It was cervical cancer, but I had to have multiple surgeries and I had complications so I couldn’t have any more children after that which was really confronting. - Anne Gibson
In this episode we’ll meet Anne Gibson, who in 2004 was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Having taken perfect health for granted for a long time, it was a wake up call that changed her paradigm on everything. With a young family and a determination to regain her health, it was a time to reflect on the choices she had been making about where her food came from, her families lifestyle, home environment and products they were using. In this interview Anne talks about the past, how she grew up helping her grandparents, how she dealt with being diagnosed with cervical cancer to how she started The Micro Gardener to help others grow their own food to recharge their health and lifestyle.
In this episode Anne talks about:
• Living in Vanuatu
• Cervical cancer
• Genetically modified foods
• Sustainable agriculture
• Creating your own garden
• Health and well-being
Get in contact with Anne:
• Main Website: www.themicrogardener.com
• Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheMicroGardener
The Micro Garderners' Yummy recipes:
Helpful resources regarding cervical cancer:
The first 2 links below are based in Australia, but have very good information. Please email me and let me know if you have a another link that might be of value.
Thank you so much for listening to my episode today!
If you would like to email me some feedback and people or topics you would like to hear on my podcast please do so at: email@example.com
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A big THANKS to: Anne Gibson for joining me this week.
See you next time!
TRANSCRIPTION. INTERVIEW WITH ANNE GIBSON - THE MICRO GARDENER
Yenny: Let’s start.
Anne Gibson: Okay.
Yenny: Hello and welcome to Everyday Light Warriors show and I was wondering if you can introduce yourself to the audience, what your name is and maybe start a little bit where you grow up.
Anne: Well Yenny, my name is Anne Gibson.
Anne: And I grew up in Sydney, huge city and a temperate climate and I had a very privileged upbringing in the sense that we lived very sustainably. My family had a big backyard dedicated to food production and we lived very frugally but it was a very satisfying upbringing. As kids, we do play in the backyard with chooks and…
Yenny: I saw a photo on your website which we’ll mention later on. You have a company called now… it’s called.
Anne: The Micro Gardener.
Yenny: It was very interesting to see of a photo of you in the backyard.
Anne: Composting as kids so yeah.
Yenny: So was there something… when you grow up, that was something that’s always was there. Was there something that your grandparents did as well?
Anne: Well, my grandparents had farms. So, I spent a lot of time out in the garden with my grandparents being wheeled around in a wheelbarrow.
Yenny: And what’s their names?
Anne: Ana and Eric.
Yenny: It sounds Swedish and Greek…
Anne: Well, actually they’re from England. Yeah, they were really amazing and had a very strong influence on me as a child and I used to spend a lot of time getting to know about plants like my grandparents taught me plant names. We used to get a lot of nature walks and they got me to look after the chickens and we’d be collecting eggs with my cousins and then it was very into preserving foods and then especially, she taught all of those skills to my mother.
Yenny: So, that was your mother’s mother?
Anne: My mom’s mom. So I guess when I was growing up, I had both of my grandparents’ influence and also my mom and she used to preserve everything like jams from scratch and our laundry which was outdoors in those days outside the house.
Anne: We used to have shelves and shelves of preserves so all the abundance.
Yenny: Is that like pickles?
Anne: Not just like pickles but like canned beans and fruits and anything that came out of the garden. If she had more than she needed, she would put some away.
Yenny: And was there potatoes as well?
Anne: We had just about everything. I remember having a huge strawberry patch and the corn that was towering up above me as a little girl and we had about 23 chickens.
Yenny: Oh my goodness.
Anne: Yeah, they used to… my young years were really about learning responsibility, how to look after animals, and helping mom and dad in the garden. Dad used to compost everything and in those days, you’re allowed to burn off all of your rubbish and use incinerator and use the fireplace’s ash from there to build your soil. So, I learned a lot of those things as a child that that was just normal for us. I’m really used to eat out of our garden a lot and visit local farms to get food that we weren’t growing.
Yenny: Yeah, and the area where you lived, was that in Sydney, Australia or was it outside Sydney?
Anne: No, in Sydney in the suburbs. I guess it was on the north shore in a place called West Pymble so I spent all my childhood in that area and loved it but it wasn’t until really I got married and moved out of home and I’ve moved quite a few times but I realised later on when I became a parent that not everybody had that kind of a childhood. That was normal for me but I guess I didn’t really appreciate it because in my early 20s and mid-20s, I was working and traveling into the city and that’s when all those calls and lease came on board and…
Yenny: So, how about that when you grew up around back teenager time, what did you do then? Did you go to school, university or like what was your ambitions?
Anne: I went to high school locally and I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or be. I just knew I loved teaching at that stage from about the age of 12 and in fact, it was actually started earlier than that. It started at five, teaching my sister how to spell and read and do maths.
Yenny: Old neighbourhood.
Anne: Yeah, so yes, I loved learning things. I’ve been a perpetual learner my whole life and I don’t think you should have stop your learning and I really enjoyed teaching her how to do all those things before she actually went to school and I loved doing lots of short courses. So after I left school, I did study secretarial and sales and marketing and did a whole lot of things but I didn’t really find my passion in life.
Yenny: So around that time, did you meet your husband then as well? Was that later on in life?
Anne: Well, that was later on in life.
Anne: That’s a story of its own.
Yenny: Yeah, before that but you went to… did you go travel at all or like…?
Anne: Yes, I did a bit of traveling and I mainly worked in the city in Sydney and realized that I didn’t want to commute all the time. I started to have a shift in my mindset about lifestyle and I ended up wanting to spend less time traveling, more time living so I was having some of those light bulb moments and I guess it wasn’t until I was in my mid to late 20s that after I had been married once and that hadn’t worked out, I met my second husband to be and…
Yenny: Tell us what happened.
Anne: Well, this is a bit of a strange story but my mom and his mom match made us and…
Yenny: Was it a blind date?
Anne: Well, yes actually but we ended up really being this friends and got married after three months.
Yenny: Oh wow.
Anne: And it was a very whirlwind romance but we’re married still for 24 years so.
Yenny: And was that in Sydney as well when you lived in the city?
Anne: Well yes, I was living in Sydney but he was living in Vanuatu so that’s when I left Sydney and actually spent two years living over there after we got married so.
Yenny: How was that?
Anne: A big shock to the system.
Yenny: Yeah. So it was a very relaxed there sort of speak?
Anne: Well I say it’s another time, another place. So for a Sydney girl where everything is like about travel and everything is fast and done by the clock and the watch and all of that to go somewhere where I didn’t have to be anywhere by a certain time, I actually found it hard to unwind and it made me just step back and realise just how much pressure I’ve been living under but the other thing that I had a wake-up call there which was really interesting is the shops were very different so I couldn’t just go and buy our food like I normally where I’d have a shopping list and I would go there and those things weren’t in the shops there. But I got to know the local markets where they had fresh fish coming out of the ocean, lots of beautiful tropical fruits. Of course, it was a tropical environment.
Yenny: I feel like eating it.
Anne: So, I started to get to think about buying what was fresh and local and going home and going what can I make with that, big shift in my thinking and cooking skills.
Yenny: And how long did you live there for?
Anne: About two years and then we came back to Sydney because Brian’s mom was sick and…
Yenny: Okay, so is he from Vanuatu or is…?
Anne: No, he was a Kiwi (short for New Zeelander). He lived over to Vanuatu and then spent quite a few years there so I was quite lucky that we crossed paths and…
Yenny: Yeah, that’s nice and how long have you been together for?
Anne: Twenty-four years now.
Yenny: It’s amazing.
Anne: Right partnership.
Yenny: Yeah, so after that, what happened then? Did you move back to Sydney or…?
Anne: We did move back to Sydney. We built a house and we lived there for about three years, had our daughter and…
Yenny: What’s her name?
Anne: So and then we moved to Brisbane for 10 years.
Yenny: So why did you move to Brisbane? Was that to wind down a little bit or…?
Anne: Yes, we were really…
Yenny: Did it work?
Anne: Yeah, we were sick of the traffic. We were sick of I think just that busy city lifestyle. We wanted something better for Amy and we decided to move to Brisbane which at that time was a really big country town but we had to start from scratch. So in some ways, you have to be brave when you pack your life up and move again and start from scratch with knowing that you know and that was a bit of a challenge but we got through that and…
Yenny: Was that 2004 or…?
Anne: No, it was just before that but that was a really challenging year because Amy was very young. She was in primary school and that was the year that I got the news that I had cancer and if you’ve ever had a major health challenge, it comes like a slap in the face.
Yenny: It just happened that you had no clue about it. Is that right?
Anne: I had had a lot of stress in my life. I don’t think my immune system was functioning as it should have and really I think I’d been on a treadmill for a long time and I wasn’t really happy in my life that it was quite a low point and maybe it was just my body’s way of telling me you’ve got some changes to make. It was a massive wake-up call for me. It was like… I did have surgical options at the time which I was really blessed to have but I had a really long recovery period. I didn’t get a good prognosis and…
Yenny: And so what kind of cancer it was?
Anne: It was cervical cancer but I had to have multiple surgeries and I had complications so I couldn’t have any more children after that which was really confronting. But at that time, we decided we needed to make a major lifestyle change and really that was a catalyst for me accepting responsibility for that happening to me. I thought what… I started to question a lot of the decisions I’ve made. I looked at our food and I didn’t all to that pantry. I thought what I’ve got in here, what… I’d grown up with a mother who was a remedial massage therapist. She had been into natural therapies and alternative therapies her whole life and instilled these things into us that maybe I’ve just taken my health for granted up to that point and it wasn’t until I get slapped with something really major in your life that you think, what am I going to do to change this around. So I said to Brian we need to get out of here, we need to change what we’re doing, what we’re eating. I started questioning our whole food system and it was a really, really confronting journey because I started to get answers to questions and I didn’t like those answers. I found out about genetically modified foods. I found about… I realised gosh, I’ve been shopping, putting this food into my trolley and it’s contaminated with so many additives and chemicals. It’s been raised by farmers growing things conventionally and we’ve been eating that. So, that cumulative effect of chemicals had to have an impact on my body.
Yenny: But you thought you were healthy.
Anne: I thought I was healthy, yeah. I thought we were eating well, cooking from scratch but there were far too many things in my pantry that were processed and I started to realise that where we’re getting our food from.
Yenny: And what kind of products like because I think I need a wake-up call myself, yeah like because I think I’m pretty healthy but sometimes I think… I’m in Queensland. That one is bought from Victoria.
Yenny: And it’s kind of around somewhere because I’m a late shopper like I do it at night or when I don’t have the kids.
Yenny: Like I’ll hurry up and yeah so what kind of products for example did you… was an eye opener for you?
Anne: Okay. Well, I guess I would have called myself a convenience consumer if I’m really honest and I looked in the mirror. I was really busy a lot of the time and I was helping my husband in his businesses and I wanted to get food on the table quickly and I still thought it was going to be healthy so we ate a lot of packaged foods. We still have got our fruit and vegetables but unfortunately, they were conventionally grown and so like you, I didn’t understand what seasonal food was. When I went to Vanuatu, I did but that was many years later that I had forgotten all of that and by at this time, I’d forgotten about seasonal foods. I was just going and making decisions at the point of putting something in my trolley. So when I started to discover that foods have been irradiated, GM, it’s got chemicals in it, it’s come from China, there’s a lot of food miles, these are really like overwhelming and I’m thinking to myself, how do I make decisions based on all of these factors and I started to think this is in the too hard basket but I was really motivated because I had these health issue.
Yenny: You had to.
Anne: So, I completely cleared out our pantry out and I found a really great little ethical shopping guide which I use to give me some tips which was fantastic.
Yenny: Have you got that one on your website or…?
Anne: No, but I can give you the link for that.
Yenny: Yeah, it’s great to share with the audience.
Anne: I love to do that.
Yenny: They can go to your website and find it there or something.
Anne: Exactly, and it was at least a little starting point then I created a website called Green Journey and I started sharing our story and trying to connect with people in the community and taking on a lot of learning myself so I’d learned a lot about growing food as we were growing up but I really wanted to take it to another level so I started studying biodynamics. I’ve studied organic gardening.
Anne: I went to learn beekeeping, seed saving, how to make cheeses. I just really spent several years soaking up all of this knowledge and investing in myself because I thought… I felt a bit guilty to be honest that it wasn’t just me that was sick, what I had been feeding my family and what was I putting on the table out of love but not being educated about those choices. So, I didn’t want to overwhelm myself so I just made little choices and little changes bit by bit. Each week, I would buy something new or I would look in the pantry and…
Yenny: So you can’t do straight away.
Yenny: You just change it little by little.
Anne: Yeah like so if I would normally put something on this shopping list and I’d say okay, I’m not going to buy that anymore. I’ve made a conscious choice not to buy genetically modified and whatever it might have been, something that might have had canola oil in it or something like that and I think what choice I am going to spot to. So bit by bit, I changed my shopping list over then I started shopping at Farmers Markets having discussions with local farmers and then I’d realise which farmers weren’t local because if you ask questions, did you grow this, where does it come from, you start to get answers and you can figure out which of the people who were actually growing it and what’s in season. So if you’re buying some broccoli and it’s a local farmer, you can say well did you grow this broccoli, he’d say no, we were in summer, it’s come from Victoria.
Yenny: And then you wouldn’t buy that.
Anne: And then I wouldn’t buy that because I think okay, what’s the seasonal grain that I can buy instead something an example would be zucchini like it would be local, fresh and then that was stepping stone onto growing my own and so then I wanted to really grow nutrient in this food because the other problem I discovered, it wasn’t just the chemicals that were in our food because the way and the methods that the conventional farmers use, they’re not feeding the soil with all the minerals. It’s missing minerals so that food they’re growing might look good on the shelf.
Yenny: There’s nothing inside.
Anne: But the nutritional value is really lacking so when we eat that, we think we’re eating lettuce, food with X, Y, Z vitamins and minerals but…
Yenny: They probably taste it so it looks good…
Yenny: But this is tasteless.
Anne: So it was missing that and I wanted to find out how do I get that nutrient back in the soil so it goes in the plant so it goes in my body and that’s what builds my health and my immune system.
Yenny: Wow. So, how long was your journey of recovery because you are… are you totally healed now?
Anne: Yes, totally healed.
Yenny: How long did it take?
Anne: It took me two years to really get over the surgeries and to just…
Yenny: So, you did have surgeries. Did you have any chemo…?
Yenny: Was it called chemo?
Anne: Chemotherapy. No, I didn’t go down that path.
Yenny: Did you have to or did they suggest you to?
Anne: Not at that point. I was really scared because you’re facing something at quite a young age that you think how’s this happened to me but I was so determined in my mind, I was going to turn it around and I was about that time I came across the law of attraction and I decided okay, I’m going to manifest good health from this point forward and I’m going to do whatever I’m going to bring into my life whatever is necessary for that to happen and I think that’s just like a domino effect and I really just enjoyed those years afterwards because it’s given me… I’m really grateful that I went through that negative experience because it actually has caused me to be in a much better healthier space now and I’m in a position where I can help other people who’ve maybe been through something similar.
Yenny: Biggest things in it. Wow, that…
Anne: I found my life passion.
Yenny: By having that. That’s quite amazing. So from this, you are running the Micro Gardener now and just before we start talking a little bit about that, can you just tell me, tell us why you started with the Micro Gardener.
Yenny: The Micro Gardener, why you started it?
Anne: Yeah, good question.
Yenny: Because you mentioned that you moved a lot.
Anne: Yes, I did. I had moved 16 times up until this days but the last place that we were living when we moved to Sunshine Coast, we hadn’t bought anywhere. We didn’t know where I want to live and I was in recovery mode at that time so we just wanted to find somewhere that I could be peaceful but it was a suburban block and it was quite a big block, 800 square meters but we didn’t have any way that we could put food in the ground there which was really challenging.
Yenny: Why was that?
Anne: It was really landscaped everywhere so there was no space for garden beds and so it’s at that time I’ve been studying permaculture and biodynamics and I dragged my poor husband along to study sustainable agriculture as well and we were so excited. We had a little light bulb moments about the link between soil biology or the life in the soil and how that feeds plants and get some of the nutrition into it and how we were going to change the way we are growing our food. And because we’re renting, I had really limited space and so I thought how can I take all this knowledge and downscale it into containers and so I thought, I started thinking maybe I should just create micro gardens here in this rental property and so I went back into the computer and I thought I had to Google that to see if there’s a such thing as micro gardens or micro garden actually and it was that only time I ever put anything into Google and came up with nothing. So I thought right, that was the point I thought I’ll become a micro gardener and started the little blog and I started writing about what I was doing and then I kind of just kept going from there.
Yenny: It’s so amazing because now you run workshops and you have your blog. Your website gets so many hits a week, doesn’t it?
Yenny: And so what kind of… so what do you do on the Micro Gardener? What do you offer?
Anne: Well basically, I’m trying to inspire people to grow nutrient-dense food and to show them that they don’t need to have a lot of space. It’s easy to grow when you’ve got a farm or you’ve got an acre or whatever but because of those 16 moves, a lot of those were in apartments or units, had balconies and so I’d had all kinds of different experiences and I’ve taken all of those challenges and being able to use my interior design background as well from making things look beautiful because part of this journey was about sanctuary and having garden therapy and being able to have a healing space that not only feeds to your body with good food but also to feed your mind and your soul and really feel like you’re going out and seeing something that looks attractive because don’t we eat with our eyes first.
Yenny: Yeah, we do and then you wanted to taste as good as it looks like as well.
Anne: Taste amazing, yeah.
Yenny: Oh wow.
Anne: So it’s really about little steps, just doing small things every week to progress. It could be just starting with some micro grains on the windowsill and getting those digestive enzymes into your diet and you go wow, that’s so easy. It only takes me a few minutes a week so…
Yenny: So, you’re actually trying to tell people that it’s not that hard.
Anne: Oh absolutely.
Yenny: Because when I think about it, I’m like oh god. I like to do it but after a while, oh I have to do watering.
Anne: Look, I think container gardening is a skill that everybody should have.
Yenny: Yeah, and do you have courses on that?
Anne: I’m working on online courses that I’d be presenting this year.
Yenny: Sign me up.
Anne: It’s something that I think I’ve got a lot of free articles on that online website that can give people some basics.
Yenny: Oh, that’s good.
Anne: And with the container gardening, at least it gives you the principles. I’m trying to teach people the basics of what they need to know and then they can go away and start playing or putting a few foods in, get some confidence as much as a herb garden to start with. It might be some micro grains. It might be just a few leafy grains to put in their stir fry, start small and build from there and you get so satisfied. For me, there’s nothing better than to be able to bring in a basket of bits and pieces from out in the garden and then go right, what can I create with it tonight.
Anne: And put something on the table and you know the history of that food. You know that it’s been grown with love. It’s got a beautiful energy and flavor about it and it’s so good for your body.
Yenny: Do you have any recipes as well that you could maybe share with my listeners?
Anne: Yes, I’ve loved to.
Yenny: Yeah or if you have them on your blog.
Anne: I have a few on my blog.
Yenny: Excellent, I put some links in the show notes. What’s your favourite green so to speak?
Anne: Favourite green, I’ve got a couple. I would say at the moment it’s Surinam spinach which is really unusual, s-u-r-i-n-a-m. It’s a summer spinach.
Anne: Yes, it’s fabulous. It grows so well in the subtropic but it grows really.
Yenny: You don’t have to water?
Anne: It’s so hardy. It just keeps growing. It’s very ornamentals with beautiful pink flowers and there’s amount of leaves. I get off it for very little watering or work. It’s just incredible. It’s growing in pots. It’s growing out in the garden. You just take a cutting off it and chuck it in and I love basil. Basil is fantastic so we’re making a lot of pesto.
Anne: And it’s hard to like too many choices. I love parsley as well. That’s fantastic.
Yenny: And your favorite fruit for example, what’s that? Do you have any… I saw you have some trees down here.
Anne: Yes, I’ve got [inaudible], bananas, mangoes, citrus, quite a few different things, pineapple and I got some stone fruits and tropical peaches. Yes.
Yenny: I’m staying here.
Anne: I’ve got these lovely avocados that I went to pick yesterday. They’re looking pretty good.
Yenny: Oh wow, that look good. They’re perfect. I wish the audience could see, the listeners…
Anne: You can have that one and take home.
Yenny: Oh yes, thank you. Well, that’s beautiful. This show is also lot that we have talked about that, a lot about self-care and you said you’ve been on this journey and the mission to help others with the micro gardening but you said was this last year, you had to take a step back and then take care of your mom.
Yenny: And you kind of realised that the self-care factor was a big part of it.
Anne: It is. I think probably most people go through a challenging time in their life and for me, last year was probably the most challenging of my life because it was confronting. My mom had stage IV cancer. It was not looking good. We knew after a while it was going to be terminal and to face that fact and go through the grief was really, a really tough thing to do but I shared the responsibility of caring for my mom with my sister and I spent the last six months of her life looking after her in my home and I guess…
Yenny: Was that here?
Anne: That was here, yeah. And I guess it was at that point my garden took on a whole new paradigm. I had to step back from my business and reprioritise. Obviously, I had one opportunity to give that beautiful gift to mom to let, not have to this pass away somewhere else and to spend that quality time together but I also used the garden as a sanctuary for her to help her find peace and it also took that terrible burden away from me. I have to go outdoors and just clear the mind and it’s amazing when you got outdoors. It helps you see things to another lens. It helps you centre the spirit and just get that peace that sometimes when things are overwhelming.
Yenny: Yeah, so that kind of helped you go through it as well but that was a wonderful gift you could give you to your mom and yourself as well just spend the last time with her that and was your sister here for a while as well?
Anne: She would come often, give me little time out I guess and we could spend time with her together but I think it was during that period I realised self-care took on a whole, whole different meaning because it was very draining emotionally.
Yenny: Yeah, so what is self-care for you now?
Anne: Self-care is a balance between mind, body and soul. I suppose I want to have peace in my life and I want good health because without our health, we have nothing and emotionally, I’ve got a very supportive husband so I’m very, very blessed with that and we thrived because we are connected to the outdoors to have exercise and got some vitamin D and we’re out there just absorbing that fresh air so our life is very much about indoors and outdoors. I teach what I live and so I can I guess feel inspired by what’s happening outside and it gives me a gift to see there’s life and death in the garden. Something’s always being born. You see these little seedlings emerging and it’s a reminder that life goes on, that there’s new life and that there are plants that are at the end of life and passing away and sometimes they’ll give you an abundance of seeds to grow on the next generation. So for me, some of those paradigms and little metaphors out there in the garden really helped with grief and processing what was happening in my life as well.
Yenny: I wish I could stay like talk longer but maybe I can do that in another time. I was going to wrap it up a little bit. Thank you so much for sharing your story, I really appreciate that and all those show notes would be on my website as well but before we finish, I always ask the people I interview, I know we talked about self-care in general what you do but if you have anything that you could share with us that you do every day.
Anne: Spend time outdoors. I think of my garden as nature’s classroom. It’s the grandest teacher there is for me and just being able to see that those little things I’ve been doing even if it’s 10 minutes here, a few minutes there, sowing some seeds or whatever or just listening to the birds and observing what’s going on out there, it’s so centering to the soul and it really it inspires me. I get new ideas, more creativity. I can come back indoors and just have so much content, so much material to share but at the same time, it’s been so good for my body and my health. I take the dogs out for a little bit of wander and I really encourage everyone to just spend some time outdoors everyday just to be present in the moment or whatever is happening out there.
Yenny: Oh, here comes the rain.
Anne: And here comes the beautiful rain.
Yenny: What a wonderful ending…
Anne: Thank you.
Yenny: Like a tropical rain.
Anne: Don’t we need it.
Yenny: Oh, that is so wonderful. Do you have anything else that I might have forgotten to ask you that you would like to share, anything in particular?
Anne: I’d like to say I think because where I’m at right now, I saw this in my mind as having a vision or having something that I would really love to give back like I could have kept what I’ve learned to myself and just use it for our family’s health but I love being able to share that with our people. So if you’ve got a vision, if you’ve got something that is a dream, if you’ve got something bigger than yourself that you’d want to give back in life to just keep that in your mind because sometimes, you’ll have setbacks, sometimes you go two steps forward and something will maybe hold you back for a while so don’t let the timing hold you back from doing what you want from finding your life purpose and delivering it. I think that if you can keep that in mind and just keep that goal in front of you, soon you’ll be harvesting your dreams.
Yenny: That was a very good ending, all the [inaudible]. Thank you so much for coming and talking to me in my show.
Anne: Thank you so much, Yenny. I loved it.
Yenny: Thank YOU!