Growing red maize, and making our own pap.

Just about all maize and soy in South Africa are genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate based poisons. Although the companies that produce these poisons have declared over and over that they are safe for human consumption, various scientific studies have proven over the past few years that they are not.
A study by Gasnier, et al. (2009) demonstrated that glyphosate in formulation (meaning the poison you buy from the shelf) at 5 ppm (5 mg/kg) had toxic effects and resulted in cell death of human liver, umbilical cord and placental cells within 24 hours of exposure. They also indicated that glyphosate in formulation at 0.5 ppm (0.5 mg/kg) caused endocrine disruption in human liver cells within 24 hours of exposure.

The staple food of most South African’s is maize porridge. We’re eating poison and nobody seems to care. This poison is also found in all but one breakfast cereals, our meat and in our own tissue.

Our maize harvest

We decided to grow as much of our own food as possible, for health reasons, but also to be as independent as possible.

When we became more aware of the wonderful options of heritage maize varieties available, it became a real adventure. In the first year, we planted 3 types of maize. The seeds we bought from Living Seeds who have a fantastic selection. Because of timing, rain and guinea fowl, only one crop worked really well; the Bloody Butcher red maize.

We used the goat and sheep manure mixed with the food they had spilled to make fantastic compost.

Since the birds ate so many of our plants just as they came up, we decided to grow seedlings and plant them out. Stephen patiently planted out about 400 plants which grew fantastically well! Clearly no herbicide here. 🙂

Monkey’s soon discovered that our maize tastes so much better than the neighbour’s GMO Roundup stuff, so losses were once again an issue, but by April 2022, we could harvest about 400 heads of beautiful, red, poison free corn.

The next question was what to do with it. This is not sweetcorn which can be eaten easily from the cob, as it’s quite starchy, and we can’t keep it fresh to eat through winter.

When looking up how maize was processed to make the commercial maize meal available in stores, we were horrified to find that it gets processed to make it almost pure starch. Firstly, it’s roundup-ready, so the plant is genetically modified to grow despite being unable to absorb many essential nutrients from the ground. Then, the protein in the kernel is removed when the embryo is taken out. The shell is also removed. This produces a brilliant white porridge, but means that the nutritional value is even further reduced. South Africa’s maize is supposed to fortified, but alas, apparently even this is often not done. Here’s an interesting Mail and Guardian article on the subject.

We immediately decided to make our own pap. We had no mill however and a new one was out of our price range. Through a local WhatsApp group, we bought an old coffee grinder which does the job quite nicely, although it is a bit labour intensive.

In our research on how to process maize we found a wonderful alternative that is not practised in South africa. Nixtamalization. Yes, a terribly long and difficult word.

This is a process whereby the kernels of the maize is boiled and soaked in an alkali, traditionally wood ash, but also lye water.

“ Nixtamalized maize has several benefits over unprocessed grain: It is more easily ground, its nutritional value is increased, flavor and aroma are improved, and mycotoxins are reduced by up to 97%–100% (for aflatoxins).[2]” Wikipedia

We decided to use the ash mix, as lye was a bit of a challenge to find here in the sticks. The process is fairly simple. Bring a big pot of water to the boil. Add about as much wood ash as your volume of dried maize kernels. When the mix starts boiling, you add the maize. It’s quite a cool process to watch as the maize changes colour almost immediately. In our case with the red maize it turns almost black.

I then boil this mixture for around an hour and let it stand over night. The next morning one rinses the ash and loose shells off. It takes a bit of time, but the result is just absolutely yummy! We eat the maize as is, like the american dish “hominy”, or grind it up to make tortillas!

Have a look at this link if you’d like to see how it’s done traditionally.

Please feel free to comment with more ideas or any questions you may have. I have loads of scientific articles about Roundup and its effects, but I didn’t want to get too technical here.


Cow Peas

Our deal with our children is they can watch as many movies as they like, as long as they she’ll peas at the same time!


Here are the results:


We planted about one hectare of cow peas this year, and they did quite nicely with all of the rain. We are harvesting enough peas to keep us in bean soups and so on through the winter.

Our boer goats will eat the rest probably next month, before the plants dry too much. It will make a good, high protein green feed before they lamb in July.

We will also combine the peas with our tomato crop and make ‘baked beans’ as a preserve.

Winter. Endings and beginnings..

Our summer garden has come to an end. All of the tomatoes and aubergines, pumpkins and squashes, broccoli and cauliflower have been eaten, preserved or given away.

Some of our boer goat ewes are heavily pregnant and so the task of clearing the leftovers falls to them. Here they are making short work of some cauliflower plants.


It’s now a few weeks since I took that pic. It is now midwinter and they are now eating their way through the lucerne and sericea I baled. The grey is last year’s mulch, and the yellow, this year’s contribution. The goats sort through the bale and eat all of the tasty bits, and spit out the stems and other unpalatable bits. I estimate about a quarter of the bale is turned to mulch, but that is simply a function of the amount of grass growing in the lucerne field when baled.mulchgoats

I will soon start making seedlings again for spring, and hopefully we should be producing abundant tomatoes again before long like last season.


Some new lambs for the new season:


So this completes a cycle where goats, lucerne, vegetables and the by products of all of them, add to the fertility of the soil, the goats, and us humans even get some benefit!

Building a vegetable tunnel

I haven’t posted much lately due to general busyness, but we have baled our lucerne, weaned our lambs and been busy with a number of other projects.

One of which has been building a tunnel over our Tilapia dam before winter arrives and freezes them, and to try and keep our tomatoes going for as long as possible into the winter.

Our winter at 1600m is generally quite temperate during the day, but can drop below zero at night. The fish dam inside the tunnel will provide the thermal mass ro prevent our seedlings freezing overnight.

Some pics (our old seedling greenhouse in the background):




Tying Up Tomatoes


This year we will have our best tomato crop ever! We spent the weekend tying up the plants to lift the fruit off of the ground. We actually left it too late as we managed to break quite a few branches off as they were alreafy too heavy with green tomatoes. I always use sisal string in the garden as it is biodegradable, and next season will be gone. (Rather than plastic string and wire everywhere).

Looking forward to harvesting fresh red tomatoes every day!

These we’re grown as seedlings and then planted out into out thick straw mulch bed. They survived the scorching temperatures over December and January and are now thriving in the recent rain we have had.



The Fruits of Summer

Its now late summer and delicious things are coming out of the garden. I will be using these to make a pasta sauce, just fry them all up with some coconut oil: We have not quite ripe tomatoes (as the monkeys and birds make off with the ripe ones), Jalepeno peppers, sweet peppers, baby squash (called pattipans), black eyed peas and basil. Yum!



Black Eyed Peas

Today we planted a field of Black eyed peas.  Originally I had planned to plant maize for fodder on that field but the Guinea Fowl made short work of the germinating seeds. Guinea fowl are ruthlessly efficient when it comes to eating maize seeds. As soon as the seed germinates and pushes up the first tubular leaf, the bird pulls on the leaf to get the seed out of the ground, they then eat the seed, spit out the leaf and then turn their beady eye on the next sprout. They operate like a seed drill in reverse, walking along the rows and causing havoc! This is what it looks like, plant pulled out, seed eaten, crop ruined.


I had mixed in some black eyed peas with the maize when I planted it, and it also germinate quickly, but with the added advantage that the cursed guinea fowl didn’t eat it. So to save the crop, Sam and I resowed the whole field with the peas. They should germinate in a week and will hopefully provide a nice high protein fodder for the goats.

Black Eyed Peas are also known as Cow Peas and apparently, even after the beans are harvested there is a net nitrogen gain in the soil. Cow peas as a cover crop

Nutritionally they are also very good for humans! Here are some growing in our veggie patch. Cow Pea and Sorghum Biscuits are apparently very nutritious


Sowing is quite straight forward. I had already disced the field over, so it was just a matter of hand broadcasting the seeds (scattering them everywhere). and then discing again and simultaneously dragging the soil with tyres to cover over the seeds. The seeds were bought from a local supermarket as ‘Black Eyed Beans’, a product of Botswana. I would guess that the seeds are all covered between 1 and 5cm deep. Here’s the resultant field.


And the disc harrow and tyres.



Here you can see that a guinea fowl tried to dig out the bean, but failed, the plant survives! Good. I don’t mind sharing, but greedy birds shouldn’t eat everything!


More information

Cultivating Cowpeas