"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 August 2017

Sweet potato prep paid off

Prepping the sweet potato beds started in March 2016.
March 2016: Two long trenches were dug - a spade  deep
A trench was dug roughly a spade deep.
Those trenches were filled with alpaca poo, wood chips and soil 
It was filled in with alpaca poo, wood chips and soil...
Mounded trenches full of magic were left to themselves for a few
 months before the sweet potato runners were finally planted
...so much so that the trenches formed mounds when they were finished.  These "mounds" were left to do their thing from March to September when the runners were planted.

After carefully inserting the sweet potato runners, the porous pipe (leaky hose) was placed on top, and, with a good covering of mulch, I walked away.

They remained in their beds throughout this last winter - with me harvesting some here and there...  The leaves were killed off by the frost, but I knew the potatoes were safe below the ground - our frost is fleeting - it soon disappears once the sun is up, plus we only had 5 - 6 days of frost in total.
The photo doesn't show the size of these beauties
 Today I went to harvest some more for our dinner and thought I would share it with you.
To give you some idea of size, I pooped one on my scale
 The bed is full of giant sweet potatoes.  Placing this whopper on the scale it shows that it is...
A 1.57 kg sweet potato.  There's nothing wrong with that 😉
...1.57 kgs (almost 3½ lbs).  I'm well pleased with that result.

Alpaca poo and wood mulch - a sure fire winner 😁  I'm over the moon at the result - and at the apparent harvest ahead.  

Why apparent harvest - well, because of our climate I leave roots / tubers in the ground until they are required.  Why dig it all up and then have to try and find a spot to store it?  Field mice climb (yes, we still have those rodents - even with Squeak in the vicinity) and they have nibbled my stored veggies before.  Underground, those sweet potatoes are safe from those nibbles.  If more sweet potatoes grow from those remnants in the ground after everything has been harvested, well, I'll just let them grow.  March 2018 will see me prepare another bed to transplant them into, and then this sweet potato bed can rest for a year or so.

Yum, yum.  Orange fleshed "Jewel" sweet potatoes are our favourite 😃

Saturday 19 August 2017

Adapting to what lies ahead...

In answering Sue's comment, I started going off on a climate change / global  warming tangent, which was a whole other post.  So, I cut myself short, and thought I would share in this posting exactly what was going on in my head as I replied to her then.

My main summer crops are tomatoes - which get eaten fresh, and get canned, dried and pureed for use in winter - and butternut / squash and pumpkin (to a lesser degree as we prefer the taste of butternut).  My main winter crop is peas, fava (broad) beans and swiss chard.  Onions / garlic get planted close to whatever else is growing and they seem to thrive all year round.

But, as I have three veggies beds, and I question whether I need all three?  I reckon it would be more effective to start planning for less water availability and therefore condense my veggie growing requirements down to two beds.  Even thpugh the mulch he;[s tremendously, I need to improve / decrease my water consumption, in order to be more water-wise and to save "wasting" water.

Yes, our local co-op, and supermarkets have a plethora of different seeds to encourage us to buy more, grow more and spend more.  But, I have been asking myself if this is wise?

Why do I plant up huge areas of vegetables - more than we can eat - and, if I'm honest, more than I can preserve - so I end up giving them - away albeit to our kids, which is one of the reasons I grow them anyway.  All I am doing is forcing myself to irrigate bigger and bigger areas.
Precious heirloom tomatoes - my summer garden is incomplete
 without them
The vegetable / fruit crops which are vital to me are:

tomatoes - heirloom rather than cocktail sized - and my most valuable crop
capsicum (red / yellow and piquante peppers)
sweet potatoes
pumpkin and butternut
rocket, herbs and chives  (I l-o-v-e rocket and often have more rocket than lettuce in the salad)

greens (and dark red) - beetroot
legumes - specifically peas and broad beans
onions and garlic

All year:
swiss chard 


granadilla (passion fruit)


All year:

I have discovered that trying to grow lettuce in summer is a no-no as it's far too hot here and they bolt in no time at all - even in my shade cloth veggie patch.  Ditto, I have been unsuccessful in growing cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli (the latter for which RMan is extremely thankful as he's not mad about "green trees"). I tried growing cabbage in my small hydroponic set up, and they didn't perform too well.  Actually, I can't say anything grew amazingly in it, so, I am converting that hydroponic option to strawberries this year.  Let's see how they do...?  So, I am definitely not bothering trying to grow any of these veg / salads again.
Peppers - three different kinds - with chopped swiss chard
and onion - ready to get added to a stir fry
A regional government representative unexpectedly dropped in a couple of years ago - they were doing a survey into what we ate / grew in our area.  They asked our casual labourer when last he had dark greens and orange vegetables.  He couldn't remember.  She said he must try and eat them as they contain vital nutrients required by his body.

But, I had never given that a thought, and that gave me a wake up call.  And from that moment on I ensure that he has both of those coloured veggies with his lunch every time he's here - roughly 1 - 2 a week.

But, I had never thought of that in our terms either.  And, it has guided me from then on.

Companion plants to tomatoes are carrots, onion, garlic (and strawberries) - so that is one summer bed filled.  Carrots are a two-fold veg - we love them smothered in honey butter, and, grated, in a coleslaw - or for the alpacas (and chickens) who love them even more than we do 😂  Two (or should that be three) birds sorted with one stone, so to speak.
Yum - homemade coleslaw
Beetroot, peas, broad beans and swiss chard (spinach) are their own companions and they also enjoy the company of onions and garlic.  That is another bed - and in winter only.

The pumpkin and butternut are all by themselves in the deep raised beds of composted alpaca poo.
Dehydrating heirloom tomatoes
And only sweet potatoes are the odd man out - so they'll get their own bed.  I leave them in the ground as our soil never freezes and it is the best way of storing them - and keeps them mouse nibble free.  As I need them, so I harvest exactly what I need.  And, what I haven't harvested, grows again the next season.

With this downsize plan, as we have irrigation on each of the three veggie patches, which we can isolate as required, this will be a breeze.

This makes a whole bunch of sense to me and will, hopefully, save on the watering - and the angst of a failed crop due to excessive summer temperatures.

Saturday 12 August 2017

Propagating tropical fruit

At the end of last summer I was craving, and so purchased, a couple of pineapples.

I had also read that one can propagate new plants from the tops, so naturally, when the pineapples were eaten I had to try and see if it would work.

To prepare the pineapple top you carefully remove about 2.5cms (an inch) of the leaves from the bottom of the pineapple stalk until you see some root buds, and then pop them into water.
Changing the water every 5 - 6 days, it only took about 6 - 8 weeks on my kitichen windowsill  for those roots to grow to a decent length. 
It looks promising - new leaves appearing whilst the pineapple
 head is producing roots in the water
But, eventually they were long enough to transfer from their watery life into their permanent home in the garden.  It is recommended that they get potted up in soil first, but I went ahead and shoved them in the garden soil.
I reckon those roots are long enough
Being winter, ad frost tender, they were protected with a light covering of mulch to ensure that the frost did minimal damage.  When the bushes have (hopefully) grown too big for a mulch cover, they will get a hessian frost cover in winter.
New leaves appearing in the centre of the crown
But, I'm happy to report that all three pineapple plants are showing signs of new growth, so hopefully, before too long we may be able to harvest some home grown pineapples 😁  It will be good to be pineapple self-sufficient to any degree - one less thing to spend hard earned money on... 😉

Saturday 5 August 2017

Back then...

... is just as valid now, and it's bloody delicious.

Back then?

Oh, I'm talking about back in the Depression.  No, I wasn't alive then (thank goodness) but I have to say that the women of the house were ingenious when it came to feeding their families with reduced provisions / money.

This recipe is a perfect example (and, given the recent S&P's, Moody's & Fitch's financial downgrades / state of this country's coffers as a result of looting / corruption) of enjoying a "treat" using less expensive, more basic ingredients, and may, if things don't change dramatically here in the very near future, become as popular now as they were back in the 1930's...

It's a cake recipe that uses no eggs, no milk and no butter.

Anyone like chocolate cake?

This recipe can be made into a chocolate cake, coffee cake or lemon cake (alternative ingredients are at the end of this posting).

Chocolate cake ingredients:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
3 - 4 (or even 5 if you like) tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC / 350oF
Mix all the dry ingredients together
Making three depressions in the flour add the vinegar to one, the vanilla in the other and the vegetable oil in the third.  Pour the water over and mix well till smooth.
Pour into a pre-greased baking pan and cook for 3/4 - 1 hour.

Allow to cool.

Frosting ingredients:
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 - 7 heaped tablespoons of icing sugar
2 tablespoons of butter / margarine
2 tablespoons of Nach Musik, Kahlua or any other chocolate liqueur

Mix well until smother.

Spread the frosting over the cooled cake.

Don't wait for a special occasion - cut a slice and enjoy immediately 😂

It is deliciously, and surprisingly moist, and definitely more-ish - RMan scoffs down 2 slices every time he's offered some.  It also lasts in a "fresh and moist" state for 5 - 6 days (if it survives that long).

Depression era chocolate cake - absolutely bloody marvellous 😃
Alternative recipes for a no eggs, no milk and no butter cake:

Ingredients for Coffee cake:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
3 - 4 (or even 5 if you like) tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup strong coffee

Frosting: add strong cold coffee and / or Kahlua or Nach Musik liqueur.

Ingredients for Spiced cake:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Frosting choice is yours ;)

Ingredients for Lemon cake:
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder or bicarbonate of soda
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (or more for a stronger lemon taste)

1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water

Cover with a lemon (juice and zest) frosting using the lemon juice in the place of Kahlua or Nach Musik.

T'is my birthday on Thursday next week and this recipe is so good that I'm going to make a Lemon version for tea time.  I have a couple of fresh granadilla's, so I'm going to be adding them to the frosting.

Now, if our corrupt President could just be removed with a successful Vote of No Confidence on Tuesday the 8th, then that would be the best bloody birthday gift I could ask for.  Here's hoping and praying...