Persistent Plumeria

Tiny House’s garden needs quite a bit of attention.  We have not done much since we moved in, firstly because it’s a rental and secondly we won’t be here very long. We have a lovely frangipani (plumeria) in the middle of the garden perched on a rock.  When we moved in it was completely dry without any leaves and had dropped a few large branches which were lying on the ground.  As spring progressed it started producing leaves and lovely fragrant flowers.

It is one of my favorite trees in the garden.  Recently I noticed that one big branch that had fallen (or was broken) off and lying under the tree had also started to sprout leaves.  It is not in the soil at all and has not made any small roots into the ground.  It must just be running on reserves.

I have left it for over a month now and it still keeps on going.  I would like to try to help the poor branch seeing it is so persistent.  Do I put it in a bucket of water or should I just shove the end in the ground?

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Lowveld Botanical Gardens

One of the places I have been very keen to visit here in Mbombela is the Lowveld Botanical Garden.  I had heard that it was really worth going to see.  This last weekend B and I popped in to take a look.

There are two separate entrances and one can be a little confused as to which one to go to when you arrive.

Entrance 1 gives you quick access to the Nelspruit waterfall and cascades

and a really nice looking eatery called Kuzuri Restaurant. We popped in to take a look and the food smelled heavenly.  We plan to try it out soon.

One then walks over an amazing swing bridge and through the rain forest to get to the area serviced by entrance 2

Entrance 2 is closer to the formal gardens and the different types of walks as well as  the Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden where we stopped for scones and strawberry jam.  The food and service was very good.  This venue is often used for tea parties, birthdays and weddings.

Unfortunately when we arrived they were preparing for a party and the radio was loud with cars parked around the venue blocking out the stunning view and the beautiful bird sounds. I hope this was a once off. I will definitely be going back to see because other than that it was an enjoyable experience.

From this point there are various walks in different directions that one can choose from, all seem lovely from the few we did. The walks down to the river involve quite a few stairs but there are also walks throughout the garden that are wheelchair friendly.

We were lucky enough to catch the last of the clivias blooming

The huge variety of plants and flowers allow for all year round pleasure so we will be back many times I am sure.

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.

Pretty in pink

This beautiful lily pops up just next to one of my cottages every year in Nov or December.  For the rest of the year it looks like two or three shriveled leaves.  It’s commonly known as a veld lily or river lily and is one of the Crinum lilies.  I am still arguing with all my sources as to which one it is.  Depending on the book or source, my crinum changes names.

I think it may be a crinum stuhlmannii but one of my books disagrees.

Anyone have an opinion?

Matikinya Primary

This is the school where I painted one of my murals.  Childrens Eco Training has sponsored the community gardens, the new school hall and the Eco classroom where I painted my mural.  Although this school is dirt poor, one can see that they still take so much pride in their teaching environment.  There is still quite a bit to be done and lots of equipment needed for this school.

Matikinya Primary School – Acornhoek

I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

 

 

 

Veld flowers

So far this summer we have had quite a few cloudy days and lots of lovely rain.  Not our normal blistering heat – but warm balmy humid days.  The result is really thick green lush bush.

When you look at the picture above you really don’t see many colours, so it is quite surprising when you walk around and look closely at how many stunning spring flowers are blooming.  I snapped a few on my daily walk.

 

 

 

Quite spectacular really.

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!

 

 

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.