"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 :)


  1. Wow, what a system. Super veg, here we come! Well done to both of you.

    1. Mum - Apologies - my internet has been down since Saturday evening.

      Thanks - lol dunno about super veg, but hopefully veg in adverse conditions... ;)

  2. Great system. You've done a fantastic job. May your harvest be plenty.

    1. Lorraine - Thank you. Thank you. And thank you :)

  3. You'll be feeding the local town if you keep this up!!! Looks like a terrific system you have there. Amazing what a little ingenuity & a lot of hard work can accomplish, isn't it??? Next you'll be raising cotton to spin for clothing . . .

    1. Sharon - No - don't want to do feed the town - just feed us lol

      Cotton - nope - prefer to use our alpaca fibre ;)

  4. well done a great system, I played a bit with aquaponics and a pump water system last year I ran it off a solar powered pump that had a timer, I will be watching with interest to see how it goes

    1. Dawn - Judging from the new roots growing, and the happy plants, I think it's going to be successful. Time will tell... :)

  5. It looks amazing Dani. Well done :)

  6. I think you and Tanya (Australian) put more work into their mini farming than anyone else I read . Takes a good deal of imagination to come up with solutions to problems like that, but neither of you are lacking in that department.

    1. Harry - Mini farming - not sure that term applies. All I want to do is ensure that we are as self-sufficient as we are able to be. Battling extreme daytime heat of 41 - 43oC with an unreliable water supply does not ensure that we can.

      " 'n boer maak 'n plan " ;)

  7. Wow, what an ingenious set up you have come up with. I can't wait to see how it all comes out. Necessity is INDEED the mother of invention... :-)

  8. Soil for Life also plants in an upended pallet.
    With lavender (or a dry herb?) on top, and the water trickling down to mint at the very bottom.

    Good to be able to choose what feeds your veggies, instead of the blast of chemicals.

    1. Diana - Thanks - Googled SFL :)

      Yup - there are enough chemicals used already. We're glad to be able to "do without" additional ones :D

  9. Well I am back due to our internet being sorted out and I must say I am completely blown away by what you have been up to. :::::)))))

    1. AB - Given that where you are now will probably be even hotter next summer than we are here, perhaps you should consider this too...?


Thank you for taking the time to comment - it makes my day and removes the "loneliness' of sitting at my screen blogging supposedly to myself ;) I try and reply as quickly as possible so please forgive me if sometimes my response is delayed.