Monday, April 6, 2020

Sprouting Roots From My Food Produce

Aren't these roots beautiful?
With the "lockdown" directive in place in South Africa, I decided to use the remains of my fresh produce when I cook to sprout seedlings for my garden.

I've been doing that with my onions and potato peels and things are coming along rather nicely.

Sprouting the onions turned out to be easier than I expected: all I had to do was to put the onion end into a cup half full of water with the bottom end down on a window sill. Every time I use an onion, that's where the bottom end ends up.

I change the water every other day. I'm going to allow the onion roots to continue to grow until the bulbs are ready for transplanting.

Yesterday I also started to plant my potato crop in a big metal half-tank. I used to compost scraps and bits of grass in the tank back in the day, which I never got to use in the garden.

So now I have very rich soil for the beginning of the potato tank. Wish me luck! I've never successfully grown potatoes.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Preserving Lemons, Limes & Spinach....and There's Lots of Rain

I began the day by picking lemons and limes from my trees. Some were starting to fall off onto the ground, to rot there. So this was also a rescue operation for my citruses.

Over the weekend, I was going to put some of  the lemons aside to use fresh, lacto-ferment some with salt to use as seasoning, make marmalade and lemon syrup and also dry some to use as tea. I'm also going to use the lemons to make cleaning material and anti-bug salves.

But during one of my mid-day breaks from client work, I decided to just start the job. And while I was at it, I  also decided to dry some of the excess spinach that I got during my last produce run to the store.
I'm making small, incremental progress with my drive to hunker down in this property through the winter. The weather is cooperating - it's been raining steadily for the past couple of days. And yesterday while I was weeding my old mint patch, I found a group of spinach seedlings happily growing there. Also, my chickpea sprouts are coming along well. The seeds are now fat and have stubby little tails and some green patches, indicating their intention to start growing.

As my nephew Lesedi Motshumi repeated a meme, "this lockdown is going to force us to start hunting our own food and I don't know where where Doritos live!" (The little joke in there is that his surname Motshumi means Hunter).

So my little venture may be of no use in the hunt and capture of Doritos, or even pizza, but it will certainly make a contribution to my soup pots this winter. So if my blog inspires you to do something in a way of raising your own food, however small, do it. Every little bit helps, especially if it means that you don't have to go to the store to get it.

Stay healthy and safe!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Garden 2.0: Kickstarting My Food Garden With Containers

Hello everyone

It's been many years since I consistently blogged here. I apologise for ending things abruptly, but my excuse is that it could not be helped. I don't know if I mentioned it, but after Mma passed away, I fell sick with a lung condition that was serious enough for my family to fear for my life. By the time I got better, my freelance writing and gardening efforts were in shambles.

So I moved to Johannesburg to kickstart my working life again. But it turns out I was not fully recovered and fell ill again. That episode took more than a year for me to recover somewhat. However, I am better now - at least, well enough to make another attempt at an independent life here in Phokeng. The timing is, of course, horrific, what with COVID-19 sweeping through the world. And lucky me, I fall in with the vulnerable category!

But I am more fortunate than most, and am painfully aware of that fact. I have plenty of space to be able to effect social distancing.  Living here in Phokeng and taking care of Mma taught me how to raise a garden-full of fresh produce. I also have plenty of space to walk around and grow some of my produce. For now, I'm settling back in the house, cleaning what needs to be cleaned and unpacking what I had taken with me to Johannesburg.  It's a slow job.

The good news is that it's almost winter in the Southern Hemisphere, so it's the perfect time for me  to start planting spinach, Chinese cabbage, brassicas and many other foods that I lover. The bad news is that my garden was neglected in my absence and most of it is now overrun by weeds. So I'm starting small, with containers.

Yesterday I started sprouting a batch of chickpeas for my salads and sandwiches. I also started fermenting yoghurt, and am drying some seeds from the fresh produce I brought with me ( tomatoes, butternut and  green peppers). This morning I started potato slips to sprout roots so I can start a small potato crop.

I know that every little thing helps, and once I start reclaiming my garden, there will be plenty of volunteer crops. Hopefully, that will happen around Spring.

Anyhoo, I am grateful for this chance to  reconnect with you.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Organic Seeds: Christmas Came In Very Early For Me

Aren't they just pretty!! Lots and lots of varieties in this box.
Today it's a lovely day in Johannesburg. Sunny, but not too hot after the endless rains. I missed the rains in Gauteng province after the arid climate of the North West province where my home in Phokeng is.

Now I can grow vegetables without worrying about how I will keep them watered, especially with drought conditions in other parts of the country like the Western Cape, where the City of Cape Town is frantically trying to plan for Day Zero, when the municipality could potentially run out of water to supply the city. Honestly, reading the articles makes me think of apocalyse-type novels.

It's also surreal for me, because while there are plenty of writing(creative) jobs in Cape Town, I have refused to move to that city because I didn't like it. Ja, ja, I know it's pretty and cosmopolitan and has a beach and the work would be plentiful for me there, but back when I worked for a non-profit organisation in the early 2000s, I used to spend a week a month there and I was miserable because it rained so much then.

I remember one July, sitting in my hotel room, sobbing like a five-year old and just wanting to come back to Johannesburg because it was so wet there. I vowed there and then that I would avoid that city whenever I could, and when my employer later moved the head office to Cape Town along with my job, I opted for retrenchment. Oddly enough, the endless wet in Johannesburg does not bug me. It makes me happy instead. Go figure!

But I digress: today I walked to my friend Christelle's house - she lives just round the corner and up the block from me - and she had plenty of goodies for me, which included baked goods and a whole bunch of organic/ heritage seeds. There are a lot of veggies in there:
  • Aurbegine (Egg plant)
  • Squash (hubbard, gem)
  • Butternut
  • Pumpkin (Japanese)
  • Tomatoes( moneymaker, floradale, Mixed T)
  • Cabbage ( Chinese, drumhead)
  • Tatsoi
  • Pakchoi
  • White maize
  • Spinach (rainbow)
  • Lima beans (Madagascan)
  • Brown onion (Australian)
  • Cumcumber (Poona kheera)
  • Cape gooseberry
  • Carrots (scarlet nantes)
  • Lettuce (Lollo rossa, Great Lakes, Red Salad Bowl) 
So now I can happily expand gardening venture in the city. Happy days!!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Started Doing Some Planting

The grape bush that came with the house
I under-estimated how much I didn't like the area where I was sharing a cottage, but I never did manage to settle comfortably there, despite the fact that the place had a wonderful gardening space. So on the hunt I went until I found a wonderful house I could be comfortable in, in a different suburb of Johannesburg.

The place is old and the rooms are of a larger-proportion variety. Best of all, I have ample space for a home -office and a veggie/herb/flower garden. I'm now happily settled in there and have started to periodically plant some veggie seeds. Part of the front garden was just dry and neglected. That's where most of my garden will be situated, though there are some portions of the yard at the back where I can also plant something. So far I've planted corn and cabbages. I will expand my range in due course.

I have also started a compost heap. There are a lot of trees and bushes in the yard, I've been collecting the leaves as they fall and throwing them into the heap. The container is not going to make sufficient compost for my garden, but it's a good starting point.
The great news is that, it has been raining so much in Johannesburg that I doubt drought will be a problem like it was in Phokeng. Also, this is a different climate region, not semi-arid like Phokeng.
I'm looking forward to this new adventure.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

In This New Phase of My Life, I've Become An Urban Gardener

Lunch today was a mix of veggies from local market and our garden
I have great news. At the beginning of June, I moved into a cottage to share with a business associate. It's a suburb that I'm not so familar with, as I would never have thought I could afford to live here. But the rent was surprisingly affordable.

At first, I questioned whether I could fit in here, because I'm surrounded by mansions in massive yards, and it's a gated community with security guards around. Seriously larney and not exactly what my poor hippie self is used to.

But the place met most of needs and wants: my housemate has a medium-sized urban garden behind the kitchen and a courtyard, growing vegetables, fruit and herbs. She invited me to share the space with her, and I'm free to contribute to the garden and grow what I like there. So, moving to the city does not mean I have to give up my gardening. Yaay!

The garden is well-cared for, with rich soil packed full of leaves and other organic matter. She has an established habit of saving all the vegetable and fruit peels from the kitchen and feeding them to the garden. She is also talking about establishing a worm farm.

Everyday we pick stuff from the garden - rocket, cherry tomatoes, collard greens, mint and other herbs to use in our meal preparation. Yesterday I planted more collard greens and cherry tomatoes in the garden.

I'm still wary of digging in the plot because I'm not quite sure what seeds she may have stuck in there, but once I get to know the garden, I'm going to have fun preparing the soil for Spring planting. For now, we are growing spinach, sweet potatoes, spring onions, carrots, tomatoes, a lime tree, rocket, collard greens growing in there. We also have numerous pots full of herbs, trees and shrubs and ornamental plants in a sunny courtyard.

My housemate is vegan ( and trying to introduce me to that eating lifestyle). I'm not quite convinced I want to go that route as I love eggs and milk and meat and trully, I don't know if I want to live without bacon.  But I'm not fighting her too hard and still get my animal products when I need to. So it's not a major issue.

So, I'm going to have a lot of fun planting vegetables I like/ that I can't easily get from the market there. To start with, I know I'm going to grow chilli, egg plant, lots of spinach, Chinese cabbage, carrots, onions, leeks, basil, spring onions, cucumber and butternut. I'm also going to attempt growing strawberries again. Oh, I'm sooo excited, because unlike the semi-desert that is Phokeng, the weather in Johannesburg is very kind to growers, with plenty of rain. Just thinking about what I'm going to plant makes me restless, wishing the time was here and I could start already.

Anyhoo, I'm grateful that you have been very patient following my erratic postings and I hope you will stay and follow my new adventure. I expect to learn a lot from this, and will share my experiences as I go along.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Changing Things Up To Live and Grow My Food In The City

My food garden in Johannesburg years ago
This year is bringing lots of changes; one of the big ones being my plan to move back to Johannesburg. I didn't see the big move coming, but now that it's here, I'm excited about it.

Basically, the move was forced on me: in August last year I fell sick with what I thought was bad case of flu, but it turned out to be a major lung infection. My doctor began an aggressive six-month treatment that includes antibiotics and steroids. Unfortunately, my body fought back and the side-effects were massive, including some kidney damage.

I won't give too many details here, but I ended up stuck in bed, needing the assistance of family and a care-giver. It took me months to recover, and even now I'm not 100% yet. The consequence of this is, of course, that I could barely take care of myself, never mind a garden.

And it hit my confidence in my ability to live in a rural area. I realised that our property is too big and needs too much work and energy to care for and use effectively; something that I was no longer sure I was capable of doing. I felt that I needed a smaller space, which I could easily take care of myself even when I grow much older and feeble. I also wanted to be closer to my younger sister and my writing business clients in the event things went pear-shaped in the future. So I'm moving back to Johannesburg. As I type this post, I'm staying with my sister as I rebuild my strength and work to reclaim my lifestyle.

This move was a hard decision to make and I feel like I ran away. My younger sister has no shame about that. "It's time to get out of Dodge," she insists. I also know I made a good decision for me and my future, and will adjust my food growing initiatives to suit my new life. I had a lush, productive garden long before I moved to Phokeng to take care of Mma, and I know Johannesburg will provide me with the opportunity to do so again.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Feeling Very Optimistic About 2017

Happy New Year to you. It's been a very hot Summer here in Phokeng, though it also rained very regularly. My family is enjoying a bunch of pomegranates from a neighbour's garden.

My own garden looks like a jungle because I haven't been able to take care of it properly since winter, so this fruit is also consolation.

I'm looking to seeing 2017 progress and hope that it brings you good health, many blessings and prosperity.

Enjoy the new year.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Water Shortage Forces Local Food Garden Project For The Elderly To Give Me Their Seedlings. It Sucks!

Seedlings in my storage, ready for transplanting
Last week the leader of Tshufi Hill Project For The Aged, a food gardening project run by retired women at a nearby village, called to offer me seedlings from their garden as they are unable to care for them until maturity due to water shortages in the area.

Unfortunately they don't have large water tanks to harvest rain water and/to store.

On Friday I went with one of my nephews to pick them up. I was happy that they offered me the seedlings, but also very sad that their food source is being decimated.

In the absence of a full garden crop, they will have to buy most of their produce. Unfortunately, with the rising food costs, they'll have to scale down on what they can buy.

Here are some of the photos I took from their garden:

Their garden is as large as mine, which is about the size of small suburban plot. The garden soil is cared for and they do feed it, but it's very sandy and dry. It needs a lot of more compost and mulching to help it retain water.

This space is around a third of their garden.

   Their seedlings are beautiful and long overdue for transplanting.

Digging out cabbage seedlings with one of the project members

This is the kind of water tank that they need.

My tank also serves as a water source for some community members.
One of my friends has offered to start knocking doors asking for someone to donate a 10 000 water tank or the money to buy one. So ja, I'm asking: if you can help them in any way to buy the Jojo tank, the irrigation tools would really help keep them fed and make a difference in their lives.

Also note that registered no-profit organisation, Tshufi Hill are vetted by the Department of Social Development and the Royal Bafokeng NGO Forum, a local umbrella body with almost 90 member organisations. So there are governance structures in place.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Carp. Lots of Fresh Carp

I'm so glad my friend Sharon has moved here! She loves finding alternative sources of food, much like I do. And she recently found a young man who fishes at Kanana Dam (also called Vaalkop Dam.) who agreed to supply us with carp. The dam is in Phokeng, but several villages over from where I live. We'll get the fish on a weekly basis at a very reasonable price.

We tried the first catch and there is such a vast difference between freshly caught fish and what I usually buy from the supermarket. It practically melted in my mouth.

The family decided that Wednesday is our fresh fish day. Each week we are going to try out a new recipe.  So yesterday we had a fish braai for dinner. It was a public holiday (local/municipal elections) and so we went to vote and then hung out with family and friends.
The fish is very large.. more than 2kg each, I think

We marinated the fish with sauce made up of:

  • Fresh herbs from the garden
  • Lemon juice
  • Peri-peri spice
  • Worcester sauce
  • Olive oil
  • Salt