We took a slow walk down into the valley earlier today with the dogs. The autumn days are sunny and beautiful, but there’s a definite chill in the air signalling winter is near. Far too quickly, the poplar trees have lost their golden sheen. Little Livia has finally found her feet at 16 months. She’s changing by the day and is totally ready to run and clamber about as she experiments with different sounds and actions. She had her lunch down in the vlei with the dogs mulling around and the sheep and cows grazing in the distance. Duma, our 4 month old boerboel puppy, is getting so big! But he is a very friendly brute and has adapted well to our pack. A bit of quiet family bonding with my loves was the perfect way to end off a relaxing long weekend!
We had such a lovely time at Vastrap over Easter. The whole de Bruyn clan gathered to celebrate Bill and Karine’s 50th wedding anniversary, with Quentin’s sister Deidre and her family travelling all the way from Australia to be with us. Her two boys had not spent time on the farm in years so it was a real treat to have them here and for all the cousins to spend time together. With Quentin’s other two sisters Lesley and Kathryn we were nine adults and five children in total. Livia especially loved all the action and attention and our new puppy, Duma, was also a hit with everyone!
The de Bruyn family are a notoriously sporty bunch and high achievers on so many levels. Vastrap was a bit like a country club in the days when Bill and Karine lived here, with tennis on Sundays and a squash court that hosted Eastern Free State league matches back in the day. Ever since I have lived here the squash court has been used as a giant store room, much to my father-in-law’s horror! But I vowed to have it in working order in time for Easter. It took quite an effort to clear away all the junk accumulated over many decades, but with Tseliso’s help we did it. Well, it was such a hit and so worth the effort. The boys played squash 24/7 from early in the morning till late at night, a useful way to burn off their jet lag. At one point you could just hear balls being hit all over the place with tennis matches being played on the one side of the house and squash on the other!
We drank champagne under the stars and watched a slide show of all the old family photos, eliciting much hilarity from the kids. On Easter Sunday we went for a lovely walk on the mountain to the place where Quentin’s grandfather, Tok’s ashes were scattered. It was a beautiful clear day and we could see for miles once we got on top of the sandstone cliff. It was Duma’s first real farm walk and he stumbled and fumbled his way over the rocky path trying to keep up with Patch.
In our busy lives it is a real treat to be able to stop for a minute, count our blessings and celebrate the wonderful people and family in our lives, recognising the part they have played in making us who we are. For the little ones, nothing beats special times spent with their grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins. This is the stuff of great memories!
I can’t believe my last blog was two months ago! Where has the time gone?? It certainly has been a hectic year so far and I find myself less and less able to indulge in time spent documenting happenings around the farm. I’ve also been spending a lot more time updating and writing for our official Vastrap Boran website and blog, which has left my personal blog lonely and neglected.
It’s pointless to even try to catch up on everything that’s been going on, but the main news I have to share is that we are expecting a baby boy at the end of September! I am just over 4 months pregnant and feeling great, but the first trimester was very draining and quite stressful waiting to see if we would get past the first three months. On top of that Livia was sick for quite a few weeks and teething badly which left us very sleep deprived, something that we’ll have to get used to!
Ashley is here this week for her holidays and Livia is absolutely loving having her big sister around. We had some fun in the garden this afternoon in our new outdoor seating area. The building was completed just in time for Easter when the whole de Bruyn family gathered at Vastrap to celebrate Bill and Karine’s 50th wedding anniversary. I got lots of ideas from Pinterest on how we could build something like this using the natural sandstone from the area. After showing all the photos to Quentin he made it happen using blocks that were carved decades ago by a stone mason who used to work on the mountain behind our house. I am so thrilled with the result, especially since it looks like it’s always been there. In summer it will be covered in shade from our beautiful tree and in winter it will be a lovely place to lap up the morning sun. The girls certainly approve!
I love impromptu weekends that aren’t planned months in advance, but are last minute affairs that turn out perfectly. Such was our Valentines weekend when my mom and sister decided they were missing Livia too much and just had to visit us on the farm. With a free pass from respective family duties, they convinced friends Eben and Francois to join in for the drive. After the first round of cold G&Ts were poured on Friday evening, we watched a huge storm build up that brought some much-needed rain. It was thunderous and dramatic and my farmer love was incredibly grateful for it. The rest of the weekend was spent playing with baba, planning the next lazy meal under the stars and deep afternoon slumbers. We had glorious Valentines sundowners on the mountain. The air was fresh and clear after the rain opening up vistas for miles.
On Sunday I decided to drive back with them to Joburg to go and fetch the latest addition to our family of pets, a new male Boerboel puppy. That was my only mission so I left Livia behind with her dad. I drove back again on Monday morning with the sweetest little companion in the car. He was so good and slept all the way. Livia gave him a rapturous welcome to Vastrap with hugs and kisses all over. We’ve decided to name him Duma, which means thunder in Sesotho. Hopefully he will be our good luck charm for rain and a very good protector for Livia and me on our farm adventures. The rest of the pack are a bit put out by this new imposter, but I’m sure they’ll chill out soon. What’s not to love?!
The past month has been unbearably hot and dry on the farm. It’s incredible how quickly things change. After waxing lyrical about all the beautiful rain we were getting in November and December, things suddenly turned to drought. Before we left for our holiday towards the end of January the farm was looking the best it has in years. All the crops were planted and growing beautifully and the grass was lush and green. By the time we got back 10 days later, things were starting to look very stressed and it’s just got worse since then with daily maximum temperatures soaring to 40 degrees and not a drop of rain! Thankfully it is cooler today, and there are some signs of rain around, but at this stage we need more than a few drops to revive the crops. In fact, it’s probably too late for most of our mealies. My husband is being a real trooper, trying not to let it get to him too much and focusing instead on the work he loves most with his cattle. It’s soul destroying though when our weather app predicts rain that never materialises.
Last week we had a little family photo shoot with our Boran cattle. I’m trying to get all our marketing material sorted for the year and we needed some updated photos which included Livia. Our very talented friend, Ziona Bothma, agreed to spend some time with us and I think she got some amazing shots! The cattle were so well behaved and posed quietly behind us for about an hour. Only afterwards did we see that they were standing in a perfectly colour coded group – from white to red. As always, it was very special to spend time with them up close, and needless to say, little Livia absolutely loved it!
I’ve taken an unplanned break from blogging over the past month. We’ve been home as usual for the festive season, so while most of the rest of South Africa have been relaxing on holiday things have seemed rather hectic here at Vastrap. What with festive season entertaining, various visits from family, Livia’s first birthday and a busy farming schedule, we are now desperately in need of a holiday! The weather has been absolutely amazing with beautiful hot days relieved by frequent dramatic thunderstorms. As a result, the farm is looking stunning with the cattle, and our car, literally swimming in grass in some of the camps. It was very special to have my grandparents, Koos and Hannatjie, with us for Christmas and Livia’s birthday, and to have my mom and Charles pop in for a night over New Year en route to the coast. We ended the “holiday” with a nice long visit from my sister, Hannia who got to spend some quality time with Livia and Ashley.
Tragedy struck last week though when we lost our dear boerboel Paris to a snake bite. She was a real trooper, the bravest dog we’ve ever met who navigated the world with as much gusto and enthusiasm as a sighted dog (see “How Paris “Sees” the World“). She will be sorely missed by all, especially our Jack Russell, Patch who was her constant protector. I just love the photo of him staring into the distance all alone while we were having a picnic on our last evening with Ashley and Hannia. The beagles were off on their own adventure somewhere and I’m sure he was missing his girl, Paris. Rest in peace beautiful soul. xx
We have been blessed with amazing rain this season. Over the past few years, it’s felt like every drop of rain we’ve had has been squeezed out of the sky with a lot of effort, but this year it’s falling easily and abundantly. The clouds build up and a beautiful shower follows, unlike in dry years when the clouds develop with great fanfare and then quickly blow away leaving a splattering of drops in the dust.
Earlier this week we took some guests up the mountain behind our house to show them the beautiful views. We’ve been wanting to go up for a while to check on the regrowth of veld after a fire burnt everything in early September. As we left home a storm started to brew and by the time we got to the top of the mountain a dark bank of clouds was approaching from the direction of Ladybrand where it was already raining. One feels so much closer to the clouds up there and we just loved seeing the storm develop. We only had time for a quick drink and some photos before it started to pour! Ah, the power of water to make a farmer’s heart sing. I have a very happy and content husband this season. Long may it last!