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Lacking a Green Thumb? | Using Permaculture Gardening For Simple Living

Iva 1:09

Hi and welcome to another episode of the Mom Bosses Abroad podcast. We are here today with Nickyi Schauder. And for all of those mommies out there that might not feel like they have or that have been blessed with a green thumb, Nickyi is here to rescue today she is going to show us how permaculture gardening integrates seamlessly with simple living. And that is something that we can totally do, especially if we have little ones around. So welcome Nicki to our podcast!


Nicky 1:50

Oh, so excited to be here. Hello, everyone.


Desiree 1:53

Hi Nicky. So Nicky and her husband Dave are so passionate about helping families grow their own food. Their garden journey began when their kids were diagnosed with failure to thrive due to multiple food allergies. Because of these health issues, they felt really called to grow organic at home. And now they actually supply 25% of their fruits and veggies from their tiny town house backyard. That is so amazing. Their mission really is to help families grow their own food, their own medicine and find God through ecological gardening. Oh, Nicky, thanks for being here.


Nicky 2:35

So happy to be here. 


Iva 2:39

And so Nicky we just want to get started with the fact that you are, you know, doing this as a business  showing families how to do permaculture, how to do the simple the simple living through this method because as we just previously stated with your children that there were circumstances that led you to this path, but also that you are a mom of six? Right? Six children and you're currently home-schooling three of them. And you had a new move. So it's like wow, 


Nicky 3:22

No we haven't moved yet. 


Iva 3:23

Oh, you haven't you are on the way


Nicky 3:27

Yeah, we're about to move. Yes.


Desiree 3:30

Oh my God. How do you do it all Nicky, how?


Nicky 3:33

Oh my gosh, but honestly by God's grace. I think but there are a number of other things that in permaculture that make living the way we do more simple, also. We try not to buy what we don't need, we use what we have. Let's see, there are a lot of principles from this design science called permaculture, which is a design science that's based on observation and it integrates people with their homes, their plants and animals around them. So that's the definition of permaculture for me, is this principle of stacking functions where we choose plants that serve more than three purposes in our garden. That's just garden size. But then when we think about that in our homes, we try to choose something that will you know, do something more than just, than just give us, so for plants, for instance, it's not just supposed to be beautiful, but it's also edible, it's also purifies the air, you know it also it helps at least three functions. That's what we say when we when we design permaculture gardens. Yeah, so we try to bring that into well if we're going to do this or we decide in our day I’m  going to head out this way, what else, how else can we stack functions? How else can we use this opportunity to also get the mail done or, you know, instead of just going over to drop off one thing, doing several things at once so that's one 


Iva 5:06

Like efficiency, the efficiency of just not only going out for one thing and then coming back and then going out again, but also how you're more purposeful in what you're doing so that more things can get accomplished within that. That particular move.


Nicky 5:21

Yes, so that's one example. And then we do when we design in permaculture, we try to make sure that permaculture gardens are also gardens that are cyclical in nature- where we try to eliminate the waste as much as possible and have a cyclical eco system going on and that ties in with composting where you know when we eat our food, we try to instead of throwing it in the trash, we try to see what can be composted, and bring that back into our garden to create more food and it comes back and there is no waste.  Because Bill Mollison, the founder of permaculture would say: “Whenever there's waste that's pollution or that's a wasted resource.”  It's  something that did not go to the right place. You could have used that resource. You just didn't design it properly to go to the right place that you could have. And so it's the same for he says the same for pollution, is the same for work. If you didn't design it properly, you waste your efforts because you give yourself more work. I was just in the outside our neighborhood and they were taking- they have to hire a crew to do the landscaping in our community. And the landscapers, they were blowing off the pine needles that came from the pine trees away from the basis of the trees. And that is that is extra work that people have to do that they're actually paid so we waste money paying these people to do that. And then they're hauled off to be made into compost or whatever far away in the landfill. And I was thinking to myself: ‘Well first that the tree does need actually its pine needles to be around it to compost naturally so that it's its own blanket during the wintertime. And second, if they didn't want it there, I could use it because I need mulch in my garden bed.’


And so I was driving thinking where's my bucket to use it instead of me buying straw from the store to use in my garden beds, into the school garden beds that we manage because we also manage some school garden beds and teach kids in the schools. And so that was in my mind but when I drove by it was gone already.


Desiree 7:58

That is so fascinating. And I love how you've mentioned the word design so many times- how you design that because it's so true. Everything that has been created in nature has been created for a purpose and has been created to fulfill a certain task right or multiple tasks. And it's true that our society today has implemented all of these useless ways. It's wasting a lot of resources actually, but let nature be nature. Let it do what it's supposed to do. And I think it's beautiful that you're kind of reintroducing that back into your lifestyle and at the same time teaching your kids all about it too. So that's amazing.


Iva 8:46

And to your and to your point, Desiree, I once read somebody’s post or comment as well that they were in a store- I guess a grocery or supermarket and you know how they have the sometimes the fruit that's packaged in plastic in those like trays?


Desiree 9:10

Oh my God. If you both Nicky and Iva- if you would come to Japan, you would cringe going through a supermarket. Like everything is in plastic! They literally even package a single banana in plastic and I’m like:  ‘But it's already in its packaging”, for me it was a complete like oh my God- I cringe every time I go to the supermarket. I swear.


Nicky 9:35

In the supermarket too, I saw a piece of lettuce wrapped up and I thought to look at the expiration date. I was buying lettuce because I wasn't growing at that time. And then I saw it was harvested a month before, it actually had the harvest date on. It said harvested on_ and then it was harvested a month before and I thought to myself, it was sitting on that shelf or it was being on transit for a month from the time that was picked and all the nutrition, you know comes out and it's in plastic and it's like the wasted resource, wasted nutrients, where if you put yourself in your backyard would get it much faster. 


Desiree 10:19

Yeah, and I think it really influences the taste of it as well right? Like, I remember because before Japan we actually did live in Singapore too. So Iva and I just missed each other, and that's a country where you have, like they live on everything is imported, right? But then you have everything available all year round. But then sometimes you taste the tomato and it doesn’t taste -like not much. It's a tomato, but you don't have that taste. So okay, I bashed the Japanese supermarkets just now. But now here it's totally seasonal. So, when I first moved here, being used to having everything readily available 12 months of the year, all of a sudden, whoa, Japan doesn't have any pumpkins, or like Japan doesn't have any cauliflower, what's going on? But it wasn't the season. Right? And then all of a sudden, now they have so many because it's well, it's the season. So here, even fruits there are some days some months in a year I can't even find apples or like oranges or something because it's just not in season and it makes total sense but when it does come oh my God the taste is just amazing and it's something we've lost I feel living in Asia for so long in different countries used to import like we lose that. You know and here there's so much into farming as well so it's just such a game changer in the way you treat your own nutrition.


Nicky 12:02

Well, it was all about the children in the first place. Because that's what got us into gardening was because they had allergies. The first two, had allergies and they were so severe, that the first baby was 18 pounds, for what seemed like 18 months-forever. And we didn't know what was going on. It was almost everything beef, peas, nuts, peanuts, they had to be gluten free. So we know we eat dairy free, eggs and chicken and so it was almost everything that she was allergic to and now and so that started we started questioning the food system, but even more so when the second one it was the same thing. And at that point, I was still eating McDonald's and shopping, you know, not organic. And then, with the second one, Ethan,  he was allergic to fish, and he would have anaphylactic attacks where he would turn blue even as a baby and so it was it scary. Then of course after that, we were like we better grow our own food because it must be something wrong with the food system. But we didn't know how to grow our own food. So, my husband had some experience and then we would grow a few tomatoes there and I was a black thumb because my grandmother would let me take care of orchids and she would say ‘this is your orchid, Nicky’ in the Philippines. And then in the end it would be just my grandma taking care of the orchid and I knew nothing and I killed plants. But it wasn't until we stumbled on permaculture that my my black thumb started becoming greener more and more every year. And then last year, this year we grow 300 pounds of fruits and veggies from the backyard.


Iva 14:03

300?! Oh wow


Desiree 14:04

That is amazing. You are giving us hope so we can change- Iva there’s hope for us! 


Nicky 14:14

There is totally hope. 


Iva 14:16

And Nicky, there is hope because for one thing, first of all, if you feel that all your life you haven't been able to make not even a cactus survive, right? and that says a lot. That the fact that you also identify as that in the past and now you're able to do this amazing project with your family and grow, I mean 300 pounds of fruit hat's quite a feat. It is incredible. And also, the other thing is, a lot of people especially in modern day society, where we tend to live in cities for the most part and we don't have parcels of land available or sometimes not even a garden right? You know, I'm based in Singapore, and land is very premium. So spaces are really really really small. And so that puts you off a little bit from the whole gardening idea that ‘Oh my god, I just don't have space. I wish’ So that would be the first barrier of entry into saying is this even possible for me? So for those families and moms that are finding themselves in that spot of saying mentally ‘Oh, that's so great that Nicky is able to do this and you know, her family is thriving this way. For me, it seems like a pipe dream.’ What words would you have for them that you could encourage them and let them feel that there are possibilities within the permaculture?


Nicky 15:44

I would say, start with microgreens, start with sprouts. The ones, the little, you know, garnishing things that they put in the restaurants that are super, super expensive. With wheat grass, that kind of thing. You can start with that and if you don't even if you if you’re not gonna take the time to order it or whatever, dig into your pantry and get the old beans, the garbanzo beans, the mung beans, whatever lentils you have in there. And then get some soil and a container like an old baking dish or an old like little cookie tin or whatever, and then put it with soil and then just sprinkle those seeds in there and then water it and then that's the seven day thing. Wait for seven days, water it like every two days or so. And then you snip it and then that's your first set of sprouts that you can eat.


Desiree 16:38

Oh, and that is an amazing thing that you do with kids. So they see how he knows.


Nicky 16:46

Oh my gosh and if you use sunflower seeds or white seeds, like garbanzo beans, that's so nice if you're Montessori mom where you're trying to teach them motor skills. You just put the seeds first on top spaced them how you like them, and then you have them press it down, but you can just sprinkle them too. You can sprinkle them however you want. Because first sprout doesn't really matter.


Iva 17:12

Oh, that's that sounds like an amazing project because they also get to see an end to it. And plus they get to eat it or see that it goes into their plate. Because sometimes it's very abstract. They just see the food, mostly cooked, or already prepared, but they don't follow through the journey of where did that come from? How did that come to be? And then that's the added layer of showing them how nature is working for them and how we are finding our food in nature that way and we're able to have that power to make it grow 


Nicky 17:44

Yeah, you'll be surprised like the funniest moments in the garden because we also teach- we also home-school our kids now, this is just after the pandemic and just because the school system the school here had changed that a little bit in terms of what they had to offer and so we were home-schooling our three younger kids now, the bottom two are twins. And then there's a seven year old. But when they were in the elementary school, we would have the funniest comments and now we're doing the same garden program. I was doing a garden program at the elementary school and now I'm doing a garden program in the middle school for the older kids. So, the kids comments will be like, we'll be like planting potatoes right, and then by the time we harvest the potatoes will say: so do you know where your french fries comes from? And then there's like a really big pause, silence. ‘From the grocery or from McDonald's or whatever.’ So then let's go back just that joy of the sweet potatoes or potatoes. It's like an Easter egg hunt for the kids. So yeah, and who doesn't want to give that experience the kids? Every spring and fall, I just go to the twins and go like ‘go get your second breakfast outside’ and they go and get strawberries. Strawberries are really easy, easy to grow. That's another thing that is easy to grow by the way, guys, if you wanted to just go out and get plugged in. 


And now how are they incorporated into this? We're starting this garden club right and we're just getting it going and we were out in the garden today. And I had a whole thing of lettuce to transplant and the fastest people to transplant- the other kids aren't joining us yet because we're not starting officially at the school until March. But my kids were- we're just helping out setting it up and so the twins… I was telling my husband how do they know not to break the roots they know not to break through it and be very gentle. And I when I first taught that, I have it on an Instagram video. Oh my gosh. ‘No, no, no, no, no. You, you're gonna kill.. you just killed the plant.’ But so many, you know, so many hundreds of times of doing that. And now they're almost five and they know how to do that. But yeah, so it happens they just absorb it. I didn't even realize I was


Desiree 20:26

it's their way of life, as well. And I think it's that's such a blessing. It's so, so beautiful. And I mean, I for like the past 10 years or so have been in living in just places where that kind of thing was not possible, right, in the countries we lived in. Like first of all because of space or of the seasons. I mean all tropical countries where it's just a little bit different. And then now, I was so amazed like last month, my son is four now, he went with his school on a school trip to dig up sweet potatoes and I almost cried looking at the pictures and videos because it's something I'm so grateful he gets to experience now because if we were in any other place it would be difficult, like, you know, like so it has something very powerful to be disconnected to nature and to like Iva said before, like know where your food comes from. 


Iva 22:18

And the other thing that I'm rescuing from your story just now Nicki that I loved, and I just want to highlight, is the fact that within this project, it is not just the end result, it's also how we have to be patient with them learning this and when you were saying like ‘oh, you just killed the oh.., we have to start all over again.’ Because sometimes it's true. We are maybe coming from a very rushed-do- accomplish-get-results-fast type of mentality, and nature definitely slows us down but also teaching them to interact with nature has to be within a space where we have to be open to the fact that things are going to happen. They're probably not going to, we're going to get the results that we envisioned right off the bat, but it's just allowing them as you say to integrate it within their habits so that later they intuitively almost know what to do next. But we also need to have that patience. And I guess that's  also the beauty of it all is how, through the gardening, through interacting with nature, it's a great opportunity to bond with them, but to also exercise that patience within us. And to allow them to make mistakes, quote-on-quote, so to speak, but that they just feel that well, there's a bit of trial and error but it teaches resilience. So I just love how it all interconnects or stacks up as you said at the beginning you know, stacking up activity


Nicky 24:01

Indeed this can be carried in business as well. When you go and you know, each mom who's in business has their own trajectory, and I think this is a really good tip that I got from another business woman who's not an solopreneur or anything, but she's she was much older than me and I approached her because I was just starting out with my business and I said: ‘how do you do it?’ Because I knew she had a big family and she had you know, a very, very full life. And she said ‘you know what, you cannot compare your trajectory with mine. Or your trajectory may be slower.’


And I felt when she had given me that line and gave me permission to do that. Yeah, I have a different path. I have a different trajectory because not everybody has the same situation that I have. So I can do my part by showing up like there's this image I have of the donkey at the water wheel which is something I take from a saint whose name is St. Jose Maria and he had this image of the donkey at the waterwheel so also an agricultural image, is what they would use in Spain. Yeah, they would they would run the burro right around the water wheel to get the water. But in the end, the donkey would only see the same path over and over again, but doesn't realize as it goes round and round a day in day out for months on end, the agricultural field that she's watering and all the produce that's being produced. But you have to be that faithful donkey at the water wheel- just keep on going and trusting that what you're doing is for the common good because your heart is in it and that God put that desire in you and that's what you were meant to do.


So I think that that pace that gave me a lot of peace to, you know, keep on going with the business. I'd be in a webinar with the babies here. As you probably have been doing it in your own podcast. And we had even done presentations with our babies in big Expo events or when the twins but when we go out to the garden, it's true, it does slow you down and all of a sudden, the mud that kids bring in when you come back from the garden, it doesn't bother you as much. And it's just a matter of perspective. You know, if you're in the house so much, and you're cleaning it a lot and you need to and I'm both- like I'm always struggling with the interior of the house trying to make it Marie Kondo. But then when I go out in the garden, and I go back in, I don't get that- I get more of that piece and less like I can let go of things a little bit more than it does. It's not that big of a deal. Okay, I just deal with it.


Desiree 27:09

Totally. And you answered like a question that I wanted to ask the whole time but maybe if you can expand on that a little bit. So how, now having fully integrated this into your life and how did you then take those first steps to actually turn this into a business?


Nicky 27:29

So, when we started gardening successfully, people would start coming up to us and asking us, you know, how do you do it? How did you go this much? And can you teach us? And I just had this- I started first with the school gardening at the school, and I just had this vision of, and when you get this vision- you have your own vision, the one that keeps you up at night where you can’t go to sleep I mean aside from your kids keeping you up- there's this other vision that keeps you up and you're just like there's this annoying thing that I need to do.


I need to get this done. I need to grow this and this was this vision of a garden and I could see like, you know, it changing the whole community, in the school. And even though that vision is not so- I mean, it's true in one sense, it's not exactly like I had the reporters come in and all that stuff. And that's not exactly- we did get a grant from Whole Foods, were featured in certain magazines and stuff like that. But even now, the reception of some schools are better than others. You know, I put that vision, I felt like it was something that was sacred and there was a given to me that I needed to carry out and then I shared it with my husband and he was more into gardening than I was. But he wasn't into the business part. You know, he knows more about- I always say he knows more- he's like Nicky you have to give yourself some credit you also know stuff. But he really does know a little bit more of the science-y part and what works in a garden. But I started, I started the business first, and then I would just have him come on the Webinars and be like a helpful consultant thing, you know, to answer the questions at the end, because when people had harder questions then he couldn answer them, I wouldn't be the main host. And the first webinar I gave it was 12 people who registered not even showed up, but maybe of those 12 maybe six showed up. And so you start small and I just gave a lot we gave so much so many webinars. We've written so many blogs, but little by little, that we weren't. We don't even we didn't even realize how much we had amassed until we started making our course and then that's when we said ‘okay, maybe we have a product here that we can sell the first people were just trialers, you know, it wasn't even sell. And then little by little you, you sell a course. And then right now, it's a program, because there's also us supporting it. And that was in 2015. And I tell you, there's some entrepreneur moms like bloggers that are superstars. And I met them when they were young. I meet them I see like, ‘wow, you have 10,000 in your list or something.’ And then and then they look at me and say ‘Nicky, this is my eighth year.’ So like how do you get from like, you know, you can't expect- you can't compare your beginning to somebody else’s middle


Iva 30:45

You know putting things into perspective and also building on the momentum as you say, right? But going back to the donkey metaphor, you don't see it. You don't see how that momentum is coming along. You're just trying to do every day what you feel you need to be doing, and trying to have your attention and focus on that


Desiree 31:09

Yeah and be consistent and follow your passions and this is what you said you felt called to do. So, if you stay consistent with it. Now a webinar that at the beginning, maybe had six people attending, I mean now, like so many years later, what is it now? Six years later? How many are attending them now? For example? 


Nicky 31:31

So on average last year, we would have 100 registrants. That would be the average- 100 registrants but we have given a webinar like those, sometimes there'll be some ups and downs and you'll have some flukes where like in our third year, we had a webinar where we had 1800 attendees and they got locked out. But that was because I partnered with that blogger, who I told you had a 10,000 list. She was so generous, you're gonna meet, we're gonna meet moms who are so generous could be like, ‘sure, you know, you don't need to be an affiliate or whatever’ 


Iva 32:04

Empowered women, empower women. That's my mantra. I do believe that. If you have abundance and an abundance mindset, you don't mind sharing because you know that there's enough for everyone to go around and everybody has their unique gifts. And for example, with Desiree, that's why we want to showcase women like you, because, you know, it's also part of what we thrive in doing, in building this communit,y is to let the light shine on other moms who are doing amazing, as well. So we just love to share the spotlight and this platform with them and highlight what they're doing because it's amazing. It's inspiring, and it's empowering.


Desiree 22:49

Yeah. So I'm inspired, from something you're called to do to, now having fully you've created a course, a program, you're fully living out your passion. At the same time really doing all of this that benefits you and your family in a healthy way and then in an abundant way and like you know in a business so it's just, congratulations on your achievements. 


Iva 33:19

And Nicky, you have a freebie for us- you're sharing something with the listeners, right? You have a free monthly garden webinar.


Nicky  33:31

Yes, we do have a free monthly garden webinar- you will get to interact with us on a specific topic that’s seasonal, me and my husband Dave for an hour and I hope you can join us live and you can if you hop in 10 minutes before we get to chat with you a little bit. And then afterwards, there's the Q&A as well. So if you have any garden questions or anything that you'd like to, you know, ask about, container gardening or pests and weeds and yeah, we'll be happy to answer them to the best of our ability or at least point you towards the right direction. If we can't answer them.


Desiree  34:12

That is wonderful. Yeah. Because you I can't wait to check out the rest of your website as well because it's I know it's filled with resources and blogs and I love the Grow It Yourself or as you coined it GIY. Also even a garden membership program right that helps to simplify and strategize, backyard garden success so no excuses that I don't have enough space because you named a lot of examples of how you can even make it work on a balcony or on a Kitchen ledge. And tell us, what are you also working on right now?


Nicky 34:56

So my husband, he's a software programmer. Dave has been working on one of his projects is working on a software called Sage, which is an app- a garden app- to help you figure out how to what to plant, when, and it works right now, according to your zip code in the United States, and I believe Canada, so you would type in your zip code and it will be able to know what your temperature ranges are so that you can know what to plant. So that app is going to be on Kickstarter, in March. We're hoping of 2022 So that's what's coming down the pipeline for us.


Iva 35:39

Wow. Cool things ahead. 


Nicky  35:46

We always have our garden program- So if you ever need gardening support, Grow It Yourself is our garden program membership.


Iva 35:53

We just love we just love Nicki everything that you're doing and how really you are integrating. You know, it's just like a simple life with being more in tune and in touch with nature and tying it up with nutrition, the food that you're eating and keeping your family's well being and health, but also making it your business and making it a platform for other families to feel inspired. So, it's just all around, it's like amazing, amazing what you're doing. We loved having you here on the podcast sharing with us and, and thank you for coming over and really having this amazing conversation. So, if you want to connect with Nicky, you can find her on Instagram, @permaculture_garden and we're also going to be sharing all her links to Facebook, LinkedIn, her website in our show notes, so Nicky, thank you so much for being here with us today. 


Nicky 37:00

It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me


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Nicky Schauder

Nicky Schauder and her husband Dave are passionate about helping families grow their own food. Their garden journey began when their kids were diagnosed with “failure to thrive” due to multiple food allergies. Because of these health issues they felt called to grow organic at home and now supply 25% of their fruits and veggies from their tiny townhouse backyard. Their mission is to help families grow their own food, medicine and find God through ecological gardening.



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