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?

Honey hunny

While I was away at the iNyoka Gallery opening B gave me a call to see how things were going and mentioned that he had a present for me. Now that in itself is quite unusual (not in a nasty way) as we are not big gift givers and tend to stick to birthdays for that kind of thing.  My mind rushed in two different directions.  Firstly a few flashbacks to hideous gifts I have received from beaus in the past like garish plastic gold earrings when I don’t ever wear gold, or a dress two sizes too big or a kitchen pot 🙂 Then secondly I got really excited because I am a girl after all and I LOVE surprises and thoughtful gifts.

By the time I got home he seemed to have forgotten though so I just kept quiet hoping that something would just pop up.

On opening the fridge to prepare dinner I spotted a large tub of margarine. Now I really can’t stand margarine and believe in the goodness of butter and had thought that I had brainwashed  trained B enough to get him off the darn stuff.  I opened my big mouth and started my “margarine is plastic” speech when he gently told me that the tub was my gift.  What???  Really??  I gingerly opened the tub hoping against hope that it did not contain margarine.

Surprise surprise guess what I got!  This man is so precious and knows me so well!

Organic litchi honey from the litchi orchards from one of the farms. Still in the comb.

Now most of you who follow my blog will know this is such a “me” gift.

I have spotted quite a few bee boxes on the farm that we stay on and B told me that one of the farm managers is very interested in bee keeping and that they have very many hives which they use on the farms.  Currently, they still have to bring in extra bees for all the pollination of 350 hectares of avocados and also about 100 hectares of litchis but they hope to eventually have enough of their own.

Because they are still splitting hives and multiplying their bees they do not harvest much honey at all so I was really lucky to get a bit.

Also, attached to this gift, was the promise of me going to learn how to split hives and do some beekeeping which I have been keen to learn.  I can’t wait!

I will most certainly take my camera and share with you all when I go.  Now I need to think of all the questions I want to ask the bee expert. Let me know if you have any bee questions you would like answered.

Sausage surprise

One of my favorite trees growing here in the Lowveld is the sausage tree. Sadly it does not produce real meaty sausages but it does develop huge fruit shaped like giant sausages.  These fruit have a tendency to drop on parked cars and make huge dents (just like coconuts) so don’t ever park under them.

I was thrilled when I saw that I had one near my cottages when I purchased the farm, but over the three years I have been here it has never produced fruit.  It does have a lovely flower though.

The sausage tree, kigelia africana, occurs throughout tropical Africa from Eritrea and Chad south to northern South Africa, and west to Senegal and Namibia.

This is the one in my garden

Growing up to 20 m tall, the tree is evergreen where rainfall occurs throughout the year, but deciduous where there is a long dry season. The flowers (and later the fruit) hang down from branches on long flexible stems (2-6 metres long). Their scent is most notable at night indicating their reliance on pollination by bats, which visit them for pollen and nectar.

The fruit is a woody berry from 30–100 cm long and up to 18 cm broad; it weighs between 5–10 kg, and hang down on long, rope-like peduncles. The fruit pulp is fibrous and pulpy, and contains numerous seeds. It is eaten by several species of mammals, including baboons, bushpigs,  elephants, giraffes, hippos, monkeys, and porcupines. The seeds are dispersed in their dung.

In African herbal medicine, the fruit is believed to be a cure for a wide range of ailments, from rheumatism, snake bites, evil spirits, syphilis, and even tornadoes. An alcoholic beverage similar to beer is also made from it. The fresh fruit is poisonous and strongly purgative; (ask my friend Vanessa who ate some!) The fruit are prepared for consumption by drying, roasting or fermentation.  Kigelia is also used in a number of skin care products.  Locally we use it mixed into aqueous cream to remove sun spots and solar keratosis’ very successfully. I keep a tub of it next to my bed and use it regularly.

For this reason, I was quite sad to see that my tree did not fruit, because I would have loved to have been able to make my own cream. I had assumed that I must have a male tree, but today as I was walking around the garden much to my surprise this is what I saw…….

Finally some fruit!

 

 

Free range girls

After one and a half months of getting used to their new home Betty and the girls were ready to go free range this weekend.  I had been dreading this because when I first got them they escaped and it took ages and a lot of trouble to get them back into their cage.

I was assured by Alf who gave me the chickens that after a month they would have settled down and I would not have a problem getting them back into their cage.  So early on Saturday morning I released them into the wild to go foraging.

I noticed that they are no longer afraid of me and that they may even like me a bit now.  In fact they come when I call and I can get them to follow me.  I even took them to the compost heap to go scratching for worms. They followed me all in a row while I made chicken noises and scratching sounds.

Jackie the chicken whisperer 🙂

Come sundown they walked nicely into their cage for me and hopped up onto their perch.  I will be letting them out now when I am at home.  Although Cleo just watches them and has made no moves to chase them she does get very jealous when I talk to them.  I think if I leave her alone with them when I go out she may just try to show them who is boss.

Goodbye sweet beast…

Yesterday one of the owners here had to euthanize a young female wildebeest (gnu).  She had been caught in two snares and was suffering terribly.  When these things happen I get so mad because it is so cruel, and then I think of the poor labourers who set these snares because they get paid so badly they can’t buy food.  I feel pulled between the two.  I wish we had some decent solutions to these problems here.  All we can do is continuously sweep for snares and try to assist the neighbouring labourers as much as we can with extra work to help them out financially.

After she was shot,  the owner gave the animal to our labourer to cut up and use for meat so at least nothing is wasted.

Last night it was so hot here that I left my cottage door open to get some movement of air. At around midnight I heard Cleo chomping something behind me and I turned to see her gnawing on a thickish branch of a tree.  This is so out of her nature that I got up and turned the light on to find half a wildebeest leg on my carpet!  She had obviously found where the labourer had dumped the entrails for jackals and other animals to eat.  Yeugh!

Getting ready for growing season

Well I’m not called Slowvelder for nothing. I have been really slow in getting posts up onto the blog!  Quite a bit has been happening here though, and because of that I have been quite busy.

I am currently busy finishing off my chicken cage, re-thatching the new thatch roof that was a total disaster the first time round, and getting my shade house ready for growing season. Having a mornings only job has also slowed me down a bit as I now only have half days and weekends on the farm.

I am so thankful to some very kind and helpful people who have helped me so much. My friends Alf and Helen have been absolutely awesome.  Alf was responsible for getting my cool shade-cloth house built.  It is now almost ready to function.

As you can see, it is not only my blog that has been neglected.  All that marula fruit lying on the floor should have been made into beer and jelly.  I’m afraid I missed the marula season completely this year.  This is only of of about 10 trees I have in the vicinity of my cottages.

In April I begin in earnest to grow my vegetables. It feels rather strange growing veggies in winter but very few will thrive in our summer heat.  I think, with the shade cloth I should be able to at least grow tomatoes, peppers and squashes in summer.  The rest all grow in winter.  I just can’t wait to get going!

A crying tree – The Weeping Boer Bean

Although, when looking at the bushveld, is seems rather monotone (oranges and browns and greys in winter and greens and browns in summer), there are a myriad of colours hiding away for those who look closely.  In springtime especially there is quite a bit of red.

A favorite tree of mine is one with the most beautiful red flowers.  They stand out because they seem to shine brightly in the sunshine.  This is due to the copious amounts of nectar they exude – coating them in a sheen of sticky honey – so much so that the nectar drips onto the ground under the tree.  That is why it  is called the weeping boer bean.

Scotia brachypetala has quite a few other names too which help describe it.

  • Parrot Tree – the nectar attracts a lot of birds
  • Drunken Parrot Tree – excess nectar ferments and can have a mild narcotic effect on some birds
  • Weeping Boerbean – the name we use here – weeping due to the nectar dripping and bean because it is a leguminous tree
  • Huilboerboon – is the Afrikaans name (huil = cry)
  • Tree Fuchsia – totally different family to the fuchsia but has similar flowers (ballerina flowers)
  • African Walnut – the roasted seeds are edible.
While the tree in my garden pictured here is only about 3m tall, these trees can grow to about 22m high with a spread of 15 meters.
Not only is Schotia brachypetala an exceptional ornamental tree, it also has a number of other uses: A decoction of the bark is taken to treat heartburn and hangovers (good to know 🙂 ). Bark and root mixtures are used to strengthen the body and purify the blood, to treat nervous heart conditions and diarrhoea, as well as for facial saunas. The seeds are edible after roasting, Both the Bantu-speaking people and the early European settlers and farmers are said to have roasted the mature pods and eaten the seeds, a practice which they learned from the Khoikhoi. The bark can be used for dyeing, giving a red-brown or red colour.
Here are some pictures of the flowers
In the picture below you can see the gooey nectar. Also the bean pod in the middle of the flower and some ants busy collecting nectar.

Operation ostrich egg

After much deliberation about what to make with my ostrich egg, I decided that because I had never tasted one and also because I had read that the flavour is  “wilder” than hens eggs, I would just make a simple scrambled egg. I did not want to include other ingredients in case I ended up not liking the taste and would need to discard the entire dish.

With the help of my parents who were visiting for a few days (dad – driller and taster, mom – photographer and advisor) we set about preparing the egg.

First you need to drill quite a large hole in the bottom of the egg (I chose to only make one hole to preserve the shell as completely as possible)

We did make the hole a little larger than pictured above, I then inserted a spike to break and mix up the yolk and egg white inside the shell. All that was left was to shake out the contents (without messing – I got egg all over myself 🙂 )

The egg contents filled a medium-sized mixing bowl – that’s a lot of egg!

and a quick mix and scramble

My dad and I had a taste – and I must say that I did not notice a “wild” flavour at all. It tasted just like ordinary scrambled egg. Needless to say we had way too much egg so Cleo got a few portions with her meals and the wild birds got to taste quite a bit too.  Next time I get an ostrich egg I will definitely make a few Quiche to freeze.