The whole world in the backyard

7 June 2012
Maya, I didn't answer your question because I just found your post in the spam folder. It sounds like the chooks aren't getting anough high protein food. They should be laying well at 18 months of age, although very cold or very hot weather will put them off the lay as will them getting new feathers. Give them some porridge made with milk or bread soaked in milk, some meat scraps or cooked brown rice with milk. Give that every day for a week to boost their protein levels and that may make them lay again. With new chooks, it's best to keep them separate for a while until you know the new girls aren't bringing in any disease. But leave them now they've been introduced and they should get to know each other over the coming days. Expect the older chooks to peck at the younger ones, this is natural behaviour and you should only step in if there is blood, then separate them until the wound heals. Within a couple of weeks they'll become friends and it will be as if they've lived together all their lives.


I've had a lot of emails lately thanking me for various things so I want to remind you all that I am a normal woman and despite what some of you think, I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I think that some of you think I'm better than I am.  I would like to do more than I do, I would like to be better than I am, but I'm just me and I have to settle for that. I think my saving grace is that I'm easy on myself now. I don't expect perfection in myself or anything else, or anything close to it.

I think I'm like an organic backyard orange. I look old and motley on the outside, if you had to pay for me you'd offer 5 cents at a stretch, but when you open me up, the inside is sweet, juicy and healthy. It's a surprise. I think most of us are like that. Very few of us are like supermarket oranges that look perfect, cost a lot, but rarely live up to their promise. Most of us do our best but we are all flawed. We all think we should do more and be more, but now that I've got a few more years on me, I know that being flawed is not a crime, it's just a part of life. If I had not made all the mistakes I have made in my life, I wouldn't be the person I am now. When I fail, I learn from it. Not much happens when life goes smoothly and you succeed all the time. I'd much rather push myself and fail than to sit back and never try because I was too scared. Life is made interesting by uncertainty and the need to improve. 

If you look closely at the photo above you'll see what looks like a little black V shape - it's right in the middle at the top. That is the little male willy wagtail bird that lives here in the trees. He always joins the chooks and wanders around with them pecking at the grass and the crumbs they leave behind. I've noticed he's in nearly every photo I take of the chooks now.

It has been a beautiful winter day here today (written yesterday afternoon). I've got three layers on (one cotton and two woollen), the sky is bright blue, the air is crisp and the wind blows right through you. I've done some weeding, I've researched recipes, written, read and knitted. I sat for a while on the back garden bench and took it all in. I could live my whole life right here and not feel I'd missed one thing. So much is happening now that autumn has turned into winter - the pecan tree is still full of leaves that will soon turn brown and drop, the wisteria is golden and almost bare but the orange tree is growing and putting on new leaves already.

The tomatoes are going gangbusters, there are plenty of crisp young peas for afternoon snacking in the garden, the lettuces are crisp and delicious, the potatoes are up and we have all sorts of cabbages, brocolli and kale growing slowly and delevoping their unique flavours. The lemon tree is full of ripe fruit and it makes me think of one of the CWA recipes I saw today for Lemon Delicious pudding. As I breathe in the cold air and watch the chooks and a willywag tail who thinks he's a chook, I know that this is close to as good as it gets. There is a small leg of pork and vegetables in the oven roasting for dinner, and I can smell that the red cabbage is almost ready. I should go inside but I'll linger here a little longer. I want to get colder. I want to see more.

We have some great outings coming up where I'm hoping to meet many of you. Toowoomba Library next Wednesday for two sessions: 10.30am and 5.30pm. We'll stay in Toowoomba overnight, thanks to the hospitality of the lovely staff and friends of the Toowoomba Library. The following week we have the big day out at Bell where the old hall will be chockers with all us girls and a few men; then in the last week of June, I'm speaking at the Landcare conference in Brisbane. But that last week is also the week Hanno goes into hospital to have cataracts removed, so, as usual, it's the good with the bad. The more things change, the more they stay the same. But I know that while I'm at home with interesting and productive work each day and with a few outings thrown in for interest, I'm happy and fulfilled. Life's good. I hope that when you weigh it all up, yours is too.


  1. I still have to get over the fact that you grown tomatoes in winter! We have all the other veggies you mention growing along with broad beans and onions, chard and Asian greens...but no tomatoes in the Cape winter. My chickens are also slow to lay with the cold so I thinks I will treat then with warm oats tomorrow.

  2. I had to look up your willy wag tail bird because I was curious. He so reminds me of our Northern Mockingbird! Our guy is mid-gray, not black, but the up-sticking tail is the same; they're my favorite bird.

    It's so cute that he hangs out near your chickens.

  3. Lovely post, I am amazed that your toms grow so well when it is cold----how cold does it really get there? You give me hope that I will be cold again someday..[ no more hot flashes] ;)
    Good luck to Hanno he will be so happy with the cataract surgery results.

  4. Dear Rhonda

    I feel there is no better joy then the contentment of being home. How blessed I feel to know this. I love reading your blog. It fills me with inspiration and gratitude.

  5. I love the orange analogy. I know a few shop bought oranges, and I've learned to not buy into them. I'm a backyard orange all the way!

  6. I think letting go of the veil of perfection is one of life's hardest lessons, particularly for women. The way your post moved from matters of the mind to a simple enjoyment of all that is physically around you is a great example of how we can all learn to let go and live and be proud in the moment. Thanks, this was a great simple way to start my day!

  7. Looking forward to meeting you in Toowoomba.....

  8. Your garden looks amazing for this time of year!

    It struck me when I met you on your tour, how much you are a normal person. It was just lovely! I love your orange analogy but laughed when I had the thought "I hope I am an orange and not a lemon!"

    Good luck to you and hanno for the operation. My mother had it recently and the upside is her sight is better than it has ever been. She wore glasses even as a little girl but can see without them now!

  9. Your description of your afternoon almost made me salivate, it sounded that good. My life is so frantically busy at the moment that every hour of (almost) every day is scheduled and accounted for. It's a good thing.... I'm working to increase our income so I can be mortgage free by the time my youngest finishes secondary school.
    Still, it'd be nice to spend some leisurely time in the yard of the property I'm working so hard to own outright!

  10. My mother in law used to make lemon delicious. It is delicious.

  11. Eileen, it drops to around 3 or 4C overnight but it rises to around 20c or so during the day. It's perfect weather for growing just about everything except the hot weather veg like capsicums, chillis and egg plant.

    Hi Linda, I remember meeting you and Christine. Was it in Castlemaine? Warm hugs.

  12. francesmoniqueJune 07, 2012 7:28 am

    How cute is that willy wag tail! I would love to have such an enjoyable life as you now but I am still working (outside) and a lot of my time is spent seemingly always trying to catch up. And I only have 1 darling child. I always feel so unorganised. (oh woe is me... :)) When I read your blog it gives me encouragement.

  13. Hi Rhonda. Nobody is perfect, as the cliche goes, however I do think you are worthy of the thanks you receive for exactly that reason. In this 'perfect' world it is refreshing to learn about a real person with real ideas and goals that have purpose beyond the superficial. I am a mother of three children, 4, 2 and 11 weeks, and your posts help me stay 'real'. After two previous bouts of post natal depression, I have struggled to see such 'purpose' in what I do. Nobody talks of the need to change focus and identify new directions for women who give up their career to raise children. So thank you for helping me to identify 'real' meaning and purpose in my work as a stay at home mother and thank you for letting me realise that it is not an easy will not be perfect but it can be very rewarding. Sarah x

  14. Morning Rhonda, yes Life is good for us here most of the time and I think a lot of the time we lose sight of just how lucky we are. I work in a hospital and everyday I thank God that I am not in one of the beds. but at least if I needed to be, I could be assured of good health care.
    We are having a bit cooler weather than you, down here in Tassie, but still ....lucky

  15. Hi Rhonda, I love the willy wagtail who wants to be a chooky with the rest of the ladies.

    I was recently telling (bragging) my mosaic friends that I had made yoghurt using your method. They wanted to try it too. However, one helpful lady suggested Easy Yo method as it was 'easier' and also organic. I didn't have a response for her other than I thought you might say it was too processed...I'd love to have an answer for them as I want to promote this style of living....Do you have any thoughts I could pass on, please.

    I also made the liquid laundry soap and I'm very happy with it, thank you.

    Sue D

  16. Thanks so much for the advice Rhonda - I will put it into practice when I get home from work.

    And by the way - I think you are pretty tops!


  17. Hi Rhonda,
    I don't usually comment-although I do read your posts daily. I find that often our thoughts coincide!

    I'm having a giggle at your wagtail as we have recently had one take up residence!

    Now our dogs do not tolerate birds-any which land in "their" section of the yard are considered flying free food. Yet the wagtail is being tolerated!

    He gets up on the window sills and taps at the glass if the cat is on the otherside-seemingly to annoy him!

    Best of all though is his (the wagtail) ability to forage on any bugs (including spiders) which come around the house.

    He has become quite an integral component of what we are trying to achieve here.


  18. Im in Bacchus Marsh in Vic. I my veges are growing at a great rate due to all the rain we have been having. I have found that some self seeded tomatoes have come up among the cauliflowers but i will leave them for now and see what happens. My other news is that i have 10 chickens mostly oldies but i do have 2 pullets that are around 8 months old. I went into then pen this morning as i have not been able to get right inside due to the mud and have found 5 lovely brown eggs in the nest. It was a lovely surprise to find this morning :)

  19. What a cute little fellow, we had Willy Wagtails on the farm, they always sounded like something "pinging" on the wire fences near the house.Where I live now in town, I have a few Blue wrens living in the Tree ferns, they look similar but smaller and sing sometimes, I love to watch them flying from fern to bird bath.
    Hope your lovely weather keeps up for you, Toowoomba has been a bit chilly but the days are sunny.
    Look forward to seeing you next week.

  20. Sue D, I think everyone should make yoghurt in the way it is easiest for them. I have a strong focus on self-reliance. I buy ingredients that I hope are multi-functional - things that I can use for a number of things, not just one. I have a store of yoghurt starter in the freezer, it's probably similar to easy yo but I prefer to make yoghurt using a frozen portion of the previous yoghurt that I keep aside for that purpose. Doing that, I'm relying on myself to make the yoghurt in the first place, then to think ahead so I reserve some for the follow up batch, then freeze it. If I do that, I can keep my yoghurt going for a long time without having to buy a new batch of starter, easy yo, or a new tub of yoghurt to use as a starter. Self-reliance.

    If the yoghurt fails or the stored reserve is dropped, I use the frozen starter, then reserve some of that batch in the freezer for the next batch. :- )

  21. Rhonda - I enjoy reading your blog - never miss a day ! You have a gift for writing and you are genuine. You help me look at seemingly ordinary things in a different way.

    Thank you !

  22. Hi Rhonda,
    Thanks for your words about acceptance of yourself. I am slowly learning to enjoy making my home a sanctuary for our young family. And keeping it simple! Your blog and it's readers are helping that. Plus your book - I love it. Emma.

  23. Hi Rhonda I am so looking forward to meeting you next Wednesday in Toowoomba...Rug up it has been very cold here...

  24. Little Miss JenJune 07, 2012 12:57 pm

    Hi Rhonda,

    Can you give us some idea of how much yoghurt you use to make a new batch? And do you use it from frozen or do you need to defrost it first? I would love to not be reliant on the easy yo starter.

  25. Great post Rhonda. Enjoyed reading it as i do every day. Hugs,

  26. Hey Rhonda,

    You probably already know this, but I thought I'd let you know that your pic is on the front page of today's local paper (at least online) re traffic lights.



  27. My favorite line is this is "I could live my whole life right here and not feel I'd missed one thing." Friends wonder why I feel no strong desire to go out and do things but I feel so content at home. There's always something going on, as you say. I think most people don't see what's in front of them but once you start seeing one thing, you notice more and more. After dinner my daughter and her friends walked to a street fair downtown. I locked the dogs in, let the chickens (chooks!) out and puttered in the garden with them, trimming and weeding, yes, but sometimes just standing and looking.

  28. Fiona, Abbeysmum and Old Dairy, Hanno and I was saying over lunch today that we're both really looking forward to going to Toowoomba and Bell. We can hardly wait.

    Yes Melissa, Hanno showed that to me. Thanks.

    Miss Jen, I use about half a cup of frozen yoghurt that I allow to come back to room temperature. I get it out of the freezer the night before and leave it on the bench.

  29. Lovely Lovely Blog today Rhonda - Im feeling much better today. Thank you for your support. Your garden looks simply amazing. I am hoping when i do build my garden that I can somehow connect with other ladies in my area. (Sharon - you are just down the road). Im going to need some help, I can tell you. But best of all, I'd love to share it with others - like you do Rhonda.

  30. I love it when the Willies visit our yard, funny little birds that they are....when I am down the back, I wander around and could be there for hours just looking at everything...its like the world stops for me down there and I get caught up in the growing and the smells and its just plain good............

  31. More words of wisdom, Rhonda. Thanks muchly. I learned long ago that contentment is one of the most important things that we should strive for. Once achieved, it gives us peace of mind and happiness. If we can't be content where we are, we need to change our situation or our attitude. I count my blessings daily as I'm sure you do. Continue to enjoy your life.

    Lyn in northern New South Wales.

  32. you are such an inspiration, i would like to be sitting on that bench too

  33. I enjoyed the feel of this post Rhonda...we are having such similar weather although it has now turned to rain but the crisp air lends a certain zest for life doesn't it?
    I loved seeing the pic of your willy wagtail as i have noticed the same thing over the last week whenever outside playing with thw twins. There is willy wagtail following the chooks around and seemingly 'talking' to us. I do so enjoy watching him and so do the girls. We have some glorious fairy wrens all around eating the last of the corn stalks too!
    That orange analogy is wonderful Rhonda...and good to remember that no one is perfect!
    I do hope Hanno's surgery goes well...rug up for Toowoomba!xx

  34. Hi Rhonda, I've just scoured amazonuk for your book and can't find it. Is it not available in the uk yet?


  35. Thanks for the chicken tips. I will definitely try that with mine.

    I loved your post about being real and being yourself, the best you can be. My mum used to tell me that there is such a thing as a "good enough" mum when I was hard on myself for not being a perfect young mum.

  36. Hey Deezy - our doggies also seem to ignore the wagtails. We have the large ones as in Rhonda's post & also the tiny ones.
    Rhonda - loved the orange analogy, hopefully I am the same. Mind you our oranges do look lovely but our lemons are a tad ugly but beautiful inside.
    I am jealous that you can have tomatoes grow & ripen all year round. My compact cabbages went with the moths, the caulis & other cabbages are covered, hope this will work.
    Birds - how they seem to calm us. Someone around this area has white doves & pigeons. Beautiful time of day to watch them exercise. We also have blackbirds, I know they dig up gardens but such a source of pleasure watching them.

  37. We have a couple of sheep to keep our block mown down and I often spy a little willy wagtail flitting in, around and under the sheeps feet or sitting on their back, being very social with the sheep. Funny!


  38. Hi Everyone
    I've realised that I get almost as much pleasure form reading the comments as I do from the blog itself!
    Happily, I'll be in the outer suburbs of Brisbane next week, so hope to make it to the Toowoomba Library on Wed the 13th - what a nice surprise.
    On the EasyYo yoghurt making question - WHAT A RORT (scam)! What people are buying is a nice mix of MILK POWDER AND BACTERIA. You can tell them that you'll save your money and end up with a similar or better result. The container to put it in is easily substituted with a glass jar or jars and a seedling heating tray.

  39. The analogy of the organic orange made me smile - it's so true of all of us.

    And speaking of citrus I'm still drooling over your lemon tree. The thought of having that growing in my own garden is a bit surreal.

  40. Oh Rhonda...I have to say that each morning it is with great excitement that I open your blog to see what wonderful things you have written that day. I just love reading your words and in them seeing your heart and your love for all that you do. Sometimes I get ahead of myself and log on in the evening also and then I'm disappointed that I've already read the blog for the day haha!! But, then I go to the side and read one of your older ones and once again I am inspired and challenged.
    We know you're not perfect and we know your life isn't perfect either BUT you are honest and real and you have such a willingness to share a large part of your life with us and we LOVE it!!

  41. Hi Rhonda
    I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blogs. I am a relative newcomer to blogging and have found your comments and view on living a more simple life quite inspirational. I was aware that I craved a more simple life but until I read your book I didn't realise how much I really should be embracing it. I struggled with the change from career woman to stay-at-home-Mum and after 3 years have only really changed my attitude to enjoying my role and seeing it as a worthwile role within our family unit, particularly now my partner works FIFO and is away most of the time. Having no support systems has meant that I feel quite isolated at times and turning to Mum to remind me about sewing, knitting and gardening techniques is something I miss. It is so nice to have somewhere else to turn and get some of those lifeskills back! As a Mum I really value these skills and look forward to one day passing them on to my daughter. I look forward to your blogs and find it an inspiration to see what is possible and how fulfilling a life it can be.

    thanks again
    Gold Coast

  42. I had to laugh at the analogy of the "organic orange"...pruny on the outside but alive and well on the inside! Very true...

    Loved your photos of your lovely home and grounds...

  43. Hi Rhonda,
    How do you manage to keep the grass from growing into your vegie beds and up into the bricks?
    Thanks for the great site and all the learnings. You are an inspiration.

    1. Jenni, sometimes it does grow up the sides of the bricks. Hanno tidies it up with the brush cutter after he mows.

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