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 ūüôā )

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 Рtry 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.



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 ūüôā ¬†– Trust the Bean to snap a shot like this!)

Welcome home.

Our pair of paradise fly catchers arrived home today from their winter holidays.

They seem to arrive on exactly the same date every year. Normally about a week after I see the first ones in the area.  This is the third summer that I have been watching them build their nest in the exact same spot on the very same branch of the same tree.  Last year, if you remember, they hatched two lots of chicks. The second lot got eaten by something though, so I was afraid they might not return to the same tree this year.  They arrived this morning and are already hard at work building their new nest and catching bugs out of our swimming pool, swooping down and skimming the surface each time.  I can spend hours and hours just watching them.

Welcome home Peter and Maggie – may you lay many eggs and rear your babies to full size.

(Above photo of Maggie was taken by Steve Walker © last summer. You can see more of his photography here)

A crying tree – The Weeping Boer Bean

Although, when looking at the bushveld, is seems rather monotone (oranges and browns and greys in winter and greens and browns in summer), there are a myriad of colours hiding away for those who look closely.  In springtime especially there is quite a bit of red.

A favorite tree of mine is one with the most beautiful red flowers.  They stand out because they seem to shine brightly in the sunshine.  This is due to the copious amounts of nectar they exude Рcoating them in a sheen of sticky honey Рso much so that the nectar drips onto the ground under the tree.  That is why it  is called the weeping boer bean.

Scotia brachypetala has quite a few other names too which help describe it.

  • Parrot Tree – the¬†nectar¬†attracts a lot of birds
  • Drunken Parrot Tree – excess nectar ferments and can have a mild narcotic effect on some birds
  • Weeping Boerbean – the name we use here – weeping due to the nectar dripping and bean because it is a leguminous tree
  • Huilboerboon – is the Afrikaans name (huil = cry)
  • Tree Fuchsia – totally different family to the fuchsia but has similar flowers (ballerina flowers)
  • African Walnut – the roasted seeds are edible.
While the tree in my garden pictured here is only about 3m tall, these trees can grow to about 22m high with a spread of 15 meters.
Not only is¬†Schotia brachypetala¬†an exceptional ornamental tree, it also has a number of other uses: A decoction of the bark is taken to treat heartburn and hangovers (good to know ūüôā ). Bark and root mixtures are used to strengthen the body and purify the blood, to treat nervous heart conditions and diarrhoea, as well as for facial saunas. The seeds are edible after roasting, Both the Bantu-speaking people and the early European settlers and farmers are said to have roasted the mature pods and eaten the seeds, a practice which they learned from the Khoikhoi. The bark can be used for dyeing, giving a red-brown or red colour.
Here are some pictures of the flowers
In the picture below you can see the gooey nectar. Also the bean pod in the middle of the flower and some ants busy collecting nectar.

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 Рwe both preferred Rustic Rock Lodge but she mentioned that because many of the 5-star places around here are called lodges Рwe 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?