Sunday, March 31, 2013

Soggy Easter Weekend

So the poor tourists to the Southern Cape have had a terrible weekend. I am so grateful to be home with a warm fire, wonderful family and great food.

We have had SO much rain that our driveway is now impassable except by 4x4. We had a "visit from the bunny"- well Max did and I find that extremely unfair. Granny bought hot cross buns for breakfast too.

And to keep us busy, we have played with lego, read stories, had great pasta with sauce made of our garden veggies and now I am listening to Simply Red and cooking the last of the pears- for tarts and as pear & date chutney. The house smells great.

I have happy dogs lying by the fire, happy cats lying cuddled in warm blankets and happy chickens tucked up in a warm tractor (after one was attacked by a hawk and lost all her tail feathers in the incident).

Tomorrow we will be moving Granny (eish in the rain!), baking rusks and bread and more of the above. Except it will be fig jam and making aprons.

I am so grateful for the abundance we have in our lives- from the love of my family, to the huge amount of veggies we get from a small garden, to the 3 eggs the hens laid today. I hope you will find some things to be grateful for too- however small they may be.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Chicken Tractor at work

We have already moved the chicken yard (but not the tractor) to a position beside it's first space. We found that even though we had clipped the hen's wings, they were still athletic enough to make it over the yard fence. We raised the sides and checked their wings.
We found the ramp which husband had made too steep for hen feet and claws so I added a longer, rougher plank propped up by the tyre.

I also, found the hens do not like being in the sun as much as I had thought. I had to put up several extra pieces of shade cloth or they would all crowd under the tractor in the shade. When we move them again- this time to fallow beds in the field- I will put up some small sheets of corrugated sheeting over the thick grassy areas I want them to mow. The shade will mean they will be happy to do so.

I have not had as many eggs as I thought I'd get (6 is the most from 11 layers and 4 is average each day) and after some research I decided I needed to up their feed. As I said before, they come out of their yard in the afternoons to free-range all over and the yard is around 12m x 3m. I really thought that would be big enough to keep them busy but it seems my hens are greedy for more! I bought in some layers' mash but also soaked some white beans, chopped them in the food processor and left them to dry. They did not like them until they were dry. In future, I will be growing enough beans, lentils & chickpeas for their needs and ours.

I also discovered that it is cheaper to buy mash and crushed maize for feed than to grow your own. Since almost all our maize in SA is GM, this is not going to be an option for me anyway. More mielies to plant! I think I will need 3 plantings of about 1/2 a hectare each to ensure enough quality maize for all to eat and for seed. Such a great crop to grow with so many uses. I think it will be a mix of Indian rainbow corn, Stowell's evergreen and a sweetcorn ( variety TBD).

And how about these for nice harvests. We think this is a small Lesotho Charlie but will never know since the seeds were handed down via several people. It was yummy though.

 And as for these sweet potatoes! This was the first of 2 this size along with around 10kgs of various others. We thought the big ones would be floury inside but they were lovely. Made the best roasted wedges.

Other than these we have had great lettuce, swiss chard, basil, Blue Peter beans,  Crimean Black tomatoes, yellow pear cocktail tomatoes and a bunch more. Such a wonderful thing to work with nature to grow your own food. I really believe everyone must try it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why meat with every dinner? Or why not.

I had a chat with an Afrikaans friend of mine yesterday and it was a reminder that not everyone thinks about food like me (ha ha).
People don't know where the Afrikaans tradition of meat with every meal comes from and not everyone knows why they shouldn't eat meat every day anymore.

We associate "Afrikaans" with "boer" and that probably comes from our country's history of most farmers being Afrikaans speaking. Most farms were mixed with many crops and animals as the product of the farm. Families were to a large degree, self-sustaining and you ate what you had. They had meat and so meat came up with every meal. My mother-in-law talks about breakfast on a Free State farm being an all meat affair- sausages, kidneys, bacon, steaks- and that is just breakfast!

So now a braai has come to mean only meat cooked on an open fire.
My friend said she had just thought about me not eating meat and couldn't imagine a meal without it as she always started with meat when planning her meals.

It got me thinking. Oh no, you cry! Well, think about it for yourself. We are no longer all farmers with all our food in our back garden so, it costs a lot in money terms to have meat with every dinner (let's not assume every meal).
It costs a lot in health terms too since most of the meat consumed is from a feed lot where the animals are pumped full of hormones, anti-biotics and other poisons. The animals live in such appalling and unnatural conditions that it is impossible to do it any other way. And that brings me to another point of my conscience. If you saw how these chops and steaks were treated before they arrive on your plate, your humanity would balk. If you can find free-range meat, it is more expensive than the feed lot stuff but worth it from many angles. "I can't afford it" you cry. Eat less, better quality meat, I say.

Then there is the use of water. I can't remember the exact number but I think it was about 20L of water is used to slaughter and process 1 chicken. Consider how many chickens your family eats in a year. Our conservative family eats a maximum of 24. That means 480L of water just for our family. How many do you eat? And your neighbour, and their neighbour? That's a lot of water in an arid country. And that is only chicken.

I could go forever on this topic and it is a very emotive subject and for an apparently intelligent species we do like to tell ourselves "real lies". So here is what I think. The world should eat a lot less meat. How about every second day for starters? And I can't believe that we are so lazy or non-creative that we can't come up with alternatives which our families will love. Try butternut and chickpea Thai curry or what about Jamie Oliver's caponata or a grand pizza with roasted veggies and pesto.

And do have a look at this link. It is eye-opening for the person who actually cares about their footprint on the planet. Please pass it on to those who are beginning to question their over-consumption too.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ringworm cure and other parasite solutions

With all the animals on the farm, there is always someone who needs doctoring.

Now that we only have 4 horses left on the farm, we will be learning how to best take care of them. The vet came over and gelded the yearling and I am so glad it is done.
He darted the most skittish horse with her anti-tick/worm etc muti so we wouldn't have to stress her by catching or sedating her. It was probably like a wasp sting. Beautiful Isabella let me put a halter on her and let Douglas inject her. What a trooper.
As for 6 week old Anastasia, we had to sedate her so we could clean her ears and give her a shot. I really hate what drugs to to creatures but already her ears look better and she seems to have fewer ticks too.
Thanks to Douglas Taylor from Riversdale Vet- how nice to work with such a professional with such a love for animals. Even horses.

Then Toby the rescue pup has warts on his lips. Yuch- they are really ugly! I have added vitamin c and b to his food, tissue salt combin 12 and fed him a little extra of the food I cook for the dogs (meat, rice and veggies). I tried rubbing a tiny amount of eucalyptus oil on the one furtherest on the outside of his lip but he obviously hated it and it made him froth horribly. Sorry Toby but that one has shrunk the fastest. They seem to be shrinking on their own though and the vet says they are nothing to worry about. and come from low immunity.

This weekend I'll be doctoring the hens and rooster as they all have the runs. Not sure if they have worms or they ate too many grapes today from the leftovers when we were harvesting for jelly. Some apple cider vinegar in their water, DE in their food and feathers and watch to see if it gets better by Sunday.

And on a more personal note, caring for animals can give humans parasites too. We de-worm ourselves twice each year with a homeopathic capsule. Bloody horrible if you had to chew it.
And then I got ringworm on my arm. Eish. I hunted the net and discovered it is a fungal thing not a worm after all. I searched for natural cures and eventually found an obscure reference for a small trial using tea tree or garlic. These I can do! So I crushed up a large garlic clove, put it on a plaster and stuck it over the ringworm. It burnt a little and must have burnt the fungus because it went funny, then a scab formed. I put a drop of tea tree oil on twice and it has vanished within 3 days. The scab fell off and now I am doctoring the small scar with rosehip oil. Wow! Aren't plants amazing? And we think we have all the answers for medicine. We know so little.