It’s Not Always Beer and Skittles Living A Simple Life

I don’t know if it is someone else’s quote but here is one of my simple philosophies;

“If you haven’t had a failure yet, you are not trying hard enough!” – Gavin

Everyone has times in their life that things don’t go as planned. No one is infallible especially when it comes to the sharp learning curve that comes with adopting a more simple or sustainable lifestyle.

The word ‘simple’ conjures up the notion of ease, or effortless, but believe me, it is often far from the truth. However I believe that something worthwhile doing or implementing is the ultimate reward and is satisfying.

For instance, two weeks ago, on a very windy day, Kim rang me up at work and told me that the door track of the greenhouse had come loose. I asked her to fix it as best she could and I would fix it when I got home. She did a sterling job with some rope and one of the pylons that hold up the garage roof, however the wind had done more damage than what she initially thought. It took me over two hour to fix two missing panels that had blown out because I had to partly dismantle the greenhouse to slot them back in, and another thirty minutes to repair the door track and remount the doors. A simple job that turned into a difficult one, however the end result was a more sturdy structure that will withstand strong winds once again.

One thing that I really didn’t have any experience in was raising backyard chickens. Sure, I had watched my parents raise them when I was a kid, but that is no real substitute for doing it yourself. With plenty of research and starting off small we have become capable chicken keepers. We did underestimate the impact that a bantam rooster would have on our lives, and had to fix the error by giving Mr Darcy back to the breeder. My failure, not Mr Darcy’s.  He was just being what nature intended. In hindsight, it was good experience and I now know why roosters are not usually allowed in suburban backyards!

Another example is my recent Pepino rescue. What I thought would be a five minute job of tying up the Pepino bush to the trellis became a forty minute evolution. Some one had moved my twine and pocket knife and it took me ten minutes to find them. Then I clumsily managed to snap off three of the branches of the bush, but managed to tidy that up. All in all, the bush is now safe from small chickens that have their beady eyes on my melons. I also turned it to my advantage because I used the snapped off branches to propagate the plant and make four new Pepino plants. All being well they will grow roots and I will expand my Pepino harvest. A great result as far as I am concerned.

The final example was our recent sheet mulching effort in the front orchard. I stupidly thought that it would only take a couple of day’s effort. It did not. It took us nearly four full days to weed, sheet mulch then add normal mulch over the top. What complicated matters were that one of the weeds was extremely invasive (kikuyu) and slowed down our progress considerably. Once I managed to dig most of it out, which took a full day, the rest was a breeze. The benefit of all this hard work was a great looking garden/orchard and that the fruit trees are now protected from moisture loss. Very satisfying once completed.

Other things that sometimes don’t quite go to plan, but have got better and easier with experience are bread making, beer making, cheese making, and any new gardening task or plant that we have not grown before. You need to do a bit of research once something has gone amiss, but you soon recover and try again.

However, don’t for one second let failure or hard (but rewarding) work deter you. As Goethe once said;

“Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

NB: ‘Beer and skittles’ is shorthand for a life of indulgence spent in the pub. A saying frequently used during the 19th century, and during my time in the Navy.


  1. narf7 says

    Agreed! “Simple” isn’t something that people should equate with sustainability. Perhaps “Simplification” might be a more apt word? Simplifying our actions, our words, our consumption and our thought processes to get the most out of our lives whilst leaving the smallest footprint. There is nothing simple about doing things for yourself BUT as you pointed out, the reward is in the process… the processes that we humans seem hell bent in removing ourselves from their equations. We live in the processes and negating these processes removes the satisfaction in life. Cheers for a lovely thought provoking post :)

  2. Anonymous says

    I enjoy your posts. I live in the suburbs outside Los Angeles and it’s slow work here to try to establish a less dependent lifestyle. Water is so precious here, and yet we live as if we were in a climate with ample water.
    Off to putter in the garden.

  3. says

    Yep, I’m with you on that one. Backyard chooks on our 1/8th suburban acre now have one of us up at crack of dawn to open the run so our one noisy madam will not wake all the surrounding neighbours while she asks to be let out because it’s light….5.30am be damned. We will never sleep in again :)

    And digging out some useless and overgrown pittosporum trees by hand because there are pipes underneath somewhere, to put in fruit trees…. oh wait, the husband did that one, ha!

    So rewarding, yes, simple, no!

  4. says

    Its always nice to know you are not alone in failures. Not because you want others to fail, but that sometimes we think everyone else does it so well and so perfect what am i doing wrong? So its good to know that we are not alone! Cheers for sharing Gavin.

    Oh and just a not to say thank you for your blog and sharing a whole range of usefull and inspiring words. Because of what I have read and watched over the last few months with yours and a couple of other blogs over the past few months I have just put in my application for uni as a mature student to study a Bach. of Natural Science (Sustainable Farming and Food Security) I have done what I can at home, so lets see what the wide world holds in store.



  5. Sue from Ky. says

    Making mistakes and finding a new and better way is part of the pleasure(in the long run)for most of the things we do in life, with gardening and animal husbandry being foremost in my mind,at the moment. I am 64 years old, and a year is a long time to learn from any mistake you make, but God willing, I will be wiser next year. Therefore,I will be able to utilize a better and more informed plan and project than the one I made the mistake on, last season(if that makes any sense at all).

    It’s been awhile since I’ve commented on your posts, but do I try to read them as often as possible.Mom has Alzheimer’s now and I don’t have as much time as I once did.We now have 20 more acres we have been clearing some of it.We’ll sow the grass seed today. Hope to drop by more often in the near future. Love reading all of your posts.Very informative.

  6. says

    yeah the simple part is a bit misleading! There are lots of new skills to learn and chores to do, so its not simple really, but that doesn’t mean its not good! Let’s just call it the good life :) I just had a cheese stuff-up as I haven’t made any for nearly a year, so it was good to read your post, and I like your philosophy!

  7. says

    and here I was thinking by ‘skittles’ you meant the small coloured sugary confectionary! :)

    It’s not ‘simple’ as in easy but it’s more ‘honest’ I think… not in a moral kind of honesty but… yeh… ok so that’s not the best word either. Hoping to come across the ‘right’ word sometime!

Comments build lively communities. Let me know your thoughts, but keep it clean and green! Spam is removed instantly.