Saturday, August 23, 2014

Drifting through the seasons

Today I looked back to August 2013 and 2012 on my blog to see what I was doing around this same time and it struck me how the flow of planning, buying, sowing, planting is a natural part of my life now.


When I started out I devoured every blog post, website, video and book about how to do this thing. I needed the information to get started and equipped for what turned out to be a huge amount of work and effort in converting our garden into a mini urban farm.

A lot of what I do not in the garden is internalized, as I know what has to happen when for the most part. I know that from August to September I need to get the seeds that are not sown directly into beds my ready in newspaper pots. I know that from October onwards we have the busiest time planting and staking on through December.

Summer brings another burst of work as we fight off pests and disease on the plants. Harvests start coming in as the corn ripens, the tomatoes blush and the peppers swell. I love the tallness of the corn stalks, the creeping of the squashes, the smell of tomato plants in the sun.


Then it comes to clearing out again and adding compost and autumn is upon us once more. For instance I know that it takes about 4-5 months for the compost to be ready as I have watched the heap change month by month over the last 6 years and have smelled the change in the contents until it turns into gorgeous black gold to feed our vegetables.

Having done this for so long now I no longer feel anxious or worried about the garden and the growing of food. It has a gentle flow of its own as we care for it, plan it and work in it.

I also went all out into the bread baking, stock making, canning and preserving thing that filled both days on the weekend back in the first years. I am exhausted just thinking back to the frenzied activity of those first days.

I have calmed down a lot since then, thank goodness. I am not sure who my taskmaster was in those days, why I felt so driven and what I was trying to prove to myself, but while they were certainly productive days making soap, bread, herbal remedies, jams and cakes, I don’t hanker after it at all.

Now when we have lots of strawberries, I will make some jam or we will eat them fresh. If we want bread we’ll make it. If I need stock, I will set it to cook slowly all day. 5 weeks before we run out of soap, I make some more. It’s now also just part of the flow of our home.

I love the gentle ebb and flow of the seasons now, I don’t measure them any longer by children’s growth and activities, but rather by what is growing in the garden and what food is on our plate. 

Summer corn freshly picked and steamed served with butter and salt…slow roast tomatoes in the over for pasta sauce….beautiful new potatoes with parsley and butter….and my absolute favorite – just cut asparagus quickly steamed and eaten with Hollandaise sauce.




So here I am loving the end of winter and eagerly anticipating spring.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

28 days on juice!

28 days on juice, only, well almost! Got to be crazy right? In winter, definitely crazy!

So here's the thing...I do things without thinking too much when it comes to an idea that grabs me in the health line. There are other things I think waaaaay to deeply on and get myself all tied up in knots.

We have juiced for 12 years on and off, in the beginning it was just carrot, orange and celery, every day for 2 years at breakfast time along with other food during the day. We had a decidedly orange tinge to our hands in those days!

When our children have been ill we have made sure that juices are stepped up with some beet and ginger too.

However over the last year or so we haven't been juicing as much and recently with our move to eating more low carb meals and watching my husbands blood sugar we haven't juiced much at all.

Then something popped up on Facebook called SUPER JUICE ME and it just made sense to give it a go. There are lots of little health niggles in my body and I thought to just give my body a good detox and see how things go thereafter.

That weekend our whole family watched the Super Juice Me movie which was showing for free on Youtube at the time and they all decided to give it a try with me.

A boot full of veg!
We did 7 days of only juice. This is not the kind of fruit juice that you buy in a shop, these are freshly extracted fruit and veggie juices in a laid out plan to clean out and support your body. They flood your body with nutrients and are carriers to get rid of the junk. We had to compromise on not using organic veg as with 6 of us juicing we couldn't afford it, so Foodlovers it was! Much to the amusement of the employees at the market we pushed out two trolleys each week which filled our huge boot! Storing the fresh stuff was also a bit of a hassle.

The folk in the video were all starting off on a much worse footing that us. None of us are on chronic meds, nor are we ill with disease and while Superman and I have a few kgs we would like to loose the focus was really a detox. As such I didn't expect the amazing testimonies that the participants in the experiment experienced but we were hoping for a feel good experience.

Day One was AWFUL! I had booked and paid for a day trip by bus around Cape Town and a ride up the cable car with my children and a friend, that was the good part. Bad bad bad timing! It should have been a quiet slow day at home, juicing and resting. The result was a migraine and hanging around the toilet bowl vomitting that evening. I could say it was a coffee detox or because of the juicing, but I don't think so.

Breakfast anyone?
Day Two to Seven was great! By day 3 the hunger pangs had gone, coffee cravings vanished, the juice was filling and leaving me with a clean fresh mouth, lots of energy to continue my daily walks and 3 swims/gym sessions. On the evening of day 7 we ate a meal...it should have started the next morning, but we succumbed and had a small Paleo meal.

After that meal we all felt sleepy and not as good as after a juice. Ah well, live and learn.

For the remaining days we stayed on juices for breakfast and lunch but ate dinners. My younger 3 children had breakfast juices and then cooked their own lunches and in between snacks.

So what were the results?

Another breakfast selection 
My blood pressure stayed the same (normal) through out. I had my cholesterol checked when we started and it was at 6.88 which they tell me is high. Can't tell you the split of the two. My weight at beginning was 64kgs. (Told you I needed to loose some!)

After 28 days my cholesterol was at 5.52, my weight at 60.5kgs, my skin clear, my brain fog gone, my sleep better and I felt great.

I plan to do another 7 days on just juice at the end of September before I head to the UK. I know that we will be eating at Pizza Hut (sssshh!) and other places for some of the time and thoroughly enjoying my sisters incredible cooking, so I am going to go feeling fit and strong and detox before!

We are still juicing for breakfast everyday, and will probably continue this way from now on. At least I don't have to explain to the Foodlover's employees why I am buying 48 cucumbers and 30 packets of apples anymore!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book review - Omnivore Dilemma

This year I included a few books in our children's read alouds that aren't quite classics for homeschoolers, but I felt were important to be read by them. While my children are not as passionate as I am about organic living, they do understand through what I have shared with them and because of their business about why it is important to eat organically.

I began to feel that they needed a deeper knowledge of food and its origins  amongst other things, so that they can stand on their own convictions about what is morally right or wrong to eat and because of that, this book by Michael Pollan, ended up on our reading list: Omnivore's Dilemma

Divided into 4 sections based on meals that he would follow from source to plate, the book shares his adventure in eating the typical fast food meal (McDonalds) in his car with his family was a first stop. This is what he terms the industrial meal and we are introduced to Steer 457 who he buys as a small animal and watches it's progress through the feedlot to a MacDonald patty. 

He covers the broiler chickens, chemical food and all the horrendous food like substances that marketing passes off as something that is good for you. 

The overarching theme of this first section is how this world of food is driven by corn and soy and the decline of family based farms with mega industrial farms with their hazardous fertilizers, chemicals and pesticides taking over the majority of farm land in the USA.

Next he visits the industrial organic meal which is based on a simple illustration of a salad pack and "free range" hens. The salad farm started out with a. Couple who had a vision about prewashed salads which w are so familiar with. Their business expanded to meet demand and soon they were mechanizing and using organic pesticides to supply the customers needs. Pollan clearly outlines why this is still not the best option for people, plants, animals and the earth.

Then comes my favorite. We are introduced to Joel Salatin at Polyface farms. I have known about Joel for about two years and have watched his videos on YouTube when I find them. I have also had his books on my wish list for quite a while. I eventually swallowed the price and ordered his one on family farms which I am expecting any day now. After Michael has spent a week working on the farm in its different sections he ends up in the slaughter shed on the Friday to help with the weekly slaughtering of the chickens for client orders. This is handled honestly and openly and will leave anyone who is an meat eater understanding why city abattoirs as so incredibly wrong!

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms
Doing it the Polyface way means that an animal has a happy healthy life as it is meant to it's natural environment and then it is dead. There is not transporting, stress, pain or misses. It is clean, quick and part of the life cycle.

While this was the chapter that was the best for me, it was also the worst as Pollan also shares exactly what happens in a slaughter house, which is completely inhumane and should be known to everyone who eats meat. As long as industrial animal farms are supported by the public this cruelty will not end.

The farmer who grows our animals for us does not make use of a abattoir, but has a license and the correct paperwork and checks to slaughter on her farm. These animals are raised in a very close manner to Polyface and we eat and enjoy them with a  clear conscience.

Then we get to his hunter, gatherer, forager meal as the last section of Pollan's journey which is a delightful exploit of finding mushrooms he is convinced will kill him, getting cherries from his sisters neighbors tree and hunting for wild boar. This meal is served to the friends who were his guides and partners in finding the food for the table.

At the end of the book he gives his reasoning around why he did not become vegetarian even after his discoveries and how he and his family have transformed their eating habits. He also gives a brief overview of his "food rules" which have now been made into a full book. (The link above takes you to an entertaining and educating Youtube video of Michael Pollan talking about food rules.)

As this was not the only book we were reading it took us a few weeks to work through but was definitely worth it. What I learnt reinforced my passion for eating low human intervention foods, close to natural and beyond organic. For my children they now understand more of my motivation to never feed them or support their buying of what we call "empty calories" and "harmful" foodstuffs. 

Whether they will always make the right choices is not for me to enforce nor control, but we all know that we were set on the right path 12 yrs ago and will continue eating real food, learning how to do it in a sustainable way and encourage others to do likewise.

Go buy the book, read it....it's worth it! It is also available in the young readers addition for under 15's



Sunday, August 10, 2014

She's back!

Having walked the dogs early this morning in a warm and moist forest I could feel the longing to get into the garden when I got home. It has been months since I have done any big work in the vegetable patch as I have been delegating the work to Sam, our Friday gardener.

A combination of the wet cold weather, worrying about putting my back out again and a very busy Saturday each week has left little time to just enjoy working with the earth, plants and seeds. But today that stirring was within me to feel the soil on my hands and get back in touch with where the garden is at.

Tiffany sitting right where I want to sow seed and cover with compost
Like with any living thing, a garden thrives when it gets attention. When the gardener keeps an eye on what is going on, what is struggling, where the weeds and pests are choking out life. This is the connection that I have lost.

Newspaper pots filled with homemade potting soil waiting for seeds
I started with sowing the first batch of seeds for spring...25 each of broccoli, cauliflower, sweet peppers, Roma tomatoes, Beefsteak tomatoes and cucumbers. This week more newspaper pots will need to be made for next weeks seeds.


Sam has turned our compost heaps and had some bags of compost ready for me and a large wheelbarrow full of the most delightful compost...rich, black, earthy. I used some bucket loads on my lovingly nurtured asparagus plants. I started these from seed in 2008 and they deliver up loads and loads of spears now in the spring.

Toby and Teddy playing in the asparagus beds
I spread the compost around the crowns which was quite difficult because it seemed to be the best place for kitty cats to play.

As I was working there I saw some new spears peeping through! Already!

First spear of the season
I also want to have lots of flowers in the garden this season to aid in pollination by attracting bees, so I planted some sweet peas and calendula in odd spaces. I will also put in my traditional sunflowers by the end of the month.

Within this month I continue to sow seeds of peas, onions, carrots, more tomatoes, squash, butternut (in the compost heap), melons, salads, sweet corn and chillies.


What are you planning for your spring garden?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Motivation is a slippery thing

Motivation = the condition of being eager to act or work: the condition of being motivated.

I am simply not motivated to do what I need to do in the garden right now. It is the first time in all these years that I have 4 veggie beds standing fallow.

Fallow in itself is not a problem, it is good for the land to rest, however I had planned a rest for the ground next year.


I have been asking myself why I am not motivated to get my hands dirty, sow the seed I need to sow and then watch and wait with the eager anticipation that I know I feel when the first heads of the plants peep above the soil.

We all know it is cold at the moment, but I have gardened in the cold many many times and loved it so this is not the reason.

My paper plans are done, seeds bought, newspaper pots made...so it not as if there is any reason to not just do it!

I have never struggled with procrastination, yet here I sit and write about doing something in stead of actually doing it! Go figure????

Lined up on my dining room table is everything that I need to get my first spring seedlings going...will I find the motivation to do it today?




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Just bluffing...

Today is the second day of the most gorgeous weather. The temperature is just right for me, the sun is shining and there is a promise of gardening in my thinking. But I know the weather is just bluffing and within days we will be back to the Cape winter.


That's ok because each season has its own blessings. For me winter is about fires, hot drinks, board games, books, early bed times and the rain watering my garden. Maybe you notice that I didn't write comfort food...thats because we aren't eating any at the moment. We decided (literally overnight) to do a 28 day juice fast after watching Super Juice Me two weeks ago. We are into our 3rd week. The first week we only had fruit and vegetable juices. The second week was cold and we couldn't face cold juice in the evening so we ate protein and vegetables at night. This week we are back to juice again. I hope the weather stays warm so that we don't crave the hot foods.

It has been a good thing for my reluctant vegetable eaters as they have had more minerals and vitamins flooding their systems than before. The younger 3 have made other healthy snacks and meals if they were hungry but they are getting the juices in and that's great!

I am looking forward to cooking again, it's been the hardest thing on this detox. I have also missed sitting around the dinner table with my family. That has always been a highlight of our day when we can sit and chat and savour the meal together. When you have a glass of juice you tend to stand and glug rather than sit and savour.

Today I popped out into the garden and took some photos of whats growing around here...

Borage all over the garden - soon its flowers will attract the bees

Broad beans in all their glory!

Globe Artichoke - we have 5 plants and can't wait to eat their offerings

Gorgeous lemons - I see an aphid cleaning needs to be done soon

Oreganum spreading

Peas, loads of peas

Just one bed of potatoes this year for treats
How's your garden coming along?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Winter...what can you do?

After a few days of delicious sunshine we are back to the typical weather of a Cape Town winter. Fingertips are cold, layers are on and fires lit.

My garden has been drenched in the torrential rain that has come down since early morning before the sparrows were up. There are puddles everywhere and the taller veggies, like broad beans, have bowed their heads to carry the weight of water droplets.

It makes it hard to write about veggie gardening in winter let alone to get into the veggie garden to do anything productive there. So I will be philosophical about it and say that when winter is wet and cold it means we must hibernate, stay warm, plan and rest.



There are some things that can be done on fine days when the sun is out and the fingertips aren't cold. Here in the Western Cape we do not get frost and snow does not reach us on the Cape Flats which means that we can still plants quite a few crops: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, broad beans, swiss chard, peas, lettuce, herbs, kale, beets and carrots.

They grow quite slowly and its best to get them in the ground before the true cold of June and July hit. A second planting of these same veggies can be planted in early August which will mean harvesting just in time to get your spring veggies in.

We loose a chunk of our growing space in the winter due to shadows from the house but we have 7 raised beds that still receive enough sun. The other beds are left fallow for this time, then composted in early spring an planted up.


I have a plan for these beds after seeing the compost heaps at Soil 4 Life the other day and I think it will work. I want to use some old vertical climbing frames that Superman made back in 2009 and turn them into something like this.


While the shade is still over these areas I am going to fill them with composting materials and then in September/October I want to plant creeping veg directly into them to see if I can capitalise on vertical growing space. So winter is a time for planning and dreaming of crops to come.

Living Seeds has just made a print catalogue of their seeds and gardening products which is a good excuse to sit down with a steaming cuppa of your favourite brew and browse through their product range and make your planned purchases.

I should be knitting, cooking warm foods, making soap, reading homesteading type books and increasing my skills, but right now its a fire, cup of tea and blogging.

How is your winter garden coming along?