Monday, December 31, 2012

Year End

Roy got back yesterday from taking a young couple into the Cederberg to climb up through  the more difficult one of The Cracks and on to the Wolfberg Arch. He only took a single photo with his own camera and  it is such a lovely image of "being on top of the world" and "looking forward".

This New Year's evening in Cape Town, people are strolling on the perlemoen shimmer of sand while children and dogs run about excitedly. 

The sun has set on 2012 to the sound of bagpipes playing on the beach. 

And on a lighter note......

Monday, November 26, 2012


We went up to the plot on 10 November, mainly to see whether we could transfer a bee nest into a hive. Roy had discovered the bee nest in the roof space of the bungalow a month previously. We were shocked to see how much bigger the nest had grown. 

We telephoned the bee farmer and told him that he could definitely bring out a bee hive on the Monday and transfer the bees into the hive for us. We planned to leave the hive in the roof-space and crossed our fingers that they would choose to stay in the hive. As much as the idea was attractive to us, we could not leave the bees to expand their home in the roof because it would become an unmanageable hazard.
The bee farmer arrived with his workers bright and early on the Monday morning. He stood chatting to us while his workers did the work up in the roof, kitted out in full bee-keeping regalia. On their departure, Roy noticed that they walked away with loaded bags of comb and honey. 

The next morning, the swarm gathered outside in a buzzing mass and left.

Only once the bees deserted us entirely could Roy check to see how much brood-comb the bee-keepers had left inside the hive as an incentive for the bees to stay. 

I don't know anything about bee keeping but I suspect that this job was just a smash and grab. We were incredibly disappointed and imagined the hurt and anger that the bees must have felt at this demolition job of their hard work and their home. I just prayed that the farmer's workers actually did take the trouble to identify and leave the queen in the hive, otherwise, that swarm of bees is doomed.

For the rest of our stay until the Wednesday, John continued to clean off the bricks inside the building and apply a sealer while we unpacked and repacked all the bits and pieces which had been left in chaotic disarray after the last building session.

We set off for Cape Town in a chastened and sombre mood.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012


When Roy was up at our plot recently, he climbed up into the roof-space of the bungalow to look for a tool. While up there, he became aware of a persistent hum. As his eyes adjusted to the poor light, he spied a swarm of bees hanging from the roof. 

We are not sure whether this is a swarm that had settled there within the previous few days or whether it is a bee nest that has been built over a period of time. 

We have now tracked down someone from nearby Heidelberg who will sell us a bee hive when we return there in November. If the bees are still there, for a fee, he has offered to drive out to our place and move the bees into the hive. If they are no longer there, we will keep the hive in readiness for "next time". 

We heard that one of the new residents in the area has managed to capture 11 hives of bees for himself!

Build Revival

It is a long time since Roy did both house-sitting and some building up at our plot. 

At the housesit, he looked after three huge dogs, a cow and some calves as well as two horses. On the day he arrived there, the one horse had managed to get some baling wire wrapped around its foot and it must have been like that for a while because the foot was swollen and the horse could not stand on it. Luckily it was the old, tame horse and not the younger, totally wild one. Roy managed to clip the wire off and fortunately, a single application of some "green stuff" from a spray can was enough to ward off infection. By the time he left two weeks later, all was well.


For the building work at our place, he managed once again to acquire the services of a retired bricklayer from Suurbraak. Peter can only work a maximum of three days a week because he finds that his old back cannot take more than that. He was an absolute star and between his back and the few sunny days interspersed between miserable rainy days, they managed four days of solid work. 

Peter built the walls and John filled them in with soil.

We will move the one water tank from the verandah onto this extension.The other half will be used as a raised flower bed.

Peter cemented bricks into the holes that were still open from the original build. This should see the end of the field mice incursions into the building

He built the shower floor and was delighted that we wanted stones cemented into the floor. He collected them himself and enjoyed his creative input to the project.

The floor of the little bedroom and bathroom were given a final coloured screed on top of the rough concrete surface.  It will be a long while before we can do the same in the main room.


The sand for this screed was sifted twice. Peter explained that if there are grass seeds in the sand, they would germinate and pop up out of the screed, creating a disturbed surface. You live and learn. Once the screed had dried, John gave the walls a final coat of paint.

John started the marathon project of cleaning the cement off the bricks inside the main room. It is a pity that we have had to spend so much time and money cleaning up the bricks, inside and outside. We did impress on the bricklayers at the time that we were going to leave the walls unplastered and unpainted but it seems that they were unable to build in a way that would leave the bricks clean.

All in all, I was thrilled with what Roy and his team managed to accomplish in such a short space of time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dog Blog

Roy went up to the plot for two weeks to house-sit and to do some building. He took along a kennel from Freecycle for John's dog because she sleeps outside in all weather.

Pote was nowhere in sight in the first week that Roy was there. John told him that during the previous weekend, she had attached herself to some Rastafarian visiting the area and followed him along the 8km back to his home in Suurbraak. She was obviously not happy with the loose "easy come, easy go"  arrangement between herself and John, which saw her spending her weekends all on her own while John blows his wages in Swellendam. She was tired of roaming the veld in search of food and company and was seeking something better.

I felt a huge lump in my throat when I heard this and thought of what could befall her if she was going to roam from one place to another like this. I did wonder if she wasn't in fact dead and this was a "kinder" way of explaining her disappearance. I told Roy that if  she returned and John was prepared to sell her to us, we would have to take her. John agreed so readily, I wondered why I had not had the temerity to suggest this before.

A few days later, she returned to the area, having walked back from Suurbraak on her own. Now....I don't really want another dog. We have one. I am actually a cat person. I have been fighting desperately  the urge to get another cat after the loss of our three cats in the last year.

The arrangement was that when Roy left yesterday morning at 8am to return to Cape Town, John's wife was to wait along the road where Roy would pay for Pote and bring her home. (he could not take Pote back to the house-sit because of the huge Baskerville hounds living there)

Midge aka Pote
We now own a very happy, untrained prairie dog and a very miffed and sulky Mad Dog. You should have seen Pote running and skipping along the beach this morning, sniffing at every shell and piece of dried seaweed. And oh, the joy of having bowls of food accessible whenever the hunger pangs strike!

No doubt John will be foolish enough to take on another dog but I am  determined not to bond with it!! I will wait a while to see whether this does in fact transpire and if not, the kennel will be donated to one of the many other dogs living there who have the misfortune to live outside, 24/7. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lazy Lotus Eaters

One of the advantages of living on the mountainside in a little seaside village is that you can be a very lazy gardener and then tell yourself that you are going for the natural look. 

I strolled around the garden today to admire all the new spring flowers.

I was pleased to see that last year's Earthworks are slowly being camouflaged.

Daisy bushes are just so precocious, pushing everyone else out of the way but they do look stunning at this time of the year.

Clivias are such terrific plants for the spots which never see the sun. I only have one particular colour. A friend has a brother who makes a living from growing Clivias and he donated 15 precious seeds of Yellow Clivias to me which I am trying to germinate at the moment.


They do well in sun too. Here they were planted in a circle at the base of my old Wild Camphor tree. During this past Winter, the tree was blown down by an exceptionally strong North Westerly, which blew for an hour and then moved on. So, the circle is looking a bit spare now. Once flowering is finished, I might rearrange these as I don't plan to replace the tree. The nearby Bay Laurel tree has developed into a monster and will probably undermine any new tree's efforts.

I am rather hopeless at remembering to take "before" photographs and so you will just have to believe me when I say how unsightly and what a nuisance the sidewalk was. There are no paved sidewalks in our village. I cannot complain because we are lucky enough to live on one of the very few roads which has a meanly thin coating of tar instead of gravel. The boundaries to the roads are either left unattended or residents might choose to extend their gardening efforts to that area. In our case, it was always a problem to keep the soil on a steep gradient from blowing or washing away. Ground cover was not too successful because the area was too dry and sandy in summer and too shaded in winter. 

We were inspired to do some gardening with rocks to hold it all together. 

Doesn't this look neat?  


We cannot cement in permanently to keep out weeds because of underlying municipal pipes and cables. My only regret is that we did not first lay down some shadecloth or hessian below the rocks and stones to cut down on the amount of awkward weeding ahead.

 Neighbours have planted a veritable jungle along our back fence and nothing will grow there anymore because of the excessive shade in winter from our house and now, their trees. The grass gave up and died. When we recycled some old bricks to deal with this problematic messy area, we remembered to use some old hessian below the bricks to discourage the weeds. Only white sand fill between the bricks for non-permanence. I wonder whether something like Penny Royal would enjoy growing between the bricks?

Sunday, September 9, 2012


I decided to experiment with a recently acquired Ostrich egg. Husband was called in to drill three little holes at the one end of the egg (I didnt want to break the egg). Three holes were gently persuaded to join each other to form one. A skewer was used to pierce and break up the yolk through the now single hole.


I shook the egg over a mixing bowl to force the inside to pass through the hole. Then beat it up with my faithful Kenwood whisk. Added in a bowl of cooked plain white porridge (Taystee Wheat) just to help it stiffen up in cooking. Seasoned with various herbs and spices, salt and pepper and then poured over an oiled casserole dish filled with sliced onion, baby marrow, broccoli bits and feta cheese.

I placed it in an oven of 180 degrees C for about an hour, placing the open casserole dish on top of a roasting pan to prevent the egg from catching at the bottom of the dish. 

We were blown away with the lovely rich yellow colour and taste. This could have provided eight complete meals or sixteen portions to accompany something else. 
From one egg!!

Friendly Flatter

They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. My friends may consider themselves sincerely flattered. We have copied their Bokashi Project.

Instead of the round buckets, which admittedly do seem to be more sturdy, we chose square buckets for ease of installing the tap against a flat surface and the likelihood therefore of a perfect seal without using sealant. It worked. 


We had to make sure that when the inner bucket was in place, the hole for the tap on the outer bucket was positioned below the inner bucket. There is not much room for error. We used the plastic nut which turns onto the tap on the inside, to trace a circle on the inside wall of the outer bucket with a thin black marker. The tracing was visible from the outside and served as the guide for drilling the hole. 

We drilled the hole in the outer bucket and installed the tap. It was a perfect fit. 
(We did not use the superfluous outer threaded cap) 

The tap  and superfluous outer cap. Tap has two seals (one for each side of the bucket wall). Supplied with a plastic nut which screws onto it from the inside of the bucket.

After the tap was fitted into the lower bucket, holes were drilled through the bottom surface of the upper bucket. This bucket has a recessed channel around the perimeter so that is where we positioned the holes.
And Voila!!

Total costs
2 Plastic buckets from the Plastic shop = R90
1 Plastic lid = R9.95
1 Plastic tap = R35
Bokashi = I paid R70 at a hardware store but discovered that the Plastic shop sells it for R60.

If you are not able to create your own, Plastics for Africa sells the genuine smart plastic Bokashi unit for almost R400.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Animal Farm

We went up to the plot to plant some trees on Monday and Tuesday in the holes we had dug three weeks ago. Only two full days to do the deed yet we managed to finish before driving back to Cape Town. On this visit, I finally remembered to take  photographs of the pony we usually treat with carrots or apples during our stay. 

He lives a lonely life on a smallholding while the owner spends much time in Cape Town. He has a blue, blind eye which I think is called a "marble eye". 

He is a bit of a wild thing and when escaped and roaming, kicked in the door of a car as it drove by, causing the owner of the car to replace the entire door. The car insurance company probably paid for it with some amusement...or not!

Roy offered a local farmer, who was herding his sheep nearby, the use of our field for two days. His aim was for the sheep to graze the grass around our bungalow, building and gate, in anticipation of summer and fire hazards. The sheep entered onto our field and were seen skipping with delight at the smorgasbord on offer. Soon there was the soft whispering and ripping of grass. Two ewes gave birth to lambs overnight in this haven.

I was not keen on the idea and as per my predictions, the sheep did not understand the purpose of this excursion as they nibbled on Olive trees and the like, with us chasing them from one corner of the property to another whenever they approached our plants. 

Roy will be there for two weeks soon to do some minor building and I have threatened him with a dire fate should he attempt this experiment again. Even the lustrous Ostrich egg given by the appreciative farmer would not tempt me to this folly again.

 Near to Caledon

Yellow fields calling from far and wide,
 Spring awakening the sweet countryside.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bokashi Project

On our way home on Friday we stopped off at our friends in Pringle Bay. Their latest project is the Bokashi project, their composting system which also delivers nutrient juice for their plants. They have already tried the wormery option but it was not a major success for them.

They have purchased four  buckets. Two buckets are stacked into the other two buckets. In each of the outer two buckets they have cleverly installed a tap at the lowest level possible. (you can buy buckets with an installed tap but they are pricey)  The inner buckets have holes drilled into their bases. A lid fits over the inner bucket. I recall that they have attached a seal to the lid in order to totally block out unpleasant odour.

They throw all their vegetable peelings  into the inner bucket. After every 5cm layer of peelings, they sprinkle Bokashi granules on top. 

These layers of peelings and Bokashi alternate until the bucket is full. 


A liquid residue  filters down into the lower bucket and every three to four days, they tap off this liquid, dilute it and use it as liquid fertilizer on pot plants and garden plants and lawn. (different ratios for different plants. See my friend's advice below) 

The one bucket is empty while the other one is being  filled. If the first bucket is full before 6 weeks have passed, they start filling the second bucket while the first continues to mature.

This process to fill a bucket and mature the mixture takes up to 6 weeks, whereupon they throw the entire bucket contents into a huge composting bin/heap where they have also tossed grass clippings, manure etc. There, it all continues to cure until ready for use.   

They keep the two bucket-pairs in a utility room below a counter on a mobile platform behind a pretty curtain disguise. This gives easy access to the buckets. 

Definitely on my "to do" list (or should I say "bucket list" ?) as its a way to make compost without necessarily putting it somewhere in the garden in baboon-edible stage! 

Ratio mixing advice:

As for ratios, look at, no.7.  But to be honest, I don't measure very carefully anymore and I haven't killed anything - yet!!  I would advise getting an old measuring jug just for the Bokashi juice - because it's difficult to get the smell out completely. I pour 100ml into a 10 litre bucket of water for the lawn and about 50 - 75ml for flower beds/ shrubs.  I put 2 teaspoons in a 2 litre jug for my pot-plants.  I feed the pot-plants every couple of weeks. Use a very weak solution on seedlings.  Don't be surprised if you don't get juice for the first couple of weeks - it all depends on what goes into the buckets.  And in winter, everything seems to slow down.  I get approx. 200ml juice every 2 - 3 days.