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.


I’m sneaky.

Sometimes you just have to be…..

especially with a point-and-click camera in the bush…

without those super duper long fancy lenses…….

you have to sneak…….

to get close to your subject

without it fleeing……….

or biting you 🙂


Sunday brunch at the river

Of the eleven properties on our reserve, six have homes on. Well, to call them homes is a little generous – lets just say semi-livable structures.  The Bean and I are the only people living on the reserve permanently.  A few of the other owners pop in a few times a year.  This weekend though, five of the six homes have been occupied.  I wouldn’t like it to be like this all the time, but it has been rather nice seeing everyone and visiting a bit.

This morning we were invited to Lawyer P’s house for brunch. (Three of the owners here are lawyers).  He is the purchaser of my hornbill painting.  Doctor H has a wooden hut on the property next door to Lawyer P and he offered to cook.  Both of their homes are built out of wood – I guess we could call them cabins.  They are situated right on the river, built in the riverine forest.

 It’s a good idea to build in the forest if you have a wooden house – just to keep it cool in summer.  They do not have electricity, and they pump their water from the river.  Hot water for showering is warmed in a donkey (a tin drum with a fire under it.)

Here is the view of Lawyer P’s house – taken from the river bank.

Breakfast was prepared on an open fire – we ate sausages and bacon and scrambled eggs, served with bread and a glass of fresh fruit juice for the Bean and I.  P & H had beer!!

This is the view from the deck.

The reflections on the river were just beautiful this morning.

The water looked so inviting – if you didn’t know any better you would dive right in but …..

Yep, that’s right – no swimming in the river here. Crocodile and hippo are spotted regularly.

These cabins can sleep 6 people comfortably but story has it that in the past they have had 30 people stay over.  The great thing is that we can use the cabins when the owners are not here – just for a riverside meal or when we have more people staying over than our cottages can handle.

On our way home we saw so many animals too – everything is coming alive as the bush slowly turns green.


The blog post that should have been.

So I was busy preparing to write a blog post to show you this….

My home-grown, totally organic tomatoes picked fresh of the vine,  and this……

my first gooseberries from the tiny twig that thinks it’s a gooseberry bush.
All delicious by the way. I gobbled the gooseberries right there after I took the photo and the tomatoes were served with our dinner – just sliced up with a little salt so that we could see what they really taste like.  There is NOTHING like a home-grown tomato!  Anyway – I digress.
Then I was going to tell you how dry it is and how much we wait for the first spring rains here – it’s a regional past-time, guessing when it’s going to finally fall.  Waiting for those first big hot drops to fall onto the dusty red sand.  It hasn’t come yet, but the first beautiful tiny green leaves are starting to bud on the trees. So I thought I should go out and take a photo of the first greeness arriving when I heard STOMP! CRASH! SCRAPE! MUNCH! MUNCH!
I swung around on my chair (it swivels :)) to quickly look out the door, camera already in hand and who should be standing right there………..
eating all my new fresh leaves that I have been waiting for ALL WINTER!  Man oh man. So that was the end of the blog post that was planned and you get a photo of a greedy giraffe instead. (but you can actually see the greeness starting up can’t you?)
Not as planned but still quite awesome, isn’t it?
(this photo was taken from my study desk in my room)
If you have any questions that you would like to ask about our life in the African bush, please just post them in the comments.  When I have enough questions I will answer them all in a post (so long as I don’t get disturbed by another animal…… come to think of it – we had an incident with a legavaan today too… hmmmm)

A winter walk – my wonderland

Ever since Cleo arrived with us I have been trying to photograph her. Somehow my camera does not like her and she does not like the camera. She refuses to look at me when I want to take a picture and gets all coy, meanwhile my camera sees a fuzzy black thing and can not focus on her properly. Today I decided to take my camera along on our daily walk to see if the late afternoon light will help with the photography.

It’s really dry here right now so the colours contrast well.

See the bird just above her head that she is watching. She really wanted to chase it but listens to me when I tell her not to.

Procrastination Place

That should be the name of our cottages.  Purely because I am still really struggling to make a final decision on a name – I just keep putting it off.  Well the deadline that I set has arrived and It’s time to make the call.

I have had so many wonderful suggestions from you all – here on my blog and on Facebook. Thank you.

My short-list this afternoon had these 10 names on.

  • Fat Monkey Lodge
  • Dreamer’s Den
  • African Ochre
  • Baobab Bungalows
  • Jackal’s Den
  • Rustic Rest
  • Rustic Rock Lodge
  • Rustic Rock
  • Rusty Moon
  • Canyon Creek

Firstly I had to remove any that were similar to lodges in the area, so Baobab Bungalows and Rustic Rest had to go.  Secondly, names that could be misleading also had to go so out went Fat Monkey Lodge (we don’t have monkeys on the property) and I removed Dreamer’s Den and Rusty Moon because they didn’t really reflect that African bush scene that I so wanted to portray. I also nearly removed Canyon Creek at this stage but because the river that runs around the farm actually dug the third biggest canyon in the world – it was quite relevant. I was then left with:

  • African Ochre
  • Jackal’s Den
  • Rustic Rock Lodge
  • Rustic Rock
  • Canyon Creek

I enlisted the Bean to assist as she also has to live here and should also have a say.  She eliminated Canyon Creek (not bushy enough) and African Ochre (sounds too fancy for our little spot). Although I loved those two names I did agree that they were not entirely suitable when checking against my list of needs. Between Rustic Rock and Rustic Rock Lodge – we both preferred Rustic Rock Lodge but she mentioned that because many of the 5-star places around here are called lodges – we may be grouped with them and give visitors  expectations that we could not meet. So the final name is

Jackal’s Den

Reasons why I like this name:

  1. My name is Jackie Dean so there is a play on words there.
  2. A jackal represents the harshness of the bush here. As a lower predator (rustic) they have to struggle to find food, often pinching from carcasses already killed and partially eaten by higher predators.
  3. We have jackals on the property.
  4. They are nocturnal and have a beautiful call mostly heard at night. ( African night scene reflected here.)
  5. I love jackals (see this post)

So this weekend, while I finish up the cottage to take photos, I will live with the name to make sure it fits. If it does not, Canyon Creek and Rustic Rock Lodge will be called back into play and when I make my website on Monday – I HAVE to have it all decided.

Thanks again for all the help.

Does your home have a name?



What’s in a name?

Quite a lot it seems.

Since I bought my farm I have been trying to think of a name for my cottages.  A year ago I even asked for your input here on this blog.  I have received many nice idea’s but none seemed to ring true.

As my guest cottage nears completion I am under pressure to finally decide on a name so that I can begin to advertise.  I put the question out to my Facebook friends and have again got so many wonderful names.  Only after I had rejected many of them did I  stop to question myself.

Why is this so hard?  It was easier naming my children. With my problem solving background I never once stopped to itemize a list of what I wanted in the name and that is why I was not getting anywhere.  How could I expect friends who have never even been here to come up with a name that “just feels right”?

This morning I sat down to summarize what I was looking for.  These are my thoughts.

The cottages are rustic with only basic amenities. They are old but the guest cottage is clean and is busy getting replastered and painted. They have thatch roofs. The finishes and linen are all new and add a little comfort to the basic design.

They are in the middle of the bush – African bush, which is harsh dry and prickly with animals roaming about – some can be rather dangerous.  Still, there is an amazing vibe here – peace, tranquility (besides the bird noises and the occasional hippo and wildebeest grunt.)  It’s sunny and hot most of the year, and lazing by the pool is a super experience – far from the madding crowd. At night the milky way shines brightly in the pitch black sky as you sit around the bonfire, listening to the magical night sounds of the bush. You almost feels that you can just reach out and touch the stars.

How can one name reflect all of this? Short and sweet – I don’t think it can – that is why it has been so hard to find a name.

So, taking the above into consideration, I need to find the nearest fit.  My thoughts so far are

  • I don’t want a native African name – this has been overdone in the area. ( Unless an astounding one catches my eye)
  • Soft gentle names that make one think of gentle lawns and flowing streams with happy bunnies hopping about just won’t fit. I would like to reflect the rugged beauty of the African bush.
  • I still need it to sound homey and comfortable in a rustic way.
  • It must not sound like a 5-star lodge – people will be misled.

Finally, after making all of these notes I feel that I can narrow down my selection (although I keep thinking that as soon as I decide on a name and make it official, I will find another that I prefer – that’s just me 🙂 )

So – this is my final call for any suggestions you may have.  Please feel free to make as many as you like.

Here are some pictures to help you along.

Detective Slowvelder gets assistance.

With the assistance of my dedicated team of blog readers and fellow bloggers, the mystery of the murdered spider is progressing.  Heather from 2Summers bringing up the lead with the statement ” I didn’t know spiders have blood” .  Darn good question to investigate I thought.  I brought in my favorite investigator and personal guru, Mr Google to give us more information and it turns out that spiders have  blue/transparent blood.  Time for a specialist to look at this I decided, and emailed the Spider Club of South Africa.

Within a few hours I got the following response: (with my comments in red)
Hello Jackie,
I LOVE the Slowvelder!! In fact I think I will subscribe ….  ( Yay! another groupie – I love my subscribers 🙂 )

Just for the record and before I try guessing what happened to the spider it is a MRS not a MISTER!  Something to love about spiders is that they are the ultimate female chauvinists, particularly the big orb weavers.  It is the ladies that are bigger, better, brighter, more beautiful, smarter and more potent than the males. (aren’t we always?)
Here are photos of a near relative to your murdered spider showing the relative size of females (big and beautiful) to males, (insignificant and dull)! (<—– I like )

Nephila senegalensis, the Banded-legged Nephila or Banded-legged Golden Orbweb Spider.

Spider “blood”, actually haemolymph because it does not have red oxygen-carrying corpuscles IS blue or transparent.   The orange-red gunk is probably not her “blood”, although I am not sure what it is. Perhaps she was full of eggs.  Nephila  eggs are pink or orange when they are first laid, turning paler after a few hours. The ovaries in these spiders are huge because they lay hundreds of eggs at a time. So it could be that and all the other internal organs kind of squished.  I wonder why she was dropped though, all very mysterious.  Maybe a bird tried to grab her, got a fright and deposited its own droppings before it dropped the spider.

Sorry to tell you the spider’s motive of cutting the mantid from her web was not in the least altruistic, Mantids are well armed and can easily puncture a spider’s soft abdomen with those spiny front legs, so she probably thought it safer to remove such a potent little predator from her web to avoid injury.

All the best

Astri Leroy.

Thank you so much Astri for your quick and informative response.  I think we have all learned a lot from your email.  Welcome to the Slowvelder 🙂

So to summarise, I’m going to say that the red is probably “guts ‘n gore ‘n eggs” from our unlucky lady – it really did not look like bird droppings – so unless it was bodily fluid from a predator, I’m guessing it must have come out of the spider. Well it’s either that or an intruder with arachnophobia and a bottle of cheap ketchup as suggested by my worthy Dr Watson, Eremophila from Eremophila’s Musings.

Thank you all for your wise and witty comments, and thanks again to Astri from the Spider Club of South Africa. Take some time and visit their website – it’s very informative.

Balloons, bugs and a beautiful sunrise.

Pictures of a routine day in our lives.

6am  as the sun peeps through the bush


We see these balloons almost every morning on our way to school and work

and this bug waits for us at the gate to our reserve every evening.  It’s a type of mantid but has such skinny legs making him very difficult to photograph with my dinky camera.




Taking a break – bush style

After the miserable end to last week, I spent the weekend in the bush with some of my old colleagues who were up in Hoedspruit for a meeting. The break was very welcome and the work we did helped keep my mind occupied. Here are a couple of my favorite photo’s from the weekend – they were taken on a game drive at Matumi Lodge.