Heatwave!

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We’ve had a serious heatwave over the past week and a half. Terrible wind has added to the discomfort blowing dust into the house from all corners of the farm. Yesterday was the absolute worst with gusts up to 50km/hr the whole day long!

We had a little bit of rain before Myles was born, but there’s been nothing since and everything has totally dried up. I managed to take some photos of the garden early one morning just before things got really parched and windswept. The garden has come into bloom about a month earlier than usual, probably because we had some rain in September and because the temperatures have been so hot for spring. We also had a relatively mild winter so things didn’t frost down as much as usual. I just love the riot of colour and the fragrance of honeysuckle, lavender and rose drifting through the air. A real treat when the wind isn’t blowing and it’s pleasant enough to venture outside!

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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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Peachy pink!

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The drab, dry winter landscape has been transformed by splashes of pink peach blossoms all along our farm roads, a sure sign that spring is here. These are some snaps I took driving into town on spring day. After a very mild August, there has been a little nip in the air for the past few days and some threat of rain, but nothing has actually materialised. September is usually very windy and hopelessly dry on the farm with high risk of fire, but at least we can see an end in sight. In three week’s time we meet our little spring baby and then it’s downhill to summer! By February these trees will be laden with deliciously sweet wild cling peaches.

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Cooking with Livia

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I spent the morning with my cooking club today and Livia came with for a change of scenery. There was a constant stream of entertainment as she was passed from one adoring aunty to another and showered with love by her godmother Vicky. She should be a junior Masterchef in the making with all the food loving ladies she spends time with! With the temperatures rising, we decided to focus on a summer theme of salads and ice creams. I cannot think of many better ways to spend a Friday, cooking with friends, eating good food and delicious ice cream!

Heidi and Vicky made some great dishes with cheese and pears – the one was a fresh pear wrapped in home made ricotta, drizzled with honey and served with caramelised onion focaccia, the other was poached pears stuffed with camembert ice cream. Wow, what a treat!

I made brown bread ice cream with a butterscotch sauce, which I saw in an old copy of Vogue Entertaining and Travel from 1999. I’ve been doing a major spring clean at Vastrap which has led me to rediscover many gems that have been gathering dust under counters over the past few years. These magazines are such a treasure trove and I’ve dusted off all the summer ones to use this season. To be honest, brown bread ice cream doesn’t sound like it has much going for it, but the bread crumbs are toasted and caramelised in sugar, which makes it crunchy and delicious. Click HERE for a great recipe and serve it with some butterscotch sauce. Lucky for Quentin, I’ve come home with a whole tub full as there was so much to taste that we hardly made a dent in it. Wishing everyone a very happy weekend!

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Assessing the damage

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Last Sunday, the afternoon we returned from our holiday, a fire started on the mountain behind Vastrap. It is peak fire season in our area and everyone will be on high alert for the next month or two until the summer rains come. The veld is extremely dry and dusty and the smallest spark can set things off. Strong winds add to the danger. Of course we are happy that it’s spring, but until it rains the drab brown landscape and hazy air makes it hard to get too excited.

Thankfully the worst of the fire was on the mountain and there happened to be no wind for two days, which made it easier to control. At one point my parents-in-law panicked that their house might be in danger as the flames neared the trees behind their property, but with the help of our neighbours and the fire department who went above and beyond to come out to us at 9pm on a Sunday night, the fire was contained. In the end we lost about 200ha of grazing, but we don’t use this part of the farm often because there’s not enough water for the animals up there and no trees for shelter from the heat.

With Livia in a sling, we traversed the length of our mountain property this morning until the stone fence post which forms our boundary with three other farms. It was very crunchy underfoot and our legs were black by the end of the walk. The dogs had a ball, but they all needed a bath when we got home! Amazingly, there are already green shoots coming up only a week after the blaze. It will be interesting to see how quickly the veld rejuvenates after a bit of rain. Our thoughts are with all the other farmers that have been and will still be affected by bad fires this year.

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Endings and beginnings

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We had a sad time at Vastrap last week, saying goodbye to our first puppy, Shiloh and our beautiful 8-year old Boerboel, Tumi on the same day. Shiloh went off to his new home in the Eastern Cape and by all accounts has settled in beautifully. Tumi sadly passed onto a higher place. Somewhere I hope she is getting all the rubs and cuddles and love she demanded in her time here on earth. She was a gentle giant, the matriarch of our pack and was incredibly patient with the puppies in her last days. She had ovarian cancer, which spread aggressively and could not be treated once we realised she was sick. Her spirit lives on in her blind daughter Paris, who still seems a bit confused by what has happened (see “How Paris ‘sees’ the world“).

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The puppies have thrown our whole routine off course so we will have to slowly establish a new equilibrium once we settle back to ‘normal’. The second puppy, Rosebud was collected by her new owners today. She has gone off to Johannesburg with a very chuffed little girl who is going to take good care of her and their other Beagle Josh. The last two, Spike and Poppy will stay with us for another week. Our puppy Hope, is turning into a very spirited little thing. She seems to have no fear and leads the pack in most things mischief! It is so cute seeing the world through their little eyes as they discover things for the first time, like coming face to face with chickens in the garden and the delights of sheep and cow dung… ugh! Hope is yet to integrate herself into the bigger Vastrap pack, but over time I have no doubt she will fill a little corner of the gaping space left by Tumi. A sad ending followed by a new beginning, such is the cycle of life.

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Happy Days!

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This past long weekend was a treat. Having visitors to stay always presents an opportunity to enjoy things that farm life has to offer, like the space, outdoors, instant activities for the kids and of course long lazy breakfasts, lunches and dinners! The cherry on top was that Ashley was also here. She has lost both her front teeth and I just love her new toothless smile! The kids had a ball riding their bikes, skate boarding, playing tennis, riding on the back of the bakkie, feeding cows and horses, herding sheep, collecting chicken eggs, riding horses, making lemonade with a pile of lemons they picked from the tree, playing on the swings at Living Life while the adults enjoyed a lazy lunch and digging holes in the excavator with Quentin. The celebration of Heritage Day in South Africa coincides with Braai Day on 24 September, which makes some kind of braai or barbecue an absolute must. We enjoyed delicious farm lamb chops, boerewors and steak with charred grilled sweetcorn. The farm is still extremely dry, but spring is alive and well in the garden with the wisteria almost past its prime and purple orchids in full bloom. Sadly, outside the areas we water the grass is still dead and brown desperately waiting for the first summer rain.

Our troop of five Beagle puppies are a constant source of entertainment and they have become extremely playful at 7 weeks of age. Their little ears are hilariously long! The first little one, Shiloh, is leaving for his new home in a few days’ time so we are making the absolute most of their last days together. I had a big scare this morning when Shiloh went missing… until  now they’ve never wandered off and have tended to stick in their pack. After looking in all his favourite hiding spots I heard a puppy barking in the mountain above our house. It sounded too far away to be true, but there was no mistaking that it was him. I ran as fast as I could up the rough path behind the house and eventually also heard Coco barking. Low and behold, he had got himself stuck on a rocky outcrop on the lower slope of the mountain! I was so relieved to see them both, but couldn’t believe that he had wandered so far! The poor little thing was quite shattered and cried all the way home, while Coco looked relieved that her baby had not been harmed. After a good sleep he was back in fine form bouncing around the garden. I’ll have to keep a much closer eye on them now that they’re becoming more adventurous so that they can all make it to their new homes safe and sound.

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