Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year. May this be a year of good things for you. I'm posting now because, well, I haven't seen in New Year in an embarrassingly long time. And 3:30pm seems as good a time as any to welcome 2015.

One purpose of the blog has been to keep track of the kids' growth. I took some time this afternoon to show the kids pictures from the past year, and they saw places they wanted to return to (Eli: I want to be back in Korea. RIGHT. NOW) and saw how they'd changed and grown. Actually, I'm not sure if they noticed but I liked the idea of it. 

We've gone almost a year without a car, and it is also heartening to note that we've had a lot of car-free adventures with the kids. Another purpose of this blog, as I see it, has been to think about how living without a car can/does work in Cape Town (for the annoyingly middle-class-- of course it has to work for tons of people, but perhaps the point is to change the middle-class norm), and I haven't done that enough this year. Next year, there'll be new challenges (living in the Deep South) so hopefully there'll be time to reflect on them. 

Anyway. Here are some recent pictures of Christmas. Christmas and New Year risk passing without too much change for us: Eug and I tend to work every day except Sunday. The main change has been that other people are more available to hang out, which has been awesome. 

On Christmas eve we discovered that a park on the way to Plumstead had a new installation! We stopped to let the kids try it out.  
Christmas eve-- playing outside. 

The kids wanted to pose next to a cactus pad I found (stole off a big cactus on the street).. to plant on a dry spot on our plot. I'm trying to diversify our food supply, and cactus seems to be both a security option, as well as a source of food. I wonder, though, if I can persuade myself to prepare and eat unfamiliar foods when we have nearby grocery stores stocked with familiar foods. I hope so! 

I realised I may not have shown you the Wonderbag (or have I?). It's been great-- like having a slowcooker. It basically keeps food warm (and continuing to cook). Great for beans, lentils, brown rice.

After moving all my plants over to my parent's house, or to the plot, I can't seem to stop myself from starting more plants on our dining table, which is outside these days. The sweet potato slips in the background are almost ready for planting, as are some of the pineapple tops, so I could clear some space for the next round of foraging. 
The joy of cold-stratified persimmon seeds coming up after just 3 days in the soil. Cold stratification seems to have made all the difference with persimmon seeds. I've previously struggled to get them to germinate, but I put these seeds in the fridge, then in wet rockwool in the freezer, and up they are popping. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Summer is in full swing and the kids are doing well, and Eug and I are gradually getting into a more relaxed daily routine. To make things work during my dissertation and DIY renovation we had to split the day with the kids and didn't get to spend much time altogether (unless cooking or cleaning frantically), so now it feels really good to have more time to think.
Art at the park
Trains pretty much all the time, everywhere...
Noah and junk mail. It's a thing. Tiny little cut-outs of everything, usually spread out in every room...
This is what happened when Eug asked Eli to pose. 
We recently went for a ride on the Wheel at the V&A Waterfront, as a Christmas gift for the kids. We used to go to the Waterfront a lot, but since we've been on bikes it became a difficult place to get to, especially during weekday traffic. Anyway, we braved the ride and it made the kids super-happy, even if it doesn't show in the pictures...

In other news, our house is on the market. You can check out what our house looks like now, here. Ok, so it never really looks remotely that clean in real life, but here's what it looked like 3 years ago. It's a bit like with the kids- I often don't notice the changes day-to-day, but then when I look back I can see that it's a pretty huge transformation. It's good to see how much has happened in three years.

We're still waiting for a few things to happen before we're allowed to build on our plot. We even had a bureaucratic problem related to our loft design being too small. We're thinking about dropping a container onto the plot to stay in until the house is finished. It will be a guest cottage for friends and family once we're in the house (did I mention you are welcome to visit?). It's hard to take pictures of the farm (and a lot of places) because I'm taking the train with the kids to get part of the way to the farm (and to the beach, etc), and having the camera would add a layer of stress to those trips.

I had to move our trees (that had been in tires and pots in our back area) down to our plot to make our house more presentable to buyers. My dad has been amazing about loading up their car with water and picking Eli, Noah and I up at the train station to head down to the plot once or twice a week. It's a very dry, hot time of year and since the plot is desert-like, it's a terrible time to start experimenting with permaculture. Right now I'll grow just about anything on there, just to add biomass to the sand. We'll worry about our edible yield soon enough. Acacia saligna or Port Jackson is one of the most hated invasives in South Africa, yet it's nitrogen fixing, and stabilizing parts of our plot where otherwise we'd be losing a lot of soil to wind. So I tend to think even invasives have their place, at least in this specific circumstance. I'm not focusing a lot of attention to pulling anything out-- when we move onto the plot hopefully we'll have a better sense of how everything fits together, and how we could grow more food.

Our new neighbour has muscovy ducks, who seem a super strong and healthy breed for both eggs and meat, for us as beginner farmers. A South African breed of chicken, the koekoek, is popular as mixed-use bird and apparently the muscovy will hatch out eggs for them. I get super-excited about plans like these, but probably it's a few months before we'll be able to manage to care for anything other than ourselves on the plot. First we have to organize access to water!

Granadilla cuttings- who knew you could do granadilla cuttings?! Granadillas do very well in Cape Town, so I'm hoping we can cover one fence with many of them.
So we are slowly working on the plot, and so far the trees have all survived the move. On the plot are 2 hanepoort grape vines, 4 (tiny) moringa trees, 1 tiny pawpaw, 1 pomegranate, 1 lemon and 1 peach tree some small avocados grown from seed, as well as a macadamia nut tree and a suffering citrus of some kind, that was already on the plot. At my parents' house they are keeping some of their trees in pots, ready to transplant in the winter once the trees are dormant (or close to dormant), and we know the plot a bit better. My dad is keeping grapes, peaches, apricot, plum, orange, pomegranates, lemon, and our blueberries, as well as a whole bunch of moringa seedlings, elderberry cuttings, and more. I think he gets worried when he sees me, in case I'm planning to dump yet more cuttings or seeds on him.