"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 September 2015

Preservation fail?

I need some expert advice please.

At the end of last summer I used the last of my tomatoes to make concentrated tomato purée and tomato sauce (ketchup).

As I couldn't find an appropriate canning recipe I froze the puréed concentrate in portion sized batches.

And the ketchup was made, and water bath preserved.

All the lids sealed properly.  However, I am left with the last few jars which look like this:
Homemade tomato ketchup
Can you see the darker layer at the top?

My question is this - is the tomato sauce still safe to use?  The lids are definitely still vacuum sealed.  And, yes, I did fill to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar - it appears to have settled lower than that though in the intervening months.

Would the "air space" at the top of the jar cause that darkening to occur?

Sunday 27 September 2015

Floral beauty

I don't grow flowers for the sake of flowers simply because our water is too precious for that.  In that I'm talking about dahlias, chrysanthemums, tulips, etc.

So - whatever flowers grow here are tough ones.  They must make do with whatever rain falls from the sky, or that which is waste water that I am unable to get to my veggie beds which are situated on the higher part of the property.

Also, if one is observant in late winter / early spring and you will spy incy-wincy wild flowers - bend down almost to ground level for your reward.  It is well worth the effort.

Want a tour of the colour in my garden?

You have already seen the fruit tree blossoms, so I won't repeat those again.

Starting at the back door...

I have a pot of azaleas - they are watered with Scallywags water bowl - whenever we change his water, whatever is left in the bowl gets chucked into the flower pot.
Pink azaleas - still in the pot from our town house
In the only shade bed I have (which is situated on the southern side of the house right next to the kitchen door), I planted some clivia seeds which I had harvested from our old town house before we moved.
Orange clivia propagated from seed
(info on how to do that here)
Three years  later, they are doing a wonderful job of softening the appearance of the worm bins.  As each year passes so each and every plant will increase the number of flower heads it produces.  In the years to come it is going to be a stunning display.

We have a gutter drainpipe which leads to that bed, so any rain / overnight condensation which drizzles from the roof of the kitchen porch does the job.
Gorgeous lavender
Surprisingly, a lavender bush which grew from a piece which landed in that bed (who knows how?) is doing very well.  Bear in mind this bed gets no direct sunshine - ever.  The only "light" it gets is reflected off the garage wall and across the courtyard.
Rose bushes watered by the
 washing machine outflow pipe
visible in the bottom right corner
Then, across the courtyard is our rose bed.  These roses are watered by the washing machine outlet pipe.
Red rose buds bursting forth
on the rose bushes
Even though I seriously pruned these roses roughly a month ago, their growth is astounding, and they are already sporting lots of buds.

And, hiding below the roses...
Chives hiding under the rose bushes
... is a chive plant.  As you can see it just loves it there - it's tiny purple flowers are popping up all over the place.  (Note to self:  it's time to "carefully" harvest some chives :)  )

Out on the driveway, sweet peas grow round the fiddlewood tree - they are only winter rain watered.  And, self-seeded from last year.

And, in the front of the house area, situated next to the grey water bed...

This is and the end of one branch - and
there are currently 10 branches with flowers
this year
The paulownia tree is magnificent this year.  This tree is only 1.5mtrs tall and the display is already breathtaking. 

A close-up of the Paulownia flower

I can only imagine what it will be like when the paulownia is at adult height - anything from 20mtrs to 50mtrs high.  Obviously, 50mtrs is achieved in perfect conditions - the average of 20mtrs will be more than sufficient.
In the actual grey-water pond there are two self-seeded (by the birds, most probably) arum lily plants.
One of the arum lily plants
They are mostly hidden amongst the taller grasses, but they are assisting in the important water filtering / cleaning job.
In the foreground is self-seeded phlox - from a plant
 which was growing in a pot in our town house garden
 in the foreground, and a yellow poker type plant
in the background
Diana - can you help identify this plant?
The front of the house gets sun all year.  That means the temperature can rise to 37oC++ in mid summer, and is exposed to frost in winter.  Not an ideal place to grow much - so that is reserved for indigenous, hardy succulent type plants.
And, finally, I have scarlet and white geraniums, which do their own thing entirely.
Scarlet geranium
plant under the acacia
I enjoy the floral displays whilst they last.  Only the roses next to the garage are the most rewarding with their blooms lasting right through to next autumn.

Once the flowers are gone (azalea, clivia, chive, paulownia, arum and kalanchoe) my veggie garden starts producing.  And that is a different kind of harvest ;)
Marigolds :)
The only flower "grown" in my veggie garden, apart from naturally occurring flowers like borage, are marigolds, which I grow for pest control.

Firstly, my garden gives me food for my eyes, heart and soul, and then food for our bodies.  I have it all :)

Saturday 19 September 2015


My facebook page showed a snippet, and I followed it and landed up watching this video:


I was blown away.

How often I sigh as I think about what to put on the table every evening - 'cos sometimes I'm just not in the mood to spend hours in the kitchen - creating.

How self-centered I feel.  How spoilt.  How privileged.

Unlike millions of people around the world, not only do I have the luxury of choice when it comes to preparing what I feel like making for dinner, but I have all my faculties and appendages to assist me.

Nicole has inspired me.

To be better than I am.  To be less "me" and more a part of the human race.  To see beyond what is visible.

Her blog can be found here and her recipes here.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Weather warnings...

We woke up to the strangest weather on yesterday (Monday) morning.

Bear in mind our weather fluctuates between 14 - 18oC at this time of year.
Well, on Monday morning we woke up to 27oC - at 8.30a.m.!!!  That is a mid-summer type of day, not early Spring.
I kid you not - this is not the moon, but
is the sunrise that greeted us yesterday
morning.  I have never see one so
 "other-worldly" looking
The climatic appearance outside was really weird too - high clouds, and a sunrise like I've never seen before - almost alien.

Add to that this article:

I reckon that those in the northern hemisphere would be well advised to stock up on whatever fuel they need to keep their homes warm this coming winter.  Don't wait until stocks run out.

We have already ordered our firewood for next winter and are just awaiting word that we can pick it up.  8 - 9 months to season it should mean that it is good and dry when it is required.

As for us this summer - we've just ordered another 2 X 5 000lt tanks and a 12volt portable solar pump - we have a spare 140watt solar panel, so we will run the pump straight off the panel with a return pipe so that it will be re-circulated every day ;)

That will give us 40 000 lts of rainwater (and whatever hasn't evapourated out of our +/- 350 000 - 400 000 ltr dam) that we don't have to drain from the municipal supply - if, and when, it becomes necessary in order to keep our crops / fruit trees alive.  All our existing tanks are overflowing - and we're praying that we get enough rain before the end of December so that we can fill the new tanks too, and thus be better equipped to handle the hotter months of January / February / March.
Boy, has this little trailer ever worked for us - as
 you can see it's back gate is in a sad state...
But it still managed to get 1.5 - 2 mtr3 of mulch
safely back to our smallholding
Then, we schlepped the trailer through to Swellendam last week and loaded it up with wood chips from the local sawmill.
The wood chip mulch showed evidence of
decomposition :)
Adding a bottom layer of alpaca poo, and then a layer of wood chip mulch all round should help to retain whatever water we give to all the fruit trees / veggie beds.
20 minutes of huffing and puffing by Rman and
 myself - the wood chips are all offloaded.
As much as is there, I think we may need yet one
 more load...
Preparation is the key - otherwise we have only ourselves to blame...

Saturday 12 September 2015

Settling in

DumDum & DeeDee have settled into their new home wonderfully.

So much so, that DumDum has started crowing.  At first he sounded absolutely pathetic, but he has worked on it, and now spends much of his day chatting crowing backwards and forwards with our neighbour's rooster.
DumDum just after
a crowing session ;)
He gets so excited
that he stands on
tip-toes to crow lol
I wonder what they discuss...?
DumDum and DeeDee have taken
 to coming right up to the kitchen
door every afternoon - when they
think  it is suppertime...!  It
doesn't take them long to learn
my routine, does it?
Cheeky blighters!
And, even bigger, more exciting news - DeeDee has started laying eggs.

On Monday late afternoon, RMan went to get the alpacas their lucerne from the ½ water tank in which we store it - away from the field mice.
Can you spot what RMan saw...?
As he bent down to grab an armful, he spotted something in the far right corner - her first egg.
DeeDee cleared a spot to lay her very first egg.
How she got in there - and what made her go in there specifically, I have no idea.  Our neighbour, who gave us the chickens, said he didn't expect them to start laying for another couple of months.  Because of that, I hadn't prepared a nesting spot for her.  So, she found her own.
A recycled, "opened" quad bike tyre makes a perfect
high sided nesting box.
We went to town the next day and got a 2nd hand used quadbike tyre from a tyre shop - they are soft enough to open up the sides and it is more than fit for it's purpose - she immediately began laying an egg in it from the day we installed it inside the coop.

Various feeding possibilities have been tried, but invariably DumDum knocked them over.

Googling, there are plenty of ideas, but all involved purchasing something.  I wanted to use what we already had.

So, I came up with this idea...
The chickens feed (and water) gutter bowl
I took a small (30cms / 1') section of rain gutter, PVC welded the end caps on, and it has been fixed to the side of the water tank frame chicken coop.  The front has not been snapped into the gutter supports, so it is easy to remove and clean - when necessary.

I've done the same with their water gutter bowl - although the supports are more securely cable-tied to the frame.  I need to move the water bowl to the left hand side of the coop though, because DumDum literally gets beside himself with excitement when he sees me arriving in the morning to let them out and climbs right onto / inside it.

The feed gutter is working well - the sides are high enough that, when they eat,  the feed doesn't land on the floor thereby attracting field mice - not that they leave a scrap in it.  Their rations of sunflower seeds, mealies (corn) lentils, pearl barley and oat seed gets polished off in 15 minutes.  The rest of the time - well, they need to forage for their food - can't have any slackers here lol.

Talking about that, my herb tower has been struggling, so RMan and I tipped the contents out onto the driveway today.  I lost count of how many cutworm they found,and devoured...  No wonder the herb tower was struggling!  That will have to be refilled with fresh soil mixed with alpaca and chicken poo :D

So, now that the feathered family is happy and content, I had to decide what to do with the very first egg.

And decided on this recipe :)
4 ingredient sweetcorn bread
 4 Ingredient Mealie Bread (sweetcorn bread)

500gm self-raising flour
1 X 415gm (14gm)tin of creamed sweetcorn
1 X 385gm (13oz) tin condensed milk (less the 2 tablesspoons that RMan and I licked off a spoon - talk about childhood memories...!)
1 X egg - beaten
Soft, slightly sweet and definitely delicious
Mealie bread
Sift the flour.  Add the sweetcorn and beaten egg to the flour.  Mix well then add the tin of condensed milk.  Ensure that it is all well mixed then put into your loaf tin (I made it in the bread-making machine - set on "bake" only and cooked it for 1½ hours (but you can also make it in the oven pre-heated to 180°C / 360°F for 40 - 50 minutes.)  Prick the loaf with a skewer to ensure that it is cooked through at 40 minutes.  Then remove from the bread machine, and then the loaf tin and allow to cool before digging in - if you can wait that long...?

Quite.  Deliciously.  Yummy.
Toasted mealie bread with grated cheese for breakfast anyone?
And, toasted, and topped with some grated cheese left over from spag bol, and a cup of tea - it makes the perfect start to a busy day.

Be warned.  It is definitely more-ish... :)

Saturday 5 September 2015

Fruit in the making

Spring has definitely sprung in my part of the world.

Those in the Northern hemisphere are winding down their gardens and looking forward to a time of rest and contemplation - after all their preserving is finished naturally ;)

Plum tree blossoms
But, here - there are signs of life everywhere.  I took a walk round the garden this week and happily snapped at the various signs of spring...
Apricot tree blossoms
 ... the plum trees blossomed weeks ago, and the fruit is already setting.

The apricots are slow - only a few blossoms, but enough to get the taste buds tingling in anticipation.
Pear tree blossoms
My personal favourite - the pear tree blossoms.  We only had a couple on the trees last year (due to my incorrect pruning) so to make up their display is stunning this year.
Youngberry cordial in the making... ;)
The youngberry bushes - a few blossoms are starting.  This is the one fruit that I want plenty of.  The youngberry cordial I made at the very end of last season was stunning, and I am definitely devoting 80% of the harvest to making cordial this year.  (and, yes, Dallas, I haven't forgotten you would like me to share the recipe ;)  )
Lemon buds, blossoms and fruit -
will the tree finally hold it's fruit?
 The lemon trees are blossoming - and still trying to hold onto their fruit.

Borage flowers.
Can you spot how full this bee's pollen sack is?
The bees are everywhere - trying to get into the house, on the fruit trees and on the borage flowers...

The mature lemon tree is also bearing blossom - and has a decent amount of fruit ;)
Eureka Lemons - with RMan on the John Deere
 in the top left corner of the pic.
And, kymber, your pineapple sage is flowering once again.  (Is it seriously a year since I last posted a pic of the pineapple sage???) 
kymber's Pineapple sage
As welcome as Spring is, we didn't really have a winter.  We woke to frost only 3 mornings this whole winter.  And nothing like the thick layer of ice on the trailer cover either.

To illustrate how mild the winter was...
Last seasons granadilla's are still ripening on
the vines
...my granadilla plants still have granadilla fruit ripening on the vines...
Aubergine (eggplant) forming on the
plant I managed to protect from
last season
 ... the one eggplant that I covered with a small piece of shadecloth to protect it from the frost, is still alive, and about to burst into flower...

And, most ridiculous of all - all my piquante pepper bushes are still bearing fruit?!
My piquante pepper bushes are still bearing from
  last summer???!
I'm not finished with the "winter-we-didn't-have-this-year" - surely there are still some Rosie days left this winter...???

But, I also now understand why I don't seem to preserve as much of my various harvests as those who live "up north" do.  Because we seriously have such a short winter it seems that no sooner have I finished preserving than the next crop is on it's way.

On a shelf in the carport, I have more than enough pumpkins / butternut to see me through until the next harvest.  It was an excellent harvest last summer - providing us with more than we could use, so I was able to supplement my children's larder too.

Tomato puree / concentrate / and sauce (ketchup) and sundried tomatoes I will always preserve.  The same with various homegrown fruit for jams and cordials.

But, very gratefully, I always seem to have either peas or beans of some form available in the garden.  The same applies to beetroot / swiss chard / carrots / lettuce / onions - they grow year round here.

Garlic - I seem to battle with that.  But, it doesn't stop me from trying ;)

The only veggies which are definitely winter only are cabbage and cauliflower - that's winter fodder for us :) (and the alpacas lol)

Given our abnormally mild winter (global warming / climate change?), I fear that this year's summer is going to be extra-ordinarily hot, so RMan and I are taking steps to protect our veggies / fruit trees / plants however we can.  But, more on that in my next posting...