Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Linux and it's connections still evade me for photos.

In the meantime, I have learnt something new about hens. 1 of my 5 was not looking her normal perky self and another had a constantly dirty bottom. I cleaned and cut the bottom feathers on the dirty bottom and called the vet about the sad hen.
Syptoms: droopy tail, sitting and randomly walking alone, not staying with the flock around the farmyard
Vet's solution: anti-biotics and de-worming where you can't eat the eggs for 2 weeks (throw out 70 eggs)
Sue's solution: abdomen massage (in case of egg binding), crushed garlic in their food, diatomaceous earth in their food (worms) and more on their bodies (dusted between their feathers) and in their house (mites/ fleas), their food in a flat dish instead of on the grass (worm eggs) and more rigorous house cleaning.
Result: 2 very large eggs and 2 days later -clean bottoms and tail feathers up.

Phew! Thanks to the internet and lots of trolling to find all this info. The only thing I did not do and probably will still, is a few drops of apple cider vinegar in their water. Must get some organic apple cider from Lorraine Farm Trust- best stuff and still full of mother (the yeast that makes it vinegar).

Monday, October 10, 2011

34 degrees in the shade- in October!

What will it be like in January and February? The dogs are comatose on the cold concrete, the hens have been rolling in their dust bath (sand, DE & wood ash) since early this morning and the family is all resting. Max is wide awake but being very good and lying down. Difficult for a 4 year-old.

I think the sorbet I made with last spring's strawberries will be just the thing for a waking up snack.

We tried to work this morning but it was blowing a berg wind and 24 degrees at 7.30 already. A quick water of our newly planted tree saplings in the nursery and a rough cover up with some shade cloth is about all we managed. Hopefully, that wind means rain- and lots of it!

The roads trucks came to fix the seriously damaged servitude road into our farm- hopefully that rain won't wash it all away again.

Did I mention the owl sitting on 2 eggs? She's still there and I think it's a Scops Owl but not sure. Perhaps I can lure Mr Cape Nature out here to identify the pair.
He may want to come and see the fire damage in the mountain. Very scary with the wind blowing the ash and smoke into the house and a huge orange scar across the mountain at night. Thank goodness 2 days of helicopters and fire fighting brought it under control. Now bring that rain to help the fynbos recover!
(photos to follow when I have mastered this new Linux PC)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Bull

It seems that trying to keep business going in "the city" and have the safe life of a farm, is a difficult balancing act. No-one believes you when you tell them your cell signal is random and they definitely don't believe that your land line goes awol with every high wind or rainstorm. Well, it is and it does.

Also, for us to fetch letters or parcels from the post office to make your shares worth anything, is 26kms there on winding hilly dusty roads and 26kms home. And when you lie and say you have sent something and we get there and you didn't, we are naturally a bit miffed. It takes at least a precious hour of daylight when we can be working our arses off doing something worthwhile. Like picking actual poo for the compost heaps instead of dealing with corporate bullshit.

I certainly will take the simplicity of farm life and work over my previous life. At least this is honest work. Got to become completely self-sustaining so as to avoid these irritations.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What do I Write?

I have been struggling to post new entries here as I just don't what would interest you about farm living. I am going to guess you either know us and want to see what we are up to. or you may want to be a fellow refugee to a more gentle life. And so, if you are reading this you are stuck with what I want to tell you!

We have been very busy out here in the sticks. It's Spring you see and lots of good things happen in Spring on a farm. Hens start laying eggs every day with a lot of fanfare in some cases. Mostly our 5 have been good girls and have laid them in their house. Someone has decided not to for the last 2 days and so we have been hunting eggs all over. These girls get around too. They follow us all over the yard and even down to the veggie garden. We haven't found them but the dogs may have beaten us to them.
Can you see how big the 80g egg is? Eish- now wonder all the squawking! And we are so sick of eggs. At least I have a great cake which uses 8 at a time. We will never go hungry out here.

We have also been preparing a new field in mounds so I can plant the seeds I have been collecting for so long. I have 8 differnt types of tomatoes in trays already and I think I still have 4 more to go. That's besides all the other things from lime basil to pineapple tops to watercress to purple carrots. Hopefully I will have a really nice spread to show you soon.

I have a  mantra too- when at a loss, make compost. The oak tree has dropped lots of leaves so I collected these today to go into a long-term compost heap. Oak are not the best leaves for quick growth until they are well rotted. All the chicken house straw and scrapings go in this pile to chase it along.

As well as all the digging (ouch I can't get out of bed) and carting compost, manure and lime, we have been cleaning up the water furrow behind our house. There was a downed tree there over the furrow and it took quite a bit of chainsaw cutting and clearing to get it sorted.

It's a very pretty spot so we decided to make a nice path and throw out lots of flower seeds along the edges. Of course in clearing we found some new friends- a meduim-sized puff adder and a 40cm night adder. We were so chuffed with the the night adder as it was our first and such a pretty snake. We found them new homes and got on with our work.
All the cleared material we shredded and put onto the path and it really is looking nice. After a bit of rain, it will be such a great spot to sit and read.

Granny has been a super-gran- working in the veggie garden every day, pulling out wattle trees in the new picnic area and just generally helping everywhere. Not bad for a 70 year old lady! She is as tough as old boots and I hope I'll be just like her at 70.

We may be supplying seed to a small seed company and so we went off to harvest some stinging nettles- with Jan's welding gloves! Those buggers sting and I managed to flick plants back into my chin several times. A lot of blue air was hanging around! BTW, Max took this photo. He is growing up so fast now. Those first 2 years dragged but now he is a lot of fun- if 2 handfuls!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

July Pruning

I have finally done all the pruning of the fruit trees. July is very late I know but other things got in the way of doing it in June. Below are a couple of pics with before and after, of the biggest trees which are plum- I think.

These trees have been really neglected and have colonies of ants farming aphids. There is a ton of sooty mould on the leaves from this. The downside of farming without chemicals is that things like this may take a little longer to sort out. I am using all the left over bottles of muti from the previous owners. So far they have had Nitrosol and Biottrossol from Biogrow. I have also fed them worm wee tea and sprayed with an anti-bug concoctions of my own (a garlic chilli comfrey mix). Today will be the Tansy wild garlic mix too. Hopefully this will help the trees get stronger and fight off some bugs. I will keep going with more composting,  feeding and spraying until the end of August and then re-assess what I must do if these measures have not worked.
Almond blossoms    

I am raking up all the leaf litter from under the beefwoods to put on our paths. These trees are both a problem and a potential long-term crop. They make very good wind breaks and grow in marginal soil but they consume so much from that soil and travel far to find nutrients. The wood is a very useful one and boy can those leaves start a fire! They have some sort of "component" which suppresses growth of competitive plants and in their case that is any other plant including their own kind. Hence them being good on paths. As path material, it drains well and is soft for granny to walk on too. We are still deabting if we'll plant more.

Our hens have finally begun laying eggs. So far, we have had 7 from our biggest, fattest hen- Hope- and yesterday Pearl laid her first too. I am not a protein person and eggs are a push for me to eat. These eggs are delicious and the color of a sunflower! How is this dinner we had last night? 90% from the farm. We are getting closer to being self-sufficient but still have a long way to go.
Our next challenge will be to remove the colony of bats who moved into our ceiling recently without getting bitten by the boomslang sleeping below them who thinks they are his larder !

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Great Find

I have a wonderful service available for all you growing types to use

This is my father-in-law's web site for soil testing. He did mine for me and I will be sending him a follow up sample to see how it has changed in the last 6 months.
You should have seen his lovely permaculture garden in Riebeck West. It really was impressive. He even grew such great olives in a very short time. Must have been doing something right.

And I know I have been very slack in updating you about what we have been up to out here, but we have had "things" keeping us busy. I need to finish a pruning task and then I post the before and after pics for you to see.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Rain we were complaining about has come

Well as the title says...
Before- looking down Oak Alley
 After. Note the very old oak tree we were unable to pull down with the tractor but the wind blew it over for us.

Before at the lunge ring
  During- 8th June 2011
After- 9th June 2011
Below is the drift area. It's like a roughly cobbled road with water over it most of the time but it has it's dry times too.
The pic below is how it normally looks and the one below right was when we thought we'd had a lot of rain.

This was taken this morning. Jan is standing where Max was standing in the last pic and can you see the drift in the distance? It had a standing wave. Anyone for a swim? It was flowing so strongly that standing dead trees were wobbling in it's path. We will not be getting out along our driveway anytime soon either.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Goodbye Greeba

I had to say goodbye to my old lady cat today. Goodbye Greeba- see you on the other side. She was 15 and was named after Greebo in Terry Pratchett's novels. The cat who ate dogs and she did in her day.

I realised on the way to the vet, that it took me as long to get onto the road from our house as it would have taken to drive to the vet in Midrand. And after a chat with someone undergoing hijacking every month in our old street, thank goodness we don't live there anymore. I think I'll stick with the mousebirds that eat all my crops. When the bird netting is finally up, that too will be solved. That is as long as the wind doesn't take that on holiday.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I have never seen such a lovely collection and variety of mushrooms- all inedible or poisonous! Bugger.

How cool are all of these?! There must be about 13 different kinds we have found so far. Pity we can't eat any. These orange tufts really looked like fairies should be close by but as it happens we did pind a pixi!

The above pic is of the Carob tree's flowers- very odd. They grow all over the trunk and thick branches directly and lots of them turn into pods. There seem to be 2 distinct shapes - male and female I suppose.

Can you see how all the trees and grass are bending? Man the wind can blow around here! This was today when we had planned to put up the bird netting to defend the veggies from the swarm of mousebirds which eat everything. We could barely walk, let alone put up netting. Hoping to get this done tomorrow to save our crop of green peppers, the last of the yellow tomatoes and would you believe, the purple cauliflowers are just sticks left in the ground? The birds ate every leaf! I don't even want to plant out the cabbages, brocolli and watercress.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Supermoon, new test field

The Super moon- and a monkey up way too late!
"Now what can I eat before it has a chance to get to leave the garden?"
Leeks on his right, rhubarb and cauliflower on the left.
"Hmm, nothing here. Where are the tomatoes, carrots, beans and baby spinach?"
The worst critter to attack my garden yet!

Jan "scratching" the surface of a small test field. We then used another plough to make just 3 mounds, leaving enough space for the tractor to drive between. We will plant in the mounds immediately (long term crops and eventhough the soil is horrible) and continue to doctor the bits in between with all manner of worm wee, compost, cut grass, horse manure, compost tea etc. Once the soil is looking a bit better, I will post pics of before and after and what we did.
Dogs waiting patiently for some horse play.
These are the few very valuable rainbow corn seeds I got from Linda at Sought After Seedlings. Hopefully next year we will actually eat some! In front are beetroot and garlic and in the foreground some wheat I got from Lesotho. I have kept it for several years as seed wheat. See- if you store it properly, it can last a long time.
In the tyre is a sprouted potato from my kitchen.
Di & Ness- aren't you proud?! This is Tarrence- our tractor. Max was so chuffed. And 4 years old. We've made it this far, I think we'll be ok now.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

or not (on the winter rain that is)

So I have waited for this elusive rain to plant my little bags of winter wheat but 2mm does not count as rain in my books. Yesterday, I thought forget this, I'll water it a bit. Off I go to plant. I learnt a valuable lesson about farm life and long term thinking even with the seemingly small stuff.

Remember I said I have got a few bales of straw from my neighbour who farms conventionally? Well, there were lots of seeds in it and I let them grow and the birds ate them and dropped lots. Now that I want to plant my heirloom seed, I can't. There are still so many seeds sprouting and growing of the hybrid (probably GM) stuff. What a bummer! I don't want to mix my nice stuff with that junk. Who knew there would still be some many seeds growing.

So the lesson is- BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND.

I don't have a lot of the heirloom seeds so I guess I will have to plant small handfuls in bags or pots in my greenhouse. At least then they won't cross pollinate and I can still at least double my seed crop. Not ideal.

Next problem to solve (beginning with the end in mind), is how will I harvest thresh, winnow and clean these lovely seeds?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Winter rain started today...

And I am not quite ready! I am supposed to plant my wheat (heirloom non-gm seeds from a new supplier) now but feel my soil still needs some work. I think I am going to have to plant it and doctor the soil as it grows. Not the best solution but rather that than no planting at all.

Jan mowed a small field for me to prepare for spring planting- well done Jannie on figuring out how to attach the mower to the tractor and then how to do a great job.
Next on top of all that grass and weeds, goes all the lovely horse poo I can collect. Love that job. Feels like I am collecting treasure. On top of that goes a spray concoction of humic acid, worm wee and compost tea. Real muti! And finally on top of that goes cut grass from our yard. This is my basic plan to fix the hard pan which is supposed to be our growing land.

I suppose that sounds simplistic but I only did part of that in the veggie garden and it has worked so well. This has got to be better. When the weeds come up, we will cut them before they flower and then lightly turn it all in and begin the whole process again. I will take some photos of the soil before and after.

Fire up old Tarrance the tractor Jannie. Let's do another field before the rain makes it too wet!

hmmm. now about that dodgy driveway in the rain...

Monday, March 28, 2011

New things- chicks and the veg garden

This the veg garden as we began around November/December. And the pic that follows was taken today. I was very pleased that my father-in-law was happy with my soil progress. He does soil testing by mail and did mine for me. Great that he can see the change already.

Here are the girls! Our future egg layers- albeit only in spring! Their names are Hope, Mimi, Pearl, Annie & April. Don't ask me, ask Max!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Planting Day

Today is Planting Day but it is so hot here (32 in the shade at 11am) so we started early and are already done. I planted sage seeds & seedlings, pineapple tops, broccoli seed, carob tree seeds and ginger rhizomes.
That's an odd combination but it's just what needed doing now.

Ginger and horseradish.

 Not sure if this is helping but Max says it is.

Good luck with your planting. I hope you do it in a mindful way that makes your heart sing.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

 We raced to get ready for the arrival of our chicks. Jan is taking out barbed wire strands and putting in mesh fencing in this pic. It means 2 gates for Granny to walk through before she can come for dinner!

They are finally in. I doubt we'll get many eggs before winter but at least we have the right creatures for summer.
 We went walking around an area we had not previously explored and found the most wonderful section of river. Max HAD to get naked and have a swim. Little elf in the water! We will need to clear the fallen wattles from this area but it should not take long and it will be such a great picnic area.
 Slavery alive and in practice on the farm! Max and Jan chopped wood and Max's wagon came in useful getting it up the hill.

Below is our first haul of honey from an old hive just left to the wild bees. It was a mission to squeeze it out by hand but we got about 2kgs and a huge ball of wax which is still dripping honey. Apparently this honey is good for a yeast of sort- for mead or bread. Will give that a bash.

It's a very sticky job but at least I did not get stung. And Max had his first piece of really fresh honey in the comb. Delish! He was so chuffed.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Survivor Tea

Max has been watching Ultimate Survivor on DSTV and loves all the stuff Bear does. This is his and Jan's new thing to go and do- Survivor tea. With Jan's army water bottle. a teabag and sugar, they walk to some nice place on the farm and light a fire and make tea. I was invited and it was fun to see how he has learnt to do so much since we have been on the farm. Next he'll be driving the tractor- he's got the gear thanks to Wim!

This was taken at the Riversdale Show. I was so excited to go to an agricultural show in a farming area. The last one I had been to was the Royal Show in Pmb when I was about 10. I thought we'd see so much- you know- animals and machinery etc. Eish! What a poor excuse for a show. There were a few horsey events, a small dark room of poultry, a few fun fair rides and what the people here call Nigerian shops- cheap junky plastic trinkets. The food available was old SA revolting Ricoffy and vetkoek. Not a fresh thing to be seen anywhere.

Max enjoyed this ride but was also not impressed with the show. Even a 4 year-old could see this was not up to scratch. He definitely did not like where the chickens were kept!

Today we were in town to register to vote and that took the 3 of us 10 minutes. What a pleasure! So with the crap comes the good too. We went to the old jail ( a bunch of little shops in old jail cells- very quaint) because we have heard they have fresh farm veggies every Saturday. The owner says she battles to get produce from the area because the farmers are no longer planting veggies. How sad is that? Soon they will have to as peak oil becomes a reality.
 Have you planted anything yet? Just a tomato bush in a pot or how about a herb garden? Go on click on the icon at the top of hte page and get started!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A clean start

Today was the last day we had staff. If we thought we were busy before, I think we will feel it now! I am sad for them as I feel we could have helped them to do more for themselves but in the end it was their choice to resign and I hope they find what they are looking for.

 The poor stallion had his gelding done yesterday. He certainly is a handful and I won't be sad to see him go.  The invader horse went home too. Perhaps we won't need ot fix so many fences now.
We may keep 2 of the girls. The mom we have named Diana and the horse guy says she is lame. Rude because it's only a slight limp. And seeing as they won't get lotsa money for her, she can stay and help to mow our grass. Her yearling daughter, Silvia, will stay too. She would be lonely otherwise. She eats from us and will come up to me in the fields so perhaps with time we can be good friends. I so hope the horses who are leaving will be cared for and loved. Now it's just for me to learn how to do just that. Any tips on looking after a horse naturally?

Monday, February 28, 2011

All in a day's work

My best friend in Durban asked what I do in a day. "How does your day look?" she asked.
Well this morning was beautiful. We had to be up early for Jan to go to Cape Town. He left at 5.30 and the sun only rises around 6.20 these days but the light was already changing the sky.
I could see there would be clouds and by day break the wind had begun to blow.

This day may be a little different. On Friday, we had a "serious talk" with the staff. They did not arrive for 2 days last week because - in their words- their car wasn't idling.  I'm not sure any employer would be happy with that excuse. Especially when you call them half way through the day and they have done nothing to sort it out. Perhaps we will be lucky and they won't come back. He did say say he wasn't coming to work in his car today.

Probably sunds silly not to want staff here but Jan & I have never lliked having people working around  our space. We have always had a sense of relief when staff don't pitch up. This is another story though.

So today while Max was still asleep I was able to clean the kitchen, get washing started and eat breakfast. Next I picked up the dry mown grass (more than I used to have for my whole back yard!) and took it to the orchard to help keep the soil moist around the trees. I mixed a bucket of seeds to put around the fruit trees. The chickens will be living in the orchard and it will be good to have lots of herbs and veggies growing for them to eat when they get here. I found a HUGE toad in my box of seeds. Lesson here- don't leave your boxes on the floor.

I have started the flood watering in the veggie garden, collected support poles for the beans at the house, fed all the animals, doctored the sick ones (boy do cats hate bulbinella on their skin!),  planned the work to be done this week and the dinners too. All this and it's only 7.27am. I think I need another cup of coffee!

I think the old saying still applies today: Early to bed, early to rise, makes one healthy, wealthy & wise.  A little more on the wealthy and wise please!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trouble with being an employer... that no-one wants to work! It doesn't matter where you employ people, you will always have problems that go with it. And until you have been an employer, you will never appreciate all the crap that is envolved.
I don't think most people who sign an employment contract for their jobs, realise that it is a 2 way contract. You do the work as agreed, when agreed and you get paid as agreed. If no work then no pay. Very simple.
I could do without the bullshit. Life is difficult enough. Can we all not just keep our word and help each other?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


 This is before after a vicious head over handle bars.

And this is after. I can't discipline him anymore. I just start laughing. Too cute. 4 is such a nice age.
 Dad & Max followed by 2 dogs and a cat, walking from Granny's house home. This is the new path we spent the xmas holidays doing.
 We went for a braai at the oooooother end of the farm. This change involves us not working ALL the time. Taking a bit of space to be somewhere else on the farm. And try to use up some wattles!

 Stuff from the garden- Quinces, grapes (SOUR! must be for wine- hooray), granadillas and pears from down the driveway on the neighbour's farm.
 The very full carob tree. And there are 3 of them. Anyone for carob pods? Even these fell slowly to the ground yesterday. 37 degrees in the shade and hardly a breath of wind. We just lay around like lizards and did nothing.

 The happy farmer. Ask Max who is the farmer and he says "mommy". What is daddy?  is always the next question. "He's the worker". That's my boy!