Precious moments

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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!

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Counting our Blessings

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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.

Granny and grandpa with Livia and Myles.

Granny and grandpa with Livia and Myles.

The de Bruyn, Godley, Dixon clans.

The de Bruyn, Godley, Dixon clans.

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Baby Myles Thabang

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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!

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A quiet Sunday on the farm

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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.

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The road less travelled

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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!

Birthday boy with his girls!

Birthday boy with his girls!

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Best Friends

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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! 

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50 years a family

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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!

Karine & Bill17. Mum and dad and kids baobab

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Lapping up the autumn sun

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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!

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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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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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