Sunday morning rounds

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We’ve been flat out hectic here at Vastrap for the past month. In the two weeks leading up to our auction last Friday, we all got very bad flu so it was really just a case of digging deep and pushing through assisted by lots of medication! Fortunately the kids are all better now, but Quentin and I still have lingering coughs and stuffy noses, which was probably not helped by the cold wet weather on auction day! We literally collapsed on the couch this weekend after our last visitors left with every ounce of physical and emotional energy drained from us. We felt a little bit better by Sunday so all of us went with Quentin to check whether any new calves had been born overnight. One of the little ones also needed to be treated for a bad eye so we watched while Quentin patiently coaxed the mother into letting him get near the calf so that it could be injected. She was not very happy, but he eventually got it done. On the way home we noticed that all the willow trees have turned green, a sure sign that spring is near! The forecast is for a big cold snap this week, but after that it should start to warm up nicely. With all the lovely rain we’ve had this month the grass will hopefully start to grow as soon, which we really need for grazing. Next week we are off on holiday so by the time we get home it will be well into spring and only a few weeks until Myles’s first birthday. What a lovely prospect!

Anyone interested in reading more about the Vastrap Auction and seeing all the photos can click HERE for the post on our website.

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Winter Blessing

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Last week we had a huge blessing of over 100mm of rain in 24 hours. After the massive drought we had in summer, it was simply incredible to see and hear so much water flowing!! Quentin can’t ever remember us getting this much rain in winter. It’s such a relief to see our dams full and to know that the ground water has been replenished. We’ll be able to graze cattle on areas of the farm that haven’t had a source of water for more than a year and we won’t have to worry about carting water to thirsty animals in the usually dry spring. In a month’s time when things start to warm up, the veld will erupt in a riot of colour and gratitude. Not to mention our wheat crop, which will hopefully do well after the rain! We are one of the very few farms in the area that still bother to plant wheat and our persistence will hopefully pay off this year. It has been freezing cold with lots of snow on the Maluti mountains, but we are definitely not complaining – only 17 days to go until the Vastrap Boran Auction and we are rearing to go!

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Winter Walk

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We had a very chilled Father’s Day celebrated with a delicious breakfast at Living Life with Quentin’s parents and a lovely afternoon walk on the farm. It’s been a very mild winter so far aside from one really cold snap last week that even brought some welcome rain. The night time temperatures have been particularly warm compared to previous years. It’s still drops below zero degrees, but that’s mild for us. I remember the first week I ever spent on the farm in June 2010 when Quentin and I were still dating, the minimum temperature dropped to -17 C one night – and that still didn’t put me off marrying him and moving here!!

We are getting very busy organising our annual Vastrap Boran Auction, which will be held on 19 August. It takes a lot of work to select all the animals and to make sure they are tested and ready for sale. Then there is all the marketing material that has be designed and circulated, which I mainly take care of. A lot of people also visit us before the auction to view the animals so that takes up a lot of time and obviously closer to the auction there are other logistics to manage. It’s an exciting, albeit nerve-wracking time of year for us. You never know how things are going to turn out, but we can only try our best and hope for a good turnout on the day. It seems like the cattle take up all of Quentin’s time at the moment, but on the farm they are also busy reaping the sunflowers and getting ready to plant wheat. The recent rain will help a lot to get the wheat crop off to a good start, but we can only hope that there will be some early spring rain too. You can see from the photos below that grass and water are very scarce so there is still a long and gruelling winter ahead for the animals.

Anyone interested in seeing what we get up to with the cattle can visit our website www.vastrapboran.com. I have been focusing a lot more of my attention on our website blog to keep the information flow fresh and relevant. Sadly, with two small kids vying for my attention in the house this blog has become neglected. One day I will get back to cooking and gardening and taking photos of things other than children and cattle!

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The generations: Quentin, Myles & Bill de Bruyn

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Aga Goodies

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It feels like this year is just galloping away from us! With my preggie brain, I am struggling to keep up with things and feel torn in a hundred different directions. In the next three months we have to host our 3rd annual Vastrap Boran auction (14 August), finish the building work that we are doing on the new baby room, attend various other auctions around the country, whilst at the same time trying to make sure that I don’t have any final stage complications in my pregnancy like we did last time. The only sure way of achieving this is to put my feet up, but there’s not much chance of that happening with an 18 month old toddler making mischief around the house and demanding her mommy’s attention!

It doesn’t help that we’ve been away from home a lot this year and every time we get back there’s an adjustment phase to get back into routine. I really can’t complain though. We had a lovely trip to the UK recently. Livia and I tagged along for the ride, while Quentin joined some friends on a week long golf tour. We had a fantastic time in London and visited a friend and my God-daughter Daisy, near the sea in West Sussex. It was a real treat to relax and enjoy some warmer weather whilst doing fun things with Livia.

I bought some fabulous accessories for the Aga in London. An old Aga like ours doesn’t have all the cooking attachments that the new ones have. I didn’t even realise this until I saw them at another friend’s house. The most useful thing I got was a cooking grid that slides into the Aga runners so that you don’t have to cook straight on the solid bottom plate of the oven. There is also a shelf that slides in to make the oven a bit cooler and more suitable for cooking when the fire is burning really hot. I also love the oven gloves and chef’s pad that protects the chrome top of the Aga stove. It is so useful and totally solves the problem of where to put hot things when moving them from the stove to the oven or from the hot plate to the cool plate. I wanted to get the baking trays that slide into the oven runners, but there wasn’t enough space in my luggage!

I made some enquiries when I got home to see if these things are available from the Aga agent locally. The full catalogue is here –> AGA Cookshop Spring Summer 2015 or click on the link for the local Aga Living website. They don’t stock the full range, but if you’re willing to wait for the next container load you can do a special order. I really would highly recommend the textiles and simple accessories for those wanting to make their old anthracite Aga’s more user friendly. 2015-07-03_0001 2015-07-03_00022015-07-03_00032015-07-03_0005

Winter is Here!

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Winter has finally arrived at Vastrap. We’ve been bracing ourselves for the cold for a while now, but May was unusually sunny and warm. We spent some of the time on holiday down in the Transkei and Kwazulu Natal where it really felt like summer so that also saved us a bit. Last night the first big cold front of winter hit us and we were treated to some early morning rain and much colder temperatures. The forecast for the next while looks bitterly cold, as it should be for this time of year. This is the perfect start to the winter crop season so my farmer love is in a happy mood today!

At times like these, I’m always so grateful to have a warm and cosy home. It definitely wasn’t like this when I first arrived on the farm 5 years ago. My first experience of winter in the house was almost unbearable. There was no insulation in the ceiling, huge glass windows everywhere and only one or two heaters in the main living areas. We were always dressed in our warmest winter jackets and watched TV wrapped in blankets sitting on top of the heater. My hands even froze just sitting in bed drinking coffee or typing at my computer. Needless to say, it was absolute hell during a power outage. Not my idea of fun!

When we renovated the house about 3 years ago I insisted on installing double glazing and insulating the ceilings. We also made sure that there were multiple sources of heating – a Morsø fireplace and an Aga stove – and gas for cooking. With all these options we can cope well without power on a cold day.  We also put some underfloor heating in the main bathroom and kitchen just to take the chill off the tiles.

The Aga stove really is at the heart of our home and it’s an annual ritual getting it clean and lighting it for winter (see Lighting the Aga). This year Quentin had a brainwave to use the vacuum cleaner to suck out all the old grit and residue left inside the chimney from last winter. In two minutes everything looked spick and span and good as new so the fire should draw nicely.

Having the Aga lit changes the whole dynamic of the house. I use it a lot for cooking and everyone automatically gravitates towards the heat. New visitors to the house can’t help but admire it and share memories of old Aga’s from their childhoods. I was a bit worried how Livia would cope with such a big exposed heater, but so far she’s steered clear of it and she seems to understand that it’s hot. We’ve had to do a lot of childproofing in the house with a toddler cruising around. I’ve installed a safety guard around our fireplace and I found a lovely old oregon pine kitchen cupboard at one of the antique shops in town to store breakable things that were lying around. Now I just need some locks for our toilets to stop her throwing things into them, my car keys and remotes being the most recent victims!

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Time flies when you’re busy!

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Over the past two months all our energy has gone into the organisation of last Friday’s Vastrap Boran Auction. It’s the second year that we’ve held the sale on our farm so the workload was slightly less than last time, but still very demanding. I was in charge of all the marketing and entertainment logistics while Quentin took care of all the animal preparations. The weeks leading up to the auction are full of lists that need to be ticked off systematically and lots of stress about who’s going to come and whether there’ll be enough buyers! Quentin and I work really well as a team though and it was very satisfying to see everything come together on auction day. Click HERE if you’d like to see some photos from our website.

While all of this was going on, our little Livia has continued to grow and thrive. I can’t believe she is 7.5 months already! She is becoming a real little person with a very inquisitive mind. She loves to sit quietly and observe the passing scene, but she’s also becoming more vocal making new sounds every few days. She was very much part of the auction action, observing all of our frenetic preparations and joining in the fun on auction day. She was an absolute angel and was fascinated by the animals and very happy to be passed from one adoring aunty to another!

Speaking of aunties, my sister Beatrice came to Vastrap for auction week to help me with all the preparations. She is such a beautiful soul and a fantastic cook. She just took everything in her stride and quietly did what was needed – from whipping up the most delicious beef bourguignon and piles of yummy brownies, to playing with Livia and taking care of her bedtime routine. It was really wonderful to have her here and to witness the love between her and Livvy. Auntie Lesley, Quentin’s sister, also spent some time with us on auction day and she and Beatrice got on famously. What a treat to have such wonderful family time while we were busy working! We also loved the opportunity to socialise and get to know some of our fellow Boran breeders better. As much as we love our animals, the people really do add a wonderful dimension to our business and we really appreciated the effort people made to travel from far to be with us. Right now its impossible to feel anything but blessed!

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The Big Freeze!

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The past few days have definitely been the coldest of winter so far. Night time temperatures have plunged to -10 degrees Celsius for three nights in a row with an even colder real feel! This reminds me of the very first winter I spent time on the farm four years ago before Quentin and I were married. That was before the house had proper insulation, an Aga stove and a wood burning fire… a good excuse to huddle close together on the couch watching the 2010 World Cup (not that we needed one)!

While Livia and I stayed warm and toasty inside this morning, Quentin was greeted by these beautiful ice sculptures when he arrived at work. Very brave men indeed working outside today. I hope they can find a little patch of sun to warm their cold bones.

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