"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 26 March 2016

Weirder and weirder

Is there anyone out there who still doesn't believe in global warming / climate change?

Then, this weekend it is predicted that, like my home town, Grimsby, South Africa will get it's first snowfall of winter!  Three months early.  Have we ever had snow in March before????  I doubt it!

24 March 10.54a.m.
Plus - we are currently experiencing our worst drought in over 100 years.

Add to the above all the blogs I follow who have commented that their most recent winter was abnormal and I rest my case...

"Later that night I held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered:



      ~   Warsan Shire

Happy Easter everyone.  If you're travelling, please drive safely, if you're at home, enjoy.

Sunday 20 March 2016

Dried pineapple sage

Just before I took possession of my Foothills DryAway I was standing at the kitchen stable door staring out into our back garden - daydreaming.

A movement caught my eye, and, re-focusing my eyes, I spied this beauty on the pineapple sage plant which stand at the entrance to my covered veggie patch.
It was a spectacular Southern Double-Collared Sunbird.
If you click on the image you'll see that the
  Southern Double Collared Sunbiords beak is deeply
 embedded into the pineapple sage flower
He was the reason that I thought to shove an armful of pineapple sage into the DryAway
At the end of the day the armful had reduced down to a cereal bowl full, and...

...30 grams of dried pineapple sage will soon be on it's way to a very special person.  Who can that be...?  ;)

Saturday 12 March 2016

Please-don't-keep-secret revealed - "Foothills DryAway"

So, for all of you who have been waited with baited breath for the reveal of my not-so-secret secret, with no further delay here it is.

But first, a bit of background.

I have been trying, far and wide, to source wood locally which would allow me to manufacture and sell, a solar food dryer / preserver in order to preserve my excess harvests.  I have looked longingly at all those wooden ones overseas - and trust me they come in all sort of different shapes and sizes.  I even purchased plans to make one.

However, the wood, which is the majority component in all the various solar structures, was the only drawback, because all the wood available here has been chemically treated.  So, enclosing that chemically treated wood inside a closed "heated" space would only cause the dehydrating food to absorb those chemicals.  A completely wasted exercise as far as I'm concerned, and completely against my eco-friendly ethos.

Then, last year in November, a post of Tania's cause me to have a lightbulb moment.  She posted about her husband manufacturing a structure that would allow her to air dry her excess produce.

Duh!!  Why am I thinking like someone from the more inclement northern climes?

There is a flimsy molded plastic model available here which is mainly used to make biltong (jerky), but that requires plugging in a 40watt light bulb, and that, together with the small circulating fan is left on 24 hours a day for as many days as it takes until the food is dehydrated!  40watts X 24 hours = almost a kilowatt of electricity per day!  I don't need to add anything unnecessary like that to our electricity consumption.

I need a unit which will allow me to take advantage of our warm, sunny weather.

I wrote to Tanya and asked her permission to copy her idea, and received a generous reply in the affirmative.

So, I got to work, and using into the skills of a local woodworking craftsman, I now present the "Foothills DryAway" :)  (Like our animals, and chickens, I love naming stuff, so ditto this has also been given it's own identity lol  "Foothills" after our smallholding and "DryAway" after the function of the unit that happily works away on it's own, and after the fact that I can fold away the legs to make wall-hanging winter storage of the unit easier).
Dehydrating grapes worked very well using a black
oven tray and food net, but didn't prevent the
flies from accessing the food on which the net was
Whilst I was waiting for the craftsman to find time to make it, I used a black baking tray and a food net cover to dehydrate some homegrown grapes.  What I noticed was that the flies could still easily access the food through the netting as I was unable to prevent the netting from making contact with the food.  Not good!!  I had to ensure that the food was well away from those filthy probing proboscises.  
"Foothills DryAway" - the perfect solution to dehydrate
excess harvest.  And it is 100% Proudly South African
The "Foothills DryAway" is a modified version of Tania's model.  It has two outer surfaces of extremely strong fly-proof netting...
I couldn't wait to use the unit, so I shoved in some
pineapple sage as the first item
Dehydrated pineapple sage - specifically made for
a very special friend...
... and a "suspended" middle drying surface net which prevents the dehydrating food from coming into contact with any flies whatsoever.
Flies have tried their very best, but they are
unable to access the food drying within :)
The unit has two latch hooks on the longer opening side to :

1  ensure a tight fit of the two frames to prevent smaller fruit fly type of insects from entering the inner area;
2  prevent the wooden frame from warping during it's long exposure to the sun / any humidity in the air.
As the pineapple sage was drying I added
half a peeled pumpkin
The legs enable the heat / air to easily circulate around the dehydrating food.
The dehydrated pineapple sage was replaced with
 peppers - I have a longing for some ground
piquanté pepper this winter :)
In addition, the wing nuts which secure the legs to the unit will enable folding away the legs to allow for easy winter storage of the unit.

The unit is easy to clean (a hosepipe and some spurting water, or a jug of water and washing-up brush takes care of any food which may, or may not, stick to the drying surface) and all the wood has been sealed with an eco-friendly, food safe sealant.  (I purposely left the legs lying in a puddle of rain water for three days, and discovered absolutely no swelling / distortion whatsoever.  Please note though, that leaving a unit filled with your excess harvest out in the rain is pointless as the food will, obviously, just absorb the moisture, and you'll have to start the dehydration process all over again.)

Whoohoo - the "Foothills DryAway" will enable me to preserve more without having to rely on available freezer space, nor loads of cupboard space for all those (potentially limited lifespan) water-bathed, or pressure canned, jars of food.  Plus, dehydrating my excess harvest means that I'll never have to top up my veggie stock out of the growing season by purchasing shop sold produce in order to serve it for dinner, or when I have unexpected visitors.

Properly dehydrated food lasts for ages and offers the convenience of eating easily reconstituted summer produce out of season.

What a pleasure :)

This dehydrator is working so well, I need to order more units so that I can dehydrate whilst the weather is still suitable... :D

Footnote:  The pumpkin slices I dehydrated were cut a little too thick so they took 4 days to dehydrate.  In future I am going to try 1) cutting the slices much thinner, and 2) coarsely grating the pumpkin and spreading that on the drying net.  Other than that I'm very happy with my South African solar dehydrator

Friday 4 March 2016

Tomato salad

Apologies - I can't reveal my secret just yet - I have been down with a hectic tooth abscess which has left me feeling pretty miserable, not to mention the subsequent dental assistance this past week.  As you can imagine, that is not conducive to blogging lol

I can just imagine how impatient all those living in the northern hemisphere are to start planting their tomato seeds for their summer crop.

So I thought I'd give you some encouragement :)
Clockwise from the top left:
My new purple tomatoes, golden yellow,
red beefsteak heirloom and cocktail tomatoes
I posted here about how I have started preserving my tomato harvest this year.

And in that posting I promised you a peek at how amazing a tomato salad composed of different tomato cultivars looks.

Are you ready?
5 different tomatoes cultivars:
purple tomatoes, golden yellow tomatoes,
2 X cocktail tomatoes and beefsteak heirloom
tomatoes.  To me it is as beautiful as any

 bouquet of flowers :)
There is something so satisfying about slicing through a fresh, juicy tomato with a sharp knife - with a delicious homegrown salad as the end goal.
All those tomatoes in a salad - with
homegrown red onions, and shop bought
avocado's (our avo trees which I grew from pips
aren't bearing yet)
Being a typical male, RMan prefers his slab of flesh, to greens, on his plate, and so, if I give RMan a salad chopped into small pieces, he is more likely to eat it.  This salad was a pleasure to make :)