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23 May 2008

Strong communities, sharing knowledge

There is always something to do in the garden at the moment. I love the photo above, it is of Hanno planting tomatoes with the chooks watching him. (Clicking on the photos will enlarge them.) So the new tomatoes are in, most of the potatoes have come up and seem to be growing well, and the silverbeet seeds, planted directly in the garden, have sprouted.

Hanno used some old pavers to make an area in the garden for me to put my herb pots and a bird bath. We've always had the pots there but they were sitting on the ground and weeds were a big problem. This should make everything neater and easier to manage. You can see in the photo below that I've moved a few pots over, these are a curry plant and chillies, as well as the bird bath. I'll do the rest soon.

Things are looking good out there but like every garden, we have our problems. There are heliothis grubs in some tomatoes and powdery mildew has taken over the yellow button squash. This afternoon I'll harvest the squash on there and pull out the plants. Those plants won't be composted, the mildew would spread, I'll bin them.

Further over the silverbeet and cucumbers are growing like there is no tomorrow. We are packing as much as we can into our vegetable garden. With prices sky high and set to rise even more, we need to grow our own food to make sure we continue eating the freshest organic food possible. If we had to buy most of our vegetables, we wouldn't have this variety, and I doubt we could afford to buy all organic produce.

I wrote about pineapples yesterday and that brought about a lovely surprise. There was a phone call from a local lady, Sue, who reads my blog. She had some spare pineapples, her husband works on one of the farms, and she wanted to know if I wanted a few. She came over later in the morning with four lovely looking pines. Naturally I made one into a jug of pineapple crush later in the day, but these are left for more crush and some pineapple jam.

I met Sue a couple of months ago at a lunch for presenters of local budgeting courses. She helps run a back to basics group in my town and was invited along to the lunch to meet up and connect with us. I have invited her ladies to my Frugalistas morning tea that we will have at the Centre soon. I have started the Frugalistas because the last group in my budgeting course wanted the opportunity to meet on a regular basis to stay motivated and swap ideas and recipes. This is a good way for all of us to make the most of our collective knowledge and to pass what we know on to others.

Early on in my simple life I didn't understand the true significance of community. It's now clear to me that in these tough times, community is vital. We need to build strong communities, we need groups that have reskilled themselves for the coming changes and we need to support each other by sharing what we know and helping whomever we can. We will survive well with strong communities, without them, there will be problems.

I believe it is vitally important to learn whatever it is we need to know to keep our homes functioning well. We need to know the basics like how to garden, cook from scratch, preserve, make non-chemical cleaners, soap and bread, and whatever else is needed in our own homes. There are many ways to learn at home using books, blogs, the internet in general, or friendly neighbours. When we have our own homes in order, we should look to our communities to learn more, and to share what we know. It might be that you are the first person in your local area who knows this. If you are that person, or if you are one of many, I encourage you to step up to the task and lead rather than follow. If you have any local sustainability workshops, sign up and learn what you need to know. If you're already there and have skills others need, see what you can do to teach those in your community.

In my local community we have an important and informative weekend coming up:
Sunshine Coast World Environment Day Festival
Saturday May 31st 2008, 9am-4pm
University of the Sunshine Coast
Saturday 31 May 2008, 9am - 4pm
There is more information available here.

A few people asked about growing pineapples. The photo above was taken yesterday and is of the pineapple I'm currently growing in Hanno's kale patch. He's not amused. ;- ) I expect this pineapple to fruit this summer. There are some very good instructions for growing pineapples here. The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality so it makes a great summer drink to offer your guests. Good luck with your pine tops.


  1. Good luck with your pineapple growing. Sadly, unless I had a heated greenhouse, I don't think I'd have much success here in the UK, but I will enjoy hearing about your harvests in Hanno's kale patch.

    Our broad beans are just about ready, and I can't wait.


    Anna Marie of the Bread

  2. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    you are right about the community. And we do need to make an effort to learn and share more.
    Thanks for the encouragement,

  3. I love pineapples! I have paintings of them (painted by moi) in our guest bathroom.

    I'm hoping to grow some at our next house because our soil is too poor here. We have to have raised beds and haul in topsoil for our garden.


  4. Hello from Texas
    I really enjoy reading your blog. One day I hope to visit Australia but until then, I can visit there through your site.

  5. I have a really dumb question. Why are there clay pots on the tops of the sticks that Hanno is kneeling beside? I see that in gardening books as well, and I don't know what the purpose is.
    Just curious!!

  6. Welcome Cindy, I hope you enjoy your visits.

    Heather, there are a couple of reasons - if you have stakes poking up out of the ground and you're constanting standing up and kneeling down, the pots stop you poking your eye with the stake. They also wobble when birds sit on them so they can sometimes stop birds from sitting in your garden looking for a juicy tomato. To be honest though, I don't mind sharing with the wildlife. I also think the pots look good. ;- )

  7. Hi Rhonda

    I love the name of your little group! And what a lovely idea all getting together to swap ideas.

    I hope when I am off with the baby, I will have more time to plant pineapples and maybe find a little group to join :-)

    Have a lovely weekend.

  8. Hi Rhonda,

    I'm new here and just wanted to say thank you for your blog. I get this lovely warm fuzzy feeling when I read your adventures each day. Thanks for the pineapple idea too- I had no idea you could just plant the tops! We're just putting in an extension on our veggie garden, and I'll be sure to put pots on our stakes. I have also wondered what their purpose is. While they may fulfill their purpose very well, I also think they just look so quaint!


  9. Right now we get most of our information from the internet and the library but I am hoping that once we move to Pennsylvania I will be able to find a group to learn with.

    A couple years ago I lived in the same apartment complex as a couple friends and we moved freely in between each other's homes for meals and entertainment and I really miss that.

  10. Your garden looks great! I can't wait for our veggies to start growing a bit more. I too am trying to grow extra this year to make up for produce costs/grocery costs. Maybe more people will start taking back their yards and growing food too if it's too expensive to buy from a store. I like the idea of a frugal or simple living group. I don't think we have one here. :(

  11. I don't think we can grow pineapples here. But I was astonished to see your photo and learn that they grow in the ground! I always thought they grew on trees!

    As for community, you are so right (as usual)! I love your Frugalistas group, sounds wonderful.

  12. Hi Rhonda

    I'm really interested in the World Environment Day. Do you know which campus of the Sunshine Coast University it will be at, Noosa or Sippy Downs?


  13. Hi everyone!

    Sue, it will be at the Sippy Downs campus.

  14. Hi Rhonda
    Do you think you could show us some vegetarian recipes with the price of meat at the moment any saving is a help.

  15. Hi Rhonda
    Your pineapple plant looks just like mine! (i have 8 so far). i found that asking at the market stalls for pineapple tops ended up in me having about 6 new ones at once! i have them bordering my vege patch to hopefully stop the pea pinchers (the kids);-))
    I put in more strawberries the other day because the kids love them so and the shop ones are almost compost when you get them! Im carefully nurturing my garden at the moment from necessity really because DH is in hospital and therefore no wages are coming in from him (oh well- we are still very lucky in other ways). Love reading your blog.

  16. Wouldn't it be lovely if we all belonged to a community like you describe. Sometimes I wonder why everybody keeps to their own so much, scared to reach out or share their knowledge like you said. Perhaps taking the lead is the best thing to do, I'm just not sure if I have the guts and if I have anything to offer. :-)
    By the way, I'm so amazed about that pineapple! Call me dumb, but I thought they grew on trees! Can they grow indoors as well?
    Love your garden, it looks lush and green.
    Christine from the NL

  17. I'm finding the community concept online to be such a blast, learning and communicating with like-minded individuals. From simple and green living blogs to foodies, there's such a wealth of information and community to be had by clicking the ole mouse. Thank you so much for your contributions to this expansive medium!

  18. Your garden looks so nice! I like the way ya'll did the pavers and set up the birdbath and herbs.

    I've been wanting to plant pineapple, so thanks for the link, I'll have to see about getting a pineapple this weekend to eat and try to grow!

  19. I can't wait for the rain to quit so I can get outside!!!! Meanwhile I am working around the house cleaning out cupboards! Thanks for the encouraging words for us to share our knowledge with each other! Knowledge is power!


    p.s My daughter will be traveling to Australia in 2 weeks for a 3 week student ambassador program and she will be landing first in Cairns and traveling down the coast and eventually ending up in Sydney. I told her when she lands to think of you and send you good thoughts. We both love your blog!

  20. Rhonda, I do love seeing the progress of your garden! It looks like it provides well for the two of you.

    If you ever have time, I'd love to hear tips from you for people who are planning to start a garden but are somewhat physically limited for a period (such as, pregnancy/just had a baby/extreme fatigue/bad back, or anything else that might make you less-than-effective). Or if you wrote a post on that already, maybe you could point me to it.

  21. I love the little area made up of the pavers. I'm putting that on my "wish list" for down the road. I have our herbs going in bakery buckets and something nice like that to sit them on would be great.

  22. I very much enjoy your posts and thank you for all the time and effort you put into your website to share your thoughts and ideas.

    I've recently gone to raised bed gardening here in Michigan, U.S. and have been contemplating the different materials for the raised beds. I was intrigued by your use of cinder blocks to construct your raised beds.

    Do you find that one row, approximately 8 inches is deep enough to sustain your raised bed gardening?

    My other thought on using cinder blocks for raised bed gardening is that it would help to retain heat as we have a semi-short growing season.


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