Thursday, 22 November 2012

Ameniatha's Homestead is back!

Please be patient everyone! Lots of interesting projects, chicken stories, honey tales, a poem! Even the adventure and demise of Kevin Bacon...

I will also try to incorporate Nina's spirit into the Blog. She is still my guiding light and yes, I talk to her still!!!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Have roosters - will slaughter?

Andreas and Rene getting plucky
Having to deal with too many roosters is tough at times, but when one buys chickens for the purpose of eggs, and self sufficiency there are some factors which one needs to consider.

We initially chose to get Koek-Koeks seeing as we had heard how hardy they are in a farmy setup. And for the large part this is true, they don't mind rain, and  for the most part can scratch anywhere to find food. But... the downside is that the hens do not get broody, so even though they are moderately good egg layers, we would have to get an incubator in order to grow our, at the moment, very meager chicken population which consists of Kleintjie our one and only hen, and Mr. Rooster, her partner, and then 4 extra roosters, of which there are now two left.

One pluck, two pluck, three pluck, four..
I have ordered a new lot of 10 unsexed chicks from the Red Barn in George, and assume that they farm with Bosvelders, which we have heard are excellent scratchers, layers, and they go broody. Our end goal is to be able to have a hen or two, and actually let them hatch their eggs. By doing this we will have a steady supply of chicken as well as eggs. It has really been a learning curve having the chickens, but even though its been more error that trial, I don't think we will go back to not having them.

Rene is almost done with his chicken

Our experience on the homestead over the past 3 years, has been nothing short of amazing. Our boys have shown that they can live this lifestyle without moaning and groaning too much, and we have managed to do things that we probably never would have dreamed of doing if we had stayed in the city. For that I am grateful, and also for the knowledge that our boys will grow up with this experience to take with them. :-)

I want our kids to learn that although living in the city is cool, and you have everything you could possibly want and need right on your doorstep, there is another way of living too - One where growing your own food, and living in harmony with the Earth, showing respect in knowing where your food comes from, and the effort it takes to live sustainably, and trying to leave as little a footprint as possible behind in everything that you do. Conscious living, living with thought. :-)
Andreas loving to do his bit. :-)

In short being able to slaughter our own chickens has been such a valuable lesson. And of course there are people who think that we must be such barbarians because we slaughter our chickens. I don't see it that way, as its more barbaric and ignorant to buy the shop chicken, knowing that the chickens who dies to put perfect drumsticks and thighs in our shops have had miserable lives.

What we do is very "cerebral", we have raised and cared for our chickens, given them a good life, and therefore when we slaughter they can give back. I am really ok with the thought of growing our own meat, or buying from the local farmers in the areas who we know treat their animals well. In my opinion there is almost some sort of karma involved in living the way we do. :-)

Mr. Chicken-claw-man
I mean think about it this way: We look after our land on the homestead, and the animals, trying to keep things as organic as possible, and in turn the land looks after us by providing food for us.

That being said we slaughtered two of the four superfluous roosters, and it was a team effort for Jan and the boys. The only protest we got was from Rene who said to not post the photos of him on FaceBook... lol.

And although the two chickens were plucked and done in record time, fun was had by all who took part. :-)

Three men and a chicken... or two... :-P

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Jammin' on the Biogas Stove.

Weighing in the contenders.
Sometimes we have an abundance of crops, and then you might wonder: How do I use it all without wasting any.. answer is simple actually, you make jam, or you pickle, or you just eat extra of x, y or z.

Now this season we seem to have gotten the Tomato seeds mixed, and  ended up with an abundance of cherry tomatoes, which I have been harvesting for the past couple of months for salads, and sauces and to add to oven dishes. And then we had a week of glorious sunshine, and it seemed like they all just went red all at once.

So I harvested that too not to waste any of them, because they really are good, sweet and fleshy. That saying: Homegrown is best, actually is true. Nothing beats the flavour of a homegrown tomato, except maybe another one.. hahaha..

Anyway so I always weigh the amount of crop I have for jam before I start cooking it. Reason? Simple - to get the sugar ratio just right, and even here I have a rule, one which I have used ever since I started jammin', and that is half the weight of the fruit in sugar... so with these tomatoes I had harvested 1,8kg, therefore the sugar added will be about 900g. I have found that this gives a much better flavour in the jam, and with some fruit its actually nicer to be able to still taste the fruit rather that just sweetness.

Tomatoes gone potty!
Having added the tomatoes to a pot, with a squeeze of water, I place them on the stove and start cooking, stirring now and again to ensure that it does not burn. I chose the Biogas stove for this jammin' session because I wanted to be able to say that the Jam is organic (we don't use any chemical pesticides), and because the bag in which the gas is generated was very full. :-)

Once the tomatoes are boiling and bursting from their skins, I add the sugar, and cook for a further
5-15 minutes, sometimes longer depending on the amount of water, or runnyness of the jam.

Cooking away happily.
I add a teaspoon and a half of pectin powder which is mixed with a tablespoon of sugar (the pectin powder I get from overseas, but locally one can add lemon juice, or rind, or even an apple or so). The pectin helps the jam to gel. Once the pectin has been added I turn the heat down to a low flame, this allows the jam to cook slowly for a while.

I let it simmer for another 5 minutes or so, while I skim the foam off the top. The foam is usually impurities which were on the skins of the fruit etc. And while it simmers, I boil some water to sterilize my bottles with. I like using jars that have the pop lids... you know the lids with the raised thingy in the middle which pops when you open the jar. Well they work in reverse as well, and I have found that if I bottle my jam while its still hot, and put the lid on straight afterwards, then the heat of the jam creates a vacuum on cooling, which sucks this pop thingy in thereby creating a very good seal. Of course I also have some Consol jars, but like to recycle as well. :-)

Jars of Jam - Tomato Jam.

With the jam bottles and sealed it can be stored in the cupboard till we decide to eat it. Jammin' and pickling is very rewarding as it allows you to enjoy your crop and harvest for an extended period of time. If one is a smallholder like we are, it makes perfect sense to do that, otherwise we could just as well live in the city and buy all our jams etc.. We have not bought any jam since December, as we have more than enough now to last us a good while.

Doesn't that just look yummy?

We do however still buy beetroot pickle and gherkins as those are our favourite pickles, but this will also change as soon as we are able to produce enough beetroot to pickle ourselves, and grow gherkins to pickle as well...  :-) So there you have it, making your own jam is easy-peasy, and cheaper than buying!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Mudroom - Now with glass and new roof!

Glass.... Yay!
I know it's been a while, and I have been a little slow with updates on the blog.. but believe it or not I have been rather busy..

Not only did I become a mom again, but since then everything else has sort of taken a back seat.. and this includes the house, the garden, our veg patch... *sigh*. But you know what, I don't feel bad actually, because I know that once I am fighting fit again, then I can once again focus some more the things that need some attention. :-)

Anyway to the matter at hand - We have managed in between baby and mad dogs, and overgrown garden, to put glass in the windows of the mudroom. This has vastly improved the inside climate of the kitchen as well as the sitting room, which means that in winter when we use the fireplace, we won't lose as much heat as we did before we built the mudroom extension.
First layer of cement on bad patch

Having had the builders do the brick work for the mudroom left us with some of the old plaster in a bad condition. So obviously it needed repairing. Due to the house being built of clay bricks, they are very week in some places, and we have been told by a very knowledgeable source that the best way to strengthen clay brick walls that are damaged or crumbling, is to fasten some chicken wire, and then plaster over that. So we have done just that, but still need to do one more layer of plaster just to finish it off nicely.

The door you see next to it, is going to be replaced by a window eventually. This will then mean that we will only have two doors on the stoep instead of three.. :-)

We also still need to paint the whole exterior again, and put up the ceiling in the mudroom, and do touch ups here and there in the kitchen, and bathroom... There is still a lot of small things that need doing, and it will probably take us the rest of this year to complete everything... but och.. that's what happens when you have a house in the country.. :-)

Jan - the uber handyman!!
And seeing as we are doing most of the work ourselves, in between work and other duties, things are rather slow going at times. But - the rewards are immeasurable, the satisfaction of having done it yourself being the biggest one. :-)

I am so looking forward to being able to repaint the outside of the house, and to start making things pretty, getting some pot plants etc, finishing the inside decor, doing the loft room up as a room for Rene so that he has a private space. And then there is the garden as well.. this has been sorely neglected and will need some love and attention again soon. We have many plans for it - but more on that later. :-)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Little Butcher Man - The homesteading way :)

Andreas getting all
As most things go, we are slowly getting rid of all the superfluous roosters, and they have been a great source of meat for many months.. :)

This time round we slaughtered Squeeky, seeing as he was just turning out to be a really bad chicken! He had gotten loose one morning, escaped from the dome, and was just causing havoc in the veg patch. So as I tried to get him back into the dome, he decided to upstage me by attacking me... what a cheek!!

Its kind of cool when your kids get involved

So after a battle of wills, I did manage to get him back into the dome, and in the same token achieved some scratches and bruises on my shins. After which I got our prime chicken catcher Rene to catch him for me, and bring him to meet his maker! I am sorry, but our homestead has no room for aggressive animals and this was not the first time that Squeeky had decided to lash out. We therefore promptly slaughtered him, and of course this was done humanly, with as little suffering as possible.

Turns out Andreas is not too bad at plucking

We did the boiling water thing, and promptly started to pluck the feathers out. Andreas wanted to help so I allowed him to. I believe he is learning really valuable life lessons by participating in the chores which living like we do bring. On a homestead, everybody has a part to play, and its also good for him to understand first hand where our food comes from, and what needs to be done before it looks anything like what you buy in the shop.. :)

He actually did about halt the plucking

Being 7 he had all kinds of questions, which we obviously answered to the best of our knowledge, and once Jan started to clean the chicken, and de-gut it even more questions came. Learning about animals and what they can provide, and which process they must go through before we can eat them was all very fascinating for him... and he did inspect everything!! The skin of the chicken after plucking, the different organs, the intestines got a really close look.. but you know what - Its good for him, because one day when he gets older and has to make life choices, he will remember these experiences, and take them with him into the world and in his own life. Its reality!
The concentration.. :)
I would never have thought that choosing this lifestyle for us would have such an impact on our boys, but it has. They both love living here, and obviously because Andreas is younger he has grown with the homestead, and has gone through much of the emotion, and experiences as have we. Rene I think will always be a city kid though, even though he loves the mornings here, and waking up to the bird noises and so on. They both take part in feeding the livestock, and they both have other chores to do around the place, which gets done with minimal complaint.. so all in all we still believe it was the best move ever!

Monday, 13 February 2012

The recipe for No-Poo! :)

Instead of shampoo use a paste made of: 1 tbsp Bicarb of Soda, and half a cup of water. Wet hair as usual, and then apply the no-poo, gently massage into scalp, and rinse with warm water.

Follow with the ACV(Apple Cider Vinegar) conditioner which is made of: 1tbsp ACV and 1 cup of water.. apply to hair, gently massage into scalp and hair right down to tips, and rinse with warm water. :)

That's it! Easy hey.. ;)

The no-poo way - for your hair!

This is just a short blurb to say that I have decided to embark on an adventure to free myself from using commercial shampoo/conditioner. I have opted into the no-poo way!

What does than mean you might think? Well in simple terms it means not using shampoo and conditioners that are commercial.. So how do I wash my hair then?

Bicarb paste and condition with Apple cider vinegar! Yes its that simple. So today I washed my hair for the first time using the bicarb-paste, and the ACV/water conditioner, and I will report back as to how my hair behaves by the end of the week.. But today its soft, and seemingly more shiny, and has a little more body that usual as well..

I was inspired to try this by another blog, Yes a "green" one... which I follow. Its called Bonzai Aphrodite and is an excellent source of all kinds of info regarding "greening" up your life..

You can read more about the whole No-Poo idea here: Bonzai Aphrodite

If you want the recipe, let me know!!