"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

Thursday 28 March 2013

Privacy issues

"If thy eye offend thee..." Matthew 18:9

No, we're not going pluck it out, but we are going to block out what offends us...

So much for escaping to the country.  Enjoying the quiet and lebensraum (definition: space required for life, growth or activity) away from the invasion of privacy and hustle and bustle of city life.
We have also tried, unsuccessfully, to ask
our neighbour to remove the dead bushes
along the fence as the field mice have taken
up residence in them big time.  Why exacerbate
a mouse problem and encourage snakes
(He placed the bushes there originally
to prevent his free range chickens from 
visiting us - and our dogs)
Our neighbour, who has a smallholding which is one and a half times the size of ours, has, for some arbitrary reason, chosen to build his haphazard "house" almost on the border of our two properties.  Not only did he build his "dwelling" with absolutely no plans, foundation nor building inspections, but without any aesthetic consideration - for anyone, it would appear.
The position of the two houses on their
respective smallholdings
Added to which his place is becoming more and more cluttered with "spares".  which is all well and good if he was a tidy and organised person, but he's not.

We have tried, unsuccessfully, in a number of ways, to express our feelings in the politest and most "gentlemanly" ways possible via a friendly conversation or two (over the fence LOL)...

...so to 'block out' the "dwelling" and mess...

...we have planted a double row of Eugenia trees (which are taking far too long to grow to a decent height) and...
Eugenia trees
 ... a small grove of yellowwoods.
Yellowwoods planted to give some future privacy
They will all be our long term solution.

But... RMan has been busy again...

To finally resolve the problem in the short term, we ordered, and purchased, 1000 thin Black Wattle tree poles - 3.0 mtrs high.  By the time the wattle poles have degraded, the trees / bushes should be well enough established to take over the privacy solution.

No, it is not a cheap exercise, but it was the more cost effective of all those that we contemplated.

The poles were cleaned of side branches and stripped of bark...
Black wattle saplings stripped of side branches
and bark
... and they are proving ideal as a screen in that corner of our property.
There will be 23 sections in all - two more will
be added to the right hand side
The screen is not completely solid - there are enough spaces between the poles to allow strong winds through...
The screen after the first day of work
... and it is certainly effective as a visual / privacy barrier.

Hopefully, they, and the future trees, will also help mute the clatter of the noisy blades of old windmill he has just erected and the noise of both the 5.5Kw petrol and the 30KvA diesel generators that he has decided he cannot do without.  So much for going of grid...?!?!?!

A pity that our neighbourly relationship has had to sour to this extent.  But it is not pleasant to have the watchful eyes of our neighbour, his (new) wife and his two current live-in workers (he arbitrarily changes them for complete strangers every 2 - 3 months) apparently constantly trained our way - we are  aware of this because when we go outside we are inevitably called to the barbed wire fence for some reason or the other.  I also have a penchant for, and thoroughly enjoy, wandering outside in my gown (a flimsy one in summer LOL) to drink my first cup of rooibos tea in the early morning to hand water those plants which need it.  Not so pleasant with an audience.
Almost finished...
Thank goodness for the trailer that RMan
purchased a couple of years ago - it's been
put to more uses than we conceived of at the
time :)
On the plus side, we now have a bit more privacy - hopefully, a bit of a sound barrier, an effective wind break, and, lastly, we have also provided employment to the locals who cut down the alien Black Wattles, and who earned some well deserved income in the process.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Mung beans

Got my photo visibility back today, so I'm going to do a quick posting...

I have this ongoing love affair with my chickpeas and my mung beans, not only for their fresh sprouts, but also for their deliciousness in soups and stews.  Long "ongoing" as in I can't get enough of them.

Woe is me - my local shop ran out of Mung beans recently.  Not a train smash, I know, as they can order them in for me within two weeks.  Out in the country orders take a little longer LOL

But, that gave me a thought.

Can I, should I, shall I try - and grow my own Mung beans?

Yes, Yes.  And yes :)

So here we go...
They are the
cutest looking beans :)

I took a handful of the beans...

...and scattered them in a shallow trench right next to the porous pipe. (I have no idea what season they should be planted, but I planted them about 5 weeks ago.)
They have a typical bean appearance, but appear
to be quite a "dwarf" size plant - so far
Literally, within 2 - 3 days they were peeping above the ground - and such a darling little plant it is too.
Nature's Choice
mung beans
The flower is yellow...
A yellow flower which produces such a deep
green bean
...and I think I read somewhere that when the beans are harvested, they will be in a pod which contains mutliple beans.  I can't wait to see :)

To give you a little nutritional information on Mung beans I am quoting from Nature's Choice website - the only supplier of Mung beans in this country that I know of / have seen.  It states on the packet that the beans are a product of, and imported from, Australia - even more reason to grow my own, as I can obviate the transport footprint in so doing.  That will be a tremendous win :)

Anyway, here's the nutritional info on Mung beans:
Mung Beans can be sprouted, cooked or ground into a flour. They provide an important Protein source and when eaten together with cereals, provide complete Protein.
Sprouts should be allowed to grow for at least 3 to 4 days, for the nutrient availability increases with time and after 72 hrs of sprouting, the true digestibility of the Protein will be improved. Ask your Nature’s Choice stockist for a handout on Sprouting.
Nutritional Content
Mung beans are an important source of protein. In fact, being a legume, the mung bean supplies a higher proportion of protein than any other plant food can. When mung beans are combined with cereals, the result is a complete protein. Mung beans are also rich in lysine. Sprouted mung beans contain vitamin C that is not found in the bean.
In addition, mung beans supply substantial amounts of folate (625 mcg or 324% of the recommended daily allowance in one cup or about 207 grams), iron (78% of the RDA), zinc (37%), potassium (74%), magnesium (98%), copper (97%), manganese (107%), phosphorus (76%), and thiamin (86%). Mung beans are also rich in fibre – just one cup of uncooked beans supplies 34 grams or 135% of the RDA. In addition, they are low in saturated fat and low in sodium, and they contain zero cholesterol.
The nutritional composition of mung beans is as follows:
Nutritional Info
Sprouted, Raw
Sprouted, Cooked
340 Calories
30 Calories
21 Calories
Total Fat
More Info
The mung bean may be one of the smallest in the entire legume family, but it packs a lot of punch. It is especially popular in Asian countries, having been eaten as food there for hundreds and even thousands of years, but it is gaining popularity even in Western countries. Although in the West mung beans are probably most commonly consumed in the form of bean sprouts or Indian dhal curry, they are quite versatile. Flour made from it is used to make noodles, breads and biscuits. The beans make good soups, stews, curries and stir fries. In Asian countries especially they are even used in confectionery.
Mung beans are nutritious. They are rich in protein, vitamin C, folic acid, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorus and thiamin. They are also rich in fibre yet low in saturated fat and low in sodium, and they contain zero cholesterol.
Because they are so nutrient dense, mung beans offer a host of health benefits for the immune system, the metabolism, the heart and indeed every other organ of the body, cell growth, protection against free radicals and diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Description and Origin
The mung bean (vignia aureus) is native to India, where it still forms an important part of the human diet. It is also cultivated in other warm regions, such as Indonesia, China, the Philippines (where it is known as mongo), Australia, South America and parts of the United States. The bean is small and cylindrical. The colour of the skin can be bright or dark green, red, brown or yellow. Mung beans can be split or ground, and can be used peeled or whole. They are sweet, soft and easy to digest. Being part of the legume family, they have all the general characteristics of legumes.
Using Mung Beans
Mung beans can be sprouted, cooked or ground to make flour. In some Asian countries, such as the Philippines, it is made into a paste, sweetened and used as a filling in pastries, and in some countries it is even made into ice cream and ice lollipops. A traditional Indian dish that is also very popular in Western countries is dhal. These beans also make good soups, stews and curries. The flour made from mung beans can be used to make noodles, breads and biscuits. Sprouted mung beans (usually just known as bean sprouts) can be stir fried and added to a meal as a vegetable or used as a filling in spring rolls.
One expert suggests certain mild processing techniques that actually improve the quality of the mung bean. For example, mung beans contain enzyme suppressants, indigestible carbohydrate varieties and substances that interfere with ion absorption. Soaking, cooking and sprouting reduce the concentrations of these suppressants. Sprouting in particular results in a highly beneficial food, since it reduces the quantities of raffinose, phytic acid and tannin while increasing the quantities of glucose, galactose, sucrose, folic acid, vitamin C and inorganic phosphorus.
Health Benefits
Mung beans boast several of the important B complex vitamins. The star vitamin, as we have seen above, is folate. This B vitamin helps to lower the risk of heart disease, fights birth defects, contributes to normal cell growth, assists in the metabolism of proteins and is essential for the formation of red blood cells and for healing processes in the body. Another important B vitamin is thiamin, which the body needs to help ensure proper functioning of the nervous system. Thiamin is also important for releasing energy from carbohydrates.
Manganese is a trace mineral. In other words, it occurs in small quantities, but the body also only requires small quantities of it. Manganese is a key nutrient for energy production and antioxidant defenses. It is also essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and is even believed to help nourish the brain and nerves.
Magnesium, nature’s own tranquilizer, helps the veins and arteries in the body to relax. This action lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies show that a deficiency of magnesium is not only associated with heart attack but that immediately following a heart attack, a lack of magnesium promotes free radical injury to the heart. Experts therefore recommend magnesium-rich foods such as mung beans and other legumes for a healthy heart.
The body needs copper in order to be able to absorb iron. Copper is also involved in the metabolism of protein and is an essential partner in the healing processes in the body.
Iron is known to build resistance to stress and disease and is essential for the formation of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to every cell of the body. Boosting iron supplies with beans and other legumes is a good idea generally, but it is particularly good for menstruating women, who are more at risk of suffering from iron deficiency. A major additional benefit is that, unlike red meat, another source of iron, mung beans and other legumes are low in calories and virtually fat-free. Iron is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. Pregnant women and lactating mothers require more iron than usual, and so do growing children and adolescents.
Phosphorus may be considered calcium’s working buddy. The two need each other in order to be effective. Phosphorus is also needed for building healthy teeth and bones.
Potassium is important for maintaining the acid-alkaline balance in the blood and essential for muscle contraction and a normal heart beat. Studies have shown that it helps control blood pressure and keep it at a normal level.
Zinc is a well-known immune system booster and is believed to be helpful in combating male infertility. Studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (September 2004) have also shown that there is a correlation between a low consumption of zinc and osteoporosis of the hip and spine. Zinc further aids healing processes in the body, growth and tissue repair.
Like all legumes, mung beans are an exceptionally rich source of fibre, better than fruits and vegetables, and better even than whole grains. The soluble fibre in mung beans captures cholesterol in the intestines, keeps it out of the blood stream and carries it out of the body, making mung beans one of the best foods for lowering cholesterol. Add to this the low to negligible proportions of fat, sodium and cholesterol, and you have the ideal food for helping to reduce risk for such conditions as heart disease, cancer, digestive tract disorders, overweight and obesity, and diabetes and other blood sugar disorders.

Further information on Mung beans can be found here: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/mung-beans-nutritional-value.html

I don't know why I haven't thought of growing my own before now.  Wonder what else I could grow...

Monday 25 March 2013

Blogger photo problems

Just a quick posting to do some research.

Is anyone else having problems viewing photo's on other peoples blogs, as well as when posting on your own?

Like this:
This should be a screen
capture of my blog, but
even this is not being
displayed correctly - at
least not for me
Please let me know if all you see is a small icon, or whether you see the screen capture, and whether you can see pics on my blog.

I am currently in correspondence with a few people on Blogger Forum, and would like to let them know if anyone else is experiencing this problem too.

Please could you also let me know what operating system you use to view / write your blog entries via and whether you are using a Windows, Apple, etc. based system.

Thanks :)

Thursday 21 March 2013


Jane of Rational Preparedness has honoured me with a "Liebster" Award

This award is given to those who have less than 300 followers.  The basics of this award are as follows:

Share 5 random facts.
Answer 5 questions which have been put to you.
Pose 5 new questions
And, finally, once the "Liebster" Award has been awarded to someone, that person has, in turn, to nominate other blogs, so with no further ado, I nominate the following blogs in no particular order:

1. Quinn of Comptonia
2. Linni of Linni at Home
3. Diana of Elephant's Eye
4. Dan of Frugal Living UK
5. My last nomination is to a blog that does not currently exist.  I nominate tantalising labrat's "HoneyBee Recyclers" blog.   Brat, I would dearly love you to share the story of how you came to recycle, and what you have discovered now that you do.  It is also a wonderful way of getting encouragement and inspiration from all the other bloggers out there.  Who knows, you may inspire someone else to take that leap of faith :)

My questions to the above bloggers are:
1. If you could change one thing in your life what would that be?
2. What do you wish for your (actual or potential) grandchildren?
3. Having read of our journey, would you, honestly, consider living off-grid?
4. If you had to leave the country in which you now reside, which country would you wish to relocate to?
5. What do you believe you bring to others' lives?

Five random facts:
1. I genuinely love helping others - however and whenever possible.
2. As I'm "aging" I'm getting frustrated with what I can no longer do...  
3. I love rising early to enjoy the quiet, crisp, fresh morning air
4. I love expanding my knowledge - for whatever good it may do me now or in the future.
5. I live for today - yesterday is the past, and tomorrow is unknown.

And finally, to answer the 5 questions Jane posed:

1. What motivated you to have an interest in preparedness?
I reckon that I am generally a positive person, who tries to look on the bright side of most situations.  I am, nonetheless, an individual who prefers to anticipate the worst, and take steps to ensure that I can handle whatever happens.  Having the WWW, and especially blogging, has been a tremendous boon as it has assisted research and preparation - to all those thoughtful people out there who have taken the time to share their preparation via their blogs - I thank you.  Reading about your steps, and noting that which applicable to me / us, has, in most cases, been a terrific help and an inspiration :)

2. Are you a cat or a dog person?
Definitely a dog person, but, due to the invasion of field mice, I have a feeling that I may have to become a cat person.

3. What do you wish I would ask you?
Do you believe that honesty - be that on a personal blog, in the business sphere or in politics / politicians - is a virtue which is in short supply in today's age and which deserves to be re-elevated to it's rightful position?

4. If you were to write a book, spurred on by your blog, what might it be called?
I would entitle it "Eco-Footprint - South Africa" as that is where I live, and I feel that encapsulates exactly what I am passionate about, what interests me,
and what I am, through my blog, trying to promote awareness of.

5. Would you say that blogging really helps to extend and to hone writing skill?
Yes - and no.  Whether I have written a letter, a card, a school essay (albeit many, many years ago LOL) I have always tried to write as though I am actually talking to someone face to face.  In essence I have a conversation in writing :)  Having been an avid reader most of my life has also helped increase my vocabulary and general knowledge.  Blogging continues that increase in general knowledge.

Jane - this has been fun.  Thank you :)

Monday 18 March 2013

Excess harvest

My garden always produces more aubergines than we can eat grilled, covered with tomato sauce and melted cheese.  So, I was thrilled to read a method of preserving excess aubergines and thought I have to try it.

The recipe is as follows:

1 kg aubergines (eggplant)
2 - 3 cloves of garlic - sliced
450mls white wine
250mls white wine vinegar
Sprig of fresh herbs - I used oregano and rosemary
1 - 2 chillis - dried or fresh - chopped
Olive oil

Take the aubergines, given them a rinse to remove any sand, and then peel.  Layer the slices in a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt.
Aubergines - sliced and salted - and left
overnight.  I forgot to peel them so I

did so after they had sat overnight
Cover with foil and place something heavy on top - to help "squeeze" out the excess liquid and remove the bitter taste.  Leave this for 4 - 5 hours, or overnight.
I weighed the salted aubergines down
with a container of water
Place the aubergine slices in a clean tea towel, and, wrapping them up and twisting the towel, squeeze out as much liquid as possible.  (RMan had to help here - twisting the one side, whilst I firmly held on to the other...)
The salted, and then the boiled, aubergines
were well wrung out with a clean tea towel

Then, bring the white wine vinegar and the white wine (slurping a mouthful just to check that the wine is OK) to the boil, add the aubergine pieces and allow to boil for 5 minutes.
Boiling the aubergines for 5 minutes
Again, do the whole wringing out in the towel bit - be aware that it is going to be hot!!  Then layer, tightly, in a jar together with 3 - 4 sliced garlic cloves, chopped chilli, and a sprig of rosemary and oregano. 
Galrlic, rosemary, oregano and chopped
chilli's - and more garlic LOL
Once the jar is filled, top up with olive oil.  Carefully thump the filled jars on the counter top to remove any trapped air bubbles.
The finished product - we'll have a tasting
after a couple of weeks :)
Ensure that the aubergines are covered with oil then close tightly.  They should be stored in the fridge for 2 - 3 weeks before tasting.  Use within 6 months.

We haven't tried them yet, but they look delicious :)

Thursday 14 March 2013

The kitchen counter this time...

RMan removed the counter top before I could take a "before" pic - so, unfortunately, this one will have to do...
The kitchen counter is just visible on the left
hand side of this pic
You remember that I scored a kitchen counter (or two) from Freecycle.
Perfectly good wood...
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the wood - no woodworm, no rot - it was just a bit scruffy, especially in the joins of the planks which were used in it's construction, and it also had a couple of burn marks.
...just a little scruffy, and the silicone joins
needed replacing
RMan and I weren't happy with the (remaining) silicone filler they had used either - it had seen just those few too many meals prepared on it, and wasn't clear coloured anymore...

...in fact, we felt it was downright unhealthy.

So, RMan got himself into gear, and totally stripped the counter - reducing it to planks of wood.  He then re-siliconed the joins as he re-assembled it, and he (and I LOL - I'm getting braver with regards power tools) proceeded to plane it down...
This is the opening of my tiny caravan LPG stove
...with an electric planer and then a sander, both of which work within our solar power parameters...
Planing in progress...
...and that soon got rid of the nasty marks...
"Out, out, damned spot..."
... and, after I had filled in whatever small gaps still remained in the joins with wood-filler and sanded that down, I gave the whole thing 6 - 7 coats of wood sealer - top and bottom - and I now have what appears to be a spanking brand new kitchen counter, on which I am finally happy to prepare meals.
As we could only use part of the two counters, the balance of the wood became my kitchen wall shelves :)
Very necessary shelves were produced from the
balance of the wooden counter
And to think that if I hadn't taken it, it could've ended up in landfill, or as firewood...!

Another well deserved notch in your belt, RMan :)

Monday 11 March 2013

Sunny times...

I have found the perfect summer and winter spot to set up my SunCook solar oven - on the wooden deck outside our bedroom Happy Doors.  The side wall protects it from being blown away by the wind, and it is not too far from the kitchen - certainly no steps to have to carry boiling hot pots up...
The perfect sheltered spot for my solar oven
It's become so normal to use my solar oven that it's been a while since I last posted what I have cooked in it.  So I thought I'd share a few - just a few - of the goodies that I have cooked in my solar oven this summer...
Solar baked Christmas cakes
Firstly, I made our Christmas cakes again - not only for the family, but for every neighbour in our area :)  I think I made 14 in total LOL

RMan seriously enjoys a solar roast chicken...
Solar cooked whole chicken
...which literally falls apart when it's cooked.  All the liquid you see in the pan is the goodness that has come out of the chicken - absolutely no water was added to the pot.
Solar cooked chickens are so tender that
they just fall apart.  All the liquid in the
pot has come from the chicken -
concentrated goodness that makes an
excellent instant gravy
I love that my oven is big enough to fit not just one dish in, but two or three, depending on what I am cooking.  Here I made a pot of ostrich mince sauce for spaghetti bolognaise, beetroot, and a pot of tomatoes, from the garden - I always keep a pot of cooked tomatoes in the fridge - to make a quick sauce, add to a soup, or to blitz up into a dipping sauce.

Here you can see the pots as they went into the oven... 
The oven is large enough to multi-task -
beetroot, tomatoes and a pot of
ostrich mince sauce for spaghetti
... and here are the finished products :)
Cooked by the sun with no hassle
Following my honesty policy on this blog, I have always maintained that it is not possible to burn anything in the solar oven.  And, as far as pots of food, that stands true.

But recently we experienced a heatwave.  At 5.22p.m. in the afternoon it was still 38oC outside...
The temperature outside at 5.22p.m. was
38oC ...
...(and thanks to our double glazing) it was a comfortable 27.5oC inside the house.
Thanks to our double glazing, the temperature
inside at the same time of day
I had placed some halved tomatoes into the oven earlier to make sun-dried tomatoes.  I was so comfortable inside that I clean forgot about the tomatoes, and they burnt!
Oh no!!  My sun-dried tomatoes are burnt to
To a crisp!  As you can see on the thermometer, the temp inside, even with the lid propped open, was at almost 150oC - at 5.30p.m.!!!
A peek at the thermometer - and this is with
the lid propped slight ajar to allow the
tomatoes to dry...
Far too hot to sun dry anything...

So, lesson learnt.  If ever I sun dry anything again, I must keep my eye on the internal temperature.  Until RMan gets round to making me a solar dryer, that is...

That is very high on my wish list.  Very, very high LOL

Friday 8 March 2013

Bees first, honey second...

I subscribe to Milkwood.net and get their latest updates on my reader.

When this arrived I was excited - not because I keep bees - but because for once the focus was on the bees, not on what we can obtain directly from them in the form of their honey.
Photo source:
http://milkwood.net/2013/03/05/the-sun-hive -experiments-in-natural-beekeeping/
We all know where we would be without the bees...
Photo source:
http://milkwood.net/2013/03/05/the-sun-hive-experiments-in-natural- beekeeping/
... and to make a hive that is so beautiful...
Photo source:
http://milkwood.net/2013/03/05/the-sun-hive- experiments-in-natural-beekeeping/
... and so similar to a natural bee hive, is brilliant, I reckon :)

And I just love the fact that the hives are woven.  Naturally, they'd need to be protected somewhat from the damp, otherwise I could forsee their falling apart pretty quickly.

But - going more natural - in all things.  Perfect, I reckon :)

And all it took was some lateral thought LOL