"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, 17 March 2011

All things great and small

We took another 3 day weekend last weekend - our alarm had apparently being going off at all times, and a neighbour popped passed to see if all was OK.  All appeared good, but we couldn't let the alarm keep invading the peace and quiet, so our only option was to go there to check it out.

Our friend, CGuy, installed the alarm (he used to do that for a living).  Unfortunately he was unable to come with us this time, so RMan had to try and figure it out for himself.  We managed to ascertain the zone which was misbehaving, but were unable to correct it - so, for now, it's bypassed :-)

Prior to travelling up we had purchased a small chest freezer and a 1000watt inverter.  After battling all of Saturday with the solar panels (on loan from CGuy) / regulator / inverter and the two batteries, we finally got it wired up and running properly.  Thank goodness, for we now have the wherewith all to keep food from turning, create bottles of ice water to chill a cooler box we are using as a fridge (for things like salads, eggs, etc) and, probably most importantly, RMan has always got a chilled beer available - the chest freezer gets his beers to perfect drinking temperature in approximately 1 hour!

As I was walking towards our grape vine area to check on the progress of our grapes I was suddenly stopped in my tracks. There, not 20mtrs away, was movement - of something unexpectedly large. It was a hare - at least 80cms (31 - 32 inches) in height. Now we have seen one before, almost as big, but that was in the late hours of the night. We've never spotted one in the day before. Naturally, my bumbling through the grass gave it a fright, and it hopped away as quick as anything. But I was thrilled - although perhaps I wont be as thrilled when it eats the grapes that finally grow on our vines...

On Sunday morning I took a walk to our neighbours farm - I had noticed that they hadn't been home since we had arrived on Saturday morning. On our previous visit the inhabitants had not been home either, and in fact had told us they had moved to the nearby village, bacause of their school going child.  we had presumed that they had taken their animals with them.  But I felt uneasy.  So I took my stroll.  Yes, the dog and chicken were there alright, with no visible food around for them, and a small amount of water ina bowl in the chicken coop.  I was horrified!   Do I interfere?  Getting back to our house I discussed this with RMan - and he, reluctantly, advised against interferring.  But I couldn't forget those animals... so I sneaked back and left a pile of dried cat food near the entrance to the property, and in sight of the dog - it was all I had.

About an hour after I got back, I glanced, for the umpteenth time towards our neighbours farm, and spotted movement on his roof.  Can chickens get that high?  Would they?  I grabbed the binoculars and almost fell over.  There, jumping and sliding about on this roof were ...

baboons!  About 7 - 8 of them, including one very large male!  I'm sorry the picture is so far away - I was a little nervous about getting too close - baboons can cause serious injury, if they are so inclined, and, as I didn't know what mood they were in, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  But we feared for the dog and the chickens...

On Monday we managed to have some time in the garden before we headed back to Cape Town.  On our last visit we had hired a digger / loader, and the driver dug some trenches next to the lemon trees we planted in January this year.  We filled in the trenches again, (scaring a frog which was hiding under a clod of earth) adding lots of compost and then we planted another 5 lemon trees.  We figured that the loosed earth in the trench would assist the newly planted trees as the ground is rock hard there in summer - not easy for a little lemon tree to spread its' roots.

I have to say though that the trees we planted in early January are flourishing - they have trebled in size in just 2 months, and, considering we are heading for autumn, I'm particularly impressed.

Lemon trees which were planted in January 2011

Just look how they've grown!
But, even more exciting - and I am completely blown away by this.

Sometime towards the end of last year I planted some pips - for the life of me I can't remember what they were - were they from a lemon or from a bag of delicious oranges that we had purchased on the drive to the farm?  Apart from the fact that I cannot throw away any pips I find in lemons or oranges, and shove each and every one of them into whatever soil is handy, I really can't remember what is was that I plonked into two strips of clay, outside our kitchen door.  Those strips of clay mark our future veggie patch, so I have been tossing all the compostable waste from the kitchen there - figure I'd give the ground a bit of a start LOL.

So, during this visit I went to toss away the waste parts of salads / egg shells / tea bags which had accumulated in the kitchen compost bowl, and as I was walking back to the kitchen, what did I see...

... three tiny little trees growing.  The leaves smell like lemons, or could that be oranges?  Whatever, I am completely amazed, for these little pips have had no water - whatsoever!  The day they were shoved into the ground, I watered them, and then forgot they were there...

I can see I'm going to have a wonderful time with all the lemon trees we have planted / have yet to plant...  The plan is bearing fruit.

Sadly, yet again, our time on the farm drew to an end.  I started loading the van and as I stepped out of the kitchen, lo! and behold! I had a last visitor.  It was our neighbours dog.  As soon as he spotted me he scarpered off - back about 20mtrs (21 yards), and then sat - just watching me.

I immediately searched for food to feed it - a few pieces of wholewheat bread, and a bit of boerewors -a typical (coriander seed flavoured) South African sausage which is cooked on the barbecue - and the last of the dried cat food.  The poor animal waited until I disappeared inside again and then crept up and wolfed that down and then polished off the bowl of water I had placed next to the food.

A very timid, nervous dog, who finally managed to overcome his fear of us because of his hunger.  An obedient dog, who didn't attempt to eat the chickens he was protecting.  He was still very skittish and ran away if I walked out of the house, but at least he ate the food I had put outside.

As we climbed into the van, I filled a 10lt (5 gallon) bucket with water - so I knew the dog would have some water for the next few days.

People!  People like this don't deserve the priviledge of owning an animal.

An update on this:  After I returned to Cape Town I contacted a farming neighbour by e-mail and asked her to check on whether our neighbour had returned.  As she arrived at his house, he drove up - so at least the animals have food for a day or so.  She is going to keep her eye out, and if she finds that he is disapearing for days at a time, she is going to get hold of the SPCA.  This cannot, in my book, be allowed to happen anymore... defenceless animals need all the assistance they can get.


  1. How terrible the neighbor would leave those animals. At least here, we could call the police and they would remove the animals and fine the owner. I cant imagine the chickens could survive baboons. So sad.

  2. Jane - I, too, felt the chickens had not survived. But they did - I went to check after the dog came to visit us. How they managed that I have no idea...

  3. Dani - I'm so pleased to hear that your neighbour is keeping a look out for the animals... the poor dog has been on my mind ever since you told me about it. I cant bear the thought of all of them just waiting there and starving to death.... Keep us posted as to what happens to them. Thank goodness for people like you that care... xxxxxxx If we were living there already (hold thumbs!) and we didn't have 8 dogs already, we'd take him (and the chickens) for sure!

  4. African Bliss - if we were living there we would take them in / take care of them too :-)

    We have been feeding his cat for the past year - every time we arrived, the cat walked all the way to our house, meowing as he travelled through the bush (roughly 350mtrs) - letting us know he was on his way. Sadly, we haven't seen him since the beginning of December - but I am confident he has found a new home, and is capable of catching field mice and rats.

    The whole situation is very sad, and even more frustrating. And I'm very angry.

  5. I'm very sad and angry, too :o( Bless your heart Dani...those poor animals need you and thank goodness you are you.

  6. What a sad story, poor animals. So glad you were there to give water and food to that dog.

  7. Mr H - what he is doing is criminal. I cannot leave an animal to suffer - ever.

  8. Poor dog, I think I'd have a nervous temperament if I was starving/dehydrating and being visited by baboons who made a ruckus on the roof! You've made yourself a new friend for your kindness. I'm surprised the chickens hadn't already died without water.

  9. RobynK - you're spot on. And I think being left alone for longer periods of time don't help either.

    The chickens amazed me too - still can't figure out how they evaded the baboons - 5 were free ranging and 3 were locked in the coop.


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