Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Piles of raw wool (part 1)

This would probably best serve as a blog post once I've actually made something, but here's 54kg of dirty raw wool, which has been sitting outside for a long time before i got it so has twigs and leaves got pretty far into the bale.

Our first step has been to untie the bale and sort through the wool, finding parts that had foreign objects (difficult to get out, even with washing) and sections that were relatively clean. Of course, I chose to do this on our Good Food Club Market Day, where we're also dealing with 20 families' food for the month. It made a weird kind of sense because it's a day when none of us can do much else, anyway.

I used some of the dirtiest wool as mulch around a few trees. I am planning on trying to make a mattress topper with some of the other dirty wool, and on spending time with the kids (and maybe also Elona) dying and felting balls of wool for a carpet. The kids really enjoy working with the wool, provided I don't micromanage too much.

Trying to find some clean-ish wool

Aftermath of Good Food Club
When we took off the wire, the wool basically expanded to fill our entire house. I had to rapidly send a lot of it into the container without sorting, so that Noah's lungs weren't completely blocked up with wool dust.

Hana is unpacking the only bag of really nice wool. It's a strange experiment, but I've wanted to make some (larger) version of this carpet for years. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Short Drive, short walk to Admiral's Waterfall

As a child, the only reason I tolerated holiday hiking was for the chocolate that we got at the top. Sometimes even that was a bit of a disappointment (intrinsic rewards and all that).  My mom never came along, and I suspected she had the better deal.

These days, those feelings about hiking are compounded by a two-year old who likes to be held, and a five year old who hikes barefoot (yes, I've calculated how long we'd have if he got bitten by a Puff Adder), a seven year old who is a mountain goat, and a husband who has very similar feelings on hiking, and usually stays home and works when we go on adventures. Still, WE LIVE NEXT TO BEAUTIFUL MOUNTAINS!!! THESE MOUNTAINS ARE NEXT TO AMAZING OCEANS!! And there was this one magical (though super windy) walk this past April, with Eug's family visiting Cape Town, where one dear cousin would carry Eli any time he needed a ride. This gave me a hint of the beautiful possibility of hiking together.

Anyway, with that long preamble, I'm always looking for walks fulfilling the following criteria: short drives, short walks, and body of water to swim in. These are very important because I can't usually plan enough to have elaborate snacks, so the reward is always swimming in the water. The snack is always apples. Anyway, I'm lucky enough that there are a few options that actually fulfill all three stringent criteria. Including this walk up to Admiral's waterfall (all the details on getting there are on the awesome se7en blog. On this walk, we were finally able to find tadpoles doing well. I should have taken the Ergo but made the mistake of thinking Hana would walk. Also, I desperately need shoes, but seem to be making the transition to being barefoot, from sheer indecision over what shoes strike the right balance between different priorities (waste, comfort, fairly made, durability, cost, ability to protect your feet from snake venom...) So I'd recommend having an ergo for your toddler, and shoes for yourself. And chocolate.

Wait, I'm still writing? Sorry. Here are some pictures. Check out this walk. Drive as far up the mountain as possible before beginning.

Simonstown harbour- primarily a naval base

Narrow path and steep dropoff, but Noah and Eli were fine with it (Hana preferred being held)


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Wellpoint, electric pump, small harvests

This month we asked someone to dig a wellpoint for us. A wellpoint is not as deep or expensive as a borehole- it doesn't require special equipment to dig, and it costs about R3000 ($214) excluding pump, but it's only really possible in places where the water table is pretty high-- there's a lot of luck involved. I've been conflicted on a wellpoint, because I've felt it can be a route towards overusing water and depleting the water table. I also wasn't sure what to do about a pump, because our solar could not provide enough energy for a regular electric pump. In a world with limitless time and energy, I would have dug the wellpoint with the kids and added our handpump to get the water out-- physical labour, and refraining from using electricity, is a pretty brilliant defense against overuse and destruction. But back to our current reality of compromise: we paid someone to come and dig a wellpoint, and put in an electric pump connected to the municipal electricity outside our house. A concession involving fossil fuels, but a happy one. It isn't an excuse to waste water, but it seems to add resilience and to ultimately use our resources more wisely. With level 5B water restrictions in Cape Town, this was the way to keep our fruit and nut trees growing legally this season. Our wellpoint water tastes like it has iron and maybe some calcium in it, but otherwise seems pretty good. Our animals also like it.

Apart from decision-making around our trees (and I'm confident we could have kept them alive even without the wellpoint, it would have just been harder), I felt that our lives have been altered a lot less by the water crisis than most people. At work we currently only flush toilets occasionally; people are keeping their water in their bathtubs, reusing rainwater for laundry, and faithfully saving water in all kinds of different ways. I'm so impressed by these efforts; I've noticed a tone of survivalism but also of strain and restraint-- that people feel this is not normal and that it is difficult (making current water use levels unsustainable for the general public in the long term).

The drought is likely to end next winter, and I want to advocate that households develop systems that mean that the next drought will be less of a crisis. Not relatively expensive interventions, like wellpoints, but cheap ones: dry composting toilets (my #1 soapbox), setting up rainwater collection, and very slow flow hot water, all normalize lower water use.

In other news, we saw our resident tortoise again-- it's been about a year since we saw him last. We spend a few minutes together, then it went on its way. I do sometimes wonder if we could provide him with a girlfriend without interfering with nature too much (i.e. if there was a tortoise rescued after a fire, we're the closest thing to nature, Cape Nature!) Don't worry, we'd never take an animal out of the wild.

We also have 2 annoying freeloaders in the form of Egyptian geese. They're eating my tomatoes. They're eating our animal feed. But they're a bit beautiful too. So we're stuck simmering outrage that they're stealing our precious produce, but we're not serious enough farmers to take any drastic action. Okay, we're not taking any action, though Eug and Hana sometimes yell at them.


Potato harvest-- you can grow potatoes without any watering, growing in tires here in Cape Town-- at least this year, despite the drought, we could. 

acrobatics with auntie Kim.

Spot Noah

 Hana also had to climb.

early mornings at the beach.

early morning mussels!

View from the south of the western half of the farm, where we're starting the process of building a cottage for my parents. you can see the big hugel with all the cut branches of Acacia saligna in the middle - there are about 20 trees there, so I'm hoping the hugel will eventually be a good windbreak.

This year is our first year with blackberries.

We have a few apricots, but the birds seem to be getting to them.

Tiny curry tree...

loquat is growing.

Our other avocadoes have died, but we have this one, and it's pretty strong.

Our largest fig tree- Figs propagate really easily; right now we have 6 fig trees. In general, our trees are spaced close together so that we can see what thrives, even if we have to thin trees we should have more than enough fruit. Eventually. 
baby ducks were hit hard this month by a hungry predator. We lost several ducks, chicks, and two of our precious guinea pigs, despite them being shut in seemingly secure cages, with no clear hole or entrance point. We were thankfully selling quite a few ducklings and chicks, which I was more and more glad of that the worse the predation got. Our remaining guinea pig is living with us indoors in the evenings and night, and our chicks are in a cage within a cage at night. 

granadillas-- tons of flowers but no fruit setting as yet.

more potatoes. I'm so excited about potatoes right now...

baby rat. Why are they so irresistible?  

Guinea pig salad. Noah isn't generally highly involved in our daily cooking, but is constantly chopping up elaborate meals for our guinea pig. 

Spider woman and support staff.

Christmas clothes. Clean for a day. I think we may have worn them too early? Not sure if it's just Eug and I, or life on the farm, or the hippie laundry detergent, but we can never keep our clothes clean for long.
chameleon visitor: one of Eli's favourites 

view from my container office

I came into 54kg of raw wool. i dream of making an amazing carpet of felted wool balls, but am brought down to eartj by a jar of dirty mess that doesn' quite resemble a felt ball... nothing on youtube has this starting point...

chameleon returns home

baby white eye at breakfast.