Tuesday, November 10, 2009

a day in the garden

About three weeks ago, the whole family enthusiastically climbed into the garden for the day, including my eldest daughter, Jesse, who is usually not on the farm except for weekends. Durng the week she stays in Twee Riviere, where she is doing an apprenticeship in objects conservation. On this day, we took out the last of our broccoli and harvested a whole lot of carrots, onions, garlic and more coriander seeds.

Beds were cleaned out to make way for new seeds to be planted and we planted up seed trays with as much variety as possible. I took the above photo and started writing this post 2 weeks ago, as we have had lots of soap orders to work on, various boring and not so boring distractions and everytime I would sit down at the computer and maybe write four words, I would hear a "honey, suppers ready" or a "Dad, I need the computer" or we would just lose our internet connection... Anyway, most of the above seeds in the tray have now germinated and are ready to be planted out.

Below is my daughter Jesse. She is twenty years old and wants to preserve her delicate skin until her old age, hence her total cover-up to protect her from the sun. Her jeans, incidently, had a hole in the knee and later she came to show me, to her great disappointment, that her knee had been sunburnt.We all had a good laugh at her consternation.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Death by Rain Conterio (Age 13)

Suddenly, I heard the screech of brakes, I turned around to see a car spinning out of control, only a couple of meters from a small boy, who was frozen in shock. Next thing I knew, I was running, running like I'd never done before, right into the middle of the road. I slammed into the boy, knocking him out the way. Then the car hit me, I saw the look of terror in the drivers face. I was flying through the air. I hit something hard, but I felt nothing and my eyes only saw black. I was all of a sudden floating and I couldn't move my body, my own body felt foreign. I felt small and vulnerable but I wasn't scared, all my worries of life had vanished. Was I dead? Could death really be so quick, quiet, still and painless, it was more simple than life. Maybe I would float around in this black void forever. This was why life was so difficult, so that someday, you could appreciate the prize at the end, quietness, simpleness and stillness. I smiled to myself.... this was easy!

gwho- gwho the movie star

Its funny... a person moves to a farm and the closest place is a dorp called Joubertina, next to Joubertina is another little dorp called Twee Riviere, or as some of the Afrikaans folk say, it should now be called Two Rivers because of all the english speaking people that have moved there in the last two years. My daughters thought they would not make any friends out here but they have actually made quite a few! My middle daughter, Alexa, has got herself involved twice a week learning about the movie busines, learning how to be a director, how to use a camera, story boarding, production manager, wardrobe, acting in front of the camera, editing, etc.

The reason for this wonderful opportunity, is that a couple who have recently moved here, Lex and Michelle Faure, have decided to make a movie about self-sufficiency based on one of the local families. This family has 7 kids and are seriously self-sufficient! They have a lot of tricks up their sleeves that we could learn from, as they have been at it for the last 12 years. The Faure's have asked all the children of family and friends who are 15 years old and up, to participate in the making of the movie from start to finish.

Hence the pictures of Gwho Gwho..... he is my daughters horse and he is starring in the movie! Here he is, nice and clean after being washed and groomed for the shoot.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

8 days after planting the mielies

Suddenly, the potatoe plants are bursting forth with much vigour and a definite predisposed understanding that it's time to grow like mad!

...and so is it with the mielies. It is truly amazing how these little seeds have the blue print in them to grow into these long stalks, that end up extruding these cobs, with many more seeds that we then eat and can even save till the next season to plant and start the whole miraculous cycle all over again. All this locked into a round hard mielie pip and all it needs is a bit of dirt, water and light.

Here is a Globe artichoke that I planted in February from seed. It is truly an amazing time of the year because suddenly, things that have been dormant and looked pretty much the same all year, are reminding me of the reason why I planted them in the first place and I am deeply humbled by God's resourcefulness in the way that He provides.

Coriander seeds collected and dried, to be used in a grinder to flavour our food. It has the weirdest flavour that you dont really take to immediately, but once you do, it becomes highly addictive. Generally you will probably first be introduced to it in Mexican dishes. Finally, it is also used as a detoxifier that rids the body of all heavy metals.

Above, our apple tree begins to blossom...beautifully!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

God rules

Today, a funny thing happened... I dropped my daughter off at film school in Twee Riviere and then proceeded to my prayer group that gets together every Wednesday. All went as usual and the meeting ended well. Just before I went shopping, I had a person come up to me who said that God had put it in their hearts to give our family a blessing in the form of cash, I was most taken back. I immedietly turned it down, confident that clients had paid cash into our account and that I would not need it.They insisted... saying that God had put it in their hearts, so I humbly accepted and thanked God for his kindness. Still unsure of what to do with this cash/gift, I went off to the autobank anyway, to draw cash for horsefood, dog food, people food, petrol, etc... only to discover that we did not have sufficient funds to complete our grocery shopping... Amazing hey?
I ended my day with a swim in the Kouga River with dogs and family.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

rainbow in the kouga

On Sunday we were invited to our next door neighbours 80th birthday party. "Oom Willy", as he is known to everyone, has made the transition from Plettenberg Bay to the the Kouga wilderness, that much easier for our daughters, as he has become their adoptive oupa (grandpa), as all our family is in Cape Town, or scattered as far as London, New Zealand and Canada. Just to mention a few of the things that he has done;  pitching up at our kitchen door at 7am on my youngest daughter Rains birthday, brandishing a freshly baked chocolate cake, adorned with pepperment pieces and smarties! Another day, he arrived with his newly purchased flapjack maker and batter mixture and proceeded to test it in our kitchen (much to our girls delight!) and we all ended up having a "flappies" feast .                                                                                                 

When we walked home from Tienie Krizingers home (where the party was held) we were treated to the beautiful sight of a rainbow, Gods version of the "Sword in the Stone".

Friday, October 9, 2009

aartappels en mielies by Boer Dino.

Remember in my last post I mentioned that I would first have to add the compost and then I would decide what to plant, well... today, myself and my daughter Jess, planted plenty of mielies, lots... as we are expecting lots of guests over December and mielies will be the order of the day, but if we get fed-up of them (gatvol!) we can always grind them and use it to make mielie bread and polenta, an Italian dish that one can have in many variations.

Ten days ago, in the same area as the mielies, we planted two rows of the humble and wonderful potato, originating all the way from South America and now grown world wide, as a staple diet for many cultures. If you enlarge this pic you will see the the seed potatoes (as they are called) have begun to sprout and are looking very healthy. Once my mielies have popped up, I am going to plant beans alongside the mielie stems, as this will aid the climbing nature of the bean and as the bean is a nitrogen fixer, it will in turn aid the growth of the mielie. In the rows between the mielies, we will plant butternuts. This is also great, because the leaves of the butternut are plate-shaped, they keep the ground between the mielie rows nice and shaded, thus keeping the ground from drying out. Right... thats all for today, time to get warm as the weather is turning to bbbbrrrrr freezing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

what every peasant needs

I had already written all of this out, when the slipstream lost its internet connection (I therefore lost everything I had written) and as I was not in the mood to write it in the first place, I had an absolute fit.So, here we go again... I bought our Merry Tiller for R1000 and as it's name states, it tills the ground and loosens everything up. Apart from loosening the soil, it also shakes one's lymph glands into action and the rest of one's body... who needs a spa! Above, you can see the effect it has, (believe me, the ground was hard and compacted!)... great hey.

A job well done, thank you Merry Tiller. I will let you know what I plant when the time comes, but first, the compost.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

horsing around in the kouga

One day while changing my tyre I had ghwo ghwo, my daughter's horse, come to check out what I was doing, apparently on recomendation from my mare, Lush, in the background. She's always worried about my DIY work and also likes to make sure that what ever I'm doing has nothing to do with food. She has a HUUuuuge appetite and wouldn't like to miss out on a snack!

I then had to explain to him exactly what I was doing, but he still felt that he should butt his nosy nose in and tell me exactly what to do step for step even though he was repeating what I had just told him! I think he was just trying to keep his clever status in front of Lush, obviously trying to impress her.

He then told me that, as I had the wheel off, I may as well check to see if anything else needed attention under the bakkie. What a nerve coming from a horse! I had to admit though, that he did have a point.
He then whispered into my ear that, once I was finished could I please, if I dont mind, thank him loud and audibly so, Lush could hear. I then understood for sure that all his hanging around and commenting was definately to impress young Lush.

Once I had thanked him as he had asked, he looked at me and said, "thanx bro" and walked off with Lush into the veld.

I must say it was nice to have Gwho Gwho's company while changing the tyre, as well as helping the guy out to impress his girl.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

catch a bee

It all started yesterday when I decided that I would plant out my strawberry plants, accompanied by the buzz of my usual lady friends, when Rae came rushing out to tell me that a swarm was gathering on a branch in the Jacaranda tree next to our house. Well, later for the strawberries I thought, as I ran closer to see if I could possibly get to them and without to much effort, get them into a box. As I was considering all the options, the branch snapped under their weight and they landed on the ground. Great! Time to switch to plan 'Bee', considering that I had not quite hatched plan 'A', in my excitement of gaining another swarm of bees.

Plan "Bee" hatched quickly and I went and got an empty hive with some wax sheets in. By this time, the swarm had started to re-swarm again, in the branches of the tree above. My only hope was that the queen was still in the bunch on the ground and thus could be lured into the hivebox or broodbox as it is correctly called. In the picture, you can see the part of the swarm still on the ground and it looks as if they are starting to migrate up the ramp into the hive.

Well here they are definitely on their way. I hope the qeen is happy and they will stay.

Here is the main queen and she is the one that we all have to keep happy! Rae is just making sure that all goes well.

Yup, there was definite rush for the entrance, as the girls were all amped to resume their various duties. The swarm that was regrouping in the branches above, was by now getting noticably smaller as they too were now entering the hive. It is actually quite amazing how they seem to keep a bunch of girls in the air, flying around constantly, so that one is never quite sure of how many bees, are in fact, going into the hive. I suppose also to deter any potential predator's attention from the main body of the swarm as they are also (I imagine), in their most vulnerable state at this stage.

Here it almost looks as if they are been sucked into the entrance, in their rush to get in.
Well the girls were in and when I went to go and check on them this morning, they had cleaned out the interiorof the hive, this was evident by the bits of debri they had thrown out and it looked as if their path of flight was heading straight for the flowering heather on the hillside ahead. For a similar story on my bee adventures, check out "Shared Earth Magazine" issue 2. Well... back to planting strawberry plants, yummy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Evening of Entertainment - by Rain (13)

The June-July holidays were great!! I arrived back from a friend of mine who lives in PE and was happy to hear that our long time family friends were coming to stay for a couple of days. We had not seen them in a long time, so everyone had changed and grown up, but in another sense it seemed just the other day we were visiting them at their house in Cape Town, which had actually been 2yrs ago.

On the day they were to arrive, we waited in anticipation for their white kombi to come driving down the road to our little farm house. When they arrived, we went out to meet them and help them carry their bits and pieces inside, after a fluster of hugs and greetings. It was that night, in the middle of a delicious supper, that the idea for a show came about, everyone was to participate, including the adults! Everyone thought it was a great idea and immediately began plotting what they were going to do…

The next to two days was just practice, practice… When the night finally came, we first ate supper and then wrote down everyone’s names on a piece of paper and put them in a hat, for as usual, no one wanted to go first. First act was me and my sister doing a dance, which was followed by skits, poems, dances and the much anticipated act that the fathers were to do. No one had ever seen them practicing so it was a mystery as to what they were going to do…. And guess what they sang , “Doe ray me” it had everyone in laughter! When the show was finally over everyone was tired and beds were calling. IT WAS a GOOD night!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spring is a coming

Although arrival of spring is still a month away, we are seeing some tell tale signs in the buds on our fruit trees, that look like they are building up with energy for a colourful explosion. So, with this big hint from our fruit trees and the days getting noticably longer, we are rushing around making bigger beds around our trees to hold "cow poo". We get the manure from a kraal in town that we drive past on our way to the local post office, where we post off all our soap orders. So, to make the trip even more worthwhile, my two daughters who always insist on coming along, don their gumboots and take along a shovel of their choice, so that we can bring back a load of what makes me very excited... "black gold "
I call it this because to build the soil up with manure, is the best thing a person could possiblyo.This sets all the little organisms back in motion that comercial fertilizers have totally destroyed, also, adding this as a mulch each time helps keep the soil cool in summer thus retaining soil moisture and providing a happy enviroment for all the good bugs. Commercial fertilizers (n.p.k) tend to force feed plants via the means of soluble salts, that bypass all organic means of the plant obtaining its nutrients. The plant therefore zooms into growth but with serious weaknesses in its cell walls and nutrient deficiencies that opens up the plant to attacks from fungi and bugs. Then one has to start using pesticides, fungicides, more fertilizers and all this to the detriment of our bodies, our planet and our fellow creatures.
This I've put as simply as I could and I suggest that if you want to grow food, then educate yourself in the following; mulching, manuring, earthworm farms, crop rotation, companion planting and plant by the seasons only, as God knows best what we need to keep us healthy throughout the year, after all it is all His creation and by observing nature, we can learn a lot.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

YAY.... A new soap for spring!

At long last.... we've been discussing "a new soap" for some time now and have just launched our new addition to the range! After a long drought in our area, the rains finally came and the smell of the flowering geraniums filled the air. If you have experienced this, you will agree that this is a very heady and uplifting fragrance, that evokes an incredible sense of wellbeing.... and so came the inspiration for our new soap, a Geranium Poppyseed Scrub. This is a great soap to start the day with, or to wind down with in a lovely warm bath or an invigorating shower! We also decided to throw in some poppyseeds to give an extra scrub, perfect to get rid of all that winter dry skin. This is fast becoming the family favourite and Caitlin, our graphic designer, once again did a wonderful job with the label.

Monday, June 1, 2009

yummy sunday

Okay..... so we got our stash of wood on Saterday and were planning on doing the same mission on Sunday, but during the night, the rain started to fall in a light soaking drizzle that just kept on going till Monday morning. So Sunday we decided to all sit tight in the kitchen/diningroom near the little black woodstove (which was keeping us all very cosy) and enjoy what the rainy day would conjure up.

As usual, whenever at a loss at what to do and especially when we are all stuck indoors, our minds all seem to turn to...... our stomachs! What is it with rainy weather and eating! Our youngest daughter Rain and I decided to check out a blog we came across by mistake the other day called, "Big Black Dog" blog. This has some amazing recipes and interesting stuff on food. Not sure if the name for her blog comes from her two Rottweilers, or from her incredible looking big black stove.... but her family must certainly eat very well.

We found a recipe for sweet dough "butterflies" which Rain and I had fun making in our cosy kitchen and needless to say everyone enjoyed eating! If you're into food, take a look at her blog.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Winter arrives!

Finally, winter arrives with avengeance. After enjoying temps at night, of nothing less than 18 deg. and daytime temps of 26 deg+ and with veggy seedlings still sprouting left, right and centre... suddenly (literally overnight), temperatures have dropped to -1 deg at night and daytime temperatures are not getting much higher than 17 deg, with an icy wind to back it.

So today the whole family decided to get involved in a little wattle eradication, to feed our little black-belly woodstove through the cold nights ahead. This little stove serves directly and indirectly, a multitude of purposes. First of all, it is a good reason to go and do some alien vegetation control, it also warms the house up, providing a real "winter has come and it's time to get cosy" feeling, we also use it for cooking instead of gas and finally, we use the ash it produces in our garden. It even has a little water heating device on the side which we use for hotwater bottles, dishes, etc.

So, although it's so primitive and old fashioned, if used correctly, it is actually quite a "state-of-the-art" when it comes to rural living.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

48 already....???

On Tuesday morning, I was woken up with hugs and kisses from my daughters and a steaming cup of coffee from my (still) sexy husband. I lay there totally amazed that I was the ripe old age of 48... Last night my husband and I wondered, where has the time gone, suddenly we have teenage children, the oldest is already 20 and is supporting herself, the next one will be leaving home next year and then there'll just be one child left at home.... plus all their pets of course, which will remain behind!

I still think of myself as a kind of young and cool mom.... until I catch a glimpse of myself in a windows reflection or mirror and realise with a shock.... I'm middle aged and have (almost) grey hair and due to the fact that I don't buy magazines anymore, don't have a T.V. and don't even have a radio.... I'm now completely ignorant to the latest fashions and music and I'm definitely NOT so young and cool anymore!!!!

BUT.... what I do have at my ripe ol' age, is a husband that I still adore, 3 beautiful girls who still take the time to make me handmade birthday cards and phone me, a wonderful farm in the mountains and a job I adore, making soap....

So.... for now, I will settle for being a cool middle aged person, grey hair suits me better anyway and what freedom not to have to worry about colouring it anymore (so bad for you and the enviroment!) and maybe one of these days, I'll be a cool Granny........

Monday, May 25, 2009

making comfrey oil

This my friends will be a valuable lesson... so pay attention! Bare in mind that this is all based on our own wonderful experiences with this herb, which we decided to try after reading so much about it.
Firstly, you have got to start growing the stuff, not just for using in creams and oils but for the garden too, as it has stacks of nitrogin and piles of minerals in it that your plants will just love! As we live in a very hot and dry climate and not knowing what to do with our grey water, I decided to make a Comfrey bed at the outlet. It seems that Comfrey needs a lot of water to keep it lush in our semi-Karoo climate. Comfrey plants should be easily obtainable from any nursery. Before we get started, I must just tell you that I'm also planting it around my fuit trees as a living mulch that I constantly harvest by trimming off the new growth and chopping it into the ground, LIGHTLY, as well as leaving it on top and in and around my your flower beds. Perhaps you can even add it to your earthworm farm (incidently I have not done this and on second thoughts, don't do this, it's a stupid idea.....)


METHOD: 1. 750mls pure sunflower oil or olive oil
2. Harvest 500gms of comfrey fresh (or 250grm dried)
3. Put them all together in a double boiler( one pot standing in another with water)
4. Simmer on a low heat for 3 hours
5. Remove and once cooled, strain and store in dark bottle or jar

This you can use, in a 20% mix with almond oil, or aqueous cream, or more olive oil, for bruises scrapes and sprains. This ratio was given to me by the little old lady (who lives in a shooo?) from Krakeel, who introduced me to this wonderfull herb. I just use a 50/50 mixture and sometimes even neat, I guess it all depends on your skin, ie: you might have some odd skin sensitivity.

Here's a tip: Rather than (as I have discovered!) trying to shove 500grm of fresh leaves into a pot (stainless steel or glass) and trying to make it fit, it's easier to dry it first by threading the leaves together and hanging them up and then use.
Here is a photo of one of the many butternuts that came up in the same bed and were totally healthy, the seeds must have washed down our drain.... halellula, yummy, yummy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Metal Bird by Rain Conterio (age 12)

We aboard the metal bird,
who's big and bold,
strap ourselves to our seat,
ready for a wild fleet,
we leave the ground,
as well as the city sound,
passing tall trees,
buzzing bees,
stretched seas,
we are surrounded by a mask of blue,
we dip and dive,
we look out from our metal dome,
to seas and skys,
that have been often flown,
but still unkown......

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Its a sign

Friends of ours, Nic and Gabi and their 40 thousand kids, love coming to visit us from Plett on a regular basis. This we thoroughly enjoy, as it is always a time to catch up on all the goings-on in our old home town. One Friday evening they arrived late, as they had to gather their 40 thousand kids after school, sort out the dogs, then... oops, one dog suddenly went down with bilary(tick bite fever), so off to the vet. So, to cut a long story short, they arrived and after a lovely supper, Nic and Gabi disappeared out the kitchen door and into the night... and I thought to myself, "Well, if the passion gets you, it gets you" and I grabbed my glass of wine and looked around at their 40 thousand kids and hoped that it would be quick, whatever it was that they were getting up to. Anyway, it was not long before I heard them bumping at the kitchen door... Oh my gosh, I opened the door slowly and saw their beaming faces, one behind the other and between them they were carrying a sign. Nic, being a signwriter, had made us an amazingly beautiful sign with the name of our soap business, which is also the name of our farm and the following day was spent marching up and down the perimeter of our garden, trying to find a suitable place to put it up. The sign incidently, did not go up until 4 months later.
Now the beautiful sign is up and our farm has its identity "AFRICAN BLISS". Helping me put it up was my brother-in-law John, my aunt Gwen and the rest of the family standing around putting in their two cents worth...

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Basic Steps of Soapmaking

So many people are curious about the soap making process, that we've decided to show everyone a basic step-by-step method that applies to all soap making recipes. We use a process called the "cold process method" using a variety of pure natural oils, chosen for their various qualities they give the finished soap bar. Some oils give a nice lather with big bubbles and some give a great creamy texture with fine bubbles! Obviously, we also choose oils which will be good and healing for the skin. Making soap is actually a lot like cooking BUT exact measurements are really important, so if you are one of those casual cooks that like to chuck things in, your soap will flop, things have to be weighed to the gram!!!! When you first start out it's pretty daunting, we had quite a few disasters along the way, believe you me it's really sad when you peep at your soap the next morning and it looks like "aliens brains"...
You also have to experiment with essential oils as well, as combinations that smell glorious to you before you add it to your soap mix, can smell utterly gross in your finished soap the next morning! The soap process does change things. Basically soap is a result of mixing an alkali (diluted caustic soda in water) and an acid (your oils) together and the reaction that occurs is called saponification. Please note! To everyone out there having a fit about the caustic soda part, you cannot make soap without it. .... but the reason why soap has to sit and "cure" for 4 weeks, is that by the end of that time, the caustic soda has neutralised and is no longer present in the final bar !!!
The following steps and photos are just to give everyone a rough idea of the process, we have photographed a small batch being made, which was just easier at the time.

Weigh out all your base oils ( coconut oil, cocoa butter, beeswax, etc) and put into a stainless steel pot and melt over a low heat. An accurate scale is absolutely essential for soap making, digital being the best. Once everything has melted, put aside and allow to cool.

Weigh your sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and water. Slowly add the sodium hydroxide to the water and then rush outside (the fumes are awful) and gently stir till its all dissolved. Wear a mask and gloves while doing this and be very careful when handling this stuff, you also do not want to trip over a cat or child with a jug of this in your hands. Let it stand in a very safe place to cool down.

You need to now have your pot of oils and your sodium hydroxide solution at the exact same temperature. No easy feat, I can assure you but you get more practiced with this as time goes on.... The temperature recommended can also vary from soap maker to soap maker and recipe to recipe, its best to find what works for you and your soap.

Now that your two mixtures are at the same temperature, pour your sodium hydroxide mixture slowly into your oil mixture, beating as you pour, using a hand beater or a stick blender (which is what I prefer!). When it's a small batch the hand beater is easier. Keep blending until your mixture thickens to a stage called "trace". This is when you can trickle some of the mixture across the top and it leaves a faint line that sits on the surface. This is the signal that a reaction has taken place and that you have basically made SOAP! This is then also the stage when you can add your essential oil combo's, any spices and herbs that you may want to use for coloring and texture. Again, this is also tricky, as not everything survives the soap process and often doesn't come out the way it looked when you put it in! When I first started to experiment with making our Green Tea Soap, I thought I would be so clever and throw in some actual green tea leaves from the opened tea bag, for a wonderful and interesting texture.... well I ended up with a beautiful soap full of black bits.... we didn't mind using it and a lot of our friends liked it too, but I didn't think it would go down well with a customer unwrapping their soap for the first time... but you learn what works and what doesn't.

Once you've added your essential oils, etc this is also the stage you can add an extra small amount of oil (shea butter, almond oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, etc). This is called "superfatting" and will give your soap extra skin-pampering qualities. You can now pour your soap into a mold of your choice. Many things can be used, old yogurt cups, plastic trays, pvc pipes, cartons, etc. Ive always preferred a simple chunk of soap to the fancy molded look but that's just me... If you are using wooden molds, you have to line your molds with thin plastic. Then you pour you soap mixture into your molds and cover with a piece of cardboard and an old towel to insulate it. The soap sits like this untouched for 24 hrs after which you can take it out and cut it into bars. It is always nerve-wracking to check under that towel the next day... has it worked or not!

I think that's why I enjoy making soap so much, you can never get too complacent, as soap making is not an exact science, unexpected and surprising results can happen, things can come out wonderfully... or not! It's creative and addictive and sometimes I feel just like a witch, stirring her cauldron.... and when people tell you how much the soap has helped their skin or how amazing their skin feels after using the soap... well there's nothing better than that!