Hello Winter

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We’re back! After an amazing holiday in Spain it feels like I’ve been “in transit” for the past few days. I spent a few days in Joburg after we got back, followed by a quick trip home before I leave again tomorrow for the opening of my grandmother’s exhibition at the SMAC Gallery in Stellenbosch (see Hannatjie van der Wat: In Retro – Seventy-Year Career Survey). I am so excited for her and feel extremely privileged to be able to share this proud moment honouring her career as an artist.

Winter has very definitely arrived in the Eastern Free State! Although the days are clear and bright, night time temperatures have dropped to zero bringing the frost with it. Our house is situated against a mountain, which protects the garden a bit. In fact, there is a stark difference between the leaves on the poplar trees next to the house and those in the valley. This afternoon I needed a bit of farm soul food so I went for a walk with Tumi and Coco. Paris and Patch were off somewhere with Quentin. I took the camera along and could not resist snapping away in the beautiful golden light. As I left our yard, the sheep were being brought back to the kraals. We did a big loop down to the valley and then returned to see that the sheep were all safely put to rest for the night. The light was fading quickly by the time I got home, but I couldn’t resist a photo of the garden, which still has a few roses, some beautiful purple irises and pink daisy bushes in fine form. As much as I love travelling and seeing new sights, I have to admit, home trumps all!

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Stragglers.

Stragglers.

Coco in her element.

Coco in her element.

Valley Poplars.

Poplars in the valley.

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Happy hounds.

Happy hounds.

Still a few golden leaves.

Still a few golden leaves.

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Safely kraaled for the night.

Safely kraaled for the night.

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Garden in the fading sun.

Garden in the fading light.

Purple Feast

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I wish I was a better photographer to be able to capture the incredible insect life in our garden. For the past few months my salvia bushes have been alive with a flapping frenzy of bumble bees, honey bees and insects with very long proboscises which I think are bee flies. Walking in the garden there is a constant humming symphony and I find it mesmerising, even therapeutic, to watch them flitting from flower to flower, never sitting still for longer than an instant. It can only be a good thing to have such life in the garden, but can there be too much of a good thing? The other day I was stung on the forehead picking flowers in the late afternoon and more and more I’m finding bees stuck in the house. This probably has to do with the fact that we have a huge bee hive in the roof above our office. It has apparently been there for many years, but it really seems to be thriving. At this rate there’ll be honey dripping down onto my head one day while I’m busy blogging! For the safety of our guests and children visiting it is probably best if I find a bee keeper who can remove the colony to a safer place and harvest some delicious honey for us. Hopefully there is enough good stuff in the garden to keep the other bees and insects here without too much disruption.

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Mellow Yellow

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Tumi, Patch and Paris walked to the top of a little koppie with me on Friday morning to take photos of our sunflower fields. Coco started out with us, but she quickly disappeared into the distance howling after a rabbit or something like that. There is only a very short window period in which the sunflowers are at their best and we probably already missed it last weekend with the bad weather. February has been quite dry and hot and many flowers have started to droop so I could not delay any longer.

There was a fair amount of bundu bashing involved as we were not following a path and veld is dense with grass and wild flowers. Fortunately Tumi and Patch led the way, which gave me a tiny bit of hope that any snakes lying in our path would slither away before I passed… where snakes are concerned I’m still very much a city girl i.e. terrified!!! Paris (our blind dog, see How Paris ‘sees’ the world) stayed glued to my heels as we trudged up and down the steep mountainside. We were all exhausted by the end, but happy that we’d captured some images of the yellow landscape. Because of crop rotation, the sunflowers are not always planted in the same lands around our house so the views this year are quite a treat and worth all the effort, I think!

Starting the gradual climb.

Starting the gradual climb.

View from the top looking west.

View towards the west – a patchwork of mealies and sunflowers.

Wild red hot pokers.

Wild red hot pokers.

Mountain views towards the South.

Mountain views towards the South.

Paris and Patch taking a well-deserved break. If only Paris could see the view!

Tumi and Paris taking a well-deserved break – if only Paris could see the view!

Flower detail.

More pokers.

Fallow land contours.

Fallow land contours.

Up close on our way home.

Up close on our way home.

Tractor setting off for morning duties.

Tractor setting off for morning duties.

 

Twenty one years on

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I can’t believe it’s Thursday already and I haven’t yet posted photos of our weekend with my girlfriends from school – don’t know where this week has gone! On Tuesday and Wednesday Quentin and I were on a tour of farms in the district visiting other Boran cattle farmers and then we attended a course on Boran cattle farming. It was great to see other farms  and we spent a night at the Oranje Guest Farm near Fouriesburg, which is owned by a fellow Boran farmer. We drove past fields and fields of very beautiful looking summer crops (maize, sunflower, soya beans), with only the odd bit of hail damage in some areas. I’m slowly learning more about the business and how to evaluate a good animal, but I’m not quite as passionate about it yet as Quentin!

Free State farmers (and me)..

On tour with a group of Free State Boran club members.

Anyway, back to the weekend. We had a great time chatting and eating and just generally relaxing together. A weekend goes by so quickly, but it’s so much better bonding time than just sitting down for one meal as one normally would in the city. My friend Lucinda recently moved to a farm in KwaZulu-Natal so we had a lot to talk about. Twenty one years ago when we were still at school I don’t think either of us could have dreamt we would end up being farm girls, but such is the mystery of life! Briggie and Yoza both have beautiful baby daughters (Briggie is pregnant with her second child), but they are both still very much city girls.

Sinéad is a professional photographer so I thought I would use her photos for this blog post. She was the most energetic of all of us over the weekend managing to fit in 25 kilometers of running! She is training for a big trail running race later this year and could not resist the opportunity to get out on our farm tracks. In between all of that she was running after her three gorgeous kids, taking photos and giving Quentin some photography lessons. She is a real star and I admire her so much for leaving behind her corporate job a few years ago and pursuing her dream of photography, make-up, and art. Check out her website and blog to see more of her work (www.sineadbrook.co.za).

I think her photos of Vastrap are stunning and capture the mood of that afternoon perfectly, particularly since they were taken under challenging conditions. We set off for sundowners on Saturday afternoon just as bad weather was setting in with strong wind and splatters of rain. That scuppered our idea of having sundowners overlooking the sunflower fields and we had to find a more sheltered spot behind the koppie instead. While the rest of us were carrying children and cooler bags, Sinéad was lugging her camera and tripod through the veld. Enjoy!

Kids on the back of the bakkie.

Kids on the back of the bakkie with sunflowers in the distance.

My babies.

My babies.

Madame Coco.

Madame Coco.

With my fellow farm-girl friend, Lucinda.

With my fellow farm-girl friend, Lucinda.

Walking through the long grass to sundowners.

Traipsing through the long grass to sundowners.

Sunflower vista.

Sunflower vista.

Dramatic sky and grass.

Dramatic sky and grass.

View from the koppie.

View from the koppie.

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Braving the wind and splattering rain!

“Sundowners” without the sun!