"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

Wednesday 31 December 2014

The saga continues...

I know this subject has been covered a couple of times before on my blog.  But, my problem continues.  And, having watched one of our previous dogs (a wonderful, sweet-tempered [seriously] Great Dane) kill RMan's cat, Muts, in the kitchen right in front of my eyes, I need to be really, really sure that it won't happen again...

Our dog, Scallywag, is not a cat-friendly dog.  Plus, with RMan's new found relationship with Coo, the tame Cape Turtle Dove, RMan is very hesitant regarding the acquisition of a kitten / cat.

But I seriously think that a feline - of any age - is a must.  A definite.  Non-avoidable.

I was never mad about cats.  I also don't recall our family having a cat when I was a child - puppies and dogs, yes - kittens and cats - no memory.  When I met RMan - yonks ago - he had a cat called Muts.  This thing was vicious - RMan liked a bit of spirit ;)  It would sit on the floor in front of me - nervously perched on RMan's couch when I was visiting - and growl at me - warning me off.  I kid you not.  When I gave birth to Natasha, our daughter, it would lie in the dark - in wait.  As I walked down the passage from the bedroom to the kitchen to get her 2 a.m. bottle, it would attack my legs - frightening the life out of me and drawing blood with it's claws.  It never forgave me for entering RMan's life.  Perhaps the fact that RMan's long-time girlfriend gave it to him had something to do with its objection to me...?

As a result cats and I have a so-so relationship.

But, the time has come for the circle to close.


The field mouse problem is growing.

Let me explain.

Last week, RMan had to go to Cape Town for the day.  As he tends to return at +/- 9.30 - 10.15p.m. (it's a 550 - 600km round trip of +/- 5 - 6 hours before he attends any meetings / does any work)

I stay behind on our smallholding for the animals.

When I swept the kitchen floor that morning I found some dog food on the floor next to the Rosie.  A fleeting thought occurred, but I swept it away - and I put it own to Scallywag "dropping" some food from his jowls after eating his dinner the evening before.

Then, later that evening, I was sitting on my chair watching TV when I noticed, in my peripheral vision, the curtains moving next to the TV.

But, there was no wind.

Re-focusing my eyes from the TV to the curtain I saw a field mouse peeking out from behind it. 


It nimbly hopped off the curtain and onto the floor and made it's way to the kitchen area.

Ho-boy! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.

Okey-dokey - well - it'll just have to have a feast.  I'm not doing anything about a mouse in the house at 9.30p.m. (I don't tend to do more than climb on top of the dining room table normally anyway.)  So I stayed firmly put in my chair.

When RMan got home a half-an-hour or so later I told him what I had seen.  Being tired and half believing me, he had a cursory look around, poked under a couple of cupboards / sideboards with the end of a broom handle, but couldn't find anything.  We left the mouse to it, and went to bed.  Naturally, the bedroom door was firmly closed on it too ;)
Aha! A clue!!
The temporary fly screen is definitely
 at odds with it's usual position on the
But, the next morning, I noticed that one of the temporary fly screens I had put up at the window where the mouse had hopped off the curtain the night before was hanging open.  Again, there had been no wind during the night...
Mice can climb walls, and I reckon
this is the route it uses / used
Being fairly accomplished in the art of detecting, I advised RMan that, in my expert opinion, the mouse had entered the house through the window.

Yeah, yeah.  Condescendingly, he patted my shoulder.  And carried on with his day.

But I kept an eye out.

And firmly closed and locked the window through which I believed it had entered the house.

Not a single mouse did I find, but we did notice that behind the Rosie, which I had vacuumed only the day before, there were further dog food pellets.  In a spot completely inaccessible to Scallywag.

The next morning they were gone!  And a half chewed baby potato was there in their place.

That definitely wasn't Scallywags handiwork!

So, now RMan had hard proof that a mouse had been (was still?) in the house.  But, we still couldn't find it.

Talking about laying a water bucket trap the next day, we settled down to watch TV for the evening.  At 9.15p.m. RMan suddenly sat up, and looked towards the fly screen doors.  Being closer to the noise, he'd heard something that I hadn't.  Grabbing the torch which he keeps handy in order to help Scallywag (who is 14 years old) go outside to relieve himself (he's an old dog who doesn't see very well anymore), he shone it at the screen door which was screening the open patio doors in order to keep the night insects out.

And RMan saw a mouse.

Trying to chew it's way through the aluminium fly screen.
Mice teeth marks on the aluminium flyscreen
material.  I swear, given enough time, it would've 

eaten it's way through to it's "larder"
RMan was blown away.

He kept saying "I shone the torch on it and it just stood there - looking straight at me.

It just stood there!  And we're here, in the lounge, with the lights and TV on."

He couldn't believe how brazen it was.

And Scallywag didn't budge / hear it / see it.  (So much for protecting me.)  Actually, earlier this year I saw a mouse almost walk over Scallywags legs and he did nothing but calmly watch it on it's way.

I think I can safely say that no help is ever going to come from that quarter.
Mouse catching bucket
Needless to say, the trap, liberally baited with peanut butter, was put out first thing next morning.

But, I am of the opinion that only a cat is going to help us to resolve this problem.  The bucket trap in my shadecloth veggie patch is catching 4 - 6 field mice a day.  We definitely have a field mouse overload here this year - even with all the food / seeds in the farmers fields around us!  And, if one incy-wincy mouse has laid down a "trail" into the house, more are likely to follow...

So, now to convince RMan that his precious Coo isn't going to be nabbed by the Cat, and that Scallywag probably won't take any notice of it either...

Closure on this saga would be a really good way to start the new year.

Isn't life in the countryside fun :)

As this will be my last posting for 2014, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year.  I hope your year is filled with all, and more, than you hope for.

Saturday 27 December 2014

In the heat of the moment

I know from Sky News that those in the UK were spared a White Christmas. Personally, I'd love to be subjected to a White Christmas, but that is my British roots shouting at me...

I mean, seriously, how many people would like to cook their Christmas dinner in temperatures like this:
Clicking on the
image will reveal
a temperature of
31oC at 2.20p.m.
on Christmas Eve
- in the shade
I definitely cannot light up the Rosie in that kind of heat - the additional heat it would produce indoors would be suicidal!  So, we use our outside barbeque as an oven - and leave the heat outside where it belongs.  This works well and normally, within 2 - 3 hours, our turkey is perfectly cooked.  However, Christmas pudding is 100% out of the question.  Far to "starchy" for our temperature.  If we could celebrate Christmas in winter, when one needs the additional starch intake in order to create warmth within the body, then it would definitely be on the menu.  I have wonderful childhood memories of helping to boil 6d's (and even a tickey in the early years immediately after immigrating to this country) and hiding them within the pud, prior to cooking it.  I wonder if that still happens overseas?

But, strangely enough, Mike, our grandson who spent the weekend prior to Christmas with us, commented that "Christmas isn't Christmas without snow".  Seems as though the concept of a cold, white, snow-bedecked Christmas, either originating from the traditional Christmas images reproduced on Christmas cards, or his grandmother's roots, are rearing their head within him, and leaving him feeling a yearning for a White Christmas - just like his Nana :)

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Christmas greetings

To all whole read this post, I'd like to wish you a Happy Christmas.  May it be filled with that special wonder of the season, excitement, happiness, contentment and compassion.

As always, in honour of RMan's German Christmas tradition, we have our Christmas meal on Christmas Eve night.  So today is my day in the kitchen... :)

Happy Christmas

Friday 19 December 2014

Monday 15 December 2014

"Oh me, oh my...

... do I have a pot big enough to cook this monster in?" was the question that popped into my head when I saw this.
RMan's size 9 shoe for size comparison
This "beetroot" was grown in a bed in my shadecloth veggie patch - in soil that had had a healthy dose of alpaca poo added 2 months ago.  And nothing but alpaca poo.
Trimmed of it's leaves, my hand is in the lower
left hand corner
It was "hiding" behind some red veined swiss chard leaves.  In fact, I started harvesting some leaves of what I thought was swiss chard to make my creamed spinach recipe when I happened to glance down and saw the beetroot "globe" peeking out of the soil beneath the leaves.
The giant beetroot inside a 10lt pot
There is no sign of the beetroot bolting, so once it is cooked the flesh inside should be good and tender.  And plentiful.

Ha!!  Two for the price of one :)  We enjoyed creamed spinach (a.k.a. swiss chard / beetroot) with our dinner on Friay night, and today (Saturday) I am cooking the beetroot.

Update prior to posting:
Tender all the way through - eventually :)
It took a full hour to cook that baby but I started early enough and RMan and I enjoyed a helping with our dinner that night.
2.5 kgs of beetroot relish - enough for us
and to give as a gift
I still have plain beetroot slices in the fridge, and, yesterday, I made 2.5 kgs of beetroot relish.  RMan will enjoy that with his braai-ed boerewors (barbecue sausage) and ostrich sausage, and, we'll enjoy it with a roast chicken dinner too.  Not to mention putting a dollop on top of a cheese filled cracker...


Friday 12 December 2014

Minky's tail

Please - pop over to my other blog to read more about Minky's tail...

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Advent days

I was horrified last night to hear on Sky News that certain church ministers in England are sending out Christmas cards with no reference to the actual "reason of the season". À la a non-descriptive "Festive Greetings" or some such.  This is supposedly to avoid "offending" people of other religious inclinations.  Whaaaat?  Ermmm, am I missing something?  The very word and celebration of Christmas is derived from the birth and name of Christ.  If they are not Christians, why should they be offended?

To me this is another indication how crazy this world is becoming.  Those ministers should be relieved of their duties...

But, on to the subject of this posting.

I made a very simple Advents Kranz this year.
Our simple Advents Kranz this year
I have a set of four brass candlesticks - collected over the years - as well as a pair from my late mother-in-law.  But I felt like a change.  So, the candle sticks I'm using in the kranz this year are recycled spice bottles which have been filled with white coloured sand and the top lid screw section I covered with a strip of pewter.  The bed of golden tipped greenery comes from a Leyland Cypress - we have three growing in our garden.
Repurposing empty spice bottles into candle
sticks worked - I lov
e the simplicity of the
arrangement this year
I have loads of empty glass jars which I refuse to add to landfill / send for recycling.  Why, when I can used them to preserve this year's harvest, or put them to another use around the house.
Reindeer à la South Africa :)

Reindeer are not available in this country - the best we can do is springbok. The pic above is of a baby springbok on a neighbours smallholding and which was born a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday 7 December 2014

"Let the sun shine,

... let the sun shine in..."

South Africa has finally switched on it's solar power.
Jasper solar farm - near Kimberley

With a rated capacity of 96 megawatts, Jasper will produce about 180,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy annually for South African residents, enough to power up to 80,000 homes.

And, they have already started construction of another solar farm called Redstone which is located near Jasper - and this one will provide 100-megawatts of CSP.

Sigh - I'm so frigging happy :)

Now, if they could only just plan another couple of dozen solar and wind farms around the country immediately then perhaps we wouldn't have the load shedding that that the rest of the country is currently experiencing...  They are both quicker to erect, and can provide power faster than it takes to construct a coal powered or nuclear powered power station.

Going to Swellendam yesterday for our weekly shop, most of the businesses had their doors closed and locked as they had no generators to power their lights / tills whilst Escom enforced a load shedding to "build up reserves".  How can those businesses survive if they have to close their doors on a (busy) Saturday morning - especially one 2 weeks before Christmas?

Petrol stations in Cape Town are apparently running out of diesel.  Why?  Because Escom is using the diesel to run power plants.  This lack of diesel has far reaching consequences for businesses and transport.  For the country's GDP.

Perhaps those in senior positions at Escom should find themselves trapped in a (stationary) lift for 2 - 3 hours, or visit a public loo in the dark - all because they (and their predecessors) were too short-sighted and didn't plan adequately years ago for the country's future electricity requirements.  "Use less / save power / switch off unnecessary equipment" Escom says.  But, if everyone does as they request then their sales will drop, their income will thus be affected and that means they will have another bloody excuse to hike up the electricity prices to meet their ludicrous financial commitments / loans.  All because they didn't do their research / fulfil their job specifications adequately / plan properly.

Escom is making this country a laughing stock.  Who wants to invest in a country which can't supply electricity to the people or to their businesses?  A country which is also running out of diesel because the only power producer in the country is apparently using it all to run their open cycle gas turbines?  Oh, and never mind the diesel required to fuel the 200-odd fleet of trucks running 24 hours a day delivering coal to Majuba because yet another tender company took a shortcut. (the silo's weren't constructed properly and are either cracked or have collapsed).
Try installing solar power at your home - even
if it is only enough to power the most urgent
of our appliances (lights, fridge, chargers).
  Living with only the power produced by the sun
encourages you to be aware of each switch you
turn on, for how long and when.
Personally, we're loving the freedom it provides as
opposed to the perceived restriction on the number
of appliances we can run.
Back to "basics" is a pleasure :)
Forget coal, forget nuclear - solar and wind power will, and can, provide for our needs, Escom.  Wake up, for goodness sake!!!  Before this country loses all credibility.

Thursday 4 December 2014

Winter fun in the Northern hemisphere

This is from an e-mail I received this week (with no acknowledgement of origins of the photo's).

I loved it :)

And, I loved the sense of humour displayed in obviously otherwise weather. Humour is the only way to overcome discomfort - but, one is not always in the right frame of mind to see the fun side.

I hope these lighten the load for those in the midst of, or soon to be facing, extreme weather.

Favourite pic?  Mine is #9 - the car windscreens.

You can always tell when people up North get bored

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Eco-friendly weeding - part 2

So, armed now with our new (important) knowledge of our soil health, we can plan for next year's fodder.

But, before we can even consider adding anything (lime) to the soil, we need to get rid of the forest of weeds that has sprung up on the 1hA area.  Weeds are always a good indicator of soil health - they will flourish in poor soil - big time!
A carpet of weeds swathes the land...
It is not a small task.  Quite monumental in fact...

And, RMan almost wavered.  But, as always, he had me chirping in his ear - keeping him on the straight and narrow LOL  How did he almost waver?  Because of the size of the task he wanted to take the easy way out and use Roundup.

Not whilst I am here.  Roundup is not an option.

I don't like being a naysayer - and, whenever possible, I will try and figure out an alternative on my own, or, failing that, I will throw idea's around with RMan until the two of us hit upon a solution.  Which we invariably do ;)

This time the solution came to me in a lightbulb moment.

We should segregate the land, dividing the fodder growing section from our veggie / fruit section with a fence.

And, I can hear you thinking - "Exactly how is that going to benefit us?"

The land around us is severly overgrazed by all the neighbours animals - cows, sheep and goats. Ours has had 5 years with no animals.  But, if we "invite" the sheep over for a temporary munch, we can't sit and watch them 24 /7 until the deed is done.  With a fence in place, they can happily gobble down all the weeds without fear that they will access their "forbidden area" and eat what they aren't supposed to.

RMan is the type of person who works best with visual evidence, so once again Google Earth came to the rescue.
The Google Earth image I used
to convince RMan my idea was
He loved the idea.  And, he loved it even more early the next morning as we sipped our morning cup of tea / coffee and discussed it whilst wandering the land.

So - give RMan an idea that he likes, and he'll run with it.
RMan and John - working in overcast, hot weather.
 Add to that a howling sou'easter for two days -
not condusive to flimsy marker lines remaining
straight, but they did good :)
This past week has been a frenzy of buying gum poles and getting them into the ground.  In between the gumpoles we're going to continue the wooden horizontal plank theme - similar to what we did with the paddocks - thus visually tying the two area's together.

As soon as the fence is complete the sheep will be invited over.  They can munch away to their heart's delight, whilst simultaneously leaving their droppings behind.  RMan will mix that in together with the remnants of the weeds (hopefully, with only a few seeds), and the 2 tons of lime that he's going to add in a couple of weeks time.

Win-win for everyone :)