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?

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.

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away

On Saturday we attended the Wild Horse Festival in the small arty town of Kaapsehoop which is about 15 minutes outside of Mbombela, perched on top of a mountain.

 This sleepy village boasts amazing views over the Lowveld as well as some beautiful wild horses that freely roam around town, over the hillsides and in the nearby forests of pine trees.

Gold was discovered here in 1882 but the deposit was poor and most miners moved off towards the richer areas of Pilgrims Rest and Barberton. This led to the decline of the small town until it was repopulated by artists and folk looking for a peaceful weekend retreat.

This weekend’s festival was held to raise money to take care of the horses as well as a road fund to repair their roads. It was very well attended and we had a wonderful day browsing the market stalls, watched horses getting shod by blacksmiths, eating a most delicious mutton curry and watching rugby before heading home.

There is a good choice of accommodation in Kaapsehoop as well as many things to do in the surrounding area including horse trails, hiking, a visit to the nearby Kruger National Park, or a trip along the Panorama Route to name a few.

If you are ever in the area it is well worth a visit.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

Lesotho – the mountain kingdom.

 

Recently I was lucky enough to spend a week away on holiday in the eastern part of the Free State province of South Africa in a town called Clarens. This has been my first proper holiday since I arrived back in South Africa from Belgium, so was special indeed.

While there, we took a day trip into Lesotho to visit the Katse dam.  I took so many photos of this trip that it has taken me weeks to sort through them and decide which to share with you.  I will be publishing a series of posts from my trip so as not to bore you with reams of information at once.

I am going to start with some that embrace my love of this small mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

Lesotho , officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave, completely surrounded by its only neighboring country, the Republic of South Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 in size with a population of approximately 2,067,000. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name Lesotho translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sesotho. About 40% of the population live below the international poverty line.

Living such a poor life I am sure is extremely hard, however there are aspects here of the simple life that really attract me.  Lesotho in winter is almost mono-toned in colour yet there is still a vibrancy and happiness that I love.

I hope you enjoy the following pictures that show what I see in this beautiful country.

Most people dress in blankets and gum boots and the major form of transport in the rural areas are donkeys.

You may not see much at first glance at the above picture, but it is all about rural life here. The ladies doing the washing in the stream, the icy snow in the shade, the horse on the hillside, growing crops on the slopes and the homestead up above. Life in Lesotho.

Happy children and not a PlayStation or iPad in sight 🙂

Fields on the hillside

Doing chores

A driving school. The little shack is covered in road signs on all sides – probably for teaching purposes.

A plough-boy ran up to us to get some sweets

Just beautiful…………

 

Where Porky gets famous

Our Porky’s story has been published in the local paper while I was away on holiday.

Thanks to the Kruger2Canyon Newspaper for publishing my article.

Porky was supposed to come home this week to be released, but Brian wants him to have his bandage on for one more week, so he will most probably only be making it back home by the end of the week.