"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

Saturday, 27 August 2016

What an ecological catastrophe

Have you seen these images?

Sarajevo ski jump 1984 winter games

Baseball venue at Hellenikon Olympic complex in Athens

Beach volleyball venue 2008 Beijing Olympics

Swimming pool Olympic Village Athens

(All images above from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3730579/As-Rio-Olympics-kicks-eerie-photographs-reveal-derelict-sites-past-games.html)

I was aghast!!  What an ecological tragedy, an unmitigated waste of money, concrete, resources and an absolute affront to this planet.

I have never done anything like this before, but I couldn't help myself.

I established the contact details for the Chairman of the IOC and sent him a letter.

"16 August 2016

Attention:  Mr Thomas Bach
Route de Vidy 9
1007 Lausanne

Dear Mr Bach

“The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” (source:  https://www.olympic.org/the-ioc/promote-olympism)

I viewed all the images, and read the following article, with absolute horror:

What an ecological / recycling / financial nightmare – all in the name of the Olympics.  Surely, one of the aims of the Olympics should be for it to be more globally sustainable, and with the minimum of negative impact on our fragile planet / global ecosystem?

With that in mind, perhaps something positive can come from this disaster because what immediately sprang to my mind was the following question.

Why on earth hasn’t the IOC adapted to modern times?

How could this be achieved?

Re-use, re-purpose.

There are winter games, and summer games – so the Olympics are already “fragmented”.

Plus, with all previous 26 individual Olympic hosts (see appendix 1), not everyone was able to accommodate all the disciplines e.g. I understand that golf has only 3 venues
Appendix 1
If the larger summer games were segmented according to weather and sport classification /discipline and each “group” (see appendix 2) was hosted in different countries, instead of just one country, then the immense logistic and financial load could be shared amongst those countries.  Adopting such an Olympics Games allocation would then allow for that diminished financial outlay / burden to be allocated more proactively within the hosting country e.g. given the financial situation worldwide, and especially with the number of poor and starving in Rio, it could not actually afford to build the stadiums it did.  But because it wanted to expose the country to a larger (future tourist) audience it applied to host the games.  How much more could have been done for that country’s benefit and the long term benefit its inhabitants, without that immense expense of hosting the entire Olympics? 
Appendix 2
Furthermore, this would prevent scenes like those in the link above from occurring, as the combined existing 26 various Olympic venues would be in more regular use.

Instead of the single host country building a plethora of brand new Olympic stadiums – for a once-off 16-odd day use – why couldn’t the various events be allocated to those countries who have already built those enormous facilities?

That wouldn’t prevent new hosts from entering the future Olympic hosting scene.  In fact, knowing that they will not have that enormous logistic burden and capital outlay, it would probably encourage new hosts to apply for the privilege of hosting a single Olympic “group”.

To my mind holding water (swimming / diving / waterpolo) segment of the Olympics in cold places like Russia / Stockholm / Antwerp / Helsinki to name a few is crazy.  Rather, why not allow places which have the appropriate hot weather - like Saudi Arabia / Los Angeles / Barcelona / Brazil / Australia / South Africa - to be the revolving hosts of that particular discipline?  The additional strain on athletes to perform in unsuitable weather is surely not what the Olympics is all about and can’t allow them to perform at their full potential.  The additional handicap of having to run a marathon / 10 000 mtr race in weather that is too hot, or swim in freezing cold water, is surely detrimental to the athletes health – and, I feel, to the broader sport appeal.

And ball sports – all those countries who have hosted the Rugby World Cup, or the Football World Cup – they already have the venues – which, again, are seldom used, but the venues still have to be maintained and income derived from their existence / inherent and on-going costs.  Places, again, like Saudi Arabia / Los Angeles / Barcelona / Brazil / Australia / South Africa would be ideal as an Olympic Rugby 7’s / Football venues – because we (South Africa) have already hosted the Rugby and Football World Cups and thus already have the facilities to be Olympic hosts without having to incur the additional costs in order to host the numerous other Olympic disciplines.

This adaption by the IOC would reduce the total travelling footprint of the athletes and organisers / the international media / and the spectators, and would allow for a much larger, more varied and discipline specific spectator attendance.  How many people can afford to travel the world in order to watch the Olympics in the one host country?  However, if some of the games are held in their own country (or a close neighbouring country) you are more likely to have a greater (physical) audience.

And that doesn’t include the audience who watch the Olympics electronically either.

We are more fortunate than those who hosted the Olympics prior to 1980 as we now have the technology to allow anyone in the world to watch the Olympics via their TV’s or computers.

I believe that the Olympics has the potential to reach an even greater audience than ever before – if you can adapt to the times?

Consider also allocating a week to each discipline “group” – e.g. as per appendix 2, that would be 10 disciplines or a 10 week period – where the events within each group would not run concurrently with any of the other “groups”.  Have you thought of how many additional events that would enable the electronic viewers to watch?  How much additional “broadcasting” income could be derived from the extended TV coverage licences?  How many additional young viewers you could expose to the various disciplines, and who could thus be encouraged to become future sportsmen and women – future Olympians?

Spread the Olympics worldwide – in smaller “groups” of disciplines.  Allow each host country to benefit financially, instead of incurring a debt it takes years for that country to recover from, invariably to the detriment of that country’s inhabitants.

Surely all of the above is the more in line with the spirit and ethos of the Olympics?"

I couldn't sit back and do nothing.  I was too offended.

Obviously there would be various details to work around, but to me it makes total sense.  What do you think?

Update:  Strange how things happen, isn't it?  Complete synchronicity :)  This article was published on Green Times website on Wednesday this week.  Seems to make my suggestion even more appropriate...

Monday, 22 August 2016

Wintry day

Woke up this morning to these wintry views : 
Snow on the mountains behind Swelledam...
It's about bloody time - I've waited ALL winter for these views!  Quite a bit of snow - more than usual - has fallen in South Africa this winter, but this is the first time this winter that it has settled on "our" mountains.  Not a heavy fall, but better than nothing :)
...and snow on the mountains behind Suurbraak
The only thing a day like this calls for is...

... a mug of hot chocolate... (or if I'm honest, a few mugs of hot choccie)

 ... and the Rosie - at full burn :)

Life is good :D

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Hydroponics vs ground 2

Time for an update on the vegetables which I am trialling in our basic hydroponic system.

Once again, I was let down / felt great disappointment with the manufactures of seedlings.

Last year (autumn / winter 2015) I purchased some cabbage seedlings, and they grew wonderfully - only problem was is that they were cauliflower seedlings :(  This year what was labelled as cabbages turned out to be broccoli.
Broccoli not cabbages grrrrrr!
Finding this out at the end of the growing season does not please me!!  The alpacas love cabbage, and they had to go without home grown cabbage yet again.
The soil grown broccoli is still not producing
 and, 3 weeks ago, was roughly half the size
 of the ones in the hydroponic pots
What I have found with the hydroponic vs soil grown plants was that the cabbage broccoli went to seed very quickly in the hydroponic container, but, as can be seen from the pics above and below, the soil grown cabbage is performing much better.

So, cabbage broccoli won't be hydroponic-ed again.
The red cabbages I planted - as you can see
 the soil grown ones are leaps and bounds
 ahead of the hydroponic ones
The peas, on the other hand are working well.
My hydroponic peas - 3 weeks ago
4 weeks ago they looked like the image above...
The hydroponic pea plants today
 ... and today the plants are twice the size / height - at roughly 1.4 mtrs tall.
There are loads of pea pods on the
 hydroponically grown pea plants
Happily, the plants are laden with pea pods too :)

The comparison between the soil grown pea plants and those grown hydroponically?  The land grown ones were planted roughly 5 - 6 weeks before the hydroponic ones so it's not that easy to demonstrate with pics, but I reckon that the hydroponic pea plants have more pods on them.

Do I need to grow them hydroponically?

Nope - they  normally do well in the ground, but I was so excited about the hydroponic system we had set up that I wanted to grow something - anything - to trial it before the coming summer, and peas were all I had to hand at the time.

But, I am satisfied that the system is working.

I will be growing tomatoes and peppers hydroponically this coming summer - as well as in the ground.  Apart from the piquanté peppers, I do not seem to be that successful with normal red / green / yellow / orange capsicum - the plants are permanently in a state of "wilt" no matter how much water I give them, and the peppers themselves seem to be susceptible to rotting on the plant very quickly.

So again, with this experiment, let's see which produces more and which plants do better?

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Mulch rescue

The one thing about having totally free range chickens is that they can play havoc to your best laid plans.
Mulch mess - thanks chickens!!
Take the mulching that we're doing to try and preserve water / assist the plants / veggies / fruit trees to thrive in adverse heat (global warming) conditions and be productive.  The chickens delight in scattering that mulch as far and as wide as they can.

Nope - that doesn't suit me at all!

So, I asked RMan if he could build me a mulch protector.

First things first though, in tidying up the mulch mess, and removing some weeds / grass, around the beds we came across this little fellow.
About 1.5 - 2 feet long - with quite a scary "V"
marking on it's head.  A brown house snake.
Initially, we were a tad concerned, because the single row of scales underneath of the snake seemed to imply that it was poisonous, but it was confirmed as a non-poisonous brown house snake - that delights in eating frogs and mice!
We were told that a single row of scales
below a snake indicates that it is poisonous.
Thank goodness that proved to be an
incorrect theory ;)
It's a pity it was dispatched before we could find out that it wasn't a threat to us, but was, in fact, a very helpful fellow.  But, too late to cry over spilt milk / a deceased snake lol
Thank goodness for the table saw
 that RMan scored from the auction back in 2011
But, I digress - to get back to the mulch protector.

My request to RMan involved him pulling out his table saw which he scored from that auction all those years ago.  I have to say it certainly has come in handy round the property :)
RMan chopping up the 3.0mtr long droppers
Then we grabbed a whole bunch of spare "droppers" (3.0 mtr long lengths of alien vegetation a.k.a. Black Wattle branches / young trunks) which we had in storage for just such an occasion.

With a cut here, and a cut there, plus a whole bunch more, we ended up with this...
Literally within 15 minutes of completing these
 mulch protectors, the chickens arrived to
 confirm that it would work :)
... a mulch protector :)

It involved thumping one middle and two end "posts" into the ground in order to use them as supports for the horizontal cross posts - of which there are two at the front and two at the back.
All it took to make was 10 - 12 X 3mtr long
 "droppers", 3 X support posts,  4 X cross posts,
 umpteen  short vertical posts, and exactly 6 screws
Between the horizontal cross posts we inserted a whole bunch of 300mm high vertical posts which will act as the mulch protector "fence". 
It looks quite cute - and goes with all the other
 wood we have requisitioned for whatever use
Not quite a white picket fence (which we didn't want) but it certainly does the trick!

As for the fruit trees - as they are part of our "food" production, they are going to get some extra special treatment.  More on that in September when it happens...

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Update on Snoops

Snoopy has been with us just over a month, and is settling in nicely.

I think I know why Snoopy - or Squeak as she has been renamed - is so skittish.

A few weeks ago whilst sitting on my TV chair on evening, she came, as usual, to join me / take command of my lap.  She started "kneading" my soft gown, and I noticed that she was biting my gown at the same time.  It reminded me of a cat we had years ago who had kittens - what she was doing was "kneading to make the milk flow" and the biting action was reminiscent of her sucking on her mum's nipple.
Snoop - Squeak kneading and biting my gown
So I think that Snoop / Squeak was :

1)  A wild kitten who was taken from her mother through a accident (to the mum) and a human found her and took her in;
2)  Was just plain sold (by an "informal settlement" individual) in order to make some dosh.  That is a terrible situation - where those "individuals" over breed their pets in order to sell their offspring - they stand in the middle of the road and hold animals up by the scruff of their necks.  When you pass by they threaten to drop the animal under the wheels of the car unless you buy them.  She must've been still too young to leave her mother...
She has become brave enough to venture outside
 and catch some rays - keeping a watchful eye out
for the rooster - whom she isn't crazy about.
 Invariably though she positions herself so that
 she can watch the wild birds at the bird feeder /
 nectar bottles.
Snoopy - now Squeak - is so named because she doesn't "meow" she only gives a plaintive immature kitten-ish squeak.

If she hears a vehicle arriving she bolts to hide behind the records in the cupboard - absolutely terrified.  And will remain hidden for a good few hours.

No wonder she was freaked out when she arrived here - hiding under the bed for 2 days.  The 3 hour car trip here must've been sheer hell for her.
Squeaks new bed
I do not believe that it is healthy for a cat should sleep on a human's bed, and so she was locked out of our bedroom at night.

She proceeded to scratch at out door, and "squeak" until we let her in.  

Hmm - why would she do that?  There has to be a reason...

Giving it some thought I said to RMan that I think she is cold.

So the next time we went to town, we purchased her a cat bed - with high sides to protect her from the draught from the window which we leave open for her.
The catnip I rubbed all over the inside
 certainly seems to have helped make
 her feel right at home
Rubbing some catnip on the inside of the bed soon had her exploring it, and that first night she settled herself into the bed whilst we watched TV.

She knows exactly when we are going to go to bed, and puts herself into her snug place whilst we are tidying up before heading to our bedroom.

Clever kitty :)

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Winter for some, and summer for others

I fortuitously met up with a wholesale seed supplier at our local co-op the other day and asked him why I was unable to find watercress seeds.

It turns out that apparently they have been classified as "alien" plants and they are not allowed to sell them anymore.


They are so incredibly rich in nutrients.  And a good source of Vitamin A & C, and, like swiss chard, especially high in Vitamin K.

Damn - I wanted to grow them firstly for the fresh greens, and secondly for the seeds so that I can sprout them next winter.

So, here's a question for you all.  Does anyone have any watercress plants that they would be willing to send me a cutting (with roots) of?  Or can you find edible (health section) or crop seeds in your local store?

I am willing to swop seeds with whosoever has access to watercress.  I've got heirloom yellow, black and red tomatoes, mung beans, piquanté pepper and broadbean seeds to offer.  Take your pick :D

Anyway, talking about broadbeans (fava beans), back to today's posting.

It is really strange to me to read on overseas blogs that you are growing peas and broadbeans - in summer.  They only grow here in winter.

When it comes to shelling them, I plug my MP3 player into my ears, switch it on and settle down for a music session - the time passes in a wink ;)
Broad beans and peas - a delicious winter
 treat here
I have been steadily harvesting both for quite a few of weeks, and although RMan isn't mad about broadbeans I manage to get him to eat them by removing both the outer pod, and the inner capsule.  Tedious, but worth it to get the goodness inside him.

(To twice shell - place the inner encapsulated broad bean in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Thereafter the capsule will easily slide off the inner bean.  Dogs L-O-V-E that inner capsule - Scallywag couldn't get enough of them, but strangely enough wasn't mad about the actual inner bean).

Last week I made each of us a crustless quiche and added both peas and broadbeans to it.  Yum - that was stunningly delicious - even RMan enjoyed it (but it could also have been the bacon bits that I added to his one ;)

Tonight I am making chicken à la king - with twice shelled broadbeans added to the sauce lol  He wont even notice...

But, my most favourite recipe for broadbeans is just warm, twice shelled beans with a knob of butter splashed with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkling of S & P to taste.
A full 456 grams of broadbeans, and 256gms
of freshly shelled peas.  What more could I ask
Peas - those he'll happily shell and munch on in their raw state - and the balance, after a quick blanch, I'm popping in the freezer for use next summer when it is too hot to grow them here.

For those who are interested here is the crustless quiche recipe:

Peel, slice and chop an onion and brown in a little oil.  Set aside.
If you're adding bacon bits, use the same frying pan and par cook them.
Add the onions and bacon bits to the shelled broadbeans and peas.
Break into a bowl and beat as many eggs as you are going to use. To this add seasonings as required - salt, pepper, garlic, herbs, etc - and a splash of milk.
Add the broadbeans, peas, onions and bacon bits into your beaten egg mixture and pour into a well oiled / buttered casserole dish / deep baking tray.
Add sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkle with grated cheese
Cook in a 180oC oven until the egg is set and firm to the touch - roughly ½ - ¾ hour

I have not given quantities as it will vary according to how many people you are serving - and that adjustment is common sense.

It is also a brilliant way of using up a surplus of fresh, free-range chicken eggs :D  God bless my chickies.

(The only shop bought items in that meal was the seasonings, grated cheese and the bacon bits for RMan ;)  )

What are your favourite broadbean (fava bean) recipes?

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Feeding the feathered wildlife

I feel so sorry for the wild birds in winter.  Seed is at a minimum, it's cold (and wet), and they are busy formulating their eggs for laying in Spring.
Our sugar water bird feeder
So, apart from our sugar water feeder, I try and give them some seed.
Grrrrrrr!  Those chickens just love the exact spot
where I throw the wild bird seed every evening!
I have been scattering it on the grass, but those wily 100% free range chickens and the rooster have found the spot where I normally throw a handful out for the wild birds in the late afternoon.
Their 24 / 7 / 365 source of food - apart from
 the entire garden...!!
Which chases away the wild birds so that they can eat the seed.  Given the gourmet food (laying pellets, sunflower seeds, pearl barley, crushed corn and lentils - not to mention the grated carrot and cabbage as a treat) that the chickens are provided with on a 24 / 7 / 365 basis, it doesn't sit comfortably with me that they need to guzzle the wild birds food as well.
Pretty - but surely a lot of seed must spill on
 the ground?
I have posted before about recycling plastic containers into bird feeders, but the above pic seems to me to be very wasteful.  All that seed on the spoon section that will fall on the ground.
I still want to make
one of these bird
houses one day
The bird house (above) is brilliant - if I could find a 3 litre milk bottle.  The largest we have in the shops in our town are 2 litre bottles.

So, I applied myself, and have come up with the following:
My simple version of a bird feeder which
 doesn't spill seed on the ground (and
 feel the chickens or grow potential weeds!)
It is a recycled 2 litre milk bottle into which I have cut a roughly 7cm (h) X 8cm (w) hole in the middle, and two smaller holes on the front and back of the bottle in order to insert a dowel rod for the birds to stand on to access the seed in the bottle.  I didn't cut a hole either side of the bottle because, with the wind we have here, I was worried that the seed would just blow straight out the other side.

Hanging in the shade, the plastic bottle should last a good long while, but it is so easy to make, that replacing it with another empty milk bottle when it perishes will take exactly 5 minutes.

I have assured RMan that I will not be decorating all the trees on our smallholding with milk bottles - and will limit myself, and the birds, to just two bottles :D
The little overhang certainly prevents the
 rainwater from entering the bottle and the
 dowel rod works well as a food perch
When I cut out the hole I left a small lip on the top to deflect rainwater away from the seed,
The dowel rod pokes right through the bottle
 feeder - and waiting birds take advantage
 of the handy perch close to the food
Also, as I discovered, you need to silicone in both sides of the bottle by the the dowel rod - and the two holes by the neck of the bottle through which the hanging wire is threaded.  Otherwise the rainwater drips through into the seed :(
That 5-odd cms of seed storage is perfectly
 large enough to hold food for 4 - 5 days.
 But, I have even seen a bird inside the bottle
grabbing the last of the seed lol
I placed the feeder in the tree, and I lie not - within 10 minutes the birds had found it, and they haven't left since...
Queueing up impatiently - I wish you could
see / hear the squabbles when a bird - any bird
 takes too long on the dowel rod...
 ... even to the point that huge barney's happen if a bird takes too long and monopolizes the perch for too long.
Some are patient, and some
 just can't wait!

Queueing up wherever they can -
even searching for spilt seed on the
 ground will do...
I have to replenish the seed every 4 - 5 days.  That's not too much of a hassle.

And the thought that local birds go to sleep at night with full tummies makes me happy.

I just wish it was as easy to help all the undernourished, starving children go to sleep at night with a full tummy too...

Saturday, 16 July 2016

It's too soon...

... for this to be happening.

I checked back on my blog, and the earliest we have had spring blossoms on our plum trees was the middle of August.
Whaaat?  Spring blossom on the plum tree already?
 That's nuts!!
The first blossoms started appearing in the first week of July, and today the show is even more impressive.
As early as they are, they are gorgeous, aren't
 they :)
But, it hasn't been cold enough, and even our apple trees still have last seasons leaves on them?!
Our young apple trees still have their leaves?!
And, for goodness sake, even my roses are still flowering.
The rose bush by our front entrance steps
 is still in flower - how can I prune it?
I am supposed to prune them this month!!
Stunning - even if it's a tardy bloom
But then I read this:
(more details can be found here:
...and I wonder why I am surprised.

I realized this morning that have not used any of my warm jackets once this winter yet!  Jersey's yes, but jackets?  Nope, they're still in my cupboard.

I wonder what this bodes for the upcoming summer?  That (massive) shade cloth structure over our fruit trees may become a serious necessity...

Update on Snoopy - she is settling in really well.  She is eating well and happily venturing outside to find out what is going on...
So close but yet so far -
Snoopy watching the birds at the
bird feeder - more on that next time...
... especially at night.  We can hear her easing herself (noisily) out of the lounge window as we fall asleep ;)