Not so Nutty.

In front of Tiny House there is a pecan nut orchard.  When I got here at the beginning of the month they looked like this

and today they look like this

I just love watch everything come to life in springtime.

Today I realized that I know very little about them so I asked B lots of questions as he showed me around the trees.  On the dryer trees I spotted clusters of growth quite high up like the picture below.

These clumps of growth are mistletoe.  I didn’t even know that we had mistletoe in this country and really have only seen plastic kissy ones at Christmas time.  These unfortunately are not so friendly and are semi-parasitic weeds which cause loss of nut yield and make the tree sickly. Mistletoe has to be cut out of the trees.

The trees will flower near the end of spring and then as the flower wilts the nut begins to grow.  It is not a true nut but actually a “drupe”.

(picture of pecan from Wikipedia)

Health benefits of Pecans

  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Antioxidants present protect against cancer and infections
  • Pecan nuts are rich source of vitamin E and are therefore great for skin health
  • The nuts are very rich sources of several important B-complex groups of vitamins
  • The nuts are also rich source of minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.

I will definitely be making pecan nut pie soon and I also enjoy putting them in my banana bread and salads. Do you have any favorite pecan nut recipes to share?


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!



Katse Dam – Lesotho

One would think that this small,dry, brown, mountainous country would not have much to offer in the way of export so it comes as quite a surprise to many that one of Lesotho’s biggest exports is water. Alongside electricity and diamonds, water makes up a large portion of the export income for Lesotho.  South Africa pays R37 million per year for water derived from the Lesotho Highlands water project.  Katse Dam was built as the first phase of this project. (pronounced cut-sea)


Katse dam is 50 kilometers long and holds a volume of 1 950 million m³ of water.  It is the highest dam in Africa and also the second largest in Africa.


Dam features

  • Height – 185 m
  • Crest length – 710 m
  • Design – double arch, concrete
  • Concrete – 2,320,000 cubic meters
  • 1993 meters above sea level

We took a tour into the dam wall but I was not allowed to take any photographs inside unfortunately.  It was very interesting and is quite an engineering feat.

Water is taken in at this tower and is transferred via a 45 km, 4 m diameter underground tunnel to a hydroelectric station near Muela after which it is piped a further 35km to just outside the town of Clarens in South Africa.  The pipeline itself is tunneled through the mountains and water travels downhill all the way making use of gravity for flow.

Here you can see the water exiting the pipeline and being fed into the ash river.

If you are ever in the area it really is well worth a visit to the dam.

This is the last of a series of three posts about Lesotho. You can read the first two posts but clicking on the links below.

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.





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…………



Recently, my friend Vanessa and her husband Gavin sent me some strange looking brown tubers in a parcel (full of other lovely goodies for me too).  They turned out to be amaDumbe, or more commonly known as Madumbi here in South Africa, or as Taro elsewhere.

Scientific name: Colocasia esculenta

This ‘‘potato of the tropics’’, amaDumbe (Colocasia  esculenta) is found all over the world in subtropical regions and is cooked much like a yam. amaDumbe, originated in
Oceania and South East Asia. It was spread by human settlers eastward to
New Guinea and the Pacific over 2000 years ago, where
it became one of the most important food plants economically and culturally. It is believed that amaDumbe has been cultivated for over 6000 years.

The mature corms and young shoots of amaDumbe are mostly used as boiled vegetables, but the corms are also roasted, baked, or fried. Roasted or boiled corms can be eaten alone or with stew.  amaDumbe corms are very rich in starch and they are a good source of dietary fibre.

I got six tubers in my parcel and instead of popping them into the oven, I have planted them so that I can harvest many more in 8-10 months time.

The plant looks just like an elephant ear and the young shoots and leaves are also edible. I hope they grow.



How far can you spit?

A week or two ago I saw that a snake had slithered into my empty swimming pool. It is still empty due to our ongoing water problems but there was a small pool of water that had collected from the rain. I think the snake was attracted to a small group of frogs that were enjoying the water. Normally when I need to remove a snake I just use my snake hook or tongs to catch them and move them back into the bush but this little fellow (about 40 cm’s) turned out to be a juvenile Mozambican Spitting Cobra.

The Mozambican Spitting Cobra is second only to the Mamba as the most dangerous snake in Africa because of its venomous bite.  Adults are 1-1.5 meters long. These cobras don’t actually spit venom; they spray it.  Their muscles contract to push venom from the bottom of the fangs while air from the lung blows or sprays the venom at the victim’s eyes.

Their color can be olive-grey, brown, or grey with black scales in between.  Mozambican Spitting Cobras occupy a wide variety of habitats—they can be found in thicket and moist savanna, often near permanent water holes.  Adult Mozambican Spitting Cobras are mostly nocturnal but can be found by day sun bathing close to their hiding spot.

The spitting cobra has a broad diet, including snakes, lizards, frogs, rodents and other small mammals.  When disturbed, this cobra will rear up two-thirds of its body and spray its venom with quick accuracy toward the victim’s eyes.  Its poison takes effect instantaneously.  It can cause inflammation or permanent blindness if not washed out immediately.

Mozambique Spitting Cobras can be found in hollow logs, under rocks or termite mounds, in holes under ground, and under thick bushes.  Keep your distance from this cobra if you happen to run into one.  It can spray your eyes with surprising accuracy.

The juvenile snake (which mine was) moves really fast and although it’s highly toxic venom is the same as that of the adult, it has yet to learn how to control the volume of venom to inject into its prey, so more often than not, bites from these juvenile snakes are fatal.

After consulting with a few friends on how to remove him, I decided to put a really long (3m) bushy branch into the pool which he climbed onto and I lifted him out and walked him back into the bush.  I was really glad that I eventually got him out because he used to puff up his collar every time I walked past the swimming pool and he was freaking me out .  I think I may have been freaking him out too 🙂

The aftermath of our floods.

Life here is slowly returning to normal. Social conversations are still all about what happened and who was badly affected.  Most of us – but not all, have our electricity back on and we can get where we need to go, although there are roadworks everywhere and a few detours still.  The vegetation next to the rivers looks ravaged and huge trees are lying sadly on their sides with withered leaves.  There will definitely not be a shortage of firewood here for a while.

Our water on the other hand is still quite disgusting

I put this water into the bottles 10 days ago hoping to be able to sediment out the sand and get clean water.  To date there is very, very, little sedimentation and it still looks just as orange as when I bottled it.  I have tried filtering it through cloth and coffee filters but nothing comes out.  Ceramic jug filters just get blocked so they are no good either.

A city 100km’s away from us sends a huge truck filled with water to our town every day and we can collect water.  For a day or two all bottled water in the stores was sold out but they are all fully stocked now.  I looked at some prices for those who purchase their water – Pick ‘n Pay R18.95 for 5L, – Labamba R12.95 for 5L and Oasis, R13.95.

I use our purchased bottled water for cooking and drinking. Even Cleo and Savannah get bottled water to drink.  We shower in the orange water but I just can’t bring myself to wash our clothes in it.  Our laundry pile is quite huge.  I met a lady yesterday who is taking her washing to Nelspruit (2 hours away) to get it done in a laundromat there.  I will have to make a plan to get some washing done somehow as it does not look like this problem will be resolved in the very near future.

The small roads on and around our farm are in a state of disrepair.

These gullies will have to be filled with rock and sand to avoid further erosion when it rains.

Some good news though, is that our new baby giraffe is fit, fat and flourishing and survived the rains well.






A day I’ll never forget – January 18th, 2012.

Hoedspruit, South Africa.

I awoke to the sound of torrential rain. Another wet day. We had already had rain continuously for a day and a half and everything was getting muddy and damp.  I had recently started a small mornings-only job to assist a friends business so I had to get up and cracking and into town by 7am.

I am not a great morning person so when I had to get to my car I only half noticed that I was up to my ankles in water.  Hurry hurry – let’s go.

As I got to the main road, I realised that there was quite a bit of water laying everywhere and it was still coming down hard.  I was following another driver who kept on putting their hazard lights on when they rode through water puddles – I looked around again and could not believe how wet my world looked. I took a few photos.

On my way to town I cross about 5 rivers/ dry river beds – by the time I was 4 km’s outside of Hoedspruit the smaller rivers were starting to flow across the road. I reached the Zandspruit (Sand River) and many cars were backed up and people were getting out of their vehicles.  I stopped and asked if there was an accident and a man told me that the river was flowing across the road and it was too deep and strong to cross.

I then realised that if I did not hot-tail it back home – I would be caught on the road between two rivers , unable to go anywhere, so I turned my car around and headed home as fast as I could.  By the time I crossed the Blyde river near my turn-off it was about 1 meter below the bridge (normally about 5-6 meters below).

At this stage I should have given up and not tried to go any further because our 10km sand road runs alongside this river for about 4 km’s before it veers off towards the small farming area where I live, however, I carried on – I try to reason with myself and ask myself why I did not stop then and I can’t answer.

My trip from hell began.  Water was rushing from the bush and farmlands across the road and into the river alongside the sand road, digging great big gashes in the road.  I wanted to stop but I could not because I would never have got back to safety, so I clenched my teeth, loosened my safety belt and opened my window in case I needed to escape from my car in a hurry and just had to keep going.  Those 4 km’s felt like 10 km’s. My car kept getting washed and pushed sideways by the strong currents crossing the road, and just when I thought I would wash off the road my wheels gripped again and I got out of the stream, only to have to cross another and slide again.  How I got through I will never know but I believe I was the last vehicle on that road before the entire road washed away as the river rose to meet the water pouring from the farms.

Our small community at the end of the sand road was isolated from the main road and town for 4 days.  Our electricity failed by 8 am and was only restored 4 days later and then only intermittently.  Our tap water turned orange/red and became unpalatable and remains that way.  Tonight (23 Jan) I got my internet connectivity back.

My only source of information came via my mobile phone where I could access Facebook and hear how everyone else was doing. Luckily one of the empty homes on our reserve had solar power and a gas freezer so I made use of their facilities to charge my phone and keep my food frozen as best I could. Many folk had no communication once their phone batteries emptied.

My friends and their families in town were also isolated from the surrounding areas because almost every bridge over a river or dry stream was washed away. Homes situated near rivers and dry river beds were washed away. A lady on the farm next door whose house was near the river had to be airlifted to safety as were 150 other people from the areas surrounding Hoedspruit.  Her car was washed onto our farm. Many, many people have lost everything they own.

Here are a few pictures

Photo by Annelise Smit – This is the river that was 1 meter below the bridge when I crossed it.

Photo by Andre Weideman – Paddle-skiing down the R40 (normally a road)

This is the river that runs along the border of my farm (Blyde river) – crossing the road instead of going under the bridge.

Photo taken and the closest store to my home. That’s the end of that wall….

Roads have been devoured….

many homes damaged…..

Photo by Freek Stoop. My local petrol (gas) station

The community here has stood together amazingly.  Instead of waiting for aide – our farmers and a few local companies got together and repaired roads and bridges.  Farmers from Tzaneen have sent us truck loads of drinking water.  Everyone has tried to do their bit to help those in need. Our local newspaper, Kruger2Canyon kept us all up to date via Facebook so we could follow what was happening although almost everyone in our entire area was stranded. They squashed rumours of the dam wall cracking and kept us all sane. I am so thankful to them.

While we were all isolated from town, one of my colleagues, Kleintjie Viljoen, took this video of what was happening in Hoedspruit itself.  He apologises for the running commentary.

I have tried to credit people for their photographs but some were passed around Facebook so many times that I was unsure of who took them. My apologies if I have made any errors.

Our beautiful small town is now in an awful state of disrepair and many people have lost all they owned.  Poorer communities were struck really badly and many of these people have no homes, food, drinking water, or clothes.

Here are details for those of you who wish to make a contribution to assist those who have nothing left.

Ref : Flood Disaster Relief
Acc No: 4055 05 1951
Branch: 632005

Arachnophobia – Carlé’s story

It was only when Carlé and her family came to visit Jackal’s Den that I found out that she had a severe case of arachnophobia. I mentioned to her mother that our local reptile park had programs during the holidays to help people cope with their phobias and she decided that it was time for Carlé and her sisters to attend the workshop.

Carlé understandably was really not keen to go but we persisted and she agreed as long as she would not be forced to look, see, touch or experience spiders in any way. We agreed and hoped that the folk at Khamai Reptile Park would have a plan.

When we got there we were greeted by Daniel and Donald who assured Carlé that she would never have to do anything that she did not want to do.  They started to talk to her about spiders and which ones are dangerous to us here in South Africa. Naturally she wanted to know what the dangerous ones looked like so she could identify them if ever she came across them. Daniel showed them to her (they were in glass cages so Carlé felt safe.)  We were then taken to see the reptiles and were allowed to hold what ever we liked. Carlé has a fondness for bearded dragons etc. so she was put at ease with these creatures.

and her sisters got to play too

The dragon in the picture above has a tumour on it’s leg – it was handed in at the park in this condition. As soon as the tumour gets too large, the folk at the reptile park will remove it surgically.

We were then taken to a patch of shady lawn at the park and seated to hear more about spiders. They showed  us casings of baboon spiders (shedded skins) which look exactly like the spider itself except a small portion of the back is missing where the spider emerged. We were allowed to touch and feel although Carlé held back. She did manage to watch us play with a baboon spider though.

We were all ‘oooh-ing’ and ‘aaah-ing’ after the experience because it is quite a special moment  when you hold one of these creatures. They are so soft and gentle and oh-so-light on their tippy toes across your skin. (I know many of you won’t believe this because I didn’t until I picked up the nerve to hold one – now I can’t get enough)

Then we went off to feed the chameleons

and play with the baby tortoises

It was at this point that Carlé mentioned to Daniel that she may just like to try to touch the spider so he took her back inside and told her that he would  just let her feel what the spider’s feet felt like.  Daniel had so much patience with us and with Carlé – never pushing her beyond what she was ready for.

You can see by the way that Carlé is sitting that she is quite nervous still.  I will let the following sequence of pictures tell the rest of the story.

The staff at Khamai Reptile Park were absolutely amazing with vast amounts of interesting information and tons of patience with the children. These are the folk who worked with me to get me over my snake phobia over two years ago. (Now go back and look at the last few pictures again, this time looking into the glass window behind Carlé’s head)

See – I am cured too 🙂

And now Carlé wants her own tarantula!

(photos kindly taken and provided by Ronney Reece and Erika Green)