"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 25 November 2015


RMan and I, in our much younger days, enjoyed making garlic buttered escargot together in the kitchen for our dinner (served with a fresh crunchy french loaf to sop up all that garlic butter).  In our younger days...  Well, that was back in the late 70's / early 80's and escargot were all the rage then.

Since then we've seen how the "escargot" are harvested, and prepared, before being canned - and we're not so keen on partaking of that culinary morsel lol

We didn't realise that when we moved from our town house in Hout Bay, Cape Town, to our smallholding that we were also moving some unwelcome guests with us.

They hid in all the dark corners.

They hid under the rims of pot plants.

Because we moved at the end of June 2012 (mid-winter) they hid in the folds of a "Tradewinds" garden umbrella that hadn't been opened for months.

And they have spent the last 3-odd years multiplying.

There are just so many that you can satisfyingly stand on - and hear them crunch - knowing that they have been dispatched to wherever they go in their afterlife.

They were too big for the chickens - I tried to hand feed the chooks.  They had one investigatory peck and turned away.  No help from that quarter.

So, a-crunching RMan and I went after every little shower of moisture from the heavens.

Until this morning.

A friend of mine posted this on her facebook page: 
Eco-friendly "round up"
We have an ongoing weed problem in our fodder fields, so I made a mental note in order to share it with RMan.

This morning whilst RMan and I were sitting having our morning cuppa on the veranda I mentioned it to him.  He wondered whether it would actually work.  So, grabbing my vinegar spray bottle and bottle of bicarb from next to the kitchen sink, and, after mixing some bicarb and adding a few drops of dish washing liquid to the vinegar bottle, I proceeded to spray some weeds growing in front of our entrance steps.  We'll see later today if they were affected.

Update:  I can confirm that the vinegar, bicarb and dishsoap mixture kills weeds even better than boiling water :)
Pests came along to the small holding with all
the pot plants we brought with us
But, it was whilst I was doing that that I noticed these unwelcome guests roaming around.

So, I gave them a spray as well ;)
Spraying the vinegar, bicard and dish soap
mixture certainly affected them...
 It certainly caused them to foam.
... but didn't kill them
And some of them briefly exuded a yellow-ish green slime.

But it didn't kill them.

I don't know what made me run back into the kitchen and grab the bicarb bottle...
A sprinkle of bicarb...
 ... but, boy, did that ever work!  If a snail could roll over and die then these did!
... immediately made them "roll over" and die!
As you can see the snails are well and truly finished.

Now, that is an eco-friendly pest control that really works, will not harm our soil, does the job, and is cheap to use.

What more could I ask for?

I think I am rather going to try epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) instead of bicarb (sodium hydrogen carbonate) because it will add magnesium (which is beneficial to plant growth as it aids the production of chlorophyll and allows the plant to soak up phosphorus and nitrogen from the soil and does not build up in the soil over time) to the soil.  I have managed to find an epsom salt wholesaler in South Africa - even in Cape Town - which is certainly more convenient than having to get it sent to me from Gauteng lol.  Well, 2 hA (5 acres) is quite a large area to try and use a retail priced pest / weed control.

I am going to try it against cut worm too - they have successfully demolished all the swiss chard seedlings I planted, as well as the tomato seedlings - my tomato harvest this year is going to be very late...

For those in South Africa who would like the wholesalers links :

and, whilst I'm at it:

Diatomaceous Earth : http://www.eco-earth.co.za/

Sunday 22 November 2015

Water security

With the higher than normal temperatures we have already experienced this summer, we purchased an additional two 5 000lt rainwater tanks and, against all logic, RMan threw an enormous slab so that we could position them by our fruit trees.  "Against all logic" because that position is far away from the gutters which collect the rain water.

But, we had a plan ;)

They will be filled by the rainwater that enters the tanks by the house and which will then be pumped up to them via our electric pump once our solar batteries are charged and are on "float" stage.
The two new tanks - over thereeeee in the distance
Digging that +/- 45mtrs of connecting pipe into the ground wasn't easy - the ground is rock hard already.

The solar panel has been concreted into the ground
to prevent it being blown away during the south
easter.  Ditto the placement of the panel on the
western side of the tanks.
We had an extra solar panel, and an old Phocos 40 Amp charge controller, so, after purchasing a 12 volt water pump (roughly ZAR800.00), RMan set about connecting it all up. 
A lidded black storage tub has become our "solar power" point by those two tanks.
All the solar paraphernalia housed within the
black box
The deep cycle battery, the small Phocos charge controller and the 12volt pump fit perfectly inside the tub.  Small holes were drilled in the upper wall of the tub for ventilation.  (The holes were purposely drilled too small to allow snakes or rodents to take up residence inside the tub.  You don't need that kind of surprise on opening the lid.) 
The outlet pipes leading to the 12 volt pump inside
the black tub / box
RMan joined the pipe connecting all 6 of the old rain water tanks to the top inlet valve on the new 2 tanks.

Then, the front bottom outlets on the 2 new tanks were joined and connected to the 12 volt pump.  
12mm pipe coming out of the pump and leading to...
But, the length of the pipe leading from the 12 volt pump to the (1) lemon trees) and (2) fruit trees / grape vines was just too long to properly water the trees - they got a mediocre sprinkling not a deep watering.

So,we have installed two valves on the 12 volt pump outlet pipe.  That way we can either water only the lemon trees, or only the fruit trees / grape vines.
...the two valves.  The valve on the left
leads to the lemon trees, the one on the right
to the fruit trees / grape vines
Now, at last, we will be able to give the trees / vines on the "orchard" line a proper good soaking once a week.
The pipe layout to the lemon and fruit
tree orchard
Using gravity to water the lemon trees only took 3 - 4 hours of hand holding / moving the pipe every week.  The new setup means that all the (lemons, fruit and grape vines) will literally all be deep watered within 1.5 hours max.

Now, we just have to figure out how to prevent the mousebirds from eating all the fruit... ;)

Sunday 15 November 2015

Arrival and departure

Long time followers of my blog (are there any left lol?) will remember back in 2010 I planted some lemon tree pips in soil.
Lemon pips harvested in 2010
They grew...
Early 2011

And grew...
January 2012 - the second lot of three rows
was planted

2014 - the lemon trees are definitely growing
Until they decided that the time was ripe to send forth some fruit.
October 2015 - bearing fruit at last
This week I harvested the first of my home grown lemons.

All 236gms of it.
Our first lemon produced on a tree
grown from a pip :)
('scuse the dirty scale, it's my garden produce scale :)  )

It was absolutely delicious squeezed over our butter and garlic fried hake last week.

Then - on to the departure...

Tweedle Dee decided that he didn't like being ostracized by Tweedle Dee whilst she raised her chicks.  And he turned downright mean and nasty.

To the point that neither Scallywag, our dog, nor I, could venture into the garden without being terrorized / attacked by him.

Damage inflicted by Tweedle Dee to the back
of my leg
The sod perfected creeping up very silently behind me and attacking the back of my legs.

So, I spoke to our neighours to see if they would like him back.  it was either that, or into the pot with him - not that RMan and I would do the deed.  We couldn't willingly kill an animal - we're just too soft.

Thankfully, they accepted his return with extremely good grace - and apparently he is ruling the roost together with a larger rooster.  With roughly 30 hens between them I'm sure his days are very occupied...

RMan and I can now happily roam the land again without fear of attack by a sodding rooster!!

As for Tweedle Dee - she's more than happy to care for her chicks without fear and intimidation / an over eager suitor.  Let's see in the months ahead if she has produced a rooster of her own...

Sunday 8 November 2015

Anniversary gift

Firstly, thanks to everyone for their good wishes on my last posting.  It was a wonderful relaxing day (in front of the Rosie) - with snow falling on the higher mountains in the Eastern Cape & Lesotho.  Sadly, not on our mountains though...

The 31st was Tweedle Dee's due date.

But, nary a peep was heard, not chick was spotted.

I feared that her three week semi-starvation was all in vain.  Was Tweedle Dum not up to the task?

I felt so bad for her...
An anniversary gift from Tweedle Dee - the
sight of a baby chick :)
However, the afternoon of our anniversary I went out to check on her progress, and what did I spy peeping out from next to her?

A baby chick :D

What excitement.  S'truth!  You'd have thought RMan and I had won the lottery lol

Such proud "parents" bwahaha.  T'was the easiest childbirith ever!

In anticipation of the arrival of a chick (or two) I had been voraciously reading up on all aspects of making Tweedle Dee's first experience of motherhood as "perfect" and as comfortable as possible.

Most sites advised keeping the hen and baby chicks apart from the rooster.
The chicken coop we made out of
the frame from the water container
That was a problem as we only had one coop - the one we made from the water container frame.  Knowing that trying to source another frame in a short space of time was not feasible I racked my brains as to what we could do.

I even resorted to googling buying a new chicken coop, or small garden shed...

Until I had a brainwave.

I sent the local tile shop an e-mail, asking them if they had any pallets for sale.  I knew that tiles were delivered to them on pallets, and wondered if they had to return them to the supplier, or whether they kept them?

Sure enough they e-mailed back giving me the name of someone to call / speak to the next time we were in the area.

RMan, in anticipation of woodworking chores ahead, is not always keen on "quickly stopping to see if they have anything suitable" but I managed to get him to drop in.

They had pallets which were very solid, and had to be returned to the suppliers.  But, then they also had these:
Scrap pallets - with our name on them :)
 Any idea's what we could do with all those
outdated bathroom fittings - they're due to be
smashed shortly - because the new loo seats
don't match / fit.  What a waste!
Less study pallets, but they would certainly do the job.

Five were loaded in our trailer.

George, the carpenter from "The Wood Shop" had offered us some old nesting boxes which he could no longer use because the otters in the nearby river, kept eating his chickens.

Those got loaded into the trailer at the same time.

Offloading everything at home we got to work.
The new pallet chicken coop in the making
The pallets got stripped and the wooden slats were moved closer together to make walls.
We added one of the two nesting boxes to the one
side of the coop.
 One of the two sets of nesting boxes was added to the one side.
Collecting eggs from here in future is going to
be a breeze :)
A door was added...

Apart from the roof, the entire structure was covered in chicken wire - even the floor - so that if any otters fancied digging underneath they would find their way blocked. 

We placed the new coop next to the old one, and covered both of the roofs with a piece of IBR sheeting (corrugated roofing), and a double layer of shadecloth - to prevent the coop from becoming an oven in the hottest time of the day / year.
"His" and "Hers" chicken coops lol
Tweedle Dums is on the  right,
and Tweedle Dee and the chicks pallet
coop is on the left.
Literally, as we finished that coop, Tweedle Dee became a mama.  Of 4 chicks (clever Tweedle Dee - and Tweedle Dum lol:D

And, watching them, the chicks started clambering all over the quaddie tyre nest.

They wouldn't stay in there long.

I was concerned that they would get out of the nest and fall 2 - 2.5 feet to the floor.  Would they survive?  I doubted it.

Plus, when Tweedle Dum came near Mama hen rose up menacingly with wings widely spread.

Definitely time to move them. 

But - how do we transfer her and the chicks to the new coop?
How to move this bulky nest to the new coop?

Three days after we had spotted the first chick, 4 chicks were toddling round the nest, I said to RMan that it was time - we couldn't wait for the other two eggs to hatch / not hatch.

He carefully picked up the tyre and base and tried to manoeuvre them out of the frame coop and into the new pallet one.

Naturally, the chicks leapt out of the nest - together with mama.  Now they were running round the frame coop.

Oh, how to catch a chick.  Not bloody easy, is it, but, bless RMan, he did it.

Transferring all of the chicks (and the two remaining eggs) to the new coop, all that was needed was for Mama to now locate them but their frantic chirps.

Finally, they were are securely ensconced within their new dwelling.
We have fenced off the area outside the coop
so that Mama and the chicks have access to outside
without fear of Tweedle Dum interferring
Mama wasn't interested in the last two eggs, so they ended up being sacrificed for the good of the 4 chicks.
Clever Tweedle Dee - teaching the chicks
to scratch for their food
The first couple of days the chicks couldn't make it out of the coop - the lip under the door was too high.  Strategically placed bricks soon sorted that out.
Tweedle Dee is forever going inside and out of the
pallet coop - I reckon she love it :)
Tweedle Dee has been amazing - I am blown away by her mothering instinct!!

Firstly, when she was sitting on the eggs, she only got off them for about 10 minutes every 3 days.  Every THREE days?!  I kid you not.  Her comb went almost colourless, and her feathers lost their lustre.

What dedication!

Now they are hatched, she does not let them out of her sight for a second.  When chick feed is sprinkled on the ground, she rushes up and "pretends" to peck at it.  Naturally, the chicks follow suit.

When she is happy that they are all eating, I then scatter her normal chicken feed down, and she then proceeds to fill her stomach.

And - whoa!  Have you ever given your baby chicks ( and Mama of course) some cottage cheese?  They absolutely love it - the baby chicks grab a mouthful and rush away to the corner to eat it - so that no-one can steal it from them.  They have even swiped Mama's mouthful straight out of her beak!

At bedtime, it used to be a chore to get Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum into the coop.  Food had to bribe them inside each and every time.
Bed time - everyone safely ensconced in
their bed 
With the new coop, in the late afternoon Mama toddles inside when she's ready, settles down in the nesting box, with the baby chicks rushing to join her as fast as they can.

All I have to do is close and lock the door behind them.

The new coop is a brilliant success - everyone is happy, and have accepted it as their new home.

What did it costs us?

A pair of hinges and a dead bolt for the door, a packet of screws, 10 mtrs of chicken wire - and some of our time.  The IBR roofing and the shadecloth we had already.

And the wood shavings - well, it's nice to have a friendly carpenter in town - he's only too happy to get rid of his waste :)

What about Tweedle Dum?  He has settled down into his coop on his own - well, the rest of his family is right next door, aren't they?!  He probably enjoys having the entire roost to himself, if the truth be told...

I have a sneaky suspicion that one of the chicks is a rooster - it has a dark "line" on it's head, and it's wings have dark markings which the others don't have.  So, for a period, Tweedle Dum may have company - until the "spare" rooster is ready for the pot.