"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 31 October 2015


... is associated with romance.

But, the other night - during the full moon - the farmers round us were all busy.

When RMan went to the bathroom, he rushed out again to call me to come and see...
...the farmers were harvesting by moonlight.  It was a tad surreal to see the moon, with two "mini" moons below it.

Quite, quite gorgeous.

Our temperature on our smallholding hit an uncomfortable and unseasonal high of 39oC last Wednesday.  It even made the news:  http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/south-africa-sets-earths-hottest-october-temperature-on-record-119

And, tomorrow they are predicting snow to fall on the higher mountain ranges, and our maximum temperature is dropping to 13oC.

That's ridiculous!

No, it won't be snowing where we are - unfortunately.

And - I am not complaining.

That means I can light the Rosie in order to cook the duck legs I purchased on my brief trip through to Cape Town a couple of weeks ago.

T'will be a fitting meal to celebrate 35 years.  It was raining that day 35 years ago, and t'will be raining where we are tomorrow.

But, we'll be cosy and gemütlich inside - watching the raindrops topping up our dam, and replacing the water we have already used from our rainwater tanks.

Can't wait :)

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Water rights

I had a light bulb moment the other morning whilst I was in the shower.

Everyone is concerned about water - or the lack thereof.  Many places in South Africa (and throughout the world) are experiencing semi-to-fully drought-like conditions.  Due to corruption, which leads to "lack" of funds for infrastructure - even the most basic infrastructure which is enshrined in our Constitution - namely, water - is not provided to too many homes in this country.

This results, in some cases, in the residents having to walk long distances in order to collect water in whatever containers they have, and carry those heavy water filled containers home again.  A cleansing, rejuvenating refreshing and soothing bath or shower - those are probably a luxury those residents have probably never known.

Can you imagine going without a bath or shower?  I can't.

Near us is a village called Suurbraak.  It is a small village with a long history which dates back to the time of the London Missionary Society and which has a population of roughly 2 500 inhabitants.

Suurbraak is situated in a valley on the windward (seaward) side of the Langeberg Mountains, meaning their rainfall is higher than that which falls on the leeward side (Barrydale) of the mountain.  They get roughly 450 - 500mm of rain a year - falling throughout the year.  Actually, they get more than we do - we often sit on our front veranda and watch much needed rain falling in Suurbraak and pray that it will come our way.  Which it often doesn't.
As you can see, since I started keeping a rainfall
 record we are averaging over 600mm of rain / year.
 And, it is, mostly, spread throughout the year.
Some (very few) of the residents properties back onto the Suurbraak River from which they can obtain lei water (a pumped water allowance for a stipulated number of hours of river water / week) which is used to water their crops / livestock.  Those residents are sitting in the pound seats as those properties are situated in the lowest part of the village and they also get municipal water provided to them - for household consumption.

Municipal water is also provided to roughly half way up the little valley slope.

But, those who live in the upper reaches of the valley have no municipal water.  I presume they have to fetch their own water from a central distribution point.

They have an ongoing battle with the authorities regarding the provision of water to their homes.  Apparently, it would require the provision and installation of a fairly substantial pump in order to get water up to the upper reaches of the village.  Which costs money, naturally.

Back to fraud and corruption... (sigh)

That is where my light bulb moment comes in to play.
Two of our 8 X 5 000lt tanks which catch,
 and store, rainwater from our roof area
Standing in the bathroom, hearing rainwater plinking into the rainwater tanks which are situated outside the window, the thought just seemed to come naturally.

If, instead of bemoaning the cost of installing a pump, why on earth don't the 'powers that be' provide those residents with 5 000lt rain water tanks, a downpipe and a section of guttering?  Everyone has a structure, no matter how basic, which has a roof which collects water when it rains.  This water falls pathetically from the roof, onto the ground, runs down the streets, and lands in the river.

What a bloody waste of precious water!!!

Every single mm of rain which falls equals 1 lt of water per square mtr of roof surface.  That means a roof area exposed, like Suurbraak, to 600ml rain / year - even a small one of say 48mtrs2 (6 X 8mtr) would collect 28 800 ltrs of rain water a year.

Providing every household with a rain water tank will ensure that at least 5 000 ltrs / household will be captured and can be used (after boiling) for household use.  Thus alleviating the necessity of mainly wives / mothers / children having to schlep heavy water filled containers, and giving those individual households some modicum of self-reliance.

That would also give those households a sense of achievement, pride and responsibility (keeping their gutters clean, ensuring they are in good working order).

It would give them some degree of water freedom.


At the moment, the tanks are selling (retail) for ZAR1.00 / lt, so a 5 000lt tank costs +/- ZAR5 000.  If the 'powers that be' had to place a (national) order for 1 000 000 tanks the cost would surely come down - even if only by 25% or ZAR3 750.00 / tank - if not more...?

Plus that kind of order would create jobs.  Win-win in my book.

Surely that would be cheaper than setting up a pumping station for 250 - 400 homes in Suurbraak?

And, for those really rural areas where municipal water will definitely never be a reality, that would be a Godsend!

Why don't people think laterally, instead of letting obstacles get in their way...?

Sunday 25 October 2015

Advanced fire info

As we head into summer, veld fires become a worry for all those rural landowners, and we're no different.

I follow the Greater Overberg FPA facebook page - and today they came out right at the top.  They gave a link to Advanced Fire Information Services website - http://www.afis.co.za/#

After registering on the AFIS site - which was hassle free - I can now access fire information in our area.

What a relief!  Forewarned is forearmed.

They seem to offer the fire warning service worldwide, but I'm only focusing on our part of this planet - naturally lol.

I will definitely be checking this at least twice a day until the end of the fire season / for the rest of summer...!

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Dear God...

... in my next life can you please give me a voice that can hold a tune?

Harvesting peas, or the subsequent weeding that results therefrom - with my MP3 player plugged into my ears with RMan's iphone earphones, singing along to Cat Stevens, Luther Vandross, Queen, Josh Groban, Barbra Streisand, Chris de Burgh and Nickelback tunes - turns into purgatory for RMan if he is within earshot. (Yeah, I know - an eclectic mix of music, but I never said I was normal, did I?)
Shelling peas to music (and reading) too...
The music certainly assists with the tedious chore, but it would be great if RMan didn't have to leave the vicinity in order to preserve his sanity...

I love singing, God.

And I think I sound fabulous.

But, I have heard what I sound like when Mike, my grandson, surreptitiously recorded me on RMan's iPhone.  And it is not as pleasant as I think.

But I love music, and can't stop myself from joining in when I hear a song that appeals to me...

So, if you could see your way to giving me that amazing gift, I (and many others) would be extremely grateful.

Thanks, Lord.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Mostly homemade

Now that the weather is warmer stodgy, starchy meals are on the back burner.

I find that summer meals are so much easier than winter ones.  Don't get me wrong, I love cooking in the Rosie (and wish I could light it every day of the year), but, when it's too hot to light the Rosie, and not sunny enough to use the solar oven, then meals are (old caravan) stove top only.  And that normally takes a far amount of thought and preparation.

But, basically, if one has a loaf of homemade bread - your options are endless.

I have been googling 3 ingredient meals - the days here are so hectic, that I barely have time to think about what to cook, never mind actually prepare it.

Last week I made a salad that we hadn't had in years.  What made me think of it, I have no idea.

What was it I hear someone ask?
My version of Caesar salad - 
lettuce, snipped chives, anchovy fillets,
 blue cheese crumbles, avo slices,
 1/4 hard boiled eggs and finally...
Caesar salad :)

For those who have never had one it is a salad which consists of lettuce, anchovies and thinly shaved cheese.  But, I made a twist to the recipe because I didn't have any parmesan to shave.

I rinsed, and shook dry homegrown lettuce leaves and garlic chives.  The leaves were broken into more-or-less bite / mouth sized pieces and the chives were snipped small-ish.

Add to that a couple of Tweedle Dee's eggs (before she got broody) which were hardboiled, peeled and cut into quarters.

Then, in place of shaved cheese, I had a chunk of Creamy Blue in the fridge (good for late night snacking on biscuits whilst watching TV :) )  So that got crumbled onto the leaves together with a sliced avo and 12 X anchovy fillets.  Finally, I made fried croutons out of a couple of slices of homemade bread.
... croutons were added before the salad was 
 sloshed  with the homemade dressing ... :)
The dressing was made using :

1 X tablespoon of the oil from the anchovies
4 X tablespoons of olive oil
1/3 - 1/2 teaspoon of prepared (English) mustard
1 X teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce
2 X overflowing tablespoons of freshly squeezed, homegrown lemon juice and
2 X tablespoons of plain yoghurt
scattering of dried garlic flakes
salt & pepper (to taste)

They were all whisked together and poured over the salad.

Surprisingly filling, definitely yummy - to the point that RMan even wiped the last of the croutons by dipping them in the leftover dressing - he calls that "knubbering" (snacking on something yummy).

Nothing nicer that completely empty plates, and no a single leftover in the fridge :)

And, apart from the creamy blue, the anchovies and the avo - all the other ingredients were home grown / provided :)

Then, on Saturday, Tweedle Dee's eggs to the rescue again.
Creamed spinach filled omelette
Omelettes filled with creamed spinach, grated cheese and tinned tuna for RMan, and leftover homegrown creamed spinach and grated cheese for me.

Served with a couple of slices of homemade bread.

Not 100% self-sufficient, but good enough for me :)

Wednesday 14 October 2015

The patter of tiny feet...?

Well, Tweedle Dee ( and I suppose, in all fairness, Tweedle Dum) didn't waste any time.  She first started laying eggs on 6 September.

But, she had been acting strange for the past couple of days - staying on her nest for hours - and sometimes producing an egg.  But, once the egg was laid, she then deserted the next again.  Or she went 2 or 3 days with no egg.
Nowt to see - but it had only just been laid lol
I did some research and deduced that perhaps she was "getting" broody.  So, for the last 7 days I have been collecting her eggs (4 of them)

Finally yesterday, she laid an egg - briefly got up off the nest and then returned to it again,  And hasn't budged since then - except to grab a quick bite to eat.

She has not ruffled her feathers, and apart from a few soft cluck-clucking noises this morning, she has not displayed any of the other normal symptoms of being broody.

It's weird though - now that she is on the nest it is almost as though she has placed herself in a transcendental state.  She seems to react to nothing - not even the rattle of the feed container.  Normally, she gets so excited that she tries to knock it out of my hands - literally.  Now, she barely even opens her eyes (if they're closed) and she doesn't even look out of her nest.  All apparently perfectly normal reactions, but weird to experience.
Tweedle Dee in her recycled quaddie tyre nest.
 Do I put the (hopefully) new born chicks in
 the lower wood shaving filled nest once they
 are born - to give them easy access to food /
water?  I don't want them falling out of the
quaddie tyre...?!
So, yesterday evening, for the brief moment that she hopped out of her nest whilst she was getting some nourishment in her, I placed the 4 eggs I had saved into her nest together with the new one.

Perhaps we'll have the patter of tiny chicken feet in 21 days time...?

I'll let you know :)

Saturday 10 October 2015

Handy craftsman

You recall last year that we had flyscreen doors made for our back kitchen and front patio doors.
The new screen doors at our Happy Door opening
They worked wonderfully well - once we had fitted a spring to the doors to keep them closed every time Scallywag went in or out.
The screen door in the kitchen
But - the best feature of my design was actually an inherent flaw - although the "appearance" of wide open doors was wonderful, having mesh all the way down to the floor was wrong.  You see, when Scallywag, our old dog, initially got panicky about being "locked" inside he took a paw to the mesh.  It couldn't handle the abuse and naturally ripped.

Ruddy gaping holes in the mesh served neither as a deterrent for flies - nor mice.   Grrrrrrrrrrr!

But, I wasn't about to go back to the original manufacturer - because he should've known this problem would arise and cautioned me against it.  Plus, his actual installation of the doors had to be modified fixed by RMan, as they started falling out.

So, I had spend 6 months searching for someone capable to modify the screen doors.  I finally found someone in February this year, was shown examples of his workmanship, and I then requested / offered him the work.  He accepted - being nagged also probably helped sway him ;)

George, being the craftsman that he is, had other bookings - one of which included building a house.

Then, when the house was finished, due to his landlord being greedy, he decided to purchase a piece of land on the western outskirts of town, in order to build himself a workshop so that he could ditch the landlord.  Clever man  :)

But, that put back my small repair job even further...

Sigh.  The wait was interminable.  And I feared that this summer would be a rodent and fly-infested one...

George, the craftsman, came through.  His new workshop is complete.  And what a piece of art!
The Wood Shop - just the cutest thing I have seen
in a long time.
I have not seen business premises like these before.  A wooden internal frame is clad in external IBR sheets.
Airy and bright - and tidy :)
 Inside the premises are light and airy - with plenty of storage / working space.
The concealed ventilation windows
are operated by cords from below
George thought of everything.  Being an IBR clad structure it is likely to get pretty hot in summer, so he has installed windows high up in the roof.  To open and close them he has installed a pulley system, with the operational cord within reach.
One of the storage units inside the
He has even built storage for his smaller equipment - cutting discs, etc.
R&R area for the staff
He thought of his workers too - for those hot summer days there is a shady east facing patio where they can chill out during tea breaks / lunchtime.
I just love this sign - perfect advertising
for the tasks performed within
"The Wood Shop" as it is to be named, has the cutest signage too :)  If you need to find it - it is at the far western end of Swellendam (over the R60 to Ashton) on Voortrek Street - about 500mtrs from the intersection.

My screens are now at his new premises - waiting for him to attend to them.  He is also going to be making me sliding screens - for our windows :)  And, in order to do away with the tea tray under my draining rack, he is going to be making me a new kitchen counter - with angled drainage for the dish rack.  The old recycled kitchen counter - that will become very necessary shelving for RMan in the garage.

It certainly is wonderful to see someone who is so committed to his trade / craft that he can make himself as self-sufficient as this.  He has purchased the empty plot next door to his workshop - and has big plans for that area too... :)

Saturday 3 October 2015

Summer is on it's way...

Well, we certainly finished off September better than it started.

Rainfall figures for 2015 - with comparisons to previous year(s)
As you can see we have had record months of rain this year for June, July and September.

August's total was lower than last year - but because it wasn't hot, the garden didn't suffer.

But, now our rain tanks, and our dam, are all overflowing - again.

RMan managed to get the concrete base done for one of the two extra rainwater tanks we purchased a couple of weeks ago and we pumped water from the other overflowing tanks into the new one.  We have positioned those tanks near the fruit trees - that, together with the solar pump, will allow us to easily water the fruit trees / grape vines without too much hassle nor having to pull 100mtr inflexible hosepipes around.

All the tanks are now overflowing, and the dam too.
Two days after the rain the water is still flowing
into the dam :)
So, we're definitely set for summer.

We noticed that two bushes next to our front entrance steps, which normally get hit by the frost (i.e. the leaves go black/brown and shrivel up) in winter, are both fine.  Just shows you that we had no frost this winter.  Not too sure what that will mean for the fruit on our fruit trees...

The fruit is starting to appear on the fruit trees, and on the grape vines too, but will it set?  We'll just have to wait and see.

Watching the weather report on the news at nighttime, the northern part of South Africa are already being exposed to temperatures in excess of 33 - 34°C.  In mid-September???  That's crazy - what are the temperatures going to be like in the hotter months of summer (Jan - March)???

The chickens are doing well - DeeDee is producing an egg a day - which allowed me to take 6 to Cape Town with me to give to RSon.  He can't conceive how chickens can lay an egg every day - "does production of the next egg start as soon as she has laid one?"  I can't wait for him to cook one of those eggs so that he can see how "firm" and tight the white albumen is, and how incredibly yellowy-orange the yolk is.  What we have been eating as 'free-range' eggs before has no comparison.

Other than that, we are extremely busy with our business (with great gratitude) and that is consuming most of my time.  So much for retiring to our smallholding...  But, I'd rather we were busy than scratching to find work.

But, it does limit the news I have to share with you all.  And, it limits my visiting your blogs too.

Today, I am taking some time off work, and am planning to get into my veggie patches to do some very necessary weeding.  I have planted (and replanted) tomato seeds in various places but nothing seems to be coming up - or has it?  I have a sneaky feeling that DeeDee and DumDum are eating the "wrong" things i.e. luscious tomato seedlings.  So I have started yet more seedlings - but this time they are on my kitchen windowsill...  That should thwart the chickens :)

I'll be chatting to you later in the week - hopefully.  Until then, enjoy yourselves :)