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  🙂 )

How big is your baby?

Spring time is a time of rebirth and renewal and much focus is given to cute bouncing bundles of joy like this one

 

and in our area, babies like these…

(picture of a local postcard)

 

Yesterday I was out looking at other babies.  Subtropical fruit babies.

This is an avocado pear

 

and some baby mangoes

 a litchi

and some oranges (not on the farm we live on)

So here is what I am pondering…………

All of the above fruit trees blossom and start bearing fruit around the same time (spring)

We will be eating the mangoes and litchis by the end of this year  (3-4 months to mature ripe fruit depending on cultivar) yet the avocados and oranges will only be ripe and ready in 6-11 months time (winter fruit for us).

Why would some fruit be able to ripen and mature so fast and others take so long?

Not so Nutty.

In front of Tiny House there is a pecan nut orchard.  When I got here at the beginning of the month they looked like this

and today they look like this

I just love watch everything come to life in springtime.

Today I realized that I know very little about them so I asked B lots of questions as he showed me around the trees.  On the dryer trees I spotted clusters of growth quite high up like the picture below.

These clumps of growth are mistletoe.  I didn’t even know that we had mistletoe in this country and really have only seen plastic kissy ones at Christmas time.  These unfortunately are not so friendly and are semi-parasitic weeds which cause loss of nut yield and make the tree sickly. Mistletoe has to be cut out of the trees.

The trees will flower near the end of spring and then as the flower wilts the nut begins to grow.  It is not a true nut but actually a “drupe”.

(picture of pecan from Wikipedia)

Health benefits of Pecans

  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Antioxidants present protect against cancer and infections
  • Pecan nuts are rich source of vitamin E and are therefore great for skin health
  • The nuts are very rich sources of several important B-complex groups of vitamins
  • The nuts are also rich source of minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.

I will definitely be making pecan nut pie soon and I also enjoy putting them in my banana bread and salads. Do you have any favorite pecan nut recipes to share?

Farm fresh veggies!!

One week in and I have found a source of fabulous farm fresh vegetables and fruit.  The system is run by a lass called Chene and she drops off your bag weekly. You can also order farm fresh duck and duck fat from her.  

This is what I got for R60!

I am now on the hunt for a source of good grass fed meat and farm milk.

Toasted!

This is a long and complex story (with apologies to my friend Nes who has heard it all).

I owned a lovely silver toaster when I met B.  He owned an old TV toaster grill thingy that was falling apart.  He moved from Howick (7 hours away from me) to Hazyview (2 hours away from me) which was fabulous but his toaster disintegrated. Luckily, the lady who was handing him her house felt sorry for him and donated her wonderful shiny silver toaster to him.  Sadly things didn’t work out well in Hazyview and the decision was made that B would move up to Hoedspruit and in with me while he looked for another job.  We were now going to have two toasters! 

During this time my shiny silver toaster started playing up and I had to hold the handle down to toast any bread which was a bit of an issue.  B said “oh really don’t worry, I am going to be there soon with my toaster so throw yours out.”  So I said good bye to mine and looked forward to B arriving with his.

The day arrived when all his boxes were delivered which we piled into one cottage with all of his furniture.  We searched and searched but we could not find his toaster.  The box he had packed it in must have been right at the bottom of the heap. So for a year we were grilling bread in the oven or in a pan while we bemoaned the fact that we couldn’t find our toaster.

As soon as B moved again to Nelspruit where he found a great job, we were sure we would unearth the box that held the precious cargo.  I unpacked boxes for three days and I never found the phantom  toaster. 

On Sunday the enormous decision was taken to finally purchase a new toaster (hurrah!).  I was happy to get a small plastic one but B decided after all our pains that I deserved a really fancy expensive one.

As soon as we got home I celebrated by making some lovely soup and decided to warm some buns on the top of the new machine which I promptly set on fire.

Really on fire.

 Blackened.

 I think I am cursed!

Rest

One of my friends here in Hoedspruit, Sarah, is involved with two charities mainly working with impoverished communities and children. Last week she was introduced to the Khutsong Center in Acornhoek  – just down the main road from our town.

Khutsong means “rest” in one of our local languages, and the Khutsong Center is just that – a place for 13 elderly people from rural villages to rest for their last days. It’s an incredibly poor project with a ramshackle hut that houses the eleven women and two men who are being taken care of. One of the aged is disabled and many are bedridden.

This is what Sarah says “……….. their gentle smiles have really tugged at my heart, and I would love to be able to make them feel, just for one day,on Christmas, that the world has not forgotten them………………………”

So what we are going to do is put together thirteen Christmas hampers for these wonderful old folk.  We need to include basic items such as tooth brushes and toothpaste and soap, a facecloth, some Vaseline, a blanket, something nice to make them feel good like a scarf or clothing item and then a few treats like biscuits and crisps.

If you would like to contribute in any way we would really appreciate your help.

Please contact Sarah at sarahdawnbergs@gmail.com if you can assist with any of the items.  Financial contributions can be made to  :

Paypal donations can be sent to nourish.org.za@gmail.com

OR

Bank details : nourish NPO, First National Bank,  account 62321718324, Hatfield branch number 252145. Reference OLD AGE ( and ur name ) or email a proof of payment to sarahdawnbergs@gmail.com

Photo’s courtesy of Sarah Bergs.

I will write another post on this center when we go to hand these folk their Christmas hampers. I can’t wait to see their faces!

Onion Harvest

Onions have turned out to be the most complicated of all my crops this season. It took many questions and a handy book from my farmer friend (and now boyfriend 🙂 )

Finally after 8 long months of growing, I have harvested my onions.  I did pick and eat quite a few through the season as onions can be eaten at any time during their growing cycle.

One has to wait for 70% of your crops leaves to fall over, then bend over the remaining leaves and leave the bulbs in place in the soil for 7-10 days to go dormant.  During these 7-10 days you may not water them and it must not rain (ha – try explaining that to my weather). You then pull them and leave them in full sun for one day and then outside in a warm, shaded, dry area for another week or so.  Then you can plait them and store them in a dark dry area for many months.

It seems some of mine have gone dormant well but those with thick stems have not dried out yet.  I think they might end up getting chopped and frozen.

I must say that I have been very impressed with the size of some of them.

 

Farm news, pickled eggs and vinegar

As South Africa goes through the throws of a bitterly cold patch with a first-time-ever of snow in all nine provinces, I continue to harvest from my garden in sunshine. Incredible.

The girls however have decided that they want babies and all but Ethel have stopped laying. Ethel, my midget chicken, lays one tiny egg a day and the other three pile onto it to try to hatch it. So all three end up on top of each other on top of the tiny egg.

I wonder how long being broody lasts?

Despite the go-slow on egg production I have ended up having a few too many eggs as I have not been eating them, so I needed to make something.  I am currently reading about, and learning, how to preserve foods, I decided to try pickling them.  I had never eaten a pickled egg until last year when I gave it a try and I was surprisingly pleased with the taste.  On investigation the recipes around are diverse and it seems anything goes as long as you include eggs and vinegar – so one can experiment with your own flavours.

Because my farm eggs are tiny I was able to fit twelve eggs into a large-ish size canning jar.

Hard boil the eggs and while they are boiling, boil up a cup or two of vinegar with some pickling spices and add whatever flavours you like. (Don’t forget some salt)

I used curry powder and turmeric (for  yellow eggs) and a teaspoon or two of sugar just for that slightly sweet taste.  I used my homemade pineapple vinegar which I think will be complimented by the curry flavour.

Chop up an onion (if you like) and put it in the bottom of your clean bottle and then pack in the peeled hard-boiled eggs.  Cool your vinegar mix and pour this over your eggs. You can dilute your vinegar down with some water if you don’t like very vinegary pickles.

Store in the fridge for a week before you start eating them.  They can be stored in your refrigerator in this way for months. My next batch I will make red by adding a beetroot to the mix.  Delicious!

During the process of pickling the eggs I used up all my homemade pineapple vinegar so I quickly started a new batch of vinegar – apple this time.

You will need an apple (or just apple peels and core), some non-chlorinated water, a clean bottle and a bit of sugar. (For pineapple vinegar just use your scraps and peels)

Chop up the apple into chunks,

Place them in the bottle and cover with a tablespoon of sugar.

Fill to the top with water and cover with a piece of cloth and an elastic band (or string)

Leave to ferment outside of the fridge for a few weeks. (Don’t let it get too cold or else your living culture will die)

You will be able to smell when it first turns to wine and then to vinegar. Once the vinegar reaches the acidity and taste you enjoy strain it and bottle.

And finally, I eventually got a good photo showing you how Cleo ignores the giraffes around here.  It never ceases to amaze me how she pretends they do not exist.

Piccadilly’s

A new road side stall called Piccadilly has opened up near Hoedspruit.  It is really worth a visit if you are driving out towards Lydenberg or just to the reptile park.  I often find it difficult finding small gifts for birthdays and Piccadilly has so many wonderful gifts and ideas.  Elsa, the owner, also sources fresh vegetables from local farms and has a few basics like cold drinks and other groceries available.

I walked away with some very fresh farm potatoes, green beans and onions and some wonderful pictures of the stall.

Piccadilly is located on the Orpen road just off the R527 near the reptile park, and just outside the entrance of Zulaika Country House.  Please pop by and show your support of our local businesses.

Heads up

Some of you may remember that I was rather stressed about my brassicas not performing in the vegetable bed.  They were growing very well but not making heads.  Around that time I made a new friend who is a veggie farmer who kept on urging me to just wait.  I read up about them and decided that I would have to pull them all up and start again.  I was again urged to just wait.

My new friend came to visit me recently, and walked into my veggie garden and yanked a complete broccoli plant out of the ground.  I nearly hit him over the head!

He showed me where I had J-rooted the plant but kindly (and probably because he saw my face) replanted the plant in the same spot.  I did not hold out much hope for it though.

Well today I can announce that my brassicas all have heads and I will be getting some cauliflowers, broccoli and cabbage.  Yay!

Some pictures from the beds

As you can see – I am loving my new camera.  So many new things in my life right now.  This is good. 🙂