"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, 9 December 2017

Canine accomodation


Stellar at  6 months old small enough
 to fit under my writing desk
So, with Stellar and Dusty now firmly members of the family (well, actually, they were from the moment we laid eyes on them) ...
Stellar at 1 year and Dusty at 6 months old.  ne bed fitted in the space
perfectly.  Two - was one too many.  Their beds block the  entrance
 to the staircase
... plus their respective homemade beds, "space" in our lounge / at the entrance to the stairs is becoming a bit tight.  Sleeping outside in summer the temperature is perfect for dogs - although in winter they would have to move back indoors.

I priced a dog kennel large enough to house Stellar and was quote "only R2000.00" and Dusty would be another R1000.00.  There wasn't one big enough for both of them.

Hmmm,  that's a lot of money.

So, I had what I thought was a bright idea.
RMan re-doing the roof over the new proposed dog kennel
We have this unused, wasted area that used to house the quaddies (they are now stored elsewhere).  I said to RMan, if we throw a slab, re-do the roof more permanently (it leaked before) and ensure that the edges are sealed against the two adjoining walls, and put up some walls, perhaps we could let them sleep outside - especially during the hotter summer months.
"You need access to the washing line? Why?  It will only take 4 weeks.
 Can't you wait until I'm finished...?"
NOPE!
RMan cottoned on to my idea, and we proceeded to put the plan into action.  Naturally, the back yard became a construction site for the duration of the remodel ~ sigh

It's not easy hanging up washing around building materials...
Shiplapped wooden walls completed the project
Naturally, RMan did most of the work, but, I'm glad to report that my assistance was welcomed, and appreciated.
What a beautiful dog kennel 😀
The end result is brilliant.  And, thanks to our local sawmill, the whole thing cost less than buying only Stellar a dog kennel.

However, it will not be used as a dog kennel, because just as we completed it, we happened to spot a Cape Cobra in the back yard!!!  There is no way in hell that we would put the dogs into that dangerous a situation, so inside they will stay.  Houseguests will just have to climb over their beds - if and when they want to go upstairs.

All is not lost though - the kennel will now become a tool shed / storage room.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Harvesting and rooting

Youngberries at various stages of ripeness
I have started to harvest youngberries - and have discovered that I have competition.

Not the normal competiton - not the normal mousebirds, mice nor snails, but the four-legged kind of competition.  Actually, (without jinxing it) in contradiction with last year, I haven't seen a single mousebird this year...?
Stellar searching for ripe youngberries at ground level
It turns out that Stellar has a penchant for youngberries, and, braving the countless prickles / tiny thorns to her nose (I can't see how she can avoid them) she helps herself to ripe youngberries down at floor level.   She even takes them straight from my hand 😆

I never knew dogs ate berries...

Just a bowl of unimaginable yumminess 😆
Tonight we are having a fruit salad with freshly picked plums and youngberries and I have already harvested enough berries already to make 3 bottles of youngberry cordial and 4 large jars of jam - and I have at least 7 more harvests to gather in...

Help!!

I reckon I'll be giving away a lot of fresh youngberries this year... 😀

Then, the other day I wanted to make mashed potatoes and when I went to get some from my pantry I saw that they had all started sprouting.
My potatoes had started sprouting from the eyes
I was faced with a conundrum...

I normally plant those, but, on that day I didn't have enough potatoes to allow for dinner - and planting.  And I felt sorry for the effort that the potatoes had gone to - I couldn't just remove the sprouting bits and toss them in my worm farm.
Freshly harvested potato "sprouts"
So, I carefully removed the sprouting bits of the potatoes and placed them in my (microgreen) sprouting tower.

Giving them a quick rinse, and leaving some water in the lower section, I put them aside.
Potato sprouts at 1 week
 I gave them a fresh rinse every day for a week.
Potato sprouts at 2 weeks
 This week they're beginning to grow leaves...
The roots are happily making their way to the water in the lower
 section of the (microgreen) sprouting tower
...and the roots are developing in the lower section.

I have never planted potatoes in this state.  Will they grow??  I guess they probably will, but I'll have to keep the soil good and damp until the 2nd set of leaves emerge.

Will be an experiment to end all experiments.

If it works, then I never have to sacrifice potatoes anymore - I will just "cultivate" the sprouting bits...

I'll let you know 😁

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Manna from...

...heaven.

On the 14th / 15th November the heavens finally opened and dropped some desperately needed manna from heaven on our smallholding.
How much water. in the dam? Nada.  Zilch.  Nothing.
January 2017 was dry.  Dry.  Dry.  Dry.
The dam was so dry that even the bentonite "seal" cracked open
We were teased for a week beforehand as Norway promised rain. 

And I checked 4 different weather forecast sites - twice a day - for that week - just to make sure that no ruddy high pressure system got in the way of the moisture laden cut off low.

(https://www.weather-forecast.com/locations/Swellendam/forecasts/latesthttps://www.windy.com/ and https://www.yr.no/place/South_Africa/Western_Cape/ and the weather ap on my phone.)

I was absolutely OTT, much to RMan's amusement.

He chose to wait and see what happened.  Not me.  I want to know so that I can make prior arrangements - like "RMan, please, pump the ruddy contents of the lower tanks to the higher storage tanks.  Pleeeeeease."  (He did 😀  T'was easier than having me constantly nag him...)
Norway's weather site predicted over 33mm of rain for the next week
The sky turned a promising colour...
When the sky turns this colour I KNOW rain is about to fall
...and, sure enough, the rains fell...
I haven't seen heavy rain fall on our patio for a long, long time
...and fell.
Our dam finally started filling up
The dam started filling up nicely...
Wow!! Doesn't that look amazing 😀

...but didn't quite overflow.  Plus, ALL our rain water tanks are now full again.
Filled to the brim with rainwater and run-off
Happy and contented - for now.  One good rainfall does not a drought break.  But it will certainly help to add some much needed moisture deep in the ground.
One of my favourite views of the dam
We have no further rain predicted for the next two weeks, and the dam has already receded as the bone dry banks absorb the water.

I spotted bees thirstily gulping and a Proischnura rotundipennis (damselfly)

But, enough water will remain so that the birds, wildlife and insects can wander over for a gulp whenever they need to.



P.S. kymber - thanks for all you've done so far, but please - don't stop the nekkid rain dances.  We were fortunate to have rain fall where we are, but the water catchment areas need rain - and LOTS of it...

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Candied


I love ginger.

I especially love a bit of ginger with my meal (finely chopped raw ginger).


But, I also love candied ginger.

So, with some of the home grown ginger I've harvested I decided to make some of the latter.

First, I peeled the ginger - using a teaspoon makes that task easy.
Peel the ginger with a teaspoon
Then the peeled ginger was thinly sliced with the assistance of a mandolin.
When slicing the ginger with the mandolin, use a flat hand to
 hold it securely - less sliced fingers this way
This sliced ginger went into a pot with enough water to cover it completely.
Add enoughj water to just cover the peeled sliced ginger
After boiling for 30-odd minutes, the ginger was removed from the liquid in the pot and drained.  The liquid was reserved in a jug.
Peeled sliced ginger simmering in plain water

Using ½ - 1 cup of the reserved liquid add it back to the pot with 1½ - 2 cups of granulated sugar.
As the ginger simmers in the sugar syrup you will notice that it
 becomes more and more translucent
Heat gently whilst stirring until the sugar is dissolved and then add the ginger to that mixture and simmer gently for 30 - 40 minutes until the ginger is transluscent and glassy looking.
Sugar syrup soaked ginger draining before dusting with castor sugar
Remove the ginger from the pot with a fork and place piece by piece on a drying rack.  Allow to drain of all the excess juice overnight (any excess juice will cause the castor sugar to dissolve instead of adhering to the ginger.)
Homemade candied ginger
The next morning toss the now drained ginger in castor sugar and place in an airtight container.
I have found that leaving the candied ginger for a week or two improves the first taste of end product.
  
Then, climb in...😀

Shelf life - a good 9 - 12 months, if not longer.  If it lasts that long...  Just ensure that it is kept in an airtight container.


Ingredients for candied ginger:

400 - 450 gms (1lb) peeled and sliced ginger.  (Try and use young fresh ginger as it will contain less "fribrous threads".)
Water - enough to cover the sliced ginger
2 cups of granulated sugar
Castor sugar - for coating the cooked ginger.
Left over syrup from first boil
The leftover juice (from the initial boil) was added to the left over sugar syrup and reduced down.  That will be used for:

Adding to lemon and honey and warm water - very soothing drink for a sore throat
To drizzle over pancakes / waffles / fruit salad
In a salad dressing
Drizzled over roasted veg
To add to sauces for that asian flavour
With the addition of lemon juice, to glaze chicken (or our turkey this Christmas)

Be warned - this syrup will be concentrated - with a really good bite to the finished product.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Less waste, no landfill

My mission in 2018 is to become single use anything free.  I passionately hate single use plastic - in all it's forms.

Back in September 2017 I posted this pic with the question "Does anyone know their purpose...?"  Mum was the only one who came close with her comment: "Not a clue apart from wraps for sandwiches."
Cotton fabric and grated bees wax - sourced locally.
What is depicted in that photo (above) is some cotton fabric, and some locally sourced grated wax (shown here in a single use plastic bag 😞.  You see how insidiously it creeps into the home...?) 
Different sized pieces of fabric
The wax is, with the assistance of a cool iron, melted onto the fabric.
A piece of waxed wrap easily covers freshly baked goods from
 my bread machine
As kitchen towels were disappointing in their effectiveness for keeping freshly baked bread fresh for long, I have made various size wraps and have ensured that there is at least one large enough to adequately enclose my homemade bread / cakes from my bread machine.  
The addition of some spare buttons allows me to secure
  the wrap round my loaves

After 37 years of marriage (on 1st November) I have plenty of "spare" buttons so I have sewn a button on two opposite ends, and wrapped some string (which is easily replaceable as, and when, it becomes tatty) around them.  That ensures that the wrap won't open and holds as close a seal as possible.  
I have, over a year, purchased a number of different sized
 sealable containers in which to store leftovers in the fridge.
 These are just some of them...
I'm one happy little puppy.  Having sucessfully ditched single use plastic cling-wrap and bags for my lidded glass containers, I now have the means to cover freshly made sandwhiches, bowls of left overs, freshly baked goods and even half avocado's, lemons, etc. with an hygienic, sealed warp.

Cleaning is simple - merely wash in cool water, or wipe with a damp cloth.

My next mission?  Eliminating aluminium foil from this house...  (Christmas roasts, garlic bread, etc.)

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Feedburner issues?


I had noticed a while ago that I was getting a lot of e-mail followers with the email address ending in outlook.com  The names of the people were strange also.
Then, Blogger stats were showing a surprising number of hits from Russia.

So, I removed the stranfge addresses and the option to follow by e-mail for a while.  When I reinstalled the gadget, the problem remained.
And now I see Russia / Rumania happening on Bloglovin too...
Does anyone see ads on my blog?  Does anyone see porn on my blog???  There shouldn't be any of either 😠

Please - let me know.  I don't like this at all!  And I need to know how to stop this / prevent this.  Do I remove "Follow with Bloglovin" or "Follow by e-mail"?  Will it help?  Anyone...?

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Spoilt brat???

Thank you all for your comments on my "Taking a break" post.  You have all been so incredibly kind, and I feel like I have been a petulant, spoilt brat - stamping my foot and complaining that nobody loves me...

The thing is, as much as my blog has been a personal journal of our journey to a more self-sufficient, eco-friendlier lifestyle, it has also been written with my readers in mind.  I love, and live to be of assistance - to anyone and everyone, in any way possible.  But, if I get little or no feedback, and my "followers" leave / drop in number, then I question the reason for continuing.  My conclusion was that I had obviously veered off along the wrong path.  And couldn't find my way back again.

Add to that the current political turmoil and deep, deep rampant corruption in our country, and the increasing drought (http://features.dailymaverick.co.za/cape-of-storms-to-come/) - both of which are beyond my control and which have, and continue to affect me very deeply - and perhaps you'll understand that I have been overwhelmingly disheartened, dejected and down.  I, regretfully, have carried that feeling of immense helplessness and negative emotion over to my blog.  I am SO sorry.

I have loved communicating with you all.  And know I will miss that.

Rainy December left a comment which resonated deep within me.  Her comment was :

"Thanks to you, I have started recycling, I use my rainwater to water my garden and generally just try harder."


You have no idea how much those words lifted me up, Rainy December.  And you're right - encouraging others to tread more softly on this planet is my passion.  So WHY did I stamp my foot???

So, to backpedal, I will keep blogging.  I fear that I may have been a tad repetitive over the past months - trying to reach new-ish followers with information that perhaps they haven't been exposed to before.  But life here carries on pretty much the same every day (the business comes first, and then the garden, and there seems to be very little time for hobbies I want to get into) and so, in my head, there is often nothing much to report.

If I have something I want to - and need to - share with you, I'll do so.  It may be an observation, it may be a bit of progress on our smallholding, or an expansion of our eco-friendlier lifestyle, or it may be a link to a movie / clip / documentary that I'd love to share.  It may even be a new direction - one which embraces reducing waste in various aspects of our lives.

Dani, deep breath, shoulders back, chin up - and look to the future... 😊

Friday, 13 October 2017

Taking a break...

... as my blog seems to have lost it's appeal.  A one-sided "conversation" is like being in solitary confinement.

Maybe I'll be back, maybe I won't.

But - after exactly 7 years, 8 months plus 2 days - plus 547,351 visits to my humble blog by all of you who have supported me and chivvied me along - it's been fun.  

I hope you have enjoyed yourselves as much as I have.

My sincere and grateful thanks to all of you who joined RMan and I on our journey...

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Wasted

I was gifted a packet of biscuits by a visitor who came to an impromptu dinner gathering the other night.

On opening the packet I discovered that it had not one, not two, but three layers of packaging.

Three layers of packaging:
1 outer flimsy layer
 2 middle firm(er) layer
 3 inner flimsy layer
And we wonder why this planet is being overrun by refuse / plastic...!  What a waste - of resources, power to manufacture, water to manufacture, etc...

Monday, 9 October 2017

Pickled broad beans (fava beans)

Broad beans are like zucchini - boy, do they proliferate...!

So I really tried to limit the number of broad bean plants that went into the ground this year.  But, even with 6 plants, I had more than I could give away and more than RMan was willing to eat - to frequently.  So, I went searching for some way to preserve them.
The umteenth harvest of broad beans
I had tried blanching and freezing them a few years ago, only to take them from the freezer and discover that they had "turned".  I obviously didn't prep them properly, or I left them in the freezer for too long.  I'm not sure which error I made, but I wasn't keen to try that again.  They were revolting.

Drying for me is not an option, as the yucky looking brown beans don't appeal.

Then I hit upon a recipe for marinating broad beans.  But, the life span was still too short - only 3 - 4 days in the fridge.  That is classified as serving them too frequently as far as RMan is concerned...

Finally, I found a recipe to pickle broad beans.
Pre-cooked, twice shelled, and ready to add to the pickling liquid
 in the sterilized jars.
Just a note on the jars.  Yes, they are re-purposed, but their
 previous contents were not vacuum sealed so the lids are
re-usable and will form a perfect seal when water bathed.
I shelled them (from the main pod) and, after boiling them for 5 minutes, allowed them to cool and I then removed the inner "sheath".  Yeah, I'm a sucker for punishment... 😏  It is tedious and time consuming, but we prefer to eat broad beans that way.
The inner shell / sheaths went to the dogs
As I am on a zero waste everything mission, the outer pops went to my compost heap, and the inner shell / sheaths went to the dogs - they L-O-V-E broad bean shells.
On the left is the plain pickled broad beans, and on the right
 is two jars of water bathed pickled broad beans.
One jar was just pickled (3 - 4 months), but the other two were placed in the pickling liquid and then water bathed in order to prolong their life (6 - 8 months).

I will report back on the pickled broad beans in 3 weeks time.  And, I will also report back IF the water bathed broad beans are not viable after six months  If you don't hear from me, then they were good 😏



If you'd like to try for yourself, here is the recipe I used.


Ingredients
1 shelled broad beans 
1 cups water
1 cups white vinegar (apple cider)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
tablespoons sugar
1 large red chilli pepper or 4 - 5 dried chillies
4 cloves garlic
teaspoons mustard seeds
teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds

Instructions
Shell the beans. 
In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the beans for 3-5 minutes or until bright green and tender-crisp. Drain, and immediately transfer to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.  Remove 2nd shell / membrane.
In a medium saucepan set over high heat, bring water, white vinegar. kosher salt and sugar to a boil. Continue boiling for 2-3 minutes, or until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
Divide the chili pepper between the sterilized jars, and add two garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons of mustard and fennel seed per jar.
Fill each jar with beans, packing them in fairly tightly, but without squashing them. Pour the hot pickling brine over the beans, filling up to 6mm / ¼" from the top.
Seal jars with lids and / or rings. Let the jars cool on the counter and then transfer to the fridge.
Allow at least two to three weeks to fully pickle before opening. The plain pickled beans will keep for 3 - 4 months in the fridge.
For longer storage, process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath, then store in a cool, dry place - away from light - for up to 6 months.
Dated so that this time I know when their best before date is 😏

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 😉

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

https://www.facebook.com/groups/924585607595490/ 

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 😏