"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

Sunday 28 April 2013

Recycling for garden use

I schlepped some junk along when we moved to our smallholding last year.  But, I reckon it was useful junk.

For instance, I have never yet successfully grown garlic, nor oranges.  And, when I purchase them at the shop they come in plastic net bags.  Which I keep.

Why would I keep them?


They're very useful :)

Here you can see the assortment that I've collected.
I can't throw these away - I'm not sure if they are
recyclable, and they would take ages to breakdown

if they landed up in landfill
Being of a tidy mind, I had to sort them by colour LOL  The I reserved one of each of the nets, and shoved the rest inside.  Tied off the open end, and there you have it - a perfectly usable scraper - be that for cleaning paint filled hands, dog bowls, or scraping clinging mud from garden tools or boots...
Recycled plastic net bags
... and stored next to my outside sink, I even use one to scrub the earth of freshly harvested vegetables - leaving all the mud and mess outside :)
I have always had an outside sink like this -
it's perfect for keeping the mess outside 

and / or for washing smelly dog blankets...
But, with my latest purchase of what I thought was local garlic, what did I spy at exactly the moment I was tossing the label into the recycling bin?
I didn't read the label properly - this has a potentially
ENORMOUS transport footprint.  Bloody cheek - the
ruddy packers are to shnoop to print separate local labels,
or at the very least, cross out that which doesn't apply
so that one knows exactly what one is buying from where.
Horrors - it says in bold print "PRODUCT OF SOUTH AFRICA", and then in smaller print below it continues... "and/or CHINA and/or SPAIN and/or ARGENTINA and/or EGYPT".


Thank goodness my first (hopefully successful) garlic crop is in the ground, and I should be able to harvest it at the end of the year.  I certainly don't need to buy any food that has such enormous food miles attached to it!

Friday 26 April 2013

Freezer storage

I have been unsuccessful in dehydrating the excess Swiss Chard from my veggie patch.  So the only way I can store it is in my small freezer, below my fridge.  Which has very limited space at the best of times :)

But, I think I came up with a solution of sorts.
A lump of blanched Swiss Chard -
much too bulky for my freezer
Here is a portion in a Ziploc bag.  Storing things like blanched vegetables in a Ziploc is not a bad thing - as they are plain vegetables.  Use them once - then rinse, dry and use again :)
Distribute the Swiss Chard evenly
throughout the bag
I spread the Swiss Chard out in the bag and squished out as much air as I could...
Squeeze out the air, and then roll up firmly
... then, holding it firmly I rolled up the Ziploc bag, and, whilst holding it, closed the zipper.
Three to four "flattened" bags will now take up
the space of one clumpy bag of Swiss Chard
Opening it out again, the space it will now take up in my freezer is at least 70% reduced.

Who needs to run a vacuum sealing machine and use all that unnecessary electricity ? :)

And - I am experimenting with freeze dried Swiss Chard - more on that in a future post.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Thought for Thursday 1

I subscribe to TUT (Totally Unique Thoughts) which sends me a daily totally free-of-charge e-mail with a positive message with which to start my day - along the lines of "thoughts become things".

To quote from their "About" page:

"What We Believe
TUT (Totally Unique Thoughts) believes that everyone's special, that every life is meaningful, and that we're all here to learn that dreams do come true. We also believe that "thoughts become things," and that imagination is the gift that can bring love, health, abundance, and happiness into our lives.
What We Do 
Through our products and events we remind others as much as ourselves of life’s fundamental truths: that life is magical, that we are adored and powerful, and that dreams really do come true."

It is a free service, and I have to tell you that sometimes the little messages can be amazingly appropriate.  There are "Wordless Wednesday's" and "Friday Funnies" in blogland, so, I thought I'd start a "regular" posting - every so often on a Thursday - "Thoughts on Thursday" - to share those particular TUT e-mails messages that uplift, inspire and motivate me.  Sometimes, one can't see the wood for the trees.  Perhaps the thought of the day that I share may be just what someone else needs too?  :)  And putting them on my blog will also ensure that I have a spot to come back to in order to remind myself in those "grey" times - if, and when, I need to :)

This was what landed in my inbox recently.  

Misty winter sunrise.  I reckon there will always
be light in the darkness if one takes the time to

really look for it

"It's part of nature's checks and balances, Dani, that while there may be times when you think you can't even help yourself, precisely at such moments there will always be someone else nearby... that you can help, instead.

Which, I think you know, is actually one of the fastest ways to help yourself."

It reminded me of the passage from Luke 6:38 :

"Give and it shall be given unto you;  a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.  For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return."

It's true - Sharing is caring :)

Monday 22 April 2013

1000 KwH of solar power

On Saturday at 3.15p.m. we hit a total consumption of 1000.9KwH on our Owl Electricity monitor.

The number in the bottom right corner indicates
we have consumed a total of 1000.9 KwH of solar
produced electricity
That equates to .9 tonnes of green house gases which were expelled into the atmosphere.  I forgot to take a photo of that on Saturday, so here is one from 48 hours later which shows .9027 tonnes
In the bottom right hand corner of the Owl
electricity monitor you can see our total
green house gas emissions from the electricity
produced by our solar panels - .9027 tonnes
We have taken 9 months, 20 days and 18 hours to consume what we would've used within 2 months in our town house.  Using 500KwH a month over the same period of time would've cost us ZAR4785.00 which means we are R4785.00 closer to having free electricity - with no increase in the electricity price amortised in :)
Escom's excess power warning
And we never have to worry when this warning comes on to the TV screen - Escom's warning that South African's are using more power than this parastatal can provide.

Love it - we just absolutely love it.

Through using only the power which has been produced by our solar panels (and stored in our deep cycle batteries) for lights, PC, printer and laptop, charging phones and cameras, fridge, TV and MNet decoder, plus charging the one deep cycle battery which runs our converted car radio / CD player...
The LED lights above my kitchen sink
...and the 7volt 12Amp battery which provides power to the LED lights above my kitchen sink, using my solar oven, manual appliances, gadgets and human power, life has been extremely comfortable, and, apart from the occasional wait for the batteries to reach sufficient charge on those overcast periods, life has carried on pretty much as normal.

Doing without a vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, chest freezer (the only thing I miss to be completely honest) electric toaster, kettle, geyser and iron, all those electric kitchen implements and food processors, to name just a few that I can think of on the spur of the moment, has been a breeze.
My hand operated coffee, herb and pepper grinders
An old fashioned  broom and mop, hand operated kitchen implements, using my solar oven to cook in and the small old caravan LP gas stove for heating tea / coffee water / cooking food / making toast under the tiny grill - yes, they all take a little longer, but - what's the rush?  I actually think that I have more time in my day now, than I ever did in the town house with all those aforementioned modern appliances which have supposedly been invented to save you time.

Do you know anyone who has time to spare?  Makes you think, doesn't it :)

RMan summed it up the other day.  He said to me that he is very happy and very comfortable here.  With both of us in the same mindset, it doesn't get better than that :)

Saturday 20 April 2013

Re-using broken pallets

Naturally, all buildings sites are left with a huge amount of waste.  Ours was no different.

Amongst the broken bricks, broken roof tiles, large quantities of wasted cement (what is it with builders, don't they know much cement they should mix at a time in order to minimise wastage???), scraps of wood, I was fortunate enough to find I had 6-odd wooden pallets in various stages of disrepare.  Our brick supply company returned (over 180km trip!?!) to the site after the builders were finished, in order to collect any pallets which were still viable.  The rest - they left them for me :)

Great - I KNOW exactly what I want them for...

... my compost heap.

We live in an area of hectic winds, and incredible heat in the summertime.  So creating an open pile of compost is just not an option.

RMan and John, the local labourer, measured out according to my requirements ;)
RMan and John measuring out the future compost

Then, it was up to John and his trusty "koevoet" (crowbar without the turned bit at the end) to make the holes for the support poles, and, once the poles were in situ, using the "koevoet" again to firmly pack the soil back round the poles.
A "koevoet" is the only way to dig a hole in our
summer baked ground
Trust me - this was h-a-r-d work.  I have the greatest admiration for John - he doesn't seem to feel the heat (perhaps the constant flow of iced juice helps), his back never seems to give a twinge, and he has incredible strength.

Any hole which needs to be dug in summer can only be dug using the "koevoet" - be that for a pole, or a tree - any hole.  Our gound is so hard there is no other way to break through.
John, using a tin to scoop out the soil he has
loosened with the "koevoet" 
Then RMan bolted the pallets to the poles, and the end result is...
My shadesloth covered compost heap
... a shadecloth covered compost heap - the shadecloth is required to keep the compost from blowing away, and to keep some moisture in the compost.
Lovely, lovely compost :)
We cheated - as we required compost for the winter vegetable beds, we purchased 2 mtrs3 of compost from a local supplier.  But any garden refuse that we had was placed at the bottom of the compost pile.  Hopefully, by next spring the garden refuse will have broken down, and will be usable.

So, instead of those precious pieces of wood being cast aside to rot away over time (if they had been left to lie in the open) I gained a compost heap made from pallets.  I'm a happy little puppy :)

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Mung bean update...

Welcome to Maggie Grey - thanks for hitting the followers button :)
Maggie, I can't see if you have a blog - please - let me know if I am wrong.


Just a quick posting to show you what the mature Mung beans plants look like.
Knee high Mung bean plants
The Mung bean plant is seriously not a tall plant - at maximum these are knee high.
All the Mung bean pods are situated on the very
tip of each "branch"
And the pods form right at the tip of the branch - two or three pods per tip. Really weird for a bean - but I'm looking forward to harvesting them :)

And, as I couldn't resist opening one, here is what the inside looks like.
Inside a Mung bean
With it's "furry" lining, it is, to me, very reminiscent of a broad bean pod.  The taste?  Unadulterated sprout - much stonger, sort of cross between a pea and a bean.  And quite delicious.  And, like broad beans, quite a mission to extract from the pod.  Definitely worth it though.

It would appear that they even fooled the mice - for none of the pods have been touched...
The seedlings in one of my broad bean / pea beds - all
poking above the ground :)  There is even a "rogue"
tomato plant on the middle left of the pic which is still
My broad beans and peas are coming along nicely, and I've kept on top of the non-sprouting ones and replaced them with new seeds, so I should have a reasonable harvest this year.  Can't wait :)

Monday 15 April 2013

Turn, turn, turn...

To everything,
(The Byrds Dec 1965)

LOL - I'm showing my age...

This song immediately sprang to mind when I spied last nights' sunset, which was a spectacular 270° one, starting in the east...
East view
... round to the north...
North view
... finishing in the west :)
West view
... and this mornings sunrise.
Sunrise - 6.48 a.m. on a wonderful crisp morning,
and all is well in our part of the world
These kind of sunrises and sunsets only happen when we are heading for a rainy spell - we live in a winter rainfall area.  Aren't the changes in season wonderful - each have their own special moments - and each are so vital in order to appreciate the others.

I hope you enjoyed sharing the past 24 hours with me :)

Saturday 13 April 2013

Pumpkin matters

Rugby rules in this house again, so I have the time (and power) to blog - God bless Saturday afternoons LOL

In South Africa a popular method of storing summer pumpkins is on a (low) roof to harden them off for use them during the winter months. Unfortunately, at it's lowest point, our roof is in excess of 3.0 mtrs above the ground, and at angle of 45°, that is not a solution for me.

I also have limited freezer space (below my fridge), and ditto limited storage space for canned / preserved goods.  So I had to come up with another solution.

And I have.

I peeled the entire pumpkin we were having with our dinner, removed the stringy bits...
Prepared pumpkin
...placed the skin in my worm farm, and put the seeds to one side for use next summer.
Pumpkin peels to feel the worms, and pumpkin seeds
left to dry so that I can plant them next summer :)
The remainder of the pumpkin which we didn't have with our dinner and which I wanted to preserve was weighed - 981 gms.
981 gms of fresh pumpkin
The slices were approximately 1 cm thick and I carefully arranged them on my (cake) rack so that they fitted below the stainless steel food cover.
Protecting my pumpkin pieces
To ensure that flies nothing found it's way onto the pumpkin, I draped a lacy food net over the stainless steel one, and tucked it underneath the rack.
Seriously protecting my pumpkin pieces - I
probably went overboard, but rather safe than
sorry :)
Then I put the pumpkin on the rack on the front patio table - now that winter is on it's way, the sun is falling perfectly on the table for this experiment.
The early morning sun is just beginning to touch
the table. I reckon that the protective black cover
on the table helped the process
This is what they looked like after one day
Day 1 of the dehydrating process
And this is at the end of Day 2
Day 2
Three days later they were perfectly dehydrated.  981gms became 86 grams! A perfect solution for storing the pieces of the 8 pumpkins I have in a large recycled mayonnaise bottle - and just think how much shelf space is saved.
All it took was 3 days to perfectly dehydrate the
pumpkin slices
But - I couldn't resist.  Would they rehydrate properly?  So, you guessed it, a piece went into a small bowl of water, and this is what it looked like the next morning...
I'm happy with the rehydrated pumpkin piece
I reckon that was a successful experiment.

And a perfect experiment to encourage RMan to use the wood we purchased and make me that dratted solar dryer for next summer... ;)

Wednesday 10 April 2013


My worst nightmare came true the other day.

As I stepped to go outside the back door I spied this on the floor.
Oh dear.  Oh, dearie, dearie me...
Now, I'm no rocket scientist, but I knew immediately what this meant...

...we had been invaded by a dreaded field mouse.  Not content with scoffing 75 - 80% of the tomatoes which I tried to grow this past summer, they now want the little I have managed to save - even the green ones!  Not on your nelly!!!!

"RMaaaaaan".  "I need you, and I need you NOW!!!!"

He slowly ambled towards my panicked voice.  I pointed.

He looked down.

Then he looked at me.

"You need me to pick that up?  I didn't do it..." he said plaintively.

Hiding a grin, I said, "No - I can pick it up, but... do you know what this means?"

Blank look.  Obviously not on my wavelength at all.

"That green tomato was sitting on the counter behind us.  Now it's on the floor. And it would appear to have nibbles taken out of it" I explained.

"So", RMan said.  "I swear it wasn't me."

Sometimes my patience lasts, and sometimes it wears thin.  This time it lasted.

"What this specimen on the floor means is that we have a field mouse in the house.  And I need you to be a Hunter whilst I gather up the mess."

Did I hear him sigh?

Ignoring the sound, I replied: "But - you need to wait until after I have "gathered", because I'm not leaving my feet on the same level as that rodent - they need to be firmly placed on the seat of a chair, whilst my behind is on the table, and from whence I will direct operations."  I'm excellent at delegating, aren't I? :)

What followed was hysterical.

The idiot mouse obviously wanted to be caught, because we heard a munching coming from under the fridge.

Long stick in hand (is he also afraid of mice?) RMan started gingerly poking under the fridge.  That cause the rodent to scarper off towards my open kitchen shelves (note to RMan - "Doors in front of Shelves, please - tomorrow!").   As it scarpered, Mandy, MKid's dog, spotted it, and gave chase.

Ha!  Now RMan was braver.  He had a hunting buddy.  Pots and pans got tossed, dog dived under the shelves - so boisterously that the shelves and their contents got dislodged.

Crash. Bang. Clatter.  No matter, Mandy was on a mission.

Bless her if she didn't end up catching the field mouse.

Good, good, good girl :)

No sooner had she got it, than she ran outside.

Good, good, good girl :)
Can you see the body and tail hanging out of her
But, now she had it, what to do with it?

She obviously (thankfully) wasn't hungry - thank goodness - so she lay down next to it.  I reckon it was frozen with fear, because it just sat next to her.
Mandy is entranced with her little "toy"
She spied it out for a while, and then got up and pawed it.  The poor little mouse (it's a "poor little mouse" now, please note but inside my house it's a "damned rodent") made a few tentative attempts to escape, and each time Mandy leapt on it.  What a wonderful game!

Thankfully (for the mouse) Mandy got distracted by our neighbour arriving home, and ran off barking.  The mouse - it made it's eventual safe escape and went home to tell it's (probable extended) family what kind of day it had had.  Hopefully Mandy has put the fear of dogs into it, and that it doesn't follow it's (urine) trail back inside the house...

I don't do mice inside.  Ever!

And, everytime Mandy hears me take a pot, the noise reminds her of the hunt, and she comes running over to find out if I ned her assistance this time...

Saturday 6 April 2013

Grey water bed update

Firstly, a very warm welcome to two new followers - well, one is now official and that is Quinn from New England.  Her fascinating blog, Comptonia, often with wonderful photo's, can be found here.
The other new follower is Frans Smith, who doesn't seem to have a blog - please correct me if I'm wrong, Frans.

Welcome to both of you - and thank you for hitting the followers button.  I always reply to comments, but given our solar power limitations, especially when it's overcast, they may be a tad delayed.


RMan is currently watching his rugby, and I have purposely stayed off the laptop, and patiently waited the whole day so that I have the power to post this evening.  Not an easy feat, but I did it :)  (Honestly, I cheated and read a couple of blogs on RMan's iPhone, but it's not the same, and commenting is not the easiest.)

I thought I'd give you an update on our grey water pond.

You recall what it used to look like...
A work in progress...
... I think I took this pic on July / August last year.

Well, this is what it is looking like now...
The plants are thriving, and the birds, after
supping their fill of the sugar water,
retire to the pond plants to forage for
insects.  Can you spot the sunbird on the
I guess the homemade grey water filter that I installed in November is doing it's job, because those plants look very happy to me :)
My grey water filter basics  - if you want info on
how I made this, it is detailed here
But, there is one other benefit to our grey water pond, and that is what else it attracts.
Can you see what else is loving the grey water
We've hung the sugar water bottle in the "temporary" wattle tree next to the pond, and the birds love it.  "Temporary" as we have another tree growing next to the pond, but that will take a while to provide shade, and support for the bottle.  So the wattle stays, and when we remove it we'll chop it up so that it provides wood for our stove :)

It took me 6 months to find the right spot for the sugar water - the spot that the birds liked - but, judging from the numerous species which are drinking from it, it's a hit.  I have even found weavers plugging their thick beaks to the little spout - I have no idea how they manage to suck up the water.
This is a close up - and you can see the
weaver bird swallowing it's mouthful
of sugar water :)

Another one of the birds for whom the sugar water is intended are the brightly coloured sunbirds.
This sunbird was in full chirp as I took the photo
It's too cute to see them have their slurps, and then sit on the little perch and sing like crazy - I reckon they're calling their mates to the "watering hole".
A close up of the sunbird -
nature's combinations of colour
are totally breathtaking!
(Note the fly strips which have
successfully kept the ants away
from the water :)
Unfortunately, my Kodak camera is too basic to get proper close-ups, and thus I haven't any pics of all the other birds which frequent the bottle, but I am amazed at the different number of birds who use it.  Amazed and thrilled to be of assistance to these helpful little creatures :)

Friday 5 April 2013

Late season harvesting

I've been MIA due to 5 days of overcast / rainy weather.  It played havoc on our power storage, so blogging time suffers.  All the power we have is firstly reserved for the fridge / freezer combo, and everything else comes second - and, if there is rugby on the "box", then that takes precedence to anything else, especially even the laptop (plus internet connectivity box)... sigh  (Drat - and winter is rugby time.  Hmmm, going to have to do something about that problem...)

But I thought I'd share with you our latest harvested goodies :)

RMan and I have just eaten our very first home grown granadilla.
One  solitary granadilla -
sharing is caring, RMan :)
It's sour taste is one of the most refreshing flavours I know
I love granadilla (passion fruit)
It's a pity there was only one fruit on the two vines - half each doesn't go very far!  But, I guess that's not really surprising - the plants are still in their bags LOL  We need to find a spot for them to climb up, and it has to be a spot that will not encourage snakes to use the vine as a ladder to gain access to the house.

We also picked 5 pomegranates - the first our trees have ever borne.  Quite delicious :)
Yummy - delicious, healthy pomegranate
kernels and juice :)
Then, I shoved a couple of sprouting potatoes into some (recycled) tyres filled with sand, and, apart from watering them, left them alone.
The tyres that RMan scored at the auction
finally got put to use
Not a bad harvest, given that they went in late, and had to handle extreme heat this past summer.
1st potato harvest
My only complaint is that although I left them lying on the ground for a couple of days to "harden off", the last of those we haven't eaten have already gone rotten?!  Can anyone tell me why?  Is it something I have done wrong, is it the variety of potato, or didn't I leave them to "harden off" long enough?

Disappointing.  But I will persevere.  Maybe next time I will buy proper seed potatoes :)