25 June 2012

Ringing in a new era at Bell

We spent a delightful Saturday out at Bell, about 200km west of here, with a group of ladies, and two men - Hanno and one of the husbands. A while back I received an email from Karen asking if I'd do a workshop there. She and two friends, Kate and Annette, had bought the old local hall, set up a vintage themed cafe in the front and the back was given over as a space for community events such as workshops, playgroups and bartering sessions. I was happy to say yes - because saying yes to Bell meant I would be helping Karen, Kate and Annette with some much needed community development.

Here I am with (from left) Annette, Kate and Karen.  All photos by Hanno

I think 52 people booked for the session that ran from 9.30 am till 3pm. A few women from the Down to Earth forum came along to meet up, share and learn and I finally met Callecat and Sussan. I have "known" Sussan for about eight years, she lives fairly close and yet we'd never met till now. It was also great to meet the infamous Callecat who learnt to make soap from my instructions here and then didn't stop making it.  LOL

During the workshop, I talked about simple life, that it can be done any which way, I demonstrated how to make laundry liquid, and we made strawberry jam and tomato relish. We discussed water bath processing but true to the Australian way of preserving, we didn't do it for our jam and relish - we talked about putting sterile jam in sterile jars and then let it be. I didn't get to taste the relish, even though I told the women there to taste as you go along, but that strawberry jam was delicious. Everyone got to take home enough for at least a taste and as we made up 40 litres of laundry liquid, we had enough to send home about a litre each. That's plenty to try in quite a few washes.

The hall was set up beautifully. It is a great space for workshops - it's roomy, bright and has the special feature of coffee aroma wafting in from the cafe.

A break for morning tea -  the ladies are filling their containers with laundry liquid.

All of us need inspiration and motivation to carry on. You get that by talking to people who understand what you're doing, by reading about people living simply and by watching women and men at their work.  Simple life may be called simple but it involves work and commitment to succeed. Luckily for us, the work is meaningful and enriching and it allows us to remove ourselves further and further from the materialistic mindset of ever-shopping consumers. Here at Bell, I found a group of people who were striving, just like Hanno and I are, to live true to our values, to be respectful of the land we live on, to become increasingly self-reliant, and content because of it. We may all be living different lives in different parts of the State but we have something in common that binds us together. We all know that it is possible to move away from from conspicuous spending, we are saving money through our efforts and paying off debt, and we value home and family and the work that goes into maintaining them.

The ladies who own the Pips 'n' Cherries at Bell - Karen, Kate and Annette, put such effort into that event. Thank you ladies. Their welcoming attitude was inspiring, the hall was decorated beautifully, the morning tea and lunch were homemade and delicious. Apart from the fact that we all wore modern clothing, we could have stepped into a scene from the 1950s where the CWA had put on a demonstration afternoon tea for the town's women. The hall itself was immaculate, obviously a lot of tender loving care has gone into it. The organisation, welcoming atmosphere and attitude towards sharing and learning resulted in a wonderful event. I was so proud to be a part of it. And what of Hanno, you ask? Well, he had his own little table, close to my demonstration table, he took photos and talked to everyone who came over to introduce themselves and he was spoilt by the Bell ladies who set him up nicely with good coffee and plates of food. Yes, Hanno enjoyed it too. Very much. ;- ) 

There was a lot of talking, sharing, questioning and open minds eager to connect with one another and to go home having seen how easy it can be to move towards making more from scratch. We talked about ripples there. The ripples that tend to move out from such events towards new people. I hope the people who came to Bell and those from the town, keep those ripples going because it is all of us who will make this movement towards a simpler life happen. I am just one person, it needs all of us to talk about what we're doing, and to take the time to show what we know for change to happen. I hope those ripple are still moving and won't stop for a long time.

If you were there, drop me a comment. I'd love to know what you thought of the day.


Tomorrow I'll be going to hospital with Hanno while he has an eye operation. He's having a cataract removed. It's day surgery and we have to go back the following day for the doctor to check his eye. Because of that, and a few other things I have going on, I'll be taking a short break from the blog. I'll be back with you next week. In the meantime, I'll pick some posts from the past that I think you may enjoy reading - either again or for the first time.  Take care everyone. We'll see you soon.



  1. What a wonderful place for community events and how nice of you to speak! Would love to have been there.

  2. What an absolutely AWESOME event at a brilliant venue. Wish I could have attended... rats!

  3. Hi Rhonda,

    I hope all goes well with Hanno's operation. I'm sure with your care he'll make a quick and complete recovery. I'll be thinking of you both. xx

  4. just wanted to say good luck to Hanno for his op tomorrow.

    Also wanted to say how I wish I lived in Australia! Would live to go to something like this but have not heard of anything similar in the UK (maybe the WI but there's not a branch in my nearest town).

  5. Hi Rhonda

    It was great to meet you on Saturday. I enjoyed the day thoroughly, talking non-stop with my family about what was discussed. I was greeted at the door on my arrival home with 'what are you doing home so soon!" and more importantly "what did you learn?" It was after 3pm so I felt is time to come home and digest what I'd heard. In response to my teenagers question and knowing he likes instant and quick answers I pondered for a minute. My answer was "that I'm on the right track!" Shortly after this I find my daughter with her nose in your book. She is very interested in raring chicks. She was disappointed that you aren't allowed roosters but pleased you had a flock of your own. I have also found my husband opening your book at random places and also reading. This is the beginings of the ripple effect you spoke of.
    We will continue and expand simple living into our daily lives. Thanks for sharing your knowledge to help us with this!

  6. Good luck to Hanno , you both our in my prayers tonight

  7. Hello ladies!

    Milkmaid, wasn't it a wonderful day! It was so good to meet you. I'm so pleased to read about the interest in your home. Keep those ripples moving. :- )

  8. Let me know when you are ready to fly to Cape Town for a workshop :) Thinking of Hanno tomorrow, he will be in my prayers.

  9. Sounds like a absolutely wonderful event! Best wishes and "gute Besserung" to Hanno.

  10. Hi Ronda,
    There is nothing better than catching up with your daily thoughts as I get my baby daughters, first bottle for the day ready. I find I start the day off on a good note, and I am sure my family notices when they finally rise from their own slumbers.

    I made my first batch of yogurt yesterday. A bit afraid of that first look. Not because I am worried its gone wrong, more because of the wonderment that I am moving our family in our own direction, and this is the first BIG step of my own change. Starting my own ripples, I guess.

    Good luck tomorrow for Hanno. I am sure things will go well and he'll be out the back in the garden with the vegies and chookies before you both know it.

    Travel safe.

    Kylie M (Peppas Mum)

  11. Good luck for tomorrow Hanno & enjoy your blog break Rhonda. Take care. Debbie

  12. Fantastic. There needs to be more of this sort of gathering of ladies. Showing ladies something practical rather than talking about it is so much more beneficial. The venue looked great ... I wish I'd been there. There is definitely a need for a revival along these lines.

  13. Rhonda this all sounds fantastic, I really wish there were such demonstrations in my area. Yesterday I sat mending and taking up pants ( a family of shorties) I found it really satisfying. I began to wonder if anyone teaches a sewing class, like what was once taught in high schools. I need to learn more or remember more to pass on to my daughter and son.
    After reading this today, I'm going to have another go at seaking out those skills.
    Have you ever considered putting Hanno behind a video camera, for one of your demonstrations? For all of us who couldn't travel, it would be a great treat!

  14. Sure hope Hanno cataract surgery goes well, I can remember when people had a cataract people stayed in the hospital for while.
    Oh I would love to go to one of your classes....but it would be a long swim across the pacific...Coffee is on.

  15. Good luck for tomorrow Hanno, hope the eye op goes according to plan and is a success.

  16. I am so happy I was able to attend. I came home with a more determined vision, even managed to knuckle down and re arrange a bedroom so I have my own dedicated space in my house... With the overlocker out of the closest, the sewing machine, ironing board and a table for folding washing and to rest my laptop. My friend who took me to the workshop and I have planned to put together a workshop locally, somewhere between Moggill and Upset Brookfield, but will add in some other homemaking tasks such as restoring a old timber picture frame and refurbishing a shipper snipper and lawn mower. (Restoring or servicing is a skill all home makers need). Thank you for the inspiration to decide what is the next step for us. Tracy and I did enjoy feeling like women from 1950 gathering at a country woman's event, building and creating the layers of community are very important and part of skilling up, creating a sense of being a part of something bigger than ones own home.

  17. Thank you Rhonda for taking the time to share with us all that you did on Saturday. I had an absolutely lovely day, and it was wonderful knowing that what I am doing is right for me...

    I have already drank just about all of Karen's delicious Lemon/Lime cordial, and washed my first load of washing in the laundry liquid. I also feel that I'm now confident enough to give the soap making a whirl - it will make lovely gifts.

    I'd also like to say a special thank you to Karen, Kate and Annette. What a wonderfully welcoming group of ladies, and I just love what they are doing with their business. I'm only sorry that it's so far away from me, otherwise I'd be there every week!!! I am looking forward to receiving their newsletter and perhaps heading out for some more workshops...

    Good luck Hanno for tomorrow - it was also lovely to meet you!!!

  18. Goodluck for tomorrow Rhonda and Hanno xx You're in my thoughts xx

    Rhonda I am loving your book, I got half way through it this weekend, I had to make myself only ready little bits at a time so I can make it last otherwise I would be through it in no time :) after reading this post and seeing the neat photos of the day I really wish I could have been there :)

    Blessings to you both,

    Regards, Ruth xx

  19. How lovely for the folk of Bell. Sounds like it was good fun and fellowship. I will keep Hanno in my thoughts and prayers tomorrow. He won't know himself when he has this procedure done.
    Blessings Gail

  20. Wow that looks fantastic! Nothing compares to be instructed by someone at your side. How often do you do this type of thing Rhonda? Any plans for something similar in Sydney?

    Best wishes to Hanno for his op tomorrow.

  21. Great post today! Wish i lived close enough to visit Pips n Cherries, sounds lovely!

    Please tell Hanno not to be nervous. I took my Mum to have cateracts removed some time ago. She found the process to be quick and painless, and has improved her life so much.
    Best wishes
    Julie D

  22. Sounds like a wonderful day. Hope Hannos surgery goes well

  23. What a beautiful setting, I live in Melbourne and would love to attend something like that down here, I am one who learns by seeing and doing, not reading. How lucky everyone was to attend and what a beautiful business the ladies have set up. Truely inspiring. I hope all goes smoothly for Hanno tomorrow xxBrenda

  24. Hi Rhonda

    take time to look afer your wonderful man.

    Sound like you had a wonderful workshop.

    Just a comment from my DD10 this morning, Mum my friends think you are a bit cookoo. I said why is that. She explained that no one else is baking, taking in leftovers from home, or has an extensive vegetable garden, chooks goes to food swaps makes cleaning products. I said we don't have to be like everybody else, I no what is in your food you are eating. I said there is a lot of people like us, I meet up with them every week at food swaps. People get to choose how they live.

  25. Best wishes to Hanno for his eye surgery.
    Thank you Rhonda for a wonderful day,the whole get together was very enjoyable,Pips and Cherries is such a nice venue.
    I am keen to give Sourdough a try, so I have tasty,healthy bread to complement the Strawberry jam and as soon as I find some coconut oil a soap making session will see us learning new skills together.
    It was a lovely way to spend the day.

  26. Looks like a lovely day, and it's great that everyone could take home "samples" to keep the motivation up.

    Best of luck to Hanno! Hope the op goes well :)

  27. A great attendance and lots and lots of ripples. I was wondering how you went speaking to a group that size for that amount of time. Did you have a microphone or did you manage OK? Or perhaps all the recent speaking events have strengthened your voice to be able to do an event like this? Just good to know for future reference.

  28. Congratulations to you Rhonda for travelling to give that workshop and to those three lovely ladies for what they are acheiving in Bell. Best wishes for tomorrow to you and Hanno. Will be looking forward to your return.

  29. What a wonderful day it must have been and I am glad you were so very well received. Love to Hanno and yourself for tomorrow...remember your knitting xxx

  30. I have been enjoying your blog very much and I have been following it for the last few months! I have also bought your book, which is now circling my family!! They also love it! I am following your advice and living as simple as possible! A BIG DIFFERENCE!
    You are this families inspiration!!!
    I hope all goes well with Hanno's Surgery tomorrow and we here shall be thinking of you both! Best of luck with everything!!!

  31. To Anonymous from the UK. Some wise person said ' the longest journey starts with a single step'
    You said there is no WI in your town, what about contacting the nearest WI and finding out how to get a WI branch going in your town.
    Would your Council help, maybe a meeting room for a first ' expression of interest in establishing an (Our Town) WI meeting?
    Just starting the ball rolling may inspire someone to take it and run with it. It won't happen overnight but it could happen if someone just gives it a go.
    Best Wishes from Rieann in Western Australia.

  32. Dear Rhonda,
    What a delightful day, sounds like Hanno and yourself were well looked after. Best wishes for the surgery tomorrow for Hanno.

  33. Rhonda I had a wonderful time on Saturday. Thanks again to you and Hanno for the effort you made. I have a kilo of strawberries waiting to be made into jam tomorrow when my little ones are at daycare. I have used my laundry liquid and have made tentitive arrangements with milkmaid74 to make soap. I had my brother and sister in law visit on Sunday with their 3 month old baby and have made ripples in their direction with some suggestions about simple living. They seem to appreciate the info shared.

  34. Rhonda said "It was also great to meet the infamous Callecat" LOL
    I have been wanting to meet Rhonda for a long time, but life always got in the way.
    Hope all goes well for Hanno.

  35. I tried making jam for the first time ever on Friday. It didn't set and my jars didn't seal (but it's freezer jam so the seal seems less important because the cold will kill any nasties, right?). Somehow the recipe made two more jars than it said it would and I don't understand how that happened. Hoping it tastes good, I wanted to finish the jar we had open before trying the new jam.

    Trying pickles this week. I learned I have a lot of food allergies and eating the way I should costs so much money. Hoping I can figure out a healthier year round diet with preserving. --Lauren from Virginia.

  36. Oh Rhonda, what a lovely day out we had at Bell. Such a beautiful venue - congratulations to Karen, Kate and Annette for organising the day and looking after everyone so well. My daughter Kristy and I travelled over from Proston and we are so glad we did. As we talked on the way home, we felt reaffirmed in what we are doing in our homes, the steps we have already taken towards a simple life and the way we are looking after our families. Our next challenge is getting the men in our lives more involved. We so enjoyed meeting you and Hanno and particularly enjoyed the session after lunch where there was plenty of opportunity for questions and answers. You are an inspiring couple and we thank you for taking the time to do the workshop. By the way, I have some Strawberry and Apple Jam boiling away on the stove - and the fresh bread's waiting!
    Our very best wishes to you both for the surgery tomorrow. Take care. Linda xxxx

  37. Hanno said he appreciates your kind thoughts and prayers.

    Hello to Linda, Judi, Margaret and Maria!

    Tanya, no microphone needed. I can project my voice quite well now.

    And to everyone who asked, we have no plans to do any workshops anywhere other than the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, and the general area around here.

  38. All the best for Hanno's op. tomorrow.The workshop looks amazing and the space is beautiful!

  39. The venue looks great and it sounds like a good time was had by all. Hope all goes well for Hanno.

  40. Congratulations to those ladies who have that wonderful hall and arranged the day...it looked ever so beautiful and sharing wonderful ideas and having Rhonda there must have been heart warming for the people who attended to meet Rhonda and for Rhonda and Hanno to meet the people who are interested and wanting the simple good wholesome things in life....it truely looked wonderful so congratulations ladies....Kathy A, Brisbane

  41. Jo from BrissieJune 25, 2012 7:37 pm

    Hi Rhonda
    Saturday was fabulous - I felt very nurtured by the fellowship of like minded ladies and the venue and hospitality was spot on! I had lots of tips I took away from the practical demonstrations and from the answers to the questions asked as we worked through the laundry liquid making, jam and relish making and spoke through the soap making - just great!I am so glad that I traveled out from Brisbane for the day!

    Thanks to all the ladies for the buzz the event had - Karen and her friends are gems and their selflessness, generousity and vision underpinned the great feel of the day. Also what I found inspiring was their heart and focus on the building of community whether for the benefit of those in the geographical location or for those of us with simple living ideals. Thank you for your beautiful example!

    Rhonda, thank you very much for investing in us and this community as you did on Saturday - I feel encouraged and refreshed to keep the goals I/my family have set for what is important to us, what we really want out of life, what legacy we want to leave etc - I am reinvigerated to be part of and invest in the 'outernet'! Take care.

  42. I'm glad your day went so well, Rhonda - what a positive and uplifting experience it will have been for everyone there.

    Best wishes to Hanno for his cataract surgery. My husband has recently had both eyes "done" and the difference for him has been amazing. He's absolutely delighted with the surgery - he hadn't known quite how badly one eye in particular had deteriorated until the surgery was done. He now only needs glasses for reading; hope the result for Hanno is as good.

  43. Lovely post. Wishing Hanno all goes well for his operation tomorrow. I've had both eyes done and although I was nervous, it didn't hurt. Just need to be careful of dust and rubbing your eyes afterwards and not getting any water into your eyes - think that was the worst when I was washing my hair.

    Lady in the UK whereabouts are you. I live in Norwich.

  44. Sounds like a delightful day! I'm sure everyone was so thankful to be there and learn new skills!

  45. Hi Rhonda,
    that looks like such a fun day !!! I wish I lived in Australia.
    Here in The netherlands we aren't that far yet I'm afraid.
    I'm so glad I can read your blog. You are such an inspiration to me !!
    All the best to Hanno and I hope everything will go great and he will be healing fast !!
    Good luck to the both of you !!

  46. I hope all goes well tomorrow for Hanno. In a few days he will see colours clearer than he has for a while!

    Great to see that so many people are picking up on your ideas and making them work.

  47. What a neat setup with that big room available for community events like that. I've been reading your blog for a few months and it's wonderful. I started making some ginger beer yesterday. You've inspired me to try to relearn/remember my basic sewing skills I picked up as a kid. I made a little jar cover of muslin yesterday. My teenager contributed some beads to it and thought it was very cute. I like making useful things so it was fun to sew something I could put to use right away.

  48. What a lovely venue, everyone looked like they had a fantastic day.

    All the very best to Hanno for his op tomorrow.

    Take care, love Annexxx

  49. Good luck with the surgery. I'll be thinking of you both.

    That hall looked amazing! We have a beautiful hall in town. I should show the committee this post. How cute with all the retro pieces!

    Look after yourselves! x x x

  50. how lovely, sounds like a beautiful day and trip there. great people! they must have loved having you there...

    good luck, and great healing thoughts for you and Hanno as he has his eye treatment done. Hope all goes well!

  51. Thanks Rhonda, good to know for organising big groups.

  52. Looks like such a great day Rhonda! I hope Hanno is recovering well.
    Lusi x


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