DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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15 September 2014

Our new way of gardening

This is our garden yesterday afternoon.

Those of you who have been reading here for a few years will know that Hanno starts our new year garden off in early March.  We can plant and grow all year if we wish to, and that is what we did for a number of years, but we found the humidity, heat and bugs of summer made it a very difficult and time consuming task. We then planted in early March, grew all through autumn, winter and spring, then stopped planting in late November. Over summer we continued to harvest tomatoes, capsicums, herbs, chard, cucumbers and beetroot but by late January it was all over and we left the garden to rest until March. That has worked very well for us until now.

This year, production has stopped mid-season and changes are being made. We're growing older. We have to think of new ways to keep gardening but without the tiring jobs that make it more of a chore than it should be. Hanno is now harvesting our last crop of potatoes. They're Dutch Creams, a delicious waxy potato that holds its shape in salads, but is still very good mashed. These will be the last potatoes we grow. This year will be the last year too for cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, onions and turnips. There will be no more plantings of zucchinis, carrots, spinach or corn. From now on, we'll be concentrating on the fruits and vegetables we eat a lot of - tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, cucumber, beetroot, chilli, capsicums, chard, kale, beans and herbs. We'll continue growing fruit because it's easier to grow than vegetables - generally there are no repeat plantings, it's just fertilising, pruning, watering and harvesting. Simplifying in this way will be easier for a gardener with recurrent arthritis in his ankles and feet. We'll produce less overall but more of what we eat regularly, and we'll keep gardening.

 The garden bed above is almost gone. This is where we'll put our table and chairs.
These two beds will stay.

To facilitate this change Hanno is removing a couple of our garden beds. We'll keep a bed for salad greens, Asian greens and kale, we'll have a combined flower bed with the flowering vegies, such as tomatoes and cucumbers. The herbs and other vegetables will be dotted around the remaining beds. Many people have suggested to us that we should have raised beds. We are garden soil people, we want to grow our food in active soil that is alive with microbes and minerals. The minerals are deep in the soil so we prefer traditional organic methods. So where garden beds once produced their crops, we'll have a table and some seating right in the middle of the garden. We'll be able to sit out there, under an umbrella, and listen to the bees and birds while we drink tea and talk.

There is some sadness in this decision. Not only because we won't have those fresh vegetables straight from the garden but there is the loss of something that's been part of our lives for a long time. But we'll still have our summer vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit, and that will no doubt keep our green fingers moving and satisfy this insatiable urge to grow food and watch it grow to lush, ripe maturity.

 This bed will go.
 This will be the flower and flowering vegetables bed.
We'll cut this borage back and transplant it.

I see this as a sensible compromise. We will still be growing some food but the pressure is off to be prolific. We'll only plant what we know we can handle. We'll shop at a local farmers' market for the rest of our fresh food - thereby supporting the locals. But we'll still have that connection with our backyard as much as we ever did but it will be a relaxed and simple connection rather than a more complex and active one.


41 comments:

  1. I can so relate to this! We are organic but do have 3 deep raised beds created using all the soil from our shallow raised beds. We only grow summer things we like, like you will be doing. We also have lots of fresh summer fruit, plus loads that we can gather in the wild. Good luck with your new garden.

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  2. A solid plan. I'm looking forward to seeing your beautiful new arrangement!

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  3. Not an easy decision and change, but you can look forward to staying blooming where you are planted, whilst still busy planting what you are eating to keep blooming. Enjoy and good luck, dear Rhonda.
    Sending love and blessings to you and Hanno from The Netherlands,

    Jeanneke.

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  4. That seems like a sensible idea to me, don't work yourself to death! If SHTF you know you can produce big volumes if you have to, but until then just cut back and keep gardening a pleasure and not a chore. As long as the knowledge is still in your head, you can start back if you ever need to. And if SHTF and you are not physically able to continue, your knowledge and experience will be invaluable to some younger and abler bodies to provide the manual labor to raise vegetables on a larger scale.

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  5. It makes sense to stop, reflect, and make changes accordingly. I cannot wait until our rooftop terrace is completed and I can grow the leafy greens etc we eat so much of. With limited space I won't be growing carrots etc that I can pick up cheaply from the markets each weekend. It's one of the reasons growing herbs is such a money saver- a bunch of cut herbs at the supermarket is more expensive than a small plant from the nursery! Looking forward to seeing your completed sitting area in the ever-evolving garden!

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  6. It's always a little sad when changes have to be made, but it is going to be good for Hanno to do less manual work, (although it sounds like he will still have enough things going on to keep him busy). Just another one of life's little chapters really. Relaxing under an umbrella with a cool drink, watching Jamie & Alex play sounds like the perfect compromise though, enjoy!

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  7. Good morning Rhonda, as always you are practical and honest in your decisions, for that I applaud you! The only thing I would say is try one raised bed. I have an elderly friend who gardens in raised beds, the kind that are like water tanks, and they are amazing. He uses his compost and chickens manure and he has worms thriving in them and the soil quality is amazing. Have a lovely day xxBrenda

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  8. Being from the US I become disoriented while reading this... our seasons being opposite and all. :) Right now we plant different things to see what we like and how much work it requires. Soon we will know just what we want to keep planting and what to quit. It's a season of learning. I'm sure your new gardens will be super!

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  9. Well done in making this decision while you have the energy to re-design your garden. And you will still be eating your own produce.
    I made the decision last season to let one of my two small allotments go. It has been a good decision as I have been able to concentrate on the smaller task of cultivating the remaining 8-square metres plot. Not big enough to grow potatoes as I have in the past, but I have still managed to grow kohlrabi to use as a root vegetable, a couple of tomato plants, and plenty of green veggies and herbs.

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  10. Changing up your veggie garden needs to suit growing health concerns is sensible. Getting out to the local farmers markets will be a lovely outing to connect with and support the locals. I went to our new local farmers markets that our suburb organized and commenced mid July and it's such a happy place with lots of healthy food and a lovely outing. Actually a lady came up to me and said she reads my blog and was at the markets because it was on my blog. I'm glad you'll still be eating summer veggies and lots of fruit and having a nice place to sit and as someone mentioned watching the grand children run around sounds like a great idea. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

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  11. Yes Rhonda, we are getting to that stage as well. We enjoy what we do but need a bit more rest now. This is a new season in our lives and I keep reminding myself to grow old gracefully.Giving myself more time to do what needs to be done but also enjoying the journey. By way of a bit of humour though; I really get annoyed when I can't get a lid off a jar or the cap off a new bottle of milk. Little things like that in my older years frustrate me when I've always been quite strong, however on the whole life is sweet and I thank God we live in this amazing country where we have such freedom to actually grow old.
    Blessings Gail.

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  12. Best wishes to you - it's nice that you both are able to plan so sensibly in this way. I'm sure you're doing the right thing.

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  13. I always admire people who can make difficult decisions and forge ahead to implement them. I think it's very wise to do that, Rhonda. You have a solid plan for sourcing local veg and the things you eat the very most of will still be growing in your yard. We all need to constantly assess our energy, health, finances, interests, priorities, the needs of our family, work obligations, etc and come up with workable arrangements for our homes and gardens. All I know is this: Change is CONSTANT.

    It's funny - I've been thinking a lot about this very topic lately. We have a large annual garden and we are working at establishing a perennial food forest out front. Right now, I'm in the highest investment time in terms of energy and hours spent to get it up and rolling (the food forest) and it is very tiring on top of the huge annual garden. I know it's not sustainable in the long run... growing a lot of annual veg here is intense and demanding. It is not for the faint of heart so we are considering the very same choices that you are. As our family grows, we want to have time available to spend enjoying our children and grandchildren. We have access to organic veggies through local farmer and we think we will grow less of certain things, too. This should gradually dovetail into the increased production of the food forest (which down the line will be easy care once it's 4 years in).

    I'm excited to see your new seating area in the garden! What a lovely place to sit and enjoy the yard :) XO

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  14. Good morning Rhonda and Hanno, It is a wise person who knows when change is needed and a brave person to do so. Over the years of reading your blog I truly believe you are both. Enjoy your change! Have more time for your family and yourselves. You have inspired many, many people over the years to change their life, to simplify the way we live. So good on you! I was at the Redcliffe library last week and enjoyed meeting you and listening to your talk. Thankyou. I hope you enjoyed the chocolates as i have enjoyed the wash cloth ( for the ones that know me, i know that sounds quite strange coming from me, but change is all around us). Blessings Lindy

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    1. Hi Lindy. I love when I can put a face to a name. The chocolates are delicious and are still going strong. Thanks for your generosity.

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  15. Rhonda, being the same vintage as yourself we are also trying to make our 1/2 acre as manageable as possible as we get older. So the main focus is to drought-proof our garden and, like yourself, to grow what we eat a lot of. We also have lots of fruit trees which have been growing here for many years so that is a bonus. Hubby does the heavy work so is trying to keep as fit as possible as he ages so that he can keep on gardening in the coming years.

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  16. Thank you so much for this post. We are at a place where we are closer to retirement than not, and we recently started a backyard project that has involved killing the grass and pulling out ornamentals in order to focus on food production and xeriscaping. I know that we need to think about the garden and how we will be able to keep it up as the years go by, and also how best to grow food in an area of extreme drought. I think that focusing on the foods that we eat most is a great idea, along with choosing the fruits and vegetable that are the most expensive for us to buy, and planning for crops that are easier to tend.

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  17. Rhonda as you know we are ten or so years behind you two yet we have made a similar decision. Tony is turning one bed over to fruit trees so we will have occasional harvests of our own fruit, the larger and root veg we will buy from the farmers' market, the other things we will continue to grow. I think that now we have excellent farmers' markets available we can have the best of both worlds. I'm also experimenting with sprouts in a tray of soil and mini lettuces grown that way too.

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  18. Reading everyone's comments I see a common theme of all of us making choices to balance our lives, for optimal health. This is where kindness/sharing with our neighbours/work colleagues will become important again as we will each grow different things. I know since I've down sized my garden I'm much happier and the things I do grow now get much more attention and grow well. As to the subject of raised garden beds the best design I've seen are keyhole gardens where their is a compost tube in the centre., apparently they require less water also. I do have a little pipe dream of designing a keyhole garden that is ascetically pleasing to the eye and doesn't look out of place in a suburban garden.

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  19. I imagine this was a hard decision for yourself and Hanno. I'm hoping lots of younger gardeners in your local area read this and put in a few extra potatoes for you Rhonda :-)

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    1. It was a difficult decision, Tricia. We talked about it for a long time. But it feels right and that seems to be some sort of a confirmation that we're on the right track.

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  20. It makes good sense to me. We need to pace ourselves. It seems to me that we should structure our lives so that our hobbies and joys don't become just another chore. We're already thinking ahead at what we want our lives to look like as we get older and we know that we don't want to damage our health by asking more of our bodies than we should. It's clear that you've thought it all through carefully and I love how you're rearranging the use of your land to match your new gardening lifestyles. Best wishes. May you have many peaceful days sitting among the birds and bees and enjoying a nice cup of tea. :)

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  21. I know where you and Hanno are at...how often have I written in a post or comment that because of our health issues, my husband and I are just not up to the kind of veg. gardening that you two have been doing.
    But the difference is, you have actually done all the hard work while you were able; we didn't take advantage of being fit enough to do it when we first moved here. We talked about it for years, but although hubby did a lot of landscaping in both front and back yards, he never got around to creating a vegetable patch or planting fruit trees.
    You and Hanno can have a well earned rest, looking back at those productive years, albeit with more productive years ahead of you!

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  22. You will still have a lovely garden. I too like planting in soil; but raised beds help gardening in later years: the soil warms up faster, there is less to maintain, watering is more precise (important where I live) and the whole project is easier to harvest.

    No need to transplant borage! If anything moves itself around a garden, borage is it!

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  23. I too have had to cut way back on my vegetable gardening. I just can't stoop and bend the way I used to, I get bad back pain. But I have tried some table top gardening and lots of pots with herbs, etc. Gotta do the best under these circumstances. I also enjoy our local farmer markets, and we have a wonderful grocery store we drive to that is 100% GMO free and organic.

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  24. Sounds like a very good idea, so very important to take care of ones health. Mine has worsened a lot the last two years and this year l have only managed tomatoes, strawberries, rhubarb and some herbs. However, having less to tend made it more enjoyable and l coped better. Our Summer season is only may - sept here, then everything takes a loong rest. Next year l want rized beds to save bending, that will be a big help. Hope it will all feel like a big relief for you both in time, best of luck. Pam

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  25. I understand. I watched my in-laws go through this change too. Another consideration may be also growing a few of the foods you love that may not be readily available at the farmers market. The common things are just easier to find but growing what you eat the most makes a lot of sense.

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  26. Bittersweet, perhaps, but life is all about balance and seasons. Enjoy this new not-gardening-so-much season of your lives! The connections made at farmer's markets can really be something. Sometimes I regret we do not need to buy from our local market. We supply our own veg and so do not need to visit the farmer's market, but we do because its great to interact with the people.

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  27. This is such a great validation that even if we are trying to do as much as we can, we don't have to do it all in order to feel like we're succeeding at the simple life! Living simply isn't about wearing ourselves thin, it's about finding a balance between home and life that works for us and our circumstances. I'm reaching a point where I realize that I can't grow everything myself, but am instead learning to focus my energies and garden space for what's most needed and sourcing the rest from local farms. Raised beds and a square foot gardening layout have been incredibly valuable for me. I can use my space much more efficiently and don't have to stoop over or worry about compacting the soil.

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  28. Brava to you for deciding what is best to continuing enjoying your lifestyle.
    In my neck of the woods my hubby went and purchased more wood to build an adjacent garden to the little one we have. We are hoping to grow veggies again next year, this year was a bust, alongside out flowers. Some of those grew, some did not, but I did it all from seed and I love it. What I love most is having a pesticide free area for all the wildlife to enjoy. There is something wonderful about watching bees, butterflies and so much more moving about the garden with a blissful purpose. I want to treat my little parcel of earth as something special. One of my favorite movie quotes is from a very dark comedy starring Robin Williams and Edward Norton, "Death to Smoochy", Edward Norton's character is a hippie, optimist who always says, "You can't change the world, but you can make a dent." You have definitely made a big 'ol dent! You have encouraged so many to go about simple living ways that suit them best without one ounce of judgment, for that I thank you.

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  29. Hi Rhonda
    Thank you for sharing your gardening thoughts. I love hearing about them.
    Your plans are a great example of the permaculture principle "Creatively use and respond to change". Growing what you eat and cultivating perennial plantings, fruiting trees and bushes, makes such good sense.
    We are blessed with a mild wet winter here in Melbourne that allows us to grow loads of veg, but next year I'll be growing fewer caulis and more brocolli, it is the gift that keeps on giving!
    Can I post a few more photos of my garden on the Pinterest page?
    Yours in celery
    kate

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  30. LOL @ yours in celery.

    Kate, please post on the Pinterest page. I'll be waiting to see the new photos. xx

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  31. Sounds a very good plan. This sense of time passing in our lives and needing to make changes is poignant but you are going with the positives. Thank you for sharing

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  32. Even though I am only 47 and hubby is 50, I have been thinking about this too, making sure that in years to come, our home is not a chore for us.
    Both of us have common goals - We want home grown. We want to be environmentally friendly. We want to be as self-sustainable as we can. We want our kids to learn from what we do and to learn with us. We want to pass on traditions and appreciation.
    There are a lot of factors that play a role in the reason you begin adapting your home to yourself, present and future.
    Time: I work full-time at a time-demanding job. My husband also works full-time and sometimes weekends running a family business, this often entails putting in more work as it is just him now with his 86+ parents and disabled older brother as dependents. We have two school-going kids and all that entails. This means we have to be very selective in our free time allotment.
    Health: For us health is not a major factor as yet but it will be. My husband has 4 herniated discs in his lower back and some chores are just not feasible even though he wears a back support. I work at a computer all day so my hands are stressed, I recently had minor surgery for trigger finger, and I can see problems to come in the future.
    As I am working about the house I find myself thinking about how I will do whatever chore I am doing in the years to come. Even simple things like mopping the floor or climbing the stairs have me contemplating.
    And so we try things. We adjust. Experimenting with different methods of growing, like raised beds (easier than trying to grow in bedrock), HugelKultur and the wicking beds (more efficient water wise and so far very productive). Installing irrigation systems and putting timers on them (saves a lot of time on watering). Growing things that we eat a lot of. Growing more fruit trees. Growing things that require little care. Growing things that help each other. Designing and installing our own selfmade laundry shoot (easier than carrying laundry up and down the steps). Involving the kids more in household and garden chores (boosts their feeling of independence and passes on knowledge). And so much more. Little things that add up in the long run. Little things that will ease the transition to come.
    The realisation that our parents are not as independent as they used to be, makes you look at yourself in a different light. It gives you perspective.
    It's never too early to begin to plan for the future.
    Vicki
    Trinidad & Tobago

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  33. This post comes to us here in the U.S. as we are frantically harvesting, canning, drying, and rearranging the root cellar to find room for our bountiful harvest.. I have been contemplating whether or not to carry on with my large vegetable gardens. ( I have been growing market/truck gardens for 25 years) Your post gives me the courage to admit that I am getting older and that it is o.k. to only plant a garden for myself, family,......... and all the neighbors. But when spring rolls around again, I wonder where you'll find me. Probably planting rows and rows, of veges!

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  34. I admire the acceptance that you and Hanno have for the need to reevaluate the work you do. I miss Mom dearly and you remind me of a wise comment she made to me sometime in the final year of her life on earth: Don't be mad about what you can't do, be grateful for what you CAN do.

    I feel so lucky to have obtained that wise outlook on life while in my 40's. She reminds me often through this wisdom, to be grateful and hopefully mindful as I make decisions.

    I am grateful for all that you share of your life with us out here so publicly on the 'net. Many blessings to you and Hanno

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  35. A good decision. The temptation to grow all that you can leave you absolutely frazzled some days. Our search for a simpler life somehow ends up guiding us into areas that suck up a lot of our time and effort. It's not just the plants that need pruning, sometimes it's us and our enthusiasm too.

    For the first time this year I've pushed the boat out and experimented with growing a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, but if I'm honest I've created a rod for my own back. The brassicas in particular have been a real struggle to keep netted against pests and fed and watered for months and months. Despite them doing well and looking forward to eating them, I don't think I will grow them again because of the effort. I'm coming to realise the same about broad beans, potatoes, French beans, Brussel sprouts, and broccoli, especially given the amount of space they need too. I'm even thinking of getting rid of our strawberry grape vine, as the struggle to keep that going for what little we get off it is too much hard work. I have already given up on carrots, parsnips, beetroot, and courgettes as they simply won't grow well and are a disappointment every year.

    Next year it will just be tomatoes, onions, leeks, sweetcorn, peppers, mange tout, strawberries, various lettuces, cucumbers, and runner beans plus the apples, pears, plums and self-maintaining raspberries and various currants. It sounds like a lot, but all of these have a tendency in my garden to romp away happily in the soil given water, light, and a bit of feed every now and then.

    Take good care of yourselves

    xSteelkittenx

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    1. Hi Steelkitten, it's so good to see you here again. While it is good to push the envelop and work out what you like growing and eating, it's wise to be sensible about the space, time and effort that goes in too, especially as you age. It sounds like our gardens will be very similar. We're keeping all our fruit and adding salad vegetables, herbs and a few favourites. It will be much easier.

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  36. I'm sure this was a really tough decision for you both. I hope Hanno and you are doing OK. Taking care of yourself is the most important thing. xxx

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    1. Oh yes, we are fine. I think we're just starting to wear out. ;- )

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  37. I'm 36 and just starting to learn that arthritis and I will likely become more closely acquainted over the years. My hands feel it now after a hard days work. I'm thinking already about what I need to do to put in place a food system that allows minimum work for maximum rewards. Lots of asparagus (even for a short lived season), lots of fruit, berries, perennial flowers (although scattering seeds is easy enough) and so on.
    Well done for taking the step back and realising limitations and challenges.

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