BioSwirskii

The Hereboontjie, a true South African heirloom.

It gives me great pleasure to post a guest article on Selfsustainable. This is an extremely well researched article by Danie Olivier from Mossel Bay. With so little information readily available on this uniquely South African bean, Danie wanted to know more and set about investigating the history of this unique bean. Below is the result of months of work, Thank you Danie.

The Hereboontjie

Have you ever heard of the Hereboontjie (directly translated as “Lord’s Bean”), a flat white bean with a black marking above the hilum (the place where the seed is attached to the pod)? It is an unnamed variety of Phaseolus lunatus, and our very own authentic South African Lima bean, an Heirloom variety, that is still cultivated mainly the Sandveld, and a few other areas in the Western Cape. The first record of this bean in Afrikaans was by Pannevis (1880) in the form Heerenboontjie and in the Patriotwoordeboek (1902) in the form Heerboontjiis. The Entimologiewoordeboek van Afrikaans says that the name comes from Netherlands, in the form Herenboon.

Hereboontjies, South Africa's very own heirloom bean. The seed was originally gifted to Livingseeds by Kate Shrire of Slow Food Cape Town.

In 1963, Dr. C. Louis Leipoldt already said: “It would be hard to find something more genuinely Afrikaans in a vegetable garden than the good old Goewerneursboontjie, or Hereboontjie, as it is also called.” Till this day it is still regarded by many as the aristocrat of beans.

Where does the name come from?

Through the years a number of stories were handed down as to where this white bean received its name. Looking at all the different sources there also does not seem to be consensus about the origin of the name. Listed below are all the stories I found during my research.

The first story is one that I have heard a couple of times, and to me it sounds the closest to the truth. The story goes that the Hereboontjie was named after Jan van Riebeeck who was the “Here van die Kaap” from 1652-1662. Reportedly, this bean was first introduced to the Cape by the Here XVII, thus it indeed has a long history in South Africa. It is also believed that each year Van Riebeeck sent some of these beans to “The Queen” as it was the only bean “She” would eat. Die queen in question is unknown, because at the time King William III was too young to marry and there was no royal family on the throne in the Netherlands.They were ruled by stadholders and not royalty during this time in history.

Ripening pods of the Hereboontjie. The pods are inedible, it's the delicious beans inside that you are after
Ripening pods of the Hereboontjie. The pods are inedible, it's the delicious beans inside that you are after

The second story comes from the Sandveld. Goewerneursboontjie, directly translated as Governor’s Bean, is the common name that the famers here use for the Hereboontjie. According to them this name was recorded by governor Simon van der Stel who first imported these beans to the Cape. Others suggest that the farmers of that time had to surrender a portion of their harvest to the governor as harvest tax, and that this is where the name Governor’s bean originated.

Hereboontjie on edge showing the two distinct spots on the hilium.
Hereboontjie on edge showing the two distinct spots on the hilium.

Thirdly there are a few people who suggest the name Governor’s bean is derived from the feudal system that might have ruled in the Sandveld during earlier times. This system has a landlord that made land available to farmers who then farmed according to an agreed share. When harvest time came, it could then be said: “Remember the lord’s beans”, hence Lord’s Beans or Hereboontjie.

This bean is also lesser known as the Sewejaarsboontjie or Seven-year bean, because it is perennial. Unlike other beans some Lima beans have deep thick perennial roots from which the plant grows in subsequent seasons. Here in South Africa it is normally grown as an annual because the plant does not survive the very cold and frost of our winters. Only in the tropics like Central- and South America it grows as a true perennial.

Anelia Marais from Elsenburg wrote in her letter to Die Burger on 23 June 2001, that a very old dictionary recorded the name as ‘civet bean’, but that none of the farmers in the Sandveld know this name. I did some research and found that the civet or sieva bean is indeed a Lima bean which has seeds much smaller than the normal Lima- or Butter bean. This corresponds with the Hereboontjie which has smaller seeds.

Lastly there is a beautiful quote that I am in including. Riana Scheepers wrote the following in here column Plotseling in Die Burger about the Hereboontjie: “I do not know where this bean got its name, but if I could guess, it is because the Lords grace abundantly rests upon it.He grows only where others gave up long ago: in the thinnest weakest soil imaginable. But when after vining up and ripening it reaches the other side, it is a beautiful thing. Something that makes connoisseurs sing odes.”

Another story comes from the very same Sandveld. It is said that since the first British occupation every year two bags (streepsakke) of Hereboontjies were sent to Buckingham Palace for the royal family’s personal use. These beans is believed to come from the Langfontein farm between Aurora and Redelinghuis.

Evita Bezuidehout calls them“Bloubloedboontjies.” i.e. Royal Beans

Other interesting facts.

For the proud people of the Sandveld region there is one relentless test for a bride who wants to wed into the family, and that is how well you can prepare Hereboontjies. Will you honour your Hereboontjies, treating them with care and respect? only then are you a good wife.

Some people of European descent are allergic to Lima beans because of an genetic mutation that occurred at the time when that beans were first introduced to this part of the world.

According to Leipoldt, the Hereboontjie is not the one with the black patch we know, but beans beautifully coloured like Amandola marble with hues of black-brown, red, white and yellow colours. He also says: “It is true, we currently seldom find the goewerneursboontjie in its original grandeur, and that it is also becoming smaller, more wrinkled and less colourful. There is even pale-yellow and off-white descendants, South American varieties with a less flavourful taste which are not nearly as aesthetically pleasing to the eye.”

In 2001, Mrs S. Coetzee from Bothasig in Cape Town, wrote in a letter to Die Burger in which she mentions that here parents (De Beer) moved to the Kromland farm near Graafwater in the Clainwilliam district. She was five years old at the time. Her parents cultivated Hereboontjies which was mottled with purple speckles. The beans are planted in September and ripen toward March. Pods are harvested by hand and thrown in bags until completely dry. Thereafter the beans are beaten out or shelled by hand, a job that was always given to the children. All the broken beans were thrown out.

From the above paragraphs we can clearly see that there are a number of Hereboontjie varieties which are different to the one we know. I could not find any pictures or information on what these other beans look like, but it falls in line with the dictionary definition.

Cultivation

Today Hereboontjies are primarily cultivated in the Sandveld. They are common between Elands Bay and Lamberts Bay as well as around Aurora and Redelinghuys, Sandfontein and Piketberg. There is also a belief among some people that Hereboontjies can only be cultivated here, but this is not true. Apparently they can grow anywhere, needing only sandy soil and fresh water. I have also read about Hereboontijes being cultivated at Riebeeck-Kasteel, Onrus and Graafwater, but I am not sure of the scale.

A flower spike of the hereboontjie plant
A flower spike of the Hereboontjie plant

Hereboontjies prefer poor, moist, slightly acidic, sandy loam. It is sensitive to high pH levels, hence it grows so well in the Sandveld. It likes flood irrigation and grows well in unfertilised soil. For this reason it holds good potential for organic gardening.

Hereboontjies are rarely bothered by insects and diseases, and the reason seems to be the natural cyanide content of the plant. The green plant material contains cyanide, while the dried plant material contains none or almost none cyanide, hence it is only used as a dry shell bean.

Because the uneven ripening of pods makes mechanical harvesting difficult, this task is accomplished mostly by hand.

At Elsenburg 60 plants were planted in an area of about 300m. No fertiliser were used and the plants depended on what remained in the ground from the previous season. Drip irrigation was applied at 8 litres per plant per week. After being shelled and sorted, the yield was 15kg of dry beans. (about 5 t/ha), which is in accordance with yield numbers of the Sandveld.

 

 

It appears that animals also benefit from the plant ,and commonly eats the dry plant remains after the harvest. The dry material (pods, stems and leaves) were analysed by the animal production laboratories and tested for various nutritional elements. The results are as follows:

  • Total Digestible Nutritional Material             61.68
  • Raw Protein                                                              15,06
  • Fibre                                                                             32.56%
  • Fat                                                                                 2,51%
  • In Vitro Organic Material Digestibility          67,02

 

Origin of the Lima Bean

Lima beans are one of the seven Phaseolus species that all originate from Central- and South America.

Some sources indicate the bean’s other names as Madagascar- or Birma-bean even though it does not come from there at all. There is however a Madagascar Lima bean that is another rare African heirloom. Source Website

Madagascar Lima Beans, originally donated to Livingseeds by Ken Reid
Madagascar Lima Beans, originally donated to Livingseeds by Ken Reid

According to Zven & De Wet’s Dictionary of cultivated plants and their regions of diversity, Pudoc 1982, Netherlands, the origin is Central America particularly the Andes mountains (from Peru to Argentina).

According to these writers the Lima bean can be divided into three main variety groups:

Apparently these are the original Lima beans from Peru.

The large true Lima bean from Peru, that was originally cultivated at altitudes of up to 2030m high, in the Andes mountains; Picture Copyright LimaEasy SAC, Lima – Perú © 2006 – 2012Source Website

Apparently these are the original Lima beans from Peru.

Secondly the smaller Sieva-bean, that grows at altitudes of 1600m and lower. Its original distribution is from Mexico to Argentina, and it has medium-sized seeds; Picture Source Website

The small Sievia Lima that prefers lower altitudes.
The small Sievia Lima that prefers lower altitudes.

Lastly the potato-bean with its small, round seeds (previously known as Phaseolus bipunctatus). Picture By: Mario Nenno, 2005, Source Website

The recently renamed Potato Lima bean
The recently renamed Potato Lima bean

Types of Lima Beans

The Persian or Habas Lima bean. Picture Copyright© mtilton 2006, Source Website

Persian Lima Beans
Persian Lima Beans

Another Madagascar type Lima bean. Picture by: Petr Vobořil,Source Website

Another variation of the Madagascar Lima Bean
Another variation of the Madagascar Lima Bean

Little Giant Pallar Lima bean from Peru. Picture by: Eric F. Rodríguez R,Source Website

Peruvian Pallar beans
Peruvian Pallar beans

Common Lima- or Butter bean Source Website

The well known Butter Bean is a Lima bean.
The well known Butter Bean is a Lima bean.

“Jackson Wonder” Lima bean. Picture Copyright:©judywhite / Garden Photos.com Source Website

The beautiful "Jackson Wonder" lima bean
The beautiful "Jackson Wonder" lima bean

Christmas Lima bean. Picture By: Emily Ho, 2009,Source Website

Christmas Lima Beans
Christmas Lima Beans

Patani Lima bean. Picture By: Andrea Hannah Valencia, 2010, Source Website

Patani Lima beans in black and white
Patani Lima beans in black and white

Hopi Yellow Lima bean. Source Website

North American "Hopi Yellow Lima's"
North American "Hopi Yellow Lima's"

Large Brown Lima bean Picture by: Mario Nenno, 2005, Source Website

Beautiful in it's red/brown coat, "Brown Lima beans"
Beautiful in it's red/brown coat, "Brown Lima beans"


Zebra Lima Bean Source Website

Stunningly striped Zebra Lima beans.
Stunningly striped Zebra Lima beans.

The Hereboontjie in food.

You are not hungry for a Heerboon, you have a need for it”, says Jacobus Smit, a farmer from the Sandveld. He says that there are very few that cultivates this bean. He knows only of himself, his brother, and two others. “We also do not distribute it”, he says laughingly.

The Hereboontjie has for years been a favourite Sunday food in the Sandveld, where it is cultivated. Traditionally it is also used in soups and stews.

From all the articles I have read, it seems clear that the Hereboontjie taste is unique, hence the reason Leipoldt preferred his Heerboontjies cold without any trimmings. He wrote that they have the “true goewerneursboontjie taste, which is somewhere between that of a chestnut and dried medlar fruit.

Soaking it to long is a trigger to growth – a revival of the life in the germ – that starts the highly mysterious chemical reaction, which can spoil the taste in an instant. Hence an hour and a half at the most”, he says.

Maureen Joubert wrote in her column, Van Alle Kante, in Die Burger newspaper, “It is not a big gift when you get some Hereboontjies, it is a blessing.

 

Die Goewerneur se Boontjie

Die Goewerneur se Boontjie” was one of 55 essays that Leipoldt wrote from 1942 until just before his death in 1947 on request of the then editor of Die Huisgenoot, J.M.H. Viljoen, using the alias K.A.R. Bonade. I include this piece because it is so beautifully written, and a very good read. It is not translated, because you just cannot say it as well in English. You can download the PDF ebook with the rest of his essays using  This Link:

Die Goewerneur se Boontjie

Dit sou moeilik wees om in die groentetuin iets meer eg Afrikaans teë tekom as die ouder wetse ‘goewerneursboontjie’, of, soos hy soms genoem word, ‘hereboontjie’. En dit sou ook moeilik wees om hom raakte loop in enige buiteland se kookboek. Raadpleeg maar daardie alwetende ‘Larousse gastronomique’, die al omvattende, alles beskrywende leerboek vir die hedendaag se kok, en jy sal vind dat ons mooi, lekker goewerneursboontjie nie eens daarin genoem word nie. Selfs in ons Afrikaanse kookboeke word hy nie aangetref nie, al word daar soms van ‘droëboontjies’ gepraat.

En tog, wat is daar mooier as die ouderwetse, groot sort goewerneursboontjies? Groen, is hulle ‘n prag, of skoon dit amper ‘n sonde sou wees om die nog onmondige peul vrug kombuis toe teneem, want hulle is baie lekkerder as hulle ryp geword het in die son. Net soos die peule oopbreek en die twee gedeeltes opkrul om die skat wat hulle tot hiertoesorg vuldig bewaar het, aan die wêreld te ontbloot, is hulle regtig op hulbeste. Hoe pragtig is die skakerings van kleur – rooi, swart-bruin, wit en geel – wat hulle toon. Soos stukkies Amandola-marmer lê hulle daar – en daardie soort is van ouds herberoemd as die beste marmer. Dit is waar, ons kry teens woordig maar selde die goewerneursboontjie in sy egte ouderwetseprag, en ditl yk al hoe meer as of sy sort kleiner, gerimpelder en minder kleurryk word. Daar is selfs af stammelinge van hom wat bleek-geel en vuil-wit is, Suid-Amerikaanse soorte wat glad nie so lekker smaak nie en esteties veel minder indruk op jou maak.

Kry dus die ouder wetsesoort – as jy kan. Liefs van ‘n plaas êrens in die suidwestelike gedeelte van die Kaap, waar dit op rivier grond gegroei en teen die suidooste wind stand gehou het. En behandel dit as seblief nie soos gewone droëboontjies nie, want dit is ‘n aristokraat en het sy voor regte, ja, selfs sy grilletjies. Liefs in ‘n lugdigte fles, goed droog, behoorlik skoon, buite bereik van alles wat, soos ons in ons jeug op geheim sinnige manier gemompel het, ‘n knikkertjie kan rinneweer. Moenie dink dit is teveel om van ‘n reeds oorwerk te huisvrou te eis nie. Dit betaal dubbel en dwars want dit behou die smaak. ‘Die smaak, Kleinbaas, die smaak,’ soos ou aia Mina, of Anna, of hoe die ous kepsel ook geheet het van wie ek geleer het hoe om met goewerneursboontjies om te gaan, altyd gesê het, ‘is wat hom goud werd maak.’

Ek stem nie heeltemal saam nie. Die goewerneursboontjie is van al ons boontjie soorte miskien die voedsaamste. Sy voedsel waarde – die wys neusesê ‘kaloriewaarde’, maar hulle is sommer verspot, want ons kies nie ons kos omdat die een sort meer brandhout lewer as die ander nie – staan verbodié van vleis of vis of vrugte en hy bevat in hom self byna alles (die nuwer wetse vitamins wat nou so danig in die mode is, in kluis) wat die mens nodig het om hom aan die lewete hou. Nie alles natuurlik nie, want ‘n mens kannie net van goewerneursboontjies lewe nie.

En watnou? Ja, ongelukkigsê die kookboeke nik soor hoe ons hom moet berei en gaar maak nie. Ek sal egter ‘n paar resepte voorlê wat op eie ondervinding berus en wat ek kan aanbeveel. Maar onthou, geduld en lankmoedigheid is nodig om met goewerneursboontjies om te gaan.

Neem hulle dus uit hul lugdigte fles. ‘n Koppievol is genoeg om mee te begin. Onder soek hulle. Gooi weg enige en wa nie onberispelik rein, volmaak en vir die oog welgevallig is nie. Was hulle in koue water om enige greintjie aardse stof wat daar miskien nog aan hulle mag klewe, wegteruim. Sit hulle dan in ‘n skoon kastrol en bedek hulle met kraanwater, of fonteinwater, as daarnie ‘n kraan is nie. Laat hulle daarin lê, maar asseblief nie alte lank nie. Selfs vir die minderwaardige droëboontjie soorte gril ek as ek in ‘n kookboek lees: ‘Laathulle die hele nag in koue water week.’ Skimme van Careme en La Chapelle! Watter manier van behandeling is dit vir goewerneursboontjies! ‘n Alte lang deur weking is ‘n prikkel tot groei – tot herlewing van die lewenslus daarbinne in die kiem – tot ‘n begin van daardie hoogs misterieuse skeikundige stof wisseling wat in ‘n ommesientjie die smaak kan bederwe. Dus hoogstens ander half uur, nie langer nie.

Gooi dan die water af en vervang dit met ‘n nuwe doopsel, hierdie keer louwarm water met ‘n grypie sout daarin. Maar in hemelsnaam geen koeksoda nie! Niks, jammer genoeg, kan die glansryke, pragtige kleur bewaar nie; met die kook gaan dit verlore en die boontjies word bruin; ligbruin as hulle behoorlik, stadig maar goed gekook word, donkerder as hulle te vinnig kook. Hou die deksel op die kastrol, maar skud homsoms en voeg nou en dan ‘n bietjie warm water by, sodat die boontjies altyd onder en nie bo die water kook nie. Sodra hulle sag is, neem die kastrol van die vuur herd, gooi die water af en skud die boontjies droog in ‘n vergiettes.

Vir die eenvoudige kenner wat altyd van ‘n suiwer groentesmaak hou, is hulle nou gaar en klaar vir die tafel. Veral koud. Want hulle het die egte goewerneursboontjie smaak, so tussen dié van ‘n kastaiing en ‘n uitgedroogde mispel. Jy kan hulle op dis met ‘n suursous, of as slaai met ‘n eenvoudige mengsel van asyn en peper, ‘n snoepseltjie mosterd en ‘n bietjie olie.

Iets fyner, meer geraffineer? Ja, daar is sommige van ons wat nie tevrede is met die reine eenvoud nie. Hulle wil die lelie verguld, reuk water oor ‘n resedagiet.

Nou ja, vir hulle dan: Sit die boontjies terug in die kastrol, saam met ‘n grypie peper, gemmer en foelie, en gooi daarop ‘n koppie vleis- of hoender sop. Laat dit stadig kook, met die kastroldeksel toe. Smoor in ‘n ander kastrol ‘n gesnipperdeui (met ‘n rafeltjie knofl ok daarby, indien gewens), en as dit ligbruin is, meng daarmee ‘n paar eetlepels vol tamatiesous. Verdun met ‘n paar lepels vol van die sop waarin die boontjies kook en roer dan die mengsel versigtig in die boontjies, sodat hulle nie breek nie. Laat dit ‘n paar minute kook en dis op met pieterselie daaroor.

Nog ‘n ander metode: Sit die boontjies in die kastrol, saam met ‘n groot eetlepel botter of sagte (liefshoender-) vet; voeg peper, foelie en kruie by; laat stadig smoor en sorg dat die boontjies nie breek nie. Bedien met gerasperde neut of pieterselie daar oor.

Wat omdaar mee te drink? Dis ‘n gekleurdeskottel, en die estetiese sin verlang ‘n gekleurdewyn. Dus ‘n rooi tafelwyn wat nie soet is nie.

Bibliography

Beyers, Yvonne. „Op soek na die goewerneur se groot boontjies.” Die Burger: By: Nuus, 29 07 2011: 15.

Bezuidenhout, Evita. Evita Se Kossie Sikelela. Vertaal deur Hesti van der Mescht. Kaapstad, Wes-Kaap: Umuzi, 2010.

Die Burger. „Armmanskos in Abraham se skoot.” 23 2 2005: 4-5.

Die Burger. „Nooienshaar op Mauritius en heerboontjies van die Andes.” 23 6 2001: 4.

Die Burger. „Sandveldse heerboontjie voed Buckingham-paleis.” 4 10 2002: 6.

Die Burger:Buite:Nuus. „’n Boontjie is ‘n wonderlike ding.” 12 7 2011.

Die Patriot-Woordeboek. 1902.

Etimologiewoordeboek van Afrikaans. Stellenbosch: Buro van die WAT, 2003.

Freeman, Sean. „Hereboontjies.” Livingseeds Heirloom Seeds, 2011.

http://www.piketberg.com/bus/redelinghuys/redelinghuys.htm. „Redelinghuys.”

Jaarsveld, Ernst Van. „Vra Vir Ernst:Swamme knak amarillis, Weskus-kamiemies eetbaar.” Die Burger, 3 11 2001: 4.

Joubert, Maureen. „Van Alle Kante: Herebone om die reën te vier.” Die Burger, 25 4 2005: 8.

Leipoldt, C. Louis. Polfyntjies vir die proe. Kaapstad: Tafelberg Uitgewers, 1963.

Pienaar, Prof. Kristo. „Van die Sandveld tot Buckingham is gaande oor dié boontjie.” Die Burger, 2 September 1995: 4.

Scheepers, Riana. „Plotseling: Heerboontjie loop nie te koop met sy geheim.” Die Beeld, 25 05 2001: 14.

Truter, Cornel. West Coast Tourist Guide. 2. Juta and Company Ltd., 1998.

BioSwirskii

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.

BioSwirskii

South Africa’s proposed seed laws to severely restrict Farmers’ Rights

We have the pleasure of a guest post from the African Centre for Biosafety on the proposed changes to the Plant Breeders Rights Act. These proposed changes are of critical importance to anyone that uses seed or plant material.

 

Guest Post by: Mariam Mayet

African Centre for Biosafety

www.acbio.org.za

Introduction

In this briefing, we bring to the attention of small- holder farmers, the proposed amendments by the South African government (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) to its Plant Breeders Rights Act concerning the issue of Farmers Rights. The proposed legislation will have far reaching implications for the rights of farmers vis-à-vis commercially protected varieties of food crops. The proposed amendments cut to the very heart of the rights of farmers to save, use, exchange seed and propagation material. We urge small farmers in particular, to engage in the process and make their voices and objections heard.

Farmers Rights

Farmers Rights are those rights arising from the past, present and future contributions of farmers in conserving, improving and making available genetic resources, particularly those in the centres of origin/diversity. The concept of Farmers Rights is recognised in the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture (FAO) International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, (“The Seed Treaty”), which entered into force in 2004. The Seed Treaty’s objectives include the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. Its preamble affirms farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and other propagating material, and to participate in decision-making.

Further, Article 9 of the Treaty recognizes the enormous contribution that local and indigenous communities and farmers of all regions of the world, particularly those in the centres of origin and crop diversity, have made and will continue to make for the conservation and development of plant genetic resources which constitute the basis of food and agriculture production throughout the world.

Plant Breeders Rights in South Africa

Currently, South Africa’s Plant Breeders Rights Act, 1976 (Act No.15 of 1976) grants plant breeders certain intellectual property and other rights over plant varieties. These allow the rights holder to claim royalties as remuneration for the use of a protected variety and prevent unlawful uses. The plant breeder/right holder has a sole right to the variety for the first 5 to 8 years to produce and market propagating material of the variety. During the next 15 to 17 years the holder is compelled to issue licenses to other persons who may also wish to use and market the material. When the holder issues a licence to another person, the holder may continue to claim royalties for any propagating material produced and sold. Use of a protection variety without the consent of the right holder is thus not allowed and is regarded as unlawful.

Section 23 of the Act provides for certain exceptions, which allows a farmer to use farm saved seeds and propagating material on land occupied by him or her without paying royalties. The law does not, however, allow the exchange of protected seeds between farmers.

SA, UPOV and farmers rights

South Africa’s plant breeder’s rights legislation is strongly influenced by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties (UPOV). UPOV was established in 1961 and is an international regime designed principally to protect the interests of plant breeders. UPOV has been amended several times-in 1972, 1978 and 1991. South Africa is a Party to the 1978 UPOV agreement and its provisions are binding on the Republic. In terms of the 1978 UPOV agreement, the holder of a plant variety had a monopoly on the commercial propagation and marketing of the variety but little control over other uses. The scope of the intellectual property right protection is only in respect of production for the purposes of commercial marketing, offering for sale and marketing of propagating material of a protected variety.

Farmers were thus free to multiply seed for their own use for as long as they wished. Breeders were also free to use a protected variety to develop a new variety as long as it did not require repeated use of that variety. Farmers were also allowed to freely use their harvested material from a protected variety for any purposes.

However all of this changed dramatically when UPOV was revised in 1991, the rights of breeders strengthened and those of farmers severely curtailed.

UPOV 1991 extended the scope of a plant breeder rights’ to also include other activities such as exporting, importing and stocking of protected varieties. Breeders’ rights were also restricted in that they were no longer allowed to produce varieties that were essentially derived from a protected variety. Crucially, it allowed national governments to decide whether farmers could be allowed to reuse the harvest of protected varieties on their own landholdings without the authorisation of the rights holder. UPOV 1991 binds its members to disallow the exchange or selling of such harvested material. There is no flexibility in UPOV with regard to this restriction.

While South Africa has signed this UPOV 1991 version, it has not yet ratified it. In other words, the UPOV 1991 is not binding on South Africa and it is thus under no obligation to either implement or ratify UPOV 1991. No developing country that is a member of the 1978 UPOV agreement, including major grain exporting countries such as Brazil and Argentina, has ratified UPOV 1991.

Nevertheless, South Africa, already as far back as 1996, and in terms of amendments to the Plant Breeders Rights Act at that time, began a process of implementing some of the UPOV 1991 provisions. These relate inter alia to the restriction on farmers’ rights, particularly in regard to harvested material. The current provisions of the Plant Breeders Rights Act, namely those contained in the current section 23(6)(f) thus prohibits the exchange of harvested material and ties such harvested material to a farmer who is in occupation of land. However, farmers are allowed to use all propagating material including vegetative material for the purposes of propagation.

Proposed new law severely restricts farmers’ rights

Now, South Africa wants change to its Plant Breeders Rights Act and further restrict farmers’ rights. It has during 2011, published the Plant Breeders’ Rights Bill for comment. Stakeholder consultations are still underway and government is still open to receiving inputs and comments. Government appears to be particularly keen to engage with small farmers.

The Plant Breeders’ Rights Bill contains a new section 9, dealing with farmers rights. It continues to prohibit the exchange of protected seeds between farmers, however there are still no limits on farm saved seeds for further propagation.

The proposed provisions contained in sections 9(1)(d) and 9(2) are of crucial importance. A farmer is now restricted to only use harvested material on land occupied by him from a protected variety (as opposed to propagating material which is the current position). Propagating material has a wide definition and includes any reproductive or vegetative material of a plant that can be used for the propagation of such plant whilst maintaining the essential characteristics of the original plant. Small farmers must carefully consider that the implications are of these restrictions for them. Furthermore, the exchange of such harvested material derived from protected varieties between farmers is prohibited.

Seed that is later produced post harvest from such protected variety appears to be excluded from the provisions and may not be used for further saving, propagation and exchange.

The proposed section 9(1)(2) expressly prohibits farmers from saving, exchanging, propagating or using protected varieties of vegetatively propagated crops (which will be prescribed). Vegetatively propagated material are produced asexually and in agronomic terms, includes, apples, avocados, cannabis, citrus, date, fig, grapes, manioc, potato, strawberry, sugarcane, tea, vanilla and willow. This prohibition will have extremely far reaching implications for farmers.

Small- holder farmers need protection

The South African government argues in its 2011 Plant Breeders’ Rights Policy that as a result of the lack of a clear definitions of ‘farmer’ and scale of production and the scope of the plant varieties, the farmers privilege has been abused by commercial farmers, to such an extent that there has been a significant decrease in the investment in planting breeding and the virtual collapse of plant breeding programmes. It appears that breeders have singled our vegetatively propagated crops as a major problem.

While it is beyond the scope of this article to delve into these arguments, we do believe as a general principle, that Farmers Rights, particularly those of small- holder and subsistence farmers should be fully protected and not restricted.

The rights of small famers to save and exchange all seed and use and exchange propagating material (including seeds) between communities is in fact non-negotiable. Farmers’ Rights are crucial for ensuring present and future food security in general, and in the fight against rural poverty in particular. Farmers’ Rights are necessary prerequisites for the maintenance of crop genetic diversity, which is the basis of all food and agriculture production in the world. The protection and recognition of Farmers’ Rights will allow farmers to maintain and develop crop genetic resources as they have done since the dawn of agriculture some ten thousand years ago.

The government needs to pay special attention to the needs and interests of small-holder black farmers, particularly with regard to land tenure, land holding, communal ownership of land and generally how communities organise themselves when it comes to farming the land and the use of harvested material.

Conclusion

We urge the South African government thus to craft provisions for the recognition and protection of farmers rights. Such provisions must be clear and unambiguous and must clearly take into consideration and respond to the particular circumstances and constraints of small- holder farmers.

Plant Breeders Rights and other forms of intellectual property over plant varieties have played an enormous role in the monopolisation and control by corporations over South Africa’s food systems. South Africa must protect its small farming communities and ensure that Farmers Rights are not impeded from continuing to make a contribution to the conservation, development and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for agriculture production. We also strongly urge the South African government not to ratify UPOV 1991, which will undermine the flexibility that the government presently enjoys to give effect to the recognition and protection of Farmers Rights.

Editors Note: We strongly urge and advise every member of society that would be affected by the proposed laws to get involved. If these laws are passed or the UPOV 1991 is ratified it will be too late and you may find that what you are now doing for pleasure or profit will become illegal.

I would advise that you get intouch with Mariam via the African Center for Biosaftey Website to help formulate your responses.

It’s now or never !!!

Introduction

In this briefing, we bring to the attention of small- holder farmers, the proposed amendments by the South African government (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) to its Plant Breeders Rights Act concerning the issue of Farmers Rights. The proposed legislation will have far reaching implications for the rights of farmers vis-à-vis commercially protected varieties of food crops. The proposed amendments cut to the very heart of the rights of farmers to save, use, exchange seed and propagation material. We urge small farmers in particular, to engage in the process and make their voices and objections heard.

Farmers Rights

Farmers Rights are those rights arising from the past, present and future contributions of farmers in conserving, improving and making available genetic resources, particularly those in the centres of origin/diversity. The concept of Farmers Rights is recognised in the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture (FAO) International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, (“The Seed Treaty”), which entered into force in 2004. The Seed Treaty’s objectives include the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. Its preamble affirms farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and other propagating material, and to participate in decision-making.

Further, Article 9 of the Treaty recognizes the enormous contribution that local and indigenous communities and farmers of all regions of the world, particularly those in the centres of origin and crop diversity, have made and will continue to make for the conservation and development of plant genetic resources which constitute the basis of food and agriculture production throughout the world.

Plant Breeders Rights in South Africa

Currently, South Africa’s Plant Breeders Rights Act, 1976 (Act No.15 of 1976) grants plant breeders certain intellectual property and other rights over plant varieties. These allow the rights holder to claim royalties as remuneration for the use of a protected variety and prevent unlawful uses. The plant breeder/right holder has a sole right to the variety for the first 5 to 8 years to produce and market propagating material of the variety. During the next 15 to 17 years the holder is compelled to issue licenses to other persons who may also wish to use and market the material. When the holder issues a licence to another person, the holder may continue to claim royalties for any propagating material produced and sold. Use of a protection variety without the consent of the right holder is thus not allowed and is regarded as unlawful.

Section 23 of the Act provides for certain exceptions, which allows a farmer to use farm saved seeds and propagating material on land occupied by him or her without paying royalties. The law does not, however, allow the exchange of protected seeds between farmers.

SA, UPOV and farmers rights

South Africa’s plant breeder’s rights legislation is strongly influenced by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties (UPOV). UPOV was established in 1961 and is an international regime designed principally to protect the interests of plant breeders. UPOV has been amended several times-in 1972, 1978 and 1991. South Africa is a Party to the 1978 UPOV agreement and its provisions are binding on the Republic. In terms of the 1978 UPOV agreement, the holder of a plant variety had a monopoly on the commercial propagation and marketing of the variety but little control over other uses. The scope of the intellectual property right protection is only in respect of production for the purposes of commercial marketing, offering for sale and marketing of propagating material of a protected variety.

Farmers were thus free to multiply seed for their own use for as long as they wished. Breeders were also free to use a protected variety to develop a new variety as long as it did not require repeated use of that variety. Farmers were also allowed to freely use their harvested material from a protected variety for any purposes.

However all of this changed dramatically when UPOV was revised in 1991, the rights of breeders strengthened and those of farmers severely curtailed.

UPOV 1991 extended the scope of a plant breeder rights’ to also include other activities such as exporting, importing and stocking of protected varieties. Breeders’ rights were also restricted in that they were no longer allowed to produce varieties that were essentially derived from a protected variety. Crucially, it allowed national governments to decide whether farmers could be allowed to reuse the harvest of protected varieties on their own landholdings without the authorisation of the rights holder. UPOV 1991 binds its members to disallow the exchange or selling of such harvested material. There is no flexibility in UPOV with regard to this restriction.

While South Africa has signed this UPOV 1991 version, it has not yet ratified it. In other words, the UPOV 1991 is not binding on South Africa and it is thus under no obligation to either implement or ratify UPOV 1991. No developing country that is a member of the 1978 UPOV agreement, including major grain exporting countries such as Brazil and Argentina, has ratified UPOV 1991.

Nevertheless, South Africa, already as far back as 1996, and in terms of amendments to the Plant Breeders Rights Act at that time, began a process of implementing some of the UPOV 1991 provisions. These relate inter alia to the restriction on farmers’ rights, particularly in regard to harvested material. The current provisions of the Plant Breeders Rights Act, namely those contained in the current section 23(6)(f) thus prohibits the exchange of harvested material and ties such harvested material to a farmer who is in occupation of land. However, farmers are allowed to use all propagating material including vegetative material for the purposes of propagation.

Proposed new law severely restricts farmers’ rights

Now, South Africa wants change to its Plant Breeders Rights Act and further restrict farmers’ rights. It has during 2011, published the Plant Breeders’ Rights Bill for comment. Stakeholder consultations are still underway and government is still open to receiving inputs and comments. Government appears to be particularly keen to engage with small farmers.

The Plant Breeders’ Rights Bill contains a new section 9, dealing with farmers rights. It continues to prohibit the exchange of protected seeds between farmers, however there are still no limits on farm saved seeds for further propagation.

The proposed provisions contained in sections 9(1)(d) and 9(2) are of crucial importance. A farmer is now restricted to only use harvested material on land occupied by him from a protected variety (as opposed to propagating material which is the current position). Propagating material has a wide definition and includes any reproductive or vegetative material of a plant that can be used for the propagation of such plant whilst maintaining the essential characteristics of the original plant. Small farmers must carefully consider that the implications are of these restrictions for them. Furthermore, the exchange of such harvested material derived from protected varieties between farmers is prohibited.

Seed that is later produced post harvest from such protected variety appears to be excluded from the provisions and may not be used for further saving, propagation and exchange.

The proposed section 9(1)(2) expressly prohibits farmers from saving, exchanging, propagating or using protected varieties of vegetatively propagated crops (which will be prescribed). Vegetatively propagated material are produced asexually and in agronomic terms, includes, apples, avocados, cannabis, citrus, date, fig, grapes, manioc, potato, strawberry, sugarcane, tea, vanilla and willow. This prohibition will have extremely far reaching implications for farmers.

Small- holder farmers need protection

The South African government argues in its 2011 Plant Breeders’ Rights Policy that as a result of the lack of a clear definitions of ‘farmer’ and scale of production and the scope of the plant varieties, the farmers privilege has been abused by commercial farmers, to such an extent that there has been a significant decrease in the investment in planting breeding and the virtual collapse of plant breeding programmes. It appears that breeders have singled our vegetatively propagated crops as a major problem.

While it is beyond the scope of this article to delve into these arguments, we do believe as a general principle, that Farmers Rights, particularly those of small- holder and subsistence farmers should be fully protected and not restricted.

The rights of small famers to save and exchange all seed and use and exchange propagating material (including seeds) between communities is in fact non-negotiable. Farmers’ Rights are crucial for ensuring present and future food security in general, and in the fight against rural poverty in particular. Farmers’ Rights are necessary prerequisites for the maintenance of crop genetic diversity, which is the basis of all food and agriculture production in the world. The protection and recognition of Farmers’ Rights will allow farmers to maintain and develop crop genetic resources as they have done since the dawn of agriculture some ten thousand years ago.

The government needs to pay special attention to the needs and interests of small-holder black farmers, particularly with regard to land tenure, land holding, communal ownership of land and generally how communities organise themselves when it comes to farming the land and the use of harvested material.

Conclusion

We urge the South African government thus to craft provisions for the recognition and protection of farmers rights. Such provisions must be clear and unambiguous and must clearly take into consideration and respond to the particular circumstances and constraints of small- holder farmers.

Plant Breeders Rights and other forms of intellectual property over plant varieties have played an enormous role in the monopolisation and control by corporations over South Africa’s food systems. South Africa must protect its small farming communities and ensure that Farmers Rights are not impeded from continuing to make a contribution to the conservation, development and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for agriculture production. We also strongly urge the South African government not to ratify UPOV 1991, which will undermine the flexibility that the government presently enjoys to give effect to the recognition and protection of Farmers Rights.

BioSwirskii

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.

 

 

BioSwirskii

Hydroponic’s for the home gardener

Here is a new product for those of you interested in hydroponics. I know we have a few clients that use hydroponic techniques with our seeds. This is not a system that we use, however the feedback that I have received has been good.

On my personal quest to make a difference in this life, I have been seeking ways to be more self-sufficient and to reduce my carbon footprint, and that of my family. The Lord has guided all this, in my opinion, as I have inadvertently ended up on paths that in the past, I’ve had no interest. It all started with me working for a waste management company, and then starting my own waste management company. From there I have seen a need in various arena, be it environmental, social etc.

We started a sports programme for the local community, whereby we have built an indoor skate-park for the youth to make use of, keeping them off the streets and out of trouble. The park is free, and open to anyone who follows the rules. http://www.bincleansa.co.za/sport-and-recreation/

In addition to this, we have also initiated a reward system with staff at our waste company, where by selected staff are supplied with the necessary containers, seeds and knowledge to grow their own vegetables at home.

http://www.bincleansa.co.za/sustainable-living/

We also saw the need to reduce our carbon footprint on a personal level, by recycling as much as possible, be it, home, work, composting, vermicomposting etc. We started growing our own greens, trial and error, and also built a chicken coop for 4 chickens to provide for our daily eggs. This eventually led me to aqua-ponics and then hydroponics. I moved from aqua to hydroponics as I made a careless error of disconnecting my greenhouse power this year when we went to the Midmar for the mile. I though I was switching off the Mac and printers etc. but lo and behold, it was all power to the greenhouse. We returned 4 days later to dead plants, dead fish and the most awful smell. After paranoidly flushing the fish tank /reservoir, I changed over to hydroponics. My then systems were NFT made from 110mm drain pipes and ebb and flow system made from 210lt plastic drums cut in half.

To my amazement, 6mnths later, and the earthworms I had living in the hydroball grow medium in the aquaponics system are still alive in the now hydroponics system. This is all good, as they digest the old root systems in the grow media.

The hydro-patch hydroponic system
The hydro-patch hydroponic system

But through all of this, with a keen sense of enjoyment, I was quite frustrated, as one could not purchase a complete hydroponics active system in SA, at a reasonable rate. Just recently I sourced a supplier, but their system, as good as it seems, is based on NFT with a shallow grow bed, and in my opinion, would not be adequate for big root crops, like tomatoes, cucumbers etc. I found a niche and wanted to fill it. So out of that, I have considered many avenues and ideas and concepts, and settled on the “Hydro-Patch”. This is a recirculating top drip system, based on Hollands commercial greenhouse technology. I started designing and sourcing, trial and error and finally had what I was after. A reasonably priced, aesthetically acceptable, versatile hydroponic system that could be used in small or large spaces, indoors or outdoors, summer or winter. The unit is a 1m2, 9 pot system, but the limitations are down to the purchasers imagination. We can custom make them in 18 and 27 pot systems, with standardized frames for staking vining crops, or to cover with plastic to use as a mini greenhouse to extend the growing season. Should the budget be limited, we have cost effective ideas to build the frames, which are freely given on request.

I feel that we have successfully built a versatile product for a niche market, that will enable people to contribute towards a better tomorrow. The advantage of hydroponics are endless, and yes, sometimes it is fun to get your hands dirty, but we can still get all dirty by growing potatoes, carrots etc in soil. Yes it can be grown in hydroponics too, but why only have your cake, when you can eat it too?

Should you be interested in the unit, or accessories, watch for our upcoming web site www.hydro-patch.co.za or find us on Face book, under Hydro Patch.

I can also be contacted on 082 903 6068 / 011 664 7581

 

BioSwirskii

Matthew and Daniels veggie patch

This year I have help 3 friends start veggie gardens, Mike and family were the first and as promised (by him) here is the first instalment of how his garden grew.

My efforts to show my four year old (Matt) and his 18 month old brother (Daniel) where their food comes from has turned into quite an obsession for their dad…

In February, we moved from a townhouse to an old house on a relatively big stand (1500m²).  A while after we moved in, Sean and his family came for a visit.  Sean took one look at the dark corner of the garden, and said chop out these trees, and we can build a fantastic vegetable garden.

The dark corner....
The dark corner....

So, dad put on his lumber jack shirt, headed off to Springbok hire to hire a chainsaw, and the some trees were turned into firewood, which would later be traded for seed.

Part of the wood used to trade for our seed.
Part of the wood used to trade for our seed.

I was quite proud of my efforts, until Sean arrived and informed me that vegetables need at least 8 hours of sunshine per day, and that more chopping was needed.  My wife, who loves the trees, was not overly impressed, but, the trees came down, and the firewood pile grew substantially.

10:00 am and still one more tree to take down.
10:00 am and still one more tree to take down.

Many bags of compost later, the rows were dug out, and planting commenced.  As it was fairly early in the season (23 July 2011), we only planted the frost hardy seeds.  Sean split the rows into areas, and seed was sewn.  We put in:

  • Peas
  • Asparagus (3 year old)
  • Beetroot
  • Radish
  • Carrots (2 varieties)
  • Lettuce (2 varieties)
  • Broccoli

Note to self – do not sew a whole bag of lettuce seed in 3 lines of 1 meter long…

The plan is to cultivate seedlings for Tomatoes, Peppers, Marrows, Cucumber, and plant these after the September cold snap.

So the seed is planted, watered regularly, and…  Nothing.  The boys expected to see something overnight, and after a week (and some rather cold weather), Matt thought dad was telling fibs, and that vegetables do indeed come from Woolworths.

But then, a few days later, some green started to protrude from the soil, first the lettuce, then the peas, and the rest followed soon after.   There was much excitement, and dad does not tell fibs.  Dad was a little worried about the asparagus, but even these came up eventually.

Bird-proofing the veggies. Two kinds of lettuce in the foreground.
Bird-proofing the veggies. Two kinds of lettuce in the foreground.

Next thing, the birds arrived, and decided that they liked the taste of the broccoli shoots, so these were quickly covered with some netting, framed with some discarded curtain rails (aluminium no less, so no rusting).  Why they didn’t go for the lettuce is still beyond me, there’s so much of it after the whole bag of seed was sewn that I’m constantly thinning it out.

An old pool fence was hacked to pieces, and the bars used to make uprights for the wire for the peas to climb up.  Amazing things those peas, they cling onto that builders wire, and the following day, they’ve made 5 to 6 loops around the wire.

Potatoes were planted into hessian bags.  2 seed potatoes per bag, where the intention is to add compost as they grow, and just roll the bags up as the plants get taller.  To date, there’s no sign of the potatoes, but Sean says give it a week after I’ve given up on them, and they should show…  I was just as impatient with the asparagus.

Seed potatoes have been planted into very cool hessian coffee bags. I think a few more would be in order.
Seed potatoes have been planted into very cool hessian coffee bags. I think a few more would be in order.

Last weekend Matt and I built a compost heap, so now the kitchen peels, cuttings, mom’s flowers and anything else that can compost are being added to the heap.

I’ve been looking for some rectangular planters to build a border around the patch, and today finally found something suitable at the right price.  So hopefully this weekend, we can plant some Strawberries into these planters, and get the tomatoes, peppers, etc into the remaining rows.

Mom’s been planting herbs, these need to find a space in the garden though, so some shelves are needed on the walls.  Dad also has a mission to make some hanging pots by recycling 2L cold drink bottles and some fishing gut, and using these to plant seedlings.

All of these plants need water too, so we’re looking for a suitable container to harvest rainwater when the rain finally arrives, probably a 1500 to 2000 litre tank that I’ll direct a downpipe into from the gutter.

So far, it’s been a very rewarding experience.  We’ve not yet eaten much out of the garden, but it’s been a great way to spend time with Matt, building something together and watching it grow.  Daniel loves to pull stuff up, so let’s hope the carrots and radishes grow soon, so he can harvest.

Looking forward to salad from our little veggie patch…

 

 

 

BioSwirskii

The buzz about small scale Bee-keeping

We have been bee-keepers for close on 6 years now, and we do it for a few reasons, we have an orchard that needs pollinating, we grow vegetable seed for re-sale so often bees are required there, my wife makes soap, hand creams and lip-balm and she often uses bee’s wax there. I use bee’s wax when tying flies, OK I don’t use much but I still need some bee’s wax.

Lastly, fresh unfiltered honey on the comb is a delicacy that will require you keeping your own bees or knowing a beekeeper that will sell you some. Honey can store indefinitely… I must stress the ‘can part’ because invariably it does not in our house.

Now when I say we are bee-keepers I say that in the loose sense of the word, a professional is an Apiarist… we are bee-keepers. I feel a distinction should be made, as professionals run their operations (as it should) like a business. We mere bee-keepers just keep a few hives to keep our family and the occasional lucky friend in honey once or twice a year.

For the uninitiated most honey in South Africa is imported from China under much controversy and disrespect for our laws, the public’s health and the serious Apiarist in South Africa. ALL honey in South Africa needs to be labelled with the country(s) of origin, and if it’s a local beekeeper it needs to have his contact details on it. Imported honey legally needs to be radurised…. basically a nice way of saying that it’s been stuck into a nuclear reactor to kill of anything that may be in the honey, Good or Bad.

Unfortunately, bad honey is being brought into South Africa and at the same time bringing with it new diseases. One of the most recent and devastating  of the imported diseases is “AFB” American Foul Brood that was believed to have been brought in with contaminated honey that was fed to our local bees. What a lot of guys are doing is blending South African and imported honey to make it more ‘acceptable’ to the consumer. As if a little bit of poison should be acceptable.

I encourage everyone that I talk to too either have a hive or two or find a reputable Apiarist that you can buy honey from. Cut out the importer and make him feel the pain of deceiving the South African consumer.

OK onto the good stuff, now that I have had my little rant. There are many different styles of bee hives that one could look at. The two most common are the Langstroth and the Top Bar Hive (TBH). Langstroths are used by all the professionals as it a workable design that allows Apiarists to move hives around easily when they follow a honey-flow or are doing contract pollination. TBH’s are the ‘new generation’ of traditional hives that are making inroads into the bee-keeping world. Beekeepers will argue until the wax melts about which design is better, and the merits of each.

Newly completed hive, not even dry but the bees are moving in already
Newly completed hive, not even dry but the bees are moving in already

For us ma’Plotters we prefer a TBH for a few reasons, not being an expert and not needing to move hives from one place to the next, the much larger TBH holds a larger swarm, the hive is in a more natural configuration for the bees, when opening the hive it tends to lose less heat (or so I’m told), because the hive is so large there is less chance of the bees swarming off as they have room to expand the colony. This in turn give a larger honey crop to the bee-keeper… which is why we are keeping bees.

Now, my design is a mix of various designs but the original idea can from the late Tim Jackson and his son Crispin who made a plastic hive of similar proportions. I use Marine Ply as the wood for my hive. It’s a bit more expensive, however I find that it lasts very well, especially with a lick or two of Waksol sealant every other year.

Unlike most TBH’s that just use a top bar and no frame, I use a full size Langstroth frame (Brood Frame) that will allow me to wire and spin the combs if required. We don’t wire our frames as we harvest both the honey and the wax. But the option is there if we ever need to. I like having options as it gives one flexibility if our needs ever change. If you don’t harvest the wax you will get a higher honey production as the bees eat honey to produce the wax. Re-using the wax saves them a lot of work making new wax. Any frames that have beautiful straight comb we try to return to the hive.

It was going to be a cold spring evening (2009) so I helped the swarm in.
It was going to be a cold spring evening (2009) so I helped the swarm in.

Many Apiarists say that it’s hard to keep the brood and honey separate, as the queen will lay eggs all over the hive. I have found that if you separate the storage and brood frames with an empty frame the queen most often will not cross the gap and lay eggs in the storage combs. A simple solution that would cost most “langstrothers” a queen excluder per hive.

How much honey do we get, I estimate that we pull about 20-30 kg’s per hive per year. Yes I could get more, but I like to leave more than enough honey in the hive for the bees to live off in winter.

If you are keen on starting out with bees have a look at this book. Written by South Africans for South Africans, it’s a very good introduction to beekeeping for the self-sustainably minded person.

It will give you a good grounding in how hives work and it even has information on queen rearing, something that I have not tried but I believe is very rewarding.

BioSwirskii

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….

BioSwirskii

Seed Saving Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are probably the reason that most heirloom seed houses are in existence. The humble heirloom tomato is the backbone of the heirloom industry and there are many heirloom seed companies that specialise in selling tomato seed only.

The question remains though as to what the best way to save tomato seed is.

In this post we will share tomato seed saving secrets that we use every season to save our own seed, and that which we sell to you our valued customer.

Naturally, you have gone through the effort of making sure that the tomato fruit that you are going to be saving seed from is pure, if not you will be wasting your time. Who wants to go to the trouble of saving seed that has been contaminated and will not breed true next year?

So now that you have your fruit that is nicely ripe and possibly even slightly over-ripe, just squeeze the pulp and seed out into a container, do as many fruits as you like and save seed from the best producing plants that have fruit that is ‘true-to-type’. This will ensure that you save only the best seed every year.

Notice the lovely white mould developing on the seed.
Notice the lovely white mould developing on the seed.

Now add water to the container to at least double the volume of the pulp and now all you do is let it ferment. What you are looking for is a nice healthy white mould/fungus that covers the top of the pulp mix. This process is going to pong, attract fruit flies and generally just upset your spouse. I know mine has to put up with hundreds of little ‘bakkies’ on the dining room table every year for a few weeks.

They need to be there so that I can keep a watch over them, and thank fully it’s in summer so we get to eat outside when the dining room table is covered in mould generating, odour exuding and fruit fly attracting containers. Sometimes I just thank the Lord that he gave me a wife that is as longsuffering as mine is.

Ok so what’s the point of the whole fermentation process? Let me explain a little.

When you cut a tomato open the seeds are covered in a small gel sac that makes the little seeds slippery, this gel sac is a seed protection to stop it from germinating and it contains a germination inhibitor. The process of fermentation breaks this germination inhibitor down so that when you plant the seed, it actually grows. In nature the fruit would rot and fall to the ground and that rotting process breaks the germination inhibitor down.

Next, if there are any diseases that could be carried across with the seed, this process of fermentation creates an environment that is very hostile to disease organisms killing off most known diseases.

Lastly, removing the gel sac is achieved at the same time allowing for a clean seed that looks good.

A rainbow of fermenting tomato seed.
A rainbow of fermenting tomato seed.

So, now that you know a few secrets, lets get back to the seed processing. We use a very technical arrangement of a flour sieve and running water. The 3-4 day old miff smelling goo is rinsed in the sieve under running water to clean off all of the ‘miff’ and now you have clean seed that just needs to be dried.

Dry9ning is best achieved in shade using a glass or ceramic plate. Stir the seeds every few hours to make sure that they are dry all the way through. It generally takes 5-10 days to dry out the seed properly depending on the relative humidity.

Once the seeds are dry you need to do two things.

First, put some seeds away for yourself, it’s always good to have some ‘extra’ in case of a crop failure or germination disaster.

Next, share some seeds with a gardening friend(s) think about giving a gift of seeds instead of some cheap, just imported from China. A gift of seeds is probably the greenest gift you can give, especially seed that you have saved yourself.

BioSwirskii

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.