"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 29 November 2014

Eco-friendly weeding - part 1

Our land, like all the land here, is heavily (over)grazed by the local livestock. With that in mind, we finally had our soil tested this past October.  The results were surprising - at least to us.
Wherever the results are green - they are adequate  /good.
Wherever they're yellow - bad!!
The veggie hut and veggie patch - I knew they'd be good because over the past 3 - 4 years I have added at least two trailer loads of compost (that we had to purchase because, at that time we weren't making enough, quick enough) together with Talborne Organics and Starke Ayres organic fertilizers. Plus, in the last year they have also had a dose of alpaca poo - or two, or three...

I thought I had been feeding the lemon trees adequately - but the results certainly indicated that it wasn't anywhere near enough...

And, as for the oat field - RMan had added lime when he was planting the oat seed - and he thought he'd been generous.  He added +/-300kgs to a hA.

Ha!!  The results indicate that he (still) needs to add at least two tons!!

So, it wasn't just the lack of water that caused our oat harvest to be a failure. It was also that the soil imbalance was too great.
Potatoes growing in pots full of alpaca
poo.  On the bottom right are butternut

seedlings in a pot - and they're almost
ready to transfer to their designated
growing bed.
Then, whilst we were at it, we had the alpaca poo tested.  I have been getting amazing results from whatever I am growing in it (I have potatoes growing in neat alpaca beans at the moment, and they are doing briliiantly), but I was interested to see the actual figures.
The results of our ground alpaca poo
The gentleman from the laboratory was so impressed with the alpaca poo results!  He made us an offer we can't refuse...

Tuesday 25 November 2014

What a little bit of rain can do...

Before November is done, I wanted to show you what 35mm of rain can accomplish.
An unseasonally dry winter resulted in a dam
level well below it's normal winter level.
But, peeking under the jetty in the top right
corner you can see there was still enough for
the ducks to splash about in :)
The above pic of the dam was taken in October.  As you can see there is at least 3 - 4 feet of waterproofed gum pole showing above the water line.
A dry and crumbling entrance gully...
The entrance gully was all dried and cracked.
Welcome water gushing down the gully into
the dam
And then on the 3rd and 4th of November 49mm of manna fell from the heavens in 24 hours.
The water deepened the gully, but wasn't
ferocious enough to widen it.
RMan is planning to strengthen the entrance
gully to prevent it from getting out of control.
The gully into the dam is dramatically deeper...
That's better.  What's the point of a dam if
it isn't holding much water?
... and the water level in the dam has risen by at least 2 - 2.5 feet :)  

So, not only did the rain fill the rain tanks, but it also rejuvenated the water in the dam too :)

The predicted rainfall for next week
The weather forecast that I follow shows that we can, hopefully, expect, a further 20mm of welcome water falling from the heavens over three days next week.  I hope that they don't adjust that down as is their wont... 

Sunday 23 November 2014

In the bag

I have started another blog which will deal only with all things alpaca related.
What's in the bag
If you'd like to see what it's all about, please click on this link.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Introductions all round?

I often wonder about the origins of names that other people use as their Blogger name.  The name I use, is an abbreviation of my given name, Danielle (pronounced Dan-ee-elle).  I shortened it to Dani because I was tired of being called "Daniel" - a common way of saying the female version it in South Africa.

But - there are many fascinating names of followers of my blog out there e.g. Chickpea (is that because you're a chick, and pea is part of your surname?  Or because you like peas?  Or chickpeas?  Or is it a favourite family name from when you were a child?)

Similarly, (and in no particular order) : The Shroom, shrimptonandperfect, (from the 60's a.k.a. Jean Shrimpton?), dreamer, Fracas Farm, Wriggly Tin Farm, Bear Soap, DFW, Hilltop Homestead, Redloon, Thistlechick, Treasure Hunter Girl, 1st Man, johnnybgood, Riverhauler...?

Won't you share what inspired you to choose your Blogger names - without exposing your privacy?  Just for a bit of fun :)
RMan and Dani in 2007 - cartoon style :)
(And you can't see the wrinkles nor the grey hair
- bwahahaha)
I'll leave you with the link to a site that my brother sent me http://cartoon.pho.to/

It's brilliant, and it instantly transforms any photo into a cartoom image.

Monday 17 November 2014

Minky - before and after...


This is to remind you of what Minky looked like on the 18th October this year...
Typical little boy - scruffy, dirty and filling
his face
 ... just 4 days before Chris from Helderstroom Alpacas kindly arrived to shear our three alpacas.
Miranda - showing Minky what to expect and
what lies in store for him :)
Minky wasn't mad about the blower which was used to try and get 1) as much of the dust and 2) whatever vegetable matter out of his fur as possible prior to shearing.
Minky getting the blower treatment -NOT a
happy chappy
I don't think the noise of our generator (which powered the blower and shears), nor the noise from the blower helped Minky's state of mind either.  But, the shearing is necessary for his own good during the heat of summer ahead.

And, as for being strapped by his feet and pinned to the floor for the 3/4 hour it took to remove his fibre...
Minky after shearing - he's less than half the size LOL
...he didn't "speak" to RMan until the next day.  But all is forgiven now :) (a bowl of freshly grated carrots helped too.)
Minky's fibre - and this pile is just from his legs!
He doesn't look quite so cute and cuddly anymore, and has instantly "lost" a lot of visible weight, but I do have his fibre as a reminder.  And his fibre will grow back again next year when we will have to start the whole process over again.
Minky, being the scruffy lad he is, has
fleece which is taking me hours (and
days) to pick clean.  Each scrap of
vegetable matter has to be picked by hand
I'm sure he is much more comfortable now and will be better able to handle the summer heat.
I'm using the 1st (unsquare) solar dehydrator frame that I had made as a picking table - a bit
of chicken wire slung over the top allows the
vegetable matter and very short fibre to pass
through and collect at the bottom.
Sitting in the remote room (now know as my craft room) behind the garage, I have started the process of picking each scrap of vegetable matter from the aplaca fibre - MP3 earphones firmly plugged in my ears, a mixture of Josh Groban, Moody Blues, Eric Clapton, Luther van Dross, Nickleback, etc thump out of the earphones and help keep the boredom at bay.  Given my isolation in my craft room, RMan's ears are also spared the tuneless noises eminating from my lips.  (I'm hoping in my next life I come back with a voice that can hold a tune - what a gift that would be!)

I have found an inexpensive second-hand table top weaving loom in Cape Town which my son-in-law will bring back with him next weekend.

Then the fun bit starts... :)  I'm feeling inspired.  And I can't wait.

Saturday 15 November 2014

The scars recede

I have always felt guilty about the scars we have caused on our land.  Scars from earth moving, creating our dam, planting our trees and, most of all, the scars caused during our building process.

Google Earth has finally updated the images they capture in our part of this planet.  Being out in the sticks (and therefore unimportant) they only do so every three years, but - it was worth waiting for :)

This is what our piece of land looked like when we purchased it back in March 2008:
Our plot of land in March 2008 when
we purchased it.
The path that crosses it is the footpath
caused by our one neighbour - a shortcut
across the field to shorten the trip to the
main road 4.5 kms away.
Also interesting is the plough line
which transgresses both our plot
and the neighbouring one.  I can tell
you that the fence that divides the two
plots is old and rusty - so the
scars of that plough have lingered...
It was completely overgrazed by the locals cows and sheep.  And full of renosterbos - all those little individual dots are visible on the Google Earth screen print. Signs of ploughing from yonks ago - and who knows when that last happened. Certainly long before 1996 when the smallholdings first started being sold off and inhabited by "newcomers" because the oldest resident has no memory of that fence not being in place.
Our plot of land with phase 1
of our build - one large room
(consisting of the lounge / dining /
kitchen) and the white shiny IBR roofed
bathroom to the right side - Aug 2010
Then, we got involved and scarred the land with our personal requirements. The driveway round the (dryer side of the) perimeter,  The dam.  The grape vine area.  The vegetable patch and the underground cellar which we never completed / built.  And the house build.

Ugly, nasty scars.
Our plot - October 2013
But, this is what our smallholding looks like from "space" in October 2013.
Our plot with markers.
You can even see the solar
panels n the garage roof :)
(Still enough space to
triple up on that if we had to
/ wanted to)
To give you some idea of what lies where, I have labelled the various area's I mention in this blog.
Our home November 2014 :)
I am strangely comforted by the latest Google Earth images (even if they are over a year old), because I finally realise that no matter how we bend our smallholding to our requirements, if we were to leave it, permanently, and no one was to occupy it ever again, all the buildings would collapse, the rubble would become overgrown, and it would revert back to what it was originally.  It would no longer be scarred by the mark of man.

In the meantime though, we are trying to treat it gently.  We are trying to be good custodians.  And we are aware of our impact - even if it is only on 2.2hA of land.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Rearing babies

Thank goodness that time in my life is well passed.  But, for the rest of the inhabitants of this planet, life carries on.
18 October 2014 - we
noticed a nest had
been built on a
wall shelf above (and
to the left of) the
roll of porous pipe
In this instance, new life involved some Rock Pigeons.  In late October RMan went into our LP gas storage area  to change out the tank which provides our hot water.   He noticed that a nest had been built on a shelf up on the wall - and that it contained a couple of eggs.

Unfortunately, I can't find the pic I took of the eggs.
19 October 2014 - taken when Mama slipped off
the nest to seek some refreshment
But here is a pic of the pigeons when they were only a couple of  hours old. They are really scrawny, almost alien looking creatures :)
26 October 2014 - Mama on the nest
Mama Pigeon arrived shortly thereafter and plonked herself back on the nest.   I beat a hasty retreat - I remember what it was like with a newborn (never mind two) and didn't want to disturb her at this vital time.

29 October 2014 - not a pretty sight
Three days later and they are now pretty ugly looking chicks.
1 November 2014
November arrived, and, intially, there wasn't that much progress...
1 November 2014 - legs are definitely operational
...except when you walked near the nest to get a close-up they reared up on their legs - almost menacing!
5 November 2014 - feathers developing
What a difference 4 days make. They now only have a small amount of their downy fur left peeking out from within their developing feathers.
Day 24 - 11 November 2014
Day 24 and I reckon they are about to spread their wings and flee the nest. They don't seem that perturbed by either RMan or I, so hopefully they will remain in the area and be friendly to Coo.

The weird thing is apart from when the chicks were really small and Mama seemed to spend all day every day on the nest, once they got to day 12 - 13 we never saw Mama visiting the nest.  How, and when, they got fed we have no idea.

But, in the case of these chicks, the ugly chicks certainly developed into beautiful baby Rock Pigeons.  Nice :)  I'm so glad that Mama trusted us enough to lay her eggs, and rear her young, so close to us.

Saturday 8 November 2014

An unexpected discovery

When we left the Barrydale Hand Weavers last Saturday, I ask RMan if we could stop at an "antique" shop which I had spotted on our way in.  I am trying to find an old fashioned pottery butter dish, which is glazed on the inner butter tray surface, but unglazed everywhere else.  It would be perfect for keeping our butter cool during summer, as I could just soak the unglazed pottery and the process of evapouration will assist in preventing the butter turning rancid, and / or melting in the heat of summer instead if it having to take up RMan's precious beer space in the fridge.  Sadly, again, I was not in luck...

RMan is a real people's person, and can strike up a conversation with almost anyone, anywhere, anytime.  He gets so involved that the only way to tear him away from his new found friends is for me to wander off - he misses me after a while ;)

I had to use this ruse last Saturday:)

And ended up educating myself a little.
Pretty messy - I don't know if I'd want my
neighbour's property to look have this "curb appeal"
but it certainly grabs your attention.
Across the adjoining road from the antique shop there was this house which had a whole bunch of decrepit enamelled items hanging on the boundary fence. That is guaranteed to appeal to the curious in me.

Why would they want to show off their clutter publically?

I couldn't resist...
A cute continuation of the theme, whilst
doubling up as an advertisment support
On approaching the property this "mug" grabbed my attention.  Not only because it appeared to be some kind of "windmill", which was quite cute and, in it's design, a clever way of continuing the theme of enamelled plates and mugs, but also because of the sign "FOR SALE - COAL STOVES".  Ah, I had heard that there was someone in Barrydale who was repairing Dover stoves (not quite coal stoves as per the sign) so this must be the place.
Ha!  What is that coming from
within the repurposed metal drum?
On closer inspection I saw something that made me pause.  And think.

Eminating from the enlarged "mug" was a pretty substantial piece of copper wire.  This copper was "insulated" at it's source, but then stretched, unprotected, along both sides of the boundary fence.
Copper wires protruding from the "mug"

The owner must be storing a battery (or two) in the "mug which is powering a homemade electric fence.  The "windmill", as it is rotated by the wind, will obviously provide a charge for the battery which is stored within it's depths.
A real jumble of old enamelled plates and mugs are
suspended from this boundary fence
But, I know the law regarding electric fences (don't ask me how I know, I have no idea - it's just a scrap of information that resides, along with a whole bunch of otherwise useless information within my head) that there must be some sort of visible warning to prevent accidental electrocution.

I couldn't see one.

Could I?

Well, blow me down if I didn't (eventually) spot it.
The warning is there - if you are observant enough
In the middle of that jumbled collection of mugs and plates was a plate with a warning arrow inside a yellow triangle.

Clearly marked if you're observant.  I must've polished my glasses that morning LOL

My eyes wandered.  And then I saw what was behind the warning sign.
A wonderful, large cement dam - filled to the
brim with precious water
A beautiful cement dam - full of water.  And a small, old-fashioned, homemade windmill on the far side.  The windmill does not seem to be large enough to be operational and is merely there for historical / decorative purposes.  So, I have a feeling that this clever person has linked a small water pump to that same battery and is therefore utilizing that source of power to not only deter unwanted intruders, but to also simultaneously top up his dam when necessary.

I like that :)
His services are advertised
Looking down the road towards his house I spotted a sign on a tree next to the entrance gate.  It details what the gentleman who resides within is offering and his contact number.
All time top entry pages on my blog
Seeing as two of the top five all time entry pages / searches which resulted in someone landing on my blog involve "Dover / woodburning stoves", and in keeping with my "sharing is caring" motto, I guess if anyone is looking for a Dover stove, the repair thereof, or some spare parts, this might be a good number to call ;)

Monday 3 November 2014

There's nothing nicer...

... than the smell of dust, and then wet ground, as long awaited rain begins to fall...
Wet, wet, wet :)  It's just started raining
Our dam level is very low, and we've had below average rainfall this past winter.
The dam level is very low, but not too low
for the ducks to have a waddle.  They've
taken over the dam in the past weeks -
which is exactly where they should be :)
I have a feeling that this gully is going
to be deepened with the gorgeous heavy
rain which is falling as I type :)
With the 30 - 40mm of rain which is predicted over the next day or so, all the plants and trees will get a good soaking, the grass in the paddock will be allowed to sprout and provide feed for the alpaca's, the rain tanks, which are all less than 1/4 full, will be filled, and the air (and solar panels) will be cleaned and refreshed.

Thank God for some rain :)

Saturday 1 November 2014

Over the mountain...

... to Barrydale.

RMan and I went through to Swellendam for our weekly shop yesterday, so that we could toddle over the mountain to Barrydale this morning.  There was a particular place I wanted to visit there.

Actually, it all started two weeks ago when we had the alpaca's sheared - more about the shearing in a later posting.

The result of that shearing was three dustbin bags full of fibre.  When you add that fibre to last years bags that made 6 bags - of saddle (back and sides) fibre. So, no excuses - now it is seriously time to do something with it all :)

Thus - the trip to Barrydale.  I discovered that there is a placce there that weaves by hand, and I was seriously considering weaving the yarn once it has been for processing.

Barrydale Hand Weavers
It was a lovely leasuirely trip through the Tradouws Pass - we spotted a Secretary Bird on our sand road, and a troop of baboons on the pass (pics are on my http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com/p/birds-seenalley-in-our-valley page.)

Arriving in Barrydale, we took the right hand turn (towards Oudtshoorn) and the Barrydale Hand Weavers shop is the last one on the left hand side.
The outside verandah was filled with packages of their woven items - they are off to a craft show in Paarl tomorrow.

Entering the shop all you see are looms - and I mean looms everywhere.
Weaving looks so simple...
There must be at least 10 looms - 4 - 5 of which were being operated.

...But I think that is because Janine was doing the
work.  Me - I'm hopeless LOL
(Note the large roll of warp threads on the very
right hand side of the loom beind the "wheel")
Janine, one of the loom operators offered me a go - I leapt at it because I had been researching carders, spinning machines and looms online for the past few weeks.

Ho, boy - am I ever glad that I tried it.  Weaving is not easy - your right hand is constantly busy with the shuttle cord - to them right, then to the left, then to the right... and your right and left legs are both doing their independent thing opening up the two warps, and your left hand has it's own chore too - beating the weave tight after each run.

I managed to create some loose weave (which Janine had to correct LOL) but the exercise taught me that I may just be too old to try and learn something new - at least trying to learn hand weaving LOL
This is the apparatus which they use to spin the
warp for the weaving machine

Barrydale Weavers even spin / prepare their warp threads.  The machine that Janine was using had 67 bats of 12 threads each - that is a seriously fine weave.

What a lovely bunch of friendly, helpful people - from Janine the weaver, to Tivane Mavumathe gentleman who started the hand weaving business in Swaziland years ago, and finally to Carol - the owner.  No question was too much trouble, everything was clearly explained, and the staff all seemed content with their work.
Temptation abounds in the shop.  I restricted
myself to purchasing a cotton scarf only... :)
We, naturally, visited the shop whilst we were there and left with a beautiful woven cotton scarf - it'll be perfect for keeping the draft off my neck next winter.

A floor loom - too much dexterity and (foot) pressure required - perhaps a rigid table loom would be more appropriate?

So - apart from the table loom, I reckon the next thing I'm going to investigate is felting.  All I will need to buy is a carding machine - to align all the fibres in one direction.  That way I will be able to use every scrap of fibre - even the short hairs from the legs and necks.

RMan and I had a lovely morning - and one befitting celebrating our 34 years. Now, I'm off the get our special dinner of garlic prawns prepped, make a savoury rice, and a large bowl of lemon garlic butter in which to dunk the prawns...