Lowveld Botanical Gardens

One of the places I have been very keen to visit here in Mbombela is the Lowveld Botanical Garden.  I had heard that it was really worth going to see.  This last weekend B and I popped in to take a look.

There are two separate entrances and one can be a little confused as to which one to go to when you arrive.

Entrance 1 gives you quick access to the Nelspruit waterfall and cascades

and a really nice looking eatery called Kuzuri Restaurant. We popped in to take a look and the food smelled heavenly.  We plan to try it out soon.

One then walks over an amazing swing bridge and through the rain forest to get to the area serviced by entrance 2

Entrance 2 is closer to the formal gardens and the different types of walks as well as  the Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden where we stopped for scones and strawberry jam.  The food and service was very good.  This venue is often used for tea parties, birthdays and weddings.

Unfortunately when we arrived they were preparing for a party and the radio was loud with cars parked around the venue blocking out the stunning view and the beautiful bird sounds. I hope this was a once off. I will definitely be going back to see because other than that it was an enjoyable experience.

From this point there are various walks in different directions that one can choose from, all seem lovely from the few we did. The walks down to the river involve quite a few stairs but there are also walks throughout the garden that are wheelchair friendly.

We were lucky enough to catch the last of the clivias blooming

The huge variety of plants and flowers allow for all year round pleasure so we will be back many times I am sure.

Views of our new home

Every weekend we try to get our dogs out for a good run.  This past weekend I took a few photos so show our new environment.  This is the farm we currently live on.  The trees without leaves are mostly pecan nut trees and the leafy ones are avocado trees.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed our walk/run/drive

 

As soon as things start greening up a bit these views will change so much. I look forward to taking more pictures as that happens.

 

I hope you enjoyed the tour – let me know what you think.

Flipping

Today I went for a ride in this tiny little gyrocopter.  Another first for me.

and I took this photo of Jackal’s Den.

We even got to see a giraffe when we were flying over the reserve.  It was very hard to keep the camera still enough to take pictures. We only flew for about 20 minutes. It was hot and windy and we bounced all over the sky.  I was not too nervous but did feel a little green around the gills by the time I got my feet back on the ground.  I would like to do it again sometime but probably early in the morning on a cooler day 🙂  Still, it was a wonderful opportunity.

 

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.

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.

 

On top of the world – Lesotho continued

 

 

This is a second post in a three-part series on Lesotho.  Read post one here.

Lesotho is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 metres in elevation. Its lowest point of 1,400 metres  is thus the highest in the world. Over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres. Lesotho is also the southernmost landlocked country in the world. Because of its altitude, Lesotho remains cooler throughout the year than other regions at the same latitude. Winters can be cold with the lowlands getting down to −7 °C (19 °F) and the highlands to −18 °C (−0 °F) at times. Snow is common in the highlands between May and September; the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.

As we wove through the mountains, climbing up towards Katse dam we started to see the temperatures plummet. Below you can see how the road cuts through the mountains.

Africa is most often depicted as a hot arid continent.  And it is mostly, so when we South Africans get to see a little snow, it is rather a treat.  Here in this region of Lesotho they have snow through most of winter and sometimes even in summer.  How strange for Africa!

As we reached the top, the most beautiful snowscape scenes surrounded us.

 

 

We stopped the car and had to clamber about in it for a bit like children of course 🙂

 

I felt like I was on top of the world.

The mountain kingdom.

 

 

 

 

Hair

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Khalil Gibran 

Can you believe this caterpillar?  Looks like she is on her way home from the hairdresser. You know that feeling when you quite like the cut but it’s all poofed up by the hairdresser and you’re thinking it’ll be fine once you have wet it and dried it yourself?  The highlights are good though 🙂

Can anyone identify her.  She is about  10 cm’s long.  I wonder what kind of butterfly she will be?

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly. ~ R. Buckminster Fuller 

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)

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)

Full house

These past few days have been tough.  The Bean went to her boyfriends family’s game farm which I think was a good thing. Some young company to keep her occupied would help her pass this sad time without having to look at her tearful mother.

I dreaded the quiet moments that would come – alone without Fred, but somehow the universe conspired to force me to keep company which I did, although I would have preferred staying curled up in my bed feeling sorry for myself.

Our farm which is usually really quiet, had so many people popping past and coming to see me.  We had our conservancy meeting on Saturday where I met a few of the other owners and another couple stayed here in my guest cottage while they fix their home on the farm.  They wined and dined me and would not allow me a moment to go and mope. Some of the owners came back today to view a site where they will potentially build a cottage that I will also run for them.  I was signed up as the secretary of the conservancy and because I am the only owner resident on the farm, they decided to forgo my levy in return for me reading that water meters every month and just keeping an eye on the farm.  Suits me down to the ground.

Tomorrow two of the Beans friends from Belgium arrive to visit for 10 days. We will also be “baby-sitting” two of her girl friends from school whose parents were called out of town suddenly.  From time to time the Bean’s Boyfriend ( I must find him a name) will probably be staying over.  Do the math. That’s me and 6 teenagers/young adults.  I guess I am going to be really busy.  I am planning to split them into pairs to do the cooking and dishes.  Now I just have to find enough food 🙂

I am also trying to get my business established and will have to play tour guide for some of the time. Busy, busy, busy, – and that’s a really good thing for me now.

I am going on an interesting day trip on Wednesday to see an old African lady who is one of the old fashioned herbalists who forages her food and herbs from the wild. I hope to be able to learn from her over time.  Our plants are so different here to many found in Europe and the USA and are not really well documented with regards to using them medicinally and especially for food.  We will also be visiting a tribal village so I should have some wonderful pictures for you to see soon.

Other good news – our farm has purchased more kudus for our one lonely female.  They should be arriving on Tuesday.  They are such beautiful creatures – I can’t wait to have them walking around here.