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12 October 2007

Me ... in a nutshell

I thought this might be a good time to let you know more about me. A few people have asked for that in the comments and in emails. I understand if you're not interested, just return tomorrow when I'll be returning to simple living subjects. Tomorrow's topic is bottling/canning/preserving.

I was born in Sydney and have one sister, Tricia, and one pretend sister, Kathleen. Tricia and I grew up at Strathfield and went to a convent school. When I left school, I worked briefly at an advertising agency, then started nursing. I did my nurses training at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. After graduation, I worked at the Transplant Unit at Sydney Hospital and the Emergency Department at Balmain Hospital.

Sick of city life, in the mid-70s I went to live on Cape York, which is the pointy bit on the top of Australia. I ran a small hospital there on an aboriginal reserve and found a whole new wonderful world living with tribal aboriginees. They taught me a lot of things I still use today. Important things like showing respect, not judging others, loving one's family, generosity, kindness and how to live within nature without doing too much damage. Older women hold an esteemed place within aboriginal culture - they are teachers and are expected to pass on information to those younger. It is a position of trust and honour. I have often thought about those older women I knew when I was much younger. They are a big part of the reason I am blogging. I am trying to emulate their example by passing on what I know to younger people. It is something that used to be done in our culture in the past, but now older women are invisible and often viewed as passed their use by date. Not me though! I hope I am improving with age.

After Cape York I lived for a few months on Thursday Island, which is in the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea. I was on my way back to Sydney from there when I called into Mount Isa to visit a friend I had known in Sydney. It was just before my 28th birthday and my friend convinced me to stay and have my birthday in Mount Isa. It was on my 28th birthday there that I met a very handsome German man named Hanno.

I didn't continue my journey.

In March 1979 we decided to go to Germany so I could meet his parents. He met mine on the way over there as we travelled back to Sydney then so he could meet my mum and dad before we left. We were going to stay in Germany for two months but ended up staying for two years. We were married there and ten months later in July, Shane was born. When he was three months old, we came back to Australia. Shortly after we arrived home, Hanno's mother died.

We stayed in Sydney with my parents for a couple of months but both of us wanted to leave the city and go back to the bush, so just after Christmas we headed back to Queensland. We bought a caravan and decided that Hanno would work in the coal mines. Just after we got back to Queensland, on the day John Lennon died, and when Shane was 12 weeks old, I realised I was pregnant again. Kerry was born in July.

After living in various towns with Hanno working as a heavy equipment fitter and me looking after our babies, we eventually settled in a mining town in Central Queensland. When the boys were in primary school I went back to serious study. I did a degree that I could study at home and majored in Journalism, Literature and Communication. I was already working to produce the local newspaper and went on to create a business on contract to MIM Holdings to write and publish the paper. I did that for 12 years. During that time I was often asked to write technical manuals for the mine and went on to form technical writing business. When we left there, I gave the newspaper business to my good friend Susan, who worked for me. When I was living in the bush I learnt a lot of the skills I now use like gardening, keeping chickens, stockpiling, baking bread, preserving etc. It was through necessity then as we were over three hours from the nearest supermarket.

In 1997, we moved to where we are living now. Shane had just finished school - he and Kerry went to boarding school in Townsville - and Kerry still had one year to go. Kerry used to fly home for school holidays and we'd ring him a few times a week. Shane went to university and started a degree in environmental science. He dropped out in his last year to become a chef. Kerry went straight into his chef's apprenticeship when he left school. They're now both fully qualified chefs.

Hanno retired when he left the mines, they asked him to go back, he went back but hated being there alone. He left after a few months and came back home to retire again. I was supporting the family with my technical writing business and Hanno settled in to be a house husband. He nearly drove us all nuts because he wanted things to be perfect all the time. We convinced him he needed to do something else. LOL He bought a shop in Montville, which is a small tourist type town fairly close by. We ran that shop for almost seven years.

While all this was going on, I was working in my business, occasionally travelling to the mines to collect information and take photos. I had two other people working with me. Every year I grew more discontent with my life and when I finished a year long contract with BHP (Australia's largest company) I knew I didn't want to do that kind of work any more. I saw unhappiness and backstabbing in the corporate world and I didn't want to be part of it. When my BHP contract ended, I closed my business.

I had no idea what I would do but I did know that if I wasn't going to work, I had to get rid of my housekeeper and start saving money so it would lessen the impact of me not working. I'd had a computer since 1988 so I used it to find information about how to live frugally. I discovered there was a name for what I wanted to do although the American version of frugal living in those days had every little environmental awareness. I found simple living through those frugal living sites. I searched my memory for how my mother and grandmother used to work in their own homes and I read as much as I could find on sustainability within a household context. I learnt all I could about frugal and simple living but with an emphasis on environmental issues, that lead me to the permaculture forums, which lead me to start aussieslivingsimply with Dan and a few others. Over this time I slowly developed my version of simple living. I started writing a book about it but now here I am blogging. I have used a lot of that book information here and I'm now working on some ebooks that I'll soon be selling here.

Well, that's me in a nutshell. We'll be moving on to more important things like preserving in the next post. : )


  1. Hi Rhonda Jean

    I was introduced to your blog a few weeks ago and have had alot of joy reading through all your posts. Thank you so much for letting us into your life.

    I have recently moved to the Sunshine Coast from Sydney, and although I miss my family and friends I am glad to be out of the 'rat race'.

    i just wanted you to know that although there are probably a few people out there (like me) who don't comment, your efforts in the world of blogging do not go unnoticed. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!


  2. It's nice to know more about you Rhonda, thanks for telling us about your life journey and what drew you towards a simpler life. My boys were born twelve months apart too.

  3. Hi Rhonda, lovely to read your journey. I know what you mean about older women. It reminds me of Mary - and inspired me to post about it on ALS, thanks for bringing up her memory!

  4. Thanks for sharing this post.
    I think older folks should teach younger folks.
    I Love all you share and you share and don't judge or tell others they are wrong if they don't live like you etc. I appreciate that about you. You have the BEST Simple living blog I've ever seen. I've lived the simple life all my life and still Loving it.
    THanks for all you share. You share the Best Info .:o)

  5. Rhonda Jean,
    I find your blog to be most interesting.. you have led a fascinating life... and you continue to do some very interesting things...
    I appreciate your view of life and I will continue to visit you often

  6. thanks for sharing a bit about your life/past with us all :0

  7. Rhonda, lovely getting to know you better :)
    Thank you so much for your sharing and teaching even though I am not a young woman, and have several skills similar to yours I always am learning from you and come away blessed!

  8. Thanks Rhonda Jean for sharing your life w/us. Your blog is one of the few I look forward to reading everyday. If you could, what are some of the sites and books you have read about frugal living? Thanks!


  9. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your family.

  10. How ironic! As kids in school, we can't wait to get out. I hear my kids say "I'll never use this stuff". Now at age 50 I am a sponge soaking up everything about living and there are no courses out there to teach me. My son is in a technical high school and the freshmen spend 14 weeks rotating through 14 different trades: electrical, carpentry, masonry, culinary, plumbing, etc. My son did not appreciate it as much as I hoped. I kept telling him I'd give anything to be able to go through those 14 weeks. Your blog gives me some of my 14 weeks. I'm learning so much from you and your fellow bloggers. It's as you said in your post, the older teach the younger, that's how it should be. What you are doing for us is so valuable and interesting, and rare. Thank you for your time and effort, it is appreciated

  11. Rhonda Jean, I really enjoy reading your blog and have learned so much from you. At 61 I am also like a sponge, soaking up all the info that was not passed down by my mother. She was part of the post WW2 group of young wives who didn't need to use all the simple life skills because she could get bread at the grocery store (already sliced too)and milk was delivered to her doorstep. Thank you for sharing so many things that will make retirement easier, and for sharing about your life. Emme

  12. Rhonda Jean,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. What amazing things you have done!

  13. I enjoyed this so much, Rhonda Jean, thank you for sharing more of your story! Love, Q

  14. Thank you for sharing a little of yourself in this post although you share everytime you write, it was especially nice to read today's post. How lovely. :o)

  15. Rhonda, I loved finding out more about you. It will make reading your blog even nicer. Looking forward to your next posts.

  16. yay! thank you thank you thank you my invisible friend! How lovely to hear a very short version of you! What a precious posting Rhonda Jean.

    thank you.

    duckie xxxx

  17. Rhonda Jean, I bet if Hanno saw this post you'd definitely get "the look"!!!! Lisa Jx

  18. Mentoring is nearly lost on our world today. Thanks for being a great example...I very much enjoy your posts.
    Becky K.

  19. Hello;

    Thank-you for sharing. I so admire you. Your blog is very inspiring and encouraging as I try to continue my personnal goal of simple living.



  20. You are a mentor to so many of us on our various paths. Thank you for sharing with us.

  21. Thank you for sharing your story. You inspire and amaze me with your generousity. I feel blessed to count you as a friend. xx

  22. Hi Rhonda,

    It's nice to learn more about what makes you you. You truly are a wonderful teacher and I know that for myself your teachings are making me a better person.
    My husband now complains when we don't have homemade bread. He's getting so used to the much better taste of it.
    I have started my stockpiling and am trying to source places to get more things in bulk that I use all the time.
    Thanks for showing us a little bit more about you.


  23. Thank you for sharing your backstory with us, Rhonda Jean. What a life!


  24. Thanks for sharing your story. It's so nice getting to "know" you a bit better.

  25. Thank you for the insight into your life and background. I was really fascinated to hear about your work in Cape York and the way their social structure influenced you.

    What a interesting and varied life you have lead (with a great deal of hard work by the sound of it!)

  26. What a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing "you" it really gives us all confidence to know where you have been and to see where you are now. That way we know we can too make the journey :)

  27. Thank you for sharing your journey. I too am heading for a simpler life and read your blog daily for inspiration.


  28. Hi Rhonda

    I'm testing the waters for retirement so have found your blog interesting.

    Do you have any good links to 'how to 'blog sites?

    aka Libran50 (ALS)

  29. I was reading some of your earlier posts and came across this one. I just wanted to say that I agree with you completely about the importance of older women in our lives. Some of my dearest friends are older women and have taught me so much. There is wisdom in experience...and experience is something you gain with time...and age. Thank you for sharing...your self and your wisdom.


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