A little bling

This past weekend B and I travelled to Johannesburg. We were there for two reasons. Firstly we wanted to introduce our parents and families to each other, which we did at a lovely dinner at Carvers, and secondly we had to pick up our engagement ring which B had made at a jeweler that his family have used for many years.

So I finally got my ring. Isn’t it pretty?

I have taken a ton of photos of the ring using both of my cameras and am yet to find the right setting/lens to do it justice.  More and more often now I am getting into photographic situations where I learn that I have to read up or attend a course on basic photography. That needs to go onto my “to do” list under “urgent”.  

I would like to share the words B used when we got engaged

A ring, in my opinion, is a symbol not of love or togetherness, but of what gets carried in the heart. This symbol may get scratched, lost or tarnished, but the feeling of commitment, the honesty, the respect that come from the soul and who we are as people needs to shine through more than any glistening diamond.

Thank you my love. (But I also hope that it never gets lost or tarnished  🙂 )

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Farewell Hoedspruit

LeavingThe 29th of August was exactly five years to the day that I arrived in Hoedspruit.  By pure co-incidence, it is also the day that I packed good old Cleo into the car and we left again.  It was bittersweet.  This town has been amazing and the people have become such close friends.  When I was a city dweller I never knew as many folk as I got to know in this wonderful little town.

These five years have been life changing in many ways. I learned to live a simple life. I learned how to live all on my very own, and I learned a huge amount about myself and how I function. I also learned about what i value and what I want from life.

Yet I still leave with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. You see, I am off on a new adventure.

It’s been a while since I last posted and many things have happened. Most importantly I met the man who asked me to marry him last weekend. I said yes.

The result of this is that I move 3 hours away from Hoedspruit to another province called Mpumalanga to the capital city of Nelspruit (Mbombela).  Luckily I am marrying a farmer so we get to live on a farm a short way from the small city and we are also going to be looking to buy our own farm in the area.

I am hoping to blog again on a regular basis about our new adventure and about discovering Mbombela.  Wish me luck!

 

The Bean’s Big Birthday

Today is bittersweet for me. My little girl turns 21 years old.

Happy birthday to you Bean. May life bring you the most wonderful surprises and may you be blessed with love and laughter all the days of your life. You have certainly brought it to mine. I love you.

A special Mother’s Day tribute

When I was 15 my mother died, leaving two angry teenagers to run the home.

When I was 16 my dad remarried a younger woman, who, at the age of 27 had to come into this home and take care of the above mentioned angry teenagers.

Needless to say there were sparks.

Today I pay tribute to a special woman who, after 30 years of being my step-mother has crept into my heart.

Dear Sheila

Thank you for sticking it out. Those early years must have been really hard for you too.

Thank you for your green fingers and for designing and planting about 5 of my gardens.

Thank you for my little sister and brother – they add a sparkle to my life.

Thank you for looking after Dad so well

Thank you for being there through thick and thin.

Happy Mother’s Day

With love

J

Photo pinched from my sister Dale

Painting challenge – Eggs: Update

If you would like to know more about our painting challenge please click here to read about it

 

Below you will see some of the pictures already submitted for our challenge.  Some have done a quick colour study before starting their main painting and others have been submitting progress pictures as the go forward.  Some of these artists have either never painted before or last picked up brushes many, many years ago.

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I would like to encourage those of you who have not started yet to pick up your brushes and get going.  That includes me. I start in earnest tomorrow.

I have also heard via the grape-vine that my Dad MAY just pick up brushes for the first time and try this challenge.  Wow – I would be so thrilled if he does.  Come on Dad!!

Meet Kayla

My first grandbaby, born to my son and his wife.

Isn’t she just the cutest little thing ever 🙂

She was born after a long day of labour (9am – 4.20 am the next day – 17 feb). After all the worry and fuss, she arrived by natural birth and needed no surgery. We are all so very happy that all went well.  Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.

A bit about my boy

I don’t often blog about my son.  It’s not because he is not important, but because we don’t get to see each other often.  He has been out of our home for 5 years and now lives in Johannesburg. Last week we traveled there to attend his wedding.

Photo by Steve Walker

The wedding service was lovely after which we had a delicious breakfast at tables set out under some shady trees surrounded by beautiful gardens and a pond with ducks.  It was really special.

A Mother’s Song

 by Anthony W. Carter

 Tying little shoe laces
Wiping off dirty faces
Are just a couple of things
That a mother will do…

Mending a broken heart
Is only just a part
Of the care and the love
That I’ve given you…

With a Kool-aid smile
And a sparkle in your eyes
I wrap you in my arms
And whisper this advice…

Be strong, be kind
Be patient and in time
You’ll find out, my son
What true love is all about

Be faithful and be true
Show love in all you do
Then you’ll know, just how
You make your mother proud

Now, little boy days have passed
And you’ve grown up so fast
But in my heart
That little boy will never be far…

So on this blessed day
There’s so much I want to say
But above all, I thank God
For the man that you are…

With a tender smile
And a twinkle in your eyes
I wrap you in my arms
And whisper this advice…

Be strong, be kind
Be patient and in time
You’ll find out, my son
What true love is all about

Be faithful and be true
Show love in all you do
Then you’ll know, just how
You make your mother proud

You’ve made your mother so proud…

Update from the middle of nowhere

School is finally over for the Bean after a month of exams. It’s been a long hard year for her and I am so glad that I was able to stop working at the fruit packhouse to give us more time at home to get the school year done. Now it’s the nerve-wracking wait for her final results at the end of December.  Hopefully she will be off to university in Pretoria next year.

We are now holed up on the farm – only venturing in to town when we run out of supplies or for a few social occasions – this is how I want it to be. Things are really starting to come together for me now.  Bookings are rolling in for Jackal’s Den, I am busy on the farm from sunrise to sunset, loving every moment, and I have orders for paintings lined up well into next year.

With regards to the patio, the retaining wall is built

and the floor now filled in with rocks and soil

All I need now are the creepers which I hope to buy next week and then I will be making paving blocks to cover the floor area soon. I am also going to plant some lawn around this area to green it up a bit.  It’s been so much fun doing this project.

The Bean’s roof is still not done.  A job that was supposed to take 5 days is now on 21 days. Hopefully it will be finished by Friday when we leave for Johannesburg to visit our family and attend my sons wedding.

This is my current painting project which I am painting for a commissioned order. Still a long way to go on this too.

and finally here is a picture of our baby Savannah.

She has settled in very well. Cleo and Savannah have a strange relationship – sneaking up on each other when they think no one is watching to get a good sniff. So far there have been no fights or dramatic chase scenes – rather they respect each others boundaries mostly and give each other a wide berth (although this seems to be narrowing as they get used to each other).  Savannah, although very loving, is wild in the sense that she is very nocturnal. Much more so than Fred was. She sleeps solidly all day waking as the sun sets and then she is off out into the bush for the night. She eats at home but still catches mice and squirrels most evenings. We even got a bat as a present last week. She does not like being inside and only ventures in if there is a rain storm. Otherwise her favorite daytime haunt is our veranda where she has set up a type of nest in some hessian on a little wall where she sleeps.

While we are away for the next two weeks some friends of ours will be living at Jackal’s Den, having a well deserved break and feeding Savannah.  I hope Cleo will be able to travel with us as she won’t really cope well away from me, although I still need to clear this with my family where we are staying.  I hope she will be able to come but if she can’t my friends are the best folk to look after her.

I will be back in two weeks. Happy blogging 🙂

African cats and our new friend Savannah.

All of you will know about the big cats found in our area as they are popular animals to search for when on safari.  Lion, cheetah and leopard are wonderful finds when looking for animals in our surrounding game reserves.

Of the three, lion and cheetah are found in game reserves only and do not wander about freely in South Africa. Leopard are still found outside of reserves and are often treated as the enemy by farmers when their cattle, sheep and chicken are eaten by wandering leopard. There have been sightings of leopard on our farm although I have only seen their spoor.

Lesser known cats are fantastic to sight on safari. There are 7 species of wild cats found in South Africa. Four of these are the smaller cats. These cats are found widely across the country outside of game reserves. Most are nocturnal and are difficult to spot so when one does, it is like an extra special treat. They are the caracal, serval, African wildcat and the black-footed cat.  We have spotted the caracal and serval on our game farm.

A big problem in our area is of domesticated cats interbreeding with the wild cats especially the African wildcat. For this reason, housing estates in the bush usually have rules not allowing residents to keep pet domestic cats.  Hoedspruit however does have a problem with stray domestic cats as do most other cities and towns in the world.  We have an active group in town who catch stray cats and spay and neuter them before releasing them again.  This helps stop the interbreeding.  I have found a few spots in town when stray cats seem to hang out. One spot is at one of our local shopping centers.

This week when I came out of the shop I saw a beautiful kitten lying next to a pillar asking for tickles from all the passers-by.  As a cat lover I could not resist so I spent a few minutes with her tickling and talking to her.  When I got to my car I looked down and she had followed me across the parking lot.  I picked her up and showed her to Cleo (our dog) who was waiting with the Bean at the car.  The cat and Cleo just ignored each other. I looked at the Bean and she looked at me and we both knew that this kitten now had a new home.  I went back into the shopping center to check if anyone knew who the cat belonged to or if it was one of the strays.  They said it was a stray and that we were welcome to take her home.

Our new member of the family has settled in well. She is a small cat – I am not sure if she is still young or is naturally small boned. The more I watched her wander about, the more I thought that she had a slightly strange build and manner of walking, and then I remembered about the interbreeding with wild cats.  After looking up more information I am convinced that we have a tame African wildcat on our hands. Whether she has domestic cat blood in her veins is still unclear although probable. She has been spayed and I assume it was done by our local cat charity. We have named her Savannah Lybica.

This is a picture of an African wildcat.

DISTRIBUTION

The African Wildcat is widespread in Africa,  found also in the Middle East, but excluding the Sahara and rainforests.

HISTORY

African Wildcats diverged from the other Wildcat subspecies about 131,000 years ago. Some individuals were first domesticated about 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, which are the ancestors of the domestic cat. Remains of domesticated wildcats have been included in human burials as far back as 9,500 years ago in Cyprus.

SUBSPECIES of WILDCAT

  • Felis silvestris lybica – African Wildcat
  • Felis silvestris silvestris – European Wildcat
  • Felis silvestris ornata – Asiatic Wildcat

SIZE

The African Wildcat is a subspecies of the Wildcat (Felis silvestris) and is similar in size to domestic cats. In fact the African Wildcat is the ancestor of domestic cats.

NAME

The African Wildcat is also known as the Desert Cat, African Desert Cat or simply Wildcat. In Afrikaans (South Africa) vaalboskat means grey bush cat.

IDENTIFICATION

The African Wildcat looks similar to a short-haired domestic tabby cat, but has reddish colouring on the back of the ears, over its abdomen and on the back of its hind legs.

In investigating the features of the wild cat I see that Savannah has most of them.

  • Due to the diversity of habitats where this cat occurs, there is a wide variation in colour. In the drier habitats and in the grasslands the colouring is shades of light brown, whereas in the wetter, forested areas, the colouring is grayer and darker.
  • The coat has faint vertical stripes on the body, with dark rings on the legs as well as on the black-tipped tail.
  • The chin and throat are white and the chest is usually paler than rest of body.
  • There is a distinctive reddish colouring on the belly, backs of the ears and hind legs.
  • The feet are jet black underneath.
The following pictures are of Savannah.
If anyone has more knowledge of these cats I would love to hear their opinion.
A blogger friend, Lisa, from ‘Notes from Africa’ was lucky enough to spot these cats in the wild and photograph them on one of her trips to the Kalagadi Transfrontier Park. She wrote about her experience which you can read here.  Her photos are really beautiful and the cats are so much like Savannah, especially the kitten. Please take a look at her post and tell me if you think Savannah Lybica is an African wildcat.

Trouble in paradise….

The Bean is currently writing her final school exams so our stress levels are a little high here in paradise.  Last week she came to show me a spot on her leg where she had found a tick.  We have been watching the bite site closely as a blue-black spot in the middle of the site is indicative of tick bite fever.  

Male tick size comparison to a match.

Image via Wikipedia

Today when I collected her from school after she wrote an exam she was walking with a slight limp and told me her leg muscles were a bit achy.  I asked her to show me her bite and the tell-tale blue-black mark had appeared.  We went directly to our local GP who said after an examination that her one lymph node was already inflamed and that it is almost guaranteed that she has tick bite fever albeit in the very early stages.  He prescribed antibiotics and pain killers for her which we started right away.

I am so worried that this will affect her studies and exams as she is trying really hard for good marks to get into university. I hope that because we have caught it early we will be able to keep her symptoms to a minimum.

Here is a little more information on the disease for those of you who may be interested. 

(summarised from an article on Health24.co.za)

Tick bite fever

What is tick bite fever?

Tick bite fever (rickettsia) is caused by a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. This condition occurs in many areas of the world and is often known by a variety of names (see table below).

What causes tick bite fever?

The organism that causes tick bite fever belongs to the Rickettsial family of bacteria. As can be seen from the table, there are a number of different species of Rickettsias.

These organisms are relatively small and are only able to survive inside cells. They are found in certain wild and domestic animals, and ticks acquire the organisms when they feed on these animals.

When the tick bites a human, the bacterium is transmitted in the saliva. 

In various parts of the world, different species of tick and Rickettsia are involved in causing tick-bite fever, and these forms of the disease are also given different names.

Infection Organism Location Other names
Rocky Mountain spotted fever R. ricketsii USA  
Boutonneuse R. conorii Africa, Meditteranean, India Marseilles fever, Mediterranean spotted fever, African tick bite fever.
Queensland tick typhus R.australis Australia  
North Asian tick typhus R. sibirica Siberia, Mongolia  

In South Africa, the cause of tick bite fever is either R. conorii , or R. africae.

How do you get tick bite fever?

The organisms are transmitted in the saliva of an infected tick when it bites humans. Being bitten by ticks usually occurs in rural or wilderness areas i.e. when you are out camping, hiking in long grass etc. 

Symptoms and signs of tick bite fever

If you get bitten by an infected tick, the incubation period (the period between being infected and displaying symptoms) is about five to seven days. Symptoms can vary, depending partly on the organism involved. Your age and underlying health may also influence the severity of the infection.

Typical features may include the presence of a black mark where the bite occurred, and fever, severe headache and a rash. The black mark at the site of the tick bite is called an eschar . It may look something like a spider bite. The eschars can be single or multiple and can sometimes be very difficult to find. The eschar usually appears once the fever appears, as does the headache and malaise (general feeling of ill-health). Lymph nodes near the eschar may be enlarged.

A rash is usually, but not always, a feature of tick bite fever (it is supposedly less likely to occur in someone infected by R. africae), but when it is present, it consists of small red marks on the skin, sometimes raised slightly above the surface. It typically starts on the limbs and spreads to the trunk, and can involve the entire body, including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

What is the outcome of tick bite fever?

African tick bite fever is usually mild, and death and serious complications are very uncommon. This is in contrast to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is usually a more severe illness. 

The presence of the rash and an eschar is a very strong diagnostic sign for tick bite fever. 

How is tick bite fever treated?

Some forms of tick bite fever are fairly mild and self-limiting – people may get better on their own without specific treatment. This can take up to two weeks however, and treatment with an antibiotic can shorten the duration of symptoms and reduce the chance of a serious side-effect. 

Can tick bite fever be prevented?

The easiest may to prevent tick bite fever is to avoid being bitten by ticks. Avoiding rural or wilderness areas where ticks are likely to occur is one way to achieve this, but not a great solution if you enjoy hiking and camping. Other measures are generally common-sense, such as wearing insect repellents and long trousers and sleeves. There is no vaccine against tick bite fever, and taking prophylactic antibiotics (as one does for malaria) has never been shown to be effective or necessary.