"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

Sunday 31 October 2010

Ginger (zingiber officinale)

Whenever I get a sore throat I drink gingerbeer - the sting of the ginger beer on the back of my throat soothes the pain - in fact most times it removes the pain altogether.

I am thrilled that I have finally been able to get some ginger to start sending out roots.

I have been trying for months - planting it just below the soil, planting it half into the soil, and, finally, thanks to James Wongs' Grow you own Drugs (isbn 978-1-60652-107-6), I have got it right.

James recommends choosing a budding rhizome (which looks like a little green or white horn) and suspending it over water using toothpicks until roots form.

It's not quick - it's taken about 6 - 7 weeks - but at least it's happening!

Once the roots are established he recommends planting it 10 - 20 cms (4 - 8) inches deep in potting compost.

It should be kept warm and moist in a lightly shaded area.  The ginger rhizomes can be harvested when they are a year old.  All one has to do is dig down into the soil and break off a piece of the rhizome - leaving the rest in the ground.  The ground is the best place to store ginger - if it's harvested all at once then the ginger will dry out before you've had a chance to use it all.  It can also be frozen (whole or grated) but I prefer it fresh - it has a far stronger taste.

Ginger is a very versatile spice - used in cooking - sweet and savoury dishes.

It is also brilliant an anti-nausea remedy - be it motion sickness, vertigo or morning sickness.  Just chew on a thin slice to relieve the feeling of nausea.

Ginger contains ginerols, which when dried or extracted become hotter and seem stronger to the taste.  It also has a soothing efect on the digestive tract - quelling disgestive disorder.  It is perfect to have as a tea on a winters afternoon - it warms the body beautifully.

It is also apparently good as an anti-inflammatory for joint pain.

A little ginger shoot appearing on the large piece which is sending roots down into the water
I love adding it to chicken dishes - whether they are stir fries, roasts or even soup.

Friday 29 October 2010

A special dinner

On Monday 1st November it is RMan's and my 30th wedding anniversary.I reckon we can be justifiably pleased with ourselves for making it through 30 years together.  And, apart from the love we share, we still like each other too.

30 years - that's a long time - I never thought we'd get to that. Two people who meet and one day decide they would like to spend the rest of their lives together. It sounds so simple, and in the first rush of feelings, it is that simple. Nothing seems insurmountable and everything seems possible. And that meeting has resulted in 30 years of ups and downs, tears and laughter, worry and contentment.

The arrival of our two children heralded a new way of life - now it wasn’t just RMan and my wants to be considered - in fact the needs of our small children came before ours - that's part of nurturing. We gave them our time, thoughts, unconditional love and guidance for as long as they needed it, and then we let them go. To enter the big world out there and make their own lives. And they are totally secure in the knowledge that home is here, if they ever need it.

I'm proud of both our children - their heads are (basically) screwed on the right way, their choices are guided by our example to them over the years, and they know to treat people they meet - however fleetingly - as they would like to be treated.

I am constantly amazed, though, that new parents are allowed to leave a nursing home with a tiny new life without any hesitation. A new mother has complete control over a tiny life - with no prior instruction. It all hinges on instinct.

How is it possible that one cannot drive a car in public without a driver’s licence, but one is allowed to look after a baby with no prior qualification? My mother died when I was 16, so I didn't have her advice to call on. My late mother-in-law was the director of a company and her days and evenings were filled with business meetings and appointments. And my closest relative, my aunt, was dealing with her youngest daughters' breast cancer.

So our first child was a little scary, and our second was easier - because I had been "there and done that". Maybe that is why eldest children are tougher - they have had their mothers practice on them first...? Both children gave their share of stress and strain to our marriage, as well as overwhelming doses of love.

And their leaving the nest has not caused me any "Empty Nest Syndrome" for I know that I will see them whenever they are able to visit. However, a side product of the nest being empty is that RMan and I have time together again - undivided time for each other, to fill our remaining years with whatever catches our fancy and to enjoy each other’s company again.

So, given the state of the world's economy, Monday evening will be an evening spent in the comfort of our home.  And to make it that little extra bit special, I have decided to make something for dinner that I have never made before - Chicken Galantine - or, as it is wrapped in a muslin cloth, should that be Chicken Ballotine?  Whatever.

And this is how I made it today...

You will need:

bacon strips (I don't eat meat, but for this special occasion I guess I will have to - alternatively I will give it to RMan - he LOVES bacon)
4 X chicken fillets - pounded flat with a meat mallet
340gms minced chicken
fresh herbs of your choice and spices (I added a touch of cayenne pepper too)
one egg - beaten
1/2 cup bead crumbs
200gms chicken sausage (removed from it's casing)
1 X red pepper - de-seeded and sliced
a handful of shelled pistachio nuts
1 litre of chicken stock
1 onion - peeled and cut into quarters
3 carrots - peeled and sliced
extra herbs / spices for the pot, including 6 cloves - gave a very nice flavour to the stock.

I started by beating the fillets flat with a mallet. Then I placed the bacon on a folded piece of muslin and covered them with the flattened chicken fillets. I mixed the chicken mince with the herbs and spices, the beaten egg and the breadcrumbs.

That mixture was placed on top of the chicken fillets.  The sliced red pepper came next and finally the chicken sausage was placed on the bottom half.

Side view
I popped the pistachio nuts on top of the chicken sausage.

Oops - I forgot to add the pistachio nuts - had to take the sausage out of the liquid, unwrap it and add them

Then I carefully, and tightly, rolled it all up into a sausage with the muslin (like making a swiss roll) and tied the ends with string.

This 'sausage' was then placed into a pot with chicken stock, the onion quarters, the carrots, a couple of cloves, two bay leaves, origanum, thyme and marjoram picked from the garden.  Covered and simmered for 2 - 3 hours.

When it was cooked, I removed it from the pot and allowed it to cool.  I then removed the cloth , rinsed it in lukewarm water and wrang it out.  Then I spread the cloth on the work surface again and carefully re-wrapped the chicken ballotine.  Tied it up again with string and, weighing it down with a heavy board, placed in the fridge until Monday.

Cranberry sauce will be provided on the side.

I will also be serving it with a fresh salad from our garden, baby potato salad and a loaf of fresh bread - I received my new solar cooker earlier in the year, but the weather has not been suitable for experimenting.  Monday will be a perfect day to try it out :)  28oC is predicted!!

Candle light, music from our younger days and a delicious dinner - hopefully a perfect evening.

I'll post a pic of the Chicken Ballotine when it's ready.

For those who are interested, the ecofootprint of this meal is:

One pan was used to make it - simmering look 2 1/2 hours, using just under 1Kw power and cost approximately R1.06
All the ingredients were local and organic - a fair portion came from my garden (carrots / herbs);
I scored red pepper seeds for next year;
Breadcrumbs were homemade from stale bread;
Chicken scraps went to our dog;
All the packaging went into the recyling bag;
and the vegetable scraps / egg shells went to the compost bin.

Not a single thing landed in my dustbin :)

Monday 25 October 2010

Making butter by hand

I subscribe to a number of other blogs and this one made me the pause for thought.

I have already written a post about learning / experiencing what I need to know about being self-sustainable before we are on the farm, and am constantly on the lookout for what I can try out in order to achieve that aim.

And Gillies post (above) on making butter with an electric blender gave me an idea.  We will have a minimum of power - basically enough to power the car radio, energy saving 12volt lights for night time, and possibly a 12volt TV at some stage in the future.  I do not want to be relying on electrical appliances to perform kitchen functions.

One of our neighbours has cows that provide them with milk. Hopefully she will sell me some cream, when necessary, so that I can make butter. Or perhaps I will be able to barter some home grown fruit or vegetables for the cream - I know she doesn't have a lemon tree - so that's a thought...

Therefore I decided to see if I could make butter by hand.

So, for this experience, I bought 500mls of cream and started beating...

I decided to use one of my stainless steel saucepans as the handle made it easier to tilt the pot whilst I was beating.  It is not a tidy chore - as you can see the cream splashed everywhere - perhaps using a larger container next time will prevent that from happening.

The longest part of making the butter is beating the cream until it is really good and thick.

Once the cream reaches the stage of being overbeaten it starts to separate - the milky substance forming at the bottom of the saucepan is buttermilk.

I now have butter in the pan and buttermilk in the other container.

500mls of cream gave me 210gms of butter and 240 mls of buttermilk (I don't know what happened to the other 50mls - apart from the fact that I dropped the whisk on my lap whilst beating the cream thick - then I had to quickly harvest a lemon from our tree to de-grease my jeans. But that accident also gave me the chance to lick my fingers...) I added a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the butter whilst it was forming - to increase its fridge life. 

The whole process took me 25 minutes with 20 minutes being taken up in beating the cream until it was thick.  Once it reaches butter stage I then beat it with a fork to make it smooth and finally squeezed it in a piece of muslin cloth to remove the last of the buttermilk.

As for the taste?

I reckon it tastes better than shop bought butter - but I could be biased :-)

Saturday 16 October 2010

Growing lemon trees from pips and recycling

When my granddson, MKid, was here at the end of September I bought him some individual yoghurts (they come in a pack of 9) to take to the farm - they're easier to keep cold at the bottom of our cooler box than one large one.

But, as I was about to toss them out I suddenly realised that they look just like a single section of the six pack seedling holder - which naturally gave me an idea, so I washed them out and put them away in my gardening cupboard.

We had fish for dinner the one evening, and what goes with fish, but lemons.  I am completely unable to put lemon pips in the compost, and as I had an tiny empty terracotta plantpot on my kitchen windowsill, I tossed them in and stirred the sand a little.  Now, my kitchen windowsill is one of 4 windows in our house which gets sun all year and it has become my nursery for small plants which I am trying to root on.

My nursery contained African Violets, the lemon pips peeking above ground and ginger, which is finally sending out some roots
As I was washinig my hands after a stint in my garden today I espied the six lemon tree seedlings and thought ... "why not?"

So I grabbed a mix of potting soil and compost and, after making holes in the base of 6 of the pots and leaving three without holes, I proceeded to pot up my lemon tree seedlings.

A hole in one but not the other
The one without the hole becomes the drip tray

Only three have drip trays, so the other three will have to have something else...

My nursery is growing - in more ways than one.

As I gently separated the 6 seedlings I discovered three more pips which were sending out little shoots - so those went back into the original tiny terracotta plant pot, until they have grown a little more.  The newly potted seedlings in the yoghurt tubs will remain on my window sill until they have at least 4, but preferably 6 leaves, and then they will be repotted into a larger pot and moved outside.

It has taken approximately 2 - 2 1/2 weeks for the lemon pips to become seedlings / tiny saplings - at this rate we may as well farm lemons, not pomegranates - or perhaps we can farm both...

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Recycling and storing tip for dry goods

I received an e-mail from a friend of mine - it contained this brilliant idea. (sorry, I don't know who thought of this, so I can't give credit where credit is due).

At last a "USEFUL" idea!!!!!

The guy who first thought of this idea should be given an award for originality!!!

Now you don't have to grapple with rubber bands or knots that are tied too tightly.

How to seal a bag and make it air-tight!

Cut up a disposable water bottle and keep the neck and top, as in the photo above.

Insert the plastic bag through the neck and screw the top to seal.

The bottle is made to be air-tight, such that water will not leak, the secret lies with the top and screw!

This is a great idea to share. Good for us and the environment too.

It doesn't only need to be food in the kitchen that one keeps sealed in this way.

I have also used it to recycle the bags which our cereal arrives in, I trim the top of the bags neatly and use them, together with the recycled milk bottle tops, to hold my vegetable seed packets together - sorting them into four bags to follow the following crop rotation system:

1 potatoes (including tomatoes and capsicum);

2 miscellaneous ( sweetcorn, spinach, beetroot, marrow, pumpkins, lettuces);

3 root (carrot, parsnips, celery, fennel, onions and garlic);

4 legumes and brassica (peas, beans, cabbages, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, swedes and turnips.

That way, when I am ready to plant the next crop, I can just take the entire bag to the bed - open it up, and start sowing.

Couldn't be easier and keeps everything dry, neatly together and in one place, with no chance of the seeds spilling out of their open packets.

But, as I cut the top off the bottle and was about to throw the base of the container into our recycling bin it suddenly occured to me that I could use the base I had cut off as a plant container - all it needed was a couple of holes pierced into the base, for drainage, then a quick rinse out.

Voila! a ready made plant pot for a lemon tree grown from a pip! This container will also give me the added advantage of being able to see the roots - if I see too many then it's time to repot my growing tree :-)

Friday 8 October 2010

Nasturtiums - an edible plant

I love nasturtiums.

I love the way the plant hangs and drapes itself in my garden, providing shade to the soil below, and assisting in the prevention of weeds.

Not only is the plant itself pretty, but it has various culinary uses too.

I have mixed the flowers in with my salad (please read the info / warnings on edible flowers here) and have been rewarded with a delicious peppery taste, and I have been told (although  haven't tried it yet) that one can use the seeds in place of capers, and, according to James Wong (Grow your own Drugs ISBN 978-1-60652-107-6 page 208), one can can also use the flowers and leaves, which have antimicrobial properties, to treat bronchitis, catarrh and upper respiratory tract infections.

A nasturtium seed just waiting to be harvested

According to Edible and Medicinal flowers by Margaret Roberts (page 56)nasturtiums are high in Vit C and are a natural antibiotic.

But, I thought today I would make some nasturtium capers and this is a recipe I found online (http://www.herbalgardens.com/archives/articles-archive/nasturtiums.html)

Pickled Nasturtium Seeds

Use green nasturtium seeds, and in picking retain a short length of stem on each. Lay the seeds in cold salted water for two days (two tablespoons salt to one quart water), then place them in cold water for another day. Drain and rinse well and place the seeds in a glass jar, cover with vinegar heated to boiling point, and close the jar tightly. In a few days the seeds will be ready to use. They are an excellent substitute for capers.

Nasturtiums - graceful, edible and beautiful
230gms of Nasturtium seeds harvested from my garden in just 10 minutes

Separate the clusters of seeds, if they occur, and then remove the stalks and remaining bits of flowers from the seeds and wash well to remove any sand or insects.

They can occur as single seeds, double or triple seeds. Pull off the stalks, separate and rinse.

Then I dissolved 1 tablespoon of salt into 500mls water (1 US quart = 0.946352946 litres and I'm doing 1/2 the quantity) and I added the seeds.

This is being allowed to stand for 2 days before rinsing - after which I will leave them in plain water for the last day.  I will boil the vinegar (enough to cover the seeds) and pour it onto rinsed seeds in two separate small sealable bottles.

Even though they are being preserved in vinegar, I will definitely store one the "nasturtium capers" in the fridge.  The other one will (possibly) be sacrificed to science / my preserving curiosity - I want to see how long it will last in my pantry cupboard.

Pickled Nasturtium capers

They can be used in sauces, dips, casseroles, soups, stews and as edible decorations.   For more recipes using capers go to: Home cooking

In addition I also get beautiful flowers and colour for my house - free from my garden

Monday 4 October 2010

Bird bath or shower?

I was cleaning the family’s muddy footprints off the kitchen floor after a rain shower last week when I happened to glance out of the window.

There, standing in the gentle drizzle and in the middle of a puddle of water, stood a Cape Rock Pigeon. I say stood, but it was actually squatting in the puddle. As I watched it, it suddenly raised one wing and held it aloft for approximately 30 – 60 seconds.


I was dumbfounded – wondering what the pigeon was doing. Had it hurt is wing?  How was I going to catch it to take it to the Bird Park?  What if, in so doing, I hurt it's wing further?

As I continued to gaze at it, hesitating, Lo! and Behold! it raised the other wing.

The pigeon continued to lift alternate wings for about 10 minutes until it proceeded to finally have a bird bath in the puddle with much splashing and flapping of wings.

Finally finished, it walked out of the puddle and preened itself before flying off to the nearest tree.

The question remains - is this a modern pigeon who prefers to take a shower to a bath – or has the pigeon been watching too many humans taking an outside shower au naturel?

Sunday 3 October 2010


I am in love!

I just adore the beetroot plant.

It is exquisite to look at, the leaves and root are both edible and it is delicious cold, hot or pickled - whole, sliced, cubed or cut into julienne strips.  And it provides sodium, phosphorus, calcium and small amounts of Vitamin A and C.  It is also low in calories - containing only 44 cal (189 kj) / 100 gms (Versatile Vegetables ISBN 0706420659 page 42)

The beetroot leaf with it's delicate red veins reminds me of the capillary system in the human body
There are so many exquisitely beautiful vegetable plants that I have decided that I will NOT be planting any more flowering plants that are not edible or useful - lavender, roses, marigold and nasturtiums will be the only exceptions:

 lavender for it use as a cupboard, room fragrance or for use in soaps and as a pest deterrent;

 roses will be planted at the end of our grape vine rows on the farm - also as a pest deterrent;

 marigolds will be planted near my tomatoes;


 nasturtiums will be there for all those pesky worms to much on, and whatever flowers I can harvest, I will put in our salads.

In the permaculture way, giving a portion of one's garden / harvest to the insects continues the cycle - if I have enough of anything, a portion of it will be left exposed for the insects to feed on.

Giving back without taking away - or paying it forward.

Saturday 2 October 2010


We've had family visiting from up country for the past 10 days.  Last weekend we managed to get way to the farm for 4 days, much to the delight of our grandson.  He was facinated with the Dover stove and kept himself busy (with constant adult supervision, naturally) topping up the wood, as well as preparing and lighting our evening braai (barbecue).

We lit the Dover stove in the evenings when it turned chilly, and the one evening after our meal, we all sat around it, with our daughter reading to our grandson from the Jungle Book by candle light / parrafin lamp.  There was no TV, no radio, just the crackle of the wood burning in the stove and the wind rushing through the trees outside.  And the gentle light provided by the candles / lamps.  Very snug we were.

It was such a perfect evening, with our entertainment being provided, as it was in days of yore, through the reading of a book.  Each time my daughter stopped for a moment, our grandson said, "Please carry on, Mom".  What more reward could a storyteller receive than that?  And my grandson has discovered that an evening can be enjoyed without the necessity of a modern convenience - the dreaded television.

Days, too, were filled with being outdoors - even if the wind was howling and the temperature wasn't that comfortable - another jersey soon sorted that out!

And I realised that our dream is within reach. In fact, not only is it within reach, but it is rapidly coming to fruition.

What we are trying to do is let the next generation (or two) experience a different kind of life - one that is different from what their everyday lives consist of, and to realise that this other side of life really is OK - especially in this world filled with rush, stress, noise / light and industrial pollution, and the latest gadgets / modern conveniences.

In fact, not only is visiting the farm OK in their book, but they all want to visit and are loathe to leave.

And that is a place where there are few creature comforts - just the bare necessities.

I love it when a plan comes together :-)

All too soon, though, work called us back to town.

But that gave me the opportunity of keeping my eye on all my seedlings which are all peeping above ground.

We have already got a bunch of grapes forming on the grape vine...

My beetroot is coming along very nicely - I had to give it a shadecloth fence - firstly, it was too hot a spot, and secondly, our dog kept digging them up.

And my tomatoes in the east facing retainer blocks, together with the sweetcorn to the right and the little lemon trees I've grown from seed at the top of the photo...

More tomatoes and parsley in the west facing retainer wall - catching their last sun rays for the day...

Capsicum - grown from seeds which I saved when we used one in a salad ...

And, finally, a (slightly) raised veggie patch tunnel, with shadecloth, to protect it from the snails, insects and the south easter, which blows a gale here in summer.  I have seedling trays in the bed with broccoli, turnips, cauliflower and cabbage all sown in empty loo roll holders...

It looks rickety, but it works, and the wind hasn't managed to blow it over ...yet!
There are also peas, baby spinach, onions, lettuce, chives and rocket which we've been munching on for a few weeks.  And, hopefully, the plants above will provide a good harvest in the months to come :-)