Friday, 28 April 2017

The Soft Foot Homestead


 You might have noticed I have slightly changed the blog title as although I'm still working on natural building projects, I will be sharing other aspects of our simple, sustainable and improved lifestyle to inspire you. From simple ways of making life more efficient with as little impact on the planet, to vegetarian and vegan recipes using local ingredients from the african bush.

Here is a quick catch up on the past couple of years living in The Soft Foot Homestead (thats a hint as to one of the things we have been up to this past year) We have been busy setting up The Soft Foot Alliance using our experience and passion to finding and applying simple ways for humans and wildlife to live side by side.

The addition of an adobe/ bottle wall on the verandah
The animal adventures continue, a very friendly elephant has a closer smell of the car.

Rocket stoves have taken off after much interest from our neighbors training began in 2016







3 workshops so far with between 15-20 women making their own stoves with local clay and manure. 

After a visit from my father he made me a new washing machine, works pretty well!!

one of the new members of the family 'Futchie' short for 'future kitty'
The death of Bill Mollison is a huge loss for the world, but his vision and work lives on and we work daily to see that happen.
Insaba has grown into her name, 'ray of sunlight' after one of my favorite lioness's, she looks more and more like a lion!!


One of the aspects of our work now as THE SOFT FOOT ALLIANCE is finding simple solutions for people and wildife to live side by side. Here Brent and Oliver help to put up a boma that protects livestock from lions, just the fact that they can't see means they won't go inside, plus the boma is mobile so is used to fertilize fields. Just one of the exciting things we have been working on www.softfootalliance.com


Just one of the fruits from zone 5 the largest zone on our place, preserving the indigenous forest, chanterelle mushrooms


home grown Jalapenos 

more and more goodies growing in our place



Cooking rosella(hibiscus) for dinner

Rosella pancake with chilli sauce. 
homegrown cowpeas are our major protein source. 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Mud love: earth oven and clay rocket stoves

 I've just finished building another oven at a friends photographic safari lodge here in hwange 'Sable Sands' and have loved every minute of it! A beautiful lodge overlooking the dete vlei where some of the best wildlife sightings can be had! 

Another mud lover! I used buffalo dung in the plaster for the oven to use materials that were available in that particular setting. 


The location is over looking a waterhole where wild animals would come to drink while I was busy building, pretty idiylic location!  So dance like an elephant was quite literally dancing with the elephants! Look in the background of many of the photos on this post to see all the wildlife. 

There was no lack of wine bottles for the sub-floor insulation

The foundation wall was made of concrete blocks, not my favorite material by any means, but there were plenty left over from other building projects so we use what is available!

Lots of people got involved of all different sizes! 

The dense oven mud ready for the fire bricks

Even the firebricks were reused 

making the sand form



Layering newspaper so the clay doesn't stick to the sandform 


Mud dancing

Smoothing and polishing after the first layer of dense oven mud.

I chose to let each layer dry throughly for this oven, so here I'm cutting the door after the first layer is partly dry

 emptying the oven so it dry's out evenly. Th location of the build was very hot, windy and in full sun, so drying was pretty fast.

The pallet of colours available on the sable sands concession, beautiful natural clay, alot of fun testing and selecting.

I chose black to go around the door as it's going to be black from the fire anyway! 

Getting some help to add some slices of rosewood on the side as a shelf.

surrounding the slices with clay so only the polished wood is left visible

The bottom of the foundation I used lime plaster the rest is all clay and sand.



The finished oven

African symbols carved in

Pizza eye view


First firing and pizza night!

Now for the rocket stoves I've been experimenting with, this is the first one a mix of clay and sawdust. I have made 5 different stoves so far testing different mixes. I found that it was hard for most people to access sawdust , so I experimented with alternatives. Donkey and cow dung sieved so that only small particles of straw are left, these burn out and leave small pockets of air that insulate the stove and make it more efficient. I am still testing and firing as much as possible to see if they crack, which shape and size works best etc and will let you know the results. It will mean less need for collecting large quantities of firewood for local women and healthier cooking environment as most people cook indoors with open fires and alot of smoke which is harmful to health.

small sticks sit on the metal shelf and only the ends burn,  cooking is fast and only very little wood and very little smoke.

This J shaped rocket stove was a bit trickier to make the shape is supposed to be even more effective. 

The hole at the front is the ash dump which I made a cover for, the hole allowed me to pull the form out.

Oly as made some mini rocket stoves

The tubes are used as the form and pulled out before the stove is dry to avoid cracking.

This larger stove has very thick walls

I cut and shaped the pot stand.

The first rocket stove works a charm!

With just one stick!



We even took one out for cooking on a picnic in the bush, no risk of fires!

Bucket shower is up!! makes a huge difference as for the last 8 months we have been throwing water over ourselves. Here you can just see the pulley system in the tree.

We fill the bucket with hot water and add enough cold to make it the right temperature.  Around 20 Litres of water showers the 3 of us. I added a hozelock head to the end of the hose pipe, the height of the bucket means there is good pressure and you can select the setting you want! It feels like such luxury, we each get more than 5 minutes shower. 

A very simple wormery to breed worms for my chickens and make great compost and worm tea( a natural fertiliser)! 

Whiskey's safari adventures continue, face to face with wild dogs!

bye for now