Sunday, October 29, 2006


In a moment of madness, in the blurry recesses of a Sunday night, not under the influence of alcohol, I decided to join in the National Blog Posting Month. So I am committing myself to posting every day through the month of the few days left of October I shall be stockpiling any random flashes of wit or enlightenment and hoarding them jealously till November, in case inspiration dries up once I am face to face with a genuine hard deadline.

If anyone else wants to join in, check out for the list of participants, details and what it's all about.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

October Summer

Summer has crept up on us unawares, swept spring away with a dry broom and sent us searching for the sprinkler attachments. Overnight it seems the grass has burnt to a dull brown and young trees, yesterday so full of new green leaf, have become dry and stressed. Every year it takes us by surprise and we quickly have to get back into our summer routine of watering every evening. Sensible people have automated watering systems. We move the sprinkler around the house at irregular intervals and hope for the best.

Children outfitted by Granny who is visiting us

Afternoons are now for swimming and the children, after an uncertain first few days, have remembered the skills acquired last summer. The older ones are swimming underwater, as long as they have goggles, and youngest is now confident in the deep end with her arm bands. So now I am wrested away from my computer for the complicated expedition down to the pool. The collection of all the necessary accoutrements: hats, flip flops, towels, swimming costumes, cellphone, book, drinks, snacks, the thorough application of suncream to all four of us seems to take at least half an hour, the impatience of the older ones as finally we are ready and then youngest needs to go to the loo. She then walks extremely slowly, firmly holding onto my hand. down to the pool, as the others jump up and down screeching with frustration at the gate, forbidden to enter without an adult. Eventually we are all there. The water is still fresh this early in the season 74F/23C, but later in the summer it will be bath like, over 80F/30C as the charcoal colour absorbs the sun’s heat.

The pool is our essential luxury. The only way of surviving a summer here in the Swartland. Several degrees hotter than Cape Town (which has ocean breezes to cool it), and dry, dry, dry with a hot wind sucking the moisture from everything it meets. We close all the doors and windows at nine in the morning to retain the cool of the night in our straw bale house, then throw them open again once evening brings a slight cooling down to entice a breeze and the odd mosquito into the house. The mosquito nets envelop our beds like grand palaquin tents and the children sleep under sarongs. We’ll have two or three months of this once mid-summer hits us. Now we know that spring will make a come back soon and bring a little more rain and cool fronts, fighting off full summer for a bit. This is just a taster to remind us of the heat in store, get us in survivor mode and wake us from our winter slumber.

I need to make the mental switch over on the food front too: stop planning Sunday Roasts and stock up for Saturday evening braais instead – spicy chicken wings and lemon sausage cooked by my master braai chef husband over wood embers, with the sprinkler going nearby to prevent sparks setting off a bush fire. Butternut squash foil-wrapped on the coals and baby potatoes boiled with mint. Stir fries, pastas and salad take over from stews and casseroles – no more cottage pie comfort food till next winter. I still have to bake bread though, trying to time it so the oven is on in the evenings, not in the heat of the day.

The sprinklers have plenty of alternative uses too!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Two major triumphs in the diplomacy and negotiations field have taken place in our house this week. I'm surprised that we haven't made international headlines - "Peace Talks Succeed" - that would be a novel one. Most importantly of all, these delicate negotiations have been conducted entirely between the children, with no, or almost no, adult intervention.

The first episode was triggered by the unfortunate discovery by Dad, on arriving home, of his magnetic telescopic wotzit, in two pieces (it is supposed to be just one entire piece!) behind the front door. A summons to the children produced no-one owning up to the crime, they being naturally inclined to blame it on the child who was not there to defend himself, our farm employee's son. Stalemate was reached with the edict "no pocket money until I hear what happened" pronounced in a stern voice.

A couple of days later this had faded into the background of their memories. Pocket money was mentioned at lunch. I thought this a good time for a reminder.
"Maybe you had better all talk to each other, while R is here and find out what happened to that wotzit of Dad's, then when he comes home you can tell him what happened and say sorry...I don't want to be there, you guys just sort it out yourselves. "
I started clearing the lunch table and overheard my six year old saying,
" OK, let's have a meeting."

They get a small table and four chairs out and solemnly sit around it. I try to keep out of the way and leave them to it, though keeping my ears peeled out of pure curiosity and motherly nosiness. Various hypotheses are put forward as to how this accident could have happened, though with no-one admitting responsibility. Eventually, while I was on the loo, youngest comes galloping through:
"Mum, we think someone might have poked it under the door, then someone else could have opened the door and it broke.."
Impressed with the results of the meeting so far, I sent them back to the table to work out who might be the person that needs to say sorry to Dad. No-one ever actually owned up to the crime - but my six year old did go of her own accord to Dad the next morning, to tell him their conclusions and say sorry. Pocket money was thenceforth restored.

The second feat of negotiations was brought on by flower fairies - these cute felt finger puppets were presents from the German students we've been hosting for our school. The children were given the one with the long yellow hair when our guests arrived. One finger puppet, three children...! That sharing hurdle was successfully crossed, then came the water ditch - all the children at my son's school were given their own flower fairy puppet, my son choosing the strawberry one. Now we had two puppets between three children - aaaagh far worse than one between three! WIth a burst of quick thinking on my part I found that there had been one left over, after they all had been given out, and I begged it for the last child.

Silly of me. Now the problem was increased a hundredfold. We now have one two-day-old fairy and two brand new, never been played with fairies. Youngest, who had really wanted the golden haired angel/fairy for her own, now could see that the new one was far more desirable and ditto six-year old daughter. Major impasse and breakdown of the happy home ensued.

I came over the heavy Mum.
"No-one will have those fairies until you have sorted it out in a way that you are both happy with."
Refusal to give up new fairy.
"Or I will take that fairy back to the school and say that my children don't deserve it, please give it to another child."

For the rest of the afternoon the two fairies sat side by side on the kitchen counter. Every now and then one of the girls would sidle up to them and gaze. Eventually my six-year-old negotiator opens the talks:
"You want the yellow haired one really don't you"

I leave the room as this repeats ad infinitum. I am itching to intervene with my proposal that they both share both of them. A quarter of an hour later, they come dancing through all smiles. Youngest with the golden haired fairy, my six year old with the one they both wanted. They had agreed on this with the proviso that they would each let the other one play with their fairy, as long as they give it back when asked.

Miracle of miracles, I hear you murmur, but lest I sound too smug, let me reassure you that on other fronts, major strong arm tactics have been reported, so though the troops are making progress, I still can't retire from the field just yet.

A further incident has marred our transitory perfect peace. Tonight Dad's computer headset was found broken in two places......again no-one knew a thing about it, so tomorrow could be another heavy day at the negotiation table, with pocket money at stake again, this time they get to pay for the replacement!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Amnesiac Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy responsible for our area has her work cut out at the moment. My son has lost six teeth so far over more than two years, but his younger sister, my six year old, is challenging him on the growing up front. She has already lost four teeth in under a year, is nearly the same size as him and has that strangely appealing gappy smile at the moment. The tooth fairy can’t quite keep up though. With all the best intentions in the world, leaving coins beside our bed as a memory aid, I tumble into bed to sleep and only on waking remember, panicking, that the tooth fairy has neglected her duties.

It’s a weekend, the children have gone through to watch a DVD, leaving us to doze. Has she remembered to check yet? I sneak into the bedroom on the pretext of opening the curtains and putting back the covers. Last time the tooth was still there and I managed to effect the swap in time. Today though no tooth under the pillow. Foiled! I slip the R2 coin down the side of the mattress, where the tooth fairy might conceivably have left it if she was in a hurry and hope for the best. A few minutes later Jungle Book 2 ends and they troop back through. My daughter silent, her hand clutching something. Without saying a word she uncurls her fingers enough for me to glimpse the tooth still wrapped in silver foil. She has been nursing this disappointment all the time she was watching.

Guilt strikes me – the magic of finding a bright silver coin under your pillow in the morning when you wake is such a big thing and now one chance is gone. We hurriedly search the bed. My son is now an expert, his coins have mysteriously turned up inside the pillow slips, sometimes two days later. He inspects the pillows closely, then we discover the coin lurking down the side of the bed. But what about the tooth? Will the tooth fairy come back for it tonight? We put it carefully back under her pillow in case. What should the tooth fairy leave on her second visit for the same tooth, do you think? The coin has already been handed over, maybe she should just tuck a flower under the pillow as she carries off her bounty....if she remembers!

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Lentil Recipe

Further forays into Madhur Jaffrey’s Cookbook have yielded some more useful vegetarian recipes. We’re hosting some students from our sister school in Germany this week and I was all geared up for ravenous teenagers, planning sustaining meals for after they had been working hard at the school all day. Visions of loaves of bread vanishing in an instant and double quantities of everything faded before the reality of the individuals themselves. Unassuming eaters, they sampled everything in small quantities but hardly made inroads into the mountain of food I’d assembled. One is vegetarian, so I hurriedly consulted Madhur Jaffrey for an alternative to the cottage pie I’d made and found a simple recipe for lentils and tomatoes that works hot or cold.

Lentils with Garlic and Tomatoes

4 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic finely chopped
½ lb/225g tomatoes (1 large or 2 small) peeled and finely chopped
6 ½ oz/185g dried whole green lentils washed
¾ - 1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over a medium flame. When hot put in the garlic. Stir and fry till the garlic browns lightly. Add the tomatoes. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes turn to a paste. Put in the lentils and 1pint/ ½ liter of water. Bring to the boil then cover, lower heat and simmer gently for one hour. Add the salt and lemon juice. Stir to mix.

I will try this with some fresh herbs added too, maybe some fresh coriander or just chopped parsley - with a dollop of greek yoghurt on top and a hunk of bread it could be a meal in itself. We had baked potatoes with it and salad, as well as the cottage pie for the meat eaters.

I’m now looking up recipes with chick-peas for another meal. I like them, but naturally the children aren’t keen, so this is another chance to experiment with new recipes. The students are off to Hermanus to see the whales for the weekend now, so I’ll have to restrain my hospitable ardour till their return. Then I’ll be planning meals for my parents’ imminent visit...what do you fancy for supper on Wednesday, Mummy?!

One thing about having visitors here in South Africa is that almost all the flights from Europe are overnight and from the States or Australia day and night, so everyone arrives at early morning rush hour, exhausted from sitting up all night with little sleep. We have learned to be gentle on new arrivals, providing light refreshments, no sight-seeing and then plenty of time to sleep for half the day. Unfortunately the children's excitement over seeing Granny and Grandpa and anticipation over rifling their suitcases for certain riches of new clothes and maybe other presents, means that they usually have to hold out till the afternoon for a nap. Our visiting students crashed out at ten o'clock for the rest of the day, so that goes to prove that the oldies have more stamina than fresh faced youth!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fashion Free

Fashion. Long neglected by me in that style-free zone of mother to young children living on a farm. Echoes of it still reach me though. Occasional forays into shopping malls to replace worn out trousers and T-shirts, nudged me into unavoidable exposure of my cushiony tummy and eventual acceptance of low waistlines, discovering the joys of letting it all hang out! Shouts of horror and outrage have reached me recently over the Net as more connected blog friends react to the latest designer dictates of high-waisted skinny jeans and leggings re-entering the fashion arena – sighs, groans as we recall how terrible we looked in them the first time round when we were still young and taut bodied. One good thing this season is that T-shirts are longer, now covering up that draughty gap that used to reveal pale stomach. I’ll be chucking out all my old skimpy tops with no regrets and racing to be at the forefront of style on that count!

My eight year-old son has now brought home a fashion, that we first saw long ago in our London photographic studio, when hip photographers would be wearing their jeans at half mast, with acceptably labelled boxers just about covering their extremities. Now my son has a complicated ensemble to put together each morning: briefs first, then fancy boxers with Spiderman on in sateen material that a friend gave him for his birthday and he loves, followed at last by jeans. Happily for me he hasn’t quite mastered the art of wearing the jeans halfway down his legs, so he achieves the requisite look by hoisting the boxers up above the waistband of the jeans and is satisfied with that.

Back in the eighties when straight men wore kohl eyeliner and we all had floppy fringes, fashion was fun. It was all about dressing up, as a pirate, clown or eighteenth century beau. It was colourful and outrageous. I embraced two tone tights (do you remember those – one leg black, the other hot pink or white! I took note of Charlotte’s fashion note and agree with her, but then the eighties never were a matter of good taste!), baggy trousers, ra-ra skirts, later I rifled charity shops for mens pyjamas and petticoats as day wear. Now it seems to me that fashion has lost its zest, become a matter of style dictates and taste rules, an awful lot of them laid down by self-appointed authorities Trinny and Susannah. I agree we mostly looked pretty terrible then but we enjoyed it and there was room for creative expression and individuality in our dress! Now it feels more like a uniform we must don, femininity denoted by a sparkly belt, individuality limited to one tasteful bauble around our necks. So if leggings and miniskirts do have to come back in, let the teenagers enjoy them, preferably in clashing gaudy colours.. I might just get out those clown trousers with rainbow braces, that I never did throw out and embarrass the kids by wearing them again!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Golden Memories in the Making

Yesterday we had one of those golden, sun bleached days on the water, that are the best South African holidays. They are there for us to reach out and pluck, azure and sparkling along with the gold, yet all too often we stay bogged down in home and work.

Friends of ours have a boat and we went to join them on a dam (reservoir) in the mountains an hour and a half away. It turned into a Swallows and Amazons adventure for the children, aside from the fact it was a motorboat, instead of little sailing dinghys and they did have to take us grown-ups along!

We went across the water with the boat and found a remote sandy beach with not a footprint in the sand before ours. There were hills and banks of sand, narrow inlets of water, shallow fresh water to try out the boogy boards. While the adults set up a canopy for shade the older children (all swimmers) were able to explore safely out of sight, no currents to worry about, no strangers anywhere.

It was the kind of day that, as sanctimonious students in eighties England, boycotting Barclays for ignoring sanctions against apartheid South Africa, from the depth of our ignorance we imagined those priviledged whites indulging in all the time, in between ordering about their oppressed servants and lying beside a pool drinking iced cocktails. Our two dimensional image took no account of the many middle-class South Africans, struggling to make ends meet, no different from the rest of the world, protesting against apartheid in the few ways they could from the inside and treating their employees well.

For them, as well as for us now, jewel-bright days like these are treasured interludes in every day life, stored up in children’s memories, to be brought out later as adults nostalgic for the idyllic summer days of their youth. These are the riches we want to bring up our children with: rich experiences of freedom to explore, imagine, try themselves out physically with sun, water and sand. I hope with this they will grow up to self confidence and self knowledge, without the unfounded arrogance that can be the legacy of unbridled monetary riches.

Meanwhile we appreciate the bounty of nature here in South Africa, for providing us with a plethora of playgrounds with water, sand and mountains and the generosity of our friends for sharing the opportunity to explore it with us. Today back home on our farm, sun-kissed and sandy still, we are also blessed to have space for the children to run around, water and sand to play with and family to share with, so though we are still working on the monetary riches, we feel very lucky to have such a treasure chest of jewelled moments at our disposal.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Foolish Bread

Finally I’ve found out how to make a truly inedible loaf of bread! Most of my baking failures so far have still been ok to eat, maybe a little hard on the teeth but edible. Over the weekend I started a bread dough going though, with results that I’m even afraid of feeding to the chickens!. I’ve been experimenting with Nicolle’s Poolish Bread recipe over the last few weeks and the family love it. The extra stage of making the yeast starter does make it a long process, but I’ve worked out that if I start making it the day before, I can let it rise in the fridge overnight at any of the three stages, so that it can be baked in time for lunch the next day. The extra flavour it develops in this process rivals any professional bakery ciabatta, though mine never ends up looking so pretty. I’ve now made it with just white flour and with a mixture of white, rye and wholewheat, both of which were great.

Until this weekend....I mixed up the starter at breakfast time on Saturday, it then needs to be left for about 3 hours. Halfway through the afternoon I remembered it, oops! never mind it should still be ok It smelt just a little fermented, but I carried on regardless with the next stage. Added 3 more cupfuls of flour, salt, kneaded it and left it to rise again, till it would need knocking down some time after supper. Next morning I woke up and remembered – aaaagh! The dough was there in its bowl, trying to get out, a ripe alcoholic aroma pervading our Sunday morning breakfast table. Curiosity led me on to bake it anyway, so I knocked it down, reformed it into a loaf to rise again, then into the oven it went with the Sunday Roast.

We were having a family lunch of roast pork, roast potatoes, cabbage, baked butternut squash, broccoli and apple sauce. There was just room for the mutant bread in the oven, so it rubbed shoulders with the meat for half an hour. Released onto the cooling rack it looked a little strange, the crust softer and more matte than usual, but the scent of baked bread was still tantalising.

out of focus pic of a strange loaf indeed

In the flurry of preparation for lunch I forgot about it again and it wasn’t till supper time, (which after one of our family lunches is a snack meal of rice and baked beans for the children, adults usually still groaning from too many second helpings) that I looked at it again and plonked it on the table for us to try. One by one we bit into our slices. An initial yummm, turned swiftly to yukkkk as the after-taste kicked in – neat vodka. My eyes even watered as I sniffed the loaf, so potent was it! Only my six-year old was happily buttering her bread, content with the new sensory experience. We had to whip it away from her and replace the loaf hurriedly with the slightly stale end of the last loaf.

Now I have visions of chickens keeling over, the baby goslings’ death being on my head, if I dispose of the loaf into the chicken bin. Into the compost therefore it will go, but I’ll have to bury it or it could wipe out half the indigenous bird population here!

This is the subsequent loaf that I managed to remember, which was gobbled up in its entirety at lunch today

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A new blog baby in the family

Bloggorrhea is taking hold of me. Not content with regaling you all with family chronicles and recipes, I am now starting a book blog, called Great Books Reviewed to review all my favourite books. This to be a semi-commercial venture...semi in that I’m going to review personal favourite books old and new, not the latest best-sellers unless they come my way and I like them (though I may not be able to resist the last Harry Potter if I get my hands on it), commercial because I’m putting on affiliate links to Amazon and Adsense ads, in the hope of earning a trickle of income, if anyone feels like buying from Amazon through my blog (that means I will be strong-arming my family into pushing all their Amazon purchases through my site!)

There has been lots of discussion about advertising on blogs. Does the commercialism of a blog detract from the pure, high-minded essence of blog–writing? Do we become slaves to key-words, fiendishly pursuing the big bucks, with great flashing banners all over the blog, so the content gets lost? (I had a look at one Mom website yesterday and would have been forgiven for thinking I’d got lost and gone to a yoghurt site, blinded by flashing-heart pink and white images!).

I hope to be able to keep my integrity among the temptations of commercialism (apart from reviewing Harry Potter that is, and I do have a sneaking fondness for those books, especially the first couple) and I think all us mums at home with kids should be making a few cents from our blogs if we can, even if it is only enough to pay for nappies or a bar of chocolate. Why not?! So far my Adsense on this blog has made about 2 dollars in six months so the whole internet advertising business is a mystery to me, but it’s worth a try.

I was wondering what to do about my old favourites that are no longer available on Amazon. I still want to review them, but don’t want to frustrate anyone by raving about a book that is out of print. My husband the Net Wizard came up with a solution: I can put an search bar on the blog, as well as an Amazon search bar. is an amazing site that collects together all second-hand, out of print, first editions, rare books, as well as new books from thousands of book stores, so you can find pretty much anything in the whole wide world there.

Far more of a concern to me is whether I can actually write good enough reviews to convey the essence of the book. I think this is an art that requires practice, so I’ll have to practise on my new blog. I am going to build it slowly, as I feel my way. Any constructive comments would be welcome and any suggestions of more books to read and review. I will also start building a blog roll of book blogs, so tell me if there are some you enjoy that I should include. I enjoyed reading everyone’s book memes recently – there are so many books out there and so little time to read them all!

If you'd like to visit Great Books Reviewed click on this link - see you there!

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Once upon a time we were adventurous cooks and eaters, whisking all around the globe in the course of one day’s meals. Then came children.

The first child agreeably downed mild chicken korma baby puree and we celebrated. Our children would be cosmopolitan in tastes, we would not have to adjust our eating patterns to accommodate fads and fussiness.Until he was nearly two he ate everything we offered him, then something in our smug demeanour must have alerted him that he was missing out on a developmental stage. One by one he eliminated previous favourite foods from his diet, until for a while he subsisted on plain boiled rice, plain yoghurt, apples, bananas, potatoes and bread with an occasional piece of plain meat. Note the emphasis on plain! No sauces were permitted to enliven the pure unadulterated ingredients. No foods might touch each other on the plate. Thus began the downhill slope into nursery food.

With one child I managed to cook us a seperate adult meal in the evenings. When the second and third joined us I went on strike. One meal henceforth for all of us. For a few years I have managed to feed us all with a repertoire of traditional English dishes, most of which had their roots in the nursery. Stews and casseroles were tolerated, as I could pick pieces of meat out for the kids, stir-fries likewise. The favourite was roast chicken with roast potatoes.

The spice rack however became a sad dusty relic of past flavours. Out of date cumin and turmeric faded into insipidity. My husband occasionally would express a wistful hope of something spicy.

So recently I have tried to reintroduce a little spice into our gastronomic lives. Nigel Slater’s Moroccan chicken recipe, with a slightly reduced amount of spices, made it past the flavour censors. Another recipe I tried from Madhur Jaffrey’s Cookbook was rejected. Reading through her book, which has languished unexplored on our shelves for years, I found a few vegetable recipes that were simple enough to do alongside a main meal and inspiration struck. A spicy vegetable side dish for the parents. Now I can feed us all the vegetables that the kids won’t eat, aubergine, spinach, peppers with a variety of authentic Indian spice combinations, liven up our tranquillised palates and embellish the plain meals the children desire. Maybe one day they’ll be sufficiently curious to try the grown-ups’ special dish and then we will take the first step towards the cosmopolitan family gastronomy that we once so optimistically hoped for.

Here is Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe that broke new culinary ground for me recently.

Neela’s Aubergine and Potato

4 tbs vegetable oil
½ tsp whole black mustard seeds
5oz/140g peeled diced potatoes ( ½ in/1 ½ cm cubes)
4oz/115g dice aubergine (½ in/1 ½ cm cubes)
1½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1/8 –1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt
1 tbs fresh green coriander (optional)

Heat the oil in an 8-10in/20-25cm pot with a lid, over a medium-high flame. When hot put in the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop (just a few seconds) put in the potato and aubergine. Stir once. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Stir and fry for one minute. Add 3 tbs water, cover immediately with a tight fitting lid, turn heat to low and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir every now and again. If the vegetable seem to catch at the bottom of the pan add another tablespoon of water. Garnish with the chopped fresh coriander if you like.

I had all the spices except the mustard seeds and it was good even without them, but I will try and add them to my new revived spice rack, as they feature in a lot of her recipes.

Eastern Vegetarian Cooking and Madhur Jaffrey’s more recent World Vegetarian are both an excellent resource for vegetarians or those wishing to cut down on meat, as so much of Indian and Eastern cooking is vegetarian by tradition. Endless ways have evolved over a thousand years of making the same vegetable take on new taste sensations and interest. My mouth is watering now in anticipation of trying her bread recipes. I haven’t had Naan bread since we left London and came to a farm far away from the delights of takeaways and ethnic restaurants. Here whatever we want to eat we have to cook for ourselves. One step at a time I’m reaching beyond our self-imposed nursery and rediscovering the world through recipe books. Adventure beckons!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

St Francis' Day

Corey's post today told me it was St Francis' Day. She posted one of his beautiful prayers, which reminded me of part of another one that we used for our Spring Festival. It perfectly expresses what our festivals are all about - a reverence for the Earth and all its elements, inextricably linked with the Divine.

St Francis' Prayer

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all the weather's moods,
By which you cherish all that you have made.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,
so useful, lowly, precious, and pure.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Through whom you brighten up the night.
How beautiful he is, how joyful! Full of power and strength.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth,
Who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces
Various fruits and colored flowers and herbs.

I also wanted to share with you the Spring Blessing, that we all contributed to that day. Almost everyone wrote a couple of lines from the heart, some in Afrikaans and some in German too. Not intended as great poetry, not always rhyming or even scanning but it expressed something precious to each of us.

Our Spring Blessing

We give thanks for the winter rain
And all the blessings it brings

Blessings on the coming of Spring

For daisies brightly beaming
For berries ripely gleaming

Blessings on the coming of Spring

For thermals upward swirling
And wind chimes gently twirling

Blessings on the coming of Spring

We give thanks for the growing
And all the delicious rewards of our sowing

Blessings on the coming of Spring

Giving thanks for light and new earth life
Assurance of the universe`s constant love

Blessings on the coming of Spring

Sagte lente son en ligte briesie
Bring lewe, groei en nuwe visie

Blessings on the coming of Spring

For children smiling
Knowledge, experience with love entwining

Blessings on the coming of Spring

For the beauty of the night and the comfort of the day
The care of the spirits who guide us on our way

Blessings on the coming of Spring

For Suikerbossie Farm: for its beauty and its grace
The gift that lets us minister to our sacred space

Blessings on the coming of Spring

For the gift of new life
And the ending of strife

Blessings on the coming of Spring

Fuer die Blumen die bluehn in den Wieswn so gruen
Fuer all die Freunde die sich um uns bemuehn

Blessings on the coming of Spring

For moments to be still…

Blessings on the coming of Spring

Fuer Frieden in allem,Gesundheit und Glueck
Fuer ein Leben in Freiheit fuer jeden ein Stueck

Blessings on the coming of Spring

We ask for blessings on this new season,
May new beginnings and new projects be fruitful
New homes and new faces welcoming
May new paths lead us ever on to grow

Blessings on the coming of Spring

Blessings on all of us here
And all those our hearts hold dear.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Animals in the Family

Living on a farm as we do, it is easy to allow an excess of animals into our life. There’s loads of room for them to run around, so why not have four border collies and three cats? That is just in our house. One sister-in-law has two more border collies and one cat, the other has two small dogs and three cats and we haven’t even begun to count geese, chickens, tortoises, the two donkeys and one pony that are perennial borders at the back and the so far very sensible amount of one rabbit and one guinea pig that keep each other company, as the children’s pets. Of course the kids wish we could have a Mummy and a Daddy of each so that we could have babies....a friend of ours who has a stud farm started with two pairs several years ago and now has two whole loose boxes of rabbits and guinea pigs, so that idea was firmly vetoed by an unsympathetic mum!

Two of our collies came to us as temporary visitors when a dear friend of ours was being treated for cancer and had to move into a flat in the city. Sadly she died and the dogs became ours.


Vygie (pronounced fakie - the name of a bright spring flower here) was then already a venerable matriach, mother to several litters including my sister in law’s two females. She decided that she was Senior Dog and tried swiftly to disabuse her two daughters of any idea that they might have of reclaiming that position. We immediately had a lively feud on our hands that four years later shows no signs of abating. She is now rapidly declining into Senile Dog, frequently lying in one place barking intermittantly, having plainly forgotten what it was she was after. The feud though is what keeps her going, she lies in our doorway waiting for Poppy’s slightest attempt to approach our house, a volley of furious barking ensues and if we are not quick enough to slam the door, snarling and biting with stitches needed at the vets. This tends to happen several times a day, so any visitors are greeted by one of us shouting madly at the dogs to avoid a vicious fight. Despite rickety back legs and a portly constitution Vygie still seems to get much enjoyment out of all this and doesn’t seem to realise that she is usually the loser when it comes to wounds inflicted.

We have finally reached the stage every parent dreams about: all three children mostly sleep through the night now, except for the odd nightmare or needing the loo. Now is the time we should wake up refreshed every morning, ready to leap out of bed and celebrate an uninterrupted night’s sleep! Senile Dog though has taken it upon herself to ensure we don’t get out of practice with the broken nights. Every now and again she’ll utter a deep WOOF, then a low rumble and just as you were drifting off again another sharp WOOF! We get up to investigate and she looks at us blankly. A little bit later another WOOF informs us that now she thinks about it she wants to go out. One of us stumbles blearily to open the door, waits for her to pee then snuffle amiably around the lawn, before clattering in to subside with a clumpf back down on the rug by our bed. To be repeated as often as she thinks is necessary to keep us on our toes. Now to safeguard our sanity we could probably shut her in another room and let her pee on the floor at night, but to do that we not only need to train her not to batter the door down, but also reprogram the cats, who reserve the right to wander at night, preferably leaping joyously onto our bed in the intervals between Senile Dog’s wakings.

photo by my son, who is now a true photographer's son, wielding our old digital camera

Next senior dog, Alpha Male (and his son had better not forget it) there is Cobalt, our blue-eyed hound. A fierce guard dog, but reduced to a quivering heap, hiding under the children’s beds when we have a house full of guests. He is Vygie’s son and incestuously fathered a litter of puppies with each of his sisters. Two of the offspring we kept – it was meant to be just one, the sweet one-blue-eye, one-brown-eyed smallest of the litter (I hesitate to say runt as it sounds rather insulting).


She and my son fell mutually in love and she turned out intelligent, obediant and good with the children though a bit nervous of strangers – we named her Indigo, though she is always called Indy.

Badger of the big brown eyes

We also succumbed however to the big brown eyes of another puppy and foolishly let him Badger us into keeping him by looking up at us adoringly – his name became Badger, for the wide white stripe on his nose but it is just as appropriate for his demands for affection! The two youngsters are proper farm dogs and sleep outside on the stoep, ready to alert us to a train going past across the valley, or the neighbour’s dog infringing upon our territory.

Sometimes I feel like the Pied Piper, as I try to move around the house with my entourage: one three year old suffering from seperation anxiety, if I go into the next room without informing her; one Senile Dog who likes to keep me in sight in case of children hurtling past on their black plastic motorbikes; towards the evening a few cats join the merry throng, trying to trip me up, as that is the fail-safe method to persuade me to open up a can for them. So when I leap up from the computer having forgotten my glasses I am accompanied by a clatter of claws, a wail of Muuummmm and occasionally I can’t help but feel just a tad harrassed by the number of dependants...!