"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 27 February 2014

Sunny days

We had our best day ever for solar power on the 22nd February 2014.

The days' temperature was in the early 30°C's but there was a nice breeze wafting across the solar panels.  That made it ideal for power production.
5.3kWH / 399 AH went into the solar batteries
The Outback Charge Controller remote display informed us that we had received 5.3kWH of power into the batteries...
Only 3.42kWH was consumed by our appliances /
...but we had only used 3.43kWH at 17.58p.m.

That gave us an additional 1.9kWH.  More then enough to watch our 60 watt TV until 10.00p.m., power our 180 watt fridge (on it's timer - one hour on, one hour off) through the night, and still have the batteries well charged the next morning :)

Nobody - but nobody - tells you when you purchase a solar system that:

1  The hottest days are not the best for charging solar batteries.  If the solar panels get too hot, they don't produce, nor provide, optimum charge to the batteries because overheating reduces their efficiency.

2  The cold winter mornings are also dicey.  If the solar panels are too cold due to the ambient temperature, even if the sun is shining on them, they don't absorb the energy to charge the batteries until they warm up.  Which could mean 9.30 - 10.00a.m. before they even start supplying charge to the batteries.

Be warned.

But, even with that said, I would not change back to grid power!  I'm loving our solar power.  Honestly though, it does take some getting used to what can be run on our total 980watt solar panel system, but once you get your head around that, it's a breeze :)  And, if we ever find that we need dramatically more power (mainly for power tools) then running the genny for a hour or so takes care of that!

No Escom blackouts in this household LOL

Sunday 23 February 2014

Towards the end of the season

I am embarrassed to confess that I made an error in the calculation of the birth date for Miranda's cria.  When I looked at Miranda's records which were handed over by the breeder, I took the last date which was reflected and calculated from there.  But, the last date is the date she gave birth to her previous cria - not her mating date.  So, I have to add 10 - 12 days to that to get her cria's due date.  Which means that her cria isn't due until 5 - 8th March 2014...!

Can you see my embarassed red face...?

So, to get to more mundane matters... LOL

We have had a really strange growing season here.  It's not that we haven't had the temperatures either.  I reckon our average daily temps have been in the high 20's to low-mid 30's for the past two months, with the occasional 37 - 39oC.

My tomatoes are only just beginning to ripen - in Feb / March!!!?!  The seeds were planted in September, and took ages to mature.  The ripening of the fruit is complementing that initial delay.

But, some of my tomatoes plants have an illness.  And I need assistance in establishing what it is.  So here is a pic :
Why have some of my tomatoes developed
a black core?
Can anyone tell me what the problem is?  Is it contagious, and should I whip out the plants chop-chop?  This is how I found them on the plant.  Beautiful from the top, but when you turn them over...!  Even the green ones are the same...  Given this or the tomatoes being eaten by mice, I think I might prefer the latter...

I tried growing cucurbits in tyres, strawbales and the ground.

The most successful was the ground - a lovely deep hole filled with alpaca dung, soil and straw.

By the way, alpaca dung is proving invaluable - if you have an alpaca farm near you, please, try and get some of their dung.  Vegetables absolutely love it!
A pumpkin in the making
I have given away a couple of pumpkins, and have at least 8 left - more than enough to get us through the coming winter.

Secondly, the tyres also proved a winner and produced plenty of butternut.   So much so that I have been able to share the bounty with neighbours and family and still have 10 left over for winter :)  Yummy - stuffed oven-baked butternut, creamed butternut, butternut fritters, butternut soup - I'm salivating at the thought of cooking them in my Rosie :)

The butternut plants did develop a bit of leaf mould, but I removed the infected leaves (and continue doing so as soon as I notice them), and the plant is still producing, so it obviously doesn't mind being "pruned".

But, the strawbales didn't work for me.

Firstly, the squash plants developed leaf mould.
Leaf mould on my squash plants - I Know I was
a very sloppy gardener to allow the plants to get
to this stage - but this was after I had
treated the plants with Sk Eco spray...!
Hectic leaf mould which I didn't notice early enough - "it's not easy to see in the glare of the sun, she protests..."

I tried using SK Eco Oil spray - a non-toxic to the environment and to the user organic oil spray.  Nada difference.
SK Eco spray
So then, after searching Google, I tried a 60% milk and 40% water mix.  Mike was more than happy to toddle round and apply the mixture.
Mike loved spraying the plants - and what a
great help he was :)
You can see some of the squash I harvested
on the left of the photo - the plant was removed
and burnt the same day.
But, that didn't work either.  So I ripped out the squash plants - I didn't want the leaf mould spreading to my pumpkins and butternuts.  Thinking about it, the squash plants have always developed leaf mould - so, note to self, don't plant squash in future...!

But, then, the strawbales containing a pumpkin plant each developed an illness - or predator.  I came outside one morning to water them, and discovered great wacking holes in the bales. Neither RMan nor I could figure out what or who had caused that.
What on earth is causing this collapse of the
strawbales?  Hares, small deer, Scallywag...?
Until yesterday that is.  I caught the culprits in action...
Can you see the culprits?  One has it's tail up
in the air, and the other is busy muching on
The ducks which adopted us back in September last year - they l-o-v-e digging in the bales... Grrrrrrrrrr!

But, I have to confess, watering the bales was always a problem - the water just seemed to slide off and / or leak out.  The plants always looked like they were thirsty - even if I had watered them an hour before.

So, alpaca dung filled tyres and the ground it will be for the pumpkins and butternut I plant in future.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Tenter hooks...

Miranda is comfortably cushing on the pile of
straw I've laid down in her stable
The photo is a tad blurry - I didn't want to
go too close and disturb her - she always
gets to her feet when I walk into the stable
 RMan and I are waiting with bated breath...
Doesn't she look adorable :)
I'd love to know what thoughts are
going through her mind...
There's plenty of humming happening, visits to the midden and cushing.  All signs that the birth is imminent.
RMan installed a 12 volt light - just in case
Miranda has her baby during the wee early morning
hours when it's still dark...
We'd hate to be handling our first alpaca birth by torchlight, and, as Alpaca's generally given birth to their cria between 12 midnight and 12 noon, RMan has installed a 12volt light with a solar charged 12 volt Deep Cycle battery in Miranda's stable - just in case she has a really early morning delivery.  

Monday 17 February 2014


We were watching Sky News on TV last night - the "Flood Nation" special.  My heart breaks for all of my fellow country men and women who are being affected with floods - especially given the experts saying that even if it ceased raining tomorrow, it will only be by May that the flood waters will have receded enough for life to become normal again.  That's hectic!

How are all those in England and Wales going to plant crops for this coming season?  How are they going to eradicate all the foulness that the water left behind in their houses.  How are they going to be able to afford to replace all their swollen, damaged furniture...?

And what were the authorities doing allowing dwellings to be built in flood plains, with no preventative measures in place?

My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
38oC in the
shade at
Here - it's another story.  We are praying for some rain.

We hit 38oC at lunchtime today.  And yes, that meant a couple of sprinkler sessions for the alpaca's.  Miranda is due to have her cria any day, so we are anxiously (and slightly nervously) awaiting that event.  And we are very conscious of her feeling discomfort.  So, not only did we give both of them a sprinkler session, but we also hosed down the roof of their stables, which they are more or less permanently inhabiting now :)  RMan is going to make a layer of shadecloth on top of the roof in order to prevent it becoming as hot in future.
Yay - the barometer
is sliding towards
The hydrometer on
the top is 65o
and temperature on
the bottom is
Inside is a comfortable 27oc - thank goodness for our double volume area - all the heat rises up, and is expelled out through an upstairs window.

Our barometer is predicting rain, and just as I noticed that I heard a very distant rumble of thunder... 
It looks promising...
And our rain water tanks are in need of a good
Everything is crispy, brown and dried out.  I hope the wind doesn't blow the rain clouds away...

Saturday 15 February 2014

Another eco-friendly solution

I've bored you all to tears with my field mouse problems.  And I lost an exasperated follower because of my constant whinging.  And probably because of our seemingly steadfast refusal to get a cat - or two - or three...

Unfortunately, Scallywag is not a fan of cats.  So, whilst he is a member of our family, that eco-friendly solution is not an option.

But, the mouse problem has spread from them just attacking my veggies, to their attacking the wiring on the ride-on lawnmower and the tractor.  Probably the genny is next...
Recycling two cooldrink tins from our trip to
Cape Town last December
So, when I showed RMan this article, he decided to embrace it - and quickly. He has already replaced the wiring on the ride-on mower a few times since we moved here, and is getting more and more exasperated with these little rodents.

Here's his version of the trap:
A dowel rod is threaded through
a hole in the centre of the tin,
which  in turn is suspended
through two holes in the paint
bucket. A couple of litres of water,
and the trap is set.
It even has an entrance ramp...
But, he didn't use anti-freeze - only water.  That way we can chuck the dead rodents into the bush and hopefully some creature will dispose of the body / enjoy the easy takeaway.  Even if it's only the ants...

Given the number of field mice, we opted not to leave the bucket empty - letting a field mouse free wouldn't help the scourge, and it would probably just follow it's urine trail right back to the alpaca's "larder".
A dab of peanut butter completes the trap
We placed the trap by the alpaca / duck food storage area- the field mice are constantly hovering - looking for the odd sunflower seed / crushed mealie / lucerne pellet which may fall when we take the alpaca's maintenance meal from the locked storage bins.

We have managed to catch half a dozen so far...

Sunday 9 February 2014

"Expected" visitors

I swear the visible reminders of our origins keep a calendar.  I would never have imagined that they would be as punctual as it would appear they are.  It is almost a year to the day since they last visited.

The ramshackle house near our gate was sold last year.  The new owners have knocked down most of the house - it was an accident waiting to happen.  Not surprising really as it was over 100 years old and had absolutely no foundations - the wear and tear was evident in the cracks clearly visible in the walls.

The new owner, JK, wasted no time in rebuilding on the exact footprint - plus a little extra...

... I wondered whether the new construction would deter the yearly visitors from the nearby mountains, or would they take it all in the swing of things?
Can you see the visitor?
In the pic above you can see the lookout - perched on the apex of the roof.  A male baboon posted to keep watch whilst the rest of the troop had some fun.

Turns out they didn't object to the new building - in fact it gave them more of an opportunity to have some good, clean fun.  They thoroughly enjoyed sliding up and down the galvanized sheeting, sitting on and swinging from the solar geyser, and running and leaping from roof to wall to pergola support wall, and back again...
Here is a close up
Once again, my simple Kodak camera is not really up to the task, but it tries. This is a close up of the visitor.

They didn't linger this time - what with all the building work and disturbance, the fruit tree didn't bare any fruit.  Or did the builders scoff it before the baboons had the opportunity?
If you click on this photo you may be able to see
the large number of baboons - any dark speck
you see on the field is a baboon
When the troop of baboons left they had a frolic in the nearby field.  RMan counted 45+ - the troop has certainly grown since last year.

They didn't attempt to visit our plot, thank goodness.  In fact, when I took a wander down to our gate to get a close-up photo, they scarpered in a flash. Always good to know that they are still wild, and not accustomed to being fed by humans.  Once that happens they can be an absolute pest - and my home grown veggies / fruit trees wouldn't stand a chance...