"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Sunday, 21 May 2017

If there's something strange in your neighborhood...

...who you gonna call...

You all know how that song continues, but they're not going to help in this situation.

You, me, your neighbour, your family, strangers - they're the only ones who can pull the trick out of the hat.

Snakes - we - or more correctly Stellar - found a puff adder in the alpaca feed shelter last Friday.  RMan noticed that Stellar was behaving weirdly so called her inside whilst he went to investigate.

Yup, a roll of shadecloth in one of the (un)used bins was moving.

Thankfully, John, the odd-job guy who helps us was there on that day and between RMan and John it was  dispatched.

He then spoke to one of our neighbours who told him that the caretaker of our neighbours property found 4 Cape Cobra's and 2 puff adders - in the last week!!!  That is scary stuff...

Snakes should be hibernating at this time of year.

For goodness sake - we're exactly a month away from mid-winter!
This Paulowina tree should only be flowering in September -
 not now...
Then, this morning we noticed that our Paulowina tree is flowering - that shouldn't be happening yet - historically it should only happen in September.  The seasons are definitely wonky.  And, as much as I can handle what is happening, can the farmers?

Our weather has even made international new weather reports:

CNN Cape Town weather

Finally, have you read the latest about the moss growing in Antarctica?

If we don't all change our ways and consider Mother Earth, and the harm we are collectively doing to her, then she will reject us.

Are you more ready for that rejection than doing your bit now...?

It's our choice.  

Friday, 19 May 2017

I see skies of blue...

...red roses too...

(I love Sir David Attenborough - he never fails to lift me up, and give me hope...)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Fire trap

This last March we had hectic wild fires in our area.  We have had them before - in our little valley - those damn Black Wattles burn like hell!!
A tiny puff of smoke was the first sign,,,
But this time it was started with a lightning strike on our drought parched mountainside - 20kms away over the mountain to the north of us - the mountain that we face.

Our first inkling was a little puff of smoke - as in the pic above.  The fire had come over the mountain.
The wind changed direct and the smoke increased
Soon, our entire mountain was engulfed...
Dusk - and the fire is creeping down the mountainside
We are roughly 7 - 8 kms as the crow flies from those mountains - not terribly far when a wild fire is burning.
This pic was sent to me by a resident in Suurbraak
Dusk - and the flames become more apparent
Seeing a fire during the day is one thing, but watching it at night one's depth of vision is impaired - leading to many, many sleepless nights.  Has it jumped to the farmlands?  How close is it now?  Which way is the wind blowing - our way...?

Lots of things go through your mind at night.  And very few of them positive.
Smoke so thick it almost blocked out the sun
Thankfully the wind kept the worst of the fire from endangering us.  It took 5 days for that fire to completely burn out / get sorted by the local farmers / firemen.
A second fire a few weeks later - this time it was on our
side - on the farmlands
But, the lesson was there.

If - if - we should be in danger of a fire sweeping through our area, we do not have sufficient water for our (small) fire brigade to make any significant difference.   Plus, it would take them +/- 45 minutes just to get here.  Historically, they pitch up with a small +/- 1 000lt trailer load of water, and then break Black Wattle branches from the trees and everyone climbs in helping to beat the fire with the branches.  That is not terribly effective.  The fire department cannot bring their big fire engine as the area, in most places, is too rough for it to traverse.

And, for us, not having any way to evacuate the alpaca's in the event of a fire, we were nervous and RMan wasn't happy - he felt powerless and vulnerable.

So I climbed on Google and Gumtree.
Fire fighting water trailer
I managed to find what he was looking for -  a fire fighting water trailer. But they were in Johannesburg.  Ah well, couriers deliver...

We sent off an enquiry, got the necessary feedback, and placed our order and paid (in full - what was wrong with me, I know better!!).

One week delivery, became two, became three.  Asking for references (yeah, a bit late, but we were thinking that we had thrown away what was - for us - a fairly substantial amount of money) we contacted them.  Unanimously they all described waiting for ages, but that they did eventually get what they ordered.  So, fear allayed - a little bit...

After one and a half months enough was enough.  The excuses were becoming repetitive and our patience had run out weeks ago.

RMan requested his money back.

Two weeks after that he got 50% refunded.  And more excuses - the trailer will still be sent on Monday evening the next week, etc.

A further two weeks down the line he finally got the balance that was due to him.

Why - oh, why - did I pay them in full???  That is totally out of character for me.

Anyway, the company had use of a fairly substantial amount of money for 2-odd months.

But, we still didn't have any means of effectively beating a fire.  So Google again...
Thick rubber fire fighting beaters
 I found two companies who manufactured rubber mat fire beaters.
Premat fire beaters
 I contacted everyone in our little valley and asked if anyone wanted one - we were going to order.
Safequip fire beaters
Most of the other inhabitants also wanted so one or two, so armed with an order of 30-odd units, I asked if there was any chance of a discount on quantity.

Yup - quite a nice discount in fact.  Thanks Safequip ;)  That was greatly appreciated!

So, at least we are all now equipped with some basic means of protecting ourselves against a fire in our area.

I am still keeping my eye out for another water trailer manufacturer who can supply us a unit within our budget though... ;)

Disclaimer:  No discount was asked for nor given for sharing the info above.  It is shared here merely to assist anyone else who might be interested in having some sort of fire fighting equipment.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Preparation paid off

How many of you remember me telling you about some raised beds we made back in February last year?

For those who are new readers I'll  give you a quick recap:
Granite tile crates
We got some crates which had been used to pack / transport granite tiles from the local tile shop and placed them in our shadecloth veggie patch.
Once in position, the crate base was lined with stones - to keep
moles out, and to allow for adequate drainage / prevent compaction
 at the base
 The base of the crate was lined with rocks - to allow for drainage.
one of the layers of alpaca poo
  Then we lined the sides with plastic to prevent the soil washing out, and to retain water.
Lined and layered - it was allowed to settle for a month
Then we layered straw, alpaca poo, soil, straw, alpaca poo, soil, etc (plus some bone meal) until it was full.  it was watered and allowed to "sit" (a.k.a. sink / settle) for a month, after which it was topped up again.

I have always had difficulty growing ginger, turmeric and carrots in our stony, clay beds.  So, I throught I'd try growing them in the raised beds and see if I had more success...

Those turmeric leaves are +/- 4 feet high
Well, I'm please to say the attempt was successful.  The pic above is the turmeric.  Actually, I planted the corms in the wrong season, and forgot about them.  Lo, and behold! one day I spotted growth, and thinking back, I recalled that turmeric had been placed there.
I always think of alpaca's when I see carrot tops
 - they l-o-v-e them ;D
The carrots - they did bloody marvellous mate :D  with no distortion of the carrot due to stones ('cos there were no stones in the bed lol).
My finger gives you something to compared the carrot top to
 I didn't succession plant them (yet) - I wanted to see how they would do.
Matchbox for size indication, and scale weight as proof
 To give you an idea, one carrot weighed 540 gms (19 oz).
Proof that the 540gm carrot was not an isolated thing -
 there are others still in the bed of a similar size.
And there are more like that...  Lots more :D
Yummy, home-made coleslaw
How did it taste?

Absolutely bloody delicious :D  Juicy and sweet.

Half of the 540 gm carrot immediately went into a coleslaw, the rest will make some yummy carrots in honey butter.  And the tops were wolfed down by the alpaca's.

No waste here lol

All that alpaca poo, soil and straw layering definitely paid off.  I'm very happy with the results and will now allocate one of the three raised (crate) beds / year to carrots - rotating each crop between the three.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Biblical fruit

We planted our pomegranate trees 6-odd years ago.  I had read that they are hardy, drought-resistant fruit trees that can handle slightly brackish soil - which is just what we needed 😆  

However, I did them a dis-service by incorrectly pruning them for the first 2 years so our harvest has previously been disappointing.  So disappointing that RMan and I were discussing where it was worth continuing to give them some of our increasingly precious water supply.

Notwithstanding the drought conditions we are currently experiencing, the trees managed to grow 3 dozen-odd fruit between them.  I wonder how much the mulch helped??

I waited until the fruit showed a small crack on the skin and I harvested them at that point - before the birds could eat their fill.  The crack is a result of the seeds expanding within and overcrowding the confined space.  They are said to be at their best at that point.
Pomegranates hanging on the tree
Naturally, we couldn't wait to harvest them.  

It wasn't as difficult to harvest the kernels - I had read various reports on the complexity of doing so but we found it a breeze.
Apparently there are 613 seeds in a pomegranate
A couple were used in salads.
It was quite quick and simple to extract the seeds -
 certainly not as difficult as I had been led to believe it was
 And the rest were blitzed in order to harvest the juice.
The seeds were blitzed to access the juice
The inner "kernel" is a pest, but I discovered that the chickens will eat them - well, some of them.  Perhaps they were given too big a portion for their first taste 😂
The remaining "kernels" were drained in a sieve,
 to get every precious drop.  The chickens were then served
 the remains ;)
After they were blitzed I drained the resulting pulp in the sieve...
5 pomegranates produced 900 ml of pure pomegranate juice
 ...and retained the juice in a jug.

Chilling the jugful overnight in the fridge, we drank it's deliciousness the next morning with our breakfast.

How did it taste?

In a word - absolutely amazing!!

Is is slightly reminiscent of cranberry juice - with a slight tannin aftertaste - but it is amazing and naturally sweet.  Not overpoweringly, but pleasantly so.

I said to RMan, if I was lost in a desert and came across a single pomegranate tree - just one fruit would quench my thirst and give me enough energy to continue on my dry journey.

I will had always wondered how I would extract the juice.  Now I know how, I will be tending these trees more carefully next year.  The more delicious pomegranate juice we can harvest and drink the more RMan and I will love it 😆

T'is a pity I can't dehydrate the juicy pomegranate seeds.  As I hate to waste anything, I think I'm going to investigate drying the juiced kernel remnants and, if I can find a press, I am going to try and extract the oil that resides therein.  I reckon that would be amazing to add to my homemade soap.  Lots of if's - let's see what happens......

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Mid-to-end April 2017

Bearing in mind that we are supposed to be in mid-winter in just over 2 months time, I have absolutely no comment to make about this...

Mid-April 2017 predicted temperatures
... apart from the fact that this is not usual.  Not usual at all...

Add to that these rainfall figures, and you know exactly what is happening here...
The rainfall figures so far this year are very, very worrying...

All that will help is prayers.  Lots and lots and lots of prayers.  Please.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Winter propagation

I'm going to try something I've never tried before.

Propagating during the winter months to give me an early start next spring.
So sad looking - but also a source of future seeds
Yup - I confess, I am someone who prepares for tomorrow, today.  I don't live for tomorrow, but just try and plan ahead whenever I can.  Something done today frees up time tomorrow I believe.

I'm not going to propagate anything fancy - there are just two plants that I want to try and get going early.
The basil plant in my shadecloth veggie patch
 still has some leaves below the flowers
Firstly, I have basil plants in my veggie patch that are all rapidly going to flower.
Propagating basil cuttings in water
I cut some of the basil "flower heads" slightly longer and then removed the flowers.  These were shoved in a pot of water on my kitchen windowsill and, 10 days later, they already have a healthy bunch of roots.  I reckon that as they grow, if I keep cutting off the tops and shoving them in water then maybe - just maybe - I can keep them going through the winter whilst still also "harvesting" from the growing cutting for culinary use...?
Just a touch of (useful) greenery on my kitchen window sill
My second winter propagation plant is going to be my gorgeous yellow heirloom tomatoes.

I have kept loads of seeds from this summer's harvest, so if this doesn't work I'll just do the normal seed sowing come next late-August / early September.

But I have read up that shoving a tomato cutting into water will also cause the cutting to grow roots.  Let's see.

One vegetable that I constantly propagate is onions.
New onions sprouting from small sections of the bulb.
 Top left and top right will grow three new onions when planted.
 The onion top centre will grow two new onions.
Leaving the last 1 - 1.5cm of onion on the root side of the bulb, I place that portion of the bulb in a shallow bowl of water and just let the roots and leaves grow.  Once the roots are long enough I then plant the onion in the ground.   I also take some of the newly sprouting onion leaves and use them like spring onions in a salad.

I have discovered that for every "set" of leaves that sprout on a rooting onion segment I get a whole new onion i.e. 3 sets of newly sprouting leaves on a segment grow 3 new onions - per bulb section.  I never have to plant onion seeds - why should I when the old (mother) bulb remnant does it for me naturally :D
On the left are Jewel sweet potato slips,
 in the middle are my basil cuttings
 and on the right are the ends of onions rooting / sprouting
My kitchen window sill is my go to spot when it comes to rooting plants - it's close by, it gets the autumn / winter afternoon sun, and, being just above the re-purposed two plate caravan stove and next to the kitchen sink, I'm always reminded to check the water level.

Just something to keep me busy during the cold, Rosie-filled, hopefully rainy, winter months... 😂

By the by, for those of us who celebrate it, Happy Easter.  If you're driving on the roads, please - be care out there...

Saturday, 8 April 2017

What a week...

...or two it has been!!
Our President stated that his political party - the ANC - comes before
 the country.   Nope -SOUTH AFRICA COMES FIRST JACOB!!!
Our government - or more specifically our President - threw his toys out of the cot, and removed two of the most hard-working, excellent and ethical ministers from their top positions in Cabinet (namely the Minister and Deputy Minister of Finance) for what is generally seen as: 

1) a way of installing unaffordable nuclear power for the benefit of his cronies who own uranium mines;
2) earning the "cut" the Russians have apparently promised;
3) plunging this country into a debt so large that it will take until 2100 to start recovering from;

- basically, the firing of Mr Gordan and Mr Jonas is a blatant act of capturing the next helping of illicit income he can take from the people of this country.

This willful, illogical action has resulted in South Africa being downgraded by two ratings agencies (Standard & Poor and Fitch - with Moody's reserving judgment - for now) - to JUNK status.  Good job, Jacob!!!

So, RMan and I responded to the call to action and took part in a nationwide (peaceful) protest yesterday.

The government states only 60 000 people took part, but those who called the protest place the number who took part above 220 000.  The fear of violence kept many people away, I reckon.  Thankfully there were only 4 - 5 incidents of intimidation in the entire country - and those incidents were nothing major.  it could've been much, much worse!

From the sounds of it, there'll be more action next week - and I'm THERE!!!  And, hopefully, now that the "fear" of intimidation/ counter reaction has been removed, more people will respond to the call to action.

But, back to more mundane matters...

The mulch we put down certainly helped in the veggie patches.

Harvesting and preserving has been going on at a steady pace.
 Piquanté Peppers are bountiful this year and have been both pickled and dried in the Foothills DryAway.
The dried ones have been turned into Piquanté Pepper powder - for sprinkling on top of scrambled eggs, omelettes, roast chickens, pizza's, etc.
Jars of pickled peppers for RSon, Natasha and us.  The next
 batch will be for gifts...
Tomatoes, also, were brilliant.  They were coming out of my ears at one stage ;)

I love heirloom tomatoes :D

Again, some tomatoes were dehydrated and I now have sun-dried tomatoes residing in my fridge for those grey winter's days when one needs sight and reminder of brighter days.
Homegrown heirloom tomatoes - drying in the
 Foothills DryAway
Although tomatoes take more time to dry than other vegetables, the end product is well worth the effort.
Perfectly dried sundried tomatoes
  The majority, though, were boiled / simmered in their own juice until they...
Sweat the entire (skins, seeds and flesh) tomatoes slowly
 until they produce enough  liquid to simmer in order to reduce
 the mixture down before  blitzing
 ... reduced down to become...
Blitz the reduced tomato mixture (skins, seeds and all) until
 you have a smooth tomato mush which is slowly reduced
 until thick enough.
...containers and ice trays full of tomato concentrate.  Plain tomato concentrate with not a single chemical additive.  These are also waiting in my freezer.
Finally, to help counter the cost of keeping them, I also managed to successfully grow sunflowers this year.
The easiest way to remove the sunflowers seeds is with the
 assistance of a fork.  Much kinder on the hands ;)
Getting the seeds out of the flowerhead isn't the easiest, but when you see the amount you've harvested it's well worth the effort.
Gorgeous sunflower seeds - for the chickens and for us :D
The chickens will love them over the winter months.
It's a messy business removing the sunflower
 seeds from the dried flowerhead
Be warned though, getting the sunflower seeds from the flower heads is a messy job, and best done outside :)

For info on how you can obtain your own Foothills DryAway solar / wind food dehydrator please click the link.