After the incredibly hot and harsh summer, the mellow autumn days are a real treat. We had a very cold snap a few weeks ago, but the days have been beautifully warm and golden of late. Last week I spent some time with the kids in the garden taking photos. Myles will be seven months next week and he is just too delicious for words! An early crawler with two little teeth already, it just seems like time is flying by too quickly. Sometimes I have to force myself to just stop all the busy-ness and savour the moment. Livia’s little friend Matseliso was also here for the day. She is 11 months older than Livia, but they are playing so nicely together and Livia gets so excited when she comes to visit. It’s lovely to see their little friendship develop. Such precious moments!
It’s been a very strange December on the farm. We started the month with such optimism that the drought had broken, but sadly there has been almost no rain for weeks. Every day has been scorching hot, dry and often very windy covering everything in a thick layer of dust. The farm is usually a hive of activity at this time of year, but barring a mad rush to plant maize after the rain we had in November, there’s been very little going on since then. It’s hard to see an end to this as the weather forecast for the first two weeks of January predicts more of the same. It’s really heartbreaking to read about all the small towns around the Free State that are completely running out of water. What a contrast to my first summer on the farm five years ago. Then it was one of the wettest ever recorded, now it is the driest. Both conditions made it hard to farm, but at this rate I’d opt for the rain any day.
While there was little happening work-wise on the farm, we had a full house of family over the festive season. All three of Quentin’s sisters were here with their husbands and kids, including the whole Dixon family from Australia. It was a great distraction from reality. Long lazy lunches and dinners, plenty of time in the pool and competitive games of squash, boules, Uno and bridge made for lots of laughter. On Boxing day we walked to a Bushman painting site on our neighbour’s farm, which is really incredible. The images are still so clear and one can recognise the buck and other animals that are still found in our mountains.
As we crunched over the dry grass walking to the site, I could not help but think how lucky I am to have lived in this special place with the man I love for the past five years and to have our two beautiful children. It will rain eventually, and we will get through this difficult time, but in the meantime we can only count our blessings and say thank you for the special times we have spent with the people we love, our family.
Wishing everyone a very blessed and happy 2016! May the rain pour down soon.
Our precious bundle of joy, Myles Thabang, was born two weeks ago today. We are completely overjoyed and thankful that he is healthy, happy and perfect in every way. His little sister, Livia Lerato, is fascinated by her brother and has shown him nothing but love and affection so far (long may that last!) She is extremely concerned whenever he cries and tries to help mommy wherever she can. It is just too precious for words!
A lot of people have asked us why we have chosen to give our children seSotho second names. The tradition started with Quentin’s first daughter Ashley who is called Naledi, meaning “star”. Livia’s second name is Lerato, which means “love”, and Thabang means “to be happy” or “to bring happiness”. They have been given these names to honour the fact that we live amongst seSotho people on the farm and we want our children to respect their culture and grow up learning the language. Quentin is fluent in seSotho, but I am not, which puts me at a serious disadvantage in our day to day living in South Africa. Quentin and his father have always been proud of the seSotho names they were given by the community, but these names have never been formally recorded anywhere. Quentin is Bereng, which means “king” and his father is Masupa, which was a name of one of the chiefs. On the farm, these names are used far more often than the names on their birth certificates so we felt it would be a mark of respect to make the seSotho names official.
I wouldn’t have survived that last two weeks without serious support and help from our wonderful family. Quentin’s parents and my mother and my sister all played a role in looking after Livia when I wasn’t able to and then looked after all of us when we came home and I couldn’t focus on anything but feeding a hungry newborn! It is truly wonderful when families come together to celebrate new life and support each other through new and daunting experiences. My mom left yesterday leaving a freezer full of delicious healthy meals for us to eat in the next while. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
We’ve been enjoying some quiet time at home before the big day arrives. Things are going to be decidedly more hectic around here in 10 days’ time when Livia’s baby brother is born. The building is almost complete so I hope to spend most of next week doing some serious nesting in the baby’s new room. I don’t think Livia understands what’s about to hit her, but I’ve been encouraging her to play with her own baby to get used to the concept. If her love for everyone else, and especially our dogs, is anything to go by then she’s going to be an amazing older sister.
Calving season is in full swing on the farm and Quentin does his rounds every day looking for new babies to record and weigh. Livia and I joined him this morning and the dogs also came along for some exercise. We had a little bit of rain last night so the air was clear and dust-free. The veld is still very drab and dry, but things will hopefully come alive soon as the night temperatures get warmer. Livia absolutely loves being out on the farm with her dad. It’s so sweet to see. Quentin drove as slowly as possible over the bumps to keep me comfortable! We found a few new-born calves hidden in the grass and identified some cows that are very close to calving so that they can be watched over the next few days. Livia alternated from my lap to her dad’s and eventually passed out on the way home. There are few things more soporific than a bumpy dirt road, especially when mommy’s big tummy is such a comfortable pillow! What a special morning with our no-longer baby girl.
After all the activity around our auction, we took a few days off to recover and celebrate Quentin’s birthday. The timing was perfect as it was also the start of Ashley’s school holidays so we could really spend some quality time together as a family before the new baby arrives. We love road trips and driving through remote areas of the country. Our trip took us through the heart of the Karoo to Graaff Reinet and then on to a beautiful game farm run by friends of ours near the citrus valley of Kirkwood in the Eastern Cape.
On the way home we stayed at another beautiful game farm just outside Graaff Reinet called Mount Camdeboo, which was a real treat. Our wonderful guide, Les, took us on lovely kid-friendly game drives and we even managed to track one of their resident cheetah on foot. Livia absolutely loved being outdoors and seeing lots of different animals for the first time. On our first evening a big family of giraffe provided lots of entertainment as we sipped our sundowners and the mountains faded into pink silhouette. We were also lucky to see a pair of young rhino brothers who have become inseparable since their mother was poached last year. Ashley was fascinated by their remarkable story of courage and survival. Sadly, they have been de-horned for their own protection.
Our trip home took us through some amazing scenery on a long stretch of dirt road between Patterson and Craddock. We didn’t encounter anybody else on the road for over 100km! It was a bit bumpier than I would have liked, but so worth seeing the spectacular mountain landscape dotted with livestock and game. After a long day on the road we arrived home happy and relaxed and excited to tackle the next challenge of getting the house ready for the arrival of our baby boy at the end of September!
We are constantly amused and amazed by Livia’s interaction with our pack of dogs. She just can’t get enough of them. Whether it’s sitting on them, hugging them, kissing them, stealing their food or just chilling in their beds. It really is cute how much she loves them. I don’t blame them for finding all the attention a bit much sometimes, especially when she sits down on them like a WWW wrestler! Our boerboel puppy, Duma is 5 months old now. He is huge already, but such a sweetie and very gentle with Livia when he’s not bounding round the house in an excited state. She loves to visit him while he is relaxed and lying on his bed. I just love these photos of their gentle interaction. There was more than enough love going round for Coco to also get a big hug!
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!