Living right by the sea and growing her own produce has definitely been a learning curve for local Clarissa Morris, but she’s overcome the challenge of living in a salty, sandy area and her garden produces an abundance of goodies! Clarissa’s motto is to live upon the Earth as lightly as possible, appreciate Mother Nature and pass what she’s learned on to her children and others … Hence her blog, Simply by the Beach, was born …
Hi Clarissa. What’s your history in Port Macquarie?
When I left the Navy after eight years, having been posted to many parts of the country and travelling around the world, I moved to Port Macquarie in 2009 with my husband, Luke. We chose to settle in Port Macquarie as Luke grew up here, and I thought Port was beautiful and the perfect place to live and start a family. We moved into our forever home at Lighthouse Beach in the beginning of 2010, so nine years I’ve been a local now.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family … what are your hobbies and interests?
By my side always is my hubby, Luke, and running crazy around us are our three kids (8, 6 and 4 years old). We are a very active, natural and outdoorsy kind of family. I love all things that get me out in the sun and moving. You can mostly find me in my garden and keeping busy around my home and making things from scratch, but I also love to get out running and go to the beach.
When/how did you first become interested in growing and harvesting your own food?
I grew up mostly in country QLD on a small family farm. We grew lots of our own veggies and raised our own meat. I would particularly spend a lot of time in my Nana’s garden and learnt bits and pieces over the time.
As I grew up and moved out on my own, I would always have something growing wherever I lived. When we finally set down roots here in Port, I set to work turning our small (550 sqm) beachside block into my version of a family farm.
I am often dealing with the frustrations of beachside living vs. a thriving edible garden, but would not want to be without either, so I just keep trying. I love to know where my food comes from, and what better way than to grow most of it myself! The feeling of serving food to my family that I have grown myself is so gratifying.
What produce do you have growing at the moment?
It’s almost easier to say what I don’t have! Over the years I have tried to grow everything and anything. Growing in my garden now is mostly cool season produce. I have sweet potato, garlic, passionfruit, cape gooseberries, turmeric, ginger, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, pawpaws, rockmelons, beans, leeks, chillies, asparagus, bananas, capsicum, beetroot, pumpkin, dragon fruit, herbs like coriander, basil, parsley, sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, mint, chives, and many more different fruit and veggies throughout the year.
What animals could we also find in your garden, and how do they help you?
I wish I could have more animals, but we don’t have the room, so I am gratefully happy with my five chickens, a double beehive and our compost worms.
Our chickens provide us with four – five eggs daily (though not so many at the moment, as they are moulting), they eat up scraps from the kitchen and also provide great manure for the garden.
Our bees are new, but we can already see them at work. In the past I would normally do a lot of hand pollinating, but I have not done so since our bees moved in and already I can see pumpkins and passionfruit on the vine that would not normally be growing without my intervention.
Then our compost worms work away in our compost heap, breaking down our recycled scraps and compostable waste from around the home. This is another great fertiliser for the garden.
Where does most of your produce go once harvested … and what are some of the speciality products you make and sell?
I mostly grow veggies and fruit for our own consumption. I don’t want to create waste, so I only grow what I think we can use; although, if I do have excess I give it away to family/friends or make goods to sell. I didn’t plan to go down the path of making goods to sell; however, the interest from my blog posts led me to offer and sell what I had made at home with some of my excess produce.
My most popular homemade products I sell are banana and ginger bread, using my own home grown bananas, ginger and eggs. I also sell homemade kombucha; though I haven’t technically grown the ingredients used to make this healthy delicious drink, I have been growing my mother scobys used to make it for about six years now.
I also make my own cleaning products – in particular laundry liquid, and seasonally I make turmeric products like golden milk paste, or turmeric powder.
Generally I just make things for our family and then blog about it; if someone likes it as well and I can make more, I will happily make it for them too.
Why did you decide to start blogging, and what topics do you most like to write about?
I started blogging back in August 2015 to document my garden habits, cooking from scratch attempts, and any other lessons I learn along the way to live a more simple and sustainable life. I often find the garden to the plate posts (using what I have harvested from the garden and cooking as our meal) are most popular. I like to write about doing things the “old way”. We easily forget we can make and do things for ourselves, especially when you can pop down to the shop and pick it up there.
What would you say your life philosophy/motto is?
To live on this Earth as gently as possible and appreciate all Mother Nature has to offer. Also, making sure I teach my little ones as much as I can about the things I have learnt, in the hope that traditions and techniques will not be lost along the way.
Where can we find out more about what you do, or read your blog?
You can find me on: Facebook: facebook.com/simplybythebeach/
Interview: Jo Robinson.