Sunday, December 30, 2012

Another day in the life of...

A while ago I was asked by my best friend what a day on the farm looked like. I posted something at the time but since no 2 days are ever the same, I thought this weekend was a fun one to share. A sort of "how I finished my year". Luckily, I have no school to report on as I caved in and gave Max a few days off (that means gave myself a few days off).

So the rooster starts to crow around 4.30 (ish) but I try to ignore him until 5 when my alarm goes off. Not too early to get up. I let the chickens out and beg for coffee (Jan is in charge of coffee making), say hi to the dogs, feed the cats and sit and look across the valley at our incredible view while I drink my fix.

Dress, feed the dogs, get Max's breakfast ready, make the bread dough, washing in the machine, eat some toast or a giant bowl of strawberries and yoghurt, sun cream, gum boots, hat and goodbye!

First thing is to check if any squashes need hand pollinating. If I am out before the bees, there is usually at least 1 female flower which needs "painting". If the bees beat me out, I have to leave it to nature and if it gets pollinated, we'll eat that squash but won't be able to use it for seed as since we have many varieties, I won't be sure it was pollinated by the same variety. It's a bit fiddly and this is the first year I am doing it this way but so far I have several squashes marked as pure.

With it being so warm and windy at the moment, I am watering every morning. Some growing areas are on drip systems and some need to be watered by hose or in the case of the seedlings in the greenhouse, by watering can. I start with those or leave them to Granny to do. Next is turning the water on for the Indian Rainbow corn or various potatoes. While those water, I weed, cart the weeds to the new compost heap, pour stinky chicken poo slush on top, cover with dry mown grass and close it up again.
Next is seed collection as any dew will have dried by 7am.

Back up the hill to see if Max is awake. Start the water at the house where a few veggies and kitchen herbs grow, eat something ( I am always hungry!), hang the washing, decide what's for dinner (you'll see why shortly), check e-mail, coax Max out the door and back to the veggie garden.

After finishing watering and weeding, if it's not too hot, I can plant out some seedlings. Today it was Black Beauty aubergine. Tomorrow will be leeks and plant radish seeds. Into the potato "yard" which is fenced off from bushbuck, to top up the tyre stacks with straw and water.
By now it's about 10am so I can collect what I need for dinner and get it into the fridge. And have tea and something to eat! While making our tea I make iced tea for later. Loose Honeybush with lemon and lemon grass and a bit of ginger. Max loves it.

Now the fun begins. Yesterday I had to climb into the ceiling to rescue some baby bats and relocate them to our bat house. Such cute little things- not much bigger than Jan's thumb. Then, it was tying up the grape vines, cutting out summer pjs for Max, washing (not again!), clean the cat box for the new kitten, clean the kitchen and answer any calls or e-mail.

Then, picking plums and lemons, cleaning the chicken house and today, cleaning the worm farm. The worms get transferred to the empty bucket and we use the castings to make a soup for fertiliser.

Today was a little different. We went for a nice long walk, got stuck in the mud well over our boots, blundered through chest high fynbos, cleared some baby wattles and arrived on Granny's doorstep for water. To the dam for a swim, back to hang up onions to dry, sweep the courtyard where we process some messy seed and veggies. We collect compost materials all week and on Mondays make a new heap so Sundays means clearing around the house to add to what we already have.

In the evenings we wind down with feeding animals, an early dinner, bake our bread and hopefully some muffins or tarts. Most nights we end up collecting strawberries and gooseberries, packing tools away and watering the last few plants, getting Max into bed and falling into bed ourselves.

These were my last 2 days and Jan has been busy on his own mission in the workshop. It seems there is so much to be done and I know I have left out a dozen little jobs like cleaning filters, reading stories, collecting eggs, and did I mention folding all that washing!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Actual farm living is not necessarily farm life

This month I am up to my elbows in other people's business! Not by my choosing because firstly, it has nothing to do with me and secondly, I already have 3 full-time jobs! Farm living is not strictly about farm life.

I ended up catering a friend's birthday picnic as the only other options were ridiculously expensive or grocery store platters of sausage rolls and oily samoosas. I am not a caterer by a long shot but I learnt (read stole) plenty from my business neighbours in Jo'burg who are first class caterers. ( It took me a week of squeezing things between planting, mowing, doing school and all the other jobs, to prepare everything for the 50 guests. For once, I was grateful when Casanova began crowing at 4.30am so I could cook everything fresh and deliver on time. We were half an hour late but since the birthday boy only rocked up an hour after us, we were on time!

Isn't Casanova a beauty? Actually Romeo was even prettier but more aggresive. Romeo took a bite of Granny and Pepper (the lab) so of the 2, he had to go. It was so intense to watch the 2 roosters fight over the hens and on one day, poor old Mimi had both of them on top of her every time she turned her back. Let's hope Casanova lives up to his name and gives us some chicks.

Other than the solar geyser installers coming to wrong farm, things are a little quiet around here. Right now, we don't have any wwoofers with us and so the pace is different. Things have to be done as they are done. Doesn't make a stitch of difference whether I want them done quicker either. The last couple of volunteers helped fix our road a bit, filled a hole in the dam, cleared planting land, made compost and pulled lots of weeds. The next couple will be here during a maintenance week- mowing and collecting hay, cutting edges, collecting manure etc. You only realise how essential these tasks are when you can't see the night adder being pointed out to you by the cat, in the grass next to the path.

We have had some nice wildlife encounters recently. We saw the baby owl at the dam twice- and that is really difficult as it is so well camouflaged. We caught a brown house snake, red-lipped herald, night adders and saw 2 skaapsteekers. They are too fast to catch but so pretty with their stripe down their back. Kingfishers, blue cranes, Egyptian geese, spurwings, swallows and swifts, weavers, kori bustard, bateleur, hawks- just so many birds!
Heralds are not poisonous but can give a nasty bite and until we have identified a snake we always use extreme caution- and gloves.

The onions and blue congo potatoes are doing very well in this weather. We are fending off the snails and have fenced everything in so the duiker and bushbuck don't eat all the tops. Our strawberries have been wonderful. We pick around 3kgs every second day and 1kg in between. Everything else is just taking too long to fruit for my liking. More Bach please! Obviously, my singing is not working.
 How's that for anti-oxidants!

This last pic is an unusual view for us from our neighbours fence line back towards the house. From the day we drove onto this farm to view it, it has felt like home for me. Today Max said he loves living here and that just makes it even more so.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Where the maize is to be found.

So just an additional thought onto the last post (with attached article I hope you read). Have you given any thought to all the places we find maize in our daily lives and don't give it a second thought. It's horrifying! And really I'd rather use ostrich vision on this but I must think about it for Max.

These are the most obvious "unobvious" places I found maize in some form:
-cornflour (Maizena, unspecified starch or cornstarch)
-corn syrup (or glucose which is found in most sweetened drinks and confectionery)
-baking powder
-some personal care products containing magnesium stearate, linoleic acid
-anything beginning with "malt"
even MSG and Xylitol can come from corn. Glycerine can be a waste product from making bio-diesel from...corn.

We just can't win on everything so just READ THE INGREDIENTS and make your best choice.
Recipes for corn-free products that work coming soon!

Monday, October 8, 2012

GM maize and its evils

AI am growing a lot of mielies this year but now I see I'll need even more- just to feed our hens and ourselves. What a shocking comment on our country this is. The only thing to be done, is to be independent in any manner you can.

Solar and gas- and a fire for heating.

So with all our wwoofer and other visitors, we did not know there was a problem with the gas geyser being either scalding hot or cold. Somehow, when you switch the hot on, the geyser comes on just fine but as soon as you try to balance with cold, the geyser switches itself off. I have to say I am stumped. And some people did not understand that the small solar panel cannot support their appliances as well as give them light. I guess just as well we put out some candles and oil lamps too.
And did you know most people cannot light a fire in a fireplace? Well, I will be re-painting our beautiful cottage due to massive (the whole living area) soot damage. Grrr! No more fireplace to heat the cottage. By next winter, we hope to have passive underfloor heating in place.

A nice biomass digestor and a big water tank on a tower for extra pressure with a solar pump to get it up there and a solar geyser and a clean burning wood stove and...

It seems, we always choose the difficult route.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Spring Planting

So on this spring day, we stayed indoors due to vicious winds and occasional rain showers. Here I thought I'd be planting up a storm so I had several seedling trays all prepared and ready to rumble. Perhaps  the actual day doesn't matter because tomorrow is supposed to be less windy and more sunny.

So far, I have 12 pumpkins/ squashes, 4 tomatoes, 4 lettuces, 4 chillies and many other seeds planted. Waiting another week for aubergines. Last week was a nice warm one and it was up to 23 deg C in the wunnerful germination cupboard my slave built for me. It's made of brandering and wrapped in clear agricultural plastic (does it matter what kind?). It has a temperature gauge. Everything seems to be germinating on schedule which is a little disappointing as I am doing some soil tests and had hoped for quicker results.
Well the next thing to see is how strong those seedlings are in my special soil. If it works well, I'll reveal all!

Picture of the germination cupboard to follow.

The other thing which has kept us busy has been clearing a steep slope and "reclaiming" the area for growing with tyre terraces. There was a huge dump of tyres in town so we helped ourselves to as many as our car could carry every time we went in. Previously, we used the tyres only for potato stacks but this terrace system is looking very promising. Again pictures to follow...

So happy spring day and this year please try to grow your own tomatoes and basil. They cannot be beaten by any shop bought variety.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Growing Greener: First fig of the year.

Growing Greener: First fig of the year.

I love Daniel's quote from Margaret Mead.
And I have only trolled around for a few minutes and already learnt a lot. Thanks Daniel.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Over the last few days, I have been considering my value in the world. Sounds very deep but just think of it in a purely logical, practical way. There is no doubt in my mind that without humans, the world would be a better place. And in the cosmic sense, we are just a speck. But let's say that the species does somehow continue, then where would the value of each of us be?

Perhaps it's in the beauty and love we leave behind - not logical or practical at all! But perhaps that shows in our deeds and teaching how to help create a thing of beauty or how to love. A new plant grown, a story read when you don't have the time, an animal rescued or maybe just a real smile to someone you don't know. Very practical.

Ok- I give in. You decide for yourself.

Thank you to my partner of 20 years. I knew you the first time I saw you- a person of beauty and love.

Friday, August 3, 2012

See this recycling!

My clever husband has found a great way to recycle a piece of what we think is a boiler plate. Such a stunning piece of metal for a large clean wall. Stands proud of the wall on short pins and can be hung with the mirror at any point- top, bottom or side.

See his other stuff on

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Banned Nando's Advert

Stupid government! Invading our privacy. Can't they see we already know they are failing horribly. What democracy censors it's media?

A Day in Still Bay and the real Chicken Eater

For Jan's 50th birthday.
It was a beautiful day for a beach picnic. Would not have thought it was winter at all.

And this is my sad veggie garden in winter with the last 2 fat hens helping clean up snails. Just leeks, brocolli (broccoli /broccolli!), swiss chard, fennel, sage, chillies, coriander, parsley, gooseberries and the last of the peppers.
And these are the 5 new chicks. They are about 6-8 weeks old and also came from The Red Barn in George. I asked for a rooster but I think I have 2! What does a rooster mean? More chicks to increase our laying flock. And of course Jan says coq au vin after he has done his duty.

Jan says perhaps I should clarify who the Rotter is and then apologise to him/her. We have found very large prints of the Cape Clawless Otter on our driveway so we assumed he was stealing hens. They are renowned to eat hens and are big and quite ferocious by all accounts.
Well last night we think we found the real culprit- a wild cat. Not a feral cat but and actual African Wild Cat. It was so fast, I only saw a streak of white but Jan got a good look at it with it's tabby stripes and short tail. So nice to have a new family member. But all family members have to have a place and yours, little kitty, is not near my hens!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chicken will become a luxury

"However, large meat producers are warning that cheaper meats such as pork and chicken will become “luxuries” if Washington does not suspend a program enabling the energy industry to secure up to 40 percent of the US corn crop for ethanol production."

This excerpt was taken from an article about drought raging through the US.

It's funny how lots of things seem to happen at once which push us in a particular direction.
First the "Rotter" killed another hen and freaked another out so badly that she still isn't back to laying after 2 weeks. Max heard all the chaos from his bed and came to call us but by the time we got there, Rotter was gone and Annie was dead from a broken neck. Sweet little blonde Annie. Anyway, so as not to waste her precious life, we cleaned her and ate her in a curry. I am not really a meat-eater but I refuse to be a hypocrite about food. It was not quite how I thought we'd spend a Sunday night though!

A few days later, I was chatting with Sean ( and he was saying that he is the only one in his valley who slaughters his own food- and they slaughter all the meat they eat. All the local boere send their livestock off to the abbatoir. Very cruel but certainly the easy way out.

We have decided we will have to keep and slaughter our own broilers. Both Jan and I still have to get our heads around slaughtering a pig once we have too many of those.

I want Max to know that something died for his roast chicken dinner or his bacon. It is a profound thing to see an animal you have cared for (and naming them does not make them safe around here anymore), end up on your dinner plate. Death, as life, is not pretty but being involved in it's process makes one very happy to eat lentils! I don't miss the lentils, but I do miss Annie.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Organic farming is not an option but a necessity

This was an inspirational speech by the prime minister of Bhutan about how we must not say organic farming cannot be done for the masses but instead we must find ways to make it work. Please read it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Wwoofer help

Well we have had our first 4 wwoofers to help on the farm. We have been most fortunate to have had some very nice people come and stay.
The first young lady was just so special and I wish Erin absolute joy on the rest of her path. She sprinkles magic dust wherever she goes.

All 4 did very well for people with no real farming experience. We got a lot of garlic planted, a serious area of potato tyres done(thanks to Melissa) and some other veggies too. We temporarily tamed some of the kikuyu- hopefully our pigs will be ready soon. 3 I think.

We cleared some wattle- at least a good path to the spring and source of water to the cottage.

I have learnt that we cannot eat with the volunteers every night or get too involved in their lives. Maybe we are too soft but we all suffer parting anxiety- especially Max. It has taken a lot of reassurance that we are not all leaving. I guess at 5 things like this can be a bit confusing.

I found I put in a lot of work doing food and I thought I'd have more time to do the other stuff- like extra school and sorting out this half done house. I felt obliged to make sure the volunteers had a lot of variety in their food and it seems it was not expected (although they all appreciated it). In future, I will be allowing them (and me) to be more independent and to be responsible for their own well-being. After all they are all adults or they would not be here.
Look forward to some photos of the fruits of their labour.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The year from hell

I know I have been an awful blogger with few posts over the last many months. You cannot imagine all the garbage we have had to contend with- starting with rolling my Mum's car, bearings on mine, batteries, 4 wheel drive and other car stuff, through losing 3 (and tomorrow a 4th) beloved animals, financial woes with the rest of the world, bee stings gone allergic (weird!) and blah blah blah! It really has been just 1 thing after another and I am still without the ability to upload pics.

To solve the last problem, I will be hijacking the perpetrator's laptop so you can expect some pics soon.

We finally got Mum a new car after 7 months of hunting and a few drama moments along the way.
Our study of bee-keeping showed me I will have to be very careful when working with our soon to be hives as I had an allergic reaction I have never had before.
We will be acquiring some more laying hens and a new dog along the way although another animal cannot replace those lost. Cats we still have enough for now!
As for water supply, internet connection and huge electricity bills- the plans are along to resolve those too. (have you seen this great site Not to mention a giant SARS bill of which I knew nothing. Sadly, the 3 professionals I have paid since 1997 have not been at all professional. SARS does not care if you are receiving their letters of demand or if your accountant is. Ignorance means lots of penalties- not bliss! Eish!

We braved a 5 year old's birthday party the other day and told him to stop growing. He says bigger kids have better toys so- NO.

We have various Wwoofers arriving from May 3rd through to the end of July so we will have some help and some outside interaction (maybe a good thing or you can go a bit nuts with each other!) With the extra hands, we can begin some of the fun projects we have been putting off. Perhaps their help will allow me the time to sort out that financial demon too.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saving the planet

From the Seventh Generation dish washing liquid bottle's label:

"If every household in the US replaced just 1 bottle of 25oz petroleum-based dish washing liquid with our plant-derived product, we could save

86 000 barrels of oil - enough to heat & cool 4 900 US homes for a year!"

Now if only we had a dish washing product that works as well as this one- MADE IN SA! Imagine the miles I'd save. Eh Bernhard?!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fig pickles

My friendly neighbour gave me some green figs for jam- Granny is actually the jam & chutney queen- and I have made a pickle. It turned out so well, I thought others might like them too. I think this will go well with a cheeseboard.

15 medium figs (chop in halves or quarters)
1 medium onion (sliced finely and then in half)
1/2 a chilli (I used a whole one and it was HOT)
about 200ml sugar but add it slowly to taste
a small handful of dried currants ( but I will try sultanas next time)
half a cup of naturally fermented grape vinegar
5 all spice berries
5 cloves smashed together with the all spice
a large pinch of salt
a splash of olive oil

lightly fry the onions in the olive oil, put the lid on and sweat them until soft. Add half the sugar and stir to melt. Add the vinegar, salt and spices. Mix, then add the figs and currants. I had to add half a cup of water now. Cook until the figs are nearly soft. Taste and add more sugar if you like. Cook it slowly until most of the liquid has evaporated and it is a soft and sticky pickle.

Even husband who doesn't like figs or spicy food, liked it.
Now for those prickly pears he gave me...