"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 31 May 2014

It's the little things...

So, being Saturday late afternoon / early evening, RMan is ensconced in front of the TV watching his rugby, and I am plonked in front of the laptop, chilled glass of white to hand, having my blogging time.

I have wanted to mention this for a few weeks now - I can't switch on the laptop everyday so I try and keep up with everyone's blogs via Blogger Dashboard on my smartphone, but not every blog allows me to comment using it. And I don't always remember when I am properly online to revisit those pages.  But I do read your blog postings - I promise :)

I love those crisp early morning before sunrise.  Picture me - RMan still fast asleep in bed, so I'm toddling down to the gate and back, round all the veggie patches / orchards, humming to the alpacas, and quacking to the two ducks - in my (warm) gown and crocs.  I can't wear my winter sheepskin slippers outside - they'll get too wet from the dew - and wet sheepskin slippers start to smell... :)   Cold damp (wet) feet can easily be warmed when I return inside, and that early morning time outside is too precious to be fussy.  But I am a veritable sight to behold - I don't care, for it's only the animals that can see me LOL

But, to get back to those early morning solitary rambles round the property - there are a wealth of things to see, but you have to look closely...
A traditional suspended spiders web
... spiders webs of all description - traditional...
... and a not so traditional web
... and, what I call the tunnel spider web.  Our "lawn" (wild grass) is literally covered with them in the mornings.  I'm not too sure how this spider catches anything, because even the dew just hangs there on the outer edges, and doesn't drip down into the tunnel, so I'm guessing that a small insect will do the same. But I do wonder what the point is of the tunnel?
The morning-after-night-before for this tardy bee
Our lemon trees loved the belated pruning I gave them a few weeks ago. They have all started sprouting new leaves.  I am keeping a sharp eye out for a sign of the return of the woolly fruit fly, so the lemon orchard is included in my early morning stroll.  Carefully inspecting the trees, I spied a bee on one - at first I thought it had been skewered onto a lemon tree thorn by a butcher bird.  As I looked closely, I saw it feebly moving it's one leg.  I am surmising that it stayed out too late the evening before, and didn't have the energy to find it's way home.  When I to checked this lemon tree after the sun came up, it had disappeared, so it must've got warm enough to make the homeward journey.
Finally, this moth flew in one night, and I found it on the dining table the next morning.  I have never see a moth with this pattern before.  Pretty, isn't it?

It isn't just the obvious beauty of this place that we love - it's the little things that count too :)

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Off grid cooking

I'm loving the cooler weather we're having.  And, I don't think it is my English roots which is causing this  LOL

Don't get me wrong, I love using my solar oven, in conjunction (when required) with our two plate gas stove from our old caravan.
Our re-purposed caravan
stove - we use the top two
plates and the grill, but
have never used the oven as
it apparentlty chews LP gas
like a box of chocolates in the
hands of two young'uns:)
So, the oven doubles up as
my mouse free bread bin
But, both of those are limited.  Firstly, by the weather, and secondly by the amount I can cook at any given time - normally two pots full of food in / on either.

During winter, when it's pouring down with rain, and using the Rosie, a whole new world of cooking opens up.

This is the use to which I put the Rosie last week...
Clockwise from the top:
Hot water for washing up (for
perspective in a 10 litre pot),
jars and lids being sterilized for the granadilla jam
busy being prepared in the centre pot,
the kettle (which is permanently on the boil),
chicken pieces being boiled for a hearty chicken soup
the next evening, home-grown butternut,
and, on the very left, there is a pot of rice cooking. 

The Rosie accomodated 6 pots and the kettle...plus in the oven I roasted chicken pieces and made bread rolls.
Chicken pieces roasting in my Rosie - the rolls
went it later...:)
...plus in the oven I roasted chicken pieces and made bread rolls.

Don't forget the hidden benefit.  Whilst all this is going on, our home was also being heated - to a very comfortable temperature :)

Now, considering that all of this used only 12 pieces of wood in total, I call that an economical way of cooking food whilst heating our home.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Harvesting the water from mist

Short and sweet today...
Image source
I'd love one of these in my garden :)
You can see how the netting captures the
moisture from the mist
But, there again, wandering out in the garden early one day last week when it was almost completely misted in...
T'was a brilliantly icy, misty early morning...
... and, then toddling through the shadecloth veggie patch I spied... 
Here you can see the mist droplets collecting
on all the spiderwebs on the walls of the
shadecloth veggie patch
... mist collecting on the shadecloth (and spiderwebs) around my veggie hut...
Visible proof that the mist is accumulating
on the net of the shadecloth veggie hut
...and dripping from the roof of the veggie hut.

Which proves the principle completely :)

But I fancy the look of the structure - very Out of Africa :)

Tuesday 20 May 2014


Treat yourself.

A master puppeteer at work!  Don't be surprised if you catch yourself forgetting that it is a puppet.

Click on the link below the screen captured pic.


Those were the days of simple toys - eco-friendlier toys.  Tactile toys.  Solid toys. Toys which came from the earth and would happily return to the earth.

Wooden alphabets blocks.  Wooden cars and trains.  A twig which became a boat for sailing in the smallest puddle.  Actual (skipping) rope with wooden handles. Wooden painted rocking horse.  Wooden (child-propelled) scooter. Wooden spinning tops activated by a piece of string.  Wooden "trailers" with wooden handles - ideal for schlepping along an obedient puppy or sibling, a frog in a jar, a (small, but important) load of wood for the fire...

An empty wooden slatted box - the greatest toy of all - it became a fort, a (potential) go-kart, a dolls "kitchen" in the garden, a table for a dolls tea party, a baby doll cot - eventually metmorphosing into a puppys' bed.  The possibilities were endless LOL

I remember them all well ;)

Saturday 17 May 2014

Dinner for two

How can there be anything nicer than harvesting home grown vegetables and having them for dinner?

Unlike those in the northern hemisphere, I am so fortunate to be able to harvest vegetables this late in the season.
On the chopping mat - clockwide from the top:
Red chillies, pepperdews, red capsicum,
 purple beans, yellow capsicum.
spinach & cabbage (in the bowl) 
and chopped onions (not shown):)
All home grown.
And they were just what I needed for a chicken stir-fry.  All I had to buy was the chicken, and the rice.

Tonight is baked fish (in the Rosie) with fresh rolls, homemade tartare sauce, home-grown aubergine two ways (with tomato & grated cheese, and the other with mayo and parmesan cheese [thanks for the recipe 1st Man :)]  ) on the side.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Makes me think...

...will it make you think?

Sunrise - 7.02a.m. 26th April 2014
Sunset - 6.15p.m. 27 April 2014
...and this?

The beginning and the end of a day.

Stunning, aren't they :)

When one sees scenes like this one cannot help but be reminded just how infinitely, exquisitely, beautiful this planet is.  How privilged we are to be living on it - to share of its' bounty and to experience its' wonder.

We don't get these spectacular sunsets or sunrises during the dryer summer months - there isn't sufficient cloud to assist in creating them.  They occur more so in winter.  And, to me, each and every sunset is breathtaking.  In our previous town house we lived in a valley bordered on three sides with mountains, and, on the southern side, by the bay.  That meant for 22 years I never saw a sunrise nor a sunset.  I am starved for sunrises and sunsets, and eagerly await that possibility each and every day.

It would be incredibly sad if, due to the dramatic climates changes we mere humans are directly contributing to, we could no longer have a start or end to a day that gives us this breathtaking beauty, don't you think?/

If, due to trapped carbon dioxide, the earth's atmosphere continues heating up, then the reality of rising sea levels, extreme storm events, dangerous heat waves and severe droughts will become the norm.

I was watching a programme the other night - Evacuate Earth.  It is a programme of hypothetical situations which could cause mankind to evacuate this planet - if they had anywhere else to go.  In the one episode they spoke of sea level rise.  And gave a specific example of New York.

Most of New York's buildings have deep support pylons drilled into the earth - these pylons are filled with steel re-inforcing.  What happens to steel when the sea level rises, the level of the ground water table increases and that steel gets wet?  It rusts.  With, or without, seawater compounding the problem.  And it gets weaker.  And, could - and probably will - eventually result in all those high rise buildings collapsing like dominoes. All that steel re-inforcing is merely a quick fix.  A man-made solution to wanting to build where the ground is not suitable for such a structure.

Mankind needs to be proactive not reactive.  What compels man to develop ruddy great cities near the moisture laden waters edge.  Yes, by all means have a harbour positioned there - but an entire mega-city of skyscrapers?  The concept is, to me, beyond comprehension.  And it's origins, like so many things involving man, is profit and greed based.

In the USA and Europe this past winter - the weather was extreme to say the least.  And, it was, from the blogs I follow, an extended winter.  Now California has been be declared a drought disaster area.

How much more information do we need before we are convinced that this planet is changing - and not for the better?

The choice is in our hands.

Change our ways now, or lose the opportunity.

Climate change is not going away because we decide to avert our eyes, or close our ears, or label someone as wacky because, single handedly, they are trying to make a difference. There is no way we can cover-up, have a quick fix, nor use a bandage  to make it better - other than what we humans can, and must, do to rectify what our greed, selfishness and shortsightedness has resulted in.  And that won't necessarily be a comfortable journey.

Like a witness in the courtroom, who is being cross examined by a probing, efficient prosecuting attorney, you can't take your time to consider your answers or reactions.  The evidence is clearly visible.

The responsibility lies with each and every one of us.

Instead of resisting the inevitable, how about becoming part of the groundswell of change.  There are recent examples of people revolting in order to effect change.  I am not advocating a revolt - not at all.  All I am asking of anyone who reads this blog posting is that you add your voice to the groundswell in whatever and whichever way you can.

Take some baby steps.

For example, recycling - and this study by students at a university in Utah will frighten you - to quote one excerpt from their publication:

"Of these recyclables, Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild the entire commercial air fleet every three months, enough steel to reconstruct Manhattan, and enough wood to heat 5 million homes for 200 years."

If you don't have a recycling facility near you, create or sign a petition addressed to your municipality to instigate one, or approach a local recycling firm and encourage them to, at least, do a feasibility study.

Sign a climate change petition addressed to you local Member of Parliament to make him aware that unless he takes the necessary steps to act on your behalf, his position may be in jeopardy in the next election.

Do whatever you can to effect change - no matter how big, or how small.
If only for your children's sake.

Do yourselves a favour - beg, borrow or steal a copy of a book I am currently reading : ""The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman.  I am 31% through this book on my Kindle.  As I write this I am gasping for air through a throat choked closed with overwhelming emotion.

I am not, generally, an emotional person.

Life has taught me that there are many lessons - both easy and hard - and I have taken them all on board.  I am a react-or who only allows myself the luxury of melting down once a crisis is passed.  But this is mind blowing.  I am simultaneously horrified, ashamed and heartbroken.

After reading it you will understand just how much damage man has been done to our only home, Earth.  I will definitely be begging, borrowing or buying a copy of Mr Weisman's latest work, "Countdown - Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth?"

And, as you munch through your dinner of chicken, beef, pork or lamb tonight, by way of gratitude for the privilege of your meal, go on-line and order a copy of "Farmageddon" by Philip Lymbery.  You can read a review of the book here or here.  Or you can see a trailer of the movie that has been made of the book here.  I'm not saying that you must go vegetarian.

All I am asking is that once you have read one, or two, or all three of these books, please - blog about the book.  Blog about what you discover.  Blog about your feelings.  Blog so that others may learn what you now know.

Even something simple like asking for one, or all, of these books to be the book of the month at your bookclub, if you belong to one.  Or donating the book, once you (and, hopefully, your family and friends) have finished with it, to the local municipal library or high school library so that the message may reach a broader audience.

It is the least you can do.

Be warned - each publication will probably make you assess and take responsibility for your part in the ongoing and increasing damage being perpetuated to this blue planet.

Are you brave enough to read one, two or all three?  Please - please - be brave enough.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Alpacas at play?

RMan is in heaven.  He has finally found someone or something that is permanently in play mode.

First, last year he was concerned that the alpacas may be bored.  The alpacas???
They don't look bored to me, but they did to
Kris spotted the foreign object in a flash
So, connecting a rope to a football, he placed that in the alpaca paddock.
Should I get closer...?
Sitting outside the paddock, he slowly began to pull the ball towards him.
RMan has the patience of a saint
Kris, naturally, had to see what this was that was slowly moving in the paddock.  It was white, but it didn't look like a duck.
A leap here, and a leap there - what is this
thing that keeps moving...?
He couldn't resist - he had to follow.

The same happened with Minky.  RMan figured that he needed some companionship.
RMan getting a good sniffing over by Minky
Minky is not as timid as the two adults.  He always comes to greet you when you enter the paddock.  And that greeting entails a good, but oh, so very gentle, sniff of the face and neck.
Mike gets the sniff over now
Mike was entranced the first time Minky gave him the once over.

But, make no mistake, Minky is very strong willed.  If you get up too quickly, before he has completed his daily "inspection", he then tries to nip your posterior if you turn your back on him.  Very gently though :)
The joy of being alive...
He does seem to miss the companionship of other cria.  So he has a game...
... so aptly demonstated by this little cria.
... round and round the paddock on this own:)
...or with whoever is willing.
Ah, a human has come to play - Minky sprints
down the paddock after RMan
 And, RMan is always willing to come out to play LOL
Oh - there's another one...
Then, last weekend Mike stayed over with us.  And, naturally, he had to join in on the game.
... slow coaches.
Minky was in alpaca cria heaven.
Minky is not even breathing deeply after
all that exercise

Boys will be boys!

What a treat this little cria is - what pleasure and joy he brings to our lives.
And don't think I didn't see you hiding behind
the camera Dani
It's the simple things in life that give one pleasure.

I would hate to have so many animals that they are just livestock, and I / we don't get to know them as we have Minky.  What a loss that would be - to our lives, and theirs.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Making your own pectin for your fruit preserves

I have been unable to find commercial pectin in any of our supermarkets when it is time to make jam, but, I have found an apple pectin recipe which does the job.

The recipe calls for sour cooking apples, but I have used normal eating apples, both red and green, with no problem.  Even those forgotten apples from the bottom of the vegetable drawer in my fridge - those no-longer-crisp, flowery tasting apples.

But, I digress on my shoddy fridge cleaning habits.  The apple pectin recipe goes as follows:

1 kg (2 1/2 lbs) sour green cooking apples (you can use windfall apples here just ensure that you remove any bruised or damaged bits) and cut in quarters. Place the apples (pips, flesh and skins) in your preserving pan and fill with just enough water to cover the apples.

Cover and simmer until they are soft - roughly 15 - 20 minutes. 
When the apples are soft, use a strainer to
get rid of the skins and pips
Strain the pulp through a sieve - this will cause the bits of skin and pips to remain behind.  Put the skin bits / pips in your compost pot.
Apple pulp in a muslin-lined sieve
Strain the pulp again through a muslin-lined sieve - suspending it over a bowl to allow the liquid to drain out.  When the drips stop, I gather the apple pulp inside the muslin, and gently twist the cloth to force as much of the remaining liquid out of the pulp as possible.
Apple stock
Then, I take the pot filled with the apple stock (liquid) and place it on the stove, simmering gently until it is thick and reduced by half.  At this point I test the pectin strength.
Place a tablespoon of methylated spirits into the
apple stock
To test for the pectin strength:

Place 1 teaspoon of the reduced apple stock in a small container.  When it is cool add 1 tablespoon of methylated spirits, swirl them together and leave for another minute.  The check for the following:

High pectin = the mixture has formed a jelly-like clot.
Medium pectin = a couple of soft clots form. This will cause your jam to potentially not set properly.  Solution: return the apple stock in the pot to the heat and continue cooking until the stock has reduced a little more.  Then test for the pectin level again.
Low pectin: Many small clot-like jelly spots form.  Solution: return the apple stock in the pot to the heat and continue cooking until the stock has reduced a little more.  Then test for the pectin level again.

This quantity of apples should produce roughly 400mls (10 - 15 fl. oz) of pectin.

By the way - discard the methylated spirit & apple stock pectin test samples - methylated spirits is poisonous.
Strawberry jam made with apple pectin.
The jar with the plastic wrap under the lid will be
used first as I ran out of lids and had to re-use
an old one.
When you have a high pectin apple stock, place it in small freezer pots, or ice cube trays and store in the freezer.  150ml (5 fl. oz) of apple stock pectin will be sufficient to set +/- 2kg (4 .5 lbs) of medium to low-pectin fruit jam.

The result I achieved at the end of this last summer - perfect jars of strawberry jam :)

But, I have Scottish roots - from a few generations back.  As a result, I am always finding ways of being as frugal as possible and producing little to no waste.  And, from the looks of it, all that gorgeous apple pulp that remained did not want to land in my compost heap.
Wonderfully tasty apple pulp.  There is absolutely
nothing wrong with it, so why waste it?
So, out came some spare empty ice-trays.

And in went the apple pulp.
Apple pulp in the ice tray - ready to go into
the freezer
I placed the apple pulp filled trays in the freezer until they were frozen solid.
Frozen apple pulp
Then I removed the frozen pulp from the ice trays, and broke the pulp into individual cubes...
Instant apple sauce - ready for whenever it
is needed :)
...and, replacing the cubes in a freezer bag / container, I store them in the freezer until the next time I make a pork dish for RMan.

All I then have to do is take out the required number of squares whilst his pork is cooking, allow them to defrost, add sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, and there I have instant apple sauce.  And, I can take out just enough apple squares to ensure that RMan has apple sauce with his pork, and the rest does not go mouldy between pork dishes, as normally happened when I purchased jars of commercial apple sauce from the supermarket.
I made jam from glossy red grapes...
I have also used the this pectin to make grape jam from our first ever grape harvest.
... and from delicious sweet hanepoort grapes
And, hopefully, next season our youngberry bushes will produce enough berries for me to make youngberry jam too :)

So - excuse me - but I'm off to make some granadilla jam now... :)
A collage of the steps in making apple pectin
and apple sauce

Thursday 1 May 2014

Thought for Thursday 7

Firstly, welcome Donald.  I'm tickled pink that you clicked the followers button :)

"Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children." (Ancient Indian Proverb)
As those of you in the northern hemisphere proceed with your Spring seed planting / soil preparation, please remember whatever you put into the ground may last longer, or have far greater (and not necessarily positive) consequences than you think.  Where possible, please be as organic as you can - for the sake of those we leave behind, and of those yet to come...