"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 26 February 2016


...do you wanna know a secret?

Do you promise not to that you'll tell?

Whoa oh oh


Let me whisper in your ear,

Say the words you long to hear..."

(amended lyrics from : "Do you want to know a secret?" - The Beatles 1964 )

Stay tuned :D  

All will be revealed next week.

Saturday 20 February 2016

Vital crop

The one vegetable / fruit that I need to plant, and harvest in quantity, each year is tomatoes.

Last year I was devastated when the mice managed to eat / damage / decimate most of my tomato crop.  The little buggers weren't picky either - sampling this one, that one, any-which-one, and never finishing the meal they started.

What a waste!  Haven't they heard of food poverty?

Thankfully, this year we have seen very few mice in the garden, so I am harvesting enough tomatoes each week to keep me busy in the kitchen over the weekends, when the pressure of (income producing) work is lessened.
Clockwise from the top left:
My new purple tomatoes, golden yellow,
red beefsteak heirloom and cocktail tomatoes
Earlier in January I found a tomato seedling in the local nursery that had me intrigued - so, naturally, I had to buy a specimen.

It was a black (purple) tomato plant.

I have been excited - yes, it doesn't take much, does it ;) - to see what developed.

They are much smaller tomatoes, and really interesting.
A sliced purple tomato
As you can see in the pic above, when they are sliced, the inner edges still retain a touch of that "bruised" look.  I will be saving seeds from one of those I harvest in order to grow my own next year.

I need to make a salad from the different tomatoes I'm growing to show you the different colour contrasts.

A mixed tomato salad with a bit of basil and crumbled feta, sprinkled with balsamic and olive oil - heaven!!

But, the main reason I grow tomatoes is so that I can preserve them.
There are approximately 16 large beefsteak
 tomatoes reducing down in this pot - with 1 single
 yellow one added (it was almost over-ripe and I
 didn't want to waste it).
The must have staple of my pantry / freezer is tomato purée.

Cocktail tomatoes are to throw into a mixed salad.  Only.  I tried preserving them whole a few years ago, but it was a waste of time.  They disintegrated down into an insipid watery mush, and the small jars took up far too much space in my pantry.

Heirloom tomatoes, on the other hand, are invaluable.

My main source of tomato purée is from the heirloom tomatoes -  the beefsteak and the yellow one.  I love the irregular shape of the heirloom tomatoes - it almost gives each one a different character.

(Did you know that perfectly round tomatoes are a result of needing a suitably tidy shaped tomato to put on a take-away hamburger?  Have you ever hear anything more ridiculous?  The bloody hamburger dictates what tomatoes are commercially grown these days - if you can call them tomatoes, as I find them completely tasteless and pasty in colour.)
This is what I mean about a disfigured
 heirloom tomato.  Don't you love the
 uneven appearance of them :)
The heirloom tomatoes around the stem are normally "disfigured" as in the pic above.  I have no idea what causes that, but their taste is amazing, so I don't give a hoot.  The "disfigured" section goes to my worm farm occupants - the worms don't know any different lol

The yellow tomatoes are my favourite, too - and they make the most amazing tomato purée - producing a much deeper colour than that of the beefsteaks.  The purée from the yellow tomatoes seems almost tinged with a dash of turmeric. That is quite a contradiction, as I had imagined, given their yellow appearance, that that purée would have more of a yellow appearance.

I use the purée in a myriad of ways - for pizza bases, in casseroles, soups, dips, sauces, etc.  This winter I also want to try using it in bread, in place of water :)
Recycled plastic containers holding yummy
 thick tomato pur
ée paste cooling down
 before they are popped into the freezer.
1.125 ltrs of tomato to enliven those wintry
 nights.  One of those oval 125ml containers is
 enough for a meal.  I have also water bath preserved
tomato puree in larger Ball jars for my pantry :)
There is something about the luscious redness of tomatoes in winter which, together with a roaring "Rosie" uplifts the cold, dreary days.  The hint of spring around the corner, with the promise of the next tomato harvest...

Sunday 14 February 2016

Raised beds

Back in November when we scored some pallets from a local tile shop which were turned into the second chicken coop, we also scored some "boxes".  I use the term boxes loosely, as they do not have full sides - they're more slatted.
This looks like a pile of junk, doesn't it.
 To RMan and I it means sooo much more...
RMan and I had a "together" moment when we saw these babies - we reckoned they'd make perfect raised beds.  My lower spine is not (and cannot without a major op, which I'm not keen on) getting any better, and the less crouching I have to do, the easier it is for me to garden (which is another reason I planted the pumpkins in tyres so that they could grow up and along the fence of the other veggie patch).

These "boxes" will make that possible.

So, when we had a spare moment in January, I got to work.

I started by clearing out everything in my shadecloth veggie house.
Stones from our fields were added at the base to
  act as drainage
Serendipitously, the three "boxes" fitted perfectly between the two internal support poles - a sign I took that they were meant to be placed where they are.

I layered loads of newspaper on the ground underneath them.  Then, we uploaded some of the gazillion stones we have littering our fields and layered them at the very base of the boxes - on top of the newspaper
The sides of the "boxes" were covered with black plastic
  which was stapled in place
The sides were covered with black plastic which was stapled in place - to prevent the soil from being washed out.  Then layers of straw, alpaca poo, topsoil, straw, alpaca poo, topsoil...
Then we proceeded to fill the mtr3 with a lasagne
 layer of goodness
...were added until the new raised beds were full.
Nearly full.  We were surprised how much it
  took to fill the mtr3
Finally, after watering everything in well, I let it settle, topped up the soil the next morning (it had sunk a little due to the watering) and started sowing seed / planting.

This is what it looks like just under a month later...
Luscious yumminess growing happily in the
 raised beds :)
I'm chuffed.

Carrots, lettuce, radish, chard, some garlic, even a "trial" single tomato plant and the odd-companion planted onion - they're all doing well - and we've already harvested chard, radish, lettuce leaves.
Yeeha!!  Ginger growing for the first times ever
 in my garden
Due to the rich well-manured composition of the soil, I am even able to grow ginger for the first time ever.  (Ginger, being a plant which grows in a mediterranean climate, requires a richer soil, which retains water and loves being grown below other plants - so that their leaves can shade the soil and filter the light.)

These raised beds are certainly assisting my back :)

And the "boxes" were just sitting rotting at the tile shop where we found them.  Another good recycling project completed :)

Although my pumpkins are producing madly, RMan is not mad about growing anything in tyres, so, we're going to go back to the tile store to get some more raised beds, which will be dedicated pumpkin beds next spring / summer.

Saturday 6 February 2016

Grape Harvest

Thank you, kymber - you are a special friend indeed :)

Well, t'would seem that I finally got the pruning of the grape vines right last winter.

For the first time ever I have been able to harvest more than 1 or 2 bunches of grapes from our grape vines.
Some of the grapes I harvested this summer
I always thought that it was the hares that were emptying the grapes from our vines before we had had a chance to munch some, but have just discovered that the mousebirds don't need any help from that quarter and that I had erroneously attributed the loss of grapes to the hares.

When I set about protecting our fruit trees from the mousebirds with the foil trays, I didn't have enough to protect the vines.
Recycled onion net bags - used to protect the
 grapes from the mousebirds
I did, however, have a few empty onion net bags from waaaaaay back when I was still buying them (yes, I am a hoarder, and proud of it ;)  ) so they were wrapped round the larger bunches of grapes.

Thankfully, the limited number of net bags I had worked their magic and allowed me to harvest a third of the bunches of grapes - the mousebirds got the rest.

Big bowls full of grapes to munch on after dinner...
Dessert in the evening :)
... and some to turn into raisins and sultana's.
Dried fruit in the making - they will be a good reminder
 of summers harvest in winter when we eat them :)
 All the squishy grapes weren't wasted either...
Soft, almost discard-able grapes weren't wasted
 ... they were quickly gobbled up by the chickens.
Did you know that chickens l-o-v-e grapes?
I have recently seen those net bags for sale at the co-op, and I will need to get a stock in for next summer.

It has taken 3 years to come to grips with how to prevent (larger) pests from eating our fruit - be that the strawberries, youngberries, apples / pears / apricots / plums / pomegranates, or grapes.  Next year, hopefully, I will be able to harvest more so that we have enough to eat, and a surplus which I can preserve through drying and canning.

That is my aim for summer 2016 / 2017 - to have enough of summer's fruit bounty left over, in one form or another, to tide us through the winter.

Thursday 4 February 2016

R.I.P. Scallywag

We rescued our dog, Scallywag, from a "street seller" in Hout Bay in January 2000.  These "street sellers" use their adult female dogs as money machines.  Once the puppies are "old enough" the "sellers" walk in amongst the traffic, holding the puppies up, and tell the people that drive passed if they don't buy the puppy, they are going to drown them / throw them under a car's wheels.

When we took the tiny puppy, as yet unnamed as Scallywag, to the vet he had his  shots, was dewormed (he had an absolutely enormous amount of worms inside his little body) and the vet discovered he had mange.  We managed to sort that out, but he was left with a hyper sensitive back area.

On the 5th August 2015 Scallywag our dog, had a seizure.

One of our first dogs (Winston) had epilepsy, and we thought that Scallywag was now displaying the same symptoms.
January 2000 - February 2016
He was rushed to the vet by RMan.  The vet established that he had biliary - faulty tick and flea medication / tick collar had failed to protect him from the biliary and that it had affected his brain.  They managed to save him.  But he wasn't the same.

He gradually got slower, and more feeble.  He wasn't that keen to go outside - that was partly due to the effort involved, and also due to the nasty rooster we used to have, who kept trying to attack him (and me).  His aged eyesight couldn't differentiate between the rooster and the hens / chicks.

His back legs haven't worked so well for the last 3 -4 months.

And he became incontinent in the last months.

Yesterday, he suffered what we think is a stroke.

Again he was rushed to the vet.

We decided that the kindest action we could take was to let him go.

Not an easy thing to do.  But the fairest action - for his benefit.

He is no longer confused.  He is no longer in pain.  He is no longer going to battle to climb the two back steps in order to re-enter the house through the kitchen door.

He is at peace.

And he leaves a big hole in our lives because he has been with us for 16 years. 

Scallywag and RMan were like peas in a pod - they were besotted with each other.

How is it that animals have the capacity to become such a huge and important part of our lives - of the family?

Over the years we have had the pleasure of sharing the lives of:

Panda - a fawn and white St Bernard
Winston - a fawn and white St Bernard
Baron - a fawn Great Dane
Muts - a grey cat
Puddy Pat - a ginger cat
Topaz - a fawn Great Dane
Fluffy - a white Maltese Poodle
Randy - a brown, fawn and black brindle Boxer
and now Scallywag - a fawn, black and white Collie / Golden Retriever mix.

They are all still sorely missed.

Monday 1 February 2016


These pics were taken at 13.36 p.m. today
The temperature
outside in the shade
 We have never had temperatures in the 40's before (104oF)

I can only imagine the temperature at 2.30 - 3.00 p.m.

28.3oC on 01/02/2016 or...
 Thank goodness for our double volume and double glazing...
...28.3oC at 13:36:24 p.m.
The temperature inside the house is a more comfortable 28.3oC

Poor Tweedle Dee and CLuck were not happy egg layers - plus they decided to crowd into one laying box, thus were even more uncomfortable...

Never mind, they had a treat when they had completed their task ;)