|The porch facing west-- our plot goes about halfway to the wooden fence in the distance (there's one 1/2 acre plot vacant next to us). On the right of this picture are three olive trees.|
|The metal part will be the house, then we also have a porch and a sunroom-type thing, framed in wood..|
|Stairs prepped for the spiral staircase.|
Both houses on the plot will be one bedroom cottages with lofts, so they don't take up a huge amount of space- less than 1/8 acre with some space between them for my parents' dogs to roam. Still, with a small pond (or the cement structure for a pool that came with the property), a few vegetable beds, as well as chickens and ducks, greywater systems, water storage tanks and medium-scale composting, the space gets used up pretty fast. Getting dairy animals does not seem to be a practical use of space, at least for now. So, despite my voracious appetite for goat care manuals, goat ownership fits in the "not in the next five years" category. While we could buy all or most of our animals' food, and therefore keep them in a smaller space, I'm not sure that's a great idea for us. The significant costs of land -- the costs of ownership and the cost of purchase, as well as the opportunity costs of not growing fruits and vegetables -- would also make those animal products extraordinarily expensive.
It seems like chickens, ducks (muscovies) and bees (and maybe fish-- tilapia) are a good use of space and well-suited to the cost and relatively poor current state of our land, as well as to the climate. The chickens and ducks will ultimately be able to roam free in the forest once the trees are mature (perhaps in five years' time). I'm still considering whether raising a couple of pigs every year for meat might be workable, if we can find a good butcher to help us.
Given the years it takes trees to grow and bear fruit, we've been focused on starting a food forest. The goal is to get as close to a self-sustaining forest as possible, with various layers of foods and support crops (most notably nitrogen fixers and stuff that quickly accumulates biomass for us to chop and drop onto the forest floor). Food forests are a bit of a fad, at least in the online world that I'm exposed to, often involving certification, designers, large earth moving equipment and surveying instruments to figure out how to catch water along contour. We don't have easy access to that stuff. So instead we're looking at the land as best we can and thinking of how to catch and retain water, increase the amount of biomass, and plant trees in an micro-environment that most suits them. When I am less pregnant, or Eug is less busy sanding and painting things, we will dig ditches by hand to catch water.
|Blackberries growing along the fence. The leaves look dry but they keep the soil below pretty moist.|
|Eureka lemon-- it had a tough summer but it's recovering well now.|
|Put in a fig today. It seems super hardy from a summer with very little rain in a concrete patch of my parents' yard, so I'm hopeful it'll survive.|
|All the heads from the pineapples eaten during the summer season are growing along our fence, about 20 in all.|
|Moringa-- starting to go dormant for the winter. I'm not yet sure whether moringa is going to be a success, but I'm hopeful. We have about 10 on the plot.|
Whew. So starting out is a slow and demanding process. But the goal is so exciting: an off-grid* home with a resilient and quite prolific food system that requires little outside water or other inputs. From a more abstract/idealistic perspective, I love the idea of leaving a piece of land in great condition, and of feeding our boys on food produced right where we live.
If you're trying permaculture here in Cape Town, or have some edible perennials in need of a home, please do let me know! We'd love your wisdom. And if you're the praying type, please could you pray that our builders do a great job, and we're able to move in and settle down before the baby comes.
*sortof- we'll be connected to the municipality's water supply for emergencies/drinking water.