"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 20 June 2012

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you :)

I'm writing two blog posts today - for a very special reason.

Wow - I'm completely blown away.
A few weeks ago I entered a blogger give-away. Kirsten, of Sustainable Suburbia wrote to me to tell me that my name had been drawn from the hat.

I was very excited to be the winner, but was worried that it would cost Kirsten too much to post it to me all the way from Aussie.  She replied: "Don't worry about the postage Dani. I said anywhere in the world, and I meant it - I just figured if the postage was too much I'd buy another copy on the book depository (free postage world wide), and give the copy I have to someone here in my local urban homesteaders group. :)"

And Kirsten did just that.

I am speechless.  I have just received a brand new copy of "One Magic Square" by Lolo Holbein, and it looks absolutely terrific!  Jam packed with brilliantidea's, companion planting hints and even recipes.  Even a chapter entitled "Soil Secrets".

So - if you will all give me a little time to get my hungry eyes between the pages - I feel a well-deserved book review coming on :)

Thanks again, Kirsten.  Thank you very much.  I feel very honoured and privileged.  I'm taking it to the farm with me tomorrow - and it is going to have pride of place on my bedside table.

Moving chaos...

The reputable company we contacted to move our possessions charges less for goods collected before the 24th or after the 6th of the month - 25% less.  So - they're arriving tomorrow morning at 6.30 a.m. to collect everything in order to place it in storage in the nearby town.

This is a peek at the chaos...
Pot plants everywhere...
The last load of pot plants from the garden - I'd hate to know what the plants have cost us over the years - what with fertilizer, water, compost, mulch, etc.  Not to mention the pots.  So, they are definitely coming with...
Will this bath be my herb garden, or
my worm composting bin...?
Every square inch of the top patio is filled
with pot plants, and we've already taken a
load to the farm...  Reckon half the truck
is going to be for pot plants only
Inside the house there is not a single doorway, passage or room which does not contain boxes of some shape and size.  So far I have 75 boxes on the inventory list, and the last packing I have to do is to empty out the food from the kitchen cupboards.  It really is a case of squeezing your way round the house at the moment.

RMan got involved in taking some stuff to the 2nd hand store this morning - his de-cluttering attributes stink! Half the items I had piled up were "reclaimed"!  That's why, I reckon, that job has got to be left to the womenfolk!  No emotion, just pure commonsense.  If we haven't used it in the last year, and it is powered by electricity, then it's got to go!  Popcorn makers, electric frying pans, fan heaters, VHS machine(who has those tapes anymore?)...  What the heck?  But, I still have time (next week) to be sneaky... LOL
Boxes - everywhere!
I've even managed to empty, defrost and clean the small bar fridge, the chest freezer and the large 130watt LG fridge, as well as the dishwasher.  The small bar fridge and the washing machine will have to go on our trailer with us next week - heck, I've got a ton of curtains to wash before they're packed.
Spring cleaned and ready to go into
storage until we have the improved
solar power system up and running
at full tilt
Reckon the TV, mattress (without the bed base), washing machine, small bar fridge, gas stove with the kettle and a pot or two and and a couple of plates, knives, forks and mugs is all that's going to be left in the house for the next week.  It's going to seem strange :)

One positive I hadn't really thought of that has come out of all of this - all the electrical goods (fridge, freezer, washing machine, etc) are now going to be in a pristine condition again - what a lovely feeling.  Nothing like a good clean out to make me feel like I've accomplished something worthwhile - whether it's equipment, cupboards or just plain de-cluttering :)

We have found premises for the business - so that has to be moved next week too.

This will be my last post before we're on the farm permanently - so I'll see you all next month :)

Thursday 14 June 2012

Temporary Hiccups

Please would you bear with me over the next 4-odd weeks for my blog postings are going to be on an infrequent and irregular basis.

Talk about upheaval and turmoil...  Boxes everywhere - here and on the farm, furniture which will have to go in storage in the local town (we have found secure 35mtr2 premises which the owner is willing to rent out to us cheaply for a month-and-a-half until our garage is complete).  We have also managed to secure the services of a recommended building contractor who will take care of everything, or subcontract if he is unable to complete the work himself, as opposed to a local casual builder.  He has given us a fair quote on building the garage and completing phase two of the house - so, all being well, everything should be completed within the next three months - then the farmhouse will finally be our (new) home :)  We were also worried whether we would still be able to obtain more resin roof tiles.  Thankfully, I have managed to track down someone who sells them.  (If the link I have just provided is removed in the future, they guy's name is Malcolm and his contact number is 071 996 9341). Enlisting the services of a couple of the guys who work for my husband, plus the use of the company van, we took another load of boxes and a small portion of the pot plants to the farm last weekend.
Ice crystals on the trailer cover
Before we left Cape Town we were aware that a cold front was headed our way, but weren't aware that there were two of them - back-to-back.  Brrrrrrr - we had our first (early) snowfall on the mountains.  Thank goodness for the Dover stove!  Even so, the house is not completely sealed yet, so the drafts caused the temperature to plummet to 10oC inside the house in the early morning - whilst it was -2oC outside.  Snow usually falls in August / September here - so June is a bit early - another example of the global weather patterns changing obviously...?!

Before the cold fronts arrived, RMan and John, the local community labourer, increased the height of the scaffolding, so that RMan could correct and finish the temporary chimney installation.  You can get a good idea of exactly how high our roof peak is in this pic:
It took 4 sections of scaffolding in order
to reach the apex of our roof!
RMan then also proceeded to complete the painting of the undercoat so that the plastered walls have some protection from the wet weather.

I checked out the trees we had relocated - two of them look like they may be OK - the other three - touch and go. Ah well, at least two is better than none :)

Location of the transplanted trees.  In the
foreground is the pile of renosterbos which
the digger / loader scraped up
And, my final surprise from last season's crops awaited me in the depression we had made for the future cellar, where we are storing the last load of compost we purhased.  Some wind blown rocket seeds had taken root, and they are producing enormous leaves - yummy! 
Self-seeded rocket - the plants are
producing absolutely enormous leaves
We returned to town to discover that the buyer of our home had changed her mind about taking early occupation at the end of June, due to the "domino effect", and wanted to revert to the transfer / occupation only taking place at the end of July.  The transferring attorney's had apparently sent us notification of this on the 6th June - but to the wrong e-mail address! So we have been sorting and packing madly, and were still under the impression that the move was on for the end of this month!  However, yesterday the attorney subsequently spoke to the buyer, and she has changed her mind again (and confirmed it in writing this morning, so there is no turning back now), and has agreed that transfer / occupation can proceed for end of June - thank goodness - I have so much packed and we are living with the bare minimum - to do that for an additional 4 weeks wouldn't be easy...
Don't tell RMan that I've posted
a pic of him in my apron LOL
Doesn't he look cute :)
I have been going through a myriad of emotions whilst packing up / ditching 34-odd years of possessions - some good - some bad.  RMan has steadfastly been my strength, bearing with my ill-humour, and even offering unexpected assistance.  Bless him, he has been an absolute star.  For instance, not having used my oven for over 2 years I gave it a final quick clean out.  RMan volunteered to give the shelves a good scrub - even if it meant that I insisted that he (under protest and very briefly) wear my apron - well, that is wet, dirty work LOL  There is nothing like man-power when it comes to removing baked on dirt - the oven shelves are now so sparkling clean that they look like brand new :)

Now - I just have to tackle all the kitchen and bathroom wall tiles and empty cupboard shelves and cupboard fronts...

Thursday 7 June 2012

How to operate a Dover stove

I love my Dover stove.

Even if it does create a little smoke inside the house when it is first lit.  That is rectified 1) by opening the neighbouring windows wide, and 2) as soon as the "draw" starts.  (However, in keeping with my warts and all policy, I will admit that we made a mistake when we installed our Dover stove.  The chimney should NOT have been left exposed.  In fact, the Dover stove should have been installed in a recess with a large overhanging chimney area.  That would've obviated the initial smoking issue - for all that smoke would've gone up the recessed chimney.)

And I love my Dover stove even if it's oven section is a little small.  Well, it's big enough to roast a crisp chicken for RMan, and it's big enough to bake a couple of loaves of bread.

None of that matters to me, because the big plus is that I can warm our house (well, at this stage the one large room) and cook at the same time. Using nothing but the wood from alien invasive Australian Black Wattles.

But, in winter especially, I like to place the food I've prepared on warm plates. Which presents a problem, because if I am using the oven, there isn't room for much more.
The side section - for drying
wet tea towels?
When I purchased the Dover stove it came with a side section, which I presume was for drying tea towels or suchlike.  Unfortunately, when the structure was built to house the stove, this addition section was not catered for.  So the towel drying section couldn't be used.  Until now.

Clever RMan.  As I was bemoaning the fact that I can't warm the plates he came up with this brilliant solution.
Would only a man think of this...?
Placing the plates directly on the stove top would result in cracking the plates, because the stove top is far to hot.  But putting the unused side section on top of the stove, and then placing the plates on top of that is perfect.  Not too hot so that it will crack the plates, but hot enough to take the chill off them :)
Perfectly warmed plates :)
Recently, being winter in this country, and with Escom's electricity tariffs ever increasing, people are obviously looking at other ways to cook their evening meals.  Which is probably resulting in a surge of Dover Stove sales.  As the stoves don't come with a manual or instructions on how to operate a Dover stove, I have, therefore, had quite a few hits on my blog with the search phrase "how to use a Dover stove", so I thought I give a brief explanation.


Firstly, it is advisable to place a water filled pot (or whistling kettle LOL) on top of the stove (directly above the fire section) prior to lighting it.  I have heard that this protects the stove and prevents the cast iron from cracking as it suddenly warms up.
Small lever - pull it forward
Secondly, in the front, above the oven door and just below the cooking surface, there is a small lever.  This must be pulled out (forward) in order to close off the vent to the oven, and to ensure that the initial thicker smoke is directed up the chimney and not towards the oven area.

Then, insert your kindling into the burning section, light it and wait for it to achieve a good burn, and chimney draw, before pushing the lever in again. The good burn will indicate that the chimney is drawing correctly and with the increase in heat and flames, the initial smoke will be decreasing.

Finally, once your wood is merrily burning, and your fuel section is filled with wood, close the door, and slide the vent lever at the bottom of the door to a spot where it is open enough to create a draught to burn your wood, but not too wide to send the heat the fire is creating up the chimney because the wood is burning too quickly.

That is all there is to it.  Very simple :)  Just remember to keep your eye on the wood - in order to maintain your oven temperature, you'll have to keep it stoked.


Latest news:  The purchaser of our town house has just asked whether the would be able to move in a month earlier - makes sense, because she has school going children, and the school holidays is a perfect time to move a family.  Luckily, I started packing last month, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem to complete that task in time.  But it means that we have to speed up with the transporting of all our stuff.

So - we're off to the farm again tomorrow.  This trip will be devoted to schlepping some of the loads of large garden pot plants (and their pots) - as well as to throw the foundation for the garage...

Monday 4 June 2012

Digging and loading

Ah yes, I had my Royal fill yesterday - a tight throat at times choked up with emotion, tears, smiles and laughter, as I watched Her Majesty in the Thames Pageant.  My roots have been satisfied - for now.  Even though I was born there over 50 years ago, and have been back a few times, I am a very proud Brit :)  Her Majesty is one heck of a woman - not only for holding her position of responsibility and fulfilling her duty for over 60 years, but for standing for 3-odd hours yesterday, in the pouring rain!  At 88 - amazing!  I couldn't do it at my age.

But, back to our eco-journey in South Africa.

The whole purpose of our last trip to the farm was to allow the digger/loader entry to the property in order for it to dig the foundations.  I had to sacrifice my new washing line as it had be placed in exactly the position marked by the architect for the garage.  Grrrrrrrr!

The digger loader made short work of the foundation holes - damn, we need one of those machines - permanently LOL

RMan then decided that my nagging had finally been too much, and he asked the driver to scoop out some of the alien Black Wattles which had taken up residence in the spot where a previous load of building sand had been dumped.  It's all very well saying we need shade for those hot summer days, but when that quest results in completely blocking our view of Traddouw Pass and generates a feeling of being hemmed in, then I reckon it's pointless.
Overcrowded self-seeded trees
Carefully, carefully - loosen the roots...
Effortless tree removal with the digger / loader
... a gentle scoop here, and gentle scoop there, and then toddle off to the fence between our neighbour and us to relocate the newly up-rooted trees.  
The relocated tree site
I hope they take.  Time will tell.  Two Black Wattles were left in front of the house, and one next to the grey water reed bed.  Until the other trees we have planted grow enough to fulfill their function, the Black Wattles will remain.  When we cut them down a couple of years in the future, they will become very important firewood :)

When we left for the farm on the Friday lunchtime, it was pouring with rain - and it poured most of the way.  Recalling the wet, soggy clay mess of my veggies patch last year in August as the beds were being prepared, I asked RMan to stop at the local Co-Op in order to see if they had any wellies in stock.  I mean, what is a farmer's wife if she hasn't got any wellies?
A pair of Wayne's Wellies for RMan,
and a pair for me :)
We were in luck!  And, although they only had black wellies, wellies is wellies - no? :)  A pair for RMan and a pair for me.  At R54.00 (£4.09 / US$6.28) a pair - I reckon they have to be the bargain of the century.  But, not only that, we finally found something that is Made in South Africa - a low transport footprint!  Now - eat your heart out, China :)
Wayne Wellies, Made in South Africa.
They even have Wayne's V.A.T. number printed
on them LOL
RMan looks very dashing in his new wellies.
I reckon RMan looks quite sexy in
his new Wellies LOL
He didn't do the dirty work that I did that weekend, so he didn't use his.  But I did.  Don't tell him that as they get covered in more and more wet clay, the wellies get heavier and heavier - so much so that just walking becomes a chore in itself LOL.  Never mind the contorted, inelegant walk that develops as a result!

But, the clean trouser bottoms and socks are worth the extra exercise my legs are going to get!  And every time I need to nip inside to make a cup of tea, taking the wellies off is a breeze!

Happy Days :)

Sunday 3 June 2012

Dia Dhuit

Please join me in welcoming mum of all trades.  Mum of all trades is based in Donegal, in Ireland.
MoaT's blog details how she "decorates on a budget, crafts,thrifty tips, diy, and anything else that she might be up to".  I like, and am very grateful for, her tutorial on re-covering a lamp shade - I have such a DIY project ahead of me once we are on the farm :)

Thank you, MoaT, for hitting the follow button.  I reply to all comments (even those placed on old postings), but given the size of this wonderful planet, and the different time zones, it may not be today by your time, but will certainly be by tomorrow.  And, once we are on the farm, and given our slow internet connection, it may take a little longer...LOL

Saturday 2 June 2012

Wild flowers and patience...

At the beginning of April, whilst walking on DD & WGuys property in order to take some photo's for them, I came across a tumbleweed.
Then, shortly afterwards, I encountered a bit of synchronicity.
Tumbleweed - the dried flower head
of the Malgas Lily
Diana unknowingly gave me the name of the plant a couple of weeks later.  It is the Malgas Lily or Ammocharis longiflora
Image source: http://www.plantzafrica.com/
I have seen the plants flat leaves "lying" on, or close to the ground, and they fascinated me.  Now that I know what it is I am even more excited. Why, I hear you wonder?

Well, I picked up the dried tumbleweed type flower head and left it in a box in the kitchen.  Last week when we returned to the farm I noticed that the seeds had burst out of the plant and were growing!
Malgas lily seeds - growing without any soil
There were some seeds still on the dried head and they too were bursting forth.
Seeds growing in the dried seed pod
Naturally, I had to plant those valiant little seeds.  They appear to be eco-friendly and water-wise, and as such will be given their opportunity to shine in my garden.

However, the patience bit enters the here - for apparently it takes 7 years until the plant produced from the seed will produce a honeysuckle smelling flower...

It's worth it - I can wait :)