Friday, December 24, 2010

Corporate support!

A local company, Safmarine, recently made a contribution to the farm and offered their labour for the week to help. They managed to get allot done and had a good time too.

On the first day they painted 2 of our storage containers green. They are definitely less of an eye sore now.

 We also got 6 fruit trees that they planted and a whole lot of seedlings and seeds that they filled the new veggie beds with.
This group helped with the fruit trees.

This is one of the completed beds
as shown in the blog post 'permaculture veggie patch plan.'

Seeds getting planted.

 Seed racks full and germinating.

Seedlings planted and happy in the sun.

A big thank you to Safmarine and their staff for their generous donation and all their hard work. I hope you all have a merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Chicken Dome Experiment

I first learned about the this chicken dome design from the book - The Permaculture Home Garden by Linda Woodrow. She calls it a 'Chook Dome' and it's a design for a chicken tractor which is a kind of pen for chickens that can be moved from place to place. It is an essential part of the veggie garden system and although I've decided to upgrade the design and outsource the construction it's been useful in rearing my first lot of little forest bantam type chickens known as Blue Dutch Kriel.

This was the basic structure, made with 20mm 3.3m conduit piping. We cut steel droppers (stakes) to about 30cm bent them to the correct curve and glued them inside the joins.

This is how it looked when it was just about done. It was just missing the Tarp. The tarp is supposed to be tied to the ground by stakes and NOT to the frame. My workers have managed to forget that golden rule twice so it has been airborne a couple of times and sustained a little damage but it's still going strong.

I'm hoping to have one of the 3 upgrades by early next year.

The I had bought 2 cocks a hen and 4 pullets(chickens under a year old). One cock died but between them they've had 15 chicks of which 12 remain...some have disappeared in the night but I'm hopeful that most will make it to adulthood and help make me a good size flock. 

A hen and the chicks managed to get out one morning.
 I've since secured the dome a little better.
That's the little cock that died.
That hen had 8 little chicks after I paired her with the other cock.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Baron Is Back!

Hi folks, Sorry for the delay. My Internet stopped working AND then my PC died but some brilliant technicians got it all back with NO losses. Every time I touched another computer the connection was lost so it's been pretty frustrating but now I'm going to catch up on the farm updates. Starting with Baron.

After Baron got sick he spent the night at the vets but was back the next afternoon. He was pretty doped up when I first saw him and I didn't have my camera. When he was feeling better though...

...he came and found me...

...sat down and told me all about it.

I couldn't quite make out but...
...obviously something hilarious happened...

He looks pretty happy to be home.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SlobberDogs TummyBug

This Is Baron Von Slobberdog
He posed for this pic yesterday but was clearly not loving his life. I thought he might have Tick bite Fever as it's very common around this time of year but the vet says it was gastro!

He is going to spend some time at the vet but we hope to have him back by the end of the day. When he's well he usually keeps his slobber closer to his mouth where it gets all muddy with dust so he can wipe it off on your clean clothes when he comes to greet you. It makes him fairly unpopular and since he's like a 75 kg puppy he can be a bit difficult to control. When he's not feeling well he doesn't swallow so these beautiful spit stalactites form and we know it's time to visit the vet. Sometimes in the morning when he has just woken up he'll get them but he'll have a good shake, they'll wrap around his head and he can then wipe it off on the next passer by...ahhh...what a character.

More pics to follow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


This is Dakota.

 He's the top dog of the farm these days since Tequila died...I think he's around 6 or 7 years old. He has always been a bit of wimp which isn't ideal in a pack leader but he looks pretty mean to intruders. He's a dark coloured German Shepherd and he always escorts me on my patrolls around the farm...I think he likes to walk with me 'cause I'll keep him safe. :o)

Recently we had a rabies scare in the area and all dogs were required to get a rabbies shot. So I loaded all 7 of the dogs up into the back of my bakkie (truck) and set of for the community hall. Besides the dog that I had in the front puking all over the passanger seat the whole thing went off without a hitch...untill we were on the dirt road about 200 meters from TLC's entrance when Dakota decided it would be perfectly acceptable to jump out of the moving vehicle! I wasn't going very fast so he didn't get too hurt. Just a bit of a bloody mouth, I didn't see any broken teeth. It's strange because he loves to come for rides in the back and has only ever jumped out once before while I was at the hardware. He dodged some traffic and decided it wasn't such a good idea to get out without my say so, but to jump out while the car was moving! What a nut! I think the excitment of all the dogs crammed in the back was too much maybe. Anyway. He's fine and still a very handsome dog...but not as handsome as Nibo, the newest addition to the pack ...I'll tell you about him another time.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

When It Rains It Pours...

Last week Wednesday we heard that there was a huge storm blowing in from the south. There was some lightning, high winds and not much rain, at least in the south of Johannesburg where we are. It was weird because the next day it looked like there had been a massive storm on that morning but it wasn't very wet. My Friends who live high on the hills facing south say it was more like a dust storm which we do get once or twice a year. The wind must have got particularly bad at some point during the night. On my way to TLC the next day people all over were repairing the damage.
This guys tree fell on his fence

A small section of brick making companies wall came down.

A big section of wall blew over just up the road from us.
They haven't fixed the wall yet but they breed game animals
here so they've got a fence up in the mean time.

The whole way in I was hoping that I would find TLC in one piece or that the damage would be negligible...unfortunately it wasn't to be...

  The roof of the rubbish place just about blew away.

And about 30 meters of our wall fell over.

Leaving our brand new chicken houses exposed to thieves!

I tried to update this blog last week but we had constant problems with our connection, on the upside I can show you how far we've managed to get. We scratched and scraped together enough to employ some of my regular workers to try get the wall back up. I'm confident some money will come in soon to finish this but at the moment it's as repaired as we can get it.

A short hurdle. Better than nothing.

It'll probably take my workers another two days to finish it. That's 5 workers for two days which is only R1040 about 100 pounds or $150 US.

I'm going to put up the pay pal donations button here. The money goes into an account and will be forwarded to me to be used for the farm.

I'll let everyone know when we are secure again :o)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Our Windmill Arrived!! Finally...

Oh my goodness... What an extraordinarily painful mission that was!

At the end of last year we began having problem after problem with our borehole pump, mainly due to power surges. Every so often we'll have a problem and it can leave us without water for days at a time. As you can imagine with all these babies, never mind the big people, it presents quite an urgent problem. We've had to call the fire department and water companies in the past to come to our aid and deliver water to the property. So we decided that we needed to find a way to back up the system so as to avoid this ever happening again.

Our general plan to begin with was to drill a new borehole pumped by a windmill so that we always have a manual backup that would not require electricity. Simple enough.

What we decided on in the end was to drill a new hole nearer the house and run the electric pump from that borehole. Then we would place the windmill over the original borehole halfway down the property.

The second round of drilling...I do have better pics. I think on my laptop. I'll upload soon.

We managed to get the driller to come out after some weeks and he drilled down to 60meters. As we have a very high water table he thought that would be ample. So then the tedious task of arranging the 'windmill man' to come and put the pump in. He eventually arrived one day and informed me that the hole had collapsed... so I had to call the driller again who came out, put the casings deeper and drilled to 50 meters or so...the windmill man took his sweet time and finally sent some guys who told me the hole had collapsed again to 33meters...everyone involved told me I'd get enough water from that depth so we left it, sunk the pump and connected it up... It must be said that connecting up this system was done in tiny stages by the windmill man and his crew with every appointment they made was missed and every addition created new problems. 

I'll spare you the pain of recounting every frustrating detail just know that it was an ordeal.

There was some urgency to trying to get the windmill up faster than we manged to, as the donor that paid for the windmill has withheld further, much needed donations until we had it erected. The reason I was given in the beginning by the windmill man, as to why we couldn't put the windmill structure over the borehole was because we wouldn't be able to pull the existing pump out with the structure on top because of the anti-theft setup we had to prevent our electric pump being stolen... however, now, after screaming and swearing and threatening to sue he actually delivered the thing, he built it right on top of the existing setup and said 'no it won't be a problem to take up with the windmill on top'...hate that guy!! In a way it's lucky because we don't have any money left for the actual windmill pump any longer but we can still rely on the old electric pump as a backup.       

So here it is. It's up and turning but doing nothing but looking pretty. When I asked for the initial quote he left out the important bits to make sure he closed the deal I suppose...which is a massive irritation as the donor would likely have covered it. That was the subject of our very first disagreement I seem to remember, and I specifically asked in the beginning if that was all and there would be no more costs. Boy was I wrong.

Anyway after the very aggressive phone call that saw him actually, finally deliver, he said he would see what he can do about getting us the pump at around half price. Well if he actually manages to do that it would be the first time he has done what he said he would. The original quote for the pump was for we shall see.   

Looks great!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Permaculture Veggie Patch Plan!

Say that five times fast!

This is a combination of two ideas I've come across in the last couple years. The one idea was a hexagonal shaped veggie garden with dug out clover shaped beds. The idea behind digging out the beds is so that you remove all large rocks and stones from the soil and mix that soil with compost, then loosely replace that soil. This creates an easy substrate for roots to grow in and increases productivity. Once refilled you NEVER stand there again and the clover shaped design allows you to reach any part of the bed easily. This idea of digging out and never standing on the bed I read about in the New Self Sufficient Gardener by John Seymour. It was referred to in there as 'the deep bed method' but has some other names.The hexagonal clover design was shown to me by a gentleman who works for the South African prison service in South Africa. They have a social development program where they show NGO's and schools and places this idea. Big Up!

The design of each clover shaped bed is achieved by placing three plastic rings (1m in diameter made from 3 meter pieces of 20mm or so plastic piping.) next to each other in one pie slice of the hexagon. Where the circles join you also break that away making one bed. This is dug to a depth of about 40 - 60 cm. Then a capsule, for watering, with perforated sides is placed in the middle of each circle so there are 3 capsules per bed.The original design used 2 litre coke bottles but I've made mine out of 110 mm drainage pipe about 60 cm long that hold around 5 litres

 They say using this method and mulching you only need to water once a week! I have yet to confirm that but if it's true you could run an entire system, like I'm about to describe, for a whole year on water you can easily catch from rainwater harvesting off your roof!
This is the basic layout of each group of beds.
The watering capsules are placed in each circle.
(The circle should be joined but I couldn't make that happen in word :o)

The next and most important part of the plan I got from The Permaculture Home Garden by Linda Woodrow. (highly recommend). The Idea I'm going for  is to place these hexagonal gardens, six in a circle around a pond. Each full system consists of 2 circles with a pond in each.  

This is diagram shows one half of a full system.

The red hexagon indicates where the chicken tractor happens to be stationed at the time. The purpose of the chicken tractor is for the chickens to eat the weed seeds and compost the ground by scratch through garden clippings and kitchen scraps. This tractor or chicken dome moves from one group of beds to the next every two weeks and completes a full system in 6 months. Once it ends up back where you started you are harvesting every two weeks. If I can set up a few of these systems and stagger them appropriately we'll be producing allot of our own fresh fruit and veggies every week!

 There is another aspect worth mentioning and that's the rotation of nitrogen fixing plants. In each clover I intend on planting  peas in one section as legumes fix nitrogen in the soil which is good for the next crop you plant. After every time I harvest I intend on rotating the section the peas or beans were in clockwise to the next section thus maintaining a good nutritional balance in the soil.

I'm very hopeful that this will be successful and I'll show you how far I am in making this happen in later posts!

Comments welcome!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two steps forward one step back.

After about 6 months of peace we find ourselves once again targeted by criminals...At least they are keeping to the outer perimeter...lets hope it stays that way.

Early yesterday morning I was woken with a phone call from my sister Zoe who had the guards outside her front door where she stays at TLC. They were reporting the fact that the electricity tranformer that stands next to the road on the outside of our property had just been stolen. So yesterday we had no power to the volunteer cottages, the offices and the pre-school, however, the electricity company did replace the transformer late last night so we are back online today!

Here's our new one...
The old one was about 50 years old and was due for an upgrade anyway

On my way in later that morning I noticed that the gates for our rubbish area had also been pinched (for the second time!) despite my best efforts to avoid it happening again...I had bent the bolts down and wired old bits off wood to each of the gates to deter thieves... but they actuially managed to bend the loops on the other side of the bolt that hold each gate on to the pole.
This rubbish place is on the outside of our property. Workers throw the rubbish through a hole in the wall which is secured by large wooden shutter type doors.The rubbish goe into the walled in and covered area next to the road. Now the problem we're left with is that all the stray animals and people wondering by who decide to get stuck into the rubbish bags tend to leave an unsightly mess. The added problem besied the mess is that the rather infrequent private rubbish service that we have won't take any broken bags...and having regular gates here isn't working... What to do.... 
Our sad looking, gateless rubbish place.

One solution I've been considering is cancelling the rather poor service and taking the rubbish away myself. It does mean extra work regularly but being open is the main problem...maybe a gate made of old rags or tarps...or sacks...hessien...stretched from one side and hooked to the other, but even a nice peice of hessien will be snatched...maybe I can riddle it with something like bamboo...old animal food sacks stitched together maybe?? Any ideas?

So frustrated.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Legen-Dairy!!

I've been working on this dairy since 2008.
The nearest side you can see is the milkshed where the cows will be brought to be milked.
 The far side is the dairy where we will process the milk.

TLC stands to save around R5000 per month by producing our own milk. We also want to get ourselves set up to produce other dairy products when the time comes. The money that we save we intend on reinvesting in other systems which will edge us further toward self relience.

This is one of the latest pics but from the other side. As you can see we have plumbing now, with a double basin inside and a double cement wash trough outside.   

We were given everything we need to finish the inside, tiling, glazing, cement, etc. but we need to put a proper roof on the building first which is going to cost about R20 000. Then we can finish the building and start thinking about equipment. I want to have the whole thing set up before we get the cows however we've made no progress over the last year on this through lack of support. Considering the amount we stand to save on a montly basis, it's a pity that it's not running already.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Our own free range chickens!

With the help of a corporate sponsor - PPC Cement, we have been able to erect this facility which will see us producing all our own free range chickens and eggs on the farm.
Each structure will house 100 chickens to start with but we will be able to increase the number somewhat acccording to demand. We consume about 100 chickens on a monthly basis which is what the facility is designed to provide, with one structure designated specifically for the production of eggs

Each house has an open range of 400 square meters for the chickens well being. We intend on planting a few trees inside too.  

We have all the equipment and two structures ready to go...unfortunately we went slightly over budget on this because of the unexpected increase in the price of steel and although the project cost well over R300 000 we have stumbled at the finish. We only need about another R10 000 to get the feed, the chickens and the bedding to get this project going. A few months back that amount wasn't going to be a problem for TLC to cover considering the savings but due to the unpredictable nature of donations our bank balance is not looking good so between paying saleries and creditors there is nothing left.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Farming for our future.

We are situated on a 22 acre peice of land that we intend on utilising as far as possible so as to push down running costs of the organisation.

I'm 28 years old, third of Thea Jarvis's biological children and eldest son. I am the Farm Manager here at TLC and I intend on employing a permaculture stratergy on the farm as far as possible to produce as much as we can to fulfill the diverse needs of the family and this organisation. I want to use this blog to keep those interested in TLC up to date with all the goings on of the farm and hopefully generate some support for the different projects aimed at our ultimate self relience.