When things go wrong

13 August 2009
I thank inoureyes and Daisymum for the inspiration to write today's post. A couple of days ago Daisymum made a comment, in part she wrote: "... sometimes the inspiration is in the little things you write. Today for me it was "the best silverbeet we have ever grown" from that I gather that sometimes even you guys have things go not quite to plan. When you are up to your eyeballs in things to do it is lovely to be reminded that sometimes the journey is easy, sometimes there are roadblocks along the way and sometimes you get "the best silverbeet we have ever grown".

Then yesterday, inoureyes asked about our failed aquaponics system and that reminded me of the times we struggled to keep our fish alive. Both those comments encouraged me to write about the ups and downs of every day and how those ups and downs are an important part of life.

I've touched on this subject a while ago and you can read that post here. BTW, I don't see either of these comments as criticism, and I know they were not intended as such. :- )

Those of you who have been reading here for a while know that I love the way we live. We are able to do what we like, when we like, and most days you'll find us content and happy working away at home or in our community. But there are times when our plans and expectations fall short and there is not much we can do about it. Although I'm a cock-eyed optimist, I expect the disappointments and the bad times. When they materialise, I recognise what's happened, work towards a solution, or walk away if I can't find one, and get on with my work.

I never expect perfection, not do I want it. I want to live a life that is significantly influenced by nature and any of you who have been working in a garden recently will surely know that when working with natural systems, anything can happen. I think you get a kind of artificial "perfection" at the supermarket. There you can walk down rows of produce to see row up row of perfect, unblemished fruit and vegetables. They present us with produce that is all the same size and colour, but when you bite into this food, if generally lacks taste. Those perfect looking fruit and vegetables are often produced using controlled conditions, pesticides and fertilisers. If you go to the organic section of the same store, you'll notice the organic produce doesn't look quite so perfect, but it contains no chemical residue and has a good taste.

So Daisymum, when we plant out our silverbeet in a shady corner of the garden, watch it struggle above the ground for a couple of weeks, then nurse it along with seaweed and natural fertilisers and the rainwater collected from our roof top, when I see it looking not only healthy but THE best, I have to say it aloud. It's worth celebrating because the silverbeet isn't always THE best so when it is, I celebrate it. I acknowledge the downs as much as the ups - without the downs, the ups wouldn't mean much and we'd be left with a flat line. I don't want a flat line life.

And the aquaponics - what a disappointment that was! It's a wonderfully efficient way of raising fish in the backyard, but we couldn't do it. I've written about the system here and about its demise here. As I've said before, if we were younger we may have persevered a lot longer with the fish, but when things went wrong if was too much work for Hanno, so we cut our losses and walked away.

We are much more experienced with the in ground vegetable and fruit garden and when things go wrong, we usually know what to do. But each season brings it's own tests and surprises, some seasons we get THE best and some seasons we get THE worst. The trick is to not have the worst season for too many vegetable in the same year. LOL

If everything always went according to plan yesterday would have ended with us having a bee hive in the backyard. Shane and Sarndra visited to pick up the couch yesterday and I was at work. Shane rang to tell me there was a big swarm of bees surrounding our orange tree. That had never happened before but IF I had been prepared, IF I had read more about bees, IF we had the equipment, we might have enticed those bees to stay. But the reality is we weren't prepared, I had not read more about bees, and the bees left. A disappointment yes, but all part of this lovely patchwork we are creating. Sometimes, just sometimes, there is a perfect row of stitches. Sometimes the stitches are badly placed and just wrong, and have to be unpicked. But both good stitches and bad stitches are part of the process and make for an interesting quilt, and life.

Buddhists say: when you are sweeping, really know you are sweeping. I think the downs of life help keep us on track and focused on real life. If we only had good times, we would soon lose focus, knowing nothing bad could happen. The downs are our anchors, they might not be appreciated when they happen but they stop us floating around aimlessly. So I celebrate the good times and appreciate the bad things for what they are - reminders that we need to stay focused. So if you've had to pull out the tomatoes because of a bug attack or if the children are going a bit wild today, tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow you might harvest the best silverbeet you've ever grown.

PS: I had to wait an hour to post this as Blogger was down for a while. In the meantime the sun has come up and Hanno told me the bees are still there ! Now what?

ADDITION: We called a local beekeeper. Bee update tomorrow.


  1. Rhonda,
    Thanks for these words of wisdom, for they boosted my morale today...just a few things going wrong. But here's to the good things!

  2. I was exciteded to see my name at the top of your post. Silly i know! We are off to the beach for the Ekka pupil free day. Will enjoy a hot cuppa and a good read of your post tonight.

  3. Oh and while I am gone please go and have a laugh at my attempt at home baked last night. I told the kids I ate it all but they saw my blog! They aren't happy

  4. Rhonda (and Hanno!),
    If those bees are still there I think you've been given another chance! Find someone close by that knows what you need (or read fast) and find a way to 'invite' those bees to stay. Yum...honey straight from the hive is awesome, but the work those bees could do in your garden...well, you both better get to work and see how well they like your hospitality! With such a beautiful yard and a charming couple I'm sure those bees will move right in!!!LOL
    Hugs, Aunt Bea
    P.S. My grandpa used to go out on calls to pick up swarms of bees. I only wish I'd ask him more questions about keeping bees. I've been sorry I didn't on more than one occasion! Good Luck!

  5. We too had a huge sworm in a tree a year ago. If we haden't been used to looking around for the insects and birds as we walked the yard we wouldn't have seen them so high on the branch. But what a beauty it was to see the bees in action...then in a short time they all took off. It was a wonder to see! This year an insect absolutely new to us devastated some flowers that have self produced in the garden for years. Now to study what they are and how bad they actually are or are not. We had grapes for years and years and within 3 years all the vines died...why? But in between all this we have started new to us crops and they have grown and grown. We have tasted of things we never imagined we could grow outselfs. It is all so interesting! Well worth the effort and so satisfying. We can't imagine living any other way! :) Thanks Rhonda for another insightful post. Jody

  6. It would be great if their was a bee person close to you - can you ask around someone might know who can help seeing as they still hanging around.
    Oh an thanks for your words today, I think it was what i needed to hear, struggling to achieve something that is beyond what I am capable of doing and unable to find anyone to help, hmm just let it go!!

  7. Good morning Rhonda. Following on from "now what", I've been enjoying Gavin's posts on cheesemaking and thinking "maybe..". My current book is Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in which she mentions her cheesemaking. In e-mail this morning, I got news that our fledgling local food co-op has cheesemaking workshops coming up. I hope the bees are as serendipitous!

  8. We have a few bee "savers" here who come in the store occasionally. I wish I knew when they'd be there, I could ask them for you.
    I'd be reading as quickly as I could online to see what to do. I bet you have already. Good luck with that!
    I always try to find the humor in things gone wrong. My girls and I get a big kick out of wrong things later on when we are able to look back. What else can a person do?

  9. How right you are! Any time you are working in the natural world, there just are no guarantees. Some years we've had the most wonderful tomatoes in the world, and some years (like this one) everything conspired to give us practically none at all. However, we did have wonderful sweet corn and cucumbers, so it was not a total loss, and we're enjoying field peas right now and hoping for fall goodies as well. It's just bad if you go into gardening with the expectation that you'll always have vegetables that are beautiful and abundant. Sometimes yes, but sometimes no. Thanks for the honesty about it all!

  10. Thank you for this honest posting. Vegetable gardening is NOT an exact science. Sometimes we have wonderful successes and other times horrible failures. I still think it's worth the effort though. Keep up the good work. :)

  11. Rhonda, Thanks for the inspiring post. It has put some things into perspective for me as life hasn't good recently. Jeanette

  12. Very well said. I would like to add that, for me, the "bad" has made the "good" all the more BETTER! Not to mention, it's all a learning experience.

  13. As always, when I read your writings, life gets put in a little bit better perspective...How did you know that my chidren are wild at the moment and that every night I go to bed praying for the best silverbeet in the morning...?????
    Of course my children are not silverbeet, but with some extra care and nurturing in the next few days....( I wont use seasol on them!) they may just come out the best........I have positive thoughts for the recovery....x Suzanne,

  14. Hi Rhonda

    I so hope you get the bees so that I may live vicariously through you!

    You are so right in what you say about things not always going to plan. We had a bit of a storm here last night with some hail in it. Usually I would just enjoy the spectacle from the verandah as we don't often see hail in our suburb. This time however I was pacing and praying that our almost ready to harvest veggies and tender new lettuce would not be damaged (surprisingly they were fine - phew!). Growing things certainly changes your perspective of natures little tantrums.

  15. This is a really encouraging post. We've had a few things go catawompus for us this year and I love what you said about the flatline. You are so right. In the midst of our troubles here, there is much to be glad about. And the troubles make the good times so much sweeter.
    I'm envious of your bees. I signed up to do a bee-keeping course this year, but had to pull out at the last minute as I couldn't dedicate a whole day to training while breastfeeding. Maybe next year. I really want to learn how to do it, though.
    By-the-way, our little Alice is doing really well. She is sooo sweet, and starting to say da-da and ba-ba now and she crinkles up her eyes in the cutest way when smiling. :o) Thanks for remembering.
    Looking forward to reading tomorrow!

    Rachel L from NZ

  16. One of the things I appreciate about your blog is the your outlook on life Rhonda. You have such a calm way about you.

    This year's garden was a mess, to put it mildly. We havent had a garden in years. I decided not to attempt to grow anything unless we had a fence in area for the garden. Although we live in an development, there is quite a bit of animal life, and every year I would get all excited about one thing or another, only to find it completely knawed to the ground a few days later. So, this year we had a fenced in garden. I got all my tomato and pepper plats in (I love salsa), but I didn't have time to stake up the tomato plants right away. Then it started raining...and it rained...and rain...and rained. I literally could not get in the garden for almost a month as it was so swampy. The only thing that saved my plants was that I had used raised beds. Too late to stake the tomato plants, and now they are too heavy to support themselves. However, the few tomatoes that I was able to salvage from the swampy mess were delicious! I was able to plant a lot of beans so I hope i can at least get a few harvests from then.

    So this is a long way of saying that this was not a great year, but I am looking forward to next year. The garden is already fenced. I like your use of cinderblocks for the beds, and I am looking for a cheap source. Next year I will stake/cage the tomato plants when I plant them! And I will do a much better job, i hope, of weeding!

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  17. I enjoy reading what you have to say and you are right...life is both ups and downs. Some days however, I wonder why the downs have to be so far, when I never had expected ups to be very high...seems a little more balance would be good. But a Rabbi we like to listen to says that EVERYTHING happens for a reason, even if we never learn what it is and in the end of things, it will somehow be for our best!! I am trying to keep that in mind more and it is helping on those difficult days. Some of us live with people who cannot be happy or satisfied too long...but it seems hope springs eternal...and I am trying to be very grateful for every GOOD day especially!! Thanks for sharing with us here.

  18. Rhonda, thank you it is really lovely to think something I wrote became the catalyst for one of you posts.

    Now off to seasol the silverbeet.


  19. Rhonda,
    I dont know if you listen to the ABC radio 612 they had an interview this afternoon by a beekeeper from the Sunshine Coast,I cant remember his name but it would be on the website, it was really interesting. He was saying that alot of bees are swarming early this year because of the warm weather that we have been having. He also said that a lot of the bees end up moving into the cavities of our walls in our homes. I hope you were able to get in contact with a beekeeper.

    I enjoy reading your blog. Ive always longed for a simpler way of living but am not quite there yet lol but am definately working on it

  20. I've been reading your blog for quite a while but never commented before. Our garden is very important to us but things don't always go to plan. This year we had lots of early cucumbers and courgettes but the tomatoes were slow. Now the tomatoes are really producing but the cukes and courgettes are bug infested and have stopped producing! Still it is fun looking for new recipes to make the most of what we have.

  21. What a great post Rhonda! Everything went wrong this year regarding my planting, it is good to read your wisdom and grace!

  22. I really love to read your blog!
    In sweden the bee"season" is I supose at its high and I missed this season as well. Last spring my boyfriend and I went to a beekeepingclass for a term and was so set on getting our own beehide. But that didn't happen, and I am all sorry for it.
    Hope that you can get them "working" for you in your garden, and perhaps learning along the way for the beekeeper who will be helping you.

    Thank you for teh ups and downs, since I really have to think possitivly when comming to the garden. My coliflowers and cabbage is getting eaten by slugs. The big bad ones. The coliflowers didn't even get the chans to start growing more than a few leaves.

    Long post, but I love to read your insightful post.
    Have a great weekend!

  23. Oh honey! Go get those bees!! Carefully though. With much love & care!! I adore your blog and love how you mother us all into stretching ourselves.

    I need mothering. I'm selling my home, and sweeping with purpose, dreaming of my new nest! Thanks for all your wisdom. I appreciate it so much!

    So a bit of a plug here, if you need an Indiana home, click on my name!!

    Be Careful Rhonda!

  24. I love your optimism. I tell my angels everyday people are not happy by chance, people are happy because they choose to be happy. You have a choice to see you life as half empty or half full with room for more.
    You and Hanno have an inspiring life, and I love reading your blog. Though I am not quite up for all that you do, I am inspired.

  25. I am sooo excited for you about the bees! If I lived near you I'd rush right over to help you out! Bees are amazing creatures and I absolutely love working with them. We have several hives and all but one came from swarms. The bees are at their calmest when they swarm because they are engorged with honey that they eat before taking off to find a new home. We take a hand spray bottle with sugar water to spray them if needed. (one part water too one part sugar)The key is to make sure you have the queen when you capture them, she's usually smack dad in the middle of the bunch, the worker bees are covering her to protect her. Anyway, by the time of this I'm sure you have gotten some help by now...can't wait to hear all about it.

  26. mmm that lemon business up there looks so delicious! I'm going to have to search your blog and find the recipe - I know it's here somewhere!! :o)

  27. It is nice to read the ups and downs of lives lived simply. When attempting to live more simply, it isn't all relaxation and enjoyment. At times there are disappointments and indecisions. Many of my friends back home tell me I am so lucky to be able to stay home and not work and they are right I am but with it comes hard work, dedication and disappointments. They think I sit around all day as if relaxing by a beach but in reality I am not.

    Thanks for your post Rhonda, it is occasionally nice to know that everyone has those days sometimes. :)

  28. I am by no means an expert gardener, but I have kept a garden for the last 30 years. I have many people ask me what the 'secret' is to gardening. As far as I know there is no secret. There is planning, hard work, anticipation, weeds, suprises, disappointments, beauty, bugs and if your really lucky the chance to do it all over again next year!
    Thank you for all your thought-provoking posts. I have learned so much from you.

  29. Thanks for today's post. It is a good reminder for all of us, especially when reading "other" blogs. Though no fault on their part...but for me, I sometimes come away "thinking" that they must be doing everything right & I am not...even though I DO know better. :)

  30. kristin, search for "lemon butter". :- )

  31. Rhonda Jean,
    What strikes me most about your posts is that you are almost always "mindful", i.e. you pay attention to what you are doing. That's the idea of Zen "sweeping". When you sweep, you pay attention to the sweeping. You discipline your mind to stay where you are, not on something someone said 10 years ago, or what might happen tomorrow, or in an hour. It's a good practice and brings a lot of joy and satisfaction to one's daily routine. That mindfulness keeps me coming back, as your posts convey a deep calmness of spirit. Thank you! Deb

  32. Thank you for this precious reminder today! Things at work have been difficult lately and you could say I've been going through a rough patch, so thank you for the encouragement.

  33. This is such a wonderful reminder! Thank you for posting this...I'm a bit of a perfectionist and though that can be good, it can also be bad, so thanks for the reminder that everything really doesn't have to be "just so" all the time. Hope you snag those bees! :D


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