"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 28 June 2014

Powered up...

Warning - this is a l-o-n-g posting, and picture heavy...

A few days ago I mentioned that we had some very exciting happenings at the farm.

Well, here is the news...

We have learnt a lot about our solar power installation through trial and error. When we initially installed our solar panels we were not informed about a number of things which were vitally important.  In this instance, we were not informed that low temperatures affect the performance of solar panels.

When the ambient temperature is below 10oC the cold affects the voltage of the panels - causing the voltage to spike.  We had all our 12volt panels (incorrectly) connected in series - all the way through to our charge controller. Connecting them in series meant that maximum volts were produced by the panels - which is what RMan was (mistakenly) aiming for.  (connecting the bank in parallel would mean the Outback charge controller would utilize the Amps produced, not voltage.)

We have an Outback 80 charge controller, which, translated that means it can handle an input of 80Amps and 145 volts power from the solar panels - maximum.
Our indoor Outback remote display gives us the
first /indication that all is not well with our
power production.
Silent - at 9.40a.m. in the morning -
is not good news.  It means the voltage
from the panels is spiking
What we discovered last year (winter) is that at sunrise, when the temperature is the lowest, the cold caused the panels to spike over 145 volts - the maximum the Outback charge controller could handle - which caused the charge controller to shut down.  For hours.  Which resulted in lost input charge to the batteries.

Checking in the power room, the Outback
charge controller tells the tale : 148VDC
High VoC = shutdown - to prevent damage
to the charge controller
Given the number of people world-wide who are off-grid and who rely on solar power to charge their storage batteries, I did not believe that the problem was unsolvable, so after contacting a number of people locally - who didn't help much - I went international.  An extremely helpful gentleman at Outback technical support in Australia, responded to my high voltage e-mail query. And, over the course of 16-odd e-mails [I told you you he was extremely helpful :) ], he advised us to reconfigure the panels.
Diagram of the new configuration of our 8 X
off-grid solar panels connected in series and
the two banks connected in parallel.
He suggested that we have two equal banks of panels linked in series, and then link the two banks in parallel with two breakers separating the two different guage cables between the panels and the charge controller.
Wiring into breakers
prior to being routed
through conduit
Breaker details
To do that we needed an equal number of panels.  We only had 7 (6 X 140watt and 1 X 135 watt).  Wayne, our SiL across the field, had two 140watt panels that he wasn't using, so we purchased them off him - thereby removing of the 135 watt panel from the exisiting array.  These 8 panels give us 1120 watts of potential solar power going to the Outback 80.
6 guys in the front and two guys behind -
installing our first 5 X solar panels in August 2012.
Plus, RSon had the very good suggestion of re-installing the solar panels in such a way that we would have available roof space if ever we wanted to install more panels in the future (our old existing installation "hogged" all the available space of over half the roof area).

But, that meant getting all the panels down off the 45° pitched roof.

You recall how the builders assisted us in installing the original five panels on the garage roof.  7 guys helped RMan that day.  Five in the front with RMan...
 ...and two holding support ropes at the back.

This time we only had RMan, RSon, Wayne and one of the locals we roped in to help.

I was fraught with fear.  Those panels are frigging heavy.  And the pitch of the roof is hectic - and not condusive to ease of clambering all over it.

The scaffolding was errected, and the removal proceeded at 11.00 a.m. on Saturday morning.  I was torn between not wanting to watch / document the event, but being aware that the more I photographed, the more info we would have if we ever needed to check something in the future.
RMan and RSon discussing the best way to handle
this enormous task - and RSon giving us an
idea for the addition of further panels in future
RSon, ever the adverturous one, elected himself to climb to the roof apex in order to connect the supporting ropes to the exising array.  And to loosen the existing bolts securing the solar panels to the roof...
RSon, Wayne and the helper trying to get the
panels off the roof
A couple of times I remember pointing the camera, closing my eyes and clicking the button.   I couldn't watch...

Since the first time we installed the panels, we have erected a carport roof - and that carport roof was in the way when it came time to secure the supporting ropes.
The carport roof was in the way, so we had to
secure the supporting ropes to a quaddie
 It was very hot and difficult work - with awkward access all round.
Removing the old cables so that we could get the
panels down
But, my fears aside, naturally they got the panels down in one piece, and without injuring anyone.  There is a God in heaven.
Checking and rwiring the panels and re-fixing them
to the horizontal aluminium square tube supports
We had purchased more cable with which to rewire the panels - and that was just as well. We discovered that one of the old cables had become pinched during the original installtion - and that was not good news!
As we are going to be installing the panels in a different configuration, the supporting beams inside the garage roof had to be moved as well.
The horizontal beams fixed to the trusseses
support the solar panels
(Ah - a small bit of news I forgot to give you - RMan managed to break his new-ish glasses a few weeks ago, and, although new ones are already on order, all close up work has to be done with his prescription sunglasses.

Inside a garage roof??!?!)

Wayne to the rescue again LOL
Oh, brother!!!!  The roof mounted bolts were
installed in the incorrect position
Once everything was rewired and refixed to the aluminium supporting structure, the first bank of 4 panels was once again hoisted up the scaffolding and onto the roof.
RSon at 5.59p.m. - perching like a monkey
 on the rooftiles in the fading light.
I definitely gained a few grey hairs watching him...
Does he know how long 9 months carrying a
child is, and what is involved in getting that child
to adulthood?????
All of this takes time.

They started at 10.30-ish in the morning and, at 5.59p.m. the first bank was more or less installed.  They had installed the securing bolts from inside the roof outwards.  Then trying to find the holes on the aluminium structure below the panels wasn't easy in the fading light - and it took ages.

So, Sunday morning the work continued...
Getting the securing bolt lined up with the hole
in the roof tile
The securing bolts for the second bank were installed from the outside in i.e. first through the aluminium square tube and then into holes drilled through the roof tiles.  Far easier.  Even given the raging gale that inconveniently sprang up to hamper the operation.
The new two banks of 4 X panels - using less roof
space than the previous installation - and producing
200 watts even in the cloudy weather evident on
the photograph.  This installation allows for a
further 8 panels to be installed in the future.
So, finally we have two banks of 4 X 140watt panels (which are connected in parallel this time) mounted on the roof again.

And - thanks to RSon's foresight, we have space to install a further 8 - 12 panels should we so choose in the future :)

Clever boy :)
The battery / inverter connections remain the same
So - there you have it.

The next day it was immediately apparent that there is a definite, and visible, improvement - 10 minutes after sunrise we are already getting a charge going to the charge controller and 30 minutes later over 300 watts is being produced.  With nada voltage spiking / shutdown occuring.  At the end of the day, we are obtaining 5KwH+ of charge to the batteries - in winter!!!! :) That we only achieved last summer.

And - there is no more over voltage spiking :D  So every scrap of power produced by those panels from the moment the sun hits them in the early morning to the last ray in the evening is now going to the charge controller and into the batteries.  Yipeeeeeeee!

Well done guys.  And, thanks - seriously - a very sincere and grateful thank you for all the work, willingness, thought and effort that you all expended to sort out our power problems.

By the way, tomorrow we will have been here for exactly 2 years :)  How fast the time has passed and how worth the move it was.  No regrets - neither RMan nor myself :)

P.S.  You have only 2 days left if you'd like to add your name to the piquanté pepper seed giveaway.  Entries close at 6.00p.m. on Monday, 30th June 2014 :)

Wednesday 25 June 2014

More recycling idea's

My blog reading hiccup is sorted - thank goodness :)  Frustrating while it lasted, and I didn't know what to do whilst drinking my morning cup of tea (giggle).  Even using Bloglovin was giving me hassles (on my smartphone).

Ah well, it's passed, and all is well in blogland again...

Over the past months I have lost and gained followers - but I would just like to give a quick welcome and thank you for hitting the followers button to my latest readers :

Sarah Shoesmith of http://thegardeningshoe.blogspot.com/
nihal of http://homesteadinafrica.blogspot.com/ (it is a "by invitation only blog")
cullingofhumankind - who doesn't appear to have a blog 
Chris Carter - who doesn't appear to have a blog

Tanya of http://floodproofmum.blogspot.com.au/ SciFiChick of http://baconandeggs-scifichick.blogspot.com/
M.E. Masterson of http://adventures--of--life.blogspot.com/

Thanks all - I appreciate your support :)

I came across these whilst browsing the net - regretfully, I forgot to keep the links.  But - the idea's are too good not to share.
Tak about gravity watering plants.  This gives
the concept a whole new meaning :)
Even though these are recycled milk bottles, I reckon that there is a certain beauty in their re-purposing :)
kymber - perhaps you and I should make some
entrance features with a couple of our tyres? ;)
The ingenuity of people never ceases to amaze me :)

Don't forget - if you'd like to score some piquanté pepper seeds which I am giving away, please leave a comment on
http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com/2014/06/preserving-piquante-peppers-and-give.html before 6.00p.m. on 30 June 2014

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Blogger bug

Only one blog precis is avasilable - clicking "view
more" results in... Nada!!
My dashboard has been hit by the Blogger bug (https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/blogger/SUX-jVlBBco and https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!category-topic/blogger/TM9QlkTp6zc) and I am only able to view one blog posting at a time, as opposed to scrolling down to see blog postings ad infinitum.  Although I do have a few of the blogs that I follow available on Bloglovin, I had not captured all of them, and it means that I am unabe to read the majority, and am thus unable to comment on your blogs until Blogger sorts out the problem.

Please understand - I'm not being rude - and will be back commenting as soon as Blogger sorts out the bug... :)

Saturday 21 June 2014


Very exciting things are happening at the Foothills Organic homestead today, but, as they aren't finished, I can't tell you anythng more... yet :)

What I can tell you though is that I was caught napping.

Although we had frost last year, I didn't loose anything to it.  But this year it's different.

I had sweet potatoes chitting for ages, and planted them in the repurposed tyres we have.  Last summer the tyres produced more than enough butternut squash to see us through winter, so I thought sweet potatoes would be a good crop to follow the butternut.

I filled them with lots and lots of gorgeous alpaca poo mixed in with the soil - it had to be a winner.  I thought.  I almost gloated.  And I definitely salivated at the prospect of the harvest.
Frost bitten sweet potatoes - are they
ex-sweet potaotes? Time will tell.  But, I
e in hope :)
But - as you can see, the frost got them.  The field mice had been nibbling at the leaves in one of the tyres, and what the mice didn't damage the frost did.

I'm not sure if they will sprout again?!  But, I've left them in situ with a protective straw covering - just in case.

Strange that, because I'd grown sweet potatoes on the farm before, and they didn't suffer from frostbite - maybe we just didn't have frost that winter...?
An eggplant in the protective cover of a broadbean
plant.  But, it still got the brunt of recent frost.
My mini forest garden didn't help...
Another crop which was grown out in the open for the first time were the eggplants.

They also came a cropper.

So, I'll just have to harvest what is left growing on them, share some with RSon (who is visiting this weekend) and Natasha, scoff some of them, and preserve the rest for later.

But, the lesson will be filed away securely for next winter.  Frosty isn't going to wreak havoc in this garden again - if I can help it :)

Don't forget - if you'd like to score some piquanté pepper seeds which I am giving away, please leave a comment on
http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com/2014/06/preserving-piquante-peppers-and-give.html before 6.00p.m. on 30 June 2014

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Uses for tomato powder

One of my readers, Sol, asked me to give some idea's for using the tomato powder I blogged about at the beginning of June.   Well, Sol, here they are :)
Use the left-over tomato skins from your
preserved tomatoes to make tomato powder /flakes
  • Baking (think biscuits, scones and buns / rolls - not cakes)
  • In dry rubs
  • Add to soup
  • Sprinkle on stir fries
  • As an ingredient in homemade noodles
  • An ingredient in barbecue and other savoury sauces
  • In pizza dough (or on the pizza itself)
  • Sprinkle over salads - green salads, pasta salads, guacamole
I’ll just add it to my soups, stews and stocks and curries — but, in fact, you can add it anywhere tomato is welcome ~ steaks, chicken, pasta, pizza, and garlic bread. 

It also makes a stunning garnish for all manner of dishes — stuffed eggs, hummus and creamed cheese. And adding it to garlic butter will give it a rosy tinge and appearance :)  You can even rim the edge of a cocktail glass with tomato powder.

Only your imagination limits you :)

Don't forget - if you'd like to score some piquanté pepper seeds which I am giving away, please leave a comment on

http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com/2014/06/preserving-piquante-peppers-and-give.html before 6.00p.m. on 30 June 2014

Saturday 14 June 2014

You don't have to be bored or lonely...

... just do what Richard Dunn did - fill the time with a bit of harmless, clever and entertaining fun - and some music.

"When hit with flight delays, most of us tend to just idly wander around the departure lounge staring blearily at oversized bars of Toblerone and deciding whether to blow the last of our trip money on a U-shaped neck pillow that will in no way improve the chances of sleeping on the plane." http://www.independent.co.uk

click on the link above to find out more... :)
Love it!! :D

Having been impossibly busy over the past few weeks, watching that video reminds me that I haven't had a dose of music in far too long, so now I'm going to plug in my MP3 earphones, take myself to the end of the property, and have a good sing... all by myself LOL

Just what I need to feed my soul today...

Preserving piquanté peppers and a give away :)

Last year one of my neighbours gave me some seeds from their garden. These seeds I have been unable to find anywhere so I was excited and eager to plant them.

Due to trade mark restrictions, I am unable to use the name for by which these peppers have achieved their popularity, so I will just say that they are piquanté peppers.  The photo's will easily identify them though ;)

They took their time to germinate, and to produce fruit, but I have finally been able to harvest the first of their fruit and set about preserving them this last week.
Piquanté Pepper bush
The recipe I used to preserve them is as follows:

500 -750 g piquanté peppers (red-ripe)
60 g coarse salt (kosher salt)
600 ml water
Piquanté peppers, salt, water (not shown) and bowl

Cut off (or like me just break it off with your finger nail) the stem side of the piquanté peppers, and carefully scrape out the seeds with a small teaspoon. Rinse. Try to remove all seeds.  I didn't wear gloves for this step as the peppers aren't that hot.  Also, I quite like the tingle on my lips and tongue when I accidentally touch either with the washed, but still capsiacin impregnated, fingers :)

Then, dissolve the salt in the water and add the prepared piquanté peppers. Make sure they all stay under the brine by putting a plate on top. Leave them overnight at room temperature.

Next day, using squeaky clean bottles and caps, put on a firm tin and into a cold oven. Heat oven to between 160 - 170 deg Celsius

Now rinse the brine off the piquanté peppers, rinse briefly with cold water, and leave in a colander to drain.
The ingredients are as follows:
garlic flakes, apple cider vinegar, water, sugar'
green chillies and an unpeeled piece of ginger.
On the top right you can see the piquant
é peppers
which have been soaking overnight
For the preserving liquid you will need:

375 ml vinegar (white grape vinegar preferred, not spirit vinegar)
300 ml sugar, white, granulated (I used brown as it is the only sugar we use)
250 ml water
4 pieces ginger, fresh, peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled, whole (my garlic is still growing so I used dried garlic flakes)
10 ml peppercorns
4 bay leaves
2 small hot chillies - remove stem and keep whole

(I added more vinegar and water proportionately to cover the peppers properly)

The piquanté peppers in the preserving liquid -
jars warmed in the Rosie waiting to be filled
on the right hand side
Measure out all the above ingredients (except the little green chillies) and place into a large pot, and stir well over low heat until ALL the sugar has dissolved. Then bring to a rolling, foamy boil.

Add the piquanté peppers and chillies and boil them for about 1 minute.

Carefully remove the hot bottles from the oven. First fill the bottles with piquanté peppers, and then fill to about 1½ cm from the top with the boiling liquid.

Finally, carefully wipe the bottles tops, and screw on the tops.
Preserved piquanté peppers
If properly sealed these apparently should last indefinitely.

Ingredients:      Yield: 2 large or 4 smaller jars

You can use these piquanté peppers in a salad, on a pizza, in bread / scone baking, finely chopped and sprinkled on top of scrambled eggs, whole, and stuffed with cream / cottage cheese to which you have added chopped fresh chives, in a pasta sauce, toasted (piquanté peppers and) cheese, on bruchetta with cream cheese and grilled zucchini, etc.  Even in a tomato cocktail :)  For more recipes click here.

Naturally, I couldn't throw away the seeds which I removed from the cavity. They are currently in a bowl on my kitchen windowsill - given that we are in mid-winter, they'll take about a month to dry.
The piquanté pepper seeds drying on my kitchen
windowsill.  I give them a daily stir - and enjoy
the tingle on my lips / tongue yet again,
and again, and again... :)

In keeping with sharing is caring, I am now going to offer 25 seeds to two people who are followers of Eco-Footprint ~ South Africa and who leave a comment on this thread.  There is one entry per person.  This offer is open to anyone, anywhere - if there are local restrictions regarding receiving seeds from overseas I don't know of them.  That is your responsibility LOL

The entries close at 6.00p.m. Monday 30th June 2014 and the random draw, performed by RMan, will take place on at 8.30 p.m. Notification of the winners will be posted on Tuesday 1 July.  I have one request of the two winners. Please contact me via e-mail with your postal address.  If I don't hear from you by the 7th July RMan will pick another random name, etc until I have two winners with two postal addresses.

The seeds will be posted off to you as soon as I am confident they are thoroughly dry (roughly mid-July).

Good luck everyone :)

Wednesday 11 June 2014

I'm as old as dirt...LOL

Ha!  This time it wasn't our solar panels which didn't provide enough power - Escom was down, which meant I've been without internet for the past 2 days. Very frustrating!!!!

But, on to happier things...

I received this email from my oldest friend the other day, and as it is so delightful, I couldn't resist sharing it :)  (I have added some personal comments - they are in blue)

Someone asked the other day, 'What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?' 

'We didn't have fast food when I was growing up,' I informed him. 'All the food was slow.'

'C'mon, seriously. Where did you eat?'

'It was a place called 'at home,' I explained. ! 'Mum cooked every day and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table, and if I didn't like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did like it.'

By this time, the kid was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to suffer serious internal damage, so I didn't tell him the part about how I had to have permission to leave the table.

Here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I figured his system could have handled it :

Some parents NEVER owned their own house, wore Levis, set foot on a golf course, travelled out of the country nor had a credit card.

My parents never drove me to school. I (at the age of 6 walked to the station 2.7 kms away to catch a train) had a bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed, (slow). 

We didn't have a television in our house when I was a child.  (Springbok Radio provided our nighttime entertainment - with programmes such as "The Creaking Door", "No Place to Hide" with Mark Saxon, "The Men from the Ministry", "The Pip Freedman Show",  "Consider your verdict" , and "Springbok Radio Top 20.  They were actually excellent, and listening to them one was encouraged to use your imagination to visualize the scenes, instead of today where one is viewing what the film producers think you should see.)  Television was only available here in 1976, (but I only saw, and rented, my first one when I was 20). It was, of course, black and white, and the station went off the air at midnight, after playing the national anthem (it only broadcast on one channel for 37.5 hours / week then, with the second channel hitting the airwaves in 1981!   LOL) 

I never had a telephone in my room. The only phone in the house was on a party line. Before you could dial, you had to listen and make sure some people you didn't know weren't already using the line.
Pizzas were not delivered to our home.... But milk and orange juice was. 

All newspapers were delivered by boys and all boys delivered newspapers --my brother delivered a newspaper, six days a week. He had to get up at 
6AM every morning.

Nobody had a gardener - the whole family climbed into the garden work together over the weekend. (I used to come home from school at the age of 8 and do the family's ironing.)

Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the movies. There were no movie ratings because all movies were responsibly produced for everyone to enjoy viewing, without profanity or violence or most anything offensive.

If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren. Just don't blame me if they bust a gut laughing. 

Growing up isn't what it used to be, is it?

I may be as old as dirt, but I'm not be as old
as these grinders though LOL

My Dad is cleaning out my grandmother's house (she died in December) and he brought me an old Royal Crown Cola bottle. In the bottle top was a stopper with a bunch of holes in it.. I knew immediately what it was, but my daughter had no idea. She thought they had tried to make it a salt shaker or something. I knew it as the bottle that sat on the end of the ironing board to 'sprinkle' clothes with because we didn't have steam irons. Man, I am old.

How many do you remember?

Head lights dimmer switches on the floor.
Ignition switches on the dashboard.
Pant leg clips for bicycles without chain guards. (Y)
Soldering irons you heat on a gas burner. (Y)
Using hand signals for cars without turn signals. (Y)

Older Than Dirt Quiz : 

Count all the ones that you remember - not the ones you were told about. The ratings are at the bottom.

1. Candy cigarettes
2. Coffee shops with tableside juke boxes 
3. Home milk delivery in glass bottles
4. Party lines on the telephone (Y)
5. Newsreels before the movie (Y - and hated them because, in my opinion, they wasted too much movie time LOL)
6. TV test patterns that came on at night after the last show and were there until TV shows started again in the morning. (there were only 3 channels [if you were fortunate]) (Y)
7. Peashooters (Y)
8. Howdy Doody 
9. 45 RPM records (Y - and I've still got some :) )
10. Hi-fi's (Y)
11. Metal ice trays with lever (Y)
12. Blue flashbulb (Y)
13. Cork popguns (Y)
14. Studebakers (Y)
15. Wash tub wringers (Y)

If you remembered 0-3 = You're still young
If you remembered 3-6 = You are getting older 
If you remembered 7-10 = Don't tell your age,
If you remembered
 11-15 =You're older than dirt! 

My answers are in
blue - I scored 13 LOL  I might be older than dirt but those memories are some of the best parts of my life

Saturday 7 June 2014

Preserving and recycling

Although I keep every little moisture absorber sachet which arrives in whatever tablets that enter this house, I tend to keep them for sucking the moisture out of cell phones, camera's, etc which may have come into contact with water. Providing that you stip down the item as far as possible, and wipe of the visible moisture, before popping the gadget into a lidded airtight container with the sachets, that works a treat, and has saved many an electronic gadget :)

But, when it comes to food, I am not so keen to add those chemical sachets - just in case they break.  So I had to devise my own.
Tomato skins, sundried in my solar oven,
and ground down to provide us with instant
tomato powder
You may recall that I made some tomato powder from the skins of the tomatoes I harvested.  After drying them in the solar oven, I popped them into a grinder.

Once they were nice and powdery, I put them into a repurposed glass jar.

Then I pulled out the remnants my daily cuppa(s).

I always put the used teabags into a bowl next to my kitchen sink, until the bowl is full, then it's contents get emptied into the worm bin.
Empty, used teabags, which have been rinsed
and laid out to dry
This time I had another need for those used teabags...

After carefully separating / opening one edge of the teabag and emptying the tea leaves into the worm bin bowl, I rinsed the tea bags, and laid them out to dry.
Dry, rinsed used teabags, containing uncooked
rice granules, which is secured with a bit of
Then I put some uncooked rice granules into the teabag, and secured it with a bit of string.
This moisture absorber works -
and is as eco-friendly as it gets :)
The string-tied rice filled teabag then got put into the jar of tomato powder.

And that's all that's needed.

If the teabag bursts for any reason, the moisture absorbing contents will not contaminate the contents of the jar.

And, at the end of it's useful lifetime, the rice can be thrown out into the garden for the birds to peck, and the teabags and the string can all go in the worm bin.

It a bit fiddly, but it's worth all the effort, because it works beautifully :)

Now, can anyone deny that I am a bit OCD regarding recycling? ;)

Thursday 5 June 2014

Thought for Thursday 8

The weather here is overcast, cold, wet - with a smattering of snow on the mountains.  But, as there is very little power coming into our batteries blogging is limited...

...so, to keep in touch here's a Thought for Thursday from Tut:

"The main reason someone moves mountains, wins friends, influences people, amasses a fortune, or anything else, is because they thought they would.

Veni, Vedi, Vici!"