I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles

I turned 58 recently.

It didn’t really go according to plan.

No, that’s not true,

There was no plan that it could go according to.

The birthday dawned and

I felt a bit fluey.

So I took to my bed and that’s where I lay

Lamenting the fact that I felt shit, on my birthday.

 

 

I am ambivalent about birthdays. I appreciate that I’m still here but I sure as hell hate getting older.

But on a brighter note, I took some bubbles to school and the kids went crazy chasing them. They called them balloons and when I corrected them, their pronunciation of “bubbles” was totally Mr Bean.

bubble-mania

 

more kiddie joy

more kiddie joy

from top left: Judy feeding the Floozies their greens; harvesting the end of the chillies; aloes in the village; vintage cars at the Rosetta market

from top left: Judy feeding the Floozies their greens; harvesting the end of the chillies; aloes in the village; vintage cars at the Rosetta market

winter veggies

winter veggies

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What a Wonderful World

It is dry here, so very dry, like a tinderbox, just waiting to ignite. Frost came a month late this year, after a harsh drought. This delayed the burning of firebreaks, which has all the landowners now rushing to get them done before the windy season sets it. Not such a pleasant time of year, but pretty nonetheless.

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winter-2015

winter-2-2015

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See What Love Can Do

 

Several years ago, I posted a blog in the form of a letter to Njabulo’s dead mother, Angelina. I was thinking of her recently and how proud she would have been of the person her oldest son has become, just as we are.

Njabulo has worked on the farm for the past year, ever since we had to layoff our erstwhile employee, Kho, due to ill-health. However the arrangement we had with both of them was that Njabulo would have to relinquish the job should Kho recover and want to return. After 6 months in Richmond Hospital recovering from TB and 6 months on unemployment and disability benefits, Kho  has returned with a letter from the clinic doctor declaring him fit for work. I have seen Kho fight back from the brink of death 3 times and for that he should be commended but I sincerely hope that he doesn’t neglect his health again because it will be, I fear, the last time.

Despite knowing that this day might come, Njabulo was understandably quite distraught at the idea of returning to the ranks of the unemployed. We have always believed that he was capable of being more than an unskilled labourer and, to that end, have sent him on various courses (computer and permaculture) and have sponsored a number of attempts by him to get his learner’s license. So when he went for his interview as a waiter at the Bosch Hoek Golf Club, we were on tenterhooks waiting to hear if he got the job. And he did, with immediate effect. He visited us on his day off and we got a full report.

During his 2 days of training he excelled so much that he was asked if he had worked as a waiter before. He replied that his only experience was as a barman at Kiera and James’ wedding reception! One of his duties includes clearing and setting tables. So when he was asked to lay some tables and he responded that he had already done so, his speed on the job earned him the nickname “Ninja” by the chef.

His leaving the farm so abruptly has kind of dropped us in the dwang since Kho will only be starting in July. All of a sudden Peter and I have to get back into farm work but it has done us good to get involved again and, of course, we are so pleased for him. The chef asked Njabulo if we were okay with him starting immediately and he told her that we are his family and that we would want what is best for him. So it was with bittersweet emotions  that he took his leave from us and the farm.

As another fledgling leaves the nest, I wish I could tell his mother  we did the best we could but that her son did the rest and credit must surely go to her for laying the foundation of love.

James and Njabulo in front of their  RDP house

James and Njabulo in front of their RDP house

 

 

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Blueberry Hill

 

You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging much lately. I would like to say that I’ve been too busy but the truth is quite the opposite. Yes, I’ve been playing a shitload of bridge and volunteering at the local farm school but when I’m not out and about, I’m sitting at home and twiddling my thumbs. I feel a bit stuck and Annie Dillard’s words “how we spend our days is how we spend our lives” are starting to haunt me.

When Peter joined me here on the farm we employed a young woman, Thandi, to clean the house and do the ironing. Before that I did all my own housework and, if truth be told, we should be doing it ourselves, we have the time. Njabulo looks after the allotment and rest of the farm and I’ve kind of handed it over to him because he “does it so well”. And since I decided to let the indigenous bush swallow up the garden, there isn’t that much for me to do there either. So really I could use all this spare time to be more creative and productive, instead I don’t. It feels like all my focus has become diffused and even my camera lies gathering dust.

So I’ve decided to post a little something just to keep the blog alive until I get my mojo back. Please don’t expect too much!

Recently I saw a notice in the Notties Network newsletter that the nearby Bosch Hoek golf club was looking for waitrons. I immediately phoned and sold Njabulo to them as an ideal waiter (I’ve always felt that, with his engaging personality, he should be in the hospitality industry and not a farm worker).  I was told to bring him in the next day and that he was basically going to be thrown in the deep end as the club was hosting two major events, back to back. I was also informed that he had to wear black and white, so we rushed off to Mr Price in Howick in the morning and kitted him out with black jeans and white shirt before dropping him off at the club. I was then treated to a tour of the kitchen and what was being prepped for the special event (which was a Ken Forrester wine pairing) and I must say it all sounded quite delicious. I’m definitely going to the next one now that I know about it, it’s a Delaire Graff wine pairing. I think they’ve got a gem of a chef at Bosch Hoek, just hope they can hang on to her.

We’re hoping that Njabulo will be offered a full time job at Bosch Hoek not only because it would give him a bit more mobility than if he stayed on the farm but also because our regular farm worker has indicated that he would like to return to work after being on sick leave for the past year.

We had our first frost this morning, about a month late, and firebreaks can now be burned. What a relief – it’s always a bit scary come fire season because we have a thatch roof. But there is something very earthy about living under thatch that, despite its drawbacks, I wouldn’t want to change.

I’ve been playing quite a lot of bridge lately, perhaps too much but I do enjoy it. My best is Friday afternoons at Blueberry Café: the venue is so sublime, the cappuccinos and cookies are delicious, the atmosphere is very laid back and we have a lot of fun. It’s the perfect end to the week and, to top it all, the sunsets from Blueberry are magical. Afterwards, when I’m driving home along the old Curry’s Post Road, I really couldn’t wish for a better place to be.

Njabulo, looking very dapper

Njabulo, looking very dapper in his waitron kit

Ah ye, this is what it's' all about

Ah yes, this is what it’s all about

yin and yang

snuggles in front of the fire

 

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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.

LOVE AFTER LOVE

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.

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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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Revolution

 

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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