Saturday, August 16, 2014


One of these "chain" posts came by on my email the other day.  One is supposed to name three things everyday, for seven days, that one is grateful for and on each day, nominate a friend to do the same for a week. After four days, I floundered a bit, but here they are:

A husband who is a best friend
Good health up until now
A small family of siblings and cousins of quality rather than quantity
I  can smell that Spring is in the air today
I live in the most crime free part of SA
A small group of friends of quality rather than quantity
I have enough for my needs and a little bit to spare for my wants
Tea and breakfast in bed every morning...I know.....damn spoilt!
The sounds of sea and birds from my open windows this morning
There is still freedom of speech in SA
Opportunity to work with children (one is scared to say that these days!)      
There is still freedom of religion in SA    
A two day working week despite being greatly financially poorer for it
Pets who have great personalities and who love me unconditionally
Winter afternoon sunshine on my bed
I don't live in a war zone
I awoke to a new day this morning
I do not have children in this world, which frees me from that kind of worry and anguish (can a negative be a positive?)
Time and opportunity to help others if and when  I feel that desire

My gratitude is all pretty selfish and relates to spoilt me rather than to the bigger picture. As they say: Different strokes for different folks.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Winters Tale

On a Wednesday in the first week of the July school holidays, we drove up to the plot. It was a very tight squeeze in the car because now, not only do we have our two dogs with us, but, Gypsy the cat goes too! 

Within an hour of our arrival, she had efficiently nabbed herself a fresh snack.

 She wriggled around on her back right next to it but as we got closer to take a photo of her prize, she grabbed it, trotted off and crunched it away!


She continued to catch one or two mice every day while we were there and I wondered why I had bothered to bring along food for her. 

One evening, I thought I heard the screeching noises of a frog that had been caught by something.... but then I saw the young barn owl on our roof. It was as though it was protesting the hijack of it's live larder on our field

On that first day, after speaking to John, our faithful worker when we are there, I called out the SPCA from Swellendam to collect his dog and we paid to have her sterilized. 

We had had the dog inoculated 3 months previously and it was the picture of health then because somebody in the area was buying a bag of dog food once a month for him. Circumstances have changed and he no longer receives this bounty. We were devastated at its condition. Apparently the dog had also had  a miscarriage a while ago and I believe that if we had not said we would pay, the SPCA would have confiscated the dog. Our argument in not following this course is that John will just get another dog. Rather sterilize and encourage him to try and feed it more nourishment than bread or porridge.


Not being too clued up, I told him that even if he gives the dog one raw egg a day with the porridge, that should help. But of course, earning an average of R100 - R200 a week at the moment, its hopeless advice. 

Two days after we arrived, our huge purchase was delivered.  A ten thousand litre water tank to be installed atop our brick platform. We had been told two years beforehand that water pressure and water supply could not be guaranteed and that we should install a storage tank for the municipal water, to provide for both in the event of a local water system failure. It took me the best part of eighteen months to save up for this and when we bought it, discovered that the cost had increased by a considerable  amount. No wonder some young people in this country expect to earn a million rands a year by the time they are 25!

Anyhow, now it is installed and despite it being so high, secured ingeniously by Roy and John that day.

My brother-in-law joined us for a few days over the weekend and helped Roy to thread the wiring for some of the plug-points in the building. It seemed a bit pointless to be doing this when we have no intention of connecting up to Eskom but the plug-points and conduiting were installed already and so it remains an unfinished item that we feel compelled to complete as far as possible. As usual, I did not think to take photographs. Recording the chaotic action of trying to thread three insulated wires through and around corners of pipes in the wall would have made for some amusing memories.

It snowed overnight on the Friday and we were treated to some dramatic clouds and dusting of snow on mountains. The temperature plummeted and on the Tuesday night I believe the lowest overnight temperatures in 37 years were recorded across South Africa. On three nights there, thick ice formed on the surface of the deck and icy shards were proudly displayed to me alongside my morning tea in bed!

Once brother- in- law returned to Cape Town and the weather improved, I braced myself to have a detailed look at the trees. I had been putting it off for the first few days, just to stave off facing the reality of deliberate drowning of our trees. Some smaller trees were definitely dead. Some did not look good but the shock was still only two weeks in progess. The Wild Plums are definitely not usually so light in colour and I believe are showing distress.


Many are without any leaves where they are deciduous, so I might have to wait for spring for a true accounting. The white stinkwoods usually retain a few leaves but currently are completely bare, as are the deciduous fruit trees.


 The soil was still wet when we had arrived and then, we had tons of rain and hail on that first night, before the snow. I tried not to think about it all.

On the second day up there, something happened which showed me how easy it is to earn malicious intent from others. It certainly placed me in a dilemma. What do you do if you see someoneA taking two sheep off the field near to you. Assuming innocence before guilt, you imagine that their two sheep got mixed up with the small flock belonging to someoneB, who has left them there to graze for the day. That someoneB comes along the next morning and frantically tells you that his sheep are missing, asking whether you saw anything. So, reluctantly you give a description and a name of someoneA. Why reluctant? Because you wonder : will we be punished for being a "snitch" and have our trees bear the brunt again? and someoneB will drive past our place, happy with a full complement of sheep again (yes! the sheep were miraculously still on the hoof when he found them in the possession of the identified snatchers!) , not a care in the world and without sparing a glance at our "pets" when we are absent.  

Whoever said that country life is simple...
if it involves people, don't you believe it!

From a neighbours spot, checking  our tank's visual impact
see on the  extreme right of the image

One of the local meat barons has started to breed goats alongside his sheep and cattle and grazes the entire caboodle on an adjacent field. I noticed some damage on some more mature trees and could only guess that the goats had managed to break in. I do not think that sheep and cattle eat bark like this when there is plenty of food in the veld?  I seem to remember hearing the Afrikaans saying (or is it a song?): " 'n Bok is 'n lelike ding" , and boy, is that true!


We took a trip through to Heidelberg to buy more chicken wire to try and protect some of the more vulnerable trees from sheep. 


And trees, where I had already removed protection because they seemed big enough to be safe from sheep, had to have wire wrapped around their trunks once more, this time to foil obstinate goats.

We also took some small precaution against possible future sabotage before heading back to Cape Town on the Thursday.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Winter of our Discontent

A week ago, we got a frantic phone call from the neighbour  who turns our watering system on at the plot whenever the trees are looking a bit limp. He had turned our water on during the Wednesday morning and then, while it was watering, he ended up spending the rest of the day running over field and dale, at another neighbour's request, to help recapture some lost livestock that had wandered off for many kilometers.

On his return, as he drove past our place, he remembered our water was still on and luckily he did not have his water-meter key with him. Lazy to go first to his house to fetch it, he asked the water-meter reader, a Zimbabwean chap who lives 30 metres from our water-meter at the gate, to bring his water-meter key and together, they turned the meter off and both took note of the reading. It is so fortunate that he had a witness to this, otherwise we would have thought  that what happened next was down to him. 

On the Friday afternoon, a local person ran up to the neighbour's house and told him that our water was running on the trees and there was so much water in the tree holes, he could hear the water jets as they hit the surface of the water at each tree. They  rushed down to investigate and discovered that somebody had turned our water on at full bore, something the neighbour never does himself, and about 70kl had been used since he had turned it off on the Wednesday. 

I am devastated at this, now that I have calculated just how much water has been delivered to each of the approximately 100 trees. With the water from the intentional watering, followed up almost immediately by this malicious act, the trees have received an equivalent of 16 x 5000 litre tanks of water, in the middle of winter, in soil that has a high clay content, in the space of three days!

For the next few days until we can visit our property, I walk around with a sick, heavy lump in my stomach and throat. All I can think about is the likely demise of drowned trees and that horrible feeling that comes with knowing that somebody, who is  in possession of their own universal water-meter key , as are all property owners there,  wishes you such ill-will and malice. 

The horrendous water account that will face us is just going to add insult to injury, and is going to be especially tough coming after a huge purchase we have made for our next trip up to the plot.  Ironically, the purchase is linked to the water system inadequacies and problems facing the area.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Dead of Winter




Through rain, wind and hail, we bared up our brows

Yet  hate stormed our feet, hour  upon  hours

Earth hugs our sap, sweet and intense

Our only sin, we were mensch 


Wednesday, May 21, 2014


It is well over two years since our cats died unexpectedly, three in the space of six months. Since then, I have resisted acquiring another cat. Its difficult to be away from home when you have pets.

 Instead, we took on a second dog, Midge. She is small and fulfills many yearnings for a lap-pet. It is easy enough to take dogs with us to our plot. 

But I have been overwhelmed at times by the huge hole in my life that only a cat can fill. 

These last two years have been the first cat-less life lived in at least 5 decades! 

Meet our new kitty, Gypsy. 

She was lost or abandoned by somebody and there is no way to track down her previous owner. No microchip. No lost adverts with photographs to match her appearance. 

She has fitted so perfectly into our lives and its as though we have always known each other. 

Yes, she has taken over our hearts completely!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Oom Geeltjie's Finale

Following on soon from the last building session, in the last week of April, Roy went up for one final fling with the concrete mixer at the plot. 

Brother-in-law once again joined him for the first weekend. Roy found himself repeating a photograph of sunrise, sunset...



The final cement and concrete work totaled five working days and, as per usual, it was hectic. The weather delayed the session by a day and on one rainy day, after such delays,  building took place well after sunset by the light of two solar lights. 

The "to-do" list included three main tasks: screed topping on the rest of the verandah; a concrete apron in front of the cellar opening, with a step to hide exposed foundations; the last layers of the brick platform, built to elevate a water tank, a planned future purchase. 

One problem that needed to be solved was the rough finish of the step in front of the sliding doors. The opening for the door proved to be half a brick too high when built a few years ago and the quick solution then was just to chop off half the height of the bricks. Its rough-shod and uneven levels were a headache now.

The bricklayer had to carefully plan levels  to provide for water  run-off as well as be something aesthetically pleasing.

Exposed foundations needed to be neatened off in conjunction with a concrete apron outside that cellar opening. The apron needs to divert water flow away from the opening.

Rain caused them to pin up shade-cloth to protect the wet cement, on the screed under the deck,  from water erosion overnight. 

Before returning to Cape Town, final touches included John filling the brick platform, painting the rails with NS4 and Roy installing the steps on the stairway. 

John could only help on weekends and public holidays as he is currently working for someone else and duties had to be light because he was sporting a hand injury.

So at last, Oom Geeltjie, the concrete mixer, has turned his last load of cement for us and awaits a new project and owner for the future.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Autumn Action

As Autumn creeps up on us, we savour any day which recalls the warmth of summer before the handover to chilly winter.

I love experimenting with growing plants from cuttings during this cooler period. They don't dry out so quickly.

Colours are always so much more intense. 

We stayed up at the plot for almost the entire first week of April. We first overnighted in Pringle Bay and visited friends as we did last year in September. 

The next morning, it was cold and rain clouds were about.

At the plot, we spent time attending to small chores. Attending to one chore left over from his last building session, Roy now covered the painted board of the platform above the door with malthoid, sealed the joins with membrane cloth and then painted with roof sealant paint. This should ensure protection and waterproofing of the structure. 

I am still not able to get up onto the deck as there are no steps yet on the stairway and I have a fear of climbing a ladder.

We visited friends nearby who have hand-reared an abandoned Barn owlet into a beautiful specimen. He flies in every evening for his dinner. 
What a hoot! 

The Cape honeysuckle on the fence is starting to spread nicely.

We added a shade-cloth cover above the top windows for protection against NEXT summer's sun. It is supposed to be a temporary measure until we install something sturdier. 

We will probably leave it there until it perishes!

A different perspective of the plot, without the usual mountain backdrop.

On our return to Cape Town we were delighted to spend a day with our dear friends who emigrated to Australia about 14 years ago.  We took them to the Spice Route Farm in Paarl and then on to the Hillcrest Berry Orchard Farms. 

It is so difficult to be the ones left behind when most of your family and friends move far away. Please come back soon!