"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, 22 October 2016

Reminiscing on the simpler times

I read something recently on a friends Facebook page which lead me down memory lane.  I remembered that all too well, so, for the benefit of history, I am reposting what he had on his post today, but I have added more personal memories to it too.

Original posting
I was born in Tidworth, Hampshire and in my first few years lived on an air force base, and at the age of 5 my family emigrated to South Africa.  I grew up (mainly) in Cape Town and I am proud of my humble beginnings...

I am one of 6 children born to my parents - 4 sons and 2 daughters.

It was at a time when everyone treated each other like Family, and, as a sign of respect, every mature female that came to your house was "Auntie or Tannie" - even if they were no relation.

We ran around barefoot (wearing shoes was kept for "going out" with parents only), and we went outside to play on the streets where we built dens and climbed trees, made swings in trees, and see-saws out of a builders plank slung over a fallen tree trunk, go-carts were made out of rough wood with unused baby pram wheels and they had a basic pull-rope-push-feet steering mechanism, and catapults were fashioned from suitably sturdy twigs with the projectile propelling elastic (always kept to hand for replacing the worn elastic in underwear) being requisitioned from Mum's sewing box.  And for those with itchy fingers, finger knitting was done using a wooden spool.  
Finger knitting

This one uses wire, but we used scraps of wool
Scooby doo's were another favourite.  These, once complete, were dangled from simple plastic "bracelets" - worn proudly as evidence of our endeavours..

We didn't eat fast food...  We ate jam sarnies, home made food and chips cooked in a lard chip pan. Our plates were empty (including the vegetables) at the end of the meal, or we didn't get the occasional treat - pudding!

We got ice cream from within the depths of the enormous (to us) dry ice filled cooler box fixed on the front or back of the ice-cream boy's bicycle, and we had our milk (in glass bottles) delivered by the milk man. For special occasions, he also delivered orange juice in glass bottles.  (Small bottles of milk and juice were handed out in junior school at 1st break too and were consumed with a sarnie - if we were lucky enough to have one.)

We played jacks, hopscotch, rounders and marbles, Hide and Seek, Wolfie- Wolfie and tok-tokkie (knocking on a door, and running away - preferably hiding before the door was opened and you were "caught out" being naughty).   

After a good rainfall, the favourite afternoon entertainment in our neighbourhood was going further than where our Mum could see us, to somewhere we could find a large rainwater puddle.  Apart from jumping around in the puddle, tossing stones into that puddle and watching the resultant splash caused much entertainment, merriment and competition.  That particular form of entertainment was curtailed after one of my brother's decided to lob a large(r) rock into the pond (to make a bigger splash?), and my head was in the way.  That lark cost me 8 stitches.  After I came round, I discovered that the blood was everywhere and it seemed like the injury was more severe than it was 
(and my mother probably aged dramatically that afternoon).  Mind you - have I been normal since then...?  bwahaha

There was no bottled water.  Everyone drank water from the tap or the garden hose, and, if we had a (glass) bottled cooldrink we would share the same bottle of pop with whoever was there... after giving it a wipe with our mucky sleeves or the palm of our hands.

Wicks King Size and Chappies bubble gum - they kept us entertained for hours.  1d got you 4 Chappies back in the day!!!  I wonder how many "semi-antique" pieces of furniture still carry the hidden remnants of chewed bubble gum.

We had no kids tv channels and rode on our bikes for hours.

Any research information that was required involved getting yourself to a library, rifling through their reference card drawers, finding the book identifying number and then looking up the information in that particular volume of one of the many varied and vast sets of encyclopedias.  Google - although extremely helpful, certainly does not lead a child on a knowledge "treasure hunt".

We either cycled or we walked - sometimes miles - to the bus stop or railway station in order to get to school - no lift clubs existed then.

Making your bed, (hand) washing - and drying - the dishes, feeding the pets and completing countless other chores - they were expected of you, you didn't argue, and you performed them to the best of your abilities.

There was no such thing as a mobile phone or any other electronic device.  If I recall correctly, the only electric items in our house was the precious (valve) Grundig radio, the (non-steam) iron, a couple of heaters, the vacuum cleaner, a kettle and the stove.  The transistor radio was yet to happen...

Our Gundig radio eventually got replaced by a hi-fi cabinet and the turntable played vinyl 7 singles (played at 45 rpm) or LP's (played at 33.3 rpm).  No CD's, no iPods, no iPhones in those days.

Light globes had bakerlite fittings, and both the wall mounted and side light switches and telephones were made from bakerlite too.  They all lasted for ages.

Lawnmowers were either a manual push version or a petrol driven forward rotating blade one - if you were one of the more fortunate families.

Wooden doll houses / doll prams and push chairs, scooters and bicycles were the most sought after and cherished birthday and Christmas gifts.  An added bicycle bell was an bonus - and, again, often became a much anticipated future birthday or Christmas gift.  A bit if a b*tch if your birthday fell during the early months in the year - you had to wait yonks until Christmas or your birthday came around again...  But wait you did.

Otherwise a wooden or cardboard box and our imaginations sufficed.

Designer labels were unheard of - you were grateful for having clothing, and new clothing was reserved for birthdays or Christmas gifts.  The rest of the time hand-me-downs were the norm.  I remember once - I think I was turning 7 or 8 - being given a new pair of shortie pyjamas as a birthday gift.  Being excited about what I was going to receive, I couldn't wait for my birthday so I went "investigating"  Needless to say, I found my gift and had a preview.  Although terribly pleased with the choice I was disappointed as now I had no surprise left to look forward to.

Evenings were spent as a family listening to our favourite "soapie" on the radio in the lounge - "No Place to Hide" - with Mark Saxon and Sergei Grimiko (sp?) as the main characters.  Or, for a scarier evening "The Creaking Door".  As we became teenagers, my elder brothers created a wall chart of the hits played on "Springbok Radio's Top 20" - with the Beatles being the favourite group to chart, and the Rolling Stones begrudgingly allowed on the chart as comparison.  No spreadsheets - no computers...

Rainy days were spent playing board games (snakes & ladders / scrabble / etc) or reading or knitting (mainly dolls clothes lol)

We weren't AFRAID OF ANYTHING. If someone had a fight, that's what it was...a fist fight.  Kids didn't have guns or knives.

The street lights were your curfew or until your mum shouted out the window. School was mandatory, but you'd could (apparently - although I never did) still bunk a couple of lessons every now and then. 

We watched our mouths around our elders because we knew we'd get a "clap" with a belt or shoe, slipper, wooden spoon...  Talking back was not an option!

My favourite after school lunch was white sugar sprinkled on buttered bread (margarine hadn't been invented yet), and, on special occasions, condensed milk on buttered bread.  (Maybe I was more active after school than during - dunno, don't remember.  There again, with all the outside playing that occured in the afternoons we probably needed the energy boost...)

When, and why, did childhood become so complicated?

Life was simple then - and our imaginations played the most important role in our lives.  Children were allowed to be children then, not young adults.

Times certainly have changed haven't they...!?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Fish conundrum

It has been a melancholy week in my part of the world.

Firstly, I am concerned about the presidential candidates in the US of A.  From where I sit neither of the candidates are going to be beneficial leaders - either for that country, nor amongst the leaders of the First World order.

I will not be directly impacted by this on a day to day basis as I do not live in the US - but, whoever is president will affect the country I am living in, and the country of my birth through their foreign policies and trade deals.

Maybe I'm wrong.  I hope so.

And then you add the events unfolding in this country.

Perhaps you haven't heard anything about them - South Africa is, after all, a minor irritation in the grand scheme of things.  But, for us who live here, the potential of it sliding into another Zimbabwe is great at the present time.

I have felt like crying - and have had a throat constricted with emotion.  With despair in my heart, and dread in my soul.

I have been disheartened, disillusioned, distraught and devastated at the unconscionable political shenanigans unfolding daily in this country.

Great shuddering sobs want to emanate from within me.

I weep for this country.

I weep together with the despairing millions who live in this country. Those millions who continue to suffer because of the actions of unaccountable selfish, self-centered, greedy and ruthless people in positions of power - powerful people who care absolutely nothing for those who elected them into those positions - those powerful people whom they still trust to fulfil the election promises they were / are fed and the traditional leaders who sway them into believing that the leopards are going to change their spots.

When will this country again be given a chance to shine - to fulfil the amazing promise it has already displayed. That promise that was given accolades by the world for the peaceful transformation and transition from oppressed to free.

Or is it already too late...

Despair floods my heart and soul.

And finally, the other issue I have been agitated and fretting about is fish.
Fish is the mainstay of millions of people around the world.  

Meat - in most cases that is completely unaffordable for the majority them.  Majority being not millions but billions of people.  Their main source of protein and minerals / trace elements are derived from the fish they consume.

Although I do not touch red meat - in any form - I do thoroughly enjoy my fish once or twice a week.

But a few articles from around my world have caught my attention recently.

One of them is regarding the contamination of marine fish due to the leaking Fukushima nuclear power plant.  You don't hear much about it anymore, but, boy, that leak is still ongoing.

There is no magical wall in the ocean to prevent that contamination from spreading - affecting anything that it comes across in the water.

And that includes the fish we all eat.

Fish from the deep, fish from the shallows.  All is becoming contaminated.

There is no magical wall...

I would prefer not to consume fish contaminated with radioactive waste if I am able.

So I thought that perhaps, if I could find a trout farmer in our area I could get my fish fix from that source - but, there are none that I can find!  I can't even find frozen trout.  Is there such a thing?  Or canned???

I've never seen either.

Finally, I read this article this week:


I know that all of these things that I have mentioned above are out of my control - I can do tiddly squat about them - but still they concern me...

< sigh >

My apologies for a negative posting - I'm sure that next week I will be in a better, more positive frame of mind.  Until then...

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Putting chickens to work

...is, I believe half the point of having chickens.  The other point is their eggs - and their flesh - not that RMan or I would ever be able to kill one...

But getting them to work effectively needs guidance :D

Since we have restricted them to the back area they have had a merry time destroying whatever they can.  That is a chicken's wont though, isn't it ;)
The previous poo pile worked - after a fashion
And once we had removed the black plastic cover from on top of our alpaca poo pile, creating havoc out in our alpaca poo area was one of their greatest delights.
But, as a chicken claw or two and soon the
alpaca poo was widely distributed where it
wasn't wanted
So, we had to step in and create some order out of their chaos.

Once again, the 3 mtr long alien Black Wattle "droppers" we have in the tractor shed came to our rescue.  ("Droppers" are so named because they are normally "dropped" in along a barbed wire fence to add some strength / stability to the long expanses of wire.)
Black wattle "droppers" to the rescue once again
Once again RMan used the garage entrance / door to square off the "frame" before screwing the pieces together.
One of the side frames before it was knocked
 into the ground
Then it was a case of knocking the longer end and middle supports into the ground, and filling the slots with pre-cut pieces of Black Wattle.  Thank goodness we have had a little rain recently - trying to knock anything into this ground in summer, when the soil is baked harder almost than concrete, is not possible.
You can see the far side "wall" is still short of some
"dropper" pieces - but 3 minutes later it was all sorted!
 Ha!  Take that chicks!
The one side was purposely left shorter than the other three.
Te shorter side is just the perfect height
 to use it for wheelbarrow emptying 
That was done so that we could collect the alpaca poo in the wheelbarrow, and then, using the shorter edge as a fulcrum, tip the contents of the wheelbarrow into the newly designated alpaca poo compost pile :)

This year there won't be a shortage of alpaca poo for the veggie beds and fruit trees.

It works a treat - and, because the poo is contained and the chickens aren't scattering the contents far and wide, the contents are keeping them much busier for longer :D   Not only that, but we have caught them sitting on top of the poo "fence" - no doubt providing them with a better view for surveying their kingdom.

A bored chicken gets up to all sorts of mischief!

Sorry it took so long to share, Mum - but there - now you have our solution ;)

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Anyone suffer from arachnophobia?

Living on smallholding certainly keeps you on your toes.
This is quite a bland, boring pic -
 until you look closer...
Given the bird nest debris that washes down from our gutters, the other day I was cleaning out the shadecloth filters that we have at the end of our gutter downpipes where they enter the rain water tanks.
Can you spot the spider?
(between the conifer and the water tank)
Whenever I am outside, I keep my eyes peeled for anything that might be out of the ordinary.  And "this" certainly was out of the ordinary...

Not quite on the level of poisonous snakes, nor deadly scorpions, but, given my abhorrence, it fits in with both the aforementioned quite easily... 

I don't per se, have anachrophobia - at least not to the point that spiders cause me to become a quivering heap of jelly legs.  I ten to give them a wide berth and allow them their space, providing they don't invade mine. 
As curious as I was, it appeared to find my
 presence quite interesting too...
Hovering between the gutter downpipe, and the geranium bush (as seen in the first pic) there was this e-n-o-r-m-o-u-s spiders web.  

The web was quite stunning in construction!  And with the raindrops that clung valiantly to every strand, it was spectacular!

The occupant wasn't that evident - until I went closer, then he / she unfurled itself and came out to greet me..
The markings underneath the spider
It had quite magnificent markings, not to mention the web it had created. 
Upper markings
I have no idea what it is, nor what it eats.

It's body was about 2 - 2.5cms long and roughly .5 cm wide.  The length of the legs - I dunno :D

Didn't fancy trying to measure them either ;)

It was not the biggest I've ever seen, but it was not the smallest either.

It was allowed to remain where it was - it intended me no harm - and would, hopefully, employ itself usefully in the garden.

I wonder if it would like / could handle a mousebird or two... ;)

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Recycling milk bottles in the garden

I long for the days when one could get milk in glass bottles.  But, I long in vain.  All we have available is plastic sachets or plastic bottles.   Grrr!

All the plastic that enters this house is taken to the recycling place in Swellendam.

Being spring here, it is time to get my seedlings going.  But, I needed some way of getting my seedlings going as all my old seedling pots are perishing after 5 years use, so they have been tossed in the recycling bin.

But, I do not want to be buying any unnecessary plastic.

So, I have found a use for the plastic milk bottles I am forced to buy.

There are two different types of milk bottles in SA - this one:
Milk bottle with handle
And this one:
Milk bottle without handle
I prefer buying my milk in this bottle without the handle because I can turn it into a self-watering seedling tray.

Without rinsing the bottles (the slight milk residue adds calcium to the potting soil) I start by cutting the bottle in half.

 With a sharp pair of scissors, cutting the bottle in half takes no time at all :)
 With the two halves separated I then remove the lid...
 ...and invert the top (neck) half into the lower square base.
 If you cut it at the right point in the bottle (the third line from the bottom)...
 ... then the top half slots inside the lower half with approximately 8 - 10 mm of space between the inverted bottle top opening, and the base, thus creating a perfect little dam :)
Self-watering milk bottle seedling pot
After placing the inverted top half into the bottompiece and filling it with a potting soil / alpaca poo mix, you're ready to plant. (In the tomato "seedling pots" I first placed a banana skin at the bottom - underneath all the potting soil mix.  It also adds beneficial calcium to the soil.)

These tomato seeds were planted in the milk seedling pots at the end of August.  As you can see some of them are almost ready to be transplanted.

In those places where I have severe cut worm infestation I'm going to try an experiment and plant some mature seedlings (lettuce / rocket / beans / etc) in situ together with the top half of the bottle - sort of like growing seeds in a soil filled empty loo roll and allowing part of the loo roll to protrude above the soil when the seedlings are transplanted into beds.  The bottle neck hole in the soil will be more than wide enough to allow for the roots of the plants to go through into the proper veggie bed.  Adding a good layer of crushed egg shells to the top soil surface within the "seedling pot" will, hopefully, ensure that at least this year I should have some lettuce growing success :)

When these recycled "pots" perish, it's off to the recycling depot with them :D

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Restricted, but still working

This was a strange winter.  I didn't put on my warm jacket once.
But, surprisingly, we had snow on the mountains which are visible from our smallholding - not once, not twice, but three times!!
It's a pity the snow doesn;t come lower,
but I guess it is better than nothing :)
Normally if that happens only once a winter we are lucky, but three times???

Given our topsy-turvy weather, I have this niggly feeling that this summer is going to be an extra-ordinarily hot one.

So I have to make plans now.

The chickens have had free access to the entire property ever since they arrived here.  Not that you'd know it - they tend to hang as close to the house as they possibly can - trying to wheedle food out of us every time they see us.

And, the new rooster, Tweedle dee's now grown up chick, has decided that RMan will be the target of his displeasure when he feels that the (easy) food distribution is taking too long.
Existing chicken range
The problem with allowing the chickens total free reign is two-fold.

1  They are casting aside whatever mulch we place round fruit trees, grape vines, veggie patches and berry bushes.

2  We run our Cape Town based business from home, and, the rooster has no remorse crowing right by the back and front doors whenever he feels like it.  What our potential, or existing customers think about that noise as background to their telephone conversations I have no idea, and there is no additional charge for the sounds effects, but it is not an ideal situation.

3 Stepping out either the front or back door became an obstacle course - trying to avoid their "parcels".

Plus, I have one chicken who refuses to lay with the others - look what I found under the  bay tree...
As you can tell, I have been searching for her
 eggs for 13 days...
So, we have made a plan.

We decided to restrict their free ranging to the back area - in our lemon orchard.
New chicken range
Being, on average, 38mtrs X 30 mtrs in extent (or 1140mtr2), and considering that they are given a generous amount of chicken feed / laying pellets twice every day (good morning and goodnight) I am not concerned that they are going to suffer.  (Note: Althought the 24/7 feed bucket worked very well, and was hung high enough in the coop to prevent the mice from accessing it, I had to remove it from the coop as the wild birds found it.  Perhaps I will introduce it again next winter...)

The chickens noses are a tad put out of joint, but they'll get used to it ;)  The occasional one has found her way over the new fence, but that generally happens round about the evening feed time, so getting her back into the orchard area is quick and easy - she follows me because I'm holding the chicken feed bucket.
The separation involved running a chicken wire fence down next to the berry area.
New gate to access the lemon trees and the
 chicken coop.
We have placed a gate right next to the coop...
New tractor access gate
... and RMan has made a stonking gate next to the boys paddock so that he can still get his tractor out of the area.

The only problem is we keep our alpaca pool pile in that new chicken area.

We covered it up with heavy black plastic for the winter - to prevent any potential heavy downfalls of rain from "washing the goodness away" and to encourage the pile to heat up and kill any weed seeds.   That also meant that the chickens didn't have access to it - they were tending to scatter it's contents to the wind...
Seems like a small pile of alpaca poo, but we have
already started feeding the plants with a dose of it's
 goodness in anticipation of their bearing fruit / veggies
However, as they will now be restricted to the area where the poo pile is located so that doesn't seem all that clever.

On re-potting a pot plant on our patio last weekend, I also noticed that the soil inside the pot was full of cutworm - which must've come from the alpaca poo pile.

So, exposing the poo pile to the chickens is win-win - they get additional insect protein whilst they're turning over our poo "compost" :D

Oh yes - look what we've got access to...!
Actually, they get (got) more than insects.  As we lifted the black plastic, we spotted a fair sized frog (which they totally ignored) and a mouse - which crouched transfixed at the sudden sunlight / sight of us and the chickens.
One mouse - it had just seconds to
realise what was happening...
It didn't last long though.  One of the chickens spotted it, grabbed it, ran away from the other chickens and, in one gulp, swallowed it.
She is doing that chickens are meant to do -
find the insects in the poo pile - but, in so doing,
 she is scattering the alpaca poo far and wide...
But, what to do about their scattering the gorgeous compost material everywhere?

For that solution, you'll have to wait until it is complete and I can share it with you all... :D

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Plum tree leaf problems

For the last couple of years my plum tree leaves have been quite off - to say the least.
Can anyone tell me why they are distorting like this,..
...and how do I treat it / hep the trees?

I have tried picking off the affected leaves (l-o-n-g job) and burning them, and thought that last year I had sorted out the problem, but obviously not.

It didn't seem to affect the harvest last summer, but it is obviously not right.

Larger res pics - absolutely no sign of aphids...?!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Finally - culinary success

Kymber is forever posting about fermented veggies and kimchi.

And, although I have tried making sauerkraut a number of times, it has alway managed to "achieve an aroma" which put me off, and has caused RMan to throw it away.

I have finally succeeded this winter though.  And I now know why my previous attempts have been a failure.
Fermented cabbage - success at last!
In tryng to make sauerkraut in summer, the ambient room temperature has been too hot.
Home made salad dressing to splash on the
(95% home grown) salad
(our avo trees are still to young to produce),
and homemade fermented cabbage -
easy summer veggies to serve at the drop
 of a hat :)
It was the winter 2016 issue of the go! Platteland magazine that spurred me on to try again this year - with these two recipes.
Fermented cabbage & kimchi recipe
(Recipe courtesy of go! Platteland Winter 2016 issue)
So, with the success of my first trial batch, I got clever.  Not only have I got fermented white cabbage, but I have got fermented red cabbage too ;)  Success, of course, made me giddy - and I know have 6 jars of white and red sauerkraut in the fridge.  Loving ginger as I do, I added about 2.5 cms of peeled, chopped ginger to two of the sauerkraut jars.  I haven't tasted those yet though...

BUT, even if you're an avid fermented cabbage fan, please, make yourself a batch of their sweet and sour pickled cabbage.  It is just too devine :D
Sweet & Sour pickled cabbage recipe
(Recipe courtesy of go! Platteland Winter 2016 issue)
I added some of my preserved piquante peppers to
 this as well as the chillies - yummy...
I am completely hooked on it - and would even eat it with boiled eggs if I could ;)

Very cool!!

I will try and see if I can grow cabbage in my shadelcoth veggie patch this summer and, if I am successful, from now on before I make any cabbage for RMan and I, and before the chickens demolish the outer leaves and the alpaca's wolf down their share of thinly sliced cabbage, I am definitely making more pickled cabbage this summer.  Saukerkraut and kimchi - when my fridge stock is finished I will just have to wait until next winter when the temperature is once again suitable for fermenting vegetables... 

P.S.  Don't fret if you can't find the Winter 2016 issue in the store anymore - go! Platteland have additional copies which can be back ordered