"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

Monday, 2 May 2016

Growing mung beans

I always buy dried mung beans in order to sprout them during winter.  Just having those to munch on prevents withdrawals of crispy fresh produce during the colder months of the year.

This year I wanted to grow some more chick peas.

But, I accidentally grabbed a handful of Mung beans from the pantry.  My brain was obviously elsewhere - thank goodness I went to the right cupboard though lol

It was only once I had chucked them in the ground of the one raised bed, and had just covered them with soil, that I realized I had sown the wrong crop lol

Never mind.  I thought I'd let them grow and see what happened.

What a stroke of fortune.
A fortuitous, accidental crop of mung beans is
growing in one of my raised veggie beds
The mung bean plant is roughly 40 - 50cms (15 - 20") high and wide.  Given it's compact shape and size, it would be an ideal plant to grow in pots on a balcony too.  Perfect for using as a companion plant with next summers chard, eggplant, raddish and tomatoes, it will also provide some important shade for the ground at the base of those pants.

It is quite a bushy and compact plant.  I planted these quite late in the season, and the plants didn't send out runners and therefore didn't require bean supports and just got on with what they do best - grow mung beans.
Fresh mung beans in a pod
The pods are about 7 - 8cms long and 3 - 4 mm wide.  

Inside, the fresh mung beans sit snugly in their pod.  They are roughly twice the size of a dried mung bean.

And the taste...?

Almost ethereal lol  They are very delicate tasting and different to rehydrated / sprouted beans.
Fresh mung beans compared to dried beans
Honestly, it is quite fiddly to remove the beans from the small, tight green pod, but is well worth the effort.  The dry, dark brown pods 'crack' open quite easily though.

The beauty is, each mung bean plant grown from a single seed will provide 30 - 40 pods per plant or roughly 150 - 250 individual fresh, or future dried mung beans.  The pods form 4 pods together on the plant.  The mung bean plant can hold both fresh green pods, and dark brown pods (which encase the dried mung bean).

(Don't forget to freeze the shelled, harvested dried beans for 24 hours before storing in an air tight jar in your pantry. This helps to prevent weevils infesting your dried beans.)

Apart from providing that necessary crunch factor, mung beans are good for you too.  Check out their health benefits here.

One less thing to cross off my future shopping lists :)

Saturday, 23 April 2016

New project revealed

Warning: a long, and picture heavy posting...

Today the new project RMan and I have just completed is revealed.

Last summer was an eye opener - the daytime temperatures soared to new record levels.  We experienced such heat that even RMan, who is definitely a summer person, was wilting.  We even talked about possibly covering (!?) our fruit trees in a shade cloth structure in future.  Thank goodness for our double glazing and double vaulted ceiling - the temperatures inside the house were comfortable and non-restricting.

However, my plants still suffered.  Even though we had taken the precaution of laying down plenty of mulch, the ambient temperature was too high for the leaves.

As for my veggies - too many of them bolted and formed early seed heads, and those that did managed to produce didn't produce their normal quantity.  Obviously they were under too much stress...  Except for the pumpkins in the tyres filled with alpaca poo.  They were the absolute stars of the garden :)

But, given that global warming / climate change is not going to "go away" I had to try and overcome this latest problem proactively.  And I had to overcome it in such a way that I could ensure guaranteed growing of our veggies (whilst still remaining aware of our water availability) going forward.

I am not someone who just reacts, and then sits and bewails my fate.  Rather, I prefer to take a proactive approach to whatever problem has presented itself ;)

So, to give you a quick reminder of the hints I've given you:

So, what did we do with all of this, and what has this to do with growing crops in the face of evident global warming / climate change?

Taaaa Daaaaa!
We mounted the drilled 110mm pipe to the
sides of the shadecloth veggie patch walls.
 I have left the holes in the 110mm pipe which
do not yet contain plants / pots covered so
that they do not permit light into the pipe and
cause algae to grow
Along the inside of the outer "walls" the original shadecloth veggie patch we have installed a hydroponic system for those plants which are water hungry.  Lettuce, raddish, peppers, possibly eggplant and even, I'm hoping, tomatoes :)  And this winter I'm also going to try growing some cabbage and broccoli normally in the ground, as a control, and also growing it hydroponically.  Let's see if there's a difference.

Once we had all the components, it took a day to set up, and all indications are that the plants I have growing in it now are loving it.

Being a closed ebb and flow system means that daylight should not cause algae to grow in the water in the pipe / tanks.
Do you remember when RMan went to
 an auction - many moons ago?
Well, the electrical boxes he got there

 finally came in handy :)  It is
housing the power socket and timer
 for the water pump.  The power is from

 a plu in the garage which is 5 mtrs away
The pump is on a timer, and it is currently programmed to switch on every 3-odd hours (during autumn / winter) during the daylight hours for 15 minutes.  (During summer I will set the timer to switch on every 1 - 1.5 hours or  1.5 - 2 hours - the results will guide me.)

The pump is a 28 watt pump, with an adjustable maximum flow rate of 2 200ltrs / hour.  At 28watts and with the timer set to switch on 6 X / day for 15 minutes or 1.5 hours in total) the power consumption should be 42 watts per day.  Our solar system won't even notice it lol

The water is pumped from the pump tank via a 12mm irrigation pipe up into the 110mm pipe and floods the 110mm pipe and thus the plant pots containing the seedlings, coconut coir and vermiculite mix.   The small stones I placed at the base of the pots is to prevent the coconut coir / vermiculite mix from being washed out during the flooding.
Detail of the water flow out of the 100mm
 pipe into the "feeding" tankbefore being
gravity fed back to the pump tank.  When the
water lands in this tank, it splashes, causing air
to be mixed in with the water.  If I should find this
 isn't  sufficient, I will add a 2 watt airstone which
 I  already have to the pump tank.
The overflow / drainage from the flooded pipe is directed to a filtering / feeding tank (to which a dose of seaweed extract and an alpaca poo half-filled stocking has been added and which will be replaced weekly) which then drains back to the tank containing the water pump via gravity.
Tank containing the 28 watt water pump
Round and round and round - well, life is a circle isn't it :)

Given that potatoes are now costing anywhere from ZAR73.00++ / 5kgs, the veggie beds, which housed the plants which are now going to be grown in the hydroponic system, can now grow potatoes instead :)  (we eat l-o-t-s of potatoes lol  Mashed, baked, roast, plain boiled and served with a dollop of parsley butter, pomme frites, potato salad, pommes dauphinoise, gratin, etc.)
Las summer pumpkins grown in alpaca filled tyres
 and the shoots were suspended along the fence
 of the uncovered veggie patch.
Pumpkins - they worked so well that they'll still be grown in alpaca poo filled tyres next summer...
Raised veggie bed during construction
... garlic, ginger, swiss chard and carrots will be grown in my raised veggie beds, and as for beans - they may end up in the raised beds and / or the hydroponic system too.  Maybe, like the cabbage and broccoli, I'll try both methods of growing beans - just for comparison...?

Beetroot and onions grow well in my shadecloth veggie bed ground, so that's where they'll stay.

I reckon the shadecloth veggie patch is going to look very forest garden-y next summer :)

And that covers all the veggies I normally grow.

Saving water, helping vegetable plants grow, and working on continuing to provide food in the face of global warming / climate change.  I hope our hydroponic system works as anticipated...


All the little tiny side shoots are new and
 have developed since I placed this lettuce seedling
 in the hydroponic system.
Postscript since writing this earlier this week:  The small lettuce plants which I removed from the soil about 10 days ago, washed the soil off the roots, and placed in the vermiculite and coconut coir filled pots in the hydroponic system have already grown new roots!!  :)
I chucked a couple of pea seeds into three pots -
 they are just beginning to peep out.  I also have
 peas growing in the ground (which were planted a
month or so ago) - let's see which do better /
are more prolific providers...
Also,some pea seeds have just peeked above ground (or should that be coconut coir).  Welcome, little guys :)

Monday, 18 April 2016

New project - part 3

I have mentioned before that there are plenty of stones in our area.  Not many large, useful ones, but many, many, many small irritating ones.  The size that are just perfect for distorting carrots which are trying to grow, or prevent RMan from raking up freshly scythed oats.

The stones on the road wash down whenever we have heavy rain (something I have a vague memory of - we have had exactly 1.5mm of rain thus far this month.  Previous years: 2014 = 33mm, 2015 = 53mm) - all different sizes of stones.  And, serendipitously, some of the stones are exactly the right size for my purpose. 
Soil test results.  The yellowed in area's show
When we had our soil tested back in October 2014, the knowledgeable gentleman we saw told us that we should be grateful for those stones, as they contain valuable trace minerals which are beneficial for the garden.
The small pebbles were boiled for 10 minutes
So, off I toddled to our gate and harvested stones (pebbles) from the road.  I never thought I would import additional stones onto our property...

I boiled up the stones to make sure that they didn't contain any unfriendly pathogens.
To assist in water reaching inside the pot,
 RMan hauled out his drill
Then RMan, drilled some holes into the plant pots we had purchased...
I used the drilled plant pots to sort out
 exactly the size I required
... and I lined each pot with a thin layer.
Pebbles line the base of the pots
They will prevent the soon-to-be contents of the pots from leaving the pot, whilst still adding some of their trace minerals to the water as it flows through and past them...

Saturday, 16 April 2016

New project - part 2

More parts / components for our latest project...

A set of cutting discs was purchased.  Why a set,
 I've no idea?  Ask RMan

The 6 mtr long 100mm Ø pipe was
 marked with a 
line down the middle...

... and then 87mm Ø holes
were drilled along the
marked line at 250mm