"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 23 April 2016

New project revealed

Warning: a long, and picture heavy posting...

Today the new project RMan and I have just completed is revealed.

Last summer was an eye opener - the daytime temperatures soared to new record levels.  We experienced such heat that even RMan, who is definitely a summer person, was wilting.  We even talked about possibly covering (!?) our fruit trees in a shade cloth structure in future.  Thank goodness for our double glazing and double vaulted ceiling - the temperatures inside the house were comfortable and non-restricting.

However, my plants still suffered.  Even though we had taken the precaution of laying down plenty of mulch, the ambient temperature was too high for the leaves.

As for my veggies - too many of them bolted and formed early seed heads, and those that did managed to produce didn't produce their normal quantity.  Obviously they were under too much stress...  Except for the pumpkins in the tyres filled with alpaca poo.  They were the absolute stars of the garden :)

But, given that global warming / climate change is not going to "go away" I had to try and overcome this latest problem proactively.  And I had to overcome it in such a way that I could ensure guaranteed growing of our veggies (whilst still remaining aware of our water availability) going forward.

I am not someone who just reacts, and then sits and bewails my fate.  Rather, I prefer to take a proactive approach to whatever problem has presented itself ;)

So, to give you a quick reminder of the hints I've given you:

So, what did we do with all of this, and what has this to do with growing crops in the face of evident global warming / climate change?

Taaaa Daaaaa!
We mounted the drilled 110mm pipe to the
sides of the shadecloth veggie patch walls.
 I have left the holes in the 110mm pipe which
do not yet contain plants / pots covered so
that they do not permit light into the pipe and
cause algae to grow
Along the inside of the outer "walls" the original shadecloth veggie patch we have installed a hydroponic system for those plants which are water hungry.  Lettuce, raddish, peppers, possibly eggplant and even, I'm hoping, tomatoes :)  And this winter I'm also going to try growing some cabbage and broccoli normally in the ground, as a control, and also growing it hydroponically.  Let's see if there's a difference.

Once we had all the components, it took a day to set up, and all indications are that the plants I have growing in it now are loving it.

Being a closed ebb and flow system means that daylight should not cause algae to grow in the water in the pipe / tanks.
Do you remember when RMan went to
 an auction - many moons ago?
Well, the electrical boxes he got there

 finally came in handy :)  It is
housing the power socket and timer
 for the water pump.  The power is from

 a plu in the garage which is 5 mtrs away
The pump is on a timer, and it is currently programmed to switch on every 3-odd hours (during autumn / winter) during the daylight hours for 15 minutes.  (During summer I will set the timer to switch on every 1 - 1.5 hours or  1.5 - 2 hours - the results will guide me.)

The pump is a 28 watt pump, with an adjustable maximum flow rate of 2 200ltrs / hour.  At 28watts and with the timer set to switch on 6 X / day for 15 minutes or 1.5 hours in total) the power consumption should be 42 watts per day.  Our solar system won't even notice it lol

The water is pumped from the pump tank via a 12mm irrigation pipe up into the 110mm pipe and floods the 110mm pipe and thus the plant pots containing the seedlings, coconut coir and vermiculite mix.   The small stones I placed at the base of the pots is to prevent the coconut coir / vermiculite mix from being washed out during the flooding.
Detail of the water flow out of the 100mm
 pipe into the "feeding" tankbefore being
gravity fed back to the pump tank.  When the
water lands in this tank, it splashes, causing air
to be mixed in with the water.  If I should find this
 isn't  sufficient, I will add a 2 watt airstone which
 I  already have to the pump tank.
The overflow / drainage from the flooded pipe is directed to a filtering / feeding tank (to which a dose of seaweed extract and an alpaca poo half-filled stocking has been added and which will be replaced weekly) which then drains back to the tank containing the water pump via gravity.
Tank containing the 28 watt water pump
Round and round and round - well, life is a circle isn't it :)

Given that potatoes are now costing anywhere from ZAR73.00++ / 5kgs, the veggie beds, which housed the plants which are now going to be grown in the hydroponic system, can now grow potatoes instead :)  (we eat l-o-t-s of potatoes lol  Mashed, baked, roast, plain boiled and served with a dollop of parsley butter, pomme frites, potato salad, pommes dauphinoise, gratin, etc.)
Las summer pumpkins grown in alpaca filled tyres
 and the shoots were suspended along the fence
 of the uncovered veggie patch.
Pumpkins - they worked so well that they'll still be grown in alpaca poo filled tyres next summer...
Raised veggie bed during construction
... garlic, ginger, swiss chard and carrots will be grown in my raised veggie beds, and as for beans - they may end up in the raised beds and / or the hydroponic system too.  Maybe, like the cabbage and broccoli, I'll try both methods of growing beans - just for comparison...?

Beetroot and onions grow well in my shadecloth veggie bed ground, so that's where they'll stay.

I reckon the shadecloth veggie patch is going to look very forest garden-y next summer :)

And that covers all the veggies I normally grow.

Saving water, helping vegetable plants grow, and working on continuing to provide food in the face of global warming / climate change.  I hope our hydroponic system works as anticipated...


All the little tiny side shoots are new and
 have developed since I placed this lettuce seedling
 in the hydroponic system.
Postscript since writing this earlier this week:  The small lettuce plants which I removed from the soil about 10 days ago, washed the soil off the roots, and placed in the vermiculite and coconut coir filled pots in the hydroponic system have already grown new roots!!  :)
I chucked a couple of pea seeds into three pots -
 they are just beginning to peep out.  I also have
 peas growing in the ground (which were planted a
month or so ago) - let's see which do better /
are more prolific providers...
Also,some pea seeds have just peeked above ground (or should that be coconut coir).  Welcome, little guys :)

Monday 18 April 2016

New project - part 3

I have mentioned before that there are plenty of stones in our area.  Not many large, useful ones, but many, many, many small irritating ones.  The size that are just perfect for distorting carrots which are trying to grow, or prevent RMan from raking up freshly scythed oats.

The stones on the road wash down whenever we have heavy rain (something I have a vague memory of - we have had exactly 1.5mm of rain thus far this month.  Previous years: 2014 = 33mm, 2015 = 53mm) - all different sizes of stones.  And, serendipitously, some of the stones are exactly the right size for my purpose. 
Soil test results.  The yellowed in area's show
When we had our soil tested back in October 2014, the knowledgeable gentleman we saw told us that we should be grateful for those stones, as they contain valuable trace minerals which are beneficial for the garden.
The small pebbles were boiled for 10 minutes
So, off I toddled to our gate and harvested stones (pebbles) from the road.  I never thought I would import additional stones onto our property...

I boiled up the stones to make sure that they didn't contain any unfriendly pathogens.
To assist in water reaching inside the pot,
 RMan hauled out his drill
Then RMan, drilled some holes into the plant pots we had purchased...
I used the drilled plant pots to sort out
 exactly the size I required
... and I lined each pot with a thin layer.
Pebbles line the base of the pots
They will prevent the soon-to-be contents of the pots from leaving the pot, whilst still adding some of their trace minerals to the water as it flows through and past them...

Saturday 16 April 2016

New project - part 2

More parts / components for our latest project...

A set of cutting discs was purchased.  Why a set,
 I've no idea?  Ask RMan

The 6 mtr long 100mm Ø pipe was
 marked with a 
line down the middle...

... and then 87mm Ø holes
were drilled along the
marked line at 250mm

Thursday 14 April 2016

New project - part 1

Firstly, here is a pic of flowers for Lynn's brother.  Sorry it's not a bunch in a vase on the table, Lynn, but I need the flowers in the garden to act as companions :)  I will always think of him, and you, whenever I see them flowering in my garden.


Get your thinking caps on - I'm going to be giving you a series of clues before I reveal what our latest project is... :D

New components

New 110mm Ø pipe

These components are used and came from an
 old fish pond we had in our old house in town

Saturday 9 April 2016

Men in the kitchen

The average male, I'm sure most of you will agree, don't do kitchens.  Yeah, RMan is very good - we take turns (more or less) at washing up the day's dishes after our evening meal.

But cooking?

Nope.  RMan will make a scrambled egg, or boiled egg, or allow spitting grease from the frying pan when he cooks his weekly chunk of red flesh (steak normally) to fly everywhere.

Make a salad.  Not bloody likely!  He's more into getting his greens from the green coloured bottle that houses his liquid refreshment (which made from hops which he thus considers to be a vegetable).  The only time he'll eat a salad is if it is diced into small pieces a lá an Israeli salad (why is it called an Israeli salad?)

Alternatively, winter cooked greens will be wolfed down providing he can't actually make out what it is - like a broccoli, pumpkin or pea soup.  Again, there is a caveat - the soup must be accompanied by some sliced wurstchen which is scattered into his soup.

Or, unless the veggies are smothered in a cheese sauce - as in broccoli or cauliflower cheese.

The only veg he will eat happily is carrots which have an added a pat of butter and honey. 

Be that as it may.

Our grandson, Mike, came to stay with us for the Easter school holidays.

Months ago - I kid you not - RMan was with me in the supermarket when we made our weekly shop.  He went wandering off (which is a relief) and eventually arrived back with a box in his hands.  When I enquired what it was he showed me - a box of chocolate cake mix.  Yuck!  There is no accounting for males taste, is there?!?

It turns out he bought it so that the next time Mike came to stay the two of them could make a cake together.

Serendipitously, Mikes visit coincided with our totally out of season March snowfall on the higher peaks of the mountains, which, just because it sounded like cold weather, meant that we lit the Rosie that night.

After dinner I heard rumblings in the ranks.  The men wanted pudding.

Nope - I wasn't in the mood, and couldn't be bothered to start going through recipes looking for something to fulfill their sweet tooth requirements.

Until I remembered the chocolate cake mix that RMan had purchased all those months ago.

Digging it out of my under-the-stairs pantry, I handed it over to both of them.  And left them to it.  Literally.
Cake icing can hide a multitude of sins, can't it :)
This is the result.

Thank goodness icing hides imperfections lol
Don't look to closely - you'll see the raw dough
 at the bottom of the cake
Naturally, because they made it, it tasted outstanding.  Even if it was a tad doughy inside.  It made no difference.  The cake was wiped in it's entirety!!

And, they cleaned the kitchen afterwards!!  (it's surprising how much mess a box of cake mix can make, isn't it?  Thank goodness they didn't get into my containers of flour, sugar, etc...)

Actually, it wasn't bad.  And considering it was their first joint baking session I think they did themselves proud.

They had fun too :)

But, that still doesn't solve the veggie consumption issue...

Saturday 2 April 2016

Pumpkin storage

Here in south Africa, pumpkins are not preserved as such.
Image source:
Normally they are grown, left to hang on a withering vine, and then harvested and placed on a hot tin roof to weather the winter.

The pumpkins and butternut that I harvested last year were taken off the vine before they withered, and left to "air" on an open, but under cover shelf next to the alpaca feed.

They did OK - but not marvelously.  Towards the end the part of the pumpkin in contact with the shelf developed mould / rot. Perhaps there was too much moisture in the air?

Hmmm.  So, I wasn't happy.

Now, I don't have the freezer space to preserve that way.

And, I did not want to pressure can pumpkin.

So, the only other alternative was to dehydrate.

But, not via the use of electricity.

I want, and need, to deydrate via a solar / air method.
Freshly sliced pumpkin placed inside my Foothills
I tried dehydrating slices in my Foothills DryAway, but I think I must have sliced it too thick.  
Day 2 of the drying process
It took 3 days to dehydrate, and during the dehydrating process, was bleached.
Finally dehyrated.
But, although unappetizing in appearance,
undoubtedly dehydrated
On re-hydrating the pumpkin, the wishy-washy colour remained.  Totally off-putting!!

Whilst I was googling how best to re-hydrate these slices I noted that most northern hemisphere people powdered their dehydrated pumpkins.  There is no way that these chunky slices would crush into powdered form.

So, my next experiment was to grate the pumpkin prior to placing in my solar dehydrator.
The grated pumpkin was placed on a black
silicone mat to prevent it from dropping
through the net
The grated pumpkin would've fallen through the netting within the Foothills DryAway, so I spread it out on a black silicone mat I normally use in the oven of my Rosie.
Completely dehydrated, and perfect
in colour
Grating the pumpkin worked a treat.  The grated pumpkin was placed out late (11.30a.m.-ish) and by 5.00p.m. the same day was compeltely dehydrated.
You can see the difference in the two different
methods of dehydrating the pumpkin
Most impoprtantly, as can be seen from the above pic, the dehydrated pumpkin retained it's colour!!
Just a sample of the dehydrated pumpkin
was placed in some boiling water
Re-hydrating the pumpkin?  That took a bit of hot, boiled water and half-an-hour later - viola!!
Half-an-hour later - perfectly re-hydrated

Sigh - I'm a happy little puppy :)

This winter there will be loads of pumpkin soup, pumpkin fritters (dusted with cinnamon sugar), pureed pumpkin (with butter, cinnamon, touch of sugar and splash of cream), pumpkin bread - and, perhaps, I may even try and bake my first ever pumpkin pie ).

I will, of course, retain a couple of whole pumpkins - we can't be without roasted pumpkin now, can we?  :D