Monday, May 28, 2012

More growing space

On our property is a little cottage that has it's own small garden. It is currently being used as offices for my husband and brother's businesses. The garden was (in my opinion) was such a waste of space, just a patch of lawn that was used more as a dumping ground than anything else. Its about 6 metres x 5 metres and each side gets its fair share of sun, either morning or afternoon.
So with a bit of convincing, we all decided it would serve a much better purpose providing us all with lovely fresh veggies.
I got started a couple weeks back and its been slow going, but this weekend it was finally ready to be planted up and I spent some of my Sunday planting lots and lots of seeds in my brand new space!

Again I forgot to take a picture at the very beginning.But you can imagine it was this just with grass. Still getting use to this blogging and remembering to take photos of everything.

And here is the area yesterday morning just before I got all the seeds in. All the supports you see are from my father. He is the owner of a rather large scrap company here in Durban so they get a lot of useful stuff there that I can use in my garden.
Just need to get some pebbles now for the pathways.
In these beds I planted peas, broad beans, bush beans, turnips, radish, cucumber, chard, bringal, marrow, lettuce, spring onion, tomatoes and potatoes. Also making an attempt at rhubarb and artichoke, but we will see about those.

I still have the big square at the back available but I would like to plant corn there, just need to get some seeds. Not sure how cold winter will get so I might have to plant something else there until spring.

With all that hard work done, now is the best part, waiting to see all the baby plants coming though. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The garden is blooming!

This morning I went outside to do my normal stroll through the garden to see what's new. So lovely to see all this new growth I had to share some pictures.

Our first pea blossom:

Nasturtium flower:

Tomato's ripening:

A bunch of  cress that I just threw out under the tap:

Zucchini's coming up:

12 out of 12 garlic's have come through!! 

And our cape gooseberry plants are full of fruit:

3 tier garden going well:

Friday, May 25, 2012

We have eggs!!

I am so happy to report that two of my ladies are laying. We got our first egg 4 days ago, then one the next day and the next. Nothing yesterday.
Then this morning I heard quite a bit of noise so went to watch them. I found 2 of them nesting. Went back a little while later and found 2 stunning fresh and still warm eggs.
I was completely blown away by the size of one of the eggs and had to share a picture. Its a monster, much bigger than any x-large egg I have ever bought at a store. Makes me wonder what the egg farms normally do when they get eggs this size.

First egg is a regular "large" store bought egg, next is from our one chicken and the giant on the end from our other lovely lady. I am so impressed and looking forward to never having to buy eggs again.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Herb bath

Today I did quite a bit in the garden but one of the main things was to get our herb bed closer to the kitchen. I had this old bath that use to have my worms in but it didn't work very well so I decided it would make a nice feature under the kitchen window with herbs in.
I also moved all my pots with established herbs around the bath. I know it needs a bit of a clean up and maybe a paint, but for now it does the job of growing lovely herbs. There are lots of empty spaces but I did sow some seeds so hopefully it will full up quickly. Looking forward to seeing it full and lush with all sorts of yummy stuff to use in my cooking

So far I have basil, chives (garlic and normal), thyme, chocolate mint, origanum and some tiny cilantro. Also sowed seeds for sage and parsley. Will add more over the next few weeks. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Winter? What's winter?

This post is not to make anyone jealous, I just really wanted to share the strange weather we have been having this year in Durban. In one week we officially enter our winter season but it has been unseasonably warm here. Could this be due to global warming? One can only speculate.
Today the temperature was recorded at 30°C! 
We have to go on holiday just to experience that very cold, light a fire, cuddle up with hot chocolate winter feeling. I have never felt or even seen snow before! (only at a distance on top of mountains)
Now I am craving a visit to the Drakensberg....
But still I love Durban winters. Its the hot humid summers that can be tough.

Here is our 7 day forecast, seems like another nice week ahead:


0%, 0mm
 11° 30°C


0%, 0mm
 15° 26°C


0%, 0mm
 14° 27°C


30%, 2mm
 14° 25°C


30%, 6mm
 12° 22°C


0%, 0mm
 12° 23°C


0%, 0mm
 10° 25°C

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Making cream cheese

Yesterday I decided to make some cream cheese. I call it cream cheese because it is very creamy and much better than any cottage cheese I have had.
I love cream cheese and could use it with everything. The problem is that it is quite expensive. I got this method from my mother-in-law and it is so easy and makes the most amazing cream cheese.

This method calls for maas. Maas (also known as amasi) is a local diary drink made from fermented milk. For me it falls somewhere between yogurt and cottage cheese, but has a much more tart flavour. Almost like yogurt that has been left to culture for a very long time. It is thick and a bit lumpy. I have seen some websites comparing it to kefir, but I wouldn't know as I have never seen or tasted kefir.

Very simply, pour your maas into a clean dishcloth that has been placed into a colander or sieve, and allow it to drain over a container overnight.

The next morning you will have something that looks like this, drained maas:
You can keep the drained whey and use it in baking or cooking.

I weighed it so that I can do a costing analysis, which I have done at the end of the post

Mix it up and you get this lovely thick creamy cheese. It also seems to loose a lot of the tart flavour, I can only imagine that the tartness is in the whey.
Add what ever ingredients you like in your cream cheese such as chives, garlic, pepper, chillies, anything really. Use it in cooking, baking or just as a dip or spread. Yummy!

Cost analysis:
Maas: R18 for 2 litres
I used 1 litre and it made 292 grams of cheese, so that cost R9.

At shops I pay about R16 for 250 grams of cottage cheese or about R25 for 250 grams of cream cheese.
Conclusion: Definitely worth it! And it even tastes better!

I had to do an update to this post today because last night I made the second litre of maas into cream cheese. I looked like quite a bit more than the first litre so I think I got the measurement wrong last time, I didn't actually measure, I just poured until it looked like 1 litre was out the jug.
Anyway, when I weighed my cream cheese this morning it came to 540g!!!
So my 2 litres of maas has made me over 800 grams of cream cheese. And for R18, what a saving!!!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Seed sorting

I have been searching for a while now for a simple but effective way to sort my seeds. I have gathered up quite a collection over the past few months. I just can't seem to say no when I see something new.
I tried to see what other people do, but mostly found others sorting them into months to sow. This wasn't going to help me because here in Durban I can sow most things anytime. So I decided to sort by plant types.

Here is my seed box before sorting:

I divided them into similar plant families. So we have:
Peas and beans
Squash and cucumber
Tomato, peppers and eggplant
Root crops
Leafy greens
Herbs and flowers
Other (which only contain rhubarb and artichoke at the moment)
Also added in a fruit container not seen here as I found I had quite a few fruit seeds.

Much better and I think this was will work best for me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Autumn growth

It has been such a lovely mild autumn this year. Or maybe I should say warm autumn. I haven't had to wear a jacket at all so far and its already the last month of the season. I am starting to wonder if we are going to have a winter at all this year.
One of the great benefits of living on the warm east coast of South Africa is that I can grow almost anything through winter. The past month has been averaging between 24 and 27 degrees Celsius. Perfect growing conditions. I know, I'm so lucky!

My 3 tier garden bed is doing so well and after just under 2 weeks almost everything has germinated.
I am so pleased to see an almost perfect germination success rate.

View of all 3 beds

 The green-feast peas, broad beans and chard in front

Cucumbers, chard and beetroot

Sugar snap peas, turnips and celeriac just coming through.

Yesterday morning I got a huge surprise when I went outside and saw 2 chard plants completely severed at the base. I quickly went inside and did some research and realised I have cutworm! Oh No! I really thought I didn't have this problem here as I have never seen it before. So off I went collecting toilet roll inners, cutting them in half and putting them around my chard babies. 
They haven't attacked anything else....yet. So holding thumbs its just the chard that they like.

Tom thumb peas I planted in the block holes, so excited to see how these turn out.

The carrot patch that the chicken destroyed has recovered well after planting some more seeds in. 
Really going to have to do a lot of thinning here.

Paper pots going well. Going to have to find space to plant all these soon

This is a pot where I decided to give garlic a try. I am very pleases that so far 9 out of 12 have come through, but I am seeing more everyday, so holding thumbs I get 12 out of 12. I know I am going to regret not planting more. Oh well, next year I will remember.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Healthy Homemade School Snacks

One of my goals to becoming a better home-maker is to make homemade snacks for my eldest son to take to school. He is 5 years old and in grade R (the year before first grade) and at a great school that offers hot breakfast and lunch. We only have to supply a snack. Usually I send a yogurt and cheddar biscuits (a bag of small savory biscuits) and I have basically been doing this for the 3 years he has been there. Now I wanted a healthier alternative. So yesterday I got into the kitchen and made 4 snack options for school that will go into the freezer and he will choose one each night to get defrosted for school the next day.

For my first batch of snacks I made mini ham and veg bakes, mini pizzas, pizza rolls, and macaroni slices.

Next step is to get the homemade yogurt right....

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Letting in the Light

I am not against exotic plants but I certainly won't go out of my way to plant them and when I choose I try to stick to indigenous. So when it came time to decide if our leopard tree was worth the mess and hours of pool cleaning, it was a clear no. It also blocked out a lot of light from our lounge and new veggie beds. So this week it was coming out. The guys took 2 days to cut it down and trim some of our other trees. The difference is amazing and its is so nice to get more light into our garden.

Branches all over the jungle gym

The branches and trunk have amazing camou patterns on it and will make stunning bed borders and garden decor.

The area after being cleared.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Our feathered friends

About a 5/6 weeks ago w got 2 hens. They were not layers, just farm chickens from my sister-in-law who lives in Hluhluwe (a small town about 350km north of us). They were still quite young and didn't lay any eggs. One morning a troop of monkeys came through our garden and I can only assume freighting one of our ladies to the point of having a heart attack or stroke.
So we had one little lonely lady who needed some company. Last weekend we went to the farm for a visit and collected her 2 new friends. We now have 3 colourful characters in our back garden. Still waiting on eggs, but I'm sure the first one will come very soon.

New split level bed

After deciding to grow a lot more veggies for the family I quickly realised the lack of bed space. There is an area on the side of the house next to the pathway that would make the perfect size garden bed but it was very sloped and I needed to decide the best way to deal with this. After a lot of pondering I finally decided on 3 tiers, each just over a metre square.
My hubby happened to be away on business when I decided to do this and I just could not wait till he got back so I got myself motivated and spent 2 days in the garden. I am very proud of these beds as I did them all on my own. They also didn't cost us anything as my dad had some left over blocks after renovations.

 I forgot to take a picture before I started so this is just after I started when I remembered

 This is at the end of the first day

 And I finished off quite early the next day. I didn't fill the holes yet as I was still waiting for my seeds to arrive.

Later that week my first lot of seeds arrived and I got planting and put up some trellises. These were also just some junk my dad had laying around (he use to have fish in baths and used these to stop them from jumping out). they are just made of pvc piping and plastic wire.
I had a tray of chard seedling to that went in, as well as seeds for peas, broad beans, beetroot, turnips, celeriac (a new for me) and cucumber.
A few days later my next lot of seeds arrives and I planted Tom Thumb Dwarf Peas and Spacemaster cucumbers in some of the holes. I am very keen to see how these new varieties turn out.

This morning I notice a few shoots coming up. Its always exciting when you see this first growth.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Our very first veggie bed

This is a photo of my only garden bed about a month ago. At this moment in time it is looking quite sad for itself, and to tell you the truth, not much has changed here besides some clearing and a little bit of planting. I have been a bit more focused on the other areas, but plan to sort this bed out very soon.
Don't be confused by the palm in the middle of the bed, its only there because we didn't have the heart to take it out (today I was told that it is worth over R1000!!!). But the leaves do provide a bit of much needed shade on those very hot summer days.
The bed is actually too wide and it cannot be worked without walking all over it, so one of my plans is to put in pathways. 
Over summer I didn't plan at all before planting this bed and the only thing I was able to harvest were brinjals and tons of chillies, and my family isn't too fond of either.Below is one of those brinjals.

Where to begin

I am a mom in my late twenties with two little boys and an amazing husband, and I am trying to learn how to be the best stay-at-home mom possible. I feel blessed to be able to be at home and recently realised how much more I can do to improve our lifestyle. I would also like our family to work towards a more self-sustainable future.

I am starting this blog mostly as my "green" journal, recording my path to self sustainability. If it motivates anyone else to start a small change in their own lives, that is just a bonus.

I actually started this journey about a months ago, so have done my fair share towards this new lifestyle. For this reason my next few posts will actually be catchup of what I have done so far. I have quite a few before and after pics to share as well.

Today is my 27th birthday so what better way to start a new year in my life than to start my first ever blog!