"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 27 February 2013

What a Whopper!

I obviously boasted too much last year about my tomatoes in the shadecloth veggie patch, and so this year I've been brought back to earth.  The mice, and whitefly, put paid to my tomato harvest this year with a resultant pretty poor harvest.  But there have been other rewards.
I tried to warn you with this pic...
Earlier this month I showed you a pic of an onion I had growing in my shadecloth veggie patch.  Well, the time came to harvest it.
I have never seen a 2.6kg onion before!
I was surprised - I thought my re-occurring tennis elbow (and I've never played tennis in my life) would prevent my "plucking" it from it's obviously beloved home in the earth, but it came out surprisingly easily.

Now, my greatest problem is going to be using all of it before the balance of it dries out / rots in my fridge.  Unfortunately, onion soup is not an option - it creates too much gas... LOL
Tyres in the background...
Then, you recall that RMan scored some used tyres when he went to auction a while back.  I had them ear marked for potatoes, so as soon as I had some which were sprouting, I shoved them in the tyres, covered them with soil, and made sure they got enough water - they were not on the irrigation system.  The flowers had all died, and on Monday this week I also harvested them.

This is what I uncovered...
Not the greatest harvest, but I'm chuffed none
the less :)  RMan couldn't believe it LOL
Bearing in mind that they were potatoes which were sprouting, and some of them were not "nice" - I reckon that's not a bad reward for a first effort.  Any potato growing tips will be greatly appreciated.

At least I'm getting to know now what does, and does not, grow here...  And how vital crop rotation is for controlling "undesirables"...

Sunday 24 February 2013

Really dumb...

Firstly, won't you join me in welcoming Orange Jeep Dad to our friendly circle.
OJD lives in Arizona, USA, and is the father of "6 beautiful girls"!  Very nice blog, OJD - hope you find that "ideal" job you're seeking really soon.

I always answer comments, OJD, but due to (solar) power restraints, and our differing time zones, it may not appear on the same day as you make them.  Hang in there, though... :)


Now, I'd like to share with you all an e-mail I received from a long time buddy, Labrat.

It is entitled "God and Grass" and records a conversation between God and St. Francis:

GOD: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is
going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colours by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

St.FRANCIS:It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it - sometimes twice a week.
GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow.
And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE: 'Dumb and Dumber',  Lord. It's a story about....

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

It is so simple, and makes perfect sense, doesn't it?  And it makes me wonder how much I really think I know...

Friday 22 February 2013

Fruits of our labour

I thought I'd give all of those in the northern hemisphere, who are wishing their lives away and pining for Spring, a glimpse of what lies ahead in their (growing) year.

For the first time ever we have, literally, eaten the fruits of our labour.

They may have been sparsely situated on the different plants, but a small reward is better than none at all.  I like to think of it as a teaser of what lies in store.
It wasn't easy putting these strawberries into the
freezer, but the thought of making strawberry
jam with homegrown strawberries was just too
good to miss.  Jam, though, maybe next season.
Strawberries - I harvested roughly 40 - 60 - small ones.  Not enough to make jam with, so, apart from some that immediately went into a strawberry fool, I popped those that hadn't been eaten straight off the plant by MKid in December, into the freezer.  I was hoping to gather enough over the season to make the aforementioned jam, but, alas, t'was not to be.  Never mind, they'll be delicious whizzed up and added to a glass of bubbly when we're sitting in front of the fireplace in winter :)  It's a Bucks Fizz with a difference, and one I can highly recommend.

Also, we harvested about a dozen Youngberries.  No photo's of them - they went straight into RMan's mouth - his favourite ever berry,, and one which reminds him of (as his memory serves him) a youngberry drink from his childhood called "Himbo" (Himbeern) .  Next year, hopefully, the plants will be more established and will share more of their bounty.

But - what was the the rest of the fruit?

Without further ado, here is what we were privileged to harvest...
These were not the grapes of wrath LOL
Four bunches of grapes from our grape vines.  Thankfully the baboons which invaded our neighbours plot in January, didn't get a scent of these of they would've been gone in a flash...
I will never be able to explain how sweet
grapes are that have been allowed to
completely ripen on a homegrown vine,
and not harvested just that touch
too soon, in order to give them a
slightly longer shelf life in the fridge of
your local supermarket.
Pomegranates - we only have four specimens, but the taste of those juicy segments is again a tease of the future.  We can wait - we're not in a  rush :)
One of four pomegranates on our 9 trees
And finally, I can completely understand the temptation in the Garden of Eden.  This is the first time we have ever eaten an apple straight off the tree, and it is completely addictive.  Crisp, juicy and delicious.
In two years time, we'll have plums and apricots to add to our harvest.  So, I better ensure that they get all the TLC they need until then.

Saturday 16 February 2013

Waste not, want not

You remember I did a posting on using mayonnaise to try and eradicate a water mark on our coffee table which had been caused by an overflowing pot plant.
The water marks on our coffee table were still
very visible
Well, although the mayonnaise did help, it was still very visible.  But there was nothing else wrong with the table (apart from a couple of puppy teeth marks in one of the legs) so it seriously didn't need replacing.  All it needed was recycling a sort out.

So RMan purchased a cheap electric sander, and some lots of sand paper, and, after I had cut the all paper to size, he went to work one h-o-t afternoon.
Sandy work this...
It took about 3/4 hour to sand off the table.  Then it got wiped down with a vinegar rinsed cloth, allowed to dry, and then wiped with a very dry cloth to remove any fine particles of sanding that remained.
Sanding complete
RMan had experimented applying the sealer to a piece of wood.  First he brushed it on.  Nope - he didn't like the "streaky" appearance.  So he purchased a small cheap sponge roller.  That worked a treat :)
The wood sealer goes on with the small roller...
He did four layers of wood sealer in total - applying one vertically, allowing it to dry, applying it horizontally, allowing it to dry, and so on, and so on.
The finished product
RMan was so pleased with the finished product that he decided to do our scruffy old dining room table too.  He had sanded the table years ago, and had only finished it with a laxer of wax.  It didn't work.  The table had a terribly dirty, scruffy look, and a horrible "touch" to it, so that had to come off...
Before and after
Whilst sanding the dining room table the sandpaper kept getting clogged up with gunk, so RMan grabbed a wire brush and gently scraped off the build-up, thereby extending the life of the sandpaper - vital when you're running out of it LOL
Before sanding at the bottom, and after
at the top.  Note the wire brush to
clean off the sandpaper
RMan, unlike the builders, was even considerate enough to sand both the tables outside under our shadecloth awning.  Are we thankful for that awning - the heat would be unbearable otherwise.

Dusty work gets done outside RMan :)
Thankfully, there was a bit of a breeze so the fine dust was immediately dissipated.
The sealer application begins
So - what does the finished table look like?
Beautiful, RMan.  Well done
Want a close up?
Stunning, stunning, stunning!
We LOVE it!!!

By the way, the sander was very economical on our power supply...
370 watts - that's the total consumption of the
sander and the MNet decoder and TV on standby

- well within our power capacity :)
... 370 watts - and that included the MNet decoder and TV on standby.

RMan loves doing repairs / renovations like this.  He has a lot more patience than I do LOL  And, with results like that, he's welcome to make a mess (outside) any time he fancies :)

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Gently, gently... (part 2)

Again, I start this post by saying I am not trying to offend anyone - these are merely my thoughts and ramblings.  And my feedback on the have / have not lifestyle we have adopted.

My deep pondering of last week has led to thoughts on how else this planet came to be the position that it now finds itself.

Between the extreme temperatures, droughts / fires last year in America, and in Australia this year, as well as the blizzard which Boston, USA experienced at the end of last week and which it has not experience with such severity since the 1970's, I don't think that there are many out there who will deny that something is definitely screwy with our weather.  Global warming?  Extreme weather cycles?  Who knows.  But something is out of kilter.

Whilst writing my previous post I caught myself thinking what on Earth are we, the inhabitants of Earth, doing?  And doing in the so-called name of technology.  In the name of inventiveness.  In the name of saving time and effort?  In the name of economics?  In the name of self-indulgence? 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favour of new inventions.  But those inventions which actually benefit mankind, not the ones which are basically just trendy gadgets with a limited lifespan and which take up huge resources in their manufacture.

Take China for example.  They have no qualms in "copying" an item which carries European / USA patents - guess the logistics of patenting something in China is over the top?!  But, why do they need to copy the item, if it is already available? Because they can make it cheaper?  And then flood the market with their "Made in China" goods, which seldom match the quality of the original?

But, could this not be the result of the chaos which exists today?  The seemingly worldwide trend of "I must have the latest"?

For with all our mod-cons, all our time saving devices, all our fashion trends - are we any better off?  Are we cleverer - or lazier?  Are we able to save time - and what are we saving it for?  We're not doing more than we used to.  Are we?
Image source:
What we are doing is saying, because I have a machine which can perform the task I need done, I can sit back and relax - "it's tiring putting washing into a machine, then shoving it in a tumble dryer or hanging it up and taking it down, ironing (well, some of you may do so - I don't LOL) it before putting it away".  Our parents (I'm showing my age here LOL) didn't have our modern gadgets to make their day easier, but they didn't do a whole lot less than we are doing now.  They had to fill the machine with water, allow it it agitate before draining it, and refilling it with fresh water to rinse the clothes.  Then they put the clothes through a mangle to squeeze them, before hanging them up on the line to dry.  No tumble dryers. 

But, even with all these wonder machines, we don't sit back and relax.  Why?  What are we filling our lives with busy-ness for?
Fracking - draining the very last reserves out of
Mother Earth
And, apart from our excessive consumption and hysterical mass production, are we not also polluting the ground and waterways with our chemical use - be they for :

 ~ pest prevention and fertilizing of crops;
 ~ for household "cleaning";
 ~ additives to foodstuffs to "make them last longer / stay fresher";
 ~ extracting, at great depth, the very last that the earth has to offer us;
 ~ or even the factories which are expelling them into the very air and water which makes our planet inhabitable by not only us homo sapiens (who are basically just advanced forms of animals, and in some cases not so advanced either LOL) but also by all the creatures who co-exist alongside us - or try to.

And as for fashion trends - is that not something which has been invented by manufacturers / tailors / clothing chain stores in order to sell more of their goods.  Why on God's planet, should it be important to have the latest cell phone / wear the latest fashion every season / year? What is wrong with last years cell phone / clothing.  Or the year before that?  Has it become the "thing" because if you don't keep up to date, you're not a successful business person?  And ditto for having the newest model vehicle or the most up-to-date appliances in your home / office.  Does it all boil down to "what do / will people think of me"?  It's crazy!

Why and when did we adopt consumer driven lifestyles - and, judging from reactions visible on the TV on far too many nights - allow that to dictate our feelings of happiness?  I mean, queuing up overnight outside a store in order to secure a "must-have" book or the latest electronic gadget as it's made available.  I wonder if those people have ever considered the implications of the importance they are attaching to those items, which will be so readily discarded when the next model makes its' appearance.

When did we humans lose the ability to experience authentic happiness?  Happiness from our roots.  From the ground up?  Happiness that we feel within us on a daily basis?  And happiness which is due to something other than an item we've purchased which makes us "feel good"?  Was it when we sold ourselves to laud the growth of economics?  Are we guilty of encouraging economies to expand beyond our basic needs?  Or have the corporations instilled this "want" in us through their advertising campaigns or movies through their high-faluting set dressing?

The race to sell more / have more / earn more?  Has that caused the chaos, disgruntled "poor me" attitude which is prevalent in society today, and the disregard for the long term consequences of our thoughtless actions.

I am fortunate because RMan and I have been able to "step back".  In November this year we will have been married for 33 years.  And at this precise moment in time we own less electrical / electronic gadgets than we did on our wedding day.  The some total of our "must have" items are:

a TV and local pay-to-view transmitter - we very rarely ( once or twice year) eat out, and we never go to movies / theatre.
A fridge.
A washing machine - powered by the genny once or twice a week.
A couple of side lights.
A hairdryer which is briefly powered by the genny once or twice a week in winter.  Summer - the hair just drips dry LOL
A charger for our cell phones and a computer.
And RMan has a couple of vital handyman tools.

I certainly don't miss a microwave (a pot over boiling water does the job more than adequately), an electric kettle or toaster (our 2 plate caravan LPG stove performs both those functions), the hated iron, heaters, air conditioners, ceiling fans, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, tumble dryer, etc...  To be honest, the only "gadget" I do miss is a stand alone freezer - but our current solar set-up does not make provision for that 365 24-hours-a-day energy guzzler, and the contents of it will not understand a couple of overcast days ( = losing all power in the middle of the night when our battery storage falls too low).  Would be nice to freeze our excess garden produce though...
Simple non-electric kitchen implements -
they actually give me time - for myself :)
I revel in using my eco-friendly kitchen implements - a handheld beater / whisk, an egg timer which uses sand to tick by the seconds / minutes, a manual coffee plunger, a wooden orange / lemon squeezer, hand operated grinders, my ice trays which fit in the purpose designed section of my freezer, my precious solar oven and even my hand operated kitchen food processor, to name but a few - because they all actually give me more time!  And they reduce my use and demand of electricity.
My manual food processor - it works a treat :)
They give me time to dream, think, plan - to give of myself in order to create.

And these hand operated items are a damned sight easier to clean than similar modern time saving gadgets for which one sometimes almost needs a degree in order to dismantle.

Sure, those other appliances I could not run on our current limited solar power, but I don't miss them.  Not a single one on a single day.  And I wouldn't go back to "normal" in order to do so either.  I love the simplicity of our lifestyle, and can't comprehend why it took us so long to adopt it / revert back.  I feel somehow free-er.  Does that make sense? :)
A home grown salad - there is nothing to beat the taste
Similarly growing our own vegetables gives both Rman and I the assurance that what we are eating does not contain anything other than the water it took to encourage them to grow.  Even if they have a nibble out here, and a munch out there...  Becoming more and more self-sufficient can only make us wiser, more contented people.  However that self-sufficiency has a limitation for we both have a problem with killing animals - even if they are reared for consumption.  We're too soft LOL

Local knowledge is priceless, and ancient local knowledge even more so.  As the San people today keep their heritage alive through their story telling whilst living by choice in their harsh desert environment, so, too, should we be aware that future generations will be lost without our safeguarding the knowledge of their roots, their beginnings and their indebtedness to this planet.  Do we take the time to remember and to consider how to preserve all that knowledge in our hurly-burly days? 

We need to be aware of the consequences - our eco-footprint - which we are leaving behind for future generations to handle.  And we need to relearn how to treat ourselves, and our Earthly Home, in a gentler way.

After all, what is the rush?

Monday 11 February 2013

Gently, gently... (part 1)

Firstly, please join me in welcoming Wriggly Tin to our circle of friends.

I don't see a blog on wriggly Tin's profile, and I don't know where in the world you are, but "Welcome" :)  WT - I always acknowledge comments.  Maybe not on the same day, as I am dependent on our solar panels generating enough power for me to do so, but I will do so as soon as I'm able.


When I started I pledged to myself that on this blog I would be completely and utterly honest.  Even if it cast me in a bad light.  It is only through being honest that lessons can be learnt - and not necessarily by all of you out there, wherever you are, but also lessons that I need to learn, heed and rectify.

With that said, I'm probably going to offend some people today.  To make it even worse, this posting is in the form of a part 1 and a part 2...

So, let me start by apologizing to those of you I do offend.  Please - this is my honesty and these are my thoughts, and my thought patterns only.  I do not mean to sound high and mighty - as though I'm talking down from a lofty position - I have made mistakes in my life - and a big one recently - which went against my ethics, and caused me sleepless nights.


Because I panicked and put down a small dose of mouse poison.  Just one.  And when I went out the next morning to move it, it was all gone.  But the guilt that that action caused I cannot begin to describe.  And the burden lingers.  Because it seriously went against our eco-friendly ethos.

Tanya from Lovely Greens left this comment on my "Antsy" posting:

"It's true that ants are part of the eco-system but do you think that their numbers are out of balance and need to be checked?" 

Tanya, you unknowingly hit a nerve.  Initially, I agreed with you.  But then I paused for thought, and realized that I - little me - I have absolutely no right on earth to have that opinion.

A couple of weeks ago I was working in the garden, seeing the results of the different plagues (flies, mice and ants - as well as the odd locust here and there) which have invaded our land, crops, and in some cases, our home.  Since my guilt inducing action I have given much thought to how I can gently "move them off" and away from "my" space.

But - there again - is it "my space"?
Our smallholding - as we first viewed it in
March 2008
Are we, in fact, not the interlopers?  Just because we used money to "buy" the land, and we proceeded to build a structure on it, does it give us more rights than the zillions of creatures and animals who called it home before we did?

We have, thanks to the scientists, some idea of how every living creature interacts to make this "Earth".  But we don't know everything.  And, an imbalance, in our terms, may be for a specific beneficial reason in "their" terms.  Such as a shortage of some insect food for a predator in the coming months - that this current over abundance could be a signal for them to stock up / lay down the fat layer whilst the going is good in order to see them through a forthcoming possible dry period or harsh winter? Why should we view the imbalance as just a sign that "our place" is overrun with something or other?  Why do we end up with the feeling of how inconvenient it is - for us.

Inconvenient?!!?  Us?

How selfish we humans - the supposed superior, educated, tool-using race - have become.

We have become a race of whimps.  Whenever we come across something that offends / displeases or annoys us, we immediately think of eradicating the source.  Who gave us the right to mess around with EarthMother Nature and the bio-diversity of creatures which inhabit it?

Why, and when, did we stop paying attention to Earth?  To all the lessons that she has historically, does currently and is still willing to teach us - if we are prepared to listen?  When did we become the all-knowing, superior beings?

I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason.  Especially negative things.  Like, in this instance, a plague of creatures / insects.

And if I take the time to figure it out, then I will understand and accept what I am finding offensive.  And how to gently find the balance.  With no, or, at worst, the least amount of harm.

For instance - the blame for the field mice can be laid fairly and squarely at my door.  I encouraged their closeness by providing them with far too many places for them to set up home and build the four enormous nests we found - one was even inside a 3/4 full bag of cement.
The arrow points to the bottom shadecloth corner
of my veggie patch - still lush with broad beans

which I had planted along the side. That pile
of wood became 5 - 6 times the size - perfect
as a mousy hiding spot. And the pile of cement,
once covered in plastic to protect it from
the rain, became an even nicer housing
All the wood offcuts and scaffolding planks, which, for their convenience, the builders had left next to my shadecloth veggie house.  That was also where they stored the cement on pallets - all nicely wrapped in "gunplas" (builders plastic).  And the leftover pile of bricks which I got our casual labourer to stack on pallets again - right next to our garage?!

They were all perfect spots for a cold, wet and hungry field mouse to look on favourably.  Especially as they were all situated right next to my shadecloth veggie patch - I had even stocked the larder for them LOL  And encouraged snakes to venture close to the house as there were so very many mice for it to eat.

The ants - when we dug the holes and planted the fruit trees, and turned the earth to add compost to create a vegetable patch, we disturbed the soil in which they had their homes.  And we also provided them with their own larder - I mean, as an ant, wouldn't you prefer to chew on baby corn, or tender young lemon and fruit tree shoots, instead of the renosterbos and grass diet they had had for who knows how many years?

Through gently steering them (whatever or whoever they are) back to their natural habitat and source of nutrition - by discouraging them with sticky paper, or through removing the comfortable housing estate, which I provided, whilst regretfully allowing for a minimum sacrifice in their numbers - surely that is a better option than trying to drastically eradicate them in entirety????
Our precious, irreplaceable Home
Is our over reaction and need of instant eradication / gratification of what is actually an easily, in the grand scheme of things, controllable number of pests, not a strong indication and wake-up call that we are not heeding the fact that we are also causing this gentle slumbering giant we call Earth, ill health through our actions and thoughtlessness?  That Mother Earth is adequately showing us that we, through being greedy, careless, self-absorbed, completely selfish and gloatingly "superior", have caused her a possibly fatal ailment?  When are we going to wake-up and realize that our rushed, impulsive, irresponsible actions are having far reaching consequences for our planet...?  Consequences which we are leaving how ever many future generations there are still be be living on this planet, to sort out.

All because we feel we have a right - for an instant solution to our crop problems or lack of crops.  Are we any better than those to powerful corporations who seek to encourage us to plant and grow their genetically modified seeds?  Those seeds which have been developed to deter this pest, or that disease?

I'm feeling humbled, ashamed and embarrassed.  And thankful for the lesson.

And, since moving the wood piles, the gunplas covered cement and generally tidying up all the clutter, the mouse problem is down to one solitary mouse - as far as I can see.  Plus, in the last couple of weeks, every evening I am rewarded with the sight of not one, but two, small owls who swoop round our house and delight on perching on our roof apex - obviously spying out their next meal.  I am incredibly thankful that I did them no harm.

Friday 8 February 2013


Tell-tale signs of an ant colony
We have a plague of ants this summer - their nest holes are scattered everywhere round the garden - and the damage they are doing to the trees we are trying to grow for shade / crops (fruit trees) is disheartening.

They are even attacking the dogs if they linger too long i one spot.
Can you imagine how big the underground colony
is by looking at all the "doors" which are
scattered round the base of this tree

But, seriously, if it wasn't for the scale that they schlep onto the trees I would ignore them.  But between the scale and my sugar water bird feeder - I've decided I'm going to declare war.

The first bottle of sugar water which I hung from a branch in a nearby tree was completely consumed by them - to the point that they got giddy (with delight?) and climbed into the bottle and drowned.  I refilled the bottle and moved it to another tree and, at last, the resident sunbirds, Cape Whiteye's and even the weavers have finally found it, and are able to feast on the sweet nectar.  But after a couple of days I noticed the birds hopping about on the little perch - trying to get a drink, but not lingering long enough to complete the task.  On closer inspection I discovered that once again the ants were party crashers.  Nope - I'm not having any of that.
This tree is desperately sick with scale
thanks to the ants
Now, I know that the ants are part of a whole ecosystem, and that one of their functions is to get rid of dead creatures - as this field mouse skeleton MKid found on the driveway in December indicates.
The ants completely stripped the flesh from
this field mouse leaving just some skin and the
skeleton behind

So I didn't want to start spraying ant poison and kill off whole colonies.  Diatomaceous Earth works very well and I'm using that successfully in my shadecloth veggie patch, but with the wind we have, most of it gets blown away if it's applied to the rest of the garden.

So, what was my solution...

Well, if it's good enough to help with the indoor fly problem, then surely the sticky flystrip may come to the rescue again...?

I wrapped it round the branch on which I hung the bottle.  Gotcha, you little blighters!
The ants have no respect for their dead
buddies, do they.  They're just using them
as a bridge to get over the sticky fly paper.
But, clever little things that they are, the ants eventually managed to make a bridge of their dead compatriots and they merely climbed over them to get to the water.
They weren't happy with my solution - they massed
round the trunk to discuss their plan of attack.
In fact, they called out their big brothers / sisters
or so it seemed, as the latest ants are almost
double in size to the first lot that got trapped.
It doesn't bother me though, and I'm not giving up - I'm just going to keep an eye on the strips, and as they are cheap as chips, I'll just replace the "full" one whenever necessary.  And removing the fly strips at the end of summer is easy :)

At least it's a way of keeping the ant infestation under control without bringing out the big guns, or having to start chucking poison round the place.  An eco-friendly solution in my book... ;)

Or could this be more ammunition to use with RMan in the quest to have a couple of chickens...

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Harvest update

My tomato harvest this year may not have been the greatest - the field mice took care of that.

But I have been blessed with other goodies.  Swiss chard by the armfuls again.  And capsicum...
The aubergine's are busy producing...
And then all the Mother Hubbard (squash) varieties...
Baby butternut
I'm completely gob-smacked that the tiny "flower" is butternut shaped - toooo cute!  All my maternal instincts rose to the fore, and I rush out each morning to check on the progress of this little bit of presciousness LOL
Gem squash
...Gem squash - I haven't seen them appear on blogs overseas, but gem squash are brilliant!  Filled with mince, and topped off with grated cheese, or (for me) filled with mixed chopped vegetables and nuts and a bechamel sauce, or just dressed with a nob of butter and salt and pepper, or finally butter and a teaspoon of honey - kids love it that way.  Especially if you let them tuck in with a teaspoon :)

Gem squash are very easy to grow and are producing madly.  Thankfully they keep for quite a while, so we have time to consume the masses that are being produced.
 ...And zucchini have also been a great producer...
But the one above has me very confused.  This one was growing happily, without the flower having been fertilized.  It is about 19cms in length and inside there are no seeds whatsoever.  Is this normal?
Giant 38cm zucchini
And if you don't pick the zucchini in time then you end up with a 38cm marrow... LOL

The gem squash, pumpkins, zucchini and butternut were all grown happily together in the same beds with the corn and sunflowers.  Being totally honest, I must confess that I didn't prepare the holes for any of the squash adequately - next year they will be much deeper, with more compost, and a layer of straw covering them to help retain the water.

Next season I am going to focus more on gem squash and pumpkins and I'll give butternut another go - with fresh seeds.  Zucchini - they produce too many for us to happily consume in time, and they don't keep.  I prefer to grow produce that can keep, or that can be preserved, so that we can enjoy them when the garden is not producing in winter.
Giant red onion
Talking about giant - I left a red onion in situ from last season, figuring it was too small to do much with.  What I have ended up with is a 14cm red onion!
14cms red onion
I wonder how many tears it is going to produce when I cut into it...