"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

Wednesday 8 September 2010

It's finally Spring time in Cape Town

The lovely warmer mornings, and days, in Cape Town compel one to get out into the garden and to start weeding, and tidying.  And planting...

So I did just that.

But, to keep RMan occupied because he is always fretting that he needs to get to the farm to do this or finish that, and we just can't just get up and go (this is the start of the business' busy time of year), I suggested that we re-do the tiles in our guest bathroom. They were pretty grotty Biggie Best tiles from the early 1980's.

The start of it all...
He liked the idea - so much so that he started removing them the next morning - a Sunday! (Hope our neighbours aren't too mad at the noise - we did wait until 10.30 a.m.) But with all things renovation-wise what starts out as a simple "we'll re-do the tiles" became a "we're re-doing the whole bathroom"! That meant removing all the wall tiles, and the floor tiles, the basin in it's pedastel cupboard (which was rotting underneath and at the back - chipboard!) and the bath - well, it was tiny, hardly ever used (only by my grandson when he comes to visit) and finally, baths are a waste of water! Who baths these days?

So, the renovation has been proceeding at every available spare moment - but I gained something from the stripping down of the bathroom which I have been able to recycle. Apart from the wall tiles, which are great for the base of all my pots which I plant up, the bath has become one of my veggie patches!  And a raised veggie patch at that :-)

The bricks are for me to sit on whilst I harvest the produce - making it easier on my back.  Also you can see the lettuces on the left growing in the two stainless steel bowls I mentioned in an earlier post.
And I went one step further - because the bath is situated in the one spot that gets sun all year round, and is very hot in summer (my lettuces tend to bolt at the first sign of upper 20's heat) I decided that I would fashion a shade over the bath. All it took was some old irrigation pipe secured to short rods in the ground and covered "tightly" with the shade netting - to prevent our pesky snails from having a nightly munch.

I have left the front of the shadecloth loose so that I can lift it up when I need to get inside - afterwards I secure it with an old dowl type rod / support.
In the bath I placed some some lettuce and chives seedlings which I purchased from a local nursery (for instant "growth"), and sowed carrots and celery in situ (with the aid of my Magic Seeder :-) ), as well as garlic and onions. My hubby is still trying to come to terms with a bath in our back garden, but as he is already eating the produce therefrom he can't really complain. I think (and hope) that it is not as disturbing to his eyes as it was when he first saw it?!

Once I started sowing and planting I couldn't stop.

We are located on a hillside and thus have retaining blocks in our garden. I had previously planted them up with flowering plants - but, hey, they get full sun in summer, so this year they are planted up with corn, dwarf beans, parsley and tomatoes. It took me ages to remove all the soil from each block and mix it with compost and organic pellets (mainly chicken manure from the smell of it) but it was necessary. It gave me time to think of exactly what I was going to plant. Nothing more thought provoking than a good dose of manual labour - all on my own - well, the hubby was (and still is) busy with the bathroom :-)

And to finish it off I cleaned out under some hibiscus trees and sowed some more carrot seeds and planted some turnip and rocket seedlings. I have to cordon off the area as it was a favourite summer afternoon snoozing area for our dog - perhaps that is why I had never thought of using it before?

More carrots to the left, beetroot and rocket
I have also sown broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and turnip seeds in the empty loo roll holders I have been saving all winter - you'd be amazed how many loo roll holders one can save once you start. Sowing seeds in the holders allows one to transplant them straight into the ground when they are large enough, and once they are there they help prevent attack of the roots by cutworm, etc.

This last week I harvested 2kgs of sweet potatoes, which I had grown in a 20lt bucket, two small cabbages, +/- 200gms of peas and too many lettuce leaves to count - not to mention fresh herbs - rosemary, sage, basil, parsely and chives.

I can't explain it but these were amongst the best sweet potatoes we have ever eaten

I love it!!  Salad has never tasted as good!

It took me a full week to complete all of this, and just as I settled back yesterday evening to enjoy the view who popped by but this friendly Robin - almost saying, "Thanks for digging up all these insects, and I like what you've done with the place".

Can you spot him - he's checking out what I've done from the top of the rake
Well, Roger Robin, I like it too - very much!


  1. Oh Dani! How absolutely wonderful! It's so easy for me to forget that our seasons are reversed. Here in south central Texas, I'm getting my beds prepared for winter (such as it is here) and making plans for planting next spring.

    Love the bathtub idea. And I've been struggling to figure out how to plant my backyard because it has such a slope to it. A terraced retaining wall just may be the easiest way to go.

  2. Margo

    Compost, compost, compost :-) Then next year you'll reap the benefits of your hard work.

    We installed the retainers about 15 years ago - before I became ecologically aware. If I had the choice now I would rather investigate using filled sandbags, held in place with wooden stakes, with space behind each row of bags where I could plant what I wanted.

  3. Hi Dani, just discovered you through a comment on my blog! I really like your planter retaining wall. It'd be great for stuff like strawberries that can cascade down the wall.


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