23 August 2012

Organised chaos in the garden

Hanno had surgery on his eye, had a checkup yesterday and he's fine now. He just has to take it easy and not do any dirty or dusty work for a little while. He asked me to thank you all for the good wishes sent to him. I thank you too.  :- )


We're really lucky to have the opportunity to grow some of our food right outside our backdoor. All of us who grow what we can in the space we have available, including those who grow in containers, we're all fortunate to be able to do it. Of course, work comes into the equation too - the work you need to do to get your own land, the work you do to grow the vegetables and to harvest them. But most of us love getting our hands dirty so that we get the chance, a few times a week, to walk inside with a harvest basket full of fresh produce for the dinner table.

We all garden in different ways - and that difference is usually brought about by the climate we live in. Hanno and I live in a sub-tropical climate with excellent rainfall. One of the reasons we chose to live here is because we knew we could grow food most of the year. As a result of that we garden in a different way to people down south and in other lands where the coldness of winter means that nothing can be grown then. In those circumstances, the main effort is put in during the warmer months, there is a definite harvest time and, most of the time, the excess is frozen, or put up in jars and bottles in the form of sauces, jams, fruit and vegetables that are stored in a cupboard for use during the colder months.

As I said, we're lucky here in that we can grow food all year, although we choose not to grow much in summer. There are too many bugs then and the heat keeps us inside, or at least in the shade. We keep harvesting a few odds and ends over summer but we stop planting in November and start again in March - the start of Autumn. This way of growing food requires us to fill the spaces left after the harvest of a crop, or just pop in a plant or two when we remove a tomato bush or cabbage. We start off in March with neat and tidy rows of lettuces and cabbages all lined up, which Hanno likes, and as the seasons progress we are left with organised chaos, which I like. As there is a lot of fresh food throughout the year, we tend to freeze small amounts of excess vegetables, like spinach, chard, carrots and beans, and make sauces and jams when we have an over abundance of fruit.

We're at a sort of half mast stage at the moment. We were late in planting this year, and then the rains came, killing off the seedlings, and now we still have the peas, cabbages and lettuces of winter, while we're planting eggplant, tomatoes, chillies and herbs - all the plants that love the heat.

I am always aware that not everyone has the gift of fresh food - some can't garden due to ill health or time constraints and some don't have the land. I am aware also of the millions who struggle everyday to have even one meal. So when I walk inside with my harvest basket full, knowing what I've just picked will be in the salad bowl soon, or served, steaming, with some roast chicken, I remember how lucky we are.  Lucky because we live in a country that rewards hard work; lucky because we were able to work all those years to save enough to buy a block of land to live on; lucky we have enough to share, and grateful that we do not take the opportunities we have for granted.

On the weekend, we have the good folk from Permaculture Noosa coming over to look around our garden so tomorrow I'll be out there putting on some mulch, and watering. Hanno is still out of action for the next day or so but he'll be out there with me, so it will be a joint effort.  What's happening in your garden?



  1. So happy to hear that Hanno is well! Lovely news, indeed. I too am so thankful for the food that I can grow. I realize that even on a bad day (when a crop is destroyed, or there is too much rain, etc.) I much better off than the majority of the world's population. To be ABLE to buy what we need or can't grow is a huge gift.

  2. Hi Rhonda we too can grow year round in our Mediterranean climate but in winter things slow down tremendously. We have two very definite sets of vegetables that we can grow in spring and summer and then autum and winter so we get a good variety though the 12 months. At the moment we have broad beans, onions, brassicas, chard, peas, Asian greens and salads. I saw some of the first asparagus spears this week so spring is on its way. I was eyeing your kale remembering that I forgot to plant some this winter!

  3. I just stumbled across your blog last week doing a Google search to live on one income. I am completely in love with your blog and have been reading it daily since. My husband and I are in our 20's and bought a house with some land last summer. This summer was our first one for a garden and chickens. We live in Canada so our growing season is shorter and I have been harvesting veggies daily for the past few weeks. We have a crazy amount of tomatoes that I have been canning and we have also been enjoying fresh carrots, onions, beans, and broccoli. We still have a lot to learn but are pleased with our first years produce.

  4. Hi rhonda, we find Winter is our quiet gardening time . I think it is a good idea to have a season that you step back and let the garden or animals rest. We have a time like that for our goat too when we stop milking and give her body a time that is just hers.I find having this seasonal break means we are more enthusiastic when we get back into it.
    I loved seeing pictures of your vege patch, nothing more inspiring than seeing someone else's patch!

  5. I'm new to gardening, and have a few things in containers this year. I have to say your remark about not gardening in summer because of bugs and heat really struck me. Summer is the main gardening time for us, and the high temperatures and humidity really get to me. I'd rather stay inside, cleaning! So, I wonder how prolific my gardens will ever get to be, even in the future, (assuming I get better at it).

  6. What's happening in my garden? Not so much...
    I usually wait until late September (aka school holidays) to get seedlings out. At the moment the veggie beds are quietly ticking over with celery, warrigal greens, parsnips, strawberries and silver beet.

    I've a few tomato seedlings just poking their heads up on the kitchen window shelf, so I really have to get onto planting some more seeds. I'd say that I need more time, but I really just need to prioritise my time when I have a spare few minutes.

  7. Hi Rhonda. Pleased that Hanno is recovering well. I enjoyed catching up with your garden news today. It's a wonderful growing time in Brisbane down at the allotment. This week I'm harvesting lettuce, silverbeet, parsley, mint, Italian kale, carrots and beetroot.
    I am eating potatoes that I harvested last month, the next crop of potatoes are growing in potato bags over at the allotment. My allotment is 16 square metres so space is at a premium and I'm hoping for a great result from these potato bags. They certainly save room. My daughter-in-law suggests I might have to insulate the bags when the weather gets hotter so that they don't dry out. So I'll keep my eye on that.
    I couldn't agree with you more, we are so lucky to live in this country, safe and with the ability to grow our own food. I am thankful, as a unit dweller, that there is a movement here in Brisbane towards community gardens. My allotment is attached to Beelarong Community Farm and gives me great pleasure. As well as growing my own food there is a wonderful community spirit.

  8. Hi Rhonda, reading your expressions of gratitude for your garden spurred me on to express mine. After renting for almost 17 years, my husband and I have been able to by a small cottage in Birregurra, Victoria. Birregurra lies on the edge of the Otway's and is said to have good soil. My gardening is about to undergo a revolution. Even though having rented different places for long terms, I tended to stick to container gardening as I consider my garden as the living extension of my pantry or fridge and I would always want to take it with me should we have to move. I would stick to greens, tomatoes, beans, peas and (if I had a deep enough container available) some carrots. I also learned about edible weeds which turned the chore of weeding into harvesting and meant we always had fresh greens and herbs available. As we are not moving to Birregurra as yet I consider myself as the owner of that English concept of a 'plot'. My husband has a few years of work in him yet, which is in Port Melbourne, we currently rent a little terrace within walking distance to his work. The whole place, including the courtyard is about 45square meters, and still I have my container garden. At the moment the broad beans are standing tall and in full bloom. In the middle of the court yard is a prolific lemon tree, so you can see we are truly blessed. For the first time I am raising seedlings and looking at perennial edible plants to plant permanently. The cottage will be a weekender for a little while, at least until my husband no longer needs to be in the office everyday. It is an original, built circa 1860's with a neglected cottage garden. In Kevin McCloud's words, 'we have ourselves a project' and I am very exited about it. May your garden grow, Angie

  9. Hi Rhonda, I'm glad Hanno is making a good recovery! A few neighbours and I are taking over our little verge to garden. It's wonderful because it gets more sun than our tiny backyard and it's much closer than our community garden that's a couple of blocks away. Of course it also means we've met so many more of our neighbours, especially those that live in apartments.

    Yesterday I met with a gallery owner to discuss my upcoming exhibition and of course I couldn't help but notice the gorgeous gnarled lemon and vibrant green savoy cabbage on her desk. She'd just picked them from the backyard and I couldn't help but think how gardening and food transcend all cultural, social, status etc barriers. Was great to find common ground outside the art and like every gardener I've met she was quick to offer me produce after I'd shown interest. The gardener's generousity!

  10. Lovely to hear that Hanno is on the mend and you are both doing well. Gardening here all but stops in the winter - there are still vegies in the garden but getting anything to germinate is a bit of an effort. With the longer days I'm starting to plan for the new crops I want to put in and preparing more beds and am hoping for some much needed landscaping, aka general tidying up, on the rest of the garden.

  11. Glad to hear that Hanno's op went well. I agree that we are very lucky to be able to garden all year. We have had the best winter ever this year with a bumper harvest, now feeding over 20 families a week. All the best for the Permis visit tomorrow. Give a cheerio to Kirsten, from us here at Purple Pear, if she is amongst them.

  12. I am new to using our garden to produce for my family. We are a family of 6 and we have just put some Bok Choi & silver beet into pots until I sort out where my veggie patch should be - though we do have 5 chooks already and as we have been feeding them oats and left over scraps throughout winter, we are still getting eggs - they are content little clucking chooks and we love them - they have very distinct personalities.
    I'm learning when things should be harvested - not too flash at that yet- and looking forward to Spring in Victoria so the kids, hubby and I can get out and about in the garden and sort out our veggie patch.
    I'm so pleased that Hanno is well... and that you are back with us again - even if it is a couple of posts a week..It is so lovely to see a new post from you and your perspective on self sustaining living. Thank you for being so generous with your time and wisdom.

  13. Hi Rhonda, wishing Hanno a speedy recovery (before the.cricket starts). Our garden is now being prepared for our main planting for the year. We have already added manure, compost and blood and bone to the beds in readiness for the seedlings. We have already put some tomato capsicum, cucumber, beetroot seeds into punters and letting them grow ready for planting come spring. Things like beans and corn will go straight into the beds. The kids are having fun making paper pots for the seeds so it's turned into a real family affair!

  14. We have a 1000 square metre block in suburbia....everytime I am outside, or drive up the driveway and see it all....I think it is Gold....I literally think we are living on Gold.....and yes, very blessed to be able to walk up from the back with an armfull of home grown goodness and eggs...it makes me feel really, really good...

  15. g'day
    glad to hear hanno is recovering well

    i did put some broccoli & silverbeet out for winter but they didn't do too well as with many other people here in the area had the same problem, seeds didn't germinate too good here; i have a couple of stragglers that came up but that is it. only have one garden patch/square at the moment but am working on getting 2 others going. one is going directly in front of the chook pen, the other is already there just need reorganizing, they all are an 'no dig' for me as my chooks are doing the hard work :)) have mostly herbs going & doing well so far, might look for another seed source, as i think mine are no good. my pets are buried out in my gardens, where they are was going to keep herbs on top of them.
    the weather has suddenly warmed up here so it will be many good working hours out in the yard, hopefully.
    thanx for the inspiration & pictures of your lovely garden rhonda & hanno

    selina from kilkivan qld

  16. Hi Rhonda, we're fortunate to have such a great health services available to us-- glad to hear that Hanno is doing well-- from your descriptions of Hanno loving his garden you might have to hold him back from helping you though!
    Just finished reading FLY LADY testimonial how 'luck' helped a lady be prepared, stress free & get the job when an unexpected job interview come up - but of course it wasn't 'luck' but putting in place rountinues so she was prepared with washing / ironing up to date for interview outfit etc..
    While we are fortunate to live in Australia our 'luck' comes by taking those small steps to be mindful of how we live and what we spend, or NOT spend, our money and TIME on. While you & fellow bloggers are inspirational re how to live a simple life one of the best things you wrote about was how you made a list of what you wanted to gain from this lifestyle -- establishing your life values to then focus how you go about daily activities. Deciding to grow much of our food myself is a new but exciting experience -- so much to learn -- hard work at the moment planning the site, moving soil to make 2 extra raised garden beds.....great fun & looking forward to joining local permaculture group to share this experience with. Dasher explains it so well re gardening connecting us not only to the earth / ourselves but to others with all different lives. Happy gardening everyone, I can't wait for this freezing weather in Vic to improve (although the dwarf fruit trees I've planted are starting to bud & have picked first lemon from my baby tree, yay!).

  17. Oh Rhonda, Im dying to tell you. This weekend an organisation called ShoeString and our local council are putting on a 2 day permaculture course. Places were limited and Im one of a lucky 23. I cant wait. Each month they have a new theme untill we get to next March when they are harvesting and preserving. This is going to be such a great resource and for me a chance to have new friends and a hobby (away from but not excluding The Boys). I have one bed now but more to arrive soon. Im so excited, I dont know what to plant first but since I love salads and Im a bit impatient I think it will have to be lettuce. Hope Hanno recovers quickly.

    1. Great news Lynda. Our council hasn't had permaculture but they have had workshops in organic gardening, chooks, worms, harvesting, preserving etc. It's good to hear this is happening in other places too. It will enrich not only you and the other people who go along but also your town. Let us know how it goes.

  18. I'm just in from watering the tomatoes, snow peas and herbs. My 'real' veggie patch is still in planning stages. But the fruit trees that were already here when we bought the place, are showing signs of new life - the grapefruit is in blossom with the promise of next winer's harvest (it smells wonderful!), the first mango flowers are there although not as many as last year. The macadamia tree has some new flowers forming again, the starfruit tree has just finished another harvest and the lychee tree is covered in flower stalks.
    After nearly being flooded out in Januray, it's very dry and already quite warm here, so some rain wouldn't go astray at the moment.
    We have a 860sqm block and I have big plans for it :) We are so blessed to be here.
    Glad to hear all is well at your place Rhonda.

  19. Rhonda, I agree that we are so blessed to live in this country, doubly blessed if we have sufficient land for vegies and/or chooks. With spring just around the corner, I am planting seeds in seed beds in the greenhouse and manuring and mulching the vegie beds ready to receive them once frosts are finished. This year I am trying Biochar which I bought from Diggers Club. I have enough to spread on 3 beds (the 2 kilo pack covers 10 sqm). It is said to improve soil, nutrient availability to roots and water holding capacity. We'll see...

    My best wishes to Hanno and blessings to you Rhonda, such a wise mentor to many of us.

    Lyn in Northern New South Wales.

  20. I do hope Hanno's eye heals up quickly.
    Our garden is pretty dormant right now save for a mass of rocket and Russian kale that self seeded (I haven't had to buy salad all winter)and a little radish. All energy is being saved up for Spring when it's all systems go in our cold climate. And then it's still a nervous time to plant as we have had frosts up until early December.

  21. Thank you for this lovely post and for all the beautiful pictures that accompanied it. I am yet to start my own little vegie patch as we hope to be moving house soon but just reading your words and looking at your pictures, made it feel as though I too were experiencing it. Just wondering do you ever have any problems with your cat in the vegie patch? When I did have a little plot my dog liked to dig holes in it and eat all the vegies (she left the chillies for us) and our cat used to use the patch like a litter tray. I want to be well prepared for when I next begin a vegie patch, so wondering how you enjoy both gardening and keeping pets? Without pulling your hair out in the process hehe :)

  22. Hi Rhonda Jean, I'm so happy Hanno's procedure went well. I hope he will be much better real soon !!
    Here in The Netherlands Summer hasn't been great and just last week we have had a couple of tropical days, but now it's back to normal temperatures. My Summer bedding looks tired and I guess it is ; )
    I'm thinking about putting veggies in the containers, but I have to look what I can plant, because Winter is getting nearer.
    I can't plant in the full ground, because I have cats. They see the ground, when there is some free space in between plants, as their personal litterbox and that's not good for the veggies. They would be flying around in no time. Containers it is !!
    Have a wonderful day and please give my well wishes to Hanno.
    Hugs from The Netherlands.

  23. What's happening in my garden?
    I don't know!!!
    I've been away from it for 5 months.
    I hope the fruit trees are cooking up some good fruit for me
    and the broad beans and potatoes have come up by themselves!

  24. In garden today. My darling hubby brought home a trailor load of soil in his lunch break and I was able to unload, wash down trailor just before a big shower of rain came. I did get my back wet, but a fresh change of clothes was the way to go. I am on NW Coast of Tasmania.

  25. I am so glad that Hanno's operation is over and a success. I had both of mine done years ago and am so happy I did. We are so blessed to be able to treat eye problems that they couldn't even attempt just a few years back.
    In our area we actually have 4 growing seasons and can plant all year. We actually have only planted two gardens a year though, spring and fall. I never thought of having way less in the hot hot summer months! A very good idea !! I have done extra beans or corn say one year concentrating mostly on this and canning up extra to last two years then the next done extra on one or two other crops and not done much of it then for 2 years and such with only enough planted for a bit of fresh each year. The few hotter months of summer with over 100 degree temps and humidity ..and no rain, makes it hard to keep the garden going and watered and as you said more bugs. Also here the humidity combined with the high heat brings on spider mites and diseases easier. I will rethink planting times now and since we can plant so many seasons why not those hot hot times mostly off the garden work times!!! Yea! Yet it will be hard not to go out and putter as I Love being out there! :-) Thank you Rhonda!! Sarah

  26. It's been a wet and wild winter in the beautiful Adelaide Hills. We only set up our garden in Autumn this year in our new house, and I was so excited last night to have some of our very own broccoli, fresh grown. We also have lettuce, spinach and broad beans. We had other plants, but we also have chickens, and they broke in one day and decimated the garden beds, so we've been behind all winter. Oh well, we have lovely fresh golden eggs every day too, so you win some, you lose some. Looking forward to planting our summer garden this year, planning on lots of tomatoes!

  27. HI Rhonda,
    Your garden is looking just great!
    I heard you were showing your garden this weekend, My cousin Jacki, (http://jellypeachesandice-cream.blogspot.com.au)has just joined Permaculture Noosa, and I might add she is just so thrilled with the way she has been welcomed, she's itching to get into it all, starting this weekend at your place. Naturally I would have been joining her had I had not moved soooo far away!! I am aching to have a garden of my own again, it's been such a shock for me Rhonda, do you know I have to pay $2.99 every week for a measly bunch of parsley and tomatoes are sitting at $8.99 a kilo. The sooner I get a bathtub full of dirt here the better however I need to do a little research on seasonal planting, we are still getting heavy frosts so I'll just wait this season out.
    Good to hear Hanno is on the mend.
    Take care and enjoy your weekend
    Karen xo

    1. Okay, I have two to look out for now - Kirsten (Kate's friend from Purple Pear) and Jacki. I'm making them yoghurt scones with homemade strawberry jam and Maleny cream for morning tea. Permaculture Noosa is a wonderful organisation. I did a talk over there a few months ago and they asked if I'd open the garden to them. It seemed such a long time in the future when I agreed to late August. Still, both Hanno and I are looking forward to it.

      I don't envy you having to pay for parsley and tomatoes, especially as you'd have fond memories of your own fresh produce. It's not long till Spring and you'll be off like a rocket, I'm sure. I hope you're all well and happy and that the weather isn't too bad. Although Tricia just told me it's 1C at Blackheath. Take care love and give that gorgeous Laura a cuddle for me.

  28. So glad to hear Hanno is recuperating . Hope he takes heed of the doctor...
    I so envy you your wonderful garden, down here in Tassie we are still getting frosts so not much happening. The beds have been cleared for spring planting and there are some beetroot doing quite well ,leeks this year were dissapointing so will plant earlier next time. We still have silverbeet and just used the last of the cabbage.Strawberries have survived the winter and there are quite a few flowers ,amazing! The chooks have been free ranging round everthing else and have done a great job on the weeding saving me hours of back breaking work, go girls ,well done. Getting a few eggs about 18 to 20 a week from 4 chooks so I'm well pleased , Till next stay in good health

  29. i just wanted to say that I have been reading your blog for some time now and so enjoy it... you live like my parents did in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York ..thrift and wisely using the gifts of our environment were second nature and is to me too... It is the only way I know how to live. I couldn't be wasteful if I wanted to , it would upset my inner make up to much LOL. It is comforting to me to know that there are like minded people way on the other side of our earth.. kindred souls so to speak...
    Jean from The Adirondacks of NYS but living in SW Ohio....:)


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