Re-thatching – take 2

In December last year I hired a man and his team to re-thatch the Bean’s cottage.  If you have been following my blog you may recall I have mentioned that this project did not go so well, and after a nasty run-in with the man, I was left with a badly thatched roof that leaked.


This is what it looked like

You could even see daylight from inside…..

In fact, the new thatch job leaked even more than the roof did before they started.

So now I have had to have it fixed.  Farmer Alf to the rescue again – he arranged for two men to come in, remove much of the grass, rebundle it and re-thatch and put a new cement cap on.  Quite a costly exercise but still a lot less than hiring another company to do it.  Now it looks like this

Much better!

They even had a few bundles over and fixed up a few holes in my cottage roof where baboons had pulled out the grass.  Also much better!

So if you live in or near Hoedspruit and wish to have your roofs thatched, best you speak to me about who to use.  I know all about it now!

Update from the middle of nowhere

School is finally over for the Bean after a month of exams. It’s been a long hard year for her and I am so glad that I was able to stop working at the fruit packhouse to give us more time at home to get the school year done. Now it’s the nerve-wracking wait for her final results at the end of December.  Hopefully she will be off to university in Pretoria next year.

We are now holed up on the farm – only venturing in to town when we run out of supplies or for a few social occasions – this is how I want it to be. Things are really starting to come together for me now.  Bookings are rolling in for Jackal’s Den, I am busy on the farm from sunrise to sunset, loving every moment, and I have orders for paintings lined up well into next year.

With regards to the patio, the retaining wall is built

and the floor now filled in with rocks and soil

All I need now are the creepers which I hope to buy next week and then I will be making paving blocks to cover the floor area soon. I am also going to plant some lawn around this area to green it up a bit.  It’s been so much fun doing this project.

The Bean’s roof is still not done.  A job that was supposed to take 5 days is now on 21 days. Hopefully it will be finished by Friday when we leave for Johannesburg to visit our family and attend my sons wedding.

This is my current painting project which I am painting for a commissioned order. Still a long way to go on this too.

and finally here is a picture of our baby Savannah.

She has settled in very well. Cleo and Savannah have a strange relationship – sneaking up on each other when they think no one is watching to get a good sniff. So far there have been no fights or dramatic chase scenes – rather they respect each others boundaries mostly and give each other a wide berth (although this seems to be narrowing as they get used to each other).  Savannah, although very loving, is wild in the sense that she is very nocturnal. Much more so than Fred was. She sleeps solidly all day waking as the sun sets and then she is off out into the bush for the night. She eats at home but still catches mice and squirrels most evenings. We even got a bat as a present last week. She does not like being inside and only ventures in if there is a rain storm. Otherwise her favorite daytime haunt is our veranda where she has set up a type of nest in some hessian on a little wall where she sleeps.

While we are away for the next two weeks some friends of ours will be living at Jackal’s Den, having a well deserved break and feeding Savannah.  I hope Cleo will be able to travel with us as she won’t really cope well away from me, although I still need to clear this with my family where we are staying.  I hope she will be able to come but if she can’t my friends are the best folk to look after her.

I will be back in two weeks. Happy blogging 🙂

Patio – part 2

If you did not read my first post about my patio you may be a little lost. You can read it here.

Yesterday we completed the structure to grow the creepers on and today we dug and built the foundation for the small retaining wall that will be necessary to level the floor.  This is my first building project so everything is a bit of an experiment.  I must thank Warren and the Bean’s boyfriend (who I am now going to call Bushboy) for all their help on this project so far.

I’m dreaming of a cool Tuscan patio….

Doesn’t it look lovely and inviting? Some cool relief from a hot summers day?

Around the back of my main cottage that houses the kitchen, dining room and lounge (or is it the front – not too sure) is a rather bland blank looking space that gets hot sun all day round.  This wall is also the first view of the cottages you get when you arrive at Jackal’s Den and it does not look at all inviting.  I have decided to build a patio along the same lines as a Tuscan patio – covered with something green and leafy.  I need to make it look a little more rugged than the one in the picture and make sure it blends in with the African bush theme. As funds are tight I have decided to do this myself with a little muscle help from an unemployed farm worker Warren.  We got started this week.

All the upright poles are now planted and tomorrow I start attaching the cross bars.  It is really tough working in 40 deg C heat without any shade.

After the main structure is up I will be building some small retaining walls out of stone to level off the floor area and will then pour my own cement slabs using leaves to imprint patterns on the cement. These will be laid out with some pebbles to make the floor.

I think the most difficult part will be waiting for the plants and creepers to grow over the top so that we can have a shaded area. The “growth period” will give me some time to save up for a small table and some chairs to put underneath it.

I can’t wait for it to be finished.

What should I grow over the top?  Initially I loved the idea of a grape-vine as it would then also provide me with some food but grape-vines are not evergreen and I do want it to be green in winter too.  Any suggestions?

(Just for fun here is a picture of me doing a pole dance 🙂  – Trust the Bean to snap a shot like this!)

Final touches

A few more small issues to finish up and then the guest cottage will be complete.  Light switch covers and the toilet pipe are still to be done.  Gone are the technicolour curtains and holes in the walls.  New bedding and linen makes such a difference!

Adventures of a handywoman (to be)

If you have been reading my blog for sometime, you will remember that a year ago we had an exchange student come to stay with us on the farm for a couple of months.  At the time I had to fix up our spare cottage for her to stay in.  After quite a few mishaps and attempts at learning how to drill holes and replace window panes, I got the cottage into a condition where one could live in it,  albeit not with any form of luxury at all.  Hannah seemed to manage although there were still quite few holes in the walls, a really ancient paint job, a rickety toilet with a half-broken cistern.  At least the wind wasn’t blowing in on her and the snakes could not get in.  It was still very basic.

The time has now come where I have to up the ante.  I need to start earning some money and will be letting out the guest cottage as a B&B.  It will never be a designer place – that’s not what I want anyway.  I would like to offer couples a little piece of paradise – still rustic, but with a few home comforts.  A place to unwind and relax for a few days.

I have been quite busy in the cottage over the last month. I have put in a little fridge, a kettle, and hung some bamboo blinds in the bathroom, hung a mirror, installed a new toilet cistern (all by myself – so chuffed with myself for managing that), descaled the tiles in the shower, filled holes in the walls, replaced electric point covers, bought new linen and curtains.  This week a friend of ours, Rodney, installed a cupboard to cover the ugly spot next to the shower.



All that’s left now is to paint the walls and sand and paint the window frames.  I am trying to get some nice chairs or a couch for the little veranda although the ones I like are just way too expensive for me to get right now.  I am getting a quote from Rodney for a sleeper bench.  Let’s hope its affordable.  I would also like to eventually replace the shower door, but it’s just going to have to do for now.

As you can see, although I have not been blogging, I have been rather busy.  I am  also getting ready to start up my own small business which I hope to tell you about soon.

Blue veins – a quirky touch.

This weekend I decided to experiment with the cracks in our paving around the pool.  The paving was laid many years ago while the surrounding trees were small.  Now that the trees have grown some of the paving has moved and cracked.

I quite like the rustic look it gives and I don’t want to lay any new paving because it will take away from the feel of the place.  I will be filling most of the cracks with cement to stop any weeds growing through.  Recently I saw a picture of some stone steps that had been built with some mosaic tiles between the stones and I wanted to try this in a crack to see the effect.  I am quite ready to chop it all out again if I don’t like it.

First I had to buy cement – I never knew there were so many kinds so it was a little stressful deciding what product to use.  Because some of the cracks were quite deep and wide I settled on a builders mix of cement and sand.  When I got home I saw that it was packaged separately and because I didn’t want to mix up the whole bag at once, I had to estimate the mix – lets hope it doesn’t all crumble as soon as it rains.

After filling the crack with the cement mix, the Bean and I started laying mosaics, beads, stones and other interesting small items into the cement.

And this is what it looked like half way through

I took a few more photos after the cement had dried – now all I have to do is decide if it stays or gets chopped out again.  Fred was very interested while we were laying the tiles and was rather jealous that the paving got so much “tickling” instead of him.

You can click on the thumbnails to have a closer look

What do you think?

Design dilemma

The floor in my main cottage and on my veranda is driving me totally crazy.  It is covered in pure white tiles. They would look pretty in a pristine home in the city but here they are just so impractical. I have to sweep and wash the floor twice a day to keep it looking slightly reasonable but most times it just looks like we never clean. Living in close proximity to water and sand does NOT work with white tiles.  Also, living under a thatch (grass) roof creates quite a bit of dust which shows up very easily on these tiles.  To add to the mess the tiles are very old and some of them are chipped and cracked.

I have always planned to renovate this cottage. My dreams of what I would really like to do are outside of my current budget so I need to find a way to improve the building in such a way that I can continue to make changes as I can afford them.

So you may ask why I am puzzling and that I should just do the floor and then do the rest when I can.  It’s not so simple.  I have a dividing wall in the cottage which closes off the pokey pantry/wash-up area from the lounge dining room area which I would also like to change.  How exactly I want to change it is still not clear.  See below – the red line is the wall I don’t like.

If I pull down the wall I will also have to remove the cupboards that are against it – that means new cupboards which I can’t afford right now.  The cupboards are built-in, so if I change the floor and want to change cupboards at a later stage, I would then have to re-do some of the flooring which is not very practical. The same goes for the wall.

One option with the wall is that I just break it down to the cupboard level and make the cupboards into an island – I could leave a portion of the wall up just to screen the washing-up area.  This was what I was going to do until a friend who visited (who is a developer and has designed and built many designer homes, hotels and lodges) suggested I move the wall further out and split my lounge off – make the kitchen bigger to incorporate a dining area and open the whole front of the cottage onto the veranda with folding doors.  This sounds so wonderful but I am sure it is going to be so over my current budget.  If I go this route, which is probably the best way to go, I will be living in dust and cement for months while I do parts slowly as there is no way I would manage to install new cupboards at this stage.

Right now I really don’t care what I do but I have to get rid of the floor before I go stir crazy! I want to replace the tiles with a screed floor similar to one of these – preferably not a light colour.

I like the top two on the right and the bottom one on the right.  One can even insert some type of pattern, pebbles or even wood to make an edge or design similar to  the picture below although I would not go for this type of pattern but rather a type of edging or border around the room.

Anyone got any wonderful suggestions before I rip the cottage to shreds?

Delicious Tomato and Basil Jam

As mentioned a few days ago, The Bean and I made jam to give away as gifts this season.  A few of you have requested the recipe so here it is.

Homemade Tomato and Basil Jam  (best served with cheese)

Because I mainly use this jam to eat on cheese and crackers I like to use whole cocktail tomatoes so that you can place the small tomato right on top of your cheese.  You can use large peeled, chopped and deseeded tomatoes for a smoother jam.  I like it chunky.

You will need:

  • cocktail tomatoes – I use about 2 large coffee mugs full of the small tomatoes per jar of jam.
  • sugar – half the weight of the tomatoes
  • lemon juice – about 3/4 cup for every three jars of jam
  • Fresh basil chopped – one handful per 3 jars of jam

I sterilise my bottles and lids by boiling them after they have had a really good scrub in the sink.  I use them directly from the boiling water so most times end up scalding my fingers.  If you have the correct equipment it will help although I just make use of a stainless steel serving spoon to removed the bottles and lids.  Some folk use their dishwashers to sterilize their jars but I like to use mine steaming hot (and I also no longer own a dishwasher).  I only sterilise my bottles just before I am ready to bottle the jam.


Place your washed tomatoes in a thick based pot and add the sugar and the lemon juice and heat gently till your tomatoes produce enough juice to raise the heat without burning. Boil the jam stirring often until it gets thicker.  I boil/ simmer for about an hour and just keep testing the thickness by placing a spot of jam on a saucer and putting it in the fridge for a few minutes.  Once the consistency is to your liking you can add the chopped basil stir through and check the flavour. If you would like it a little more tart – add some more lemon juice and then bottle the jam into your sterilised jars.

You now have a few different options depending on the health department in your area, your need for a sterile existence, your belief of everything written on the internet and your faith in old-fashioned cooking methods.

  • You can use a water bath canner to reheat, sterilize and seal your jars. (This seems to be the norm)  A pressure canner is not necessary because of the high acid content of the jam.


  • You can store your jam in the fridge.


  • You can  ‘bottle’  like our grandmothers.


I use the same method my mother used – I don’t use a water-bath or pressure canner.  I fill my bottles to the brim while they are very, very hot and the jam is scorching and seal with a good fitting hot boiled lid.

I suggest the jam be kept in the fridge after opening although even this may not be necessary due to acid content.



Homemade gifts

This year I decided to give homemade gifts to my family for Christmas.  My reasoning was not purely from a financial perspective but also from a green/recycling angle as well as how much fun and love goes into making things for loved ones.  I have been dying to show you what we made but had to wait till everyone had their gifts.

The Bean and I made some homemade tomato and basil jam which we wrapped up – a bottle for everyone.

We  gave each of the girls a homemade recycled handbag made from old curtains.  These were made for us by my colleague Charlie – a trade and barter deal.

and for my dad I painted this painting

I think this has been the most rewarding Christmas ever – I so enjoyed preparing the gifts.

Did you make any of your gifts?  I would love to hear about them.

Edit:   There is a great recipe for a homemade scented hand scrub in the comments of this post. Thanks Greg.