Hidden away in the bushclad lower slopes of Mount Karioi, just south of Raglan, there’s a three-and-a-half-acre block of native bush with idyllic sea views. This is home to Lucy Donaldson, 29, her builder husband Elliot, 40 and their children, Aria, 3, and Makai, 1.
It gives ex-theatre nurse, and now full-time mother, Lucy, the chance to put into practice years of reading permaculture articles, and watching her own mum at work in the garden.
“I’ve always been enthusiastic about organic gardening and becoming self-sufficient from your own land,” says Lucy.
The couple had owned the property for five years before they moved to the land in 2014, before Aria was born.
They cleared blackberry, ginger and diseased fruit trees from about an acre, which is now planted with lawns and being converted into a food forest.
“We had planted 25 different heritage fruit trees, which are all producing now.”
Actually living on the property meant Lucy could start her own veggie garden and apply the organic and permaculture principles that fascinated her.
“For us it’s all about reducing our carbon footprint and our food bill, in the most organic and sustainable way we can. It’s about providing healthy, seasonal food for the family.”
Hunt and Gather Bee Co has some hives on the property because of the abundant manuka and kanuka trees, and the bees pollinate the fruit trees.
The approximately 8m2 veggie patch has raised beds neatly contained with railway sleepers, and is fenced in to give her chickens free range everywhere else.
Lucy plants by the moon phases. From her results, she is satisfied this gives the plants the best start in life, to grow stronger with greater resistance to pests and disease.
At night she hunts for slugs with a torch. By day she pulls off white butterfly caterpillars and eggs from the leaves.
“Companion planting really works and I’ve been trying different essential oils in water for spraying fruit trees with leaf curl.” A layer of mulch conserves precious moisture, and curtails weed growth.
Lucy uses mainly seeds from the Kohanga Institute, favouring non-hybrid heirloom varieties and collecting further seeds from her crops.
And people started asking questions about her methods. “I started a blog on my website, where I share my experiences, ideas and seasonal recipes.”
When she started an Instagram account, Lucy quickly found herself with 1000 followers hungry for information.
As Lucy gets closer to self-sufficiency, her journey can be followed @gardentalesnz on Instagram and her blog can be found at: www.gardentales.co.nz