Thursday, December 15, 2016

Volunteers working hard

Margot et Anthony (French) and Jan playing soccer in the beautiful  light. Max and the 2 dogs are on the sidelines.

Champagne for my birthday braai and a game to cheer on. Another Tough day in Africa.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Compost heaps in place and potatoes

I have been trying to find ways to be more efficient in my work. The distance from my main compost heap in the food forest to my small seed garden is about 50m.  It seems silly to pull out weeds from the seed garden and wheel them all the way down only to bring it all the way back up the hill once it's ready as compost.
So here's my solution so far. I clear a bed and build a small square compost heap at one end with all the right layers- green - brown- manure- urine etc. I leave it about a week to get started, all the while collecting more composting materials.

Next I put my seed potatoes on top of the flattened pile.

I put a big scoop of readymade compost on each potato. Then I build the next few layers of the heap over the top ending with a thin layer of grass cuttings or hessian. Water next of course.
I keep watering every 2 days and as the leaves emerge, add more layers of dry grass cuttings- more as mulch than anything else. Probably wood shavings or leaf litter would be fine too. Do this every time the leaves grow out a bit more just leaving the top few exposed. Stop the process when the heap is thigh high or when you think the plant is at its peak. Just guess. It's not science, it's an experiment.

My experiment is not complete yet as the original bed is not quite ready to harvest. I will update when it's done in a few weeks.
Potatoes grow new roots which become tubers at each stem node which is underground.  In theory, if you keep building up vertically, the plant will have clusters of potatoes growing all the way up the stem where it's covered. It works well in a tyre stack so why not like this too.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Transplanting sweet red onions

Yesterday the moon was in the perfect position to plant. I quickly transplanted a patch of sweet Red Creole onion seedlings. These sell in the shops for R26-45/ kg. Ridiculous if you consider they grow just as well as any other onion. Best grow your own. I will probably sow wild rocket or coriander seeds in between the onions in a couple of weeks.  Double the harvest from this small bed.

Night time temperatures have still not been in the double digits consistently yet. This means no seeds in the ground yet. Best to stick to trays for another few weeks until it warms up properly.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Spring garlic

A small harvest but hopefully enough for a year. Not enough for seed though...

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Food forest- phase 2

On the right is what it looked like before the chickens went in. See the left for how they cleared it. They ate and scratched all except the kikuyu roots. Time to move them to the next piece on the right. And plant the left side! Hooray for planting season!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

First summer dinner

For all those volunteers coming this summer, here is a taste of what you may eat. My favourite kind of food.

Mixed salad of lettuce, tomatoes, olives and sunflower seeds.
Slaw of cabbage, sour apple and radish dressed with lime and ginger.
Chickpea and brocolli salad with creamy garlic dressing.
Fresh homemade bread.

And since it's only 12 degrees outside  And probably too early for this cold food- sweet potato chips (fries)!

Hooray for August because spring is coming!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Learning to live self-sufficiently

People often tell me that they wouldn't know where to start if they had to live as we do. We didn't either.  It's been progressive learning. Some was conscious and most was learnt on the fly out of necessity.

I think you have to change habits one by one until they are your new normal. Small things. Take water saving. When we moved here and had to re-use every drop of water, we soon discovered that our wash basin took about 50L a day. A real shocker. Its because of the work we do- in the garden/ workshop /chicken yard. No-one thinks twice about washing their hands and I am not saying we shouldn't,  just that we should reroute the water.
If you pour a glass of water- drink it all! Don't throw half down the drain.
Use a glass of water to brush your teeth not a running tap.
Save the water from boiling eggs/potatoes etc for your compost heap or just in the garden. It's still water.

Jan says since cold air sinks, you lose 30% of the cold air in your fridge as you stand gazing and trying to remember what you opened it for. Put everything in the same place so you dont have to hunt. Your fridge will work less and therefore use less energy.

Max says he has learnt to turn off lights every time you leave a room. Even if you think you are coming back.

Maybe I think too much about the cost of everything. Not the price but the total cost. We are really trying to use more local products and support small businesses.
We mostly eat locally grown barley instead of imported rice. Cost vs price.
Jan is a meat eater and we source meat from small local producers or go without. I realise that for some people that is too extreme but it makes meat eating a fabulous pleasure for him.

I guess conscious living is what I am suggesting.  If you think of each thing you do in a day, you'll find habits to change. Start with the easy stuff or you may give up too soon.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

First straw bales!

Just test setting and making the small bales to fit into small gaps. Phew. We have begun.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Homemade custard

Jan made custard from scatch. The free range eggs from our hens are so yellow that it looks like there's colouring in the custard.

500ml milk ( nice to use 50ml of cream too)
1 vanilla pod - split
4 eggs yolks only
2 level teaspoons of Cornflour
2 heaped tablespoons sugar

Simmer vanilla pod in the milk. Remove the pod once hot. Beat cornflour, eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the milk slowly to the eggs stirring as you go. Return to pan over low heat and stir until thickened.

It went over nutmeg and cinnamon stewed apples.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Abundance in the gatden

These christophene (chou chou) and limes came from 1 tree/plant in a friends garden. I think this is the red batch of lines and the tree is still full. It is about 1.8m tell and only a few years old.
The Christopher plant is a come and has run rampant through their garden. Probably around 100 fruit still on the plant.
So dinner tonight has christophene salad- thinly sliced like cucumber and dressed with lime, salt and olive oil.

Plant some!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Doggie bed

My 2 girls needed a carry- inside bed. My solution is a feed bad stuffed with shavings from a local workshop and of course a cuddly blanket. Shavings can be easily changed and the old ones dumped on the compost heap. I tacked the bags closed with a large darning needle and thick cotton. Lucky dogs!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Jerusalem artichokes

Such abundance! So easy to grow with so many uses- from early season windbreak to wonder warming food for humans and animals.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Indian rainbow corn seed harvest

I planted a small square of Indian rainbow corn to see how late I could plant. That was in February. I harvested the ears a few days ago and was pleasantly surprised by how well they did. I took them off the plants too early but the birds were attacking them and every day it seemed like more arrived.

Such a pretty food! They are sweeter than white mielies and very starchy. I love eating them. I think the Capie prefers sweetcorn. I am going to try grinding them when they are dry. Polenta or porridge. Keep you informed...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cluster of cats

They know there's a big storm coming tonight and are planning ahead. Batten down the hatches for 13m/sec wind with rain!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A little more building

It's like pulling teeth. I am hoping that there is a last jerk where it all happens at once and is finished. Like pulling a tooth...

Great article about having a real life