He knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but dad of two Duvan Durand stuck to his guns and created a magical sustainable garden in his backyard.
Tell us about your family
I am married to Sanmarie. When we had our first kid I realised how amazing women are. Yes, men can open pickle jars and carry heavy objects. We can fix broken things and break working things and we can survive the violent man flu. But woman can have babies and somehow they know what to do and how to look after them. We have two kids, Jack (6) and Vivienne (3) and from the start my wife knew what to do with them!
When you are not a dad of two – what do you do?
I am a film director. I own a little production company based in Woodstock called The Institute of Amazing Shit. We dabble in advertising.
How would your kids describe you?
In my mind they see me as this awesome guy that can do everything – teaches them amazing things and makes them laugh but in reality I am just their dad. I’m the one who gets called in when they don’t listen or when they fight or get stuck in a tree. Jack was recently sent to his room for punching his sister. My wife sent me in to “take care of it”. As I sat down on Jack’s bed I remembered something that for the first time connected my life as a father to my life as a kid. I was the same age as Jack when I was also sent to my room. My dad arrived home from work and I was scared of getting a hiding. Waiting for him was terrifying. He was this ‘God’ like figure that ruled the world I lived in. He came in and sat on the bed. He was very serious and warned me to listen to my mom. He hugged me and walked out. It was ridiculously scary as a little kid. So there I was sitting on my son’s bed after a day of work in the same situation. He was terrified that he was in trouble. I wasn’t angry with him but I had to be the dad. I realised that my whole view of my dad changed that day from this big father figure to just a guy trying to raise five kids to the best of his abilities. I realised that he was a cool guy and that he could do anything. That he taught me amazing things and made me laugh. Unfortunately, my kids will only realise this in 30 years time when they have kids of their own. Until then I’m stuck with being the Dad 🙂
You started a massive gardening project in your backyard a while ago – tell us more?
Last year we attempted a couple of projects at home. One of the projects was to see if I could grow enough food for one month. I made a list of everything we eat in a month and planted as much of it as I could. Not the best idea for someone with no experience. It was a big learning curve. Our garden is an organic garden. Every week a new worm, fruit fly or bird would rock up to spoil the party. But in the end the rewards were pretty big. The garden didn’t quite produce a month’s harvest but we ate bounteous food from it and still do. I love the fact that I can plant a seed and three months later you eat something amazing. And it is probably better than anything you can buy. We are far removed from the origin of our food. That should be a worry to all of us but yet people don’t seem to take it too seriously.
Have you also had a green thumb or is this gardening thing a new experience?
Its definitely a new thing or at least at this scale.
How does the garden tie in to your parenting philosophy?
Its pretty much the same thing. I am just a guy trying to grow some food to the best of my abilities.
We also heard that you and your wife decided to not buy anything new for one year – what is the story behind this?
The decision came at the end of 2013 when we went Christmas shopping for the kids. It was one of those horrible packed days at the mall where you can’t move. People buying stuff they don’t need with money they don’t have. Buying things make people feel better. As soon as you buy that thing you so desperately need, you want something else. And our habits were rubbing off on our kids. We decided to break the cycle and embarked on a year long project. We let go of convenience, the microwave, the Nespresso machine. We handmade everything we could, from birthday presents to baking our own bread everyday for a year. We started buying food from a local organic grocer and cooked from scratch instead of pre-made. We didn’t upgrade our phone contracts. I started the garden. We gave the kids birthday presents that were good for them and their development, a bicycle off Gumtree, instruments and books. It ended up changing the way we live, eat, think and for me the way I work. I still don’t have a new phone. Looking back it was without a doubt one the best years of my life so far. I would definitely recommend shaking things up in your life. You might just find yourself in the mess.
Is it really expensive to get it up and running?
It depends on what you want to achieve. If your aim is to grow food for yourself you only need a piece of garden or a pot on the balcony and you’re on your way. You can imagine it being very expensive if you try build a Babylonstoren in your backyard.
How did you decide on what to grow and what was the biggest challenge?
I tried to grow everything I could get my hands on. I also attempted to grow interesting plants or varieties I never knew about. I have a couple of pineapples growing, white and yellow cucumbers and I planted strawberry popcorn for the kids. The biggest challenge in every garden, especially if you grow organically, is to stop nature from destroying your harvest. Birds love to eat young seedlings and cutworm or fruit flies can destroy months of hard work in a few days.
Please give us your top gardening tips (we also want a garden!)
Start small. A big garden with no experience can be overwhelming.
Youtube. There are loads of people out there who have been doing it for a long time.
Good soil. Whether you make your own compost or buy from your local nursery. The plants will only be as healthy as the soil.
Plant at the right time.
Invest time. If you spend 5 minutes a day tending to your garden you will bear the fruits.
Is it possible for anyone to start a sustainable garden – what are the top 5 things you need to start a project like this?
Not only is it possible but I think it’s very necessary. We have to start growing more food locally and put less pressure on the environment. The fact that we buy food grown in other countries and flown thousand of miles so we can eat a peach in winter, is a bit crazy. You only need soil, sunlight, water, a seed and a small amount of time.
Did the kids help in the garden?
Not really. They like to spend time outside but not so much the gardening part. When you are a kid physical labour is not high on your to-do list. Jack helped me build our scarecrow. I think they will get more into it as they get older.
You are setting such a wonderful example for your kids: What do you do on a day to day base to keep your kids creative and involved?
We try limit screen time as much as possible as a family. I think that is the biggest killer of creativity and it breeds boredom. If you leave them they will play.