Saturday, 3 October 2015

Summer is on it's way...

Well, we certainly finished off September better than it started.

Rainfall figures for 2015 - with comparisons to previous year(s)
As you can see we have had record months of rain this year for June, July and September.

August's total was lower than last year - but because it wasn't hot, the garden didn't suffer.

But, now our rain tanks, and our dam, are all overflowing - again.

RMan managed to get the concrete base done for one of the two extra rainwater tanks we purchased a couple of weeks ago and we pumped water from the other overflowing tanks into the new one.  We have positioned those tanks near the fruit trees - that, together with the solar pump, will allow us to easily water the fruit trees / grape vines without too much hassle nor having to pull 100mtr inflexible hosepipes around.

All the tanks are now overflowing, and the dam too.
Two days after the rain the water is still flowing
into the dam :)
So, we're definitely set for summer.

We noticed that two bushes next to our front entrance steps, which normally get hit by the frost (i.e. the leaves go black/brown and shrivel up) in winter, are both fine.  Just shows you that we had no frost this winter.  Not too sure what that will mean for the fruit on our fruit trees...

The fruit is starting to appear on the fruit trees, and on the grape vines too, but will it set?  We'll just have to wait and see.

Watching the weather report on the news at nighttime, the northern part of South Africa are already being exposed to temperatures in excess of 33 - 34°C.  In mid-September???  That's crazy - what are the temperatures going to be like in the hotter months of summer (Jan - March)???

The chickens are doing well - DeeDee is producing an egg a day - which allowed me to take 6 to Cape Town with me to give to RSon.  He can't conceive how chickens can lay an egg every day - "does production of the next egg start as soon as she has laid one?"  I can't wait for him to cook one of those eggs so that he can see how "firm" and tight the white albumen is, and how incredibly yellowy-orange the yolk is.  What we have been eating as 'free-range' eggs before has no comparison.

Other than that, we are extremely busy with our business (with great gratitude) and that is consuming most of my time.  So much for retiring to our smallholding...  But, I'd rather we were busy than scratching to find work.

But, it does limit the news I have to share with you all.  And, it limits my visiting your blogs too.

Today, I am taking some time off work, and am planning to get into my veggie patches to do some very necessary weeding.  I have planted (and replanted) tomato seeds in various places but nothing seems to be coming up - or has it?  I have a sneaky feeling that DeeDee and DumDum are eating the "wrong" things i.e. luscious tomato seedlings.  So I have started yet more seedlings - but this time they are on my kitchen windowsill...  That should thwart the chickens :)

I'll be chatting to you later in the week - hopefully.  Until then, enjoy yourselves :)

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Preservation fail?

I need some expert advice please.

At the end of last summer I used the last of my tomatoes to make concentrated tomato purée and tomato sauce (ketchup).

As I couldn't find an appropriate canning recipe I froze the puréed concentrate in portion sized batches.

And the ketchup was made, and water bath preserved.

All the lids sealed properly.  However, I am left with the last few jars which look like this:
Homemade tomato ketchup
Can you see the darker layer at the top?

My question is this - is the tomato sauce still safe to use?  The lids are definitely still vacuum sealed.  And, yes, I did fill to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar - it appears to have settled lower than that though in the intervening months.

Would the "air space" at the top of the jar cause that darkening to occur?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Floral beauty

I don't grow flowers for the sake of flowers simply because our water is too precious for that.  In that I'm talking about dahlias, chrysanthemums, tulips, etc.

So - whatever flowers grow here are tough ones.  They must make do with whatever rain falls from the sky, or that which is waste water that I am unable to get to my veggie beds which are situated on the higher part of the property.

Also, if one is observant in late winter / early spring and you will spy incy-wincy wild flowers - bend down almost to ground level for your reward.  It is well worth the effort.

Want a tour of the colour in my garden?

You have already seen the fruit tree blossoms, so I won't repeat those again.

Starting at the back door...

I have a pot of azaleas - they are watered with Scallywags water bowl - whenever we change his water, whatever is left in the bowl gets chucked into the flower pot.
Pink azaleas - still in the pot from our town house
In the only shade bed I have (which is situated on the southern side of the house right next to the kitchen door), I planted some clivia seeds which I had harvested from our old town house before we moved.
Orange clivia propagated from seed
(info on how to do that here)
Three years  later, they are doing a wonderful job of softening the appearance of the worm bins.  As each year passes so each and every plant will increase the number of flower heads it produces.  In the years to come it is going to be a stunning display.

We have a gutter drainpipe which leads to that bed, so any rain / overnight condensation which drizzles from the roof of the kitchen porch does the job.
Gorgeous lavender
Surprisingly, a lavender bush which grew from a piece which landed in that bed (who knows how?) is doing very well.  Bear in mind this bed gets no direct sunshine - ever.  The only "light" it gets is reflected off the garage wall and across the courtyard.
Rose bushes watered by the
 washing machine outflow pipe
visible in the bottom right corner
Then, across the courtyard is our rose bed.  These roses are watered by the washing machine outlet pipe.
Red rose buds bursting forth
on the rose bushes
Even though I seriously pruned these roses roughly a month ago, their growth is astounding, and they are already sporting lots of buds.

And, hiding below the roses...
Chives hiding under the rose bushes
... is a chive plant.  As you can see it just loves it there - it's tiny purple flowers are popping up all over the place.  (Note to self:  it's time to "carefully" harvest some chives :)  )

Out on the driveway, sweet peas grow round the fiddlewood tree - they are only winter rain watered.  And, self-seeded from last year.

And, in the front of the house area, situated next to the grey water bed...

This is and the end of one branch - and
there are currently 10 branches with flowers
this year
The paulownia tree is magnificent this year.  This tree is only 1.5mtrs tall and the display is already breathtaking. 

A close-up of the Paulownia flower

I can only imagine what it will be like when the paulownia is at adult height - anything from 20mtrs to 50mtrs high.  Obviously, 50mtrs is achieved in perfect conditions - the average of 20mtrs will be more than sufficient.
In the actual grey-water pond there are two self-seeded (by the birds, most probably) arum lily plants.
One of the arum lily plants
They are mostly hidden amongst the taller grasses, but they are assisting in the important water filtering / cleaning job.
In the foreground is self-seeded phlox - from a plant
 which was growing in a pot in our town house garden
 in the foreground, and a yellow poker type plant
in the background
Diana - can you help identify this plant?
The front of the house gets sun all year.  That means the temperature can rise to 37oC++ in mid summer, and is exposed to frost in winter.  Not an ideal place to grow much - so that is reserved for indigenous, hardy succulent type plants.
And, finally, I have scarlet and white geraniums, which do their own thing entirely.
Scarlet geranium
plant under the acacia
I enjoy the floral displays whilst they last.  Only the roses next to the garage are the most rewarding with their blooms lasting right through to next autumn.

Once the flowers are gone (azalea, clivia, chive, paulownia, arum and kalanchoe) my veggie garden starts producing.  And that is a different kind of harvest ;)
Marigolds :)
The only flower "grown" in my veggie garden, apart from naturally occurring flowers like borage, are marigolds, which I grow for pest control.

Firstly, my garden gives me food for my eyes, heart and soul, and then food for our bodies.  I have it all :)

Saturday, 19 September 2015


My facebook page showed a snippet, and I followed it and landed up watching this video:

I was blown away.

How often I sigh as I think about what to put on the table every evening - 'cos sometimes I'm just not in the mood to spend hours in the kitchen - creating.

How self-centered I feel.  How spoilt.  How privileged.

Unlike millions of people around the world, not only do I have the luxury of choice when it comes to preparing what I feel like making for dinner, but I have all my faculties and appendages to assist me.

Nicole has inspired me.

To be better than I am.  To be less "me" and more a part of the human race.  To see beyond what is visible.

Her blog can be found here and her recipes here.