Sunday, October 1, 2017

September: Ducklings, chicks, guinea pigs

In permaculture the late Toby Hemenway said that at a certain point your system "pops." And things get so much easier. I don't think we're popping just yet, but it is getting a lot easier this spring, as compared to last spring. Even though this past year has been a terrible drought year for Cape Town, the water retention in our soil due to many tons of manure (a goal of 14 tons/year, concentrated in particular areas of the food forest and garden) and hay has started to be noticeable. Don't get me wrong, the drought is really serious and is changing how we use water. But building the soil has meant things are not nearly as bad as they could be. We haven't irrigated at all for about four months, and our farm is lush and green. Even our veggie garden is giving us asparagus (which we are not eating... waiting another year), spinach, cabbage, a lot of peas, artichokes, and pepino melons without any watering. Ok, it's been winter and the rain is going to go completely soon over the hot and windy summer months. . So I shouldn't be too smug. I'm just hopeful. We're currently setting up drip irrigation from our reservoir to our annual garden, using hand pumps and a small water tank, so I'll take photos of that for October. Let's hope it'll be sorted by then, as we're going to need to start irrigating our vegetables in the next couple of weeks.

This month, Noah and Eli also went into the coffee business. They've been wanting to do something that would earn them a small income, and roasting organic beans is within their skill level. The Good Food Club (our food buying club) is still too small for bulk coffee orders, so making our own seems like a fun opportunity. We're still figuring it out-- given what I said last month about opportunities to earn money etc. Having the chance to have ownership is perhaps practice in giving, saving, spending-- so we'll see how it goes. They have a few things that they would like, and I think in some ways it's easier for them to prioritize and figure out their desires when they have a little more ownership.

We have had baboons raiding our property every day for the past two weeks or so. They are likely very hungry, and there are several large developments of gated communities going up right now. The southern peninsula is changing rapidly and we're hoping we have enough time to build our farm into a kind of oasis or something. Not to be wildly ambitious or anything... The baboons are quite a threat-- they can be very dangerous, and are actually entering our house-- this male is about Eli's size. Here, this guy managed to get all our bananas and pasta.

guess we were eating too much pasta anyway.
the kids (now including Hana) are out of the car and running to the beach faster than I can think.

Roasting coffee with a heat gun: this second hand heat gun has lasted us since 2012!
This little guy is an olive house snake. We encourage snakes on the property because the rats (including the mole rats!) are much worse, and most snakes are non-venomous and shy. 

to church!

This is my view in my container office. It's a tiny space, with my feet resting on bags of rock dust and surrounded by (too much) stuff. I love looking out and seeing the bananas, the tamarillo, our greywater reed bed, pomegranate.

We continue to be super grateful to Akim from Green Guerrillas, who is teaching Noah so much. This month he was part of the team vaccinating weaner pigs, and giving them their tattoos. He got to do one subcutaneous injection, and then another day got to cut up two pigs. 
In Boston we managed to find a second hand goggle and snorkel, that the kids are eager to try out, even though it's still too cold to really swim. 
So many of our ducks started sitting as soon as the weather got warmer. We've been trying to decrease the numbers of babies and combine flocks-- by eating eggs and giving moms chicken eggs (More on the chicken eggs, below). Still, we have thirteen baby ducks so far. 

We should probably have wondered why the chicken eggs under the ducks (we've occasionally put one or two in a clutch) have never hatched.  Actually, we did wonder, that's why we though we'd try just putting chicken eggs (no duck eggs), so the timing should work etc. We'd replaced two full clutches, when we discovered that the ducks actually kill the chicks and then eat them whenever they feel peckish. Uggh. We tried watching and immediately removing eggs when they started to hatch, but this was only partly successful. It was hard to watch all the time. Still, we managed to save 5 chicks, who are now living in our kitchen. One little bantam/silkie had lost a wing and been tossed far from the nest, but is a survivor. 
Newly hatched.
The world keeps giving us guinea pigs. We only have males now, so that we're not contributing to guinea pig overpopulation. These guys do roam a bit, but only in our vegetable garden, which is a lot safer than the property generally. The guinea pigs are a big part of Eli's life, and he spends a lot of time thinking about how to make their lives more fun.

Roaming by our bananas. I've planted quite a few bananas over the past couple of years, with mixed results. The cages help a lot with random things showing up and eating them down to the corm. Our climate is a little cool for bananas, so the hot compost pile helps keep the bananas warm. 

Peas! This is Hana's favourite September food.
Guilty: she picked all these secretly, before they were really ready for eating....

There are no tadpoles at Noordhoek Common! Evidence of the drought-- usually there'd be a lot of tadpoles by now.

Climbing Oak

This area would also usually be a little swamp-- the kids play as though the swamp is there, so it's noticeably absent this September.


We had two swarms of bees on our property within two days, which I think came from one of our hives splitting. The first swarm I was able to catch in a new box, but the second moved off before I could anything, as I didn't have a good box ready. (Interestingly, they rejected the box I did have, and all bees do-- they seem to know something is wrong with it!) So we currently have 3 hives plus one new empty hive my dad quickly bought, in the hopes we could catch the second swarm. Though our honey supply is not very good, I really loved getting this swarm, and love learning from my dad and seeing how calm and helpful Noah is in interacting with the bees.


Danny said...

Everything you're doing is so inspiring--both with the farm and with the kids. Thanks for writing about it, and for the beautiful photos!

The baboon thing seems like it would be really scary--we're discomfited enough to have mice eating all the pasta, and at least they try to be sneaky! How concerning does it feel for you guys, and is there anything you can do about them?

Concrete Gardener said...

Thank you so much Dan.

We're concerned about the baboon(s) (first it was three males, now it just seems to be the one who comes back every day). They're scared of snakes, and they know paint ball guns. So we're thinking of getting a paint ball gun or some other kind of loud gun type thing (not a real gun or even a pellet gun). And some rubber snakes. They usually come around breakfast time (7-9am) so I'm most concerned that Hana or Eli will be outside with the animals and will surprise the baboon-- trying to stay indoors until we hear from neighbours that he has moved through (or we've already seen him). He's really clever, despite having been named Donald by one of our neighbours.