"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 30 January 2016


Well, the chicks are all growing up.

They'll be 3 months old on Tuesday.

And it looks like, serendipitously, only one of the chicks is a rooster. 
Hopefully, growing up with me, this rooster
will be more friendly than his dad was...
Which means we will eventually have 5 egg-laying chickens :)

Tweedle Dee, like Tweedle Dum the ex-rooster, is quite a feisty bird.  She was an excellent mother whilst the chicks were young, but now that they are almost 3 months old, she's quite a hen pecker.

If one of the chicks dares to come close to a morsel she has her beady eye on...


Which results in my screeching:

"Tweedle Dee, leave the poor chicks alone - there's plenty for everyone".

I don't think she believes me...

Learning to live with chickens has been interesting.

My lot don't eat snails nor slugs - not even ones that are hand fed to them.  They're obviously too good for that!

We are very grateful for the 2 eggs we are getting each day from Tweedle Dee and Cluck.  When we start getting 5 a day, our various neighbours will score, and RSon will have to visit us more frequently so that he can take home the excess.  5 chickens potentially laying an egg a day = +/- 30 - 35 eggs a week...!!

Tweedle Dee decided to get broody exactly 2 months (to the day) after the chicks hatched.  Now, a chicken sitting on infertile eggs is not (egg)productive.  It took me 7 days to get her to return to normal (i.e. confined to one of the coops on her own with food and water but no sign of a nesting box) and a further 4 days after rejoining the rest of her family until she started laying again...

Milk that has gone sour is no longer wasted.  I have discovered that chickens l-o-v-e sour milk.  They dive into the bowl full so actively that it ends up dripping down their necks / feathers.  The young 'uns, being left on the side lines in true pecking order, resort to pecking the drops off Tweedle Dee and Clucks feathers, and only get to have their share once the two "ladies" are replete :)
All I did was go outside to take their pic - you can
see how they all rush up to me, hoping that I have
 a tasty morsel (or two) in my hands...
(admittedly, it was 15 minutes away from feed
scattering time...)
They walked away disappointedly when they
realised it was only the camera I was holding
Come food time, when I try to walk to the coop to scatter their feed it is hazardous.

They are 100% free range, so if they spot you walking anywhere near the coop with "something" in your hands when they feel like an easy tasty morsel, they all try and trip you up, so that you can spill it - and they can get their beaks filled quicker. 

I can almost hear them think "Don't be pedantic - feed us now, don't make us walk all the way to the coop.  Pleeeeease?"

No way.  Routine works for me, and it has to work for you ;)

Check your newly laid mulch on a daily basis.  There's nothing they love more than to scratch and displace as much mulch as possible away from it's intended location whilst they search for anything edible beneath it.
Harvesting the first of my heirloom tomatoes
 and the first of my eggplant
Also, don't try and harvest tomatoes and place them on the ground next to you, whilst you harvest some herbs growing on the outside the veggie patch.

This is the result of that mistake.
The chickens attacked the tomato like manna
 from heaven!
All it took was 3 minutes of having my head turned.

Never mind, I chopped off the bitten bit, and added the rest to some tomato sauce I was making.

Waste not, want not :)

Saturday 23 January 2016

Deterring thieving mouse birds

(This is a report back from my earlier post regarding the deterring of mouse birds in our fruit trees)

There is always some pest which fancies the produce in your garden, isn't there?

Last year we were over run (literally) with mice.

This year it's the mouse bird.

They decimated the fruit on my apricot trees.  Bang goes my planned apricot jam.

But, to me, it was a declaration of war.

So, I retaliated.
The CD lost it's reflective surface within 2 weeks -
thanks to the sun's intensity and the wind.  If you
click on the pic you'll see a transparent disc hanging
on the tree - just in front of the small snippet of
Firstly, we tried hanging old CD's in the branches.

It probably could've worked, but between the sun, and the wind, in no time at all they were transparent discs hanging in the branches.

Then RMan tediously made layered strips of aluminium foil, which was hung from the branches with sewing thread.

The foil certainly flashed and bounced - and chased the birds away.  But, again the wind shredded them down to 1 inch pieces of paper in a week or two.

Far too much effort to replace.

But, the foil gave me an idea.

In winter, when it's cold outside, and all we want to do is curl up in front of the Rosie with a good book, but we have to go and do our weekly shopping in Swellendam, we sometimes warm ourselves up with a take-away pie.

Which comes in foil trays.

And yes, I'm a hoarder - I'll try and reuse anything a second or third time rather than throw it in the recycling bag.
The wind aptly blowing as I try to take a pic
of the foil trays protecting the ripening pears.
So I reasoned, foil worked, but strips shredded.  Why not try and use the foil trays?  They are 1000% sturdier than the strips.

So I did.

Yup, they clanged about noisily in the wind, and bruised a bit of the fruit (note to self - make sure the trays are out of the way of the ripening fruit next year). 

So, following up on the first posting regarding the mousebirds from December, I am ecstatic to share with you the fact that this method works brilliantly.

Nary a mousebird to be seen on the trees the entire time the fruit was ripening.  Not a single bird beak hole was to be found in any of the fruit!!  And not a single pip was left dangling sans fruit in the tree... :D

And, the foil trays are recyclable - either I will re-use them in the garden next year, or, when they are shredded by the elements, they will go to the recycling depot in Swellendam.

I will definitely only be using this method of deterring the birds.  It'll be noisy in the garden for a month, or two, or three, but, at least I be able to harvest the fruit when it is ripe :)
This is what I managed to harvest from our 4 year old
 tree this year.
I managed to harvest 1.4 kgs of fruit from our plum tree.  Not really enough to make jam, so I decided to make some 5 spice Chinese plum sauce.
Ingredients clockwise from the bowl of plums:
honey, Chinese 5 spice, sherry (with an extra
sip for me to spur me on) brown sugar, rice vinegar,
 wasabi paste, soy sauce, garlic and finely
chopped red onions in the centre
Quite quick to make, it will be delicious on roast chicken, or RMan's pork chops, or added to stir-fries / marinades.
The sealed jars will go into my
larder, and the rectangular container
will happily reside in the fridge.
That 1.4kgs of fruit has filled my larder with 4 jars, and a (rectangular) container full for the fridge.

A taste of summer in the winter months ahead.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Eco-friendly air conditioning

I asked on Tuesday if anyone knew what this object in the picture was.
Well, it's my non-power guzzling, eco-friendly air-conditioner.

Also known as a hand held fan.  Operated by humans, not electricity lol  It's all in the wrist movement...

Well done to all those that got it right :)

We haven't got the power to run an air-conditioner, and wouldn't even if we did (we have never had one either).

But, neither we do we need one.

We feel that air-cons don't give you fresh air, they give you recirculated machine air.  

Plus, not living in a town polluted with exhaust fumes / belching who knows what from industry chimney stacks / machines, why on earth would we run an air-con?
Between keeping the doors and windows closed when the temperatures are above 35oC outside (the double glazing definitely works), dressing in the coolest clothing we have (not quite as 'undressed' as you and jam, kymber, but at times we have come pretty close), or using our 40 watt electric table fan, I now have a portable fan - for use anywhere and at any time.

Not mad about the pattern, but hey, it doesn't effect the performance, so what the heck.

(P.S.  Don't tell him I told you, but RMan also has his own eco-friendly air-conditioning fan... tee hee)

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Can you guess 2

Can anyone guess what this is?

All will be revealed on Thursday :)

Saturday 16 January 2016

El Niño and La Niña 2016

Never mind the financial chaos which (again) seems to be compounding world wide.  The predicted weather for 2016 is not going to help the situation.

For info on El Niño and La Niña in the Northern Hemisphere :  


US of A:

Thus have we all been warned.  Preparations made now will certainly benefit you when the full effects are felt...

Thursday 14 January 2016

Growing pumpkins / butternut 2016

Bill - this one's for you :)

This summer I tried a different way of growing my pumpkins / butternut.

Previously, I have dug a ruddy great hole in the ground, filled it with compost (or more recently alpaca poo) and then added my pumpkin / butternut seed.

But, the plants spreadeagle themselves everywhere, making mowing round them a nightmare.  Which is a problem, because we like to try and keep the vegetation as short as possible in order to prevent any snakes taking up residence / camouflaging themselves in the undergrowth.  Plus, the plants always succumbed to downy mildew before the season was finished.

I had seen a pumpkin growing concept I forget where, where the pumpkin plants were encouraged to almost grow over an arbour, with the fruit easily visible hanging down from the plants.

Now, I don't have an arbour, nor am I ever like to have one.  But, thinking laterally, I did have a half finished shade cloth veggie patch which I reckoned could be amended to fit the bill.

This took some planning - 8 months in advance.  And that was because I used alpaca poo.  Using straight compost wouldn't entail such forward planning ;)
The tyre towers were placed roughly 1.5 - 2mtrs
(4 - 5 feet) apart
What I did was take the used tyres that RMan scored on the auction many, many years ago, place them at reasonable distances apart round the unfinished veggie patch, fill them with alpaca poo - then allow the winter rains / worms to do their bit.
The pumpkin stems are encouraged to grow along
the wattle pole fence
Come August 2015, two seeds were sown in each tyre tower.  Clever that - because it turned out I had cutworm in two of the tyre towers - how they got in I'll never know.  But, thankfully (and with a bit of repeat sowing) I managed to get a seed (or two) growing in each tower.
I didn't succeed with this tyre - it had too many
 cutworm inside, which I only discovered when I
emptied out the alpaca poo.  The chickens loved
 their easy meal though :)  I have since planted a
 sweet potato in this tyre and it is doing well. That
 too will be easy to harvest when it is time
As the plants grow, I merely encourage the stems to suspend themselves on the horizontal wattle poles every time I water the plants from the rainwater tanks - which is roughly twice a week.  Once the plants were established, I also added mulch to the top of the decomposed alpaca poo - to prevent evapouration from the surface.
Harvesting the pumpkins / butternut will be a breeze
As the fruit is developing, it hangs visible on the wattle fence - which will make it easier to harvest, and prevents it from being attacked by slugs, etc.
No sign of downy mildew on these
 pumpkin leaves :)
The plants are all healthy.  They are producing fruit madly.  And there is absolutely no sign (thank God) of the normal downy mildew which has plagued my pumpkin / butternut plants in the past.  Obviously, the air that is able to waft passed the leaves helps in that regard.  I have only had two days where the leaves have wilted slightly from the heat / insufficient water.

And, most importantly, the stems / leaves are not cluttering up the land making mowing impossible.

This system of growing pumpkins / butternuts has worked so incredibly well,  I am definitely doing this again next year :)  Probably the only change I will make is to paint the tyres white - that should help to keep them / the compost inside them that little bit cooler, especially if we hit extreme temperatures similar to those we have seen this summer so far.

Saturday 9 January 2016


Last year we had a mouse plague.  Thank goodness that is over.

This year - well, the ants and flies have taken over...

In 2014 we had these fly screens made for our front patio, and back kitchen doors.  They were great, but there was an inherent flaw in the specifications I gave the carpenter.
Our original full length fly screens on
the front Happy doors
I thought when we had both the patio doors open, having full length screens would allow for full view.  They did, but this design meant that if our dog, Scallywag, wanted to get outside, his scratching on the "door" actually translated into scratching on the fly screens.
The original full length fly screen
 on the back kitchen door
Naturally, the lower section of the fly screens didn't last long.


RMan can do many things, but woodwork is not his favourite chore.  Especially finicky woodwork.

So, now to find a carpenter who could fix them.  And, who could re-position the cross support to the same height as our patio door profile.

I mentioned in October that, George, a craftsman in Swellendam, was going to remedy the problem.

Ta Da!  Because George has been snowed under with work, it has taken some months, but, finally, we have our flyscreens back in place.  And not a moment too soon - I reckon the record rains we had last winter have something to do with the fly plague we have this year.
The new kitchen door flyscreen
As you cans see, the screens now match the two door styles.  The kitchen stable door has a lower solid panel...
The new front patio "Happy door" fly screens -
 complete with dog flap
And the front patio doors have not only a lower solid panel the same height as the glass in the door, but, the one also has a dog flap :)
Only a craftsman would make a wooden hinge
 And I love that George has made a hinge - instead of buying a brass / steel one.
A close up or the hinge - the white "gunk" visible
where the dowel rod meets the wooden
support block is not wood glue, but wax -
to prevent the wood squeaking as it
swings open and closed
Here is a close up of the hinge - George routed a "gully" in the dowel rod in order to slide in the wood of the flap, and another "gully" the wooden block for the dowel rod to fit into.  A bit if wax, and perfect!  It works like a dream.

Don't you love it when craftsmen go above and beyond to create something purely functional.

Tuesday 5 January 2016

Please help

If only I'd known about this a week ago, before upcountry people started travelling home at the end of their holidays.

Please - the situation is dire.

I have posted this on my Facebook page - to help spread the word far and wide.

Water is urgently needed upcountry e.g. Senekal has been without water since the 12th December 2015. 

Water Shortage South  Africa are appealing to holiday makers who are returning upcountry to take a large bottle (or two) of water to drop off on their way home (https://sites.google.com/site/watershortagesouthafrica/home). Now, appeals are going out for contributions of water - in those clean bottles which you would normally send to recycling.

They must be marked "DW = Drinking water (Human consumption)
TW = Tank water (Sanitary use and livestock drinking water)" 

Disaster Management SA is prepared to collect and transport the water, so can't we all in Swellendam not do our bit to help? All we need is a drop off point, and for everyone to give as large a bottle of water as possible. Any suggestions where that could be located?

Please - check out https://www.facebook.com/groups/924585607595490/ for more info on how South Africans are trying to do their bit to help their fellow man, woman and child

Please - click on the two links I have provided above.  And, all those who have a South African blog - please - help spread the word.


Monday 4 January 2016

Saturday 2 January 2016

Are we strange?

Most people celebrate New years Eve with a party, or a special meal - in years gone by that was something like prawns, occasionally freshly caught lobster (when RMan went out in his boat and cast out his crayfish nets), etc.  ( I didn't go cray / lobster fishing with him often as the horizon wouldn't stay still for long enough...  Mind you, the couple of times I did go with him, I fed the fish quite adequately, so we were sort of giving back whilst we were taking ;) )

But, we don't make that much of a fuss about New Years these days.

Although we do tend to stay up long enough watch the international fireworks displays on TV - New Zealand / Aussie / Hong Kong and Saudi - we haven't made it to midnight in years.  We prefer to get a good night's rest - because the first morning of the year is just a normal new day on our smallholding, with animals which need our attention, and crops which need watering / weeding / harvesting.

And, forcing oneself to stay awake until midnight to have a quick burst of "excitement", and then hit the sack seems - well, almost pointless to us.

But, I do try and cook something, no matter how simple, which we've not had before, and this year was no different.

John, from Going Gently, has raved about Scotch Eggs for yonks.  I've never tasted a Scotch egg, let alone made one.

On New Years Eve all that changed.

We have fresh eggs from Tweedle Dee and Cluck - so why not? ;)
The simplicity of the plateful belies it's taste -
it was scrumptious :)  The remnants of my first
piece of cornbread is skulking behind the lemon lol
Using Jamie Oliver's Scotch Egg recipe guidelines, I thawed some Elgin Free Range chicken sausage to wrap around the hard boiled eggs - adding some homegrown chopped chives and parsley to the sausage meat which I had squished from the casing.

Then, I carefully dunked the sausage wrapped egg in milk, and breadcrumbs, and again in milk and breadcrumbs, and then left them to rest in the fridge until I was ready to cook them.

Deep frying them for 6 - 7 minutes (turning twice as the oil only came ¾ up the sides of the eggs) until the crumb coating was nicely browned, they were served with the juice from a freshly picked lemon, some homemade corn bread, homemade gherkins, and sliced cheese.


Bloody marvellous mate!! :D

But, very filling...

As we couldn't finish the four I cooked, we left the remaining 1½ eggs covered overnight in the fridge and then had them for breakfast on New Years morning.

I honestly don't know which tasted better - the freshly prepared Scotch Egg or the chilled breakfast version :)