Saturday, August 9, 2014

Landing with a bump

Yes, I know. Almost a whole year without any posts. Well I have been a very busy girl. We moved amid a LOT of rain and some small dramas to start from scratch on our own new tiny farm. We live in a caravan and a shipping container (everybody say "Yeeha!") and have built 2 timber cabins. One is a bathroom since Jan didn't want to hear me complain about the wind howling and rain lashing at us while we showered and used the loo in our rustic shade cloth enclosed bathroom. We are a bit more settled now and have ironed out a lot of kinks. Ok, some kinks.

We moved our hens, cats & dog with us. Of course we'd never leave a family member behind! It was Max's & my journey to end all from Riversdale to Foxglove Farm. 1 cat tried to eat his way out of his wicker basket all the way. Another howled until about 30 minutes out – 2 ½ hours of howling cat. The other was stoic and just gave an occasional meow. When Helix finally gave up his howling, at about the point we hit the worst of the flooded roads and roadworks, the rooster took over and crowed the rest of the way. Max says my eyes were going around in their sockets. We laughed as crying hysterically would have been depressing.

Sadly, due to the neighbours not controlling their dogs and our lack of good fencing, I am left with 3 hens and no roosters right now. I never thought I'd say I miss his crowing but I really do. I bet Jan will say the same in a few days too.
I will start my new flock again once I have a chicken tractor in which they will be safe and can work the future food forest for us. Boschvelders for sure.

Our first major challenge has been water. We have 2 boreholes of almost unusable water. Full of iron and so acid as to pickle a frog overnight who tried to use my bath water as a pond. I cannot use it to wash hair as it feels like I have been at the beach for a year! Nor for clothes or anything involving soap. The reaction between the 2 is amazing to watch. The soap separates into lumps and the water becomes gluey on the dishes or clothes.
Of course no-one said anything about that when we bought the land so we promptly put a large tank at the top of the property to pump into. If I had known better, I'd have kept that tank at the living area to catch rain water from every surface. We have run out of water a few times and had to buy in drinking water. It makes one very conscious of how much you use. Strangely, it was the basin which used the most.

I have not managed to get much planting done even with help from a few volunteers. Too many other things have been in the way. Just day-to-day stuff is so much more difficult when you are off-grid, like hauling water from rain water buckets to a fire, just to wash dishes/ hair/ clothes. I am an expert at lighting fires in howling gales and am getting good at cooking bread on the braai in a light drizzle.

We have also been building- since last year! Can't live in a caravan forever and, boy, do I hate camping now.
It took a long time to find the right draughtsman to put my ideas into CAD, then even longer to persuade (and it was persuasion!) an engineer to take on the drawings. Lots of money too.
It took us a while to get started with the momentous task of digging the foundations, hauling a load of Readymix concrete (13 tons done by only the 2 of us!) and finally building the block work to hold the steel portal frame. And we missed the window to get the straw bales for the in-fill walls and so can only finish the building once the wheat straw is harvested around November.

All the other things still apply- animal care, schooling, volunteers/friends visiting, eating (imagine that!), shopping and would you believe, trying to make an income too. Eish!

I must still work out how many trees to plant to offset all the concrete but I think with the large orchard I must plant this month, I won't have a problem covering it. And August has to be planting month. The trees already have buds so I had better get on with it.

More info and details on this years' journey to follow and pictures when I can figure out which box in storage, has the cable to get them from my phone to the laptop.


  1. Oh - so good to hear from you again. I have often wondered how you were getting on,

    Sorry to hear your boreholes are dud - not nice at all.

    I also feel your camping year pain - we "camped" in a single room with two dogs for four months and that was bad enough. But - to go through winter in a caravan - with children - your a strong lady!!!

    So pleased you're back online - welcome back.

    1. Hey Dani. Yes the water is really a sorry thing. There are ways to partially fix it but nothing we have tried makes it into palatable drinking water. Can also throw the mineral balance out in the soil so I am not too happy to use it on the plants. More to follow as we try to solve it.

      Great to hear from you.

  2. Glad you are back...O boy what a start. But better that than struggling in the traffic and crime ridden city. cant what to see some pics and interested to see what fruit trees you can grow in your area.

    A hearty welcome back from us all at African Bliss.

    1. Hi African Bliss. Thanks and hope you can visit us soon