There are signs all about that the seasons are starting to turn. Work on the farm started half an hour later today signalling the end of the busy summer period. The wild peach trees alongside the road are almost depleted of their fruit thanks to passing cars with plastic bags at the ready. Soon a sea of cosmos will bring shades of pastel to the landscape. I am more aware than ever of the subtle changes in light and temperature being awake a few times through the night feeding little Livia. In the garden, the fading agapanthus have been replaced by bright orange wands of crocosmia and the odd flowering clivia. Similarly, the spectacular pink Pride of India and bright red Bottlebrush tree add a splash of colour. There may still be many glorious sunny days before the winter chill sets in, but it’s only a matter of time before the leaves on the poplar tree at the bottom of the garden and the virginia creeper in the courtyard turn auburn and start to fall.
Ashley celebrated her 7th birthday at the farm this past weekend. It’s been three years since she last had a birthday at the farm so it was a special occasion for us. Her best friend Jordan, also visited for the weekend from Joburg with her parents David and Debbie. She was welcomed ‘home’ by fields of sunflowers in full bloom, a truly happy sight! This year, some of the best blooms in our valley are on a piece of land called Warrick owned by my sister-in-law Lesley and her husband Garry. Quentin cultivates the land on their behalf and this year the conditions were just perfect. Sunflowers can be a very tricky crop to get right, but you won’t see much better than this in our district. Tall plants with large heads ready to fill up with seed. It’s impossible not to feel happy in the presence of their yellow majesty! I can’t think of a better way to mark the birthday of a very special little girl.
Livia and I are going on our first little adventure to the city! My friend Julia and my sister arrived at the farm yesterday to pick us up and drive us to Joburg today. It’s going to be a busy few days introducing her to family and friends and at the end of it all we’ll drive home with Ashley for her half term weekend and birthday party. The sunflowers have come into bloom so I insisted that we go for sundowners yesterday to soak up some farm air. It’s Livia’s third sundowner outing and her first actually being awake. The air was still and warm and the setting sun cast a pink glow over the maize and sunflower lands. So beautiful and nourishing for the soul!
As predicted, there hasn’t been much time for blogging in my world! Livia is now 5 weeks old and thriving. I’ve been working hard to make sure she’s putting on weight and the effort seems to be paying off as she’s starting to fit into her clothes a bit better. Mothering a newborn is hard work, but I’m loving every sleep-deprived moment. She has already changed so much and this week the competition is on to see who she smiles at first! My mother visited us again this past weekend and bought my cousin Koos and his new wife Alix along with her. It was a rainy weekend so we spent a lot of time entertaining Livia and making magic in the kitchen. We managed to get out one afternoon for sundowners, or at least an attempt at it in the circling rain. The rain is extremely welcome after the scorching hot January weather. Our crops were starting to take serious strain, but this soaking will hopefully reinvigorate them. The veld is lush and green at least so all the cattle are looking very happy and healthy.
Our sundowner route took us past a herd of our Angus cattle and we had a beautiful view of the circling storms from our vantage point on top of the koppie. Koos is a skilled iPhoneographer so I left it to him to take photos and asked him nicely to use them for the blog. He also took some great photos in the garden when I sent him up to the veggie garden to pick tomatoes and rocket. The borage and zinnias are in full bloom, but the artichokes and echinacea are now past their prime. Thanks to Koos I’m now able to share these gems with you!
The past five weeks have been consumed by all things baby in the Vastrap household with the festive season passing by largely unnoticed. It’s been a long time since I blogged because I was hospitalised in Bloemfontein in mid-December at 35 weeks pregnant. The doctor wouldn’t let me go back to the farm and I held out for another three weeks at a friend’s house close to the hospital until our precious angel, Livia Lerato de Bruyn was born on 29 December 2013. We’ve been home for a week and a half and I’ve immersed myself in the wonderful world of being a mommy for the first time and learning all about this new little person in our lives. She is tiny – only 2.7kg at birth – but perfect in every way!
We found the name Livia in a book that Quentin was reading early in my pregnancy called I Dreamed of Africa, a memoir by Kuki Gallmann an Italian-born Kenyan woman. Lerato means love in seSotho and I will now be known on the farm as ma’Lerato, mother-of-Lerato.
My mother and sister were with us in the first week after we got back from hospital. What an amazing thing to have such supportive family to help with the transition. They immediately got to work organising the kitchen, cooking non-stop delicious meals and filling the house with flowers from the garden, something I had really missed in my time away from home. I haven’t had the energy to be too adventurous on the farm yet, but we’ve been out for a few walks with our new 4×4 pram and we even managed to take Livia with us for sundowners one night. She was warmly bundled up and slept through the whole thing! The dogs have taken a while to figure out who this new little being is taking up so much of my time, but little Hope wasted no time making herself comfortable on the bed with us!
That’s all I have time for now. Things will be quite slow on the blog front for a while, but I will try my best to keep you updated. A very belated happy new year to everyone. I hope 2014 holds many pleasant surprises and happy memories.
While the roses are preparing for their next big flush, the rest of the Vastrap garden is coming to life thanks to some healing rain. Hydrangeas, agapanthus, dahlias, pelargonium, hollyhocks, daylilies, lavender, scabiosa, salvia, nasturtiums, echinacea, buddleja, and many more have all started to flower. The herb garden in the courtyard has gone crazy with tarragon and mint growing like weeds! Despite my lack of energy for gardening over the past few months it seems we’ll have no shortage of colour around the house over Christmas. But it’s probably wise for me to enjoy it all from a distance rather than getting into extensive flower arranging, because even taking these photos today has completely exhausted me. I guess that’s to be expected with my growing belly and only a month to go until the big day! Deep breath in, deep breath out… the countdown really has begun.
On a lazy Sunday afternoon during crop planting season a farmer’s mind is never quite at rest. Will the rain forecast for the week ahead materialise? Have the seeds planted in the last week germinated properly? Should certain contours be replanted? When the mind is busy there’s no better antidote than to pile pregnant wife and dogs into the bakkie to go and walk the fields and scratch in the soil. Simply looking from afar is not good enough you have to actually dig to find the seeds germinating under the soil. So far, it seems that the stuff planted in the past week will be fine because there’s been some sporadic rain, but the contours that were planted early before we had proper rain are not doing so well and are very patchy – one should see a nice solid line of green when you look down the line of a contour. These will probably need to be replanted to maximise yield, but it’s a tough decision involving extra time and cost. The veld has made a remarkable recovery in the past two weeks which is great for cattle, but the dams are still very low so we’re holding thumbs for some generous showers soon.
As usual, the dogs absolutely love a good run and little Hope is integrating so beautifully in the pack. She’s four months old now and has long lanky legs which help her to keep up the pace with Patch and Coco, but she’s still petrified of cows and other dogs, which sometimes gets her into trouble. There’s always the risk that she’ll run off into the mountains with Coco when they catch a scent, but I’ve taken to carrying treats with me to make it more tempting for her to come when we call rather than follow her mother. Beagles will be Beagles though so it’s not a guaranteed strategy and we’re still keeping a very close eye on her to make sure she’s safe.