"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 30 April 2010

Biding time

Our grandson came to visit us for the Easter holidays - how lekker (nice is the normal translation, but obviously you all know that I mean much more than nice :-) ) that was.  Very special!  All he wanted to do was swim - but late March / early April in Cape Town is not really swimming weather - and the water has already cooled down quite substantially, although he did get in twice - very briefly - the water was 21oC.  Much to cold for me!

BUT, whilst he was here I took delivery of my Stack-A-Tub - the name says it all.  I have placed it on our back patio - the only place which gets sun in winter, and, co-incidentally, it is right outside our grandsons' bedroom window - so when he's here he can peep out of his window to see how "his" vegetables are growing.  We planted baby spinach and a (centre) garlic clove in the top section and peas in the middle section - aiming for them to grow down the tubs as opposed to needing support.  Trial and error - if they don't do that well hanging down then I'll give them support to climb up.  My other half loves peas in the pod, which I can't find anywhere in Cape Town, so, providing we get enough from the nine plants, I know who I'll call if I need some shelled for dinner.  In lower section I planted some basil, but I think I'm going to replace them with lettuces - basil will grow perfectly in a stand alone pot.  The beauty of the stack a tub is that as all three tiers are detachable, it's obviously mobile, so when we go to the farm I can take it with us.  I'm thinking of using it as a herb garden on the farm - close to the kitchen door.

I have also ordered some very special lemon tree cuttings from overseas.  But I'm not going to say anymore until I have some fruit photo's to share with you - sorry, that'll take two or three years.  But I'm very excited and can't wait for them to arrive.  If they arrive alive, and I manage to root them successfully, then I will be ordering more.  I can't see why I shouldn't be successful as I have managed to root two pomegranate cuttings in the past four weeks.

We are still unable to get away to the farm - perhaps later this month...  We  need to install the newly painted security gates, and, of course, my freecycle kitchen counters.  But we have a neighbour who is also building his house there and he tells us that our plants / trees are all doing well with our irrigation system, and we've had a bit of rain, so we don't have to worry about them.

Would be nice to get away to the peace and serenity again though...

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Our "Owl" is watching us...

I mentioned in an earlier post that I initially bought the Owl electricity monitor for the farm, to monitor how much power we have used and thus enable us to work out how much power we have left in our future deep cycle batteries.  Admittedly, we will not be using a huge amount of power - mainly for our lights and our future TV (in the evenings). Our water (bathroom and kitchen) is heated by our 10lt Kexin gas heater and I have found a solar powered 12vlt freezer, which, once we purchase it, will freeze our food (chicken, preserves, hubby's beer which is just not cold enough and needs a quick chill, etc) as well as 5tl bottles of water, which will be replaced on a daily basis, in order to keep our large cooler box at fridge temperature. Through our frequent trips to the farm we know this system works!

But, until we have our wind turbine and deep cycle batteries, we are using the Owl at home.  It has been tremendous.  On a daily basis we can see, at any given time, how much power we are consuming, what it's costing us, and how much green house gas our electricity consumption is causing.  Each of us, in passing the machine, which is located on our kitchen counter, has said - "wow, we're using that much - what can we switch off?"

The Owl monitor showing (top) energy consumption (the dishwasher was on and (bottom) green house gas emissions

I have kept a spreadsheet of our electricity consumption for the past 3 years - below is a summary of the average electricity consumtion for the month of March in those years:

March 2007 36.414 kWh / day @ 30.05 cents / kWh
March 2008 29.464 kWh / day @ 32.21 cents / kWh
March 2009 22.042 kWh / day @ 47.38 cents / kWh
March 2010 20.862 kWh / day @ 64.44 cents / kWh

Scary to see the price increases - and we have a minimum of 24.8% increase ahead of us - effective in July.  But it has been very rewarding to see our consumption coming down.  It wasn't that difficult :

- I cleaned out and switched off our chest freezer "(out of date' food tends to collect at the bottom anyway and we have two fridges which both have freezers)
- the number of lights we have on in the evenings have been reduced and all our lights globes have been replaced with CFL's
- our geyser is turned down to 50oC (I still have to get a geyser blanket)
- we stopped leaving sundry equipment on standby
- the pool motor now only runs for an hour in the morning and another in the evening - and the pool is sparkling!

This is all good practice for our future farm living - being more aware of everything can only benefit us in the long term.

And it is educating our son, who still lives at home, about his own future place and the real costs of living.

Monday 12 April 2010

Recycling and Freecycling

As I mentioned earlier in this blog I am a member of Freecycle in Cape Town.

Last week there was a posting offering two pine kitchen counter tops, two round steel kitchen sinks and three security gates.  And Katharine, the lady offering the goods, lived in my part of town!!  Happy days!  I contacted her and arranged to go and view the items - immediately!

They were perfect.  The pine kitchen counter tops are brilliant - about 4cms thick, with only a slight burn mark which will sand out easily - they will need a little bit of cutting / adjusting but when I walked into her kicthen they just leapt out at me - they are absolutely perfect farmhouse kitchen counters - and are in very good nick.  They had obviously been very well looked after as I couldn't find a speck of water damage.

And the kitchen sinks - obviously I don't need one of those (my Belfast sink is perfect) - so I thought I'd use them as planters - plugging up the drainage hole with small pebbles and growing garlic and lettuces in them - talk about square foot gardening :-)

Even the security gates are perfect - the single one will go outside our future bedroom door, which isn't the strongest, and the double ones will go outside our kitchen door - covered in shadecloth or wooden branches they will be perfect for, firstly, keeping anyone / anything (e.g. snakes) out and secondly they will be a tremendous help in muting the wind which always rushes inside if the door is open.  The security gates are slightly rusty, but that will sand off easily and then a lick of paint - no one will know the difference.

And they will give us peace of mind that when we are not there, the most vulnerable part of the house - the back - will have some form of protection.

This project is certainly giving me back my patience in this rushed, hurly-burly world - "slowly, slowly" is our key phrase ...   But we know it will all be worth it in the long run.

And the excitment and anticipation grows with every step forward, no matter how small it is.