"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 26 September 2012

Off grid solar power

FCH - this posting is for you :)

Our new 5 X 135 watt solar panels were installed a week or so ago.  It was a work in progress over a period of 3 weeks.

Firstly, we had to wait for the building of the garage to be completed.

Then, RMan had to gear himself up for what he dreaded doing - a second time.
Making the frame for the solar panels - thank
goodness we had the patio to lay it all
out on
He started by preparing the frame for the panels - drilling holes in the square aluminium tubes.
RMan painstakingly fixed the panels
to the aluminium frame
Then, using the holes to secure the panels, he fixed each panel to the aluminium tube.
Solar panels ready to be hoisted onto the
roof.  Connected in series to increase the
voltage and Amp
He connected the panels in series, to increase the volts/ Amps being fed into the batteries.
Would you perch on a ladder which is propped
on scaffolding and leaning on a roof to pick up something heavy? I wouldn't.
But, bless them, the workers felt no fear...
The ever helpful builders climbed into the picture at this stage - literally.  Precariously balancing ladders on top of scaffolding...
5 X 72kgs per panel - 360 kgs in total = 4 guys
to move them :)
 ...they schlepped the ready made solar panel frame to the required spot...
Carefully lining up the solar panel structure to
facilitate it's journey up onto the roof
 ... where they carefully (actually not so carefully - I couldn't watch all the time as I was convinced that they would drop / knock the lot)...
Pushing the solar panels up from the front
 ... pushed from the front...
Pulling the solar panel array up from behind the garage
 ... and pulled from the rear...
One of the helpful workers perched on top
of a ladder, drilling holes through the roof tiles

... while another guy climbed inside the garage roof so that he could drill through the roof tiles in order to accommodate the threadbar and bolts which fix the panels onto the roof.

So, now we have 5 X 135 watt panels feeding 6 X 1188 Ah 2 volt batteries.

They generate more than enough to power our big(ger) fridge, lights and the TV with MNet decoder (and laptop and PC and printer during the daylight hours), and still charge our batteries.  It's all about spreading the load / demand.  Not everything can run at the same time, (e.g. the fridge, TV lights and decoder are run at night, and the fridge, PC and printer or laptop are run during the day), but if you plan your usage, then you'll have no worries.

Happy days :)

And the old 3 X 75 watt panels that our neighbour lent us when we had the burglary and had to install an alarm system.  We offered, and actually purchased him 3 X brand new 85 watt panels, but he declined our offer - they didn't match his existing (and remaining) two 75 watt panels.  He wanted his old ones back.

Again, the builders came to the fore - removing the old ones for RMan.  He seriously couldn't have done it by himself - or even with me helping...

Thanks Guys - we couldn't have done it without you :)

Reverse push and pull to get the old panels off
the roof
So - we have returned the new 3 X 85 watt panels to the supplier, and swapped them for another 135 watt one.  That one RMan plans to install on the roof, and use it to run a small water pump - to move the water from the rain-water tanks to the larger water storage tanks further up the property.

Damn - I feel privileged.

Now we are self-sufficient regarding our electric power, and in time, and given a few good rainfalls, we will have 37 000 litres  (just over 8 000 gallons) of rain water - more than enough to keep us going should our supply line fail, and more than enough to water our crops with.  Not to mention a permanent supply of rain water for making soap... :)

 "Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows everywhere, it's wonderful, so wonderful..."

Monday 24 September 2012

Welcome? WELCOME :)

I have just achieved my 100th follower.  I am squeaky excited, bowled over and honoured that the mutterings that I scribble on this blog have interested 100 people enough for them to leave their mark.  And, for me, reaching 100 is definitely reason to celebrate I reckon.
My life is still filled with builders, their mess and their
materials (chipped stone and part of a roof truss),
so it seems appropriate to use
that to create a suitable welcome notice :)

But - I don't know who you are?

Please, won't you leave a comment on this posting so that I can give you a proper welcome. :)

Sunday 23 September 2012

Bug bites

Warning: This posting can offend sensitive viewers!

There is something, or somethings, that are giving me a hard time on the farm.  Two weeks ago I received a bite on my right cheek near my nose, which caused it to swell up.  And to swell so badly that it looked like RMan had taken a swing at me.  As it subsided, it conceded to gravity and it looked like I had developed a 2nd and 3rd chin LOL

Yesterday afternoon, as I was watering my seedlings, something bit me again.  But this time it bit me by my left eye.

Talk about a right hook...
Bug bitten...
Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mohammed Ali and Floyd Mayweather eat your hearts out.  This eye is mine :)  And I didn't go 12 rounds either.  Nor do I have a cut above the eye LOL

Either it was a flying bug or it was a spider (I did feel a web brush my forehead, so I wonder...)  Two doses of antihistamine later, and an ice pack to help with the swelling...

... I am still typing this with one eye only - so please forgive any typo's LOL

This is what my eye should look like...
Red, sleep deprived (the damn bite
hurts!) - but a normal sized eye :)
So, it looks like I am going to have to invest in a whole box of Peaceful Sleep or Tabbard sticks to liberally apply to my face in the late afternoons as I go about the garden.

Unless anyone can advise me of an eco-friendly herbal bug preventative mixture I can make myself, and which is mild enough to smear on my face, I would be very grateful...?

Saturday 22 September 2012

Something different

We have neighbours who have geese.  And, as everyone knows, geese produce eggs LOL

Apparently, they only lay from late August to the end of October.  Goose Lady told me that apparently last year they had to throw away over 60 eggs.  Me - with my way back Grant clan Scottish roots, and my frugal nature - I'd probably have frozen them...


Because goose eggs are not small.  It would appear that one goose egg equals three to four hens eggs.  And judging from the pic below that fact is correct. I must say though, the yolk of a goose egg is huge - there is far more yolk than albumen.  That is probably what accounts for the high cholesterol content of goose eggs
Jumbo (66gms +) brown chicken eggs versus
white goose eggs.  Unfortunately my kitchen

scale is still packed in the moving boxes, so I
couldn't weigh the goose egg.

Calories and Fat

If you stick to one chicken egg as part of your meal, you'll consume just 72 calories, but one goose egg contains 266 calories. There is also more fat in a goose egg than a chicken egg, including more saturated fat. One large chicken egg contains 4.75 g of total fat, with 1.56 g of that being saturated. One goose egg contains 19.11 g of total fat, with 5.1 g being saturated. If you are trying to reduce your intake of saturated fat, a chicken egg may be the healthier choice for you.


A high cholesterol diet may increase your risk of heart disease so it is important to limit your intake. Eggs are one of the most well-known sources of cholesterol, and both chicken and goose eggs contain cholesterol. If you are on a low-cholesterol diet, speak with your doctor about whether or not any kind of egg has a place in your diet. One large chicken egg contains 186 mg of cholesterol, and one goose eggs contains 1,227 mg of cholesterol.

(Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/528020-nutritional-stats-on-chicken-eggs-vs-goose-eggs/#ixzz26LvPSYRH)

Cracking a goose egg in the frying pan results in half the pan being covered.
For scale, that is a dessert spoon next
to the frying pan.
But, I always try and crack all chickens eggs (and now goose eggs) as close to the pointy end as possible, so that I can use the empty egg shells as seedling propagators.  However, Goose Lady heroically offered to blow any eggs they used.  And she gave me the empty shells.
White goose eggs
I feel a craft, or two, coming on...


...I have been told there is a chance of a baby gosling or two...  RMan is ecstatic!

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Cancer Bush - Sunderlandia frutescens

Do you just love it when locals share their knowledge?  Our building contractor arrived one afternoon to collect his workers, and whilst he was waiting for them to pack up, we took a walk around the back of our property, near our lemon orchard.

Suddenly, pointing at a rather nondescript looking plant, he asked, "Do you know what that is?"
Cancer Bush - Sunderlandia frutescens
 And, just as naturally, I replied, "No" LOL

"It's called the Cancer Bush".

Of course, I had to Google it - didn't I? ;)

And, verbatim (with source links), this is what I found...

Cancer Bush - A Plant You Should Know About

Cancer Bush (Sutherlandia frutescens) is a legume from southern Africa with a long history of medicinal use. It is a fast growing but short lived shrublet that does well in full sun and has a high tolerance for all kinds of soil types. Draught tolerant, it is native to a warm arid climate thus it is not entirely frost tolerant so should be taken indoors if temperatures fall below freezing.

Historically this plant has been used as a salve for wounds as well as a fever reducer. It has been known to treat chicken pox, stomach problems, as well as certain ailments of the eyes. There are many other purported ailments which Sutherlandia frutescens is reported to address. It has been used to treat colds, flu, asthma, tuberculosis, bronchitis, rheumatism, arthritis, liver problems, hemorrhoids, piles, bladder problems, uterine problems, Chronic Fatigues Syndrome, ME Syndrome, dysentery, stomach ailments, viral hepatitis, heartburn, type 2 diabetes, peptic ulcers, backache, diabetes, varicose veins and inflammation, mental and emotional stress, irritability, anxiety, hypertension and depression.

This plant has recently increased in importance because of its reputation as a cure for cancer as well as an immune system booster. Although there is no hard evidence that this plant can cure all cancers, there is clinical evidence that it does have direct cancer fighting properties and does improve immune system function. It is currently being used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS because of its immune system benefits, and is known to be an appetite stimulant which is important for the support of both cancer and HIV/AIDS.

  • The entirety of the above ground plant can be dried and ground to make tea.
  • The whole fruit may be eaten.
  • It can be pressed or encapsulated and taken as a supplement.
  • Sutherlandia frutescens treatment may interfere with pharmaceutical anti-retroviral drugs.
  • Pregnant and nursing mothers should avoid taking Sutherlandia frutescens as there is little scientific study of the in utero effects or effects on children, though traditionally it has been used by pregnant women in Africa with no known negative effects.
  • Sutherlandia frutescens has been reported to cause dry mouth, mild diarrhea, slight dizziness and constipation.
  • Thus far there is no known lethal dose.
For further research, please visit http://www.sutherlandia.org
Whenever you are considering any dietary or medicinal change, please consult your doctor or nutritionist to discuss what is the best course of action for you and your health goals.  As well, make sure to check several sources before making a decision on what supplements you want to take for any particular reason.
 (NaturalNews) Sutherlandia frutescens, or Cancer Bush, is an attractive legume with delicate red flowers pictured on the South African national postage stamp. Long used by indigenous people in South Africa to treat cancer, tuberculosis, flu, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome and AIDS, researchers have recently done successful trials with this medicinal plant. Sutherlandia is known for its adaptogenic properties, its calming effect, and its ability to assist with weight gain when given to wasting patients. No toxicity or side effect has been noted.

Growing wild in the Western Cape and in the hills of Zululand, Sutherlandia assists the body in combating disease. Many cultures in South Africa have given this plant names that recognize its life changing properties. The San people, who use it as an energy booster and anti-depressant, call it "insista" meaning the one that dispels darkness. Zulu traditional healers, who used it during the 1918 influenza pandemic, named it "Unwele" (hair) because it relieves distress that causes sufferers to pull out their hair. Another South African group familiar with the use of Sutherlandia is the Tswana who call it "Mukakana" and know its effectiveness with gonorrhoea and syphilis. Afrikaners call it "Kankerbossie" (cancer bush). Another name is "the spear for the blood" meaning a powerful blood purifier.

An article published in a Cape Town newspaper on September 5, 2001 titled, "Time to look to our heritage for AIDS cure" suggested that "cancer bush is the most profound tonic that Africa can offer AIDS sufferers." The article reported that a traditional healer named Credo Mutwa administered sutherlandia to a terminal AIDS patient, a dying woman who thereafter gained weight. Mutwa noted that sutherlandia contained canavanine and pinitol, both of which had been patented individually in the USA, but were a unique combination in the cancer bush. Since sutherlandia grew wild everywhere, it not only presented an affordable treatment option, but offered the potential for commerce and local job creation. In addition, Mutwa urged, Africans needed sufficient nutrition which they formerly obtained from food crops such as millet once known as Umaimbela Ukugula, or "The one that stops sickness."

Ethno-botanist and Zululand University Research Fellow Anne Hutchings has used Sutherlandia as well as other herbs to treat patients weekly at Ngwelezana Hospital's AIDS clinic in northern KwaZulu-Natal, and has 176 patients who claim Sutherlandia helped them. Health care workers report that Sutherlandia only works when taken in appropriate doses, and when used in conjunction with a healthy diet, avoiding alcoholic beverages, recreational drugs or anything that would damage the immune system. Importantly, while evidence indicates Sutherlandia has an anticancer effect, and stimulates the immune system, the plant should be seen as a 'quality of life tonic' rather than a cancer cure.

Tests show that the use of Sutherlandia improves appetite and weight gain, enhances sleep and exercise tolerance, reduces anxiety and creates an overall sense of well-being. In six weeks of treatment, wasted patients often show a weight gain of 10-15 kg. However, when taken by those who do not have an underlying condition, Sutherlandia does not cause weight gain.

It is recommended that Sutherlandia be used in consultation with a health care professional such as a nutritionist. Patients should have a holistic team consisting of a psychologist, a traditional healer or a spiritual guide, in addition to a health care professional, as support for the emotional, cultural or spiritual aspects of illness.

The flower of the Cancer Bush -
Sunderlandia frutescens - 
although quite small,
is stunning.
Hmmm - very, very interesting.  As I don't need to gain weight, nor, thankfully, do I have Aids, Cancer,  gonorrhoea and syphilis, I reckon that this is another bit of knowledge to file away :)  But - I won't forget it...

Saturday 15 September 2012

Getting our ducks in a row...

As Spring descends with it's welcome warmth, final thoughts and pictures of our first the winter on the farm.

Naturally, winter is not confined to snow alone - it also includes rainfalls in the foothills of the mountains, and on our farm.  Very welcome, ground soaking rain.  12mm on one Thursday night, 28mm on Friday night, and 14mm on the Sunday in the middle of August.  Seriously, ground soaking rain...

Which, having a clay base, means mud.  Lots and lots of Wellie-sucking, boot weighing, squelching, squishy mud.  And mud at your gate, and on your driveway is not conducive to trucks delivering sand, bricks and stone.  So something had to be done...
Our entrance gate at the lowest point of our
driveway - a muddy mess
RMan found the point at which the water was streaming into our driveway - and, in the cold and wet, ventured out and made a trench for the water to be diverted along.

The source of the running water
His actions encouraged the water to flow to a more suitable spot...
Directing the water along a new route
on the other side of our driveway
Down the property...
Down she goes...
And, even further down the property, until it found it's home in our dam.
Ah - now that's better - that's where you
should be :)  Filling our dam, not destroying
our entrance
Now - that is what I call a proper dam :)
Five days after the trench started filling the dam, and the water was still pouring in...  
Such a small trickle at the start - you should've see it at it's height, bubbling and rushing downhill, with such a force and in such a quantity, that it was forming foam at the point of entry to the dam...
Also, the slope of the water-logged ground at
the back of the property directs the water
perfectly towards our dam - more gently, but

every drop helps...
Naturally, the water-logged ground around the dam is a dogs delight - he didn't care about bringing mud into the house and on my floors...

We had a (temporary) small island with a
Black Wattle tree in the centre
Stan the Man, the digger / loader driver who placed, and dug, our dam all those years ago, did a sterling job.  He couldn't have chosen a better place for it.
You wouldn't believe the weight of my
My boots got heavier and heavier - so heavy that lifting my leg almost caused my boot to come off my foot.

But - yet another surprise awaited us on the Sunday morning.  I woke up, and wrapped in my winter gown, clutching my cup of tea, I walked out onto the patio.  What did I spy in the dam but...

... a duck!  Our first wild duck in our dam LOL  What excitement!

You're very welcome, Mr or Mrs Duck.  Please - bring your family for a visit, and you're welcome to stay as long as you like :)  There will be plenty of mozzies for you to eat, as well as a plentiful supply of frogs...

My poor old compost heap - got completely submerged again.  There cannot be any goodness left in that compost heap - it must surely have all washed away...?
Drowned compost heap
A final picture of the snow on the mountains this past winter - a complete contradiction with the desert-loving aloe in the foreground and the white, snow-topped mountains forming such a stunning backdrop.
Aloes in front of the snow-capped mountains
Absolutely awe-inspiring and surreal.  We are so blessed.

There is still water in our dam, albeit not as much.  But, at least the dam is holding rain water - for the first time... :)

Thursday 13 September 2012

A romantic touch

Scallywag has taken some time to adjust being a farm dog, and as such needs to be "walked" in order to fulfill nature's call and so a couple of evenings ago  RMan took Scallywag for his evening constitutional.

Obviously, one cannot constantly stare at the animal constantly waiting for some action - one has to "pretend" to be  doing something else.  And something else, in RMan's case, was looking at the thousands of teeny, tiny wildflowers which have suddenly peeked their heads above ground.
After the winter rains, thousands of these
little flowers dot the ground
What happened in RMan's head as he was looking at the flowers?

He had a romantic moment and picked a bunch for me :)
My bunch of flowers, lovingly, and carefully,
picked by RMan
As I was admiring the flowers, Rman said to me, "I think there is a female flower in that bunch".


"Turn them over", he said.
Male and females?
Can you see the second flower from the left - underneath, the petals are slightly pink, compared to the plain white of the "rest of the bunch".

Unfortunately, I didn't have a vase small enough, so I had to make a plan.  I left them in the hollow of a rock which I filled with a little water.

Perhaps the farm fairies will find them...?

Monday 10 September 2012

Anyone for solar?

B-i-g news.

I have been given distribution rights for the solar oven I use - the Sun Cook® which is manufactured by SunOK in Portugal.

And - because of that - I can now offer a Sun Cook® solar oven to anyone in South Africa who would like to own one.

I am so thrilled - I am passionate about my solar oven, and, if I can share the joy - what more could I ask for?

There are two Sun Cook® models available - the Premium and the Tropical.

SunOK Premium model
The Sun Cook® Premium has an additional side mirror and a small sundial, but it is intended for use in the Northern Hemisphere where the sun's angle is not as ideal.  I (finally) received the Premium model, but have only used the side mirror attachment once or twice.

The Tropical model -
it has the same specs as
the Premium model, but
excludes the side mirror
and sundial
So, I am recommending, and stocking, the Sun Cook® Tropical model.

I can, however, order the Sun Cook® Premium, if you require it - but there will be a delay of 6 - 8 weeks from order to delivery.

If you live in the Southern African region and you are interested in lowering your eco-footprint, Escom power costs, creating delicious and nutritious meals, please - drop me an email to:

dani @ ecofootprint . co . za (copy and paste to your mail programme and remove the spaces :)

and I'll give you the costings.  But, I guarantee you won't find it cheaper anywhere else, because I am not in it to make a huge profit like others, I just want to share the passion / pleasure / lower electricity bills :)

Oh, and by the way, I'm including a free CD copy of my "Introduction to solar cooking.pdfand "Free from the Sun" solar recipes with every solar oven purchased.
Choc cherry biscuits cooking in my Sun Cook® 
solar oven :)

Sunday 9 September 2012

Temporary solar power

I feel terrible.  Our solar power system has not generated enough power for me to blog regularly.  And I have only been able to catch a few of all your blog postings.  Sob - I miss my Adsl line...    Parked in front of the business PC I could catch blogs at any time of the day.  Now - if I dial up and you've posted within the past two hours I can read your latest news.  Please forgive me - I'm not being rude - I honestly just haven't had the internet connection nor the spare power.  We still don't - but that's another story...

But, back to where I was - the limited solar power caused our first few weeks on the farm to be extremely "interesting".

You remember that I purchased an Owl electricity monitor for RMan a couple of years ago.  Well, it was actually intended for the farm, so that we could monitor our power consumption.

And that little Owl has been brilliant!  At any time we have been able to see what power we are draining from the batteries.

For instance...
The fridge actually demanded 161 watts of power, but, if you take a gander at the specifications below, you'll see...
... that it's only supposed to draw 100watts!  Oh boy, that little fridge sure had it's work cut out.  I often battled to find space to cram another item into it.
Crammed to capacity
Apart from charging cell phones, and torches, the other appliances we used were the laptop...
The laptop on charge only
On charge only the laptop consumed 64 watts, during use it rose to 97 watts.
As  you can see from the Owl on the 29th July
we had consumed 29 Kw of energy from the
sun - for the entire month.
The 258 watts is what the PC draws.
And the temp, which I've bored you all
to tears with, was 13.2oC - inside - at 10.30a.m.
in the morning.
And the PC.  The biggest drain on our limited power was by far and away the PC.  I have to use the PC (and printer) for the business, as the program I am running is not longer supported, nor licensed, by the manufacturers which means I can't load / re-install it onto the laptop.

We even tried adding 3 X new 135watt panels to the existing 75 watt panels.  They are to be installed on the new garage roof, but until we are able to do that, we tied them to window frames and secured the fronts with tyres so that the North Westerly wind which blows in winter, couldn't take them for a spin without our permission.
Not an aesthetically pleasing picture, but, heck,
whatever works, and is only temporary, is fine
for a limited period of time...
The washing I managed to do by hooking the machine up to the genny.  Sometimes I got too clever, and the weather didn't play ball.  So, before the Dover started smoking badly, RMan rigged up a rail, and between that and the chairs in front of the stove, we managed to dry the clothes.
Laundry in the kitchen LOL  Idiot me -
I only see the kettle now - all
that steam couldn't have helped...!
And, at night, when there is no charge entering our damaged, fragile solar batteries, then the genny and our kerosene (paraffin) lamps did the work for us :)
The past meets the future...
... and it created a wonderfully warm "gemutlich" atmosphere
BUT - we have now got the new panels in situ on top of the new garage roof (pics to follow as soon as I can upload them / create the blog posting), and I finally have my normal fridge - with freezer.  Happy days!!
As we switched over from the 3 x 75 watt
and 3 X 135 watt panels to the garage
mounted 5 X 135 watt panels I took a consumption
reading.  We had used 69 Kw in 2 months (the
pic was taken on the 4th September).
Heck, a couple of years ago, we were using that
in one day during the winter months,
and the in-laws were visiting and we had
oil heaters on all night in their room.)
 The old trusty, meets the older trusty LOL
It didn't take me long to fill the bigger fridge LOL
Leftovers are my worst nightmare...!  As you can
see RMan has an entire shelf for his liquid refreshment,
so now he's happy too :)
The LG double door fridge / freezer states a rated input of 150 watts, but actually consumes / displays on the Owl an amount of 242 watts!  Huh?

But, a freezer means...
...we don't have to drive 60kms every 2 - 3 days in order to purchase perishables.  Because now I have fridge (freezer) space.  And it also means that I can finally have ice in my glass of rosé at the end of the day :)  And not a day too late LOL  Who wants to drink warm rosé in summer?

Things are definitely improving.  "Cheers" :)

Sunday 2 September 2012

Homegrown popcorn

Last year I purchased some Heirloom Pink Popcorn seeds, which due to the fact I was not on the farm full time, I decided to try and grow a few in my shadecloth veggie hut, which was under irrigation.  I also planted a few outside, which would only benefit from whatever rain fell.

Outside was a disaster.  Not one survived.  And inside - well, a few heads were produced, but the plants succumbed to ants / scale.  Nevertheless, I did keep whatever I could harvest - not only to scoff on a cold winters night in front of the telly, but also to provide seeds for this season :)
The head of corn is roughly 4.5 - 5 cms (2 inches)
Pink Popcorn is a darling little head of corn.  As the head dries the kernels stay plump - one could almost be tempted to pop it into a pot of boiling water in order to have a "corn on the cob" feast :)
Tiny kernels - about the size of half a lentil
Getting the kernels off the head is another story, as the kernels are quite sharp...
Sore thumb - wish I was ambidextrous LOL
My thumb definitely suffered during this task.  But, I kept with it as I had a reward in sight.
RMan could smell it - so he came investigating.
One handful meant half the bowl was empty.
The popped corn is smaller than normal, but, oh, so delicious!  And the best thing is that it's home grown with no chemicals added.
Popped in a dab of melted butter and sprinkled with
a sprinkling of salt - delicious :)
And the surplus has been planted... :)