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Wednesday, 2 January 2019

New year, new goals... and all that nonsense!

First off, let me wish everyone a happy, successful and BORING (as opposed to "interesting") 2019. It's only the 2nd day of January, so most people are still sticking to whatever new year's resolutions they have made two days ago. I think...

I'm not one of them.

To me, new year's resolutions are much too wishy-washy: lose weight, stop smoking, stop hitting the wife... really?

I like GOALS. And PLANS. And really cool rewards at the end of it all. However, that takes ACTION, a step that most people forget exists by week 2. The cool thing about goals is that one doesn't have to wait for January 1 to get going. And if you missed the date, that's fine too! You can start at any time you wish.

That said, a goal has an end date. And action steps with "do-by" dates (Mini goals, if you wish!) to keep you going and motivated while you eat your own, personal elephant.

The other thing about goals is that you get to have an "accountability team" to keep you on the straight and narrow. After all, once you declare your goal and your date, that means that people are going to start watching your progress and ask questions of you along the way. Some people keep their goals and team personal and private and others go big on Facebook or some other social media platform for everyone to see their trials and tribulations and to comment on everything they do.

I am somewhere in between. I want more people than simply my nearest and dearest to know what I am up to, but displaying myself to the whole cyber-planet is definitely not my mug of coffee. Therefore, I shall use this blog as my personal goal setting and -reaching forum. That way, I can be held accountable, but not while displaying my unmentionables to all and sundry. PLUS most of my personal goals are also Permaculture and Homesteading goals, so everything will still match up perfectly.

Here goes...

  • I want to have my food and herb (practice) garden established to the point of where I can take a good harvest of "first fruits" to church at the end of January 2020. Actually, I just want to see my pastor's face when I put fruit, vegetables, eggs and home canned goods in the basket!
  • I want to complete two modules of a language course by June 2019 so that I can qualify to enroll for a teaching certificate in 2020. I want to be able to help (older) kids with reading problems, as many of them slip through the cracks of our education system.
  • By the end of 2019, I want to earn an income from writing, blogging and various side businesses that equals or even surpasses my salary income so that I can bid my boss farewell without having any regrets or suffering a cash flow setback. It doesn't necessarily mean that I WILL resign - merely that I won't be dependent on the job for all of my income.
And that's it!

Yes, I want to remove a lot of weight as well, but that's going to happen anyway, once I start getting active in the garden and eating more fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. I haven't smoked in almost 15 years and in the unlikely event that I ever find a wife to beat... you will be the first to know!

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Ethics of Permaculture: People Care

Be considerate of everyone's time, interests, thoughts and actions, including your own.
(The Permaville Handbook)

When you are passionate about something, it is easy to forget that others may not share in your enthusiasm. Being too aggressive can alienate others and do a lot of damage not only to the cause of Permaculture in general, but also to the way in which people view your own project.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, Permaculturalists are a diverse group of people. We have different political views, religious beliefs and even diets! And as much as some of us wish we don't have to, we all have to function within a larger society.

My biggest critic in this endeavor of mine is - strangely enough - my mom! I know she loves me and she doesn't want to see me lose money or be destitute, so I don't take the barbs too personally. (It's not always easy, believe me!) Knowing where she comes from (a so-called "Baby Boomer") helps me to understand her mindset and her fears and whenever I bring this topic up, I start where she is at. Helping her understand also helps her support me and it leads to a lot less conflict in the family.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about having an elevator pitch for my backyard farming project. I never considered it a part of "people care" until now.

The two biggest advantages of such a statement are that it saves time and keeps one from boring others to death. Those who are genuinely interested, will then ask the right questions and those who aren't will answer with something like "Oh, OK," and then you will know to move on to the next topic.

Another aspect to take into consideration is that Permaculture flies in the face of what most people consider to be "normal". No matter what you do, others will consider it to be either "a bit backward" or "anti-establishment". There is also the matter of ego: your act of leaving the so-called "rat race" (where the winner is still a rat!) to start - or simply continue - something else makes others seem inadequate. And it's easier to (try to) bring someone else down than to step out of one's comfort zone towards achieving something different, yourself!

Therefore, being aware of where someone else might be ACTING from, would also lead to a better understanding and not wanting to retaliate in kind. Always remember that Karma is a female canine, and her bites are extremely painful. Rather let her handle matters than take those matters into your own hands and have to carry your own set of consequences.


Being involved in Permaculture already sets me apart from everyone else, even if I haven't properly started on my project yet. I think differently and I act differently. Instead of looking at another person as a problem that may or may not get solved, I already visualize the potential outcome from that person following in my alternative footsteps. I already have immense power within me to change the world as I know it. The responsibility lies in teaching others that they have that same power and that it does not have to be an intimidating process, but small steps, taken one at a time.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Why Permaculture?

When the Free Range Hooligan idea first started, I was hooked on "Homesteading", the concept of living a "pioneer lifestyle" somewhere off-grid and living a totally isolated life. I wasn't very impressed with society at the time and getting away from everything and everyone was extremely appealing.

Then a friend told me to Google Geoff Lawton and the concept of Permaculture. I had never heard of either of those two. But I trusted the friend and between Google and YouTube I literally got sucked down the rabbit hole and into a whole new world of possibility.

You see, I have always thought of Permaculture as just another fashion phrase for organic gardening. And gardening was the one thing I couldn't see myself doing. Green things died near me. That said, before now I had no interest in learning how to make them NOT die, either. To my utter amazement, I found that putting plants in the ground and helping them grow only forms a small part of the total concept of Permaculture.

Permaculture transcends cultures, religions, political views, eating habits, borders and burocracies. It doesn't care whether you are black, white, yellow or green, male, female, old or young. It doesn't care whether you are filthy rich or own very little. Yes, it does require a measure of intelligence, and some training, but it can be applied by school children and university professors alike.

Permaculture is not as much a method as it is a MINDSET. When someone asks, I usually roughly define it as "what happens when a hippie and an engineer decide to go farming together", but the 3 ethics and 12 principles of Permaculture can be applied almost everywhere and to every situation. Permaculture is as organic as you can imagine, but it is also highly systemised to the point of where once certain zones have been properly established, very little is required in the way of human interference.

Yes, this sounds weird. Ethics, Principles and Zones are not things commercial farmers and business people are known for. In fact, they are more concerned with "Yield per acre", "Profit" and "Input Costs".

Ethics are WHAT Permaculturalists do, principles regulate HOW they do it, and zones are WHERE they do it. The twist is that Permaculture farmsteads can still be immensely profitable and fulfilling, but without the stress and pressure that other farms are under to perform to a certain "money standard".

What I want from my own farmstead is to produce enough food to feed myself and my immediate family without putting any pressure on the environment or cause any unnecessary health issues. Any surplus will either be processed for later use, sold at farmers' markets or be redistributed to those less fortunate than we are. That immediately covers all three of the ethics without me having to make a serious conscious decision.

The exact "hows" may change over time. What works in one situation may not work in another. Not all my projects may produce a measurable yield in any given season, but - God willing - there will always be a yield produced from somewhere to sustain the big picture and I will not go hungry.

I'll go over the ethics, principles and zones in other posts over the next few weeks. Sharper minds have devoted whole books to the topic and I'll refer a lot to the giants who have gone before me and on whose shoulders I plan to stand. There will also be some links to other resources. Please bear in mind that I may receive some reward from any links that you follow. I promise, however, that I won't post links to products and services that I haven't used myself and like.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

All the green stuff

My delivery from Mountain Herb Estate arrived this morning. I was extremely skeptical about having plants couriered, but they all arrived in excellent condition. Yes, I took them out of their box immediately, and arranged them tastefully (!!!) on the front steps of my little library. Shall take them home tonight and to my mom's over the weekend. Some of them will have to be potted immediately, while others can stand a while until they are ready to be put into the ground.

This is what I bought. Clockwise, from the back left, they are:

Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Black Mulberry (Morus nigra)

Aloe Vera (Aloe vera)

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

Chocolate Mint (Mentha x piperita)

St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Now, if anyone told me about 25 years ago that I shall not only know the binomial names (the Latin ones) of all the plants that I plant in my garden, but that I shall often refer to the plant by it's scientific name alone, I would have asked them the name and number of their dealer. (Obviously, they had access to potent stuff!)

I have since learnt that it is easier to refer to the botanical names, especially if there is a specific plant that I need. It also makes it easier to look up on the Internet, as the plant that I have is the exact plant that I shall find information about, without the ambiguity caused by common names.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Measuring up! The first step in planning my food garden

My mom was gracious enough to allow me a corner of her property to use as an experiment in food gardening. However, the stipulation was that I am not allowed to remove any of the existing trees from that corner. So... That means I have to include quite a number of (indigenous) trees in my planning.

The other problem with that particular corner is that the soil is clayey and compacted and as hard as concrete. That means that most of my plantings would have to happen in raised beds and containers if I don't want to rent a pneumatic drill to break ground. As it is, I shall probably have to struggle to dig a few holes, anyway, to set fence posts and to plant the odd fruit tree that I don't want to keep in a pot. That all needs to be planned out well in advance as I do not want to struggle unnecessarily later on.

To give me some idea of where to start, I spent some time on Google yesterday, and came across a really informative blog, Daily Harvest Designs. It is run by Rachel, a rare breed of person who has both formal horticultural and Permaculture qualifications, but who also has a heart for helping other people succeed in their own Permaculture endeavors.

With Monday the 17th being a public holiday here in South Africa, I shall drive over to my mom's place with a clipboard, pen, paper and tape measure and take careful triangular measurements of every existing tree's placement on that bit of garden. I'll borrow an old tent peg as well, to mark off the exact area where I shall be working.

I'll also take some altimeter readings. It being my mom's place and considering the hard soil, I doubt that I'll be digging swales, BUT then that's pretty much a part of Permaculture so that's also something to plan for.

In the meantime, I'll do some research on tree canopy sizes, to see how and where to put my raised beds and vertical garden structures and if there would be a good space to place an aquaponic system and a small greenhouse.

I am also waiting with bated breath for my Amazon orders to arrive. My late dad always said that if one could read, there isn't much that one couldn't do. None of these books will replace the practical knowledge that I plan to pick up on my journey, but it will be good to learn from the mistakes of people who have done what I am planning to do. Some mistakes can be expensive and I don't have money to throw away needlessly. And tips and tricks are always welcome.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Seed, Glorious Seed...

I have received my seed order from Livingseeds this morning! They sell heirloom seeds and seedlings from all over the world, as well as everything you need to grow them.

It was a big order, and I have included a variety of herb and vegetable packs, as well as packs of 30 mm Jiffy plugs. The plugs will help a lot in getting the tomatoes and peppers started before I transplant them into their final beds at my mom's place.

Yes, my mom graciously lent me a piece of her garden for what she calls my "Permaculture Experiment". I'll probably plant some tomatoes and kale and cucumbers in other parts of her garden as well. Serious guerrilla, me... ;-)

Which brings me to another bugbear...

Rustenburg was one of the host cities for the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup Final Tournament. At the time, the local council really went all out to beautify the town/city. Eight years later, the decay is shocking to behold, and no-one seems to want to take responsibility.

I have more vegetable seeds than I'll ever be able to use for myself. So... What yours charmingly'll be doing is to create seedlings and surreptitiously plant them all over town... Some catnip, perhaps... or maybe a pumpkin or two... or some tomatoes...

I'll think about it...

Ps. I am also ordering more fruit seed and trees from Mountain Herb Estate today, to plant in that garden patch. I'm not much of a green-fingered person - and the first to admit that - but the key to becoming one is by learning and doing and starting. Between you and me and the lamppost, I have a sneaky suspicion that it's more a matter of never really being interested in gardening before than it is one of an inability to keep plants alive.

It's that time of the year again!

Gifts are NOT my Love Language. To me, the time spent MAKING them is much more precious than the gift itself. It is all about the thoughts and energy and maybe a bit of aura that go into the creation of something that you hope the other person will find useful and pretty.

This year, my Other Half and I have decided to decorate coffee mugs and fill them with home-made goodies for our immediate families. The men will get shaving bars and the ladies bars of bath soap. The three short people will get candy, as I don't think soap will be very attractive to anyone under the age of 10.

I'll document the process, in a revised post, later, as I think this might be a useful idea.