"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 30 September 2017

Safety first

As you all know we live on a smallholding outside Swellendam, and our water is supplied by Overberg Water (OW) in Heidelberg to one distribution point near our valley on the N2. Between us and OW in Heidelberg are kilometers of main water pipe, which, without fail, during December / January of each year, is damaged by farmers ploughing their land.

When we moved to our smallholding at the end of June 2012 there were about 16-odd permanent residents and 5-odd weekenders.  Since then that figure has grown to 37 permanent residents and 11-odd weekenders.  Additionally, our valley water supply from that one distribution point on the N2 is further distributed, via (unsecured / unlocked) 5 000lt tanks placed strategically around the valley, and, as newcomers purchase their smallholding, and request a water connection, the main valley supply pipe is again severed in order to connect their individual water meter.

All these breaks in the line - whether accidental or intentional - invariably result in foreign matter / contamination entering our water supply.

Both these situations have concerned RMan and I.

We have made alternative arrangements so that we, personally, are more water secure - through our 5 000lt potable water tank, and our 8 X 5 000lt rain water tanks.

But, the tank vulnerability and "foreign matter" still concerned us.  Finally, last week I asked RMan if we could get a combined early Christmas present, and take steps to mitigate that potential problem.
Travel Berkey
We saved up all our pennies and have finally purchased a Travel Berkey. The Berkey water purification elements are so small that they can even filter food colouring out of water and thus "an exponential increase is realised in the efficiency at removing pathogenic bacteria and other waterborne contaminants. Super Sterasyl Ceramic Filters remove pathogenic bacteria, cysts, organic chemicals, chlorine and reduce sediment, turbidity and particulate. Black Berkey Filters do this AND remove lead, MTBEs and other heavy metals." Both filters have similar life span and require similar cleaning.

The farmers round us spray glycophosphates on their land, which obviously, as is the nature of a spray, lands on our roof. Our rainwater will thus probably be contaminated too. But "Black Berkey® Purification Elements will reduce Glyphosate in your water by greater than 75%, exceeding the laboratories reporting limits."

Yes, it is quite an expensive purchase, but the filters will last for 6 000 gallons or 22 600ltrs or - not being spring chickens anymore - they will probably the rest of our lives πŸ˜‰

And then one of our kids can inherit the system. 😁

Personally, I'm very relieved, because this system will not only provide clean drinking water for us now, but will also allow us to filter our rain water, and even our muddy dam water, if necessary at any time in the future.  Providing the dam is still holding water though...


After I had concluded our purchase, I wrote to the local supplier, Riaan, (http://www.water-purifier.co.za/and asked him is he would be prepared to sponsor a Berkey to a member of a Facebook Group to which I belong.   He very generously has said that he will.  So, for all of you who have a Facebook presence, please, if you live in the Western Cape, join both the Western Cape group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/watersheddingsa/ and the main watchdog group


In order to make yourselves eligible to enter and win this brilliant giveaway.

Those Facebook groups are doing sterling work at assisting everyone to survive the current drought - through sharing important notices from the authorities, and through allowing everyone to pose questions / get answers / share hints and tips from the general public, as well as giveaways such as this.  Please - there are various other groups in other provinces - join your area's group here:

Free State:          https://www.facebook.com/groups/1104758469627319/
Gauteng:             https://www.facebook.com/groups/1409690155743938/
Kwazulu Natal:     https://www.facebook.com/groups/512238275796563/
Mmpumalanga:    https://www.facebook.com/groups/128995167833468/

The Facebook page Admins will be advertising the giveaway shortly.

Finally, if you think it won't happen to you, on Thursday this week the following notice was issued by the Western Cape authorities / government:

The situation is dire.

South Africa - the whole country - is predicted to be hit hard - very hard - by the effects of climate change / global warming.  As with the assistance that farmers are getting from other farmers for feeding their drought affected animals, through helping each other on these groups we will all weather the situation far better by joining our mutual resources / information.

Postscript: I paid in full for my Berkey.  However, I did tell the local distributor, Riaan, that I would mention his company by way of thanking him for his generosity in accepting the giveaway request from a total stranger - me - and for his generosity to the winner of his giveaway.  Please - visit his website and check out the range of Berkey's.  Perhaps one will suit your pocket 😏

Saturday 23 September 2017

This - and that

During winter I miss the cruch and taste of fresh lettuce, tomatoes etc so I make a point of growing seed sprouts.
Seed selection for sprouting
Sprouts - day 4
They certainly fullfil the "fresh" requirement, and yet there is something missing.  Perhaps it is the kiss of sunshine?  The waft of a fresh breeze across them?  The occasional nibble by a snail?
Beetroot micro greens
I think I have overcome that shortfall.  My latest "need" is micro greens.  They also have another name - elfin vegetables.  Isn't that cute, and doesn't the name conjure up images of little fairy people wandering through your veggie patch 😊
Cress micro greens
Similar to sprouts, micro greens are sprouted seeds but they are germinated in soil and are eaten when they are 10 - 14 days old - when they have their 2nd set of leaves.  After actual sprouts, they are the quickest food crop any one can grow - even urban gardeners.  The are even more of a powerhouse of nutrients, and certainly give me that crunchy kick.
Kale micro greens - don;t you love the purple stems
I love the different shapes textures and colours - of the stems or of the leaves.
Mustard micro greens
Sprinkled in a salad, or just as they are on a slice of fresh homemade buttered bread.
Pointed leaves - spinach micro greens
I just can't get enough.  The snails, too, can't get enough...

But, on to other things.

I was approached by a journalist a few weeks ago.  She asked whether I would be interested in sharing some info on recycling / zero waste.

As a pic of me was required (which didn't please me) to accompany the article, but is apparently protocol in these types of articles, after chatting with RMan, I decided I'd give it a go.
Green Granny Guide πŸ˜‚
A friend in Cape Town saw the article in the weekend paper and sent a pic of it through to me.

I never expected a full page article.  And I know that space is limited.  But, there is so much info that was omitted.  My fresh produce bags for one.  And, this...
Does anyone know their purpose...?

Saturday 16 September 2017

Kitchen waste use

I'm not perfect - and probably never will be.  But, I'm trying every way I can to reduce my footprint.  By that I mean the short and long term impact I make on this planet through the evidence that I leave behind - whether that is what I send to landfill, or what we do on our smallholding.  I can control the use of chemicals we use - that is 100% non-negotiable to me.  I will NOT be responsible for adding a single gram of chemical to this earth or the waterways.  And, if I have a problem in my veggie patch it is because something is out of kilter - either the companion planting is at fault, the amount of water and time of watering is amiss, I didn't prepare the ground correctly (e.g. the blossom rot on tomatoes a few years ago was due to a calcium imbalance in the soil) or pure laziness is causing weeds.  All of that is correctable without too much effort.  It may take a passage of time to recreate the harmony required (e.g. the blossom rot is corrected via adding banana skins at the bottom of the hole before planting the seedling, or rinsing out milk bottles and giving that water to the tomatoes and adding crushed eggshells to the soil round the plant), but I refuse to succumb to a quick, chemical fix.

I also hate waste.  That doesn't just include the horrific waste packaging which comes with most items one purchases these days.  But, I hate waste in my home too.  Must be the Scottish roots that lurk in my DNA.

Do I take it to the extreme?  I dunno.  You be the judge πŸ˜‰

I cannot put any onion skin or citrus waste in my worm farm as the little red wrigglers (worms) aren't partial to that in their diet.  So those all get added to my normal compost pile.

But, why waste those aromatic citrus skins?
Citrus peel infused vinegar
 brewing in a repurposed
 jar which used to hold
 asparagus spears
Before the citrus skins end up in the compost, I add them to a clean jar and cover them with plain vinegar before replacing the lid of the jar.  This jar is then kept in a dark cupboard for 2 - 3 weeks in order for the citrus skins to release their oils into the vinegar.

After infusing for 2 - 3 weeks, decant the infused vinegar into a spray bottle.  The remaining left-over skins are sprinkled with a bit of food grade lime to counteract the acidity, and they are then put in my "normal" compost pile.  Even if you don't have a compost pile, you, too, can make this surface cleaner - and merely toss the used skins in the trash after you have extracted their oils.

I use this citrus flavoured vinegar to clean my small (ex-caravan) LP gas stove, the kitchen counters / surfaces, my (sealed) wooden table tops, and I also use it in the bathroom.  In place of an acidic vinegar smell, everything has a delicate citrus perfume.
Decant the citrus peel infused vinegar into a spray
 bottle and use it to wipe down your surfaces.  (Yes,

 I know it's a plastic spray bottle but I am unable to
 find a  glass one.  This one has been in use for 4 years
 and will certainly last for a good many more years
 before it, too, lands at the recycling depot.)
Apart from the smell making you crave a juicy orange or naartjie (mandarin), or a helping of fish and chips with freshly squeezed lemon juice (my mind works in mysterious ways πŸ˜‚ ) depending on what was infused in the vinegar, flies hate the smell too.

It's a win-win all round - you're achieving two goals at once.  A easy-to-make, chemical-free and fresh smelling household cleaner which is non-toxic to your family, and the simultaneous bonus of providing an eco-friendly pest control.

Saturday 9 September 2017

Not just honey...

We have all been aghast at the recent monsoons which have affected some many people in the east.  And the horrific hurricanes currently pounding the Caribbean / USA.

So much (excess) water elsewhere, and our extreme drought is ongoing.  

Are there still any climate change / global warming deniers out there...?

Thankfully, even though we are seeing higher than normal Spring temperatures, the heat of summer is not yet belting down on my seedlings.  We'll be collecting another few loads of wood mulch this coming week - the beds are in need of a top up.

I belong to a Facebook group called Water Shedding Western Cape.  Some other members of the group - and the membership is diversified - are all trying to afford rain water tanks to help them mitigate the effects of the water restrictions which have been imposed on the City of Cape Town.  Level 5, is, I believe, the highest level, and that state was declared a couple of weeks ago.  Level 5 equates to 87 ltrs of water / person / day.  87 ltrs = 22.9 gallons.  Consider 87 ltrs per day and then think of :

1  showering (no bathing allowed)
2  flushing toilets
3  washing hands after going to the bathroom
4  washing clothing / bedding
5  brushing teeth
6  cooking
7  washing up dishes
8  washing the floor

The members of that Facebook group are becoming very inventive on how to "recycle" their water - via standing in buckets to capture their shower water for toilet flushing, capturing the wash cycle water from their washing machines in order to, again, flush toilets, capturing the water from washing their hands - again to flush toilets.  And catching as much of the reduced rainwater that falls in whatever containers they can lay their hands on - be that pots and pans, buckets or rain water tanks - ranging in size from 500lt to 5 000 lt.  Those that are lucky have pools - they're either covering them with as inexpensive a cover as possible to prevent evapouration, and / or they're attaching flexible plastic "tubes" to the gutter downpipes in order to steer any rainwater to the pool.  We all know that an empty pool is difficult to circulate and the water will, in no time at all, turn green / breed mosquito's if left standing.  Plus, a pool can be used as a massive rainwater tank - to flush the loo / do the washing - if necessary.

But, it's not only people who are affected by the drought.  Never mind the grain / produce farmers, cows, sheep, goats - they all feel the effects of the drought when their local watering holes dry up.

And, the most important workers on this planet are affected too.
Thirsty bees will try and find the smallest
 drop of water they can during a drought

They will fly for miles to find a drop of water.

And, by way of thanks for the important tasks they fulfil - for us - on a daily basis, all we have to do is put out some water for them.
A simple sugar water bird
 feeder will not only quench
 the birds thirst, but the
 bees will drink from it too
They are not fussy and demanding, and will happily help themselves to some sugar water from the bird feeder bottles.
Clever - a simple piece of netting in order to save the bees from drowning
The suppliers of these recycled bottle bird feeders now provide a small piece of net to place between the drinking spout and the stopper in order to prevent the bees from entering the bottle and drowning.
Small enough to prevent bees from getting through, but big enough
 to allow the sugar water to freely flow
If you can't afford to purchase a bird feeder bottle, a simple bowl of water, placed in a shady spot in your garden, will suffice.
A simple bowl of water, filled with rocks to allow the bees safe
 access to the water, and placed in the shade.  It is that easy to
 say thanks to the bees who work so hard for us.
On Thursday, during our weekly trip to town, we stopped off at our local honey supplier.  Waiting for the honey to be decanted into our recycled jars, I took a browse, and came across this which was for sale:

Being of an age where any, and all assistance is gratefully received in my quest to assist my skin to retain some level of moisture / slow down (further) wrinkle production, I bought myself a small bottle.  After my shower I applied a few drops to my face and got on with my day.  Horrors - the propolis / beeswax / honey content must've been enough to trigger a signal, for 8 bees decided that the inside of our house was worth investigating.  I reckon I better save this tissue oil for nighttime use only.  I don't want the bees coming indoors fruitlessly looking for a non-existent source of bee food...

I recently came across a advert for a movie which is due for release in November.  
There is a short preview of the movie on the link I gave under the pic.  I can't wait until it is, hopefully, available to the general public...

I suggest you set yourselves a reminder for November πŸ˜‰

Saturday 2 September 2017

Zero waste as far as possible

Lordie, wouldn't I love access to a zero waste store like this...

But that's unlikely to happen in my local town as I fear the demand would be to small to make it a viable option.
Zero waste bulk grocery dispensers
So, in order to do as much as I can to reduce our waste I had a plan.  I am totally passionate about reducing / totally eliminating all forms of plastic that enter this house.  Apart from purchasing a whole bunch of lidded glass containers to hold food / leftovers, plastic still enters in various forms - e.g. cheese, milk bottles, (frying) oil bottles, etc.

As we eat relatively early (6.30-ish), to "fill a gap" RMan went through a phase of nibbling on biscuits and patΓ© late at night - which was only sold in small rigid plastic containers.  So I acquired a collection of those, and used them to store my tomato concentrate in my freezer.  I recently sent those containers to the recycling depot and have decided this year that ALL homemade concentrate will be frozen in ice cube trays and then decanted into a rectangular glass receptacle in my freezer until they are required.  And pate will be home made by moi.

Before we left our town house I purchased 16 mtrs of fabric - ostensibly to make a mosquito / fly screen for our bed.  Unfortunately, it wasn't enough fabric for it's purpose, so it has been sitting on top of my cupboard waiting to be used.

The roll of thin fabric that has been waiting to be used - for
Out of season fruit and vegetables are generally sold wrapped in cling warp - but, some can be purchased individually.  So, I asked a neighbour with a sewing machine if she wouldn't mind knocking me up a few bags from that roll of fabric.  By way of compensation for her effort, I offered her material to make bags for herself as well.
Here are my (A4) sized bags all ready for use
 'No problem," she said.  And, within 10 days, the bags were ready for collection.
I have had broccoli in this bag for a week and it's still perfect
Now, when I buy out of season veggies, I take along my bags, and pop exactly the quantity I need onto the scale to weigh them without the packaging, and then they go into my reusable produce bags.
Ditto this red pepper.  
When they get grubby it's easy to pop them into my washing machine.

Now, given that we do have a local store that sells raw beeswax, all I need to do is find some thin cotton / muslin cloth / cheesecloth so that I can make myself some beeswax wraps with the assistance of that same neighbour and her iron...πŸ˜‰