"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

Saturday 26 April 2014

Sowing his oats

RMan has been a busy bee over the past weeks.  As we certainly have the space (roughly 1 - 1.5 hA of unused area) we have decided to use the winter rain which we experience here to grow some oats for the alpacas.

But, our land was heavily overgrazed when we bought it in 2008, and, in order for it to recover, we have let it lie since then.  So, that meant a lot of work had to be done on the land in order to prepare it for the oat crop.

RMan has gone all eco on me - he didn't even consider using any chemicals to assist him with the momentous task...
The start of the prep work - slashing the thick
renosterbos bush
RMan had the tractor, and a slasher.  So a-slashing he went.
You can get some idea of the state of the land -
and this is after the renosterbos has been removed.
Then, he bought a 2 blade plough, and a-ploughing he went (the tractor isn't strong enough to handle more than a 2 - 3 blade plough).

Finally, he borrowed a five tooth ripper and a-ripping he went.
I don't know what this grass is called.  In
Spring it puts on an amazing show - long
whispy fronds, caught in the early morning
sunshine, wave in the gentlest of breezes.  But
they have a hidden agenda - their incredible
root systems
But, we have a clump of grass which grows here, and it has a wicked root system.  It almost resisted all his attempts to remove it - especially with the ground being pretty dry and hard.
Those grass clumps still remain, and would take
years to break down.  So, hand removal is the
only option
So he concocted a contraption whereby he fixed a wooden "plank" to the 5 tooth ripper, drilled and added threadbar "teeth" (which were set much closer together than the ripper's teeth) to the plank and took that for a spin around the field - a.k.a. a Boer maak a plan (trans. a farmer makes a plan).
RMan added his homemade threadbar
attachment, and that finally sorted out
the last of those pesky grass clumps

It was, finally, only with some help from a couple of local labourers, who, heroically together with RMan, forged ahead with the hand removal of the now totally exposed grass clumps (with exposed) root systems, that we ended up with some clean land on which to sow the oats.

When RMan was happy, he then pulled in the assistance of my quad bike. Fixing an old very heavy steel fence section to the back of the quaddie, he drove up and down the field gathering any large remaining clumps of bush or large rocks within the fence structure.
RMan on my quaddie - dragging a heavy piece of
unused steel fence behind the tractor
over the newly
sown seed to try and cover the seed slightly with
sand in order to hide it from the birds flying overhead.
Then, purchasing 150kgs of oat seed from the silo's in town, as well as bags and bags of lime, planting proceeded.  Labouriously walking up and down, up and down, up and down first the lime was added and then the seed was "drizzled" from old ice cream tubs.

RMan repeated the quaddie / heavy steel fence exercise after the seed was sown - to try and cover the seed with a bit of soil.  Lucky he did - the birds flying overhead are zooming in and making merry with the balance of the exposed seed.  "Hey, guys, 10 per cent is all we can spare - the rest s for the alpacas!"

We finished literally two days before we had 14mm of rain.
The wonder of rain - visible signs of oats
growing literally 2 -3 days after the rain
RMan's reward - visible signs of oats growing in the prepared field.

He's tickled pink, and suddenly, personally, understands my joy at harvesting home grown vegetables.  The visible reward is addictive :)

A job very well done - by a complete novice!  I'm proud of you RMan :)

Now, all we have to do is find some way of harvesting the oats when they are ready.  Big expensive machinery we don't have, no do we have access to any, so I reckon a couple of pairs of feet, and pairs of hands and an old fashioned sickle or two will have to suffice.

In the meantime, I am also trying to provide some sustenance for the alpacas - but more on that in another posting...


  1. Perseverance pays off! Good for RMan.

    1. He's sitting here chuckling at your comment, DFW. Thanks :)

  2. Well done RMan. Three cheers to you.
    Love from Mum

  3. That was a lot of hard work but the sight of those oats sprouting must have made it seem worth it in the end. I hope you get a great first harvest. Pity you couldn't just let the alpacas in the field to eat a section at a time then you wouldn't have to harvest it, lol :)

    1. dreamer - Year - letting the alpacas free to roam and fill their tummies would be 1st prize, but I don't know how we get them back into their paddock...

  4. You folks are hard core. That's a lot of work, especially reaping with old fashioned sicles will put some arm muscles on you. It's really great you are doing all that for yourselves, and putting the land to use.

    1. Harry - Dunno about hard core - we have no other option. But, necessity is the mother of invention, so let's see what RMan comes up with as harvest time approacheth... ;)

  5. I just stumbled across your blog and love it, I still have to catch up with the whole story on the weekend.
    This makes me miss Africa so much and I can't wait to live this way one day as well.
    Looking forward to updates. :)

    1. Ruwen - Welcome and thank you, firstly, for taking the time to leave a comment, and secondly, for your very kind words :)

      RMan and I are fortunate, aren't we? Thankfully, we don;t take it for granted and count our blessings very often.

  6. That's a pretty exciting project! Good luck on your first crop of oats, R-man!

  7. Wow, what a huge amount of work to go through. I hope the alpacas appreciate it! Well done RMan.
    I did a workshop on how to use a scythe once. I was terrible at it but would love to really learn it properly - yes, even just the short while I was there made me feel it in my arms but there was also something incredibly relaxing about it. Very meditative (I might feel differently if I'd actually had to do it for hours on end, I suppose). If you can, the one thing I remember is that, like so many things, the older traditional tools are far superior to the modern versions. I think the ones you can buy here in garden centres and the like tend to be made in China and all one piece. Like so many things they are made to be replaced rather than repaired if there is a problem. It's possible the same thing goes for sickles. Look forward to following the story of the oats. Will you try a little of them for yourselves?

    1. Moonwaves - Yeah, I have a feeling that when it comes to harvesting the oats, RMan may just realize the enormity of the task he has set us...

      Chinese goods - I fear that will be our only option :( And, as for arm aches, well I have developed the classic flabby underarms - perhaps it will help to firm them up again :)

      I have read that the best time to harvest the oats is just before they set seed. That way the nutrition value is in the plant, not the seed. As we want to feed the alpacas the stalk as well, we will most probably harvest before the seed sets. So, no, we (humans) probably won't be eating any...

  8. Wow, must be a great feeling to see those beautiful shoots appearing after so much hard work. Well done :)

    1. Rossemary - You would not believe the almost childlike joy he is getting from seeing them appear :) Thanks.

  9. just over our mountain is the Roggeveld. Where the wild oats once grew. Now we have wheat, oat, barley farmers. Wild oats come up in my garden and we leave them to the delight of the birds.

    1. Diana - Oh, the alpacas would love to have wild oats growing in their paddocks :)


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