"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 30 August 2014

Dry, dry, dry...

It's amazing what a source of historical information my blog is turning out to be for Rman and I.

When I want to check on how we ran our water or electrical conduits during the building, or on weather from years gone by, etc. I am able to quickly find the info I need on it.  So, forgive me if I babble on now - this posting will help us in the years to come... :) 

For those of my followers who don't know South Africa, the Western Cape Province (wherein lies our smallholding) is a winter rainfall area.  Winter in the Cape becomes the Green Season as far as tourists are concerned - a complete and welcome contrast to Gauteng Province (Johannesburg / Pretoria area) which gets it's rain in summer, and has a dry, brown grass appearance and runaway veld fires in winter.

This year we've had a below average rainfall - so much so that RMan's oats - which he spent so much time preparing the ground for, and planting so carefully - suffered very badly.
Who did I spy in the field, with a hosepipe in hand?
So, I wasn't surprised to see him in the middle of the oat field armed with a hose a couple of weeks ago.  (At that point in time we had only had 20mm of rain since the begining of July - and, trust me, the ground was d-r-y!!)  He was trying to water the oats, so that he could harvest at least some of the crop for the alpaca's as a reward for all his hard work.
I traced the pipe back to our rainwater tanks...
You recall we have seven 5,000 litre rainwater tanks.  They certainly came in handy this winter :)  Even the frosty mornings caused a trickle of melting ice into the tanks - admittedly, not much, but every single drop helps!
...and it stretched for 100mtrs to where RMan
was standing
All RMan had to do was purchase an extra 100 mtrs of 15mm irrigation pipe, hook it up to the one rainwater tank, switch on the 300watt pump, open all the stop valves...
Not easy watering an entire field by hand, so
RMan chose half of the field and gave that
some concentrated watering
...and out poured the water from all the tanks.  Totally free and 100% chemical free rain water :)
Nothing like a cold beer to quench a thirst :)
Naturally, seeing all that liquid squirting out causes a thirst in humans as well, so when I shouted to ask him if he was thirsty, the reply was "Yes please!!" :)  A cold beer (or two) sorted out the human thirst at least :)

What is the point of having rainwater tanks if one doesn't utilize the water they are holding when one needs it? :)

This past Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we had 25.5mm of very welcome rain fall, but RMan has decided that the crop is past saving.  It's barely above ankle height and very patchy.  So he is going to leave it to mature and dry out, and then he is going to turn the entire plant matter into the ground.  As it breaks down it should help to feed the soil so next year's crop will hopefully be a successful one.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Another sign of Spring

We're hectically busy here, so this is just a quick post to keep in touch.

RMan spotted these two the other day, and rushed in to grab the Canon to take a pic.
I don't know what type of birds these babies are,
but boy, are they cute :)

Saturday 23 August 2014

Minky progress

Minky - just after  birth
If you were a follower of my blog back on the 3rd March 2014 you'll remember that Foothills Michael, a.k.a. Minky, was born and we experienced the first ever birth of a farm animal - our precious Minky, the Alpaca cria.
Minky - in all his
Miranda has been an amazing mother and has cared for him beautifully and that is evident in the change that is now visible in Minky.

Minky has certainly grown.  And then some...
This pic is deceptive - his coat has grown...
and even his face is covered with a blanket.
Just as well - it helped to keep him warm
on the coldest nights this winter
He's now just over 5½ months old and is almost as tall as his mother.
Because Minky is so tame, he insists on "smelling"
your face whenever you enter the paddock and has
the gentlest nose that you ever felt :)
Because he has not been left in a paddock with other alpaca's with no human contact expect when they need their inoculations / deworming, he been "humanised" and is extremely friendly - to the point that anytime anyone enters his paddock, he rushes up to give their faces, necks and ears a good sniff LOL

I have read on quite a few alpaca websites that alpaca's don't like to have their heads or necks touched - obviously Minky hasn't been told that alpaca trait!  There's nothing he likes more than a good rub of the fur on his neck or on top of his head.
Minky's not too keen on the water splaching on
his legs or feet - it makes him flick his
feet - maybe it tickles LOL
Initially, Minky wasn't as mad about water as his Mother and Kris.  Now...
"Give us a drink, RMan"!!
With the drought we have been
experiencing, RMan was watering their paddock
with the water from the rain tank.  Minky
rushed up and shoved his mouth in the streaming
...he can't get enough, and will even try and drink it as it flows out of the hosepipe.  And, like Miranda and Kris, has stated cushing in any puddles that form.  Strangely enough though, when it rains he rushes under cover?!
Mother and son - what a difference!!
Minky, although very friendly, can be "difficult".

He is obviously going through the Terrible Two's / Troublesome Three's and the moody teenager phase - out of the blue he has been known to give RMan a welcoming sniff, flatten his ears, and then give him a dose of the contents of his stomach - probably just practising for when he needs to spit as an adult. Thankfully, with his immature spit, it's not as bad as when an adult does it to you LOL
Oh, brother - that fur is going to take time to
get clean again!
There is nothing he loves more than to roll over in the loosest grass he can find - not ideal as he works it right into his fur, and it is an extra chore when it is time to give him a brush.  That fur will have to be sparkling clean before he is sheared in a month or two - otherwise the blades get blunt very quickly.

His playfulness with his mother extends to nibbling the back of her legs, until she gives him the same treatment.  That stops him in his tracks LOL  Then they have a session of neck rubbing -  similar to giraffes - or he tries to walk under her stomach as though he is still a small cria.

He can be a handful - just like all small children.

And, he also is not terribly neat.
The original midden is the circle at the back -
the "skid" mark is the midden as Minky moved it
closer and closer to the stable area.
Due to his laziness (?) the midden that Miranda created near the stable has been stretched from it's original position, and now reaches almost to the stable.
Alpaca's are incredibly agile - it always amazes
us how he can bend down to suckle from Miranda
His body fur is an even mink colour, his face is a slightly lighter shade - almost like coffee with milk, and...
Dark, dark fur round his hooves.  Almost as though he
is wearing dark booties LOL
...the fur round his hooves is dark brown
Who wouldn't love that face? :)
He almost looks like he's smiling for the camera,
doesn't he.
For all his nonsense, we love him.  Life at Foothills Farm wouldn't be the same without Minky - or Miranda or Kris :)

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Sharing the love

I wrote here about feeding the ducks their grain / oat seed under water.

This was in an attempt to prevent my feeding the entire valley's rodent population - which would be an expensive exercise, and would encourage them to take up residence close to their convenient food source - just what I don't want.

It is amazing - even the wild birds watch out for me.  As I walk towards the bowls in the duck enclosure they arrive en masse and perch wherever they can until I leave and they can get to it.
The wild birds look out for me too - and all line
up in anticipation of a good munch
The other day as I was walking away from feeding the ducks I happened to glance back to see if the ducks had settled into muching and I spotted this...
Cheeky things - they barely allow me to
leave the enclosure before they climb into
the contents of the food bowls
 Birds, birds and more birds - of all descriptions...

I spy birds, and someting else...

... and not only birds.  Can you see what I spied in the bottom right corner of the photopgraph?

As the wild birds were busy with the one bowl, this ruddy field mouse proceeded to the second bowl, and, maling like the bird in the 2nd photo above, it proceeded to straddle the edge and reach down to the water to get the sunflower seeds which were floating on top.
Yeah, it's cute -
but it's still a rodent.
And it eats my veggies!
No wonder I found empty sunflower seed shells scattered round the bowls.  I thought it was strange that ducks would shell the seeds, and figured that the birds weren't big enough to do so.

All is now clear.  I have said before that sometimes I am slow - this is just another example ;)

So, when I go to town at the end of the week I am going to have to find some bowls which are shallow enough for the ducks to reach into, but too deep for the mice...  (and may I add, I have no problem if they do try, and they happen to plunge in and drown because they've stretched too far - there is absolutely no danger to the mouse population and any that do meet their maker will do so without poison and are thus safe for other wildlife to munch!)

I will not be thwarted in my fight against the rodent problem LOL

Saturday 16 August 2014

Double volume

It's all very well having a double volume kitchen / dining and lounge area. Yes, it's lovely and cool in summer, and, providing that you close the upstairs doors in winter (otherwise the heat collects in them instead of in the open plan living area), it's lovely and warm then too.
Double volume ceilings have their
pro's and cons :)
But, cleaning cobwebs from the corners of a double volume ceiling isn't that easy.  And we have lots, and lots and lots of spiders here :)

So, at 1.8mtrs tall (which is more than me), RMan was assigned that task.
Corner is dusted and sorted.
To give you perspective, RMan
is 1.8-odd mtrs tall and that
wooden plank is +/- 2.8 mtrs =
+/- 4.5 mtrs up to that corner
It didn't take long, and involved getting one of the remaining pieces of fencing wood to which he securely attached the duster.

That's that done for another few months :)  With that task complete one wonders if Spring is in the air?

I have proof positive...
Plum blossoms - a sure sign that Spring is on
it's way :)
After the (mainly) good harvests achieved on the northern hemisphere blogs I follow, I'm sure you don't mind relinquishing the growing season over to all of us in the south.  After all - the circle must continue...

And, after last years dismal tomato harvest due to ignorance and blossom end rot, I'm keen to get going again this year :)

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Super lunar

Thanks to everyone who has purchased my "Free from the Sun" solar recipes, I was in a position to buy myself a present.

My little Kodak point and shoot basic camera, being over 6 years old, was giving up the ghost.  The focus was jumping all over the place as I tried to shoot a pic, and the battery would last for about 8 photo's before complaining that the battery was low and it needed recharging.
Canon SX510HS

So it was time to replace it.  RMan and I researched what was available on-line here and I (finally) made a decision.  I bought a Canon SX510HS.  What a stunning camera :)  It will enable me to take r-e-a-l-l-y close close-ups [even of plants :) ] - which the old Kodak couldn't manage - as well as zoom 30 times closer to the dam next time we have any feathered visitors :)

The initial impression of the camera is "what took me so long"?  Wow!  The pics it takes are crystal clear - and when it comes to taking bird life (and I've never been a birder or twitcher or whatever you call it) the clarity and detail is fantastic :)  So much so that I think I may start a "Birdlife seen in our valley" page on this blog :) (I just need to identify them with the help of "Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa" book before I post them though...)

It arrived just in time for my birthday - and the timing was absolutely perfect, because, not only could I snap some shots of the day, but also because on Sunday evening we experienced a supermoon in Southern Africa.

To quote from http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/kwazulu-natal/special-moon-to-light-up-sa-1.1733140

"If you take a look at the moon tonight it will be at its fullest, brightest and closest to Earth this year.
 This phenomenon is known as a “supermoon”, when the moon appears to be 10 percent to 15 percent larger than usual.
The moon’s proximity to the Earth tonight will be a distance of 356 896km at perigee, the closest point, which will therefore make it the brightest and largest full moon of the year.

I took this pic of the supermoon
at 6.27 p.m. on Sunday evening using
an ISO-400 setting.  Just as well I didn't

wait for 8.08p.m. - the mist suddenly
rolled in and the moon was barely visible.
Also, the moon will be at its fullest at the same moment that it is closest to the Earth – something that will not happen again until 2034.
Nicola Loaring, outreach astronomer at the SA Astronomical Observatory, said that the average distance between the Earth and the moon was 384 400km.
However, because of the moon’s oval path of travel, the distance varied depending on where it was in orbit around the Earth.
At perigee, the moon was about 50 000km closer to the Earth than it was at its most distant point, she said.
“Full moons that occur when the moon is close to or at perigee are called supermoons and appear slightly larger or brighter than usual,” said Loaring.
“There has been one supermoon so far, in July, with another one expected in September. The supermoon will be visible from all over South Africa… and everyone should have a look at about 8.08pm local time because the moon will be at its closest point for the year.”
Logan Govender, a spokesman for the Durban centre of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa, said that although supermoons occurred regularly this one was special.
August 2014 super moon

“There are full moons every month but this supermoon is special because it will be at its fullest at the exact moment it is closest to the Earth,” he said.
“This is very important and what makes this occurrence different. Sometimes there is a full moon before it rises. You can call this a super supermoon.”
He said this would affect the tides but that it had no superstitious bearing."

Now that made my birthday, which was already outstanding, even more special :)

Again - a very sincere thank you to everyone who made the camera purchase possible :)

Saturday 9 August 2014

Veggie fun

John, of Going Gently, lives in a small village called Trelawnyd in Wales.  He is very involved in the village life and knows most of what has happened, is happening and will be happening there in the future.  He also supplies eggs to most of the villagers it seems.  The village is going to be having their anuual flower show soon, and in honour of that, he decided to host a competition too, but it wouldn't entail flowers, rather fruit and veg - novelty fruit and veg. He generously opened up the competition to anyone, anywhere, and, will be printing all the photo's he posts in order to give them a chance to be entered into, and judged, at the flower Show.  Phew!  How many ink cartridges is he going to go through...?

Anyway, to brighten up a dreary winter's day last weekend I couldn't resist the chance of having a bit of fun.  Of course, as always, I got carried away, and this is what I came up with...

Sweetie Potato
- I loved the sweet potato root ends which made

perfect tufts of hair on his balding dome
(sweet potato body, chilli ear, piquantè pepper
mouth and granadilla seed compound eyes)

Bertie Butternut
- gives the term couch potato
a whole new meaning

(butternut body, fennel hair.
granadilla eyes, carrot arms,
chilli nose, piquantè pepper
mouth and braided onion legs)

Initially, I couldn't decide which one I liked most, so I sent them all to John and told him he had the decision.  He chose the one above - "Bertie Butternut" ;)
Give-us-a-kiss Pumpkin
- now that pouting piquante pepper should
provide a kiss to remember ;)

(pumpkin body, fennel hair, chilli nose and
piquantè pepper pout)

I then had second thoughts, and finally made a decision, so I re-sent him "Give us a kiss" pumpkin above.  He generously entered that as well.  Thanks, John :)
Lonely Naartjie
- "Crikey, I'm next"...

Robin the Red Rodent
(red pepper body and ears,
onion root whiskers, and
chilli tail)

The only fruit / vegetables which are store bought are the sweet potato, and the naartjie (mandarin).  The rest are all home grown :)

I do not expect to win at all - there are some abso-frigging-lutely stunning entries that put my feeble efforts to shame.  But, who knew what you could do with vegetables ;)  There are some incredbily creative people out there! 

All the completely stunning entries can be found hereherehere, here, here, herehere and here .  Head on over and check them all out - I promise it's worth your time, and will definitely bring a smile to your day...

Personally, I wil never view vegetables I harvest or prepare in quite the same way again - each grapefruit will be a pair of Rachel's, and each yellow pepper will be a scream, and each aubergine I peel will be a (butler) penguin in the making...

I will give a link for the winning entry when John posts it - I wish I was at the show to see all the entries - photographic and physical... :)

Thanks John - that was fun :)

Disclaimer: Please note - no vegetables were killed (nor irreparably injured) during the production of the above photographs and most have subsequently been eaten... LOL

By the way, tomorrow is my birthday - and no, I'm not telling how old, but certainly older than I thought I would ever be.  Reckon I'll just spend the day counting grey hairs ;)  If I don't reply to any comments you make tomorrow please understand - I will reply on Monday...

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Feed storing

Firstly, I'd just like to give a quick welcome and thank you for hitting the followers button to my latest readers :

Helen Blom - I can't see a blog for you Helen
Wendy of http://whishinrecipes.blogspot.com/; http://whishin.blogspot.com/;
Murphy's Law of: http://lagniappeslair.blogspot.com/
Jean of http://shrimptonandperfect.blogspot.com/
Ken Alviti of http://www.englishhomestead.com/; http://www.sawdustinmysocks.com/
The_Shroom of http://rsandss.blogspot.com/

Thanks guys and girls - appreciate it :)


Then - onto today's topic...
November 2012 - the garage in all it's glory :)
When we built the garage section it was so that we would have somewhere to stay whilst the house build was completed.  Well, that - and somewhere to give one of the cars some shade during those blisteringly hot summers days.(Where we are two cars is, to us, vital and ensures that we will never be marooned - if one doesn't start for any reason, the other one should be able to get us to emergency medical attention if, and when, required.)

We had a garage added to the plans so that if at any stage we wanted / could afford the garage it would just be a case of getting it built - no resubmission to the municipal housing plans department would be required.  Bear in mind that initially we started building here so that we could escape to the country for a weekend / week now and then.  Little did we know that it would be required to store boxes, and us, when we moved here permanently.
November 2013 - the carport is added - for the
tractor and for a feed storage area
Then RMan got an old tractor.  So we needed somewhere to protect the tractors exposed electrical parts / gearbox from the rain.  So we added on a "carport" to the entire side of the garage.  The garage is long enough that the carport can protect both the tractor and a car from the weather - sun or rain. RMan left it open at both ends so that the tractor could enter from one end, and a car from the other.

But, we also store the back-up generator there - noise and pollution dictated that positioning LOL

And then we decided to get our alpacas.

As you can see, the lucerne bales are right next to the
back-up generator - not good!  Especially given the
exhaust is pointed right at the bales.  RMan
tried to create a "barrier" between the genny and
the bales
And we needed somewhere to store their feed.  So, the car got ejected from the carport, and the tractor, genny and the feed took precedence.  But the genny was right next to the lucerne bales - with the exhaust unfortunately pointed right at them.

So, we needed to make another plan.

Back to the sawmill in town to purchase more of their (cheap) offcuts.  well, we don't need the feed storage to be in an airtight space - just protected from the rain.
The carport now has a enclosed end...
RMan has "enclosed" the one end of the carport for the feed and for the genny - and we have moved the genny.
...and the genny is situated so that the exhaust
points outside of the feed storage area
It is now situated with it's exhaust extending out of the feed storage area.

Happy days :)

It's amazing how your outbuildings, which you try and plan so carefully, can adapt to new requirements.

But, I have a feeling that once we harvest the oats, we will require more feed space and the tractor may have to move to the 2nd shadecloth veggie hut which is still incomplete.  It will mean reforcing the roof structure and putting IBR sheet (corrugated iron) roofing on it, but that shouldn't prove too problematic...

And, it will move the field mice, which are sheltering inside the bodywork and under the tractor's slasher, just that little bit further away from the house. Win-win :)

Saturday 2 August 2014

Running out of time and...

... water.

Not a pleasant prospect for anyone or anywhere.

So, it is very disturbing to read that it would appear that the western states of the USA definitely are running out of both.  This is official and details of it can be found here.
Photo credit:
This picture taken from a helicopter shows a
drought affected area on the outskirts of
San Francisco, California, on July 23, 2014
But, it goes much, much deeper than that - it appears that the western states of the USA are not just suffering a (rainfall) drought - it goes much, much deeper than that.  Click on the link under the photo credit to read more.

Considering that California is the bread basket of the US of A, this is indeed not good news.  And - in addition - some bright spark signed a bill allowing fracking to proceed in the Monterey shale there - without an environmental review.  Thank goodness the City of Los Angeles stepped in and placed a moratorium on fracking there in February this year.  But who is going to look after the rest of the western states?

The City of Los Angeles obviously has foresight.  Pity our government does not!

No water, no life.

And then the worldwide gravy trains will definitely run out of tracks...