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18 July 2008

The vegetable garden

My life seems to be nicely balanced at the moment. I have days at home when I cook, garden, write, sew, knit and relax and just when I feel the need to talk to outsiders again, Monday comes around and I have a few days at work. Then, I satisfy the need to connect with others, I contribute to my community, I feel useful and that the time time spent away from my home life has been meaningful and valuable. And just as my cup starts to overflow and I need a break from that ...

I come home to this ...

Contentment: Happiness with one's situation in life.

I am happy here. I live with a happy and generous husband. I feel that everyday is its own golden capsule full of meaningful work that gives me a life worth living. Of course, not everything is perfect. I neither expect nor want perfection. But when the tomatoes develop wilt and die too early, or the caterpillars survive the winter and continue munching their way through the cabbages, I take that in my stride because, overall, things are as they should be and I feel I am doing my best.

I took my camera into the garden yesterday afternoon, because I know my blog friends like to see our little vegetable garden. Below are the only tomatoes to survive the wilt. My precious pink Brandywines yielded about 10 kilos of delicious, juicy tomatoes, then turned their toes up and died of wilt. These smaller Tommy Toe tomatoes seem to be immune to the disease and hopefully will keep us in tomatoes until we get some larger ones fruiting again.

Further over, spaces are getting bigger as we harvest vegetables for our table every day. Some vegetables are eaten raw, some are cooked and some are blanched and frozen for later in the year. Today some of these cauliflowers will be picked to make mustard pickles. When the days start to warm up, we'll be eating those pickles on a good sharp local cheese and home baked rye bread.

There is still a forest of kale there, even though Hanno has just finished his five day pot of pork and kale. I haven't frozen kale before but there is so much growing now I think I'll look into that. Does anyone here freeze kale? If so, is it just the normal blanching routine before sealing?

As I wandered around our little garden, I was accompanied by Rosetta, our almost human golden spangled Hamburg chicken. She doesn't damage the garden at all, she is just pleased for the human company and will follow Hanno or I around the yard, clucking gently and hoping to be picked up.

Another item of work today will be to pick the bulk of this chard and freeze it. We eat a lot of chard (silverbeet) , below you can see rhubarb chard and green chard, further over, we have the old fashioned swiss chard. We call that silverbeet in Australia.

Right next to the chook run we have snowpeas growing along with silverbeet, lazy housewife beans, cabbages, cauliflowers, lettuce, celery, welsh onions and herbs. That is my favourite part of the garden and I often stand there talking to the chooks.

I was surprised to find peaches already growing on our tree yesterday, and it's only mid winter. The peach blossoms are filling the evening air with a sweet perfume and when I wander around the garden then, I swear it fills my heart and soul to its limits.

I always plant flowers in the vegetable garden. It adds to the overall beauty and encourages bees to pollinate the fruiting plants. The flowers above are little daisies that are growing next to the bok choi.

This is more than a garden. It it a place to connect with the natural world, to reflect and renew my spirit, and being able to eat what we grow there is simply the icing on the cake. I can't imagine a frugal life without a garden. It gives us tasty organic food for the price of seeds and the time we take to cultivate it. If you have the space for it, I encourage you to grow a garden, it will give you vegetables and it will also grow your spirit.

I hope you had a good week and are looking forward to a restful weekend. Thank you for visiting me here, I appreciate the time you take to read what I write and I love reading your comments. Welcome to the new readers who arrived this week. Please take the time to say hello.


  1. Morning Rhonda,
    My mum has a large organic veg plot and she keeps us well fed with a veg/fruit box each week. With two young children I don't have enough time to devote to an organic veg plot (tried & failed before). We recently made a load of bread & butter pickles from a glut of cucumbers. Most of our tomatoes & strawberries failed this year due to so much rain and not much sun :-(
    Mum grew a load of swiss chard, but stupidly we did'nt really have a clue what to do with it as it seems to boil down to a mush like spinach. I must have a search in your blog for some receipes to use it.
    I am off for a nice weekend in Wales with my mum and my two children tomorrow.
    My dad died 10 years ago, so I like to involve mum as much as possible in our family life so she isn't lonely. Although she is probably wishing for a moments peace :-)
    Are you a grandma yet? Maybe you might be soon if Shanes relationship continues to bloom.
    Hope you have a lovely day and I look forward to catching up with your blog when I get back on Monday.
    Take care
    Steph xxx

  2. I have just recently found your blog and I am enjoying it very much! I would love to know more about how you freeze your veggies. Maybe you have already done a post on that? Have a great day!

  3. Beautiful Rhonda! I'd love to have as much room for veg as that. Not mention being able to grow any tomatoes at this time of year.

    I'm fairly certain I blanched and froze some kale last year, just the same as I would silverbeet.

  4. Rhonda,

    There is a picture of our garden here:

    Thank you for letting us see part of your day and your wonderful garden:)

    We have been getting tomatoes, zuchinni and cucumbers about everyday. Do you happen have a good recipe for zuchinni?

    Many Blessings,


  5. Dearest Rhonda Jean,

    You always manage to say just what my heart feels! I too love to just wander my garden and drink in its loveliness.

    Contentment is most surely the best blessing one can have in life!

    Yours kindredly,
    Honey Hill Farm

  6. Such a beautiful garden, Rhonda. That rhubard chard is gorgeous! And it's winter - wow. How cold does it get in the winter there? The tomatoes are growing, which could never happen here in the winter!

    So lovely!

  7. Hello Rhonda,
    I just stumbled across your site a few days ago and every spare minute I find I am reading your past posts. Wonderful! You are a wealth of information. I have been working toward a simpler life for the past 10 yrs. One day I will get it right, whatever right may be. I can't wait to try your soap recipe, I have called a few friends and have made plans to have a lady I know who makes soap come by and demonstrate for us, a girls day in :-) Thanks for all your knowledge, can't wait to read more.
    Mammamamma in the USA

  8. Thanks for telling me what silverbeet was, I couldn't figure it out to save my life....LOL! We make what Italians call "greens", swiss chard, escarole sauteed in garlic and olive oil with white beans or chick peas, yummy! Beautiful garden!

  9. I think I know what you mean about that feeling you get looking about the garden. For me it's those days when spring is in full swing and I look about the plots of vegies just after I've weeded it all and think, "Does it really get any better than this!" And the answer is yes, if DH is there to share it with me too.

    I hope your weekend is filled with more of the same.

    Regards, Marilyn

  10. Rhonda, I really enjoyed the walk around your garden this morning; I dont have much of a garden and its so nice to share a little of yours, thank you;

    I'm intrigued by the 'lazy housewife beans' you mention, do they have another name? I'm starting off some welsh onions soon, in my small herb/veg bed; they are good to have and I'm looking for other veg to plant that don't need lots of room; I pulled a few carrots from my pots this week, they were planted last autumn and have survived the winter beautifully so I'll be sowing more this year.
    Rosetta is such a lovely character! :)

  11. Oh Rhonda I just love having a pottter through your' is looking especially lovely. I related to every word of your post. A garden, especially a food garden keeps you somehow fulfilled, mindful, connected and appreciative of everything.

  12. Hi Rhonda,
    thanks for all your invaluable information and for sharing your wonderful life with us. Reading your weblog is like going on a tiny holiday each day. On the subject of Kale: I always freeze my Kale after blanching. My mum in Holland used to say Kale needs frost to bring the taste out, so through lack of frost here in WA, I freeze my Kale in the freezer.
    Happy gardening! Sonja

  13. This was such a peaceful retreat after a busy day at my job. Thank you so much for taking me through your beautiful garden and life.

  14. I'm not a new reader but I rarely comment. Not because I don't enjoy your blog but because most times I don't feel I can add anything to your great posts!

    I'm a country girl frustrated to be living in an apartment in a small Arkansas, USA town. I love to see your gardens and your simple country lifestyle as you live it.

    Regarding freezing the kale, I've had good success with boiling it until well wilted, then letting it cool and packing it into freezer bags, containers or jars with the liquid and freezing it.

    I like to throw a handful of fresh chopped kale into my hot soups just as it gets done, and you can also dry/dehydrate kale and use it the same way. You can crush it finely and add to soups for color and flavor, and you can use it the same way you would dried parsley.

    Hope this helps!

    Have a great weekend, and keep up the good work with your blog. I love it!

    Hugs from Arkansas, USA!


  15. Another great post Rhonda... I was just wondering why the teracotta pots are turned upside down on the stakes in the vegie patch??? Does this stop the birds??

    Jodie :)

  16. beautiful photos.. thanks for sharing. reading your blog gives me such a sense of peace and quiet. (which I am desperatly lacking in my life right now!)


  17. What a lovely garden tour at the end of a busy day. I'd like to try "diane's" dried kale tip. And also - what is this "kale and pork" that your dear Hanno is so fond of?

  18. You have a gorgeous garden. Your veggies look absolutely divine. I do not have my own garden, as of yet. I can only imagine the taste of a garden grown tomatoe.

  19. Hi Rhonda Jean :) What a lovely post!

    My sweeties are enjoying our garden this year - especially Mr S (who is 2). He dances out the door with his garden bucket and comes dashing back in later announcing that he's brought "Veggies, Mom! Lots and lots for you! Some maytoes (tomatoes), green bells (bell pepper), squashes (always plural) - Lots of veggies! It's time to eat?" LOL

    Sending you hugs and hoping you have a wonderful weekend, too. Love, Q

  20. What a beautiful garden you cultivate, dear fellow gardener! I too was wondering about the purpose of the terra cotta pots on the poles. I have really enjoyed your blog!

  21. Your garden looks spectacular! I am lapping it all up as we've not gardened at all this winter and are just now starting to weed and prepare and plan for spring... oh how I can't wait for spring!

  22. Good Evening Rhonda
    Didn't get a chance to have my usual read last night but enjoyed my early morning wander around your plot. It is the first year I have grown pak choy, they are so easy and quick.

    Can I have the recipe for the mustard pickle, it is one of my eldest son's favourite, he can get through a jar in a couple of days.

    Have a happy day.


  23. Steph, there is a season for all things. Your season for vegies will come later, after your most important crop of children has grown a bit more. It's really lovely you're looking after your mum.

    Welcome Adrienne. I'll see what I can do.

    Renee, I'm not a big fan of zuchinni so I don't have any recipes.

    Hello Shan, thank you for your lovely comment.

    Hi Melinda, temps now are 10 - 25 C. Our lowest temp this year has been about 6 C. Generally the day time temps is around 18 - 20C.

    Hi Mammamamma, thank you and welcome. Good luck with the soap.

    Rosie, they are also called White Coco. They are the earliest stringless bean and therefore got the name. Here is a UK site for you:

    I told Hanno about the tips about Kale and he told me a wonderful story about his granny who never wasted one thing. Her cellar had shelves of glass jars full of all sorts of vegetables, including kale. Thank you Diane, Sonja and Dani.

    Thank you all for your lovely comments. Quinne, you hug that precious baby girl for me.

    Jodie, the pots are to stop us hitting our eyes with the top of the stakes. I also like the way they look. When birds sit on them they wobble and the birds fly off.

    :- )

  24. Hello Rhonda, I haven't commented in a while, but I drop by most days! Lovely to have a guided wander around your veg patch. Have a happy weekend. Diana x

  25. I am loving reading your blog which I've recently discovered. Your vegetable garden is really beautiful. Someone else asked about freezing vegetables and I would love to know more too. I don't have a vegetable patch yet but I do get an organic veggie box delivered and just sometimes there is too much of one thing for us to get through in the week. I've frozen fruit before but never veg. Any chance of giving us some tips in a future post?

  26. Thank you Rhonda for taking us around your lovely garden. It was a lovely morning treat for me. I get that feeling you describe even when I just get a handful of tomatoes or a few runner beans, it is quite spiritual a kind of all is right in the world feeling. Your photos remind me that with a lot of very hard work we might just be able to get ours producing a lot more. I too would like to know how you prep and store veg like kale and chard for the freezer.

  27. Kale freezes very well, and I always just blanch them and then freeze them. Although I don't think my kale wil make it this year, the snails seems to like them very, very much, yet I can't seem to catch them!

  28. Hi Rhonda

    Just like your region, our day time temps are around 18-21C and our night time temps are 10-15C. I double checked with the local weather forecast for the coming week. The big difference for us is that we live in the UK and this is normally our hottest time of the year. Your garden seems like a miniature version of the garden of Eden to me.

    You are so right about contentment. The things that bring temporary 'happiness' are not always the things that make us content.


  29. Hello Rhonda
    I happened across your blog during the week and I have to say I'm HOOKED!! I'm full of admiration for you and your Husband for living such a sustainable lifestyle. I only hope that by reading your generous instructions and guidence I can start to make some changes too. When did mankind decide that it was 'making progress' to be less frugal and more wasteful?!

    I have already embarked on a green cleaning regime in our house. We have an almost 3 year old daughter so I have alway tried to keep her away from products containing chemicals and such. My husband and I have also stopped using regular shampoos and toiletries in favour of natural products, and as we are struggling for cash at the moment (I'm a stay at home Mum) it has helped us reduce grocery bills.

    I will be following your soap tutorial next week plus I am doing a bit of stockpiling, so who knows maybe I'll start a blog too! Keep up the great work and thanks for letting us share so much of your life :)

  30. Hi from Michigan! I check your blog everyday during my break here at work. It's a nice way to step back and slow down amid the office hustle and bustle. Love all the garden pics!

    Zucchini-use in anything. I shred mine and freeze it.

    Question on raised beds---do you have the cement blocks anchored into the ground? How do you keep them from moving around? Do you think they hold much heat?

  31. Rhonda,your chooks would really love some kale if you can spare them some,ours used to absolutely love it and would start doing a happy dance if they saw us coming along with a big bunch of it for them to shred.We used to grow it specially as it was good to have a ready supply of cut and come again greens for them,but then we started using the younger leaves ourselves for soups and stir fries etc and left the tougher ones for the girls :)



  32. Hi Rhonda,
    I've been reading your blog for a little while now and am always cheered by the way you write. A lot of my friends don't understand why I enjoy my garden and working hard at simple things. Your garden is a beautiful place and it's no wonder you like spending time in it. Have a great weekend!

  33. Hi Rhonda

    I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now and find it fascinating. I have really enjoyed seeing your garden today too.

    Thank you again for sharing your world with us.

  34. Good afternoon, Rhonda. I've googled and thought and thought some more but I'm drawing a blank. What is the purpose of the clay pots on the poles in your garden? Please do enlighten me. :)

  35. Hello-
    I've been reading your blog for some time now and it's dangerous! I can sit and read for a long time right here in your down to earth world! You have the veggie garden on my dreams! When I wish I had more of a garden that some pots on my patio, I hop over here and take a look at your awesome garden!

  36. I always feel relaxed after reading one of your posts, just thought I'd mention that,

    Gill from Canada

  37. It's great to see the pictures of the garden and to recognize how easily home & connection to nature is really a great way to practice self-care. I too enjoy an equal balance of social interaction and removal from it as well. The removal and renewal is absolutely needed in order to give so much to others as you do.

    You're now the second person who I've seen post about companion chickens. I never imagined a chicken would want to sit in someone's lap until the last week! So interesting!

    Hope you enjoy a restful yet productive weekend!

  38. twan potgieterJuly 19, 2008 2:23 pm

    Just love your blog, having discovered it this week.It seems that you are near Brisbane, where my son and his wife have settled - are you in Maleny?
    I live in Hilton, KwaZuluNatal, South Africa - long way away.
    Please continue to inspire us with your words and pics - thanx!
    Twan Potgieter

  39. What a wonderful place Rhonda, you are lucky to have the space to plant so many things. And peaches at this time of year already - yum! Beautiful garden, lovely post.

  40. hello Rhonda, I have been reading your blog for quite a while. You have inspired me to do things to survive this bad economy and to take care of the earth I never thought i could manage. I wanted to tell you about my sons garden. He lives in an apartment but has no space for a regular garden. So he gathered up some 5 gallon buckets, some barrels he cut in half, a couple of wash tubs and a large wooden box. He has the most gorgeous lettuces, tomatoes, green beans, spinach and herbs you could imagine.

  41. Hi Rhonda! Thank you for visitng my blog! I have been reading through your's and it is awe inspiring! I am adding you to my list and hope I can learn some great tips from you. I wish I was as disciplined as you are! I think it's great how you are living your life.
    Have a great weekend!

  42. I am so amazed at the wealth of information that you share with world. I so appreciate the time you take in doing so.

    I have learned so much from you in the past few weeks since discovering your blog. One of the best advice I feel I have received is that it takes baby steps in reaching the goal of becoming sustainable. Also, that you share where you were and continue to share where you are.

  43. I enjoyed my visit to your blog, it was one of the most comfortable blogs I've visited I liked everything you are doing....Thank you for sharing....Ginny B.

  44. oh my, will you be my new blogging friend!?? your blog has calmed my anxious heart right this evening! the garden photos are splendid! i love garden photos in all styles. the homey practical ones are my favorite. our family has a garden after lamenting the fact we "could possibly" have a good garden living in a small home, small tract of land semi-rurally. i saw a video on path to freedom about a family in pasadena who turned the yards into complete sustainable gardening. lovely just lovely! and now we are hooked. i have a sweet hubby who enjoys making the gadgets and planting boxes i am forever asking him to make. anyway, i am no hooked to your blog. thank you for sharing your wonderful life. God bless you!
    julie harris aka

  45. Hello Rhonda,
    I'm a new reader this week and your blog makes me homesick for the life I had in Ontario Canada. Right now my husband and I and 3 dogs live in an RV (Winnebago Adventurer) which is not very frugal sounding but in fact it's our house right now and hubbie's office so he has tax deductions and business expenses to cover much of the costs. We currently reside in Virginia U.S.A as hubbie fulfills a work contract. No gardens, no fresh home grown veggies and homemade jams but we are planning and dreaming of that for the future as we work towards his early retirement. We have been frugal for many years - built a straw bale house and so even as we enjoy the RV life (and there is a lot to enjoy!) we are being very frugal and saving our money in our unique way.
    I agree that it is important to feel you are contributing and to be in touch with people every week and that is where it can be more challenging when you live on a lot of land and off the land - usually in Canada this means you are in the middle of nowhere and it takes gasoline to get to the cities, see friends etc...
    Oh and I am so jealous of your 'winters' - ha! We have snow up to our eyeballs in our winters so it's the deep freeze and canned foods that supply our nourishment in the winter.
    Thank you for taking the time to share and teach what you live and learn.
    One question, we are vegetarians, I love the idea of having hens for eggs but would never destroy a hen just bec. she no longer is laying eggs...what to do? Have you addressed this topic before? Keeping hens for theif lifetime?
    Time for home made bread toasted for brecky.


  46. I have heard that you can dehydrate kale and make kale "chips" - might be worth a try!
    We are coming up on gardening season here in Minnesota... looking forward to digging in the dirt again. :)


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