"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, 6 February 2016

Grape Harvest

Thank you, kymber - you are a special friend indeed :)



Well, t'would seem that I finally got the pruning of the grape vines right last winter.

For the first time ever I have been able to harvest more than 1 or 2 bunches of grapes from our grape vines.
Some of the grapes I harvested this summer
I always thought that it was the hares that were emptying the grapes from our vines before we had had a chance to munch some, but have just discovered that the mousebirds don't need any help from that quarter and that I had erroneously attributed the loss of grapes to the hares.

When I set about protecting our fruit trees from the mousebirds with the foil trays, I didn't have enough to protect the vines.
Recycled onion net bags - used to protect the
 grapes from the mousebirds
I did, however, have a few empty onion net bags from waaaaaay back when I was still buying them (yes, I am a hoarder, and proud of it ;)  ) so they were wrapped round the larger bunches of grapes.

Thankfully, the limited number of net bags I had worked their magic and allowed me to harvest a third of the bunches of grapes - the mousebirds got the rest.

Big bowls full of grapes to munch on after dinner...
Dessert in the evening :)
... and some to turn into raisins and sultana's.
Dried fruit in the making - they will be a good reminder
 of summers harvest in winter when we eat them :)
 All the squishy grapes weren't wasted either...
Soft, almost discard-able grapes weren't wasted
 either
 ... they were quickly gobbled up by the chickens.
Did you know that chickens l-o-v-e grapes?
I have recently seen those net bags for sale at the co-op, and I will need to get a stock in for next summer.


It has taken 3 years to come to grips with how to prevent (larger) pests from eating our fruit - be that the strawberries, youngberries, apples / pears / apricots / plums / pomegranates, or grapes.  Next year, hopefully, I will be able to harvest more so that we have enough to eat, and a surplus which I can preserve through drying and canning.

That is my aim for summer 2016 / 2017 - to have enough of summer's fruit bounty left over, in one form or another, to tide us through the winter.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

R.I.P. Scallywag

We rescued our dog, Scallywag, from a "street seller" in Hout Bay in January 2000.  These "street sellers" use their adult female dogs as money machines.  Once the puppies are "old enough" the "sellers" walk in amongst the traffic, holding the puppies up, and tell the people that drive passed if they don't buy the puppy, they are going to drown them / throw them under a car's wheels.

When we took the tiny puppy, as yet unnamed as Scallywag, to the vet he had his  shots, was dewormed (he had an absolutely enormous amount of worms inside his little body) and the vet discovered he had mange.  We managed to sort that out, but he was left with a hyper sensitive back area.

On the 5th August 2015 Scallywag our dog, had a seizure.

One of our first dogs (Winston) had epilepsy, and we thought that Scallywag was now displaying the same symptoms.
Scallywag
January 2000 - February 2016
He was rushed to the vet by RMan.  The vet established that he had biliary - faulty tick and flea medication / tick collar had failed to protect him from the biliary and that it had affected his brain.  They managed to save him.  But he wasn't the same.

He gradually got slower, and more feeble.  He wasn't that keen to go outside - that was partly due to the effort involved, and also due to the nasty rooster we used to have, who kept trying to attack him (and me).  His aged eyesight couldn't differentiate between the rooster and the hens / chicks.

His back legs haven't worked so well for the last 3 -4 months.

And he became incontinent in the last months.

Yesterday, he suffered what we think is a stroke.

Again he was rushed to the vet.

We decided that the kindest action we could take was to let him go.

Not an easy thing to do.  But the fairest action - for his benefit.

He is no longer confused.  He is no longer in pain.  He is no longer going to battle to climb the two back steps in order to re-enter the house through the kitchen door.

He is at peace.

And he leaves a big hole in our lives because he has been with us for 16 years. 

Scallywag and RMan were like peas in a pod - they were besotted with each other.

How is it that animals have the capacity to become such a huge and important part of our lives - of the family?

Over the years we have had the pleasure of sharing the lives of:

Panda - a fawn and white St Bernard
Winston - a fawn and white St Bernard
Baron - a fawn Great Dane
Muts - a grey cat
Puddy Pat - a ginger cat
Topaz - a fawn Great Dane
Fluffy - a white Maltese Poodle
Randy - a brown, fawn and black brindle Boxer
and now Scallywag - a fawn, black and white Collie / Golden Retriever mix.

They are all still sorely missed.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Abnormal

These pics were taken at 13.36 p.m. today
The temperature
outside in the shade
 We have never had temperatures in the 40's before (104oF)

I can only imagine the temperature at 2.30 - 3.00 p.m.

28.3oC on 01/02/2016 or...
 Thank goodness for our double volume and double glazing...
...28.3oC at 13:36:24 p.m.
The temperature inside the house is a more comfortable 28.3oC

Poor Tweedle Dee and CLuck were not happy egg layers - plus they decided to crowd into one laying box, thus were even more uncomfortable...

Never mind, they had a treat when they had completed their task ;)

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Chickens

Well, the chicks are all growing up.

They'll be 3 months old on Tuesday.

And it looks like, serendipitously, only one of the chicks is a rooster. 
Hopefully, growing up with me, this rooster
will be more friendly than his dad was...
Which means we will eventually have 5 egg-laying chickens :)


Tweedle Dee, like Tweedle Dum the ex-rooster, is quite a feisty bird.  She was an excellent mother whilst the chicks were young, but now that they are almost 3 months old, she's quite a hen pecker.

If one of the chicks dares to come close to a morsel she has her beady eye on...

"Squawk!"

Which results in my screeching:

"Tweedle Dee, leave the poor chicks alone - there's plenty for everyone".

I don't think she believes me...

Learning to live with chickens has been interesting.

My lot don't eat snails nor slugs - not even ones that are hand fed to them.  They're obviously too good for that!

We are very grateful for the 2 eggs we are getting each day from Tweedle Dee and Cluck.  When we start getting 5 a day, our various neighbours will score, and RSon will have to visit us more frequently so that he can take home the excess.  5 chickens potentially laying an egg a day = +/- 30 - 35 eggs a week...!!

Tweedle Dee decided to get broody exactly 2 months (to the day) after the chicks hatched.  Now, a chicken sitting on infertile eggs is not (egg)productive.  It took me 7 days to get her to return to normal (i.e. confined to one of the coops on her own with food and water but no sign of a nesting box) and a further 4 days after rejoining the rest of her family until she started laying again...

Milk that has gone sour is no longer wasted.  I have discovered that chickens l-o-v-e sour milk.  They dive into the bowl full so actively that it ends up dripping down their necks / feathers.  The young 'uns, being left on the side lines in true pecking order, resort to pecking the drops off Tweedle Dee and Clucks feathers, and only get to have their share once the two "ladies" are replete :)
All I did was go outside to take their pic - you can
see how they all rush up to me, hoping that I have
 a tasty morsel (or two) in my hands...
(admittedly, it was 15 minutes away from feed
scattering time...)
They walked away disappointedly when they
realised it was only the camera I was holding
Come food time, when I try to walk to the coop to scatter their feed it is hazardous.

They are 100% free range, so if they spot you walking anywhere near the coop with "something" in your hands when they feel like an easy tasty morsel, they all try and trip you up, so that you can spill it - and they can get their beaks filled quicker. 

I can almost hear them think "Don't be pedantic - feed us now, don't make us walk all the way to the coop.  Pleeeeease?"

No way.  Routine works for me, and it has to work for you ;)

Check your newly laid mulch on a daily basis.  There's nothing they love more than to scratch and displace as much mulch as possible away from it's intended location whilst they search for anything edible beneath it.
Harvesting the first of my heirloom tomatoes
 and the first of my eggplant
Also, don't try and harvest tomatoes and place them on the ground next to you, whilst you harvest some herbs growing on the outside the veggie patch.

This is the result of that mistake.
The chickens attacked the tomato like manna
 from heaven!
All it took was 3 minutes of having my head turned.

Never mind, I chopped off the bitten bit, and added the rest to some tomato sauce I was making.

Waste not, want not :)