Gardening your way towards self reliance

18 August 2009

An overview of the garden looking south-east towards the creek and chick coop. The kale in the foreground will soon be gone to make way for tomatoes. Click on photos to enlarge them.

Before I write today's post I want to answer a few questions that were in yesterday's comments. Claudia, well done on that work you're doing; it's fabulous that it's a joint effort with the family. Just a word on the pallets, Claudia, make sure the timber used in them is untreated. If it's treated it won't be suitable for a food garden - over time, the chemicals will leach out.

Donna, the cake topping is icing sugar (confectioner's sugar) mixed with a little milk.

Carrie, I've written two posts on convincing your partner: here and here.

Barb, good luck with your changes. You are so right, we must all shoulder that responsibility.

And a special hello to all those ladies who commented yesterday for the first time.
Today I'm taking you on a walk through our vegetable garden. Hanno has done a lot of work out there this past week and it's starting to look like a really beautiful productive garden. There is only one bare patch now, but I'm quite okay with that because kitchen gardens, those used everyday to produce food for the kitchen table, are always being harvested - either for dinner or salad greens, or to put a few bags of an over abundant vegetable into the freezer.

Silverbeet, leeks, zucchini and kale.

This is the area right next to the chook house. In the foreground is zucchini, under the straw and beyond will be our next potato patch.

Lettuce, garlic, chives, bok choy, beetroot, climbing beans and radishes.

Our beautiful Faverolles hen, Heather.

I took these photos late in the afternoon when I was watering the garden and picking salad for last night's dinner. And while I was walking around, deciding what photo to take, I felt every possibility present in that garden. For the past fifty years, we've been encouraged away from self reliance. Now, we're all working harder and longer but we are softer and dependent on the system to support us and provide food. When I walk through our garden it gives me the feeling of choice, potential and the responsibility we all take when we walk a simple green path. Sure, we have to work for this, but it's good honest work and it pays off in more than a garden full of food. It gives us the feeling that we are able to look after ourselves, we can feed ourselves in good times and in bad, and we have regained the skills our grandparents all had and took for granted. If the system broke down tomorrow, or even a part of it, I have no doubt we would pull through and we'd help our family and friends stand along side us.

Looking back towards the house and bush house, here we have iceberg lettuce, capsicums (peppers) and tomatoes.

Buttercrunch lettuce, bok choy, cabbages, cucumbers and parsley.

Of course, gardening leads on to learning several other significant skills that support this life too. We must know how to store our food safely, we should know how to cook nutritious food from scratch, and we need to know how to perpetuate the food system we've given our time and effort too through seed saving and propagation.

The best silverbeet we've ever grown, next to leeks, zucchini and kale.

We've been gardening for many years, but we both had to relearn forgotten skills along the way - and we're still learning now. When you're a gardener you never stop learning. So if you're at the beginning of your journey towards self reliance, I am here to encourage you all the way. It may not always be an easy journey but it will be an interesting and enriching one.


  1. I too live in a warm weather area. Maybe I could use a bush house! ;) Thankyou Rhonda for answering my question! We have a piece of old fencing we bend over new plants and put thin cloth over to shade new things if we plant out when it is terribly hot. After a day or so the plants are used to the sun and away goes the fencing. We now set any plants that need nursing under our huge shade tree. I think I would have to decide to do without a fruit tree to have an actual bush house! ...But it sure sounds like a Good idea to have one. I sure like the idea of listing your goals you are working towards and doing so every year. We all need updating and sometimes we are in a different place or learned or heard of things we had not known of the year before. ...Like many of the ideas I have gotten from reading you, Brenda and Granny Miller ! To me using the net to network like this is so rewarding and fun...sure spurs you on in your journey too! :) Also I Love seeing others gardens and learning new things. I do have a questioin. My swiss chard ended up tasting like dirt to me when I ate it! Did I wait till it was too mature to eat it perhaps? :)Jody

  2. Jody, I will be writing a post on our bush house soon. RE the swiss chard, many leafy vegetables - silverbeet, lettuce etc, develop a stronger taste the longer they're allowed to grow. It might be a better option to pick it young and freeze it.

  3. I've had a small garden the past few years, but this year was the first year that I planted a larger garden in the idea of actually living off of it. It was a learning year, of course, and things didn't go GREAT, but pretty o.k. I planted zucchini, onions, peas (that didn't make it) green beans, broccoli, lots of tomatoes (for making tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salsa, veggie relish, etc.), basil, oregano, parsley and cilantro. Next week, we are planting kale and spinach and lettuce.

    Anything else, I've tried to get at our local farmer's market.

    Thank you for your blog. It has really helped on my journey towards simple living.


  4. Hello Rhonda,

    It dawned on me that while walking thru your garden I am on my 4th season of doing so. I am always inspired by yours's and Hanno's garden.

    Heather sure is a beautiful hen.

  5. Good morning Rhonda. Your garden is looking great especially the silverbeet. I made a lovely silverbeet & bacon quiche last night using this customisable recipe

  6. Hello Rhonda

    Wow, your lettuces, cabbages etc look fantastic - like they are jumping out of the ground with goodness! I have taken to eating Cos lettuce as at the moment, store bought iceberg lettuces are so heavy and tasteless. I'll be putting in a few lettuces and tomatoes once spring arrives down here.

    Cheers - Joolz

  7. Thank you for sharing the photos of your garden! It is helping to give me inspiration.
    Your posts on how to convince others certainly helped me, I think the most important thing that I took in was that to change others you have to change yourself first. Yes I see that is the way, it is working for me inside my house, by keeping parts clean during the day the rest of the family is starting to volunteer to do things without even being asked, it is wonderful when I came home from visiting my friend to find one daughter had vacuamed the lounge and the other had done the dishes (something that never would have happened in the past without world war 3 developing)
    I can see then that this will slowly happen if I lead by example without making a big deal of it, just letting it slowly happen.
    Thank you for sharing

  8. The garden looks amazing! I love the lettuce patch. And Heather is beautiful...her coloring is so pretty. Thank you for the are an inspiration!

  9. Hi Rhonda...

    I have just visited your blog for the first time and ABSOLUTELY love your veggie garden! I'm a stay-at-home mum of 3 young children and have wanted to grow my own veggie garden for such a long time. We're renting so digging up a garden is not an option but my husband and I are looking into getting some large troughs to grow veggies in instead. Your garden inspires me to start planting NOW! Thank you.

    Looking forward to seeing more blogs!


  10. Love your blog and your garden, and wish we had a bit more space, but we're working on some containers for next year as well.

    A question - what do you do with your extra produce? Obviously a lot can be preserved, but what about things like lettuce? There's only so much salads I can eat ;)

  11. The garden is looking wonderful Rhonda.

    I notice you use a mulch on some of your beds - what do you use? I've tried using straw in the past, but unfortunately there were still bits of wheat attached and I spent the last few months yanking out germinating seeds from my veg beds!

    Also, do you bottle any of your produce? I've been bottling a lot of my plums and greengages for the first time lately and I'm not convinced I'm doing it right.

  12. Thank you for another informative and thought provoking post!
    One thing I'd like to know, though. You refer to putting your overabundant produce in the freezer. I'm trying to quit using disposables in my kitchen. I'd love to know how you package produce for the freezer, if you wouldn't mind sharing? Thanks!


  13. Hi Rhonda,
    another great post! When you say the kale will soon be gone, to make way for tomatoes, what do you actually do? Will you wait til you have naturally picked all the kale then plant tomatoes or lift all the kale at once in order to make way for tomatoes? If so, what do you do with the kale, how do you use it all up, do you store it? If so how? I am at the end of my first summer of growing and the harvesting confuses me!!! Whilst I have countless ways to use tomatoes I have no idea what to do with my acres of swiss chard which did exceedingly well ( and the caterpillars are now eating!!)



  14. Hi! Rhonda,thank you so much for your inspiration.We are thinking to turn a large-ish piece of ground into vege gardens. The blocks ?bessers, did you/Hanno till the original ground first then block and fill with soil etc or is the height of the blocks sufficient?Thanks again :))

  15. Wonderful!!! Your garden is very beautiful. It takes a lot of effort to have that kind of garden. I admire your work. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. God bless!!!

  16. Just when I'm starting to feel discouraged about all the things in our garden that haven't worked great this year, I see your gorgeous photos. I'm feeling renewed inspiration that we can so do this! Sure there will be setbacks along the way, but we keep learning--and no doubt next year's harvest will be better, just as this year's was better than last. thanks!

  17. Rhonda and Hanno,

    I just love to look at your garden, it is so neat and peaceful. It looks esp nice just lately.

    You probably have mentioned it before but is the size of your beds? They seem a good size to reach from both sides easily.


  18. Hi Rhonda,
    I really enjoy your blog and have been here pretty much daily since I found it.. I think someone posted the link on homesteadbloggers.. We have two hens like your Heater running around our yard...Did you find them hard to raise from chicks? We bought 5 and 3 didnt make it.. This was very upsetting to me since I had never lost chicks before, I have raise quite a few..The place we got them told me they were very hard to get past the first few weeks..did you find this to be true as well... Thanks again for sharing so much information... I think DH will cut me off here.. now I want bees lol:> I really always have:>

  19. I'm going to repeat someone else's question. What do you do with all of your leafy green vegetables? I have a few recipes for Kale (I freeze it, but I may try some smallish cans this year too), but more ideas would be great. And swiss chard is producing like crazy, so more ideas for that would be great too.

    My bok choy bolted so quickly that it didn't ever look like yours. Is that just excessive heat that does that?

  20. Thank you so much for the info and encouragement about swiss chard. I think I let it go too long before eating it and then ate the larger older leaves mostly. We love eating lots of greens so will try swiss chard again and eat it earlier this time! :) Jody

  21. Thank you so much for the encouragement! It gets a little tough sometimes when I hear comments such as "Why not just buy it from the store?" and people look at me as if I've grown another head.
    Your garden looks beautiful! Mine isn't going to be as big as that to start with, but still a good size to put by food for the winter. I just love the feeling of knowing we don't have to rely on the government, stores, etc. to live. I'm not far along on the path of self-reliance but I'm getting there! :D

  22. Looks like you'll need to put in a post about succession planting, Rhonda! I have a little chart at home where I worked out how many of what I would need to plant to cover our needs in a year. For example, we wouldn't get through more than a cabbage a month, so I only plant a few at a time (allowing for losses and variations in growth).

  23. Such an abundant garden. This is my first year gardening and have so much to learn--that's why i love your blog, it inspires me!

  24. Cool! Good blog! I'll mention it in my next blogpost and it'll turn up on my new blogroll.

  25. I love your lifestyle my hubby and I are working towards a lot of the same goals, needed some guidance thanks for your wonderful posts!

  26. The quality of life looks pretty good I would say. Thanks.


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