"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

Friday 29 July 2011


Another soap box moment...

Like the corners of my mind,
Misty, water-coloured memories..."
Lyrics from "The Way we Were" sung by Barbra Streisand 1973

Have you ever considered memories?  I mean, really considered memories?

The memory of your first love?
The memory of the first time you drove a car?
The memory of the birth of your first child?
The memory of your first harvest from your garden?
The memory of a friend or loved one no longer with you?

Those are all human memories.  Some of them fade with the passage of time, Some are kept alive with physical reminders, like photographs, or inheritances, etc.  Some of them become more rose-hued.  But most of human memories are good ones - for the body's natural defense comes into play with bad memories - literally wiping them out in order to protect one from the destructive lingering negative impact that such memories could have on our lives.  Aren't we the lucky ones :)
Photo source: south-africa-tours-and-travel.com
But, have you ever considered that not only humans have memories.  That animals also have memories - like Christian, the lion.  Or like elephants, who put human memories to shame.  For they apparently have long memories, not only of their contact with humans - good or bad, but the dominant female elephants also develops a social memory which helps the herd survive.  Or like the family dog which got lost, and when reunited with it's human owners many years later, definitely displays happiness at being reunited with those loved humans it had never forgotten.

Now, if you watched the videos on the water link from the posting I did on 26th July, then you will be aware that even water has a memory.

So my final question is - have you considered that the land has a memory?  Whatever mark we make / leave on the land, remains in some form or another.  Those marks could be through...

...the production of the grid power we consume;
...or through the greenhouse gasses we create - knowingly or unknowingly;
...or through a structure we place on the land;
...or a dam we build, which alters the course / flow of the water...

This thought came about because last night we watched an episode of our local "Special Assignment" which focussed on Shell South Africa and their proposed fracking in the Karoo, South Africa.

The Chairman of Shell SA, Mr Bonang Mohale, and a "expert" (who's name I can't remember) stated that 95% of the substance they force into the ground consists of water, 4.5% sand, and less than half a percent of "other".  Now, my maths may not be that good, but that sum doesn't add up to 100%!
Photo source: treehugger.com
But, the 95% water - in a country which is struggling to provide water for it's inhabitants already???  Where is that water coming from?  If they find water below ground, do they presume they are free to use that?  The underground water table - which so many farmers depend on to grow their crops or to provide water for their stock?  Or are they talking about drilling down until they hit "brak" (salty) water?  What happens if those wells become artesian i.e. water which rises to the surface?  Or are they going to "import" water from the coast - salty sea water.  What of the effect of that salty sea water on the land / plant life?  It will be extremely negative, naturally.

The "less that half a percent" could consist of flour, or a substance they put in foodstuffs, or whatever - they were very careful to not mention any "heavy" chemicals.  I wonder why?
Photo source: karoospace.co.za
Imagine our Karoo looking like this?
And then to top it all - they had the cheek to say that the wells would be capped when they ran dry / were not longer financially viable!  Bear in mind there are already over one million fracking wells world wide!  One million!

Just because they are capping them, it doesn't mean the wells are sealed.  Water cannot be contained - especially underground.  And this isn't just water - this is now contaminated water, which has to contaminate other clean water it mingles with over time.

And what about the salty water in the flowbacks?  And the effect that that will have on the land and the vegetation.
Photo source: vanityfair.com
Isn't this a thing of beauty
What memory could all this leave on the land?  Oh, dear me...

Can Shell guarantee 100% that our pristine Karoo environment will not be contaminated?  The self-same environment which contains fossils, clues and samples of the origin on this planet and of mankind, which can be found no where else on this planet?  If you can't, Shell, why on earth (with or without the pun) are you even considering fracking?  This action is tantamount to drilling a fracking well near "Old Faithful", or Ayers Rock, or Stonehenge.

What gives Shell, or any other oil company, the right to dictate what is going to happen to this precious planet of ours?

Is our Government strong enough to withstand the lure of financial stimulus, be that personal or national, versus what is in the best interests of the planet?  Are they strong enough?  History is not great on this... neither here at home, nor abroad.

Please, please - if you haven't already signed the fracking petition, please click on the link on the right hand side of my blog, or on the links below, and put your name where it just might help...  Help us preserve our children, and our children's children's, heritage (and prevent the wealthy oil companies get richer, at the very costly expense of this planet).
Photo source: phillyworkersvoice.wordpress.com
A sad sight for any farmers eyes...
You can go to the petition site.  Only 15 000-odd people have signed the petition there - 15 000 out of a potential 50 000 000 South Africans, and how many billions world wide!

Or you can go to Treasure the Karoo's facebook page https://www.facebook.com/stopfracking  If you would like first hand information, please go to their blog.

You can also get a (basic) letter that you can e-mail to both the Petroleum Agency in South Africa and / or to the Director General of the Department of Water in South Africa at Greenpeace.

Please - if you do nothing else - please sign the petition.  You don't have to be in South Africa to sign it.  Some of you have written and told me of your first hand experiences of fracking in your neighbourhood.  Help us prevent that happening here.  And all of you who haven't yet signed the petition - shake off your lethargy, and, possibly, for the first time, take a stand.  Yours may just be the deciding vote...

Every single action we make, every second, of every day, has a reaction.  Has a result.  Please, make a good action today.

Let's not leave just a memory of the land we enjoy and (sometimes) take for granted, for our children to wonder about at some point in the future... :)

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Protection from above

As you know, one of the reasons we went to the farm last week was to get the ceiling boards installed.

As always, when one orders materials from the local Co-Op, they don't deliver first thing in the morning - our order only arrived at about 11.00 a.m., equating to the loss of half a days work!  Given that rain was predicted, the ceiling board had to be stored indoors, creating chaos as expected...
Everything got moved to accommodate the ceiling boards
But I knew that was going to happen...

Our architect had asked for a ventilation unit to be installed - for the roof area.  
Ventilation unit
Unfortunately, we had not anticipated the cold air / dust / draft / noise (of the wind in the sisalation) that this unit would cause.  Which meant that we had to put up a ceiling of sorts, as soon as possible.  Even though we had covered the initial wooden unit with a piece of perspex (left over from a job we had done for a client at a job in Cape Town) and into which we had drilled holes, and which we had then subsequently taped up three quarters of those holes with duct tape, the draft was totally negating the insulation of the double glazed windows, and the warmth which was being produced by our wood burning Dover stove and internal chimney!  So a ceiling board was completely necessary.
First scaffolding tower
However, with the height of our ceiling, a simple thing like installing ceiling board entailed hiring scaffolding - and lots of it...

We love the height of our ceiling, as it helps with the heat in summer - and it creates an airiness and openness which you have to experience to believe!  However, given it's high arch, it is not easy to get to, nor work on.  And we wanted to retain as much of the exposed roof beams as possible.
The first board goes in...
The boards for the side beams were no problem - the guys installed extra mounting batterns, and measured and cut the board to size, prior to installing.
A combined effort
But when it came to the centre boards, it was a case of all hands on deck.  RMan had to help the guys hold the 3.6 mtr boards in place against the roof beams, whilst I clambered up the scaffolding to mark the cutouts which were required.  Squirming and ducking round the three of them wasn't easy, but it was exhilarating LOL

That took two days to complete - and entailed the four of us moving the erected scaffolding and scaffolding boards en masse around the room to save time, as opposed to pulling it down, re-placing and re-erecting it all in it's new position.  Whatever furniture we had, was moved in and out of the house each day, and there was plenty of dust, dust and more dust.  It doesn't seem as though we have too much scratch damage to the floor, and I'm sure that a coat of tile sealer will sort that out.  If only we'd thought of getting wheels for the scaffolding, our lives would've been a bucketload simpler LOL
Dinners - mainly barbecues - were eaten wherever we could make a spot in the chaos each evening.  And we experienced sleeping in each corner of the room - wherever there was space to plonk the bed each evening became the bedroom area :)
Sanding the joins in the ceiling boards
But I had no concept of dust until it came time to closing the joins between the ceiling boards with Cretestone, and the subsequent sanding / skimming of those joints!  Hectic!

As you can see in the above photo, we had newspaper draped over all the kitchen surfaces, to help control the dust.  And Muggins here helped to place them there.  However, Muggins ignored them when she switched on the (gas) stove to boil the kettle - and nog, Muggins had the cheek to wander off.  Yes, naturally, the wind blew the newspaper into the flame, and yes there was a fire, but thankfully, no lasting damage was done.  I can't believe that I was such an idiot!

Joining and skimming the boards took another day and a half - with the final half a day being devoted to the builders trying to make a trap door.  Within 20 minutes of RMan getting involved, the trap door was complete!

Were the four (not the budgeted two and a half) days all worth it?

Well, I believe this picture answers that question...
The ceiling completed - the trap door is
visible at the far end
I think it looks absolutely stunning!!

And the difference in temperature?  Well, prior to the ceiling boards, the unheated (i.e. no Dover stove nor Dover stove chimney) temperature inside the house when we woke in the morning was 11oC (51oF).  After the ceiling boards were installed, the temperature was 21oC (70oF)

I believe that says it all...!

Now, all we have to do is re-hire the scaffolding (with wheels this time) so that we can paint the ceiling boards, and varnish the frame of the trap door and the exposed roof beams :-)

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Water...Water - not as simple as it seems

Water - not just H2O
I guarantee if you watch this you will never think of water in quite the same way again.  I know it has changed my view...

I am now grateful to water for more than the obvious reason.

And I am amazed by water.

And I am humbled that what I thought was a simple life giving / sustaining substance is incredibly so much more than I gave it credit for...

And, finally, this information on water has given me a reason to start each and every day on a positive note!  The proof is there to be seen.  The law of attraction could not be more ably demonstrated!

Thanks, Brat, for the link :)

Be warned: the link above has six parts of 15 minutes each - but I reckon they are all well worth watching...


I guarantee if you watch this you will never think of water in quite the same way again.  I know it has changed my view...

I am now grateful to water for more than the obvious reason.

And I am amazed by water.

And I am humbled that what I thought was a simple life giving / sustaining substance is so incredibly much more than I gave it credit for...

And, finally, this information on water has given me a reason to start each and every day on a positive note!  The proof is there to be seen.  The law of attraction could not be more ably demonstrated!

Thanks, Brat, for the link :)

Saturday 23 July 2011

Green power

As you can see I have a new photo header at the top of my blog - what a stunning sunrise it was last Thursday morning!  Cold (3oC / 37.4oF), frosty and misty, and with the sun trying to worm it's way through that flimsy curtain in order to warm up the day...  And my favourite valleys showing off their curves with the mist draping it's way along and through them.  I love the rays of sun that are breaking through the trees - reminding me that there is a higher power / someone watching over me... :)

We've just had four wonderful, and productive, days on the farm!  We finally left on Saturday lunchtime.  Given the 3-odd hours travelling time we arrived late afternoon - about an hour before sunset.

That  gave us just enough time to take a wander round and check that everything is OK.  Thankfully, the house was as we left it...  And the plants are all doing well - everything is so green after all the rain we had!  That in itself is a perfect rest for the eyes, if nothing else.

I even found a ripe lemon on one of our trees :)
1st lemon - 1st of many...?
The dam was still 3/4 full - but I reckon that we really are going to have to add some bentonite to the walls and floor - well, it is three years since we dug it, and they say that it takes three years for a dam to hold water, and ours is still leaking away.  Ducks wont like waddling in a muddy bit of ground, and RMan wants ducks!  (Personally, we're not going to eat the eggs (too high in cholesterol), and I know RMan won't be slaughtering anything in order to eat it - he's such a softie LOL - so in my book - ducks - don't need them!)

Sunday morning I woke up with a tummy bug - I had just enough time to make RMan his (day early) birthday brekkies, before I had to dash to the bathroom.  Early brekkies, I hear you wonder?  Well, Monday we were expecting the builder to arrive at 7.30 a.m. to start on the ceiling panels, so birthday brekkies would be out of the question then.  Whatever affected me had passed by lunchtime, and we got busy on the strong room door - the Green Power Room :)
The 4mm steel plate was cut and measured, the handle opening cut away and it was then fixed it to the second-hand / recycled door with one way screws, overlapping the frame to prevent the possibility of anyone "levering" it off, as well as protecting the lock area.
We had been invited to neighbours, Mad Dog and Teach, for a barebecue on Sunday evening - and a thoroughly enjoyable evening was had by all.  Not too late (given the hectic day ahead of us) gemütlich, with delicious food all round :)  Conversation turned to living on the farm (which is all we think about) and it was very gratifying to hear everyone agree that bartering is the way forward.  That way everyone isn't growing the same crops / rearing the same animals - whatever is needed will be bartered for something someone else has grown / reared :)  That should provide a balanced meal LOL

During the conversation I had mentioned that we needed to get more wood in - to give it time to dry before putting it in our Dover stove (damp wood causes the chimney to be coated with resin, which in turn can cause a fire in the chimney at some future date).  Blow me down if Teach doesn't phone me the next morning and offer Mad Dog and his "bakkie" (single cab) - it seems the guy who cuts the alien vegetation took that moment to visit them, and she remembered that I wanted to get wood in to dry.  Neighbours!  What happens in a town?  Everyone is so involved in their own lives, that neighbourliness doesn't even seem to come in a window, never mind fly out of it...

So we scored 1000 pieces for ZAR200.00 (US$29.50 / 20.50)  In town we get roughly 20 pieces for ZAR35.00!

On Monday, whilst the builders were busy with their preparation for installing the ceiling, RMan and I had enough time to adjust the Green Power Room lock (with a dash of verbally expressed irritation from the birthday boy) but it finally got sorted.  Then I took some green coloured metal paint and slathered that all over the door - even though the steel is galvanized, hopefully the paint will help prevent it rusting.  Now it really is a Green Power Room in all senses of the word :)

Then, with the security in place, it was time to move all the solar power equipment from the roof area into the Green Power Room.  S'funny how even with a "fish tape" / wire puller, cables can still give you all sorts of hassle when you try and thread them through conduit!  Nothing that a brute bit of force couldn't sort out though LOL  By the end of the day I had 220 volts in the house.  So RMan celebrated by using his drill and angle grinder on the front porch supports using the power from the house instead of starting up the generator.

And I now have 4 strips of 6 (24 bulbs) 12 volt LED lights installed over my sink.
Although it's very romantic to use parrafin (kerosene) lamps at night, it's been a hassle to wash up in that lamp light at night - it just wasn't bright enough to see all the food in the pots, which then entailed cleaning them a second time the next day.
Photo source: articles.dashzracing.com
But, thanks to a combined birthday gift, to RMan and I, from CGuy, our (farm) neighbour, I now have better lights than an Audi in my kitchen...

Kitchen LED lights
Next posting I'll tell you about the ceiling... :)

Saturday 16 July 2011

Off to the farm...

We're off to the farm this morning.

We're going to be installing the ceiling boards...
and strengthening the power room door...

...so that we can move the batteries, etc from the internal roof area to their proper place.

And we're going to be installing a gift we've been given, in the kitchen area.

Lots to do - I can't wait!  Yeeha!!

I'll see you next week... sometime :)

Thursday 14 July 2011

Thrifty ways which help the planet (and our bank balance) ...

A while ago we decided that, in addition to not using our electric stove / oven, we would also ditch our electric kettle, and switch off our geyser.  

I used the solar oven extensively last summer, and changed all our light globes to CFL's.  We also sold off / gave away all our power hungry gadgets.  Who needs power hungry gadgets when you have manual implements which work as well, if not better, and all it takes is a little bit of human power to achieve the same result!?

The geyser has been set at 50oC (100oF) for the past 16 - 20 months - switching off the geyser, in summer, was a breeze LOL as the water in the geyser heated up in the roof of our house to the point that we didn't have to switch it on at all!  In winter, we switch it on for one hour just prior to showering.  As we don't have a handy isolation switch, this involves climbing on a chair to reach the main distribution board - a hassle!
For cooking purposes in winter we pulled out an old (about 25 years old!) two-plate gas cooker, and RSon invested in his own LP gas barbecue, which, until he moves into his own place, we are using as an oven.
Two plate gas stove with bbq
"oven" in the background

We boil our water in a whistling kettle on that gas "stove" - and ensure that we only boil as much as we need.  And the whistle tells us exactly when it is ready.

I also got rid of our two electric heaters, and now, if we are cold of an evening, we either light a fire in our fireplace, or heat up a bean bag in the microwave (it takes 3 minutes on high to heat two bags simultaneously - in place of having a heater on all evening!). Snuggling under a blanket with the warm bean bag, we are toasty as can be whilst we watch TV / chat of an evening.
Bean Bags filled with Pearl Barley

But, with all the steps we have taken, I have had no way of establishing how much power we have saved, as we have only received estimate accounts since January this year.  Today, finally, I received the account.

In comparison to the same period last year, we have saved 1755 kWh of electricity!  A whole bunch of coal fired pollution has been saved from contaminating and drifting up into the atmosphere!  And, financially - it equates to a saving of ZAR2843.45 (approximately US$271.79 or €191.68) in six months!

Bearing in mind that we run a business from our home, so we are here 24 / 7, and the kettle gets switched on a zillion times a day, I am well pleased with our efforts.
Owl electricity monitor
Thinking out of the box has paid off, and, we don't feel like we have impaired our lifestyle in any way whatsoever.  I can honestly say though, this would not have been that easy without our Owl electricity monitor. Whenever we notice that the readings are suddenly higher or increasing we immediately walk round the house to see what unnecessary power we are using can happily be switched off.

Be aware - that's all it takes :)

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Lemon harvest

I wrote about harvesting Eureka lemons from my garden earlier this week.  Eureka lemons are known for their year round production, and, providing they get enough water, and a dose of epsom salts / bicarbonate of soda now and then, they are a very rewarding fruit to grow.
I have previously put lemons in salt, but wasn't enthralled with the result - so I've scrapped that idea.  But, I read what I think is a jolly good idea on NellyMary's blog, and I thought I would share it with you.

Amongst many others, 10 lovely yellow, swollen orbs of fruit hung on my tree just waiting to be picked.  I couldn't resist the burst of sunshine from my garden, after the weeks of overcast and wet weather we've had.
I peeled the lemons with my vegetable peeler and shoved the peels in a bottle.  I topped up the bottle with cheap white vinegar and put the cork in.  That bottle is going to sit in my pantry for a few weeks - to "mature" - allowing the oil / scent of the lemon peels to pervade the vinegar.  Then I will take 50% of the lemon vinegar and add it to 50% water in a spray bottle and use that to wipe down my kitchen counters / bathrooms, etc.  It will surely allow a more pleasant smell to linger than just plain vinegar and water...?
But that's not all - I also harvested roughly 250mls (8 oz) of lemon juice which I have frozen in ice trays.  Now, when a recipe calls for lemon juice, it's quick and easy just to grab what I need out of the freezer.
And, my final confession - I think I am becoming OCD - I cannot let a seed or pip land in my compost pot - I am compelled to save them, which, in the case of the 10 lemons, means I am left with roughly 100 pips.  If I have an 80% success rate, I should have roughly 80 trees peeking their heads above ground in approximately 6- 8 weeks...

All I need now is to find some (100!) seed pots...

Whoever thought that 10 lemons could yield so much.  Almost as good as the 7 fishes and 7 loaves of bread :)
Next time I think I will add the lemon peels to some vodka, tequila or even some cheap brandy - and make us a lemon scented tipple for a cold winters night in front of the fireplace...

Maybe not tequila - we don't drink that.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Time out (side)

It's been a difficult couple of weeks recently - my camera decided to go on the fritz, even my cell phone felt lonely and did likewise, so with both out of commission I have been unable to take any photo's - talk about feeling marooned...  Add to that the fact that just I've developed another bout of bronchitis (it's only three months since my last bout - and twice in one winter - what is gong on - too much international air travel spreading new infections to all in sundry?)

I think you get the picture...

However, I remedied the photo problem this last weekend, buying myself a cheapish Kodak - it'll do until I can get my Canon fixed, and that entails a trip across to the other side of town.
We are currently experiencing a "berg wind" (a hot, off-land wind) in our area - a welcome break from the cold, wet and miserable weather we've been having recently, and I figured it was the perfect time to wash all those towels and jerseys LOL  And the perfect opportunity to get out into the garden...

The garden has patches of colour - the lemon tree is full of fruit, the hibiscus trees are displaying their exotic flowers, the Camellia bush is about to burst into bloom, and the lavender bushes are in full swing.
Broad beans in flower
Even my broad beans are full of flowers... but I've only found 6 pods! Very disappointing.  But I think I have discovered the reason why:
The bees are all on the lavender bushes...

Wrong, wrong, wrong side of the garden, guys!  I need you to do your thing on the broad beans!

I have managed to harvest a few things from the garden though:
Lavender flowers, lemons and clivia pods
The lavender flowers are in the spare room - acting as a room freshener...
The red Clivia pods are free plants waiting to happen.  And all it takes is a bit of preparation.
Firstly, remove the hard outer shell of the pod.  Inside that you'll find another, softer sheath around the seed - remove that as well:
Place the seeds between a couple of pieces of damp kitchen paper towel:
...and tie them up in a plastic bag...
 ... leave the bag in a dark-ish spot for about a month, until you see the seeds starting to produce shoots - and then plant the seeds in a seed tray, until they are big enough to transplant into the garden.
Then all it takes is patience - about three years worth LOL  The reward?

A magnificent show once a year!
Clivias love to be positioned in dappled shade, so providing you can provide that, they will reward you with colour in a darker part of your garden.  They are not terribly fussy about requiring lots of water - a sprinkling once a week is all that they need.

If anyone has any seed pods from pale apricot, or yellow clivia plants they don't want, I'd love them - please :)

What did I do with the lemons?

You'll have to wait until next time to find out...! :)

Friday 8 July 2011

Do animals have (human) feelings...?

I am a big fan of Cesar Millan - the dog whisperer.

And I understand when he says don't try and make a human out of a dog.  Rather give it structure, balance and guidance - the same treatment it would receive in a pack.

But I wonder - do dogs (and other animals) have feelings - human feelings?  Do they love, hate, cry, mourn, delight, sulk and possibly hold a grudge?

And can they understand (human) language?
Perhaps we should be careful what we say around animals... just in case they can understand us :-)

Dogs are, after all, man's best friend - I know I've had at least 3 canine best friends in my life.  And I am richer for having known them.  I hope they felt the same.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Solar irradiation map

Definition of solar irradiation : rays which are emitted by the Sun. (www.science-dictionary.com/definition/solar-irradiation.html)

If you've ever wondered how effective a solar oven would be in your area, there is now global map available on-line.

This is the map for Southern Africa:
For other Global maps please go to: http://solargis.info/doc/71
The maps of Global horizontal irradiation (average sum 2004-2010) for Africa and Europe are available to download here. SolarGIS database is the source of solar data represented on the maps.

The maps are free for public use, their reproduction and adaptation is authorised provided the following source is acknowledged:  
SolarGIS © 2011 GeoModel Solar s.r.o.

At the moment SolarGIS don't seem to have maps for the US of A, Asia or Australia/ New Zealand - perhaps you could contact them to query?  (They are based in Slovakia.)

Alternatively, from this site I found this map:
World Daily Solar Insolation Map.
This map shows the amount of solar energy
in hours, received each day on an optimally
tilted surface during the worst month of the year.
But, to give you an idea of what the first map means - we are in a 1700 - 1900 kWh/m2 area (on the second map we are in the 4.0 - 4.9 or Zone 2 range) and I have no problem reaching temperatures of 200°C (400°F) in my solar oven in summer.  Unfortunately, I am unable to give you temperatures in winter as our (town) garden only receives approximately 1½ - 2 hours of sun - right at the bottom of our garden.

On the farm - I don't know at the moment, but I should be able to tell you by the 20th July - RMan shares his birthday with Mr Mandela, and he (RMan, that is) has decided that he'd like to spend it on the farm :-)  Although Mr Mandela is very welcome too...

So, if all goes according to plan, I will be schlepping the solar oven along.  Reckon it will be a very interesting experiment.  Discovering just how much I can use the solar oven in winter will be a b-i-g plus for our off grid life...