Friday, September 30, 2011

SEEDLINGS AND SOIL


Nasturtiums all over the garden

I think it is time for some more green tips.

The most important thing in any garden it the quality of your soil.

In order to make good soil you need 3 things, namely cow/horse manure or wormy cast (more about this just now) soil and sand, one part of each, mix well and use. This is great for planting seedlings and replanting just about everything.

If you however want the perfect soil, start a worm farm or two.

The worm farm, as I think I said before, is not exactly a farm full of worms, but something the size of a bath tub or big drum. You feed all you leftover kitchen waste (accept for onions and citrus) to the worms. The worms do not actually eat the leftovers, but that is another story, the fact is the whole process that happens on this “farm” creates perfect soil. Okay, now you have a tub full of worms and perfect soil, how to separate the soil from the worms? Put down a plastic sheet, now you take the soil (with worms and all) from the worm farm and put it in piles on the plastic. The earthworms hate the sun, so they will always go the bottom of the pile. You just harvest the soil from the top and put the worms back in the farm.


I do understand that you can also buy a ready to use worm farm on the internet - 
http://www.worm-farm.co.za/?gclid=CM76yoq3xasCFYUKfAodyXGn2w

The idea is then to replace the manure in your potting soil with this wormy cast. You can also boost your plants by throwing a handful (or so, depending on the size of the plant) around any plant and then watering it.

I feel generous, so here are a few more -

Even wondered exactly how deep or shallow to plant your seeds? Here is a very good guide line; the size of the seed + ½ will be the right dept.



Some of the first seedling

Some plants do well when planted directly into the soil and others grow better if you make seedlings first. Carrots are a bit of a headache, the seeds are very small, so it should be better to make seedlings first, but they do not transplant well, so I came up with the following plan – you plant the seeds in old egg containers and when the seedling are a bit bigger you plant them box and all.  This also helps to space them better otherwise you end up with clusters of odd shaped carrots. Just remember to make holes at the bottom of the cardboard. I am either going to have an overdose of carrots or none at all, will have to wait and see, but I think it will work.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

PICTURE PRETTY


It is new moon, which is time for planting, so I am busy, so I will write some more soon, right now I would just like to share this photo with you - 



Caroline's Kitchen


Flower power


Just a nice photo, I think



One of the many rural villages in the area


Early morning landscape












Thursday, September 22, 2011

SOLAR COOKING





Solar Cooker (no stick needed)


Solar cooker, first encounter

Well we have a lot of sun, why not use it. The one great advantage of the solar cooker is that you cannot burn your food or let’s rather say, I haven’t managed yet and that says a lot.

We bunch of bunny hugger eat a lot of beans and lentils and other stuff that sometimes takes a long time to cook. If it takes a long time to cook, it can use a lot of gas or electricity. Here is the solution, put it in a pot (not a silver one, somehow reflects back of something, but it does not work so well) with water and spices or herbs, put on solar cooker, face cooker to the sun and do as I do, forget about it until you get hungry. It does help if you occasionally move the cooker a bit so that it always faces the sun, but that is not absolutely necessary.




It makes a wonderful Veggie potjie (just add stick)

We are also making our anti insect chili ala garlic concoction on the cooker. This is also a long slow process and it would have been a killer on the gas bill.  It can just stand there all day, free and all and cook away and tonight you strain and use.

That funny piece of wood you can see on the cooker (above) is not originally part of the cooker, a cow stepped on the cooker and now we need the wood otherwise the angle is all wrong, but it still works 100 %, just add stick…


On a more serious note, there are some major benefits to Solar cooking -


◊No need for wood! ◊ Saves money on gas/electricity ◊ long lasting (up to ten years)
◊ Easy of use ◊ Smoke free








SLUG TO DEAL WITH





The cat the snail and the ball


I have slugs to deal with. Strange naked snails with eyes on sticks, they watch you, while chewing on your succulent lettuce. I wish they will just go eat the weeds, but the problem is that they like my veggies better.  Now I have to use scare tactics. I do not really want to kill them; I just want them to go away.


We made this chili concoction, pretty much chilli and garlic cooked on the solar cooker for the whole day, and then you strain and spray on and around plants. This really works, but it does seem to kill the poor buggers, must be a horrible way to go, death by chili…..


Then we decided to try and make slug traps with beer, from what I hear, they love the stuff. You take a plastic container, like a yogurt container and you cut openings near the top of the container. Dig a whole and plant the container so that the openings are level with the ground. Now you add some beer and put on the lid. You can even cover the lid with mulch and/or soil. The idea is that they come for the beer, fall in the container, and get very drunk very quickly (hopefully) pass out and “wake up dead”. I guess this beats the hell out of death by chili... or does it?


The long term solution will be to attract slug eating birds and insects to the garden, working on that, with the bird bath etc.


The chili also works on “aerial attack” insects. Mostly the smell just puts them off, but they seem to die if they actually make contact with the chili, but I guess the chili is the better option for now. There are a few casualties (on the side of the slugs), but at least it is not mass murder like with the beer. Fact is there are enough other plants for them to eat, not exactly like they are going to starve without my spinach.


Then there is “barb wire” for snails! You simply unravel your potting scourer and put it around the bed or plant and you fence them out, but what if you fence them in?


DO NOT FORGET TO WASH YOUR HAND after spraying with the chili...  And if you do forget, do not worry; you will not forget the second time….


We have a new volunteer, Jenna, she is American, but studies at UCT, busy with her masters in Sociology and Tim is putting her to work planting trees and harvesting soil from worms. She is engaged to a South African.



Geranium leaf


It is just the most perfect day outside, so I am off to the garden and maybe the beach later.



Saturday, September 17, 2011

BIRDS AND BEES



The Bird bath

I eventually found the right spot for the bird bath and I found the bath.  Kevan had this big cement pot type thing just lying around, he graciously donated it to the garden and the birds, but we had to carry it all the way from his house to the garden, uphill all the way - that was my exercise for the day!  We also found a beautiful old tree trunk for the base. It turns out that you can see the bird bath from the garden entrance, from the main gate and from the house. It was not exactly planned that way, as I said, I was waiting for the bird to tell me where to put it and they picked the perfect spot.

We have a lot of bees around and more and more seem to be moving here every day, love them, but sometimes they are just in a bad mood, like this morning, you cannot come near them.  Riaan was cleaning out some vegetation behind the house and he got stung on the forehead and Dharma (Niki’s dog) got stung on the backside.  Kevan says they are more aggressive when they have lots of honey to protect. I was a bit of a coward, I just stayed far away, will talk to them when they are calmer. Yes, I know you think I am a bit Looney, but I promise you I talk to birds and bees and they respond.
I think we are being “invaded” by bees because it is probably the only farm in the area that does not use pesticides.  I have also noticed a new hive in the big old Aloe Tree in the garden.

There are no volunteers here at the moment, so progress is slow, but it is all good. Anne and I sat down yesterday just to co-ordinate our Diaries, for arrivals and departures of guests, members and volunteers. In October we pick up steam and November and December are going to be two very busy months. So we will enjoy the peace and quiet while we can.

It also looks like we might be moving out of the main house and into one of the other houses/cottages on the property.  There is a family of six joining us in November and they will need the house much more than we do. The main house is also a bit like a train station, always a coming and a going, so we are quite happy to exchange space for privacy.



San (him and his family will be joining the community soon)

This, depending on where we move to, might mean that we will soon be doing a bit of building, with natural material naturally, more than likely Cob, it is such a lovely material to work with, you can get very creative. Wood and bamboo are also options we can look at. 


One of the available cottages is really just a rather big round space, with a bedroom upstairs. We will have to build a kitchen and bathroom. This does mean that we will be roughing it for a while, but Riaan and I are both looking forward to learning to work with cob and other natural materials.  We are lucky in the sense that there are a lot of people around with a lot of experience in this regard.

I will obviously still be involved in the main garden.


Progress in the garden


Monday, September 12, 2011

MULCHING AND WEEDING



 


I say thank you for the rain, I can smell it already…

I am thinking of starting a “green tip for the day”.   It is sometimes hard to come up with something decent to write every day. You settle into a sort of routine and you do not want to bore people with the same old same, so I think a tip for the day is a great way of always having something to write about.

Here are some tips on green gardening, just for a taster:

There is no such thing as a “weed”. You can tell the condition of your soil by looking at the weeds (or rather the root systems of the weeds) that grow there. The basic rule here is this - deep-rooted weeds thrive where soil is poor while shallow-rooted weeds prefer fertile soil.
Depleted soil will usually play host to nitrogen-fixing weeds like clover, while Stinging nettles, a common garden weed, is an indication of fertile, nutrient-rich soil. By the way, Stinging Nettle is also a medicinal plant, but more about that some other time. If you have to pull them because there is just too many and they are in competition with the plants you planted, beans and other legumes are also natural nutrient fixers.




The "weed" Stinging Nettle and the solution for the sting (right) Bulbine

Actually, come to think of it, the very best thing to do is not to pull them, but to put sheet mulch on top of it all. That way you will kill the ”weeds”, but their roots and leaves will rot and become compost for the new plants you are going to plant there.

What is sheet mulching? Pick a piece of garden where there are lots of grass or “weeds” and instead of pulling it up, just cut it short (you cut the leaves, you cut the roots). Then you put a layer of cow/horse or chicken manure on top of this patch, a nice thick layer and wet it. Do not tilt the soil. Then you place newspaper of cardboard (I prefer newspaper) on top of the manure and wet it again.  Now you put mulch (any dry, dead and decomposing plant materials) on top of this and wet it again. The mulch will not blow away once it is wet and settled.  You can plant here immediately. Wherever you want to plant, you make little holes through the newspaper or cardboard. Plant the little plants or seeds in the whole and fill with potting soil and mulch. 



Sheet Mulch

I am also learning something new every day, when it gets to companion planting, it is almost more important to know which plants do not like each other and the list is much sorter anyway. I try and memorize one every day. Today (and every other day) beets do not like beans.

There, I just wrote a whole page and it was easy.




Saturday, September 10, 2011

CONFLICT AND CONFUSION



One of the Cob houses here at KD

People are people and wherever you throw a bunch of them together, you will have conflict at some stage.  Conflict can be good, in the sense that it clears the air, get it out of the system. The problems normally start when there is a repressed bunch of anger\conflict hiding under happy fairy faces. Denial is not the way to deal with conflict.

Fact is just because a group of people agree on a basic idea, in this case the fact that we as a species are heading down a one way, at high speed and at the end of this one way is a brick wall. This does not mean we all agree on the how, what and why to avert the situation. There can be fast differences in believes, ideas and ideals.

Conflict resolution is a part of community living. One of the methods used is the talking stick method.  Whoever holds the stick is the only one that is allowed to speak. This obviously gives each one a fair chance to get his point across. A session like this is then followed up by another session, where everybody comes with possible solutions for the perceived problem.  In other words, in the first session you get all the differences and disagreements into the open and at the second session, we search for and offer solutions.

People also have different truths, my truth is not necessary your truth, we can perceive the exact same thing or situation very differently. 

I might not even mean to offend anybody, but my behavior might be seen as unacceptable by others. I might not see anything wrong with cooking meat for my dog in a vegetarian house, using the pots and pans, but the vegetarians living in the house might have a huge problem here. That is just an example.



Metallic Mushroom growing in a patch or cow dung

The fact is, where there is a will there is a way and the first thing is not to assume somebody did something with the intent of doing harm or offending, sometimes people just don’t think.  Open the communication channels when you feel the first signs of irritation, do not wait until you are ready to explode, the latter is just a note to self….

Then there was this little incident that was really confusion and upsetting. Niki went and told Kevan that we used his car while he was away. This is simply not the truth! She also told him that we (Riaan and I) are taking things from the other houses. There is a lot of petty theft in the area and thing have been disappearing from some of the houses, I spoke to Anne and with her permission I took some stuff from empty houses up to the Communal house, where we can use these item (which we do not have) and at the same time keep them save. When the truth came out, Niki burst into tear and ran off. I am still very confused about why she did this and it obviously means that she has been watching our every more.. a bit freaky!
















Thursday, September 1, 2011

MUSHROOM MISSION AND MORE


Just blowing in the wind...

We all got onto the back of Tim's Bakkie (pick-up) and we went to visit an Organic farm called Peas on Earth. It was nice to meet other people in the area, doing similar things.

It is dry again at the moment, but that is not so strange, it is the end of winter (actually it is spring day today) and the rains should start soon.  Once you are aware of exactly where your water comes from, you are less willing to waste it.  I try and keep a fine balance between keeping my plants happy and not wasting water.

Something in the garden loves cabbage, everything seems to be fine, accept the poor cabbages. This created my first challenge in the sense of getting rid of or rather deterring whatever is eating them.  I tried the ash method; you simply sprinkle the fine ash from a dead fire in a circle around the individual plants and crawling insects (for whatever reason) does not cross that circle. It does seem to be working, there are no new bites today, so it must have been snails or worms; obviously a ring of ash is not going to stop a flying insect. This method is also very labor intensive, you have to sprinkle a new circle everyday.

I would also like to plant with the moon, meaning you mostly plant at new moon. It is new moon at the moment, but the soil is just to dry. So I have decided I will not be intimidated by the moon, I will plant when the rains are here and the plants are happy to be moved. We are preparing new beds at the moment.


One of the Rondawels (thatched hut) where the volunteers stay

Our community seems to be growing by the day. It has been a rather busy period, one of the old members (Kevan) is back, another three is expected back in the next month and we seem to have a steady stream of volunteers. We also received word that another couple, who comes for regular visits, are keen on joining the community on a permanent base. That will mean that there will be kids here again and I know that a lot of the people are missing the sound and presence of children. There use to be eight kids here at some stage.

We created a wish list at the last meeting, it is simply a list of what every individual considers important, for instance, Niki needs a new fence around her garden, the poles are old and the cows are just pushing them over and getting into her garden. The problem with cow is not so much that they eat your veggies, they just walk all over everything and destroy a lot of the plants in the process. Kevan also needs a fence; otherwise he cannot even start a garden.  We need a Trellis at the kitchen otherwise we will be cooking in there this summer, in more than one way…

The idea is that we will just tackle these projects as a group, but are not really getting around to this because most of the crowd is involved in setting up a mushroom growing industry, lab and all. I really hope this works for them, they are putting a lot of labor and love into the project, but it is taking longer than anticipated so everything else is pretty much at a standstill, accept for the garden. All in good time and projects like the mushroom mission (as I call it) are very important, because they create ways of creating income for individuals and for the farm.



Gervaise and Meduna in conversation

We did manage to plant 9 trees with companion plants this week, thanks to the help of our volunteers, Gervaise and a young American couple called Irene and Nicholas. We also discovered a small plantation of Yellow Wood trees; we took some out, because there were just too many of them to close together, most will die. It is never the less such an amazing sight, these tress are indigenous but rather rare at the moment because the wood from these trees makes amazing and expensive flooring and furniture. Great to see them making a serious comeback.


MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS


300 Year old Aloe Tree on the edge of the garden


Meditation and mindfulness. Some people spend considerable time in meditation, where you practice mindfulness. The fact is that this all means nothing if you cannot bring that mindfulness back to planet earth and everyday life.  Be in the moment, but so often we dwell on the past or worry about the future. Mindfulness becomes a habit, just like worry and living in the past.

The trick is to break those old habits and become mindful. Be in the present, be here now, but what to do if something severely disturbs this, what if you have thought of worry that will just not go away.  You cannot simply deny their existence and it keeps on disturbing your present.  Here is an example. We share a kitchen with various people, lately this has been costing us a fortune and my fear of “not having” kicked in.  I was feeling abused and I kept on going over and over this in my head and I was getting angry at people based on previous experience.  We packed most of our stuff into boxes, yet my fears remained, I was still fighting with people (in my head) about thing that haven’t even happened yet, attracting fear, knowing it, but seemingly impossible to stop myself.  This all probably sounds a bit crazy, but we have all been there.

Now my Chi is badly disturbed and I cannot be in the moment.  What to do.  Denial does not work, “just letting go” doesn’t work, “all you need is love”, does not work, besides what about love for myself and my well being? The solution was to face the situation and confront the other people involved, which according to me was expecting to share all evening meals, which (in my experience) means they bring a potato and I give the rest to feed 4 – 6 people.  I simply and calmly explained that I cannot afford this situation and that I do not want to and do not have to share every meal.  It is not what you say, but how you say it.

Yes, it took guts to confront the whole situation and the people involved, but it was the only way to get it out of my head.  Now I feel clean and in the moment again.  I guess my point is this – sometimes your fear can be very strong and denying their existence does not make it go away, it just keeps on eating and eating at you, you have to face them and deal with them, only then will you be able to remove them.  Not all the mindfulness in the world will do that for you, only your own actions, mind full actions.