"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

Friday, 13 October 2017

Taking a break...

... as my blog seems to have lost it's appeal.  A one-sided "conversation" is like being in solitary confinement.

Maybe I'll be back, maybe I won't.

But - after exactly 7 years, 8 months plus 2 days - plus 547,351 visits to my humble blog by all of you who have supported me and chivvied me along - it's been fun.  

I hope you have enjoyed yourselves as much as I have.

My sincere and grateful thanks to all of you who joined RMan and I on our journey...

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Wasted

I was gifted a packet of biscuits by a visitor who came to an impromptu dinner gathering the other night.

On opening the packet I discovered that it had not one, not two, but three layers of packaging.

Three layers of packaging:
1 outer flimsy layer
 2 middle firm(er) layer
 3 inner flimsy layer
And we wonder why this planet is being overrun by refuse / plastic...!  What a waste - of resources, power to manufacture, water to manufacture, etc...

Monday, 9 October 2017

Pickled broad beans (fava beans)

Broad beans are like zucchini - boy, do they proliferate...!

So I really tried to limit the number of broad bean plants that went into the ground this year.  But, even with 6 plants, I had more than I could give away and more than RMan was willing to eat - to frequently.  So, I went searching for some way to preserve them.
The umteenth harvest of broad beans
I had tried blanching and freezing them a few years ago, only to take them from the freezer and discover that they had "turned".  I obviously didn't prep them properly, or I left them in the freezer for too long.  I'm not sure which error I made, but I wasn't keen to try that again.  They were revolting.

Drying for me is not an option, as the yucky looking brown beans don't appeal.

Then I hit upon a recipe for marinating broad beans.  But, the life span was still too short - only 3 - 4 days in the fridge.  That is classified as serving them too frequently as far as RMan is concerned...

Finally, I found a recipe to pickle broad beans.
Pre-cooked, twice shelled, and ready to add to the pickling liquid
 in the sterilized jars.
Just a note on the jars.  Yes, they are re-purposed, but their
 previous contents were not vacuum sealed so the lids are
re-usable and will form a perfect seal when water bathed.
I shelled them (from the main pod) and, after boiling them for 5 minutes, allowed them to cool and I then removed the inner "sheath".  Yeah, I'm a sucker for punishment... 😏  It is tedious and time consuming, but we prefer to eat broad beans that way.
The inner shell / sheaths went to the dogs
As I am on a zero waste everything mission, the outer pops went to my compost heap, and the inner shell / sheaths went to the dogs - they L-O-V-E broad bean shells.
On the left is the plain pickled broad beans, and on the right
 is two jars of water bathed pickled broad beans.
One jar was just pickled (3 - 4 months), but the other two were placed in the pickling liquid and then water bathed in order to prolong their life (6 - 8 months).

I will report back on the pickled broad beans in 3 weeks time.  And, I will also report back IF the water bathed broad beans are not viable after six months  If you don't hear from me, then they were good 😏



If you'd like to try for yourself, here is the recipe I used.


Ingredients
1 shelled broad beans 
1 cups water
1 cups white vinegar (apple cider)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
tablespoons sugar
1 large red chilli pepper or 4 - 5 dried chillies
4 cloves garlic
teaspoons mustard seeds
teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds

Instructions
Shell the beans. 
In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the beans for 3-5 minutes or until bright green and tender-crisp. Drain, and immediately transfer to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.  Remove 2nd shell / membrane.
In a medium saucepan set over high heat, bring water, white vinegar. kosher salt and sugar to a boil. Continue boiling for 2-3 minutes, or until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
Divide the chili pepper between the sterilized jars, and add two garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons of mustard and fennel seed per jar.
Fill each jar with beans, packing them in fairly tightly, but without squashing them. Pour the hot pickling brine over the beans, filling up to 6mm / ¼" from the top.
Seal jars with lids and / or rings. Let the jars cool on the counter and then transfer to the fridge.
Allow at least two to three weeks to fully pickle before opening. The plain pickled beans will keep for 3 - 4 months in the fridge.
For longer storage, process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath, then store in a cool, dry place - away from light - for up to 6 months.
Dated so that this time I know when their best before date is 😏

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Safety first

As you all know we live on a smallholding outside Swellendam, and our water is supplied by Overberg Water (OW) in Heidelberg to one distribution point near our valley on the N2. Between us and OW in Heidelberg are kilometers of main water pipe, which, without fail, during December / January of each year, is damaged by farmers ploughing their land.


When we moved to our smallholding at the end of June 2012 there were about 16-odd permanent residents and 5-odd weekenders.  Since then that figure has grown to 37 permanent residents and 11-odd weekenders.  Additionally, our valley water supply from that one distribution point on the N2 is further distributed, via (unsecured / unlocked) 5 000lt tanks placed strategically around the valley, and, as newcomers purchase their smallholding, and request a water connection, the main valley supply pipe is again severed in order to connect their individual water meter.

All these breaks in the line - whether accidental or intentional - invariably result in foreign matter / contamination entering our water supply.

Both these situations have concerned RMan and I.

We have made alternative arrangements so that we, personally, are more water secure - through our 5 000lt potable water tank, and our 8 X 5 000lt rain water tanks.

But, the tank vulnerability and "foreign matter" still concerned us.  Finally, last week I asked RMan if we could get a combined early Christmas present, and take steps to mitigate that potential problem.
Travel Berkey
We saved up all our pennies and have finally purchased a Travel Berkey. The Berkey water purification elements are so small that they can even filter food colouring out of water and thus "an exponential increase is realised in the efficiency at removing pathogenic bacteria and other waterborne contaminants. Super Sterasyl Ceramic Filters remove pathogenic bacteria, cysts, organic chemicals, chlorine and reduce sediment, turbidity and particulate. Black Berkey Filters do this AND remove lead, MTBEs and other heavy metals." Both filters have similar life span and require similar cleaning.

The farmers round us spray glycophosphates on their land, which obviously, as is the nature of a spray, lands on our roof. Our rainwater will thus probably be contaminated too. But "Black Berkey® Purification Elements will reduce Glyphosate in your water by greater than 75%, exceeding the laboratories reporting limits."

Yes, it is quite an expensive purchase, but the filters will last for 6 000 gallons or 22 600ltrs or - not being spring chickens anymore - they will probably the rest of our lives πŸ˜‰

And then one of our kids can inherit the system. 😁

Personally, I'm very relieved, because this system will not only provide clean drinking water for us now, but will also allow us to filter our rain water, and even our muddy dam water, if necessary at any time in the future.  Providing the dam is still holding water though...

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

After I had concluded our purchase, I wrote to the local supplier, Riaan, (http://www.water-purifier.co.za/and asked him is he would be prepared to sponsor a Berkey to a member of a Facebook Group to which I belong.   He very generously has said that he will.  So, for all of you who have a Facebook presence, please, if you live in the Western Cape, join both the Western Cape group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/watersheddingsa/ and the main watchdog group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/924585607595490/ 

In order to make yourselves eligible to enter and win this brilliant giveaway.

Those Facebook groups are doing sterling work at assisting everyone to survive the current drought - through sharing important notices from the authorities, and through allowing everyone to pose questions / get answers / share hints and tips from the general public, as well as giveaways such as this.  Please - there are various other groups in other provinces - join your area's group here:

Free State:          https://www.facebook.com/groups/1104758469627319/
Gauteng:             https://www.facebook.com/groups/1409690155743938/
Kwazulu Natal:     https://www.facebook.com/groups/512238275796563/
Mmpumalanga:    https://www.facebook.com/groups/128995167833468/

The Facebook page Admins will be advertising the giveaway shortly.

Finally, if you think it won't happen to you, on Thursday this week the following notice was issued by the Western Cape authorities / government:

The situation is dire.

South Africa - the whole country - is predicted to be hit hard - very hard - by the effects of climate change / global warming.  As with the assistance that farmers are getting from other farmers for feeding their drought affected animals, through helping each other on these groups we will all weather the situation far better by joining our mutual resources / information.



Postscript: I paid in full for my Berkey.  However, I did tell the local distributor, Riaan, that I would mention his company by way of thanking him for his generosity in accepting the giveaway request from a total stranger - me - and for his generosity to the winner of his giveaway.  Please - visit his website and check out the range of Berkey's.  Perhaps one will suit your pocket 😏

Saturday, 23 September 2017

This - and that

During winter I miss the cruch and taste of fresh lettuce, tomatoes etc so I make a point of growing seed sprouts.
Seed selection for sprouting
Sprouts - day 4
They certainly fullfil the "fresh" requirement, and yet there is something missing.  Perhaps it is the kiss of sunshine?  The waft of a fresh breeze across them?  The occasional nibble by a snail?
Beetroot micro greens
I think I have overcome that shortfall.  My latest "need" is micro greens.  They also have another name - elfin vegetables.  Isn't that cute, and doesn't the name conjure up images of little fairy people wandering through your veggie patch 😊
Cress micro greens
Similar to sprouts, micro greens are sprouted seeds but they are germinated in soil and are eaten when they are 10 - 14 days old - when they have their 2nd set of leaves.  After actual sprouts, they are the quickest food crop any one can grow - even urban gardeners.  The are even more of a powerhouse of nutrients, and certainly give me that crunchy kick.
Kale micro greens - don;t you love the purple stems
I love the different shapes textures and colours - of the stems or of the leaves.
Mustard micro greens
Sprinkled in a salad, or just as they are on a slice of fresh homemade buttered bread.
Pointed leaves - spinach micro greens
I just can't get enough.  The snails, too, can't get enough...

But, on to other things.

I was approached by a journalist a few weeks ago.  She asked whether I would be interested in sharing some info on recycling / zero waste.

As a pic of me was required (which didn't please me) to accompany the article, but is apparently protocol in these types of articles, after chatting with RMan, I decided I'd give it a go.
Green Granny Guide πŸ˜‚
A friend in Cape Town saw the article in the weekend paper and sent a pic of it through to me.

I never expected a full page article.  And I know that space is limited.  But, there is so much info that was omitted.  My fresh produce bags for one.  And, this...
Does anyone know their purpose...?

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Kitchen waste use

I'm not perfect - and probably never will be.  But, I'm trying every way I can to reduce my footprint.  By that I mean the short and long term impact I make on this planet through the evidence that I leave behind - whether that is what I send to landfill, or what we do on our smallholding.  I can control the use of chemicals we use - that is 100% non-negotiable to me.  I will NOT be responsible for adding a single gram of chemical to this earth or the waterways.  And, if I have a problem in my veggie patch it is because something is out of kilter - either the companion planting is at fault, the amount of water and time of watering is amiss, I didn't prepare the ground correctly (e.g. the blossom rot on tomatoes a few years ago was due to a calcium imbalance in the soil) or pure laziness is causing weeds.  All of that is correctable without too much effort.  It may take a passage of time to recreate the harmony required (e.g. the blossom rot is corrected via adding banana skins at the bottom of the hole before planting the seedling, or rinsing out milk bottles and giving that water to the tomatoes and adding crushed eggshells to the soil round the plant), but I refuse to succumb to a quick, chemical fix.

I also hate waste.  That doesn't just include the horrific waste packaging which comes with most items one purchases these days.  But, I hate waste in my home too.  Must be the Scottish roots that lurk in my DNA.

Do I take it to the extreme?  I dunno.  You be the judge πŸ˜‰

I cannot put any onion skin or citrus waste in my worm farm as the little red wrigglers (worms) aren't partial to that in their diet.  So those all get added to my normal compost pile.

But, why waste those aromatic citrus skins?
Citrus peel infused vinegar
 brewing in a repurposed
 jar which used to hold
 asparagus spears
Before the citrus skins end up in the compost, I add them to a clean jar and cover them with plain vinegar before replacing the lid of the jar.  This jar is then kept in a dark cupboard for 2 - 3 weeks in order for the citrus skins to release their oils into the vinegar.

After infusing for 2 - 3 weeks, decant the infused vinegar into a spray bottle.  The remaining left-over skins are sprinkled with a bit of food grade lime to counteract the acidity, and they are then put in my "normal" compost pile.  Even if you don't have a compost pile, you, too, can make this surface cleaner - and merely toss the used skins in the trash after you have extracted their oils.

I use this citrus flavoured vinegar to clean my small (ex-caravan) LP gas stove, the kitchen counters / surfaces, my (sealed) wooden table tops, and I also use it in the bathroom.  In place of an acidic vinegar smell, everything has a delicate citrus perfume.
Decant the citrus peel infused vinegar into a spray
 bottle and use it to wipe down your surfaces.  (Yes,

 I know it's a plastic spray bottle but I am unable to
 find a  glass one.  This one has been in use for 4 years
 and will certainly last for a good many more years
 before it, too, lands at the recycling depot.)
Apart from the smell making you crave a juicy orange or naartjie (mandarin), or a helping of fish and chips with freshly squeezed lemon juice (my mind works in mysterious ways πŸ˜‚ ) depending on what was infused in the vinegar, flies hate the smell too.

It's a win-win all round - you're achieving two goals at once.  A easy-to-make, chemical-free and fresh smelling household cleaner which is non-toxic to your family, and the simultaneous bonus of providing an eco-friendly pest control.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Not just honey...

We have all been aghast at the recent monsoons which have affected some many people in the east.  And the horrific hurricanes currently pounding the Caribbean / USA.

So much (excess) water elsewhere, and our extreme drought is ongoing.  

Are there still any climate change / global warming deniers out there...?

Thankfully, even though we are seeing higher than normal Spring temperatures, the heat of summer is not yet belting down on my seedlings.  We'll be collecting another few loads of wood mulch this coming week - the beds are in need of a top up.

I belong to a Facebook group called Water Shedding Western Cape.  Some other members of the group - and the membership is diversified - are all trying to afford rain water tanks to help them mitigate the effects of the water restrictions which have been imposed on the City of Cape Town.  Level 5, is, I believe, the highest level, and that state was declared a couple of weeks ago.  Level 5 equates to 87 ltrs of water / person / day.  87 ltrs = 22.9 gallons.  Consider 87 ltrs per day and then think of :

1  showering (no bathing allowed)
2  flushing toilets
3  washing hands after going to the bathroom
4  washing clothing / bedding
5  brushing teeth
6  cooking
7  washing up dishes
8  washing the floor

The members of that Facebook group are becoming very inventive on how to "recycle" their water - via standing in buckets to capture their shower water for toilet flushing, capturing the wash cycle water from their washing machines in order to, again, flush toilets, capturing the water from washing their hands - again to flush toilets.  And catching as much of the reduced rainwater that falls in whatever containers they can lay their hands on - be that pots and pans, buckets or rain water tanks - ranging in size from 500lt to 5 000 lt.  Those that are lucky have pools - they're either covering them with as inexpensive a cover as possible to prevent evapouration, and / or they're attaching flexible plastic "tubes" to the gutter downpipes in order to steer any rainwater to the pool.  We all know that an empty pool is difficult to circulate and the water will, in no time at all, turn green / breed mosquito's if left standing.  Plus, a pool can be used as a massive rainwater tank - to flush the loo / do the washing - if necessary.

But, it's not only people who are affected by the drought.  Never mind the grain / produce farmers, cows, sheep, goats - they all feel the effects of the drought when their local watering holes dry up.

And, the most important workers on this planet are affected too.
Thirsty bees will try and find the smallest
 drop of water they can during a drought
Bees.

They will fly for miles to find a drop of water.

And, by way of thanks for the important tasks they fulfil - for us - on a daily basis, all we have to do is put out some water for them.
A simple sugar water bird
 feeder will not only quench
 the birds thirst, but the
 bees will drink from it too
They are not fussy and demanding, and will happily help themselves to some sugar water from the bird feeder bottles.
Clever - a simple piece of netting in order to save the bees from drowning
The suppliers of these recycled bottle bird feeders now provide a small piece of net to place between the drinking spout and the stopper in order to prevent the bees from entering the bottle and drowning.
Small enough to prevent bees from getting through, but big enough
 to allow the sugar water to freely flow
If you can't afford to purchase a bird feeder bottle, a simple bowl of water, placed in a shady spot in your garden, will suffice.
A simple bowl of water, filled with rocks to allow the bees safe
 access to the water, and placed in the shade.  It is that easy to
 say thanks to the bees who work so hard for us.
On Thursday, during our weekly trip to town, we stopped off at our local honey supplier.  Waiting for the honey to be decanted into our recycled jars, I took a browse, and came across this which was for sale:


Being of an age where any, and all assistance is gratefully received in my quest to assist my skin to retain some level of moisture / slow down (further) wrinkle production, I bought myself a small bottle.  After my shower I applied a few drops to my face and got on with my day.  Horrors - the propolis / beeswax / honey content must've been enough to trigger a signal, for 8 bees decided that the inside of our house was worth investigating.  I reckon I better save this tissue oil for nighttime use only.  I don't want the bees coming indoors fruitlessly looking for a non-existent source of bee food...

I recently came across a advert for a movie which is due for release in November.  
http://www.morethanhoneyfilm.com/
There is a short preview of the movie on the link I gave under the pic.  I can't wait until it is, hopefully, available to the general public...

I suggest you set yourselves a reminder for November πŸ˜‰

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Zero waste as far as possible

Lordie, wouldn't I love access to a zero waste store like this...





But that's unlikely to happen in my local town as I fear the demand would be to small to make it a viable option.
Zero waste bulk grocery dispensers
So, in order to do as much as I can to reduce our waste I had a plan.  I am totally passionate about reducing / totally eliminating all forms of plastic that enter this house.  Apart from purchasing a whole bunch of lidded glass containers to hold food / leftovers, plastic still enters in various forms - e.g. cheese, milk bottles, (frying) oil bottles, etc.

As we eat relatively early (6.30-ish), to "fill a gap" RMan went through a phase of nibbling on biscuits and patΓ© late at night - which was only sold in small rigid plastic containers.  So I acquired a collection of those, and used them to store my tomato concentrate in my freezer.  I recently sent those containers to the recycling depot and have decided this year that ALL homemade concentrate will be frozen in ice cube trays and then decanted into a rectangular glass receptacle in my freezer until they are required.  And pate will be home made by moi.


Before we left our town house I purchased 16 mtrs of fabric - ostensibly to make a mosquito / fly screen for our bed.  Unfortunately, it wasn't enough fabric for it's purpose, so it has been sitting on top of my cupboard waiting to be used.

The roll of thin fabric that has been waiting to be used - for
 anything...
Out of season fruit and vegetables are generally sold wrapped in cling warp - but, some can be purchased individually.  So, I asked a neighbour with a sewing machine if she wouldn't mind knocking me up a few bags from that roll of fabric.  By way of compensation for her effort, I offered her material to make bags for herself as well.
Here are my (A4) sized bags all ready for use
 'No problem," she said.  And, within 10 days, the bags were ready for collection.
I have had broccoli in this bag for a week and it's still perfect
Now, when I buy out of season veggies, I take along my bags, and pop exactly the quantity I need onto the scale to weigh them without the packaging, and then they go into my reusable produce bags.
Ditto this red pepper.  
When they get grubby it's easy to pop them into my washing machine.

Now, given that we do have a local store that sells raw beeswax, all I need to do is find some thin cotton / muslin cloth / cheesecloth so that I can make myself some beeswax wraps with the assistance of that same neighbour and her iron...πŸ˜‰

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Sweet potato prep paid off

Prepping the sweet potato beds started in March 2016.
March 2016: Two long trenches were dug - a spade  deep
A trench was dug roughly a spade deep.
Those trenches were filled with alpaca poo, wood chips and soil 
It was filled in with alpaca poo, wood chips and soil...
Mounded trenches full of magic were left to themselves for a few
 months before the sweet potato runners were finally planted
...so much so that the trenches formed mounds when they were finished.  These "mounds" were left to do their thing from March to September when the runners were planted.

After carefully inserting the sweet potato runners, the porous pipe (leaky hose) was placed on top, and, with a good covering of mulch, I walked away.

They remained in their beds throughout this last winter - with me harvesting some here and there...  The leaves were killed off by the frost, but I knew the potatoes were safe below the ground - our frost is fleeting - it soon disappears once the sun is up, plus we only had 5 - 6 days of frost in total.
The photo doesn't show the size of these beauties
 Today I went to harvest some more for our dinner and thought I would share it with you.
To give you some idea of size, I pooped one on my scale
 The bed is full of giant sweet potatoes.  Placing this whopper on the scale it shows that it is...
A 1.57 kg sweet potato.  There's nothing wrong with that πŸ˜‰
...1.57 kgs (almost 3½ lbs).  I'm well pleased with that result.

Alpaca poo and wood mulch - a sure fire winner 😁  I'm over the moon at the result - and at the apparent harvest ahead.  

Why apparent harvest - well, because of our climate I leave roots / tubers in the ground until they are required.  Why dig it all up and then have to try and find a spot to store it?  Field mice climb (yes, we still have those rodents - even with Squeak in the vicinity) and they have nibbled my stored veggies before.  Underground, those sweet potatoes are safe from those nibbles.  If more sweet potatoes grow from those remnants in the ground after everything has been harvested, well, I'll just let them grow.  March 2018 will see me prepare another bed to transplant them into, and then this sweet potato bed can rest for a year or so.

Yum, yum.  Orange fleshed "Jewel" sweet potatoes are our favourite πŸ˜ƒ

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Adapting to what lies ahead...



In answering Sue's comment, I started going off on a climate change / global  warming tangent, which was a whole other post.  So, I cut myself short, and thought I would share in this posting exactly what was going on in my head as I replied to her then.

My main summer crops are tomatoes - which get eaten fresh, and get canned, dried and pureed for use in winter - and butternut / squash and pumpkin (to a lesser degree as we prefer the taste of butternut).  My main winter crop is peas, fava (broad) beans and swiss chard.  Onions / garlic get planted close to whatever else is growing and they seem to thrive all year round.

But, as I have three veggies beds, and I question whether I need all three?  I reckon it would be more effective to start planning for less water availability and therefore condense my veggie growing requirements down to two beds.  Even thpugh the mulch he;[s tremendously, I need to improve / decrease my water consumption, in order to be more water-wise and to save "wasting" water.

Yes, our local co-op, and supermarkets have a plethora of different seeds to encourage us to buy more, grow more and spend more.  But, I have been asking myself if this is wise?

Why do I plant up huge areas of vegetables - more than we can eat - and, if I'm honest, more than I can preserve - so I end up giving them - away albeit to our kids, which is one of the reasons I grow them anyway.  All I am doing is forcing myself to irrigate bigger and bigger areas.
Precious heirloom tomatoes - my summer garden is incomplete
 without them
The vegetable / fruit crops which are vital to me are:

Summer:
tomatoes - heirloom rather than cocktail sized - and my most valuable crop
capsicum (red / yellow and piquante peppers)
sweet potatoes
pumpkin and butternut
rocket, herbs and chives  (I l-o-v-e rocket and often have more rocket than lettuce in the salad)

Winter:
greens (and dark red) - beetroot
legumes - specifically peas and broad beans
onions and garlic

All year:
carrots
swiss chard 

Fruits

Summer:
strawberries
youngberries
apricot
plum
apple
granadilla (passion fruit)

Winter:
none

All year:
lemons

I have discovered that trying to grow lettuce in summer is a no-no as it's far too hot here and they bolt in no time at all - even in my shade cloth veggie patch.  Ditto, I have been unsuccessful in growing cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli (the latter for which RMan is extremely thankful as he's not mad about "green trees"). I tried growing cabbage in my small hydroponic set up, and they didn't perform too well.  Actually, I can't say anything grew amazingly in it, so, I am converting that hydroponic option to strawberries this year.  Let's see how they do...?  So, I am definitely not bothering trying to grow any of these veg / salads again.
Peppers - three different kinds - with chopped swiss chard
and onion - ready to get added to a stir fry
A regional government representative unexpectedly dropped in a couple of years ago - they were doing a survey into what we ate / grew in our area.  They asked our casual labourer when last he had dark greens and orange vegetables.  He couldn't remember.  She said he must try and eat them as they contain vital nutrients required by his body.

But, I had never given that a thought, and that gave me a wake up call.  And from that moment on I ensure that he has both of those coloured veggies with his lunch every time he's here - roughly 1 - 2 a week.

But, I had never thought of that in our terms either.  And, it has guided me from then on.

Companion plants to tomatoes are carrots, onion, garlic (and strawberries) - so that is one summer bed filled.  Carrots are a two-fold veg - we love them smothered in honey butter, and, grated, in a coleslaw - or for the alpacas (and chickens) who love them even more than we do πŸ˜‚  Two (or should that be three) birds sorted with one stone, so to speak.
Yum - homemade coleslaw
Beetroot, peas, broad beans and swiss chard (spinach) are their own companions and they also enjoy the company of onions and garlic.  That is another bed - and in winter only.

The pumpkin and butternut are all by themselves in the deep raised beds of composted alpaca poo.
Dehydrating heirloom tomatoes
And only sweet potatoes are the odd man out - so they'll get their own bed.  I leave them in the ground as our soil never freezes and it is the best way of storing them - and keeps them mouse nibble free.  As I need them, so I harvest exactly what I need.  And, what I haven't harvested, grows again the next season.

With this downsize plan, as we have irrigation on each of the three veggie patches, which we can isolate as required, this will be a breeze.

This makes a whole bunch of sense to me and will, hopefully, save on the watering - and the angst of a failed crop due to excessive summer temperatures.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Propagating tropical fruit


At the end of last summer I was craving, and so purchased, a couple of pineapples.

I had also read that one can propagate new plants from the tops, so naturally, when the pineapples were eaten I had to try and see if it would work.

To prepare the pineapple top you carefully remove about 2.5cms (an inch) of the leaves from the bottom of the pineapple stalk until you see some root buds, and then pop them into water.
Changing the water every 5 - 6 days, it only took about 6 - 8 weeks on my kitichen windowsill  for those roots to grow to a decent length. 
It looks promising - new leaves appearing whilst the pineapple
 head is producing roots in the water
But, eventually they were long enough to transfer from their watery life into their permanent home in the garden.  It is recommended that they get potted up in soil first, but I went ahead and shoved them in the garden soil.
I reckon those roots are long enough
Being winter, ad frost tender, they were protected with a light covering of mulch to ensure that the frost did minimal damage.  When the bushes have (hopefully) grown too big for a mulch cover, they will get a hessian frost cover in winter.
New leaves appearing in the centre of the crown
But, I'm happy to report that all three pineapple plants are showing signs of new growth, so hopefully, before too long we may be able to harvest some home grown pineapples 😁  It will be good to be pineapple self-sufficient to any degree - one less thing to spend hard earned money on... πŸ˜‰

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Back then...

... is just as valid now, and it's bloody delicious.

Back then?

Oh, I'm talking about back in the Depression.  No, I wasn't alive then (thank goodness) but I have to say that the women of the house were ingenious when it came to feeding their families with reduced provisions / money.

This recipe is a perfect example (and, given the recent S&P's, Moody's & Fitch's financial downgrades / state of this country's coffers as a result of looting / corruption) of enjoying a "treat" using less expensive, more basic ingredients, and may, if things don't change dramatically here in the very near future, become as popular now as they were back in the 1930's...

It's a cake recipe that uses no eggs, no milk and no butter.

Anyone like chocolate cake?

This recipe can be made into a chocolate cake, coffee cake or lemon cake (alternative ingredients are at the end of this posting).


Chocolate cake ingredients:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
3 - 4 (or even 5 if you like) tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC / 350oF
Mix all the dry ingredients together
Making three depressions in the flour add the vinegar to one, the vanilla in the other and the vegetable oil in the third.  Pour the water over and mix well till smooth.
Pour into a pre-greased baking pan and cook for 3/4 - 1 hour.

Allow to cool.

Frosting ingredients:
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 - 7 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar
2 tablespoons of butter / margarine
2 tablespoons of Nach Musik, Kahlua or any other chocolate liqueur

Mix well until smother.

Spread the frosting over the cooled cake.

Don't wait for a special occasion - cut a slice and enjoy immediately πŸ˜‚

It is deliciously, and surprisingly moist, and definitely more-ish - RMan scoffs down 2 slices every time he's offered some.  It also lasts in a "fresh and moist" state for 5 - 6 days (if it survives that long).

Depression era chocolate cake - absolutely bloody marvellous πŸ˜ƒ
Alternative recipes for a no eggs, no milk and no butter cake:

Ingredients for Coffee cake:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
3 - 4 (or even 5 if you like) tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup strong coffee

Frosting: add strong cold coffee and / or Kahlua or Nach Musik liqueur.

Ingredients for Spiced cake:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Frosting choice is yours ;)

Ingredients for Lemon cake:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (or more for a stronger lemon taste)

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Cover with a lemon (juice and zest) frosting using the lemon juice in the place of Kahlua or Nach Musik.



T'is my birthday on Thursday next week and this recipe is so good that I'm going to make a Lemon version for tea time.  I have a couple of fresh granadilla's, so I'm going to be adding them to the frosting.


Now, if our corrupt President could just be removed with a successful Vote of No Confidence on Tuesday the 8th, then that would be the best bloody birthday gift I could ask for.  Here's hoping and praying...