"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 29 June 2011

Over Wintering...

Seems I've come to an over wintering point...

Mr camera is broken.  My mobile, which I was having to use to take photo's, is frozen / broken, the skies are filled with black, heavy clouds and outside it is cold and miserable, and we can't find a moment to get to the farm...

However, to be grateful whilst I'm complaining, our home is warm and protected from the inclement weather, we have food on the table, and I can read about all the summer warmth and progress on others' blogs :-)

And have I ever found some brilliant idea's out there...

...more uses for those damn plastic bottles...
Image source:http://www.insideurbangreen.org/2010/03/
This is called a SIP - a sub-irrigated planter.

I am fascinated with "wicking" / SIP type planters and have no idea what is attracting me to them.  But I think they are extremely clever.

What also fascinates me is the fact that apparently the yield in a wicking / SIP planter is noticeably more than in a conventional in-ground bed.  I believe that they have their place in any garden, no matter how small or large.  Certainly our 2 Ha farm has more than enough space to grow what we want, but we are hoping to plant it up with mainly fruit producing trees.  One of the reasons we are going to be doing that is because trees, even fruit trees, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  And any assistance this planet can get in that regard is a must in my book!
Recycled bath

I will be having a shade cloth vegetable patch on the farm - as large as I can make it, for the summers there are wickedly hot.  This will house raised beds, straw bale beds - whilst outside it I will have wicking and SIP planters for those plants which need the benefit of all the bees :-)
This experimental one that RMan made me worked a treat :-)
The plants on the southern side of the vegetable patch will need some protection from the incessant summer wind.  I am visualizing a large "barn sized" vegetable patch, of at least 9 mtrs long by 3½ - 4 mtrs wide - big enough for at least three horizontal beds with paths in between.  That should give me approximately 27 running mtrs for vegetable production - which should produce more than enough food for RMan and I, and still have some left over to barter with / gift :-)

But, my herbs will be planted in wicking / SIP planters close to the kitchen door.  I'm trying to convince RMan that we can (and should) take our recycled bath with us - not sure if I'm going to win this one because he's not mad about the sight / thought of it, even though I have told him I can disguise it better...

Another great site I came across in May this year is this one.  Grant and Max Buster are two young brothers who are applying their brains to assisting the starving millions with their ideas.  There is hope for this planet if youngster like this are in the next generation.

Raised beds (Image source:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Natural-Wood-Raised-Garden/ )
The beauty of all the above systems is the fact that there are a zillion plastic buckets out there, especially food grade one's at restaurants / take away outlets.  When they buy their supplies in bulk, a lot of their consumables are supplied in buckets, and there are just so many buckets they can re-use.  So there will never be a shortage of plastic buckets to go round, all you have to do is become friendly with your closest restaurant / take away and do your bit for recycling...
Straw bale beds (Image source:
http://www.growandmake.com/straw_bale_garden )
And the final benefit of this type of growing container is the water preservation - we all need to conserve our water and use it as sparingly as possible.  I have been fascinated to read in the past couple of years that England goes through periods of drought - England??!!  My country of roots has droughts?  Hard to believe, but it's true.

If England is experiencing droughts, what does that say about South Africa's worsening situation in the years to come?  Help Mother Nature, and she's sure to reward us - but it will take a concerted effort from us all.

Linking the wicking / SIP planters to our irrigation system will ensure that the water will go where it is intended - to the roots of the plants and not to the surface of the soil where it will evaporate.

Itchy - damn so itchy.  I want to get going...  So much to do, so little time.  And patience is not one of my virtues.

Does anyone have any other sites which could provide further inspiration?

Aside:  As I was typing this I received the following message from TUT (Totally Unique Thoughts).  And I thought this mornings message from TUT was particularly apt :-)

"Some will hear, but not listen.
Some will listen, but not understand.
And some will understand, but not act."

I hope someone - anyone - a single person - out there understands what I am trying to do / doing and is influenced by our journey to the extent that they make a change in their life.  Change happens one person at a time...  And "thoughts become things" LOL

Monday 27 June 2011

Solar recipe book - take 2...

Okey dokey - have signed up with a new bank, got all the gumpf from PayPal, sorted out all the hiccups, so here we go...

Solar baked biscuits
You can now purchase the solar recipes through PayPal LOL
Solar baked beans
Happy days...
Solar baked fruit cake
To purchase please go here.

Friday 24 June 2011

Solar recipe book

At last I have finally worked out how to publish my solar recipe book "FREE FROM THE SUN".
Ultimate Solar Bread
After months of fruitlessly searching for an e-book publisher in this country, I have decided to publish in an e-mail-able .pdf format (now that is a business opportunity for anyone out there...).
Greek Chicken
The e-books will be sent through email as a PDF. As soon I recieve notification of your payment I will email the e-books to you. This will be within 24 hours of your purchase, unless I am on the farm, in which case I will e-mail them to you as soon as I return :-)
Solar Lasagne
For all those who are interested in details on how to purchase "FREE FROM THE SUN" please click here.

Once you have registered with PayFast you will be able to pay via your credit card or via Ukash.

Happy solar cooking... :-)

Please Note:  I have used PayFast for a couple of years for the sale of my Magic Seeders and find them to be a professional, responsible and reliable site.  However, your registering with them is at your own risk.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Winter gardening...?

After all the cold fronts of last week, and ahead of the one due to arrive tomorrow, I managed to get into my veggie patch this morning...

... not so good.

The hail we had last week managed to damage my onions...
giant garlic...
and pink garlic...
And my first sowing of broad beans have plenty of flowers...
but only one actual bean!
Hello - anyone home...?  Can see I need to ruddy sing to the plants.  Or is it a case of missing bees?

And, only after taking a photo of my peas(??), did I spy why they are not going to provide RMan with his favourite veg this year.  For lurking in the ruined mass of plants I spotted...
Well, he / she was lurking...  Unfortunately, a rock fell out of the sky and squashed him / her...  A Chicken-Licken moment.  Not that that will help the pea harvest.  And I guess that is the most eco-friendly way of disposing of garden pests LOL.

But - wonder of wonders, in the only sunny patch on my patio, I planted a tomato plant in the middle of some Swiss Chard.  And the tomato is producing fruit!  The day after mid-winter?

Guess it's a case of being grateful for small mercies.

Saturday 18 June 2011

Refurbishing an ugly duckling into a swan

I have been looking for a coffee grinder to use as a herb grinder - for ages.

A couple of weeks ago I saw this:
I wasn't particularly impressed, because it didn't look in such great condition, but, beggars can't be choosers :-)  It had this weird pattern on it...
And it looked pretty rusty...
But the grinding receptacle / drawer looked OK...
... and my on-line bid won it on the auction...

So, when it arrived I set to work - well, with the help of RMan.

The painted pattern came off quite easily, but they had put a chalky white layer below the pattern - that took forever to remove (and that's where RMan's help came in.)  60 grit sandpaper - and it still took about an hour to clean off. RMan said it was a bit of a grind... LOL

The grinding mechanism was stripped out and wire brushed - there was even old dried ground coffee in the grinding cogs.

Then we sanded with a finer sandpaper, and gave it a coat of food-friendly wood preservative.

What am I left with...

... an absolute beauty :-)
The collection bowl is polished bright and sparkling on the outside - I didn't want to contaminate the inside of the bowl with wood ash, so I gave that a good wipe and just a whisper of olive oil...
... the grinder works perfectly, thanks to a grinding adjuster (it's visible on the first photo - it's the nifty little lever thingy below the grinding handle which slots into a tooth on the tensioner according to how fine / coarse you want to grind things ...
Here is a view of how finely it ground coriander seeds...
Don't you just love it :-)

The ugly duckling became a swan - and all it took was about 2 hours of TLC.  It just shows you - if one can see the potential in an ugly duckling, then the results are limitless...

One for coffee and one for herbs - now I'm all set!

And best of all it's re-using something which is in perfect working order.  In place of buying the latest electrical appliance which will needlessly drain our (currently) limited power I have something which will allow me hours and hours of quiet contemplation whilst I work...

I can't wait to try it on my dried home grown herbs.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Batten down the hatches...

Last night we were reminded that we are 6 days away from mid-Winter.

Tuesday was a real "berg wind" day - a warning to all who live in Cape Town  that the weather was about to change.  Batten down the hatches, Mother Nature is about to have a hiffy LOL

Wednesday started with a few clouds appearing, which gradually got thicker and blacker.

By 5.00pm all hell broke loose!  The cold front had arrived.

The skies filled with thunder and lightning and the heavens opened - not with rain, but with hail - hectic hail.
Hail collecting on our wooden deck - after only
4 minutes of the hail starting - and it lasted
for 20 minutes...
So much hail that by the time it was finished it looked like it had been snowing in Cape Town.
My broad beans - the second planting - oh my, I don't think I am going to get anything from them...
I'm sorry the photo's aren't that clear - I had to take them with my phone as my camera is on the fritz, but I think you can get the picture...

And this morning the damage is there to see...
Battered and bruised broad beans
We've had some hail before, but nothing like what fell last night.  It wasn't the size of the hail - just the amount of it.  Nobody can remember seeing hail like that - here - before...

I feel for all those people living in low lying areas and the informal settlements, and for all the homeless people - that storm could not have been a pleasant experience.  And the birds - they must be feeling battered and bruised today.  

I am very grateful for my warm, protected and sheltered home. Little things in life which mean so much, and which can so easily be taken for granted...

We didn't get to see the lunar eclipse either...

Wednesday 15 June 2011

More plastic bottle recycling idea's

I have posted a couple of ideas for the recycling of plastic bottles earlier.

Unfortunately, plastic bottles abound in this country - very frustrating as I'd love to have more glass, especially for storage of preserved goods, and bulk goods.  OK, well yes, I do like the plastic bottles for making home made ginger beer :-) 

But, plastic bottles are recyclable, and they are here to stay, so here are a couple more idea's I'd like to share with you regarding their recycling.

Firstly, you can use them as self watering plant containers. Apparently the benefits of this type of container planting are enormous, as it encourages to roots to aim lower and lower... LOL

Then there is the bug trap...
One could also hang the trap from a tree branch or hook.  Simply thread a string through the holes which hold the top and bottom sections together.

The top of the bottle becomes a slippery slide down which the insects travel to get to the "goodies" below.  A few insects might find their way back out the small opening, but I reckon most insects aren't that smart and they will be trapped in the base.  I wonder if one had to place a light source in the base container, if you couldn't probably also attract, and hopefully trap, mosquitoes or all those nighttime insects which can be an absolute pest!

There are some very clever people out there...

Monday 13 June 2011

Spring clean in winter...?

I've been busy, and distracted, this past week or so.  That, and the blooming face aches.  The specialist told me that the MRI showed I have a venous abnormality - and he's not 100% certain if that is causing any of my problems - he still needs to speak to the radiologist...  My apologies for the gaps between postings, but it's not easy to blog when you're filled with pain.

Ah well, to talk of more pleasant things.  You recall I said that RMan and I had made a momentous decision.  Well, that decision has been taken a step further, and that has caused us to proceed with a major spring clean (in winter LOL) / decluttering of our home.  It is seriously scary how much clutter one can accumulate in the back of cupboards.  And how dirty areas, which are out of view, become.

For instance - as helpful as they are when the weather is stinking hot, ceiling fans are a bloody nuisance when it comes to clambering up on kitchen counters / dining room chairs to clean them.  Yes, there is immense satisfaction when the job is done, but brother - what a hassle!   And who on earth would even think about putting a white ceiling fan in the kitchen.  Muggings me LOL
It's the same with counter top stoves.  Even though I don't use ours anymore, have you ever lifted the hob to see what gathers around the edge of the counter - absolutely revolting - and not something that I would care to leave for anyone else to clean.
Now, why would I need to worry about that - well, we have decided to sell our home of 21 years, and find something closer to the farm, but still in the Cape Town area.

Why not just move to the farm, I can hear you thinking LOL?  Well, we still need to be here for our business - this past year-and-a-half of recession has delayed our plans to move.  And we are aware that the recession is still not over...

So, and this will make no sense to read initially, but we are looking to move to Gordon's Bay which is 87 kms (54 miles) closer to the farm.  We currently live in Hout Bay which is approximately 257 kms (160 miles) from the farm.  That 87 kms takes us, on average, 1 - 1½ hours with the city traffic.  The balance of 170 kms (106 miles) from Gordon's Bay to the farm is on a national road and also takes us 1½ hours - therefore with this move we will be able to go to the farm every weekend - far quicker and much cheaper (in fuel and vehicle wear-and-tear) than it is currently costing us, allowing us to leave on Friday evening and be back for work on Monday morning... LOL.

Better all round for the planet too - less travelling = less pollution in the air.

A map of the Western Cape, below, shows what I am trying to explain:
1 = Hout Bay - where we currently are
2 = Gordon's Bay - where we hope to find a new house
3 = approximate location of the farm
We are fortunate in that we have a business which can relocate very easily - the only difference our customers will / should notice is that the contact telephone number will change.

I wish it was a move directly to the farm, but unfortunately that is not feasible at the moment.  So this is definitely a step in the right direction - with or without the pun.

So, spring cleaning in winter and decluttering is all in preparation of opening our home for public viewing - not the nicest thing to have to experience, but if it's a means to an end - then it is going to be worth it.
And we will still have the new house which we can sub-let in order to get a bit of extra income once we are living on the farm.  And which we can sell if, and when, we are too old to take care of ourselves on the farm, and / or need to move to a retirement village.

The farm - we can't decide on a name for it - so "the farm" it is for now.  Anyone got any idea's?

Thursday 9 June 2011

Starting small, leading to bigger and better things...

It's been a hectic week - filled with cleaning, tidying and doctors.  Tuesday was completely taken up with a visit to a specialist and and MRI and x-rays.  That was because over the past few months I have been subjected to incredible pain in my face.  Hopefully, I will get the results today.  The specialist thinks it is cluster migraines, which is unusual as they normally occur in people in the 30's LOL  Ah well, I always say I feel 32 - so obviously my body has been keeping up with my mental age...

But that hasn't stopped me reading e-mails, and I was sent one, by my friend, Linda, which I am sharing with you now:

There is a school in Kommetjie, Cape Town, which has been busy teaching their children the benefits of recycling.
Two clever teachers (who were visiting from Brassington Primary School in Derbyshire, UK) shared with the children what had been done at their school.

Firstly, they asked their children, and their childrens' friends, to collect as many empty cool drink bottles as they could.  They then got the kids to help them string the bottles onto a dowl rod.  This rod was inserted in a frame:

Finally, they had enough "walls" to create a room!  Brilliant.  Not only have they shown the children how to make use of something which is normally thrown away (hopefully into a recycling bag) but they have also sown the seeds for them to view their rubbish from a different perspective!

The end result?
A working greenhouse!  Just love it - the light can come through, and a certain amount of air (but not the hectic wind we can be subjected to).

All in all it has to be quite an effective little structure, which is teaching the children all about recycling, as well as developing their little green fingers... :-)

Well done!  Clever, clever teachers.

But, last night on National Geographic channel, RMan and I watched an episode of Megastructures about an architect in Taiwan.  He is passionate about creating sustainable buildings.  He was tasked with designing a building for the 2010 Taiwan International Expo.

Taiwan has grown dramatically in the past 20 years, and with growth, naturally, comes more (human) waste matter.  Given that this tobacco leaf shaped island has a limited amount of land, they have a problem with where to put all the garbage, as their landfill sites are inadequate. Especially plastic.  So, apparently, what he did was this.

He got together with the biggest manufacturer of recycled bottles and with his (financial) assistance, a new recycled bottle was created, specifically for the purpose of building.  They have called them Polli-Bricks :-)

Picture source:
They are interlocking plastic bottles which are grouped in, I think, 1 metre sections, using the lids to secured them to a polycarbonate sheet (for wind / rain / strength purposes).

Picture source:
I reckon they are an absolutely stunning solution to recycling plastic! They have created a work of art called the Eco-Arc, in Taiwan.  Even the air conditioning is eco-friendly - they have raised the floor on the prevailing wind side of the building, sending the wind through a "wall of water" which is thus chilled and then fed into the building via air ducts.
Picture source:
Even the illumination is self-sustainable.  During the day light pours through the transparent walls and at night the walls are lit up with solar powered LED lights.
Absolutely stunning!!!!

Good grief - I feel so useless.  There are so many brilliant idea's out there - why doesn't my head function properly LOL

Thank goodness there are teachers out there who are inspiring the youngest generation on how to use their "recycling" brains for the benefit of our planet.

Thursday 2 June 2011


For the past 6 - 9 months we have been switching on our geyser for half an hour in the morning, to warm the water up, and then switching it off again once we have showered.  If I have needed hot washing up water, I have been boiling extra water in the kettle (when I make tea and storing the extra in a flask) on a small two plate gas stove - in fact, between the two plate gas stove and a small (clean / virgin LOL) barbecue, which belongs to RSon, we have not had to switch on our stove at all this winter.  And, if I have any say in it, we won't be using it either.

With these measures we have implemented we have, when compared to last year's electricity figures, been saving roughly 8 - 9 kw / day.  That equates to a cost of approximately ZAR300.00 a month - HALF our electricity account!

What has it cost us?  ZAR169.00 for 9 kgs of LPG which is still going strong after being in use for over 10 weeks!!!!  A financial saving of a minimum of ZAR216.00 / month.  And, eco-saving... less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, less demand on the power supplier, instant cooking heat, and cooking and room heating happening simultaneously.

My two plate gas stove
Do I give a continental what my kitchen looks like - not a sausage!  As long as everything is clean - that's my main concern.  The fact that our bank balance is ZAR300 better off - even better.  And roughly 300kw of grid power not consumed - Whoopee!

RSon's baby barbecue - perfect for baking bread,
roasting Chickens, whatever else I would normally
use an oven for.
AND, through using the two plates and the small barbecue for cooking, they are providing very comfortable warmth to our open plan lounge / dining room / kitchen of an evening.   And trust me - last Monday night we had a rain storm, complete with lightning, thunder and hail, which reduced the outside temperature to 7oC (44.5oF)  But our house was lovely and snug and warm.

Killing two birds with one stone!

But, on Monday we forgot to switch off the geyser once we had finished showering...

... and I only discovered it on Tuesday morning when I went to switch on the geyser.

My Owl electricity monitor showed an electricity consumption of 27.635 kw!  For Monday only!   Considering we have been using, on average 17 - 19 kw /day, that is hectic!

We have also used slightly more electricity this month than last month - probably because the weather is colder.

Last month we used 587.65 kw - an average of 19.58 / day :

The lower figure in the bottom right corner in the
consumption for April
And last month (up to 12 noon on the 31/7/2011), we used 631.79 kw...

Bottom lower right hand corner again
... an average of 21.05 kw / day

I feel terrible that I wasted 9-odd kw of energy - just by forgetting to switch the geyser off!

And, I have to say, I would find it difficult to live without my Owl LOL  Information at a glance - who could ask for more?