Saturday, July 25, 2015

Doing the right thing

Before I even start this post, I have to say that in the 6 weeks of having "Honey The Water Mongoose", life definitely did not follow the usual routine but instead got adapted to Honeys routine. This was not a difficult readjustment for us, as every minute of it was entertaining, extremely interesting and the love affair between mongoose and humans grew in leaps and bounds. Our initial plan was to keep her and let her adapt to being part of the farm household, hopefully able to come and go as she pleased, until the day she would attract a mate and off into the sunset they would go.

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that while 7 of our 9 dogs accepted her, two of them didn't and never would. To them she was a potential meal and she would never be safe. We soon realised that we would have to come up with another plan... but more about that later!
Her most active part of the day was early morning and I mean early (just before sunrise), till about 10.30am which is when she would put  herself to bed (on her teddy under our bed). She would just suddenly stop whatever it it was that she was doing and trundle off to bed. When she wanted to sleep, she wanted to sleep and you could not change her mind! Honey would then wake up at about 2pm and then busy herself in her little "pond" (Rae's large roasting dish filled with water) which we put in our bedroom for her. We scattered little stones and other objects on the bottom of the dish and she would spend ages paddling about, meticulously taking each object out of the water with her delicate, long fingered little hands.

If she heard you busy with something in another part of the house, she'd rush to come and find you, leaping with joy when she spotted you, as now she'd found someone to play with her!  Her playing would involve a rough and tumble sort of play fighting with your hand, or small pink teddy which we'd pretend was attacking her and would receive a voracious attack back from her. She had a formidable set of teeth and would sometimes forget herself in the heat of the game and bite just a bit too hard. She soon realised to release at the sound of a panicked yell of "ow"!
Her all time favourite game though would most definitely have been when she sat on your lap and we'd hold our legs tightly pressed together and she would stick her little arm through, fishing for your fingers which we'd move up and down under our legs. and  would reach down between your thighs pressed together and fish for your fingers or anything else that you held there with one little hand and the other  supporting herself with her cheek pressed up against your thigh. She would do this with such a determined effort with her little cheek pressed up against your thigh.  This game supported Honey's intense curiosity for constant investigation, be it under rocks, in cracks, in the sand, or under the duvet! She was constantly on the hunt for the unknown, obviously it being something that she might be able to eat.

When she was hungry, she would hang on Rae's leg, uttering little cries. She would then climb on Rae's lap and be fed with a syringe of watered down milk and raw egg. She slowly progress to raw chicken and her favorite, live insects! I would spend ages hunting around the veggie garden, catching her grasshoppers, etc. I would throw them down in front of her and she would leap on them with savage delight and gobble them up! Another favorite hunting pastime of hers was for me to throw the live insects into one of her "pools" where she'd dive on them in the water and fish them out.

When we first found Honey, we thought that she was a Cape Gray Mongoose but after a visitor to the farm said that she did not really look like one. We decided to consult "google" and this, combined with the fact that she was constantly climbing into the dogs waterbowls, made us realise that we had a baby water mongoose. She also looked exactly like the images of a Water Mongoose on "google"!
We decided to accommodate her needs by putting plastic barrel bottoms, cut down to about 5 inches in depth around the house and a big barrel cut in half lengthways in her play pen outside, all filled with water and some large stones for her to grope under.
The first time we introduced her to her pools, we threw little stones and beans in to see how she would occupy herself with them. This was fascinating because again, her natural instincts came into play. For the first few days she would toss them all out the water, much to our delight because then we would toss them back in and she would do it all over again. Suddenly, a few days later, she started picking up the little stones and standing on her hind legs, she would smash them down with great force between her legs. This was Honey's way of practicing how to smash crabs and mussels, etc,  food that play a major part of a water mongooses diet. We also discovered that this is what she would do with eggs and watched with great delight as she smashed her first egg all over the kitchen floor and then licked it up! Our dogs where horrified at this spectacle, staring at her and us and then each other, as if to say,
"Can you believe this naughty behavior, if it were us we'd be in such trouble but here the humans are laughing and clapping and giving her encouragement to do it all over again... sometimes life is just not fair!" 

When we saw how much of  Honeys natural instincts were in place,  for development into her adult years and to help her cope in the wild, we started to realize that to keep her would be wrong and unfair.
We also realized that the longer we kept her, the more humanised she would become and the more difficult it would be for her to return back to nature and be a capable and happy water mongoose... and for us it would be near impossible to let her go... obviously!

So we set about doing research on various rehabilitation centers and although there are a few not too far from us, it became glaringly obvious that many of them were about making money first, through tourism and not about the welfare, or the rehabilitation of the animals. Eventually we decided to speak to the local vet (60 km away) as we had heard that him and his family had also raised a water mongoose for a few months and then eventually had gave her up to a rehabilitation centre called Tenikwa in The Crags, outside Plettenberg Bay (
So with very heavy hearts, we decided that this would be the best thing for her future and we made the necessary arrangements. We had 2 days to say our goodbyes to her that was filled with tears and feelings that we were abandoning her, all the while, knowing that we were doing the right thing. Rae got to take her out to Tenikwa in The Crags, on a beautiful sunny day where apparently on arrival, they were met with staff and the owners, who were just lovely and supportive and made us feel so much better about our decision. It is a beautiful place where so much good work is being done the rehabilitation of wild animals. They kept us updated on her development with photo's, etc, and we believe she was finally released back into the wild after a few months, into an area that they knew was populated by other water mongooses.

Spring is coming and this is the time she will hopefully find a mate and have lots of cute little baby "Honey's".
We will always cherish our time with our little "Honey" and often go through our millions of photo's of her and just feel so blessed that we had this incredible experience with her!

To read more about interesting info on water mongooses go to this link:
This was always the look on her face when she spotted the great outdoors over the stable door

Monday, January 19, 2015

Honey The Baby Water Mongoose

first day
I have a sneaky suspicion that animals have spread the word that if you are in need of shelter, food or just some unconditional love, then Dino and Rae's farm is the one to go to.
a temporary enclosure and a week older
Three weeks ago, our pack of nine dogs alerted us to yet another little furry being in need of some desperate help. When Rae heard the dogs barking at the steps of our front "stoep" she thought she better go and investigate as the barking was not their usual tone. There, peering up at her from under the Honeysuckle bush, was this little fluffy creature. At this stage, she wasn't sure what it was, so she shoo'd all the dogs inside and as any caring woman with an intense mothering instinct would do, she rushed inside to fetch some cat pellets to see if it was hungry.
enjoying a good little scratch
I arrived home at this point and was instructed by a very excited Rae, to climb over the fence immediately in order to take the shortest and quickest possible route to her, never mind the fact that I could very well have got some important bits hooked up in the barbed wire which, not only would have delayed  me getting to her but could also have caused some serious damage to "me parts".
realizing that this girl loves water
Once I had made it across the fence, with all sorts of possible scenarios going through my head as to what  sort of drama to expect, snakes, snakes and more snakes, as I could not think what could be so important as to risk me climbing over the barbed wire fence and possibly doing irreparable damage to something that is most valued by me and I thought Rae too!  I rounded the corner to where she was waiting for me and in my wildest dreams I never expected to see what I saw... a little baby mongoose!!
She was a small fluffy fur ball with the tell tale milky eyes of a youngster that should not be away from its Mom and it could hardly walk without falling over. She was trying to crunch through the cat pellets with tiny needle-like teeth and if you put your hand near her, she would growl and attempt to bite you. This she succeeded in doing about two minutes later because I got all brave and thought I would just try and touch her, thinking that with such little teeth, what damage could she do? At first, it seemed like nothing and then tiny little droplets of blood appeared on my finger, that's how tiny and sharp her teeth were, like little needles. Rae also brought her a little saucer of milk which she literally fell into and it was soon obvious that she desperately wanted to drink it but was too young to know how to lick it up!

Rae begged me to go fetch a box to put her in and when I protested and asked where we were going to keep her, she said, "In our bedroom of course!" . Wondering how on earth I was going to get her into the box with all my fingers intact, as you an imagine, I was not keen at all after I had just experienced this little critters bite. So off I went to find a box, thinking that I would leave Rae and the little evil critter for a good long while and instead of going to find a box, I went and did some other pressing chore that needed doing.  About 45 minutes later, a friend arrived to see Rae and I then realized that I had totally forgotten about her and the little mongoose. We went off to find Rae, with me explaining en route what had just walked into our lives.
Rae had not budged from where I left her, sitting in the blazing sun and as we appeared she told us to come nearer and have a look. The little mongoose had climbed up into her lap and was now sleeping. Needless to say, the little critter was here to stay for a while... we have named her "Honey".

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Home made cream cheese

first stage
 I thought that I would share this recipe of making cream cheese, as it is dead easy and absolutely cost efficient compared to buying the ready made kind from the shops. It also leaves you with a great sense of achievement when you arrive at the end product and it is as good as the best you will find in the shops. 
After 1 day and turned out.
 Recipe : You will need. 2lt Amasi First Choice sour milk (I found this brand the best to work with), a 10lt bucket or similar container, flour sieve or colander and a cheese cloth, or a dish cloth.
stirred into a smooth consistency with salt and pepper
  • Place the cloth in the sieve suspended over your bucket. Make sure the sieve wont fall in.  
  • Pour the Amasi into the cloth and cover with a plate. 
  • Let it stand for a day or two to drain somewhere cool, out of the reach of cats and dogs (this happened to us), to allow all the whey to drain out.  
  • Then gather the corners of your clothe to pick up your cheese and turn it out into a bowl like we          did in the photo's above.
  • Give it a good stir, adding salt and black pepper to taste. You can then be as creative as you like, adding chilli, herbs and perhaps even some shredded biltong for the meat eaters. 
  • Keep refrigerated and enjoy!.                                                                                                            
cream cheese ,avo and tomato sandwich on homemade rye bread

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Superstitious Cobra

I had to go Uniondale to have an x-ray taken of an odd blue hued lump under an old scar from a heart op I had two years ago. Uniondale is about 70km from where we live. My bakkie ( truck ) finally gave up the ghost, so our only form of transport in and out of the farm, is a Honda 200cc Bushlander, which copes with the dirt road exceedingly well but is a bit slow when it comes to tar, as the bike's top comfortable speed is about 90/80 km per hour.
Luckily for me, I have friends that stay the little hamlet of Harlem, 58km from where we live, and as they were going to do their weekly shop in Uniondale, they gave me a lift there. The trip to Uniondale was great as we chatted and caught up on news while traveling through the famous Uniondale Pass which is really stunningly beautiful, if you love the Klein Karoo landscape.
After arriving in Uniondale, they dropped me off at the hospital and we arranged to meet 2 hours later giving us all more than enough time to complete our separate missions. We said goodbye and we parted ways looking forward to our reunion in 2 hours time, followed by lunch back at their farm.

Two hours later, miraculously,  I walked out. I say miraculously, because, as you know, anything to do with governmental hospitals,  usually takes forever and a day. As I walked out of the hospital,  my friends arrived,  looking quite happy to see me walking out the door on time. They informed me that Rae (my gorgeous better half) had sent them an SMS (I never carry a cell phone) that I should contact her immediately and that the moment I was finished at the hospital, I should come home. I obviously thought, "what the f#@^k", because for me to get home, would take at least an hour and a half. What could be so urgent? My friends suggested that I give Rae a call and find out if there was some kind of emergency, which I duly did. My daughter answered and said that "Mom" wanted me to come home because there was a huge Cobra in the garden and she was terribly worried about our dogs.
"O my sack!", I exclaimed and informed her to remind Mom that by the time I got home, it would be gone and in fact, it had probably already disappeared. She agreed with me and said that mom was just in a panic. I could quite understand this because I am always been around to take care of snake incidents. I always catch and release them again, somewhere far away.

When I got home, I got the details of the story! Rae had organized for the next door farm labourer's wife, Silvia, to come and help her clean the house. Silvia was busy in our bedroom cleaning the windows, when she saw a Cobra slithering towards the house and Cossie (the cat in the pic above) ambling along the lawn in a direct trajectory to cross paths with the Cobra. The Cobra was, apparently, equal in length to my daughters height (157cm). Silvia saw the snake and let out an almighty scream that had everyone running to see what was going on, only to find her pointing out of the window. Looking out the window, they were just in time to see Cossie coming face to face with the cobra! The Cobra reared up and hissed at Cossie and Cossie followed suite by standing on her back legs with front paws poised in classic kung-fu pose and hissed. The Cobra, deciding this black cat was not one to cross paths with, then lowered itself and slithered away in a wide arc off into the Fig tree...... wow, I wish I had witnessed this! After hearing this story, we all went to check the Fig tree, there was no Cobra to be seen!.

This happened a few months ago and we have never seen the Cobra again! Yay to Cossie!

Below is a pic of the garden bounty on the same day: Basil, peppers, tomatoes, carrots and butternut. I guess it was just another day on the farm!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Time for Tomato Canning!

STEP 1: Put all your tomatoes into a pot or glass dish. Poor boiling water over them until they are all covered. The boiling water will cause the tomato skins to "pop" making them easier to peel.

STEP 2: While the tomatoes soak, you can chop up 2 large onions.
STEP 3: After a few minutes the tomato skins will pop open (see above) and can be peeled.

Here are the tomatoes once they are peeled and cored.

STEP 4: In a big pot, fry the onion until lightly brown.

STEP 5: Add the tomatoes and use a wooden spoon to squish them up. Leave them to cook on a low heat until the sauce thickens . Herbs such as basil and rosmary can be added as well as some salt and pepper.

STEP 6: Steralise your jars and lids placing them in a pot full of water with its lid on and bring it to boil for 5min and then let it simmer for 30 min thereafter, before putting your sauce in them. If you don't steralise your jars your sauce will go off.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Christmas eve honey extraction

A beautiful photo of the frames for the "supers" which is the box that goes above brood box. The "supers" is the box where all the honey is stored by the little lady bees and the brood box is where the queen resides and all little workers get made that keep the colony fed and provide us with honey.. I use these to replace any frames that get damaged in the extraction process.

first full frame of the day . Rae took the pic from a distance lol
We had run out of our own honey that I had last extracted in autumn and we were forced to buy honey in town to use in our soap and for our own personal consumption. I have been working on a restoration project at the Institute of Objects Conservation in nearby Twee Riviere and had not had the time to extract honey.
After tasting the bought honey, Rae insisted that our honey tasted far better and gave up eating her banana, honey and cinnamon toast which she eats every morning. So the pressure was on and  I also knew that my hives were laden with honey that the nectar that the bees had harvested through winter from aloe, heather and certain Protea species and that honey is yummy!
My two helpers
On Christmas Eve, we harvested honey from 10 hives and got 3.5 x 20 liter buckets of honey. Thought I would just mention that on the last Christmas Eve, I was stuck in the middle of a river in a Land Rover with an artist and his paintings, a Dominee (Minister) and a nurse (the Dominee's wife) and no was awesome and I will tell the story some time!
Yahoo honey flow

Sunday, December 15, 2013

to spray or not to spray....?

After suffering for the last few years with a fruit fly infestation, this year was totally out of control, with about 70% of my fruit being infested. You would not believe how CRAZY this makes me, especially after waitng a whole year since the last fruiting season.
When I first discovered  the worms, I thought to myself, that's it, I am going to use the nasty chemicals and wipe these pesky fuit flies out!!  I can still cope with 50% of them having worms but more than this, really what is the point? At this rate, I was going to end up buying someone elses poisoned fruit anyway. I then did some inquiries at the local co- op and was told to use Malasol or Lebaycid but after reading the warnings and precautions, I decided against it and went back home to the internet for some tips on how to handle the fruit flies in a more environmentally friendly way.
By the way, the 2 pics above, are of baby Butcher birds in a nest in one of the aprcot trees .Their parents are doing a sterling job of keeping marauding birds away that are raiding the apricots.

Another bonus of not using nasties, is that your natural predators start to return, like the Ladybirds ( they eat aphids),  in the blurry picture below. I was so excited about seeing the Ladybirds in my apple trees, I went to google them for some more info and was totally gobsmacked to find out that they eat up to 500 aphids a day. You will see in the pic below that there are darker little spots on the leaves which are the aphids... a week later, NO aphids on any of my apple trees.
To help combat the fruit flies, the first step is to pick up any fruit that has fallen on the ground, or destroy any fruit that has been stung. Stung fruit always has a tiny harmless looking little prick mark on the skin. In the seven years that we have been here, I have always left the fruit on the ground to rot away. This is a no-no as the worm larva in the fruit then borrow into the ground, only to emerge the following summer as fruit flies and so the cycle is perpetuated. I must admit  that one of the main reasons I left the fruit on the ground, was that I noticed bees feeding on the nectar and thought it to "bee" a bonus for them in our dry summers. I once took honey out for another guy who had a bee hive in an abandoned apricot orchard and the honey was dark and tasted like apricot jam, delicious!
The second step is to hang fruit fly traps in the trees that attract the male fruit fly and thereby you limit the reproduction of fruit flies.
I am still trying to find a recipe for this "muti" which you put into a plastic 2 lt bottle with a few holes poked around the top. These you hang in your trees, one every 10m square. I must admit that this also bugs me a bit as it also attract other male bugs, including the beneficial ones too!
Soap maker Rae Conterio doing a bit of weeding.

The third step is to plant plants like yarrow, marigolds, borage, dill and khakibos around your orchard, as this draws all the beneficial insects like ladybirds, wasps, hover fly, etc So the more you plant the merrier and the prettier your orchard will look .
My last tool in my arsenal against the dreaded fruit fly, is something I have just discovered and it is called GF 120 Naturalite. This is apparently new on the market and it is applied as a spray that targets male fruit flies. I asked the local agricultural officer if this would not also affect other male insects but he was unable to tell me and said it was an interesting question and he would get back to me. I am still waiting.... Till next time!