Autumn has definitely arrived in the Free State. The morning air is crisp and cool and the sky is turning winter-blue. The summer crop lands are changing hue as the maize and sunflowers start to dry out. On my drive into town this morning I was once again struck by the beauty all around us. Along the 17km dirt road there are photo opportunities aplenty. Unfortunately I only had my iPhone camera with me, but I think you’ll get the picture. From the cosmos lined road to the gold-tipped poplar trees and the clear vistas over the Maluti mountains into Lesotho. It really was a beautiful sight!
We’ve just returned from a two-week road trip through some of the most beautiful parts of South Africa, including the Great Karoo, Little Karoo, the Overberg region of the Western Cape and the Cape winelands. We travelled about 3000km through spectacular scenery and stayed in beautiful places. What made the trip really special is that we visited a number of different farms along the way owned by friends and fellow Boran breeders. We were reminded how lucky we are to live in this beautiful country as we travelled into the wide open expanse of the Karoo and wound our way up and down mountain passes into the Cape, stopping along the way to take in the view and enjoy some fabulous home-grown hospitality. And if we didn’t know it already, it’s a fact that South Africans are a very friendly bunch and “boerekos” (traditional farm-style food) really is delicious! We also managed some quality time with family. My dad John, step-mother Barbara and brother Johnny met Livia for the first time when we spent a weekend with them in Struisbaai. The following weekend, the other side of the family congregated for my step-father Charles’ birthday in a very special place in the Overberg called Halfaampieskraal. Livia was a little star in her car seat and grew in front of our eyes from newborn to baby as she hit the 3 month mark. How time is flying! Herewith some of the scenic shots from the journey taken by Quentin.
The Great Karoo between Beaufort West and Prince Albert.
The spectacular Swartberg Pass.
Sheep grazing in the rolling hills of the Overberg and the beach at Struisbaai.
The view from Brenaissance Wine and Stud in Stellenbosch.
The farm Halfaampieskraal near Bredasdorp in the Overberg.
Scenes along the Route 62 between Barrydale and Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo.
Our last night at Grootfontein farm near Colesberg.
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.