"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 February 2012

Lemon orchard progress

I was looking through photo's we had taken during our December / January visit and realized that I hadn't shared our lemon orchard progress with you yet.

The digger / loader had previously cleared all the renosterbos from the area, and we got John, our part-time helper to dig us a couple of holes. The locals have devised a way of digging holes in that hard ground which is amazing.  They thump the ground with a pointed metal pole (I don't know what it is called, but it is available at our local Co-Op) and every so often they scoop the loosened sand / rock out with a can.  Defies belief, but it works, and works better than a pickax!

I say a couple - well, actually, 15 holes LOL

Then we laid down a row of weedguard.
Preparing the site for more lemon trees
RMan got busy attaching the porous pipe to the irrigation hose connectors - not an easy task because, although the porous pipe is relatively flexible, the ends are quite a tight fit for the connectors.  Too tight for a mere female to do  - well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it ;)
I'm very grateful for the strength in RMan's hands
and arms
To soften the porous pipe, we placed the ends in boiling water.  This definitely does help - but strength of fingers and arms is imperative for this task.  And it's just up RMan's street :)
Porous pipe ready to be installed on the timed
irrigation hose
With the size of the diameter of the circle we have allowed for growing space for the lemon tree trunk.  Also, bear in mind that the porous pipe will supply water to the ground for a distance of 500mm to either side of it.  So I anticipate good coverage of the future tree root system.
The rocks are there as support for the young
lemon sapling, and to close the X we made
in the weedguard in order to plant the trees
We have put this irrigation on the timer as well.  So it will get 10 minutes of water every 2 days.  Given that the water is being applied under the weedguard, there will be minimal evapouration, no wastage / run off, nor drying of the soil surface through the action of strong wind, and no blocked pin pricks in the irrigation pipe as we had in the first orchard section last year :)
You can see the outline of the porous pipe
below the weedguard
A sight to please anyone's eyes :)  And orchard in progress...
The trees we planted last year are in the
foreground - the latest trees are in the
Hard to believe the trees next to the
closest  shadecloth were only planted last January.

You can also see the position to which we have
moved the caravan.
The new section in the orchard - 15 more
trees to add to the 15 which were planted last year.
1st orchard on the left - new orchard on the right
I took a chance and planted some really small saplings (the baby row).  One of the five I know didn't make it, but the others seemed fine when last we were there.
From left - the smallest lemon saplings,
slightly bigger in the centre, and the
sturdier new ones on the very right/
Do you remember I wrote about forgetting a whole lot of dried out looking lemon pips in my fridge last August and which I "reconstituted" in a bowl of water overnight?  Well, on the off chance that they were still viable, I shoved them into a pot of soil, place the pot in a sunny spot and kept the soil damp.

This is what happened...
A whole pot of trees waiting to be set free
Looks like I'm going to be busy...

And, Mr H, thanks for the tip.  I have also dropped two different types of apple pips into a pot of soil.  They are also popping their heads above ground.  I guess I'm going to have to find a spot for them too :)

In addition to all the veggies, I will also have a pomegranate, grape, lemon, apple and naartjie (mandarin), strawberry, raspberry and gooseberry harvest at some stage in the future.  It surely can't get much better than that!

I am so very grateful for all of this.  The future harvests, the opportunity of being able to become more self-sufficient, and for the wonderful, exciting, exhausting and the mentally, spiritually and physically enriching journey that RMan and I are on, even if it is at an advanced stage in our lives.  I guess you could say that we are living proof of never being too old to try something new.

And, happily, one of the most important reasons for our purchasing our smallholding and travelling along our eco-friendly path (and documenting it, firstly, on my web page, and, secondly, through this blog) has culminated in an absolutely wonderful result and action. Beyond my wildest dreams :)  I have big news to share with you - but not yet...

And, finally, this photo is to give you an idea of the "growing" area on the farm - as it now stands.
In the foreground, potatoes in their tyres,
veggies in the shadecloth veggie hut behind the tyres,
strawberry, gooseberry and raspberry bushes are further
down behind, and below, the veggie hut,
and the lemon tree orchard on the right.
And, just out of view to the left - the future
root cellar, as well as the pomegranate orchard

which is situated in front of the house :).
And, that is what we have accomplished in our garden in the past year... Reckon the next year could be even more interesting :)  I'm so impatient I can barely handle the wait... (you gather that I am not a patient person - so I've learnt that too! LOL)

Monday 27 February 2012

Why you should...

... probably vacuum your mattress, especially if you have allergies.

(Let me state first and foremost, that the opinions in this posting are mine, unless I have linked to other facts and information.  They are not as a result of any formal education on my part, for I am not an expert, but are based on my research and personal experience.)

Why on earth would I write a post about this?

Well, every month I vacuum our mattress. I have done so since we purchased a water filtered Rainbow vacuum cleaner in the early '90's.  The salesman aptly demonstrated why mattresses should be vacuumed.

Saturday was 'vacuum mattress day' :)  Whilst I was doing so, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps not everyone knows what I know.  And, "sharing is caring"...

Warning: the following may offend sensitive people.  Read further at your own risk.

You spend roughly a third of your life sleeping.  And, every night when you lay in your bed, your skin sheds dead skin cells.  The cells are called dander.  The average person rids their bodies of roughly 5.7 - 10gms (1/5 - 1/3 oz) of dander a week.  During the day this dander is eliminated by the rubbing action of clothing / furniture / carpets.  But at night the cells are deposited in your pyjama's -> sheets / pillows -> mattress protector / pillow slips -> mattress / pillows.  In addition, cats and dogs add to that dander.

Shedding skin cells is beneficial to the human body.  But - and this is the offensive part - something lives off those cells, and they are called dust mites.  They are 8 legged arachnids, but they don't bite.
Dust mite
Dust mites are not bed bugs.  They are not parasites, as they only eat dead tissue. Dust mites are roughly 1/2 mm in size - thus very difficult for the human eye to see. They prefer warm, moist surroundings such as inside warm pillows and mattresses. When you make your bed in the morning, and your shake off your sheets, a vast percentage of the "material" floating in a sunbeam is dander.

A mattress can contain hundreds of thousands of dust mites and each mite apparently produces 20 waste droppings a day.  These droppings, as well as their corpses, contain a protein to which many people are allergic.  This allergy ranges from itchy eyes to respiratory problems (asthma).

If you consider that 10% of the weight of a pillow, which is two years old, is composed of dead mites and their waste, you will realize the significance of the mite incursion in the average bedroom.

The University of Manchester performed a 2005 medical study of pillows that found up to 16 species of fungi in a single pillow. They tested feather and synthetic pillows in a range of ages, finding thousands of spores of fungus per gram of pillow ; more than is found on an average used toothbrush.

For those individuals, inhaling the house dust allergen triggers rhinitis allergica or bronchial asthma. People with allergies to house dust usually also have allergic reactions to house dust mite fecal material and cast skins. Studies have shown that the most potent house dust allergens can be extracted from the feces produced by dust mites.

The protein substances in the dust mite feces produces antibodies in humans who are allergic when these are inhaled or touch the skin. These antibodies cause the release of histamines which causes to nasal congestion, swelling and irritation of the upper respiratory passages. The Mayo Clinic, WebMD and NIH collectively provide this list of typical symptoms of an allergy to dust mites;  You may experience all or just some of them:

Hay fever
  1. The most effective means is to enclose the mattress top and sides with a plastic cover or other dust mite impervious cover (available here, click on allergy bedding on the left in the new page), thoroughly vacuuming mattress pillows and the base of the bed. Put an airtight plastic or polyurethane cover over your mattress. This is the method recommended by Consumer Reports (see their article here). This tip is number one for a reason: it is in your bed (including the baby's crib) that you are closest to the mites and their feces and enclosing the mattress and pillows in a dust mite cover virtually eliminates the mites here.  There is a website, The Allergy Store, that sells allergy controls, like the dust mite-proof fitted sheets. Mattresses covered with "fitted sheets" help prevent the accumulation of human skin scales on the surface.  These sheets have the advantage of being waterproof, too, which helps protect your mattress from spills, babies and toddler's waste, too.
  2. Wash your sheets, pillows and blankets in very hot water.  Wash the sheets and blankets at least every two weeks. Wash your pillow every week or put a dust mite-proof cover (available here) on it and wash once per year. Your pillowcase goes over the dust mite cover.  How hot is hot? The water used to wash your sheets and blankets should be at least 130°F (54°C).   For fabric which may not be washed in hot water, just pop it into the freezer for 24 - 48 hours to kill dust mites.And for those who travel and stay in hotels (or with less hygienic friends and family): Take a dust mite impervious cover (available here), along for when you stay at hotels - just think how disgusting their pillows must be!
  3. Use Synthetic fabrics: Replace feather and down pillows with those having synthetic fillings. Replace woolen blankets with nylon or cotton cellulose ones. And don't forget the children's stuffed animals: be sure to get washable stuffed animals in the future! Memory foam mattress manufacturers claim that their mattresses create an environment that is unfavorable to dust mites.  Even so, an encasement (dust mite impervious cover) is still advised, also because it can stop bedbugs (which are a rapidly growing problem)
  4. Reduce temperature and humidity: Dust mites love warm, humid conditions, above 70 F (21 C) and 50% or greater humidity. Temperature: Keep the thermostat in the house below 70 degrees.Humidity: Effective control of mites would require the maintenance of relative humidity's below 50 percent. 
I'm not advocating that you rush out and purchase polyurethane covers for your mattress and pillows - for goodness sake who wants to sleep on that type of surface every night?  Nor am I suggesting that you buy a dehumidifier, unless you have a life-threatening reaction (respiratory problems) to the mites and their debris, for that would add to your energy bill and eco-footprint on this planet.

Merely keeping your environment cool and less dusty should be adequate.

And vacuum your mattress like I do :)  My wonderful Rainbow machine has bitten the dust, and the cost of repairing it exceeds the original cost of the entire machine - go figure!  Nonetheless, I still use whatever vacuum cleaner we have.  And I do that because, without getting totally neurotic about it, I don't fancy inhaling an ever-increasing accumulation of the corpses and the waste of dust mites while I sleep.
One month's worth of dust mites
vacuumed from the mattress surface - 
who knows what lurks within the mattress...
Try and shake your sheets (and mattress protector) outdoors LOL  Open your windows to allow the cooler, fresh air to circulate.  And when I make the bed each morning, I also ensure that the duvet is turned over, so that the warmer side (which was against the body last night) is exposed to the dryer, cooler air of the bedroom, and the cooler side is now facing the mattress.

I didn't know, and I also don't use the hot cycle on my washing machine, so I guess I'm going to follow the other option above and freeze the (dirty) sheets (in a large ziplock bag) for 24 - 48 hours.  Why waste unnecessary power?

Simple, eco-friendly pest control solutions, without the use of unnecessary energy from the grid, nor pesticides.

As WebMD recommends:

Control humidity, vacuum and tidy the room, do not have a lot of dust-gathering collectibles lying around, and hang up things or put things in drawers.

And, for those of you without vacuum cleaners - I suggest that you take your mattress outside once a month and thump it with a broom handle, like they did to carpets in times of yore - that will be better that nothing... :)

(Where I have quoted from web pages, the text contains the link.)

Saturday 25 February 2012

Do you...

... vacuum your mattress when you change the sheets?

Would you like to know why you should?

Friday 24 February 2012

Welcome Chants Cottage

Continuing the introduction of new friends to old friends, please won't you join me in welcoming Chants Cottage who lives near Exeter, England
Chants Cottage, and her husband Jamie, moved from Yorkshire to Exeter in January this year.  They and their family live in a wonderful cottage - it looks lik the kind that fairy stories are made of :)  To quote from her blog "It's a few miles north of Dartmoor and a few miles west of Exeter on top of a draughty, but becoming hill".

Chants Cottage, I reply to all comments (even those placed on old postings), but given the size of this planet, and the different time zones, it may not be today by your time, but will certainly be by tomorrow.  And, if I am on the farm it may take a little longer...LOL

Thursday 23 February 2012

A different vegetable to harvest

Have you ever grown your own chickpeas (garbanzo beans)?  I had never thought of using any of my store cupboard seeds in my vegetable patch until last year.

Never having seen them available in a seed packet, the thought of growing my own never occurred to me, until I grew another batch of (food cupboard) organic chickpea seeds in my sprouting tower last year.  Seeing all those life-giving shoots appearing out of the seeds, I decided that I would take a couple of the chickpea sprouts and chuck them in some seedling soil.  Which I did.  When they started sprouting small leaves, I planted them in the old bath here in my town garden, and forgot about them.

This is the sight that greeted me in the garden a short while later:
Chickpea plant
As you can see chickpeas are quite a strange looking plant.  To me they almost resemble a fern.  They do not send out support tendrils, and their leaf structure is completely different to that of peas.  Finding the fruit can be quite difficult, as they seem to hide under the leaves.  I wonder if the plants would twirl themselves up a supporting fence?  Perhaps that would alleviate the apparent inherent shyness of the chickpea pods?
Chickpea pod on the plant
When you do manage to spot a chickpea pod on the plant, and harvest the fruit, do like I did - prise it open and pop it into your mouth - raw.  It is quite delicious!  The chickpea has a distinct pea taste, but is crisper and crunchier.

If you study a fresh chickpea it's appearance is very reminiscent of that of a brain.  No wonder they are so beneficial for us humans.
Fresh chickpeas
I will definitely be growing chickpeas next year, both for fresh consumption and to see if I can store them dry for the following winter.  Perhaps with the soil on the farm, I will manage to grow more than two (chick)peas in a pod :)
Empty egg shells I'm going to be planting seeds in
Now, 'scuse me, I need to go an plant up some broad (fava) beans and spring onions in the eggshells I've been saving :)

Oh - and by the way.  For those of you who have little ones, and you want to increase their appreciation, and intake of veggies, why not check out the idea's on this blog :)

Welcome Living the Rural Life in Tennessee

Continuing the introduction of new friends to old friends, please won't you join me in welcoming Anna of Living Life in Rural Tennessee.

Anna, and her husband, Richard, are empty nesters in their 40's.  They bought their 5 acre piece of land in March last year, and since July last year they have been building their home on that land.  And what a stunning piece of land they have too!  And you have plenty of fire wood there, Anna :)

Anna, I reply to all comments (even those placed on old postings), but given the size of this planet, and the different time zones, it may not be today by your time, but will certainly be by tomorrow.  And, if I am on the farm it may take a little longer...LOL

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Face of Nature

This past weekend we had our 6th day of show (open) house.  Oh, it is so tedious.  So invasive.  So exhausting.

And so disheartening.  We knew that trying to sell our house during a recession would be tough, but, oh...  We just want to get to the farm...

Anyway, in our ongoing quest to make our home more attractive, we decided that the pond which RMan and RSon designed and built 6-odd years ago, and which had housed koi fish until they grew too big, and the blanket weed took over, needed re-instating again.

Last year we gave away the koi and RMan decided that he wanted to plant some greenery in the resulting "empty space".  With that in mind he cored 7 ruddy great holes in the bottom of the pond, for drainage.  We never did get to fill the pond with soil nor plant it up.

And the discarded pond sat like a neglected blight on the landscape.  So, last week we filled the holes in again, re-sealed the base and sides, filled it with water, and - we have a water feature again :)
Our home-made water feature
The trickle of the water is such a relaxing sound, and without the necessity of having to feed, and care for, the koi, far more of a pleasure.  I purchased a water poppy from our local plant nursery, and within 24 hours it had a flower.  
Five new water poppy flowers
Today, 48 hours later, it has 5 more flowers!  I guess it's happy there :)

Delicate and gorgeous in it's simplicity
My favourite rock sits on the far end of the pond - it is my wise old man.  Can you see his face?  Sort of squashed, but definitely two eyes, a nose and a squiggly smiling mouth.
The wise old man of the corner :)
Have you ever seen the faces which have been carved by the elements on mountainsides?  They always face the setting sun :)

There are so many things in nature which watch over us, from the smallest bees and butterflies which buzz around each tiny flower in every field, to the enormous clouds which hover above in the sky, just waiting for the right moment to release their life-sustaining liquid.  And, of course, the Man Upstairs is our greatest care taker.

It feels so right to have our water feature back.

Saturday 18 February 2012

My (shadecloth) veggie patch harvest: part 2

The other vegetable we harvested from the shadecloth veggie patch was tomatoes.  Lots and lots of tomatoes. Over 20 kgs of ripe tomatoes, and I left loads of green ones on the vines.

All the companion planting of sweet basil, rocket and marigolds resulted in no visible pest damage on any of my tomato plants.  The rocket got a little pock-marked (small holes eaten in the leaves), the basil seems fine, the marigolds are flowering wildly and the enclosed shadecloth veggie house kept the rest of the pests at bay.

Unfortunately, the potato which made a surprise appearance in the veggie hut, and which I (stupidly and stubbornly) left in situ, turned the closest tomato plant black - very nasty.  So - what they say is correct.  Tomatoes and potatoes are not good companions... :)

Just some of the tomatoes I harvested in the
20lt cooler box.  The green ones were were
accidentally knocked off their vines - ah, well,
they'll ripen nicely on the kitchen windowsill :)
I harvested huge, meaty heirloom beefsteak tomatoes.  Cocktail sized red and yellow ones.  And large oval ones and round ones...

Firts off though, RMan and I had an Aubergine Parmesan on Saturday evening.  It's really simple to make.

All you need is a ripe aubergine, some tomatoes, a few basil leaves and some grated Parmesan cheese.  Simply slice the aubergine length ways (stalk to tip) making roughly 4 - 6 slices (depending on how large your aubergine is) and sprinkle with salt to draw out the bitterness.  Set aside whilst you prepare the tomatoes.

Wash and cut up some tomatoes.  Place them, together with a tablespoon of water, in a pan on the stove to cook, adding some salt, freshly ground black pepper and chopped basil towards the end.  As soon as the tomato juice has reduced right down, remove the pan from the stove.  (You can also do this step in your solar oven - just omit the water.)
Tomato and basil mixture
Rinse the salt off the aubergines and brushing with a little olive oil, grill on both sides until brown.
Aubergine + reduced tomatoes and
basil + grated Parmesan
= deliciousness
Place the tomato "sauce" on top of the aubergines, sprinkle liberally with Parmesan cheese and place under the grill until the cheese is brown.  Serve and enjoy :)

This last Tuesday I spent preserving the tomatoes which I had brought back from the farm.
Using the solar oven to preserve
whole cocktail tomatoes for winter
Using Lynda Brown's "The Preserving Book", and my solar oven, I bottled whole cocktail tomatoes, and I also made up a batch of tomato soup.
Whole solar preserved tomatoes and tomato soup
For the soup, I initially washed, chopped and boiled the tomatoes in my 10lt pot on my small gas stove with 100ml of water.  (There were just too many tomatoes to fit inside my largest pot in my solar oven.)  When they were nice and pulpy I pushed the lot through a sieve and I filled clean, warm preserving jars with the juice, and then placed them in my solar oven.  3 hours later - presto!  The lids are firmly attached to the jars, and once they are cool, they can take their place on my pantry shelves :)
Tomato soup
I also did two loads of solar dried tomatoes.
Solar dried whole tomatoes
Two layers this time...
I nicked some of the 10lt pot full of tomatoes to make tomato ketchup.  All I did was add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and spice and boil until the liquid was sufficiently reduced and it was as thick as double cream.  Again, warm sterilized bottles were filled with piping hot sauce and quickly sealed.  Then they are stored in the fridge.
Tomato Ketchup
With the last of this harvest, I made , and bottled, some tomato sauce for pasta in the solar oven.
Tomatoes cooking in the solar oven prior to
being placed (in portions) in the freezer
Providing that the locals don't totally strip the loads of green tomatoes I left on the vines, I am probably going to be doing this all over again next month...

I can't wait :)

Finally, I want to share a tip I discovered (by accident) for supporting tomatoes.  I have nylon string supports attached to the upper "roof" and "side wall" wooden cross beams.  Tying that nylon to the base of the plant to anchor it, all I did was very gently and carefully "twist" (wrap / entwine) the pliable top of the plant round the nylon string. It could easily be achieved in your tomato garden if you "planted" two sturdy upright poles with a cross bar fixed to the top, and "strings" which hang down towards your tomato plants.
Tomato plant twisted round the
string for support
It works a real treat :)  And there'll be no fiddly support strings that cut into my tomato stems, nor will I have to undo the lot at the end of the season.

Thursday 16 February 2012

My first (shadecloth) veggie patch harvest: part 1

Last Saturday morning we nipped up to the farm for the weekend.  We won't be able to go for another month, so it was one night or wait another four weeks.  We decided one night it was!

We went past CGuy on our way.  Our trailer was only half full and he had stuff  which he needed to transport.  Unfortunately, he couldn't fit his bee hive on - not this time... :)

Arriving at the farm, this sight greeted my eyes...
A bulging veggie patch...
The veggie patch was completely overgrown - with veggies spilling out everywhere.  I tentatively walked along the weedguard paths, trying not to stand on any plants - or their fruit.

The mealies (corn) I had planted in a clump inside as we didn't have time to get them on irrigation.  They are doing so-so - next year they'll get their own outside, irrigated bed, and they'll have sunflowers and beans to keep them company.  They look healthy, but don't have too many husks on them.  But I reckon they'll provide me with seed for next season, so they aren't a total loss.  
Plants spilling out into the paths
What a pleasure - to see that this veggie patch works - and, oh, boy! does it work!  All that (clay) ground preparation (in the rain) with over 2mtrs3 of compost and digging down to remove the wild grass, plus adding the bonemeal and Talborne Organics for Vegetables and, of course, the porous pipe. A definite winning combination.
A couple of radish plants had gone to seed - they're
being saved for next year :)
My spinach - I harvested enough to freeze 2 1/2 kgs of blanched spinach - 8 packets of future spinach soup, creamed spinach or spinach quiche.  And I left a whole bunch on the plants too - for next time :)
Giant spinach leaves - that cooler box with it's
handle up stands 50cms high
The largest leaves were over 65cms long...
The armfuls of spinach made a huge pile
on the kitchen floor
... all the leaves were de-veined with the produce going in a bag so that I could blanch them in my 10 ltr pot at the town house.  The veins went into the farm compost heap.

The three aubergine (eggplant) plants were weighed down with fruit - this is a picture of just some of them .
The egg box is so that you can get a size comparison
They even left me a message - to let me know that they are happy there...
Thumbs up from the aubergines :)
I had an immediate plan for one of the aubergines, but you'll have to wait until the next posting to find out what that was.  And, as for my three town aubergine plants - well, there is only one fruit on one of the three plants - what a difference!

Unfortunately, the beans weren't that happy - they need to be picked sooner than they were, so I had a few dry pods on the plants. Never mind, I now have seed for next year.  I'm harvesting quite a bit from the town plants, so we aren't going without.
Yellow and purple Franchi Sementi been seeds
And even my poor neglected potatoes surprised me.  Bearing in mind that their planting and last watering was on 9th January, and they were planted right at the base of the tyre tower.  I was pleased just to see growth peeping above the soil.
Potato plants hanging in there
The tyres aren't on irrigation... yet :)

But, my greatest surprise was...
My first ever pumpkin
... a pumpkin!  Yippee!  My pumpkin jinx is over.  There was only one - about 35 - 40cms in size, but at least that's  a start.  Next year I will ensure that I plant more seeds.

A good few hours (roughly 7 - 3 hours on Saturday and 4 hours on Sunday) of de-tangling, supporting, weeding and harvesting - just what I need to make me a happy little puppy :)

Thank You - another blessing to be grateful for.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Future plan

Whilst we had that handy digger loader at the farm last year, I started the groundwork (LOL) for a future plan.

And that plan is an underground cellar!  Why cellars are not a standard feature in this country I have no idea.  Especially given that the original emigrants to this country were mainly from Europe.  If this cellar has a suitable temperature, I plan on storing excess harvests in this cellar, as well as my preserves and any food which I would normally store in a fridge - which I don't have LOL  (And it will also be large enough to store RMan's favourite tipple - Windhoek Larger.)
Leveling the ground running up to the
entrance to the future cellar
We had originally dug a cellar hole with the first foundation trenches which we dug, before we discovered that we were too close to the boundary and had to re-dig our foundations 30 mtrs from the fence - what a stupid law - I mean, for heavens sake, we are on an agricultural plot, not in the middle of a built-up urban area.  And, even in the town you're allowed to build within 1.0 mtr of your boundary fence.  Makes no sense to me...

So, late last October / early November the digger loader came in and dug the original cellar hole a little deeper.  I am picturing a half submerged cellar which will be covered with an earth berm.  That should help to keep it cool during our hot summers.  And, hopefully, invisible from any building inspectors who come to sign off the house... when it's complete.
It is situated roughly half way between the start of the lemon orchard and the house - and right next to the vegetable patch.

The door opening is facing east - so that should help keep the midday / afternoon heat out.  I couldn't have it facing south, which would have been ideal, as the slope of the land dictated it's position.  Also, our major wind comes from the south, which would cause havoc with opening and closing the door - trust me - our kitchen door faces south - and that's a b-i-g hassle.

We have a layer of topsoil, a layer of clay and then pure shale.  The only thing that could cut through that kind of ground is the digger loader - and there were times where even it seemed to initially battle a bit.  And the solid shale will be a perfect base for the cellar.
The entrance still needs to be dug a little deeper, but, because we were running out of digging time on that trip, we had to call it a day before I was finished...

Friday 10 February 2012

Other (small) farm improvements...

On those stifling days on the farm, when it is just too hot to work outside, I have to keep busy - well, after the snooze LOL

I don't have my pewter hobby bits and pieces at the farm yet, so I had to find something else to do.  This is one of the things that (albeit briefly) kept me busy.

I had a craving for some sprouts, but my sprouting tower was at the town house.  No matter - I grabbed the closest jar, filled it with dry seeds, damped them down, and using a plastic band, tied some recycled netting to the top.  It worked a treat :)
RMan decided that the outdoor furniture needed some maintenance so he pulled out the raw linseed oil.  It is applied neat to the wood with a soft brush and then allowed to become absorbed / dry for a week or so before using the furniture.  Ideally this should be done just prior to winter, but with the fierce sun and wind on the farm RMan decided the time had come.
Obviously, RMan has more patience than I do - getting to all those little nooks and crannies would drive me to distraction.
Raw linseed oil - the most eco-friendly method
of preserving wooden outdoor furniture
So, in the cooler part of the afternoon, whilst RMan was busy with that, I turned my attention to the front of the house.  In order for it not to remind me so vehemently that it is a construction site in progress (and will remain so until the world financial situation settles down or we finally sell our town house), I decided to start planting up the front.  Naturally, we will not be there to water whatever I planted, and I was hesitant to run irrigation to water non-productive plants - water is, in my book, far too precious a commodity for that.
I also had to ensure that whatever I planted could not be a hiding place for any wandering snake - I don't want to encourage them to take up residence so close to the house.  I want to view whatever wildlife there is from a distance, thank you.  So none of the plants that went into the ground should form a shady snake spot - hopefully.  If they do, well, they'll get ripped out, and I'll have to find another suitable spot for them.

We are planning on making the entrance stairs much wider, so I have left space for that...
Rose bushes waiting to be planted in front
of the grape vines made a brief statement
I laid some weedguard down where I want a path to be.  That got covered with the contents of our sandbags from the old "shower room" next to the caravan.  Definition was given to the path by using a few rocks that had to be relocated / collected when RMan was mowing.  And, violĂ , I have an entrance pathway :)

I have planted some Spekboom ("Portulacaria Afra" or Elephant Food) which is well-known for absorbing carbon dioxide from the air.  Also, some yellow aloes got a spot.  And some Cotyledon sp, Echeveria and Crassula.  But, for the other couple of indigenous plants that found a home in these two beds...  I have no idea what they are called. I just know they are water-wise.  And if they make for a prettier entrance, then they've done their job :)
Done and planted - I reckon it looks great.
Now it just needs to grow a little...
It will take a couple of years for the plants to add some substantial greenery, but at least that start has been made :)

And, finally, RMan constructed a very important piece of garden equipment for me.  Gone are the days of walking distances around the plot to find suitably large bushes on which I can hang wet clothing.  I now have a washing line :)
My homemade washing line
Such a simple thing.  And so necessary.  Wind and sun-dried laundry are now a definite on the farm.   Okay, so tell me RMan, when are we bringing the washing machine to the plot because I can't seem to find a scrubbing board from days of yore...?