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?

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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.

 

 

 

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.

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…………

 

and finally, freedom……

Early this morning I got a call from Moholoholo to let me know that Porky was ready to come home.  They had one final request though – that the whole team come across to my farm with Porky and watch the release.  I was thrilled to be able to share this precious moment with the volunteers, trainee vets and vet nurses, and other Moholoholo staff who all took such careful care of this badly injured porcupine.

Here is the team on the farm (with Porky in the red box)

I do not have words that can explain the following pictures. I do not have words that explain what it feels like to see this and to be there when a creature that was so badly hurt is returned to the wild where he belongs.  I will let the pictures speak.

Run Porky, run free…….

Read more about Porky on the following links:

A little more about Porky

Two weeks ago I found a porcupine caught in a snare just outside my farm.  With the help of my friends husband, Christopher, we got him onto my vehicle and rushed him to Moholoholo, an animal rehabilitation center in our area.  There they sedated him and removed the snare and cleaned up his wounds.  I was then asked if I was willing to get him the medical attention he needed or if I would prefer to have him euthanized as his recuperation would be costly.

I wrote a blog post (which you can read here) and within 40 minutes of publishing, I had collected in excess of R4000.00 from kind friends and strangers including a donation of R2000 from Pick n Pay headoffice to assist in paying for his care and medication.

Today I went back to watch him have his third surgery to clean his wounds and change his dressings.  Each time this is done, he has to have anaesthetic.  Brian Jones and the staff at the center have been fantastic, doing so much to fight for this poor creatures life. Our dear Porky has crept into everyone’s hearts.  I believe that Moholoholo has spent way over what we have collected for Porky’s care – he is now eating a hug bag of gem squash and butternuts every week, and has had a full course of antibiotics.

Today Brain told me that in two weeks time I will be able to collect Porky and bring him home to be released back into the wild on my farm.

Here are some pictures to show you the progression of his extensive wounds. (not for the squeamish 🙂 )

This is what his wounds looked like when we found him

Here Brian is removing the snare

and the wound after it had been cleaned

After one week Porky was again given and anaesthetic and his wound was cleaned and redressed.  You can see how the skin has started to grow across the wound (the orange/yellow stuff is an antibiotic ointment)

and today, another anaesthetic and a repeat cleaning and dressing.  Look at how well his wound is healing.

And all taped up and ready to go back to his ICU cage.  The anaesthetic was light, so he did start to wake up as his bandage was going on – not an easy thing keeping such a tough  and prickly boy down.

Two more weeks and he will be home and free.

Again, a huge thank you firstly to the wonderful team at Moholoholo, and secondly to all the amazing people and friends who donated money, and Pick n Pay for the kind donation given to keep this porcupine alive.

Please take time to visit Moholoholo’s web site and if you are in a giving mood, there is a link there for donations to keep the center running.

While I was there I also got to see a baby duiker getting her feed,

and Brian took me in to see a leopard that had just arrived.  The leopard had been caught in a trap and half his face has been badly damaged.  Luckily he is in the right place with people who will take the time to make sure he mends well so that he can be released into the wild again.

On Monday I am going to see if I can find some generous local farmers and stores who can donate some gem squashes and butternuts and other vegetables that we can take through for the animals at the rehab center (including our greedy porcupine).  If anyone in the Hoedspruit area is interested in donating some produce, please leave me a message and I will collect.

Thank you all again.