"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

Monday, 29 January 2018


I will be taking a leave of absense from this blog.  I have started another blog to help the residents of Cape Town who are about to hit Day Zero.  

Day Zero is when the 5 dams which supply Cape Town hit a collective total of 13.5%.

It is the day when level 7 water restrictions take effect and when everyone within the Cape Town metropole is limited to 25 ltrs (+/- 6 gallons) of water / person / day.  That 25 lts must include what they need for drinking (hydration), food prep, hygiene, cleaning, laundry, pets, etc and also covers what they use at the gym school and workplace...

It is no mean feat.

Day Zero is currently expected to hit on 12 April 2018.  Should weather conditions remain hot and windy, evapouration will bring that date forward.

All the hints and tips I'm sharing on this new blog are from the members of the Water Shedding Western Cape facebook page.

Having them all in one place, makes them easier to access - and removes the negative, complaining posts that tend to abound in public forums / facebook groups.

Necessity is certainly the mother of invention!!  I'm blown away with the amazingly innovative ways that people have come up with to reduce their water usage.

You're welcome to join in - you never know, one day you too may need some assistance, or idea's on how to live with 25 ltrs / person / day...


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Let there be light

We have tried various solar power lights for our front entrance steps and finally I have found something that actually works.
The builders left us a problem - an
 uneven top step designed to confuse
 anyone decending the stairs in the
The tread of first step isn't equal to the rest, and this sometime throws off your "mindset" as you decend the steps.  Add nighttime to the equation and it's even worse.

So, when I saw an ad on TV for a solar powered light that not only looked bright enough for my purpose, but also shone in a wide arc, I had to have one last attempt at solving our problem.

Allowing the lights a day to charge up, RMan installed the lights either side of the staircase.

At nightfall we rushed out to see if they would fit the bill.
The view from the garden
They were perfect πŸ˜€
What a welcoming smiley face πŸ˜€
 They are even attractive and welcoming during the daylight hours... 
Each tread is perfectly illuminated - so no more tripping - ever.
That image just about sums up my contentment with these solar lights 
What is the view from the top of the flight of stairs?  

A heart πŸ˜€

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Emergency action

This is probably a boring subject to most of you, but the reality is that the drought in the Western Cape, and specifically Cape Town, may cause Cape Town to be the first ever metropolitan to run out of water.  Ever.


There are 5 dams which feed Cape Town:

  • Theewaterskloof Dam.
  • Wemmershoek Dam.
  • Steenbras Dams (Upper and lower)
  • VoΓ«lvlei Dam.
  • Berg River Dam

The Theewaterskloof Dam is the largest, and it is currently sitting at 16.05% - 10% of which is unusable, so basically that dam has 6.05% water left to give Cape Town.  The combined total of all five dams is 29.1%  When that total hits 13.7% Day Zero has arrived and the only water supplied to the entire city will be by water tanker.  This is predicted to happen on 22 April 2018.  If we have any heatwaves before then, then obviously that date will be brought forward.

So, I have been researching how to "create" water, and this site gave me a few idea's: http://all-about-water-filters.com/awesome-diy-emergency-ways-to-filter-water-in-the-wild/

I tried out # 5, and this was the result.
Empty jar inside muddy water filled glass salad bowl
I took a clear glass salad bowl and added some muddy water to it.  
View from the side
An empty jam jar was placed inside the salad bowl.  
Rock / weight placed in the centre of the plastic wrap
The salad bowl was then covered in cling wrap, with a stone in the centre. This is so that any condensation which gathers on the cling wrap will fall into the empty jam jar and not back into the muddy water.
A drop of water in the making
Placing the salad bowl in the sun I left it for the day.
Small rock / weight placed in the centre of the plastic wrap
Condensation is clearly visible on the inside of the plastic wrap.
Water collected in the jam jar via condensation
At the end of the day, this is how much water was collected.
Roughly 25mls of water
Placing it in a measuring jug, roughly 25mm was collected.

Considering I used a clear glass salad bowl (in order to demonstrate the principle / take photo's), that's not bad.  Had I used a black container instead of the glass, I'm sure that more condensation would've taken place and the yield would've been greater.  To produce enough water to drink / stay hydrated would probably require a number of containers, but I am chuffed at the success of the experiment.

A word of caution though.  This does not produce "clean" water.  It produces clear water, which will still contain germs / bacteria.  Therefore, I would recommend that anyone who tries this method, boils the clear water prior to drinking.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Home made Olla pots

Happy New Year everyone.  Yup - I have been MIA but, unfortunately, family visiting and their requirements takes precedence.

Notwithstanding the extreme weather being experienced in the northern hemisphere, the Western Cape drought continues.

I defy anyone ot tell me that climate change is a figment of some scientists imagination...😈

The people of Cape Town are on level 6 water restrictions, which means they are only permitted 87 ltrs (19 gallons) of water / person / day or 350ltrs / household / day (77 gallons).  That 87ltrs is for personal hygiene, to drink, to flush toilets, to do laundry, etc.  An almost impossible task.  A good percentage of Cape Tonians are catching as much water as possible (standing in buckets in their maximum 2 minute  shower, catching that water and using it as the first wash laundry water.  They then catch that dirty laundry water in order to flush their toilets - but they are employing "if it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down".  Ditto with their kitchen washing up water - that, too, is either used - by 8 - 10 lt (kg) bucket load - to flush toilets, or to try and keep alive whatever plants in their garden they can.  Lawns - they are a thing of the past.  Those who are fortunate (or should that be unfortunate) enough to have a swimming pool - most have covered their pools however they can, and are also directing grey water from the house to the pool to try and keep them as topped up as they can.  Whatever little rain that falls is also either directed to a rain water storage tank (for those that can afford one) or directly to their pools.

Some people are coping.  Some aren't.

It's heartbreaking. 

The area's main supply dam (Theewaterskloof) is down to 16.56% - or which only 6.56% is usable.  The last 10% is not recoupable.  They anticipate that the available water will be used up by Valentines Day, but, due to the summer heat which is only now letting itself be felt, I think it is more likely to dry up at the end of January 2018.  Thereafter, 4.5 million people will receive their potable water via water tanker - 25 ltrs at a time...


Those who pray - please pray for the Western Cape.  Those who rain dance - dance like no one is watching...

And we are not untouched by this disaster.  Although we are not on water restrictions - yet - as our supply dam is pretty full, the 37 - 39oC heat we had in December, and which we are still currently experiencing, we should only have in mid-to-late February.  I fear that our potable water supply dam, small as it is, will be requisitioned in order to assist in keeping the people of Cape Town supplied with potable water via those water tankers.

So, for the sake of my veggie garden lateral thinking had to be employed.

8.  Ollas: Are unglazed, porous clay pots that are planted underground near plants and deter water evaporation or run off.  Water is poured directly unto the olla and it releases the water to the root system of the plant as needed.


When I was 11 years old I fell off of a swing shaped like a banana (or boat) which was big enough to seat 10 - 12 kids. Falling from +/- 3 mtrs high onto the ground, and then the heavy swing swung down and hit me as well, breaking my right arm and right hip (in the ball joint). A op sorted that out and the injury didn't give me much trouble in my younger years. 

However, the years are ticking by, and 10 years ago it was discovered that not only did the accident break my arm and hip, it also damaged my spine so that the disc between L3 & L4 vertebrae has moved sideways with no hindrance in it's path away from where it should be. Short of a spinal fusion op (which I would rather not have) nothing can be done about it. So, bending down to ground level is not an easy task - it's OK getting down, but getting up again is almost impossible without clinging onto something for support.
Pallets for transporting large floor tiles
Thus our local tile shop came to my rescue when I needed to plant and grow veggies on our smallholding. 1 X 1 mtr tiles come in these enormous pallet like crates, which, once they're lined with gunplas (builders plastic) and filled with soil, they make the most amazing raised beds. But, there are all sorts of cracks and crevices for pests to live in. I counteract that by sowing the vegetable seed, and then covering them with a half a milk bottle - sort of like a mini greenhouse until the plant is big enough not to be that dramatically affected by snails or slugs. 

Being a raised bed means that the water, via gravity, slides downwards more easily than sideways - as would happen in a veggie bed in the ground. And my lettuce and cabbage plants kept "bolting" (going to seed too quickly) - even though the raised beds are inside a 60% shade cloth structure, but I reckon the gravity draining water didn't help either. 
My new Olla pot
A few weeks ago I finally found what I had literally been looking for for a couple of years - some "raw" clay flowerpots (as opposed to pots with a type of "seal" / glaze on the clay) which I found at our local co-op and which I intended to sink into the ground and use as below ground watering containers - to enable the water to reach the roots.
A sideways pic to illustrate the "raw" clay look
A gentleman did a post on the Drought Gardening SA Facebook group recently regarding the beautiful Olla pots he makes and that reminded me that I hadn't put my pots to their intended use yet - the house has been full of family for the last few weeks and their needs came first.
I used pritt multi tack to seal the hole at the bottom in order for the
pot to hold water
But, having been prompted by his posting, I set about experimenting.
I took the 21cm / 3.0 lt pot, sealed the drainage hole with pritt multi tack, filled the pot, and left it for 3.5 hours whilst we went through to Swellies for our weekly shopping. 
A piece of our wood mulch to make opening the lid to check the
 water level easier
Upon my return from town the success of the experiment is visible - as can be clearly seen water has "leaked" through the clay into the bucket.
Water seepage out of the pot after 3.5 hours
Having cleaned our local co-op out of this sized pot I have asked them to order 6 more. This is a definite winner. I believe that using grey water in these posts will also help to filter out a fair amount of "debris" (and maybe to a point some contaminants) in the water too.
The drop in water level is due to:
 1 absorption by the dry clay
 2 seepage through the clay pot - JUST what I was hoping for πŸ˜€
To say I am thrilled and excited is putting it mildly. I am sure that the problems I've experienced with the veg "bolting" is now a thing of the past.
My new olla pots in situ
The best thing of all - the pots weren't expensive - roughly R72.08 / pot (US$5.86 or £4.14) with drip tray lid.  Perfect πŸ˜€

Monday, 25 December 2017

Merry, Merry and Happy, Happy

May the Reason for the Season abound in your homes.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours.

Saturday, 16 December 2017


They were found in on our windowsills, and on our floor, in just one day.
14 dead bees - what caused this to happen in only ONE day?
What is the cause?

It could be the drought.

It could be the chemicals sprayed by the farmers on the surrounding fields.

It could be the loss of habitat or the lack of crop diversity ( http://sos-bees.org/causes/ and http://sos-bees.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/BeesInDecline.pdf)

It could be the increasing levels of CO2 (https://e360.yale.edu/features/bee_collapse_co2_climate_change_agriculture

Whatever the cause, life without bees will be very, very different.  There will be no pollinating of crops.  No crops, no food.  No food...

And no honey.  Imagine life without honey - whether you spread it on freshly baked bread, stir it in your coffee, or apply it to a cut.

I, personally, do not want to even think, never mind live, on a planet without the bees.
A simple source of water for the bees on a hot summers day
And they need our help.  Do you use chemicals to control pests in your garden, or do you employ eco-friendlier options?  Do you do something as simple as putting out a bowl of water for these important insects to help them cope with the summer heat?

I believe that is the least we can do for these busy, busy bees...

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Canine accomodation

Stellar at  6 months old small enough
 to fit under my writing desk
So, with Stellar and Dusty now firmly members of the family (well, actually, they were from the moment we laid eyes on them) ...
Stellar at 1 year and Dusty at 6 months old.  ne bed fitted in the space
perfectly.  Two - was one too many.  Their beds block the  entrance
 to the staircase
... plus their respective homemade beds, "space" in our lounge / at the entrance to the stairs is becoming a bit tight.  Sleeping outside in summer the temperature is perfect for dogs - although in winter they would have to move back indoors.

I priced a dog kennel large enough to house Stellar and was quote "only R2000.00" and Dusty would be another R1000.00.  There wasn't one big enough for both of them.

Hmmm,  that's a lot of money.

So, I had what I thought was a bright idea.
RMan re-doing the roof over the new proposed dog kennel
We have this unused, wasted area that used to house the quaddies (they are now stored elsewhere).  I said to RMan, if we throw a slab, re-do the roof more permanently (it leaked before) and ensure that the edges are sealed against the two adjoining walls, and put up some walls, perhaps we could let them sleep outside - especially during the hotter summer months.
"You need access to the washing line? Why?  It will only take 4 weeks.
 Can't you wait until I'm finished...?"
RMan cottoned on to my idea, and we proceeded to put the plan into action.  Naturally, the back yard became a construction site for the duration of the remodel ~ sigh

It's not easy hanging up washing around building materials...
Shiplapped wooden walls completed the project
Naturally, RMan did most of the work, but, I'm glad to report that my assistance was welcomed, and appreciated.
What a beautiful dog kennel πŸ˜€
The end result is brilliant.  And, thanks to our local sawmill, the whole thing cost less than buying only Stellar a dog kennel.

However, it will not be used as a dog kennel, because just as we completed it, we happened to spot a Cape Cobra in the back yard!!!  There is no way in hell that we would put the dogs into that dangerous a situation, so inside they will stay.  Houseguests will just have to climb over their beds - if and when they want to go upstairs.

All is not lost though - the kennel will now become a tool shed / storage room.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Harvesting and rooting

Youngberries at various stages of ripeness
I have started to harvest youngberries - and have discovered that I have competition.

Not the normal competiton - not the normal mousebirds, mice nor snails, but the four-legged kind of competition.  Actually, (without jinxing it) in contradiction with last year, I haven't seen a single mousebird this year...?
Stellar searching for ripe youngberries at ground level
It turns out that Stellar has a penchant for youngberries, and, braving the countless prickles / tiny thorns to her nose (I can't see how she can avoid them) she helps herself to ripe youngberries down at floor level.   She even takes them straight from my hand πŸ˜†

I never knew dogs ate berries...

Just a bowl of unimaginable yumminess πŸ˜†
Tonight we are having a fruit salad with freshly picked plums and youngberries and I have already harvested enough berries already to make 3 bottles of youngberry cordial and 4 large jars of jam - and I have at least 7 more harvests to gather in...


I reckon I'll be giving away a lot of fresh youngberries this year... πŸ˜€

Then, the other day I wanted to make mashed potatoes and when I went to get some from my pantry I saw that they had all started sprouting.
My potatoes had started sprouting from the eyes
I was faced with a conundrum...

I normally plant those, but, on that day I didn't have enough potatoes to allow for dinner - and planting.  And I felt sorry for the effort that the potatoes had gone to - I couldn't just remove the sprouting bits and toss them in my worm farm.
Freshly harvested potato "sprouts"
So, I carefully removed the sprouting bits of the potatoes and placed them in my (microgreen) sprouting tower.

Giving them a quick rinse, and leaving some water in the lower section, I put them aside.
Potato sprouts at 1 week
 I gave them a fresh rinse every day for a week.
Potato sprouts at 2 weeks
 This week they're beginning to grow leaves...
The roots are happily making their way to the water in the lower
 section of the (microgreen) sprouting tower
...and the roots are developing in the lower section.

I have never planted potatoes in this state.  Will they grow??  I guess they probably will, but I'll have to keep the soil good and damp until the 2nd set of leaves emerge.

Will be an experiment to end all experiments.

If it works, then I never have to sacrifice potatoes anymore - I will just "cultivate" the sprouting bits...

I'll let you know 😁