Saturday, 29 August 2015


I'm definitely a hoarder.  Anything and everything.  Including plastic bag tags - from bread, when I used to buy it, from some fruit (oranges), etc.

For the past 3 years I have been tossing them into a mug and forgetting about them.  Until the mug overflowed.
My collection of plastic bag tags - I reckon there
could be close to 350 - 400 of them
So I went searching the Net for what I could do with them / what they could be used for.  And came across this site : 

The Sweetheart Foundation collection point
map which promotes the collection of bread tags
The used bread tags / polystyrene is recycled into wheelchairs / Tutu Desks and Wonderbags.  Or decor items, beads, or even buildings for the informal sector.

Happily there is a collection point in Swellendam, so I have dropped off my tags.  All it takes is 1 000 000 tags and someone gains a wheelchair.

This link also has links to where you can recycle anything from batteries, cell phones, eye wear, x-rays, cfl's, printer cartridges, etc.

Reckon with these links there is no excuse for anyone to throw anything into landfill.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee

I am so excited about this - I can't wait to share it...

One of our neighbours, Eddie, was kind enough to give us a hen and a rooster.  We seem to have an insect infestation in our shadecloth veggie hut, so I had asked his wife if we could possibly "rent" a couple of their chickens for a couple of weeks - to sort out the problem in as eco-friendly a way as possible.
New chickens exploring the shade covered
veggie patch
When she arrived with the chickens, she said that they have over 40 ("... which is more than enough...") and that we can have the two.  Yoohoo!!  RMan didn't want chickens - seems like he has no choice in the matter now ;)  (sly, aren't I?)

Please meet Tweedle Dum (the rooster) and Tweedle Dee (the hen) - Dum Dum and Dee Dee for short.
They were a tad nervous for the first couple of
 days - strange surroundings, and even stranger
 new "owner" ;)
We set up a temporary coop for them inside the shade cloth veggie hut - complete with roosting perch - but they weren't interested.  They settled themselves down on the ground every evening in the corner farthest away from the temporary coop.  Damn and blast it!
Once Dum Dum and Dee Dee were allowed outside
the shadecloth structure they rushed merrily around
- here, there and everywhere - at full speed.
After they had been locked in the veggie hut for a week (as per Eddie's instructions) the time came to let them explore their new surroundings.  They thoroughly enjoyed scratching below the lemon trees (eating the ants?)...
They fancy my strawberry / youngberry patch the
most - much to the inquisitiveness of the alpacas
...before investigating my strawberry / youngberry patch.  Much to the curiosity of Rupert and Minky.  They couldn't quite work out what these duck like looking creatures were - and they were the wrong colour.

But, the problem of their chicken coop / roosting perch remained.  I was very uncomfortable with them just sleeping on the ground - and was worried about karakul / otters gaining access to the veggie patch in order to snaffle the chickens.  All they had for protection was a single layer of shadecloth.

Not good enough.  I didn't sleep comfortably for that week.
1000 lt water tank
Wandering round the property trying to think of a solution, I spied the empty support cage from the one rainwater tanks which we had cut in half in order to store the alpaca's lucerne and oats away from the mice.
The one water tank was cut in half to be used
as a mouse free storage space for the alpacas
 lucerne / oats
My brain had a light bulb moment, and feverishly started conceptualizing what was happening inside it lol

Grabbing RMan, and dragging him to where the frame was located, I explained my idea.

We had some chicken wire which we were using to sort / clean the VM out of the alpaca fibre.
The arrows indicate where the doorway has been
 situated - bear in mind that the tank has been
 turned on it's side
If we took that chicken wire, turned the frame on it's site, used the two top cage structure supports as an entrance and covered the rest of it (top and sides - the bottom is a solid base) with chicken wire, we would have an instant secure chicken coop that no predator should be able to access.

So that's exactly what we did :)
The frame was completely covered with chicken
 wire.  The two top supports (shown with arrows
 in the above pic) are now a doorway, which I
 can easily access.
We placed a piece of galvanized roof sheet on the top to keep the rain out of the coop.  On top of that we fixed the chicken wire - thus the chicken wire is "holding" the roof sheet in place and preventing it from blowing away / rattling in the wind.

God bless the person who invented cable ties.  Cable ties (aplenty) secured the chicken wire to the frame perfectly.
Dum Dum and Dee Dee were easily coerced into
 their new home with some corn:)
(You can see the solid base now acting as a side
in the above pic.)
Having "taught" the chickens that the shade cloth veggie patch was their new home, I was concerned that I would battle to get them into their even newer home - which has been placed just next to the shade cloth veggie patch.

I needn't have worried.  Sprinkling a bit of food in the entrance and a larger pile further in, they couldn't resist.

Quick as a flash I closed the door that RMan had made out of a piece of plywood (hinged with - yeah, you guessed it - cable ties bwahahaha), and the chickens were safely ensconced inside for the night:)
Success!!!  Two roosting chickens :D
I went out ½ hour later and both of them had finished munching and were finally roosting :)

Hehe.  I do so love it when I'm on the same page as animals I am trying to assist.

This coop will also be easy to move whenever we need to - RMan and I will just pick it up and place it in it's new position.  Chicken poop will be easy to scoop up when the coop is moved.

And, with John's, (the casual labourer) assistance, RMan and he will be able to pick it up over the wooden fence and place it in the newer veggie area when we want / need the chickens assistance / nitrogen there.
Shadecloth draped over the top of the new
chicken coop will provide rain, shade and wind
 protection to the coop.
Note the nesting box just inside the door -
yup, I'm ready for when the hen is ready to
lay ;)

(in the pic you can clearly see the
 6 X cable ties which are the door hinges)
This morning we draped the top half of the coop with a double layer of 80% shade cloth and secured it with cable ties once again - to help keep the rain off them if it slants down sideways whilst they're roosting, and it will also give them some shelter from the wind, and help to keep the roof sheet cooler during the hot summer months.
Can you see the roosting perches?
I have found them on both the upper
and lower perches
I just l-o-v-e this little chicken coop.  Measuring 1.0 mtrs high X 1.2 mtrs wide and 1.0 mtrs deep it should suffice for at least 6 - 8 chickens.

Firstly, it is definitely secure against karakul and otters, and it will keep the chickens protected from inclement weather.

But, mostly importantly to me, the old water storage tank frame is almost serendipitously perfect to (re)use as a chicken coop, especially given that it had just been lying around - unused and unwanted.  Recycling at it's best :)

As for RMan - the chickens have worked their magic - if  they spot either of us outside, they immediately run up, and start following us.

"They're very cute", says RMan, "not ducks, but cute nevertheless" - with a smile on his face, and a twinkle in his eyes, as the chickens chase after him.

" kip-kip, kiiiiiip-kip-kip, kip-kip-kip..."

Friday, 21 August 2015

A reality of rural life

Living in the countryside has it's pluses, but also it's negatives.  Last week was a case in point.

Co-incidentally, 2½ weeks ago I had mentioned to RMan that, after the rains which had fallen in June and July, the risk of fires breaking out in summer, especially on the mountainsides was great.  And the well-watered, abundant vegetation would be in prime fire condition.

We are also concerned about the vacant smallholdings round us - to the point that RMan decided to create a firebreak on the one closest to us.  A lot of smallholdings here have been purchased as investments - which means that the owners rarely, if ever, visit.  They therefore have no idea what a potential risk their empty smallholdings are to the inhabitants - especially where fire is concerned.

Our local fire brigade has an small, old water tanker - which needs refilling often.  Although our dam would be put to use in that situation, it would not help someone whose property is 3 - 5 kms away.  We even considered purchasing a portable water pump - the only drawback of that is managing to find flexible fire hoses to fit the pump.  Normal 25mm irrigation hose is definitely too rigid for that purpose.
The firebreak, although small, will certainly
help delay a veld fire.
So, RMan entered the property through a cut in the fence between our properties in order to access our immediate neighbour's property, and gave the first 10 - 12mtrs of their land a good plough.  That should help slow things down should a fire threaten.

Literally, two days later we noticed smoke over the hills and near the mountains - was it a "controlled burn" that got away from a farmer when the wind picked up?  We have no idea.
Not a good sight to behold when you don't have
 access to an efficient fire brigade and are 
located too far away for choppers to be called
for assistance.
Photo credit: Dan Wessels
But - it gave us a scare - it was our first wild fire since we moved here at the end of June 2012.
The fire travelled against the wind and up a mountainside
That evening the fire travelled up the mountain...
The state of the fire at dusk
...and, when I rose at 1.30a.m. to check on it, this is what it looked like...
Fire always looks worse at nighttime - especially
 as one's depth of field is impaired by the lack of
visible "landmarks"
That sight is not conducive to a good nights sleep.

It hung around our side of the mountain for 2 days before the north westerly wind shifted to the south east and sent the fire heading north over the mountain towards Barrydale.
The wildfire approaching Barrydale
Photo credit: Fran Hunziker
I felt for the inhabitants of Barrydale - a large fire is one thing, but a fire that stretches for kilometers along a mountain and, due to the change in wind direction, edges ever closer to a small town - that is another kettle of fish altogether.  Never mind all those poor animals on the mountainside who didn't make it to safety.

Thankfully, five days ago, we had a little rain - sufficient to quell the flames.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Drinkable Book - Water is Life

This is indeed good news - Dr Theresa Dankovich you are indeed a life saver.

Apparently, costing only pennies to produce, and encased in a handy "booklet" form, these water filters could revolutionize clean water availability world wide.

Personally, RMan and I can't wait to get our hands on a book.

The water, which is provided to our area, is stored in "open" tanks.  By that I mean that the water which comes directly from Overberg Water is collected at a central place, and stored in roughly 16 X 5000 lt (rainwater) tanks (exactly the same as those we use to collect the rainwater from our roof).  Gravity then feeds the water to all the smallholdings in our area.

But, those tanks aren't "secured" and the lid can easily be removed by those with nefarious intent.

Knowing that we can easily filter our drinking water cheaply will be very reassuring.  Plus, it will make our own rainwater available for drinking too.

Similarly, as we have seen on our TV, all those sewerage farms countrywide which are suffering from "lack of maintenance" due to infrastructure problems / corruption / ignorance / fraud, could perhaps use this system to assist with the production of clean water - all Dr Dankovich would have to do is manufacture those filters in an industrial form.  Which would mean that less water would be wasted, and the remaining "solid mass" could possibly be treated and used for humanure.

I seriously hope that this invention is fast-tracked and these filters are available in the very near future.