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 R7500...so 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.