End of winter chores

End of winter chores means climbing up ladders to clean gutters if you want pristine rainwater from your tanks and the underground-reservoir.

This spring I was caught out. General busyness meant it didn't get done timeously; the first sign was a not entirely pleasant odour of decaying humus in the shower long before we tasted anything. I literally scooped up half a barrow-load of muck from the gutters; and had to syphon out and waste much of the reservoir water.

Cleaning gutters.

It’s now several months since we have had rain, and most likely your tanks and reservoirs are low. It is time to roll up your sleeves and clean them out. It is not a pleasant chore, but must be done if we want clean, potable-water when the spring mists arrive.

The place to start is with the gutters; it’s definitely my least favourite Saturday afternoon job, but they will be filled with autumn-leaves that will soon give your water a greenish tinge and an unpleasant smell.

Make sure the ladder is on stable ground, and preferably have someone hold it. Take up a bucket, various paddles and a cut-off two litre milk jug to scoop up any sludge; it makes great humus for the garden.

There are various leaf-traps that will protect your gutters; I must look into it. 

One of the joys of a fibreglass-tank is that they come with a plug at the base that you can unscrew and most of the gunge will pour out without any effort; plastic may be more difficult. Slosh it out with a hosepipe to get it clean; obviously you save as much as possible for the garden.

The most difficult is the reservoir, if you are privileged to have one. A hired-pump with a large throat that will suck up all the debris would make life a lot simpler. Then you simply have to use various squeegees and buckets to clean out any decomposed leaves and other fine material that has settled at the bottom.

A five-litre ice cream container is useful for scraping up the sludge. It takes me a couple hours; once a year, so one can’t complain considering the abundant rainwater harvest that makes us independent of the vagaries of almost all South African municipalities.

Even in Cape Town, undoubtedly the best-run municipality, the water from the huge reservoirs has a lot of organic material; combined with chlorine it forms toxic THMs.

Post-chlorination woes are something that greenies who harvest rainwater can avoid.

Bernie building a compost heap.

This is the time to open the compost-heaps, and get all that wonderful humus into the garden in readiness for spring; we let the hens mull it over, pecking out the cutworms and other larvae.

We do our best to save the earthworms which are returned to the compost heap. A bakkie-load of cow or chicken manure does wonders too.

If you are planning to raise chicks this is the time to get the nesting box in readiness; you’ll soon have a broody-hen or two. It needs to be placed close to the rest of the flock, but separate so she is not disturbed by the other birds; it must be secure at night so that the uchakide won’t attack them. I like that Zulu word but not the creature; the mongoose is a devil.

We could go on about pruning the hydrangeas and roses, but I will leave that for the gardening columns; it’s a busy time around every green home.

The lettuce patch.

Hopefully you are reaping baskets of fresh-peas and carrots, radish and even the peppadews are still thriving; lettuce, kale and spinach are at their best.

Many of human wellness problems are associated with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles; you have the choice of pumping-iron at the gym, or lifting buckets of gunge, and turning compost heaps. For my part, I would choose the latter; I like to see something visible achieved after all that effort.

Preparing the ground for potatoes is one my chores lined up for the end of winter; the seed should be planted as soon as the danger of frost is over. Place old mealie-stalks in the bottom and a spadeful of compost ensures a better harvest.

Planting potatoes is not for the faint-hearted; each hole needs to be at least a foot deep. We no longer dig trenches as the moles then have a field day. A stake in each keeps the leaves off the ground, and makes it easier to heap them up.

New potatoes don't cause a spike in blood glucose like those from cold-storage; they taste so much better in any case, just like all fresh veggies.

End of winter chores

End of winter chores at our green home include opening the compost-heap which can be tiresome but done mindfully is really not so bothersome. Barrowing the humus around the garden is quite hard work though.


Our newsletter is entitled "create a cyan zone" at your home, preserving both yourself, your family and friends, and Mother Earth for future generations. We promise not to spam you with daily emails promoting various products. You may get an occasional nudge to buy one of my books!

Here are the back issues.

  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
  • Wear your clothes out
  • Comfort foods
  • Create a bee-friendly environment
  • Go to bed slightly hungry
  • Keep bees
  • Blue zone folk are religious
  • Reduce plastic waste
  • Family is important
  • What can go in compost?
  • Grow broad beans for longevity
  • Harvest and store sunshine
  • Blue zone exercise
  • Harvest and store your rainwater
  • Create a cyan zone at your home

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56 Groenekloof Rd,

Hilton, KZN

South Africa