Duma Love

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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?!

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From Feast to Famine

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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!

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Slow down and take a breath!

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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. xx2015-01-15_0009 2015-01-15_0010

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The Approaching Storm

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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!

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Dinner with the Moo’s

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At this time of year when things are looking so beautiful and green on the farm, we try to make an effort to go out for a sundowner picnic as often as possible. The light is so beautiful and soft in the late afternoons, and the veld is looking spectacular after all the rain we’ve had since the start of November. When Quentin arrives home from work, we pack a cooler with some drinks, snacks and Livia’s supper and drive off in the bakkie with the dogs on the back. We have a couple of favourite spots, but on the day it usually depends on whether we have to check on progress with our crops or visit a particular herd of cattle. On Saturday evening when we took these photos, Livia ate her supper in front of an audience of inquisitive Angus cows giving a wonderful display of all different mooing sounds they make. You might be surprised to hear that one “moo” is very different to the next! After such a lively performance, I’ll be very surprised if “moo” is not one of the first animal sounds she learns, along with “woof-woof” “meh” and “baa”, the other sounds she hears often around the farm.

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Dahlia delight!

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I simply can’t get enough of the dahlias in my garden. They never fail to delight and every day something new emerges in a different colour, shape and size. The neon yellow dinner plate dahlias are totally irresistible! It’s been a while since my dahlia patch looked this good so early in the season. Dahlias have been a staple in the Vastrap garden since Quentin’s grandmother lived here over 50 years ago. There weren’t any when I arrived, but it didn’t take long for me to revive the tradition, because they are so easy to grow and make wonderful picking flowers. Exactly the type I like, the more you pick the more they flower! Livia and I are loving summer, spending more and more time out in the garden. We’ve had such lovely rain followed by beautiful hot sunny days, exactly what one expects from a good summer season in the Eastern Free State. It’s the definition of delicious and exactly what’s needed to keep the farmer in our house content and happy over the planting and harvesting season.

Quentin's grandparents at Vastrap circa 1940s.

Quentin’s grandmother Berry’s dahlias. 

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Little cow girl!

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Livia had her first close-up encounter with our Boran cows today. Sure she’s seen them from the safety of the bakkie before and we often pass them on our daily walks, but today she got up close with her daddy. Boy did she love it! Some of our best Boran cows were in the cattle press for our annual IVF programme, which is a way to get more offspring from our top animals. We couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity for Livia to meet our herd matriarch Hope MHB 04-11 and her beautiful little heifer calf by our former stud sire Rustin MHB 06-30, who sadly was sold this year. If her shrieks were anything to go by, Livia thought it was all very impressive and entertaining, much to her daddy’s delight!

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