"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 August 2015


I'm definitely a hoarder.  Anything and everything.  Including plastic bag tags - from bread, when I used to buy it, from some fruit (oranges), etc.

For the past 3 years I have been tossing them into a mug and forgetting about them.  Until the mug overflowed.
My collection of plastic bag tags - I reckon there
could be close to 350 - 400 of them
So I went searching the Net for what I could do with them / what they could be used for.  And came across this site : 

The Sweetheart Foundation collection point
map which promotes the collection of bread tags
The used bread tags / polystyrene is recycled into wheelchairs / Tutu Desks and Wonderbags.  Or decor items, beads, or even buildings for the informal sector.

Happily there is a collection point in Swellendam, so I have dropped off my tags.  All it takes is 1 000 000 tags and someone gains a wheelchair.

This link also has links to where you can recycle anything from batteries, cell phones, eye wear, x-rays, cfl's, printer cartridges, etc.

Reckon with these links there is no excuse for anyone to throw anything into landfill.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee

I am so excited about this - I can't wait to share it...

One of our neighbours, Eddie, was kind enough to give us a hen and a rooster.  We seem to have an insect infestation in our shadecloth veggie hut, so I had asked his wife if we could possibly "rent" a couple of their chickens for a couple of weeks - to sort out the problem in as eco-friendly a way as possible.
New chickens exploring the shade covered
veggie patch
When she arrived with the chickens, she said that they have over 40 ("... which is more than enough...") and that we can have the two.  Yoohoo!!  RMan didn't want chickens - seems like he has no choice in the matter now ;)  (sly, aren't I?)

Please meet Tweedle Dum (the rooster) and Tweedle Dee (the hen) - Dum Dum and Dee Dee for short.
They were a tad nervous for the first couple of
 days - strange surroundings, and even stranger
 new "owner" ;)
We set up a temporary coop for them inside the shade cloth veggie hut - complete with roosting perch - but they weren't interested.  They settled themselves down on the ground every evening in the corner farthest away from the temporary coop.  Damn and blast it!
Once Dum Dum and Dee Dee were allowed outside
the shadecloth structure they rushed merrily around
- here, there and everywhere - at full speed.
After they had been locked in the veggie hut for a week (as per Eddie's instructions) the time came to let them explore their new surroundings.  They thoroughly enjoyed scratching below the lemon trees (eating the ants?)...
They fancy my strawberry / youngberry patch the
most - much to the inquisitiveness of the alpacas
...before investigating my strawberry / youngberry patch.  Much to the curiosity of Rupert and Minky.  They couldn't quite work out what these duck like looking creatures were - and they were the wrong colour.

But, the problem of their chicken coop / roosting perch remained.  I was very uncomfortable with them just sleeping on the ground - and was worried about karakul / otters gaining access to the veggie patch in order to snaffle the chickens.  All they had for protection was a single layer of shadecloth.

Not good enough.  I didn't sleep comfortably for that week.
1000 lt water tank
Wandering round the property trying to think of a solution, I spied the empty support cage from the one rainwater tanks which we had cut in half in order to store the alpaca's lucerne and oats away from the mice.
The one water tank was cut in half to be used
as a mouse free storage space for the alpacas
 lucerne / oats
My brain had a light bulb moment, and feverishly started conceptualizing what was happening inside it lol

Grabbing RMan, and dragging him to where the frame was located, I explained my idea.

We had some chicken wire which we were using to sort / clean the VM out of the alpaca fibre.
The arrows indicate where the doorway has been
 situated - bear in mind that the tank has been
 turned on it's side
If we took that chicken wire, turned the frame on it's site, used the two top cage structure supports as an entrance and covered the rest of it (top and sides - the bottom is a solid base) with chicken wire, we would have an instant secure chicken coop that no predator should be able to access.

So that's exactly what we did :)
The frame was completely covered with chicken
 wire.  The two top supports (shown with arrows
 in the above pic) are now a doorway, which I
 can easily access.
We placed a piece of galvanized roof sheet on the top to keep the rain out of the coop.  On top of that we fixed the chicken wire - thus the chicken wire is "holding" the roof sheet in place and preventing it from blowing away / rattling in the wind.

God bless the person who invented cable ties.  Cable ties (aplenty) secured the chicken wire to the frame perfectly.
Dum Dum and Dee Dee were easily coerced into
 their new home with some corn:)
(You can see the solid base now acting as a side
in the above pic.)
Having "taught" the chickens that the shade cloth veggie patch was their new home, I was concerned that I would battle to get them into their even newer home - which has been placed just next to the shade cloth veggie patch.

I needn't have worried.  Sprinkling a bit of food in the entrance and a larger pile further in, they couldn't resist.

Quick as a flash I closed the door that RMan had made out of a piece of plywood (hinged with - yeah, you guessed it - cable ties bwahahaha), and the chickens were safely ensconced inside for the night:)
Success!!!  Two roosting chickens :D
I went out ½ hour later and both of them had finished munching and were finally roosting :)

Hehe.  I do so love it when I'm on the same page as animals I am trying to assist.

This coop will also be easy to move whenever we need to - RMan and I will just pick it up and place it in it's new position.  Chicken poop will be easy to scoop up when the coop is moved.

And, with John's, (the casual labourer) assistance, RMan and he will be able to pick it up over the wooden fence and place it in the newer veggie area when we want / need the chickens assistance / nitrogen there.
Shadecloth draped over the top of the new
chicken coop will provide rain, shade and wind
 protection to the coop.
Note the nesting box just inside the door -
yup, I'm ready for when the hen is ready to
lay ;)

(in the pic you can clearly see the
 6 X cable ties which are the door hinges)
This morning we draped the top half of the coop with a double layer of 80% shade cloth and secured it with cable ties once again - to help keep the rain off them if it slants down sideways whilst they're roosting, and it will also give them some shelter from the wind, and help to keep the roof sheet cooler during the hot summer months.
Can you see the roosting perches?
I have found them on both the upper
and lower perches
I just l-o-v-e this little chicken coop.  Measuring 1.0 mtrs high X 1.2 mtrs wide and 1.0 mtrs deep it should suffice for at least 6 - 8 chickens.

Firstly, it is definitely secure against karakul and otters, and it will keep the chickens protected from inclement weather.

But, mostly importantly to me, the old water storage tank frame is almost serendipitously perfect to (re)use as a chicken coop, especially given that it had just been lying around - unused and unwanted.  Recycling at it's best :)

As for RMan - the chickens have worked their magic - if  they spot either of us outside, they immediately run up, and start following us.

"They're very cute", says RMan, "not ducks, but cute nevertheless" - with a smile on his face, and a twinkle in his eyes, as the chickens chase after him.

"...here kip-kip, kiiiiiip-kip-kip, kip-kip-kip..."

Friday 21 August 2015

A reality of rural life

Living in the countryside has it's pluses, but also it's negatives.  Last week was a case in point.

Co-incidentally, 2½ weeks ago I had mentioned to RMan that, after the rains which had fallen in June and July, the risk of fires breaking out in summer, especially on the mountainsides was great.  And the well-watered, abundant vegetation would be in prime fire condition.

We are also concerned about the vacant smallholdings round us - to the point that RMan decided to create a firebreak on the one closest to us.  A lot of smallholdings here have been purchased as investments - which means that the owners rarely, if ever, visit.  They therefore have no idea what a potential risk their empty smallholdings are to the inhabitants - especially where fire is concerned.

Our local fire brigade has an small, old water tanker - which needs refilling often.  Although our dam would be put to use in that situation, it would not help someone whose property is 3 - 5 kms away.  We even considered purchasing a portable water pump - the only drawback of that is managing to find flexible fire hoses to fit the pump.  Normal 25mm irrigation hose is definitely too rigid for that purpose.
The firebreak, although small, will certainly
help delay a veld fire.
So, RMan entered the property through a cut in the fence between our properties in order to access our immediate neighbour's property, and gave the first 10 - 12mtrs of their land a good plough.  That should help slow things down should a fire threaten.

Literally, two days later we noticed smoke over the hills and near the mountains - was it a "controlled burn" that got away from a farmer when the wind picked up?  We have no idea.
Not a good sight to behold when you don't have
 access to an efficient fire brigade and are 
located too far away for choppers to be called
for assistance.
Photo credit: Dan Wessels
But - it gave us a scare - it was our first wild fire since we moved here at the end of June 2012.
The fire travelled against the wind and up a mountainside
That evening the fire travelled up the mountain...
The state of the fire at dusk
...and, when I rose at 1.30a.m. to check on it, this is what it looked like...
Fire always looks worse at nighttime - especially
 as one's depth of field is impaired by the lack of
visible "landmarks"
That sight is not conducive to a good nights sleep.

It hung around our side of the mountain for 2 days before the north westerly wind shifted to the south east and sent the fire heading north over the mountain towards Barrydale.
The wildfire approaching Barrydale
Photo credit: Fran Hunziker
I felt for the inhabitants of Barrydale - a large fire is one thing, but a fire that stretches for kilometers along a mountain and, due to the change in wind direction, edges ever closer to a small town - that is another kettle of fish altogether.  Never mind all those poor animals on the mountainside who didn't make it to safety.

Thankfully, five days ago, we had a little rain - sufficient to quell the flames.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

The Drinkable Book - Water is Life

This is indeed good news - Dr Theresa Dankovich you are indeed a life saver.

Apparently, costing only pennies to produce, and encased in a handy "booklet" form, these water filters could revolutionize clean water availability world wide.

Personally, RMan and I can't wait to get our hands on a book.

The water, which is provided to our area, is stored in "open" tanks.  By that I mean that the water which comes directly from Overberg Water is collected at a central place, and stored in roughly 16 X 5000 lt (rainwater) tanks (exactly the same as those we use to collect the rainwater from our roof).  Gravity then feeds the water to all the smallholdings in our area.

But, those tanks aren't "secured" and the lid can easily be removed by those with nefarious intent.

Knowing that we can easily filter our drinking water cheaply will be very reassuring.  Plus, it will make our own rainwater available for drinking too.

Similarly, as we have seen on our TV, all those sewerage farms countrywide which are suffering from "lack of maintenance" due to infrastructure problems / corruption / ignorance / fraud, could perhaps use this system to assist with the production of clean water - all Dr Dankovich would have to do is manufacture those filters in an industrial form.  Which would mean that less water would be wasted, and the remaining "solid mass" could possibly be treated and used for humanure.

I seriously hope that this invention is fast-tracked and these filters are available in the very near future.

Saturday 15 August 2015

Birthday cake

Now, I'm not really a cake eater - apart from a lovely fresh carrot cake, or a baked cheesecake.  And I don't normally make a cake for my birthday.  But, I happened upon this recipe whilst browsing the net, and I just had to try it.  This is recipe is absolutely amazing!!
3 ingredient cheesecake
What makes it even more incredible is that it uses only three ingredients. 


I lie not.

The recipe is as follows:

3 eggs
120gm (4.3 oz) white chocolate
120gm (4.3 oz) cream cheese

Preheat the oven to 170°C (338°F)

Cut baking paper to fit your cake tin.  Line the tin and butter well.  This will prevent the cake from cracking as it bakes.

Separate the eggs and place the whites in a bowl.  Leave the egg whites in the fridge until you require them (that makes the meringue more stable.)

Break the chocolate into pieces and soften in a bowl placed over hot water (double boiler).

When they are melted, add the cream cheese and mix well.  Remove from the heat and add the egg yolks.  Again - mix well.

3 ingredient cheesecake with granadilla reduction
Remove the egg whites from the fridge, and place in a deep bowl.  Beat well with a mixer until stiff peaks form (and the egg whites remain in place when you turn the bowl upside down).

Then add 1/3 of the meringue mixture to the cream cheese mixture and mix in gently with a spatular.  Add another 1/3, and finally the last 1/3 mixing gently each time.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and knock gently on the counter to remove large air bubbles.  Place in the oven and bake at 170°C (338°F) for 15 minutes, 160°C for 15 minutes, and then switch off the oven and bake with the remaining heat for a final 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool.

I coated the top of the cheesecake with a homegrown granadilla reduction.

RMan's conclusion.  Delicious.  He wiped most of it lol

Plus, I have a sneaky feeling that I can adapt it to a solar oven recipe...

So, I'm going to try that next summer.

The only problem I encountered - I presumed that my baking tin was "normal" but it was too wide - the recipe asked for a 15cm (6 inch) baking tin, and my smallest was 22cms (9 inches)  and the cake, although risen, was "spreadeagled".  So - either next time I use a smaller tin, or I make double.

What a stress!!  bwahahaha

Whilst I was at it I decided to make John's Amish coleslaw from the recipe which he had been very kind enough to send me
John from The Simple Life's Amish coleslaw
That, too, worked well, and now resides in my pantry :)

Dont'cha love it when plans come together?

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Winter... or Spring?

Firstly, thank you to everyone who left comments / messages on my last (indulgent) blog posting :)  Funny, thoughtful and thought provoking.  Bless you all.

Back to the subject of this blog posting - even Nature seems confused at the moment.
Scallies - in front of the Rosie
The days are good and cold - now and then.  Not often enough as far as I am concerned.  Scallywag, at 15 years old, is feeling the cold, and can be found in this position whenever the Rosie is lit :)  And even when it isn't - almost as though he is saying, "C'mon guys. light it for me won't you."  (RMan can normally be fond standing in front of the Rosie, too - he doesn't like the cold, and constantly warms his back - much to my annoyance when I am trying to cook 'cos he's in my way lol)
The canola fields from the N2
Driving to town for our weekly shop is exquisite - not only is the countryside green (due to the winter rains) but the canola fields are also flowering.  The contrast of the deep blue sky, the dark green foliage, and the yellow fields - magical!!
Green and gold - apt
I read on someone's blog the other day that they reckon their spring is over - huh!!??  Ours is just starting - our plum trees are in full blossom.  Hopefully the wind goes on vacation so that the blossoms / small fruit aren't blown off the trees...
Plum blossoms - to few to pick a small vase
full for the table, but enough to promise a harvest
this coming summer
... for what would the fruit eating birds do then - never mind us?  I have no plum jam left in the pantry...
The best of all three - plum blossoms in the
 foreground, fields filled with canola flowers, and
 green oats waving in the breeze the background.
The circle of life continues - each with it's own beauty and reward.

But, please - don't hurry away just yet winter - I'm not done with you yet...

Monday 10 August 2015

La, la, la, la

Lala Lala la la,

Lala Lala la la,

Lala Lala la La-la

Lala Lala  la la.


Tuesday 4 August 2015

Our high water table...

I've taken a screen shot from Google Earth 2013 - in it you can see the brackish stream which normally flows erratically, and for 10 months of the year is almost non-existent except for the erosion left by heavy rains.  "X" marks the spot in the stream that RMan and I went to last week.
This is a screen print of the water chart I keep for our records.
Translated visually, this is what it looks like:
View from one of the upstairs bedrooms

The dam is more than overflowing - it is flooding
the surrounding land
The ground is so sodden after the rain in June and July, that is literally glistens with standing water - and it's 5 days since the last 10mm fell.

And this is the state of our little stream in flood after the 272mm (10.7 inches) of rain which has fallen in June and July this year...
I, personally, have never seen our little...
... stream so full and flowing this strongly.
As you can see from the above pics, the stream is overflowing.  Plus our rain water tanks are overflowing, and our dam has overflowed three times in 4 weeks.

Given the amount of standing water visible everywhere, I reckon that the (underground) water table is now at ground level.  We're thrilled that all our water tanks are all well stocked for this coming summer :)

Saturday 1 August 2015

Winter fare

Isn't it funny - you can have the best intentions in the world, but winter always gets the better of you.

I promised myself this winter I would be a good girl.  But, I haven't been.  1.0kg heavier already and still a couple of months of cold weather to go sigh

And, it's all the Rosie's fault.  And my new all the bells and whistle's fridge.  Now that I have freezer space to store "snacks", I'm taking full advantage of it.

RMan and I love nibbling - especially when it's cold.  But, the "ready made snacks' available in the supermarkets are revolting, and a complete rip-off.  More pastry than filling - if you can find any filling at all...

So, I decided that I would make my own.

I boiled up an entire chicken, and when it was cooked, and cold, used the chickeny / herby / garlicky water it had been boiled in to make a gravy.

I stripped the chicken away from the skin and bones and added it to the gravy.

Then I pulled out the phyllo pastry which was in the fridge.  Slathering each sheet with a good dose of olive oil I  cut the sheets into strips.  I used only one strip - you'll see why now...

Taking one of the strips, I added a spoonful of the chicken mixture - right at the end.
The corner of phyllo pastry got pulled over the chicken...
 ... and the corner got folded again...
 ... and again...
 ...and again...
... and again...
 ...and again...
 ... and again...
 ...and again...
That last little bit of phyllo pastry got folded up
against the samosa
 ...and then folded again for the last time.  I didn't worry about the uneven triangle I had created - as long as the filling is securely enclosed and doesn't leak out during the cooking process, to my mind all those bits of phyllo pastry edges which are visible in the pic above = extra crispy crunch in the mouth :)  .
A whole plateful of homemade chicken samosas :)
What was I left with?

A whole plateful of chicken samosas.

One strip of phyllo pastry got folded 10 times - equivalent to ten layers of phyllo pastry :)

3/4 of the plateful has gone into the freezer.  The other 1/4?  As soon as we light the Rosie later this afternoon, and it gets to temperature, I'm going to have a nibble :)

(I can't wait to posts this, so I'll add a pic of the cooked samosa's when they're ready :) )

1½ hours to cook / simmer the whole chicken (which also became chicken pie and chicken à la king), 15 - 20 minutes to boil and reduce the stock and make the chicken gravy, ten minutes to strip the cooled flesh from the carcass and 20 minutes to roll the chicken and gravy mixture spoonfuls in the phyllo pastry.  Effectively, it took 30 minutes of actual work to make enough chicken samosa's to last us a month (I hope...lol)

Who needs to buy ready made nibbles, when they are so easy to make yourself?

Baked at 200°C for 20 minutes and served with a
chopped side salad and some chilli sauce.
Dunno what happened to the sauce, but they
tasted full of moist chicken - goal accomplished :)
RMan wanted to know how many I made, and how many I had left in the freezer.  He says 24 is not enough... ;)

They were, even if I say so myself, absolutely, excellently yummy, crispy, and tasty!!