"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Happy & Peaceful Christmas to you all

RMan is of German decent, and I am of English birth, thus, when we had our first child, we decided that we would combine our Christmas celebrations to embrace both sets of Christmas traditions.  This resulted in our having our main Christmas meal the night before - on Christmas Eve - instead of at lunchtime during the heat of the day on Christmas Day.

So may I take this opportunity before the rush of preparing for our Christmas meal on Tuesday of wishing each and everyone of my readers and very Happy, Peaceful, relaxed Christmas, filled with love and contentment, and celebrated within the Spirit of Christmas.
I found this wooden Nativity scene many years
ago when our children were very small - it was
in plain wood, so I painted it.
It has been a centrepoint in all our Christmas
decorations.

After all - there would be no Christmas without the
birth of Christ having happened over 2000 years ago.
Be safe - wherever you are.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Welcome

This is a welcome with a difference ;)

This welcome is not extended to a new follower this time, but to a new addition to the family.
Sister meets Brother :)  Looks like they
have a firm bond already.
HJG was born yesterday afternoon weighing 3.81kgs.

Her brother, Mike, is thrilled to finally have his long awaited sibling.

Mother and baby are both well - and loving the whole process of finally getting to know each other.

Great excitement abounds - everywhere.  What better Christmas present could one wish for - the safe arrival of a little one... :)


Monday, 16 December 2013

Shorn - part 2

(Someone - I do not know who - pulled the plug on my modem - so I have been "without" internet the entire weekend LOL  Guess that's one way to save some bandwidth...)

En route to Helderstoom Alpacas to get Miranda and Kris sheared RMan and I were filled with trepidation - especially as we had never seen any animal sheared before - and we did not know what to expect with Miranda and Kris. We found the farm without too much of a problem, and unloaded both Kris and Miranda into a holding pen.

We needn't have feared.  The owners and staff were very welcoming, very friendly, and very accomodating of two complete novices.  In no time at all the Helderstroom Alpacas shearing team jumped right into it.  Apparently, the two ladies have won awards for their shearing capabilities.  Just as well we were told that, because there was another alpaca being sheared when we got there - she had given birth to her cria two weeks previously.  As they were shearing her stomach area, she got cut - apparently it is uncommon to shear alpacas so soon after birthing, exactly because that can happen.  The stomach skin is loose and gets caught by the shears.  Shame - she had to go to the vet for 2 - 3 stitches before they could compelte the shearing.

It also caused us to step back - and hope that all went smoothly with our two...

Chris was chosen to go first and it took 5 of them to get Kris onto his knees.
Awww - look at that cute haltered head sticking
out - it's only his third shearing ever...
 Once they had him down, they had to secure his front and back legs...
Securing the front legs...
 ... and protect his private parts.  Alpaca's can kick - and kick hard.  Be aware of that and never stand too close to an alpaca - whether it is on it's feet, or whether it is lying down on it's side.
Then the back legs were secured.  Notice how
they cover his pirvate parts - modesty rules ;)
They proceed with the shearing by removing the longer stomach hair - that is not kept for spinning / felting, and is discarded.
The stomach fleece was first, and Alison, the
farm owner put that hair in the rubbish bag
Then they started on the side fleece
I wish that pictures could share sound and not just visuals.  Kris was making this high pitched squeal - especially when they sheared the fleece on his legs. Someone commented that apparently it is ticklish - bless him.  Must've felt like a medieval torture especially as each alpaca took approximately 45 mintutes to shear.
It looks cruel, doensn't it, but the restraints aren't
hard - they use the same cord as is used in
bungy jumps
 It was so ticklish that he managed to get his hind legs out of the restraints.
Holding his feet to ensure that he can't
escape the restraints again
 Then, the side and back hair was attacked.
Wow - that is thick.  He must've taken strain on
those hot days that we had in the preceeding
three weeks
Kris' hair was 145mm long - apparently that is l-o-n-g :)  We asked why he is classified as light fawn, because his fleece looks white.  Ah, all was revealed...
145mm thick!
 ... the fleece on his back is definitely fawn coloured beneath that mass of coat.
Here Kris is lying on his stomach - now he can see
what is happening - but that didn't make him any
quieter...!  Typical male LOL
Happy, Kris was not - definitely not while it was happening.
Almost finished Kris
 And, especially not when they sheared his legs...!
Miranda chatting to a buddy.
That has given me an idea - I'm going
to securely attach a mirror to her stable
wall - perhaps that will encourage her to :
a) not be so lonely for another female
b) enter the stable more eagerly
Whilst they were finishing off Kris, I went to check on Miranda in the  holding pen - and found her humming to "another" alpaca she had spied.  Damn - we have got to try and get her a female companion - I think she is pining for another female big time!
Miranda - getting the brush and
leaf blowing session
She got a good brush down by the experts, and then had a leaf blowing session to remove the last of the debris in her coat.  Any debris in the coat causes the blades to go blunt, and at over R1000.00 / blade, it's definitely worthwhile giving that little bit of extra attention prior to the shearing.
She seemed less of a hassle to get down on the
ground - perhaps as it is her 7th shearing she knows
what is in store...?
Miranda's fleece was only 50mm long - and much less of it that Kris.
They really stretch them out don't they - but
they have to, in order to retrain those legs...
She doesn't look so comfortable, does she?  I can't imagine that it is all that pleasant, especially with a cria inside her stomach.
A flip over and then it's the turn of the other side
Then it was time to turn her over, and do the other side.

Kris, in the meantime, was in the stall next to her.  He could hear her but he couldn't ssee her...
His High and Mightyness in all his shorn glory.
Seeing how small he is has also helped RMan and
I - he is not such a strong, powerful nor
intimidating creature without all that fleece :) 
 ... so he went looking.  And found her over the interleading gate.
"Hey - where's my buddy...?"
They leave the bonnet in place - I think it's to
help with the flies, but Alpaca's are also very

sensitive in the neck / head area, and the fleece
on top of the head is minimal.  So - the bonnet
remains :)
Thankfully, both of them were sheared with no harm befalling them.

Putting them in the horsebox to take them home, they certainly took up far less space - in fact, they looked lost in that immense cavity.


Before - a much more intimidaing
looking alpaca.
Afterwards - hmmm, we've got
your measure now Kris :)











There is not much visible difference in Miranda, but Kris - he's a different kettle of fish.  He's actually quite whimp-ish looking.  RMan said he looks like a lollipop - with his bonnet in place, and those scrawny little legs and body.
Yes, he still has a powerful kick, but his bulk is far less intimidating!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Shorn - part 1

I have so many photo's that I have decided to split this posting into two parts.  This is part 1  :)

So, we were up bright and early at 4.15a.m. last Thursday.

S'funny how getting up early is always so worthwhile - once you are up... :) And I have to confess that it's the best part of my day - I love the peace, quiet and the feeling of serenity it evokes within me.  All is right with the world during those early hours - admittedly not normally that early, but I wasn't fazed.  But, what is an extra hour or two added to the day?

But, that particular morning was not a day for serenity.  I was actually quite nervous.  Would we get Miranda and Kris into the horsebox?  How much of a battle would that be? Would they agree to disagree (i.e. have a spitting session) as soon as they got in, and would we see the horsebox careering all over the road behind the car as they sorted out their differences en route to Helderstroom Alpacas farm?  It is not advisable to mix a pregnant alpaca with a male - especially in that close a confinement, but we had no option.

I felt quite guilty the day before - little did they know what lay in store for them the next day.
Kris - in all his tough looking, masculine fleece
Thankfully, they munched away quite happily - so I knew that they would at least have full-ish tummies...
Miranda and Kris - little do they know what is in
store for them
Just a quick reminder of what they looked like before the shearing took place...
Miranda - her coat is not as thick
as most of her nutrition has
gone to her cria.  Plus, she's been
pregnant for the last 6 years, with

just 2 - 3 weeks break in between
each pregnancy

You get a small idea of how
thick Kris' fleece is from this
photo














So, after collecting the horsebox from our electrician friend in the nearby town of Swellendam, we proceeded to get everything ready for the next morning.

RMan backed the horsebox up with directions from me.
Alpacas - they must be the most curious creatures
on this planet.  Anything new, and they have to find
out what it is all about - immediately!
Fortuitously, and with absolutely no forward planning, the ramp of the horsebox fitted exactly between the gateposts and the pergola poles.  There was literally 35cms leeway on either side.
Hmmmm.
Didn't we see something like this about 2 months
ago when we were schlepped to this new place...?
Surprisingly, Rman managed to get them esconced pretty easily - they weren't mad about the ramp, but a hefty tug on the halter, and there we go - inside - all safe and sound :)  They settled down on the bed of straw I had provided.

After making a quick flask of coffee we were on our way.

Naturally, a petrol tank top up was required - we didn't want to be stuck on the side of the road with the two alpacas - so we stopped at the closest garage. They had a couple of non-descript Christmas decorations up, but then, around the corner, there were these two beatuies...
Baby scarecrows - brilliant :)
I've been to that petrol station on numerous occasions, but it was only whilst taking this photo did I actually read what was written on the wall.  This was the site of a hitching post during the years of 1730 - 1790.  Amazing!

Casting my gaze further afield, I spied this...
Dada scarecrow keeping his eye on what's
happening in the petrol station
... and finally, my eyes spotted this little peaceful spot.
I wouldn't mind being a pigeon and visisting this
spot
It's always nice when someone goes above and beyond, and, making the effort to pretty up a petrol station, and share the history of the origins of their place, earns the owner quite a few brownie points in my book.  Guess, all things considered, they're still looking after horsepower, albeit in a different form.  Just after we purchased our smallholding, and purely by accident, I stumbled across a book by James Michener, called "The Covenant".  What a pleasant surprise to find out it was all about the early days of the Western Cape - and specifically, of Swellendam.  A fascinating and excellent read.

The trip was uneventful, and the N2 road relatively empty.  Bearing in mind that I have not travelled the N2 in almost a year, I was so excited and delighted to spot this near Caledon...
What can I spy in the distance?
... a wind turbine farm.
Exquisite wind turbines.  I love them :)
Happy days.  There may be hope for this government yet...!?!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Hamba Kahle

Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918 - 2013

Hamba kahle, Tata (translation: go well / stay well,father)

May your earthly body now have it's well deserved rest, your spiritual body fly to join your loved ones who went before, and may your legacy inspire all those you left behind.  Our deepest sympathies and very heartfelt condolences are with your wife, Graรงa, and the entire Mandela Family and friends at this time of their loss.
Image source:
http://www.nelsonmandela.org/
Thank you.

Thank you, Madiba - for the incredible inspiration you have provided to so very many people, for your capacity to love, and to be loved, for your leadership, and for your amazing ability to forgive.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela (quote source: http://www.nelsonmandela.org/)

I am humbled to have lived in your time.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Beating the heat...

We've already had some pretty warm days in the early to mid-30's - even thought the heat only really hits us in mid-January to mid-April.

But, it has been hot enough to make us concerned that the alpaca's may be getting too warm, because they still have their winter coats - and that can't be pleasant.  It's a bit of a mission to get them sheared - until we find a shearer who is prepared to travel to our smallholding, we have to borrow a horsebox from our electrician in town in order to transport them to the shearer at Helderstroom Alpaca's - roughly 170kms one way.

I've read that some alpaca's like to take a dip, but, as we have them booked for shearing on Wednesday, we didn't want to lead them to the (dam) water to cool off.

So, RMan made a plan.
"Oh, yes - I like that.  I like that a lot..."
He pulled out the hosepipe...
"...So much so, that I think I'll just cush right next
to it."
... attached our old impulse sprinkler, connected the hosepipe to the nearest rain water tank, flipped on the water pump, and gave them a shower.

Alpaca's are very curious, inquisitive animals.  As soon as something out of the ordinary happens, they have to take a look - whether it's happening inside their paddock, or outside.  So, their toddling up to the sprinkler was a given. And standing in front of it ensures that a soaking occurs :)
Then we put the spray sprinkler on - but Miranda
promptly sat right on top of it.  That won't help!
Bless her - Miranda so enjoyed the wetting that she promptly cushed right next to the spinkler.  But, naturally, the sprinkler only got her upper body...
Clever girl - once she had her under belly wet,
she stood up and allowed the sides to get
a soaking.
As the old sprinkler wasn't turning - it was rusted up - poor Kris didn't get an eye in...
"Might as well catch a meal whilst I'm getting a soaking"
So, RMan removed the sprinkler, and did it by hand.
Now that is what I call a proper wetting!
We purchased a new sprinkler head, and today, Kris got there first, and had a private shower - all to himself.
Kris - having his (mid) morning shower LOL
In order not to completely waste the rain water, RMan is going to plant some fodder seeds - that way, as they get a cooling off, the seeds will get watered at the same time :)

And, hopefully, once they're sheared, they won't feel the heat quite so hectically.

Stay tuned for a before and after photo... :)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Spring garden goodies


Welcome to dreamer - my newest follower.  dreamer is from southern Scotland - an area called Cairnsmore to be specific.
dreamer doesn't appear to have a blog / web page - if I'm wrong, dreamer, please let me know, and I'll gladly insert the link.  Thanks for hitting the followers button.

Update: dreamers bog can be found at : http://dreamer-dreamingofasimplelife.blogspot.co.uk/

She has a very interesting blog - won't you pop round and have a look?

-------------------------------

The first plants to start producing this spring were my strawberries.  They were so eager that they started flowering at the beginning of July!!
I have never known strawberry plants to produce
flowers, never mind fruit, in July...
...in South Africa?!?
The three ducks that we inherited from one of our neighbours over a month ago, found they had a taste for strawberries, and proceeded to wipe out as many as they could, Until I caught them in the act.  And here I blamed those poor field mice again...

So - that resulted in my buying some bird netting from the local co-op and draping the entire 25mtr long bed.  And here my poor brain thought bird netting was only for the flying kind...
Strawberries - some for eating and the rest
I popped into the freezer until I have enough
to make jam...
The strawberry plants have produced a fair number, but not all at once.  So, apart from those we've eaten fresh, I popped the other strawberries into bags which I keep in the freezer.  I figured that once they stop producing, I can take the strawberries from the freezer and make jam with them - in my solar oven. Yum - can't wait :)

I've harvested about 5 kgs so far...
The plum trees were the first
to blossom - t'was stunning to
see
Then the fruit trees - the plum trees were the first to get those gorgeous, uplifting, awe-inspiring spring blossoms.  And loads of fruit - which the wind proceeded to blow off.  Ah well, I think the trees are only two years old and still need a year before they should be allowed to keep their fruit - so nature is guiding me well.
Peach tree in blossom
You recall back in May this year that I wrote about saving those onion bottoms and, after allowing the dried roots to re-hydrate in a small bowl of water for a couple of days, planting them back in your veggie patch?

Well, the pic below is one of those "re purposed" onions.
Five onions gorwing from the old bottom of a single
onion - whoo hoo!
Here I thought each onion bottom would only grow one onion, but this one has produced 5!  Happy days :)

Apart from the onions, I also have garlic (which I've harvested most of already), tomatoes, the swiss chard is growing in profusion again (and that's given me a hint of what to make for dinner tonight - creamed spinach with a fried egg and toast), as is my zucchini and pumpkin, and the saved seed from the Franchi Sementi purple and yellow bean plants from last years harvest - and a nice crop of chickpeas and carrots is also growing.  It has already been too hot for my lettuce - even in the shadecloth veggie patch - and the plants have all bolted, but I am going to make a plan to turn up a couple of the re-purposed sub-irrigated Styrofoam containers (that I still have) into  raised veggie patch boxes, literally, and place them in the shade - with light being bounced off from a nearby wall.  That should sort out the overheating / bolting problem.

Those re-purposed styrofoam containers have been brilliant - I've used them for growing plants in, for using as deep drip trays for propagated lemon trees, and as a bath for the newy adopted ducks, amongst many other uses.  S'funny, talking about the ducks - whoever owns them has not come looking...? Maybe they have too many?  But, they're free to return home - the way they came - however that was...

None of my chilli and pepper seeds has peeked above ground yet, and I have still to buy a tray of aubergines seedlings from the local nursery - it would appear that I am completely unable to rear them, so I leave that to the experts LOL


And finally, for the first time, I have managed to grow cabbages - I companion planted them amongst the strawberries LOL  So  - there is lots of coleslaw in the future, as well as stuffed cabbage leaves cooked in the solar oven, and cabbage cooked in milk, instead of water, with garlic, butter, salt and pepper - quite delicious :)  Maybe I'll try fermenting some cabbage too - if it's not too hot...

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Two eco-friendly solutions

Warning:  Some content  in this posting may offend sensitive viewers.

Having Miranda and Kris, our Alpaca's, to care for has highlighted a pest problem which we managed quite easily (with sticky hanging strips and netting at the windows) when it happens indoors.

I know having animals increases your fly population problem - nasty, reguritating, disease spreading insects.

But, they were attacking Miranda's eyes terribly, and I couldn't sit by and let that happen.  She was permanently "wiping" her face in the grass to try and dislodge the flies sucking the edges of her eyes.  So finding a solution has resulted in my doing some internet research / visiting our local Co-Op.  

I found fly "masks" which they use for horses, but, alpaca's are apparently very wary of anyone touching their heads, so I didn't want to traumatize her with that.

We have used Red Top fy catchers successfully as a fly traps in the past when neighbours have had large flocks of their sheep and cows grazing in the empty fields next to us.  So now it was time to bring out that baited traps once again.
The Red Top fly catcher
The instructions are easy to follow, and they are quite easy to set up - open the top "lid" remove the bait bag, add the contents of the bait packet to the trap together with a litre of warm water, and place roughly 15mtrs from where you want to trap flies.
Easy clear instructions on the back of
the packaging

This corner of the packaging warmed my heart:

NON TOXIC
Highly effective  Hygenic
Easy to use  Ozone Safe
I love them because their bait is non-toxic and is safe for the ozone layer.
The bait is 922gms of dehydrated protein meal
(I reckon, judging from the smell, that that
probably means dehydrated fish meal)
Apparently, one can add the contents of a full Red Top to one's compost pile when the bag is full (and the flies are all dead).

There's a Red Top hangin from the fence in this pic
Can you see the one trap - the dark thing hanging from the fence roughly in the centre of the photo above?
This is a close up...
 A closer look... (and this is where it may become offensive for sensitive readers)
Maggots breeding in a Red Top -
I've never seen that before.
This trap above has maggots crawling in it - that is a first for me - I have never see that before.
Almost time to add more water to the
trap - you can clearly see the darker layer
of dead flies, and the browner liquid layer
below them
It took roughly 3 weeks for each of the Red Top units to fill with this many flies - I placed a Red Top on the fence on either side of the Alpaca's pergola.

The smell - yeah - not madly desirable, but no gain, no pain...

But, the flies were still bothering Miranda eyes.

Then I found a fascinating alternative which does away with that nasty smell of the "fermenting" Red Top, to I set that up too.
Miranda and Kris - taking it easy under their
shady pergola - with the plastic bags, filled with
water and a copper coin, doing their bit above.
They were both very inquisitive about the bags
when they first went up - now they ignore them ;)
Apparently a plastic bag, with a penny inside, and filled with water deters flies.

I found the hint here: http://www.ecosnippets.com/diy/amazingly-effective-nontoxic-fly-repellant/  and the actual article here: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/amazingly-effective-nontoxic-fly-repellant/

RMan and I have both noticed that the flies infestation around Miranda's eyes have been dramatically reduced.  And the pegola area is pretty close to where they decided to place their communal midden.

So, our deduction is that the water filled bags definitely assist in keeping the flies at bay.