Mama Kin is a Rock n’ Roll Gardening Goddess

Words by
Mama Kin
Images by
Bo Wong
| November 1, 2016

I had been aching for a somewhat “simpler” life. Or at least pockets of simplicity. A life more connected to nature. Some chop wood and carry water therapy. As musicians we longed for a contrast from the roads, planes, hotel rooms and general urban assault that is touring. This was going to be our getaway plan. Our solace, our balm to all the noise.

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21 months ago our little tribe packed up our things into explicitly labelled boxes and moved three hours south of the world’s most isolated city. We were living in South Fremantle, 30 minutes from Perth and we moved to Margaret River.

We had many motives, and a big urge to just do it, however it still took us over a year of back and forth-ing to commit and take the leap. We wore mental placards of “what do we have to lose” and “it’s now or never” and “the kids will be gone soon” and “we always said we would raise them in the country” to try and stay our course every time we got cold feet, and then before we knew it, we were here. There were orchards and a river, veggie patches to build, bush walks to explore, bird calls to wake us in the morning, farmers markets, horse riding, tree houses; all of the things we had dreamt about.

You know that old adage…wherever you go there you are? At this stage of our relationship and life, three relocations deep, we knew that no matter where we moved we would never be able to escape ourselves.

The shit that was hard about life, our perspectives, our quirks, our challenging behaviours, would follow us wherever we went. They might be distracted momentarily but they would be back sure enough, knocking at the door asking for a cup of sugar.

Don’t get me wrong – I harbour no regrets. Things are just generally different than you might think. I had somehow imagined I would get to Margaret River and the sheer pulsing nature of the place would render me an instant and inspired permaculturist. All my previous failed attempts at maintaining a thriving garden would vanish, and I would suddenly arrive, fully endowed with an innate knowledge, knack and compulsion. I would be able to find both of my gardening gloves every time I looked for them, and my compost heap would be a perfect pile of transformation, writhing with worms.

I would be a fully-fledged, self-sustaining, gardening goddess of sorts. The town folk might marvel that an incarnation of Demeter had arrived into their midst! My children too would eagerly engage in the garden with me, without the need of bribes, or begging. They would enjoy the intrinsic reward of growing our own food. Perhaps we would even share our abundant offerings at the weekly farmers market! Yes! We could ride our bikes to the farmers market, maybe fashion a little trolley to tow our harvest, sell off our mandarins or avocados, and buy all that we needed…No wait! We would just barter! All of this would just happen – instantly and effortlessly. There would be time for all of it, all of the time!

Ok… obviously there were some bubbles begging to be burst.

I got here and realised soon after the honeymoon wore off that I was still a pretty crap gardener, and I didn’t suddenly ache to be amongst the trees and dirt all of the time. Above all, I was still busy somehow! Can I just say though, there are hidden treasures –

Who knew I could love a ride-on mower quite like I do! I think that little beast just might be my spirit animal.

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There is no escape but there are moments of solace. Sometimes I don’t go to the orchard for days and weeks at a time, and then I stroll through it on the way to pick something from our neighbour’s thriving garden and end up pottering in there for a while, marvelling at new buds, or harvesting some avocados that I had no idea would be ready yet. Every few months I find some unsuspecting travellers to come and live with us and we do an orchard blitz together, pruning, harvesting, fertilising or mulching. Little wins. Not much to lose. We (read “he”) built a little roadside stand and the kids pick the citrus fruit and we put it out there and people come along and take some and leave a donation, and hardly ever try to steal the honesty billy we have screwed down #livingthefkndream.  We (read “he, if you don’t count the 45 minutes that one time I actually helped out) built these wonderful veggie patches and we are enjoying our first real and consistent harvest from them right now.

The other day my son sat in the veggie patch with his two mates who live on the next property and they ate every single snow pea that had burst forth from the towering tangle – which only 3 months ago was a tiny seedling that I planted and fed, once. These kids were FULL of snow peas… do you know how many snow peas it takes to fill three young boys? A LOT!

I go to the garden every morning and pick greens for the day. I swear at the caterpillars and then kill them, and I feel the birthing heads of the red cabbages – a gardening doula of sorts.

I clock the mood of the air for the day. Take that air deep into my lungs. Check how fast the clouds are moving overhead. Less of an escape, more of an embrace. It sets the tone of my day. Sometimes I carry it with me, sometimes I forget it by the time I get back to the house.

I’m still learning how to live down here. It hasn’t been as easy to make friends and connections as I thought it was going to be. I’m more private and reclusive than I perhaps realised, or perhaps more cyclically social and inconsistent than I had previously acknowledged.

We are getting chooks next week. We (read “he”, with shouted moments of annoying and ill timed input from me) built a great little chook house/garden shed and our veggie patch/chook run/composting bays are starting to look legit permaculture-ish. I look forward to welcoming the little ladies into our dream. I will give them a little talk about how I know how hard it is to move to a new place, and how I really hope they will be happy here, I’ll tell them how we have the best scrap food and foliage for them, and about how I intend to use their shit to grow more foliage for them in a perfect circle of life, kind of like the lion king but also kind of different. I’ll tell them how I’m not really sure I have any fucking idea what I’m doing. I’m sure that after our talk, they will feel so reassured and ready to make their little house a home.

An ARIA-nominated singer-songwriter and winner of a WAM Award for Folk Act of the Year, Mama Kin’s music “exists in the soulful place where art meets the world” (SMH). Expanding her repertoire of late, Mama Kin (aka Danielle Caruana) is a regular contributor for Dumbo Feather and recently presented at TEDx Perth.

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