"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 November 2013

Spring garden goodies

Welcome to dreamer - my newest follower.  dreamer is from southern Scotland - an area called Cairnsmore to be specific.
dreamer doesn't appear to have a blog / web page - if I'm wrong, dreamer, please let me know, and I'll gladly insert the link.  Thanks for hitting the followers button.

Update: dreamers bog can be found at : http://dreamer-dreamingofasimplelife.blogspot.co.uk/

She has a very interesting blog - won't you pop round and have a look?


The first plants to start producing this spring were my strawberries.  They were so eager that they started flowering at the beginning of July!!
I have never known strawberry plants to produce
flowers, never mind fruit, in July...
...in South Africa?!?
The three ducks that we inherited from one of our neighbours over a month ago, found they had a taste for strawberries, and proceeded to wipe out as many as they could, Until I caught them in the act.  And here I blamed those poor field mice again...

So - that resulted in my buying some bird netting from the local co-op and draping the entire 25mtr long bed.  And here my poor brain thought bird netting was only for the flying kind...
Strawberries - some for eating and the rest
I popped into the freezer until I have enough
to make jam...
The strawberry plants have produced a fair number, but not all at once.  So, apart from those we've eaten fresh, I popped the other strawberries into bags which I keep in the freezer.  I figured that once they stop producing, I can take the strawberries from the freezer and make jam with them - in my solar oven. Yum - can't wait :)

I've harvested about 5 kgs so far...
The plum trees were the first
to blossom - t'was stunning to
Then the fruit trees - the plum trees were the first to get those gorgeous, uplifting, awe-inspiring spring blossoms.  And loads of fruit - which the wind proceeded to blow off.  Ah well, I think the trees are only two years old and still need a year before they should be allowed to keep their fruit - so nature is guiding me well.
Peach tree in blossom
You recall back in May this year that I wrote about saving those onion bottoms and, after allowing the dried roots to re-hydrate in a small bowl of water for a couple of days, planting them back in your veggie patch?

Well, the pic below is one of those "re purposed" onions.
Five onions gorwing from the old bottom of a single
onion - whoo hoo!
Here I thought each onion bottom would only grow one onion, but this one has produced 5!  Happy days :)

Apart from the onions, I also have garlic (which I've harvested most of already), tomatoes, the swiss chard is growing in profusion again (and that's given me a hint of what to make for dinner tonight - creamed spinach with a fried egg and toast), as is my zucchini and pumpkin, and the saved seed from the Franchi Sementi purple and yellow bean plants from last years harvest - and a nice crop of chickpeas and carrots is also growing.  It has already been too hot for my lettuce - even in the shadecloth veggie patch - and the plants have all bolted, but I am going to make a plan to turn up a couple of the re-purposed sub-irrigated Styrofoam containers (that I still have) into  raised veggie patch boxes, literally, and place them in the shade - with light being bounced off from a nearby wall.  That should sort out the overheating / bolting problem.

Those re-purposed styrofoam containers have been brilliant - I've used them for growing plants in, for using as deep drip trays for propagated lemon trees, and as a bath for the newy adopted ducks, amongst many other uses.  S'funny, talking about the ducks - whoever owns them has not come looking...? Maybe they have too many?  But, they're free to return home - the way they came - however that was...

None of my chilli and pepper seeds has peeked above ground yet, and I have still to buy a tray of aubergines seedlings from the local nursery - it would appear that I am completely unable to rear them, so I leave that to the experts LOL

And finally, for the first time, I have managed to grow cabbages - I companion planted them amongst the strawberries LOL  So  - there is lots of coleslaw in the future, as well as stuffed cabbage leaves cooked in the solar oven, and cabbage cooked in milk, instead of water, with garlic, butter, salt and pepper - quite delicious :)  Maybe I'll try fermenting some cabbage too - if it's not too hot...

Sunday 24 November 2013

Two eco-friendly solutions

Warning:  Some content  in this posting may offend sensitive viewers.

Having Miranda and Kris, our Alpaca's, to care for has highlighted a pest problem which we managed quite easily (with sticky hanging strips and netting at the windows) when it happens indoors.

I know having animals increases your fly population problem - nasty, reguritating, disease spreading insects.

But, they were attacking Miranda's eyes terribly, and I couldn't sit by and let that happen.  She was permanently "wiping" her face in the grass to try and dislodge the flies sucking the edges of her eyes.  So finding a solution has resulted in my doing some internet research / visiting our local Co-Op.  

I found fly "masks" which they use for horses, but, alpaca's are apparently very wary of anyone touching their heads, so I didn't want to traumatize her with that.

We have used Red Top fy catchers successfully as a fly traps in the past when neighbours have had large flocks of their sheep and cows grazing in the empty fields next to us.  So now it was time to bring out that baited traps once again.
The Red Top fly catcher
The instructions are easy to follow, and they are quite easy to set up - open the top "lid" remove the bait bag, add the contents of the bait packet to the trap together with a litre of warm water, and place roughly 15mtrs from where you want to trap flies.
Easy clear instructions on the back of
the packaging

This corner of the packaging warmed my heart:

Highly effective  Hygenic
Easy to use  Ozone Safe
I love them because their bait is non-toxic and is safe for the ozone layer.
The bait is 922gms of dehydrated protein meal
(I reckon, judging from the smell, that that
probably means dehydrated fish meal)
Apparently, one can add the contents of a full Red Top to one's compost pile when the bag is full (and the flies are all dead).

There's a Red Top hangin from the fence in this pic
Can you see the one trap - the dark thing hanging from the fence roughly in the centre of the photo above?
This is a close up...
 A closer look... (and this is where it may become offensive for sensitive readers)
Maggots breeding in a Red Top -
I've never seen that before.
This trap above has maggots crawling in it - that is a first for me - I have never see that before.
Almost time to add more water to the
trap - you can clearly see the darker layer
of dead flies, and the browner liquid layer
below them
It took roughly 3 weeks for each of the Red Top units to fill with this many flies - I placed a Red Top on the fence on either side of the Alpaca's pergola.

The smell - yeah - not madly desirable, but no gain, no pain...

But, the flies were still bothering Miranda eyes.

Then I found a fascinating alternative which does away with that nasty smell of the "fermenting" Red Top, to I set that up too.
Miranda and Kris - taking it easy under their
shady pergola - with the plastic bags, filled with
water and a copper coin, doing their bit above.
They were both very inquisitive about the bags
when they first went up - now they ignore them ;)
Apparently a plastic bag, with a penny inside, and filled with water deters flies.

I found the hint here: http://www.ecosnippets.com/diy/amazingly-effective-nontoxic-fly-repellant/  and the actual article here: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/amazingly-effective-nontoxic-fly-repellant/

RMan and I have both noticed that the flies infestation around Miranda's eyes have been dramatically reduced.  And the pegola area is pretty close to where they decided to place their communal midden.

So, our deduction is that the water filled bags definitely assist in keeping the flies at bay.

Saturday 16 November 2013

A cut-off low...

We discovered on Tuesday that a severe cut-off low was going to develop along the southern / south western coastline of South Africa on Thursday / Friday - a sure sign that we were going to receive fairly hefty rainfall on Friday / Saturday.

We did :)

It started roughly 3.00p.m. on Friday - and was coupled with a gale force south easter wind, and, strangely for this part of the country, lightning and thunder.
Miranda and Kris - making the best of the very
inclement weather
I felt so bad for the Alpaca's.  Getting them into the stable was not an option as they're resisting all our attempts to get them in there since their first night with us - obviously the stable does not have good connotations for them...
The water is anke deep - everywhere
So - they stayed out in the tumultuous weather...
We developed a leak at the top of our bedroom
window frame - why and how??
When we woke this morning it was, firstly, to a sodden carpet next to my side of the bed.  For some reason the main window in our bedroom started leaking - or should that be pouring?  We have been in our house for just over a year, and have not had a leak anywhere...!

Slosh, slosh - the squeegee worked overtime mopping up the floor, and the wet carpet was put out in the rain - may as well let the rain give it a proper wash whilst it's falling.
Now - that is a full dam!
But, it was outside that the result of the cut-off low was most apparent. The dam was more than over-flowing...
Scallywag inspecting the overflow - and where
has the half log bridge gone...
... it was washed away.  Those logs were so
heavy I was unabe to lift them, but the water just
lifted them like a feather
... the overflow had, itself, become a river.
A close up of the overflow - you can see the
velocity of the water streaming out of the dam
Once again the jetty is submerged...
The jetty - submerged again...
... and the water still continues to flow towards the dam.  This is due to the surface run-off as well as our overfowing rain water storage tanks.
As you can see, the water is just streaming down
and towards the dam
Mid-morning we decided to make our weekly trip to town to get our provisions for the next seven days...
Our flooded entrance gate
... and discovered that the entrance gate had it's own river too.
Oh no!  The dirt roads have taken some
serious punishment
Our poor dirt road - the husbands (all four of them) have just finished fixing it up, and now we have huge donga's in it again...
A close-up of the donga which is being eroded
by the run-off rainwater
... and there was even a river where we have never seen one before.
If you click on this pic, you'll see a silver snake in
the centre - neither RMan nor myself have ever
seen that before
To give you some idea of the amount of water that fell.  This photo below is of the Buffelsjag River (trans: Buffalo Hunt River) - firstly the view to the south...
The southern view down the Buffeljags River
 ... and, lastly, the view to the north.
The northern view up the Buffejags River
Normally the water-rounded rock strewn river bed is visible, and the width of the river is half that of the "white water" section visible in these pics.  And normally, it also takes a while for the rain from the mountains to fill the river. This time it is apparent, literally, as the rain is falling!

Our rain gauge registered 95mm of rain - which fell between 3.00p.m. Friday and 10.30a.m. Saturday!

That's hectic!  But, we're not complaining - I don't know about the alpaca's though.

And at 4.00 p.m. the sun came out.  Thankfully we'll get a couple of hours charge into our solar batteries before night falls :)

Friday 15 November 2013

South Africa's first solar plant goes online

Whooo Hooooooooooo!!
Photo source: Scatec Solar
South Africa's first solar plant goes online
Photo source: Scatec Solar

[Thanks, RSon, for the link :) ]

Monday 11 November 2013

Please, don't take it for granted...

I have aways subscribed to the notion that we live on a vast panet, a providing planet, a beautiful planet.  One that is more than big enough to provide for all our needs.

This notion has been with me for years and years...

But, my notion has not kept pace with the current situation i.e. the growth in the human population from 2.5-odd billion in the 1950's to just over 7 billion today.

I was therefore aghast to watch this BBC documentary.  This type of programme should be purchased, urgently and willingly, by all the major TV channels, worldwide, and shown - to as large an audience as possible.

is 47 minutes, 48 seconds long and worth every minute

Image: Courtesy of BBC documentary
"How many people can ive on panet earth".
"By and large the planet has provided for the human race, so far" - a quote by Sir Richard in the documentary.  (A comment from the BBC documentary, "How many people can live on planet earth".)

In the documentary, Sir Richard Attenborough refers to a book by Thomas Melthus, an English clergyman from the 18th Century, who, at that time, made the following observation "The power of the population is definitely greater than the power in the earth to provide subsistence for man." In other words our production of food cannot increase as rapidly as humans reproduce.
"There's no more water on the planet
than when life first appeared

Image: Courtesy of BBC documentary
"How many people can ive on panet earth".
So, why don't we just carry on taking for granted the fact that we can purchase our (hopefuly locally grown, but too often imported) fresh food from a convenience store, that the water in our taps is plentiful and suitable for drinking, because we have the extremely questionable attitude that "it's our right because we're paying for it".  We may be "paying for it" - but in different ways to what we currently conceive - long term, highly detrimental ways...

Let's ignore the effect of chemicals - be they industrial, agricultural or household chemicals - and, more importantly, the effect of fracking on our underground water table - because "we're OK, Jack" and because the oil giants, who seemingly have paid off all the important governments worldwide, and who are, basically running the world, placate us in the quest for their greed by saying "they're not harming the planet."

When our fresh drinking water runs out, and when you are unable to water the crops you are growing - that the farmers are growing - it will be too late.  Far, far too late.
"At some point in the future, wars are going
to be fought over water, not oil."

This comment from a simple water
tanker driver in Mexico City!
Image: Courtesy of BBC documentary
"How many people can live on planet earth".
The privileged - the middle and upper classes - have no conception of what it is to be without a plentiful supply of potable water.  They see it as their right. Perhaps if they did, they would conserve it and, additionally, raise their (powerful) voices and start a change which will benefit mankind, and Mother Earth.

"Bear in mind, when the Titanic sank, the first class cabins went to the bottom just as fast as the steerage" (a comment from the BBC documentary, "How many people can live on planet earth").

We're not animals, we're supposedly a rational race, who have the ability to reason, and forsee preventable probems.  Let's be who we are - for the greater good of this planet and mankind.

As Sir Richard asks at the end of the documentary, "Can our intelligence save us?"

Make a start by reducing your potable water wastage, by capturing and storing as much rainwater as you can in order to grow as much of your own fresh produce as you are able, and by advocating (both in your workplace and home) and, hopefully, removing, all chemicals from your, and your family's environment. This can, and will, be the begining of a very necessary peaceful revolution...

Won't you join me?

Saturday 9 November 2013

Take that!

Mice - you all know that the ruddy field mice were my nemesis last summer. They're still around, but another rodent has invaded my veggie garden.  And, I fear, not even a cat will help thwart these pests.

As winter turned to spring we discovered mounds appearing in the back garden - moles!

At first I reasoned, ah, well, we have plenty of land - they're not harming anything important.

Until they migrated to my shadecloth veggie patch, that is. I went to harvest some carrots, and found this...
Sneaky moles - munching the base of the
carrots and leaving the topmost section
and the leaves there to fool this human...
 ... the shell of a carrot, obviously eaten just the night before, as the leaves were still perky and there was no sign from "up above" at ground level that anything was wrong.
A close-up of the mole inflicted
damage to the carrot
I know that moles are not keen on hearing footfalls on the ground above them. But I can't patrol the patch 24 / 7...

So, whipping out a couple of plastic milk bottles which I was going to recycle as plant cloches, I placed them on top of metal stakes and shoved them into the ground inside my veggie patch.  I figured with the (constant) wind moving and shaking the bottles on the stakes, the clonking noise, would, hopefully, encourage the moles to move on.
Plastic bottles on top of metal stakes - to
deter their habitation of my veggie patch
It seems to be working - the mounds are decreasing and the trail is now leading out of the shadecloth structure :)  Another eco-friendly solution which works :)

But - and this is a big but - have some recently uninvited, but very welcome, guests had anything to do with it too?

About 3 weeks ago RMan and I woke to find that we had inquisitive creatures inspecting the alpaca's in their paddocks - much to the alpaca's consternation. Having finally satisfied their curiosity, they proceeded to thoroughly search the ground in the back garden - where the lemon trees and veggie patch are located.

Yum, yum - they found plenty to eat it seems, because they have stayed!

What are they?

Ducks.  Three wadding, quacking white ducks :)
Three ducks - appeared from nowhere, and,
seemingly, not in a rush to return to their
By the third day when I figured that they were not in a rush to return from whence they came, so I provided them with the wherewithal to perform their daily ablutions...
A duck in a bucket of water is almost
as rewarding to watch as a small
child in a paddling pool
 ... a wash bucket LOL

They loved it.

But - there was something that they seemed to have difficulty finding and which is far better suited to their requirements.

Our dam.

We tried "herding" them there - they scattered in three different directions.

Then I had the bright idea of trying to bribe them.

They have developed - seemingly overnight - a preference for the alpaca's 12% protein feed - so severe is this preference that they are spending more time "waiting" for their next handout than they are foraging for nasty, unwanted garden pests... <sigh - RMan and I are compete suckers for hungry animals - which don't even belong to us LOL>

But, I digress.  Getting back to their undiscovered source of pleasure, ablution, and natural habitat.  A dose of the alpaca feed needs to show them what they are missing.
"Quack, quaaaaack, quack"
(translation: Here ducky, ducky - follow me)
With enough in the scoop to entice them, I proceeded to walk backwards towards the dam, rattling the food enticingly in the scoop as I did so.  They couldn't resist!

It worked a treat.  It took me exactly 2½ minutes to get them to walk the 65 - 70-odd metres to the dam. 
After the most recent rain, the dam is
overflowing again.  They obviously approved as
they took to the water like...
a duck to water LOL (sorry, couldn't resist the pun)
Once there, and small handful of the alpaca feed tossed right next to the waters edge - voila!, they discovered our dam :)
Oh, that's land again.  Hang on...
They had a good swim round, head-down and tail-up sessions, and then made for the far corner and walked out, before promptly turning round and heading straight back into the water.
Ah, that's better.
This is FUN!
After half- an-hour's frolic, they waddled their way back towards the house - they had probably just remembered what they had been bribed with, and of which they had not yet had an elegant sufficiency...
Waddle, waddle - after ½ hour they're finished,
and now they want the food that was "promised"
to them...


... we are about to take possession of the goslings we have ordered.  They should be arriving in the next week or so.

Our menagerie increases :)

Sunday 3 November 2013

"Time is fleeting..."

I just received this in an e-mail and can't wait to share it.

It's brought on one of my soap box moments...

If this doesn't make everyone who only looks at the images / reads the info below and go no further, or those who visits the site via the links I've provided, stop and pause, and think really hard on their contribution to these statistics, then I fear that this gorgeous, amazing, imited planet we call home is doomed.

click on Energy

click on Population
"The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has created several computer models to estimate global warming rates. These various models project from a 1.1 to 6.4C degree rise this century. We have chosen to use their A1B scenario (2.8C/century). We display 10 decimal places only to show the rate of rise. We do not wish to suggest that we can project with this level of accuracy. Please read the Global Warming page for more information.

CO2 levels are continuing to rise and so is the ocean. The population is growing, forests are shrinking, deserts are growing, and thousands of species (mostly insects and mostly in shrinking rain forests) are going extinct each year. These issues and many more face our world as we struggling to balance the needs of nations with the needs of the planet.

We at Poodwaddle.com consider ourselves journalists, not scientists or activists. It is our job to report the data, not take sides in controversial issues. Global warming is one of these issues. We do not advocate for global warming, or against it. Doing so would violating our professional integrity.

SOURCES: IPCC | Global Carbon Project | Earth Policy

DETAILS: Global Warming | Deforestation"
click on Environment

If this didn't shock you - what kind of member of our human society are you?

Would it really hurt you to make a few small changes to your lifestyles, especially if it could help heal our planet?

It's the small things which count.  The small things which a add up and CAN make a difference.

Would you be prepared to:

~ significanty adjust your electricity consumption (put on another jersey / wrap yourself in a blanket for warmth or dress in cool cotton when the temperatures rise, use candes instead of light globes, save up for a solar oven instead of switching on those power guzzling electric ovens);

~ walk or cycle or share a lift in order to reduce your petrol (gas) usage;

~ be more aware and conserve our most prescious resource, water (shower more frequenty, instead of bathing, fix leaking taps, think as your hand touches the tap, turn off the tap whist you're brushing your teeth, use a cistern filler to reduce the amount of water used when you flush the loo - better still, "if it's yellow, let it mellow..."), and install rain water storage tanks for use in your gardens;

~ try growing something you can eat, instead of just filling your gardens with pants which are beautiful to look at - research "forest gardens" to see how you can grow vegetables in between your "flowering" plants, or in pots on a patio or small balcony;

~ try and limited the number of goods you purchase which are wrapped in plastic;

~ buy local instead of imported;

~ prepare more completely fresh meals, as opposed to pre-packaged ready-made convenience (including junk food) meals (try aiming for once a week, then twice a week, etc.) - honour your body instead of just filling it with whatever is easy;

~ use less chemicals in your home and advocate using less in your work place (trust me, our house is only cleaned with vinegar and bicarb, and I'm proud of the shine / level of cleanliness that I achieve);

~ do more housework / garden work / wash your own car / play with your children, instead of travelling to your local (hopefully) gym to get your exercise, or dumping your kids off at the local movie house / games arcade in order to "entertain" them;

~ recycle whenever, and wherever, possible, and pass on anything which is still useful to those less fortunate than yourself...

... to mention just a few of the small, but active steps you can adopt that will significantly assist in planet Earth's healing process.

I'm not asking you to chivvy your local member of parliment to do what he should be doing as your representative in government - such as taking your requirements and God given rights to the highest powers in the land to make them change laws for the immediate benefit of our planet, biodiversity, animals and mankind, instead of for the immense monetary considerations which are dictating their actions.

I'm just asking you to make a few simple changes to your lifestyle.

Would it really hurt you????

Chivvy-ing your local member of parliment comes later... LOL

Saturday 2 November 2013

Welcome and an anniversary surprise

Please join me in welcoming a new follower, Olivia Maynard, a newbie blogger.
Her profile states: "I was born and raised in Chesapeake, Virginia. When I was young it was full of Mennonite farms and simple living. By the time my kids started school it was a mad suburban city-in-the-making. Three years ago my husband and I brought our 3 children to Buckingham County, Va to make a better life for our family. I love the change, the peace, and the road to self-sufficiency."

Olivia's bog can be found at: http://shadygrovehomestead.blogspot.com/

Thank you all for your good wishes for our anniversary yesterday.  Apart from an unplanned visit to the dentist, it was an excellent day :) 
We placed three of the five rose bushes we
purchased by the wall / steps leading up to the
garage - right next to the waste water pipe from
my washing mashine.  Seems like the roses love
the eco-friendly laundry soap I use - they are
certainly thriving.
A few months ago RMan went all feminine on me - he insisted that he wanted rose bushes???!?!?  RMan?  Just shows that you can never get too complacent with the person you're sharing your life with - they can, and will, surprise you.
I am not a fan of buying or receiving cut flowers -
firstly the waste that occurs, plus the transport
involved in getting them to the retail outlets, and
finally the flowers just don't last.
The fact that RMan took the time to conceive,
search out and make this arrangement was, to me, as
incredible as the combination that he put together.
I love it :)
The "rose and candle" holder is left-over
from a wood business we dabbled in many years ago,
and which he took the time to repurpose  - and
trust me - RMan had to really search the place we
call a garage, as it is, in fact, a mess of boxes
and chaos - it's storing all of Natasha & Wayne's
goods until their house is built...
Seems he had an ulterior motive.  The rose bushes provided him with the perfect anniversary gift - and all it took was a little bit of thought on his side, and there you go - the most incredible table arrangement.  I was competelly bowled over.

The fact that this macho male I call my best friend and husband took the time to put this together - completely took my breath away.

Just shows you - you think you know someone, but they still have the ability to surprise you...:)  And I wasn't asked once "Where can he find... " LOL

S'funny isn't it how the simplest things in life can give such incredible enjoyment.