"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, 6 January 2018

Home made Olla pots

Happy New Year everyone.  Yup - I have been MIA but, unfortunately, family visiting and their requirements takes precedence.

Notwithstanding the extreme weather being experienced in the northern hemisphere, the Western Cape drought continues.

I defy anyone ot tell me that climate change is a figment of some scientists imagination...😈

The people of Cape Town are on level 6 water restrictions, which means they are only permitted 87 ltrs (19 gallons) of water / person / day or 350ltrs / household / day (77 gallons).  That 87ltrs is for personal hygiene, to drink, to flush toilets, to do laundry, etc.  An almost impossible task.  A good percentage of Cape Tonians are catching as much water as possible (standing in buckets in their maximum 2 minute  shower, catching that water and using it as the first wash laundry water.  They then catch that dirty laundry water in order to flush their toilets - but they are employing "if it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down".  Ditto with their kitchen washing up water - that, too, is either used - by 8 - 10 lt (kg) bucket load - to flush toilets, or to try and keep alive whatever plants in their garden they can.  Lawns - they are a thing of the past.  Those who are fortunate (or should that be unfortunate) enough to have a swimming pool - most have covered their pools however they can, and are also directing grey water from the house to the pool to try and keep them as topped up as they can.  Whatever little rain that falls is also either directed to a rain water storage tank (for those that can afford one) or directly to their pools.

Some people are coping.  Some aren't.

It's heartbreaking. 

The area's main supply dam (Theewaterskloof) is down to 16.56% - or which only 6.56% is usable.  The last 10% is not recoupable.  They anticipate that the available water will be used up by Valentines Day, but, due to the summer heat which is only now letting itself be felt, I think it is more likely to dry up at the end of January 2018.  Thereafter, 4.5 million people will receive their potable water via water tanker - 25 ltrs at a time...


Those who pray - please pray for the Western Cape.  Those who rain dance - dance like no one is watching...

And we are not untouched by this disaster.  Although we are not on water restrictions - yet - as our supply dam is pretty full, the 37 - 39oC heat we had in December, and which we are still currently experiencing, we should only have in mid-to-late February.  I fear that our potable water supply dam, small as it is, will be requisitioned in order to assist in keeping the people of Cape Town supplied with potable water via those water tankers.

So, for the sake of my veggie garden lateral thinking had to be employed.

8.  Ollas: Are unglazed, porous clay pots that are planted underground near plants and deter water evaporation or run off.  Water is poured directly unto the olla and it releases the water to the root system of the plant as needed.


When I was 11 years old I fell off of a swing shaped like a banana (or boat) which was big enough to seat 10 - 12 kids. Falling from +/- 3 mtrs high onto the ground, and then the heavy swing swung down and hit me as well, breaking my right arm and right hip (in the ball joint). A op sorted that out and the injury didn't give me much trouble in my younger years. 

However, the years are ticking by, and 10 years ago it was discovered that not only did the accident break my arm and hip, it also damaged my spine so that the disc between L3 & L4 vertebrae has moved sideways with no hindrance in it's path away from where it should be. Short of a spinal fusion op (which I would rather not have) nothing can be done about it. So, bending down to ground level is not an easy task - it's OK getting down, but getting up again is almost impossible without clinging onto something for support.
Pallets for transporting large floor tiles
Thus our local tile shop came to my rescue when I needed to plant and grow veggies on our smallholding. 1 X 1 mtr tiles come in these enormous pallet like crates, which, once they're lined with gunplas (builders plastic) and filled with soil, they make the most amazing raised beds. But, there are all sorts of cracks and crevices for pests to live in. I counteract that by sowing the vegetable seed, and then covering them with a half a milk bottle - sort of like a mini greenhouse until the plant is big enough not to be that dramatically affected by snails or slugs. 

Being a raised bed means that the water, via gravity, slides downwards more easily than sideways - as would happen in a veggie bed in the ground. And my lettuce and cabbage plants kept "bolting" (going to seed too quickly) - even though the raised beds are inside a 60% shade cloth structure, but I reckon the gravity draining water didn't help either. 
My new Olla pot
A few weeks ago I finally found what I had literally been looking for for a couple of years - some "raw" clay flowerpots (as opposed to pots with a type of "seal" / glaze on the clay) which I found at our local co-op and which I intended to sink into the ground and use as below ground watering containers - to enable the water to reach the roots.
A sideways pic to illustrate the "raw" clay look
A gentleman did a post on the Drought Gardening SA Facebook group recently regarding the beautiful Olla pots he makes and that reminded me that I hadn't put my pots to their intended use yet - the house has been full of family for the last few weeks and their needs came first.
I used pritt multi tack to seal the hole at the bottom in order for the
pot to hold water
But, having been prompted by his posting, I set about experimenting.
I took the 21cm / 3.0 lt pot, sealed the drainage hole with pritt multi tack, filled the pot, and left it for 3.5 hours whilst we went through to Swellies for our weekly shopping. 
A piece of our wood mulch to make opening the lid to check the
 water level easier
Upon my return from town the success of the experiment is visible - as can be clearly seen water has "leaked" through the clay into the bucket.
Water seepage out of the pot after 3.5 hours
Having cleaned our local co-op out of this sized pot I have asked them to order 6 more. This is a definite winner. I believe that using grey water in these posts will also help to filter out a fair amount of "debris" (and maybe to a point some contaminants) in the water too.
The drop in water level is due to:
 1 absorption by the dry clay
 2 seepage through the clay pot - JUST what I was hoping for 😀
To say I am thrilled and excited is putting it mildly. I am sure that the problems I've experienced with the veg "bolting" is now a thing of the past.
My new olla pots in situ
The best thing of all - the pots weren't expensive - roughly R72.08 / pot (US$5.86 or £4.14) with drip tray lid.  Perfect 😀


  1. Happy planting with the new pots. Sending prayers for some rain and also best wishes that the doctors can help you with their treatment suggestions.

  2. Shirley - The pots seem to be working brilliantly - thanks :D Rain - I appreciate your prayers...

    Not much can be done for my back as I'm not prepared to have a spinal fusion. I've learnt to live with it and cater for "it's requirements ;)

  3. Hi Dani,
    I have also read about these Olla pots
    and I think you are brilliant being able to find a substitute.I think the plants roots actually suck the water out as they needit

  4. Eleanor - Welcome and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

    Yes, I have seen pics of roots actually attaching themselves to the pots in their quest to quench their thirst. If that happens they should be quite easy to scrape off once the plant has completed it's preordained task ;)


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.