"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

Friday 23 December 2016

T'is the season...

... to celebrate with family and friends.  With that in mind, the next couple of days will be pretty busy, so I would like to take this opportunity of wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.

Stay safe, relax and enjoy the Spirit of the Season.
I cannot justify chopping down a tree in order to decorate
  and use it, for a week or so, as part of our celebrations.
Our live Christmas tree (in it's pot on the front patio)
 is getting too heavy to bring indoors, so this year I have
  opted to go more modern with a Christmas tree-shaped
 bauble arrangement, complete with lights and nativity scene.
Thank you for your blogging friendship, for your valued comments, and for following my, often, rambling and soap-box like posts, as well as my personal observations of living off grid on our (getting there) self-sustainable smallholding.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Saturday 17 December 2016

Mulch rescue 2 a.k.a. preparing for water shortages

The signs have been there for the past months.

Our rainfall for the passed three years
Our rainfall this year is averaging out at 43.3mm / month, compared to last year at 60.3mm or 2014 at 53.5mm.  Looking at the graph you get the full sorry picture.  And, all the forecasts are not predicting any rain whatsoever in the next 10 days... :(

So, most things hereabouts are crunchy, crisp and dehydrated...
We were warned back in September that our dams were in dire straits.  Harry commented last week that everything looks so lovely and green compared to his brown, hibernating winter scenery.  Well Harry, pics can be deceptive.

As you can see from the pics below, we are well in the throes of a drought. 
Dead looking, dry and drab - that about sums it up
Between the unusually high temperatures for the time of year, plus the hectic drying winds, and finally with the lack of rain our garden is in a sorry state.

 But, forewarned is forearmed.  Between my rainfall records, and what has been published in the newspapers, we knew that it was gong to be extreme this summer.  So, we took steps to counteract the situation as best we could - without going greedily overboard with municipal water usage.

That was in our best interests because if everyone decided that bugger the cost, they were going to water willy-nilly, then how long would the water in our local dam last?  That municipal water supply is all we have - there is no nearby stream or river that we could use.

Believe it or not, our 8 X 5 000lt rainwater tanks are also empty... :(
Piquante peppers under a protecting
 blanket  of wood chip mulch
So eight trailer loads of wood mulch (roughly 8 X 1.5mtr3 or 12mtr3 in total) from our local sawmill has certainly assisted our fruit trees to produce their fruit - not as big as last year, but at least it was enough for me to bottle some - and make some jam / cordial.

And the wood mulch is a Godsend for my veggie beds.  A dose of organic nitrogen (a mix of seaweed liquid fertilizer / alpaca poo / chicken poo and worm casings) helps overcome the nitrogen leech than wood mulch causes.

An added bonus with the wood mulch is that weeds can't grow - so weeding is, for once, at a minimum :D  Yeeha!!!
There's not much we can do for the grass, and, as far as the alpaca's grazing is concerned, we managed to buy in oat and barley hay from the local farmers, so the alpaca's won't starve.
4 large round bales of hay to help the alpaca's.
The infamous, and over worked trailer is on the right hand side of the
pic, under the self seeded wattle tree.
But, the extreme dryness is not pleasant on the eye.  And the crunch underfoot makes one aware how dire the circumstances are.
A single turmeric leave is visible in amongst the rocket
But, on a more positive note, a few months ago I saw turmeric root for sale in the shops, and, as I had never seen it in our shops before, I couldn't help myself - I had to buy some. 

I immediately planted it all into one of the three raised beds in the shade cloth veggie patch - and forgot about them.  They hadn't forgotten about me though.  In the last week I noticed some strange green leaves poking up between the rocket, and deduced that the turmeric had decided it liked being where it is, and, by way of thank you, it would peep a lookout above ground to see it's surroundings.

Great excitement LOL
In the centre of the pic you can see a ginger stem, which
 was accidentally left in situ last year, and which is growing again too
I thought if it grew it would probably look something like ginger, but it doesn't - it's completely different.

Finally, an errant sunflower seed, which wasn't gobbled up when I fed the chickens one day, surprised me by showing it's face in the berry patch.

Sunny, bright and cheerful - an unexpected
 sunflower to add to the seeds I purposely
 planted in order to feed the chickens throughout
the coming year.
Aren't we blessed with being able to grow all manner of amazing plants - both big and small ;)

For info on how you can obtain your own Foothills DryAway please click the link.

Sunday 11 December 2016

It's that time in the garden... (part 2)

The first shadecloth covered veggie patch is doing well - perhaps too well.  We can't eat what is growing in it quick enough... (so ruddy great armfuls get given away - neighbours / kids, etc)
Garlic and swiss chard - they did wonderfully this year inside
 the shade cloth covered veggie patch
My multi-coloured swiss chard did really well - a lot of self seeding went on at the end of last summer when the previous plants bolted....
Swiss chard city lol
... and I left them to it.
That parsley plant is roughly 45 cms in diameter - it obviously
 loves the raised bed

As the chickens loved my strawberry plants they had to be
 moved away from beneath the berry beds.  I placed them
in gutters, and fixed the gutters to either side of the raised
beds.  That has worked brilliantly and has kept most of
 the strawberry loving insects (a.k.a. snails and slugs) away .
 I also planted garlic between the strawberry plants
 in the gutters 
I then took a wander to the pumpkin veggie patch area.

I love recycling whatever I can and when we scored some raised bed pallets / boxes from the tile shop at the end of last year, I lined them with plastic and chucked alpaca poo into them during the winter months until they were full.  Then I tossed in some pumpkin and butternut seeds, ran a sprinkler head to each one, and left them to do what they wanted.

This is what they wanted to do - with no further help from me...
A recycled tiles transportation pallet, lined with plastic and filled
 with alpaca poo  makes a brilliant pumpkin bed - especially if it's
 placed next to an "anti chicken" wattle fence
 Those raised pumpkin beds are there permanently - I will empty them out every autumn, use the contents to work into other veggie beds, and start filling them with alpaca poo every winter so that they are ready in late August for more pumpkin / butternut seeds again.  I am totally addicted to growing pumpkin and butternut against a "trellis" - it keeps them off the ground so that RMan can still mow, keeps the orange filled orbs of deliciousness high enough away from slugs / chickens and other devious creatures / insects, and makes harvesting such a breeze.
The anti-chicken fence is ideal for growing pumpkins on :D
Finally, for the first time ever, I found some 2 year old artichoke plants in the nursery on the way to town.  RMan and I LOVE artichokes (however, after our latest cholesterol tests perhaps we'll have to go a little easier on the butter when we eat them).
It seems that the artichoke plants love their position between
 the two raised pumpkin beds
I popped the two artichoke plants facing west between the two pumpkin beds where they are protected from the worst of the wind - and they seem to love their spot.
Another couple of days and that artichoke will be ready for eating
I am amazed how quickly they grew, and started producing...

Yummy luscious-ness straight from the garden.  It seriously doesn't get better than that!

For more info on the Foothills DryAway please click the link.

Saturday 3 December 2016


Last year the mousebirds ate ALL the berries.  Every b-l-o-o-d-y one of them.

To say I was displeased doesn't quite cover the emotion.

This year I was determined that the birds were gong to get their tithe, but that we would get the other 90%
The bushes looked magnificent with their display of blossoms.
...and the bees were ecstatic - and plentiful in their approval.
Both the bees, and the wood mulch worked
their magic on the youngberry blossoms :D
This year, when the berries started settling their fruit, I proceeded to take steps to ensure that the mousebirds shared the crop with us...

Out came the foil trays.
Foil trays strategically placed to deter the mousebirds
from the ripening fruit
And they worked beautifully!!
Yummy, luscious youngberries - a small sample of the
10kgs I have harvested this year.
Apart from what I have already shared amongst family, and what I have given to neighbours, this is my stash from the youngberry bush harvest.
Youngberry cordial dripping from the
fruit filled muslin cloth - RMan's
favourite drink which invokes
good childhood memories :D

From top left: 4 X Youngberry sauce (freezer), 2 X youngberry jam,
4 X youngberry cordial
Front: 1 X (open)youngberry sauce (fridge), 1 X youngberry fruit leather
Youngberry sauce (for the freezer) youngberry jam, youngberry cordial - and I even tried to make a youngberry fruit leather in the Foothills DryAway :)
My first attempt at fruit leather
To make the leather I took the leftover fruit in the muslin cloth (from the cordial) and spread it on trays in the Foothills DryAway.  It was a tad thicker than it should have been, and took a couple of days, but it seems to have worked :)
Youngberry sauce
I couldn't wait - as soon as the sauce was ready, I had a helping of the still steaming sauce on top of homemade yoghurt for breakfast - bliss :D

Now that is what I call a successful thwarting of the birds, and an excellent harvest.

For more info on the Foothills DryAway please click the link.

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Definite indications...

...that all is not well.

This years rainfall has been dismal.

Bearing in mind that we live in a winter rainfall area, this year we have only received 274mm this winter, and 511mm for the year.  With an historical average of 33mm rain in December means that our total rainfall for the year will be approximately 544mm - which is the lowest annual rainfall since I started keeping a rainfall record in November 2013 - and 100 - 150mm less rain for the year compared to previous years!

That is hectic!!
Rainfall record
This November has seen only 12mm of rain fall in our area.  A pathetic 3mm + 6mm + 3mm which does nothing except clean off the leaves.  That is by far and away the worst monthly rainfall figure I have recorded.

North of us in the Gauteng area they have experienced hectic, unusual flooding in the last month.

Are there still climate change deny-ers out there?

We humans are strange creatures.  We tend to react only when something affects us - personally.  The only problem is that what is happening world wide is not only negatively affecting some of us, but is also affecting this planet on which we all reside.  A planet on which we all depend for our existence.  A planet which we have a duty to protect, and to treat thoughtfuly, responsibly and kindly.

Please - don't wait until you, personally, feel the effects of climate change in order to make b-i-g changes in your lives.  Make them now - for the sake of this planet and all who reside thereon.  Do it for the people who aren't causing the problem, but who will feel the worst of the effects of climate change.  People in rural Africa, South America or Australia, or those people who have no option but to live on low lying islands.

Droughts, flooding, extreme temperatures - both high and low - and above average snowfalls.  The indications are that these unusual weather conditions all face us in the future.

And we have caused this to happen.

Have you acknowledged your responsibility, and are you ready to accept your part in the cause of these extreme weather conditions as a result of climate change?

Preppers try and plan for their potential future requirements for a SHTF situation.  Self-sufficient smallholders are trying to reduce their dependence on multi national corporations for their foodstuff as far as they possibly can.

But - with todays attitude of...

1  "replacing" perfectly good items because they are a tad out of date / fashion
2  or turning up heating / air conditioning instead of adding / reducing clothing
3  or insulating homes against the outside temperatures
4  or running to the shops (which, in most cases, means wasting fuel / adding more poisonous exhaust fumes into the atmosphere) because you've run out of a single item
5  wasting precious water

...to name just a few, is not helping.  I'm sure you'll agree.

Consider limiting your shopping to once a week - or, preferably, once a month.  Our parents did that.  Why can't we?  Alternatively, are the shops close enough to walk to?  Do you really need to use your car?  Where possible walk - it's better for your health, and better for this planet.

Preserve food - line your pantry with preserved home grown food, or buy fruits and vegetables when they are on special in the shops and do your own future preserved "catering".  If I can learn to do it at my age - anybody can :D  There is a wealth of information - on the net, and in a myriad of books devoted to the subject.

Don't adjust your thermostat - add / reduce clothing and insulate your homes better.  Even something as simple as adding bubble wrap to your windows, or even hanging a thick blanket over them - these actions will reduce the internal heat loss / prevent the external heat  / cold from affecting your homes negatively.  Snuggle up on the couch of an evening with a blanket round your shoulders / knees.  Why turn the thermostat higher / switch on a heater.  Because you are able to?  Because you can afford it?  But what about the hidden side effects those easy actions are having on others - and on this planet.

Have you installed rain water tanks to collect water in order to reduce your demand on the system - which is - worldwide - showing the strain it is under?

Please - before you take each easy solution route - consider all those who don't have what you have to make their lives easier and comfortable, and who are going to feel the severe negative effects of climate change so much more than you are.

You / me - we're all responsible for what is happening.

Not the people who don't have electricity - and in some cases don't even have running water.  Who don't have a car, who can't even afford to go shopping, but have to grow the food to feed their entire familes.  Who have to try and provide in increasingly more difficult situations.  Through no fault of their own.

We are all members of the same human race.  Why did it become a situation of "I come first" and not mankind and this planet comes first?  Please - just because we cant see what effect our modern lifestyles are having on the underpriviledged and on the landscape outside of our little "worlds", it doesn't mean than we can just bumble through life without a care.

It's time for each and every one of us to own up, to acknowledge our part in the deterioration that is happening and to take enormous personal steps to mitigate our time on Earth and the footprint we leave behind.

We can't throw away this planet and buy a new one...

Saturday 26 November 2016

Just hanging around

We were given a piece of an airplant - Tillandsia - many, many years ago (like 20 years ago lol)

As it grew, I broke off / picked up pieces of fallen plant and slung it wherever a suitable spot caught my eye.
If youo look carefully at the pic you can see the
 flower - plus plenty of buds which have yet to open)
Two of the places I put a piece was on the ficus benjaminus plants which reside in pots by our front entrance patio steps.  (Ficus benjaminus have such invasive roots we dare not plant them in the garden.  There is a park in Cape Town - Ardene Gardens - that has fig tree with similarly invasive roots.  The roots are almost large enough to hide in http://www.ardernegardens.org.za/champion-trees/ and then look at the Moreton Bay Fig).  My motivation for putting them round the base of the ficus benjaminus was so that they could act as soil shade plants.  That has worked well too.

This year we have been rewarded for the first time with our perseverance with the Tillandsia.

One of the plants has flowered.
Doesn't it look amazing!!
A closeup of the Tillandsia airplant flower 
It's hard to believe that such a prehistoric looking plant can produce such a delicate, orchid-like flower.

Naturally, I immediately scoured the other 7 plants we have dotted round the place, but only this one has flowers.

Stunning - and so well worth the wait.  Why it took so long to flower I have no idea?!  And why the others aren't flowering - with the same care (or lack thereof) as this plant, I also can't figure out.

They are not difficult plants to grow - and are quite drought resistant.  We merely hung them up and sprayed them with water whenever we watered other plants round it.  We have never fed it either - we didn't know we should lol

If you'd ike more info on the Tillandsia :


By the way - for those readers of my blog who live in, or near, Cape Town - if you visit the Ardene Gardens, try and spot the really o-l-d tap on one of the paths that run through the gardens.  It has fascinated me since I was a child playing in that park on our frequent family weekend visits.  I did, once upon a time, take a pic of the tap - but, given that it is at least 30 years since I took the pic, where it is now I haven't got a clue...

Friday 18 November 2016

Foothills DryAway offered

Following numerous requests on how readers of my blog could get their own Foothills DryAway I am happy to announce that after employing 4 different manufacturers who produced 4 different prototypes, I now have a model with which I am happy and am thus in a position to fulfill those wishes :)  

Please check out the Foothills DryAway page on the top of the right hand column of this blog (or click on this link).
The final "Foothills DryAway" prototype

Tuesday 15 November 2016

14 November 2016

I thought we would be thwarted by the clouds.

But, in the end, everything worked out.

This was our view of the supermoon last night...

We live on an amazing planet, don't we?!  Well worth saving I reckon :D

Saturday 12 November 2016

Keeping cool(er)

Firstly, welcome, and thank you, to all my new followers and e-mail subscribers.  With blogger having changed which followers can follow and which can't, my numbers have gone up and down over the past few months and I thus can't always tell who's new in the zoo ;)   If you are a new follower (i.e. since January 2016) could I ask you to leave a comment with a link to your blog.  Google+ profile blogs aren't always visible to us plain ol' Google profilers ;)

But, back to today's posting.

First, won't you take a trip down memory lane with me...
May 2011
This was the state of our journey in May 2011 - half a house (combined lounge / dining / kitchen and bedroom all rolled into one with the temporary bathroom structure visible on the very left hand side).  There was no protection on the patio from the hot summer sun beating down.  But, RMan had an idea which was catered for when the patio was constructed - viz. the vertical wooden support poles....
December 2011
This is from summer of 2011 - the poles now support a shadecloth roof.  I always smile when I see this pic - in Franco Zeffirelli's "Romeo & Juliet" the nurse was mocked by some louts as she walked down a road - due to her "size" and the flapping clothing, the louts shouted after her "A sail!  A sail!"  Poor thing.  This shadecloth did the same whenever there was a stiff breeze - almost as though the house had aspiations to take off and head for the skies.
December 2012 - slowly becoming more homelike and less of a
 building site
Summer of 2012 the rest of the house was built, and we still had to paint the outside.  The shadecloth was still "flapping" and didn't extend yet to the small wooden patio in front of our bedroom door.
December 2013
In summer 2013, apart from a few coats of paint, not much had changed...  relative comfort makes one complacent.
The view from the cooler shaded patio out to the baking fields beyond
The shadecloth roof that was there - flappy or not - was invaluable.
May 2016
Fast forward to winter this year.  We now have an extra support poles between the main posts and have secured the shadecloth between the wooden horizontal poles and a stainless steel cable - therefore there is no more flapping.  The supporting structure now follows through past our bedroom door, but still provides no sun protection for our wooden bedroom patio doors, nor the deck.  The door and deck wood is suffering - big time!

As we tend to have plenty of barbecues in summer, and we use an LP gas braai, the wind sneaks around corners of the patio and sometimes makes it difficult to keep the flame lit - especially when it comes to our cooking Christmas turkey.  The solar oven doesn't make the turkey crisp enough, and it's too hot to use the Rosie, so the only way we can cook the turkey is on the braai.

So, as you can see in the above pic, RMan fashioned a wind break out of wattle droppers.  It took RMan ages, and weighed a ton (the wood is still green).

But it was ugly.

Ugly, Ugly, Ugly!!

I was not a happy puppy - and when the wife is not happy, the husband is notified - frequently and unceasingly...
November 2016
Until last weekend... :D

After explaining - in detail - the solution that I proposed, I finally got RMan to remove the wattle wind screen - yippee!  (he's going to repurpose it near the alpaca stables.
Improvements effected for summer comfort this year:
1 the shadecloth now extends over the wooden patio in front of the
 bedroom patio doors
2 an additional support pole was installed to prevent the shadecloth
 from wafting about like a sail
3 the sideways wind screen to protect the barbecue when it is lit
In it's place we now have the same fabric as the upper shadecloth roof (for continuity lol) - but we have it installed sideways like a curtain.
When not in use, the "curtain" is secured out of
the way.  It slides easily on Coolaroo butterfly

 clips fixed to stainless steel cable "runners" which
  are repurposed from a client's "no long required"
 cable balustrade.
Now, we can open and close it when it is required. 
That looks much better :D
Aesthecially, it is much better.  Much, much better - and the wife is a happy little puppy again :D