"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, 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...

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Fighting the effects of drought

Back in August 2016 I wrote about some extra special treatment that the fruit trees were going to get.  Chickpea said she looks forward to hearing about it...

So, Chickpea, here you go 😃

I first read an article in the local "Farmer's Weekly" back in June 2016.  Given the number of fruit trees we have (mainly our lemon, but also apricot, pear, apple and plum, as well as our berry and granadilla bushes) it piqued my interest so I contacted the inventor - Louis.  It turned out that he lives near us - in Bonnievale - about an hour or so drive from us.

I have, albeit from a distance, painfully lived through the development phase with him - impatiently waiting for his mould to be manufactured so that he can go into production of his recycled plastic water saving device - the TreeHog.

This will be a 100% SA product :)
A local farmer has developed a "box" to place
 around the base of the trees in order to 

preserve irrigation water
And is stated to be 100% recyclable.
70 TreeHogs awaiting installation
He finally stated production earlier this year, and I ordered 70 units which were received 2 weeks ago.

He has, with his prototypes, cut down his watering from 4.5 - 5 hours twice a week, to just 20 minutes twice a week - and that irrigates to a depth of 400mm.  The amount of water used - 11 litres / tree twice a week!!  That is one massive water saving!

The principle pf the TreeHog is that the water sprays inside the unit, hitting the walls.  It then runs down the walls to the soil (and tree roots) below, where it is absorbed.  The wind cannot deflect / waste the spray, and, being enclosed, the soil below is kept damp as the sun is pelting down, and the prevailing wind cannot cause evapouration of the moisture in the damp soil.  Given the opening at the top, any heat inside the unit is expelled up through that opening.

Given our current drought ...
Rainfall record from Nov 2013 to July 2017
and predicted future water scarcity situation due to global warming, our fruit trees need all the help we can give them.

Take a look at this link too:


The information there may give you pause for thought.

Our lemon trees are now - 7 years old and we are getting very little harvest from them.  Lack of water is, I think, the cause.  We feed them, and have given them water regularly.  But, fighting extreme heat coupled with reduced rainfall, doesn't help a tree produce it's crop.  Add to that 5 busy chickens who delight in moving every scrap of mulch we have placed below the trees, and you'll have some idea of what we've been facing...
Attaching the sprinkler or drip irrigation head to the inside of
  the TreeHog s simple.
The TreeHog opens up on one side and allows you to place the required irrigation head in a corner - according to your requirements.  Closing up the Treehog again is simple and a couple of cable ties holds the unit closed round the base of the tree.

Stay tuned - I will report back on the TreeHogs at the end of this coming summer. Not all our lemon trees / fruit trees ( or bushes) will get a TreeHog, so, in effect, I will have a control in place.  The difference is going to be interesting to note...

If anyone else would like some for their precious trees or shrubs:  http://www.treehog.co.za/  The cost, at R59.00 each, are not expensive.

The TreeHogs round the base of the trees look quite cute, don't they 😅
Although the tree in the foreground is a wild plum, we don't
 have the nerve to move it.  Given it's size I don't think it would
 survive, and we leave the fruit it produces for the birds to enjoy.

Disclaimer: I received absolutely nothing in exchange for sharing this info - it is merely my ongoing 'sharing is caring' taking place 😉

Friday, 21 July 2017

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Wartime Kitchen & Garden 2 / 3

For those of you who haven;t see it before, I hope you enjoyed part 1 - here's part 2 of 3 😊

Monday, 17 July 2017

Saturday, 15 July 2017

And then there were two...

... but before that some insight.

She has grown into a very boiterous canine companion, who goes absolutely moggie whenever any one, or any dog, visits us.  So much so that I said to RMan - Stellar needs a buddy.  A permanent playfellow, or, to be blunt, something to wear her out... 😂

We were so used to ol' Scallywag who was our only dog for 6 years that we took it for granted than another single dog would do the trick and fill the emptiness.  When we had to let Scallywag go he was 16 years old - or 112 human years.  Being so elderly he tended to just eat his food, lie around and genteely wag whenever anyone visited us.

Stellar - oh, no!  She is a completely different kettle of fish.

Her homemade raised bed did the trick getting her to stop sneaking onto our couches when we went to bed at night.

Her inability to eat what is in her bowl without scattering it across the entire floor is non-existent.

But, her natural exhuberence a.k.a. jumping up at everyone anytime they arrive or even leave the room and return - even if it's only for a few seconds - was giving us hints - and then some...

So, we decided to see if the local SPCA had any puppies that we could view.  After putting our name down, the  SPCA paid us a visit - to check that our home was suitable for a dog.

We passed muster 😉

Nope - 3 - 4 months ago they only had adult dogs.  I'm not keen on adult dogs as you don't know what "bad habits" they have acquired, and, with our alpaca's, we need to be able to train any dog that venturing into their paddocks is a no-no.

Four weeks ago I was contacted by the SPCA and told that they would have puppies available in 3 weeks time.

We duly toddled off to view / choose our puppy
It's always so heart rending to see dogs caged up -
 and even more so at SPCA.  We all know what happens
 IF they don't find a home...
Fonz - as he was named by the SPCA - is a mixed breed.  He came up and licked our fingers through the mesh, and we decided that he was the one.

Last week the SPCA called us and told us the puppies were now old enough to leave and so on Friday we went to collect the latest addition to our family.

RMan noticed that he was subdued.  And that his nose was running.  And that his stomach was quite bloated.

So, no sooner had we left the SPCA than we headed straight for our vet to have Fonz checked out.

The vet discovered that he had a temperature of 39.4oC  She was also a bit concerned about the puppy's bloated stomach.  Possible parvo virus was mentioned to RMan.  After a precautionary antibiotic injection, and armed with a deworming tablet and a warning to watch the puppy, we headed home.

Stellar went besperk when she spotted the puppy that RMan placed on the grass.

Runinng round and round, up and down, being a general nusiance and causing the puppy to yelp at the onslaught - we managed to get the puppy inside where he climbed onto the big cushion we had purchased for him and lay down.

And lay down.

And lay down.

Not much to eat (although he did willingly ingest the deworming tablet), but he did drink water.  Thankfully.

During the night I was awoken by the smell of puppy poo, and upon investigating, discovered a squishy pile with so many wriggling worms it was impossible to believe they were all in his stomach.  And he had a bad dose of darrhoea definitely!!!

The next morning, the puppy was still very lethargic so RMan returned to the vet.  The puppy's temperatu was now 39.7oC  So the vet said he must stay there for the weekend so that they can monitor him.
A poorly puppy placed on the couch by RMan
The vet phoned us the next morning and told us that she couldn't believe the number of worms the puppy was passing.  The diarrhoea was ongoing, and he still wasn't eating properly either.

Monday morning and the vet called again.  She said that she couldn't find any indications of parvo virus (thank God) and that his temperature was down, the upset tummy was settling, and he had started eating during the day on Sunday.  All indications were that he was much perkier and so he could finally come home.
That's better - Stellar and the puppy climbing into their respective
 bowls of dog food.  Even better, the puppy now locates and eats
 all of  Stellars "scatterlings" 😂
What a different puppy that climbed out of the car this time!
Ah - look how innocent we look...
You know what the newspaper is for, don't you... 😉
And Stellar - she couldn't believe that her buddy was back.  I think that perhaps she thought that she had frightened him off with her exhuberence.
Hello, little one
He is the sweetest little thing - and we have renamed him Dusty - for the colour of his coat matches the land.
The puppy shelters from Stellars clumsy, heavy paws whenever she can
To evade Stellar's exhuberence he has learnt to shelter where "those paws" can't easily reach...

Although Stellar is becoming adroit at contorting herself in her attempt to reach him.

Admonitions abound at every puppy yelp - for now.  The puppy must learn to give tit for tat eventually...
Inseperable 😊
 They have become inseperable in the last 5 days...
This is, at the moment, their favourite game.  I'm not worried
 about the socks - there are plenty of odd socks that the washing
 machine spat out over the years
 ...and delight in playing tug-of-war with some hole-y socks (mine).  The tug is a bit unfairly balanced, but they're having fun 😃
Who is more comfortable?

As for RMan - he's smitten with puppy love all over again...

And (groan) the puppy is being lifted onto his lap - ON THE COUCH!!!  I  give up...

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Rose hip oil

I recently read an article on rosehip oil...


...and, being midwinter / July, it is almost time to prune my grey water irrigated roses.

Rose hip in the top left corner of this pic was just
waiting for me to pick it.  I didn't disappoint ;)
But, not before I collect as many rosehips as I can.
Excess waste matter removed
 After removing the remains of the stamens and petals, the rosehips were rinsed/
 Cutting them open...
A halved rose hip showing the remain of the stamens, and the rose

Halved rose hips in the sun for a bit of extra Vit D before they
 were warmed in oil
 ...I placed them in the sun for the day - to absorbed as much additional vitamin D as they could.
Almond oil
 I added (non-eco-friendly) almond carrier oil to a  stainless steel bowl...

The oil didn't look like much, but, thankfully, turned out to be enough
 added the halved sun-kissed rose hips, and, because I didn't have a slow cooker, I placed them over a pot of boiling water (double boiler)
Halved rose hips as they were being heated
 Thankfully, we had the Rosie going that day, so I left them to slow cook on the edge of the stove.

12 hours of warming through the rose hips are all soft
Then, I made a mistake.  In an attempt to "squeeze out" as much rose hip goodness as possible, I tried to be clever...
"Mushed" rose hips - I will avoid this step next time.  I think the
 oil would've been easier to drain if the rose hips had not been
 quite so "mushed".
 ......and I blitzed the lot.  Not a very appealing mush presented itself to me at the end of that step.
Rose hip infused almond oil being
 strained out through a bit of muslin
 cloth suspended above a jug
I placed that mush in a muslin cloth and suspended it over a jug to drip.
Mushing up the rose hips in the oil cost me about 80ml of oil :(
 The next morning I was rewarded with just over 230mls of rose hip infused almond oil.
Strained rose hip oil with vitamin E and a few drops of essential oil
 added.  It is recommended that the infused oil is stored in dark bottles.
It is recommended that Vitamin E is added to the rose hip infused oil (as a preservative and as additional skin nutrition), as well as a few drops perfumed essential oil.  I only had lavender and lemon grass - so, after dividing the rose hip infused oil between two dark bottles (recommended container for storing this oil), one bottle received 3 - 4 drops of the lavender and the other bottle the lemon grass essential oil.

The almond oil is very readily absorbed by my skin which pleases me no end, as now I don't have to purchase a commercial moisturiser anymore :D 

The guilt I felt regarding the almond oil (growing almonds is very water demanding) is, in my head, counter balanced by the lack of chemicals and reduced shipping footprint of all the ingredients in commercial moisturisers.

Info on "Whole Rose Hip Oil"

Rose Hip oil is obtained by low temperature extraction of the whole rose hip in a carrier oil. Whole rose hip oil is different form rose hip seed oil, which is obtained by liquid extraction of rose hip seeds. Whole Rose hip oil is believed to possess skin rejuvenating, revitalising and general health beneficial properties and have been used in cosmetic and herbal medicines for centuries. The oil is all natural, free of synthetic or artificial additives.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Rain water harvesting installation

I am a member of two facebook groups which try to assist people in the Western Cape, as well as the rest of South Africa, with regards to drought solutions - namely Water Shedding SA and Water Shortage South Africa.  I know that most of this will be of interest to South African readers, but, perhaps everyone should be aware of, and will benefit from how to help themselves to become more self-sufficient with regards to their water - and it's storage - especially rain water.  Water is our most precious comodity - more valuable than gold, diamonds, oil or anything else considered precious by mankind.

In those groups I have read so many posts from people asking who can install their rain water tanks. I think the "lack of knowledge" and cost implication (of firstly purchasing the tank, and then the additional cost of getting a company to come and do the installation / gutter link up) may be preventing people from installing a rain water tank. So I thought I would share the simplicity of it.
For those of you are new readers of my blog, here is some background: we live on a 2 Ha smallholding and we have installed 9 X 5 000lt tanks over the past 7 - 8 years.
Our potable water is directed from our mains pipe into the top of
 the potable water storage tank
 As our "mains" water supply is erratic (either Overberg Water has "pump" / Escom power supply problems or farmers accidentally plough up the main line - this happens quite frequently) so we have dedicated one X 5 000 lt tank to potable water. Given the aforementioned causes of possible breaks in our potable water supply, water independence / security is therefore imperative for us - especially in the heat of summer.
Details of water connection from pump to the house, and our
 power source to the pump
Of the remaining 8 X tanks, 3 X tanks are positioned at the end of gutters and collect rainwater and the balance of 5 X tanks are postioned on the higher parts of the land in order to irrigate via gravity and / or pump.
A secure base is vital for a water storage tank
Please ensure that you either position your tank on a (smooth) concrete slab, a square of level pavers, or a good 10cm thick bed of gravel (please ensure that there are NO SHARP GRAVEL POINTS sticking up or they could puncture the tank).
Our tank / pump connection
1 000lt (filled weight is 1 ton), 2000 lt (filled weight is 2 tons) or 5 000lt (filled weight is 5 ton) tanks are heavy when they are full, and when the ground beneath them is wet from (hopefully good 😀👍👍 ) rains, the risk of the tank falling sideways / collapsing is a possibility IF the tank isn't sitting level. This definitely applies to a clay soil - as clay is "volatile" when very wet.

Two pics showing one of the two types of valves we used - in these pictures the image on the left with the handle pointing upwards, the valve is closed and in the image on the right showing the handle lying parallel to the valve, the the valve is open.

When you purchase your tank(s) ask the supplier for the specific water tank fitting requirements. Then, either get them to supply those parts, or get the tank supplier to write them down and take that list to your local hardware store. Don't forget the plumbers tape - to seal ALL the connection threads 😀  The majority of tank fittings are 40mm - both the inlet and outlet points. If you want to reduce that outlet size in order to connect a normal garden hosepipe, then your hardware store will know, and supply you with those fittings as long as you know the diameter of garden hose that you use. From tank outlet fitting size of 40mm to 1/2 inch garden hose = 12mm fittings, or 3/4 inch garden hose are 19mm fittings.
You will see two different valves in the pics - a plastic one and a metal one. Either valve can be used quite easily and is only dependent on what your hardware store stocks.
Cutting the water tank lid in order to insert the gutter downpipe can be achieved with the use of a utility / Stanley knife. Mark out the gutter profile on the lid, drill a "start" hole and cut away...
Shadecloth filter catching debris from our roof and preventing it
 from entering the tank
We use a piece of 80% shadecloth as our debris fiter and it works well. Hooking it over the water tank lid securing pin "protrusions" ensures that it is held in place.
It's easy to cut a hole in the top of the tank lid with a utility or
 Stanley knife
Also, when the lid is in position the "close fit" adds to that shadecloth filter position securiity. Ours have not moved in 7 - 8 years. Emptying the debris is as simple as lifting off the piece of shadecloth, shaking off the debris, and replacing the shadelcoth over the tank securing pin protrusions.
The lid helps to keep the shadecloth in position
First flushes are also easy to install and, if you go that route, I would recommend that you have a large mouthed valve at the end of the first flush pipe in order to facilitate easy expulsion / removal of the debris. Please remember to use a PVC weld if you are joining fittings with no thread. This is also obtainable from your hardware store.
Open source diagram of a first flush system
Another first flush diagram
If you want / need to connect your tank to your house you will need a pump and the knowledge of how to do this. If you do not know how to do this, ONLY then you would need to call on the services of a plumber.
I recommend a wide mouthed valve at the end of your first flush
 pipe to enable easy cleaning of the debris within
I know this seems to be a lot of info to absorb, but most of it is commonsense if you logically think about what you are doing.

Good luck 😀

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Hydroponic update

You'll remember last year back in April I started a small hydroponic system.

This is a report back and a change of plan.
My newly installed small hydroponic ssystem
The lettuce still found the direct sunlight too strong and went to seed.  I will have to grow them in the shade next summer, with light being provided by bouncing it off a north facing wall.
The cabbages grown in the ground, without question, performed
 better than the hydroponic ones
 The cabbages - nope, not successful.
The hydroponic peas did well, and also didn't display any signs
 of "mildew" on their leaves
The peas?  They did beautifully 😄

And the tomatoes - they produced nicely - though not as well as those that were planted in the ground.

So, not a great result.  Not a "Yeeeha, Eureka!!" moment.

Perhaps it was my "feeding" of the water.  Being out in the sticks, and not wanting to incur costs buying and transporting hydroponic plant "food" I only used a seaweed concentrate in the pump tank.

But, I am not discouraged.

So, I have drawn inspriation from this pic I saw a while ago...
This image inspired me to plant strawberries in gutters which
hang on either side of my raised beds
As you know I hung gutters on the side edges of my raised beds and planted strawberries in them.
The current situation / progress of my gutter strawberries
(nope, they aren't battling weeds, but rather self-seeded
 rocket seedlings.  I love rocket, so I'm letting them stay
where they fell)
They are doing well, and this seasons strawberries are beginning to form and hang down the sides of the gutter.    So, I have decided to use the hydroponic pipe to grow strawberries and I will leave the exisiting  strawbwerry plants in the gutter for comparison.

Yes.  I can grow strawberries in the ground, and they have been successful, but the slugs have been just as successful in their quest to devour portions of every strawberry that happened to touch the soil.
The reserve / return reservoir which collects the pumped water back
 to the pumping tank via gravity.
I have suspended a stocking filled with organic fertiliser beneath
 the pipe's overflow outlet.
In place of the seaweed concentrate, I have added a measured portion of organic fertilizer to a stocking which hangs into the return water reservoir.  Everytime the pump switches on, the water falling into the reservoir falls onto the stocking (and it's contents) thereby "disturbing" it and releasing the nutrients.
The organic fertilizer RMan uses for our fruit trees
I planted the hydroponic strawberry runners about 3 weeks ago, and already the roots are beginning to grow out of the bottom of the yoghurt containers I use as hydroponic plant pots. 
New strawberry runners planted three weeks ago are already
 producing roots outside of the tub.  The strawberries were planted
 in a palm peat / vermiculite mixture.
I have the pump on a timer which switches on for 15 minutes every hour from 7.00a.m. to 7.00 p.m.  After that the water which remains in the pipe must suffice until the pump circulates the water again.
A shallow "bowl" of water permanently remains in the base of the
 pipe for access by the plants when required.  It doesn't fill the
 pipe completely and thereby provides air to the roots as well.
The new strawberry plants seem happy and are beginning to grow new leaves.
That, to me is a happy looking strawberry plant 😃
Let's see if I can get it right this time...

I am determined to be successful, as, given climate change / global warming / predicted global water shortages, I believe that hydroponics will figure massively in the future with regards to feeding the masses.  Being inquisitive, I would like to understand the process / problems in using this growing method.