Garden Tales with Lucy Donaldson

Raglan local Lucy Donaldson is well-known for her self-sufficient garden @gardentalesnz and is now synonymous with gluten-free goodness via her brand of loaves.

The self-taught mother of three and former operating theatre nurse says she was inspired to start baking bread by her children, who each had severe gluten intolerances.

After two years of hard slog baking practice, she approached the premium artisanal Waikato bakery Volare, and so began a delicious new sandwich of sorts, with a purpose-built bakery in Hamilton and launching her very own Lucy's Gluten Free.

We caught up with Lucy to learn more about her garden and gluten-free business, and to hear how she'll be spending her Mother's Day.

Many of us were first introduced to you through your social media account @gardentales, which showcases your impressively bountiful garden (and gardening skills). Have you always been a green thumb?

I have always had an interest in growing food and was lucky enough to grow up with my mum always in the garden or orchard growing food for our family. My own drive developed when I had my own children and wanted to provide them with nutrient-dense food that I could trace. I also think it's important for children to have a connection with the food they eat and know what goes into producing it.

Could you share with us some hot tips on growing a home garden?

I think always start small and grow things like herbs and spinach – things that are easy to maintain and that you use often – and if you find that it is manageable, begin to expand into more things you enjoy eating.

Alongside maintaining a self-sufficient garden, you also (somehow) found the time to launch a gluten-free bread business with Volare. So what led you to start Lucy’s Gluten Free?

Lucy’s Gluten Free started after my third child was born and he was extremely colicky. I took gluten and dairy out of my diet while I was breastfeeding in the hope of giving him a bit of relief. Like many people, I couldn’t find any bread that didn’t taste like a compromise in taste and texture, so I decided I would try to make my own.
It became a bit of an obsession until I got to a point where I thought my bread was better than anything I could buy. On a whim, I decided to call Ed – one of the Volare owners – and ask why they didn’t offer anything gluten-free. After a long conversation, he invited me in to meet him and Ryan, Volare's other co-owner and head baker. A few more meetings and trials later, we decided to build a purpose-built bakery and start making gluten-free bread to go to market with.

What’s your current favourite loaf, and how do you like to enjoy it?

The Seedy One is my favourite, and I love it with Avocado, Hummus and Kimchi.

You have three gorgeous kids. What are some of your favourite ways to spend time together?

Our family loves to spend time outdoors, so anything that involves us going on an adventure, such as walking through the bush, going surfing, or hitting up the skatepark.

What happens on Mother's Day in your family?

I somehow manage to milk the whole weekend. On Saturday, I have a day or night away with my sister, and we do things that we enjoy and have some downtime and a bit of a break from the chaos that being a mother can sometimes bring. Then on Sunday, I spend time with my family which usually involves breakfast in bed and then going to do something together as a family and also spending some time with my mum who lives just down the road.

What Is the greatest lesson motherhood has taught you?

That everything is a season that will pass and to try and savour the little moments.

What advice do you offer first-time mums?

Try not to get caught up in the pressures that motherhood can bring. Just do your best and what you have to in order to get through the day. What works for your family is the best decision, even if it doesn’t work for others.

You clearly run a very busy schedule. What are some of the ways you make time for yourself?

I try to prioritize moving my body every day, which usually either means running or Pilates. I feel like my mental health really benefits from it, even if I have to get up super early to get it done.

Quick-fire Q’s

Name a scent that invokes a special memory for you.

Sweet pea flowers always bring me memories of my amazing Nana.

A daily ritual you can’t live without

Exercise and coffee.

Favourite dish and where would you like to eat it?

I love anything Mexican with lots of spice, lime, avocado and coriander, I love eating outside on my deck watching the sunset.

What’s your favourite space in your home?

Favourite space is my lounge, it is typically a hive of activity with the kids but I still take the tranquillity in it.

Your most-loved Ashley & Co scent

Loving the Bonberry Candle 😊