Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 2016

What a month it has been, huh?

I think homesteading can get insular and isolated instead of expansive and connecting, but the point of what we're doing is not to have outrageously tasty or healthy food (I have the tastebuds and culinary discretion of a rock), but to find ways towards justice that start in the home, and even with my appetite-- my appetite for leisure and what constitutes a good life, and also my appetite for actual food. I dream about finding ways to go about our daily life that seem abundant rather than impoverishing or austere, yet are not dependent on vast supplies of money or natural resources. There are many problems with the world, of course, and our job is not to fix all of them, but it does seem important right now not to be complacent. Which is to say, homesteading is not some kind of advanced lifestyle design for us. I don't think it really makes us happier. It is not inherently easier, or even more satisfying, than focusing on other stuff. I still think it is quite an important way forward for people in our privileged (ie pretty rich) demographic. Sometimes it feels like we work towards equality just enough to stay super privileged, which annoys me no end because then we (to be clear, here I'm talking about me, not you) get to feel self-righteous AND privileged.

I read somewhere vaguely reputable that people tend to be kinder and less prejudiced in abundant communities, and that's been an important insight for me. When there's scarcity of resources (or perceived scarcity), we become more racist and more violent. This is not to give prejudice a free pass, but to say that my need for a fancy computer is not completely separate from someone's experience of violence in the township next to me. When I was 16, attending an international school, I learned deeply that we were all the same-- princes and refugee kids-- and that belief has stayed with me. Still, when I'm in settings with people who are different from me, now, it's harder to be innocent and open. So I'm trying to get back to open and humble when faced with really different perspectives on the world.

This month, we got a tiny rabbit, a baby guinea pig, and had a new set of ducks. 3 of our ducklings were killed by a ghenet-- horribly, 1 from a hole in the head, and two, seemingly from sheer fright. We have to balance the ducklings' freedom to roam with trying to protect the ducks from predation. At around 8 weeks, they're free ranging most of the day, and shut away at dusk and dawn, when it seems the predation is the worst. Losing ducklings creates a bit of a tension. It bothers me when we lose ducks. At the same time I feel more concretely that these ducks would be eaten by predators if not by us-- what we are engaged in is inherently different from nature, even as we try to give the ducks "natural" "free-ranging" abundant life. Still, when we hone in on our food needs-- on the calories best provided by animals given the constraints of time, money, land-- eating ducks makes sense. It makes sense differently over time. That is, as our farm provides more calories and I have more time to focus on growing vegetables, and the fruit and nut trees begin to bear, we may look at the few thousand calories provided by ducks every month as less justifiable (or we may be more comfortable with the process by then). I don't know.

Drip Irrigation

We are in Level 3 water restrictions this year. We're in year 2 of a pretty bad drought. It's very serious, and no use of hoses is allowed. So we were faced with difficult choices about our trees. I've invested a lot of time and energy into planting trees, and though we've lost a couple to mole rats, in general this is the year where the trees could really grow and get established.

Our overall water use is not very high, but the labour required to keep the trees watered this year was getting too much for me... add to that the water restrictions and it was time to prioritize drip irrigation. I've been hesitant about drip irrigation... scared about the unknown I guess. But when Eug said it was time, I went to the agricultural supply store in Phillippi (where many of our Cape Town vegetables come from) and got 100m of irrigation pipe, and then 100m more, plus 140m of narrow pipes to feed the individual trees. It has been a big job, but not as expensive as I'd expect (100m of pipe costs about R290, or $21), and the whole job came in under R1000. As with everything, it was a lot of work. I really hope it's worth it.

In permaculture a lot of people seem to be all about water harvesting and mulching, and my experience so far is that mulching is wonderful, and water harvesting can be helpful (ditches and contour and that) but in a dry climate, having a plan to help trees to get some sort of growth is critical, as they're pretty vulnerable when they're little. The port jackson is great as a wind break, but still, water is much more important than I initially thought. So if you're starting out in a climate like ours, think carefully about water! Even if some trees can survive, fruit trees are a lot of effort and cost to plant and hope that a few are tough enough to survive.

They don't get to go in the reservoir very often, but love it when they do!!

pet snail. very loved until Eli slipped it into my bag for me to carry, and i later reached in, snd... crunch...

Rescue bunny-- we got a rescue bunny from drama class. 

Each evening 2 lucky ducklings get to go on the hunt in our house. We tried bringing in all ten but then it was just a mess of poop and ducklings. So we've settled on 2. Ducklings are really good at catching flies. As they get bigger they get a bit slower, and gradually lazier...

Noah learned to ride like a pro this month, with his new-to-him bike

A rain spider tried to get into our house. Huge but not venomous.

a visit to the wonderful shark museum in Kalk Bay included a stop for ice cream. We got a personalised tour, so I felt too self-conscious to take pictures inside. Although it is just a converted house, the attention the kids received from a shark conservationist was remarkable and valued. And it's free and open to the public from 2-4pm.
The kids have done a couple of pottery lessons with a local teacher in Faerie Knowe. 

Noah has gotten really great at lighting fires...

Ducklings are on the move, and have grown really large. Not large enough to eat, but getting there.

This is the new strategy for helping young plants survive the ducks and moles. This is a dragonfruit...

Made a cuddle swing by tying some stretchy fabric around a table. The kids (well, the boys) haven't been doing great emotionally, so we're trying to help them and not go crazy ourselves. That's the short version.

9 brand new baby ducks at a few hours old... So far our new strategy for keeping the ducks alive is working, and all nine are still alive two weeks later. We have two enclosures-- one small A-frame enclosure for newborn ducklings and their mom; then a much larger enclosure for slightly older ducklings. Basically ducklings stay in there until they are forced out by a new round of babies. We are trying to have hatchlings every month or so, allowing us to sell the females and eat about one male duck every week. From a trying-to-break-even perspective, this approach ends up making our meat calories "free". If you don't count the costs of our own labor, or building cages and such... so not really free but maybe affordable after a year or two.

The boys love the Imhoff Snake Park. I find it a little expensive, but I guess it's pretty expensive to keep so many snakes alive...Here's a mole snake. I like knowing kinds of snakes a lot better than a year ago, thanks to Noah. I feel confident that if we meet a venomous snake on the property (there are just 3 kinds) I'll recognize it and be able to stay calm. Last time I met a huge mole snake (non-venomous, but very very large) I yelped and ran screaming away.

By the end of the month, fuzzy the bunny was much bigger and it was time for a new meet and greet (we're removing the baby rabbit soon-- rabbits and guinea pigs can't live together safely long term)

Here's who joined us yesterday: Little One. The thing that helps the kids calm down the most is watching guinea pig videos: people training guinea pigs, giving guinea pigs treats, grooming them, and so on. I'm so happy that Golden has a friend again.