"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 23 December 2016

T'is the season...

... to celebrate with family and friends.  With that in mind, the next couple of days will be pretty busy, so I would like to take this opportunity of wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.

Stay safe, relax and enjoy the Spirit of the Season.
I cannot justify chopping down a tree in order to decorate
  and use it, for a week or so, as part of our celebrations.
Our live Christmas tree (in it's pot on the front patio)
 is getting too heavy to bring indoors, so this year I have
  opted to go more modern with a Christmas tree-shaped
 bauble arrangement, complete with lights and nativity scene.
Thank you for your blogging friendship, for your valued comments, and for following my, often, rambling and soap-box like posts, as well as my personal observations of living off grid on our (getting there) self-sustainable smallholding.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Saturday 17 December 2016

Mulch rescue 2 a.k.a. preparing for water shortages

The signs have been there for the past months.

Our rainfall for the passed three years
Our rainfall this year is averaging out at 43.3mm / month, compared to last year at 60.3mm or 2014 at 53.5mm.  Looking at the graph you get the full sorry picture.  And, all the forecasts are not predicting any rain whatsoever in the next 10 days... :(

So, most things hereabouts are crunchy, crisp and dehydrated...
We were warned back in September that our dams were in dire straits.  Harry commented last week that everything looks so lovely and green compared to his brown, hibernating winter scenery.  Well Harry, pics can be deceptive.

As you can see from the pics below, we are well in the throes of a drought. 
Dead looking, dry and drab - that about sums it up
Between the unusually high temperatures for the time of year, plus the hectic drying winds, and finally with the lack of rain our garden is in a sorry state.

 But, forewarned is forearmed.  Between my rainfall records, and what has been published in the newspapers, we knew that it was gong to be extreme this summer.  So, we took steps to counteract the situation as best we could - without going greedily overboard with municipal water usage.

That was in our best interests because if everyone decided that bugger the cost, they were going to water willy-nilly, then how long would the water in our local dam last?  That municipal water supply is all we have - there is no nearby stream or river that we could use.

Believe it or not, our 8 X 5 000lt rainwater tanks are also empty... :(
Piquante peppers under a protecting
 blanket  of wood chip mulch
So eight trailer loads of wood mulch (roughly 8 X 1.5mtr3 or 12mtr3 in total) from our local sawmill has certainly assisted our fruit trees to produce their fruit - not as big as last year, but at least it was enough for me to bottle some - and make some jam / cordial.

And the wood mulch is a Godsend for my veggie beds.  A dose of organic nitrogen (a mix of seaweed liquid fertilizer / alpaca poo / chicken poo and worm casings) helps overcome the nitrogen leech than wood mulch causes.

An added bonus with the wood mulch is that weeds can't grow - so weeding is, for once, at a minimum :D  Yeeha!!!
There's not much we can do for the grass, and, as far as the alpaca's grazing is concerned, we managed to buy in oat and barley hay from the local farmers, so the alpaca's won't starve.
4 large round bales of hay to help the alpaca's.
The infamous, and over worked trailer is on the right hand side of the
pic, under the self seeded wattle tree.
But, the extreme dryness is not pleasant on the eye.  And the crunch underfoot makes one aware how dire the circumstances are.
A single turmeric leave is visible in amongst the rocket
But, on a more positive note, a few months ago I saw turmeric root for sale in the shops, and, as I had never seen it in our shops before, I couldn't help myself - I had to buy some. 

I immediately planted it all into one of the three raised beds in the shade cloth veggie patch - and forgot about them.  They hadn't forgotten about me though.  In the last week I noticed some strange green leaves poking up between the rocket, and deduced that the turmeric had decided it liked being where it is, and, by way of thank you, it would peep a lookout above ground to see it's surroundings.

Great excitement LOL
In the centre of the pic you can see a ginger stem, which
 was accidentally left in situ last year, and which is growing again too
I thought if it grew it would probably look something like ginger, but it doesn't - it's completely different.

Finally, an errant sunflower seed, which wasn't gobbled up when I fed the chickens one day, surprised me by showing it's face in the berry patch.

Sunny, bright and cheerful - an unexpected
 sunflower to add to the seeds I purposely
 planted in order to feed the chickens throughout
the coming year.
Aren't we blessed with being able to grow all manner of amazing plants - both big and small ;)

For info on how you can obtain your own Foothills DryAway please click the link.

Sunday 11 December 2016

It's that time in the garden... (part 2)

The first shadecloth covered veggie patch is doing well - perhaps too well.  We can't eat what is growing in it quick enough... (so ruddy great armfuls get given away - neighbours / kids, etc)
Garlic and swiss chard - they did wonderfully this year inside
 the shade cloth covered veggie patch
My multi-coloured swiss chard did really well - a lot of self seeding went on at the end of last summer when the previous plants bolted....
Swiss chard city lol
... and I left them to it.
That parsley plant is roughly 45 cms in diameter - it obviously
 loves the raised bed

As the chickens loved my strawberry plants they had to be
 moved away from beneath the berry beds.  I placed them
in gutters, and fixed the gutters to either side of the raised
beds.  That has worked brilliantly and has kept most of
 the strawberry loving insects (a.k.a. snails and slugs) away .
 I also planted garlic between the strawberry plants
 in the gutters 
I then took a wander to the pumpkin veggie patch area.

I love recycling whatever I can and when we scored some raised bed pallets / boxes from the tile shop at the end of last year, I lined them with plastic and chucked alpaca poo into them during the winter months until they were full.  Then I tossed in some pumpkin and butternut seeds, ran a sprinkler head to each one, and left them to do what they wanted.

This is what they wanted to do - with no further help from me...
A recycled tiles transportation pallet, lined with plastic and filled
 with alpaca poo  makes a brilliant pumpkin bed - especially if it's
 placed next to an "anti chicken" wattle fence
 Those raised pumpkin beds are there permanently - I will empty them out every autumn, use the contents to work into other veggie beds, and start filling them with alpaca poo every winter so that they are ready in late August for more pumpkin / butternut seeds again.  I am totally addicted to growing pumpkin and butternut against a "trellis" - it keeps them off the ground so that RMan can still mow, keeps the orange filled orbs of deliciousness high enough away from slugs / chickens and other devious creatures / insects, and makes harvesting such a breeze.
The anti-chicken fence is ideal for growing pumpkins on :D
Finally, for the first time ever, I found some 2 year old artichoke plants in the nursery on the way to town.  RMan and I LOVE artichokes (however, after our latest cholesterol tests perhaps we'll have to go a little easier on the butter when we eat them).
It seems that the artichoke plants love their position between
 the two raised pumpkin beds
I popped the two artichoke plants facing west between the two pumpkin beds where they are protected from the worst of the wind - and they seem to love their spot.
Another couple of days and that artichoke will be ready for eating
I am amazed how quickly they grew, and started producing...

Yummy luscious-ness straight from the garden.  It seriously doesn't get better than that!

For more info on the Foothills DryAway please click the link.

Saturday 3 December 2016


Last year the mousebirds ate ALL the berries.  Every b-l-o-o-d-y one of them.

To say I was displeased doesn't quite cover the emotion.

This year I was determined that the birds were gong to get their tithe, but that we would get the other 90%
The bushes looked magnificent with their display of blossoms.
...and the bees were ecstatic - and plentiful in their approval.
Both the bees, and the wood mulch worked
their magic on the youngberry blossoms :D
This year, when the berries started settling their fruit, I proceeded to take steps to ensure that the mousebirds shared the crop with us...

Out came the foil trays.
Foil trays strategically placed to deter the mousebirds
from the ripening fruit
And they worked beautifully!!
Yummy, luscious youngberries - a small sample of the
10kgs I have harvested this year.
Apart from what I have already shared amongst family, and what I have given to neighbours, this is my stash from the youngberry bush harvest.
Youngberry cordial dripping from the
fruit filled muslin cloth - RMan's
favourite drink which invokes
good childhood memories :D

From top left: 4 X Youngberry sauce (freezer), 2 X youngberry jam,
4 X youngberry cordial
Front: 1 X (open)youngberry sauce (fridge), 1 X youngberry fruit leather
Youngberry sauce (for the freezer) youngberry jam, youngberry cordial - and I even tried to make a youngberry fruit leather in the Foothills DryAway :)
My first attempt at fruit leather
To make the leather I took the leftover fruit in the muslin cloth (from the cordial) and spread it on trays in the Foothills DryAway.  It was a tad thicker than it should have been, and took a couple of days, but it seems to have worked :)
Youngberry sauce
I couldn't wait - as soon as the sauce was ready, I had a helping of the still steaming sauce on top of homemade yoghurt for breakfast - bliss :D

Now that is what I call a successful thwarting of the birds, and an excellent harvest.

For more info on the Foothills DryAway please click the link.