|MAKING YOUR OWN COMPOST HEAP
In a natural system, living things die and their deaths allow life to be reborn. Plants and other living things die on forest floors and in meadows, and are broken down over time by water, microorganisms, sun and air.
Compost has two main functions. It improves the structure of the soil, which makes the soil easier to work, providing good aeration and water retention characteristics. It also makes the soil more resistant to erosion. Compost also recycles and provides nutrients for plant growth. In addition, its organic acids make nutrients in the soil more available to plants. Carbon, nitrogen, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, potash and trace minerals maintain the biological cycles of life. Fewer nutrients leach out in soils with enough organic matter.
If soil only consisted of rock meal, it would be infertile. The fertility depends on the amount of organic matter or humus present in the soil as well as the effective micro-organisms and soil nutrients.
Healthy soil means healthy plants and healthy plants are more resistant to diseases and insect attacks. Ensuring you have fertile soil is a far better way to grow food than using poisons that kill beneficial soil life.
Composting is simply speeding up the processes that occurs in nature and it involves some fundamental principles. These principles are the provision of air, moisture and warmth in order to create an ideal environment for the fungi and bacteria that are responsible for the decomposition and breakdown of the raw materials.
There are many methods of making compost heaps and different recipes for layering your pile. Spring and Autumn are ideal times to make a compost heap as biological activity is high during these periods and it should not be too hot nor too cold for microbial life in the pile. We thought it would be a good idea to include this article to give you time to make before the onset of Spring.
Many households throw away things that can be turned into this black gold and this is why we are about to explain how to build a simple and effective compost heap.
You don’t need any fancy equipment or containers, however you may use them if you wish. It is also a good idea to build a compost pile on an unused growing bed so the next crop grown in that bed will pick up and utilize any nutrients that leached out from the pile and into the soil. When the next season comes, you can build a compost pile on another unused bed.
Here’s the process step by step:
1. Loosen the ground, where the pile will be, to about 30cm deep with a fork or hoe.
2. Lay down brush, woody materials and other roughage for air circulation.
3. Add about 5cm of mature material like dry weeds, leaves, straw, hay and old garden wastes. Water it thoroughly.
4. Add about 5cm of immature material like fresh weeds, grass clippings, hedge trimmings, green cover crops and kitchen wastes you have saved. Water well.
5. Cover lightly with about 1 or 2cm of soil to prevent flies and odours.You will want to do this straight after adding the immature material. Moisten the soil.
6. Add new layers of mature vegetation, immature vegetation and soil. Water the pile regularly until it is ready for use. You can also cover your compost heap to protect it from too much rain or too much sun.
7. Let the pile cure for 3 – 6 months while you are building a new pile. Turn the pile once for faster decomposition. A 1.2 meter pile will reduce to 30 – 40 cm when it is ready to use.
When you turn the compost pile, make the base of the new pile smaller than the original base to give the turned pile more internal volume and less surface area.
If you are not ready to use your compost when it is fully cured, stop watering it and spread it out to dry.
Always be sure to add at least 3 different kinds of crops to your compost piles. Different microbes flourish in specific kinds of crops. The result of this crop diversity is microbe diversity in the soil, which ensures better soil and plant life.
PROTECTING OUR SEED BIODIVERSITY
Seed diversity is essential to securing our own food, especially now when we are experiencing the onset of climate change. We need seeds with many traits (like early ripening and resistance to drought) to make them more adaptable to changes in the weather.
Small scale farmers provide 70 % of the seed of food grown in Sub-Saharan Africa. Some of their seeds have become drought resistant and seeds can be saved and used year after year.
When we plant seeds, we can produce our food for the coming year and use the seeds again to grow more crops. However, all of that is changing and we need to protect our heirloom seeds.
Seeds have been an open access, common resource for millennia, developed and improved through the efforts of countless generations of people.
In the 1980’s, there were thousands of independent seed companies across the world. A lot of these companies had history dating back to the 1800’s and early 1900’s which was linked with the history of the region they operated in. Sadly, most of these companies are no longer present. In less than 20 years, fewer than 10 multinational companies have engulfed hundreds of seed companies and the rights to grow most of the common staple foods that we eat. The top 10 companies now own 75% of the global seed market.
There are further acquisitions underway. The big players were Monsanto (owning 26% of all seeds), DuPont (19%), Syngenta (8%), Dow (4%), and Bayer (3%). Syngenta was bought by state-owned Chem-China for $43 billion and Monsanto accepted an offer by Bayer for $66 billion – the highest bid ever offered in the seed industry. This massive transaction still needs to be approved by the anti-trust authorities in several countries. (An anti-trust authority is an independent professional authority working to protect the public from harms to competition, for the good of the public.) Dow and DuPont have also merged. This was finalised on the 9th of June 2016.
These consolidations mean that these few companies can decide prices which affect our food prices. They can also determine the seed varieties on the market. When the seed company Seminis was purchased by Monsanto, it dropped more than one third of its seed catalogue (which included 2,500 fruit and vegetable varieties) as a cost-saving measure. They can also determine the conditions of growth for the seed varieties they collectively own – a dangerous situation.
These seed giants manage patents and intellectual property rights and they make agreements with governments and public institutions, having a strong influence on laws, regulations and treaties. Small scale farmers are being criminalised for propagating seeds, and are being forced to buy new seeds every year due to hybrid varieties and genetically modified seeds. A hybrid plant is created when different parent plants are crossed. In order to retain the special qualities of that hybrid plant, it must be cross-bred with original parent plants.
Philip Howard, who is an associate professor at the Michigan State University in the Department of Community Sustainability, explains that it is quite possible for 3 companies to eventually own 60% of all seeds. Whilst it may seem to the consumer that these companies are in competition with each other, they actually become like each other and in this scenario, it takes one company to signal an increase in prices and the other company/companies will follow suit. You can watch this interview here.
This monocultural business promotes monoculture farming. This means huge fields of one type of crop which deplete soil nutrients and require chemical fertilisers which kill the essential life forms in the soil. These monoculture farm fields also require pesticides. The large monocultural companies sell pesticides too, and also genetically modify seeds to tolerate harmful herbicides (like Roundup) which kill plants, weeds, and harm crucial insects needed to pollinate plants.
South Africa had to import millions of metric tons of maize due to our drought, and food prices are continually on the rise. We, the consumers, have to live with the long-term negative health effects of chemical residues and pesticides. This type of farming is heavy on our water resources and bad for the environment.
Our farmers are in danger of being pushed out of the market and becoming obsolete. The government-run farmer subsidy programme supports hi-tech solutions such as mono-crops, fertilisers, pesticides and genetically modified seeds. The big companies get a secure market, but little is left over for sustainable farming and small-scale farmers are falling into debt.
The good news is that the legislative process in South Africa is still evolving and there are opportunities to protect the small seed farmer in new laws. Farmers are networking to promote agro-biodiversity and people are contributing toward The Submission on Plant Improvement and Plant Breeders’ Rights Bills.The deadline for contributing to this submission ends on the 12th of August so please contribute if you haven’t already done so. The African Centre for Biodiversity has conscientiously prepared a document for you to make the submission quickly and easily. You can click here to add your voice and increase this movement’s strength.
To read and hear about some inspirational farmer’s stories in this difficult and challenging time, click here
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
|It’s August now and we have passed the imaginary halfway mark of Winter, to state the obvious. We got a taste of digital advertising and ran our first Google and Facebook adverts. While we hoped for more reaction, it was still great to get our name out there.
For those of you who made enquiries about our shop: we almost secured a temporary space in Woodstock, but unfortunately we’re back to the drawing board. We were excited at the prospect of a space in which you can browse through our products, eat our freshly made food and experience human contact, so naturally we are as disappointed as you are. However, we are now more determined than ever to keep looking for a home. We acknowledge your wishes to visit our space and we’re determined to secure a venue, even if it is small, as soon as possible. Our vision is to be in a large, dynamic, multi-usable space, so hang on to that idea with us as we make the journey there.
We have been wanting to run an article called Understanding Climate Change for quite some time, and for a number of reasons. One would be that it can be a terribly confusing topic with many different aspects, and often climate denialists pay people to share stories that are misleading and contradictory. It is important for us to understand what is happening to our home planet without it being a daunting process. Scientific equations and terms can be off-putting for the layman, and we want to be able to explain what it is without losing your attention.
Our research process has turned out to be an enormous task and we have fallen into a number of rabbit holes trying to understand the science of planetary boundaries. We will continue our mission on this interesting and necessary topic, so keep a look-out for it in our future newsletters.
We are working on adding more items at a quicker pace in order to build our variety of eco-friendly products.
Thank you for your support. We are honoured to continue to provide you with our ethical services and products.
If you have a corrugated metal or tiled roof, you can harvest a great deal of water. To give you an example, a 100m2 roof can collect 450 litres of water in 5mm of rainfall. Cape Town receives on average about 788mm of rainfall a year. When we put that number into the calculator for our little 100m2 roof, that amounts to 70,920 litres of water. The numbers are huge – why miss out on such an opportunity? There are rainwater collection calculators on the web, one of which can be found here.
The first place to start, is to buy the tank or tanks.The bigger the better, but affordability and space should influence your decision as well as how much water you consume and what you will be using the rainwater for. You can buy cylindrical tanks, both thin or wide. Some go underground and some are rectangular and would fit snugly against a wall. We came across three easily available brands, Eco tanks, Jojo, and Nel. The prices and quality differ. We picked 2 x 2500 litre beige Eco upright tanks.
The next thing to consider when installing the tank, is where the downpipe leads from off the roof gutters. It will be easier to install if the tank can stand there safely and not obstruct anything. If it is not the ideal spot, you may want investigate the option of diverting the water down a new downpipe in a better position.
All you will need is piping to the tank. When the tank fills, it will become very heavy. A 2500 litre tank will weigh 2.5 tons when it is full, so making sure you have a proper foundation is necessary. We luckily had paving in our spot so we did not need to build a foundation. However, a foundation can be built easily enough with the right tools.
To make the foundation you will need to know the size of your tank. By sketching a diagram of your tank to scale, you will be able to determine the size of the square foundation beneath it by drawing a square or rectangle with the tank’s shape inside. This will lead you to the length of four wooden planks that must be bought to hold the cement mix you will make. Start by levelling and compacting the ground where the tank will be. Once complete, assemble the boards to make a square or rectangle to contain your cement slab.You will need to get a bag of cement mix and sand, and mix it up and fill the slab container. Scrape it out evenly using a level and ensure that it is in fact level. The cement will dry and you can remove the boards or not. You can place your tank/s on the slab. Secure your tank by tying it to the ground with wire. Don’t make this too tight as the stability of your tank may be compromised. As big as tanks are, they can blow about in the wind. We have not tied ours down, we just make sure there is enough water inside to keep them from moving. Connect the downpipe to the tank. You may want to put a fitted filter at the opening or into a catchment pipe as shown in these pictures.
This picture has a fancy split which is not necessary. You could even use netted fabric and secure the fabric to the opening with elastic or rope. A filter will keep out leaves and other debris and also keep mosquitos from entering the tank and breeding in the water. Remember that installing a tank doesn’t have to be a fancy affair. If you are harvesting rainwater, you are doing it right. Look at the extras as frills.
Here is another picture to give you ideas.
The next thing you need is a tap or ball valve, some connections, plumber’s tape, and piping to divert the overflow to a place of your choice. You can divert the overflow either into the stormwater drain or even better, into another tank. We went to the hardware store and gave them the fitting size of the tank, and the store assistant helped us get all the fittings to connect to the ball valve we used and the fitting from the ball valve to the hosepipe. It’s all a bit like lego, finding what fits on what. You basically want the water outlet to also connect to a hosepipe. This picture will give you some dos and don’ts on how to assemble piping if you choose to use your water elsewhere, or put it in an irrigation system.
The system we installed, as explained above, is called the dry system, and water comes from the downpipes and straight into the tank. When the rain stops, the pipes will run dry.
There is also the wet system, which allows for the tank to be positioned further away from the roof gutters and uses the principle that water will always find a level.The pipes remain ‘charged’ so that when it rains, water will flow into the tank.
Morality is commonly understood to entail principles that help us to distinguish between right and wrong, or good and bad behaviour. It’s a fluid concept, vastly influenced by cultures and eras. We now live in an information age with information technology advancing exponentially. Computers and the internet have revolutionised communication, and information processes have become a driving force of social evolution. We are, in fact facing an information explosion, and as data availbility increases, so do data management challenges. Within this turbulent sea of knowledge, it’s easy for inaccurate data to masquerade as the truth. This is why information must be constantly checked for accuracy, and false information must be challenged.
Despite it’s daunting volumes, this information does put humans in a better position than ever before to make up their own minds about what is right and wrong. I’m not implying that your parents were wrong when they raised you. They probably told you things like stealing is bad and sharing is good. However, they mostly learnt these morals by what was taught to them by the society they lived in, and they did not have access to the kind of information we have today. Years ago, slavery was an acceptable norm and only when people started questioning whether it was right, did things change. It’s a hard fact to accept that not so long ago, women were not allowed to vote. The first country that allowed women to vote was New Zealand in 1893, and the most recent country was Kuwait in 2005. America allowed women to vote in 1920 and England granted women the vote in 1928. This gives you an idea of how slow positive change can happen – powerful and influential countries like America and Britain only changed this policy less than 100 years ago. We still have a long way to go.
We continue to question our daily living, and here we are in an age of capitalism where most of us know how to lead ethical lives. Yet we live in a society that has become so used to convenience – especially the middle and upper classes – that making the right choices require more effort. Not only does leading a good life require more effort, but it also exposes the individual to ridicule, slander and negative comments by those who are still in denial or who haven’t connected the dots between their daily life and what they perceive to be right.
Let me give you a detailed example. Let’s say someone sends you an e-mail about a petition to act against the palm oil industry because it’s causing massive virgin deforestation and orangutans, amongst many other forest inhabitants, are losing their habitat and being abused, or starving to death. Furthermore, locals of that area were being taken advantage of by the large corporations exploiting them. And so the list of atrocities goes on. For the ordinary person with an average amount of empathy, this is a no-brainer – they sign the petition.
But, for a lot of people, that’s where their concern ends. It’s different ball game if you really have to take action. You may receive another e-mail asking you to pledge to never buy products containing palm oil, or to check first whether the palm oil is certified sustainable. Easier said than done. For instance, you go to your local grocery store for the usual shopping routine. Let’s say you start at the bakery section. You buy your bread like you always do, except this time, you start checking the ingredients. As you read label after label, you realise that every single type of bread on the shelves has palm oil in it, and there is no indication that the companies who used the palm oil acquired it ethically.
Now what do you do? You could just resign yourself to the fact that doing the right thing in this case was too much of an effort and that government or the organisations fighting against the injustices of the palm oil industry must do something about it. You probably have children to feed, so you just buy the bread and maybe make a mental note to support palm oil-free bread if you ever come across it.
But, another option for those who don’t like to give up too easily, is to ask – at the risk of feeling humiliated or petty in front of other customers waiting for service at the bread counter – whether there is palm oil in the freshly baked bread. When the answer is ‘no’, you could feel a minor victory and so you buy the freshly baked bread, feeling content because you did your bit for the greater good. (That is, until you get home to make your lunch, realise the bread is not sliced, and end up eating sandwiches that look like doorstoppers at work the next day.)
This is not over yet, so bear with me here.
You may have signed many petitions or been alerted to some other unsavoury problems by social media, like beaches that are littered with washed-up plastic, or child slavery that is rife in the coffee and chocolate industry, or Nestlé being responsible for river dumping and a host of other unethical business practices. And so it goes on. You push your trolley onward to complete the list of things you need to buy and, as you pass the children’s toys, it suddenly occurs to you how much plastic there is there. Some of you may ask yourselves, where will this plastic end up when the child gets tired of the toy? Will it be recycled? Will it end up in a landfill? Will it get thrown out the car window on a vacation trip?
You need coffee. You look at the all the packaging and nothing indicates that no-one was treated unfairly during the process of getting the beans off the tree and to the grocery store you are now in. You want to buy rusks and notice that they all, too, contain palm oil, and at this stage you are getting tired of reading labels. This mission you have undertaken to do the right thing is impossible, and since you work long hours and barely have enough time to yourself, you realise that making this all from scratch at home would be torturous. And so you give up. It’s not your fault after all. It’s the government’s fault or it is the fault of the big company that made that product, and you can only hope that some organisation like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth will do something about it.
But let’s look at this more closely. We have become so used to the convenience of pushing our trolleys down the isles of grocery stores that it seems inconceivable to do our shopping another way. Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether other options are actually available and whether we have tried looking for them. Did you use a Google search? Did you join a relevant Facebook group and post a question to the right people? Did you write to the store or speak to the manager? If we all did one or some of these things, then surely there would be better options?
People have become so busy in their personal lives, trying to keep up with work, chores, administration, social media and finding relaxation time, that we do many things in autopilot mode, without slowing down and actually asking ourselves the question, “Is what I am doing, right?” Giving money to a company that tests on animals or steals land from tribes is not the right thing to do. You are using your purchasing power to make that company stronger.
Those companies that monopolise industry have currency in the millions to run ad campaigns to play on your emotions, give you the impression that you need their product, and that it’s as ethical as the mother’s love portrayed in the advert. It’s a big ask to get people to see through all that marketing propaganda and make the effort to support more ethical options.
We’re a product of a society that loves to tell us how to live, what kind of careers to choose, what to eat, how to behave, and when to get married and procreate. The average person accepts this path as the done thing without giving alternative options much thought. We are raised in a society where we get different people to do different jobs, and where we outsource just about everything. Someone else will always do the job that needs to get done.
The change, and real power to make a difference for the better, comes from those who think for themselves. Who evaluate actions from a new perspective, not from the habitual thoughts and acceptance of the old way of doing things. We can no longer leave the mess or injustices for others to clean up and challenge. We need to start with ourselves: being the only person with a higher sensitivity to moral implications can be a tiring task, but when more and more people start questioning and reasoning and taking some form of objection, then things will start tipping in the right direction.
We’ve ended up in the labour-enslaved, greedy and destructive mess that we are in by just following the norm and doing what we are told. Climate change is starting to rear it’s big ugly head, and people are already having to evacuate their homes. And this is only the beginning. If we continue to live in denial and avoid reality, we are in for a serious rollercoaster ride. If we don’t change, it may be too late to make a difference for our children. Always stop and think. Know that, although you feel very isolated in your quest to make the right choices, you are not alone; courtesy of this amazing information age we live in, we can find others like ourselves and be offered support on our journey to a well-lived life.
So where does one start? Here are some pointers:
Open up the boundaries of your respect – You don’t have to only respect the elderly and give them a seat on the bus; you can offer your consideration for so much more. Respect the person of another race, class or religion. Respect the wildlife, respect the environment, respect all the animals and do not objectify them.
Don’t stop learning – Keep reading, stay informed and question everything. As I said previously, with an information overload, there is inaccurate information out there. Study the basics of science and develop a filtering system. There are even books and websites to give you the skills to do this. Use them – they will empower you with the wonderful asset of not being easily fooled. A great and entertaining book to start off with, is Bad Science, written by Ben Goldacre. Be open to hard truths; it’s not always going to be a positive experience, but keep an open mind. If you are unsure, do research and ask questions. Don’t make assumptions. The foundations of your belief system may be compromised but it will make you a better person to decide for yourself, rationally, what is right and what is wrong.
Ask yourself whether you are doing your part to influence good over evil – I am not talking about carrying holy water around with you. Have you volunteered for an organisation that is fighting for positive change? Are you making an effort to buy ethically produced goods? Don’t leave the world’s problems to someone else to fix. Do your part and do it often, even if it is a small objection here and there.
Be truthful and use your voice – Be open to positive criticism. See and say things as they are. Find your truth and live it. Without it, you will most likely end up a miserable person.
Empower yourself by becoming independent – You may have a job, pay the rent, put food on the table ,and even have some money left over. But how independent are you really? Do you have an anxiety attack if your house runs out of power? I’m talking about not needing a government or the services of another. It’s impossible to be totally self-reliant; we will all need a doctor at some time, or advice or help of some sort. But the notion of trying to do things yourself will make you stronger. You are more capable than you think. When you can do many things on your own, you have the power to survive when things go south. This may take some time, but it will be rewarding and excellent for your self-confidence. Ultimately, when you are more independent, you’re in a better position to do things the right way without being told what to do.
These are great if you are allergic to fish, or if you love salmon but eat a plant-based diet. It adds a new dimension to salads, pizzas, pastas, and is a must-have ingredient if you make your own sushi. Smoked V-Salmon pieces are best friends with avocado and make a wonderful pair to put on savoury biscuits or even toast. These jars are packed tightly to the brim and a little goes a long way. They come in three sizes: 120ml for R45; 250ml for R82 and 290ml for R95. To order click here
- 15ml canola oil
- 3 or 4 onions depending on the size
- 3 or 4 Bay leaves
- 5ml – 10ml crushed garlic – optional
- 1 litre boiling water
- 500g packet of split peas
- 4 medium potatoes pealed and quatered
- 10ml of soy sauce
Fry the onions in the oil over medium heat until they are translucent, not brown
Add salt, pepper and bay leaves, optional garlic and stir
Add 1 litre of boiling water, split peas and cut potatoes, stir and let it simmer for 20 minutes or until peas and potatoes are soft
Remove the bay leaves and add the soy sauce
Mash the contents of the pot using either a potato masher or a food processor for a more smooth consistency
Your soup is ready to serve!