"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

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Merry Merry

To those who read my blog - may I wish you a Merry, Peaceful and uplifting Christmas to all.
May your Christmas be filled with peace, love and contentment - and gratitude for all the blessings you receive on a daily basis.
Thank you all - for sharing part of yourselves with me via your comments and via your own blogs - you make my life richer with your friendship.

Monday 17 December 2012

Pesky solutions

Because of the building chaos I started planting my seedlings late this season.

Before I did that though, I came across these fellows - left-overs from last year.  And what whoppers they were too.
Hidden treasure - and what a treasure :)
Ginamormous carrots and parsnips.
The carrot measured 21 cms long by 8 cms wide.  Who cared if they were a tad nibbled - I'm willing to share our harvest - to a point LOL

Who says you have to keep left-overs in the fridge?  Mother nature provides the best storage solution of all, I reckon.

But, speaking of nibbled.

I discovered that we have a family of hares who have taken up residence in our garden at night.  And, topping their list of midnight snacks was... 
Whose been eating my porridge corn?
  ... my mealies.  Hmmm, again sharing is caring, but c'mon guys, let the corn grow a little first - please!
Hare prevention proceeds.
I didn't get as many corn plants in the ground
as I'd hoped, but, hey - 
there's always next year :)
So, this called for a solution.  I had read somewhere that to create a stake of poles round a (small) mealie patch allowed one to provide support for them in windy areas.  So - poles went in at each corner and at mid-point between the corners of the small corn patch.  With cross poles too.
The poles and cross members go in
Round and over the poles...
Protected corn bed behind, and my beautiful
oes in tyres in front - they appear to
love their special beds, and it makes
harvesting them sooooo much easier, especially
as our soil hardens to a 
consistency of cement 
in the heat of summer.
...I draped bird netting - nice, perfect bird netting just waiting to entangle a paw or two - which never happened.  Clever hares :)
Grow little mealies - grow...
It worked!  :)
A bit of TLC, and look - my mealies had a
chance to grow and they're saying thank you
When the corn was high enough I simply removed the netting and allowed the corn to grow skywards.  And then had to drape the bird netting over the strawberries, as the birds have taken a fancy to a meal of them.

But, I have left the poles in situ - for when the plants are taller and might need some wind support.
Sunflowers, corn, beans and squash
happily sharing the same bed.  Thank

goodness for the porous pipe - in the
heat we're experiencing, it's taking
care of all the watering that's
needed :)
This is my first year of growing sunflowers, corn in any quantity (I didn't plant enough, but I've learnt my lesson for next year) and members of the squash family.  In our town house, with it's sandy beach soil garden, squash didn't perform - no matter how much compost I put into the ground. 

The soil on the farm - well now, that is a different matter.  Everything, thankfully, seems to love it.  Or is it because I prepared the beds with plenty of compost and combined growing corn, squash, beans and sunflowers in the same bed?  Whatever.  I'm thrilled :)

I love my sunflowers - their burst of yellow brightens up every day.  Even if they are a little confused and aren't facing the sun.  Guess the hectic winds we have blowing may have something to do with that?  Speaking of wind - or was it the hares...?
Broken and deformed  but
determined to make something
of it's life this sunflower
beat the odds
Whatever it was, something broke this sunflower stem - I thought the plant was a gonner.  But I left it in place, and it rewarded me by growing none the less.  So it's shorter, and it's deformed.  But I love it :)
Good morning day :)
Who could be grumpy when viewing this first thing in the morning?

So, what have I harvested from my garden which I planted late ?

Firstly, the ever faithful swiss chard :)  Bowls and bowls of yummy creamed spinach (or should I say creamed swiss chard?)  But you know what I mean.
Swiss chard - bolting a little
due to the heat
I've picked armfuls of the stuff and there's still more and more growing in the shadecloth greenhouse.
Yum - I can taste the creamed spinach swiss chard
DD, WGuy and MKid arrived late on Saturday.  MKid and DD came to inspect what was growing and then joined me in harvesting ... ta da! - my first ever marrows.  And gem squash.  And, as you can see from the pic below, we also harvested...
Broad beans, gem squash and no-so-baby marrows LOL
... broad beans!?!?!  In December?  Delicious they were too.  Added to a salad their cold, pre-cooked crunchiness added a special something extra.  I had left the base of the plants in the ground at what I thought was the end of their season in order to allow them to share their nitrogen with the next crop.  But, they obviously had decided that they wanted to produce more than nitrogen LOL

Does anyone have any recipes for preserving (baby or not so baby LOL) marrows - they're growing voraciously!

Monday 10 December 2012


This year my anticipation of, and for, Christmas seems to have been missing in action.  I guess with all the building work we lived through these past few months, then the all painting and varnishing, and unpacking, and preparing our home to welcome visitors, I am excited - but drained.  Creatively drained that is.

RMan is of German decent - his parents were both born there.  And he has always followed their Christmas traditions.  I have tried to cater for that - in fact, we join both his traditions with my UK born ones.  But, last Sunday, being the first Sunday in Advent, all I had the energy for was to plonk four candles on the table, with a bit of greenery round them.  A half token.  Not good enough, and I knew it.  My inspiration just wasn't there.

Someone knew that :)  And very kindly inspired me.  That someone was Diana.
Now that looks a whole lot better than what I
had on the table before :)
Bless you, Diana, you gave me a wonderful idea.

We currently have a plentitude of Kooigoed from the Helichrysum species growing on our land.  So, on Friday during the dogs evening walk, I had a pair of secateurs in hand, and I snipped and snipped to my hearts content.
A close up of the result
I placed the willow ring on a tray, and threaded a few wispy bits of Kooigoed through the top of it.  Then, taking a branch of the Kooigoed plant in one hand, I drew it through my fingers thus removing the leaves, which were then placed just inside the willow ring.  Filling the vase with sand in order to hold the candles securely, I layered the top of the sand with the flowers from the Kooigoed plant.  Instead of copying the traditional European Adventskranz and going for greenery, I have chosen to take what is available right here and now and work with that.

Now our room is filled with something more appropriate for the festive season, as well as the lovely smell of the Kooigoed which greets us every morning.  Not as chic and elegant as Diana's.  But it is simple and befitting of where, and who, we are.

Do you have an Adventskranz?  What are some of the unusual traditions in your household leading up to Christmas?

Saturday 8 December 2012

At floor level

Even though we asked the builder nicely to be careful, our existing clay tile floors took a hammering, especially in our bathroom.  This is because they had to remove the temporary IBR (corrugated iron) roof which entailed knocking down part of the walls to remove the supporting beams.  Knocking down wall means falling bricks and debris.  Falling bricks and debris on a sealed clay floor means the seal is scratched / broken.

They did make the effort of placing gunplas (builders plastic) on the floors, but basically all that did was catch the mess.  Heavy bricks laughed at the gunplas.  And chipped a number of the floor tiles too.  Nothing I can do about them, as replacing them is not an option.  The tiles are embedded in 40cms (roughly 2 inches) of cement.
Sad, sad floors that ook nothing like
they should
And, of course, the demolition / cement / rain water mess found it's way under the gunplas.  Then the constant walking on that mess during the completion of Phase 2 stripped the seal on the raw clay tiles.

My poor tiles were a mess, and I wondered if we would ever be able to get them back to their previous state.
Unfortunately my camera isn't clear enough
to properly show you the damage, but
trust me, these floors were not a pretty
8 hours later, 2 pot scrubbers, an aching back and knees, no fingers left and I had the last of the dripped cement and cretestone off the floors.  Then it was time to try and reseal the floors.
Thank goodness for pot scourers
I'm happy to say that my efforts paid off.
All better now :)
We're both happy with the finished result :)

Then - upstairs.

The builder initially talked us into laying deck board as our floor.  Not knowing any better, we agreed.  Big mistake.

MKid's room / the office:
A laborious job - each plank is laid
and carefully nailed in the "join"
area - roughly 8 - 10 nails / plank.
My back is aching for them just looking
at this photo LOL
... we had to purchase tongue and groove which was laid on a membrane to prevent "knocking" and "squeaking" where the two woods met.
Front guest bedroom.  Visible is the membrane
we used to try and prevent the two woods
from squeaking / knocking
Our double glazed window order was horribly delayed, so  "hierdie boers het ʼn plan gemaak" (these farmers made a plan :) ) ...

The floor was well laid, and although we had some headaches / heart attacks when it rained, thankfully, hanging builders plastic at the windows may not have looked all that attractive, and may have crackled terribly with each tiny gust of wind, but it prevented too much damage to the wood.  

But, we got through that OK, the windows and floors are in, and all we have to do now is sand, stain and seal the wood.  However, it's Christmas shortly, we have family / guests arriving next weekend, so instead of rushing the job, we're going to let it lie as it is until we have the "space" to do it properly.

No rush.  After all, we have loose carpets, and the floor still has to be properly sanded...

Monday 3 December 2012

Finally going up...

Warning: This is a picture heavy posting and may take some time to load...

The carpenter finally got started on the staircase to the upper two bedrooms. Exciting times - the indications were all there that the build was nearing completion.
The first stringer is positioned
The carpenter, Reuben, measured height and the the distance with one of the stringers.  Then he took that outside again and made the other stringer.
Stringer # 1 got it's tread supports
The tread distances were measured / calculated, and the supporting piece of wood was screwed in...
Stringer 1 & 2 and the treads in place
Excitement mounted as the completed structure grew before our eyes.
Securing the treads to their supports
Once that was complete, it was a case of all hands on deck as they schlepped the whole ready-made staircase inside.
Huffing and puffing - guess it was pretty heavy :)
Only when the staircase was inside and in situ did I spy a problem.
Spot the problem
Whilst I was out buying building materials, the carpenter, on RMan's instruction, had made the treads protrude over the edge of the stringers.  A word to females out there:  Don't leave interior decor decisions to your handyman husband.  Aesthetics are apparently not necessarily included their gene pool LOL 

So the staircase had to be schlepped outside again so that all the treads could be repositioned.
Finally, a staircase which has my approval
Guess the builders cursed me on a number of occasions - but I let it slide off.  I have to live in the finished product, not them :)
This picture perfectly illustrates the messy, dusty
conditions under which we lived for 4 months
The two existing beams supporting the mezzanine had been installed 1.2 mtrs apart, so that we could have a 1.2 mtr wide landing.  Well, we figured there was no way of hiding the mezzanine, so why not make a feature out of it.
A hole was cut and drilled straight through
the one outside wall in order to slot the
third beam in through it
But, being 1.2 mtrs wide, our builder advised us that it definitely required a third beam - in between the other two.  The maximum supporting distance between the two beams is not allowed to be more than 600mm.  So out came the angle grinders and the concrete drills... again!
The third supporting beam is installed
They knocked a hole through the one wall from the outside, and fed the third (middle) beam through that.
The lower layer of deck board in in
The lower layer of deck board was laid on top of the beams.  
We now have a mezzanine / landing to walk on
We opted for a wooden balustrade  - figuring that it was the most eco-friendly, and the lightest option.  Steel or glass would just have been too heavy (weight-wise), and would have caused twisting and distorting of the outer beam.  Not to mention a wooden balustrade is more in keeping with a farmhouse than steel or glass :)
Gunplas (builders plastic) was laid to try and
protect out clay tile floors
But, whilst the room was empty we decided that it was a good time to bring in the scaffolding, so that the ceiling could be skimmed, and the wall / ceiling joins / cornice could be finished / installed.  Get the mess inside finished in one building session of 3 days, as opposed to clearing everything out again a week or two later.
The complete staircase with the wooden
balustrade (bannisters)
Now, at last, RMan and I could climb the stairs and see the view (mess / chaos / upheaval) from the first floor LOL
View of the mess from above
It looked so ruddy high from up there - much higher than when one stands at the bottom and looks up.

But - would Scallywag make it up the stairs?  He is besotted with RMan and follows him like a shadow - literally.  Being condemned to staying downstairs could've resulted in plaintive whining - constant plaintive whining...
Hmmm - looking out here may have
great advantages... :)
As it turned out, going up took a couple of minutes to get the brain rewired and master, but the effort was worth the view from the window which was, co-incidentally, just at his height...
Help, Daddy.  I'm scared...
 ... but coming down again - hmmm, that took some thought.
Give me a moment to think about it...
He decided to take a break and think about it.  RMan and I devised a plan.  Sending RMan outside swayed the odds in favour of a reaction, and, finally mustering the courage...
Stop, RMan!  Stop!
Wait!  Wait for me.
I'm coming...
... and ignoring the open treads, Scallywag made a run for it.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Grey water filter

You may, or may not, know that we are so off grid that we only have the supply of municipal water.  And, not the best water at that.  But, it is drinkable, so mustn't complain... :)  And that, together with our rain water tanks should stand us in good stead for our human requirements.

The ramifications though, are that our "waste water" is our responsibility.  The black water goes into a large septic tank, and, providing that I feed the tank with "good bacteria" every month, all should be well.

But we didn't want our grey water (water from our shower, bathroom basin and kitchen sink) unnecessarily filling our septic tank.

So, we have installed plumbing to take the grey water to a "pond" ( in inverted comma's as it's a work in progress...:)  )
The "pond" in the foreground - not such a pleasant
view or experience
Initially, with the chaos of builders, building, mess and confusion, the water just ran to the "pond".  But the "pond" wasn't looking so good - in fact it was not pleasing at all.  Distinctly unappealing even to the bird life.  A direct result of all the inevitable kitchen grease and minute scraps of food which were being flushed down the drain.  So I put on my thinking cap and came up with this solution...

The higher hole was inserted on the side of the
kitchen sink pipe, and the lower hole is for
the pipe to the pond 
I purchased a 20lt black box, drilled two holes - one in the top at the end for the "in pipe" and one in the lower end for the "out pipe.  Then the "in pipe" and the "out pipe" got siliconed in place and fitted to our kitchen waste pipes.
Vermin proof lid on the grey water
filter box
It comes with a secure lid, so that will also deter vermin.
Larger filter stones layer the base of
the black box
Then, with RMan's assistance, I placed a layer of larger stones in the base of the box.
Smaller filter stones were laid on top of
the larger stone
On top of that we placed a layer of smaller stones.
A couple of layers of shade cloth
to hold the sand
On top of the stone I lay some shade cloth...
A layer of clean sand
... and filled the shade cloth with sand.
Test run...
As the water enters the box from the kitchen basin in lands on the sand and it then has to filter down through the sand, and the two different layers of stone before exiting the box and continuing on it's merry way to the "pond". A couple of days later I inspected the set-up to ensure that it was working correctly.  What I found was tiny scraps of food covering the top of the sand layer.  With my fertile imagination I envisaged a thriving community of nastiness, including a nasty smelly result, developing within a short space of time.


I had another plan.  We all know that washing machines like to chew just one of a pair of socks.  And that one invariably has the odd-sock-out lingering in the hopes that it's mate will surface somewhere.
Leftover socks that the washing machine
didn't fancy...
I decided enough was enough - I mean we had schlepped these odd socks all the way from our town house, and I still couldn't find it's mate.  So, it was time to put those socks to another good use...
Yup - they were put to good use
as an additional filter
Fixing it on to the end of the inlet pipe, I now have all those scraps being caught in the sock, instead of landing on the sand in the box.  An extra filter so to speak.
It works a treat :)
Yeah, cleaning out the sock on a weekly basis entails shoving on a pair of rubber gloves, but hey, I brought two babies into this world, and a greasy slimy sock is nothing compared to what they delivered on the odd occasion in their first few months of life...LOL

But, most importantly, the water that is heading for the pond is clean (er), and it doesn't smell anymore, and that result is worth a couple of minutes every 7 - 10 days in order to complete the unpleasant task of cleaning the sock...
Clean water - it works :)
We have a saying in this country - "a Boer maak a plan" (a farmer makes a plan).  McGyver - eat your heart out - or should that be "Thanks McGyver - I did learn something from watching your programme all those years ago..." :)
The plants are loving it :)
The plants in the pond are thriving - need I say any more...?