Saturday, March 19, 2016

March farming (looks like parenting)

We had our first good rain last night. It was brief, but it spells the beginning of the end of this long, dry summer. We've had unprecedented drought across the country. The Rand has crashed (that's due to a bunch of other things), making imports very expensive, but this year we're having to buy billions of rands worth of maize and wheat. Groceries are expected to cost about 30% more this year. And some stuff is just not on the shelves: Nutella, for example. Not that I would ever buy Nutella, of course. hehe. But in the midst of lopsided shortages and changing expenses, it also feels wrong that here we are all deeply dependent for our daily basic foods-- not interdependent but dependent-- on decisions and actions made in offices far away. The problems of growing enough food, and making it available, definitely feels a closer, more intimate issue this year as we admit to ourselves that growing stuff takes time, effort and even some money. 

Reading about what people are doing in response to food being ultra-processed, or exploitative, or GMO, can be challenging or annoying to me. Maybe it depends on how much I am the intended audience. I don't really like reading these things where you grow all your vegetables for a year in a tiny little space and it's so easy bla bla bla. I've tried-- it's not that easy if you don't have much space. I also don't like people growing all their calories on their tiny urban farm, even though I'd love to do that-- I've looked at it a lot of different ways and I don't see that as a worthy, attainable goal. I think it's much better to be inter-dependent. But I also have to be a bit cautious about underselling our life because I'm trying to be authentic. Our tentative, first year attempts suggest that farming is a lot of work but I do think a lot of stuff we read about does work. In our experience mulching is very good. bringing in a lot of leaves works. Muscovy ducks really do gain lots of weight quickly, just by foraging. Which is to say, it's a lot of physical labour and we don't have enough time to do a bunch of things we really would like to, but it's stuff you can learn about and troubleshoot, with a healthy dose of luck thrown in. One tiny bit of rain and now I'm getting all cocky, hey. I just mean it's hard but you can do it. And I do think we can make our farm much, much more drought resistant, resilient, (and beautiful) than these ridiculously large commercial farms big corporations (and governments- at least the SA one) are constantly pushing for.

In all this, Eug and I are mainly just managing the push and pull of working and caring for the kids. I remain really grateful for everything we have, even when it's too much.

guinea pigs had the least awesome life on our farm until this week, living under the table in the sunroom. This week, Eug had the idea to tractor them around using the wire top of their old cage. They're able to run around on the grass and seem to love that.

Eug and the kids made a treehouse out of some wood we had lying around. We gave the kids Eug's cell phone to listen to radio using headphones. Old school.  

Below, our humanure compost and banana palm are doing pretty well. And pecky is pretty happy too. 

Menacing chickens. No they have not grown on me. Yes I do love them.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Ducks,chickens and other ill-advised decisions.

We now have chickens and a second beehive. We're lucky to have the Green Guerrillas  just two doors down from us (and bordering our back fence), so we got some pork from them. We know the pigs in the adjoining property are treated truly well, and slaughtered quickly and professionally. So anyway, back to the chickens. In addition to some pork, Akim was selling 19week laying hens, and one thing led to another....

I was pretty keen on getting ducks only. But I'm also pretty keen on using our property to the best of our ability, as quickly as possible given the pressing need for land even out here in the southern-most tip of Cape Town. I can't physically manage the number of fruit trees and vegetables we'd need to use the property to its full capacity. The ducks are going to take a while to lay, as they lay later. So, chickens. A second swarm of bees inhabited our second hive, through no effort on our part. Despite trying to be sensitive to the limitations of our time and energy, we find ourselves with an awfully long to-do list. More things to think about than we have time. So we're trying to decide which balls to drop. Which is to say, some balls will drop in favour of sanity, and hopefully they won't be too important.
worms, lots of them. Our worm farm is pretty huge, but now that we have ducks and chickens we don't have as much to feed them. Eli loves picking out the soldier fly larvae to feed the worms, and getting the worms out before we use the compost.

Guinea pigs-- the barrier (under our table) is only a few cm high, but they don't hop out. They're a little bit timid.

Sack race.

A few chameleons, here and there. 

Seaweed for the ducks and the trees..

By mistake Hana's first food was a pear.

so many mice. 

Eug said he was going for mafia but noone would stand still and look serious.

proteas in bloom on our property.

chicken house. For extra cred (and, like, trying to do it without any money), Eug built it from the leftover wood that even the people who took our wooden cottages left behind. 
surrounded the verandah with pots and tyres to try to stop the ducks from pooping in our house..
Boschvelder hens. A good dual purpose free-ranging bird for South Africa. But, stuck in their pen for the week before being allowed to free-range, they are not my favourite. they're like feathered mini dinosaurs. 

Yeah. Muscovies are awesome.