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.

Views of our new home

Every weekend we try to get our dogs out for a good run.  This past weekend I took a few photos so show our new environment.  This is the farm we currently live on.  The trees without leaves are mostly pecan nut trees and the leafy ones are avocado trees.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed our walk/run/drive

 

As soon as things start greening up a bit these views will change so much. I look forward to taking more pictures as that happens.

 

I hope you enjoyed the tour – let me know what you think.

On foot in the Kruger National Park

One of our friends is a safari guide and his company, Dry Seasons Safari’s, among other trips, does guided walks in the Kruger National Park.  In order to lead a guided walk in the Kruger Park one has to be highly qualified. This last week our friend Ian had to undergo an assessment in order to be able to be “lead gun” on walking safari’s within the park.  He invited us along.

A question that is frequently asked is: “What do we do if we encounter one of the Big 5 while on foot?” It is a reasonable question and likely to come up on any bush walk.

The term “Big Five” was originally coined by hunters to refer to the five African game species which were quite likely to kill you if you made a mistake. They are the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. But the Big 5 aren’t the only dangerous animals you can encounter. Hippos are reputedly the most dangerous in  Africa killing more people than any other animal – well, besides mosquitoes! Crocodiles are also notorious and swimming in any pool or river in the bush is strongly not advised. Ostriches can deliver a nasty sweeping kick and during the breeding season the males are particularly aggressive to perceived threats.

Of course there is no definitive answer to “what to do” if you encounter a dangerous animal as every situation is different. However, there are a few basic rules to follow.

Unlike hunters, where the end result is the shooting of the animal (or the attack on the hunter!), tourists want the encounter to be non-confrontational. A sighting where the animal doesn’t even realise you are there is paramount.

It is not the best idea to sneak up too close to dangerous game. If they spot you from a distance they will merely keep an eye on you and may even continue with whatever they were doing. If, however, they only become aware of you when you are within their “flight or fight” zone you can rest assured that there will be a sticky situation. Each animal has its own flight radius and it also depends on the circumstances. If you do get too close and the animal is left with no option of flight, it may attack. It is therefore very important that your guide knows how to approach dangerous animals.

It was our aim on this day in the bush to approach as many dangerous animals as possible on foot.

Here Ian is giving us strict instructions on how to behave and respond to his hand signals.  It was a stinking hot day so this added to the ambiance 🙂

Serious discussion and concentration

A elephant, some zebras and impala getting some water under the unrelenting sun.  It must have reached 36 degrees Celsius in the shade by this stage.

Ellies

Kori Bustard – the heaviest living animal capable of flight.

African Wild Dogs – quite a rare sight.

Needless to say, Ian passed with flying colours.  His assessor was Sean Pattrick. He is the author of “Game Ranger in your Back Pack” and also a great wildlife photographer. It was super to meet him.

Speaking of great photographers, Ian himself is a brilliant photographer. You can see (and buy) some of his work here.

If you are interested in going on a walking tour in the Kruger National Park it is worth contacting Dry Season Safari’s to find out more. You won’t regret it!

Thanks Ian for a super day!

 

 

 

Flipping

Today I went for a ride in this tiny little gyrocopter.  Another first for me.

and I took this photo of Jackal’s Den.

We even got to see a giraffe when we were flying over the reserve.  It was very hard to keep the camera still enough to take pictures. We only flew for about 20 minutes. It was hot and windy and we bounced all over the sky.  I was not too nervous but did feel a little green around the gills by the time I got my feet back on the ground.  I would like to do it again sometime but probably early in the morning on a cooler day 🙂  Still, it was a wonderful opportunity.

 

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?

Croaky cacophany

This sight is quite common on my farm

The white ball of foam is put there by a female foam nesting frog.  They even climb my huge marula tree and make foamy nests over my swimming pool.

This photo was taken at what I fondly call frog pond.  This is the noisiest place on the farm on warm summer nights when hundreds of frogs get together for a musical evening.

In fact it always reminds me of this song

 

(image by Ian. N. White)The grey tree frog – more commonly referred to as the foam nest frog – is the largest of our ‘tree frogs’, with females growing to a length of around 100 mm.  The foam nest frog – chiromantis xerampelina – is confined to the northern bushveld, eastern lowveld and south through Swaziland and northern KwaZulu-Natal to the coast.

These frogs are well adapted to a dry, arboreal life although they may frequently visit water to rehydrate. They will rarely be found swimming or sitting in water like many other frogs and toads but are commonly found in and around buildings where lights attract a source of insect food. With a variety of mottled patterns, they can change colour within a range of white to dark grey to match their background and are well camouflaged against tree bark. Females grow much larger and can be double the weight of males.

Foam Nests

The common name comes from the whitish clumps of foam that they construct as ‘nests’ in which to lay their eggs. These nests are always constructed on some branch or object over, and often many metres above, water. The females exude a sticky liquid which they kick into a froth with their back legs. Into this foam they lay up to 1000 eggs which are fertilised by, often many, attendant males. The foam prevents desiccation of the eggs and keeping eggs and small tadpoles out of water eliminates much predation.

About five days after hatching the small tadpoles wriggle out of the foam to drop into the water below, where they continue to grow and complete their normal metamorphosis.

(info from http://www.krugerpark.co.za)
The bushveld night sounds would not be the same without our froggy friends.

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!