Monday, September 12, 2011

Meat Mayhem

We went up to the Plot last week and were amazed at how green everything is.
We were dog-sitting a friend's dog and so she came along too 
(much to Mad Dog's irritation).

Bonnie and the sweet Jasmine flowers
Meat prices are just climbing higher by the day and its seldom that we treat ourselves to anything other than sausage or mince. While we were up at the Plot, we noticed that there seems to be a frenzy taking place. The fields are lush and green after some generous winter rains and other landowners are hastily jumping on the bandwagon to make a good amount of money, despite many of them  living 260 km away in Cape Town, as we do.  They have acquired more livestock in the form of sheep or cattle. One owner has expanded his flock of sheep to over 100 and he also owns some cattle and yet, he only owns about two hectares! Most of these meat barons will rely on being able to rent Commonage from the Municipality or  approach other landowners, who don't own livestock, to rent out their fields to them. However, if a property is not fenced off, then its a free-for-all! Only a fence demarcates: "So far and no further". Or at least, that's the theory.

I was so disheartened when my neighbour there telephoned me three weeks ago to tell me that he had chased an entire herd of cattle off our plot. Somebody had opened the fence to our property (the gates are secured) and allowed their cattle to browse on our land. Cattle love to rub every itchy bit of their bodies on a tree and as our trees are still relatively small, the damage was extensive. The most upsetting was the damage to one of our four Mission Olive trees, which had borne fruit for the first time this year. 

Mission Olive
Mission Olive's new shape: a wind tunnel

Wild Pear

Wild Peach
One of many damaged Wild Olives
The worrying thing is that the heavy winds and harsh climate might just prevent a full recovery and lead to an ultimate demise. 

 One man's dream creates another's nightmare!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Belated Birthday Beat

It is customary at my work to bring edibles for the staff when its one's birthday. This year I have been so negligent that I am already six months overdue. Yesterday, on our way back from the Plot, we stopped at Riviersonderend to buy some goodies at the Ou Meul, a bakery which sells the most divine Venison pies and Bobotie pies, amongst other items of delight. They also bake a delicious Melk Tert and I bought one for the belated birthday feast at school on Friday. Tonight I baked the savoury part of the menu and it is a recipe that I use every year (I tend to stick with recipes that work and do not venture too far afield!), varying the filling according to what I have in stock. This time, its mushrooms and bacon. (I doubled up on the following quantities, for fifteen people.)

1.  Cut off the crust from 9 - 10 slices of white bread and then cut each slice
     into little blocks.
2.  Beat 6 eggs in a mixing bowl.
3.  Add 500 ml cold milk to the beaten eggs and mix.
4.  Add the blocks of bread to the egg/milk mixture. Let it stand for about 5 minutes 
     and then beat it  all up until it is like a porridge.    
5.  Turn on your oven to 180 degrees C and while it heats up,  add the following
     ingredients to the egg and bread mixture:
     * 250 grams finely cut cold meat - any kind: leftover bits of gammon or bacon 
        or smoked pork or bully beef or Vienna sausage and/or left over veges and/or 
        mushroom or asparagus bits.
     * 2 coffee cups of grated cheddar cheese
     * 1 finely chopped onion
     * some parsley
     * ½ teaspoon mild mustard powder (or less if it is strong mustard)
6.  Melt 50 grams of butter or margarine in the microwave and add that to the mixture
7.  Mix all of this together, lightly yet thoroughly, with a fork. Add some salt.
8.  With butter or margarine, smear a casserole or pie dish or non-stick baking
     dish  which can hold about two litres.
9.  Smooth the mixture into the dish and bake for 30 minutes in the ready oven on the  
     middle rack. The mixture will rise completely as it bakes and turn pale golden 
     brown before it is ready to remove. Once it is removed, it will sink down as it cools
10. Serve hot or cold with some salad.    

I placed the left-over bread crusts into a roasting pan and then into the warm oven, stirred them around every now and again until they dried out. I  sprinkled the hot crusts with some Green Onion flavouring and allowed them to cool into crunchy snacks.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Our garden is on a rather steep slope on the mountainside. The slope has been made more dramatic in the past by the removal of soil for filling foundations walls before pouring a slab or for leveling out a garden behind a retaining wall.  While the village was still relatively uninhabited nearly thirty years ago, people happily helped themselves to tons of soil from "empty" land.

As a result, when we built our house, we had to shore up embankments created by these excavations, in order to stabilise the soil for a garden. Being broke at the time, the quickest and cheapest method was to use cement blocks, fill them with soil and build retaining structures throughout the garden.


Over the years, these blocks have done a fantastic job of holding back the soil but they are so ugly, I have grown to hate them. I could not imagine how I would ever escape them. To remove them would be an intense activity and then, to replace them with pretty retaining walls, would be prohibitively expensive. 

However,  a house was built recently on the mountainside behind us and the owners had to dispose of many truckloads of soil. They offered us any amount we would like and we did our best to make the most of this windfall. Their front end-loader deposited a mini Mt. Everest of soil and rock on our front lawn. I would have liked to take more in other areas of the garden but existing trees and fence prevented access. 


During this winter, we have moved the soil gradually and at last I have come up with an idea to camouflage a great number of the cement blocks. 


I cannot wait to start digging in compost and planting out under the Wild Olive tree.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Baboons and other pests

Living along the coast near to Cape Point, we are held hostage in our homes all year round by the baboons. One does not mind keeping all windows and doors shut tight in the winter, but on a hot summer day, it is really annoying, to say the least. When we go out, even just for a walk down to the postboxes in the middle of the village, we have to block off our cat door, which means that our cats are trapped inside for the duration (and since we are forced to leave out a litter-tray when we leave, the cats become lazy to go outside at other times.)

Should we ever forget to secure the house completely, we can be sure to return to some blood-boiling sights!

Have you noticed how certain types of fruit trees are few and far between these days. When last did you see a fully-laden mulberry tree or a loquat tree in a garden? I remember these from childhood, when people had large gardens and there were no supermarkets. Even if growing a fruit tree takes too long, I dream of growing just a few vegetables in my garden.

Another baboon-inflicted limitation on our freedom is directed at our garden. It is impossible to grow vegetables of any kind, as well as certain flowers and plants. Heaven forbid that you should have a tree which bears fruit of any description, including indigenous trees. These serve as a magnet, drawing them into the village. One's neighbours tend to become irate at this and in frustration, you begin to wonder whether you should pull everything out and cover with concrete!

The baboon known as Splitlip enjoys the fruits of his burglary
At one stage, we built a wooden framework and covered it with shade cloth  as a barrier to the baboons, and then planted out some lettuce and strawberries within. How naive of us! It is nothing for a baboon to bite and tear the shade-cloth and devastate the entire crop in a few minutes. Shortly after that, an incident where an alpha-male baboon tore apart our door to enlarge the cat-door opening in order to get into our house, highlighted our futility. Access to the contents of a  locked fridge presented no problem either. They are very strong creatures.

I can imagine how a farmer must feel when his harvest of grapes is plundered either by baboons or the informal fruit-sellers in De Doorns, or when a troop of baboons moves onto corn or onion fields.

Somebody told me that baboons do not like spinach. Delightedly, I planted out baby spinach and they grew into beautiful bunches but before I could pick them, the baboons passed through the garden. While they might not eat the leaves, they do like the stem-base of the plant. Their harvesting method is to pull the entire plant out, take a huge bite of the lower stem and then abandon leaves and roots in the "slagveld". 

This year I grew some spinach and strawberries in pots in our little sunroom where we normally final-dry our winter washing. It has worked quite well but as the days warm up now, the room is too hot and leaving a window open for fresh air is not an option.  I also germinated some seeds of Dragon Fruit, Tree Tomato and Pomegranate and planted them out in some multi-pot trays (which my neighbour's landscaper had discarded).

What I did not realise when I put all these pots and multi-pot trays into the sun-room  was that there were 2 worms and 2 snails hiding in or on the pots and the devastation they caused was huge, way out of proportion to their size. They must have thought that they had died and gone to heaven when they found themselves trapped inside with all those tender plants. I lost two trays of Dragon Fruit babies, some Tree Tomato seedlings and a few heads of baby lettuce before I discovered and banished them.

The Survivors
Baby Tree Tomato
Baby Dragon Fruit