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Unicorn Cafe November 2017 Update

The drought lingers on and water restrictions in the Cape are getting tighter. This still does not mean you cannot grow your own food. Some of you may have harvested rainwater like us which is essential when you are making your own compost and feeding a worm farm as municipal water is not good for these tasks. You can also filter and use grey water for the garden. Adopting more plants into your diet and eating less meat is a huge save on water resources. As the plants in my garden give me so much joy, I skip a few showers in the week, wear clean clothes twice before washing and use an eco loo which does not flush but instead, is a beneficial ingredient to my own compost heap.

We have had our eco loo for a couple of months now and our first compost heap has been turned twice and by the looks of the dark brown colour coming through, it will be ready soon, to use. The second compost heap should be ready by the time we have used the first and we are already building a third. This is such a rewarding process as I may never have to buy compost again. In our garden with our terrible soil, I buy boot loads of it almost every season which can be an expensive restoration process.

We have been adding many more products onto our website. We have a full range of essential and carrier oils and are adding gardening supplies too including, straw bales, acid compost and the best seedling mix I have ever used recommended by the lovely ladies at Oude Molen. With all the new stock being added to our website, we may not have ordered it in yet. As holding vast quantities of various stock items is capital intensive, we order in when we get the first order for that product. Please note that your order may be the first order for new stock and we ask that you give us some time to source it and get it to you.

We are very excited about our growing range of products and from your continued support, we will provide you with a one stop shop for all your eco conscious needs.

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Braai Sosaties and Sweet Potato Dessert

Braai Sosaties
Serves 2

1 pannet of button mushrooms
1 block of firm tofu
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon of hickory liquid smoke
1 pannet of baby marrows
2 tablespoons of syrup
2 tablespoons of vegan butter from All Life Vegan Products available from Unicorn Cafe
Braai salt

1. Slice the baby marrows into pieces about 2cm thick.
2. Brush the mushrooms clean and cut the large mushrooms in half.
3. Cube the tofu into pieces of 2cm x 2cm
4. In a separate dish, mix 2 tablespoons of syrup, 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and 1/4 teaspoon of hickory liquid smoke and place cubed tofu in the dish to marinate.
5. Melt 2 tablespoons of All Life Vegan Butter and mix the cut vegetables in the butter with a sprinkling of braai salt.
6. Add the baby marrows, mushrooms and tofu onto the skewers by alternating the different pieces
7. Braai until vegetables are cooked through or as desired.

Sweet Potato Dessert
Serves 2

2 tablespoons of vegan butter from All Life Vegan Products available from Unicorn Cafe
2 Medium sweet potatos
Vegan marshmallows
Maple syrup
Heavy duty Foil
Vanilla essence
Coconut cream

1. Slice the sweet potato into 1cm slices but don’t slice all the way through. Stop slicing just before the bottom as if you were making a garlic bread.
2. Place a piece of thinly sliced All Life Vegan Butter between each slice
3. Place a marshmallow between each slice
4. Melt 3 tablespoons of coconut cream and mix in 4 drops of vanilla essence and pour over the potato slits.
5 Wrap potatoes in foil and braai in the coals until soft.
6. Open and enjoy for dessert.

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Gardening Tips for November

November is the time to plant :
– Amaranth seedlings
– Angelica seeds
– Asparagus seeds
– Basil seeds
– Beans – Dwarf/Bush/French seeds
– Beans – Pole/Runner seeds
– Beetroot seeds
– Borage seeds
– Broccoli seeds
– Bronze Fennel seeds
– Cabbage seeds
– Cape Gooseberry seedlings
– Capiscu/Sweet Peppers seeds
– Carrot seeds
– Cauliflower seeds
– Chilli/Hot Peppers seed trays
– Chives seeds
– Coriander seeds
– Corn Salad seeds
– Corn Maize seeds
– Cucumber seeds
– Dill seeds
– Eggplant seeds
– Florence Fennel seeds
– French Tarragon seeds
– Ginger
– Globe Artichokes seed trays
– Lemon Balm seeds
– Lettuce seeds
– Luffa seeds
– Melon/Cantaloupe seeds
– Mint seeds
– Mustard Greens seeds
– NZ Spinach seeds
– Okra seeds
– Oregano seeds
– Parsley seeds
– Pumpkin seeds
– Rocket seeds
– Rosemary seeds
– Sage seedlings
– Salsify seeds
– Spring Onion seeds
– Squash seeds
– Strawberry seeds
– Strawberry plants
– Summer Savoury seeds
– Sunflower seeds
– Sweet Marjorum seeds
– Swedes/Rutabagas seeds
– Sweet Potatoes
– Swiss Chard seedlings
– Thyme seeds
– Tomatillo seeds
– Tomato seedlings
– Turnip seeds
– Watermelon seeds
– Winter Savoury seeds
– Zucchini/Courgette seeds

Beans, marrows, cucumbers and squashes should be harvested as soon as they reach edible size. Allowing them to fully mature results in the level of quality dropping and adds an unnecessary drain on the plant.

The A – Z of Vegetable Gardening in South Africa by Jack Hadfield

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Events Calendar

Events Calendar

1 November
World Vegan Day – Everywhere

4 November
Grow your own food – Intro to urban permaculture, 24 Somer Street, Surrrey from 9:30am to 4:30 pm on 5 November. (2 day workshop). Tickets R350 

5 November
Grow your own food workshop continued – Details in link above.
Lions Head Full Moon Hike, Signal Hill from 6pm to 9:30pm. Entrance free. Essential information here

Guy Fawkes

Ban The Bang Protest – outside News Cafe in Milnerton from 6:30pm to 9pm.

11 November
Food Gardening – Why and How at Permaculture Research Cape Town, 9 Cockburn Street, Glanncaire Heights from 10:30am to 15:30. Price R350. More information here

Low Tech Shrooms – Mushroom Cultivation at 24 Somer Street, Surrey.Tickets R350

A Compassionate Footprint at Ubuntu Wellness from 6pm to 9pm.  More information can be found here

12 November
Make it Ferment – Culturing Gut Health at 11 Wade Street, Claremont from 9:30am to 3pm. Tickets R300

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Saving & Storing Heirloom Seeds

Saving & Storing Heirloom Seeds
Heirloom seeds refers to open pollinated seeds that have been handed down from generation to generation. These seeds have been preserved and kept true in a specific region. Usually a variety that is at least 40-50 years old is no longer commercially available. It is important to know how to save your heirloom seeds to preserve their overall genetic composition. Loss of genetic material can result if rains/irrigation water wets the seeds after they have begun to dry, selective seed collecting habits are employed (e.g. collecting more seeds from plants that do well in your garden) or the seeds are injured during harvest (e.g. rough treatment or overheating during drying).

The following article offers some guidance on how to collect, preserve and store these seeds.

How to collect Heirloom Seeds?
Collect your heirloom seeds after the morning dew has dried preferably on a dry and sunny day. This usually occurs around 10:00 a.m. Make sure that your herbs, fruits, and vegetables are completely dry.

Always save more seed than you think you may need and save equal amounts of seed from each healthy plant. Saving seeds from each plant ensures that all the traits of the type of herbs/fruits/vegetables are preserved and saving equal amounts of seed from each plant ensures that the original balance and range of traits is preserved.

How to preserve Heirloom Seeds?
Fruits that have seeds in their pulp are best picked when the fruit is fully ripe and turning soft (but not rotting). These include tomatoes, eggplants, melons, chillies, and passion fruit. However, some fruits are best picked when the seeds have had time to plump up, that is, just after maturity. These include red and green peppers, butternut, gem squash, pumpkin, and marrows. Some fruit seeds need to fully mature before being harvested. This excludes a further 3 weeks before the seeds are ready to be picked. These include cucumbers, zucchinis, okra, and sweet corn.

Broad beans, runner beans, bush beans and maize should completely dry out on the plant before being harvested. If rain is forecasted, the seed heads and pods should be removed and placed in a well-ventilated, dry area until the seeds are hard.

Note that some plants scatter their seeds as they mature. These include, carrots, parsnips, lettuce, onions, and celery. As these seed heads approach maturity, they should be placed into paper bags and shaken daily, that way the released seed falls into the bags rather than on the soil.

How to clean Heirloom Seeds?
Plants that scatter their seeds do not require need any attention. They are clean and dry and just need to be harvested and stored. However, some seeds are fleshy, that is, they surrounded by pulp that requires removal. For example, with tomatoes you would need to scoop out the flesh with a spoon and place it in a bowl of water. Subsequently, you would need to separate the flesh and seeds by rubbing the flesh vigorously with your thumb and forefinger. Finally, you would drain the water through a sieve to catch the seeds and allow them to completely dry out on a plate (±10 days).


How to store Heirloom Seeds?
The genetic material of heirloom seeds can still change or be lost in storage even after proper collection and sanitation. Seeds may die if they are stored for too long or if they are stored under unfavourable storage conditions.

The viability of heirloom seeds preserves their integrity. Some seeds remain viable for a long period. For example, peas, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts last for at least 3 years, while tomatoes squash, cucumber, and melon lasts 5 years or longer. However, other seeds are only viable for a short period. For example, corn, onion, leek, parsnip, and salsify only last for one season.

You can place harvested heirloom seeds in paper bags and store them in a dark pantry or cupboard. Keep in mind that the enemies of seeds are heat, light and humidity. In addition, label your seeds indicating their type and time of harvest. Alternatively, you could store them in dark glass jars or plastic. However, seed transpiration can cause moisture build up in these containers ultimately spoiling the seeds. Thus, when storing seeds in these containers, you run the risk of your seeds going mouldy.

If you use glass or plastic, then a layer of silica gel must be placed at the bottom of each container and the gel should subsequently lined with paper towels. You may then fill your jars with your seeds. The silica gel will turn from its normal blue colour to pink when the seeds start to transpire. When this happens, you will have to remove the seeds, and replace the silica gel until your seeds need to be planted.

Saved heirloom seeds should be stored at a cool temperature (below 10°C/ 50°F). If you are unsure as to when you will plant your seeds again, you can store them in the fridge (in glass jars) at 5°C/41°F.

After following all these tips, a germination success rate of 50%-80% can be expected when you replant your seeds. Please note that this is also dependent on the type herbs, fruits, or vegetables you are growing, climatic conditions and soil viability.


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How to make Biodegradable Soap

How to make Biodegradable Soap

When using grey water for the garden, it is important to change the products in the house to biodegradable alternatives. Biodegradable cleaning and beauty products are becoming more available in grocery stores and health shops and it’s nice to see lots of different types to choose from. Making soap is also very easy and there is no reason why you cannot make your own soap for half the price.
It is important to follow this recipe carefully, measure out the required ingredients and take heed of safety precautions. It is also imperative that only glass and stainless steel is used and use gloves when working with caustic soda.

You will need:

  • 1kg of coconut oil
  • 153g of caustic soda
  • 380ml of water – distilled is best depending on the quality of the tap water
  • Plastic shopping bag
  • Wax paper
  • Vinegar
  • 3 Glass bowls
  • 1 Stainless steel pot
  • 2 Stainless steel spoons
  • Small kitchen scale
  • Thermometer
  • Stick blender
  • Moulds for soap
Fill one bowl halfway with water and add half a cup of vinegar. This is used as a safety precaution to dip your hands in, in case your skin is exposed to the reactive caustic soda
Line the moulds with wax paper
In a well ventilated area (preferably outdoors), gently pour the caustic soda into the water and mix. The water will look murky and will immediately start heating up. Put the bowl down with the spoon in it and leave for a few minutes while you heat the coconut oil.
While the caustic soda is dissolving, heat the coconut oil on medium in the stainless steel pot until it is liquid. Ensure the coconut oil does not get too hot. Aim for 70 degrees.
Check your caustic soda solution, mix any remaining solids in to make a lye.
Check the temperatures of both the lye and the heated coconut oil.
If there is a difference of no greater than 15 degrees between the two substances, then the lye may be added into the coconut oil and mixed with a stainless steel spoon first. 
Use a stick blender to thoroughly mix lye and oil at intervals of 10 seconds blending and 10 seconds mixing using a spoon. This is to ensure your stick blender does not overheat.
The mixture will reach trace which is a pudding like consistency that you can observe when pulling out your spoon or blender and any mixture that drops sits somewhat on top of the rest of the mixture.
Pour the trace mixture into the moulds and wrap the moulds in the plastic shopping bag and hot box it by wrapping it up in a few blankets or storing in a box filled with material.
After 36 hours, remove the moulds from the hot boxes and cut into desired shapes if necessary.
Place the soap in a well ventilated area and allow to cure for 6 weeks before using.
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Red Pepper & Black Sesame Seed Seitan from Nobleway Foods

Red Pepper & Black Sesame Seed Seitan from Nobleway Foods

This seitan is superbly made and full of flavour. Easy and convenient to use, it can sliced up and added to almost anything. It transforms ordinary savoury sandwiches into gourmet creations and bulks up a good breakfast for those mornings when you wake up starving. These seitan rolls have many benefits which include:

  • High protein content
  • No cholesterol or saturated fats
  • Low fat and low carbohydrates
  • Source of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium
  • Vegan and banting
  • Low in sodium
  • Sugar free
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Guy Fawkes-5th of November

Guy Fawkes-5th of November

Every year we celebrate Guy Fawkes on the 5th of November by making bonfires and lighting fireworks but what are we really celebrating?
What happened all those years ago?

It was the Jacobean era and under the rule of protestant and outwardly gay King James the 1st, William Shakespeare wrote some of his most prominent plays, the bible was edited to the authorised King James version, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei were bringing the Copernican revolution to a new development and Francis Bacon was helping modern science evolve using investigation. 

Some provincial English Catholics, decided to try and assassinate the king by placing 36 barrels of gunpowder under The House of Lords in order to put Princess Elizabeth on the throne as a catholic monarch. Guy Fawkes was to light the fuse to cause an explosion and escape by crossing the Thames river. He was caught, questioned, tortured and died just before his execution by falling off the very gallow he was to be hanged from. The people of London were encouraged to celebrate the king’s escape from the assassination by lighting bonfires.

Guy Fawkes has other controversial issues and research studies show that the loud sounds of fireworks have an adverse effect on wild animals as well as domestic animals. Compared to the  20 Hz – 23 KHz range that a human can hear, dogs can hear 60 Hz – 45 KH and cats can hear 45 Hz – 64 KHz.

To give you a practical example of this: 64 Hz (roughly the lowest note a dog can hear) is the pitch of the lowest key on a piano. For every doubling in Hz, the pitch goes up an octave. Cats, with the top range of 64 KHz vs 23 in humans, can thus hear sounds at least two and a half octaves higher than humans can! This is why dogs and cats respond to dog whistles. The sound is too high for us to hear, but still within their hearing range.

Cats and dogs also respond to a much lower intensity of sound than humans. Sound intensity is measured in decibels (dB). Dogs can hear five times more acutely than humans; and cats about twice as acutely as dogs. Like Hz, dB also increases exponentially, so 30 dB is ten times as loud as 20 dB, and 40 dB is 100 times as loud. A practical example is that a whisper weighs in at about 30 dB, and a dog can hear that from almost three times as far away as a human. Cats are even more sensitive than dogs to these soft sounds. This also explains why dogs and cats are so scared by the sound of fireworks which, to us, do not seem so loud. They are in fact at least 5 times louder to our pets! Dr M. E. de Vries (BVSc)

Loud noises inflict fear, stress and anxiety in animals and can cause them to flee into danger zones like roadways. Other documented effects include nesting birds and other small mammal parents abandoning their nests and leaving their defenseless babies behind. The panic can sometimes cause so much disorientation that wildlife parents cannot locate their nests and their babies die. Panic and disorientation from fireworks noise has also resulted in birds flying into windows and buildings, or too far out to sea to escape the noise. Animals can also become entangled in remnants of large fireworks, or ingest pieces, and scavenging animals (both birds and mammals) ingest debris, usually resulting in death.

Errant fireworks can also cause environmental damage though fires, and from the release of poisonous chemicals and particle-laden smoke, which is not just inhaled by wildlife, but contaminates the natural environment.

Please ensure your pets are safe and kept inside if fireworks are being let off close by.Make sure that windows and any other form of escape are closed. Prepare a ‘den’ for your pet where it can feel safe and comfortable – perhaps under a bed with some of your old clothes. They may like to hide there when the fireworks start. Let your pet pace around, whine, miaow and hide in a corner if they want to. Do not try to coax them out – it’s just trying to find safety, and should not be disturbed. Stay calm, act normally and give lots of praise for calm behaviour. It’s OK to cuddle and stroke your pet if it helps them relax, but if they prefer to hide under your bed, then let them do this instead.

Avoid leaving your pet alone during such potentially upsetting events. If you do have to leave the house, don’t get angry with your pet if you find they have been destructive or toileted after being left on his or her own. Shouting at a frightened pet will only make them more stressed. Don’t tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off, ie outside a shop while you pop inside, or leave them in the garden or in your car. Never take your dog to a fireworks display. Even if they don’t bark or whimper at the noise, it doesn’t mean they are happy. Excessive panting and yawning can indicate that your dog is stressed. Please be prepared for the 5th of November.

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The fifth of November

    Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England’s overthrow.
But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
A stick and a stake
For King James’s sake!
If you won’t give me one,
I’ll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!
 English Folk Verse (c.1870) – The Fifth of November