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23 February 2009

A walk around the backyard

The hours spent at home during Autumn are the sweetest of the year. It's almost here, I feel the change of seasons upon us, and it calls us to do that seasonal work reserved for this, our busiest time. We plant our main eating crop in March, so as February draws to a close, I plant seeds in trays and Hanno prepares the gardens with compost, worm castings, blood and bone, cow manure and old chicken poo mixed with lawn clippings. It's a healthy brew and it's loosely dug and raked in to enrich the gardens for another year of backyard organic vegetables and fruit. One plant we never fertilise is the lemon tree (above). It's planted in the chook run and with its roots protected from scratching claws with wire, it produces bucket loads of lemons every year.

The first of the new seedlings went in yesterday. Above are some corn seedlings - we are hoping for a quick crop before it gets too cold, next to them more bok choy, which we grow for the chooks. They love all the brassicas - the cabbage family - and anything with a sharp, strong taste. Bok choy grows really fast so it's a good one for them. In the photo above you can also see THE pineapple plant. Hanno will transplant that to the front garden soon and we will see if it gives us another pineapple from the new shoot its grown.

Here is the potato patch. They still need another month or so before they'll be ready to dig. Beyond that is the bed that was under shade over summer. The shade tunnel was removed yesterday, folded up and put away in the shed. The garden looks untidy now but Hanno likes to start with a clean slate each March, and while some beds still have crops growing, they're all given their feed of compost, worm castings etc, weeded and raked to straight, lump-free perfection.

Inside, bread is set to rise so it will be ready for lunch. Yesterday's loaf was wholemeal with a sprinkling of cornmeal. While it was rising and baking, we had a visit from Jens and Cathy, my step-son and daughter-in-law, who live nearby. It gave us the chance to have a break and to sit and catch up with their news and talk about, what else, the wedding. ; - )

I also bottled up some hot bread and butter cucumbers which finished off the last of the summer cucumbers. These will be stored in the fridge and will probably last until the end of winter.

Those red blobs in with the cucumbers are hot chilli peppers, which we grow in the backyard. I have a hand full of them to pick and dry for use over Autumn and Winter because now the cooler weather is upon us, the bush will stop producing. I'll cut the bush back and it will probably give us another crop later in the year.

We have some new tomatoes coming in. These are oxhearts and they're filling in a gap until the Brandywines, Moneymakers and Amish Pastes tomatoes are producing.

And here are the tomato seedlings growing happily in the bushhouse. On the left are the potato leaf Brandywines, my favourite tomato, next is the medium sized Moneymaker, with its regular tomato leaf. Moneymaker is larger than a cherry tomato but smaller than a regular tomato. and it grows bunches of little tomatoes that hang on the plant like really big grapes. Next to them, and out of the picture, are the Amish Pastes which I use for cooking because of their deep rich flavour. They make a really good sauce because they don't produce as much juice as most other tomatoes. We will also grow cherry tomatoes - we have Tommy Toe here, but they are rarely planted and just come up wherever they feel like it and are left to grow for Alice. My Airedale Terrier, Alice, loves to pick her own tomatoes, and she likes the cherry tomatoes most of all.

And what would a post about the garden be without photos of our girls. Here are best friends Martha (buff Orpington) and little Heather (salmon Faverolles). They always do things together and although Heather looks like a sweet and fragile little thing, she is like a machine when it comes to turning over leaves and scratching in the undergrowth down by the creek. She has those little feathered legs but no matter how much digging and scratching she does, she always manages to look clean. I wish I knew her secret.

You know when the cooler weather is here when we start giving the girls oatmeal porridge. They love eating it and it gives them a protein boost that keeps most of them laying over the colder months. The grass looks really green, much of the back yard is that lovely shade of natural green you get after good rain. This summer we have gone back to the good old fashioned wet season. Like the tropics, here in the sub tropics, we get most of our rain in summer. So over the past couple of months, we've had a good fall of rain a few times a week. It's freshened up all the trees, water tanks are overflowing, the creek is running fast and it feels like the cycle of heat is over for another year.

Thank you to everyone who helped Frogdancer's friend Jarryd. This is more than just sending a book. It's helping a young man, via the kindness of strangers and the power of books, rediscover that life is not always so cruel and unpredictable.

Welcome to all the new readers who have come this way. Please say hello if you have time. I hope you enjoy reading here.


  1. is so inspiring and your chooks are so healthy and happy and a joy for my chook loving eye. I CANT>WAIT> until we move and do so much more like yourself. I know I could do it here but as we are planning to buy land it doesnt seem worth making the changes here. I tried your soap last year and put it away with my other soaps. Well all these months later I have finally used a bar and it is delicious. It is the best ever soap I have uses. The children love it to. SOft creamy, foamy...I will also try it in my hair. This resipe I will use again soon, I am buying an ingrediant each pay day until I have all I a stick blender this time. Thank you for you delightful posts. Love it to bits.
    Love Cherry

  2. Just a quick comment to also thank everyone from here who popped over and put their hand up to send Jarryd a book or a voucher. The response has been awesome, (and I mean that word in its true sense, not just as a teenagery catch phrase!), and will make such a difference to him, and to his mother. Thanks again everyone!

  3. Good morning Rhonda,

    It has been so nice to sit quietly this morning and read your post. It all seems so peaceful up north there. Lots of helpful information as well. It's good to know what tomatoes you grow and their different uses. Have a nice day.

    Blessings Gail.

  4. mmmm love those sweet pickles. Hi Rhonda.

  5. Hello,
    I am one of those "lurkers." I enjoy your blog so much that I never miss a day though I certainly miss you the rare day when you don't post! I never knew there was such vibrancy in the blog world. I have a few favorites that I await eagerly each day but yours is my favorite. Your words never fail to inspire and uplift me. I am learning so much from you even though I have been a frugal homemaker for almost 40 years. Thanks Rhonda,for all you give to the world!

  6. ooo I love to take a quick walk around other people's back yards.

    We are hoping to get some serious expansion done on our vege garden over the next month or so, though I don't think summer is quite over yet for us.

  7. I couldn't see any pictures ... I'll check back later. But what you described sounds like rewarding work/play. Thanks for the tomato list. Last night I planted beefsteak tomato seeds. I set the covered seed tray in my new oven on the lowest dough proofing setting and used a spray bottle to water them. I hope this method works. We still have quite a lot of snow and spring is a month away. The larger tomato plants will mean a better chance to get some ripe ones this year. Enjoy your day.

  8. Just wanted to leave a little note to say how much I enjoy your blog! I'm in the U.S. so Spring is right around the corner for us, and we're about to build our first chicken coop and get all the seeds started in the next few weeks!

  9. Hello Rhonda Jean,

    I was interested in the wire you buried around your lemon tree. We planted some hazel nut trees this last fall that are pretty shallow rooted and the chickens will have access to them. After reading your post I Will definitely have to give some thought to putting wire around the base of the trees. Thanks for the great idea.

    Your garden is looking good,


  10. Hi Rhonda,

    I'm planting potatoes for the first time this year. I was going to put them in old tires adding dirt and tires as the plant grows. Do you hill your potatoes or just plant and leave them?

    Thanks Margaret

  11. Your yard and garden look wonderful. I ordered my garden seeds today and I can't wait!!! I still have a while to go but seed sales in the US are up 20% according to a news poll. I wanted to make sure I get the varieties I want! I guess people are figuring out they can reduce grocery costs if they grow their own food! Take care!


  12. your garden looks so organized and nice. I want to have a garden like yours!!

    Those pickles do look delicious.

  13. What do you do with your lemons? It's not all used for lemonade is it? I'd like a tree but am wondering what I'd do with an excess (besides share).

  14. Hi- Rhonda, I'm just interrupting here with excitement because I have just seen that my very first tomato plant has TWO tiny little tomatoes starting to grow AND about 6 or 7 new flowers waiting their turn!I've just staked it like a real gardener! You can be their godmother cos it's the inspiration from your blog that encouraged me to try again after a couple of failed attempts in the past making me think I just can't grow veggies.Right, I'm back outside to take their photo!

  15. Hi Rhonda,
    Thank you for the nice post and photos. I always enjoy looking at your garden. I got some 'spiky' cucumbers off my friend’s father and I'm going to try and make your bread and butter cucumbers myself. I'm not sure how it will go as the cucumbers have lots and lots of seeds and not so much flesh but I'm sure they will still be good. I had never seen spiky cucumbers before but I have been eating them every day and still have a boxful so better get to it quick sticks! Hope you had a lovely weekend :)

  16. My first time here but certainly not my last; an interesting and informative blog.

  17. I have been reading your blog for a few weeks now and find it so very inspiring. We live in USA/Midwest and are trying to slow down and live a more simple life. Easier said than done!
    Thanks so much for all your wonderful posts.You are a good role-model for us all. Suegail

  18. My favorite posts are the ones with pictures of your "girls." They look so healthy! Thanks!

  19. Thank you, you're blog is relaxing and inspiring... great to hear about cycles of nature and how lush it is where you are!

    So many fans... hard to squeeze a comment in here!!

  20. Rhonda,

    I've just put a small snap lock bag of hot chillies in the freezer. Because we don't use a lot of the hot stuff during the year, I've usually kept a few store bought ones in the freezer and they're just as good (and easier to chop and deseed) when frozen. But this year they'll be my own hot tomales! Look out!!!!

    Lisa x

  21. We're also preparing for autumn, though there are only the faintest hints of it yet. The girls are in their chook dome in the vegie patch (no, we are not neat or weed-free, but the system works well). I have started planting cold-weather seeds, too.

    We let the chooks in under our lemon tree, but not for the whole year. That way, the area is fertilised and weeded from time to time, but the tree-roots don't suffer.

  22. The chickens look so content. I only hope that someday I can have chickens too. =)

  23. You give me such a wonderful respite from my day when I visit. Thank you.

    I feel like I've been visiting with a good friend over a cup of tea.

    Your pickles are lovely. Would you share the recipe? (maybe I can search for it...)

    Thank you!

  24. Hello Rhonda,
    I have been enjoying your blog for several weeks now. Your hens are gorgeous, your gardens beautiful and your writing inspiring. Thank you.

  25. I have never heard of giving chickens oatmeal. Do you cook it first? or just as it comes out of the box? I love my chickens and throw them all the goodies I can.
    Thank you for the great ideas.


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