DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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23 April 2013

Back to the land again



Over the years, generally in response to hard times, people move away from the habit of material consumption, make use of the land they live on and begin to provide for themselves. The back to the land movement happened in repsonse to the Great Depression, again for a short period after the second World War and again in the 1970s, right after the oil crisis.  We're back again now with many people using their backyards for vegetables, fruit and chickens but this time it's a little different. In the past, the emphasis was simply on producing food for the table. Now we have that, as well as people who want to eat local, organic food and find that it's easier to grow it themselves than to buy it - either through lack of supply or money. We also have a lot of people much more aware of their health now. They see gardening as a form of exercise and the food that comes from it as superior to what is bought at a shop.

Our backyard in the late afternoon sun. You can see Hettie there, asleep under the elder tree.

I tend to agree with that. Everything you grow yourself will be better than what you buy. When you buy fruit and vegetables at the supermarket, or at the green grocer, you don't know how they were grown, what sprays where applied, if herbicides were used or if they were radiated after picking or gassed to ripen them. You don't know how old they are. Many fruits and vegetables can last a long time in cold storage. And I ask myself when I buy fruit and vegetables, even when they look perfect (especially then) - how much nutrition is left in this? Have all the vitamins and minerals vanished with time?

Look closely, there is an enemy lurking.

We have a garden here that we tend almost all year. We have a break in summer because battling the heat and the bugs is too much for us then. We grow our own food for many of the reasons I've written about but mainly because we can and it makes sense to us. I would much prefer to eat a potato that was dug from my garden that afternoon, that I know has never had contact with pesticides or harsh chemicals and has had the time for the green tops to die back rather than having herbicide sprayed on to hasten that process. I'd rather eat a tomato that I've watched grow and ripen than one that is bullet-hard and tastes of nothing. I like to grow enough to share or barter with. I like having more than enough so I can preserve some for later and instead of eating from the garden only when everything is fresh, we also  have that food months later when new crops have taken over and a new season has started. It makes sense financially and sustainably.

Here is Hanno (Sunday afternoon) weeding and planting that last bit of garden. There was a time when he could easily weed and plant the entire garden in a day. Now it's wiser to do it in stages. It takes longer but it's still able to be managed and enjoyed. Don't be afraid to garden the way it suits you. The gardening police won't come in and arrest you if you take longer than you used to or if you try something new.

I hope I can encourage you to think about growing a few herbs and vegetables. Gardening is one of those activities that is more than it appears to be. It will give you a chance to spend meaningful time outdoors, it will get your hands into the dirt and help you reconnect with nature. It's honest and reliable and will not only feed your belly it will feed your soul too. If you've never done it before, it's easy and difficult because it takes time and effort and you have to learn as you go. I am still learning after being a gardener for more years than I care to remember.

Bok choy, ginger and zucchini.

Your first task is to choose the area to locate your garden. It will require eight hours of full sun per day, it's best if it's clear of trees and tree roots, the soil will need to drain well and if you have animals or chickens, it will have to be fenced off. It will need to be close to a water supply. We use only the water that we harvest from our roof to water our vegetables and if you decide to get into vegetable gardening and carry on with it every year, it's worthwhile thinking about setting up your own water collection systems.

You can tell by our planting that we have keen Asian cooks in our family. Here we have bok choy and daikon growing.

Below is a list of older posts that may help you get started or encourage you to continue on if you've already planted your crops. There is always help available at the forum as well. There are a lot of excellent gardeners there so if you're stuck and don't know what to do, go to the forum, click here, and ask some questions.

The ever-productive chilli bush is still going strong.

My last bit of advice is probably the most important. You must learn about your climate. All gardens are part of a particular zone but in those zones, microclimates exist and not every part of the zone is the same. Learn what your garden is and if you can modify it to suit your purposes. You may be able to add a poly-tunnel to extend your season if you're in a cold zone or a shade tunnel if you're in a hot climate.  You must always be guided by the information you get with the plant or the seeds and no matter how much you want it, you will probably never be able to grow tomatoes when it's extremely hot or cold and even if you want to grow bananas or walnuts you won't be able to unless you're in the right climate for them. I would love to be able to grow apricots, apples and walnuts but they're cold climate crops so I got over it and I know I can grow macadamias and we have a pecan tree. Climate is everything.


The garlic bulbs have all grown strong shoots.

We're still in the process of planting our garden. We started our main planting last month and while we're already eating from part of it, the last bed to be planted is now being weeded and the first seedlings are going in. Are you growing in your backyard this season? Are you trying anything new this year?

32 comments:

  1. Everything we're trying is new this year and its such a wonderful adventure! Next year I will remember to plant thing gradually over the year so that we have produce year round, at the moment we at a standstill between summer and winter produce. What a fantastic post!

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  2. I'm soooo enjoying your book! Started air drying the clothes....all except towels and undergarments/socks. Kind of tricky since we are still getting snow here in Minnesota, but loving the tranquility of it! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for compiling all of your doings in one great book!

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    1. Hi Nicole. I'm pleased you're enjoying the book. I hope it helps you along the way.

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  3. Our garden seems to be constantly evolving as we learn more. We are still getting late tomatoes and cucumbers with the last hint of Summer hanging around. We have decided to plant more Asian veges this Winter as some of our visitors for the farm stay come from China or Singapore....we realised that it would be comforting to recognise something familiar in a new country. I must find out more about Daikon - I hadn't heard of it until I read your post.

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    1. Daikon is a good vegetable to add to sushi. It's a mild radish. It's also great as part of any salad. They grow fairly big, a large white root that we just slice or grate.

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  4. Your garden is looking good. I'm slightly jealous since it's still too cold here in Canada to start planting yet. I love growing my own veggies and knowing that what I'm eating was grown in my own back yard.

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  5. Hi Rhonda, I love looking at your garden´s pictures, everything looks so nice and plane, I live in a farm, but it is on a hill, everything is in different levels, which is very cute, but a lot of work too. I have not dare planting the Asian vegetables you have, just the ginger, which is growing very well.

    We are going through a very severe drought for the third year now, so we are learning how to harvest our water, our trees have suffered, but are doing very well now, hope we can keep them safe, many of our neighbours have had them cut down. I´m struggling against such sad future, and praying this winter we will have some rain. Take good care, and thanks for all the ideas

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  6. We are moving in 6 weeks to another area but not too far from where we are now. Closer to the sea than here. I have struggled this Autumn as for years I have planted an Autumn/Winter garden and this year was the dismantling of my gardens because someone else will live here and do not want the gardens where they were. I wallowed in it for quite a while and then I thought " I will still plant up punnets of seedlings that will be ready to plant at the new place when I move even if I have to cover the gardens with cloches of frost cloth." So that is what I did. Even to growing herbs such as basil/coriander/thyme/sage that I will keep as indoor plants until Spring arrives. Now I feel better LOL. I planted the Sage because I have parsley on the go/ a rosemary bush and thyme on the go also and I ALWAYS sing the Simon and Garfunkel song "Scarborough Fair" which has these 4 herbs in the lyrics :-)
    Karen NZ

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    1. Hello Karen. I completely understand how planting your herbs made you feel better. Good luck with the move.

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  7. Hi Rhonda.
    We started our veg garden 2 years ago and we found out since we don,t use pesticides a lot of our veg got eaten by bugs :-( so we invested in a glass house and last Sumer is the first time we used it tomato galore some things didn't,t do so well it got very hot in there so this year we are investing in a shade sale to cover the glass house in the really hot days and hopefully we can grow all year round :-)

    Linda

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  8. As i rent i don't want to go to the trouble of growing in a garden bed. I bought a raised bed which i can take with me when i moved & that is for my veges. My fruit trees & herbs are all in pots. I love the fact that i can pick everything fresh. I also have a compost heap & worm garden. Would love to have more things growing but most likely will be moving in November so i will wait until after then to get myself growing things again in my raised bed. Wish i had chooks to but not a lot of owners will allow them.

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  9. I so hope you are right that this time it is different - that change is here to stay - I am still skeptic about it though or cautious optimistic. I am curious about why you think the change is different this time around? KJ.
    P.S I would have included my email but it doesn't seem to allow for that unless I have a Google account,no?

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    1. KJ, I didn't say that change was here to stay. If you read that first paragraph again, you'll see I meant it was different in that people aren't coming to it just to put food on the table, as they did in former times. Now there are additional reasons.

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  10. I envy your being able to garden all year. Here in N. Texas we have a long growing season but certainly not all year long! I agree with your logic that growing your own food is grown longer & picked fresher therefore healthier when consumed. And with the local movement gaining in popularity - well you don't get any more local than your own garden! I had been working for months to prepare for planting but unfortunately "life" stepped in & prevented me from having a garden this year. A miracle happened over the weekend and I had "Garden Angels" surprise me early Saturday morning and they made sure I would have a garden this year after all. If you get the chance to hop over & read my blog post today I'm sure it will touch your heart.

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

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  11. I love seeing photos of your veggie garden Rhonda. We've been staying in Tokyo for a few weeks so my autumn garden is at home waiting for me, I'm looking forward to leaving this concrete jungle and getting my hands stuck into the soil again, I've missed it! There are many things I love about my garden but perhaps the loveliest thing is the huge sense of pride I have when I enter my kitchen with a basket full of just dug/picked goodies that I can turn into a nourishing meal for my family. Nothing beats telling my kids that the meat, eggs, veggies or fruit on their plates has come from our wee farm.

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  12. Thank you so much for this post, Rhonda. We have finally moved to our new home, and the vegie patch will definitely happen. But I'm going to take my time, plan it so I make the best of it, and try to accept the fact that it won't all happen immediately. Good things take time and effort - forget this idea of immediate gratification!

    But, we do have established fruit trees, and the Pink Lady apple has a wonderful crop on it. A lot of the fruit have had bugs in them, and the ones that don't are a bit lumpy in shape. But I just cut out the bad bits, and they are taste just lovely. The fruit doesn't have to look good to taste good.

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  13. Hi Rhonda,
    Adelaide weather has been a bit silly this year, with breaking rains only coming the last two days...prior to that I dont think we had had a good downfall since last Spring...it has been a hard Summer, in saying that I double planted this last season, putting more tomatoes,zucchinis,and corn in to see if the continued warm weather would be okay for two lots of plantings...it may work well, it might not....but I did pick 6 large heads of corn yesterday, and thats a bonus...I am still harvesting eggplants and capsicums regularly...
    This year I will just put in Winter greens, kale, two types, spinach, broccoli, and lots of lettuce and mixed Italian greens...it seems to be what we eat most of and I am not experimenting with anything else this year, I also plant leeks and garlic....at the moment I am eyeing off every available patch of clear dirt, with an eye as to what is next to it and how big will it grow, determining what I can squeeze into those last patches of soil...I dont waste a single spot! I have three children, and lately when I serve dinner, there is the question asked, is this ours mum? Which I love...of course I cant grow every type of vegetable, but Im glad it is becoming common place in our family for our children to know that yes, sometimes the vegetables on the table at night 'are ours'...........

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  14. It so strange or maybe there a reason for it. Now people around here is just starting seeds for their garden.
    I know growing a garden but for me I find it like a spiritual thing with me...There something about going out side and growing items.
    Coffee is on.

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  15. I too, love the photos of your garden, Rhonda. This year I am having a go at growing peas through winter. We live in a frosty area and I have always believed that pea flowers get frosted, hence no peas. A friend who lives in a different frosty area told me that she can grow peas successfully through winter, so we shall see... I'm planting my garlic this afternoon.

    Happy gardening to all.

    Lyn in Northern New South Wales.

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  16. g'day
    what a great post, your gardens look wonderful!
    i work in bits throughout the day as i can't do too much in one long standing, so i break it up with a little digging, weeding, raking & getting up & walking the weeds & grass down to the chooks, i do this with my bad back & rheumatoid arthritis the only thing i do more of is mowing as most of the time its just walking behind the mower & i let it run out of fuel before stopping for a break. getting older & more health issues has meant slowing down a little but still able to garden, am hoping to put more beds in soon to get prepared for spring planting, i feel alot better after being outside gardening
    hope you have a great week
    cheers :))
    selina from kilkivan qld

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  17. oh i love the garden updates! i think i could happily look at your garden pictures every day... i've been wondering about how your garden is coming along and it looks lovely!
    i finally convinced my elderly father (who is a mad gardener) and has a MASSIVE traditional garden to put in some raised beds this year... all the weeds got too much for him this year and it took a week (with outside help) to get on top of the weeds... i didn't think he'd even get his garden in this year (which would have made him miserable)! anyway- we got in 4 large raised beds with weed free soil put in and lovely mulch on the walkways to control the crazy weeds he had... which should hopefully should be a bit easier for him to maintain... i grew all the seedlings for him so all he had to do was put them in and now he is chuffed with how well it is all going (he was very doubtful!) i'm hoping the change will help him continue gardening for as long as he wants to as it really enriches his life!
    my own garden is going quite well (except for the constant battle with cabbage moth!) and the children and i love to potter around it every day... it really is so good for the soul to watch a garden grow :)
    amy

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  18. Amy, you're a wonderful daughter and a beautiful person. Gardening means so much to some people and to recognise that and do something about it is remarkable. {{hugs}}

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  19. Here in Norfolk, England, it has been one of the coldest, longest winter's we have ever had. As a result things are 3 - 4 weeks behind. Some broad beans are now beginning to come and the rest of my sown veg are sitting under the now warm soil. My fruit cage plants are springing into life and I hope this year, we will get some fruit (none last year as everything drowned in our very, very wet summer). Can't wait.

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  20. Love your posts as always Rhonda. Enriching and inspiring. We are desperate to get our garden sorted this year in our new house but the priority has to be to make it safe for the children first. As we can't grow anything in our garden and my in laws struggle to maintain their garden we have a joint effort veg patch we have just started at their. We will share all of the work and share the proceeds too!

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  21. Even when we were renting, it was worth having herbs, strawberries and peas in pots--things that didn't require a lot of space or soil investment but had small returns within a single year. We're growing more children than anything else at the moment but as gardening is somewhere between a pleasant diversion and downright therapeutic for me, I have to have at least herbs going wherever I am. This will be our second growing season in our new house and I'm so thankful for the friends who helped us set up our raised beds last weekend after nearly 8 months of progress hiatus. Even though I'm probably only going to be able to grow enough peas and summer squash this year for us to snack off of the vines, I'm trying to be patient with where we are right now, knowing that it is still so much better for us to be grabbing a handful of peas than a handful of crackers for a snack while playing outside. I appreciate the long term nature of building up the garden, trying new things, learning what grows best where and the freedom that gives for serendipitous surprises and non-catastrophic failures. I was most pleasantly rewarded by my first attempt at growing calendula last year with enough blooms to make your salve as baby gifts for a number of friends (as well as my own little ones) and I'm looking forward to the coming year's supply.

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  22. I am still anxiously waiting for all of the snow to melt and the ground to warm up, but I always start the year watching the seedlings grow indoors.

    Every year I try a few new things, but this year I am concentrating on growing the things we actually eat and the things the bugs don't love so much. That means far fewer members of the cabbage family this year, and fewer squash, and more carrots, beans and snap peas. I'm trying to garden smarter every year, rather than always just gardening "more".

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  23. I truly intended to not have as big a garden as usual this year. For the most it didn't happen. I was gifted many plants too!! I did give away some of the veggie plants to cut back a little. I had planned to take a year off from the big garden to get some other garden projects done. Bulbs need moving around and beds redone for different needs and such. Areas ready for fall fruit trees to go in. I used to garden for hours and hours at a time. Now it is far far less time at one standing. Yet it gets done. I find if I push myself to work beyond what I know I should I regret it later. Better to do a bit this time then a bit later in the day again and so on. When some things have died out like some of the shrubbery I have decided to not replace it and so have lessened some of the work yet it is still beautiful. My husband always says keep the veggies but not so many flowers anyway!! :) We went at the plant stand today and met two ladies who are planting veggies for the first time this year. That was so heartwarming to me! I am keeping a list of people who will want excess garden produce when things are ready to pick!! Now there are just the two of us we can give away even more! I remember many years ago people giving us their excess and how wonderful that was now it is our turn and we love doing it each year!!! :) :-) Sarah

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  24. Dear Rhonda. It's lovely here in Brisbane now that the weather is (slightly) cooler and I can get planting in my allotment at Morningside. I am already eating from my recent planting of seedlings - lettuce, parsley, sweet basil and rocket all go into my lunchtime salad. I am still waiting for Cavolo Nero kale to germinate but I have plenty left in the freezer from last season. I am picking silver beet in small quantities, but enough for a serving for dinner.
    I enjoyed reading this post so much and your sentiments about the benefits both physical and mental of growing your own food. It can be a great solace during stressful times just to go out and 'dig in the dirt'. Nurturing in more ways than one. Best wishes. Jean.

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  25. what an encouraging post. I love the photos and so wish I could grow ginger!

    Last year we tried hard to work on our garden, but we fought the squirrels and didn't win. Don't think we're going to put in tomatoes this year because we do have a lovely farmer's market 2 blocks away and we buy from the local farmers directly. But our peas are up, the raspberries are blooming, and the lettuce is just poking through.

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  27. Your garden inspires me to keep going with mine. Though I think I will have to admit defeat when it comes to my chili bush, each time it grows even just a little the cat eats it. Yes I have a strange cat.

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  28. I found your blog today and was blown away by what I read, I began now and still have a lot to read, but I was very happy, especially with this post, because at the moment I find myself at a turning point and probably very soon, my life will change dramatically due to the possibility of my husband and I stay unemployed.
    Plan B is to lease our apartment and move into a small house in the pine forest where we will begin a new life, more grounded and more sustainably.
    I have a lot to research and learn but I am very excited and hope to return here often to learn something more.
    ( sorry my googlish ) :p
    Um abraço de Portugal

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