Meet fabulous Sunshine Coaster Rhonda Hetzel
IN 2003, Landsborough journalist Rhonda Hetzel came to a life changing realisation that if she kept doing what she was doing she would "get sick".
A technical writer, specialising in manuals for mining companies like Shell and BHP, she had just finished an 18-month contract for BHP which involved what seemed to be endless travel back and forth to the mining town of Glenden, inland from Mackay.
She was burnt out and unhappy, so she made a decision to close her business and live a more simple life with her husband, Hanno, and two sons on their Landsborough property.
Rhonda, 67, said: "I didn't have an income any more, so I had to reduce my cost of living. One of the boys had just started uni and the other an apprenticeship and they were eating me out of house and home.
"I used to be a bit of a hippie with my own vegetable garden and chickens, so I thought I would do that.
"We enlarged the veggie gardens, built a chicken coop, put in solar panels, a bigger water tank - all the things to make us more self-reliant.
"I had to teach myself to bottle jam, bake bread, and preserve our own fruit."
Her new lifestyle was giving her an independence and a freedom she had only imagined, so she decided to share her experiences and knowledge by writing down her thoughts in a regular blog on the internet, called Down to Earth.
Her blogs quickly became popular - to date she has had close to 9 million visitors and she has "followers coming out of my ears" - with the result of Penguin Books emailing to ask, "We love your blogs. Would you write a book?"
Down to Earth was published in March 2012, and its message of simple living has made it a best seller in Australia and New Zealand, with 20,000 copies sold. It is now being reprinted and Penguin are negotiating world-wide sales.
Rhonda's second book came out a year later.
"Penguin brought out a special called A Simple Life, which was a condensed version of Down to Earth that you could pick up at an airport or a railway station, and since then I've been working on my third, which will be published in March next year.
"This one is called A Simple Home and is a continuation of Down to Earth because there wasn't enough room to say everything I wanted.
"It's a book about how to do things like mending, darning, making dairy foods like butter, yoghurt and cheese, recipes for home cooking and lots more."