Natasha Abrahams

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since Jun 22, 2018
Cape Town
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Recent posts by Natasha Abrahams

Well, just speaking on behalf of my ancestors, it was intentional. One can, intentionally, choose a social system which does not harm the earth for future generations. It is not hard. And yes, of course it includes not having more children than the earth can support.
We resisted colonization in the most profound way we could imagine, namely by resisting the violent intent, and the violent thought structures which gave rise to the intention.  We still do, one compost heap at a time. The story is not over yet :) Who is to say our methods are not working?
2 weeks ago
Welcome Rufaro's mum! It is a pleasure to welcome you to this site!
I fully understand the pressures you are under in the village, indeed you are right that change happens slowly.  We will send ideas from our ecosystems but ultimately it has to work in your ecosystem, so try those ideas you find useful and do not worry too much. I understand that the margins for error are slim and ultimately you are the expert on what is going to work. You are fortunate to have such a committed daughter who learns fast and is working to cover expenses while you make the change over. I found my biggest expense as a farmer - even though my mother was a farmer and her mother before her - was making mistakes and learning from them. It is paying off now but it was touch and go at times :)
Yes, unfortunately it looks like drought this year. You will be better off with the drip irrigation and the mulch than many of your neighbours, but the outlook looks bad for the whole of southern Africa. At least the upside to this is that any maize you can bring to harvest will get good prices. Keep on doing what you are doing, no one can predict what climate change will do. The bottom line is that we are likely to have more droughts more frequently so keep on building up organic matter in the field through mulches and compost heaps. Your soil is going to have to do more with less and the only way to do that is to nurse the soil.
The pumpkin was a great idea. Other ideas for diversifying would be sunflowers (your chickens will eat them as well) and pigeon pea. You will find that as your soil organic matter increases you will be able to plant quite thickly around the edges of your field (especially where you have water run off) without affecting your main crop. In fact this will help the maize by protecting it from wind and evaporation.

Climate change is affecting Africa the worst. The research for South Africa shows that we are warming about twice as fast as the average for the planet, that is, if nothing is done we will reach 3 degrees Celsius warming by 2070. It is small farmers like us who are going to make the difference by storing more carbon in the soil. In the meantime create as much shade as you can! It is wonderful that you are planting tree in your fields, it has the advantage that as you grow your crop you nurse them well.
I wonder if you have heard of Faidherbia Albida? It is a wonder tree that draws nitrogen to the soil and loses its leaves in summer when your crops need sun. It has made all the difference in north-western Africa's arid regions and should be tried in Southern Africa's summer rainfall areas. I am about to get seed for the family farm in Namibia, and will keep you posted on developments.

The maize stem borer is increasing in Limpopo, it is a consequence of warming temperatures apparently. If it is not too late, try planting chillies in your vegetable patch. On harvest you can soak them in oil, mix the oil with water and a drop of soap, and use as a pest spray which you don't have to pay for. You may also have local plants which work, we have a form of garlic here which is much stronger than the European species, I plant it around all my vegetable beds and am never troubled with pests. We also burn impephu for the mosquitoes, perhaps there is a Zimbabwean cousin which people use? In general, any plant with strong smelling leaves will help to confuse the pests so gradually using your edges for such plantings is a win-win-win.
Best wishes for your work. Your work is building a future for your children and they will be grateful one day.
2 weeks ago
Rufaro, it is good to hear that you are safe and well! I agree with you Fair Share is to me less about fairness but more about making the human ecosystem system work. I make soap and I market to the lower and middle class- if  were to focus on the  luxury market I would soon impoverish myself, everybody tries to get in there and competition is merciless. So I have a vested interest in fair wages since I cannot get richer than my market.  I noticed during the recent unrest in Zimbabwe the middle class could not access their cash in the bank. If there was a run on the system it would collapse, there is not enough currency in the country to meet all obligations. So the banks just closed.

In the beginning I worked hard at being self-sufficient but stopped at about 50 %. Because I realized that I would not survive if my community did not survive. Now I use my business - as and when I can afford it - as a self-funded non-profit. It is amazing how the help I extended (sometimes so long ago that I have forgotten) comes back to me. People come buy loads of soap because apparently I stretched out a helping hand to them at some point,  

What goes around comes around. That is the basic principle of permaculture. I believe it is when we apply that knowledge to human ecosystems that we will be successful. I am because you are. Positive energy into the ecosystem will sooner or later come back to you. So I give, not because it is fair but because it is wise.

We are doing what we can in South Africa to show solidarity in your current crisis, Indeed, one cannot grow gardens well when people are being shot in the streets. Bottom line: people must have enough to eat and be sheltered, else they will riot. I have heard that if current trends continue the richest 1 % will own ALL the world's assets by 2030. Obviously it is an absurd statistic, but I think it demonstrates how insane the current system of wealth distribution is.
3 weeks ago
I would say process.  Unless you are very skilled and./ or lucky it is hard to make good money on fresh veg. The rate of spoilage is high, and there is the irritating factor that in the same area the same things grow well and ripen at the same time so a glut drives prices down just as you harvest. Indeed niche crops if you can, herbs are often a good choice, but if nobody else has tried to sell it,  it's a gamble.  I've tried out of season crops which can double your profits but it is a lot of work so the margins are not as great as they seem. A few weeks early or a few weeks later than main crop is more doable than extreme out of season like strawberries in winter.   But usually the answer is to process   This keeps much more of the profit on-farm. Dry, chop, mix, jam, pickle, bottle, ferment, can, distill.. That also lets you wait to  sell until the price is good and makes it easier to find a niche. I have olives which I pickle, and make soap from herbs which I grow on farm. Current favourite is dandelion  soap. Now I could not see myself selling fresh dandelions at market 😁
1 month ago
Thank you Mike! I will start adding some soil to my wormfarms. Your words lead me to believe that a little seasand will do them no harm also?
1 month ago
Thank you dr Redhawk for a most enlightening post! Would I be correct in assuming that a similar logic applies to wormfarms?
1 month ago
Borislav,  I too was doing this long before I knew the word permaculture. Was part of my efforts to recreate 18th century ecosystems according to the way my ancestors lived. I am deeply grateful to this site, it has taught me so much and I strive to return such knowledge as I have gained through practical experimentation. To this day I rarely call myself a permaculturalist, having never done a PDC course or used such paths to authenticity. Instead I talk of Indigenous Knowledge Systems.  But I think permaculturalists would be the first to acknowledge the debt they owe to indigenous peoples all over the world, and the methods they used that today form the backbone of permaculture techniques. Ideas continue to flow back and forth in a fertile manner.
As for permaculture making money, I don't see why it should beyond the obvious basic needs. My friends who have chosen a middle class career path are mostly now in their mid-fifties and falling ill from diseases that are either incurable or very expensive to cure. Those are situations where money ceases to mean much unless it is access to more and more synthetic treatments that lock you into the medical industrial complex.  The list of environmentally caused incurable diseases grows ever longer, from kidney failure to cancer. Here, a couple very famous people have committed suicide, while others complain about how job pressure is driving them into chronic depression. We talk about the system collapsing and by now it must be obvious to everybody that something is seriously wrong. We seldom give thought to the middle class as administrators of a failing system and how they get squeezed while trying to keep it from falling apart, still there is the price that is paid in physical or mental health. I continue in good health, am mentally as sane as I will ever be:) Am I short of money? Always. Would I go back to more profitable work? Never. This is the future right here and I intend to be part of it.
1 month ago
Wow! What a beautiful job you have done with your combo! I solved a similar problem (although on a much less steep slope) by first planting alfalfa on the slope, the deep roots helped stabilize the soil  while i did my digging. It has this consequence that you are pretty much stuck with the alfalfa for life after that, it self seeds in alkaline clay and survives any amount of drought and heat once rooted. Makes a great mulch if you have time to chop and drop and always a welcome addition to the compost heap, but if you cannot spare the time to keep a hand on it you will spend your days keeping it out of your lovely beds.
2 months ago