Meet the family who grows their own food all year
FOR THE past three and a half years, the Spur family have been hard at work transforming their one-acre property into a fully sustainable paradise.
Roman Spur is a sustainable design engineer - and spearheaded the effort to redevelop their Fernvale property into the ‘Spurtopia’ homestead that it is known as today.
“There was nothing sustainable about this place when we bought it. The only sustainable thing was a small rainwater tank,” he said.
“We had a vision of converting this place into something very special. The point here is to be more self-sufficient, living a simple, healthy, family-centred lifestyle.”
The family moved to Australia from the Czech Republic 11 years ago and lived in Brisbane for several years before moving into a shed on a friend’s property near Jimboomba.
Throughout this time, they developed and refined the techniques they would later use to redevelop the Fernvale property.
Landscaping work was the first step in the redevelopment, as the land was originally on a slope, meaning there was less level ground to work with, and rainwater would run-off the property and go to waste.
“When it had heavy rain, water would be running off, causing flooding on the neighbours’ properties,” Roman said.
“We built swales on the contour of the land to stop the run-off of water. A week ago when we got a lot of rain, not a drop left the property.”
Rocks from the land were used to construct a retaining wall, creating more level ground, and forming the basis of the home’s garden area.
The property features rainwater tanks, solar panels, a solar hot water system, compost bays, a variety of self-watering garden beds, a vegetable patch, fruit trees, chickens and bees.
“The greywater is filtered and goes to irrigate the fruit trees, and the septic water goes down into the vegetable garden,” Mr Spur said.
These measures are so successful that the Spurs often produce more food than they need, with the rest being put to use in other ways, or traded to neighbours in exchange for other supplies.
“We’re not going into the market and selling that, that’s not the purpose,” Mr Spur said.
“The purpose is to have enough for us, and if we’ve got excess we share it.”
The family’s efforts were recognised recently, when they won the Best Edible Garden and Best Water-Wise Garden in the 2019 Somerset Garden Competition.
Despite these measures, the household is still connected to town water, which they were forced to make use of during the recent drought.
“We are – as a family of five – able to get by on about $1,500 a month (living expenses),” Mr Spur said.
“On average, I work – going to events and so forth – about one day a week. The rest of the time I have to spend with my family, and doing work around the garden. It’s not that I’m not working, but for money, it’s only one day a week.”
Roman works as a sustainable living educator, delivering workshops and presentations to encourage others to make their own homes more sustainable.
“The focus is on the younger generation, because that’s where you can have the most impact.” he said.
Workshops and tours are also held at the house, letting participants see first-hand how it all works.
“It’s an education centre. People come for open days, for workshops, and things like that. We have literally bus loads of people coming,” Mr Spur said.
“We want that interaction. We’re actually inspiring other neighbours, helping them to establish their gardens and so on.”
Roman encourages those inspired by his family’s story to live their dream.
“A lot of people say ‘when I get older I’ll buy acreage and start growing my own food’, but because they’ve been working so hard, when they get to that point they might not have the energy or health,” he said.
“Start small, start now, and don’t make excuses. Unless you try this lifestyle, you don’t really understand it. You don’t know what you’re missing.”
To find out more, check out the Spurtopia website: http://spurtopia.blogspot.com/ which features articles, guides and links to upcoming workshops.
Check out the gallery below to see more of the property.