gleaned along the way.

3. You have a chance to really immerse yourself in permaculture and what it's all about. You may leave your PDC feeling that this is only the beginning. But it's a wonderful grounding to build upon and those permaculture goggles help you do great things.

4. It helps to put our modern lives into context to create positive, practical change. Sharing the experience with others makes it achievable.

5. A PDC motivates you to be part of a community and give back to your own community. It's quite amazing the breadth of knowledge and support that can be gleaned from a group of ordinary, extraordinary people willing to share.


6. A PDC gives you a great overview of environmental issues, but considers them in a solutions-based way.

7. You'll learn how to grow your own food well, in a way that's sustainable for you, your family and your community.

8. You'll get to visit some permaculture properties in action and be inspired by their owners - one of the most excellent bits! It's a chance to see what people in your community are doing.

9. You will get experience in drawing, designing, sketching and imagining, within a supportive environment. You can take those skills further to apply permaculture design within your own home or community.

10. You'll have fun!


The lovely folk at Good Life Permaculture are offering a part-time PDC, starting in early October. Part-time works really well for families and full-time workers so it's a great opportunity to fit everything in. Oberon is co-teaching alongside some other super amazing teachers and we encourage you to sign up if you're even vaguely interested or just thinking about it. You totally won't regret it! Head here for more information about the course and to enrol.

If you're wanting to get stuck into some permaculture with your family and want a gentle introduction, we'll be starting our Spring Seedlings course in a few weeks and there's still plenty of time to sign up. 

Happy growing! 

~ Lauren & Oberon. xx

24 August 2015


Hello! Oh we've had a time of it lately! It feels like an age since my last post. So much has happened in our little world that it's made us think and re-think who we are and where we're travelling on this little journey. If you're feeling like some happy reflections on unschooling life in our beautiful Tasmania, I'll make sure to post some updates on the excellent fun we've been having, later this week, but this is a big one for us and marking it here feels important.

We're at a crossroads. The whole winter has seen the re-development of the street we live on. It's been noisy and muddy and inconvenient. We watched layers gradually peeled back, deep holes dug, paths strengthened and eventually renewed. It's been a bit of a metaphor for recent weeks in our nest.

We've watched friends move on, or make plans to travel, and celebrated their exciting news. On the flip side, we've uncovered some hard truths about people around us. About what they think of us and what that might mean. We've discovered what comes with the territory when you put your hand up to start something. We've had some hard conversations, had walls put up and then quietly put up some of our own so we feel safer (I'm on my first ever proper holiday from Facebook!). Our happy spaces are suddenly difficult and a bit empty. We're all down a bunch of friends and feeling very sad, raw and misunderstood as we've watched it all float away. And we're not sure how this started or why, but we're sure it must be for some reason or other, which we might find out about one day. And now there's a sense of quiet as we attempt to pick ourselves up and carry on as before…

But things are different now. It can be so challenging creating and keeping community. It's one of the more challenging aspects of home education, needing community around you to make it all work. Finding a balance in loving trust, understanding and clear and direct communication, when it takes all types and when you live in a very small place. When it's good, it's very good. And when it's bad, it's horrid. Humans can be so awful to each other. And we get it. We're human too. Hopefully this all leads to greater understanding.

Thinking about what all this might mean for the future is all a bit unknown and hard. So we're focusing on the right now. The good friends we have. The things we like to do. The nest we've created and the garden we're making together. What we're looking forward to. Rebuilding our beloved co-op. We're slowing down, marking days (and making handprints) and being better, gentler friends to each other.

Around about the time home educated children turn 12, friends start dropping off and entering the school system. We expected it. Perhaps not the day after Big Owlet's birthday, but we did expect it and had been making plans for what we might do if… So we're suddenly at a crossroads.

We've been spending lots of time discussing our choices. Travel, moving away from our beloved Tasmania to be with loved ones, SCHOOL, or continuing along as we set out. The Owlets are up for big change. They want a fresh start. So school is on the table. Forms have been filled out (!!). We've all shed tears at the thought of it and breaking up our little gang of 4 most weekdays, for the sake of a new community. Thankfully, one sleepless night led me to this article and gave us some fresh perspective. So we're trying all the things. Moving towards new opportunities, while staying put for now. Hoping all is not yet lost. Wondering where this new road will take us and looking forward to a smoother ride ahead.

Hoping smooth roads are ahead for you too.

Lots of love,

~ Lauren. xx

7 August 2015

How to host an Arternoon

Once a week, we gather with friends and play with art. One of the lovelier additions to our weeks recently, we get together with families from our homeschool co-op and set about making space for creativity and colour. We call it Arternoon.

At the moment Artenoon is one parent (mostly me), facilitating a group of about 6-10 children and joining in when I can. I'm hoping some of the adults will relax and feel inspired to join in and get creative too, because it's so much fun. Our group are a bunch of creative kids, mostly unschooled, and , interestingly, mostly girls right now. We'd love to have some of the boys join in, but for now they seem happier to run and wrestle, and that's totally ok. Our Arternoons began when a couple of parents in our group asked if anyone knew any good, inexpensive, art classes around. Sometimes when you look at the people around you, you discover you already have the skills and experience between you to facilitate all manner of things. You just need to ask and think laterally and make it happen.

We're loving the space to create alongside each other. As a designer, I loved the inspiration and support that came from working in a studio with others. The owlets are loving creating alongside their friends and together we've created a space where everyone's work is valued and appreciated and artists feel supported.

Each session happens just after lunch and runs for a maximum of 2 hours, by which time we're all bursting to run and climb, or down another cup of tea. It seems to be exactly the right sort of time for this sort of work, but I'd imagine an after school or weekend group could work well too. A theme is chosen, with some creative prompts, a new medium to explore or a creative hero to get to know, and off we go!

So far we've run sessions about: Line and contour drawing, Matisse and Collage, Altered Books, and Goethe and finding your own colour palette. Next week, we'll be exploring Kandinsky and circles, and the list of ideas should last us for years! Thankfully, Pinterest is there with loads of inspiration should the well ever run dry.

If you'd like to have a go at starting an Arternoon of your own, here's what you need to know:

  • Choose a space. Your dining table might work. Invite some friends over for some creative fun! If you're a bit concerned about mess, or you have a larger group than will fit in your home, consider hiring a space. 
  • Gather some basic materials. We have a stack of A3 cartridge paper, which is really versatile. We also have a backup supply of paints and drawing materials as well as glue sticks, scissors, coloured paper and old magazines if people need them. 
  • Ask everyone to bring along their favourite materials or art tools. Or suggest simple materials they might need for each week as you progress. Things like acrylic or watercolour paints, oil pastels, favourite pencils and paint brushes are a good start. It's always so much more pleasurable to create art using good quality tools and encouraging children to use them with care and respecting their own tools, as well as each others, is a great way to set them up for good creative practice. 
  • Make a big list of ideas and choose a theme each week. You might take inspiration from a technique or particular medium, or you might choose a creative hero. Maybe an artist or philosopher, or a great story teller. Think about what you can learn from their art and go with it! 
  • Find someone to help you facilitate. Even if it's only every now and then. Volunteer work can be pretty exhausting, so having some help or support and an extra person to bounce ideas off really helps. If your group is really big, you might like to ask a couple of parents to volunteer as helpers. If your group doesn't require much facilitation (maybe you're working with older kids or adults), you might like to decide on a democratic way to present ideas and take turns researching creative prompts. 
  • Give everyone the space to interpret the activity in their own way. There's no right or wrong way to approach making art. Great things can come from exploring tangents!
  • Encourage and give feedback, rather than lashings of praise. Tell each artist what you like about their work. Point out the great bits - maybe you like their interpretation or the colours they've chosen? Give them some ideas if they're having a hard time with something. Encourage them to tell the story behind their work and to support each other. 
  • Join in. Grab some paper and paint and sit down with everyone and play! Have fun! Make mistakes! You might find some creative inspiration frees you up for making more art through the rest of your week. Create some art together and have an ace time! 

If you decide to host an Artenoon of your own, we'd love to hear about it! Let us know how it goes!

~ Lauren. xx

17 July 2015

Rhythm, Surprises and Tiny.

It takes extra special effort to keep active, see friends and be present in the real world in the depths of winter. It's so easy to be swept along by the cocooning, short and fire-filled days. The desire to draw inward and snuggle by the fire and read a book can see days roll into weeks. The need to see friends can in some ways be met through social media, while owlets can choose spend hours with their friends on Minecraft, on days where venturing out seems all too hard. It's like having little portals to view the outside world, from the comfort of our couch. Regular jobs drag us along in a rhythm of bare essentials before we retreat. Before long, 4.30pm rolls around and the sun sinks as we stoke the fire and proclaim the day done. By midwinter, it takes extra motivation to break out of that cosy rut. Something special to get us rolling along again. Our three motivations each day are rhythm, surprises, and Tiny.


By 6am most mornings, Tiny is usually nudging me out of bed. "I'm hungry", she whispers, and we slip down the hallway to switch on the lights, feed the meowing cats and turn the heater on. Then we fold the clothes on the rack and chat about things while we decide what to have for breakfast. Tiny is like a tiger and when she's hungry or not engaged in an activity, she roars. Breakfast and lots of things to do are a priority. She's at that magical age where the world is opening up to her and she's full of awe and wonder. But on these winter days, it's so easy for me to get swept along with what needs doing, so the balance can shift and we forget to pause and play.


Owlets love surprises, so we like to mix things up with last minute day trips and thoughtful things. This week, I made Tiny a seasonal table, in a space we created a couple of weeks ago during a furniture re-shuffle. It's been such a long time since I paused to create something to draw her attention and she adored it. The magic of soft candle light, gentle colours and delicate things to admire and play with. It was like pressing the reset button on our winter, while giving her my full attention for a moment. Sometimes that connection with one owlet is enough to have all of us working together more harmoniously again.

facepaint clay

Tiny and I have been sparkly snowflake making, reading Snowflake Bentley, face painting, having scones for lunch, building with clay, playing sleeping queens and chess, watching the sun rise on the beach… The two bigger owlets have been inspired to join in too, so our days have had a revived hum to them. I've been more present, which has been fun and tiring and so wonderful, as we all restore a little bit of balance and unfurl a bit. Sorry shop, sorry blog, sorry house, sorry knitting, sorry garden! There's fun to be had!

How are you coping with winter? Is it super cold where you are right now? 
Do you have a way to reset and get your week back on track? 
Do you have a seasonal table set up? 
What works for you? 

~ Lauren xx