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31 October 2008

Along the salad trail

We have a snake living in the chook house. I think she is there for the mice and rats that hang around at night eating the leftover grain and seed. She's not bothering the chooks, she just sits up near the roof and moves away slowly if we get too close. She is a non-venomous python - either a carpet snake or a spotted python. You can see her in the photo above after she moved into the thick undergrowth behind the chook house, below you can see her yellow belly under the roof of the coop.

Luckily the girls aren't phased at all by her and although she's about 6 foot long, she's too small to swallow any of them and she's not after the eggs. Maybe in a couple of years she'd think about taking a chicken just before she hibernates. We'll have to wait and see.

Here are some of the girls in question, taking turns to peck at a cucumber that fell through the fence.

The garden is growing well and as most of you who have grown zucchinis will know, we have way too many of them. We only planted two bushes this year, plus two yellow squash, but we still can't eat or give away enough of them to keep up with production. The zucchini is pictured above and the squash below.

I wish I could say we have too many tomatoes. We eat tomatoes every day here and we grow a lot of them but no matter how many we plant we always run short.

We use tomatoes on sandwiches and pasta, Hanno likes a fried tomato with his eggs for breakfast and I always make tomato chutney every summer. When I have enough tomatoes, I'll also make tomato sauce for the stockpile cupboard. Nothing beats homemade tomato sauce.

We're growing several different types of tomatoes - the first photo is of Oxheart tomatoes, these above are beefsteaks, we also have Tommy Toe and Tropic and a row of newly planted Grosse Lisse (below).

Continuing along the salad trail, here are several varieties of lettuce.

And new beets just starting to bulk out their roots. By the time these are ready to pick in a couple of weeks time, the beets I pickled last week will be finished and these will take their place.

We have lots of cucumbers forming and new lemon cucumbers to plant out, along with some Moneymaker tomato seedlings.

It's a constant progression of sowing, planting, nurturing, harvesting, removing and replanting. Most of the time we get it right and have enough food in the backyard to feed us, but sometimes we have to buy a kilo of tomatoes to tide us over until our crop ripens.

We have some late leeks this year that I'll pick over the weekend and serve with one of our meals. It's too hot here in summer to grow any of the onion family but these leeks have just made it in time to be a useful and delicious addition to our table.

And how could I forget the corn. We don't grow a lot of corn because it takes too much water to grow it well, but what we do grow at the very beginning of the season is always appreciated for its fresh juicy sweetness, shining away on our plates like golden organic jewels.

We still have a ton of chard growing out there, and radishes, celery, pumpkins, green onions, beans and carrots. It will all eventually make its way to our table and will be appreciated for its ability to help us live a healthy and frugal life.


  1. The kids and I enjoyed looking at the snake - so beautiful and mysterious, but I am so awfully, awfully glad we don't have any here in NZ! :o)
    The garden looks lovely - I'm just starting to plant my seedlings out now that the frosts are nearly over. How do you manage to keep your tomatoes bug-free? I"m growing a whole lot of heritage tomatoes this year and I'm so worried I'm going to lose them to the bugs.
    Rachel L

  2. Hi Rhonda....I love to see your bountiful garden, it's worth the hard work I'm sure.

    A couple of questions....I have one zucchini plant left from 4 I planted....didn't realise the ducks could stretch their necks long enough and skinny enough to get through the fence, bless 'em. Problem is, I keep getting flowers, then they drop off with no zucchini being formed? Wonder if I'm watering enough or just impatient:) I live just south of the Q'land border, coast side.

    2nd your potatoes get full sun all day....I have a spot on the side of house I'd like plant up, it gets morning sun for a while, shade for a couple of hours, then afternoon sun?

    Thanks ...Nanette

  3. Hi Rhonda,
    Your garden is wonderful. You must be so proud of what you have achieved. I am renting at the moment which I don't like as I would just love to dig up the whole back lawn and make one big veggie patch. As it is I have lettuce, herbs and baby spinach growing in pots. My husband and I have a 1/2 acre block of land that we purchased last year and now are waiting for these interest rates to drop some more before we can build our house. In the meantime I will just enjoy your wonderful photo's of your garden.
    Also, can you tell me how you store your home made bread? When I make mine I was storing it in a air tight plastic container on the kitchen bench top but the bread used to sweat. So now when the bread has cooled I slice it up and freeze it.
    Take care Rhonda and God bless

  4. Beautiful pictures! And a snake!:O That's something I would never see here. So exciting to see and read about it. Very exotic!

    I really enjoy your blog, I absolutely love it!

    Best wishes,
    Kristin from Norway

  5. Oh your garden!!! Alas it is coming on winter here in Nebraska and I won't have any fresh stuff from my garden again until late spring. I know snakes are good for rodents, etc. but oh my! I would freak!!!! I have hated snakes ever since I was a child and was walking across the lawn when I stepped on a garter snake and it wrapped up around my ankle. Yikes!!! Anyway, lovely garden!! Thanks for sharing and getting my mind to planning next years garden!


  6. Oh, you are making me look forward to spring coming again here already. :)

    We had tomatoes in our small apartment yard this year. We will still be here in the spring but are hoping to move to a house with a bit bigger yard by summer. Hopefully we'll have a garden next year so I look foward to learning lots of tips here.

    I've seen your blog mentioned by so many different bloggers and I'm glad I finally came over to check you out.

  7. Rachel, we get wilt and heliothis grub here. For the wilt, we make sure we don't keep planting tomatoes (or anyting from that family) in the same place year after year. For the grubs, we spray lightly with Dipel, an organic bug spray. Cut off the lower leaves of your tomato bushes and water them carefully - don't spray over the entire bush, just water the roots. And mulch them well building up the mulch around the base of the plant. Tomatoes are one of the few plants that benefit having mulch touching its stem. goof luck love.

    Nanette, with the cool night temperatures lately, I think that would impact on your flowers. Another thing to think about is to make sure the flowers are being pollinated. They will fall off is they aren't pollinated. Do you have bees around in the morning? If you think you might have a problem with pollination, you'll have to do it by hand - pick off a male flower and rub it into the centre of the female plants.
    Potatoes need full sun.

    Melissa, good luck with your house building when you start. My bread only has to last one day. I make it for lunch each day, we have some as toast the following morning but if there is any left over after that, I feed it to the chooks or worms. If I were to make a couple of loaves at a time, I would do what you do - wait till it cools, slice it and store in the freezer.

  8. Your garden looks so lovely! Winter is just around the corner here and I am missing my fresh tomatoes and corn on the cob. I did put them away but it is simply not the same.


  9. Egads! I constantly dread running across our only real local snakey, the big Browns, when we're out in the scrubby back-backyard. You're a lot more generous than I am, allowing Mr. Python to hang about!

    Your veggies look delish :) Amazing how different the climates are in this country. Our leeks are just sprouting, and corn is not even knee-high!

  10. Hi Rhonda Jean :) So lovely, your garden! Do enjoy those veggies for us - we are in the middle of a gorgeous fall here. Love, Q

  11. Rhonda you must arrange to have this snake relocated. When we were living at Eumundi we had one in our chook house that ate eggs and 2 of our smaller chooks. It was then stuck inside the chook house and was unable to move due to the 2 large lumps in its tummy. You can find snake handlers and relocaters in the phone book. Good luck.

  12. oh my - that snake would so freak me out. I am still thinking about it actually. How long has it been around? how long is it? I don't do snakes or rodents for that matter. Can you "remove" it?

  13. Okay, Rhonda - the love-of-worms thing you have I can sort of handle. The python thing you have is really weird.

    I'm in love with your garden. The photos are outstanding. I usually read your blog at about 3 in the afternoon. It always reminds me of how hungry I am.

  14. Hi Rhonda, I'm a regular reader of your blog so thought it was time I introduced myself. Our family is gradually trying to change the way we live for a more natural and simpler way and I am constantly inspired by, and learning from, you.At the moment I am making bread a couple of times a week, making pasta, making cleaning products, and I am teaching myself (mostly through generous bloggers like yourself) a range of handcrafts.We also now get a weekly delivery of organic produce and I am just about to have a go at growing some lettuce and carrots(starting small is how I'm trying to not bite off more than I can chew and just end up discouraged)I really value your generosity and encouragement to others on the same path. Thank you.

  15. Oh, ps- I've ordered Nourishing Traditions and am really looking forward to reading it.

  16. Your crops look soooo good. I am jealous at how kept they all are, you do a great job!! We getting into winter here and I am really looking forward to spring looking at your bounty. Enjoy

  17. I have to say, one of my favorite things about your blog is seeing what life is like in another part of the world. 6 foot snakes and zucchini in one post? It's just such a cool juxtaposition!

  18. I love your garden pictures too! I'm going to be living vicariously thru you all winter this year. We've already had our first snowfall and a freeze hard enough to kill off my polytunnel tomatoes. :(

    The python is cool. We just get garden snakes here which are great for eating bugs. I occasionally have to rescue one from the basement but they're always welcome in my garden.

  19. Love your python! She's gorgeous!

    I see you have also discovered the rule of zucchini planting: no more than one plant per family! My lot aren't keen on zucchini, preferring other squashes. I like 'Early White' because they look like UFOs.

  20. I have a bit of tomato envy today as I can't seem to get my seeds to strike...they were "fresh" from Digger's this season... who knows what I am doing! The snake is a lovely addition to the household - natural pest reduction - wish we had a python rather than the Brown hanging around behind the sheds!

  21. Hi Rhonda,
    Thank you for the tomato advice - that's really helpful for me - I'm such a novice at this! :o) I didn't know that about tomatoes liking mulch touching their stems, so I'll try it!
    Rachel L

  22. What a lovely carpet python. I have a spotted python and this is definitely a carpet.

    If she isn't hurting anything she will keep the mice and rats away. If she starts harrasing the chickens mve her on then.

    We had a snake in the pen for ages until we decided it was too big and moved it on. It was great no rats or mice.

  23. OK, the snake would freak me out!! I love your garden though. Everything looks so healthy and yummy! What an inspiration. We are heading into winter now - even a bit of snow this week, but I would love to try gardening in raised beds like that next year. Trying to convince hubby that is what we need. Our ground is very wet - lots of clay. Because of that we did not get a garden in this year because by the time it dried out enough to get into it the summer was half over.

  24. I've only recently begun reading your blog and I check it anxiously every morning for a new post.

    I've printed your bread recipes and am shopping for some terra cotta pots to bake it in. The little pots of bread and the brandied pears I've recently learned to put up will make for great Christmas baskets this year. I can add in a little hand stitched gift and be good to go.

    Your garden is beautiful! It's Autumn here, just outside of Nashville, Tennessee and I am reading and planning the start of a veggie/cut flower garden for next year. I'm having a hard time making DH understand that we need to start to build the beds, etc. before Spring so that we'll be ready to plant just after the last frost. I'll follow your's along and get some tips and ideas to throw into the plan.

    Your snake is indeed beautiful, but I'm not so sure I could be as generous as you. I turned over a garter snake in the compost heap recently and it made me squeal. I knew he wasn't venomus, but I relocated him to the far side of the property so DH wouldn't shoot him. He may have returned, but as long as I don't find him in the chicken house when I reach in for an egg, we'll coexist without problems.

  25. Everything looks beautiful in your garden! I don't have a garden at all so I envy you bounty. I know how hard ya'll must work for it to produce so well.

    The snake freaks me out just a little LOL but it is nice when we can all "get along"!

    Have a great weekend.

  26. Oh Rhonda Jean, your veg plants look so healthy, and your hens are so sweet - I have a black one & a ginger one too! The garden would not be the same without them - not sure I could cope with the snake, but anything that keeps the rodents away is ok by me!! .. and it is very beautiful to look at!

    I love your blog, it has sparked so many interesting conversations in our household, and we plan to grow veggies next season!
    Willow x

  27. What a great example of interdependency of animals! Glad you are allowing the python to live there happily for now. Oooh how great that you have all the zuchinni! Yum, the season always seems to go by so fast! Hope you are well! P.S. I know you aren't in the U.S. but Happy Halloween anyway :-)

  28. It is nice you live where you can garden year round. It is a whole different ball game here. We live in the northern hemisphere, in Maryland, USA, and winter is closing in. I've been working on putting my garden to bed before it is locked up for the winter. I do have some raised beds with greens in them and some garlic planted as promises of spring to come. The raised beds will be covered with old windows as cold frames. Last year the spinach, parsley, and swiss chard survived this way.

    That is some snake. We have plain old black snakes but they are not active in winter. The rats are.

    For those who have snake problems where eggs are concerned, it helps to collect the eggs by noon and do it a couple of times.

  29. Oh goodness, I knew zucchini were over-producers, but I didn't realise by that much! It'll be interesting when mine get big enough to start producing - I've got 3 plants. We're a lot behind you, as I'm in Melbourne.
    Have recently discovered your blog, Rhonda, and I really enjoy it. It seems from what I've read so far you're living the lifestyle I've always dreamt about (particularly having grown up reading GrassRoots magazine!).
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences, and wisdom.

  30. We have snakes around here too, but the kitties kill them off while they are still babies. Since we don't know whether the snakes are venomous or not, I suppose that's a good thing.


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