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Five year birthday celebrations and giveaway!

Goodness, this June marks five years since we embarked on our adventure in urban sustainability and set about transforming a typical house and lawn into a healthy, eco friendly home with a flourishing food garden.

And what an adventure it’s been! In the early days up went the solar panels and the solar hot water, and we got busy doing some green renovations with  non-toxic paint, natural floors, ceiling and wall insulation, rainwater tanks and greywater systems.

Then oh the dreaming for a delicious garden – it began! We spent about three months working out the landscape design, figuring out where each and every fruit tree and garden element would be best placed. Then with a vengeance we turf-cut the entire block in October 2007, flipped the lawn on its head and sowed green manure crops to improve the soil. Out went the swimming pool and in went the veggie patch. Our huge concrete driveway was ripped up to make way for a citrus grove, with the concrete painstakingly recycled into a mosaic style garden path that meanders through our food forest. Over time we’ve put in over 100 fruiting trees, shrubs and vines, over 50 different species with everything from avocado to white sapote.

Chickens have joined us, and we relocated a swarm of bees to make home in our top bar bee hive. After creating a garden pond, frogs quickly came to join our garden too.  

Our garden and home have woven themselves into our souls in even more magical ways – we celebrated our marriage in the veggie patch, and birthed our beautiful little girl right here at home.

Our local community has flourished in exciting ways over the last five years, with the passion and determination of many wonderful people. The Flame Tree Community Food Co-op and the ‘Waste-not fruit and veg swap’ were born, and community gardens are continuing to grow. Through the Illawarra Biodiversity and Local Food Strategy for Climate Change project, involving Wollongong, Kiama and Shellharbour councils with funding support from the NSW Environmental Trust, we helped create the Illawarra Edible Garden Guide and community fruit tree groves.  

We’ve put down roots in this little piece of paradise reclaimed, and in our community. We can’t wait to see what the next five years, and fifty years here will bring.

It’s been wonderful sharing our adventures with you through this website over the past half a decade, and we look forward to sharing many more years together.

For our fifth birthday celebrations we’re giving away a copy of the new ABC Organic Gardener Essential Guide, issue 5 which is all about creating a great food garden.  To be the lucky winner, just leave a comment on this post letting us know what you’d like to hear more about on this blog. We’ll randomly select the winner in two weeks on 8 July, so check back in then! Good luck!

8 July update - Thanks so much to everyone for all your lovely comments and fantastic suggestions for furture blog posts! It is this wonderful feedback that keeps us blogging away, and we'll try our best to post about the suggested topics down the track. The lucky randomly selected winner was "Mandy" - congratulations and we hope you enjoy the Organic Gardener Guide! 

Reader Comments (26)

I would wish you a happy birthday, but from what I read you already have found happiness and don't need our wishes to help you on your way. You are truly an inspiration. I would like to refer you to another source of inspiration that you would undoubtedly enjoy :
Hopefully I have copied the email contact ok, but if not I can try to resend it to you. Its a Canadian site that gathers info and stories about urban sustainability from around the world and publishes them with the assistance of the government ! Your story would be of interest to them and I know that they would like to have you as a contact.
Keep up the positive work and please keep sharing it with us.
June 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdavid sturdy
Wow congratulations on 5 years.
It has been lovely following this space and seeing your garden, home and family grow and develop.
I enjoy reading your tried and tested recipes using your home grown seasonal produce, so I'd love to see more.
June 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZara
We moved to Wollongong five years ago, and found your blog very soon afterwards. At the time we weren't very "green" at all, but were interested in becoming more so. Through this blog we found out about all sorts of local happenings that helped us settle in to a new city, like the Flametree Co-op and the Sustainable Illawarra Super Challenge. We've come a long way in the five years (though nothing compared to what you've achieved!), with many of our ideas developing from what we've read here. Thank you for this fabulous blog. As for what we'd like to hear more of, we'd just like to hear more. So please keep it up :)
June 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCath
HAPPY 5 YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the beginning of your amazing journey!! You guys are gems of the region and a constant source of inspiration. What a lucky bub you have that is blessed with such knowledgeable parents who will teach him/her everything needed to thrive and do good in this world. Just want to hear more of everything!
June 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKelly
Gosh, has it been that long already. Shows what a great site you have. If anything I wouldn't mind more recipes or ways to use what you grow. I grow our own stuff too and am a basic cook but I love seeing how others use what they grow.

June 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarb
Happy birthday Happy Earth! I first stumbled across your youtube clip which I showed on the opening night of a sustainable living course I facilitated in Freo three years ago. It helped inspire an entire group of urban dwellers to live a little greener. I now live in the country but the principles are still the same. Keep up the good work!
June 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlison
Thank you Happy Earth for sharing your journey over the last 5 years. I have only just stumbled across your site in my search on mandala gardens. I love hearing what you've done and been involved in with your community and spreading the word about living green. Awesome.
June 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarla
Hi Guys,
I've been a gardener all my life but hadn't fully explored the concept of the food forest until I stumbled on your website about 3 years ago. I recently bought a block in Kiama and was excited to recieve my first of many Delaneys deliveries containing my precious Nightingale persimmon this week. I find your descriptions of individual fruiting plants really helpful in deciding what would suit my yard and would love to see this list expanded. I'm thinking of a feijoa if you'd like to do that next!
Congratulations on reaching 5 years!
June 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermaria
5 years, it doesn’t seem that long. You have traveled so far and set a beacon by which others can follow. Congratulations guys on your achievements.
June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCon
Congratulations! Wow i love the aerial shot - that puts the whole garden into perspective. I would love to win, I find myself sometimes frustrated with the amount I can produce in my tiny garden and need some inspiration! Keep the good advice coming - I love reading your blog.
June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAfricanaussie
Congratulations you wonderful trio! It's a delight to follow along on this journey. I can't wait to see how your fruit trees mature, what animals visit your garden, what happens with the abundant produce, and how these wonderful nutrients are recycled ;), May your ideas spread like mycellium, enriching our communities (human and non-human alike!). What will happen to the park at the top of the street? Will your daughter become a dancer, a soccer player, a grape-squashing boutique wine-maker, all of the aboce, or something we have even yet to conceptualise in 2012? How will the community gardens throughout the Illawarra flourish? When will the posties union demand shadier, vegetated verges in support? How much goodness will your solar water-heating & electricity-generating systems generate? Will you ever step foot in to Woolies again? Onwards with the adventure. xx
June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCath
Congratulations guys! You've achieved a lot in a short time - your garden must be really pumping the food out now!

A few suggestions I'd love to see for future articles:

- What didn't work (what mistakes have you made, what setbacks have you suffered, and what did you learn and how did you recover from them)
- What food can we grow in winter (what foods do you grow for winter harvests?)
- Where to start (for someone new to food gardening and sustainable living, where should they start and what are the first things they can do?)

Keep up the great work! Hopefully I'll see you tonight at the Climate Challenge wrap-up.
June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDarren (Green Change)
Thank you so much for your inspirational happenings! Especially to us beginners! You have given my husband and I the confidence to actually believe this is possible....Thank you! xx
June 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDesirie Curmi
Live long and Prosper. permaculture and happiness. Love and earth. What a way to spend a birthday and a life time.
Thank You.
June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph
Congratulations Happy Earth! What you have achieved in 5 years is incredibly inspirational. I love reading your blog. I'd love to hear more of how you change your garden to meet the needs of your growing family over the next 5 years! I enjoy your posts about what is happening in the broader community. Please continue to keep us up to date with any new or tried and true varieties of fruit & veg that you find grow beautifully in our region. Thank you for encouraging us all to live more sustainably!
June 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMandy
Well done guys it must be so lovely to have a physical representation of all the time and energy you have put into creating your own sustainable world and inspiring others along the way. Sometimes I think we put so much time and effort into work outside the home but the only thing to show for it is money which comes and goes. But when you grow things and eat what you grow you deepen the link between your physical self and the earth.....the journey on this plane is mostlly a sensory experience so immersing yourselves in the organic world the way you have must give you a true sense of what it is to LIVE. Many blessings to you and yours always.
July 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
Congratulations on five years of Happy Earth! You've achieved so much in that time, both on your very own patch of the Illawarra and also in sharing knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm for sustainable living. Here's to the next five, ten and fifty years and beyond....

My suggestions for what I'd like to hear more about on this blog would be:
- lessons learned (both positive and not so positive)
- managing native and non-native plants in the same garden space (e.g. coping with phosphorous requirements)
- sustainable purchasing/eating choices beyond the home - you do a fabulous job on this in so many areas already, but I'm especially interested to hear about choices on matters such as grains and pulses that aren't so easy to grow at home.

Thanks again for your inspirational blog.
July 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmma
Well Happy Birthday!

I always pop in and see what you're up to and it keeps me going when I think I 'can't' get things happening here in this 'town' in this garden and this house. I have to keep thinking look how far we (and you, through this blog) have come, so I can get further down the track too, I reckon.
July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristy
Hi I stumbled across your blog in search of people who are doing what I would love to do. What an example you have set. It's just amazing what you have achieved on your small suburban block. I wish you many more happy years ahead enjoying the fruits (literally ) of your labours.
July 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristine
Happy 5th Anniversary. I love what you are doing - sharing with your local community and then extending this to the larger global community via your blog and how lucky is your daughter to be learning on the spot.

I would love to hear more about what you have learned regarding seed saving, what works and what doesn't in your area. I have a very deep interest in heirloom seeds, especially vegies and often sell or swap myself. I grew up with parents similar to you, so count myself blessed, as it has stood me in good stead all my life.

Since the Global Financial crisis it has made me more aware of how many people are struggling so I would also love to know how you would go about assisting people on a very tight budget to set up their own yards on a small, very manageable scale. If there is only a small amount of space, it can really help out with food, and with the company it can bring in for others who can't always afford to get out, that would be a bonus. Gardening and sharing do that, don't they :-)) Thank you for your generosity of spirit and your time. I really enjoy coming back here from time to time to check it out, and pass on your info to others. This is so well done Happy Earth
July 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette

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