Have your downtime this Holiday Season.

We all know gardening can be all consuming, it can be difficult to drag your partner, parent or even yourself out of the garden during the holiday season, to set up in the kitchen, lounge or the garden for some quality time, good food and relaxation.

It has been a tough year for many and for a lot of us, our gardens have helped us through it all! That much needed therapy session with your budding plants, putting wholesome food on your table, taking out your frustrations while ripping out those weeds, helping you to feed your family and perhaps a few extra hungry mouths, and so much more.

It might seem hard to take a small break from your garden now….Your harvests are coming in, you need to clear out that patch of weeds you’ve been meaning to get to, or plan out your next planting, and we encourage you to do just that, but do it early, do it now! Don’t wait until the last minute, give up and feel guilty when you sit outside, braaing through your holiday, your garden looking on in sorrow. Follow our simple steps and reward yourself with a holiday. Trust me, you deserve it!

For your garden to run smoothly this holiday season here are some tips and tricks:

#1 Weed! Weeding is not the most exciting activity, however, doing it for a mere 15 minutes a day will drastically change the way your garden looks and feels. It is also one of the biggest problems faced when you go on holiday or leave your garden alone to celebrate with your family….you end up coming back to a jungle of weeds. Clearing out your weeds will also help reduce your pest load. So, pop on some Christmas music and get those fingers to work.

#2 Mulch, after your weeds are under control apply a thick layer of mulch to your garden. This will help suppress weed growth, ensure that your soil maintains moisture and if the person watering your garden forgets, your plants will not be put under too much stress.

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A good mulch consists of any dried organic matter, applied as thickly as you can. Shoot for 5-10cm of mulch.

#3 Feed your plants with the relevant Talborne Organics fertilizer before you leave, to ensure your plants have adequate nutrients, they deserve a Christmas dinner too!

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Vita Grow – For root crops and the stimulation of root growth in new transplants.

Vita Green – For any leafy greens.

Vita Veg – For a general fertilization, usually mid-season.

Vita Fruit & Flower – For all fruiting and flowering plants and plants in heavy production.

Organic Fertilizer

#4 Do a major harvest of all fruit, even unripe. Donate your bounty to charity or give them to friends and family. This will ensure that the plants pick up production while you are away, celebrating, or lazing on the couch, and you will come back to a great harvest instead of heaps of vrot fruit.

Some great gift ideas will come from pickling, canning, or just bundling up some of your freshly harvested veg.

The Livingseeds favourite from Sean:

Sean’s Chilli Pickle Relish

This is a raw pickle, the only thing that is cooked is half of the onions.

1 Cup Yellow Mustard seed (Our sprouting seed works well)

5 Cups Brown Sugar

3Lt Brown Grape or Malt vinegar

800 ml Chopped garlic

10 onions sliced thinly, fried to transparent stage in olive oil.

10 onions, raw, sliced thinly into strips

1 1/2 cups salt

100g Tamarind

250 ml Lemon juice

Approx. 4 kgs of mild chillis (both red and green) sliced into rounds

Chillies can be de-fuzed by removing a % of the seeds, we generally do not add any loose seed that falls out and just keep what is in the rounds.


Heat 2 cups of vinegar, add the tamarind, dissolve and strain. Discard bits.

Place everything in a plastic sealable container. Except onions.

Using a stick blender, roughly blend half of the mix.

Now add onions.

Wait 2 weeks and bottle.

Put bottles in the sun turning every day for a week. Keep bottle in a dark place until ready for use.

To use, roughly drain the vinegar leaving about 1/5th vinegar in the bottle and add olive oil, shake and use as a relish basically on anything.

This recipe is original and supplied by Sean Freeman of Livingseeds.

There are so many great recipes out there, here are some of our favourite resources linked below:

For your marrows:

Jills Zucchini Pickle

For your tomatoes:

Tomato Jam

Tomato Jam

Tomato Sauce

For your cucumbers:

Pickled Cucumbers


For a seasonal piccalilli:

We recommend cucumbers, cauliflower, carrots, onions and whatever you fancy and have an excess of.


For herbs:

Preserving and Storing

For basil pesto:

Pine nuts can be substituted with other nuts or sunflower seeds.

Pesto without Pine Nuts


Some fun festive refreshments can be made using fresh cucumbers, garden huckleberries, gooseberries, jelly melon pulp, borage flowers, fresh chillis, or tomatillos.

The beauty of growing your own, is the ability to walk into the garden and decide what you can put together based on what you have ripe and ready in that precise moment.

Have fun with what you grow, the joy is in the journey….


Livingseeds, is the best heirloom seed company.

Livingseeds is the best seed company in South Africa.

Yes, I know I’m biased, being the owner of Livingseeds brings me immense pride and joy. We know that what we do is so important for the South African gardener, farmer and smallholder, in fact for anyone that is concerned with food security, seed freedom and seed saving.

There are many things that Livingseeds can claim to be the best at: We were the first Heirloom seed company in SA, we are the largest Heirloom seed company in SA and we have the largest selection of Heirloom seed varieties that are locally grown.  Many local heirloom seed companies use Livingseeds either as their own seed supplier or as their yardstick to ascertain quality.


I could go on, however, for this article, I’m going to concentrate on one single aspect: Our seed quality.

Seed quality for a seed company, is paramount!

At the end of the day, we know that our customers will gauge us by our seed quality, and every interaction is typically based off of the initial experience.

Many customers have come to us and told us how happy they are to receive our seed and how great our germination is. Good quality seed with fantastic germination is of utmost importance to us and we appreciate the affirmations we are getting from gardeners and growers from all walks of life. It is just as important for us that the beginner gardener has the same success as the expert growers out there.

The focus of Livingseeds is very simple. We provide the very best heirloom vegetable seed in South Africa.

So how do we know that we have the best seed in South Africa?

Let me tell you a story, one that I’m very proud of.


Thomas Linders is a very well-known permaculturist in South Africa. He’s been practising in South Africa for over 30 years, with his Permaculture journey starting long before that in Switzerland, so he has been around for a while.

He runs the Rosendal Permaculture Institute at Waaipoort Farm in the Free State and as such, is widely recognised as an authority in what he does.

In 2016 I was at a sustainability show in Pretoria and Thomas started chatting to me.

The story that transpired is for me, one great honour. Thomas related that over the years they had run experiments with the offerings from various seed suppliers and producers in South Africa. Due to the nature of permaculture, diversity is of paramount importance to ensure that the system is able to feed back into itself, and provide the incredible harvests that permaculture is known for.

To achieve this there is no single seed supplier that can supply all their needs, and by necessity permaculturists need to order from numerous seed suppliers. It must also be noted that the various seed companies, very often stock the same varieties. So naturally there is some over-lap.

Over the years, Thomas has ordered from every single seed supplier in South Africa, and in doing so he has been able to sample the wares that each supplier has on offer.

So now it comes down to the actual seed quality. Thomas and his people have planted seed from all of the various suppliers’ in real world applications. These were not specialist, double-blind lab tests, but practical field trials, where seed from various local seed suppliers were planted primarily for production.

The seed was planted correctly, by knowledgeable people in the correct manner, which, if you think about it, is the best way to assess the quality of the seed.

Thomas told me that over the years of planting locally supplied seed, every year, Livingseeds seeds came out as the best quality seed, both in terms of germination and in terms of actual quality of the plants produced.

What I find most impressive is that he said that these results were the same EVERY year, which goes to show that our seed quality is consistent year after year.

For a seed company, having someone that has intimate knowledge of seed, seed sowing practices and an in depth knowledge of growing practices say that your seed specifically, has a noticeably better germination that any other supplier, is high praise indeed.

We do a number of things that separates us from our competition, we know that we are the best seed company in South Africa, we lead and our competition follows, every year.

For us being listed by a credible authority, that is 100% external to Livingseeds, as having the best quality seed in South Africa, is probably the highest form of praise.

NOTE: Thomas Linders has not, and will not receive any compensation for this.

This article was written by myself (Sean Freeman) and I have received permission from Thomas to use his name.



2017 Livingseeds Vegetable Exhibition.

Calling all veggie growers!!! If you have an awesome veggie garden, your produce is outstanding and everyone loves the food that comes out of your garden, it may be time to put your growing skills to the real test.

The big question is, how well does your produce rank against other veggie growers?

Everyone tells you that your tomatoes are the best, or that they have never eaten cucumbers as delicious as yours.

Everyone likes to think they grow the best produce, but the real question is… “is it really the best? Can your produce win a Vegetable Exhibition?”

This is your chance to find out how green your fingers really are. Come and exhibit your prize veggies at our Inaugural Vegetable Exhibition. This will give you a good idea of how well your garden’s produce ranks, and will also allow you to compare your best produce against the best produce of other growers in the region.

Come and show off your produce at the 2017 Livingseeds Vegetable Exhibition.
Come and show off your produce at the 2017 Livingseeds Vegetable Exhibition.


For a number of years now, it has been on my heart to host a real Vegetable Exhibition. The idea is to provide a platform for all veggie gardeners and farmers to bring their produce and show it off for others to see. At the same time they can rank their produce against other growers. Every veggie grower believes that their produce is the best, and this is the true test.

We have such great customers and they often send us pic’s of their produce and gardens. We are excited to have an opportunity to meet you guys in person, see and touch your produce and just have a great day chatting about veggies.



This is the inaugural Livingseeds Vegetable Exhibition, and looking at the responses so far, the competition is bound to be tough and exciting.

The whole idea is for you to have a great day, with some friendly competition and hopefully at the end of the day, you get to leave with bragging rights for the next year. Networking and chatting with other growers is also the best way to learn new and interesting techniques that can give you the edge for the following year. Who knows, you may even make some interesting new friends and meet some great gardening neighbours.

The Vegetable Exhibition is based on international show standards, and our intention is to develop this into a world class event over the next few years. As it’s our first year, we have relaxed a few of the conditions and requirements.

How to Enter.

This year it is very simple.

Let us know that you are keen to bring some produce, and then arrive within the specified time on the 9th of April to stage your veggies.

Please note that we have put together a show schedule and judging rules that need to be adhered to, so please make sure you download them and read them.

This year, there will be no charge to enter and exhibit, you will however have to pay the standard show entry of R40 per car.

The cool thing is that you can enter as many vegetable classes as you wish at no cost. So if you have a wildly productive garden, then bring your produce, and show it off.

There are categories for almost every vegetable that you can imagine, and even a few fun categories…. just for the fun of it.

The Exhibition will be held on Sunday the 9th of April at the Walkerville Agricultural Show.  The Show organizers have given us the use of the annex to allow us to put this exhibition on.

We will have ribbons, certificates and great prizes for the top winners in each class. As well and an overall Exhibition winner for the exhibitor that accumulates the highest score on the day.

We are looking forward to an exciting day filled with amazing vegetables and awesome grower’s tales! Come along, with or without an exhibit. We’d love to meet you and hear all your Veggie tales!



Organic Cutworm control in the garden

Cutworms are the bane of a gardeners life, when planting out seedlings cutworms can make short work of all of your diligent growing out.

There are a number of different ways to protect your plants against cutworms and the most commonly recommended solution is to plant the seedling into a collar (or grow them in a collar) these collars can be cardboard tubes like toilet rolls or even PVC tubes.

This is a great idea, especially if you only have a few seedlings to plant out. However here on Livingseeds Farm we plant out thousands of seedlings and that adds up to a lot of toilet rolls.

I have heard and read about using soil calcium to combat cutworms, and that soils that have a proper calcium availability will have a lower or no cutworm incidence. I’m not sure if it’s soil pH or if it’s the actual calcium availability? However, looking at what we have experienced over the last two years I think its the physical calcium that makes the difference.

So, all very good and wonderful, how do we go about proving it. This is all anecdotal and it’s pretty hard to prove conclusively, however read along and see what we have found.

Typically here on Livingseeds Farm, we never had any specific cutworm program besides going into the tunnels early in the morning and manually catching the cutworms either in the act or just post act. Cutworms typically do their dirty work early in the morning and catching them is simple. As long as it’s done within an hour to two of the decapitation, they can be found by scratching around the severed seedling and collecting all the cutworms. They are typically found in a 2-6 cm zone around the seedling and about 1 or 2 cm deep. These were then fed with glee and much appreciation to our laying hens, who turned them into lovely eggs for us.

Tunnel with about 300 heirllom tomato plants. Sheaves of wheat are drying waiting to be threshed.
Tunnel with about 300 heirloom tomato plants. Sheaves of wheat are drying waiting to be threshed.

We would lose about 10-15% of our seedlings every year and basically accepted the fact that this was part of the deal when growing organically and not wanting to use pesticides.

I had been speaking to a few people about the Calcium – Cutworm theory, and 90% of the people shot the idea down as a waste of time. Always up for a challenge and proving people wrong I though we would give it a bash.

Knowing that all calcium is not created equal I decided to do a few simple tests. The kind that are easy and simple to replicate in the garden or in our case, in the fields.

Just a quick look at the different Calcium’s available to the gardener. (No need to go into cations anions and CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) of soil and how things are locked up and released. Suffice to say it’s interesting and very important, but not right now.)

Dolomitic Calcium is the cheapest, has the lowest availability, and takes years and years ….. and years to become available. Has a high Magnesium ratio that when it’s release, unfortunately also locks up other elements and tends to harden up your soil.

Calcitic Lime also known as Landbou Kalk, comes in various “kinds or sources and grades” and is the most commonly available. This is what is mostly sold as gardening lime. Nothing wrong with it and it works. (Again depending on the source / quality)

Bone Meal a superb source of highly available calcium and is held beautifully in the soil, it’s readily absorbed and is a much preferred source of calcium.

Gypsum. The most highly available source of calcium, also has a good ration of sulphur. If you are low in calcium this is a great way to fix a shortage very quickly as the plants can use it almost immediately. The Sulpher (anion) is locked onto the calcium (cation) making it freely available for absorption.

OK, onto our cutworm story. Last year we started our trials in two of our tunnels and found the following. (Both tunnels were planted to tomatoes)

All of the other tunnels were treated as normal and we harvested cutworms every morning for our hens.

In one tunnel we added in Calcitic Lime (Landbou Kalk) at around 150-200 gr per running meter and planted into the soil. Our cutworm activity was not noticeably reduced, and we had to control by hand.

In the second tunnel we used the Talborne Organics Vita Bone Phos at a similar rate. There was less cutworm activity, but we still had losses in the tunnel. There was a clear drop in cutworm activity and I felt it was well worth pursuing the reasoning that calcium reduces cutworm activity.

I decided that this year I would do a bit more to test this theory out. We ran the following calcium regimen in all of our tunnels and any open beds where we transplanted seedlings.

First the Vita Bone Phos was added to the soil (at approximately 150- 200 gr per running meter) and lightly worked into the top 5 cm of soil. The seedlings were planted directly into the soil along a drip line and then a tablespoon of the BonePhos around the seedling.

5 week old tomato seedling with NGP Soil Build around the base.
5 week old tomato seedling with BonePhos around the base.

The tunnel where we had the Vita Bone Phos in last year had no seedling losses at all. We have to date lost only 6 seedlings this year, we have planted out thousands, both in tunnels and in open ground.

So do I believe that calcium stops cutworms, oh yes 100%. It just needs to be the right calcium.

Our seedling loss as a percentage this year (based on calcium treated soil) is less than 0.25% !! Going from a 10% loss every year to .25% is a huge drop.

The only place that we did not do the calcium treatment was on the Corn and Bean plantings. It’s noteworthy to see that we lost 15-20 % of our bean and corn plantings. What we also did not do, was the cutworm follow-up every morning in the bean and corn fields, so the damage was higher as we were not concentrating our efforts there. We were more concerned at what was happening (or not happening) with the calcium treated seedlings. Patting ourselves on the back and revelling in getting a grip on the cutworms by using the soil against them. By the time we woke up, the damage was already noticeable in the untreated areas.

Talborne organic Vita Veg and Vita Bone Phos
Talborne organic Vita Veg and Vita Bone Phos


My recipe now for cutworms, not just scratch them out manually. Add in 150 – 200 gr of Vita Bone Phos per running meter, and sprinkle just one tablespoon of BonePhos around each seedling. It’s simple, 100% organic, improves your soil quality and most importantly, IT WORKS!



Pastured Poultry

For people looking at ways to make an extra income, Pastured Poultry is quite possibly one of the best ways to get the most of raising a quality product that will get customers coming back time after time, building customer loyalty and enabling you to up-sell on other seasonal products that you may make, grow or raise. (Think veggies, eggs, cheese, soap, fruit, preserves etc etc)

Entry into the pastured poultry business is easy and one can start with as few as 50 or even 100 birds. The beauty of this is that you get to set the pace of your expansion, you stay as small or go as large as you wish (and have space for) also allowing you to grow with your customer base and budget.

A good example is here on Livingseeds Farm, we only do small batches of 200 birds every 8-10 weeks in spring and summer. We service a purposefully limited client base and the majority of the birds are for our own consumption. We have no plans to expand this beyond what we currently do, so as you can see, this is perfectly suited to allow you to decide how large you want to grow.

Three week old broilers enjoying the sun and grass
Three week old broilers enjoying the sun and grass

My very first piece of advice would be to get the book Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin. This is literally a textbook on raising ordinary broiler birds on grass and will be critical to your success. The information in this post is mainly for you to get a rough idea as to what you are getting yourself into.

We started rearing Pastured Poultry to get away from the toxic chicken that is regularly passed onto the consumer by our large poultry processors. (This is a good question for you to answer: How often do you get the runs after a takeaway or a meal out? ) Processors are allowed to inject these birds with what they euphemistically like to call “flavour enhancers” The scary thing is that if they did not inject the birds with this junk, most consumers would probably not eat the birds as they taste so bad. Ever smell chlorine or fish meal on your “fresh” chicken? I’ll do a blog post on why your chickens smell/taste funny in the future. It might even push you to start producing your own Grass Fed Chicken.

I did not like the idea of eating “recycled animal protien”, I also did not like the idea of eating meat that was laden with “Growth Promoters”, antibiotics and “precautionary medication” just in case the birds got sick. Our Pastured Poultry operation is specifically designed around supplying our family with quality chicken and any excess is sold to customers.

We start off with day-old Ross broilers and they spend the first 2-3 weeks in a specially prepared raising area that is indoors. They get fed broiler finisher from day one, as by law broiler finisher may not have any medication in the feed. We also feed the day old chicks river sand and/or pool filter sand. This is because they need grit to act as teeth inside their gizzards. The sand also releases minerals into their systems as it passes through their highly acidic gut.

Our finisher mash is produced by Hi-Performance Feeds in Meyerton and is free of GM maize as they have contract growers that grow for them and they specifically request that these growers use GM free maize. Hi-Performance exports maize into Africa and need to supply a GM Free certificate to proof as much. I speak to the guys there and I’m am more than confidant with the feed that they supply us.

From day one we also add a Probiotic and an Amino acid supplement to their water, this is to make sure that along with the sand in their diet their digestive system is brought up to optimal functioning to ensure the strongest and healthiest chicks, as well as good feed conversion. We will also add cut grass to their feed every day to give them a natural chlorophyll boost (and goggas and other cool things for them to eat) and also so that we don’t stress their systems when they get moved permanently onto grass.

The modern broiler is not designed to be subjected to the stresses of outside life, and has been bred to live in a permanently medicated, temperature controlled, light controlled, sterilised, confined space, eating a high protein diet lacking any semblance of proper nutrition. What we do is go 100% against conventional poultry rearing wisdom and raise them outside on grass, in natural sunlight, with no medication, subject to weather, they eat … well almost anything available, nothing is sterilised….. EVER!

And Wow do they make fine eating birds.

At around 2-3 weeks depending on the chicks and the weather forecast, we take the birds outside and they get placed into cages that are on grass. This is a bit of a knock for the birds and we find that it takes them a day or two to adjust. So if there is any bad weather forecast for the next day or so, rather postpone the move to grass. That said, after a few days on grass you can literally see the birds take off and the outside adjustment is complete.

7 Week old birds, if you look in the background you can see where the cage has been.
7 Week old birds, if you look in the background you can see where the cage has been.

Just watching the birds on fresh grass is a real treat, they actively search out new bugs and eat the fresh green grass like sweets. We continue to supplement with amino acids and Probiotic once or twice a week, but we find that there are plenty of natural minerals and vitamins in the grass and bugs and other things that the birds consume.

We move the birds onto fresh grass every morning, in the last week before slaughter they get moved twice a day as they really start to hammer the grass. They don’t get moved to spare the grass they get moved to allow them access to more fresh grass, as they practically denude the soil, leaving a bare patch after we have moved the cage.

The soil and grass bounces back very quickly and you can definite see an improvement in the quality of the grass as well as the colour of the grass, as it makes use of the nutrients in the chickens waste.

We typically slaughter at 7 weeks and this takes place on a Saturday morning where we set up a temporary abattoir. A few friends come around to help and we make social occasion out of the unpleasant disassembly process. Sometimes a customer wants to help out and we often allow this as people want to see how their food is treated.

Slaughter is a necessary part of getting meat onto ones plate, I would prefer however, to have that meat come from a farm where I knew that the chicken had a good living, eating what it was designed to. Not, medication and recycled animal protein.

I make no apologies for being an omnivore. I just believe that it makes a lot more sense to eat a humanely produced succulent chicken breast. The fact that one cannot buy one in ANY store necessitates that I produce and slaughter the birds myself.


Real Coffee

We like coffee. That is a simple statement and it just does not tell the whole story.

Every Sunday after church we come home and as a rule, we roast our coffee for the coming week.

Some find it strange and being the “do it yourself” type family we have been able to source a supply of green coffee beans. Not that easy to do and it can get a tad expensive as one has to order a few bags of beans at a time. To get around the cost paying outright for 200 kg’s of beans, we have a “Coffee Bean Co-Op” so a few close friends and like-minded coffee snobs, can get their caffeine hit as fresh as we like it.

I think it’s more emphasis on the coffee snobs that anything else, as we have become serious about our coffee and we really like it fresh.

If you look closely you can see the three different beans. (From the left Malawi, Indo Man and Columbia)
If you look closely you can see the three different beans. (From the left Malawi, Indo Man and Columbia)

If it’s pre-roasted you can almost guarantee that it’s stale, and we can track the flavour of a batch over the week, we find that the flavour on day 3 (tuesday) is probably the best it’s going to get, but by Saturday it’s getting a bit tired.


Ok, so if you are blessed with a source of green coffee beans you are in luck, the green beans can be stored for a long time. We have tried some that are close to 2 years old that roast up just fine, so buying in bulk does make some sense, as the coffee price just keeps on climbing.

We have found that the approximate weight loss from roasting is around 15-20% depending on the freshness of the beans. So we roast up 1.2 kg’s of beans every Sunday so that leaves us with around a kilo of beans for the week. Yes we do like our coffee, and sometimes our little farm is like a train station, requiring umpteen pots of coffee for thirsty visitors. (Personally methinks they are just here for the coffee and not to visit.)

The nice thing about roasting your own is that you get to play with single origin bean and blends of beans so that you can “design” your own house blend. We try and get different beans every time we do a share, so that we get to taste coffees from around the world. It seems that every time we get a new favourite that we can drink to our hearts content for a few months.

Coffe roasting paraphenalia
All thats needed for roasting coffee, except the single malt.

So, you want to know how to roast your own. Here’s how.

Cast Iron Pot. (The deeper the better as the beans swell with roasting.)

Wooden Spoon. (Try dedicate one)

Gas stove

Cooling pan(s)

Oven Gloves

Green beans (If you look closely you will be able to see the colour variations of the different beans)

The single malt in the pic above is fuel for the Roast Master.

Weigh out your beans and put them into your pot, light the gas and start stirring. The idea here is to get them to brown evenly. You will find that the beans will burn EXTREEMLY easily so you need to keep them moving, just a few seconds in one place and you will get burnt beans.

How hot must it be? Well this is for you to work out, full blast is not going to be the answer and you are looking for a happy medium of not too cool and not too hot. A kilo should take around 30 mins to get to a med-dark roast which is where we like our coffee.

If you don't have a R10 000 coffee roaster do it this way... the cheap way.
If you don't have a R10 000 coffee roaster do it this way... the cheap way.

As the beans start to cook you will see the colour start to change from green to yellowish and then you will get the occasional bean that turns up dark. If you have too many burnt beans you are either too hot (the pan that is) or you are stirring too slowly.

1st crack and 2nd crack. One can get technical and follow very specific temperature charts and worry with thermometers and and and… Personally I don’t hold much store in doing it technically, I much prefer the Mmmm that looks perfect approach. Needless to say you will get to learn about first and second crack as you will experience them in your roasting exercises.

1st Crack starts quite early in the roast and there can be a definite gap between 1st and second or they can blend into one long crack with just a slight dip in intensity.

1st Crack has started and you can see the colour changing. Some smoke has started to fill the air.
1st Crack has started and you can see the colour changing. Some smoke has started to fill the air.

Rather worry about the colour of your beans and an even roasting technique, the results are much better if you just manage the final product instead of getting side tracked with where you are at during which crack. Suffice to say that the more you do this, the easier it becomes to show-off to your friends as to where you are in the roasting cycle.

I should have mentioned this a tad earlier, but roasting coffee generates a fair amount smoke, pleasant at first but it will create an acrid cloud of smoke. The rule is the darker you like your roast the more smoke this is going to produce. For those poor souls that like to destroy one of Natures great botanical gifts with a French Roast, best you do this outside.

Stirring like crazy, smoking like mad.
Stirring like crazy, smoking like mad.

We find it beneficial to blow off the chaff as we are roasting, as it leaves less to clean during the cooling process, also the beans get sticky as they start to release the oils (which makes the smoke). Once you are happy with your roast turn the gas off, tip the beans into your cooling pan, they will still be cracking as the beans continue to cook, but this will soon stop.

At this point you want to cool the beans down as fast as possible, the cooling process slows the “off-gassing” process. Off-gassing is where your flavour comes from and this is also why people suggest that you store your beans in the freezer. This process continues until the bean is way past its useful life as beverage of the mind.

The only way to get fresher coffee is to skip the grinding stage and chew the beans.
The only way to get fresher coffee is to skip the grinding stage and chew the beans.

We use two pans and a wire baking cooling rack to allow the base to cool as well. Keep stirring to help bring beans from the bottom of the pan and allow them to cool. We tip from one pan to the other to speed up the cooling process and get rid of the chaff.

Then it’s just a case of grinding your beans and preparing in the manner that you most enjoy.

For some interesting reading on the history of coffee, have a look at this book, it’s very reasonably priced and well worth reading.




Happy as a Pig in ……

Today I finally worked out where the above phrase comes from. Think about it, when would a pig be happy wallowing in faeces? Somehow I didn’t think so…. it is not healthy and definitely not sanitary, especially if you wanted to eat the pigs in the near future. Also, one would not deliberately poison your own food by putting a pig in such a situation.

Well this morning we put our five little pigs (O.K. they range from 30 – 70 kgs… not that little) into the stable to start the ‘pig-aerator’ process that Joel Salatin describes in his books. But first, a bit of background.

Our 30 odd Pedi sheep and two ‘tollies’ (aka Slaughter Oxen) currently named ‘Rudi’ and ‘Stew-it’ sleep in a stable every evening. The stables have a carbon bedding system where the stable is only cleaned out twice a year, once in spring and again in autumn. Every week when the cattle and sheep droppings start to pong a tad, we spread about 5kg’s of whole mielie pips over the old bedding / manure and then add on a layer of whatever carbonaceous material is available, it could be sawdust, bark chips, veld grass, bedding hay or even dried lawn clippings. We just put down another layer of dry material about 3-5 cm thick and let the animals continue the process of packing up the manure. We let this bedding get to anywhere between 30 and 50 cm deep.

Rooting down for a mielie pip
Rooting down for a mielie pip

A number of things happen in a process like this, some examples are; that the mielie pips start to ferment inside the bedding material, there is a healthy build-up of beneficial bacteria in the bedding, the bedding starts to compost and produces heat, which is great in winter as it helps the animals conserve energy and is more comfortable for them. A cool thing is that the stable does not smell at all, which I found most surprising. The manure does not lose the volatile Nitrogen and Urea that are so important in your garden, and at the same time this bedding material compacts into an almost impenetrable mass. This hard spongy mass is where the pigs come in.

People regularly break garden forks when trying to clean the compacted bedding material out of animal stables. So instead of traditional back breaking labour, after the 6 months of real life faecal compaction, we let the pigs in for two or three days. They then proceed to turn the entire compacted mass of bedding material in search of those little fermented flavoursome mielie pips, into a loose friable material that can be put straight into a final compost heap and then onto the soil.

I stopped counting after 150 wheelbarrows
I stopped counting after 150 wheelbarrows

Back to our Pigs in manure story. My wife Nicola and I spent in excess of 2 hours today just watching the pigs …. well, be happy pigs. There is nothing like watching a happy pig (or any other animal for that matter) and these pigs were shoulder deep in manure, not the wet stuff but dry caked manure that contained little nuggets of alcoholic mielies that our pigs were manure diving for. You could see the pure piggy pleasure as they chewed a 70% proof mielie pip. How did they feel? Well I have no idea but clearly they were in a pickled pig paradise.

It’s truly amazing what a little incentive can do. We love watching the process and to know that we can just go in there and shovel the stuff into a wheelbarrow and straight out onto a compost heap is a real pleasure. We also know when they have run out of food as they start to squeal (like pigs) whenever they see anyone, basically asking for food. So that is the sign for us to get them out of the stable and start shovelling….


Book Review: Jane’s Delicious Garden


It’s taken me way too long to get to this book, Jane actually had to threaten me with a Prius sized marrow ‘cos I had not written about her book…. yet. Apparently she’ been growing one ‘specially. Sorry Jane, it’s belated but it’s here! 🙂

Jane Griffiths is the stunning redhead that has taken the South African gardening world by storm. Focusing on the urban gardener and looking at reducing carbon footprint while at the same time eating with the seasons. It’s refreshing to finally read a South African author that actually takes the time to explain what seasonal eating is all about.

Using simple and more importantly, workable techniques, Jane has made urban food gardening simple, fashionable and oh, so easy. The book is full of personal anecdotes and favourite quotes literally drawing the reader into her life and veggie garden.

This is the kind of veggie book that is not just a reference work (which it’s not… in the sense of a reference work) for beginner gardeners, it’s a complete gardening work for experienced gardeners and on top of all that is also a coffee table book that is just sublime. Doing duty as a work of art in its own right as well as being beautiful for your guests to flip through.

It’s not just a book to ‘get’ it’s a book to use. I honestly believe that Jane would find more pleasure in signing your copy with sand in the spine and muddy finger prints on the seedling pages, than one that is in pristine condition.



Book Review – Living the Good Life

When a fellow homeschooler and gardening friend visited us in November last year she implored us to get a copy of Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn, we subsequently ordered a copy of the book and very simply its inspiring.

Linda, her partner Trev and their son Caleb took on the challenge of not spending any money for 6 months. The book takes the form of a diary of the six months and gives an insight into the transition from consumer to self-provision. That description I fear is a bit bland as it’s not just about self provision but also understanding what lifestyle changes need to be made on so many different levels.

There are a few lapses where they just broke down or had to travel as a family where they indulged in forbidden fruit, but when looking at what they achieved overall it’s impressive, inspiring and well worth the read.