Saturday, 24 July 2010

Our planet

I was blown away by this site which was sent to me by my daughter.  It puts the beauty, uniqueness and size of this planet into complete perspective.



For an updated shot of the map click on this link:

http://www.opentopia.com/sunlightmaprect.html, or for a more traditional view, http://www.opentopia.com/sunlightmaphemi.html

When one looks at these images, and we see how we are all connected on this planet, how can we not care about the effects our modern lifestyle is having on our world?  How can we fail to consider the long-lasting effect of our eco footprint? 

And how can we not care about each other?

Enjoy :-)

Friday, 23 July 2010

My first attempt at baking bread

On 31 May 2010 I received my precious solar oven.  It was the wrong model and it arrived damaged and I am (still) trying to get that sorted out - but that I'll leave for another post.

But I am too impatient to wait for summer to try baking bread in my solar oven.  And I don't have the Dover stove yet.  So, after much research on the Internet and reading a snippet on another blog I follow ( http://thefieldlab.blogspot.com/ )  I came across this site:

Brilliant - I had found a bread recipe which didn't entail the strength, energy and time required to knead bread dough.  Time - not a problem - neither is energy - but strength.  I had tennis elbow a few years ago, and, due to the dreaded cortisone injections which were required to assist the healing of that elbow, I have been left with a right arm which is a mere shadow of it's former self, strength-wise.

And I had a "baking stone" - I had brought a spare unglazed clay floor tile back from the farm which I scrubbed really clean.


So, on Wednesday I proceeded to whip up a batch of dough.  I added the yeast to the warm water (I measured the temperature of the water with a normal (sterilised) medical thermometer :-) which is all I had available, to ensure it was the required 40oC) and let that stand for approximately 30 minutes whilst it "frothed" up.  After mixing in the flour and salt I let the dough stand on my kitchen counter for the next 3 - 4 hours before putting it in my fridge overnight.  Then yesterday afternoon, as I planned a rare oven-roasted chicken for supper (the oven would be put to multi-use - our electricity cost has just been increased by 25.8% so I am very conscious of saving power whenever and wherever possible) I placed the baking stone inside and turned on my oven to the required 230oC, and, removing a portion of the dough from the refrigerated batch, let it rest on the counter until the oven was hot enough.

I put the dough on the baking stone, and placed the cup of water underneath and closed the door - and waited with baited breath (and a torch so that I could monitor the progress through the glass as my oven light doesn't work).

Seriously, it turned out perfectly.  And was so easy!!!!



The verdict of my family - brilliant!  The entire loaf got wiped by my husband, son and a couple of slices for me, naturally.

Now I want to try it in our gas grill - and details on that can be found at:  http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/

There is absolutely no reason why anyone has to buy bread - it couldn't be easier to make your own loaf.   

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A place of healing and a celebration

Sadly, last month RMan's dad passed away.  But, thankfully, RMan got to Johannesburg in time to see him.  However, due to the emotional stress RMan has experienced in the past weeks I thought it would be good to get him to the farm - to give him some lebensraum.  He has had to be so strong for other people and his emotional needs have come second.

Also, it was RMan's birthday this weekend and, with no phone call from his dad on the day, it would be even harder.  It is never easy to lose someone near to one.

We managed to leave on Thursday lunchtime with our RSon joining us on Saturday.  After the recent rains the countryside now is green, with all the farmers crops well on their way.  Lambs abound - even our neighbour, Tom, has two new additions to his flock.


As you can see the lambs in the above photo are so new born that their tails haven't been docked yet

It constantly amazes me how the lambs are born in mid-winter - how on earth do they keep warm?  There is still snow on the mountains and we experienced temperatures of 3oC in the early morning - and we're wrapped up in warm jackets and boots - the lambs don't even have their fleece yet!  Can cuddling up to their mother's be sufficient?  I gained a new respect for farm animals this weekend.

On Friday we managed to get the builders back for the day, to finish plastering around the last four window frames, and in the corners where the roof meets the walls - we discovered that that was the spot where the birds were gaining access to the house - there were two more dead birds in the house - and bird droppigns all over the floor - take it from me, it is NOT easy to clean up dried bird droppings - it sticks and sticks...even with the assistance of a pot scraper!  But I don't like the fact that birds are dying in our house.  They obviously don't have the wherewithall to find their way out once they are inside.  Pervention is better than cure - so to block off their access was the only solution.

The photo above is from June last year - he's not looking that good at the moment.

Max, (we've named him that) the cat that adopted us last year, actually came running when he saw us arrive.  He managed to wipe out all the cat food I had bought him - shame, he's pretty thin.  He was so hungry that he was even eating the bread crusts I threw outside for the birds, and a slice of avocado I acidentally dropped on the floor!  There wasn't even enough food to leave him a bowl full when we leave as I always do. (I'll have to get a bigger bag for him next time.)

I have been asking RMan for ages if we can get a supply of wood in - the locals cut the alien trees and sell the wood - part of the Working for Water campaign in this country( http://www.dwaf.gov.za/wfw/Control .  They sell 1000 pieces for R200.00 - we pay R29.00 for 10 - 12 pieces in town!



But, we had borrowed the work van to transport some stuff to the farm and we could only load 500 pieces - 1000 pieces would've been too heavy - and most of the 500 pieces are still too green to burn.  But, I'm not grumbling - at last we have some wood now.  The balance of the wood will have to be collected next time we're up there.  Negosiegat, the shop in Barrydale which sells Dover Stoves, is out of stock at the moment - new stock should arrive in 2 - 3 weeks.  But at least I now have wood for the dover stove when it's finally installed.  We used a bit of the dry wood for our braai (barbecue) on RMan's birthday - we had our neighbours, Neels and Petro, round for dinner.  A really lovely evening was had by all!  And our first social gathering on the farm.

Even our son enjoyed his break away from Cape Town - he took this beautiful photo of one of our aloes in flower.  And what a pleasure, and a priviledge, to share the farm experience with him - his only visit was last year when he was so incredibly helpful in erecting and installing our roof.  Now at least he has shared the benefit of all his hard work, and he has experienced the comfort of our little farm house.  He loved it :-)



When we left on Monday, we went via another farmer, in Bonnievale, who had recently had an article in the Farmers Weekly.  He has 14ha of his farm planted with pomegranates!  What a lovely helpful, pleasant person Willem Van Der Merwe is.  We must have spent a good hour-and-a-half with him and the advice he gave us was brilliant - I hate to thinking what bumbling idiots we must have appeared to Willem, but, there again, I guess everyone has to start somewhere!

All in all a brilliant long weekend - and just what the doctor ordered.

Rest in peace, Peter.