"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

Thursday 11 February 2010

Recycling, solar oven, wind turbines and hotboxes

A new year...

We all went to the farm for 3 days in mid-December. Our kids couldn't believe what we have done on the plot - they say the pictures don't do it justice. Our grandson was absolutely thrilled - clutching one of the walkie talkies and following his granddad "Danda" everywhere - checking in every now and then with his Nana (who had the other walkie talkie.) He was torn between the adventure of sleeping in the caravan with his mum and staying in the 'new' house - so he did a bit of both. The comment was passed that the atmosphere in the house is completely different to other houses - very calm, peaceful and "gemutlich"(comfortable, snug cosy). Don't know how much of that is due to the high celing / double glazed windows or clay floor tiles - perhaps a bit of all.

We ate each evening in the dining area, lit by candle light / paraffin lamps whilst we listened to our CD's playing softly in the backgound, on the 12volt LG car radio that I had purchased for RMan on his birthday last year. Very, very nice. For our grandson's sake I left a paraffin lamp burning low in the bathroom - whenever he needed the toilet we didn't have to accompany him to the bathroom to give him some light - the lamp cast a beautiful glow in the bathroom which was visible from the (camping) dining table. All in all a very relaxing few days - thoroughly enjoyed by all.

So, what does 2010 hold.... collecting and planting our pomegranates, purchasing and installing the 1kW wind turbine, building a secure outside storeroom (for all those tools one accumulates during the building process) and getting my veggie garden started to mention just a few things which immediately spring to mind. Never mind purchasing, installing and experiencing the dover stove next winter. Will it be as useful as I hope? A source of internal heat in winter whilst simultaneously cooking all those things I want to try, like baking my own bread, preserving tomatoes (from my future veggie patch) and roast chickens with a difference?

By the way, I have ordered a solar oven, which is manufactured in Portugal - it is more versatile that the solar cooker I purchased from the Sunstove Organisation - their one works more as a slow cooker than an oven - although it produces delicious food which is melt-in-the-mouth tender, it does not get hot enough to bake bread.

The solar oven can bake biscuits, bread - whatever a normal oven cooks! In order to retain heat when the sun dips too low I will be using that solar cooker in conjunction with a 'hotbox' (or haybox as it is also known. In place of hay I am using all the shredded paper from my office, but one could also use blankets/duvets/shredded newspaper.) I have been using it for cooking for both my family and the homeless once a week and the 'hotbox' really works!!!! All I did was take my son's old wooden toy box - sanded it and covered it with a non-poisonous wood sealer - stuffed it full of shredded paper - enough to surround whatever size pot I'm using - and an old pillowcase which is used to cover the pot and which is also stuffed full of shredded paper.

Chicken casserole has never tasted as good - all I did was add (defrosted) chicken pieces, a chicken stock cube, herbs and spices and a tin of whole tomatoes in tomato sauce to a pot - bring it to the boil on the stove, and boil hard for 10 - 15 minutes, give a stir, cover and then immediately pop it in the 'hotbox', ensuring that it is covered all round with shredded paper. 8-odd hours later, remove from the hotbox (be careful, the pot is still very hot underneath), re-heat (bring to the boil) on the stove for 10 minutes and enjoy! (I did not add any extra liquid apart from the tomato sauce - it is not necessary for the chicken creates it's own - there really is more than enough sauce when it has finished cooking.) Rice turns out beautifully - not glutenous and stuck together, lentils - perfect, even a spaghetti bolognaise meat sauce mixture is brilliant! And what a saving on electricity! Not to mention time spent hovering over the stove.

We have decided to tile the wall behind the shower after all - we have chosen to use a thinner clay floor tile leaving the grout a cement colour - that will echo the effect on the floor, and, hopefully, not have the mouldy grout problem that normal bathroom tiling seems to encourage. But before we can do any of that we need to give the walls their first undercoat layer of paint. Walls which have lime render benefit from long drying periods - absorbing all that carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they do so. Also, the undecoat, which we are going to apply (manufactured by Harlequin Paints in Cape Town), requires a moisture level of no more than 5%.

We managed to slip away from Cape Town for 2 days at the end of January. I really can't explain the sense of calm that comes over one as you enter the Rietkuil area. Restorative, renewing and invigorating. We immediately got to work applying the undercoat to the bathroom - between the two of us it took 5 hours - the time consuming bit is always the edges - where the wall meets the floor, roof / ceiling and windows. But at least that is done. We also gave all the woodwork (doors and window frames) another coat of wood preservative.

And RMan has another woman in his life. She's called Baabara. On Saturday, in the late afternoon, when the heat of the day was waning, he was outside giving the weaker looking plants some extra water when he heard a stamping noise behind him. He turned round and found our neighbours ewe and her lamb at the fence. He walked over and aimed the water at the ground by the ewe's feet. She sucked up the water as quickly as it came out of the pipe - until she'd had enough. Then she turned tail and trotted off. But she came back the next day - just standing at the fence until one of us noticed her - for another top-up. Amazing - I didn't think that sheep were that bright. The lamb wasn't interested in water - not yet. It is a new born, with it's tail still undocked.

I was very chuffed - we had a ceramic side light from the 80's which I hated - and I decided to try and make it more appropriate for use on the farm (part of the re-cycling I'm implementing in all aspects of our life).

The first photo is of how it used to look and the second is of how it looks now. We connected it to the deep cycle battery together with the car radio, and after inserting the 12volt energy saver globe which I purchased from my local light shop, we ate by normal light that night, whilst Luther Van Dross played softly in the background.

I have been putting used tea bags into my compost pot for months and I decided to dry some of them - keeping the bag and the tea leaves. I glued (with podge) the clean dry bags onto the corners of the lamp and scattered the tea leaves over the rest of the base - applying a layer of podge to the entire surface once it was dry to seal it. The light shade was damaged (and which I subsequently fixed) so the shop owner allowed me to take it in exchange for a R25.00 donation to one of the charity boxes next to his till. What a bargain! It looks stunning - and very appropriate for the setting. I do love it when a plan comes together! Oh, and I purchased a solar light (Multi Purpose Solar Flood Light ref. SKU SEFL) from The Green Shop in Cape Town as a Christmas gift for Ronnie. It is brilliant! The light is more than bright enough to light up the entire room (we gave it a test run inside on the first night - putting the solar panel outside the window during the day to charge the deepcycle battery, and then, hey, presto! it switched itself on in the evening when the light faded) and outside it works perfectly too, lighting up the area so that one doesn't stumble over anything. Slowly, slowly we are getting more civilized and the farmhouse is beginning to feel more homely...


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