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Pebblespring Farm (Port Elizabeth South Africa - 34 deg South)

 
Posts: 7
Location: Mossel Bay South Africa
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Hi Tim some more photos of the converted shed showing the lime, oxide for color and bonding liquid that was used to waterproof the outside, and the wood burning oven that doubles as a water heater. We have enjoyed a number of great roasts from this oven.
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The shed was painted with a mixture of Lime, oxide and bonding liquid
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The start of the oven with loose packed bricks on the inside and vermiculite on the outside as insulation
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The oven complete
 
David Manley
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Location: Mossel Bay South Africa
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Hi Tim a bit more on the shed
 
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Thanks Sue,


David,

Nice pics. Yes lots of similarities. I am completely with you on the idea of keeping the costs as low as possible with the renovation. A little money can go along way with careful thought.

do you have any specific plans for the shed?

Are there any pics of the inside of the cottage?

I love the wood stove. Where do you get the door from, or did you have it made up?

How does the chimney work?
 
pollinator
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Location: New Zealand
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Beautiful, David.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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The Brown Cow, that the kids have named Daisy, had a still born calf on Friday. I am not sure if I should worry about this. It is her first calf, perhaps she took the bull a bit too soon, perhaps she is not getting all the nutrients she needs. Its sad. It would have been nice to have a calf on the farm.

I really did not get much time to get out to the farm in the week. I popped in on Wednesday afternoon and took some measurements for the new casements for the timber windows. Over the weekend, today and yesterday, my time was also quite limited. Yesterday I had to fetch and carry kids to drama practice and had to get some work done at home in the morning first. Today may daughter came out to the farm with me in the morning. We had great fun, but got only a few things done before she was bored and desperately needing to go to McDonalds for lunch. I love spending time with her. I love spending time with my family and being available to them for the things that they need my help with. So I am stretched. So little time. There is a mountain of work that needs to be done on the farm, if I can ever dream of moving my family there, but to get to that mountain is a real challenge. I really want to spend time myself getting it done. I am not afraid to hire people to help me, but only to the point where I trust that they will not do more damage than good.

Is it fair on my family for me to take on this project? Is it fair of my family to expect me to be available all the time for their projects (at the expense of mine) ? I don't know. Right now my family is sitting in the lounge, by the fire watching "Idols" (I don't know if you can call it a project, but it seems to be quite and important weekly event a least). But I am hear, in my study cleaning my chainsaw, or planning the house or scheduling the tasks on the cottage of the week, or talking to you guys. Is that fair of me? Or should I be watching TV?

And another thing. Is it fair on my family for me to develop an attitude toward my office and the business I have built, that may see me being less inclined to see myself as its slave? What if this attitude results in me bringing home less money? What if child number three can not have as much money spent on her as child number one? Would the family understand? Would I not regret this?

The farm is not just a property deal. We have bought a few properties over the years and those have always been about the spreadsheet. What rental can it generate? What can I re-sell it for? And while I can see that Pebblespring is a good investment, its more complicated than that, because I see Pebblespring as part of strategy to simplify, to spend less and to live more fully. But this is a family project. It is a project for all of us. The reality of course is that we all see things differently. We all love the farm, but are not all equally on the same page about simplifying and spending less. While I am quite comfortable to lead this process, I am very concious of not leaving anybody behind. Not creating a gap between me and the others in my family. I am not separate from them. We are a whole. But we are all our own people, with our own minds.


In other news, I have been thinking a little more about the new house we plan to build after finishing with the renovations of the cottage. The new plan is to have it a little closer to the cottage, so as to form the second edge of a farm yard, (with the existing cottage being the first edge).

The way I prefer to think is to sit with an idea for a while and see if it "resonates" If it still feels good in week or two or is not replaced by a better one, then perhaps we move to the next level. Slow moving, but solid.

So I will let you know if the thinking stays stuck.
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Sue Rine
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The answers to your questions about money depend on whether you think money will buy the things you think are most important to give your family. It also depends on whether you and your wife are on the same page. You can never treat all your children the same and I very much doubt that the amount of money you spend on them will be what they remember.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Thanks Sue. You are quite right of course.
 
Sue Rine
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Our 19 yr old daughter was having a laugh when she was home from her first term at uni. She was telling us about first day introductions in class and said, 'Mum, you've no idea how difficult it was to explain my life. First we lived in an old police house, then a public garden where we were home schooled,then a bach with no power and when we finally got a real house of our own it has a composting toilet!' All said with thesort of smile that says, 'Who wants an ordinary life anyway?'
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Sue, you have given your daughter a great gift. I am sure as she grows older she will be even more grateful. I am here to learn from people like you who have come to this challenge before me.
 
Sue Rine
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She's the third of our 4 children and was the one who least wanted to move to the farm. She was 12 at the time. It transpired that the two things that were bothering her were a fear that she would lose friends she'd had since birth and she was embarrassed by our basic accommodation. It soon became obvious to her that her old friendships would remain intact. Then when new school friends started to visit they saw the place as an adventure, a cabin in the woods and they weren't the least bit bothered by the longdrop toilet. So then the embarrassment melted away.
For a few months the children would argue quite a bit. There were 6 of us in a 50 sq metre cabin and they shared bedroom space. But it seemed that they all suddenly realised that they would all be happier if they were just nice to each other. They're all good friends now and keep in touch even though they all live in different places. I love listening to the buzz of conversation when they all come home.
Anyway, I've rambled on long enough. You're on an exciting journey and I'm sure that in years to come you'll look back and be really pleased that you took the plunge and didn't settle for an ordinary life.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Sue. Please ramble more. The more detail I get to fill the picture in my mind of how things can be, the closer it comes to being real.
 
Sue Rine
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We'll, one thing that didn't work out was my vision of us working as a family in the garden. While they were still homeschooled the children helped with farm work...not always willingly. I think the garden thing was a combination of me having too high expectations and just that kids often don't want to do what their parents do. The thing that sent my jaw dropping to the ground, though, was that within weeks of leaving home, each of the girls was ringing for vege gardening advice. I even heard one of them say to someone, 'Well, I suppose I'm my mother's daughter'! She who never willingly picked up a trowel in her life! So funny. Our youngest son, though no more interested in gardening than the others, does plan to farm after studying agriculture.
I guess the thing is that, like it or not, they pick up skills and attitudes that serve them well in life. When wewere living in the cabin I kept telling them they'd be able to tell their grandchildren about this.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Sue,

I am glad some of what you have taught your family has sunken in with them.

 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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I went out to the farm with my mother on Sunday. She helped me identify some of the trees that I don't yet know. But also by her just being there with me it helped me gain some "lifetime perspective".

A perspective that helps me see that its OK if things take the time that they need to take. Its going to take a lifetime sculpting this land, this giant garden. The task will never end. My learning, I am sure will never end. I see this time now as just the beginning of the relationship. The "getting to know each other" stage.

I wish I could tell you more about what has been done, since last I checked in, but to be honest, I have been really busy in business. I have been toiling, mostly mindless toiling, the kind that I just have to do to keep afloat. The kind of toil that makes me wonder if there is a different way, a simpler way, perhaps a more beautiful way for me to live out my life. A direct way. A way that cuts straight to the chase. A way that does not see everything as a means to and end. A way that is the end in itself.

I spend so much of my time doing stuff, not that I want to do, but what I am required to do in order to achieve an objective and so much of the time even the objective that I am trying to achieve is not actually what I want but rather just something that helps me achieve another objective which is not what I want but helps me achieve the next objective. Yes I can see the insanity in this cycle and you can see the insanity in your own life, but just because I know the question does not mean I have the answer. I can see the treadmill that I am on, but that does not mean I know how to get off. And without wanting to push the metaphor too far, I can see that it really is possible to fall quite hard once you realise you are on a treadmill and look around, take your eye off where it should be and loose a footing, tumbling face forward and head over heals.

I tried not to think of these matters while I was out in the forest with the trees and my mom, where we found a tree that I very much hope is indigenous, but looks very much like the Australian invasive Acacia Mearnsii (known here as Black Wattle). As far as I can see its an Acacia Caffra, but some of my clever friends think is could be Peltophorum Africana.

Its not that I have a fascination with Latin sounding names or the classification of each plant and tree, but rather just that I would like to know if they should be chopped down or not. If they are invasive, then they are just going to cause me more work over the years as I have to keep them out of areas I don't want them to be in.So if anyone reading this blog can identify this tree or perhaps knows a internet group or forum that is likely to be able to, please let me know.

My mission in the next few weeks is to get going with planting potted trees that I have been moving from my house in Walmer. My mom tells me its late I should have planted in autumn already. Here I was holding on until spring, but I will plant anyway.

The other project that is becoming urgent, is for me to move the chickens to the farm. Two of the chickens have turned out to be roosters and have taken to crowing early in the morning, I am sure upsetting the same neighbours who complained last time I had a rooster. So watch this space for chicken coop progress.
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My Mom
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Can you identify this tree?
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The Mystree tree.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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I have been cleaning up the yard a bit at home. I suppose now that we have the farm, I have little excuse left for turning our sub-urban backyard into an ongoing agricultural experiment. We have veggies, fruit trees, grape vines, Tilapia, a duckweed pond and a chicken run. I am under pressure to move the chickens, the grape vine, the tree nursery and the Tilapia hot house out of the back yard and on to the farm.


But its kind of sad. I know I am making space for bigger and better things, but I still have a vision for this backyard, that will now remain unfulfilled. I would have like to have completely taken out the lawn and replaces it with a tree nursery or chicken forage. I would like to have drained the pool, roofed it into a Tilapia aquaponic garden hothouse. I would have liked to have gone further with rainwater harvesting, composting and grey water systems.

But in clearing out the yard, I am also taking stock. I am clearing out the rubbish that has accumulated. Burning those short bits of timber I thought I would use here and there. Its funny, its almost as if all this stuff grows to have some power over me. And as I burn it I feel the power return to me. Too much stuff! That's the real problem. We get more and more of it and it begins to mess with our minds. It begins to take my personal power.

I am not sure that I know what I mean by "personal power", but I have come to see that inside me there is a personal energy or "power". Some days it is stronger, some days it is weaker. I can feel it change sometimes. If, maybe somebody close to me says something hurtful. I feel my power diminish. If I am doing physical work, I may feel tired, as if though I cannot go on. And piles and piles of disorganised stuff has a similar effect on the energy. This "power". It makes me feel weak and discouraged.

This realisation is behind my drive to simplify, to live with less. I can see that living with less will give me greater vitality and greater strength. I have go no idea why, of course. But, the mechanics of this phenomenon are not as important to me as the absolute knowledge, that for me, in my life, the less clutter there is, the less noise there is, the less stuff there is, the stronger I feel. And, what's more, I notice that its like some sort of spiral effect, because the stronger I feel, the more I am able to do to rid myself of those things that are making me feel weak, so I, in turn become stronger again.

My quest , and I suppose, many of yours to, is to find my strongest self, my fullest self. All else flows from there. My ability to love and give. My ability to lead and contribute, all of these are by products of a strong self.

So, as I step back into the work week tomorrow, let me remember the feeling of power and strength I hold today. Let me carry it with me to the meetings, in the proposal and the reports. Let me remember that the place from where I come is a place of power.
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Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Two dead Chickens

Its not that I expected to happen, but I am not surprised. Two chickens were taken last night, probably something as small as a mongoose. It must have slipped under the frame of the chicken tractor. We have re-enforced the pen now, by adding a trim of chicken wire that I believe a mongoose may not be clever enough to dig under.


I suppose the other way to have gone about this would have been to have built an absolutely impenetrable concrete and brickwork fortress for the chickens. Something that could withstand any attack including hurricane and leopard. But I don't think that's the approach that I care to take. What I am trying to get right at the farm is efficiency in design. The question I continuously ask myself is: What is the appropriate response?

I suppose this is what I am trying to get right in my life. Because I can be cautious but it may stop me ever setting a foot out the door. Or I could be reckless and risk hurting those that depend on me. Too much caution is bad. Too much recklessness it bad. But what I am doing with the chickens and what I am doing on the farm generally, is observing. Taking and action and observing the response of the farm.

Through the action of introducing the chicken tractor, I have been able to observe that I have a mongoose challenge. I can now prepare a measured, sensible response to the mongoose challenge. I can respond with design. The kind of design that does not destroy habitat. The kind of design that is the gentlest possible intervention to address the challenge.

Do you see how this is different to the approach of conventional agriculture, conventional medicine or conventional city building.? In conventional agriculture where we find we have insect challenge we introduce insecticides and destroy all insects, good bad or indifferent. We do not take the time to observe and develop a measured response. In medicine we respond to microbial infections with antibiotics. We do not take the time to observe. We annihilate all bacteria, good bad or indifferent. In city building we act against variety, where one noisy business upsets one complaining resident, we abolish all mixed use suburbs and replace them with a monoculture of residential, a monoculture of offices and a monoculture of factories. We act in this way perhaps because we are afraid of things going wrong. We are afraid to make mistakes. We are afraid perhaps of the ridicule or the mockery, So we become cautious. We make very safe decisions that cant possibly go wrong. We get life cover, medial aid and short term insurance. We get cars with a "motor plan".We get safe jobs that promise a pension to look after us so we don't embarrass ourselves by being a burden by making the mistake of running out of money before we die.

But of course in all this cautiousness our dreams ate postponed and the richness of what could have been our lives becomes displaced with a life of slavery to those that offer the promise of comfort and security. This life my friends, is not for me. And yes there will be some blood and guts along this path.

But this is the path that I am committed to walk.
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pollinator
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I buy the legally mandatory car insurance and that's it. No life insurance, no fire insurance, extra warranty protection etc. Many times, people who are doing a horrible job of managing their diet and health, have warned me about the huge risks I'm taking. I've saved enough over the years to buy a few cars.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Dale,

I like you style.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Well today is Heritage Day (in South Africa) , but is so wet here that I cant bring myself to make a braai (barbecue) . Its quite interesting actually that the idea of having a braai on Heritage day has caught on. Because, if I were to question people I meet in South Africa everyday and ask them about their heritage, they will most often speak about their specific national, tribal or language identity. In some cases the individual may also have some kind of clan or family heritage that they like to speak about. Heritage, for so many of us has been about trying to answer the question "How are you different from other people?" Well I am not sure that's the only way to think of it. There are so many things that we in fact have as a common Heritage. That's why I like the idea of "Braai" day, because no matter who you are, your ancestors at some stage cooked meat over an open fire. This is an in and inescapable truth and a comforting ritual that we are all still drawn to in some way. We are all drawn to music, we are all drawn to conversation and laughter and we are all drawn to being outside and breathing fresh air. This is our common heritage and this is what we should be celebrating. In my life these are the things that I celebrate. The minuscule and scientific differences between us are not of such a great fascination to me. Rather I see as academic, the differences between Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whiskey, I see as academic the differences between Rooseterkoek and I'rostile. I see as academic the difference between Pot Roast Chicken and Umleqwa or Umqa and Pap.


I would also argue that it is our common heritage to interact with each other in a civilised way in order to exchange with each other goods and services, In fact, on our way out to the farm this morning Hlubi and I stopped in at the Lake Farm Centre for Intellectually Challenged Adults. They were having their annual fair. Unfortunately a little washed out, but there were still enough people to form a queue at the coffee and cake table and to buy out the boerewors rolls. We huddled indoors looking through the bric-a-brac or choosing the fresh fruit and veg on sale from local farms. It just came to me how different and pleasant this experience of trade is. It feels honest. It feels caring. Dealing with ordinary pleasant people like you and me. Not sexy, Not Flashy. Just ordinary and pleasant.So different from the malls and superstores where I am constantly on my guard, un-relaxed, conscious that this big huge business, is a very clever machine and it is trying its best to drain my wallet and suck my blood. There is no relaxing in such an environment.

But at Lake Farm this morning I wondered: "Is the act of buying and selling our daily needs in a pleasant and civilised environment which we own and control not a common Heritage that we should reclaim for ourselves?". Really, its only in the last 50 years or so that the act of consuming has been turned in to massive industry that it is. Can you think of a shopping mall that even existed in the seventies? I cant, but maybe there was one somewhere far away. The point is that Heritage is something that has come a long way from the past and belongs to us. We need to defend against those gifts being taken away from us. The corporations taking those gifts away from us are mindless and soulless. I don't mean this as an insult. It is an observation. Remember, while corporations were all at some stage founded by people, they are not people, they are code, like a computer virus, a piece of programming. They employ humans yes, but they are not human. Corporations are machines and they are out of control. They have no "off"switch. Any single human who tries to switch off Walmart or Macdonalds will be ejected by the machine. Discarded, disciplined, imprisoned...

Am I digressing?

Is it not our heritage to have clean water and breathable air? Is it not our heritage to have clean food, free toxic commercial chemicals? Is it not our heritage to be free from toil and drudgery? Yes, I know some will say that it is also our heritage to be riddled with lepracy and dying from bubonic plague, But have the scare mongers not been too successful in convincing us all that we have had to accept drudgery, toil and environmental collapse in order to achieve the technological advances that have brought us the anti-biotic?

No, I think we can confidently lay claim to a heritage of freedom. We are more knowledgeable now as a species than we have ever been before. If freedom is the freedom from drudgery, poverty and environmental collapse, then yes, it can be achieved if we set to it as a project, as if we had to get a man on the moon or build a Hadron Collider or rid Iraq of Saddam Hussain. It can be done.

Freedom is our Heritage. It belongs to us.
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Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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7 September 2014 (I see I have posted this out of sequence)

I am not entirely sure that I am ready to move the chickens to the farm, but its done, I moved them today on the back of a hired trailer, with a whole lot of potted trees from my hothouse which I am busy dismantling. All but the one hen that is broody and sitting on eggs.


I am sure I could have built a better shelter for them. In fact I have a much better one planned, drawings and everything, but like with so much in my life, this is what I am able to do now, with the time and resource that I have. I console myself by saying it is a temporary solution. But I say this as I look around my study on the Sunday evening with all many of the temporary shelves, piles of books, heaps of tools un-carpeted floors and skew hung posters, which were all "temporary " solutions.

How much too in my business is the result of pragmatic thinking. "This is the best that we can do, let it out the door, or run the risk of missing the deadline".* But is it not in this way that my life becomes a sequence of compromises. Is it not in this way that I miss on the opportunity to do great work, lovely chicken sheds, great articles, beautiful buildings? But perhaps its better this way. Rather a life of compromises than a life of waiting for the time to be right. Waiting for the movement to strike. But never taking action, Never doing stuff, because the circumstance is just not right. I don't know!

But I do know that we have 5 fowl in the new pen. One hen got out when I was moving them out of the transport cage. I hope we can somehow get it back. I will ask Mandoza if he can think of a way to catch it tomorrow. The danger of course is that unknown predators roaming the farm kill all the chickens tonight. I have not yet taken the time to make the shelter "dig under proof".

I will keep you posted. Lets see how it goes tonight.

* In a way too, this blog is a battle between getting something out and getting something right. I would like the blog to have more meaningful articles. I would like there to be thorough videos explaining some of the things we do. I would like the photograph to be of better quality. But I suppose if I waited for all those things to happen, I would never put a blog out at all!

update - 8 9 14


Chickens all still alive this morning and I managed to catch the one that got out. (I popped into the farm on the way back from a meeting nearby.

update 11 9 14

Added a nest box this afternoon.


A simple design of 300 X 300 boards cut from a 19 mm Shutterboard sheet. A little plank across the front to keep the eggs and nesting material in. Then simply screwed into the side wall of the Chicken Tractor.

The chickens seem happy. The peck at the grass all the time and scratch in it. Mandoza is moving them to new grass every day. So far so good. No predator attacks. I put a bunch of Bluegum leaves in for them to nest in. I heard somewhere that Bluegum leaves are some sort of natural bug repellent.

We'll see!

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pollinator
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Timothy Hewitt-Coleman wrote:

I am sure I could have built a better shelter for them. In fact I have a much better one planned, drawings and everything, but like with so much in my life, this is what I am able to do now, with the time and resource that I have. I console myself by saying it is a temporary solution. But I say this as I look around my study on the Sunday evening with all many of the temporary shelves, piles of books, heaps of tools un-carpeted floors and skew hung posters, which were all "temporary " solutions.



Life is temporary, sometimes it is good to be reminded of that. Man (mankind) was a nomad long before they set down roots. Even the early farmers (some as late as only 100 years ago) moved from house to house with the seasons. We talk about "churn" as a bad thing and in many ways it is. However, sometimes I think that if our belongings are made to be "returned to the earth" and we don't have a place to store them and know that we will be moving in 6 months... perhaps the "things" we do have would be simpler and we would collect less.

I say this from my "permanent dwelling" surrounded by furniture I bought to "last" and think I would sure hate to loose all the books I have. As the song goes: "we're a strange animal."
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Len, The other thing is that if we build something to last the very first time we confront the challenge, we loose the opportunity to react to what we observe in its interaction with the ecosystem. We therefore loose out ability to adapt and improve our design So maybe there is a combination of temporary and permanent required. A gradation. Every time we modify out of observation we improve allowing the design to become more and more permanent. Maybe.
 
Len Ovens
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Timothy Hewitt-Coleman wrote:Len, The other thing is that if we build something to last the very first time we confront the challenge, we loose the opportunity to react to what we observe in its interaction with the ecosystem. We therefore loose out ability to adapt and improve our design So maybe there is a combination of temporary and permanent required. A gradation. Every time we modify out of observation we improve allowing the design to become more and more permanent. Maybe.



I like that. I would add that we like to get ideas/plans from someone else that we "know" will "work". The problem with that is that, at least in dealing with nature, every different location has new and different needs. What works on the prairies (north America) will not work where I live on Vancouver Island:
-because the land is not stable
-because we don't have frozen land for part of the year
-because we do have much more rain
-because local rules and laws are different.

Just to name a few. Add to that (as you hinted at) that by trying new things it is just possible that something totally new will be discovered that works better than what the next person has already thought of. I think the goal should always be to make something better than anything else works so far. Even if that just means that we make something that works better here than something that would work better somewhere else.

 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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@Len,

I think part of the problem is that we have become intimidated into thinking that it is only the clever people, perhaps in government, perhaps in big corporations, that can come up with new ideas and solutions and the rest of us are simply required to show up, punch our clock card, consume and not complain. This tends to bring on some kind of hypnosis, some kind of stupor, where we do nothing to turn around what we see is a desperate situation.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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The thing is, I have refused to accept that my life would become ordinary. I have refused to accept that I would be satisfied with a 40 hour work week and a pay check. I have refused to accept that I would be satisfied with a life that requires me to focus for its duration one specific discipline, one specific focus, one specific profession. But this has caused me some pain and some confusion and some clutter. I can see how, in my defiance I have taken on more and more projects and responsibilities. The assumption in the back of my mind being that I am some kind of superman that has no limit to my ability to take on new stuff. But now, for the last few months at least I have begun with a campaign of cutting down. Taking on the farm has made me realise, number one, that this is what I really want to get right. If turning the farm into a healthy, vibrant and productive family place (perhaps like it may have been many many years before) is the one thing I achieve in my life, then I will consider that a life well spent.

Or at least this is what is running through my head as I dismantle the Hothouse that I built in 2011 to house my aquaponics pilot project. At the time I had expected it only to last a year or two so the time is right for it to go. The real pressure for it to go has of course come from my children and from my wife. They would like things to look a little neater in the backyard. I can resist. I can be forceful, but that would also not be right. So down comes the hothouse.

I had built the entire structure from scrap timber. Timber that I bought from a scrap dealer, called DIY Timber but scrap nonetheless.


I put everything together with my Ryobi Hand held electric screwdriver / drill, so taking it apart gain, involved me unscrewing the boards and the brackets. This allowed me to save most of the timber which I have now taken to the farm. I will probably use it for a new hen house project I have in mind. I must say though, that I learned a lot from taking down the hothouse. I could see what worked and what did not. The plyboard that I used to form the circular from were not a good idea. They did not hold their shape. The tunnel plastic was great. It did begin to rip but only in the top point which had a poor detail that was too sharp. I learned from this hothouse in order to be in anyway warm in the winter months, every minute of sunlight must be captured. All shadows must be avoided, and by the same token, things can get very hot in mid summer, not for the Tilapia, they love worm water, but for some of the plant species, so some way to ventilate is critical.

The timber has generally held up very well over the last three years, but where it has been in touch with moisture, either in direct contact with the soil or where tanks or filters cause continuous moisture, the timber has begun to show signs of rot.

By taking this structure down I now make it possible to build a better one. One that is an improvement on the first one. I would not be able to build a better one if the old one is still there, or it is unlikely, because some of the components need to be re-used and because it just never becomes a priority above the other items on the to do list. But what other parts of my life and my schedule have become old and tired and need to be taken down to make way for new possibilities? Or am I extending the metaphor of the hothouse to where it does not belong. Are there some parts of the the way I do business, the way I practice as an architect, the way I invest my money, the way I spend my time, that can be dismantled, pulled apart to make way for something better. Maybe and I can see that is what I have been doing in the last while. Cutting down slowly. realising that I am human and can only do so much in a given day and in doing this maybe, just maybe, I am making way fr something better.
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Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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I have not spoken much about the cattle since I lost the calves and the bull. But is actually going quite well now with the two heifers. A brown one and a black one. We move them to new pasture everyday with the portable electric fence.

watch this video



We keep the "camp" small enough to ensure that they graze everything down (not just the tasty stuff). Cattle are picky eaters, they will first go for the greenest grass and then try the other stuff if they have to. So by keeping the camp just the right size I can ensure that they get enough, but that they don't just pick and choose the best grazing. The important part of this strategy is that all the unpalatable stuff gets eaten as well, making space for other species to come through. The exercise is really all about building the soil. The cattle improve the soil in three important ways:
The leave there manure behind - adding the nitrogen that's crucial to get life going in the soil
When grass is grazed it automatically cuts off the proportionate amount of roots underground (thus adding much needed carbon to the soil)
The animals hooves disturb the soil surface helping seeds get a chance to germinate.
Overgrazing is of course an incredibly destructive force, but in the a managed environment, grazing animals can build the soil and save the planet. (life is not possible without topsoil - just think about it)


So how it practically works though the week, it that Mandoza (my trusted assistant) moves the cattle to new grazing every day. I prefer to move them in the afternoon when the sugar content of the grass is higher. I have a simple diagram which I leave in the cottage so Mandoza and I can refer to camps by alphabetical letter. We talk mainly by texting through the day. I charge the battery for the electric fence here at home and once or twice a week I would make sure a newly charged better is taken to the farm. If we use this configuration we have 20 camps. so that would mean that would mean that each camp would get 20 days rest if each camp were grazed for one day. Of course depending on rain and time of the year, 20 days may or may not be enough time for the grazing to recover, so the idea would be to vary the size of the camp accordingly. I can see now that we have had some rain and the days are warmer, the grass is looking good and I can keep the size of the camp quite small, giving me perhaps 30 or 40 camps in total. The grazing is looking quite healthy, If I compare it to my neighbour's place where he has sheep, cattle and goats continuously grazing the grass down to about 50 mm high, then we are looking very good.

I am also slowly, but surely expanding the pasture. Over the weekends I spend time with the chainsaw cutting out the alien invasive species: Black Wattle, Port Jackson, Inkberry, Blugum, Poplar and Cape Wattle. I start buy cutting paths just wide enough to run the electric fence in. I create a camp in a forested portion. The cattle eat some and stomp down other parts including brambles and vines making it easier for me to come in with the chainsaw. I find it does not take long for the grass to begin to establish in areas where I have opened up the ground to new light that was previously blocked by tree cover. Anyhow, I enjoy working with the cattle. I see them as my landscaping assisants. We work together to bring this farm to be the most that is can be,
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Of course we have lots to fear in this life. There are so many ways in which we can get hurt, killed, robbed or betrayed. Everyday we are exposed to danger. Motorcars are viscous killers. Any home contains all kinds of ordinary looking things that can kill us if we are not careful. And I am not even talking about rat poison or pool acid, just ordinary stuff, which when taken in the wrong quantities can kill us, like vodka, or paracetamol or lying in a bath. But it is of course not logical or acceptable to live in fear of bathwater, electricity or a motor car just because it can, in certain circumstances, be deadly. It seems though that we discriminate differently between Urban dangers and rural dangers. Or so it seems this week with the excitement caused by the appearance of two (very small) snakes in our rainwater tank. I have builders working on site and they were terrified. It effected their work. Some in my family too, (I dont want to mention any names) are hinting at not ever returning to the farm that is loved by all of so much. Of course I as a husband and a father must make every effort to understand that not all of us are the same and that some and may have different loves and fears. I understand this. It is not good enough for me to explain that as we warm up into summer, the snakes will be on the move and we should be on the look out.

Anyway, the snakes turned out to be two Spotted Bush Snakes Philothamnus semivariegatus. (thanks to the people at snakesofsouthafrica for help with the identification) which are not poisonous at all. There are dangerous snakes on the farm, like the Puffaders that like to lie on a sunny path waiting to be stepped on. What I am trying to say though, is that we are confronted everyday with a strong bombardment of ideas of what is "normal" and what is not. We are told that "Normal" is to work in a cubicle, commute to work in a Toyota Corrola, and watch rugby on Saturdays. So it is with normal dangers that confront us every day in the city. Because they are "normal" we tolerate them. Even when they kill us, we continue to tolerate them. But snakes, scorpions and frogs are "abnormal" dangers and they are to be eradicated, chopped into little pieces, burned, poisoned and obliterated. Such is the logic of our time.

So, while I can see that all this, to keep the peace I have had to make a visible effort to do something about the snakes. So I have cleared all the longer grass around the house and reduced the number of places snakes can hide. And also very cleverly I have installed a very innovative anti snake device onto my watertank.

You can watch the video if you like.[youtube]Of course we have lots to fear in this life. There are so many ways in which we can get hurt, killed, robbed or betrayed. Everyday we are exposed to danger. Motorcars are viscous killers. Any home contains all kinds of ordinary looking things that can kill us if we are not careful. And I am not even talking about rat poison or pool acid, just ordinary stuff, which when taken in the wrong quantities can kill us, like vodka, or paracetamol or lying in a bath. But it is of course not logical or acceptable to live in fear of bathwater, electricity or a motor car just because it can, in certain circumstances, be deadly. It seems though that we discriminate differently between Urban dangers and rural dangers. Or so it seems this week with the excitement caused by the appearance of two (very small) snakes in our rainwater tank. I have builders working on site and they were terrified. It effected their work. Some in my family too, (I dont want to mention any names) are hinting at not ever returning to the farm that is loved by all of so much. Of course I as a husband and a father must make every effort to understand that not all of us are the same and that some and may have different loves and fears. I understand this. It is not good enough for me to explain that as we warm up into summer, the snakes will be on the move and we should be on the look out.

Anyway, the snakes turned out to be two Spotted Bush Snakes Philothamnus semivariegatus. (thanks to the people at snakesofsouthafrica for help with the identification) which are not poisonous at all. There are dangerous snakes on the farm, like the Puffaders that like to lie on a sunny path waiting to be stepped on. What I am trying to say though, is that we are confronted everyday with a strong bombardment of ideas of what is "normal" and what is not. We are told that "Normal" is to work in a cubicle, commute to work in a Toyota Corrola, and watch rugby on Saturdays. So it is with normal dangers that confront us every day in the city. Because they are "normal" we tolerate them. Even when they kill us, we continue to tolerate them. But snakes, scorpions and frogs are "abnormal" dangers and they are to be eradicated, chopped into little pieces, burned, poisoned and obliterated. Such is the logic of our time.

So, while I can see that all this, to keep the peace I have had to make a visible effort to do something about the snakes. So I have cleared all the longer grass around the house and reduced the number of places snakes can hide. And also very cleverly I have installed a very innovative anti snake device onto my watertank.

You can watch the video if you like.

http://youtu.be/2dxdm_Vegs8
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Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Law of the farm number 17:You can do it alone, but its better with family

As I write this I am sitting at the table inside the “long room“ in the farm cottage It’s a warm summer Sunday afternoon and we have been here since lunch time yesterday. But what makes this weekend different is that my family is here with me. You see, the cottage has now been repaired to the point where it is now just about weather proof. (Depending on exactly where in the cottage you stand during a rain storm) The cottage also has running water, lights that switch on and off and toilet that flushes. (all off grid I am proud to say) These simple conveniences make it possible for my wife, my daughter, my sister in law and her son to stay over with me at the farm last night. It was the first time for my wife to sleep over here, so I count it as a bit of a milestone. The thing is though, it just feels better to me for me to be going about my chores, moving the cattle, feeding the chickens or watering the fruit trees with my wife and family here on the farm. Yes we had a fun braai outside last night and a pleasant breakfast this morning, but for the most part it’s just about knowing that we are here together, not necessarily that we are having deep, meaningful conversation or helping each other physically. When, as I have been doing for over a year now, I work on the farm over the weekends leaving my family at home in town, it feels different. It feels more rushed, strained perhaps. As if though a part of me feels that I am stealing time from them. I don’t know. I have not consciously recorded thinking that I am stealing time, it’s just that when we are here together allowing time to pass slowly together, it just feels so much better, It feels very right. It feels as if though it were meant to be. So perhaps this too is a lesson from the farm, one of the laws of the farm, that are true to the farm, but true also to our civilisation.



Let’s think about this a little. Because the idea of family and its “usefulness” seem in some parts of the world to have become caught up in politics of polarity , where the term “family values” have become used as a code to mean, conservative, male dominated and religious. I am not talking about that here. Rather what I am observing is and process of evolution, where our species has grown to become strong and prosperous by holding together in tight family groups. Other species have evolved in such a way so as to make them highly successful to live alone for the most part. On the farm here we often see bushbuck. Sometimes a big impressive grey black male, will reveal himself for a few seconds before bounding off into the forest. At other times the female will peer through the shrubs, smaller and brown. We have not yet seen them together. It seems bushbuck are quite successful at living apart from each other for most of the time. But the ducks that visit the dam, are always in a family group. Sometimes there are four of them together, other times just two. I have not yet seen a lone duck on the dam. Ducks seem to be family birds.

Of course, humans have big brains and an impressive amount of will power, we can chose to do many things that may go against our evolutionary programming. We would live completely by ourselves ad we have proven it. Every now and then there is some record broken of how some brave person has circumnavigated the globe single handed in a yacht, even smaller than the previous brave person who did so. Of course it’s possible. What I am working on though in my own life, is to observe in me, what are the “laws” what is my evolutionary programming? In order that I can embrace it and work with it. In order that I can understand when I feel down or lonely that it is probably that I am feeling removed from my family. And by contrast, perhaps the reason Or maybe one of the reasons) I am feeling right now that I am feeling energised and reconnected with farm and with my life and with my mission is that I feel I am together in this with my family. We are on a joint mission. We are working together. We work at different speeds and we need different things to make us comfortable and relaxed, but we are all on the same mission.


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Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Law of the farm number 24: Some lowlife will steal you chainsaw.


After this month’s livestock auction on Saturday morning, we stopped off at the farm on the way home. I noticed that the front door of the cottage, which is off its hinges for painting, was lying flat on the floor of the cottage. Normally it’s propped up in the door frame. It had been quite windy on Friday so, I dismissed it, but could not help to feel a little suspicious. I unlocked the store room, immediately looking for the chainsaw. I looked high and low scratching through boxes and unlikely places in some kind of denial and disbelief. It is nowhere to be found. Mandoza says he last used it on Thursday. He suspects the casual labourer that we employed the week before. A guy called “Sticks”



The door to the storeroom was not forced open, it had been opened with a key and the key had been returned to its normal hiding place. Mandoza thinks that Sticks may have seen the hiding place for the keys. Anyway, I am really upset. I am angry that we have thieves moving around on the farm, I am angry with myself for not being more vigilant with security and I am worried that I now have to find money to replace this piece of equipment that I really liked. In this soup of emotions that are now still floating through my brain as I write this on Monday morning in the coffee shop just up the road from my office. As I sit here in the smoky interior with the familiar seventies music soothing softly in the background, I struggle to remind myself of Law of the farm number 24: “Some low life will steal your chainsaw” Or as some American hippy once said “shit happens”. The mongoose will eat your hens, the bubbler in your Tilapia tank will fail, ticks will infest your cattle. These setbacks are constants. They will happen. The extent to which they happen and the degree of damage they cause may be variable, but they will happen. I try to console myself with the truth of this law. It helps a little, but maybe tomorrow I will be OK. Maybe tomorrow I will come to see that we have become softened by the illusion of comfort offered to us by our lives. Perhaps I will come to see that we are lead to believe that nothing can go wrong. Everything happens at the flick of a switch. Even here in South Africa, and especially if you are urban and middle-class, you may go through very long periods of time where nothing ever goes wrong. The bottle store never runs out of beer, the soccer is on the television every Saturday, the mall keeps it opening times as advertised and the lotto draw happens as scheduled every weekend. When things go wrong, they are small, they are temporary and we are shielded from the crisis, by layers of government and corporate structures. When the farmer’s potato crop is destroyed by a swarm of locusts, we somehow magically still get our Lays lightly salted from the all night convenience store. The massive corporate chain makes sure they import potatoes from some other part of the province or some other part of the world, we do not so much as notice a difference in crispness of our favourite snack.

Everything we consume is in this way filtered to be free of risk, to the extent that when our restaurant scrambled eggs aren't exactly the correct degree of softness, we feel completely obliged and entitled to feel miserable and to throw a tantrum. What I am saying is that governments and corporations have very effectively come to create the illusion that rule of the farm number 24 does not exist. It does. Some low life will steal your chainsaw, and the sooner you (and I) wake up an begin to live and plan our lives according to this law, this non-negotiable constant, the sooner we can be more closely aligned with the way things work. Delusion may be comfortable, but making peace with the brutal truth brings us into closer union with the universe and its laws. And in this way we make ourselves free, not by selling ourselves into slavery to pay for the cost of the triple insurance premiums of comfort, safety and security.
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Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Law of the the Farm number 4: You are not the first person to plant a lemon tree
Hlubi and I this weekend visited “Babylonstoren, a beautiful wine farm somewhere between Paarl and Stellenbosch. It has beautiful vineyards and fine examples of historic Cape Dutch architecture, but more than anything else, it is the gardens that leave a lasting impression. The three hectare garden is expansive and is set out as a long rectilinear grid and irrigated with a water channel that runs along is length down the gently slope.
The gravel pathways form blocks which frame different zones of fruits, vegetables, poultry, herbs and flowers. It is a beautiful place, but at the same time is a fully functional, productive garden producing the highest quality produce for the three restaurants and shop on the site. The gardener is highly knowledgeable, as have been the gardeners that took care of gardens just like Babylonstonern in the cape since the time on the Company Gardens in Cape Town in the 1600s. The point of course is that gardening is not something new. People have been perfecting this art for thousands of years. Each generation of gardeners has worked to make slight improvements and modifications to the work of the previous generation. No successful gardener has ever plunged themselves into an open field armed with only muscles and a spade. Of course effort is the key ingredient. But in as much as Law of the Farm Number 3 is true when it says that reading about sheep does not make you a shepherd, it is also true that there is a huge volume of information available to be passed on about any conceivable subject, including becoming a shepherd and including planting a garden.
At Pebblespring Farm, I have planted one or two lemon trees, but I simply don’t have 10 years to wait to see if this particular variety grows well in the particular spot I have chosen for it, with its particular soil and moisture characteristics. To short cut this process, I talk to other gardeners, I read books, I Google, I travel to Cape Town and visit places like Babylonstoren. Why? Because its all been done before and if I am thorough in my research, I will be sure to able to take advantage of the learning hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of lemon tree planters across the world. By playing my cards right I can obtain the power and clarity that would otherwise only be available to me if I had lived for many generations.
This is of course true whether I am interested in planting lemon trees, learning the art of Kung Fu or the craft of knitting a jersey. Invariably what we are trying to do has already been done, and if we look hard enough we are able to find the stories of those that have done it. I have seen though in my own life, that finding the information is not difficult. What is often difficult for me is that, faced with the huge quantity of available information, the process of trying to consume it becomes all consuming. The balance between research and action becomes distorted and I end up binging on information: books, movies, travel, blogs tweets and Facebook pages. In the same way perhaps as the obese load up with so much energy giving food that they eventually become so heavy that they are not able to move to use up the energy, causing them to become immobile and to the point where the only action they are capable of is to take in more food.
My view then is that we must rather be led by action than be led by research. Let us push forward with our mission to the point where we can see that we can no longer advance because of our lack of knowledge. We will know when we have reached this point because a question will begin to formulate in our mind. We will start digging the hole for the lemon tree, and a question will begin to formulate. “How deep should this hole be?” Once we know the question, it’s quite easy for us to know where to look and to find the answer. The research then directs our next action. We dig the hole to the required depth only to be faced with the question of soil preparation. Should we fill the hole with compost, or should it be manure? Do we need to increase the acidity; do we need to make it more alkaline? As we proceed in our action, we are prompted in research. The research then prompts us into further action. It sounds obvious I know, but actually what I am suggesting is completely in contradiction to our contemporary education system which at very least creates the impression in people’s minds that education and training is what happens in that part of your life before you start working. So, we” frontend” twelve or seventeen years of schooling into a young life at an age where working is frowned upon and even illegal. Once this stage is over, we enter our working lives where research is most often seen as a diversion or a destructive waste of time to the point where Google may be disabled on your company PC.
But don’t worry about all of that. Rather you just be sure that:
• Number one, you know your mission.
• Number two, you take the first step.
• Number three, you recognise when you are stuck,
• Number four, you find answers to the questions required to get you unstuck.
• Then proceed, re-check to be sure that you are still on mission and repeat steps one to four.

You can’t go wrong! 
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Sue Rine
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Very much enjoying catching up with your blog again and a well deserved winner of project of the week. Great to see the progress you have made.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Thanks Sue.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Law of the farm number 26: “If you want to eat lamb you must be prepared to see blood.

(This post is also the subject of a short TV documentary you may find interesting http://born2farm.blogspot.com/2015/02/choosing-circumsicion.html)

December last year was the first time that I have slaughtered a goat. I have killed chickens and fish. I have even shot antelope from the comfortable distance of a rifle’s range, but to get up close and personal with a warm blooded, living breathing mammal is a whole different thing. I don’t enjoy killing. I am sure there are very few mentally balanced people that do. I have however come to see that I am an omnivore, and that my family before me for hundreds of thousands of years (probably longer) have eaten meat as part of their varied diet. Every time I look at my dogs, they are to me a living, breathing reminder of how their species and mine have walked a long way together and have formed each other and shaped what we have become. Someone told me once that humans domesticated dogs 20000 years ago, while we were all hunter gatherers. (even before we invented agriculture). After the dog, we apparently took another 10 000 years before we thought of domesticating the next animal: the cow. The point being, that despite recent popular tendencies toward vegetarianism, eating meat and dealing with the animals that provide it, has been part of our ancestor’s routine for a very long time. It is within this perspective, that I came to say to myself, if I am going to eat meat; I must have the courage to kill. It is always easy to avoid doing the killing myself. The supermarket, the restaurant and the fast-food outlet, make it easy. Together they conspire to make eating meat a light thing.
But the story of how I came to slaughter this goat requires a little explaining. You see, my son Litha, at the age of 18, decided to follow in the tradition of his mother’s ancestors and to become circumcised in the 1000 year old Xhosa tradition. The tradition, I am sure has evolved and grown over the years, but in its current form in our region, it involves a 3 week retreat, which begins on the day of the circumcision. Litha’s retreat was on our farm, where he lived in an Ibhoma, a rough made shelter his brother, cousins and uncles put together for him the week before. The location was secret and not visible from any road, house or public thoroughfare. In that time in the bush Litha had no clothing (he had to make do with a rough woollen blanket); he had no electricity, running water, TV, cell phone or contact with the outside world. A great privilege in fact and the kind of retreat I would encourage every young man to go through.
In the Xhosa tradition, male circumcision is a rite of passage. You go into the bush a “boy” and you come out a “man”. The boy literally leaves his childhood behind, with all his boyhood possessions burnt in the bush on the day that he leaves. The new man leaves the bush stony faced, not permitted to look back at his boyhood in flames behind him. Of course on the day that Litha returned home, there was a massive feast called an Umgidi. There was a lot of meat (and booze) at this celebration, but none of it involved me having to draw blood myself. We had professional butchers deal with all of that.
The goat, that is the subject of this story met his end two weeks before the great homecoming as part of a small celebration in the bush called Omojiso, or literally “roasting of meat”. This function signifies a milestone in the stay in the bush where the Umncibi (traditional surgeon) is happy enough with the healing process to permit the boy to come off the very strictly limited diet of the first week after the procedure. Kind of like “nil per mouth” the hospitals enforce with certain critical cases in their care.
Going into this complex and meandering process, I had made a very conscious decision. I am not a Xhosa man I do not pretend to be a Xhosa man. I quite respectfully have no interest in becoming a Xhosa man. I am interested though, in do what I need to do to facilitate my two sons’ becoming Xhosa men, if that is their choice. So it transpired that I found myself in the curious situation in the bush, at Pebblespring Farm, officiating over a Xhosa function called Omojiso.
Tradition requires that a goat be slaughtered to mark this occasion. While I could very easily have passed the task of killing the animal onto anyone of the junior Xhosa men assembled there on that day. I opted rather to show my full participation in Litha’s chosen path by taking the animal’s life myself. We had bought the goat two days before from a farmer about and hours’ drive from us. It was a beautiful young brown male goat. I chose the goat myself out of the herd that was corralled for the purpose of being chosen by people like me, for events like the one we required a goat for. I had no hesitation in pointing out this young brown male when the farmer asked me to choose. We secured the goat by its horns at the end of a long rope in the middle of a bush pasture and there the goat spent its last days and hours peacefully foraging, sleeping and generally dong what goats do. In the morning of the Omojiso, the speeches and introductions went quite quickly and soon came the time I had been anxiously dreading. The goat was held down by two other men, I drew then knife I had sharpened carefully the night before. I cut first through the windpipe with the sound of the air escaping surprised me, then further into the neck striking the arteries releasing the blood to flow. There was still life in the body, as an older man showed me to cut deep in between the neck vertebrae severing the spinal cord till the body lay limp losing the last of its blood. I felt relieved that it was over. I felt the heaviness of taking this life. I felt good that I had able to play my role as a father and physically and demonstrably support my son in a path that he had chosen to walk.

The goat was cooked there and then in pots that had been placed on the fire for this purpose. Litha was able to eat the meat he had been looking forward to after a week of bland dry rations. The two weeks after the Omojiso went quickly. Litha healed well and return triumphant two weeks later to jubilant groups of friends and family. Litha I am sure learned many lessons in the bush, but I too came away a wiser man. I learned about the heaviness that comes with supporting my children and those I love in pursuits that cause me to fear for their safety. I learned that my son is a surprisingly strong a resilient man. I learned what it means to kill a goat.
I know it is an obvious fact and that everybody knows that to eat meat, an animal must die. But sometime you need to wield the knife yourself and feel the warm blood on your skin for it to sink in. What other blood do we have on our hands? What is the price that must be paid to run electricity through all of our homes, heating our bathwater and lighting up out plasma screens? At what price to the carbon levels in the atmosphere? At what price to we commute to work every day, causing oilfields to be drilled or deserts to be fracked and wars do be waged? At what price do we employ domestic workers at near slave wages? What of their children, what of their families, their hopes and their dreams? The bread that you eat from barren wheat field of toxic monocultures that spread over the horizon on every direction in the Western Cape and Freestate; where before active soils, and communities of plans and animals supported stable ecosystems that remained in balance for thousands of years? There is a lot of blood out there and there are very few of us that have hands that are not stained by it.

So I encourage you, wherever you can, whenever you can, to get as close to the brutal truth of your lifestyle as you can. Do this as a test to see if it is not too heavy for you to carry. Because no matter how you try, no matter how modern urban living tries to shield you, you cannot escape the Law of the Farm number 26: “ If you want to eat lamb, you must be prepared to see blood”.
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steward
Posts: 1390
Location: Northwest Montana from Zone 3a to 4b (multiple properties)
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Excellent post, Tim. Although it is well past the time, please congratulate Litha on his transition to adulthood for me. You and your Bride have done well with him.

Now to the "meat" of my post, pun fully intended.

One of the choices for my life has been to hunt for the meat I don't raise myself, as much as is humanly possible. And you are very right, there is a heaviness to the taking of life. I always give thanks for the life that is given to me and the animals and food that my family and I share. I also make every effort to ensure a good life with minimal stress for the animals I raise, so that when the time for the letting of blood arrives, it is with respect that I take that life to continue my family's. That lesson was passed through my family to me, and from me to my daughters and nephew. The taking of a life to feed oneself and family can be a difficult, but I don't shy away from, nor do I carry any shame with it. I consider myself and my family to be part of the cycle and not separate, that is foolishness to me.

So thank you for a very thoughtful and interesting post on how you supported your child on his walk into adulthood, and that reflection in the choices we make in our food and lifestyles.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Bill,

Thanks for the kind words.

I, like you feel no shame nor joy in killing. I also have no hard feelings toward the animal rights movement or vegans.

Meat eating in the agribusiness confinement paradigm is certainly cruel. If I feel any shame, it is for continuing to be counted as a consumer in this setup.

Talk again soon,

Tim Hewitt-Coleman
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Taking the first Steps to Off Grid Living (914 words)

Load shedding makes us all angry. We are frustrated with Eskom. We are disillusioned with the slow progress with the building of new power stations. We are suspicious of dodgy deals with the Russians to build nuclear reactors. Many of us are investing emotion and passion in this negativity, but my family and I are rather investing my energy in doing what we can to move away from the gird in whatever small steps we can. I am speaking about this because I see that much of the discussion about “off grid living” generally comes from one of two extreme positions. Firstly there’s the guy that is living in his 1974 Volkswagen camper, who powers his whole existence from a wind turbine he built by re-wiring an old desk fan he found by the roadside. He doesn’t need to cook; because he eats all his food raw and he avoids hot water because “everybody knows” that washing is part of a grand Illuminati conspiracy. The second extreme position is that of the billionaire in Houghton who builds a state of the art solar panel system bigger than my house. It tracks the movements of the sun by means of clever engineering and software developed by the SKA project. The power is stored in batteries just like the ones on the Mars rover. The whole system does cost about the same as a cabinet minister’s annual salary, but comfortably runs his air conditioning, 90 inch TV’s, heated pools and a mini ice rink.
Caught between these two extremes, most of us simply give up and rather focus on wording clever status updates that ridicule Eskom executives. But I am here to tell you that there is hope. There is real and immediate action that you and I can take toward moving off grid.
You see, I have just recently installed an off grid power and water system at our little farm just outside Port Elizabeth, and you know what? It didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. In fact it cost me round about the same as what it would have cost me to get water and electricity brought to the farm by the municipality. Hear what I am saying! The cost of installing a system that will generate free solar electricity and clean running water in perpetuity is the same as what the grid would have charged me just for the privilege of being connected to them and being billed by them with ever increasing rates regardless of the reliability of their supply. Of course there will be some on-going costs, but there won’t be load shedding, there won’t be the mindless standing in queues at the “customer care” centre, there won’t be the lying awake at night with the guilt of knowing that I am pumping huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere every time I switch on the lights.
You may not think that my situation on the farm is relevant to everyone reading this, but what I want to tell you, is that solar panels and rainwater tanks are only part of the story. There are two important aspects to consider.
Firstly, we must re-think what it is that we have become dependent on the grid for, remembering of course that the idea of a “gird” dealing with our electricity, water supply, sewerage disposal, telephone and internet is all reasonably recent. There is no reason we can’t step away gradually from the grid, in the same way as we slipped slowly into the habit of becoming dependent on it. Do we need to use so much? Do we need the air-conditioning? Do we need the heater? Do we need the ninety Inch TV? Do we need the welder in the garage or the toaster in the kitchen? Do we need to plant our garden full of plants that have beautiful flowers but that will die without the quantities of water they evolved to become accustomed to in the swamps of the Amazon? There are thousands of actions we can take today to consume less energy and water and to produce less waste.
Secondly, after we have taken the obvious step of consuming less, we must do what we can to diversify our consumption and waste. What I am saying is, it may cost the same to cook on gas, but it is unlikely that the gas supply will run out at the same time as the electricity supply grid. What about rain water? You may not have enough storage to make you independent of the municipal system, but you may have enough to be able to use the municipal system as a backup and not a primary supply. Even just to irrigate your garden would be a step in the right direction. Cooking and heating with firewood is not a bad idea, in fact it’s fun and romantic. What about processing some of your waste in a compost heap, grey water system or septic tank? What about heating your house with sunlight and cooling it with wind?
What I am talking about is migrating off grid in small steps. First by consuming less, then by transitioning into a hybrid situation, where each time the grid goes down it is less and less of a disaster to you and your family.
There are things we can do. We are not helpless and doing these things makes us feel a lot better than when we are bitching about Eskom. Don’t you think?
Tim Hewitt-Coleman 20150218
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Sue Rine
pollinator
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Heartily agree Tim. This has been much the same as our process. I hear people talking about how warm their houses are in winter with 'only' a heat pump in the living room and another down the other end of the house! I say nothing as I think of our passive solar house just sitting there being warm in Winter and cool in Summer...and by passive solar I just mean a few simple principles like north facing, concrete floors, clerestory windows and good insulation, not any fancy bells and whistles. The house is certainly not at the economy level of a wofati but it cost significantly less than a conventional house because we milled the timber and helped with the building.
We cook on/in a woodstove with a two burner gas camping cooker as back up. The woodstove is also our only active heating and water heating.
Our power system also cost less than connecting to the grid. We have 2.4kw of panels which is plenty. On sunny days we pump water uphill to supplement the gravity fed system.

Great to hear about your progress
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Thanks Sue,

I definitely would like to (as a future step) pump water up hill as a way to use up the surplus.

Right now we are not living at the farm, so we use very little of the electricity we generate.

So many projects, so little time!
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
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Law of the farm Number 1: “One plus one equals three"

In the last few months I have been planting fruit trees and nut trees on the farm. In between them I have been planting berries. I have taken quite a bit of effort to prepare the land using a system of swales constructed on contour that will help to retain moisture and soil nutrient. As these swales weave their way through pasture and bush, I have cleared to unwanted invasive species and have used their timber in the base of the swale mound to form the basis for composting that will take place over time. It’s a very old system of planting and I have done what I can to read as much as I can about it. But regardless of the preparation I have done for my apples, mulberries, figs and lemons, it comes down to digging and hole and planting a tree. (One hole plus one tree). Every one of us knows since we were two years old that one hole plus one apple tree does not give a hole and a tree, rather it gives and abundance of apples, shade, blossoms, wood and pleasure for a hundred years. In the case of the apple tree one plus one does not equal two. It equals two million perhaps.

I suppose one hole and one apple tree does only equal a hole and a tree in some laboratory somewhere, which will control the environment in such a way as to ensure that there is no sunlight causing photosynthesis, that there is no water in the soil to feed the roots, that there are no organisms to transform the organic material into beneficial nutrients. Then I am sure the tree will not grow, proving that one plus one does equal two. But thankfully we do not live in that laboratory. Where we live and where I plant my trees on the farm one plus one does definitely not add up to two. But where we work and where we play out our middle class lives, those that try to sell us stuff or buy our time present “one plus one is two” as a fundamental law of the universe. One month’s work equals one month’s wage, because “money does not grow on trees” One hamburger can be bought for the cash price required of one Hamburger, because “you get nothing for nothing”.
There is of course nothing wrong with arithmetic. On a chalkboard, in a grade one class, one plus one must remain two, but in so many other situations the law is not useful to us at all. It is especially not useful to us in the way in which corporations and institutions make every attempt to make us believe this law in order to remained trapped in the systems that they need to keep us trapped in, using schemes like:
· One lifetime dedicated to one corporation equals one pension funded retirement.
Now, let me look at my own life. What can I do with my new understanding of the law “One plus one equals three?” Not everyone has a farm on which plant apple trees of course, but what can we do that will show massive dividends later? What can I do today that has a lasting impact that does not require me to labour over it day and night? What lasting things can I do today, that keep on paying dividends? What if I did one thing a week that would have lasting impact? So much of what we do is wasted. If I wash my car today, I have to wash it again tomorrow. If I watch TV tonight, I have nothing to show for it in the morning. But if I tile my bathroom, or arrange photos in my photo album, or paint a picture, or write a poem, these things are lasting and keep on giving much more than once. This is where our focus must be. Where we must do things or buy things that are temporary, let’s set a rule. Let’s not buy anything that will not last five years. Be it shoes, or a jacket or a cap or a skateboard. Let these items keep paying dividends for years. Let’s make a rule to cut down on those things we spend time and money on that don’t deliver dividends. I am not saying you should not from time to time splash out and have a great steak at a restaurant, but to invest time and money in drinking a R200.00 bottle of wine every night is to become addicted to a passing pleasure that could rather have been a lasting gift.
The Fashion industry is capitalisms mechanism for making us all believe that we must keep on paying. Fashion tries to get us as close to the ideal of “use it once” as they can. I know women that will not be seen in public wearing and outfit that they have already been seen in. (I am sure that there are men who behave in this way, it’s just that I have not yet met them) The fashion mind-set began with clothing, but there are clever “marketing gurus” that have managed to shift the focus into music, automobiles and electronic devices. I am not suggesting that the new car is not better than the old one. I am saying that we are motivated to buy the new gadget only partly because it is better and largely because it is more fashionable to do so. What I am saying is that the iphone 3 is a fantastic piece of technology. There are very few practical reasons why we could not allow the gift to keep on giving, but we don’t allow it to do so, we buy the iphone 4, then the I phone 5, then the iphone 6. We do this because we are not open to the idea of investing once and then allowing ourselves to receive multiples of one. We are not open to the idea that one plus one can be equal to more than two.

In relationships we are the same. We limit ourselves. We do not invest in a handshake, or a smile or a bit of meaningless banter with a stranger, because “it’s not worth the effort” We expect in return at best only a smile, or a handshake or a bit of meaningless banter. (at worst we fear that we won’t even have the smile returned, and we will be left in deficit) If though, in our minds we can begin to expect, even demand, that a smile will be returned as a smile and perhaps a warming chat, or an exchange of useful information, or a hug, or a kiss, or a lifelong relationship including seven children and big house in Plettenberg bay, then we will begin to receive those in return. We must though, begin with the expectation that it is absolutely normal and natural to receive a lot more than we give. That is the way of the living universe.

That is the Law of the Farm.
 
I've got no option but to sell you all for scientific experiments. Or a tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
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