DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

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19 August 2013

Out in the garden again + decluttering

The August decluttering challenge continues with three items going today. I am finally giving away my red dress. I kept it for years, even after I stopped wearing it, because I thought I might like it again. Then I decided that wouldn't happen but because the side of the dress has a lot of buttons right down the side as a design feature, I decided to keep it so I could remove the buttons, then it would go. Well, it's been waiting to have those buttons removed for about five years. The buttons are still there, so is the dress. It goes today. Also going are two pairs of shoes. The challenge is still going strong over at the forum. If you want to join in for the last two weeks, you can write your own blog post about it and leave the link to your blog in the comments here, or you can join in the forum thread here.


We had a slow and relaxed weekend. The weather is changing from the cool of late winter to warmer days and nights. It's been a short winter this year and not as cold as it usually is here. I have the feeling it will be a long hot summer.

One of the joys of living where we do is that the weather is often perfect for six months of the year. Spring and Autumn are ideal, summer is too humid and winter, although nothing by European and North American standards, is cold. Spring is almost here. Hanno worked out in the garden most of the weekend. He dug a huge hole to plant the new lemon tree and unfortunately hit a lot of clay. He added gypsum to break it up a bit, filled the hole with compost, chicken manure, garden soil a good sprinkling of organic fertiliser and then built a fence around it so the chickens can't scratch at the root ball. It's in a sunny part of the chick run so when it's fully grown there'll have more shade in there. It's growing alongside a native fig, a pecan tree and another Eureka lemon. Now we have to keep the water up to it over summer and make sure it gets away to a good start. You can never have too many lemons.

Summer Memories

Those chooks are so entertaining. I went out very early to let them out and, as usual, Fiona was first out of the coop into the run, followed by all the others, with Lucy last. It's always in that order. Hanno had dropped one of his gardening gloves in the run and it was laying there, just one glove - natural coloured linen and canvas, nothing too drastic. Yet those chickens carried on like they had a 15 foot python in the backyard. They cackled and squawked and ran in and out wanting a better look at the glove. None of them touched it. Only Lucy, the mother hen, stood back and watched the carryings on with me. They only settled down when I picked the glove up and removed it. They know every inch of their territory and just one thing out of place sends them into a flap - literally.


In the front garden, Hanno pruned back a lot of the ornamental plants and trees. I'm growing old roses now, I have two bushes in, and have just picked the first flower for my desk. It's a very pale pinky-white - a shrub rose called Summer Memories. The other one is a David Austin rose called Claire Rose. They're growing beautifully at the moment but we'll have to help it through summer with extra water this year and hopefully they'll grow well after that. We also have a rose climber called Cecile Brunner which is a tiny pink rose. My mother grew it in her garden and it really loves the weather here. It's on the arbour out the front twinning itself through the wisteria. I'm also trying to cultivate hydrangeas this year. I bought them about 12 years ago, have not been successful in my plantings, but have kept them going as cuttings in the bush house. Now they're in a space just off the front verandah that gets morning sun and remains in shade the rest of the day. I hope it works. I have a feeling they like it there.



Hanno and I both see the garden - front and back - as an important part of our home. The trees provide shade and habitat for wildlife and birds, and although the garden is not grand, it suits our house well. And of course, the back yard provides us with fruit, vegetables and eggs, as well as ample space for grandsons to run around like crazy clowns or build roads in the sand pit.


I go out into the garden early now the weather is warmer. Just after sunrise, when the birds are calling out for the first time that day, I wander around, looking and thinking, watering this and that, clipping, moving and imaging what will come next. I understand now why gardening is such a popular pastime for retired folk. Not only is there a lot of gentle and robust work to be done, there is life and the potential for growth and change and as you grow older, it's wonderful being a part of that.

What's happening in your garden?


35 comments:

  1. My front garden needs to become more productive in terms of food, medicinal plants and wildlife habitat. The trick is to do it in an attractive way that is sustainable! This is the challenge I have set myself. First step is sheet mulching over the lawn which will happen in the next few weeks. Gulp!Once I do that, there's no turning back. Wish me luck!

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  2. Here in NE Texas the summer heat has put garden production to a grinding halt. I've harvested the remaining tomatoes and will dehydrate them in my solar oven for wintertime enjoyment and I've pulled out many of the spent plants in anticipation of planting my fall garden. Green beans do really well in our fall garden & produce enough for eating fresh as often as we like and freezing for winter eating. The tomato, squash and pepper plants I'm just trying to squeak through the heat so they will produce a little more for my fall garden.

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

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  3. I love these images of your garden Rhonda. Even though I am not a gardener yet I have high hopes for the future! Thank you as always for such a calm and grounding start to my day.
    Alyce x

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  4. Hi Rhonda, Can you tell me what a 'bush house' is? Is it a variety of green house? It's not a term used here in the UK! I envy you your climate as your winter temperatures are about the same as our summer ones - this year since end June we have actually had a good summer for a change. My garden is surrounded by farmland and woods and is mainly grass and shrubs. The local deer, and we have a lot now, visit and eat most things - a great nuisance which stops me planting anything too expensive! I love seeing the pictures of your garden - and reading about what you grow. I have tomatoes in the greenhouse - the deer have yet to learn to undo doors - but no other crops at present. Work in progress:)
    AnneLizzie, Sussex, England

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    1. Hi AnneLizzie, a bushhouse is similar to a glasshouse but where there is glass, we have shade cloth or lattice. It's like a little outdoor room for potting up and nurturing plants that is open to the rain but not the full sun.

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  5. Hi Rhonda,

    we've been having the warmest Winter I can remember, so I'm optimistically preparing for Spring. I spent yesterday with my 10 year old, filling our old bathtub with soil. It will be used for growing herbs. I also been fertilised and mulched the one vegetable bed that has new seedlings in it. We've planted seeds into egg cartons to establish some herbs and flowers before planting them out.
    In the front garden I have a crabapple tree waiting for me to dig a big hole so it can be planted. Today I will take cuttings from my hedge so that I can propagate them and complete the planting along the front fence (I need about 10 more plants).
    Last night I had the very enjoyable task of ordering seeds and seed potatoes from the Digger's club. The warmer weather and the start of Spring gardening always fills me with optimism:)

    Madeleine. X

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  6. I'm south of Taylor-Made Ranch ...almost SE Texas, you wouldn't think it would be different; but we do vary in temps as much as 10° sometimes. We've unusual cool weather this week and now predictions for warmer days again this week. It has fluctuated a lot this summer. Our gardens have laid dormant for a while now. Surprisingly we still have tomatoes and blooms. So, hoping to get some more fruit in that bed. With the cool weather I'm thinking of the Fall garden. I planted beans, peas, some acorn squash, Kohlrabi, Collards and wax beans. I read recently, that some Texas farmers have had such a terrible time with corn the last couple of years they are experimenting with FALL CORN. So I planted one whole bed-box of corn too. We'll see what comes of it.
    Our guineas are getting just big enough to let out of the tractor during the day...they are veracious grasshopper eaters. I'm happy for that. The grasshoppers is what has done us in so far this year out in the garden, besides the heat.
    Love reading about your weather difference, seasonal difference, and gardens.
    Patricia
    SW Kaufman Co. ~Texas

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  7. I have planted my first trees- a lemon and an orange tree. I'm so excited, watching them grow. They already have quite a few blossoms. We also have lots of lettuce growing. I love picking it fresh, and still warm from the sun, to have on sandwiches and in salads. Your garden sounds beautiful!

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  8. I went to a free information session on the weekend put on by the Tweed Council, on bringing birds into your backyard. The guest speaker was lively and informative, and I came away with lots of good information and ideas on what plants to put into two new beds where I've taken the lawn up so that I encourage more birds, hopefully the little ones like finches and silver eyes. I have a veggie garden that's a work in progress, as I slowly fence an area near the house, safe from scratchy chickens and an inquisitive pup....it's working well so far. And like Hanno, I have 2 big holes to dig in the chook yard to plant a lime and a lemon.....not looking forward to that, as I know the ground is dry and hard....a little each day, and as the hole appears, the girls will help by scratching and pooping. And, like you, Rhonda, I'm out pottering just before the sun's up...a magic time of day, cool and fresh before the sun gets hot.

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    Replies
    1. Nanette, have you discovered the Birds in Backyards website yet? http://www.birdsinbackyards.net

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    2. Sort of....it was listed in the resources info we were given, but I haven't had a chance to look yet. I did find out though that we have a local branch of the group and I've joined. I also found out our council has a web page devoted to local birds, the kind of habitat they like and plants native to the area to encourage them...and a nursery where I can buy them way cheaper than other places.....so I'm armed now :)

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  9. We too planted a citrus, a Washington Navel. We live not far from you Rhonda so we are hoping the gardening success has drifted our way. So far so good, we have just picked our first beetroot, baby carrots and beans [we were very late getting everything planted]. I had a hard time keeping the chickens away from the hole for the tree. When we finished we joked that we would come out the next day and find the tree high and dry after the chooks scratched round and round the the bottom of the wire. We enjoy sitting in the veggie patch late in the afternoon talking over what we have achieved [on a very tight budget]and how things are going, with the chooks happily clucking and agreeing with us in the background. We have used all our spare timber, wire and bits and pieces [even an old washing machine for the chooks apartment beds] so in a sense we de cluttered the back yard into something very useful. cheers mary-anne from Beerwah

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mary-Anne, yes, your climate will be almost the same as ours. We're lucky in that we can plant all year round if we choose to, although the bugs are prevalent in summer. We stop planting in November and start up again in March.

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  10. Hello Rhonda. My garden is preparing for the colder season and there is a chill in the air now. We have had 20 celsius in the day but down to five in the night. I am hoping the tomatoes will ripen before it gets too cold, they are coming along so nicely. The freezer is full of red currants and rhubarb and we have picked almost twenty litres of wild blueberries. My spices have done so well this year and l have frozen a lot of parsley for use in soups. In a couple of weeks the rowan berries will be ready for harvesting and l will be making rowan and apple jelly. Oh and almost forgot, 20 kg of strawberry jam all ready for winter too. I love stocking up, fills me with a lovely feeling of satisfaction. Getting the rest of the wood in the shed next weekend. Pam

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    1. Wow, 20kg of strawberry jam! Well done.

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  11. A few months ago, my fiancé and I moved to a new house with a yard. Now I can actually grow plants in the ground and not be confined to pots and tubs. I've spent the past few weekends (I work full time) digging up a good sized patch down near the back fence for a vegetable garden. Today I plan on digging in a few bags of compost.
    It's been interesting growing things in a different climate (we are both originally from the south coast of nsw), on the coast, things grew with ease and I never had to try very hard. Here there is always the threat of heavy frosts in winter and the incredibly hot, dry summers. It's a challenge, but one I'm willing to take on :)
    Thanks for all the inspiration Rhonda, you always keep me thinking.
    Erin, Bathurst NSW

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  12. oh I loved the story of the chooks with the Gardner glove. I could just see them carrying on! Thanks for bringing a smile to my face this morning :)

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  13. Good morning Rhonda! Oh you are so inspiring..I'm really enjoying reading the de-cluttering challenge and maybe will do it in September as I'm not feeling the best at the moment. I'm loving your story about the red dress and the buttons! Happy de-cluttering and have a great week!

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  14. The camellias are blooming and the first of my spring bulbs are out - some gorgeous freesias!

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  15. I agree, you can never have too many lemons :) My garden has been suffering a bit lately by being eaten alive by bugs (especially the kale which is a shame). I'm gave it a good fertilise with organic fertiliser on the weekend and have been spraying with white oil, so hopefully it picks up.

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    1. My kale is being eaten too and I discovered the culprit - those rotten green caterpillars which blend in very well with the leaves. They don't last long once I've spotted them lol. Keeping a close eye each day on them has kept damage minimal now.

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    2. Thanks so much Anonymous - I will keep my eyes open :)

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  16. I've loved reading your blog for awhile now but first time to comment. I live in southwest Missouri and love to garden. This has been an exceptionally wet & cooler then normal summer so my garden has been a little slower to produce. My tomatoes are slowly ripening, lots of green beans & zuchini. I also love my herbs so trying to harvest those. Seem to get enough to make that most of my dinner. Think it's going to be an early fall. Jan

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  17. Well Rhonda I laughed at your description of your chooks and the glove! Sounds like my cat when something is new in the house! haha
    Hubby and I spent Sunday digging enormous rocks out of the clay on our property, to be moved 100 metres to the garden at the front along the drive. It was backbreaking work. We also staked plastic protectors around three new trees that the wallabies have gotten a taste for. :-/
    I can only dream of a time when my garden will be established and fruitful; for now it is a barren, weedy, muddy wasteland. Perhaps in about 5 years it might look good? :-)

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  18. Rhonda, the Hydrangea's would probably go well in your shadehouse. I'm located in SA, and mine do well there.
    Is there any possibility that we could get a photo of your Wisteria?? Just love them. Reminds me of my childhood! Many thamnks, Robtrev.

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  19. Rhonda, perhaps you'll be shocked to hear that I have never seen lemons such as in your picture. I live in Northern Europe where it is way too cold to grow any citrus fruit, and the only place where I see lemons is the mall. They are all the same size, a bit on the greenish size and with perfect, chemically perfected peels. People are strongly discouraged to use the peel (or is it rind?) of any store-bought fruit, but it had never occurred to me that lemons in real gardens would not be as perfect. Everyone around here knows that the Belgian apples that can be stored for years (!!!) should not be eaten as they contain very little of value and if eaten they absolutely must be peeled. The apples that grow in our orchards look nothing like the store apples, they are less sweet but far more fragrant and fresh. I now realize I have never ever had a really ripe lemon. Or an orange. Or a banana for that matter. No wonder many people advocate eating only the fruit and vegetables that are indigenous in our part of the world. One more reason to grow your own.

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    1. Shocked and saddened, Diana. "Perfect" bought at the price of chemical sprays is far from perfect. When Hanno's relatives were here recently and we served them fresh pineapple from a local farm, Martina told me she'd never seen a yellow pineapple before, only green ones. I wonder what the value is in buying fruit like that. I doubt it would have much nutrition and it sounds like there's not much flavour there. I agree, one more reason to grow your own.

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  20. I would love to have a productive lemon tree in the back garden, but an English climate is just too wet and cold! After a really bad winter here, the summer has been lovely and our little plot, under 30 foot square, has been quite productive - spinach, lettuce, potatoes, and peas already harvested. The courgettes, carrots and tomatoes still going strong. This year was the first time we were successful with cucumbers in the greenhouse so we're really pleased about that. Among the veggies are flowering perennials that I raised from seed a couple of years ago, and they have attracted lots of bees. DH has also tried drying our own herbs this year as well as freezing basil, parsley and coriander. We are hoping to get some winter greens in soon, if we can nurture them past the seedling stage. We've rigged up extra guttering on the greenhouse and shed to maximise water-harvesting - during a very dry July, we had to resort to saving the shower water and lugging it from our first-floor flat out to the garden!
    We have learned a valuable lesson this year, that a small garden can be productive and beautiful. We get so much pleasure each time we dig up a handful of potatoes or shell our own peas, or eat a salad with homegrown lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber. It might not be much but these simple actions are very satisfying.
    Loved the chickens-and-glove story! No chooks here (sadly just not enough room) but we do enjoy watching the local birdlife.
    Best wishes
    Michelle, IW, England

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  21. My garden is still slowly taking shape, hoping to get some fruit trees in before spring officially arrives here. We know all about clay down in Adelaide, it's the bane of my digging life! Lemon is high on the list... a garden without a lemon tree is a sad thing indeed.

    I have posted the results of my first couple of weeks of decluttering on my blog, so much gone from the house, and I'm still going. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  22. I love your writing Rhonda, I can hear and see the chickens flapping and smell the tangy aroma of cut citrus ;-) In our garden the mulberry tree is shooting, we have umpteen flower buds on our almond. My apples still have most of their leaves... I don't think it's been cold enough for them even though they are suitable for our temperate climate. We had a beautiful late winter (pretty much) cloudless day here in Perth, but still need more rain!
    Rebecca

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  23. I love reading your blog Rhonda and only live an hour or so south of you so I can relate to your seasonal efforts.

    You've inspired me to declutter and today I either threw away or set aside heaps for the second hand stores. I'll be at it again tomorrow too. It's hard adjusting my, "I might use it one year" attitude and it takes a while to sort through things.

    My garden gives me much joy. I spend time in it each day although I probably don't get up as early as you. For years I've tended to the "pretty" garden but had herbs, tomotoes and cucumbers in big pots. A year ago, almost to the day, hubby cut down some bushes for me and I converted the area to a vegie garden with five large beds and another smaller one. There's also a very long and narrow bed close to the back door that I converted to a herb/salad garden.

    We soooo enjoy the fresh, flavourful produce. He thinks he's on a good deal - I tend the garden and he eats from it (and I do too of course). I'm at home most days and have the time and besides, I find it incredibly rewarding. I actually had things growing all year round but did have more issues over the hot summer months. I might try to have a break like you do over summer if I can resist putting seedlings into empty gardens.

    I can't wait to get my cucumbers in again as the previous few didn't do so well and eventually died some months ago after an unsuccessful attempt at recyling potting mix. I'll try again with more compost/manure in it next time. My tomatoes, in pots, are producing beautiful tasty fruit and I am still enjoying snow peas, with more planted, awaiting their harvest.

    We juice every day so I have beetroot in all year round and rarely have to buy any. Haven't tried carrots yet - maybe one day. We are eating potatoes that have just been harvested a week ago - over 5kg from 3 pots. I had tried to grow a couple over summer and failed so having these succeed was exciting. Even hubby couldn't help himself and dug into the dirt with me on our treasure hunt (dig). I've just planted a few more and am hoping that it's not too late. I'd like to put a whole lot more in - maybe next year earlier in the season.

    I've got plenty of leeks at various stages growing and have loved having them for soups. I have a whole bed dedicated to 12 large strawberry plants and can't keep up with the produce. I think we'll need to have more desserts of yoghurt or ice-cream with strawberries :-) Maybe I'll just keep half of them and use the other half for something else. I could try jam.

    I've seriously been thinking about cutting down more of the bushes/shrubs around the place to put in some fruit trees. I want some citrus, particularly lemon as I have a drink of water/lemon every morning. We have two labradors so I can't, in all fairness to them, fill the whole yard with gardens. It's only a 600 sq m block. I love your yard space and am a wee bit jealous.

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  24. I've been focussing on the flowers and fruits. The lavender harvest is wonderful and we have lavender salve, lavender syrup and lavender vodka. Raspberries are being dried to add to cereals and we have raspberry brandy maturing away. Rosehip and rowan are the first of the jellies and we went slightly overboard on the comfrey salve so the rest will be turned into plant food. I'm in foraging mode at this time of year and am a bit fidgety if I can't get out and pick something each day!

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  25. I'm still busy de-cluttering, here is my post about this weeks efforts http://www.blackbirdhasspoken.com/2013/08/in-out-in-out-shake-it-all-about-op.html
    I love the quote on that dish, so true, not just vegges and flowers grow in a garden!

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  26. Hi Rhonda and everyone!
    My husband and I will be busy in about a month's time! The house we have been renting got sold and we will be moving into a rented house that our neighbours bought. The neighbours said we can do as we like (aren't we lucky!) Anyhow.... the house has some wonderful space for gardens (and there were gardens there at one point) and we have been given permission to grow whatever we like!!!! We have taken photos and are deciding what to put where. We will grow a load of tomatoes (for sauce) and everything else we can possibly grow in the space we have. We bought some dwarf fruit trees! We bought a lemon tree years back - and it's now fruiting nicely. We went out and bought a dwarf nectarine tree as well as dwarf apricot, peach, mandarin and apple trees.
    We may not have our own home but we will be living the life we would have liked (all but for getting chickens - not a good idea when you rent, even if you are friends with the landlords). We can't wait to move in and decide where to put everything and create space to store what we need!
    We are both so excited about being able to have the garden we have wanted for ages now but could never have till now! We have done what we could and had raised garden beds (or as many as landlords would allow) but now we can have all we like! Can't wait to start living the life more!!!!
    We are de-cluttering, naturally. We've been deciding what to bin and what to sell that we no longer need or want. Can't wait to get those gardens in and out up my little greenhouse to grow my seeds in!

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  27. I had to giggle at your chickens. :)
    Silly creatures...
    -Kristin

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