DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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8 May 2014

Reminders of what is important to us - backyard

Earlier in the week we shared what we love about our homes and the work we do there. I thank you all for sharing your incredible stories; I thought many of them were inspirational and I'm sure other readers did too. Now let's carry on highlighting what we love about our simple lives. Today we're going out to the backyard to examine what we love out there. You may be growing fruit and vegetables, you might have chickens, pigs, goats, a house cow or bees. Or are you harvesting water, generating electricity or recycling? We want to know what you're doing in your backyard, why you're doing it and why it's important. It's much easier to sit and read a book so why do you want to work outside instead? I hope some of the men join in today. I know you're out there. :- )




I'll lead off. You've seen photos of our backyard and will have probably have noticed the line of trees along the back boundary, behind the chicken run. That is a creek that defines the back boundary of our property, and along that creek runs a thick line of remnant rainforest. That rainforest and the fences on each side seem to embrace us and anyone in the backyard. It gives a feeling of seclusion and privacy and I count myself very lucky to be able to produce food in that space. I love the feeling of being self-contained here, that we can grow food, keep chickens, harvest water, make things out of scraps, use what we produce to keep our grocery bill lower than average and take advantage of the land we live on. Making our land productive gives us better value for the money we spent buying this place.



But I think the main thing is the feeling I get when I walk out there. There is a feeling of connection, that we're improving this land, increasing its fertility, encouraging microbes to grow in the soil along with the vegetables and knowing that partnership benefits the plants, the soil and us. I love that such a productive area is also very beautiful and that I can sit out there, work, pick things, invite people around, enjoy my family there or just sit alone and think under the elder tree and no one can come along and tell me to leave. When I produce good food in my backyard it makes me feel capable and reliable and that what we're doing here has more significance than just mucking about in the backyard. There is purpose here.



I like the idea of being self-reliant too. We harvest water from the roof and it is enough water to tend the garden, keep the chickens alive and clean everything out there. We are able to harvest and store 15,000 litres and therefore do not taking any water from the local dam for our outdoor activities and tasks.  We make our own hot water in the solar water system on the roof and using the solar panels beside it, we shape our lives to cut down on electricity and get by with that small system. In the two years since we had it installed we've paid only one small bill. We don't want to make money with our solar panels, we just want to live how we live without paying electricity bills. We try to recycle and compost as much as we can so the burden of disposing of our waste is not entirely on the local council. I know we pay good money for them to do that but I believe it's up to us to do as much as we can ourselves.



The icing on the cake is walking inside with a basket brimming with fresh eggs and organic vegetables and eating those vegetables minutes after they've been picked. Yesterday I picked three organic oranges from the tree and filled a glass with the juice. In less than five minutes, that drink was gone. I felt healthy just drinking it and I know that even if I had a million dollars, I could not have bought a better drink than that. And it all comes from our backyard.

I'm eager to read about your backyard too, or your food growing.  This is not about cooking the food, that will come soon, it's about your backyard, what you do out there and the feeling you get by doing it.


29 comments:

  1. the growing season is just beginning here in Missouri. Every weekend and evening I enjoy working in my raised garden beds. We have a 55 acre farm but the ground is terrible for gardening. Grows rocks well though. The feeling of eating the foods that I worked hard to plant, care for, harvest, and preserve is just beyound great! I know that my family is getting good quality food without chemicals. We raise our chickens for eggs and meat along with a steer that we butcher from our herd each year. No hormones or antibotics in our food!

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  2. I love walking into my vegetable garden and looking at the promise it holds. There are many things I need to still,improve it but in 6 years we have learnt so much about food and how to grow it and make use of our small space. Whenever I go out I have both dogs and up to 3 cats join me to see what I am doing. It used to be my children, but not at the moment.

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  3. I am just now beginning to make small changes to simplify our life and much of this has been in the garden. I have made two raised garden beds filled with herbs and more recently broccoli and calvo nero. We already have productive orange and mandarin trees and a somewhat flailing lemon tree. Like you Rhonda I get joy from going out into our garden, picking fresh food and using it to cook for my family. I also often get the urge to run my hands along the rosemary hedge or to crush kafir lime leaves between my fingers just to smell all those lovely smells.

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  4. Hi Rhonda,

    well.. I don't have a backyard-story for you and your readers, but I sure can tell you all a balcony one! ;o)

    On my balcony (4th floor) are several terracotta pots. I have a bramble, some garlic, basil, rocket salad, red peppers and three kinds of mind. I also have four types of beans still sprouting (green beans, brown beans, kidney beans and monstrance bean). In a couple of days I hope to buy me a strawberry plant and maybe some more herbs.

    Although I don't have a vegetable garden anymore, I do think I can grow some of my own foods. It makes me feel so proud and great! Hope more people like me (without a garden) will try to grow there own food.

    Lots of love from Holland!

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  5. Morning Rhonda, can I just say first thankyou to you and the others who commented about my second hand smoke plight, empathised with me and offered suggestions. Things have progressed a little, after I talked to her again armed with a stern letter from the lawyer I saw, pointing out the consequences for her and her brother if I get sick, and the successful cases that have already been tried in Australia in similar circumstances. She has grudgingly agreed to ' mostly ' go up the yard to smoke, having one or two on the deck at night. Not ideal, I'd rather she didn't, but it's better...she said she smokes nearly a pack a day so the smoke of I or 2 will be bearable...I hope. Now to clear my house and verandahs of the smell.
    Apart from the productivity of my backyard, the enjoyment I get from digging, planting and harvesting and enjoying the birds that come, I love that my yard backs on to a lane, a local thoroughfare, and people go past all day long....they stop and chat, some are good friends and come in for a cuppa and we sit under the jacaranda and catch up, others come by with their dogs and they have a play with mine while we check out what's growing, or they just stop to talk to my dog and give her a pat.....which she loves, she knows them all .....some call out over the gate to say they're leaving plant cuttings, or to drop off surplus veggies, sometimes someone will come asking for help, or to offer help......I get to enjoy the whole world without leaving home.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Nanette,
      you might try bicarb soda to get the smell out of your carpets and fabrics. Sprinkle it on, leave overnight then shake it off and wash or vacuum as usual. (obviously use caution with anything delicate) Curtains could be washed and aired, and walls washed down with a vinegar solution.

      Good luck! Madeleine

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    2. We had a 4 acre rural home. I now live in a townhouse close to our children. I do have a small yard. My kids built a raised bed for me all along the fencing. I was so happy yesterday (I tell everyone I meet) that I got my first 5 radishes from my efforts yesterday. My spinach did well so I dehydrated 3/4 of it and ate it at 3 meals. This weekend I will purchase a few plants as well as plant the few plants that made it from seedlings. A woods is behind my house so I get to look at nature when I'm out there. Also listen to the birds convey their gratefulness through song each morning and evening. Tomorrow I will do some canning out there using my portable stove that fires up using twigs and pinecones.
      Rhonda, I have been trying to figure out why you have pots upside down on poles in your garden. Please explain.

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  6. We have had chickens in our backyard for 4 years now however both of them died over the very hot summer on separate days. We will be getting them shortly however when we did have chickens even after 4 years the kids and I still enjoyed going out to the chicken coop to collect the eggs. Due to budget constraints I'm having to buy the cheap caged eggs and whilst I don't want to I have to as I can't pay $5-6 for a dozen eggs. I know this is only short term until we flax the coop and get more chickens however when my 10 year old saw me buying these eggs he pointed out that they were caged chickens and we shouldn't't be buying them. What that tells me is "a job well done" and he gets it so he knew which eggs were the ones we should be buying out of all the ones on the shelf. We will have chickens shortly and I won't have to feel bad buying what we can afford. We have 3 small veggie boxes (1.2m x1.2m) and we grow things we want to eat and grew corn for the first time recently. We loved watching it grow, my family when they visited loved watching it grow and the corn was always the topic of conversation. When we are on the phone to Nanny & Pop in Melbourne they always ask how's the veggie garden and we chat about what they have growing at the moment. We have a very private small backyard that's flat and the kids play, give each other rides in the wheelbarrow and we put the sprinkler on and they run through the water and get cool. Our backyard is about play time and teaching the kids about veggie growing. Nothing makes me more pleased to walk out to the garden and cut some rosemary to make rosemary and sea salt focaccia or get some spring onions to go into the pizza scrolls I made this week. I love our little backyard and it suits our little family. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

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  7. Our back yard continues to evolve. I have a hot house/shade house now(which I saved for with my last 2 terms of teaching before I retired) and this has enabled my normally disorganised seedling system to become a habit that I cannot do with out each morning. The cycle of seed,to seedling to vegetable is something that is permanent in my garden and I love the routine each day of working in the shade house and planting something nearly every day. I am at the point now of 'abundance' ...I love abundance because it means each visitor goes home with something and I have also started a morning juice routine with leafy greens from our garden...I don't really like eating vegetables ,though I know I should....so having a juice with kale , broccolli etc every couple of days makes me feel as though I getting my vege intake for sure.
    After all these years of gardening, I have finally found routine , and habit. Interesting to think that once something becomes a habit, it stops being a chore.
    Now I sell my seedlings at the local market , it is a job but not a job because I am doing what I love.

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  8. I just amaze in your part of the world things are just finishing up. Just like Joyful Reader in Missouri we also just started to garden. She is in warmer climate them me.
    Seeds starts are going and just finish up the potatoes planting. At this time I'm weeding and pulling grass out the flower bed below our front window.
    There is some calmness to working the soil.
    Coffee is on

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  9. I am in awe of your yard, Rhonda Jean! I live in a duplex, and my backyard is a golf course. I'm a recycling fiend, and I try to leave as small a footprint as I can. I'm may not be self-sufficient in the way you are, but I often post about nature and how we need to care for our planet. Thank you for sharing your beautiful yard. It is an inspiration.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Fundy Blue, thanks for your comment. If you were living here, you'd probably use the land in a similar way, but each home has it's own opportunities and problems. You've obviously assessed your situation and recycling makes the most sense, we all do this in our own way. I like your emphasis on recycling, we should all recycle more. I know I should.

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  10. Our farm is work in progress, especially now that I have a definable goal. We are beekeepers, have chickens (eggs and meat), pigs alternate years, dairy goats for cheese and milk as well as soap, and a garden plot. I can a great deal most years -- veggies, jams, milk, and organic meats which we purchase from a friend. I forage blackberries in June and gather nuts in the fall from the woods. We recycle and compost from the barns and house. You know, until I started typing this, I hadn't realized just how much we do on the place! My next wish is for a dairy cow! Can you believe it?? Thanks for asking as this has helped me take stock of what all we do here!

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  11. We moved here 6 years ago & put in several garden beds that we have recently fenced off & we were lucky to inherit quite a large variety of established fruit trees with the property as well as a vineyard which keeps us busy. I have 3 chooks at the moment & intend getting another 3 after a few alterations to the pen. I love nothing more than to be able to collect fresh produce & eggs to cook from scratch straight away, it gives me so much pleasure & satisfaction within myself. With our wonderful healthy lifestyle & your book Rhonda which I call my bible, retirement has exceeded any expectations I may have had. By the way we also have added solar hot water & small panels for power. Love reading all the comments from everyone, it has become my morning institution.

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  12. I love looking at your veggie garden - it seems so prolific and healthy. Your posts about gardening have been very informative and inspiring over the years. Up here in the tropics we are heading into our best growing season, and I recently removed all the grass in the very back, increasing the size of our veggie patch to its full extent. I love the clean look of it now, and think the maintenance will be easier. I will put a recent photo on our garden pin board that you created. Thank you once again for being so inspiring in blogging, gardening and life in general.

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  13. I think one of the biggest joys of the backyard is the wonder of growing your own food. You get to witness the everyday miracle of a seed transforming into a plant and then something delicious for your table. You simply value it so much more.

    I also love my clothesline. It's a retracting line (my yard is only 4m x 4m max) so it's there when we need it and disappears when we want the space for other activities. I love our washing smelling like sunshine and think it's sweet when I look out the kitchen window and see a row of nappies bleaching in the morning sun. Nature is a great housekeeper really.

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  14. My daughter, who is 7, and I planted most of our main garden yesterday. It brings me so much joy to grow and can some of our own food. Not only for the health benefits but also for the savings. It is hard to put into words the joy of watching my daughter go out to snip some lettuce to make a salad while I finish up dinner.

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  15. I'm a farmer's daughter at heart. When I was growing up, our farm was pretty self-sufficient. My father took pride in sitting down at a table where most, if not all the food, came from the farm. Since I only have a little over a half acre, I can't do that well, but we do have six chickens and I haven't bought an egg in a year and that's been so wonderful, especially when I break open one of my chicken's eggs and see how yellow the yolk is and taste the buttery goodness of an organic egg. I grow tomatoes and cucumbers and I never get over the excitement of going out into the garden and picking the first fruits of the season. Nothing tastes better than that first tomato from your garden. Sun warmed and juicy and oh, so fresh. Nothing like those hard little orbs you buy at the grocery. I grow sunflowers for the seed for the birds. I grow rhubarb. Ever taste a fresh rhubarb pie? Nothing like it. There is very little grass growing on my little half acre as I have filled my yard with vegetables, flowers and trees. It's my own little world that I cherish and love. Everyone should have their own little patch of land to tend. It's good for the soul.

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  16. I'm at a stage in my life where I'm working about 10 hours a day outside the home. I like my work so its not all bad and I'm paying off my mortgage and building my home into the simple lifestyle that is the element of me. When I get home my little 21 month old Grandson is very excited to start our routine feeding and checking the chickens, feeding the dog, feeding the compost, watering the garden with our harvested water and picking produce. The nights are dark and cooler now here so we just rug up and my grandson has quickly learnt how to hold and shine a torch for those areas that aren't well light. After our chores are done we go for a bike ride around the block. I couldn't ask for a better assistant. Yes I'm the lady in a business suit and yellow gumboots riding her bike with her Grandson on the back, and my neighbours tell what a great Grandma I am. I'm just passing down the skills and having fun. Weekends we enjoy our garden and send more time with our animals.

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  17. Thank you for today's post and the beautiful pictures, Rhonda! I just showed some pics of my autumn veggie garden on my blog as I'm so exited to be planting at this time of the year (it's only my second season that I'm growing veggies). I'm a bit lost at the design and we have 3 acres and with all the trees and gardenbeds we now have a rather large area to be mowed with a push mower and I'm trying to figure out how to rectify that. How do you avoid having to mow to much by hand?
    Thank you!
    Frances

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  18. Our backyard has been growing bigger each year. We extended the garden, added the greenhouse, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and fruit trees. It will be a few years before everything is producing good. We added four laying hens and ordered four more the other day. We will be adding meat chickens but not this summer. The other day I watched one of our girls lay an egg and it truly is a miracle to watch that little hen lay that egg. To go out to the garden and pick fresh veg for supper and know you grew that makes me smile every time. To build something from the scraps we have saved up is so rewarding. We just recently got a quote for solar electric but was to far out of our budget right now but maybe in the future. Would I go back to the city? No way!!

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  19. Rhonda - our backyard is similar to yours - growing food, keeping chickens, harvesting water and heating with the solar HWS and of course our solar panels.

    Neither of us get to spend as much time there as we would like as we are both working full-time with our eye firmly having the mortgage paid off.

    However, we are working towards making the garden more user-friendly and have a long list of projects that we are working through. We have just completed fencing an area for the vegetables gardens which will keep the chickens out. Also n our list - more raised garden beds, an extra rainwater tank (gravity-fed) near the house so that we can access water even in a power failure, a pergola on the southern side of the house, revamping the garden in front of the house with ornamental flowering shrubs, another garden and seat near the lower gate and so on........ All of our plans are designed to make living here easier and more comfortable as we age. We are glad to have the opportunity to do this work while we are fit and healthy.

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  20. A self-sufficient life in a suburb of a city - my dream. The backyard is the place where I dream, and learning to live out my dream...growing vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees; composting, taking cuttings, and battling with cutworms; relaxing on a bench, watching the littlest playing, swinging, but mostly "helping" his ouma digging up the newly planted seedlings...
    A water tank and a system to collect water from the laundry....the next two steps. Chickens? in the city? I'm not so sure...but I'm thinking about it...;-)

    My grandfather was a subsistence farmer. I know this is where I too belong.

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  21. My garden is small. A long and narrow plot as wide as a small terraced house. It is entirely given over to fruit, vegetables and flowers there is no room for grass. It is cold where we live so we have a polytunnel to make the growing season a little bit longer. At the moment the polytunnel is home to many trays of seedlings which I sowed last month I will start to harden them off (get them used to the cooler outside) in the next few weeks before planting them out in June. We have three compost bins and a wormery to provide extra nourishment for our soil. We also regularly collect horse manure from someone in the village who keeps horses. The garden is home to several bird nesting boxes which are used each year, and a bug house and a hedgehog house. We also have a small pond which the birds love to drink and bathe in. Although we have no grass we have build an arbour with honeysuckle growing over it which you can hang a hammock across two I f the posts. The children and I love to sit in the hammock and watch the wildlife which comes to visit.

    Between the house and the garden we have a long building which is a garage and workshop this building is off grind with all the power for it supplied by a large solar panel. We harvest water from the roof of this building which is stored in a 1000 litre tank at the top of the garden, it rains often enough here that this is constantly pretty full. The roof of the garage/workshop is also home to a garden a green roof. It is covered with sedums and other low growing plants and several pieces of rotting wood. The birds love this, we love to watch them from the house.

    We have a small front garden too which is very neglected but a haven for birds and wildlife. We are going to build a porch out the front of our house after which we will do something with this small garden. We would like to plant fruit trees out there and keep bees and maybe chickens too.

    We have solar water panels on our roof which supply us with hot water for about six to months of the year, for the rest of the time we heat the water with a wood burning stove using wood we forage for and store in the garden.

    Our garage is home to our recycling which we take to a facility in our village when it gets full! We put out a rubbish bag for collection about once every six to eight weeks the bag is far from full even then but usually smells and we don't want to attract rats etc into our garage.

    We own a small plot of land which will never enable us to be self sufficient but we love growing what we can and always enjoy the fruits of our labour :)

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  22. I'm lucky, my backyard was an almost blank canvas. So I have been turning off and creating new vegetable beds, pruning the existing fruit trees back into shape and building up the compost pile. Just had a fantastic harvest of feijoas, and the rows of celery, turnips, chard and spinach are coming along nicely.
    Just need to get a few chooks. Local regulations allow us to keep 12, but without a rooster.

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  23. My backyard contains our garden, soon to have raised beds, which will feed my family nutritious foods. I also have a beautiful clothes line to hang my clothes on this summer and let them be dried by the glorious wind and the warm sunshine. I love how our sheets smell so fresh and clean after a day on the line. Our backyard also contains a space where we are constructing a new patio and fire pit. This will be the place where we can share good food and starlit nights with friends and family.
    Someday we would like to add chickens and a water tank to gather rain water for the garden. All in time...

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  24. Being in my garden makes me feel alive. I love to observe all that's happening, talk to the chooks, the guinea pig and the cats. Spending time in the garden helps to balance the life inside the house. I remember years ago before children, when my husband and I both worked full time, winter was the most difficult. Leaving home in the dark and returning in the dark, it just didnt seem right and I knew that in time I would have to change my life so I could spend time in my garden every day.
    Now that it is so productive and a place for experimentation with different edible and ornamental plants, it feeds me body and soul.
    Thanks Rhonda, its been great to get a chance to articulate more specifically what I love about home. And I have loved everyone's stories. kx

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  25. I have just discovered your blog and it is so inspirational , having moved home and a blank canvas of a garden i cant wait to get planting at the end of this week x

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  26. Your blog is so inspirational! I would love to start growing my own veggies, but I am living in an apartment in the middle of the city so space is limited. Do you have any tips on what vegetables grow better in small pots? Buying organic food in Perth is so expensive, so anything that I can save from growing my own would be wonderful.

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Thank you for your comment today. I love reading your opinions and thoughts. We have built up a wonderfully diverse community here that I'm very proud to be a part of.

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