Sunday, December 15, 2013

to spray or not to spray....?

After suffering for the last few years with a fruit fly infestation, this year was totally out of control, with about 70% of my fruit being infested. You would not believe how CRAZY this makes me, especially after waitng a whole year since the last fruiting season.
When I first discovered  the worms, I thought to myself, that's it, I am going to use the nasty chemicals and wipe these pesky fuit flies out!!  I can still cope with 50% of them having worms but more than this, really what is the point? At this rate, I was going to end up buying someone elses poisoned fruit anyway. I then did some inquiries at the local co- op and was told to use Malasol or Lebaycid but after reading the warnings and precautions, I decided against it and went back home to the internet for some tips on how to handle the fruit flies in a more environmentally friendly way.
By the way, the 2 pics above, are of baby Butcher birds in a nest in one of the aprcot trees .Their parents are doing a sterling job of keeping marauding birds away that are raiding the apricots.

Another bonus of not using nasties, is that your natural predators start to return, like the Ladybirds ( they eat aphids),  in the blurry picture below. I was so excited about seeing the Ladybirds in my apple trees, I went to google them for some more info and was totally gobsmacked to find out that they eat up to 500 aphids a day. You will see in the pic below that there are darker little spots on the leaves which are the aphids... a week later, NO aphids on any of my apple trees.
To help combat the fruit flies, the first step is to pick up any fruit that has fallen on the ground, or destroy any fruit that has been stung. Stung fruit always has a tiny harmless looking little prick mark on the skin. In the seven years that we have been here, I have always left the fruit on the ground to rot away. This is a no-no as the worm larva in the fruit then borrow into the ground, only to emerge the following summer as fruit flies and so the cycle is perpetuated. I must admit  that one of the main reasons I left the fruit on the ground, was that I noticed bees feeding on the nectar and thought it to "bee" a bonus for them in our dry summers. I once took honey out for another guy who had a bee hive in an abandoned apricot orchard and the honey was dark and tasted like apricot jam, delicious!
The second step is to hang fruit fly traps in the trees that attract the male fruit fly and thereby you limit the reproduction of fruit flies.
I am still trying to find a recipe for this "muti" which you put into a plastic 2 lt bottle with a few holes poked around the top. These you hang in your trees, one every 10m square. I must admit that this also bugs me a bit as it also attract other male bugs, including the beneficial ones too!
Soap maker Rae Conterio doing a bit of weeding.

The third step is to plant plants like yarrow, marigolds, borage, dill and khakibos around your orchard, as this draws all the beneficial insects like ladybirds, wasps, hover fly, etc So the more you plant the merrier and the prettier your orchard will look .
My last tool in my arsenal against the dreaded fruit fly, is something I have just discovered and it is called GF 120 Naturalite. This is apparently new on the market and it is applied as a spray that targets male fruit flies. I asked the local agricultural officer if this would not also affect other male insects but he was unable to tell me and said it was an interesting question and he would get back to me. I am still waiting.... Till next time!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What has the artisan soap makers been up to ?

It has possibly been our best year of soap sales, since starting our little soap business, which  is an amazing feat in the current economy. I am, of course, not surprised as we do make the best soap in South Africa (ha ha... we do have such a cheek!). We have even had clients who have gone overseas and brought back artisan soap for us to try, just to compare and to show us that we do indeed make a wonderful soap. We are of course, extremely grateful and blessed to be able to live this lifestyle through the support of all our wonderful clients. We will never become rich, as that would mean starting a factory and employing staff in a  town, which would totally defeat the object of why we moved out here.
Above, are two pics of a winter sunrise. The frost was so hard and thick that I could run and slide along with my gumboots. Star ( the dog ) seems to be totally oblivious to the cold.
Same orchard as the top pic but as it looks at the moment... beautiful and green! This is generally the best time of the year, as we have had our rains and then by the time January and February arrive, things start getting pretty dry again and everything starts to look brown but that's OK, knowing that it's all part of the process makes it acceptable and beautiful.
Star and T-Bone greeting the sun as it rises, they are brother and sister.
There is such a big hoo haa about alien Wattles but to tell you the honest truth, if we didn't have it, we would definitely miss it, as we use it for our indoor Dover stove, fencing and to stake our tomatoes, beans, etc. I do feel it has its uses on every smallholding, especially if you can manage a small grove of it, preventing it from spreading.
Above, I am peeling wattle latte that I am using to make a fence around our veggie patch, to keep out the bunnies, porcupines and little buck. When I have more time (whenever that might be), I want to try and make little bits of furniture out if the wood and baskets out of the bark.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Putting The Veggies To Bed.

Frosty Morning On The Plaas
With the arrival of winter, comes the arrival of frost and this winter has been the worst we've experienced in our 6 years here. I make it sound like an awful phenomenon but in actual fact, it is beautiful and I love it, besides, within the first hour of direct sunlight, it is all gone! So, if you oversleep because bed is just too cozy on these cold mornings... you will miss it!

Putting The Veggies To Bed
Every night, I put my veggies to bed, so to speak  This entails covering my beds with shade cloth, a practice that I have started to do because during the night, we have hungry visitors like rabbit and porcupine.
Baby Cabbage, lettuce And Peas
This works really well as it also gives you a chance to keep an eye on any nightly pest invasions, i.e. snails and worms.
Cauliflower, Coriander and Peas
In the morning, when I remove their covers, I do a quick pest check, maybe a spot of weeding while the day time is still warm enough. It also protects your lettuce from frost. So while the farmer next door is trying to deal with his nocturnal visitors by setting traps, or setting his alarm clock hoping to catch the night time marauders in the sights of his 22... you are fast asleep. You could also fence your veggie garden in, although my neighbor said that fences don"t work as they just burrow their way underneath. This led me to trying the shade clothe, as I had some lying around and so far so good! No traps or guns on our farm!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

African Bliss Fathers Day promotion.

 With Father day approaching, we decided this would be a perfect opportunity to run a little promotion on our Men's Soap and our soap beds and let Dads experience our soap.
 Since adding this soap to our range, we have found that the soap actually appeals to an equal amount of men and woman, with its warm and spicy smell.
The first client to take us up on our promotion was the local "Domini" (minister of the NG Kerk of Joubertina) who is by no means a new client but has been a faithful supporter (and friend) of our soap range since our arrival in the Langkloof. He put in a handsome order of 100 soaps on soap beds and suppled us with a little verse which we tied on with string. Apparently the children are going to hand these out to all the Dad's in the congregation after the service on Father's Day. We, at African Bliss, thought this to be a brilliant idea and climbed in with getting the order ready, with much enthusiasm and love!.
Our soap beds are recycled from off-cuts of  Meranti and Oak and then are soaked in olive all for a week (this preserves them). It's has four little legs and drainage furrows to make your handmade soap last longer and was designed by Dino.... clever Dad that he is!!

Happy Father's Day to all the Dad's out there!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Summers End Is Near

 At the end of summer, we always seem to see a lot of activity in snake movement. I guess this is due to the fact that they are maybe fattening up before winter and looking for the best spot to hibernate. Today was one of those days when we had a snake encounter, the 2nd encounter this week but this one is worth mentioning! I was on my way down the road with my pack of  9 dogs, taking them for their evening walk, when my daughter, who was busy feeding the horses in the field adjacent to the house, suddenly screamed that she had almost stood on a cobra. I asked her if she could still see it, to which she replied, yes. I gave the dogs the command to "stay" while I ran over to her and told her to go fetch my snake catcher, while I kept an eye on the snake which was lying close to one of my bee hives. Any poisonous snakes that we catch on the farm, we generally release them about 2km away from the house. By the time she returned, my other daughter that was watching from the stoep of the house, warned me that one of our dogs was standing right behind me.
With my snake catcher in hand and waving at the dog behind me to stay away, I tried unsuccessfully to snare the snake.The snake avoided the noose and slithered towards the nearest beehive and into the entrance way. This really pissed the bees off and they all came swarming out the hive looking for some soft flesh to jab, as the snakes was obviously to hard, what with all those protective scales! So, daughter No.1 ran for the house while daughter No.2 ran in the house and I ran for the dogs who were loyally still waiting for me, unaware of the impending danger. I got to them with a couple of bees in tow and we all started running down the road, my wife watching  the drama safely, from inside the house. After about a 150m one of the dogs tripped me up and I went stumbling along trying to maintain my footing but to no avail.... I went sprawling in the dirt with the dog that tripped me up, landing on top of me!! I quickly jumped up expecting to resume the mad dash, or to fend off crazed bees, whichever came first but luckily they had given up the chase.
I  heard my wife shouting from the house, "Are you alright lovey?". I just waved an irritated arm at her and carried on my dog walk with scratches and grazes.
 This year we have had a bumper season of tomatoes. I planted a variety called "beefsteak" and they proved to be very rewarding with most of them weighing in at just under, or over 500gms each, so we have made literally litres of tomatoe sauce to see us through the winter. This will be used in pasta's (home made), soups, pizzas and stews.
who said that tomatoes dont have fun.

 The other day, again while walking the dogs, I was fortunate to witness a mommy tortoise (above) laying her eggs, I suppose this is also a sign that summer is coming to a an end. When she arranged her eggs in the hole that she had dug, they sounded like china cups clinking together. After a bit of "google" research, I found out that we'd have to wait anything between 4 - 18 months for them to hatch, it all depends on the temperature. I went back and marked the spot with a stone. Incidentally, she laid them in my mini olive grove, so it will be easy to keep an eye on them.

 Below is a picture of my kalamata olive tree with its first olives on. The trees are about three years old. Take note of their shape compared to the Manzanilla olives in the pic below.

 My first harvest of monzanella olives coming up these trees are only four years old you can see the tree in the background also covered in olives. I have chosen to go with mostly planting kalamata olives as I really love them and very few people seem to plant them.
 My long red peppers have also given me a good crop this years. I will post a pic of them soon, when they are all lovely and ripe and red.
 I interplanted them with basil, coriander and nasturtium. Above, you can see the coriander and purple basil in the background
 I also put down layers of straw around everything that I planted this year and I swear, this has definitely contributed to my successful crops.
I am sorry to see summer coming to an end, I'm going to miss all the fresh produce straight out the garden but I've already started seedlings of cabbage, broccoli, spinach, kale, coriander, carrots and beetroot.