Maggie’s Farm

Recently I spoke to a friend who is planning to retire next year and is busy pondering what life after work could possibly look like. I envy her because she is in a position to prepare herself for what is going to happen. When I lost my job as full-time mum, I never saw it coming. Redundancy is “the state of being not or no longer needed or useful” and boy did I feel totally redundant. We spend most of our adult lives devoting our time to our work and / or our families and when our services are no longer required, our sense of self worth goes out the window. I spent many hours ranting and railing at the cards I had been dealt. And the question I asked myself over and over again was, “how the hell did I end up here?” It all seemed so very unfair.

But, with hindsight, I can now see that “retirement” is not only inevitable but it is also an invaluable opportunity to rediscover and reinvent oneself, if you can find it in yourself to do so. I would urge anyone going through this stage in their lives not to panic and to just go with the flow, trust me! Eventually you start to give up on the old life and become aware of the new one. Slowly but surely, after the initial angst, you start to find your way back to yourself and the possibilities that are now available to you.

One of which is the time to read poetry. This poem seems to sum up, quite beautifully, the process of rediscovery.


The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

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What a Wonderful World


We had a spectacular sky this afternoon.





DSC_0005_edited-1The koppie is awash with Leonotis leonurus (wild dagga).  A sure sign that autumn has arrived in the Midlands.






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To bant or not to bant, that is the question. I have never had any faith in the long term success of diets. All evidence seems to show that, unless you can sustain a diet, very few people manage to maintain their initial weight loss and worse than this, many dieters end up fatter than they were before they started dieting. So when, at the beginning of the year, I decided I needed to lose weight, I considered all the pros and cons of dieting. After much consideration I decided that banting (eating low carb, high fat) was the way to go. It is punted as a lifestyle, not a diet, which was a plus in its favour and the idea of eating lots of bacon appealed to me.

 I bought a copy of The Real Meal Revolution (RMR) by Tim Noakes et al and started my banting journey. I joined a banting group on Facebook and began reading online articles disputing the notions that food fat causes cholesterol, that cholesterol causes heart disease, that diabetics should eat carbohydrates and that fruit is good for you. Essentially the banting lifestyle challenges the validity of the food pyramid, the nutritional guide to eating that we have all used for the past 20 years or so. The more I read, the less convinced I became in the empirical value of any nutrition research. There are equally convincing arguments to be found for and against most food groups and their health benefits and many conclusions are more subjective conjecture than objective facts. However I decided to give banting a bash, after all what did I have to lose?  Well, 8 kgs actually.

The first 3 months were easyish. I followed the banting guidelines and cut out all foods that are classified as TOXIC (such as seed oils and BEER!!!) and HIGH-CARBOHYDRATE (such as all grains and flours from grains, starchy veggies and sugar) and increased my intake of fat. However I also changed my eating habits. I tried to eat a hearty breakfast, which kept me going throughout the day, and reduced the amount I was eating in the evening. I also stopped snacking – a major bad habit broken I’m pleased to say. I simply stopped eating when I was bored and played online bridge instead!

For many the main aim of banting is to encourage ketosis, the body’s fat burning mode. Ketosis is a metabolic process that occurs when the body is deprived of glucose for energy. Unwanted stored fats are burned off instead because the body is forced to rely on burning fat for energy, rather than carbohydrates. In order to go into ketosis one has to (a) increase the amount of good fat one eats – for energy and (b) eat according to the RMR food lists – Green (eat what you like), Orange (low carbs to be eaten in occasionally and in small quantities) and Red (to be avoided totally if one is aiming for ketosis).

When I started banting I aimed for ketosis and, after 3 months in and out of it, I lost weight and centimetres quite easily. However I also lost the will to persevere with ketosis and weight loss. My Facebook banting group posts recipes for all sorts of banting-friendly alternatives to bread, cakes, biscuits and pizza – most of which I found quite unpalatable and very expensive. In fact, after a while I went off food. I became bored with salads, 101 of ways of eating cauliflower and anything made with almond flour. And I was repulsed by just about everything else. If I couldn’t eat LCHF, I didn’t want to eat at all. Despite a hugely reduced appetite, I didn’t lose any more weight. I did, however, feel the need to put my feet up quite often and watch hours of mindless telly. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that banting is just like any other diet, in that it focuses mainly on changing nutritional habits but doesn’t address the emotional aspect of eating. Many banters become quite preoccupied with finding banting-friendly substitutes for their favourite snacks – like cakes and biscuits. Why? – Because they haven’t dealt with their eating issues.

Like most people on diets, when I was banting I became preoccupied with food – always worrying about what I could and couldn’t eat and feeling bad when I “cheated”. I realised that this could not be a sustainable lifestyle for me, especially since Noakes commented recently that banting is an “all or nothing” lifestyle. That, in my opinion, is not only very hard to maintain but not really very desirable. I have since decided to stop banting and pursuing the whole ketosis thing. Although I still have a couple of kgs to lose, I don’t think that, for me, ketosis is the way to go. So I’m afraid that is the end of my banting journey.

At the beginning of the year I was dettermined to lose weight and now I am dettermined to continue with a healthier lifestyle, finding a happy balance between nourishing and non-fattening meals and continuing to replace bad eating habits with good. I’m still going to use the RMR Green, Orange and Red lists as guidelines for meal plans but if occasionally I fancy something that is on the Red List I am jolly well going to have it and not some half-arsed alternative. Never again do I want to eat something that is pretending to be something else – if I want a slice of cake or bread now and again, I am bloody well going to have it and not something made out of almond / coconut flour and cooked in a mug in the microwave. And for that matter, who in their right mind thinks that one can substitute 85% Cocoa for a decent slab of chocolate? Yuk – has anyone really tried eating that when you are all cosy, tucked up in bed, watching telly and looking for a nice piece of choccy?

By the way, I’m calling my new lifestyle the real deal resolution!

Recently Njabulo turned 23 and we had a little celebration.







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Food Glorious Food

At the beginning of the year I started dieting in an attempt to lose 8 kgs. I have managed to lose 6 kgs fairly effortlessly and at least 10 cm around my waist. What a pleasure to have my entire wardrobe at my disposal again and not have to worry about whether the clothes are too tight.

I based my diet on Tim Noakes’ Banting guidelines, that is low carb, high fat. However, instead of cutting some carbs out totally, I have simply reduced my intake of them (especially sugar, wheat, fruit and most starches). Carbs like potatoes and bread have become something we regard as a treat, every now and again, rather than a daily staple. And I feel so much better for it.

Sometimes for breakfast I miss having a slice of toast to put my egg on. These Oopsies are more like a thick pancake than bread but they are easy to make and very tasty as an accompaniment to egg and bacon.


  • 3 Eggs
  • 100g Cream Cheese
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • ½ Tbsp Psyllium Husk
  • ½ tsp Baking Powder

Preheat your oven to 150ºC.

Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites together with the salt until very stiff. Blend the egg yolks and cream cheese together until smooth and stir in the psyllium husk and baking powder. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk and cream cheese mix.

Use a large spoon to scoop out your mixture into rounds on a greased baking pan. You should be able to make approximately six. You can also bake them in mini loaf pans.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.



When Alex was home for Christmas I made a calamari and chorizo dish which we all thoroughly enjoyed. It was based on a recipe from A Life Digested by Pete Goffe-Wood. When I was in Cape Town recently, Alex and I had a fantastic breakfast (dim sum washed down with artisan beer) at the Saturday morning market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. Before we left I bought him some chorizo from a very charming stallholder who made my day with his greeting of “Hello young lady.”  Alex then asked me for this recipe – the butter beans are carbs but I would regard them as a treat, much like a slice of cake. Of course, to make the dish Banting friendly they could be left out.

Sauté of Calamari and Chorizo

Serves 4


  • 3 tomatoes
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 100g chorizo, sliced
  • 200g calamari tubes or squid, cut in half
  • 1 x 400g tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 250ml (1 cup) roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 100g butter
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Put the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Blanch for 30 seconds, drain, remove the skins and roughly chop the flesh. Heat a little oil in a frying pan. Fry the chorizo until it begins to take on some colour, then add the calamari / squid followed by the tomatoes. As the tomato starts to break down, add the beans, garlic, parsley, butter and lemon juice. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and season to taste before serving.

And finally, something for Kiera who, like me, thinks that life would be unbearable without potatoes! Fortunately for her she doesn’t have any weight issues.

Boulangere Potatoes

Serves 4 – 6


  • 1 kg potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced (James, I hear you are a dab hand with the mandolin slicer!)
  • 2 large onions, sliced into rings
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 400 ml chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter

Preheat the oven to 200ºC.

Thoroughly grease a 1-litre gratin dish and arrange a layer of overlapping potato slices in the base of the dish. Add a little of the crushed garlic, a layer of onion rings and season. Repeat the layers, finishing with a layer of potatoes. Pour the stock over the potatoes, dot with some butter and bake for 1 hour, uncovered, or until the potato is tender and the top crisp and brown.

a bleak sunset tonight

a bleak sunset tonight


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Pencil Full of Lead


My blog has taken a bit of a backseat this past month because I’ve been kept gloriously busy on a number of other  fronts and very preoccupied with the latest addition to our family, a puppy called Buddy.

After Milo died, Layla became quite morose so we have known for some time that we had to get her another companion. Last month I visited the SPCA in Howick hoping to find a young dog, already house-trained and in need of a home. However, when I got there a litter of 7 week-old puppies had just been brought in. The mother was a “township” dog, who I met and was very sweet but the father was unknown. As I walked into the pen one of the puppies came to investigate. I picked him up and he nuzzled me and when I crouched down to put him back, he tried to climb onto my lap. It was mutual love at first sight. A few days later, we brought Buddy home and Layla was not impressed. She sniffed him and then tried to get as far away as possible from the rambunctious little tyke that we had presented her with. However it only took a couple of days before he managed to worm his way into her affections and now they are the best of friends; they play all day and snuggle up together at night. He has given Layla a new lease of life and has totally enchanted all of us, including my mother, who adores him. She calls him Goody because she can’t, for some obscure reason, get her tongue around Buddy but I must admit he does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Thin Blue Line’s Constable Goody.

Buddy, watching the sunset

Buddy, watching the sunset

I don’t actually know where the name Buddy came from – I would like to say that he was named after my favourite Salinger character, Buddy Glass, but that would be a tad pretentious and simply not true. From the moment I clapped eyes on him, Buddy just seemed appropriate.

Yes, and then I’ve been teaching a class of Zulu-speaking 4 year olds, which has been “interesting” to say the least. Actually I love it but it is a challenge from the communication point of view. So last week I took Thandi (our domestic worker) with me to help with translating and we had a lot of fun. But I also learned some hard facts. I’ve created a really nice classroom with equipment that the school had stashed away in a storeroom and in the classroom I’ve made a small book corner, using some cushions from home. To encourage the children to come and look at the books, I sat on one of the cushions and took out a copy of one of my all-time favourite children’s books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Slowly but surely, some of the children came and sat on the cushions next to me. I started reading to them, with Thandi translating. Now, for those of you who do not know the story, it’s essentially about a caterpillar turning into a butterfly – a simple story with a great message; obviously it’s educational but what I love is that it is a wonderful metaphor for all transformation. So we get to the end of the story where the caterpillar eats its way out of its cocoon and turns into a beautiful butterfly, and Thandi, who left school after grade 10, turned to me and said, “Hawu, is that true?” She had absolutely no idea that caterpillars turn into a butterflies. I am greatly saddened by this revelation and have decided that, if nothing else, my four year olds will know, by the end of this year, all there is to know about metamorphosis.

So, other than looking after my puppy and teaching, I have also been fundraising for the school. A couple of months ago I submitted an application for funding to establish a science centre at the Curry’s Post Primary School (my first fundraising effort in a very long time). I wasn’t that confident about the proposal since this is a very small farm school that we’re talking about. However recently I was informed that the funding had been approved and naturally, I was cock-a-hoop. A few hours later I discovered that my music idol, Paolo Nutini, was going to be playing at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town the next week. I was still quite euphoric about my funding success and after a few yelps and shrieks, I convinced myself that this was the universe’s way of rewarding me. I was on a roll when I called Alex to plan a trip to Cape Town that combined seeing him as well as Paolo. And that’s when I learned a life lesson. Our kids are not always as eager to see us as we are to see them.

Alex mumbled something about not being such a great fan of Paolo and I literally had to beg him to accompany me to the concert. I was mightily pissed off. However after my initial disappointment with my son’s lack of enthusiasm about my visit, I began to feel strangely reassured. It is good to know that he’s got a life of his own and sometimes I need to be reminded that so have I! I booked in to a guesthouse in Woodstock and proceeded to make my own arrangements for my stay in Cape Town. I had a ball, while Peter very kindly held the fort. And just so you know, Alex really enjoyed the concert. Paolo was amazing; I can now tick that one off the bucket list.

the lad himself, doing me the honour of taking him out for dinner

the lad himself, doing me the honour of taking him out for dinner

the concert setting

the concert setting, how stunning is that?

Kirstenbosch Tree Top Walk

Kirstenbosch Canopy Walk


lunch with my sister and brother -in-law Debbie  and Richard at the Kitchen in Woodstock

lunch with my sister and brother-in-law Debbie and Richard at the Kitchen in Woodstock

another shot of Woodstock

another shot of Woodstock

This one is for Al – will always remind me of being stuck in Cape Town rush hour traffic with you.


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Growin’ Food Glorious Food in the Wind

(Two for the price of one!)

Since starting my “dettermined” effort to lose weight in January, I have been introduced to the many varied uses of the unassuming cauliflower. Who would have thought that it could be a reasonable substitute for mash, rice and pizza bases? I heard a rumour that cauliflowers have been sold out countrywide as the Banting “lifestyle” (it’s not a diet, right?) has taken off in South Africa. Well, here on the farm we have no such shortages, in fact we have them coming out of our ears!

Njabulo with our cauli harvest

Njabulo with our cauli harvest












The mash is good, as is cauliflower rice (from The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes et al) but the recipe that I would like to share is one for Cauliflower and Mustard Seed Soup from the Low Carb Revolution – Comfort Eating for Good Health – by Annie Bell. I first came across Annie Bell when she used to write food articles for  Country Living (UK) magazine. Her food has always erred on the side of wholesome. (I have adapted the recipe ever so slightly.)

Cauliflower and Mustard Seed Soup

Serves 4


  •  25 g unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 600g cauliflower florets (1 medium cauli)
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 3 strips of lemon zest, removed with a potato peeler
  • Sea salt
  • 2 heaped tsp grainy mustard


Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onions for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft. Add the cauliflower for another couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, lemon zest and salt, bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a low heat for 10 – 15 minutes.

Discard the strips of lemon zest, then puree in batches in a liquidiser. Pour back into the saucepan and stir in the mustard. Taste and season with more salt (and pepper) if necessary.

Since I’m trying to avoid bread, I serve it sprinkled with crispy fried, diced pancetta for crunch instead of croutons. It is quite moreish and indeed very comforting.

Another recipe for those of us avoiding wheat is Bread in a Cup . I read an article recently  in which the writer claims that “common wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields as the practice allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest”. How true this is and whether this is practised here in SA I do not know, but nothing would surprise me. I think that the food industry has a lot to answer for.

Bread in a Cup

1 egg
3 Tbs almond flour
1 Tbs coconut flour
½ tsp baking powder
2½ Tbs melted butter/olive oil
2 Tbs water
Optional: 50 g grated cheddar cheese / crumbled feta

Beat egg well. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Put in well buttered cup/mug (I use a Consol jar) and microwave for 1 minute 20 secs. Slice into 4 slices.

The trouble is that us wheat-flour avoiders are now all rushing out and spending an absolute fortune on almond flour as an alternative.  I bought almonds recently at the Karkloof Market and when I asked where they were from I was told California. Can you not buy a fucking almond grown locally? I watched a movie last year about bees and in it were scenes of almond monocropping for miles on end in California, contributing to the demise of the bee. So I wonder if almond flour is such a good alternative. Can one ever win?

We are so lucky to be able to grow our own veg and get our eggs and meat from reliable sources but where most of everything else is concerned, we have absolutely no idea of the farming practices involved. I have for many years been a stickler for free-range / organic / pasture-fed food. Not only because I think it is more healthy or that it tastes better, but also because I think it is kinder to the animal and better for the earth.

Woolworths has a range of fruit and veg that it markets as Farming for the Future. The blurb is “Farming for the future is a plan for growing food sustainably, ethically and responsibly without compromising quality and price. This approach to farming aims to keep soil and plants healthy, to preserve biodiversity and water resources.” It’s a pity that this doesn’t apply to nonperishable food as well.

Hmmm, what have we here? Layla and our new puppy, Buddy, investigate the day's harvest - courgette, cucumber, broccoli and gem squash. Who needs carbs?

Hmmm, what have we here? Layla and our new puppy, Buddy, investigate the day’s harvest.


Courgette, cucumber, broccoli and gem squash. Who needs carbs anyway?

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Listen to the Man


Peter and his good friend, David, were both born on the same day (the 10th of February) two years apart and in the same hospital (the Mater Dei in East London). David turned 70 this year so last weekend we drove up to Johannesburg, where David lives with his lovely partner, Julie, to celebrate this milestone birthday with him. Oh I do love the country and the simple, frugal life here but there is a part of me that also loves the bright city lights and the sassiness of city folk – just in smaller doses. It was very pleasant shopping at Woolworths in Rosebank. The last time I was there was with Kiera when she flew out to Zim via Jo’burg unexpectedly and we did a bit of shopping together. Oh I missed you Kiks, you are my favourite shopping companion!

David had invited a few friends and family to Sunday lunch under the trees in their beautiful back garden. Some mutual friends we had not seen for many years were there so it was a wonderful time of catching up and reminiscing. And it wasn’t long before we were all taking the piss out of each other, just like the good old days. It made us realise that there is just no substitute for history when it comes to friendship. One of our friends, like me, is also trying to lose weight and has been on the LCHF (Banting) diet. I was telling her how much weight I had lost and not only that but centimetres around my waist. As if to back me up Peter announced to all at the table “her waist used to measure the same as her boobs”. Of course, everyone packed up laughing at my expense as Sol explained to the family members present that it was okay, we are used to being rude to each other.

We returned home on Monday afternoon, a little worse for wear, and it seemed like there was no time at all to recuperate. I’ve been busy, busy, busy ever since and absolutely delighted to be so.

Ever since my youngest, Alex, flew the nest making me redundant, I have been searching for purpose. At first I decided that my goal was to create a beautiful and productive garden and I immersed myself in that. Then I turned my attention to making the farmhouse into a comfortable home for the two of us. After that, I had a wedding reception to plan and plenty of distractions like trips to Stellenbosch, Cape Town and America to visit my children. But all the time I felt like something was missing and I kept hoping that whatever it was, given time, it would find me. And it did.

Last year I took Judy to a nearby leather shop, Groundcover, to buy shoes. While she was trying them on, I bumped into the owner, Amanda, who I know from years ago when I worked in the NGO sector. She asked how I was enjoying my “retirement” and I replied that I really needed to get my teeth into something. A few days later Amanda contacted me and asked if I would like to attend a meeting of the Curry’s Post Educational Trust, an initiative that helped to establish, and now supports and raises funds for the Curry’s Post Primary School, a local farm school. To cut a long story short, I did. A few months later I became a trustee, joining Amanda and 6 others. Not long after that I agreed to take over the fundraising portfolio from one of the trustees who was leaving the Trust.

In order to fund-raise effectively I felt that I needed to get to know the school, the staff, the children and the community. And the best way to do this I reckoned, with a great deal of trepidation, was to volunteer as an assistant, once a week, to the Grade R teacher, seeing as I’m a preschool teacher by profession. I must admit I had a lot of misgivings about this: I wasn’t sure if I could commit my time (I’m so used to being a free agent), if I had the energy to work with kids again, if the children would like me or if the staff would accept me. I didn’t need to be scared, I didn’t need a plan, I just needed to listen to what my heart was telling me. All I can say is what I wrote in my first blog (Lost for Words) almost 4 years ago, leap and the net will appear.

I’m loving what I’m doing and feel like I’m finally back in the saddle.

Peter also attends Trust meetings when he can and has been an amazing help with fundraising. Last week one of his colleagues from SANRAL visited our school to hand out backpacks for all the kids and give them a talk on road safety. It was humbling to see rural kids, who get so little, so appreciative of their gifts. What made my heart sing was that I know there will be more to come.

Nomsa and Peter from SANRAL

Nomsa and Peter from SANRAL

all the kiddies with their new backpacks

all the kiddies with their new backpacks


my group of grade R's

my group of grade R’s

gotta love them

gotta love them

By the time Friday rolled around, I needed to retreat to my lawn to weed. It’s the best way to unwind, especially on a warm summer’s evening with a glass of chilled white wine – cin cin!

By the time Friday rolled around, I needed to retreat to my lawn to weed. It’s the best way to unwind, especially on a warm summer’s evening with a glass of chilled white wine – cin cin!


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