"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 23 December 2010

They get it!

A  couple of nights ago we were all sitting round the table, and naturally the talk turned to our farm.

So frustrating - this recession has effectively delayed our plans, and move, by at least a year (at this stage).  Being nasty - I hope that the families of those bankers who caused this recession and who are not in jail, are also having a hard time of it - but I doubt that, as I'm sure their savings accounts are well padded after all the years of exorbitant salaries / bonuses they have received...  I will NEVER understand why those excessive yearly payouts, for work that they are employed to do, occur!!!!?

But, we were trying to explain to WGuy what it is like on the farm - WGuy has never been there.

The comment that was passed was: "It's amazing - how one can make do with less.  Every time one switches on a light, it is because it is necessary, and not because one wants a house lit up like a Christmas Tree.  Living with less (electricity, mod cons, etc) makes one think twice before just blindly switching / turning something on".

That comment was not made by RMan nor myself!

And then both of our children stated that it is easy to adapt - and that adaptation does not mean that life is deprived - just more thoughtfully lived.

Whoopeeeeeeee!  I almost feel like Henry Higgins did when he successfully coached Eliza Doolittle to speak like a lady.

To hear our children admitting, to us, that the "normal" lifestyle is one that is actually based on luxury, and that a comfortable life "without" can be lived with little or no great harm / difference to their lives, is exactly what we set out to do - to show our children that one can walk far more gently on this planet.  To know that they genuinely, and honestly, appreciate the simpler way of life - well, that just warms the cockles of my heart :-)

And to hear them say that what draws them back to our little farm each time is the peace and quiet - the serenity and the sense of being totally aware of their surroundings.  For we never force them to go there - it is always up to them if they would like to take that 2 1/2 hour drive away from the hustle and bustle of the city life.

I feel like I have just received the very best gift I could ask for.

The simple life - I love the glow created by candle light / paraffin lamps, and feel no lack of TV, for our simple car radio keeps us in touch with what is happening "out there", whilst also providing our favourite music.  A roof over our heads, running water, clean air and crystal clear evening skies...

So what if the wind blows - you learn to adapt and shelter from it - or open windows on the other side of the house from which it is blowing.  And with the sun which pelts down in summer - well, one just gets up earlier to do what is necessary before it gets too warm - then a little siesta J - before continuing later in the afternoon when the temperature has dropped.  Adaptation is the key word.

I am so very grateful that we have been able to expose our children, and grandchild, to a more real side of life.  Hopefully they carry that knowledge / experience / awareness forward in their lives, and that they are better people for it.

This is the first time that I have done an indigenous kranz -
MKid can hardly wait to open all those gifts under the tree... :-)
 Merry Christmas.  We are all going to spend a week on the farm - that is just what is needed to see the back of this past year.  May 2011 be all and more than you hope for, and, as a friend of mine so succinctly put it, may it also "include many, "make-your-life-easier miracles" for you all :-)

And thank you one and all for your friendship, encouragement and support of my blog - your friendship is very important to me.

Monday 20 December 2010

MKid solar biscuits

Earlier this month I baked a couple of batches of biscuits for everyone for Christmas (using this recipe :
http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com/2010/11/solar-baking-biscuits.html) and I put a lump of the biscuit dough in my freezer, so that when MKid was here I could show him how the sun can even cook his favourite biscuits.

So last night I took the dough out of the freezer and place it in the fridge to defrost overnight.  This morning MKid and I got stuck into baking some solar biscuits.

This is what he produced...

Actually - this is about half of what he produced - the rest is already in his tummy :)  Seems he's just like his grandad when it comes to solar baked biscuits!

He is amazed that the sun can do even this, and now understands even more why it is so important that he wears sun lotion.

So, two important lessons were learnt today - one the sun is powerful enough to cook almost anything he would like to eat, and two, what it can do to food, it can do to his skin too.

I somehow don't think he is going to forget either lesson in a hurry.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Christmas is togetherness time

On Saturday, 11th December, our daughter, NGirl, and our grandson, MKid, and NGirls' partner, WGuy, drove 1500kms to spend Christmas with us.  A 17 hour trip, which began on a Friday night at 6.15 pm and ended at 11.00 am on the Saturday morning.

The first part of the trip was stormy and very wet, but that, thankfully, kept the other cars off the road - apparently they had the road almost to themselves - even the long distance lorry drivers had pulled over to the side of the road to sleep!

I am so grateful that they left when they  did - since then the holidays have started and over 200 people have been killed on our roads nationwide.

Apparently, during the drive, MKid told WGuy in some detail that his Nana had a veggie garden, and he always helps his Nana with it.

Sure enough, the first evening they were here, I needed to pick salad from the garden for our dinner.  And, naturally, MKid did most of the work.  His delight in picking (and quickly eating 5 or 6) ripe, warm cherry tomatoes from the vine, snipping fresh, crisp lettuce leaves off the plant, and yanking carrots and radishes out of the ground was honey to my eyes.  Snipping chives, rocket and green beans off the mother plant  - he even found the last 10 peas in their pods - his and RMan's favourite!

I do so wish I'd had my camera with me that first evening - as he was walking back into the house carrying his bounty carefully, he went up to his mum, and with a mouth dripping with tomato juice, said, "Look what we got from Nana's garden"!  The pride and excitement in his voice - just too precious.

How wonderful to be able to show my grandson that it is not necessary to buy everything from a shop.  That with a little bit of planning, and a little bit more work, one can produce food for oneself.  I firmly believe that teaching the young to do something so simple can have far reaching benefits.  Hopefully, his lasting memory of me will be one like this!  And that he, too, may have his own vegetable garden one day.

As he drifted off to sleep that night his last words were: "Nana, we need to pick more salad tomorrow".

We did :-)

Thursday 16 December 2010

Further milk bottle recycling

I have had so much use out of recycling our plastic milk bottles (http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com/2010/10/recycling-and-storing-tip.html) that I couldn't help but wonder what other uses the bottle could be put to.

Well, this is my latest one...

I am going to use them to grow upside down tomatoes, peppers, peas and beans in.  That way it'll save on having to buy hanging baskets with coir liners(which the dratted starlings are shredding as bedding for their nests) and, as the bottles are see through, I can also clearly see when the soil needs another gulp of water.

What I did was this -  about 2 1/2 cms (1 ") below the lid I cut open and removed the front top half of the bottle, leaving the back half of the bottle to support the neck.  I also punched two holes in the base for drainage.

Then I tied some twine around the neck, planted it up, and hung it where, in this instance, the tomato plant will get the morning sun, but will be in the shade during the hot afternoons.  A raised bed with a difference :-)  And I wont have to tie up the tomato plants on a stake as they grow - they'll grow down towards the ground which will make them much easier to harvest.

I guess one could also use this idea in a workshop for holding nuts and bolts, screws, nails, etc. Or clothes pegs. Or next to a childs desk to hold their pens and pencils.

But for me - any extra year round sunny garden space is a bonus - even if it is 1.5 mtrs (5') above the ground!  So I've also cut out two (opposite) top sections, with the area in between the spaces being the support for the neck, and the open areas allowing me access to harvest the fruit - perfect as a strawberry pot?  Time will tell...

All I have to do now is cut off the two flaps and
there we go - instant hanging strawberry pot
Has anyone got any other ideas?

Thursday 9 December 2010

Battling the elements, insects and birds

I have not much time to blog over the past few days - for I've been madly busy getting the solar cook book sorted (it's going to be a few weeks yet) and also we have redesigned the vegetable garden.  I had to make it bigger because the old one was, firstly, not big enough, secondly, it was getting overcrowded with all the goodies that are growing in it, and finally, it wouldn't be at all big enough for what I want to grow in it next Spring.

For next Spring I will need to plant mealies (sweet corn) somewhere other than where I planted them this year - and that's not even taking crop rotation into account.

This last Spring I decided that my retainer block section could possibly grow some vegetables - well, it can, but not the veggies that I anticipated.  Anything more than 30 cms (15") high will just get wind blasted - we have a wicked South Easter which blows here in summer - they call it the Cape Doctor, for it blows all the winter smokey air, which is still lingering, out to sea.

But the Cape Doctor is not kind to gardens:

As you can see I had to support my mealies with whatever I could find - even tying them up with stakes...

Then we thought of putting up some shade cloth - to break the force of the wind.  Not the prettiest, but it worked thankfully!

The end result - I have a couple of mealie plants which have survived the wind thus far - and for which I am extremely grateful.  But this spot certainly wont do for next year, so...

RMan to the rescue!

I have to say the RMan came through 110%.  I am completely blown away at what he constructed, using alien Black Wattle poles!

This is the old veggie patch - my attempt:

And this is what I have now:

The start of the makeover
RMan in action

Finished - my new shade cloth "tunnel" - and already
planted (on the right hand side) with all the
seedlings I had ready

He even installed an irrigation system for me - bless him!  10 minutes every morning - watering sorted!

And another benefit of my new, improved and enlarged veggie patch, is that my broccoli and cabbages should be safe from Cabbage moth, etc - for they can't get in!  As for cutworm - I have planted every seedling in a protective loo roll holder, so they are stymied.  Not even snails can get access as I have an impenetrable border round the base.  Now - to sort out the moles...

I'll post a pic of my "bath" raised veggie patch later in the week - that also worked a treat - we've eaten so much salad from it - we actually can't keep up.

Also, I thought I would share with you how I am protecting my strawberries - the Black Starlings can have 10% of the harvest - no problem, but the rest is for us :-) 

I saved some netting which my winter squash had been packed in, and draped them over the strawberries - it works a treat!  They can see them, but can't get to them!

Now, if only MKid would hurry up and get here (NGirl and MKid arrive on Sunday) for these beauties are for them :-)

Saturday 4 December 2010

Christmas baking with the sun

I guess you all know me well enough by now to understand that if I’m presented with a solar cooking opportunity then I’m going to at least try it. Even though cloudy conditions were predicted for yesterday, there was enough sun peeping through to encourage me to attempt a baking session.

I didn’t bake a Christmas cake last year, because I still had one left over from the marathon baking session I had at the end of 2008.

And, yes, I know it’s late in the year to be baking my Christmas cake, but what the heck – it would still have 3 odd weeks to mature. And adding double the brandy – that’s sure to help the maturing! So – baking a solar Christmas cake was on the “to do” list yesterday.

RMan making his Christmas wish :-)

I used a fruit cake recipe (which will be in my “book”) and it turned out perfectly.

I managed to fit 1 X round cake and 2 X “loaves” in
the oven at the same time – one for us, one for NGirl
and a spare one for a gift.

The end result – a delicious smelling, (and tasting - the scraps from the pan which I devoured were very yummy!) moist and perfect looking fruit cake – I’m a very happy little puppy :-)

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Anyone for solar oven sandwiches, tea or dinner?

We're heading for a couple of days of overcast / rainy weather, so I thought  would share with you what I have prepared in my solar oven this week.

Firstly, these are the pots I'm using in my solar oven - the glass lidded (cast iron base) one is nice because it allows me to see the food bubbling away :-)  But, the Bush Baby is solid cast iron (weighs a ton), so that one always gets preheated with the oven prior to any food going into it.

I also have a roasting tray (not in the pic) which is lidless
Firstly - last Saturday I made a savoury bread - absolutely yummy and definitely a keeper!
Raw savoury bread in the loaf tin
Luckily I made double the recipe - one for eating and one for...

...slicing thinly into savoury biscuits which were dried in the solar oven.  They will be delicious with cheese.

The I had a harvest of tomatoes with which I decided to try and make sun dried tomatoes.

Slicing 9 tomatoes into 1/3's

It's working...

Sun-dried tomatoes - done and dusted!  Next time I'll keep
my eye on them so the ones on the edges don't overheat 

I propped open the lid of the solar oven to aid the evapouration of moisture

Sunday morning I made an almond loaf for tea...

I'm baking my first cake in the pot with the see through lid
that way I can see how long it takes and when it's ready

Perfect - yeeha!

Then on Sunday (late morning) I put an apple and pork roast for the menfolk (I don't eat meat) into the oven.  Tender, to the point of falling off the bone, moist and browned - the crackling won't crisp, but does go a lovely shade of brown :-) 

Monday was a roast chicken on a bed of veggies...

Tuesday was chicken cooked in yoghurt curry sauce served with...

...a fresh garden salad from the garden and a freshly baked loaf of bread, for sopping up the gravy.

RMan doesn't like leftovers (but he still gets them disguised as another meal). I have to let a day or two pass before preparing the meal from leftovers.  So, with the weather we are having today and tomorrow, he will get a chicken soup with the left over roast chicken and a pork stew from the roast - both of which I am going to cook in my crock pot / slow cooker.  While they are eating the pork, I will finish the chicken curry.

I LOVE my solar oven!  And I seriously can't understand why everyone doesn't use one!?  I have even found someone in the northern hemisphere who has baked bread on a sunny morning, with snow lying around the solar oven.

Eight prepared "meals" in a week - using no electicity!  I'm very happy. :-)

My solar oven recipe book is coming along in leaps and bounds!