"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 30 January 2014

Monday 27 January 2014

In the heat of the day

Yup, we're in the midst of the hottest time of year here.  January, February and March are v-e-r-y warm in our area.  My poor gem squash, butternut and pumpkins are taking strain...

Last week, the temperature hit 36oC in the shade.
According to the pool thermometer
which I have hanging outside the kitchen
door it was 36oC in the shade
As this is the first summer that we have had to care for alpaca's we have been concerned as to how they would handle the heat.  They are of the camelid family, but, unlike their northern african relatives in the Sahara Desert, they originate from the much cooler, higher ground of the Andes Mountains in South America.

RMan, in particular, has been constantly checking on them through the worst of the hot weather.  (Have I told you that he is besotted with them...?)

Thankfully, both Miranda and Kris have realised what those two funny "buildings" are that they both have access to.  They are not only there to offer them protection from the rain (which they still have to realise) but they are an excellent source of shade LOL

Even with their IBR (galvanised) roof sheeting.
As you can see, the gaps in the walls make the
stable pretty "airy" - that'll still be good for
winter, as they will have their new fleece to keep
them warm, whilst the walls and roof will keep
them out of the rain and dry.
Due to the "airiness" of the wall structure (a.k.a. the gaps between the wooden slats which make up the walls), a good draft flows through them - so cushing down inside ensures that they are out of the sun, and that there is a cool breeze to assist with their comfort level.

But, last week in particular, RMan felt sorry for them.

I reckon it's a case of RMan's maternal instincts coming to the fore...? <grin>
RMan to the rescue...
So, he pulled out the hosepipe and proceeded to give them a sprinkler session.  Spraying them with water on their backs, especially when their fleece is long and thick, makes their heat discomfort worse, as the heat gets trapped under the wet layer of fleece on top.
I think she's telling Kris on the other side of
the fence that he'll have to wait his turn...?
Miranda literally came running out of her stable at the sound of the water.
"More ,I want more..."
Okay, then I'll just cush in / on it...
She promptly stood over the spraying water and allowed it to cool her down. We had been told that their tummies act as their radiators, so thoroughly wetting their tummies cools them down. 
"Ah, heaven!!"
Poor Kris - he had to wait 10 minutes for
his turn. He won't cush in it, but he loves to have
his lower chest and tummy soaked by the
hosepipe in RMan's hand...
But, not being satisfied with that, she then lay down right on top of the sprinkler.

Poor thing.

10 minutes sorted her out, and then it was Kris' turn.

How do cows (especially the black ones), sheep and goats handle the heat, I wonder?  There are certainly too many in the average herd to give them individual sprinklers to cool off in... LOL

Thursday 23 January 2014

A different type of recycling

With all the stress and hassle of selling and packing up our home in Cape Town, the subsequent move to our bucolic smallholding, enduring the messy building process, unpacking and setting up our new home, whilst all the while continuing with our business commitments long distance, personal care has been on the back burner.

For over 3 years.

But this week I finally took the plunge.
This was the length of my hair
in August 2013
The photo above is what I looked like in August 2013 - with my hair is just below armpit level LOL

This week it was 4 inches longer. And it took only 3 years to grow it to this length.
This is the length of it after my
hairdressing session this week
This is what I look like now.  Short hair is definitely cooler and easier to manage in the heat we're currently experiencing.

Plaited and ready to be recycled
That haircut left me with an almost 27 - 28cms plait.

Seeing as this is the almost the longest that I have grown my hair, and considering the amount of grey that is creeping into it (especially in the front), I can't see myself allowing my hair to grow that long again.  An "older" woman can no longer be a "young thing" and should accept her ageing status gracefully LOL

So - with a special purpose in mind - I made a decision prior to having my hair cut to ask the hairdresser, after washing it, to plait it, securely fix it with an elastic band either side, so that I could "recycle" it by donating it to the Marie Claire Kindest Cut Campaign

I'm thrilled to be in a position to be able to make a difference to a young (or old) cancer sufferer.  We can all make a difference to someone or something else, and even to this planet.  We just have to care enough to share - whatever and whenever we can.

My 2nd "father" who gave me away at my wedding to RMan, my elderly grandmother, my teenage cousin, as well as the daughter of a very close friend, all had cancer.  In their honour and memories I wish to say to all those who have been diagnosed with cancer, please, know that you are still beautiful, and loved. And, know that nobody will ever judge you just because your hair has suffered the effects of chemotherapy.
Can you see how many thousands
of individual hairs are in that plait?
Who needs counting sheep in order
to fall asleep - rather try counting
the hairs in a freshly cut plait of
hair instead LOL
I so truly admire anyone who has the patience and energy to insert even a fraction of that plait into a wig.  What a time consuming, laborious task.

And yet, ultimately, how incredibly rewarding that task must be...

Tuesday 21 January 2014


I am passionate about a lot of things - especially those to do with preventing further harm, and reversing the damage we, the supposed superior race, are doing to this planet.

And growing our own produce, without the aid of chemicals nor chemical fertilizers, is right there at the top of my list.
One of the two granadilla plants I planted.
There are still 8 more fruit to harvest
Last winter we purchased two granadilla (passionfruit) bushes from our local nusery. Granadilla's - Passiflora edulis - are delicious tart, yet sweet tasting fruit - and perfect when made into a thirst quenching drink.

I didn't get round to planting them until spring had already sprung, and wondered if we would get any fruit this year.  I added some alpaca poop to the soil, along with some bone meal.

That is all.

And, the result is hectic!  

Ha!  Would we get any fruit indeed!  There were approximately 22 - 24 fruit on the two newly planted granadilla plants.  They may only be 17 left but, gimme a break, like all good gardeners and cooks, I have to taste - especially as I'm wandering round my garden :)

Apparently, they do require quite a bit of water, especially when they are producing their fruit, and, last years' late winter rain was ideally timed. And they have since been watered with our captured rain water :)
The flower of the granadilla (passiflora edulis)- strange, isn't it
The granadilla flower is amazing - almost orchid like, but with a hint of venus flytrap too.  
Juicy, perfect home grown granadilla's :)
I have just started harvesting granadilla's (shhhhh - for the house) - so tonight it's granadilla's and ice cream for a rare dessert.   (RMan and I aren't normally dessert eaters, but when it's your own home grown fruit...)
25 granadilla bushes in the making.
Note the re-used styrofoam box -
it's perfect as a seed drip tray - if only
the ducks would stop eating the
But, there's more.  I was soooo impatient for a granadilla - my mouth wouldn't stop salivating at the thought, so, when I happened to spot them on sale at our local supermarket, I had to buy three. One for RMan, one for me, and one for our grandson Mike.

Mike never got round to eating his, so, on opening a dried out granadilla I had the thought - could I use the seeds to grow more...?

Could I?
This is the other half of the granadilla seeds
which germinated and which I haven't planted
up yet.
I literally just threw them into a small pot of soil - reasoning that not all of them would be viable.  It looks like most of them were.

Now, where are we going to plant all these babies...?

Tuesday 14 January 2014

"Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy..."

I found this link on a blog last year - sorry, I was so enthralled, that I forgot to make a note which blog is was.  But, how cool is this site: http://www.sunearthtools.com/dp/tools/pos_sun.php?lang=en

But, with our solar panels / solar power in mind, I took a reading of the sun rays then, and thought I'd do another reading today.
23 September 2013
What a difference a couple of months makes!
14 January 2014
The sun rises 1 3/4 hours earlier, and sets and sets 23 minutes later.  So, we're gaining roughly 2 1/4 hours more sun - and more direct sun - in summer than in winter.

You can also see exactly why they recommend facing PV panels due north in the Southern Hemisphere and due south in the Northern hemisphere.  Facing them due north allows for more of the sun's rays to hit the solar panels during the shorter, colder winter months.  And, strangely enough, the rays are more centered on the PV panerls during winter - during summer they rise and set "behind" the panels.

For those in the northern hemisphere, hit the link and check out the difference between now (mid-winter) and a few months time (mid-summer) where you live :)

Update: the blog where I was first introduced to sunearthtools is http://comptonia.blogspot.com/2013/09/post-equinoctal-thoughts.html

Sunday 12 January 2014

Eager suitor - part 2

The flooding of the alpaca paddocks really bothered us, so the first dry window in the rainy weather was seized to proceed with rectifying the situation.

Initially, we had positioned the two stables well apart - not knowing how well the alpaca's got along at that stage, it seemed the most sensible idea.
Miranda's stable is the closer one on the left
and Kris' stable is the one just peeping out
on the right
Miranda's stable area remained dry during the downpour - obviously it is on ground that is high enough, and the gullies which we had specifically dug around it in order to divert the water away were working well.  I therefore suggested to RMan that we move Kris' stable so that it backs onto Miranda's.
The new section - almost a passageway -
from Kris' gate towards Miranda's stable

That involved adding a new section of fence - from his gate, up the existing fence to where his stable was going to be positioned.  Easier said than done when the ground is so wet, but we persevered.

Believe it or not, when he was first placed in his own
paddock, Kris managed to clear the top of this gate
with no problem.  So, we had to increase the height
of it, and the entire fence between the two paddocks.
So much for the recommended height of 1.2 mtrs -
Kris needs a minimum of 1.4 mtrs to keep him
in his paddock
We ensured that this new fence was higher than the previous one - we had to re-inforce the old one as Kris managed to get over it.  And under it.
Here you can see Kris inspecting his new "home"

Then came the task of stripping down the stable - a lengthy task.  The only part of the structure that was moved as a complete unit was the roof.  (I ended up catching my hand between the galavanised steel and the fence and managed to take a healthy chunk out of it.  Ah well, it'll heal.)

The beauty of this blog means that 2 full days work can appear in the blink of an eye, or the scroll of a mouse LOL
Miranda is taking time to check out Kris' new
quarters whilst she's chewing her food.
Kris' head always stays firmly rooted to the
"gutter" until every scrap is gone.
No sooner were we finished than both of the continuously curious alpaca's had to inspect our handiwork.  We have removed some of the wooden slats between the two stables so that they are able to see each other - they can even share a meal - Miranda and Kris' feeding "gutters" are back to back on this wall.
Please keep any complaints about the food
to yourselves
We have also placed the hay / lucerne trough midway on the fence so that they can both have their fair share whilst humming to each other.  That, too, helps when it comes time to fill it - one trip instead of two and which were 45mtrs apart!
This photo shows the trough midway on the fence.
Any opening, no matter how small it looked,
had to be "clossed" - Kris is amazingly agile
when he wants to be, and being separated from
Miranda has shown us exactly how agile he can be.
All that effort has been an unmitigated success!
Feeding time at the trough - you can clearly see the
two stable structures in this photo
Both Miranda and Kris are now using their stables - for cushing, eating and chilling in :)  They are finally happy to be in them and that is because they can easily see each other.  No solid walls divide them.  And they will be out of the rain in future :)

And, as RMan remarked today, Miranda is also finally getting used to her stable before her cria is due to be born towards the end of February.
Here you can see Kris' lower roof beyond
We have left the gate that divided the two paddocks in situ and the "passageway" will be used as the "boudiour" when it's time for the two to have contact again.  It will also be an ideal spot in which to corner Kris whenever he needs brushing or spraying or inspecting.

RMan's only complaint is that now he doesn't see as much of them from the front patio in the late afternoon when it's time for sundowners - they are now spending all their time down the side of the house by their mutual stables and fence.

Mind you, RMan is now spending more time lounging on the fence watching them - I reckon he's besotted with them LOL

Friday 10 January 2014

Eager suitor- part 1

My apologies for the delay in replying to all your comments on my previous posting - things have been a tad hectic here.
Very unseasonal rain has filled up our dam again.
Firstly, from roughly 1.30p.m. on Monday, 6th up to 9.00a.m. Thursday 9th, we had the heavens open.
The alpaca paddocks were underwater...

125mm of very unseasonal, but nonetheless very welcome rain fell, drenching everything.    There was water, water everywhere.  Including the alpaca paddocks.  And that created a huge problem.  But, looking on the positive side - thank goodness the heavy rain fell now, and not during the icy cold of winter (which should be in May / June-ish), for it highlighted the area's which needed urgent attention, and rectifying those when you have to cope with nasty weather at the same time would not have been pleasant.
In the centre of the photo there is a smaller
silver and a green shadecloth roof visible.  That is
the shade pergola we made for Kris, and is
right next to the main gate through which we
access his paddock.
Can you see the two of them?
I mentioned in my first posting of this year that Kris had been misbehaving. Amourous advances from a male alpaca when the female is already en ciente are not welcome - under any circumstances!  Unless the male is keen on having those powerful female hind legs curl up prior to smashing him in the face.  (It would have been a bit of an amourous kick in the face so to speak - and given that he's got roughly 45 minutes once a year, I think he derserves to be in a prime state physically LOL)

Alpaca's have incredibly powerful kicks - in fact their legs are even stronger than we suspected, as RMan found out when it came time to lead Kris to his separate paddock.  Kris' legs locked in, the hind ones spreadeagling to provide more resistance, which meant that RMan had to literally drag him roughly 40 meters!  And injured his achilles tendon in the process.  Since Kris moved to the other paddock he has been whinging (humming) constantly at the gate through which he entered his paddock - pining for Miranda.

Miranda, being a typical female - warm-hearted, caring, and above all else the mothering sort - deserted her waterproof pergola in order to join Kris at the dividing fence in order to provide him with support and consolation. Which meant that she was out in that heavy rain.

As you can see from the photo above, the new area which Kris (and thus Miranda) now frequent is slap bang in the path of the gravity driven ground water runoff.
A close-up of the two of them - poor, sodden,
miserable looking, shorn alpaca's - huddled
together for emotional support and
And when I went out to check them at 6.30a.m. both of them were cushing in a puddle which was ankle deep to me.  But, sopping wet doesn't even begin to describe her state.   I swear I saw both Miranda and Kris shivering.  I put that down to the loss of their magnificent fleece.

RMan and I couldn't, in all fairness, enjoy the cosiness of our weatherproof brick structure, whilst our alpaca's are shivering and miserable outside.  

Especially, when you add the icy winds of winter.  Do you where this is heading...
We have never seen that many waterfalls falling
down the mountainsides.  The noise of the wateralls
could be heard from our smallholding - roughly
12kms from the mountains - and that is a first
for us!
But, before I tell you what solution we came up with, here are a couple of photo's of the aftermath of the storm.
The grass is not as long here, and you can
see how sodden the ground is.  It is literally
oozing out of the ground.
There is a marking on the rainwater guage
which states that 1mm of rain = 1 litre of rain
per mtr2.
We had 125mm in 3 days, so that
equates to 125 ltrs / mtr2
Our rainwater tanks are all overflowing again...

Which begs the question - can one ever have too much rain water storage?

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Baby marrows

This blog posting is especially for all those in c-o-l-d Europe and UK and the US of A.  Take heart - your spring is on it's way...

In Spring I planted a bunch of different members of the cucurbita family, in different ways.

Firstly, a couple went into the ground.  Normal run of the mill planting for two pumpkin, one baby marrow, and one butternut plant.  But, last year the pumpkins in the ground didn't fair so well.  I reckon the ground got too hot, and I had to water them twice a day to prevent the leaves from wilting.  Also, I don't think the hot, dry summer wind help either.  So, this time the ground plants were protected with a straw bale wall on the two windy sides.  And, the holes were filled with a mixture of straw, alpaca dung and soil.

Then, I had a few straw bales which I had "treated".  Two gem squash, and two pumpkins went into the straw bales.  The squash took off immediately, and the pumpkins have trailed along slowly.

And lastly, I planted a couple into some "towered" tyres.

I thought it would be interesting to see which of the three methods performed best.

RMan kindly purchased a 5000lt water tank at my request and he positioned right next too the cucurbit area.  Excellent, now I can water my plants with rain water :)

Excellent - I have plenty of water nearby!
A view of the ground bed.
In between the bales I sowed a baby marrow,
a butternut, and two pumpkin seeds.
The "baby" marrow is the large leafed plant
in the centre of the bed at the back.
Closest bales are planted with pumpkins, and
the farthest bales are squash
I especially only planted what I thought was one baby marrow plant, as last year I was overrun with them.
My one "baby" marrow plant in December lst year
This was the "baby marrow" in mid-December.  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat is going on...?
This is the same plant over this last weekend
I currently have 5 "baby" marrows growing...
... and how did this happen?  I didn't buy either a large marrow or marrow seeds - ever!  I saved a couple of the baby marrow seeds from last season, and popped them in the ground.  But, this is no baby marrow.  The day the flower opens the ruddy thing is already longer and almost as thick as my hand. I swear if we had a nuclear plant nearby I would blame that!
3.5kgs - and this is the smallest one I have
picked.  It was even too heavy for my kitchen scale.
The other six I've picked went to parttime workers,
friends and family...
But, what to do with giant baby marrows?

There are just so many one can eat.  And give away.

So, I have stuffed them.

I have made a large bowl of chilled marrow soup (recipe at the end of this blog posting if anyone is interested).

And I have cut up a couple of carrots into small cubes and boiled them until they are almost cooked.  Then I cut up the marrow into similarly sized cubes and threw them into the pot with the carrots.  Boil them for a couple of minutes until the water is reduced to almost a tablespoonful, add a cholesterol lowering portion of cream, and some salt and pepper.  RMan doesn't "do" veggies, but he said he'd eat that again :)
The butternut plants in the tyres are doing well - each have at least 4 - 5 - in various stages of growth.
Butternut plants growing in tyres
Isn't it cute :)
I'm fascinated how the flower is a
perfect replica of the plant which is about
to grow.  Isn't genetics wonderful 
This method of growing cucurbita definitely
works well.

My grandson, Mike, l-o-v-e-s squash - boiled, and served with a knob of butter and a drizzle of honey.  He ate 4 halves in the wink of an eye :)
The pumpkins in the strawbales are taking their time to produce fruit - but I guess that sorts out any succession planting and my summer harvesting - the later procuced pumpkins will be put in storage for net winter :)

So - thus far what have I found?

Protecting the plants in the ground from the drying wind has definitely helped. So has adding plenty of straw and alpaca dung to the hole.

The tyres - also filled with layers of soil, straw and alpaca dung - are performing well and the plants are producing plenty of fruit.

And the strawbales?

They are proving a tad difficult to water.  I have to shove the hosepipe into the bale to ensure that the water doesn't run off.  That is causing the bales to collapse.  But, the squash plants are producing.

Will I try these three methods again next year?  Definitely :)

Although my veggies seemed to take a while to get going this year, I did have enough to give to neighbours as gifts.
Homegrown swiss chard, marrows, purple beans,
strawberries, cocktail tomatoes and a jar of
homemade strawberry jam.
Nothing nicer than sharing :)

Recipe for chilled marrow soup:

Cut up as much marrow as you want - I used roughly 1.5 kgs.
Peel and cube 2 - 3 potatoes.
1 chicken stock boullion cube
Salt & pepper to taste
Sprinkle of grated nutmeg

Add all the above to a pot and cook until mushy.  Add roughly 1 litre of milk to the pot and blend with a stick blender.

Shove into the fridge to chill.

Just before serving swirl in some cream and serve with fresh rolls which have been halved, buttered and covered with slices of brie / camenbert / chedder cheese.  Shove the topped rolls under the grill until the cheese has melted and serve immediately with the chilled soup.

Delicious :)

Wednesday 1 January 2014

New beginnings?

A simple arrangement of the wild flowers which
abound - who needs a massive arrangement - I
subscribe to KISS (keep it simple, stupid)
The matchbox is to give you perspective on how
tiny the flowers are.
After a hectic festive season - entertaining and being entertained - RMan and I had a quiet New Year.  Just the two of us, parked in front of the TV watching the fireworks displays from around the world as those places reached midnight.  We didn't make it to our own.  And didn't crack our bubbly. So we had it with brunch today :)
A close-up of the tiny, tiny wild flowers
What is it about the New year that always inspires one to make changes - to one's life, to one's attitude or to one's modus operandi?

We have a whole bunch to look forward to this year.  Miranda will be having her cria in February / March.  Kris was misbehaving earlier today - trying to mount Miranda - so he has been placed in his own paddock.  It was only a matter of time before that had to happen anyway - they must be separated before she gives birth.
Kris certainly knows how to put on the
"poor me" face.  RMAn is feeling very bad
about plonking him in his own paddock.
No, he's not happy and is now firmly fixed to the area where he entered his paddock - humming and gazing longingly at Miranda.  But, we know he'll get over it in a day or two - or three...

At least they are easily able to see each other.
Miranda's "pond" - just a hollowed out area in the
ground lined with a double layer of the thickest
building plastic we  could find.  They have padded
hooves, so the plastic should be able to handle
the impact.
The alpaca's found a few of the days pretty warm - even with their shorn coats.  A sure signal that Miranda is hot is when she starts "pawing" the water bucket.  Some alpaca's love lying in water - to cool off the radiator area of their bodies - their stomachs.  Miranda is such an alpaca.  Kris - he's a typical male - who needs water...?
Kris - always the curious one, but that's as
far as it goes.  He's not going anywhere near
water, thank you very much.  "Rather, give
me a sand bath..."!
So, we set about giving her a small "pond" to cool off in.
So far, she hasn't used it, but at least it's there if she does decide it's worth trying.  Seems she prefers RMAn to let the contents of the rain water tank flow out of the hosepipe and she then careully positions herself down in the puddle that forms.

My veggies are coming on nicely, and I have made a decision regarding the preservation of them.  I do not possess a canning pot - and I wouldn't even know where to find one in this country.  Trying to buy one off Amazon is out of the question - it would seem that anything which is imported now - even a simple fly / mosquito net for our bed - carries such a heavy import duty that it is almost not worth the item by the time it is received.  I mean, seriously, I purchased the fly / mosquito net for $29.95 (roughly ZAR320.00)  In order for Customs to release the parcel I had to pay ZAR335.00 - so I ended up with a mosquito net for ZAR655.00????  Still cheaper than buying a bespoke one locally ( which will fit the bed in a similar fashion), but I feel that is still a lot of money.

Also, our growing season is so long that it really isn't necessary to "put away" food for any great length of time.  Beans, peas and spinach / swiss chard grow abundantly here in winter, and summer - well - summer's bounty lasts from the end of October to the end of April / May.

I also do not have an electric food dehydrator that can handle the hopefully abundent harvest which will be available in a month or two's time.  Nor do we have the power allowance to run an electric dehydrator for 2 - 3 days / batch continuously.

I have also had my electric chest freezer on for the past 15 - 21  days - but that is tantamount to running two fridges, and is proving heavy going for our solar power storage.  So, in the next week to ten days, I will be using whatever is left in the freezer before turning it off again.  So freezing produce is out of the question.

So, how am I going to preserve my vegetables?

Via a solar food dehydrator :)

RMan - that is (once again) where you are needed :)  I purchased the wood last year, but that got used for other "important" projects (like shelving for RMan's tools, and containers of nails, nuts and bolts etc).  So, once I am able to get more wood, then we are going to make a solar dehydrator.  Stay tuned for more news on that...