Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Welcome - That British Woman


Continuing the introduction of new friends to old friends, please won't you join me in welcoming Gill of That British Woman blog from southern Ontario in Canada.


Gill is originally from Britain (duh LOL), and has settled in Canada - but she remains a royalist through and through.  Her blog is about how she is cutting their living costs, as well as the ups and downs of adapting to living in the country versus their previous life in town. And it is peppered with liberal doses of her wonderful British sense of humour.


Gill, I reply to all comments (even those placed on old postings), but given the size of this planet, and the different time zones, it may not be today by your time, but will certainly be by tomorrow.  And, if I am on the farm it may take a little longer...LOL

Monday, 30 January 2012

Gone to seed...

I'm terribly confused.


A good percentage of the overseas blogs (in US of A) I follow are all talking about going through, and ordering from, seed catalogues.


Now, I've been growing vegetables seriously for the past 3 - 4 years, and the only seeds I ordered last year were my first ever planting of broad (fava) beans, heirloom tomato seeds and the Franchi Sementi purple and yellow beans.  And the year before that I ordered the Franchi Sementi yellow, orange and white carrots.


I only ordered those seeds because each year I have let a couple of each of the plants in my vegetable patch go to seed, and, when they were ready to be harvested, I've dried them out thoroughly and stored them for use the next year.


I am, I reckon, an OCD seed saver.  Not just lemon pips either - my seed collecting fetish has now also grown to encompass apple and naartjie (mandarin) pips too.


All other kinds of seeds from vegetables which I have grown in my garden get gathered together and put away until the next season.  I can't fathom why anyone would allow a plant to go to seed, rip out the now dead plant with seeds unharvested, and then chuck it in their compost heap.


I cooked butternut in the solar oven today, and these are the seeds that one gourd gave me...
Butternut seeds
... more than I could ever use.  But it'll get added to the storage container labelled "butternut" LOL


Due to our three week farm break in December/January, one of my beetroot plants went to seed...
Beeroot seeding
... and, what I thought was a giant garlic seed head turned out to be an onion...
... but that's fine, 'cos we go through a lot of onions :)


A couple of parsnips are providing me with their off-spring...
A parsnip plant providing me with seeds for this winter
... and I've never bought a seed potato in my life...
Potatoes sprouting at the eyes
RMan is assured of his most favourite veg...
Pea seeds - still in their protective pod :)
I think, though, that my favourite seeding plant has got to be the carrot.  I allowed some of the yellow, white and orange carrots to go to seed.  The flower starts out all round and snowball-looking...
In front is the carrot flower-ball
and behind you can see the
flattening process taking shape
... and gradually becomes less puffy and flatter and flatter...
... until that perfectly shaped flower head has flattened out completely.  So flat that I can imagine butterflies use it as a dancing surface when no-one is looking.
All they need to do now is dry out and I'll
harvest them
Did you know that the original colour of carrots was purple?  The myth states that orange carrot was apparently grown Holland in the 16th Century to honour William of Orange.  But the ((orange) carrot was adopted as the royal vegetable in honour of the House of Orange :)


I have also harvested home grown aubergine, radish, corn, black pearl chilli, peas, beans, rocket, lettuce seeds.  All my tomato plants this year, except for the heirloom, have grown from seed I saved from last year.  And those tomato seeds originally came from shop bought organic tomatoes - thanks Woolies :)


Growing pumpkin, gem squash, zucchini and butternut from seed has thus far eluded me, but that doesn't mean I'm giving up.  I never give up... :)  The farm awaits you...  (Actually, I have no idea how my pumpkin plants on the farm are doing - they are under irrigation, and the plants have acres to spread out LOL, so maybe...)


But, back to my original question - why does everyone overseas seem to purchase new seed every year?  Are your seeds treated that their seeds aren't viable?  Is your cold weather the reason that you don't have the time to allow your seeds to dry out in order to store them?


Or are you not permitted (by Montsano) to preserve your own seeds?  Not that I'm trying to talk you into breaking the law, but it's far cheaper growing your vegetables from your own seeds LOL


How can there be a law against providing your own seed...?  If there is, then I reckon that's a crock.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Welcome Small Footprints

Continuing the introduction of new friends to old friends, please won't you join me in welcoming the Small Footprints of Reduce Footprints in Ashville, North Carolina.


Small Footprints profile states that she is a person who loves the earth.  Her blog site includes some very interesting vegan recipes, Meet and Greet Mondays, where she lists and links to new eco-friendly blogs she comes across, and Change the World Wednesday where a weekly challenge is issued to reduce / recycle your consumption of consumer goods.


Small Footprints, I reply to all comments (even those placed on old postings), but given the size of this planet, and the different time zones, it may not be today by your time, but will certainly be by tomorrow.  And, if I am on the farm it may take a little longer...LOL

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Local knowledge is priceless

I have discovered that there is a plant on the farm which I am allergic to.  After researching and walking - lots of walking (LOL), I have narrowed it down to this one.


From a distance it looks like what I call a bunnytail - a soft, fluffy dried plant, freely available in this country, and which can be dyed into various colours.


But, on closer inspection - both visual and physical - that is where the similarity ends.  Those little spiky things which protrude beyond the soft, fluffy-looking inner core are downright nasty!


And they caused the following reaction on my legs...
Tick bite down there, but thankfully
the tick wasn't infected :)
It doesn't itch, it doesn't hurt, but it just doesn't look so lekker (nice).
I'm always in crocs - summer
and winter...
RMan recalled our GP, Dr A, had mentioned that a friend, Alan, was getting a reaction to something on their smallholding, so I sent Dr A these three photo's.  He confirmed that the reaction is the same.  At least both Dr H and Alan both now know the cause.


I just don't know the name of the plant...  Teach, can you help? :)


Aside from providing work for locals, thus assisting them to remain in the rural areas, the beauty of employing, and communicating, with local inhabitants is that they have a wealth of knowledge which they freely share.  Such was the case with one such labourer, Dan the Man.


Before he moved to the nearest town, we employed him for a few days a year or so ago.  As we were leaving the farm after a long weekend visit, we requested that he remove as much of the renosterbos as he could in a given number of days.  He question to us was: "Moet ek alles uithaal?" ("Must I remove everything?")  When we looked puzzled, he then proceeded to tell us about the following plant.
Helichrysum species
This plant is called Kooigoed (bedding material) {thanks Diana :)} - it is from the Helichrysum species.  It has, to me, an aroma of camphor, and the leaves are soft.  

Kooigoed was used is days of yore as a bedding material - simply placed on the ground, or shoved inside a slip.  Naturally, as the branches are quite hard,  the bedding would probably have to be replaced quite frequently by us soft Westerners who are used to spring mattressesIt is reputed to keep insects and parasites at bay, and a tea made by soaking a couple of handfuls in a litre of boiling water overnight is said to lower blood pressure, and be beneficial to both the digestive tract and kidneys.  The leaves may also be used on wounds to prevent infection.  I reckon all round it s a very beneficial plant to have in one's garden :)
The last of the flowers on the Helichrysum
Finally, I have also read that tossing a few leaves on a fire and inhaling the smoke can supposedly relieve pain and insomnia.


I love finding out how such things were done in the days of yore.  Like how to protect pumpkins from getting stung by using straw.  I would love to write a book on all the old traditions that are in danger of being lost through the migration of rural inhabitants to urban areas.    Yes, initially, that knowledge will remain, but their children, and their children's children, wont be exposed to their ancestral plants / habits / methods and therefore that knowledge won't be passed on.  That will be such a sad day on this planet.


For such knowledge is infinitely more beneficial to this planet, but it can also free us from the pharmaceutical companies, from shopping malls, and from spending our hard-earned money. :)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Look who paid us a visit...

We reckon that moving to, and living on the farm, growing whatever will grow in those conditions, will bring more peace and quiet to our lives.  Less of the rush, rush, rush, and more time to actually enjoy each day as it happens.


I am looking forward to entertaining those who would like to share our experience when they have the time to pop in for a visit.


But, as we discovered this past December, there are some visitors who will not be quite so welcome.  Not ever!


This is Muffin, NGirl's new Pekinese puppy.  Muffin turned out to be a very welcome visitor because he developed a particular liking for large green grashoppers / crickets / locusts...
First the right paw went out.  Squish.  Then the left paw.  Scrape... squish. This was repeated until...
Good boy, Muffin :)
The object landed with it's feet / legs / what would you call them, in the air. Muffin managed to wipe out at least 4 - 5 of these in his last few nights.  Well done, Muffin!
As John Cleese said in the one Monty Python skit:
"This (locust) is deceased.
It has ceased to live.  It is an ex-(locust)."
They are the most revolting insects, for the noise they make is unlike any noise I have heard before.  Not the irritating, piercing "chirp chirp" of a cricket, but more like a rasping, grating noise - quite peculiar.  And not one which would be conducive to a good night's sleep.


The solution to this problem, if you don't have a Muffin in your life - is, if you have lights on inside, keep the doors and windows closed - otherwise you'll have these unwelcome visitors!


There were more of these enormous worms too - and they got sorted out with a quick squirt of our special mixture...  A heavy boot also does the trick. Messy - yes.  But it works.


They are beautiful, if very destructive insects, but I wonder what they look like as butterflies?
More locusts were lurking in the lemon trees - this time the quick squirt took less than 10 seconds to take effect.
Can you see the locust lurking in the lemon tree?
The result...  Done and dusted LOL  You're not going to damage my lemon trees if I can help it.
I'm not too sure if this palm-sized fellow is a toad or a frog - but he is welcome.  Even though as a child I stood on one with bare feet, I try and block out the memory when I come across one.  Mosquitoes, crickets / grasshoppers / locusts - they are all surely on his menu?
Looking for one of Muffin's "toys" which
escaped highlighted this chap skulking
in the corner of the lounge...
John, our helper / labourer, was a mine of useful information.  One of his suggestions was that I place the emerging pumpkins on a bed of straw and...   
... covered by yet more straw.  This is supposedly to prevent the fruit from getting stung.  I know it gets stung, but I have no idea by what... can anyone help?
Pumpkins "smothered" in straw
For those who have followed my blog for a while, you know about our solar shower enclosure around the caravan.  We decided to move the caravan as it is blocking our sunset view.  So that has been shifted to the other side of the house, where it is also less windy, and exposed.  That left us with the temporary shower shadecloth structure.  Initially, we were going to take it all down, so we started moving the sandbags which are placed around the base. However... 
Temporary shower structure at the side of the caravan
As John was emptying the contents of the bags into the wheelbarrow, he heard, and saw, something out of the corner of his eye.  Closer inspection caused him to shout out: "Meneer, SLANG"!  ("Sir - SNAKE").
It's just had it's head bashed in... and it continued
to move for another couple of hours...
Bearing in mind that MKid, and two additional dogs, were due to arrive three days later, RMan grabbed his gun, and taking aim - gave the trigger a careful and considered pull.  A couple of hard whacks to the head by John finished the job off satisfactorily :)
A 1.8 mtr Cape Cobra
Lastly, can anyone identify what insect is on the back of this leaf?  I found it in my veggie patch - and the plant was covered with them.  Buried under the sprawling tomatoes, the base / roots of the plant wasn't easy to find but I managed to yank it out.  But I would dearly love to know what they are.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Blockhead

Cleaning out cupboards towards the end of last year resulted in a bag of clothing past it's time.  Too scruffy to give away, too scruffy to wear - except for gardening.  But how many gardening outfits does one need...?  So, what to do with them?


Put them on a scarecrow :)  We had the clothes, we had schlepped along a couple of bales of straw from town (out in the country now, they mainly produce e-n-o-r-m-o-u-s round strawbales - finding normal, small rectangular ones was quite a search, but never tell me I can't do / make / try something...nothing I love more than a mission LOL) and Rman had the (recycled) wood from the auction to make the frame...


...RMan got busy making the frame - too busy, as he discovered.  Trying to put clothing on a rigid structure wasn't wasn't easy, so a couple of pieces temporarily got unscrewed to complete the task...


MKid also got involved clothing the object - and, trust me, it was a really hot day to be bothering with such things.  But they persisted.
Then MKid was tasked with drawing a face.  Not being tall enough yet to stand next to it to do the job, why not lie it down on the ground, and just sit on it's chest?
The red t-shirt was left loosely flapping in the breeze - to help scare away the birds which ate all our grapes...
When we asked MKid why the scarecrow had tears running down his face, he said, "Because he's too hot"!  Gotta love that kid!
And, why is he called blockhead?  Well, we did, initially, name him after our neighbour, CGuy, because their middle girth is about the same.  But RMan had constructed such a thick neck that his head and neck became one big square feature.  So, Blockhead he is!


Who cares - as long as he keeps the birds away :)

Welcome Energiser Bunny


Continuing the introduction of new friends to old friends, please won't you join me in welcoming the Energiser Bunny of Barefoot Bounty in Brisbane, Australia.
She is apparently called the Energiser Bunny by her husband Sean, as he is enormously frustrated by her ability to sit still.  So she takes that excess energy outside into her 5 acre garden and tries to make is as productive as she can.  I love your ride on lawnmower, EB :)


Energiser Bunny, I reply to all comments (even those placed on old postings), but given the size of this planet, and the different time zones, it may not be today by your time, but will certainly be by tomorrow.  And, if I am on the farm it may take a little longer...LOL

Friday, 20 January 2012

Welcome


Continuing the introduction of new friends to old friends, please won't you join me in welcoming Michele from Mystic Mud in Tennessee.


Michele, you have my complete and utter full-on support and admiration.  Living in a caravan on a mountain top, with water restrictions, and, initially, limited power, would be hard enough.  But, to do that with 10 children, ranging in age from 16 to 6 months old - how on earth do you do it?


Michele, I reply to all comments (even those placed on old postings), but given the size of this planet, and the different time zones, it may not be today by your time, but will certainly be by tomorrow.  And, if I am on the farm it may take a little longer...LOL

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Climbing ladders again...

Every time we've left the farm we've had to lock everything away.  When those are small things, that's no problem.  But when it's things like a ride on lawnmower, then that presents us with a bigger hassle.

And, in the case of the lawnmower, that hassle entailed the two of us somehow manoeuvring the contraption up two planks laid on the unfinished front steps so that we could "park" it in the lounge.  As the planks were too narrow to simply drive up them, we always had to push it up, and that was always fraught with danger (the machine falling off the two builders planks / a foot getting trapped underneath the machine / one of our (vulnerable) backs giving way / ...).
So we had to make another plan.  Actually, RMan had to make another plan.  And he did :)


You recall we built a green power room at the back of the house, to house the batteries and inverter for the solar panels.  Well, next to that was half-a-structure which was meant to house 2 X 19kg gas cylinders in the future - for the Kexin water heater, and the 2-plate caravan stove.
After measuring and finding the site suitable, RMan decided that the half-a-structure could easily be converted into a lawnmower storage area - not 100% secure, but given finances (and the lack thereof), it would have to do.  We had spare roof tiles, we had gum poles, we had shade cloth and we had some battens left...
Plenty of wood available...
So RMan got busy.  I have to say, it's not easy matching up a new roof to another structure.  A new roof -  no problem, but joining a new one to an existing one, well, that's a tad more difficult.
Support pole is in place and
the roof is on
Two full days, a new floor slab (with an overnight visitor)... 
If you look closely you can see that a bird came
to inspect it's new living quarters.  It even
went to far as to indicate it's new bathroom
area (the splat in the bottom right hand corner)
...some blue language, hectic heat, and a couple of frosty beers later the basic structure was in place.  It was sooo hot... and time was running out.
Gum poles did the trick for the side wall.
We then covered the wall poles with shadecloth (a la the veggie patch) and secured that with the remainder of the batterns.
As this was a last minute structure, which was completed during very draining, excessive, overwhelming heat, I omitted to take a photo of the completed structure.  But I guess you can get the general idea from the photo's above.  For the front opening, all we did was place the two water containers at the entrance and fill them with a bit of water to prevent their being moved easily by potential (thieving) children scouting out the area...


CGuy has workers full time at his place so they are also keeping an eye on our property.  I guess you could say that the lawnmowers fate is now in the capable hands of the Guy Upstairs.


Next time we will need to make the entrance more secure.  Next time...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

URGENT - Consol glass container update!

I have some bad news I'm afraid...


You remember I won some glass jars in the Sprig / Consol Glass competition back in October.
Consol's new range of glass storage containers
Well, I took the square set to the farm in December - I thought I'd need the food storage over the holidays, and square containers would fit perfectly in a (cooler box) fridge.


I didn't use them until just after the New Year, when we were expecting some guests over for dinner.  I decided to make a caramelized onion dip, using smooth ricotta or cottage cheese, plain yoghurt, a teaspoon or two of mayonnaise, salt, pepper and caramelized onions, and serving it in the smallest square storage container.


T'was very yummy:)  And quickly got wiped.  So I took the empty container to the kitchen and, loosely covering it with it's lid to deter any flies until it got washed up, left it on the counter whilst we ate our main meal.


Suddenly there was an almighty sound of exploding from the kitchen (well, we only have the one large room, so that wasn't hard to deduce LOL).


Rushing inside we found that the container had exploded!
The lid is where the glass container stood LOL
(we still haven't been able to paint inside, so
note the burn marks on the wall from when
I tried to set fire to the place last year...)
The gas stove had not been on since lunchtime, so it wasn't that heat that had caused it.  Nothing had fallen on it, so it wasn't that either.  I was amazed - and worried.  What would happen with the balance?  Would they also explode?


Heck, some of those shards were sharp, pointy and dangerous - and all over the place - kitchen counters and floor.  The labeling says that it is safe for microwaves and top shelf dishwasher loading.  Which means it must be toughened (a process which hardens glass and causes it to shatter into lumps of glass - like a windscreen on a motor vehicle - as opposed to shards.)  As you can see from this picture, there are definite sharp jagged pieces to this broken glass...  And large and minute fragments too - really, really tiny, very sharp pieces!
Glass shards - nothing like the lumps of glass
from a smashed windscreen
Thank goodness it hadn't happened whilst we were polishing off the dip...  And thank the Lord no-one was injured!


I have been in contact with Consol and they have informed me that they are experiencing "quality problems" with the storage containers.  They are recalling all of these storage containers - and will be collecting mine as soon as I bring the balance of them back from the farm.


So, if anyone has purchased such a set of containers from Consol, please contact them.


They would like to know where and when you purchased them, so they can recall any remaining stock from that outlets shelves.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Mower action...

RMan needed to do a whole bunch more mowing before the family (and their pets) arrived, to make the area safe for children and animals.

Scallywag came with us for this visit - we were going to be away for too long for RSon to pop by the house, spend an hour or two and feed him.  Not being used to driving for extended periods, old Scallywag took a couple of days to acclimatize - choosing to take it easy from a high vantage point on the patio. Scallywag is besotted with RMan, and he has to have him in his sight at all times!
Scallywag on the patio watching, watching,
watching...
Eventually, RMan drove where he could no longer be seen.  That necessitated Scallywag venturing forth into the great unknown, also known as our plot. This was a strange place - no cars driving past, no dogs being taking for their daily constitutional (and thus ripe for an ambushed barking session), no children / adults / beggars / hawkers walking past the property, talking, laughing, shouting,singing, arguing.  Just perfect peace and quiet.  I wonder if silence is deafening to a dog too?


Thankfully, we had medicated him against ticks and fleas prior to leaving town, so whether he walked in the overgrown area, or the newly mown area, it didn't bother us.
Scallywag finally investigates
And RMan just plodded on regardless. Well, it's a big area to mow, and our brilliant 2nd hand ride-on mower chugs along at a steady 3.0 - 3.5 km / hour (1.8 - 2.0 mph).  Perfect for sight-seeing actually :)  Hours and hours and hours were spent driving round and round, repeating some sections which were initially resistant to those spinning blades.
Patient, plodding, persistant RMan, the mower
operator
But, finally, we had roughly a third of the property cleared of renosterbos / high grass / any snakes hiding under bushes, and in some instances, even stones went flying... (sorry about the car door WGuy)  Actually, those ruddy stones caused a massive delay. We had to clear, by hand, the stones from each area which was to be mowed - back-breaking, tedious, laborious work. And then the vast number of wheelbarrow loads of rock that had to be schelpped away.  Who needs gym...
A small part of the pile of rocks 
We know that all this work was worthwhile - judging by the fun that was had in the cleared area, the lack of ticks (on humans and animals), and the complete absence of snakes was proof of that, I reckon.


And, to top it all, RMan took MKid for a spin on the mower - I wish I could zoom in to this photo and show you the grin on MKid's face.
MKid being taken for a (slow) spin...
Well done, RMan.  You did good - really good :)  And, I can imagine that if any of the fallow deer visit out property whilst we're not around, they now have a fully prepared meal waiting... LOL

But, talking about stones - this one got shattered by the mower.  Is there anyone out there who knows a geologist, or does anyone know what type this stone could be?
Sharp, shiny glass type areas
I'm tending towards the meteorite type, but RMan reckons volcanic.  Unfortunately for that theory is the fact that we have no volcanoes in the area (the closest extinct one is in Pilansberg which is 1600 kms away).
"Air" / gas holes?
It has shiny, almost glassy-type sections within, which are incredibly sharp. And seems to be made up of a number of different rock types all bunged together.  As well as "air" (gas?) holes...