"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

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Skin deep

Everyone knows that the tougher outer layer of our skin is there to protect the blood vessels, nerves, tendons, etc which lie below.

But, have you ever given any thought to the outer skin of your fruit and vegetables?

For far too many years I religiously peeled everything edible that entered my kitchen.  Potatoes were peeled prior to being boiled or roasted.  Carrots were peeled.  Even pumpkins and butternut were peeled.

"Why?" I ask myself now.  Why did I waste all that energy and time - and goodness.

Most of the goodness lies just below the skin, and through peeling the fruit or veggie, what you are doing is allowing the perfectly encapsulated nutrition to be wasted through dissipation in the boiling water, or in the steam being produced by the boiling water.
Clockwise from left:
Whole potatoes boiled in their skin;
using a knife to carefully peel the (hot) boiled potatoes;
use the potatoes for potato dauphinois, or mash, etc.
Did you know that there is absolutely no necessity in peeling potatoes which are destined to be mashed?  All you need to do is wash the skin - using a brush to remove any caked on dirt - leave them whole (preferably) or cut them in half, and toss them into a pot with water.  Once they are cooked all you need to do - carefully - is either peel off the now loose skins, and slice.  Or haul out your potato masher and mash away.  Most of the skins will be trapped by the masher, and can then be removed and added to your compost heap. Whatever is left in your mashed potatoes adds a touch of body :)  Similarly, when roasting whole, halved or sliced roast potatoes let them also retain their skin.

One of the things I love about my Rosie is that I can cook my homegrown butternut and pumpkins whole.  I always harvest the pumpkins when they are about the combined size of 3 large grapefruit.  That is more than enough for RMan and I and normally stretches to two or three meals - pumpkin as a side veg, pumpkin and potato soup, pumpkin fritters, etc.
Clockwise from top left:
cut out the remaining stem and clean out the pips;
place the stem section back to seal the pumpkin;
baked pumpkin with all the retained goodness;
baked whole pumpkin so tender it falls apart
I prepare the pumpkin by carefully cutting a small opening by the stub of the stem, removing the seeds and, after popping the lid back on, all I do is pop it on a roasting tray and into the oven and let it cook until it is ready.

Then it is simply a matter of slicing off a chunk of the pumpkin for the side veggie option.  When the balance of the pumpkin is cool, I scrape the flesh away from the cooked skin, and keep it in the fridge until it is needed for the next meal.

This saves preparation time, and cooking time, because for the next meal reheating / redeploying the pumpkin is quick and easy.

Even carrots.  I know that unpeeled boiled carrots don't look that appetising, but when you glaze them briefly in honey before serving, there is seriously no need to peel them. If you're using them in coleslaw all they need is a good wash / scrub and then a grate - the mayonnaise hides the sometimes unsightly skin.

Other veggie we eat unpeeled are cucumbers, tomatoes, peas - in fact only things with really hard skin - like avocado's, oranges, lemons, banana's - are peeled.  Everything else is left as it came in from the garden :)

RMan now wants me to peel carrots by the way.  That is because the alpaca's love grated carrots, carrot skins and carrot greens.  It is their very best treat :)

Saturday 26 July 2014

Long term planning

Anyone who grows their own produce knows that sometimes one has to be very patient. Very, very patient.

Well, this particular garden project started back in April 2010.

Growing lemons.  And growing them from pips.

I never knew that anyone could grow lemon trees from lemon pips until my sister-in-law showed me a heavily laden lemon tree in their garden which she says she grew from a lemon pip harvested from our town house lemon tree.

I had to give it a go, and ended up planting 30 small lemon trees which I had managed to grow from pips.

It has been a long wait.  With plenty of whoolly fruit fly infestations.  And many sleepless nights wondering if the trees we had planted were getting enough water, especially as they were all on their own - this was still when we were living in town, and only came out to our smallholding every 4 - 6 weeks.
Aaaaah!  What is this.
Finally, after 4 long years - a lemon bud has
appeared on one of my lemon trees:)
But, finally, a month ago I was rewarded.

The first sign that there was life appeared in the form of a small bud.
The instant reward of a lemon flower is it's
incredible smell
Talk about excitement.  I was beside myself!!  When the first flower opened I was beside myself.  In going to fetch RMan to come and see I think I cleared the distance from the lemon orchard and the house in 30 seconds.  Whooping excitedly all the way LOL
The perfection of the little lemon which has sprouted from that flower makes me want to weep.
The buds sometimes try to conceal themselves
but my eager eye managed to find them
I pity those who have never felt the sense of achievement which can be obtained from growing something yourself from what would normally be thrown into the rubbish or onto the compost heap.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing, which compares - no expensive must-have-latest-version gadget, no fancy house in the "right" neighbourhood, no material possession you could purchase, no job promotion.  Nothing.

It is such a simple joy.  And such a simple achievement.  And so immensely rewarding.

All it took was care - and patience.
An ambitious cutting
growing buds before it
has produced a single leaf
When I gave the lemon tress a pruning at the end of last summer I shoved the cuttings into some growth hormone, and placed each one into a pot of soil.  This eager little cutting in the photo above decided that it wanted to produce flowers before it had grown a single leaf!!!  Naturally, the flowers didn't last, but at least the sign of life and the promise is there... :)

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Inglorius fruit and vegetables

RMan aping the eggplant LOL
Those of us who grow our own fruit and vegetables know that we don't harvest perfect specimens every time.  But - the shape of the fruit or vegetable does not affect the nutritive value, and, apart from the short  space of time between it growing on the plant and being harvested, and landing up either as juice or a meal portion, is, normally very brief.

I have never bothered what the produce looks like.  In fact the more absurd they look, the more I love picking them - like the aubergine at the top of this posting that gave me the thumbs up :)
So, the carrots on the left are not as appetising
to look at - but, does that make them any less
nutritious?  They are not dried out and wilted,
merely malformed.
But, it has never occurred to me that those odd-looking, non-perfect fruit and vegetables are not acceptable to shops.  That, in fact, the farmer cannot send them to market...
... and, how do I know?
The deformed carrot - advocating peace :)
Because I was sent the following link.
Check it out :)
Personally, if there was a supermarket / greengrocer here that had sold produce like that when I still had to buy mine, I would've had no hesitation in purchasing from them.
Hats off to Inter Marche - for seeing the bigger picture.
The Ugly Clementine
I never gave that it a thought, but now that I do, I can see that every fruit and veggie available in the shops has to look "perfect".  How ridiculous - when so many people are starving worldwide.
They are certainly stepping up to the plate - with or without the pun - and committing themselves 100% to the 2014 European Year against food waste.  I hope they get all, and more, of the support from their customers that they deserve.

Mankind really is taking perfection too far.

Which begs the question.  Can we afford to be that picky about what our fruit and vegetables look like...?

Saturday 19 July 2014

Out of town

Yesterday was RMan's birthday.  Yup, it's on the same day as Mr Nelson Mandela's :)

So we sort of took the day off.

We decided to travel through to Mossel Bay - approximately 170kms away - for the day. There was a highly recommended restaurant there which serves a carvery and, apparently, it is pretty reasonably priced.  It is also situated within a casino complex - and RMan does like a flutter once a year or so. Seeing as he hadn't visited a casino in over 4 years, he was long overdue. LOL

Unfortunately, RSon was unable to join us for the weekend, so we organised to meet up with Natasha, Wayne, Mike and baby H at the venue.

After tending to all the animals - both the four and two footed - we set off. The road to Mossel Bay is fantastic - in a very good condition and very scenic. Passing hundreds of aloes lining the roads in one area, which then became a road surrounded with beautiful, artistic wild grasses.  

Finally arriving at Garden Route Casino, we first went to fill our stomachs.  We had booked for 7 people and only ended up being 5½ (the half being HJG in her own chair.)  But, the restaurant had given us a table large enough for 7. A really beautiful table - and once which was a feature in the restaurant.

Around the table they had a privacy "wall" of chains - similar to bathroom plug chain - which was suspended from the ceiling in a very simple curatain track. Above the centre of the table was a light which mimicked the effect.

My camera is on it's way out, and was battling to focus - but this is what the light looked like:
A simple gear type plate, with "bobble"
type chain of different lengths
creating the light fixture.
The effect created by the light on the ceiling added to the overall look of the table.
A close up of the ceiling fitting.
Plus you can see the centre "gear"
through the chain - it is the support
for the hanging chain 
As we still haven't got any light fittings in any of the bedrooms - just the bare bulb hanging down from the ceiling - and although this type of fixture will date pretty easily, it has given me an idea...

Lets see if it will work.  If it does I'll post a pic or two...

It was getting late-ish by the time we left the restaurant, and, with a 1¾ hour return trip ahead of us, plus Natasha, Mike and baby HJG excluded from the casino, and animals to feed at the end of the trip, RMan's visit to the casino was brief.  But lucrative :)

We have been here for 2 year and 19 days - and this was our first foray along the N2 to the east.  More than time to do a little exploring.

It was a lovely day all round - our eyes are full of the natural beauty of the area, RMan filled up in the carvery (so he had his meat fill for the week), we were together with family, and RMan had some fun.

It was a perfect day - even the weather played ball :)

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Getting the people back to working the land...

... wherever that is.

I've had a rant or two over the past couple of months. My apologies - I just get dejected now and then, and have to vent some steam.

Now for some good news :)

Worldwide there is an evident trend of people moving from rural areas to towns in search of a "better" life on the "streets of gold".  This is resulting in vast swathes of underfed, unemployed, restless and discontented people living in squalid conditions on the fringes of society, feeling hard done by and resentful.  Given the conditions they are living in, who can blame them?

And this situation is further exacerbated not only by the lack of home grown produce being put on their respective tables, but also by the loss of knowledge of the land which used to be shared within families - being passed down generation to generation - and visibly demonstrated on their homelands.

I have been extremely concerned that once this knowledge is no longer freely and widely circulated, what hope is there for mankind?  The loss of traditions, the loss of know-how and the loss of satisfaction in growing their own crops / tending their herds of animals would be devastating to man.

Thankfully, someone has seen a bigger picture.  Someone has had the energy. And someone has had the impetus.

He is Reverend John Thomas.

And his story can be found here or here.
Growing hydroponic vegetables outside Cape Town
I have heard people say, "Oh yes, I'd love to grow my produce hydroponically, but I can't afford the system / the water situation isn't right / or a thousand and one one reasons why they can't.  I can almost guarantee that the system they are using on the link above is a simple system - it may not be automatic, and it wont have all the bells and whistles, and it may mean that they manually have to turn on a switch / tap 2 or 3 times a day.  But who said that hydroponically grown vegetables can only be watered automatically????

What these people - the mentors and the students - are doing is inspirational.

Given that I heard the other night that if some major world-wide catastrophe hit this planet, we would only have food reserves for 1 Billion people for 1 month.  Therefore, getting young able bodied people away from the falsely bright city lights, the streets which can be incredibly uncomfortable, cold and unfriendly, and the fruitless search for work which is in short supply world-wide, and back onto the land producing their own food would certainly assist them in fending for themselves, if, and when, the need should arise.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Clever idea's

Don't ask me how I found the following site, I haven't a clue LOL  Sometimes (especially when it's cold and miserable outside, and I'm parked in front of the Rosie and I have spare browsing bandwidth available) I get on the web, and treasures just leap out at me ;)

But, some of the idea's are so clever / appealing, I just have to share them.

Spring must be round the corner, I'm feeling spring-cleanish...

In the garden
I have to try this - even if I try it with lemon tree cuttings
 In the kitchen :
How to keep salad fresh

I have to say - if you can find really fresh ginger (like from your garden) then
invariably the skin just peels off.  It's only the "old" ginger that becomes a
pain to peel

I have done this for years - and it works :)  No messy stove tops because the
pasta water has boiled over

How to keep a cake fresh using bread.
Clever - because invariably the icing keeps the outside moist, it's only the
cut portion that dries out.

How to slice a whole bunch of cocktail tomatoes in one go

How to stop fish sticking to the barbeque grid

How to easily access your pans and casserole dishes - although I reckon
that I could (and would) still use the space behind the pan handles LOL

Oh yes - time to climb into my linen cupboard and use this idea
 In the garage / tool and garden shed :
Even RMan could use this to keep the garden tools tidy - couldn't he...?

And if he used this for his screwdrivers, he would always be able to find them
(and so would I when I need them...)

Ha!  Love it.  Such a simple way to store the wheelbarrow

No more lost drill bits... :)  (although I would go very cautiously when using the
magnetized drill bits anywhere near computers or cell phones)
If, like me, you could do with a bit of reorganization here and there, why not head on over to their webpage - there are loads of hint, tips and tricks there that I haven't shared :)

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Introducing Dilly & Dolly

Boy - are we having frost this year.

Check out the layer of ice which formed in a puddle of water on RMan's trailer this morning...
Scaallywags inivestigating this new phenomenon in
his life...
.. that ice is roughly 1.5 cms thick!  It has wiped out my sweet potatoes, and is even affecting my peas - for goodness sake!!!!

But, I love the cold :)

On to other things...

I have discovered that I am very slow on the uptake.

Very, very slow.

And I have proof positive.

Well, it has taken me all this time to realise that they aren't "ducks" per se, more drakes.

No bloody eggs is how I figured it out.  And given that they are sexually mature at 18 - 24 weeks...

The past (almost) year has scuttled by at such a pace - I still thought of them as ducklings.  Until I suddenly thought, hang on, they've been here a while - how come they're not laying eggs?  So, naturally, I Googled at what age are quacker ducks fertile.
Curly tail feathers indicate that both of the ducks
are, in fact, drakes!
No wonder they didn't produce any eggs.
I discovered that our two ducks, who have curly feathers at end of their tail feathers, are, in fact not ducks, but drakes.


I need some female ducks.

Our ducks have given us so much pleasure - they made us smile at how they greet us so vocally every time they see us, they've made us laugh out loud whilst watching their comical waddling round the yard and they've helped contain the insect population.

So, what's not to love?

So, the word went out.  Where can I buy some female quacker ducklings?

In May I finally found a lady who lives in the nearby village of Suurbraak. Suurbraak was established as a mission station back in 1812.  The land around the mission station was given to the locals by the Moravian Church and the village that sprang up around the mission station is now inhabited by the future generations of those early members of that mission.  It is a very quaint village - in an extremely scenic setting.  And, as there is very little work / industry nearby, it is a very poor village - with most of the villagers living from hand to mouth.

Anyway, the "duck lady" told me her duck was sitting on eggs, and that they should hatch shortly and be available in June / July.

I booked two immediately LOL

Sure enough when I mailed her, she told me that the ducklings were ready to go to their new home.  We organised to collect them last week on Monday.
Arriving at the "duck lady's" home - this was the
view which greeted us as we stepped out of the car.
The "duck lady" (she also has rabbits) lives high on the north facing hill above the village.  And has a stunning view from her front gate.
This is the duck lady's chicken coop -
quite cute, I thought :)
Just to the left of her chicken coop I spied our future ducklings - nestling in the grass.
Three little Quacker ducklings catching some
rays whilst they nap
I noticed that the one had black spots on its tail feathers.  Ha!  Apparently that is how you identify the male Quacker ducklings from the female ducklings.  And, when the ducks are fertile, they get a black spot on their beaks.
The duckling on the right has the black tail
feathers - so he's a future drake.
Oh man, they were just too cute.  I wish we could've taken the male, but apparently too many drakes round ducks means drake duck fights.  And we have two drakes already.  I hope they remember their long sabbatical and behave themselves in future...

Time will tell.
As soon as we got the ducklings home the drakes were immediately inquisitive.  Walking round and round, and up and down the outside of the duck enclosure - quacking, quacking, quacking...

"What is this?  Oh, my, they are ducks, just like us" seemed to be the translation of all the quacking that was bandied back and forth.
In the meantime, the ducklings weren't fazed by the drakes, and whilst they quacked ever so softly in reply, they acquainted themselves with their new surroundings.  I have been advised to keep them within the enclosure for 7 - 10 days - to acclimatize them to the enclosure, their surroundings and to me.  And to being fed in there - that is so that they happily return to it every night ;)
Inquisitive drakes outside and two curious
ducklings inside
But the drakes - they couldn't get enough of these two new arrivals.  They settled down for a ducknap outside the fence right next to the ducklings and didn't budge - even when I fed them.
Travelling from their old home, arriving at their new home,
and having a quick welcome munch made them thirsty
And the ducklings - they had a munch, they had a slurp - and then a swim, and then they settled down for the night...
On the first night the ducklings refused to even
inspect their shelter, and just settled down
on the straw I had place inside and in front of it.
But, at least they are under cover and protected
from the rain and wind
It feels good.  And it feels right :)
This is where I found them on the second night
- floating in the small pool made out of the
repurposed stainless steel kitchen sink that
we scored off Freecycle so many years ago
Last Sunday I let the ducklings out of the enclosure.

Did she mean to leave the gate open, should I
go outside...?
 At first they were a bit tentative...
Hmmm, it doesn't smell too bad, perhaps we
should venture out...
 ...can I, should I, may I...?
The drakes rushed up to finally meet and greet the
new ducklings
 But, the drakes came to "welcome" them, so they couldn't resist.
...and then proceeded to start nipping at
their tail and neck feathers!
I reckon they thought they had made an enormous mistake...!

The drakes proceeded to make their lives hell for the first 24 hours.  So much so, that I didn't allow the drakes into the enclosure that first night.
Settling down (hopefully) before their insect
hunting jaunt
This morning?  Well, after a nip or two from the drakes, they all seemed to settle down and are travelling all over the land searching out insects...
The drakes are in the front, and the ducklings
are against the fence at the back
...and, after their forage, have even taken up voluntary residence in the enclosure together.

Peace reigns - for now.  But, from what I have read, one of the drakes is probably going to have to find a new home...

And, within the next 3 - 4 months we will (hopefully) have some real (yellow) baby ducklings waddling round the farm :D