Roaming around the neighbourhood

18 January 2011
We had a busy day yesterday with Hanno harvesting lawn clippings for the compost (mowing) and me working on the book.  The grass has grown fast with all the rain and the heat but it's all nitrogen or organic matter that will be returned to the soil and will help us grow more vegetables in the coming season.  In the afternoon I took a break from writing to make a half apron from an old dress of mine.

Since I gave up work at the neighbourhood centre in November, I've been out four times.  Some people might be shocked by that but I am by nature a solitary creature and it feels right to me.  My fourth trip out was on Sunday to our next door neighbours' for a BBQ and little rock concert.  Hanno and I were invited, along with other neighbours in our street, to one of the first public appearances of a band.  Lincoln, our 15 year old neighbour, formed a band with a group of boys who have been practising next door for about a year.  The BBQ was a thank you from the boys and their parents to the neighbourhood for "listening".  I quite liked listening to them progress from a few self conscious  plucked strings in the beginning to the full on concert they did on Sunday.  There were about 50 of us there, sitting in the shade around the pool, with the boys up on the back veranda which they used as their stage.

While we were at the concert, I noticed Hanno had a red eye.  It looks like he might have had a bleed into his eye so we're off to see his specialist today.  He's on Warfarin so the likelihood of a bleed is ever-present.   I'll go with him to the doctor and while we're out we'll look at baby things.  We hope to buy a cot for one of the babies on my fifth trip out.  After this, I'll lay low for a while. :- )

There is no doubt that after the south east Queensland floods fruit and vegetable prices will go up.  The Lockyer Valley, one of the main areas hit by flood waters, is the fruit and veg growing area for Brisbane and the south east.  Walking around the garden yesterday I was really happy to see our lemon, orange and mandarin trees full of fruit that will feed us well this winter.  Hanno just planted some loofahs too and I'm hoping they aren't too late in the season to give us a good crop.  The flood and the increasing food prices has made us rethink our vegetable planting for the new season too.  Many of the long term readers will remember that we plant our main vegetable crop in March but this year we might bring that forward a bit.  Our only problem will be the weather because more heavy rain has been forecast for our region and while most crops cope well with continuous light rain, not much survives torrential downpours.  But we'll take our chances with the rain because the alternative is to buy fruit and vegetables at inflated prices from far away places and we'd like to avoid that if possible.

So now that vegetable crops are on our minds again, we've got the chooks working in the garden for us.  They're in there every day now, eating weeds and bugs and scratching in the soil for insect eggs.  They're also turning over the compost.  What good little chickens they are.

How have your vegetables coped with the weather this year?  It seems it's not just this area that is getting weird weather so I'd be interested in reading your experiences.  We're going to grow some vegetables in containers this year so we can move them around if it does rain a lot.  If you have any other tips for growing vegetables in uncertain weather, I love to hear them.

Thanks for your visits and comments.  When we discuss the joys and problems we face living as we do, it shows me that we're not alone in our quest for a more simple life.  I am amazed at the number of new readers who have joined us here lately and it makes my day when someone new says hello.


  1. For some reason you fell off my blog reading list and I've just spent the morning searching high and low for you. So happy to see your blog again. My hubby is taking a year off from work so we can do the farm life full-time. This means I'll have more time to read the blogs that inspired us in the first place. Thank you!

  2. We had a major drought last year and then this year we've had rain at all the right times. Consequently I have a jungle of a vege garden (which I just posted pics of yesterday).
    Hope Hanno's eye is ok.

  3. Hope Hanno's eye will be okay.

    I usually don't do anything with vegetables during the winter except open the jars I filled during the summer:)

    My mother used to grow alfalfa and lentil sprouts during the winter so her family would still have fresh green to eat.

  4. We live in the Northern Hemisphere and have had freezing temps with snow followed by a pineapple express with rain and warmer weather (warm as in the 40s and low 50's F temp. We live off what we've put away by pressure canning, freezing, and some fresh produce at the market. I just started my kitchen sprout jar again to add some vitamins and enzymes to our diet. We are just in the beginning planning stage for this year's garden. Glad you have so much fruit to enjoy in your backyard. Hoping Hanno's eye will mend quickly.

  5. Welcome back, Stone Cottage Mama.

    That's good news Ms Lottie, I'll be over later to look at your photos.

    Joyful Chaos, we grow sprouts here too. They're such an easy thing to do and I would imagine that in your climate, they'd be a welcome addition to winter meals.

    Mrs Mac, I've never heard the expression "pineapple express" before. Canning in the northern hemisphere seems to be such an important part of life. Here we can to enjoy the taste of foods we enjoy, like a favourite relish, pickles and sauces, rather than to have food to eat over winter. good luck with your sprouts.

  6. Here in Canada Australia's weather is on the news every day. What a disaster! Hope you will be able to keep relatively dry.

  7. Hi Rhonda
    Hope the trip to the specialist goes well. fruit and veges have indeed increased. I have only a small garden in containers and move them around. I lost a few seedlings so I just keep planting I am amazed and what comes up. I grew a few sweet potatoes last year in a big container very sucessfully and this year they are in the ground where the container was. what a surprise to find them there. Just started on the sprouts again in the jar. Good luck with the cot hunting. There is a big baby market that advertises down in Kawana and they are mean't to have excellent second hand goods.

  8. I'm in Melbourne, and my zucchinis are enormous, and if I don't harvest them when they're too small, they double in size overnight and become too big. We have a massive weekend planned in the garden after the rain and sun we've been drenched in the past week or so. I love the idea of your neighbours being so considerate of your consideration by throwing a rock concert for their son. Fantastic on so many levels.

  9. I live in California in a valley and we got a lot more rain than usual for weeks and now we have fog, sometimes all day long. We have also had freezes but my garden is in a sheltered spot so we didn't get too much damage. Now I'm drooling over seed catalogs but I think our planting season is going to be delayed...

  10. I'm glad I've found your blog. it's like a window on a far far world.

  11. Your lovely chickens look the picture of health.

    We have had grey skies and persistent heavy rain in Southern England, so all we can do is plan for planting seeds in early spring.

    It is good to hear that you have escaped the worst of the floods.

  12. Last year we had a very hot and pretty dry year,our gardens didn't really do too good, but we got by. I am following your blog,you are welcome to follow mine as well.Blessings jane

  13. I hope Hanno will be alright. I too am becoming a bit simpler with my lifestyle and do not like to venture out as much as before. I find I stock up more to go out less. I've had years of running about so I really enjoy my solitude when I can. Here's hoping no signs of excessive water reaches your area.

  14. Hope Hanno is Ok, my parents are on Warfarin so I know the side effects as they come out in terrific bruises from minor bumps sometimes. We've been clearing and planning a winter garden as veges are already rising in price and fruit will be the same.

  15. I am so blessed here in Adelaide Rhonda, we have had little rain and mild Summer weather so vegegtable garden is producing all we need for Summer eating, cucmbers, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, recently dug potatoes, beetroot, corn, lettuce etc....
    Every time I pick a basket full, I am thanking Mother Nature with all my heart and thinking of those who have lost not only gardens, but homes and wishing them well with the next stage of recovery for everyone...Suzanne.

  16. Hi Rhonda, It sounds like your keeping busy. I hope that Hanno's eye will heal nicely and quickly!!!

    I don't grow fruits or veggies here at my apartment. However, in t his area there are many, many pear orchards...and the harvest has been a little bit later than usual because of the unusual weather. It hasn't affected the quality of the fruit...just the harvest!!!

    Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  17. Slightly jealous of your year round garden. My kids had a snow day today,so we are snuggled in. Gardening is a ways off for us. Not that it stops me from planning.

    I too have been looking at baby stuff lately. My sister is due in July. Mine are getting to be young adults with one turning 20 tomorrow and another 18 in two weeks, so I am ready to spoil. Do you find that it is difficult to find gender nuetral clothes in Australia? Here in the US it is near impossible. I am knitting and crocheting accessories for now.

    Send Hanno our best wishes.

  18. I love your blog! I featured you on my blog last week as an "honorary Vansteader", actually you are my first Honorary Vansteader! ~grin~ You are one of my favorite reads!

  19. Hi Ellie, it's been dry and hot most of the week.

    Lors, thanks for the info on the baby market. I'll look into that.

    Marie, I too like looking at gardening catalogues.

    Welcome singlemama, I hope you like what you see through that window.

    Dartford Warbler, I hope you get some sunshine soon.

    Hello Jane, welcome. I hope your next growing season is kinder to you.

    Clara, we're high and dry, thanks!

    Hi Robyn. We'll be growing non stop from now on. I think it's wise to plant for winter. Good luck with your garden.

    It sounds like you're doing really well in Adelaide, Suzanne. I hope you have many good harvests.

    Heather, I just love pears. Lucky you living close to where they grow so many.

    Ysmeine, stay warm! I have found there seems to be a market for really pink girly clothes. I never buy them and tend to go for plain, dots or stripes.

    Hello Heidi. Thank you, I'm honoured. I'll check your site out later today.

  20. Hi Rhonda,
    funny you should mention that you are going to start growing veggies a bit earlier this year. I have thought exactly the same thing after seeing our empty shelves! Definitely lettuces,(not typically a wet season vegetable here) Good idea to try pots. I am growing both kinds of loofas this year - the angled and the smooth one you grow. I must say that as a vegetable I prefer the angled one - have you tried those? - I could send you some seeds if you want. Take care and enjoy your outings,

  21. We're just 50 or so km north of you (you may remember when I invited you to our writing festival in 2009). So I always find your comments relevant (as well as inspirational). My vegie plot is at the base of a small hill - the only place on my 1.3-acre garden that is both sun-drenched and easily accessed from the house. But it always suffered badly from rainwater run-off, even though we added drains around it when we built it years ago. This year, however, I had one of the plots built up by about 15cm and added additional drainage underneath. That has worked a treat and I was able to keep a few greens (silver beet, pak choy, basil) going much longer. But heavy work such as timber edging and shovelling trailer-loads of mushroom compost or soil is always an expense for me, as my husband is no longer able to do any physical work at all (I'm now his carer, as I explain in my blog Doonan diddly-squat). So maintaining a large garden on my own is proving difficult and I fear the time is coming when I must reconsider. Still, while I can I will continue.

    Like you, I love staying at home. My husband was always happy to do the errands, and now that he can no longer go out alone, I am in the car more often than I'd like - which takes precious time away from other jobs. He was once an industrious and enthusiastic handyman about the place, too, and we were a great team. So the loss of his partnership in maintaining our lifestyle has been terrible. But on the bright side, I've had to learn a lot of new skills, like using power tools! Luckily, he was a patient teacher.

    Life doesn't always go as planned, I guess. Anyway, I love your blog. When's the book due for publication?

  22. Gillian, I would like to try the other loofas. We don't eat ours, we only use them as sponges.

    Chartreuse, I remember. I love your vegie gardens and the places for sitting. I'm so sorry to hear of Allen's illnesses. As you say, life is unexpected, but you seem to have a wonderful attitude. Take care of yourself. Publication will be February 2012. The manuscript will go for editing on 1 March and the finished product to the printers on 1 May.

  23. Hi Rhonda, fruit & vegetable shortages and price hikes have been on my mind too. About your garden, I remember seeing a segment on Gardening Australia a while ago where Leonie I think it was, constructed a shelter in her vegie patch with shadecloth to protect young plants from the torrential downpours. Maybe a similiar set up could be made with star pickets for the sides and then hooped heavy black hose for the roof arcs? The shadecloth could be secured or pegged down and it would be easy to remeove later when the weather improves... Just an idea.

    I can understand not venturing out, if it weren't for my kids needing to go here or there I would be happily spending every moment of my time at home pottering day! :)

  24. I am a homebody as well - a week I only have to leave home is a perfect week in my book :)

  25. We are in south-eastern Pennsylvania, U.S. so our little urban garden is sleeping under a blanket of snow. It's great to see all the lush green and beautiful fruit trees where you are. Thanks for the inspiration.

  26. Think about sprouting seeds too Rhonda, Alfalfa etc. Very healthy and easy.

  27. I just may get to start my garden finally! At least I am planning on it.
    What nice neighbors to hold a concert for the neighborhood in thanks for listening to practice! I always loved listening to my neighbor's kids practice with their bands. It was sheer delight when a budding guitarist moved in across the street and I came home every night to him practicing.
    I hope everything goes well with Hanno's eye!

  28. In this corner of WA, we're still in drought, we had so little rain over the winter and in the hot and dry of Summer a number of my plant are either wilting or have become infected by some form of leaf fungus due to the overhead sprinklers.

    I try to water first thing in the morning to stop this sort of thing but it comes anyway. Its too hot to pull anything out and replant, I'll have to wait until Autumn now I think.

    Here's a question,are you a natural early bird? I think I read somewhere you get up at 5:30am. I'm naturally a bit of a nightbird that currently has to get up at 5:30 in order to get to work but it often feels like I'm dragging my feet to do it. Given half a chance I'll sleep in to nine and stay up til mid-night.

  29. Christine, Hanno has made some shade tunnels similar to what you're talking about. Great minds think alike, I'd thought of using them, they're easy to put up and take down.

    Marie, I'm a natural early bird. I'm usually up and working by 4am, and I go to bed early.

  30. This season our garden is in abundance with little effort besides weeding and planting. Last summer we had extreme drought, heat, winds and grasshoppers.The rain and milder temperatures have made for bumper growing this year even if a little later than usual.

  31. Growing up we did not have much, to help my father started a garden. That grew & it greatly helped with our food bill. I remember canning peaches, apples, pickled things, and anything else my dad traded for or grew.
    My husband & I moved to Santa Cruz, CA. USA and this area is clay & sand. Not good for growing much but ugly weeds.
    To grow flowers & food we now have raised beds, that helps when the rains roll thru (clay). I put my tomatoes in pots w/ rollers. When the sun gets too hot I roll the pots into the shade. No split tomotoes. We created a canopy shade for the raised beds. When water is short.

  32. The weather and the sea patterns as I knew them growing up are not what we have today. Traditional farming seasons are changing minutely all the time. It is almost becoming topsy turvy.
    Part of this is due to world weather, but part of this is squarely our fault. We are caught in a vicious cycle here.
    The concept of preservation of the environment is taken too lightly in Trinidad and Tobago. Forests are constantly cut and quarries rape the earth to allow for progress. The dry gets worse every year and there are lots of fires. All this means that erosion and floods are very bad in the wet season.
    So here's is the predicament: In the dry, crops wither from water shortages and baking sun. In the wet, crops get washed away and good top soil, needed for the next planting is lost.
    Through the years we have become less self-sufficient and jumped on a bandwagon that says anything foreign is better. This means that a great amount of our revenue is spent on importing foodstuff. And it is an expensive commodity.
    I am trying to go in the other direction, teaching my kids/family/friends/co-workers to appreciate our natural heritage and to learn to plant again. I bring extra produce to the office and plants for others to start growing. My kids carry local fruit and homemade baked goodies in their lunchkits. They are always amazed when their classmates don't recognise the fruit and scornfully ask what is it that they are having for lunch and where are the potato chips. I see more and more obese kids and it breaks my heart.
    This year my goal is to make better use of my little bit of land. I know I can make it more productive. And so as I am home today my mission will be time-lapse photography to track the light on my property. This way I won't hit and miss nearly as much :)
    I was able to harvest some excellent healthy broccoli over the Christmas holidays, and even now I still am reaping it (Nobody believed we could grow this here and my family and friends want to try now so that they don't have to pay 'millions' for it).
    This weekend I planted in a fresh crop of veggies as the wet is almost over and we installed an extra water tank. I wanted to start early too as last year the dry was really bad and broke several records.

    trinidad & tobago


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