"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, 19 August 2017

Adapting to what lies ahead...

In answering Sue's comment, I started going off on a climate change / global  warming tangent, which was a whole other post.  So, I cut myself short, and thought I would share in this posting exactly what was going on in my head as I replied to her then.

My main summer crops are tomatoes - which get eaten fresh, and get canned, dried and pureed for use in winter - and butternut / squash and pumpkin (to a lesser degree as we prefer the taste of butternut).  My main winter crop is peas, fava (broad) beans and swiss chard.  Onions / garlic get planted close to whatever else is growing and they seem to thrive all year round.

But, as I have three veggies beds, and I question whether I need all three?  I reckon it would be more effective to start planning for less water availability and therefore condense my veggie growing requirements down to two beds.  Even thpugh the mulch he;[s tremendously, I need to improve / decrease my water consumption, in order to be more water-wise and to save "wasting" water.

Yes, our local co-op, and supermarkets have a plethora of different seeds to encourage us to buy more, grow more and spend more.  But, I have been asking myself if this is wise?

Why do I plant up huge areas of vegetables - more than we can eat - and, if I'm honest, more than I can preserve - so I end up giving them - away albeit to our kids, which is one of the reasons I grow them anyway.  All I am doing is forcing myself to irrigate bigger and bigger areas.
Precious heirloom tomatoes - my summer garden is incomplete
 without them
The vegetable / fruit crops which are vital to me are:

tomatoes - heirloom rather than cocktail sized - and my most valuable crop
capsicum (red / yellow and piquante peppers)
sweet potatoes
pumpkin and butternut
rocket, herbs and chives  (I l-o-v-e rocket and often have more rocket than lettuce in the salad)

greens (and dark red) - beetroot
legumes - specifically peas and broad beans
onions and garlic

All year:
swiss chard 


granadilla (passion fruit)


All year:

I have discovered that trying to grow lettuce in summer is a no-no as it's far too hot here and they bolt in no time at all - even in my shade cloth veggie patch.  Ditto, I have been unsuccessful in growing cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli (the latter for which RMan is extremely thankful as he's not mad about "green trees"). I tried growing cabbage in my small hydroponic set up, and they didn't perform too well.  Actually, I can't say anything grew amazingly in it, so, I am converting that hydroponic option to strawberries this year.  Let's see how they do...?  So, I am definitely not bothering trying to grow any of these veg / salads again.
Peppers - three different kinds - with chopped swiss chard
and onion - ready to get added to a stir fry
A regional government representative unexpectedly dropped in a couple of years ago - they were doing a survey into what we ate / grew in our area.  They asked our casual labourer when last he had dark greens and orange vegetables.  He couldn't remember.  She said he must try and eat them as they contain vital nutrients required by his body.

But, I had never given that a thought, and that gave me a wake up call.  And from that moment on I ensure that he has both of those coloured veggies with his lunch every time he's here - roughly 1 - 2 a week.

But, I had never thought of that in our terms either.  And, it has guided me from then on.

Companion plants to tomatoes are carrots, onion, garlic (and strawberries) - so that is one summer bed filled.  Carrots are a two-fold veg - we love them smothered in honey butter, and, grated, in a coleslaw - or for the alpacas (and chickens) who love them even more than we do 😂  Two (or should that be three) birds sorted with one stone, so to speak.
Yum - homemade coleslaw
Beetroot, peas, broad beans and swiss chard (spinach) are their own companions and they also enjoy the company of onions and garlic.  That is another bed - and in winter only.

The pumpkin and butternut are all by themselves in the deep raised beds of composted alpaca poo.
Dehydrating heirloom tomatoes
And only sweet potatoes are the odd man out - so they'll get their own bed.  I leave them in the ground as our soil never freezes and it is the best way of storing them - and keeps them mouse nibble free.  As I need them, so I harvest exactly what I need.  And, what I haven't harvested, grows again the next season.

With this downsize plan, as we have irrigation on each of the three veggie patches, which we can isolate as required, this will be a breeze.

This makes a whole bunch of sense to me and will, hopefully, save on the watering - and the angst of a failed crop due to excessive summer temperatures.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Propagating tropical fruit

At the end of last summer I was craving, and so purchased, a couple of pineapples.

I had also read that one can propagate new plants from the tops, so naturally, when the pineapples were eaten I had to try and see if it would work.

To prepare the pineapple top you carefully remove about 2.5cms (an inch) of the leaves from the bottom of the pineapple stalk until you see some root buds, and then pop them into water.
Changing the water every 5 - 6 days, it only took about 6 - 8 weeks on my kitichen windowsill  for those roots to grow to a decent length. 
It looks promising - new leaves appearing whilst the pineapple
 head is producing roots in the water
But, eventually they were long enough to transfer from their watery life into their permanent home in the garden.  It is recommended that they get potted up in soil first, but I went ahead and shoved them in the garden soil.
I reckon those roots are long enough
Being winter, ad frost tender, they were protected with a light covering of mulch to ensure that the frost did minimal damage.  When the bushes have (hopefully) grown too big for a mulch cover, they will get a hessian frost cover in winter.
New leaves appearing in the centre of the crown
But, I'm happy to report that all three pineapple plants are showing signs of new growth, so hopefully, before too long we may be able to harvest some home grown pineapples 😁  It will be good to be pineapple self-sufficient to any degree - one less thing to spend hard earned money on... 😉

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Back then...

... is just as valid now, and it's bloody delicious.

Back then?

Oh, I'm talking about back in the Depression.  No, I wasn't alive then (thank goodness) but I have to say that the women of the house were ingenious when it came to feeding their families with reduced provisions / money.

This recipe is a perfect example (and, given the recent S&P's, Moody's & Fitch's financial downgrades / state of this country's coffers as a result of looting / corruption) of enjoying a "treat" using less expensive, more basic ingredients, and may, if things don't change dramatically here in the very near future, become as popular now as they were back in the 1930's...

It's a cake recipe that uses no eggs, no milk and no butter.

Anyone like chocolate cake?

This recipe can be made into a chocolate cake, coffee cake or lemon cake (alternative ingredients are at the end of this posting).

Chocolate cake ingredients:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
3 - 4 (or even 5 if you like) tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC / 350oF
Mix all the dry ingredients together
Making three depressions in the flour add the vinegar to one, the vanilla in the other and the vegetable oil in the third.  Pour the water over and mix well till smooth.
Pour into a pre-greased baking pan and cook for 3/4 - 1 hour.

Allow to cool.

Frosting ingredients:
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 - 7 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar
2 tablespoons of butter / margarine
2 tablespoons of Nach Musik, Kahlua or any other chocolate liqueur

Mix well until smother.

Spread the frosting over the cooled cake.

Don't wait for a special occasion - cut a slice and enjoy immediately 😂

It is deliciously, and surprisingly moist, and definitely more-ish - RMan scoffs down 2 slices every time he's offered some.  It also lasts in a "fresh and moist" state for 5 - 6 days (if it survives that long).

Depression era chocolate cake - absolutely bloody marvellous 😃
Alternative recipes for a no eggs, no milk and no butter cake:

Ingredients for Coffee cake:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
3 - 4 (or even 5 if you like) tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup strong coffee

Frosting: add strong cold coffee and / or Kahlua or Nach Musik liqueur.

Ingredients for Spiced cake:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Frosting choice is yours ;)

Ingredients for Lemon cake:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (or more for a stronger lemon taste)

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Cover with a lemon (juice and zest) frosting using the lemon juice in the place of Kahlua or Nach Musik.

T'is my birthday on Thursday next week and this recipe is so good that I'm going to make a Lemon version for tea time.  I have a couple of fresh granadilla's, so I'm going to be adding them to the frosting.

Now, if our corrupt President could just be removed with a successful Vote of No Confidence on Tuesday the 8th, then that would be the best bloody birthday gift I could ask for.  Here's hoping and praying...

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Fighting the effects of drought

Back in August 2016 I wrote about some extra special treatment that the fruit trees were going to get.  Chickpea said she looks forward to hearing about it...

So, Chickpea, here you go 😃

I first read an article in the local "Farmer's Weekly" back in June 2016.  Given the number of fruit trees we have (mainly our lemon, but also apricot, pear, apple and plum, as well as our berry and granadilla bushes) it piqued my interest so I contacted the inventor - Louis.  It turned out that he lives near us - in Bonnievale - about an hour or so drive from us.

I have, albeit from a distance, painfully lived through the development phase with him - impatiently waiting for his mould to be manufactured so that he can go into production of his recycled plastic water saving device - the TreeHog.

This will be a 100% SA product :)
A local farmer has developed a "box" to place
 around the base of the trees in order to 

preserve irrigation water
And is stated to be 100% recyclable.
70 TreeHogs awaiting installation
He finally stated production earlier this year, and I ordered 70 units which were received 2 weeks ago.

He has, with his prototypes, cut down his watering from 4.5 - 5 hours twice a week, to just 20 minutes twice a week - and that irrigates to a depth of 400mm.  The amount of water used - 11 litres / tree twice a week!!  That is one massive water saving!

The principle pf the TreeHog is that the water sprays inside the unit, hitting the walls.  It then runs down the walls to the soil (and tree roots) below, where it is absorbed.  The wind cannot deflect / waste the spray, and, being enclosed, the soil below is kept damp as the sun is pelting down, and the prevailing wind cannot cause evapouration of the moisture in the damp soil.  Given the opening at the top, any heat inside the unit is expelled up through that opening.

Given our current drought ...
Rainfall record from Nov 2013 to July 2017
and predicted future water scarcity situation due to global warming, our fruit trees need all the help we can give them.

Take a look at this link too:


The information there may give you pause for thought.

Our lemon trees are now - 7 years old and we are getting very little harvest from them.  Lack of water is, I think, the cause.  We feed them, and have given them water regularly.  But, fighting extreme heat coupled with reduced rainfall, doesn't help a tree produce it's crop.  Add to that 5 busy chickens who delight in moving every scrap of mulch we have placed below the trees, and you'll have some idea of what we've been facing...
Attaching the sprinkler or drip irrigation head to the inside of
  the TreeHog s simple.
The TreeHog opens up on one side and allows you to place the required irrigation head in a corner - according to your requirements.  Closing up the Treehog again is simple and a couple of cable ties holds the unit closed round the base of the tree.

Stay tuned - I will report back on the TreeHogs at the end of this coming summer. Not all our lemon trees / fruit trees ( or bushes) will get a TreeHog, so, in effect, I will have a control in place.  The difference is going to be interesting to note...

If anyone else would like some for their precious trees or shrubs:  http://www.treehog.co.za/  The cost, at R59.00 each, are not expensive.

The TreeHogs round the base of the trees look quite cute, don't they 😅
Although the tree in the foreground is a wild plum, we don't
 have the nerve to move it.  Given it's size I don't think it would
 survive, and we leave the fruit it produces for the birds to enjoy.

Disclaimer: I received absolutely nothing in exchange for sharing this info - it is merely my ongoing 'sharing is caring' taking place 😉

Friday, 21 July 2017

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Wartime Kitchen & Garden 2 / 3

For those of you who haven;t see it before, I hope you enjoyed part 1 - here's part 2 of 3 😊

Monday, 17 July 2017

Saturday, 15 July 2017

And then there were two...

... but before that some insight.

She has grown into a very boiterous canine companion, who goes absolutely moggie whenever any one, or any dog, visits us.  So much so that I said to RMan - Stellar needs a buddy.  A permanent playfellow, or, to be blunt, something to wear her out... 😂

We were so used to ol' Scallywag who was our only dog for 6 years that we took it for granted than another single dog would do the trick and fill the emptiness.  When we had to let Scallywag go he was 16 years old - or 112 human years.  Being so elderly he tended to just eat his food, lie around and genteely wag whenever anyone visited us.

Stellar - oh, no!  She is a completely different kettle of fish.

Her homemade raised bed did the trick getting her to stop sneaking onto our couches when we went to bed at night.

Her inability to eat what is in her bowl without scattering it across the entire floor is non-existent.

But, her natural exhuberence a.k.a. jumping up at everyone anytime they arrive or even leave the room and return - even if it's only for a few seconds - was giving us hints - and then some...

So, we decided to see if the local SPCA had any puppies that we could view.  After putting our name down, the  SPCA paid us a visit - to check that our home was suitable for a dog.

We passed muster 😉

Nope - 3 - 4 months ago they only had adult dogs.  I'm not keen on adult dogs as you don't know what "bad habits" they have acquired, and, with our alpaca's, we need to be able to train any dog that venturing into their paddocks is a no-no.

Four weeks ago I was contacted by the SPCA and told that they would have puppies available in 3 weeks time.

We duly toddled off to view / choose our puppy
It's always so heart rending to see dogs caged up -
 and even more so at SPCA.  We all know what happens
 IF they don't find a home...
Fonz - as he was named by the SPCA - is a mixed breed.  He came up and licked our fingers through the mesh, and we decided that he was the one.

Last week the SPCA called us and told us the puppies were now old enough to leave and so on Friday we went to collect the latest addition to our family.

RMan noticed that he was subdued.  And that his nose was running.  And that his stomach was quite bloated.

So, no sooner had we left the SPCA than we headed straight for our vet to have Fonz checked out.

The vet discovered that he had a temperature of 39.4oC  She was also a bit concerned about the puppy's bloated stomach.  Possible parvo virus was mentioned to RMan.  After a precautionary antibiotic injection, and armed with a deworming tablet and a warning to watch the puppy, we headed home.

Stellar went besperk when she spotted the puppy that RMan placed on the grass.

Runinng round and round, up and down, being a general nusiance and causing the puppy to yelp at the onslaught - we managed to get the puppy inside where he climbed onto the big cushion we had purchased for him and lay down.

And lay down.

And lay down.

Not much to eat (although he did willingly ingest the deworming tablet), but he did drink water.  Thankfully.

During the night I was awoken by the smell of puppy poo, and upon investigating, discovered a squishy pile with so many wriggling worms it was impossible to believe they were all in his stomach.  And he had a bad dose of darrhoea definitely!!!

The next morning, the puppy was still very lethargic so RMan returned to the vet.  The puppy's temperatu was now 39.7oC  So the vet said he must stay there for the weekend so that they can monitor him.
A poorly puppy placed on the couch by RMan
The vet phoned us the next morning and told us that she couldn't believe the number of worms the puppy was passing.  The diarrhoea was ongoing, and he still wasn't eating properly either.

Monday morning and the vet called again.  She said that she couldn't find any indications of parvo virus (thank God) and that his temperature was down, the upset tummy was settling, and he had started eating during the day on Sunday.  All indications were that he was much perkier and so he could finally come home.
That's better - Stellar and the puppy climbing into their respective
 bowls of dog food.  Even better, the puppy now locates and eats
 all of  Stellars "scatterlings" 😂
What a different puppy that climbed out of the car this time!
Ah - look how innocent we look...
You know what the newspaper is for, don't you... 😉
And Stellar - she couldn't believe that her buddy was back.  I think that perhaps she thought that she had frightened him off with her exhuberence.
Hello, little one
He is the sweetest little thing - and we have renamed him Dusty - for the colour of his coat matches the land.
The puppy shelters from Stellars clumsy, heavy paws whenever she can
To evade Stellar's exhuberence he has learnt to shelter where "those paws" can't easily reach...

Although Stellar is becoming adroit at contorting herself in her attempt to reach him.

Admonitions abound at every puppy yelp - for now.  The puppy must learn to give tit for tat eventually...
Inseperable 😊
 They have become inseperable in the last 5 days...
This is, at the moment, their favourite game.  I'm not worried
 about the socks - there are plenty of odd socks that the washing
 machine spat out over the years
 ...and delight in playing tug-of-war with some hole-y socks (mine).  The tug is a bit unfairly balanced, but they're having fun 😃
Who is more comfortable?

As for RMan - he's smitten with puppy love all over again...

And (groan) the puppy is being lifted onto his lap - ON THE COUCH!!!  I  give up...