End of winter chores

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

This Spring I was caught out. General business meant it didn't get done timeously; the first sign was a not entirely unpleasant 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 to syphon out and waste much of the reservoir water.

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

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 tanks 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 a reservoir, if you are privileged to have one. A hired pump with a large throat that will suck up all the debris makes 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 icecream 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 municipal vagaries; actually they are no longer unexpected.  

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 manure does wonders for the heap.

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 mother hen isn’t disturbed by the other birds; it needs to be secure at night so that the uchakide won’t attack them; I like that Zulu word but not the creature.   

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

End of winter chores

End of winter chores at our green home like opening the compost heap can be tiresome but done mindfully is important and not so bothersome.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Our green home
  3. End of winter chores


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.

  • 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