Art group activities

This week the group learned how to paint on foil. Although I didn’t participate in the group activity I found it very interesting to watch the pictures develop. Again, I was very surprised at the results. The foil gives the paint a metallic touch. I was surprised that acrylic paint would even stick to foil.  Here are a few examples of the results.





I did a small amount of work on my hornbill with oil paints.  After working with quick drying acrylic it’s rather frustrating to have to wait a week every time I need to add a new layer, however, it’s a slow life I have chosen so I must learn to be patient.

I don’t think I have too much more to do other than some white feathery layers on his head and chest. After doing all I could do on the hornbill for the evening I started a new acrylic just for fun.

I did not draw at all and just started with paint at the top of the canvas and worked my way down.  All I need to do on it now is add a tree or two and some finer detail in the foreground.  Quick and easy.

A few other acrylic paintings were worked on too. Both Mark and Wendy are busy with interesting subjects (see below)



After class as I was carrying both my wet paintings I tripped over a rock in the pitch dark and fell flat on my face. Now I have some sand detail on the paintings to deal with next week.

Barter and trade seem to be working their way into the group.  A few weeks ago, Thelma bartered for one of my paintings – and I got a foot massage and pedicure voucher for my efforts – a fair trade indeed.  This week, Angela traded a bottle of wine for Thelma’s foil artwork.

Taking stock

My food gardens are starting to take shape.  This weekend I managed to barter for a banana tree and some paw-paw trees which will be delivered to me this week.

I also added some wild garlic, chillies, a gooseberry bush, feverfew, mint, a new rosemary bush (I drowned my last one)

I rescued this chilli bush from a nursery where it was being eaten badly by bugs. I hope its happier here.

Got this Aloe from a good friend – will use it for Aloe vera

Wild basil looking good

A gifted sprig of mint is thriving in its new home.

Parsley, chives and oreganum doing well

Gooseberry planted in its new home

Feverfew – I still have to experiment with this herb

New wild garlic – I have had this plant in may homes before but never used it for eating – I am going to give it a try.

And finally – a now Fred proofed raised bed

with new seeds peeping through.  Planted here are, tomatoes, cucumbers, rocket, beetroot, more chives, radishes, baby marrows, and probably some others that I can’t remember.

What do you have growing now?


Getting ready to grow.

About 20 meters behind our main cottage is a strange-looking circular  structure built out of stone.  It looks like a round cottage without windows or a roof.  This is what is commonly called a boma here in South Africa.

A boma used to be built as an enclosure for livestock to keep them safe from the wild animals.  Traditionally it was built out of branches of thorn trees.  Nowadays, most homes in our area have bomas for a completely different purpose – it is an entertainment and braai (BBQ) area closed off from the bush for safety (in area’s with dangerous animals) and protection from the wind.  Our boma is built-in a really peculiar place – its way out behind the house where all my braaing and the pool and entertainment area is in front of the main cottage.  I decided that I would convert it into something else. My first thought was to put a roof on it and use it as a store-room or a cheese factory, however, I have finally decided to use it as an enclosure to protect my veggie garden.

If I planted my veggies in the open they would all be eaten up over night by buck, porcupines, warthogs and baboons, so I need to enclose the patch.  Also, because of the heat here, it’s better to cover your veggie patch with some shade cloth.  Plans are now afoot to get my veggie patch going and the next step is to erect a cage and shade cloth over the roof area

and then lay out and prepare raised beds ready for winter when I will grow most of my veggies.

I am playing around with different layouts right now and have the assistance of a real life veggie farmer who will be helping me.

I have traded a whole pile of old fence posts with this farmer for his help.

Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed. ~ William Blake

Last night I started a new painting.  It’s going to be one of those that takes a while.  A few firsts for me on this picture:

  • The picture is commissioned (the last commissioned painting I did was when I was 12)
  • I did not choose the subject
  • It’s my first nude, semi naked painting

I am working from a normal coloured photo but am trying to paint in sepia tones so last night I made the colours up as I went along.  Today I took the photo and changed it on my computer to sepia.  I think I will be reworking the colours I have used here.  Hopefully there will be a big change when you see it next.

Marula Jelly

As promised here is the recipe for Marula Jelly that I made this weekend.

Marula jelly is routinely served with any type of venison, but can be used with all types of meat.  It is delicious with cheese and biscuits or just on a slice of toast for breakfast.  It has a subtle flavour slightly reminiscent of honey.

  • Collect your marula fruit, wash them and cut or pierce the skins. Place in a large pot and cover the fruit with water and boil for 15-20 minutes.  Tip: It’s good to include some green fruit as they contain more pectin.

  • Strain the contents of the pot through a cloth (muslin or cheesecloth are good but I guess any type of clean cloth would do) and retain the water/juice

At this stage the juice looks just like fresh orange juice.

  • Wash out your pot, measure your juice and pour it back into the clean pot.
  • Add white sugar – volume for volume ie: 1 cup juice – 1 cup sugar
  • Heat gently while stirring to melt the sugar

  • Add the juice of 1 lemon per liter of juice
  • Boil rapidly for about 20 minutes or until gelling temperature has been reached (check by placing a drop or two onto a cold saucer, allowing to cool and then pushing it with your finger to see if it wrinkles)  I found I needed to boil for another 20 mins as I had a large pot of juice.  Tip:  Make sure you have enough space in the pot as the jam bubbles up very easily and you need to keep it bubbling ( I lost at least 1 bottle to “overflow”)
  • Bottle the jelly in sterilised bottles ( I boil mine)
  • Water-bath your bottles if this is your routine when making jams ( I don’t)
  • Allow to cool, label and store in a cool place until opening
  • Store open bottles in the refrigerator

I used about 5kg of fruit and this made 8 small bottles of jelly.

Less food for more food

My trip down the “slow and sustainable living” pathway is going really slowly, which, in itself,  is probably good because I am learning to do things at a slower pace, however, I am getting impatient with regards to the food side of things. I want to be able to produce as much of my own food as possible. My plans for my veggie garden are in place and should be up and running by winter time as most veggies in our region are grown in winter.  I also have plans to build a chicken coop and plant some fruit trees.

My” little” job with a matching ” little”  salary has forced me to pace myself and do things slowly as I can only do what I can afford to with minimal savings.  In an effort to speed things up and get cracking (see me trying to up the pace again – this slow thing is really hard :)) I need to allocate more funds towards my food production. A large portion of my salary buys food and normally one just jots that down as essential and moves on to look for other areas where one can save.  As the rest of my budget is really tight I decided to see where I can make savings on buying food. I need to spend less on food in order to grow my own food.

Once I put my food glasses on and started to look at our buying, eating and cooking habits, as well as doing a little research I discovered some interesting facts.

Worldwide, from the farm to the table, we throw away about 50% of our food.  If we don’t grow our own food, not all of this waste is under our control, as much is thrown away at farm, market and store level. At those levels I will only be able to make the savings once I produce my own. However, we do waste quite a bit of food at home.

People who practice  “sustainable living” often talk about how their waste goes onto the compost heap and back into the food they grow and so doing make savings that way.  This does not help me right now though because I am not growing my food yet (although I do need to get a compost heap going). So how can I make savings now – before I produce my own food.

When one thinks about recycling which I discussed in this post, we sometimes only concentrate on glass, cardboard, and metal items but the same principles of reduce, reuse and recycle also apply to food.

  1. Reduce – buy only essential food items,  shop around for lower prices, eat out less often, limit junk foods and unhealthy snacks. Buy fruit and vegetables from local farmers.
  2. Reuse – save leftovers, freeze portions that can be eaten as another meal and use the parts of fruit and vegetables that you normally throw away (ie: celery leaves for soups and stews, pineapple skins to make your own vinegar, potato peels for a crispy snack (fried), bones to make your own stock etc)
  3. Recycle – compost only what you can’t eat using a compost heap and/or vermiculture (composting worms) for fertiliser and compost.

I think the areas where we can save most right now in our home are:

  • freeze left overs instead of popping them into the fridge where they eventually grow jerseys and get tossed out
  • find novel ways of using left overs (the same meal for 4 days in a row becomes a little tired)
  • buy fewer “easy foods” for quick lunches and dinners
  • make our own snack foods ie: biscuits, humus, crisps etc.

By following only these 4 points I should be able to save 30% of my monthly food budget.  That’s a huge saving.

Last night I made a pie using left over beef stroganof from the weekend as a filler.


It tasted delicious, even better than the original meal, and it will last us a few days too.  It looks rather rustic but then that’s how we live – rustically.

Now all I have to do is use my incredible selling skills on the Bean to get her buy-in regarding the snack foods. Wish me luck…..

Homemade gifts

This year I decided to give homemade gifts to my family for Christmas.  My reasoning was not purely from a financial perspective but also from a green/recycling angle as well as how much fun and love goes into making things for loved ones.  I have been dying to show you what we made but had to wait till everyone had their gifts.

The Bean and I made some homemade tomato and basil jam which we wrapped up – a bottle for everyone.

We  gave each of the girls a homemade recycled handbag made from old curtains.  These were made for us by my colleague Charlie – a trade and barter deal.

and for my dad I painted this painting

I think this has been the most rewarding Christmas ever – I so enjoyed preparing the gifts.

Did you make any of your gifts?  I would love to hear about them.

Edit:   There is a great recipe for a homemade scented hand scrub in the comments of this post. Thanks Greg.

I love going shopping in Belgium..

well, my version of shopping in Belgium anyway.

When we moved to Hoedspruit from Belgium we stored our furniture and boxes in an old farm-house on the game farm where I was purchasing my piece of the farm.  For a few months we lived in a caravan and then in a small tented house on the farm.  During this period I was not working yet, so most of my time was spent in the bush and it was very, very hot so I dressed accordingly, mainly in T-shirts and shorts.  The way I dress here is very different to the way I dressed in my corporate Belgian life so my boxes of clothes pretty much remained all boxed up in the farm-house and I started a small collection of more casual clothes.

Because of my choice to live more frugally, I very rarely purchase any clothes and my wardrobe is small.  I used to love clothes shopping when I was richer but I have found now that I get so much more pleasure out of the small gifts of clothing I get occasionally from friends and family.  My sister brought a big bag of skinny clothes for me when she came to visit as I had lost 9kg’s after my relationship broke up.  It was like Christmas for me, firstly to have so many new clothes and secondly because my sister has always had such lovely taste in clothes.  I am pathetic at buying clothes that suit me and my dress sense is not good. This way I have some really nice garments without going through the angst.

The Bean and I have now found a great past time which we call “going shopping in Belgium”.  About once every two months we go to the old farm-house and go through our old clothes from overseas and fish out an item or two that we can still use.  It is great fun and brings back so many memories from our old life. It also saves me a fortune.

The next logical step for me is to get a sewing machine so that I can start altering our other Belgian clothes that are now just too big for me and too small for the Bean. I think I may just cut some up and start making new garments with the material.  I will also use some to trade and barter with friends here.

It still amazes me how my mind-set has changed and how comfortable I am with the choices I have made.  If you had told me a few years ago that I would be using recycled clothes and living a frugal life I would most probably have laughed in your face.


Fixing an old home with old things…. my way of recycling

When I think of my home, I see a very long to-do list.  It’s a really old place with very many things that need to get fixed, changed, built, painted and planted.  I want to use second-hand (or older) products to do these things where ever I can – firstly to save money and secondly to recycle products that would normally be thrown away.  I know that there will be times where I will have to buy some things to complete tasks and I won’t beat myself up about them, as long as I can stick with my principles for the majority of things.

This last weekend I made good use of my parents being with me and we got quite a few things done. My dad replaced two very old broken light switches (with new ones) for me.  I can now use my bedside light properly and my veranda light can be switched on.  There was just a black hole to put your finger in if you would have tried that last week.  Not a good idea.

While we were at the hardware store I looked very lovingly at new hose pipes.  I really need to be able to water the area where I want some lawn before I even think about planting any. I did however have a few shorter old bits at home which we decided to join and try out.  It looks really bitty with about 10 joins in it but I now have a hose pipe that is about 30 meters long and works reasonably well.  The few leaks get positioned to water plants en route. Even the joins are made with different bits and pieces – it’s rather colourful actually.

We also started a mini herb garden –  I now have basil, rosemary, chives, origanum, lemon grass and parsley planted.  They are not planted where I eventually will have my herb garden because a lot more needs to be done there before I can plant.  This way I can get some herbs now – while I slowly prepare my veggie patch.  I just hope they don’t get eaten by passing animals.

It still looks a little sparse – I will be adding to it when I can.  We also built/laid pathways to the guest cottage and to the Beans cottage so that one can walk to the main cottage without getting thorny dirty feet – especially if it ever rains when it rains.  The pathways are made from old railway sleepers which I got for free and big flat rocks that we went in search of on the property.

You can see how incredibly dry it is here now. We look to the sky many times a day in search of rain clouds. According to those in the know, it should rain by the 10 October. That’s a long wait when things are so very hot and dry.

We cleared this area of some rubble and rocks too – it was good exercise. My wheel barrow is about 95 years old and is full of holes. I think it might die soon.

I want to plant grass in the area around the pathways and I am already one step closer by having my long hose now so that I can water the lawn.  I need to get something to cut the lawn with though.  I mentioned to the folk at work that I wanted one of those old roller lawn cutters that don’t require fuel or electricity and they all burst out laughing at me. They think I am very funny and old-fashioned. Ah well. I will find something.  I think some animals will help keep the lawn short but I am not sure to what extent?

Thanks so much to my parents who worked so hard (and bought me some plants).  We had a grand weekend!

Woman’s day in S.A.

On August the 9th every year South Africa celebrates Woman’s day.  After spending some years away from the country I have found that I now question some things that I used to take for granted – like why we didn’t celebrate womans day in Europe?  With the help of Wikipedia I found the following information:

National Women’s Day is an annual public holiday in South Africa on August 9. This commemorates the national march of women on this day in 1956 to petition against legislation that required African persons to carry the “pass”, special identification documents which curtailed an African’s freedom of movement during the apartheid era.

On 9 August 1956, 20 000 women staged a march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act (commonly known as the pass laws) of 1950. They left bundles of petitions containing more than 100 000 signatures at prime minister J.G. Strijdom’s office doors. Outside they stood silently for 30 minutes, many with their children on their backs. Those who were working for Whites as nannies were carrying their white charges with them. The women sang a protest song that was composed in honour of the occasion: Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.). In the 54 years since, the phrase (or its latest incarnation: “you strike a woman, you strike a rock“) has come to represent women’s courage and strength in South Africa.

Now I may be generalizing, but I think most white women in South Africa don’t know this – I didn’t.  Maybe it’s just me – I have never paid much interest in politics or public holidays – as long as I could get a day off work or school I was happy (really fickle).  When I read up on some of these things I embarrass myself when I realise how ignorant one can be about things around you.

I believe some other countries also celebrate Woman’s day in March – obviously for a different reason. Anyone know what that reason is?

I  celebrated this Woman’s day by spending 3 days in the bush in the company of 5 fantastic, strong girls/women.

We laughed and ate so much – it was awesome.

{photo’s courtesy of Daliah}