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permaculture advocate in Zimbabwe - too little/too much rain

 
pollinator
Posts: 241
Location: Zimbabwe
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One recording I wish could have been possible was capturing my mum's words yesterday evening. She came in from the plot and just said from nowhere, "It is bare", I looked at her trying to make sense of what she had said and she continued, "the field is bare". I could feel my eyebrows raising and my mouth open so wide. It is one thing to have my mum agree to having trees in her field, but having her see how bare the field is, is huge, it could be a reflection of how she now perceives things (like it is no longer an external influence, it is internal), i.e in relation with the importance of trees in her place.  

It is not the only thing she has done to surprise me with. She made a huge compromise this morning when we were discussing the issue of how we want tasks to be carried out, especially with things we engage the help that we hire, it is not the first time we have been talking about this and it is among-st one of the things at the top of the list on issues we see differently and are trying to find common ground on. We were discussing on routine work for the person who is staying at the plot, and I feel that we would rather do one thing at a time, and master it and then add more things as we go. As opposed to, trying out everything we come across or hear about, especially when we hear someone has made so much profit from it. I think it keeps us from growing as we are open to be blown anywhere the wind blows, and it majorly frustrates the person we will be working with because we will end up overloading and expecting too much from him in a short space of time. But if we focus on a few things with the plan of expanding as soon as our capacity allows us, we will be able to use our resources to the fullest. We have not agreed on anything, but my mum today just said she is willing for us to work out what it is we think is of priority and we break it down into daily chores (at least as a guide). Anything else that crops up, will be on me and my mother solely and if we cannot do certain tasks we will get help elsewhere, except interrupt the man staying at the plot.

Why I think this works for now is,I believe at full capacity, chomolia and egg sales will be enough to cover the expenses for the livelihood of the man staying at the plot together with his family, as well as other running expenses, without my mum having to take money from her personal pocket, which she more often does. So we could start by allowing this family to produce the maximum possible from this area. Our job there will be to find all the resources and to come up with the best  and easiest and efficient ways of growing chomolia as well as rearing of chickens and also to sell the product. If the plot can take care of itself, it means that the family staying there is not going to be an expense to my mother, but they are working for themselves. Then when we have established what we can get from chomolia and eggs, we will be in a position to know how much extra things to add, in order to expand and diversify.  

I found a simple solution to a problem I have been having with my flower bed design. I made raised semi circles as small beds for my flowers to allow for as much water collection between the flower beds and the lawn, without drowning the two, as there is a lot of water that collects on that area during the rainy season. Unfortunately I had not ridged the sermi-circles to avoid water from flowing down when I water the flowers. I had tried to raise the edges but it would only collapse the semi circles, and redesigning was difficult as I have some picture of what this place can be with the semicircles and a runner plant falling over as a live mulch. Only last week, or the other week it dawned on me that I can take soil from elsewhere and mold raised edges on the semi circles. The place holds mulch better and already the flowers look greener.  

I laughed at myself a little embarrassed at how my flower bed came out, but I think for now lets see what is on the ground and acknowledge, but work with the vision in the head, in order to keep the momentum. I will see how the simple solution makes a change in the next month or two.... ha ha ha (I do not have the embarrassed emoji but it is really convenient at the moment).
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My flower bed [i]ha ha ha reality does not always reflect effort[/i]
My flower bed [i]ha ha ha reality does not always reflect effort[/i]
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 241
Location: Zimbabwe
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Today is that day of the month where I get to pick more than one plant from the kitchen garden (as I mentioned in an earlier post I intend to have at least one day every month where we get not less than three different vegetables). I will not take credit for the tomato, it just grew on its own and I never watered  or cared for it, I just let it live. That is the last tomato from the plant, but there is another tomato plant growing on its own, this time I put a support on it.
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pollinator
Posts: 457
Location: Utah
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Make sure you get seeds from those tomatoes! Any time you get something growing without help, GET SEEDS!
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
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I got more flowers today and planted them, the flower bed looks more lively now. I was not prepared for the new flower prices, I went thinking the fern is at most $5, since I had bought it for a $1.50 the last time. I found one place selling it for $20 and the other which has very cheap seedlings was selling them for $15. I was fortunate to have the decision maker on site, When I mentioned I had not anticipated such hikes, he asked me how much I had thought they would cost and I told him $5 maximum and he sold four ferns to me for $5.

It is the third time I am replacing the flowers, as they end up drying, this time I know it will be different.

The tomatoes from the kitchen garden have started flowering. Two plants are looking healthy, the other one is wilting, and it is the one that started flowering, but the yellow part of the flower has not come out yet, though it has for the others. I am out of ideas as to  what it could be and I am crossing my fingers it does not affect the other two.
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Lauren Ritz
pollinator
Posts: 457
Location: Utah
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It's normal for plants that have begun flowering and fruiting to be more sensitive to changes in the environment. They need more water, more nutrients, etc, so they wilt more easily. Just keep an eye on it. If your soil is slightly acidic, maybe put a little ash around it for potassium and phosphorus. I wouldn't suggest that if your soil is alkaline, since ash is highly alkaline on its own.
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 241
Location: Zimbabwe
93
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The woman next to us is inspiring. She does not give up easily. Part of our gardens were destroyed last year, when the city council was making depressions along road sides to allow for water flow, during the rainy seasons to reduce water bone diseases which was on the rise. We both (our neighbor and us) re-fenced our gardens, and our neighbor used poles completely whereas we added some wire. Lately, electricity hasn't been readily available and the demand for firewood shot very high and the trees are becoming fewer and fewer. People started stealing poles that were used as fence for gardens and my neighbor was not lucky as some of her poles were stolen. She decided to remove the remaining ones and use them as firewood. But she did not give up, I have been seeing her watering her garden and it was not clear what exactly she has been watering. She is growing a hedge, a live fence for her place! It is so genius of her. We had a chance to talk about wick irrigation as well as putting an inverted bottle as a way to water her hedge. We sampled the inverted bottle and we will see if she likes it.

The main reason why it is a must to fence is because we have donkeys on the loose. I hear in the hey days, it was forbidden to have animals like donkeys in the urban residential area, but now they are all over. They are used by people who are into firewood business as a mode of transport and this is a thriving business at the moment.

I am glad the two chomolia beds we made last week have suckers with life in them. We have a new guy helping us and he has some experience with the growing of chomolia. The work he has done so far is so much more than what my mother and myself could have done in two days. I now have a chance to make a shield for the two trees we added in the free range area for the chickens, as well as to look into maggot production. I am going to try and cut the fence which surrounded the kitchen garden, but was buried in the soil last year. On the down side our pump for the borehole is cutting after a few minutes of running as of yesterday, we are hoping it is not a serious thing. We are suspecting it could have something to do with water level in the borehole going low. My uncle told me that their dam has reached a level they have never experienced in his lifetime. Crocodiles are now exposed for most part of the time, which was uncommon, he suspects the weeds that he uses also take up a lot of water. He promised to send some images when he can.
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stray donkey
stray donkey
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fence to be salvaged
fence to be salvaged
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neighbor
neighbor
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street view from the neighbor
street view from the neighbor
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Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 241
Location: Zimbabwe
93
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I managed to cover the trees, the cuttings had grown leaves on them, but they were all eaten by the time I finished. I tried the fence, the holes were too big, tried using grass but the birds were pulling out the grass and eventually we ended up using sacks.

I also gave the chickens maggots, one seemed initially scared and flew away when they moved but the meal was finished in seconds. Now I need to work on a way of producing plenty of maggots.
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Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
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Location: Zimbabwe
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Another neighbor who has started working on her flower bed.

I had a look at carrots which were growing healthy and something that I have not caught yet is eating them. I had replaced hot pepper plants that were also eaten. I am suspecting termites so the next seedlings will put, l will make sure I add some ash.
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Initial stages of flower bed preparation, and the street view
Initial stages of flower bed preparation, and the street view
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 241
Location: Zimbabwe
93
greening the desert
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Another neighbor who has started working on her flower bed.

I had a look at carrots which were growing healthy and something that I have not caught yet is eating them. I had replaced hot pepper plants that were also eaten. I am suspecting termites, so the next seedlings l will put, l will make sure I add some ash.
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Initial stages of flower bed preparation, and the street view
Initial stages of flower bed preparation, and the street view
 
Rufaro Makamure
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One good intention can easily result in a disaster, but with beautiful souls, a potential disaster can be avoided. In the past few days I met with most of my extended family, and I had the opportunity to be with my uncle from Hurungwe and my cousin whom I had given the money I had received from a friend, to buy some wire for fencing the garden in Hurungwe. It has been six months since we got the money and we were not sure if our cousin still had it. It was a relief to discover she still had the money, she had just failed to top it up in order to buy the fence as she had promised and because of the distances she had not found a way to return the money.  We then decided we would buy the things that would enable the smooth working of the garden until my uncle becomes comfortable enough to survive off it. He had ideas of his own which we respected. He wanted to top his stock of seeds, so as to avoid running out, buy pesticides and also to find help with watering his garden. For the help, he intended to use beer as an incentive for the men he would engage, as he said beer was the cheapest and easiest way for him (when he had run the idea by me the previous night, I was not too surprised, as I based my knowledge on a common practice called "nhimbe" that I would read about or hear from others on how beer was/ is used in the rural area, when people help each other in the fields, I had asked him to also talk to my cousin about his intentions). But because my cousin (the one I had given money) experienced both a rural life and a town life, she knew a better and more durable way to solve the same problem,which was for him to work on his cart, a thing which turned out to be affordable, with the given budget. This led to a heated argument which did not end well between the two, as my uncle was fixed at doing things his own way, and would not be moved despite how all the other family members who were still present explained the advantage of fixing his cart and the temptation of misusing the powder for beer brewing for pleasure, instead of obtaining watering assistance. The catch 22 situation was that, the cousin my uncle exchanged strong words with was the one to help him with the buying of his things as she is the one based in Harare city. There was a very high possibility that my cousin would refuse to help, since she had absolutely nothing to loose in all this. When she had cooled down she is the one who looked for my uncle and took her time to explain why she thought her solution was a more lasting one, and after my uncle consulted with other people he discovered that indeed the other solution was the best. He was helped to shop around and now he is back in the rural area ready to fix his cart.

All the drama happened when I had already left for Gweru. Before this, I was seeing how extended family in the modern days, is slowly leaning towards a disadvantage rather than an advantage. The common thing nowadays is, in a family the successful person ends up taking care of the bulk of the family for most of his or her life, as they will be the fortunate ones. Instead of those who are helped to act in a way that eventually lessen the burden on the helper, they relax because they know that even if they do not work hard enough, someone else will clean up after them. Also when family would meet, it was rare to discuss issues that mattered. For a change, a family ganged up to help in the selection of an optimum solution to a member's challenge. And because of the deeper relationship that existed, there was patience, tolerance and understanding. It also took someone who really knew in depth alternatives, to solving my uncle's watering problem in his environment to find the best solution. Discovering that just giving someone money might not be a guarantee that things will work out, it is a relief in this case, to know that there is a support structure that will help us in our quest to make things work in the garden.

I have included a link to an article I found with more information on "nhimbe".

webpage
 
Lauren Ritz
pollinator
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Location: Utah
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It looks like nhimbe is similar to the european idea of a barn raising or house raising, when the whole community comes together to finish a task. Reciprocal barn raisings were common, where everyone would get together to build a barn or a house for neighbors, one after another, until they all had what they needed.

I'm glad your uncle was able to work things out. The beer may have brought in workers for a few days, but the cart will likely last years.
 
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In the U.S. we generally include pizza with the beer for a volunteer work party.  It works great for a few hours, up to a whole day occasionally, as long as there's not too much beer.  It isn't a long term solution though.  If you use it too much, you burn through your social capital.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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I also had the opportunity to see my sister’s cabin (temporary accommodation) for the first time and her work is incredible. She did pretty good improvising what she had, to come up with a decent place. She reused most items, e.g. for curtain rods she used bamboo, hammered together wooden planks to make beds, using the space under her bed as her cupboard…and a lot of other innovative things. She outdid herself…
This move she made is way-out of the normal, I will include an image of what the normal buildings being built by a general person are like, (these days, building houses is the most trendy thing around).
We celebrated the victory of making the first steps, to getting out of what is a seemingly superficial success, where it is important to put up a “I have made it front”. We want to find out if it is possible to start a completely new life, in an honest way through hard work and family back up (my sister) and also, what it takes to carry on and improve a life from an older generation,(myself).

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bamboo rods
bamboo rods
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celebrating the first steps
celebrating the first steps
 
pollinator
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Great tiny house!
but if I may: the tin roof is going to fry her and make life unlivable in there. A solution to this would be to build a kind of frame above it, like a pergola, and grow some vines on it. This would shade the roof, and the evaporation would cool the area down even further. In colder climates, it is done with grapevine.

Do passionfruit grow at your place? Or luffa?
Then you would have two uses for the structure, or even three if you divert the water next to the vine.

Is it feasable to gather material which lasts for a few years to cover the roof? Like a few metallic posts, and some wire?

On wikipedia you can see a few examples, without building underneath.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pergola
All the best
 
Rufaro Makamure
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A friend brought her husband to the plot to show him how we are growing our maize. He is based in Harare and they want to work on their rural home where they intend to relocate. They are mostly interested in the substitution of fertilizer by manure, zai pits and the importance of covering the ground.

I have included images of a fairly knew residential place, where roads and sewers started being worked on in 2010. All the houses were built by individual families and for most, they raise the money as they build. People no longer build small houses, most of them fill up almost all of the space within a stand and it is not dependent on the size of the family . It is still a wonder how the finances are being raised. It is clear though for those in the diaspora. The area I have shown is the ghetto side. The low density areas have mansions.
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Rufaro Makamure
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Location: Zimbabwe
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greening the desert
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hans muster wrote:
Do passionfruit grow at your place? Or luffa?
Then you would have two uses for the structure, or even three if you divert the water next to the vine.
On wikipedia you can see a few examples, without building underneath.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pergola
All the best



Great idea! We had passion fruit at our home when I was younger. I will surely run this idea by my sister.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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We have started selling chomolia and onions consistently since last week. We have been selling eggs also, these are on demand we actually have some booked in advance,  but we are still working on being able to produce a crate everyday. The eggs have dropped in number, to almost a quarter of the expected quantity. When we go to collect eggs, we find some of the eggs eaten by the chickens, I have slowed down on experimenting with stock feed.

Apart from just focusing on making good quality products, we want to try and produce products and somehow keep our expenses more or less constant, which will allow us to have a constant selling price, also we are making consistency a priority. So far we have succeeded on keeping a constant price especially on eggs, because we have had friends help us out with chicken feed (this is the main expense we have to control soonest). Chomolia has minimum expenses, we plan to boost money from eggs, with money we will get from selling chomolia, which we will then use for purchasing stock feed. We will then work on alternative chicken feed intensely as time passes by, until the chickens become profitable on their own.  Instead of most of the chomolia being sold at the plot, we have started selling in the high density area, which is more densely populated. It was so slow in the beginning most of the days we would not even sell any bundles in a day, but we decided to display anyway, until people get used to chomolia being sold at our place, now the sales are slowly picking up. We then use the unsold chomolia as chicken feed supplement.

I have added images for this month's progress at the plot, flower bed and the kitchen garden. The kitchen garden plants are still a problem, termites are chewing on the transplanted seedlings. What is better now is an almost stable supply of seedlings from the banana plant patch. After planting some at the beginning of last week, I had emerging ones and I have now planted some already, this will guarantee some kind of stability and continuity in the kitchen, we have covered great strides with the growing of maize so for the starch we are somewhere. Having stability in our personal expenses, will support our goal to maintain a constant selling price of any of our products.
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Rufaro Makamure
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I got beetroot from a neighbor who is now harvesting his. It is really big. We went round his garden and he showed me his mature compost that he has already started using. He divided his garden into different beds and he has grown multiple vegetables and we could be drifting from having gardens filled with chomolia. We share a garden space which is where our neighbor grew his beetroots, as three families and in this area we have one bed. I will not take credit for this neighbor's progress, neither will I completely right off the possibility of spreading of ideas through casual talk and being the example, without necessarily sitting down to talk about change.

I like the idea of exchanging ripe garden products because I think in addition to visually appreciating a garden by just seeing, actually eating a product sends a message even better. Just going around his garden was refreshing, as I was going crazy because I am failing to control pests in the kitchen garden. Only one bed has been close to 100% successful, in terms of bringing out the idea which is within my head, which is being able to have a plant growing at any given time within a bed and making sure there is variety within one space. The bed had pepper and before the pepper reaches the end of it's life, there are onions now dominating, I have beetroot and lettuce to take over when I get to harvest the onions.    

This year my mum is the one concentrating on the maize field, planning and all. She has already started working on her compost, I went to the plot and had a look at it and we turned it with the help of my cousin, and the compost is looking good. The other successful thing that I have noticed with mum is on the improvement of research skill and use of the internet as a tool, she is the one who looked up information on what causes chickens to eat their eggs and what we can do to improve and she did this all by herself. Of late mentally I feel so exhausted and it difficult to concentrate on planning, reading and writing and I have not done anything significant recently. I am concerned with whether we will be able to catch up with the changes occurring around us. What I have been able to do is to crush most of the rubble on one side of the lawn into smaller stones it is looking so much better.

There is a garden being started really close to our place, I have included images, I will includes it's images. Usually the owner grows maize in her portion, this time there is possibility of growing vegetables, I will just include her garden and hopefully she will have a variety of different plants.
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beetroot could be a new common vegetable
beetroot could be a new common vegetable
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turned compost
turned compost
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kitchen garden
kitchen garden
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progress on the front yard
progress on the front yard
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new garden in the making, right after the road (sorrounded by poles)
new garden in the making, right after the road (sorrounded by poles)
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another space to watch garden shared by three families (already organic matter being piled not burnt, and a variety of vegetables starting)
another space to watch garden shared by three families (already organic matter being piled not burnt, and a variety of vegetables starting)
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Variety
Variety
 
Lauren Ritz
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Location: Utah
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Beet greens are also edible.

It sounds like most of your progress is social at this point, which isn't a bad thing. As other people start to notice and improve, it expands the pool of ideas (intellectual capital) and possible innovation.

You're probably crushing the eggshells and giving them back to the chickens (calcium) already. Anything growing that isn't used as mulch can be fed to the chickens, or you could move the chickens to where the food is.

I was thinking about the termites, in that sense. I'm not sure what you're dealing with is termites, as they usually eat only dead and woody materials. I was wondering about the possibility of giving a few of your chickens a small enclosure where you're having this problem, one of your beds, maybe--let them eat everything there, then plant and see if the problem comes back and how quickly. Maybe even the chickens that are eating their eggs, if you can identify them. Or maybe it's one WAY to identify them.

The chickens are really a resource in more than one way--turning garbage (plants, leftover food, corncobs and leaves, etc.) into useful manure, getting rid of insects, etc. One of my friends has "chicken tunnels" which he moves around to areas where he wants the chickens to get rid of pests. He made them out of old lawn chairs and chicken wire. Simply a metal or plastic arch with the wire stretched over the top. Easy to move and assemble, and he says the chickens really like it when he moves the tunnels.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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Yes we have been crushing egg shells for the chickens. The area with the chickens, i.e the plot, is a  30 minute's walk away from the place with the kitchen garden. I am not sure it is feasible to put chickens in the kitchen garden, the kitchen garden space is the area between houses that is left unattended and some use these spaces for gardens, in other spaces there is garbage or just grass, it is not within our yard.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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“People care” To add onto food stability, home care is one of the things we have been working on, and I believe a home with enough food and some order can result in a warm and welcoming home, because we will expect less from our visitors. The past month was a school holiday and we had visitors, my cousin and his son. When I learnt they were visiting, it sent shivers down my spine. I was mostly afraid, my cousin’s child would have forgotten me, for some reason it was so important to me, if he would remember. Other things I was afraid of are, if we would be good hosts and if our home would be a good environment for them. They once stayed at my mum’s place for some time, with the intention of having them as long as was necessary, but they left. Then, they were three, with my cousin’s daughter, but she is now married (she is very young) and I feel we as her family, let her down, we were not ready the first time they came to stay with us (but I also know there is nothing as too late, I hope we can be a part of her life, as we develop ourselves and also work on building a relationship with her father).

During their first days, I could tell my cousin was so protective over his child, it completely changed as he trusted us more and more, which was a wonderful thing. They left today and Taku my cousin’s son, did not want to go back, we had to trick him into going back, it felt so good to know he felt at home with us.  
We are expecting my grandfather from my father’s side, I hope it is going to be a good encounter. I hardly ever used to be at home when we had visitors around, it is either I was at school or work, hosting people is a really new experience.

My mother would tell me how they grew up. They had such a strong social network, which had really dark sides but there was a very beautiful side which was broken down by modernization. I have probably mentioned some things in my past threads. It was impossible to feel lonely, villages were true families, and most of their values were the same. There was some social balance across all ages, any grown up held a guardian’s position and disciplining a child was not left only to a biological parent, or someone paid like a school teacher. Imagine if we could merge things we are learning to make life convenient together with the strong social structure that existed…!

Another very good thing today is, all the onions that were brought from the plot, got finished very early in the morning. People are getting used to us selling at our place, and despite a very high rate of inflation we have prices that are almost fixed, well for now and I guess that’s the thing doing the most marketing.
We want to encourage less selling at the plot, which will open up more time for taking care of plants and animals, also the plot will attract less attention and the probability of theft there, (theft is generally on the rise) will be maintained at a minimum.
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The number of eggs has increased
The number of eggs has increased
 
Rufaro Makamure
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Whatever is eating my plants used to be selective and it would damage the emerging seedlings. Now it has graduated to well developed plants.

I noticed though that a cabbage plant I grew in the midst of onions escaped this creature, so I have planted onions around holes I intend to put cabbage seedlings, well in advance. I am also trying out cabbage surrounded by marigold and so far so good.

My Sekuru (grandfather) is home, I am happy and I am proud of the lawn area, it is a beautiful sitting spot for him, as he watches me crushing stones. I am enjoying his company a lot.

We have decided that for the money we get from any sales, instead of holding onto it until the month ends, the moment we raise enough money for a sack of feed, we will buy and about two weeks before end of the month we can then concentrate on raising money for the one helping us. Yesterday we went looking for feed and it had run out, when we checked again the following day, feed had gone up, we were fortunate we had enough to get a bag.
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hans muster
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About the chicken eating their own eggs:
Do you know the roll away nest boxes?
It is best to get new chicken, who are not used to their hay nest box. When they grow up with roll away nest boxes, you have the cleanest eggs, and no problems of eiting their own eggs. Requires some carpentry skills to build, and testing of the angle.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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Having Sekuru (grandfather) around is like having a window that sees into the past. Of interest to me is, how communities developed common values and of course how they used to grow their food.

In my Sekuru’s youthful days, they never used to put things that “burn the soil” as my sekuru puts it across, not even compost or manure, they would just plant and harvest bountifully. The feature that attracted his fathers to move to where they are staying now is a river called Chivaka.  They never used to cross the river because there were plenty of long deep stretches of water within the river, which served as habitats for crocodiles and hippos. The river has since become so shallow, they sometimes survive out of riverbed water, “mufuku”. Zach Weiss’s talk on water cycle restoration, clouded my brain as I listened to this. The changes that have occurred within a century, show how much we have taken for granted the gifts given by nature and misused them. Knowing we can reverse things is a really promising thing. webpage

Below are images of mufuku and an update of the two flower beds that belong to my neighbours. I will write about how the community in the hey days, kept drawn together in my next thread.


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mufuku
mufuku
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Rufaro Makamure
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I have seen the third tree being cut right in front of our houses, in a space of two months. Trees are being cut seriously, now even the few trees that are very close to houses are not being spared. The man I saw cutting one of the trees, just said, "there is no option, we do not have electricity, gas is not affordable and we no longer have trees in the forests close by so the ones in the residential areas are the closest ones". I have a couple of observations I made as I tried to figure out how we have gotten to where we are now. It would be unfair to completely put the blame of the destruction of nature on the one guy who is cutting trees. It is a series of decisions for long periods that has led us to where we are.  
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Dear Rufaro, here is a video on how to make your own solar cooker. You can do it first from cardboard and then when you have made one or two you can try using wood.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5CdNH3sQT0

There is also an entire rocket stove forum here on permies - rocket stoves are designs that allow you to use less wood, even twigs and brush rather than logs. A heat preserver (Wonderbag) is also a piece of equipment that meets speedy uptake in the communities I have worked in.

You can also go really old school and heap some thick rocks in a hollow and line with foil. They will get hot enough to fry an egg in, don't worry.
I am sad for the trees and the climate, but more than that it seems only a matter of time before they are all gone. Might as well start working on the solar cookers while you still have time because it is the inevitable option. There will be plenty of sun this summer.

Hugs, Yvette
 
Lauren Ritz
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Natasha Abrahams wrote:There is also an entire rocket stove forum here on permies - rocket stoves are designs that allow you to use less wood, even twigs and brush rather than logs.


I wonder how the tree cutters would take to being given plans for how to create a rocket stove? Particularly if Rufaro builds one, it could be an amazing example. Cutting the trees is only going to increase the problems in the long run.

** Sorry, Rufaro. I forgot you already had built one!
 
Rufaro Makamure
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As we were going to the plot, I saw fields being prepared for the next farming season, time does fly fast. This year is the first year we did not spend most of our time working on what to improve, for the maize growing to be a success. We have some degree of certainty that the work we have done in the past years will allow us to harvest as expected without any additional costs, with reduced time dedicated to the field, and the field is a lot more resilient both to the climate and economic conditions.  

I have had more time for the chickens, kitchen garden, seedlings and the yard. I am happy about the seedlings, they are now growing so well with almost zero effort. We have also managed to separate my mum's personal income from the plot's revenue, and the changes are remarkable, we have sold so much more than ever before and we are growing more, so as to improve on our quantities. A simple decision to put onions within chomolia beds has given us much more for the same effort and space. We now use less water for the kitchen garden as well as the onion bed right next to our yard. With the onions all we did was to change the level bed into furrows and we saved water by more than half and from the same bed we got over two buckets of extra mulch. The simplest things are proving to be the most beneficial solutions.
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changed from a level bed
changed from a level bed
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to furrows
to furrows
 
Rufaro Makamure
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It had been a long time since I had heard from my uncle who is in Hurungwe and there is an update on the cart he was fixing that I am eager to hear about. I only learnt yesterday that his plants were eaten by goats and I think the reason he was not communicating is that he feels he failed.
I think nothing beats trying, never giving up and always improving   in order to make things better. The last time he spoke he had mentioned that he did not grow his garden throughout the whole year like he did this year. I am yet to get full details on this, I had assumed he grows his plants throughout the year. If thi is true, it is an achievement on its own to be able to keep the garden going for the whole year. I have one very beautiful picture of his VIP clients, “his wife and child” feeding off his produce, which he had sent about a month ago. I was saving this as I thought I would send it together with the update on the finished cart to show progress. Well I hope he will continue working on his garden and sending updates, whether things are going well or not.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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There is a second garden which was started a couple of months ago. It is a stone throw away from ours, and it has life in it, plants (chomolia, tomatoes, maize and lettuce) that have been grown outside the rainy season. There is another space being fenced, which shares a fence with garden #2 and our garden is behind the two trees seen in the image. If the three of us are successful in creating good gardens, it could be a good enough encouragement, for other households to use their spaces. Our garden is about 70 square meters and this area, if used wisely can be a source of affordable tasty food, in a time outside the rainy period. Now multiplying the singular patches, in front of the households, surrounding the free space, they sum up to an area of not less than 1400 square meters, laying idle for the bulk of the year. It is a fact from where I stand, that there is so much we can do at a household level that can make food a lot more available, make the space more attractive while we contribute, to a global movement to reduce climate change in our own small way. Talk about killing multiple birds with one stone.  These spaces are commonly used for growing maize in the rainy season and they will be bare for the rest of the year.
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new garden with some beds nicely mulched
new garden with some beds nicely mulched
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another space being fenced
another space being fenced
 
Rufaro Makamure
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We are now getting into the hottest month of the year and already we can feel the heat. Things have been slow for the month of September. The seedling area, just like the maize field is now a permanent step ahead. I seem to have managed to ascertain a continuous supply of seedlings.

The kitchen garden is still a struggle, because of pest control. The plants that were attacked the most were new seedlings and pepper plants, now even the surviving beet plants are targets. I am continuing to try things out until I finally can control things in the garden. What I am sure of is one way or the other, we are going to have a variety of vegetables throughout the year, coming out of that space. The tomato plant is looking really great. As for the rest of the garden, l have decided I will include a picture of the whole garden when there are clearly visible developments.  

To keep a positive attitude I am taking on a challenge. I love to dance a lot, but it does not come easy, so in preparation for celebrating a pretty looking garden, l am picking a dance that I will learn. There is one which I found really hilarious and complicated, and it might be the one I will follow. I hope I will have guts to share my celebratory moves when the time comes. I have included the dance.
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Still green
Still green
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Nice looking
Nice looking
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Leaves now being eaten
Leaves now being eaten
 
Rufaro Makamure
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At the plot things are moving forward. I am especially happy because of the progress at one of our neighbor's, the one who has decided to do the zai pits. She has covered about half of her field and she is doing a great job. This is the last month before we receive rain, I think it is wiser for her to start looking into securing manure and grass for the part she has worked on for best results, then if it works out for her she can use part of next year to finish the rest of her field. We discussed this and she said she will consider. I really hope it works, her success, will be a trigger for the spread of zai pits, ground cover and the use of manure in fields.
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Beautiful holes
Beautiful holes
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Mrs Moyo who dug the holes
Mrs Moyo who dug the holes
 
Rufaro Makamure
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We have managed to clear the money loaned to the plot by mum, for the month of September, though we are withdrawing this target for now until after the harvest for this coming season, because of inflation which is difficult to keep up with, we are still counting this a success. At the beginning of September, we bought feed we expected to last us the whole month, if we restricted the amount of feed we would give the chickens. It was not long until we noticed the impact of not giving the chickens enough feed. The eggs became smaller and the number of eggs collected further reduced. It was then that we decided to get an advance to buy more feed with, that we would pay back during the course of the month.

In the same month we sold the highest number of items than ever before. We had eggs, chomolia and onions throughout. Before, eggs and onions were mainly for us and most ended up being given away. The frequency of these items being bought was low, but this time we had low and mostly constant prices to attract customers. (It turns out it is the number of items we sold and not necessarily inflating prices that increased our revenue). The fact that we planted the onions within the chomolia beds, means the only additional cost was of buying the onion seedlings. This is what we based on when we were pricing and as for the chickens, they produce white eggs and these are not too common in the market and lowering our price was a way to get more customers.

The cost of growing chomolia and onions is so little and this is what is supporting chickens on top of what we are getting from eggs. We expect to continue developing and finding alternative feed sources and eventually take care of all the chicken expenses through egg selling. Already, the maggots, mulberries, together with continuous findings on how we can move away from commercial feed have proven to be great tools in achieving our goal. We have planted some cowpeas on the sandy part, commercial feed has almost doubled this month, some article highlighted how cowpeas can be a good source of protein for poultry, so we do have a chance in reducing hiking feed costs.
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Planted cowpeas
Planted cowpeas
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Onion within chomolia beds
Onion within chomolia beds
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Maggots breeding
Maggots breeding
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Nature helping with feed (mulberries)
Nature helping with feed (mulberries)
 
Rufaro Makamure
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In the kitchen garden, I have been spraying recent seedlings with water that I am getting after boiling onions and chillies, everyday before the sun sets. The number of seedlings eaten over night has reduced greatly. Today the was only one with part of its leaf chewed on, instead of the whole plant. The experiment that I repeated and has proved to be the least strenuous is that of planting marigolds together with the seedlings. I have planted the rest of the marigold seeds I have, the good news is the marigolds l planted first are almost flowering so I will be getting more seeds from there. I guess there is extra effort that is required to control pests when using randomly collected mulch.
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Second trial with marigold
Second trial with marigold
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First marigold starting to flower
First marigold starting to flower
 
Rufaro Makamure
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I did a lot of thinking, on why I should wait for the success of the garden for me to dance. It is easy to put aside creating good memories, especially when there is no occasion or big event happening.   So as we walk through a sustainable life development process, making good memories will be a part of it. We have been creating time through improved home management, I cannot think of anything better to do with our evenings than to enjoy each other's company, watching TV will not form part of this.

So I danced for my mum, imitating a funny video I watched on some social media. Entertainers deserve to be paid, that job is no joke.

We are also reading a great book to help us on personal grooming, called "Living today", it is a good book and it covers some basics to things like hygiene, dressing etc. We will take  it easy with the grooming, to avoid chasing after too many birds in one go.



Videos of the original dancer as well as mine imitating the moves

webpage
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Personal grooming book
Personal grooming book
 
Lauren Ritz
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Rufaro Makamure wrote:In the kitchen garden, I have been spraying recent seedlings with water that I am getting after boiling onions and chillies, everyday before the sun sets. The number of seedlings eaten over night has reduced greatly. Today the was only one with part of its leaf chewed on, instead of the whole plant. The experiment that I repeated and has proved to be the least strenuous is that of planting marigolds together with the seedlings. I have planted the rest of the marigold seeds I have, the good news is the marigolds l planted first are almost flowering so I will be getting more seeds from there. I guess there is extra effort that is required to control pests when using randomly collected mulch.



I use a "bug spray" made of onion, garlic, and hot peppers in vinegar. Chop everything up, let it sit for two weeks or more, then strain and add more water for a dilution. It seems to work rather well.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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We have received the first few drops of rain this season. I was almost done with planting the maize when it rained, now we wait for the continuous rains to come, which is highly likely at the beginning of the coming month. We decided to plant and water the maize, when we receive the rain continuously, the maize would have emerged and the period where the maize needs most if the water, will coincide with the times where there is a high probability of  rain. As for the planting expenses we have incurred so far, the only thing that has demanded financial input is grass, and we got a lot of it this year, otherwise everything else including labour was internal input.

We have stopped buying commercial feed for the chickens. We are sourcing cheaper means for grains and protein, we are collecting leaves and pods from leguminous plants. Seeds that have been seating in our house for some time are coming in handy, I found a few sesame seeds as well as lentils, which were gathering dust in the cupboard and we are mixing everything with ground cereal.

My uncle from Hurungwe came. The dam he uses has dried up in a way he has never seen before. People are digging the base of the dam to allow water to flow from where it still remains to areas that can be accessed easily by both humans and animals. His plants dried up and he is already preparing his beds for the rains. From his assessment, the garden would have given him returns, by the time we get to the dry season next year, as he is starting to plant earlier than he usually does, so the effects of the dam drying up, if it occurs again, will not be much. He has also finished most work on his water cart, which is a great thing.

He explained more on the security of his garden from animals. Goats were getting in through some spaces under his hedge and he has planted more in between the gaps. There is also a side which was attached to adjacent gardens that is now open, as these gardens have been abandoned. He has put twigs and thorns to cover the spaces temporarily as he waits for the hedge he planted to grow.

We have been sharing ideas and planning our next steps, the next meeting, I am the to visit him. We talked about the advantages of zai pits and did a ground cover demo, with three portions, one with nothing covering it, the other with grass and the other with soil loosened and covered with grass. We poured water and looked at the depth of the water and the period it took for the different spots to dry up.
We have also emphasized on the main goal of why we are doing what we do, which is to secure food for our families first, together with ensuring some stable income to cover basics, from the resources we have. The question that we are using as our driving force is "What if our lives solely depended on the areas we are working on and there was no option of going out if the country, getting another job, getting support from family...etc, how would we constantly improve the places to adapt to changing times and not leave any chance to failure?"  
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Grass for mulching
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Leaves to be crushed and mixed with crushed cereal
Leaves to be crushed and mixed with crushed cereal
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My uncle checking out how we are growing our maize
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Ground cover demo
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Uncle
Uncle
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My uncle walking on the base of the dam that he has seen for the first time
My uncle walking on the base of the dam that he has seen for the first time
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Digging the base of the dam to create water ways
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Remaining water in the dam
Remaining water in the dam
 
Rufaro Makamure
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I visited Mrs Moyo's field today, the one who is trying out the zai pits method, she has mulched a few of her lines. She has also put goat manure in almost all her holes.
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Mulched area
Mulched area
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Goat manure in her pits
Goat manure in her pits
 
Rufaro Makamure
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There is just as much as planning can take you and sometimes outcomes are defined by circumstances outside our control.

Today is the second day since our pump failed. We have been using the well, but it meant cutting down the places to be watered and the maize field is one of those places. I could see the maize plants wilting more and more, even our vegetables were showing signs of stress. There was little we could do, and today it rained... There is so much great relief because today's rain has bought us time between the continuous rain and the fixing of our pump.  
 
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