Live without Dead Thyme: Photo Tour of Garden

I spent Saturday night under a 100 year old pear tree with David Holmgren, Su Dennett, and a spirited gathering of Victorian permaculturalists, for their annual summer solstice party. Fun and uplifting times. David and Su’s property Melliodora is a genuine permaculture paradise – and an inspiring example of what can be done. My household’s urban homestead doesn’t compare, but over the years we have been making efforts to practise permaculture in our little patch (one tenth of an acre) in suburbia, Melbourne. I’ve posted a few photos of our place below.

To begin: dig up the lawn, enrich soil… grow food.




Add chicken coop and space to roam. Our two chooks, Lightning and Cloud 9, are great layers (and composters), and the muscovy duck (the Red Baroness) just flew into our backyard about five months ago and hasn’t left. She is free to fly away but chooses to stay. What an honour!


The coop is called ‘Palais de Poulet’ (the chicken palace) – even though the Red Baroness is the boss. The coop is made from salvaged materials.


Passionfruit forming on the coop.


The hills hoist means no need for an electric dryer – even in the winter. Another passionfruit and kiwifruit greening the fence.


Our small 2kw solar array. We produce almost twice as much electricity as we use. Underlined by a grape vine.


Solar hot water ‘the simpler way’ – one of life’s greatest luxuries (in the warmer months, at least).


Leave room for the DIY solar oven – beats cooking inside on a hot day. Haven’t used it this summer yet. It works well but it does require some shifting throughout the day to maximise sun exposure.


Composting loo in the corner. It doesn’t seem right to defecate into drinking quality water and wash away nutrients. Better to close the nutrient cycle.


Capturing water.


Dig up front yard. Plant veges and 12 fruit trees.






Another of our four grape vines.


Don’t forget ‘marginal’ space down the side of the house. Grow food.


And vertical space.



You can even grow mushrooms inside.


Dig up nature strip. Grow food.


And the winter nature strip.


Talk to your neighbours and see if they are happy for you to plant a fruit tree on their nature strip. My cul-de-sac now has about ten fruit trees. Nobody saw me do it. You can’t prove anything.

Sweet Navel Orange





Preserve (or share) your surplus.



Transport to and from work / school.


Our home – working on being a place of sustainable production not unsustainable consumption. Always learning. Never quite there. Sometimes failing. But enjoying the journey. A process not a destination.



In an age when most governments around the world are doing little that is positive and much that is grossly irresponsible and harmful, it follows that the responsibility for societal change lies first and foremost with households and communities coming together to build the new world from the grassroots up. We must begin from where we are, in the world as we know it. Obviously there are deep structural obstacles in the way of social movements like permaculture, transition towns, degrowth, etc. and existing property systems in particular make it very hard or impossible for many people to access land and secure housing needed for these types of permaculture projects. I do not deny that, and in fact our work at the Simplicity Institute is focussed on exploring ways of restructuring society and systems in ways to encourage and support a degrowth transition to a ‘simpler way‘ permaculture society. These photos therefore are not held out as representing the solution to all problems, but as an honest attempt by my household to live as sanely as we can in an insane world. And I feel that retrofitting the suburbs along these lines is part of the revolution we need to see in coming years and decades on the path to low-impact, resilient society.

There is much to be done. Let us live without dead thyme.


12 Responses to “Live without Dead Thyme: Photo Tour of Garden”

  1. Paul Chew says:

    Thanks for the wonderful tour of your permaculture garden. Lots of good ideas and right in the city~ Paul

  2. Sharn says:

    Love the solar shower 🙂

  3. Meg says:

    Thank you !!! For sharing & INSPIRING!
    Your corner of the world is fabulous…
    yr pet croc seems to love it… gets around… 😉
    Love yr words of encouragement & solar shower.
    Beet Rhubarbs

  4. Graham says:

    Inspirational. I shall now search the www to find ways of doing it from a wheelchair.

  5. Rachel says:

    Lots of wonderful ideas. Thank you so much for the tour…what are some good resources that you might recommend?
    Latest post from Rachel…The Hand Written Note

  6. Richard says:

    Thanks for sharing Sam.
    I find it heartening to see that besides the ubiquitous hills hoist, so many Australian homes contain bikes, the sewing machine, the compost bins, the fruit trees, the vege garden, the chooks, the solar panels, the solar oven and the preserving jars. Importantly, with the exception of the chooks, most of these are also ‘doable’ in apartments and town houses. I find that just by having and using these, it forces me to live a simpler life.

  7. Mary Fogelberg says:

    Inspirational! I’m in such admiration…and such a worthwhile deed, providing your neighbourhood street with community fruit trees

  8. Delores says:

    At the end of a long day I looked at these photos and could feel my body relax.

  9. Loved the tour of your home. I am in the process of growing a food forest; have installed contours to harvest the rain, planted about 25 fruit trees, vines, ground covers, herbs and accompanying bee attractants and plants to detract the fruit flies. I have pumpkin, melons zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, beans etc. Over the Christmas break from work we are removing the solar hot water and solar panels (12 years old) and roof iron, then installing an Antecon blanket and new iron. The solar hot water will go back on, plus a new array of solar panels; enough to warrant a solar battery. The old iron and solar panels will be used for extra accommodation and storage sheds. After this exercise I am installing a worm farm septic system so that all the black and grey water from my house will be utilised underground through my food forest. I have ducks and chooks but intend to get a dairy cow and calf and a few pigs. I live on 5 acres. Anyone who is interested in being a part of this effort to become totally self sufficient are welcome to contact me. Noretta Terry 0407 255884
    Latest post from Noretta Terry…Live without Dead Thyme: Photo Tour of Garden

  10. Jenny says:

    Sam, I have been avidly reading all simplicity collective posts since 2014 and I admire your eloquence. When I first read about the Simplicity Collective I was ecstatic – this is what I have been thinking and you say it so well. Yet your ‘dead thyme’ post also speaks volumes to me as I struggle with the question ‘what to do’ (to be ever more sustainable). My partner Kaye and I have been travelling as ‘eco-nomads’ now for 4 years and I have just had a reply to join Wurruk’an for a 3 month stint which I am looking forward to. I hope to gain many insights in my Wurruk’an experience enough to replicate something similar in the tropics as we are Tropical North Queenslanders at heart (loved the croc addition to Melbs backyard)and will eventually end up back there (Cairns region) when we decide the nomadic life is done with. Yours sincerely Jenny Brown

  11. Robert says:

    Wonderful, and inspiring. Congratulations to you, and thank you for letting us see all this.

  12. Cicely says:

    Just stumbled upon your website and love love love it!! So inspiring. Thank you for all your hard work to publish thoughtful, well-written, meaningful articles. Your website just earned a coveted spot in my bookmarks collection!

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