Sunday, July 26, 2009

Growing up....ways to make more space.

Today you would think it was spring here in Cape is warm and we made hay while the sun shines. So it was onwards and upwards with our plan to take our growing efforts from horizontal only to vertical too.

My wonderful mum is here for a couple of days and it's always so good to have her help me in the garden. There are very few woman I can talk to about the feeling of working in the rich soft earth and the smell of compost, without their eyes glazing over...and my mom is one of the few who love all the smells (and the work) involved in gardening.

The rest of my family was roped in to the work too...our little guy picked gooseberries, peas and was the water fetcher for us.

Our older son finished the raised beds, drained and tidied the wormery and cleaned the coop.

Our two girls restacked the wood pile, put Bounce Back through the garden, picked up all the bits and bobs lying around and then made us lunch.

In the meantime, hubby dear (who from this day forward is known as Superman) hung my hanging baskets.

I have nine hanging baskets which he has put on an extension wire so that they hang lower which makes it easier to work with. I have planted our propogated strawberries from last years plants into them. These hang from the pergola outside my kitchen.

Then Superman put up my two wall baskets, also for strawberries. If these work then we will add some more all along the wall inside the veggie garden. I am hoping that the flowers will attract pollinators to my veggie patch.

Then my mom and I sorted out my herb garden. I have tried various places for it, and now have decided to give over the two beds closest to my kitchen to herbs.

So in these two beds and the pots around I have:

Bloody Sorrel

We also planted some flowers in the pots and among my veggies - shade has streptocarcus and primula, and sun has Marigolds, Pansies and Calendula. This is for bees and butterflies but also for companions. I also added a pin cushion protea to the raised be which the bees love.

Like I said...making hay while the sun shines!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Visitors to my garden

One of the things about organic gardening is encouraging wildlife.

They help keep the pests in check and offer their services free of charge.

I think the added benefit is to stand and marvel at the Creator, Father God, as we look on His majesty through creation.

This week I have noticed an increase in White Eyes. They eat aphids off my tomato plants and other little insects. Their delightful tweets can be heard early morning.

We also found a Cape Dwarf Chameleon on our granadilla vine...amazing creatures that can make me stand for hours and watch them go on their slow jerky way.

And this morning, we were woken to the honking of two Egyptian Geese on our roof.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What's soaking?

One of the things that I have implemented over the last few months is using lots more legumes in my cooking. While we eat organic meat only, we do enjoy vegetarian meals and legumes give us great variety in our meals. Legumes are also way cheaper to use than animal protein.

I started with using canned precooked beans and other legumes. I found it took some planning to learn to soak my legumes in advance so that I was not caught dinnerless.
I have also found that overnight soaking is not sufficient...I soak mine for three days - two out on a counter and one overnight in the fridge. I change the water once or twice a day as well.

Black beans soaking which find their way into bean burritos, bean chilli or frijoles.

Chickpeas soaking which go into chickpea stew & humus (which we eat a lot of).

A friend of mine has also blessed me with a keffir plant. This is used for making youghurt which is full of probiotics and good things for the digestive tract.

You simply put it in 500ml organic unpasterized milk and allow it to stand at room temperature for up to three days until it thickens.

Thereafter you can sieve it through a clothe and it makes the most yummy yoghurt for morning muesli!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Winter jobs in the garden

With the warm sun today, even though it is mid winter we all had a hundred things to do in the garden.

My husband (being the great guy that he is) started my tripods. There will be four of them in Area 2 which is going to be my rambling jungle.

My older son started adding the next layer of wood to our raised bed in anticipation of all the compost that we will dig in in August to prepare for Spring plantings.

I got the yucky stuff to do - weeding! I weeded out two buckets of weeds which went to the chickens to pick through.

Then I banked the potatoes which are looking strong!

I stood around a bit and enjoyed my cabbages :-)

Then I pulled out spent tomato plants and peas plants. I then staked those that were left. I cleaned out two beds and added Volcanic Rock Dust to them. Then I stood around for a bit more and enjoyed watching the chickens take their sandbath!

Then it was 11 o'clock and my older daughter wanted to horse ride. So she made me some food (I forgot breakfast) and that put an end to my gardening endeavours...and standing around!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Indulging our sweet tooth

My oven and stove top do some serious cooking to provide nutritionally valuable food. We do bake weekly treats but they tend to be healthy things to snack on.

But I do have an huge sweet tooth and when my younger daughter found a recipe for mini choc eclairs we decided to give it a go!

I haven't made a choux pastry since my matric home economics practical exam...and it worked so well.

She stuffed the pastry with whipped cream and topped them with melted chocolate...what a pudding! My sweet tooth is definately satisfied today.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Time to plan...

The last two days have been spent travelling to and from Sutherland...the coldest place in South Africa (this morning the temp was -3 deg C at 8.30) and where the largest telescope in the Souther Hemisphere can be found. There was a dripping tap in the parking lot which had frozen into an icicle.

Well all that driving gave me time to plan. I took along my Jane's Delicious Garden with a view to understand her jungle vertical style. (See: and then I planned what we need to implement it. We are going to do the gum pole ones.

The area below grew sweet and regular potatoes last summer but really could be put to much more use. It doesn't do well in winter as the house casts too much shade over the area. At the bottom where we do get sun are a few cabbages, that is it.

So the plan is to put in 4 teepees and grow jungle style there. Also to add 4 - 6 wall mounted pots to grow strawberries in.

I made my shopping list and tomorrow we go shopping!! We will build the teepees and install the wall pots over the next few weeks in preparation for Spring.

Tonight I went out to see what we had. 5 chillies and some salad, snow peas and yellow tomatoes.

Spose that's better than nothing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cinnamon scrolls

Today I made bread by hand instead of using my machine. This meant I had to heat the oven and I don't like to heat it up for only one thing. My daughter requested cinnamon scrolls for a snack so we made them too.

This recipe comes from Linda Cockburn's book "Living the Good Life".

Make the dough with 500g plain flour, 2 teaspoons yeast, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, about 1 cup of warm water.

In a bowl put two tablespoons of butter and brown sugar and cinnamon. Melt it in the microwave or in a pot on the stove.

When the dough has risen to twice it's size roll it out into a square about 1cm thick. Smear it with the butter mixture.

Roll it up into a sausage

Cut sections off to make little rounds and place on a greased baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes at 180 deg C. Then spoon over a mixture of water and icing sugar...note in this picture that there are two missing! My daughter and I couldn't wait! :-)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Winter Lemon Pudding

I used 4 lemons tonight for this yummy winter pudding...

Mix together 125g butter and 125ml sugar (I used Xylitol) until creamed.
Add 2 eggs one at a time, beat well.
Add 250ml self raising flour
Fold in 10ml lemon zest.

Grease a 1.5 litre oven dish and pour the batter into it.

Then mix together 30ml lemon juice with 125ml sugar (Xylitol) and 30ml cornflour.
Pour in 200ml boiling water and mix.

Pour this over the batter and bake at 180 deg Celsius for 30 minutes.

The cake part moves to the top and a gooyey sauce develops underneath...yummy!

A simple blessing

I often marvel at God's wisdom in His creation. During winter when colds and flu are more prevalent, He arranged to have the fruits rich in Vitamen C available to us.

I use a lot of lemons in cooking. We also love fresh fish with a lemon butter basting.

On Friday my husband fetched our two older children from an evening party. He noticed my friends tree was heavily laden with lemons. He kindly brought some home for us.

I am going to use some for Lemon Curd...a kickback from my childhood when my granny used to visit and make this delicious treat. I also will use some to make an upside down lemon pudding and lemonade. Maybe I will post those recipes later.

Maggot and beetle soup....anyone?

I have shared before about my wasteful ways that I have been addressing over the last year. I have made it a habit to use up left overs in different ways in an effort to be more frugal and to throw away less.

Today I had 2 cups of black beans that were left from a previous meal and about 3 cups of brown rice. These were transformed into a delicious Mexican soup with onion, cumin, chilli and veggie stock.

While my children said it looked like beetle and maggot soup (inspired by the movie Flushed Away) we all enjoyed it with fresh avo and coriander.

I also had one packet of tortillas which I turned into quesadillas to go with the meal...yummy winter food.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I know scrambled egg is a well known breakfast in every household so this is truly not a recipe...just an encouragement for some who sit on the fence about keeping urban chickens.

Our girls give us between 2 and 4 eggs a day in winter, 4 a day in summer. They are really fresh - the albumen is firm and the yolk sits high in it and is bright orange. This indicates a healthy chicken, getting lots of Omega 3 and iron from a natural diet.

Egg shells that are not needed in the wormery or compost are washed and crushed in a mortar and pestle weekly and given back to the chickens with their morning feed.

This photo is blurry, not because of my amateur photography skills, but because their heads are moving so fast to get their food.

We enjoy scrambled egg (usign about 12 eggs) once a week. Look at the color of it...very different from the pale yellow of shop bought eggs.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Things I want to learn to do

I have had a time of introspection today thinking about things I still want to learn to do over the next few years...note - YEARS!

Learn to knit with natural fibres.
Learn to make my own soap.
Learn to make herbal teas (and get off coffee :-))
Perfect my white bread.
Learn how solar panels work.
Learn to have a four seasons harvest.

Do you think that's enough yet?

There are so many things that take my time that each of these skills seem like a huge thing for me to do...but that's why I have no set date or goal...just sometime!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Winter's day

Today we had a lovely walk from a friends small holding. My oldest rode and my youngest biked...I just had to hoof it to keep up. Here are some piccies we took.

Winter trees

Spider webs like lace on the grass

Clover the calf, who is being weaned and bellows for her mom.

Beetle, the beloved.

On the way back I stopped in to collect post and to my delight my winter reading has arrived...Jane's Delicious Garden (another urban veggie grower) and my all time favourite book that I tried to bribe a friend to keep cos it was out of print...but is no longer Living The Good Life...can't wait for bedtime to snuggle up and read!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Winter chores in the garden

July has come and with it bitterly cold evenings and some major rain and wind. But for the last two days we have had warm days. This morning we got stuck into the garden and did the following:

Turned the two compost heaps - it was so delightful to see the steam rising from the centre. This means that the microbes are doing their thing and breaking down the leaves and grass. We should have great compost by the time summer comes.

Pulled out spent chilli and pepper plants - I also decided to see if I can get the storingest of these to produce again next season. I cut them right back, fed them with volcanic rock dust and repositioned them.

Cleaned out the coop - The chooks roosting pole has a large depost of poop which we scraped out and added to the compost - this speeds up the compost process. We gave them new straw in their tyres and scrubbed water feeders.

Seperated onions - when we planted the onion seeds we did them too close. We replanted these.

Sorted out the wormery - the layers needed to be turned and swapped.

Harvest - Took anything that could find it's way into a salad. This was lettuce leaves, lovely little yellow tear drop tomatoes, snow peas and green pepper.

We made a list of the things to get to for winter:

Horse manure
Broad beans
Spinach seedlings (I lost my entire batch of home seeded organic spinach to my chickens who snuck into the garden one day when we weren't looking)
Potting soil

Now my back is sore!

Here is a picture of the garden at the moment. It looks rather sad to me, but I will choose to embrace the season and look eagerly forward to Spring!