"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 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.


  1. Sounds like you're really staying on top of things. Love the "surprise" sunflower. They're such cheerful flowers-you can't help but smile looking at them.

    I've kept piling on stuff on my beds and now years later, I rarely water (and OUR summer is always very very dry!). Mother Nature knows how to do things-we're wise to watch her closely.
    I'll be doing a rain dance for ya--hope it helps.

    1. Sue - We've notice that the mulch "disappears" so I'm presuming it is working its way into the soil 😉

      Yeah - loved the surprise sunflower - its flowering well before the actual sunflower bed - their flowers are still in bud stage.

      Thanks for the rain dance - between that and prayers for rain, we can use all, and any help offered 😀

  2. Ohboy Snap, Crackle and Pop is the dominant sound in these parts. I nearly had a heart attack when my water bill arrived. Turns out watering with buckets uses many multiples more water than the sprinklers. As soon as the ground is soft (haha!) I'm going dig channels for underground irrigation, because buying those tasteless veggies from the shops is just not an option.
    On the rain dance subject, maybe I should wash my car. Ya think?

    1. pqsa - It is a terrible noise isn't it!!

      Ah, bucket watering - good for the biceps / triceps too ;)

      Yeah - washing the car always seems to bring the rain, but washing your car by bucket - now, that's a mission...!!

  3. I've always washed the car by bucket which is why I do it once a year (whether it needs it or not, haha). I'm also letting the yellow mellow, every little bit helps.

    1. pqsa - Mellow yellow drives RMan nuts, but I don't care ;)

      Think any car but a light coloured one can get away with no washing... :!

  4. I'm in Jozi and also invested in mulch this year. Its made a huge difference to my veggies.

    1. Penny - Welcome and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Yeah, as you can see from the pics, the only things that are flourishing in our drought are the fruit trees and my veggie patches. Collecting 8 full loads of mulch was the best move we could've made, and has certainly paid for the fuel used in collecting them.

  5. Hoping you and your farm weather the drought well. May it end soon.
    Maybe the lone volunteer sunflower is symbol of hope amid its dried out surroundings.

    I've seen amazing videos of people gardening in wood chips and I've wondered how the plants could thrive in that. The liquid fertilizer makes sense. We could probably use our worm tea here. Something to think about... I like the idea of no weeds.

    1. Bill - Thank you - year, we're hoping too. The mulch is definitely helping. I like the thought that the sunflower is a symbol of hope :D

      Yup - I have worm tea too - but for now the mixture above seems to be working. The worm tea I reserve for stressed plants - to give them a boost.

  6. Despite having finally gotten some rain, we are still rated "extreme drought" here. The big creek just down from my porch, usually twenty feet wide and up to four feet deep, is dried up. I miss hearing it at night.

    1. Harry - The water situation, world wide, is very worrying. Never mind the lack of rain, but when active streams / rivers dry up - that is not good.


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