Wednesday, 30 March 2011

At what cost?

Forgive me - I'm going to have one of my rare soapbox moments.

NGirl sent me this link today.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J6fjVHQPew

It is only a 1 minute, 12 second clip, but WOW!

And to quote from the information that accompanied the link:

"This is a 24 hour observation of all of the large aircraft flights the world, condensed down to 1:11. From space we look like a bee hive of activity. What you will see, is a video showing air traffic around the world for 24 hours, taken from a satellite.

You won't believe this! The yellow dots are airplanes in the sky during a 24 hour period.

Stay with the picture. You will see the light of the day moving from the east to the west, as the Earth spins on it's axis. Also you will see the aircraft flow of traffic leaving the North American continent and traveling at night to arrive in the UK in the morning. Then you will see the flow changing, leaving the UK in the morning and flying to the American continent in daylight.

This is something that everyone should see. For us old-timers it is really fascinating. For our children/grandchildren it provides a superb learning moment and an opportunity to open up what could be a very interesting discussion. This is one of the coolest things ever seen. It surpasses the "World At Night" poster that NatGeo (I think) published about 20 years ago and my "America At Night" coffee mug. How many people do YOU think are in the sky at any given moment?

You can tell it was spring time in the north by the sun's foot print over the planet. You could see that it didn't set for long in the extreme north and it didn't quite rise in the extreme south. We are taught about the earth's tilt and how it causes summer and winter and how we had to imagine just what is going on. With this 24 hour observation of aircraft travel on the earth's surface we get to see the daylight pattern move as well. Remember watch the day to night..... Day is over in Australia when it starts."

This is truly hectic!

How many people have travelled in a plane and thought they were in one of only a couple in the air at that particular time?

Consider the carbon footprint of all those planes.  Consider what we are doing to the very air that we breathe, never mind the ozone layer, with all that jet fuel.  Consider the impact on our bodies, through being stationary in airplane seats, or through willingly embracing jet lag side effects, for extended periods of time.

Yes, I know that it is a convenient way to travel, and one which is much faster than the old sailing ships of yore, but how many of those trips are really necessary?  How many are taken, for the "sake of a holiday" or because someone has itchy feet?  How many business trips could rather be achieved through conference Skyping the customer?

How selfish has man become?

Me, me, me.  What about our planet?  Or can't we be bothered, because we won't be around when the proverbial truly hits the fan?

When are we going to spare a thought for this plant which we inhabit only briefly?  In the grand scheme of things each and every human is a really small, insignificant, fleeting inhabitant, but our negative impact is eternal.

One person at a time - and we can change the course we are currently on - just one person at a time.  Help me by spreading the word - please.

If we could try and keep all unnecessary air, or car travel, to a minimum, that is a good start.  Growing as much of your own fresh fruit and vegetables, walking or cycling to the shops, holiday-ing at home - discovering everything your area has to offer - they are all do-able.

We just have to stop being selfish and lazy.  And consider the long term ramifications of each action we take.

We can do it - we did it in times of yore. We don't have to revert to completely outdated methods of growing, harvesting, heating or lighting our homes, or clothing ourselves - we are wiser now.  But are we wise enough to effect a long lasting change of habit - not for our sakes, but for the sakes of our children, and their children, and... most importantly, for the sake of planet earth?

If we use what is freely available to all of us, for lighting, heating and cooking, we would make a significant difference to our footprint.  The sun is there for all - we just have to want to use its' bounty.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Magic Seeder winner

RMan picked one of the 5 replies I had to the giveaway, and the winner is:


Magic Seeder winner

Congratulations Jane!

Please could you drop me an e-mail with your address (dani at ecofootprint dot co dot za), so that I can get the parcel off to you.

Actually - I hate disappointing anyone, so Mr H, tffnguy, RobynK and Mad Dogs and Englishmen, please let me have your addresses too - I'm feeling generous :-) 

I think you are all in the throes of spring, so an ideal time to have a gadget to help you plants those seeds.  And if you can't use it yourselves, perhaps one of your friends could use it?

Paying it forward with a difference...

Update:  Your Magic Seeders were posted off today (30/03/2011) - via airmail.  They should be there within 2 weeks.  RobynK - still no address for you... :-)

Earth hour and energy efficient cooking

On Saturday evening we switched off our power. I had signed the petition at Earth Hour a couple of months ago, and once I give my word, I can't take it back.

We had participated in Earth Hour last year, so I knew that RMan would have no objection.

But - Earth Hour has taken it one step further - they have requested that we take the hour further by commiting to action which takes us beyond the hour.  Make long lasting changes, wherever you can, to reduce your electricity usage.  I like that :-)

This past week we had a few days with overcast skies - threatening rain, but nary a drop on the side of the mountain where we live.  T'is so very dry - the pavement grass is all crispy brown, and even the bushes are all drooping.  So sad.

But, here in cape Town we have a Mediterranean climate - which means we get rain in winter, and Cape Town celebrates that with what they call the "Green Season".  Hotels, bed 'n breakfasts and guest houses offer specials, so do restaurants - all trying to attract business.  It works too - for we get many tourists during that time - well, it doesn't rain every day!  And the Western Cape in winter is stunning!  If we do get snow, then it mainly falls onto the Mountain tops - and mad Capetonians all get in their 4 X 4's and rush off to try and reach the snow so that they can have a snowball fight LOL
I love the rain, and far prefer a wet climate to the winters' which they get upcountry - freezing nights, hot-ish days - but unfortunately all the shopping centres have their warm air conditioners blasting away - so hot, in fact, that when one walks into the centre, you have to strip off your layers of clothing, for fear of fainting in the heat.  Such a waste of energy, I feel.  And up country they get the winter crispy brown grass which we experience at the end of our summer.  Such a depressing sight - especially when your (sun)light is weaker.

Winter should be winter - be that rain or snow.  Sunlight, in my book, does not make winter.

But, with the decrease in sun available to me in our south facing garden, I have had to make a plan, cooking wise.  My solar cooker goes into hibernation in winter - although on the farm I wil be able to use it all year round.

So I tend to make lots of soups and stews.

Moroccan Beef
But I don't make winter food conventionally.

For instance, for Earth Hour, I made Moroccan Beef, with baby potatoes (RMan doesn't like couscous) prunes, butternut and chickpeas.  I left the meat part of the dish to RMan and RSon, and only ate the vegetables and gravy - absolutely delicious.
RSons old toybox, converted into a
hotbox / haybox, filled with shredded paper
from the office.
The meal was as tender as butter.  And I did that with a maximum of only half an hour of cooking (simmering) on my stove top, and 6 - 7 hours of cooking in my hot box.  The hot box really does produce the most tender, tasty food you will ever eat, with a gravy which contains all the goodness of the raw food that you placed in the pot. (In conventional cooking far too much of that goodness escapes in the steam.) And this type of food preparation uses a fraction of the energy that would normally be expended by a stove top meal.  In fact, it uses even less than a slow cooker :-)

And for the bread, which RMan loves to sop up the gravy with, I made a loaf of beer bread in the barbecue...
Bread baked in the barbecue
(I'm not normally so wasterful - usually I would simultaneously do a roast chicken, or something similar, whilst I have the barbecue lit.)  The addition of the unglazed clay floor tile (from the farm) works a treat, for that disperses the heat underneath the grill, and also warms up nicely to assist in baking the base of the bread :-)

We had asked friends to join us for dinner - to share Earth Hour with us.  We had finished eating 7.30pm, so we switched everything off, pulled out the candles, and an old box of Trivial Pursuit from the '80's LOL  What a trip down memory lane!

We didn't play it conventionally, with the board.  Instead we turned it into a type of "Who wants to be a Millionaire" game - the quizmaster (we all took turns) had to pick a question, any question, from the card, and devise four answers, using the correct one as one of the options.  (That's not easy, hey - it really challenges what you think you know!!  In reality we are all the Weakest Links LOL))  Then the players had to jointly decide which was the correct answer.

It was so much fun (well, to be fair I reckon the two bottles of wine helped also) that by the time we realised that Earth Hour was over, it was 12.45 a.m.  We hadn't used any electricity for over 5 hours!

A perfect evening - and enjoyed without any modern conveniences at all!  Why do we think we are so dependent on modern conveniences?  Why do we allow ourselves to be so dependent?  Have we forgotten that sitting round a candlelit table, playing a game with the family, can be fun.

Such a simple pleasure.  And one which we can all afford - for after all, all it is costing us is our time.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Fracking in the Karoo - please sign the petition

This morning I received an e-mail from RC.  It concerned the proposed fracking for natural gas from the shale beds in the Great Karoo by Shell!

I am copying that e-mail here.  Please - anybody reading this - please sign the petition.  Hopefully we can prevent Shell from destroying this precious land - the largest ecosystem in South Africa.

In our country we change the names of roads, dams and companies. We have asked Shell for a guarantee that if they proceed with the project, that they would change their name and drop the “S’.

They will make life ShearHELL for all those in the Karoo.

Boycott SHELL – they won’t stop their plans on moral grounds and they have enough money to bribe whoever they need to but if their pockets are affected then maybe they will look to alternate solutions.

We have plenty of sun and wind in the Karoo, why not use solar and wind energy?

Those of you who may own garages that sell Shell fuel, we are NOT targeting you, but you will be affected too. Put pressure on Shell to change their plans…and to do it quickly before EVERYONE suffers.

Sign the ‘Stop Fracking in the Karoo’ petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/


(The actual petition is at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/295/--if-gte-mso-9xml-wworddocument-wviewnormalwview-wzoom0wzoom-wpunctuationkerning/)



This email is doing the rounds – showing gas wells back to back in the US, which is what could happen in the Karoo as Shell has said that each well requires one hectare, but they haven’t said they can join hectare to hectare. Shell has also said that they can run 14 plus wells from each well pad, extending horizontally for 2.5 kilometres at depths of 4-5km.

Try and sell your land when it looks like this on the surface plus, when the groundwater is polluted by the millions of litres of toxic chemicals that lie beneath and no one can live there because they get sick!!!

Please forward to as many people as possible!

Here are some photo's and a little information on the Karoo:

Photo credits: DanieVDM
http://www.safariguide.co.uk
"The Great Karoo is a vast and unforgiving landscape of which the Karoo National Park is but a small portion. Being the largest ecosystem in South Africa, the Karoo is home to a fascinating diversity of life, all having adapted to survive in these harsh conditions. Karoo National Park is dominated by the lofty Nuweveld Mountains and rolling plains, where many species that originally occurred here now occupy their former ranges.

The Karoo National Park has a wide variety of endemic wildlife. Many species have been relocated to their former ranges - such as black rhino and buffalo, as well as Cape mountain zebra. Over 20 breeding pairs of black eagle find sanctuary within the park. There is also a wide diversity of succulent plants and small reptiles." Source: http://www.sanparks.org/parks/karoo/

The Karoo National Park have recently re-introlduced / relocated black rhino, buffalo, lion and mountain zebra to this park.
Photo credit: http://www.routes.co.za
"THE KAROO: THE GREATEST VERTEBRATE GRAVEYARD
In SF#104, we mentioned a vast bone bed consisting mainly of fish remains. Now, an exchange of letters in a creationist journal gives us the opportunity to present a few facts about a giant bone bed of terrestrial vertebrate fossils: the Karoo Supergroup of southern Africa.

Photo credit: Fossil Shells and starfish
near Prince Albert http://www.firstscience.com
The point being discussed by the creationists is the source of the estimated 800 billion vertebrate fossils contained in the Karoo deposits. Whence this astronomical number of mainly swampdwelling reptiles? ...

...Nowhere else on the planet is there such a massive, continuous, fossiliferous land deposit." Source: http://www.s8int.com/boneyard1.html

Photo credit: http://www.graaffreinettourism.co.za
 In addition, the Karoo has been mooted as a site for the installation of the SKA Telescope (Square Kilometre Array).

"The radio telescope - brainchild of a consortium of major international science funding agencies in 16 countries - comprises 3000 giant antenna dishes, each the height of a three-storey building.

Astronomers plan to use the SKA to peer back through time, across vast distances, to investigate the history of the universe and when the first stars were formed." Source: http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/article970476.ece/Karoo-gas-plans-could-hurt-telescope-bid

If Shell were to be granted permission, and were to proceed with the proposed fracking for natural gas in the Karoo, all in the name of more profits for this already immensely profitable company, the impact on our shortlisting to host this incredible radio telescope would be extremely negative.

Petrol companies, and their oil wells have raped our land, our seas, and now they want to rape our heritage and fossil sites!

Have they no shame?

Please - sign the petition - for the sake of all our future generations, science and knowledge.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Water, water everywhere... with lots and lots to drink :-)

We all know that without water, this planet cannot survive.  Without power to provide the energy to obtain that water, we are also in a pickle.  We watched a very interesting Discovery Channel programme the other week on how water is obtained, in the dry, arid Sahara Desert, via ancient, deeply buried man-made tunnels, from aquifers. 

I subscribe to a local blog, and, sometimes, they have very interesting and thought provoking articles.

This morning a new posting arrived in my mailbox: 
http://saaea.blogspot.com/2011/03/treadle-pumps-changing-lives-of-farmers.html

This concept, naturally, piqued my interest and I just had to Google "treadle pumps".

That led me to a very interesting document, and one which I have to share with you.

I am a firm believer in being prepared for any situation, and, once we are on the farm, permanently, we are hoping to have a borehole.  Yes, I am aware that underground water is precious, and no, we will not waste what we draw from that source. 

I just need to be assured that we can obtain water to sustain us if our mains supply is unavailable, and this seems like a simple solution to the problem.  Add to that a simple solar still, to clean contaminated water and make it fit for human consumption, and we are set!  (Note: In our area, our underground water is brak [salty] water.)


Water Still
Source: "The New complete book of Self-Sufficiency"
by John Seymour

We have glass left over from our business that I would recycle and use in place of the polythene tent, and which I think would work even more effectively :-)

So, with both of these concepts, if the worst happens, we will still have water to drink and cook with, and, at a push, be a source of water for our vegetables.  A couple of years ago I read that lemon trees will accept brak water - so providing the salt content isn't too high, it will present no problem there :-)


Our existing water storage barrel

We do have a 5 000lt (1 100 UK gallons / 1 320 US gallons) water barrel, and we also plan to have a couple placed strategically around the house, to capture the rain water from the roof.  However, climbing a ladder and looking inside the one we have a couple of weeks ago, I was shocked to see a layer of green slime forming on top of the water.  And the rain water barrels, too, will eventually become slimy, I'm sure.  Cleaning the water with chlorine is not an option for me - I'm planning to live there organically without the use of chemicals.  So, that slimy water could be used for our trees, but, honestly, I do not want to drink that!  (Again, and to be honoest, at a push I could put the slimy water through the solar still, and end up with clean water - but I would probably boil that before drinking it.)

I have been pondering our water pump problem recently, be-moaning the fact that solar pumps are soooo expensive.  A treadle pump must be a fraction of the cost.  Synchronicity is an amazing thing, isn't it - and how wonderful it is when information just drops into your lap :-)

And one more niggle to cross of the list...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Autumn notes, a giveaway and replacement parts

Last Monday, 21st March was a Public Holiday and also an official planting day (for winter crops) in South Africa.

So, naturally, I had to join in...

I repotted some of the the gazillion lemon trees that I am growing from pips...


Thank goodness for all the milk bottles I am recycling into pots - I have counted over 75 lemon saplings which I have grown from pips, and ... yes, I still have more lemon pips (and a couple of limes!) sprouting on my kitchen windowsill LOL  Thank goodness for the 2 hectares of land on our smallholding - I am rapidly filling up the area...

This back patio is my nursery area - as well as the only area I can use my solar oven in winter.  The front of our house faces south, to capture the view of the bay, which is all well and good, but useless in winter for anything sun-related!

I also planted out the last of my garlic cloves, spinach, broad beans and peas.


Oh, and I also planted some carrots - a few rows of the normal Cape Market, which is a very good producer, and a few rows of Franchi Sementi yellow, white and orange carrots.  They did very well in the bath which I converted into a raised bed in August last year.  And the Magic Seeder, which you can see in the photo, is absolutely brilliant at sowing carrot seeds, as well as lettuce, etc.  In fact it will sow any seed less than 2mm in size.  It does take a bit of practice (over an empty ice cube tray LOL) but once you have the knack of it, it is invaluable.  I keep one in each seed packet - that way I don't have to empty the seeds out when I change from carrots, to lettuce, etc.  Merely pop of the lid, angle the gadget and away I go.

I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but...

...if anyone would like a Magic Seeder, please leave a comment below and RMan will randomly choose a name / winner on Sunday night.  I will send it to you, wherever you are in the world...

Yes - I am offering a Magic Seeder as a giveaway - I'm sure that someone in the southern or northern hemisphere will find it very useful - especially with your spring sowing season in full swing.  It should take about 2 weeks to arrive.

RMan had to visit a prospective client on the other side of town on Monday afternoon, so I went along for the ride.  On the way home we stopped at the Cape Quarter, a shopping centre in Cape Town, CBD.  There RMan spotted...


...a whistling kettle to replace the one that was stolen when our little farm house was invaded in January this year.  Don't ask the price - it was expensive, but I am ecstatic to have a kettle which reminds me I have switched it on.  I always seem to get side tracked as soon as I put the kettle on, as I can't bear just stand idly and do nothing for the 4 - 5 minutes it takes for the kettle to boil...  It is perfect for use on our gas stove or on the dover stove!

I'm now impatient for a winter visit to the farm to fire up the dover stove, make some bread in it (it's always so lovely and extra crunchy when it's baked in that oven) and enjoy that with some homemade plum jam and a cup of tea...
The dover stove makes the whole place so cosy and gemutlich and reminds me of years gone by in my grandmothers kitchen in Lincolnshire and her large Aga stove - okay, so my stove is about 1/6 of the size of hers, but it works, and that's the main thing.

I love the freedom of summer, but I adore the cooler weather of winter - that must be my English roots surfacing.  I find I have more energy in winter than in summer - the heat drains everything out of me.  I also find it easier to get warm in winter than to cool down in summer - well, I mean, who can spend their entire day in the pool?

So, I say, roll on winter and dover stove time...


One final thing - I was sitting at my 'puter last night, and down swooped a mozzie and bit me twice on the ankle.  Twice, I ask you.  After a couple of scratches, I remembered the banana skins I had placed in the freezer.  I popped one on the bite, gave it a bit of a rub, and, voila, no more itch!!!  It works a treat!  No chemicals, no mass production, no packaging, no energy consumption in the production of it - just a plain ol' banana skin does the trick!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Perigee moon

Last night there was a perigee moon.

A perigee moon occurs when the moon is in its' closest orbit to the earth - and last night it was 356 000 kms (221 208 miles) away.  In addition, it was also a full moon.

It was an exquisite evening, with crystal clear skies and a temperature of 32oC (89.6oF) at 8.25 pm GMT - there was just a hint of a draft wafting through the trees - almost enough to cool down and dry the perspiration which drenched our bodies - it had been a l-o-n-g hot day...

I couldn't resist trying to capture the perigee on my camera.


I was also lucky enough to capture some stars in the night sky, too - before my camera battery ran out...

But, when I viewed the photo's on my desktop I discovered that I had also captured a whole bunch of orbs.
My photo taken at 8.25 pm (GMT)

Magic!

Have you ever taken a photo of an orb?  We have had heated debates in our family regarding orbs, until I proved to my husband that a photo, taken over and over, on the same spot - click, click, click - did not always result in capturing orbs, and when they did, the orbs were in different places and one can clearly see the different colours of each orb and the shapes within the centre of the orbs.

I was frustrated because I wanted to take other photo's of the perigee, so my obliging RSon, whipped out his camera - a new, stronger, more expensive model.  The results speak for themselves.


Am I being fanciful - does the man in the moon look particularly sad?  I could swear he has tears running down his face.

Can we blame him, if one looks at events worldwide - global warming, and natural and man-made disasters - particularly those that occurred in the far east on Friday 11th March, and, most recently, the "war" which has been declared in the middle east.

If the universe is mourning the state of earth - what are we doing?

Perhaps I am being influenced by the approaching autumn and winter, whilst my northern hemisphere friends are eagerly anticipating spring and summer, and the rebirth of their gardens.

The fact remains though, if we continue mistreating this planet through ignorance (in todays' educated world that is not an excuse), for our own selfish reasons or for financial "reward", we will all pay the price for that disrespect.

When one is privileged to live in the country and above us the exquisite night sky is clear, bright and humbling, we surely appreciate that it is not just this planet we need to be aware of, but also our planets' position, and role, in our universe.

Sharing is caring - let us all make this planet a better place - for all its' creatures - great and small.  We have to consider each action that we take, its' impact on this planet and the consequences we deserve for that action.  How else can we make a positive difference?

Friday, 18 March 2011

Helping yourself - for your benefit

I cam across an interesting report today.  It is all about the energy required to make food which is available to the consumer. 

http://www.postcarbon.org/article/273686-beyond-food-miles

I had always presumed that transporting food to the consumer took up a fair wack of the energy use and costs.  We have all heard about food miles, and have been urged to grow our own / purchase local produce.  So I was surprised to see that half the energy used during the actual processing and production of the food, is where all the energy is going.  When I think of factories, I think of manufacturing factories like a glass manufacturer, a steel producer, a car factory, etc.  I didn't think of biscuit, crisps or cooldrink factories as high consumers of energy.

Apparently, the processing of the raw goods into ready meals / junk food use more than half of the energy - in order to manufacture highly processed "foods" like - crisps, doughnuts, cola (pop) and beer.  We won't even go into how much is used for things like biscuits (cookies), sweets, etc.

And the above is not taking into account the packaging of all the ready meals / junk food.

A real eye opener and surely yet another reason not to support junk food.

Bad for the planet and bad for your body.

No contest!

And did you know that this report discovered that preparing food in your kitchen uses twice as much energy than the farm consumed producing the food in the first place? 

I am not going to go into detail about the article as I have inserted the link above for you to read.

But I will say this:

If you need a plate of crisps, use your vegetable peeler and cut thin strips from a peeled potato - heat up your oil and fry them yourself.  Add your salt when the crisps are cooked and the oil has drained off them onto a piece of brown paper.  Popcorn - ditto.  Or sprinkle with sugar if you want it sweet instead of savoury.

Fresh fruit and vegetables - what
could be better for your body?
Cakes - nothing nicer than the smell of fresh baking pervading your home - and you know exactly what ingredients have gone into it.  The same applies to biscuits, toffees or turkish delight, etc.  Or, for that sweet craving, have a handful of raisins, and dehydrate slices of your favourite fruits, so that you can enjoy them out of season.

And, if you are as fortunate as I am, you can use free energy to bake your foods - via a solar oven.

Solar baked biscuits
There are alternatives to all the junk food out there - but they require that you expend some thought and energy into creating them.  Or is that actually the crux of the problem?  No-one has enough time anymore, even with all the modern conveniences we all have at our disposal?

Or is that just the excuse we all use for the convenience of buying food which is highly processed, ready-made and filled with chemicals to prolong its' shelf life?

Ultimately, though, are we prolonging our lives by consuming that food - or are we adding to the problems which we could encounter as our bodies age? 

How many chemicals should we add to our bodies?  To my mind, the less the better.

But - it goes further than that...

Have you even considered how many chemicals you add to your bodies via daily items such as toothpaste and soap?

The slab of soap waiting to be cut into
the required portion sizes
Yesterday, I made my first ever batch of soap.  I was very nervous, as the propect of using lye frightened me.

But, with the incredibly generous guidance of a friend, RC, who makes soap for a living, I managed to produce 15 bars of the most incredible looking / smelling soap that I have ever seen.  I so wish I had a powerful enough camera to take a photo of the inside cut edge of this soap - the creamy, smooth and luxurious soap that my photo's don't do justice to.

I used a ruler to divide the slab into equal portions :-)
Okay, as I will only have a few selected electrical appliances for use on the farm, I decided that my first batch I would make with a baloon whisk...


My baloon whisk

After carefully measuring out the ingredients, and when the two liquids were at the correct termperature, I carefully blended them together and proceeded to beat the mixture.  And I beat the mixture.  And I beat it some more...

After exactly  hours of beating I finally reached trace stage and could proceed with placing the mixture in the mould.  To say that I had no right arm, nor wrist, at the end of the 1½ hours is an understatement.

It was a complete labour of love... but I did it!!

Fifteen pieces of 200gm soap, on the drying
rack, and placed in my spare bedroom - I
can't wait until they are ready...
I am so chuffed - and I have a new hobby which will benefit the whole family :-)  Although, I have to tell you that I am going to be investing in a low powered (below 1200 watt) blender - apparently trace stage is reached far quicker with a blender...

I took the time, overcame a mental hurdle, conquered my fear, and we will all benefit.

I just love it.  Thank you so much, RC - I owe you big time.

I reckon that if we all got off our collective derrière, and did more for ourselves, we, and our planet, would reap the benefits.

And, simultaneously, we would be teaching the next generation to help themselves, and not too always expect help from outside - making them more self-sufficient.  That, surely, must be good for them?  :-)

Thursday, 17 March 2011

All things great and small

We took another 3 day weekend last weekend - our alarm had apparently being going off at all times, and a neighbour popped passed to see if all was OK.  All appeared good, but we couldn't let the alarm keep invading the peace and quiet, so our only option was to go there to check it out.

Our friend, CGuy, installed the alarm (he used to do that for a living).  Unfortunately he was unable to come with us this time, so RMan had to try and figure it out for himself.  We managed to ascertain the zone which was misbehaving, but were unable to correct it - so, for now, it's bypassed :-)

Prior to travelling up we had purchased a small chest freezer and a 1000watt inverter.  After battling all of Saturday with the solar panels (on loan from CGuy) / regulator / inverter and the two batteries, we finally got it wired up and running properly.  Thank goodness, for we now have the wherewith all to keep food from turning, create bottles of ice water to chill a cooler box we are using as a fridge (for things like salads, eggs, etc) and, probably most importantly, RMan has always got a chilled beer available - the chest freezer gets his beers to perfect drinking temperature in approximately 1 hour!

As I was walking towards our grape vine area to check on the progress of our grapes I was suddenly stopped in my tracks. There, not 20mtrs away, was movement - of something unexpectedly large. It was a hare - at least 80cms (31 - 32 inches) in height. Now we have seen one before, almost as big, but that was in the late hours of the night. We've never spotted one in the day before. Naturally, my bumbling through the grass gave it a fright, and it hopped away as quick as anything. But I was thrilled - although perhaps I wont be as thrilled when it eats the grapes that finally grow on our vines...

On Sunday morning I took a walk to our neighbours farm - I had noticed that they hadn't been home since we had arrived on Saturday morning. On our previous visit the inhabitants had not been home either, and in fact had told us they had moved to the nearby village, bacause of their school going child.  we had presumed that they had taken their animals with them.  But I felt uneasy.  So I took my stroll.  Yes, the dog and chicken were there alright, with no visible food around for them, and a small amount of water ina bowl in the chicken coop.  I was horrified!   Do I interfere?  Getting back to our house I discussed this with RMan - and he, reluctantly, advised against interferring.  But I couldn't forget those animals... so I sneaked back and left a pile of dried cat food near the entrance to the property, and in sight of the dog - it was all I had.

About an hour after I got back, I glanced, for the umpteenth time towards our neighbours farm, and spotted movement on his roof.  Can chickens get that high?  Would they?  I grabbed the binoculars and almost fell over.  There, jumping and sliding about on this roof were ...




baboons!  About 7 - 8 of them, including one very large male!  I'm sorry the picture is so far away - I was a little nervous about getting too close - baboons can cause serious injury, if they are so inclined, and, as I didn't know what mood they were in, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  But we feared for the dog and the chickens...

On Monday we managed to have some time in the garden before we headed back to Cape Town.  On our last visit we had hired a digger / loader, and the driver dug some trenches next to the lemon trees we planted in January this year.  We filled in the trenches again, (scaring a frog which was hiding under a clod of earth) adding lots of compost and then we planted another 5 lemon trees.  We figured that the loosed earth in the trench would assist the newly planted trees as the ground is rock hard there in summer - not easy for a little lemon tree to spread its' roots.

I have to say though that the trees we planted in early January are flourishing - they have trebled in size in just 2 months, and, considering we are heading for autumn, I'm particularly impressed.

Lemon trees which were planted in January 2011

Just look how they've grown!
But, even more exciting - and I am completely blown away by this.

Sometime towards the end of last year I planted some pips - for the life of me I can't remember what they were - were they from a lemon or from a bag of delicious oranges that we had purchased on the drive to the farm?  Apart from the fact that I cannot throw away any pips I find in lemons or oranges, and shove each and every one of them into whatever soil is handy, I really can't remember what is was that I plonked into two strips of clay, outside our kitchen door.  Those strips of clay mark our future veggie patch, so I have been tossing all the compostable waste from the kitchen there - figure I'd give the ground a bit of a start LOL.

So, during this visit I went to toss away the waste parts of salads / egg shells / tea bags which had accumulated in the kitchen compost bowl, and as I was walking back to the kitchen, what did I see...

... three tiny little trees growing.  The leaves smell like lemons, or could that be oranges?  Whatever, I am completely amazed, for these little pips have had no water - whatsoever!  The day they were shoved into the ground, I watered them, and then forgot they were there...

I can see I'm going to have a wonderful time with all the lemon trees we have planted / have yet to plant...  The plan is bearing fruit.

Sadly, yet again, our time on the farm drew to an end.  I started loading the van and as I stepped out of the kitchen, lo! and behold! I had a last visitor.  It was our neighbours dog.  As soon as he spotted me he scarpered off - back about 20mtrs (21 yards), and then sat - just watching me.

I immediately searched for food to feed it - a few pieces of wholewheat bread, and a bit of boerewors -a typical (coriander seed flavoured) South African sausage which is cooked on the barbecue - and the last of the dried cat food.  The poor animal waited until I disappeared inside again and then crept up and wolfed that down and then polished off the bowl of water I had placed next to the food.

A very timid, nervous dog, who finally managed to overcome his fear of us because of his hunger.  An obedient dog, who didn't attempt to eat the chickens he was protecting.  He was still very skittish and ran away if I walked out of the house, but at least he ate the food I had put outside.

As we climbed into the van, I filled a 10lt (5 gallon) bucket with water - so I knew the dog would have some water for the next few days.

People!  People like this don't deserve the priviledge of owning an animal.



An update on this:  After I returned to Cape Town I contacted a farming neighbour by e-mail and asked her to check on whether our neighbour had returned.  As she arrived at his house, he drove up - so at least the animals have food for a day or so.  She is going to keep her eye out, and if she finds that he is disapearing for days at a time, she is going to get hold of the SPCA.  This cannot, in my book, be allowed to happen anymore... defenceless animals need all the assistance they can get.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Electricity blackouts this winter

On the front page of this mornings' Cape Times was an article concerning the proposed enforced decrease in the power usage of all Capetonians, aka rolling blackouts (aka no power for 3 - 6 hours), unless we can voluntarily cut our electricity use by 25 - 40%!  With winter looming, I think that's a tall order.

Also, considering that we had an average increase of 25% in tariffs last year, (and similarly priced increases definitely on the cards for the next two years) to "help finance new power stations / production and thereby avert rolling blackouts" I, personally, am horrified!

Horrified at the cheek of Escom (the South African power provider) at reneging on their reasons for the price increase.  No rolling blackouts indeed!!

But, I also question why the homeowner should be penalised for industries demand for, and use of, power - even a 5-year-old could work out that manufacturing plants / factories consume far more power than the simple homeowner.

And, I am extremely grateful for the power saving methods I have introduced in our home in the past 36 months.  And for the resultant reduction in power consumption by at least 45% in the past 15 months.

This winter we will not put on heaters / electric blankets (which we don't possess) this winter - extra jerseys / thicker socks - even a beanie or a hoodie - they will all help to keep us warmer.  And, if whilst we watch TV in the evening, it is uncomfortably chilly - well, there's nothing like snuggling under a blanket on a comfy chair :-)  And what on earth is wrong with a microwaved bean bag or hot water bottle at the foot of the bed, if that is required?

My solar oven use may be limited due to the fact that we don't get much sun in our garden in winter - however, with that said, whenever I do have sun available, the solar oven will be employed to make soups - plain vegetable / bean / dried pea soups - the type of soups that can be cooked at a low heat and which will not promote the growth of salmonella or some other such dreaded bacteria, so nothing with milk, eggs, chicken or meat.  I WILL NOT use my electric oven under any circumstances - why should I - I haven't used it for the past 10 months anyway!

My hot box, made out of RSons' old toy box
and shredded paper from the office
which didn't land up on the compost heap.

My hot box worked well last year, and I will probably have to use our gas barbecue for baking bread.  But I don't mind that, as it's instant heat - I don't have to wait for it for 20 - 30 minutes in order for it to warm up to the required temperature, wasting who knows how much power / electricity whilst it does so!  A baking stone on the grill also retains the heat and improves this method for cooking bread.  I would obviously try and combine different foods whilst the barbecue is lit, and it is in "oven mode" - bread and roast chicken / bread and a casserole / bread and a quiche... the possibilities are endless.

Washing drying in our laundry room
I do not use a tumble dryer - either I line dry our clothing, or, if the weather is inclement for a number of days, I make a plan in our laundry room (you could even use your bathroom or a spare bedroom).  Ironing - you can't see un-ironed clothing under jerseys or jackets - so why bother? ;-)  Just ensure that you give the clothing a really good shake (a "snap-shake") when you take it out of the washing machine - and on a windy day, the wind will soon knock any creases out of the garment.

The vacuum cleaner - have you ever tried brushing your carpets with a hand brush or broom?  You seriously don't need to go to a gym to get a workout in your own home.

When we boil the kettle, we fill up a thermos flask with the balance of the hot water - it stays more than hot enough for the next cup or two.  And most of my kitchen implements for preparing food are manually operated.


Manual kitchen implements

ALL our light globes are CFL's - and, at night, we only ever have one on at a time.

Plus, we have our solar light - let the sunlight (what there is of it) charge the internal battery during the day, and use that power at night.


I turn the light to face the wall and the wall bounces back all the illumination we need :-)

My 'puter - can't really cut back on its' use, as I use it for personal pleasure and for our business - so apart from switching off the screen whenever I am not in front of it for a while, I do also have a screen saver function, which puts it "to sleep" after 5 minutes of non-activity.


Our only real problem is going to be our geyser, and, as our purchase of a solar geyser is unlikely this year, I am really tempted to install a Kexin (Dew Hot) LP gas powered geyser, similar to what we use on the farm.  It works brilliantly, and most importantly, only uses gas when you switch on the hot tap.  An added bonus is that it has adjustable settings, for winter / summer use, and a fire adjuster.  And a Kexin (plus installation) will be about 20% the cost of a solar geyser.  Our existing geyser is at least 25 years old, and CANNOT be efficient anymore - certainly not as efficient as the newer models.

Other than the changes we have made, I cannot see how we can reduce our electricity consumption further.

I don't fear rolling blackouts, as we do have the wherewith all to be really very comfortable during them.  And we have, very happily, experienced life without power on the farm.  I just object to their being enforced!

I feel for all the Capetonians who haven't taken steps to simplify their lives or who haven't become less dependent on Escom - the rolling blackouts will hit them pretty hard, I fear.

But, I have to confess, I do love any excuse for candlelight :-)   And I'll have a valid reason to just sit and knit some more dishcloths whilst the blackouts are in force.  Knitting I can do by candlelight.


I will miss blogging and catching up on blogs if the power is out first thing in the morning... But, Blogger (and the problems I am having with my reading list on my dashboard) permitting, I will catch up sooner or later! :-)

By the way, is no one else interested in a give away?  The offer end this evening.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Autumn gardening

I awoke yesterday to a completely misty morning - how refreshing that was after the heat of the past couple of weeks.

Even the plants in my garden looked relieved and revived.

This is my rosemary bush with the mist dripping off the end of the leaf spikes...


My Black Pearl chilli plant is ready to harvest...


And I figured that it was the perfect day to plant out my sprouting broad beans.  A week or so ago I popped them into a seedling tray, so that I could give them some TLC whilst they were sprouting - I didn't want the heat to cause any damage before they had even had a chance to start along their intended course in life :-)

Broad beans in the front and newly planted
pea trays in the background

They seem to love their newly prepared possie - they have been relegated to the recycled bath - it is one of the few spots in my back garden which gets sun in winter, and I reckon that their roots will have plenty of depth to spread.  Also, having them in the bath will prevent my having to irrigate the entire back garden (not that it is that big) for the sake of a couple of area's which are planted up with winter crops.  Have to save water where, and when, I can :-)


Broad beans have been planted at the back
and the peas have been sown at the front

But, reading other blogs (from the northern hemisphere) where everyone can't wait to get their gardens started for the new season, I realised that I am very fortunate.  I can grow crops all year round - we don't get frost, and if any snow falls in Cape Town, it is mainly on top of Table Mountain.

So I still have the last of my tomatoes, mealies (sweetcorn), aubergines, green bush beans and radishes to harvest, and I have newly planted broad beans, peas, lettuce, spinach, carrots, onions and garlic all popping their cheeky little heads above ground.


I'm relieved that I don't have to wait until August / September to get back into my garden - don't know what I'd do with myself if that happened :-)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Sharing is caring... a give away

I am trying to declutter my life in readiness for our eventual move to the farm.

Whilst sifting through my bookshelf I came across this book.


Now, with our non-existant / limited electrical appliances on the farm, plus the fact that I no longer even own a juicer, I thought, "Why not share what you can't use anymore"!

So, partly as a way of marking just over a year of blogging (with many grateful thanks to the new friends I have made in that time), and also as a way of decluttering, I am offering this (well used) book as a give-away - next Friday night  (11th March) RMan will choose a random reply from all the comments to this posting, and, whoever you are, and wherever you are on this planet, I will send the book to you - locally (South Africa), northern or southern hemisphere :-)

So - it's up for grabs. 

It's all about juicing LOL - explaining in detail how to mix and prepare raw fruit and veggies for juicing in order to enhance well-being, and to provide essential vitamins and minerals to help beat fatigue and boost your immunity.  A brilliant little book!

This is a look at the contents page:

Click on the image for a bigger picture
All my northern hemisphere readers are just beginning their spring  / summer gardens / plantings.  This book may help one of you decide if you're actually going to plant "that particular" plant this year in order to harvests its' produce and put that to good use :-)

And, for my southern hemisphere readers - maybe it will help to pass the winter months dreaming of an gooseberry, banana or strawberry smoothie / juice next season...

Here is a peek at three pages from the back index (click on the image - I hope I left the image big enough for the index to be visible :-)  )






I am a firm believer in paying it forward, so, to the winner, all I ask in return is that you go through your bookcase (or whatever), and "pay it forward" if you're so inclined :-)

A bit of sharing on this planet cannot go amiss, can it?

Uses for banana peels
Finally, on the subject of fruit, and specifically bananas, did you know that a potassium rich, ripe, or black, banana isn't just for a banana loaf - the peel can be used as a soothing rub for an insect bite - it really works, I kid you not.  So, whenever I make banana bread, I pop the skins in the freezer, and the next mozzie, or gnat bite, I whip out a peel, and Hey, Presto!  the itch is gone :-)

A ripe banana can also be used as a face mask, and the skins used to polish shoes and for wiping down the dusty leaves of houseplants.

Finally, use crushed dried banana peels when you plant out seedlings.  Just place them under the seedling and feed your plant a boost of free, nutrious extra potassium :-)  Placing used banana skins in your compost heap will have the same effect - but obviously, more diluted.

We have so much out there which we have forgotten how to use!  Gotta love this planet and what we have free access to, haven't you?

Have you any alternative uses for plants / fruits that you'd like to share?

Postscript: 

Give away closed:  Emilysincerely - you are the winner, by unanimous decision :-)  Please could you let me have your postal address - mail me on: dani at ecofootprint dot co dot za

Enjoy - it is a brilliant book!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Continuing making a difference journey - the benefits of buying in bulk

As a small income producing sideline, I am in the fortunate position of manufacturing salad dressings for a few of the local restaurants.  That entails buying as many goods as I can in bulk, in order to keep the costs as low as possible.  Bulk items are packaged in bulk containers, which are generally all recyclable.  Naturally, I am incapable of throwing these containers away, and use them for a variety of my storage solutions.


Here, on the top shelf, I am storing my herbs (which I use in cooking, salad dressings and preserving) in empty mayonnaise jars.

I also use these jars to store...


Cereals and sugar
and...

Dried pasta and rice
and finally, they also store RMans' spare parts, nuts, screws and bolts on the farm (sorry, I don't have a pic of that).

They are perfect as they do have an inner seal on the lid, so I don't have to worry about creepy crawlies gaining access.  (Don't forget - a sprig of Bay Leaves in the jar prevents weevils.) 

It's just a pity the jars are made of plastic - I reckon they could've made cool preserving jars!!

Now, I realise that not everyone has access to bulk containers, but have you considered your local restaurant?  They probably throw away dozens of bulk containers a week, and would be grateful to someone / anyone who could assist them in disposing of their waste / relieve them of the added refuse collection - which the restaurant probably has to pay for - I know they charge restaurants per bin / weight in the UK.  (And for my readers who frequent the "Grub Shack" I'm sure that Jerry and Eva must have more bulk containers than they know what to do with LOL).


These white containers with blue lids are from 125ml (4 fl.oz) and 250ml (8 - 9 fl.oz) cream.  When they are new and full of cream they have a foil seal.  Once that is removed, the (blue) lid fits, but not airtight.  Thus, in my book, they make perfect storage containers for the (very dry) seeds obtained from plants in my vegetable patch which have gone to seed, or from vegetables / fruits which I purchase from the local greengrocer (such as paw-paws, watermelons, squash and pumpkins) as I am currently incapable of growing them (but which I hope to grow next season on the farm).  I also add a sachet of silica gel to prevent a build up of moisture in them - the silica gel sachets we get from bottles of tablets / vitamins, and I certainly can't toss them into the rubbish bin either!

The tall glass bottles are from fruit liqueurs, and I'm still debating what to store in those - possibly flavoured vinegars.

The smaller jars (on the right of the picture) are for kitchen use of herbs and spices - when I need to make salad dressings, I pull out the big guns.

Factories are always going to produce some of their goods in bulk containers.  If we can re-use these containers, we are, firstly, saving on the purchase of such containers for use in our homes / potting sheds / childrens playrooms / classrooms / garages, secondly, we are re-using something which is perfect as it is and does not need be recycled to produce (using unnecessary energy) something else, and finally, buying in bulk is cheaper - you're not having to pay extra to cover the cost of all the smaller containers.

This is a brilliant link detailing the storage life of most foodstuffs - it certainly simplifies my life :-)