What a Wonderful World

Every evening I’ve been putting fruit & veg scraps, as well as whole corn, in the bush at the bottom of our garden in an attempt to lure the porcupines away from our allotment. We have really barricaded the veggies in so I’m not sure whether it’s the fortifications or the feeding that is working, but something is because our veggies haven’t been eaten in a while.

My son-in-law, James, gave me a game camera when I was in America and I’ve set it up in the bush overlooking the food scraps. Every morning I’m bursting with excitement to see what has been captured on the camera during the night, even though the pictures are a bit blurry. These are some of the pictures taken by the game camera.

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family of four

 

C'mon kids, that's hors d'oeuvres, lets see what's for mains.

C’mon kids, that’s hors d’oeuvres, lets see what’s for the main course.

A genet also paid us a visit.

A genet also paid us a visit.

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a small reedbuck

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Closer to Fine

 

Okay, so not much has been going on in my life, but I suppose the less I write about it, the less I have to write about (if that makes sense). The last time I wrote about something was at the end of May, after my trip to Cape Town. Since then, I turned 59 without any fanfare, although I did get lots of heart-warming messages on Facebook and a lovely prezzie from my bridge buddies. I also got bronchitis, again, and had to take a course of antibiotics as I picked up a bit of an infection as well. I felt poorly at the same time as the weather turned extremely cold and I spent a week at home, not venturing forth at all. Basically I mooched around the house doing sweet Fanny Adams. I emerged from seclusion to attend my book club meeting which, I have to say, exhausted me. As an introvert, I find group chit chat quite difficult, much preferring one-on-one chats, but I enjoy the company and hopefully I don’t fade into the background too much.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch the drought is really kicking in and the water situation has become quite dire. Our domestic water comes from 2 springs on the property and we pump our irrigation water from a neighbouring stream that we have water rights to. One spring has dried up completely (for the first time in our history here) and the other is down to a trickle. We are now pumping muddy water from the stream to our eco pool, passing it through the sand filter and pond plants before siphoning it into our water storage container (a JoJo tank) to feed our homes. Neighbours are kindly allowing us to fill up containers of drinking water from their borehole once a week, which we were previously having to buy in.

We have had to drastically reduce our use of water; no more baths, no dishwasher, limited use of washing machine and no watering the garden (although we still irrigate the allotment from the stream). Clothes are being worn more times than they should be (thank goodness it’s winter) and showers are very brief. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself and the dustbowl that remains of my garden, I think of the farmers who have it a lot worse, especially our neighbours who are dairy farmers and are struggling to keep their cows fed this winter. It costs them R½ million to bring in two months worth of feed – it must be terribly stressful.

Of course it goes without saying that our water pumps play up on a regular basis and on very cold mornings the water pipes freeze. So there are days when our water supply is even more restricted than usual. It’s a challenge and it keeps us on our toes! I suppose that is one of the reasons why I enjoy living on a small holding – there is never a dull moment. And talking about challenges, the battle of the winter veggies has begun.

The dreaded porcupine (affectionately known as the little bugger) is back, digging holes under fences and feasting on our brassicas. And just when I thought I had thwarted the porcupine’s attempts to destroy our winter crop by barricading the veggies in, he chewed a hole in the shade cloth and ate the rest. I have started putting a bowl of kitchen scraps on the other side of the fence for the porcupine in the hope that this will keep it out of the garden.  We shall see. One thing I have learnt since moving to the country is that one is always at the mercy of Mother Nature. One step forward, two steps back.

59 is not exactly a milestone birthday but, as the last year of my 50’s began, I reflected a bit on how dramatically my life has changed since moving here in 2010 (only six years ago and yet it feels like a lifetime). Whenever I marvel at how different my life is, I wonder whether I too have become a different person.

One day she had been out walking and she wondered whether she’d become a different person in the last year. Then when she really thought about it she realized she’d been becoming different people for as long as she could remember but had never really noticed, or had put it down to moods, or marriage, or motherhood. The problem was that she’d thought that at a certain point she would be a finished product. Now she wasn’t sure what that might be, especially when she considered how sure she had been about it at various times in the past, and how wrong she had been.

Anna Quindlen: Still Life With Bread Crumbs

I’m not sure that I’m a finished product yet, more like a work in progress but the more time I spend here, the closer I feel I am to who I want to be. Living on a smallholding is not for everyone, I admit, but I really can’t imagine living any differently. Each day seems to unfurl in its own sweet way and I’ve learned to go with the flow.

It’s such a pleasure to be able to stroll straight out of my back door in my pj’s in the morning with the dogs, mug of tea in hand, to inspect the veggies, or what’s left of them, and patrol the fence for any porcupine activity – muddy hems of pj pants are a given, as are scruffy slippers. It’s a privilege to be the custodian of this piece of land and I love how every day is a surprise; one might have to fix a water pump, porcupine-proof a fence, jump start a quad bike, or fathom out what’s wrong with a sick chicken. There are days when I think, “fuck it, I’m too old for all of this, I need a plan”, but then the feeling passes and I know I really wouldn’t want it any other way.

A while ago I was given pause for thought by a comment on one of my posts made by Paul via Facebook. Paul’s comment was that “life really is about the journey, the lovely people and places that we come to know.” He also said “Very, very few came into my life as a result of a plan, a map or a schedule. Chaos has done it all.” And I agree. Life is confusing and chaotic, we should be grateful we have it and we may as well enjoy the ride.

There’s more than one answer to the questions

pointing me in a crooked line

The less I seek my source for some definitive

the closer I am to fine

porcupine damage to veggies - doesn't like lettuce - veggies barricade

porcupine damage to veggies – doesn’t like lettuce – veggies barricade

 

caught on camera - a not so little bugger

caught on camera – a not so little bugger

omigod, there's two little buggers

omigod, there’s two little buggers

 

 

 

 

stocking up for winter

stocking up for winter

 

 

 

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What A Wonderful World

I have been most remiss not keeping up with my blog. Every day I stare at my computer screen and draw a blank. So, to try and break this writer’s block I am posting some pictures instead.

It’s not that I haven’t had the time to write. In fact, I’ve had more than enough time but I fear (and this is a genuine fear) that I am becoming rather LAZY. I can’t seem to account for my time, but very little of it is actually spent productively and there goes that little Protestant Work Ethic guilt trip again – if I’m not being productive, I’m simply wasting time.

Last Sunday we went to a friend’s birthday lunch party in Nottingham Road. It was most enjoyable and I really tried to make a concerted effort to stay off the wine. I had a couple of G&Ts with lunch but as the day wore on I succumbed to the copious amounts of wine available. Wine has a weird effect on me; I become quite extrovert and it wasn’t long before I was mobilising a dance initiative on the veranda. It’s not something I’m proud of, this transformative effect of wine. In fact, it’s downright worrying but I have to admit I do have a bloody good time while under its influence.

When I’m not prancing around on the dance floor, I can be found quietly enjoying clouds

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wheee

wheee

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Closer

Woke up, it was a Midlands morning, and the first thing that I saw was not the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall. It was in fact a bleak, misty, wintry scene outside my bedroom window. I had been entertaining the thought that I should spend the day planting the rest of my garlic bulbs (it’s late I know) and thinning out the carrot and beetroot seedlings. However when I saw the weather, I preferred to stay warm indoors instead. I know that as a country person I should not allow a bit of inclement weather to come between me and my veggies but I’m ashamed to admit that recently I’ve become very fond of my bed on cold mornings. I hope it’s just a passing fancy and that I shall soon return to my former love, the allotment, and once again brave the elements to tend to its produce and put food on our table.

One of the (many) things that I miss since the children left home is the company of young people; I always enjoyed being privy to their fresh take on things and felt quite privileged when they chose to spend time with us old farts. So we were thrilled recently when the daughter of dear friends of ours, whom we haven’t seen for ages, paid us a visit. It was lovely to see Shireen again after all these years and what a pleasure it was to discover that she has grown into such an amazing, adventurous, confident young woman. She was a gorgeous, intelligent young girl when we last saw her but now she’s all grown up and so incredibly mature as well. When adults exclaim, much to the annoyance of children, my, how you’ve grown, what we really mean is my god, where has the time gone? However, children are not only the measure of passing years, they’re also a measure of how well we as parents have passed on the values we hold dear, and I think our friends can be very proud of their contribution to the next generation.

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missing you Jakes and Hajira

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pull in that tummy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not long after Shireen’s visit I took a few days off to visit another member of the younger generation, our son Alex, in Cape Town. I spent two nights with other besties of ours, Annie and Alec, and two nights with Alex at his flat in Tamboerskloof.

Annie and Alec's beautiful Tulbagh farm

Annie and Alec’s beautiful Tulbagh farm

love this part of the world

love this part of the world

the stunning Tulbagh Valley

the stunning Tulbagh Valley

I took the opportunity while I was in Cape Town to return to a hairdresser who I stumbled across when I was last in Cape Town a year ago. I was impressed by the tattoo of a pair of hairdressing scissors on her forearm and took it as an indication, quite correctly as it turned out, that she takes her craft seriously.

Whenever one relocates, it takes a while to find and adjust to new doctors, dentists etc but eventually one does. With a critical exception, I have not yet found a hairdresser in the Midlands to match the lovely Claire. On the rare occasions that I’m ever in Durban, I make a beeline for her (as do Kiera and Alex) and beg her to “do something” with my hair, and she always does. But I so seldom visit Durban now that most of the time my hair looks a mess. (The sore shoulder also makes blowdrying quite a mission.) So I finally plucked up the courage to cut it all off and since I was going to Cape Town, not Durban, I put my head in the hands of the tattooed lass. She did a good job and I’m happy to have a zero fuss hairstyle but the search for a hairdresser a bit closer to home is still on.

My hair, however, was not reason I went to Cape Town. Alex invited me to go with him to a High Tea Festival in Kirstenbosch Gardens and what mother could refuse such an invitation? The event itself was a total shambles; it was not at all what had been advertised and the organisation was abysmal. We waited so long for the tea and food to be served (eventually it was the guests who started to hand out the measly refreshments) that Alex bought us a bottle of wine, a most suitable substitute for tea, and we proceeded to make the best of a disappointing situation. A woman sitting opposite us mentioned to Alex that she had two daughters. “One is a bit of a problem” she said, but she could vouch for the other’s good character and asked if she could give Alex the reputable daughter’s number. I thought that was quite sweet!

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sporting my new close crop

my boy applying for jobs in America

my boy applying for jobs in America

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

aah, Cape Town

the V&A, Cape Town

view from Ali's flat, new moon rising

view from Ali’s flat, full moon rising

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hate being so far away from my children. And on my way home I became aware for the first time that all I have now are short glimpses into their lives. We visit their world, for 4 days or 4 weeks, and that’s as much as we get. We’re getting old without them and they’re getting older without us. It was never meant to be this way. Or maybe it was.

 

 

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Feelin’ Groovy

 

Okay 2016, stop, enough already! Not only has the year been fairly unkind so far but it’s also moving too damn fast. I wish I could just rewind the past few months, start over and this time be better prepared. It feels like I got out on the wrong side of the bed after we returned from America in mid-January and I’ve been a bit out of sorts ever since. It doesn’t help that I’m struggling to get on top of things; as the year gathers momentum, I seem to be playing catch-up the whole time. This is particularly the case in the allotment where autumn has really caught me on the wrong foot and I haven’t got half of our winter veggies in. I have this nagging sense that time is just passing me by and that I’m constantly reacting to situations rather than being proactive. Although, I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it is I should be doing.

If my external world took a knocking in the first quarter of the year, it is now my body’s turn to experience a bit of bad luck. It started with the shoulder injury. Then, after a week of staving off a head cold with plenty of vitamin c and rest, I finally succumbed to the dreaded lurgy. It appears that the snotty nose was just the viral advance guard; the main bacterial army arrived under cover of night and took occupation of my lungs, the chink in my armour. (A lung function test last year revealed rather disconcertingly that I have the lungs of an 81 year old!) It meant that I missed my niece’s daughter’s 21st party and a gathering of the clan in Pinetown. I was sad about that and spent a miserable day in bed feeling sorry for myself. However, after seeing the doctor and taking the prescribed meds, I have recovered but it’s left me quite worn out.

At about the same time as I got bronchitis, I had what my doctor thinks was a deep vein thrombosis. Without any warning I got such an excruciating pain in my foot that I couldn’t walk on it and then it turned a rather alarming shade of purple. The pain, which felt like a cramp, lasted about 20 minutes and left my foot swollen and sore to touch. The next day my calf also felt quite tender. The doc prescribed a daily dose of aspirin to reduce the risk of future blood clots. I have to confess that, despite it being agony and very scary, I’m not so sure that I want to take aspirin every day for the rest of my life on the supposition that it was a DVT and on the off chance that it may happen again. I know that health issues do not make for scintillating reading but I got very helpful advice when I wrote about my rotator cuff problem. So I mention the DVT episode in case any of you may have experienced one. I would also be interested to hear your thoughts on taking aspirin long term.

Right then, I think I’ve whinged enough and, in the words of Johnny Mercer, it’s now time to Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive and start reviewin’ the attitude of doin’ right!

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium’s
Liable to walk upon the scene

I love that last line: “Have faith or pandemonium’s liable to walk upon the scene”. Pandaemonium is the capital of Hell in Milton’s Paradise Lost; it’s the abode of all the demons. Well, I obviously need to brush the dust off my faith in positive thinking because I’ve been defaulting to the negative and those bloody little demons are definitely getting past the salt! So, on with the positive ….. next post, I promise.

P.S.

Recently I joined a camera interest group in Nottingham Road. We’re a bunch of amateur photographers lead by Derrick, an accomplished wildlife photographer who is very generous in sharing his expertise with us. The group meets once a month to discuss various aspects of photography and share photos on an agreed theme. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I take a lot of photos of my garden and fortunately for me the theme for the first meeting I attended was “my garden”. I was awarded the floating trophy (which is a gorgeous old box Brownie mounted on a wooden plinth, created by Derrick) for this photo of a water lily, taken several years ago with my old Panasonic camera. I was right proper chuffed, I was.

I was awarded the floating trophy (which is a gorgeous old box Brownie mounted on a wooden plinth, created by Derrick) for my photo of a water lily, taken several years ago with my old Panasonic camera. I was right proper chuffed, I was.

the floating trophy

the floating trophy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stop This Train

Last week we bought two pretty little hens from Howick pet shop to replace Rosie, my beautiful Rosie, and Hattie who both just up and died and are buried in the orchard. We found Hattie one morning dead on the floor of the hen house with no visible sign of injury. Later that day, Rosie looked decidedly poorly so I dissolved some mild aspirin and syringed it into her mouth which, according to Backyard Chickens is good for pain and fever. Unfortunately, it didn’t cure her and by that evening she too was dead. The next day, concerned about the remaining two chickens, we visited Hopewells (a farm supplies store and one of my favourite shops in Howick) and were advised to put an anti-bacterial powder (Cosumix Plus) in the chickens’ drinking water to treat any bacterial digestive or respiratory diseases. Well, short of doing autopsies, we can’t be sure about what killed Hattie and Rosie but the other two, Ezzie (Esmeralda) and Etta (Henrietta), survived so it could have been bacterial.  

When I told Thandi the names I had chosen for the new additions, Figgy and Missy, she thought I said Fiki (as in Fikile, a Zulu name) and Meisie (Afrikaans for girl), so that’s what they’re now called. Ezzie and Etta have not been very welcoming; in fact they’ve been downright inhospitable. Hopefully it’s just a case of ruffled feathers and things in the hen house will settle down soon!

I often like to sit and commune with my chickens as they cluck and scratch about in their run. I pass them bits of green stuff through the fence, like chickweed and dandelion, and drop in the occasional snail sacrifice, and they love me for it. A Cape gooseberry has grown rather rampant over one side of the fence. They don’t eat the leaves but enjoy the ripe fruit, of which there is plenty at the moment. I often find them sleeping in holes they’ve dug in the ground under the gooseberry branches – their own little forest haven. It reminds me of a picture book my mother used to read to me when I was little. I’ve never known what it was called but in my minds eye I can see the pictures as clear as daylight, little people living in harmony with all the forest creatures, in beautiful miniature houses carved into trees and toadstools. When I was a child I was an avid believer in fairies and elves and would build them houses out of ferns at the bottom of the garden and leave little pieces of bread and bowls of water in the houses for them.

Fiki and Meisie

Fiki and Meisie

chickens under the gooseberry bush

chickens under the gooseberry bush

I’ve only managed to keep a few books from my childhood – treasured copies of The Wind in the Willows, A Child’s Garden of Verses and How the Mole Got His Pockets and I’ve always been curious to know where those pictures in my head of woodland creatures came from. Then, on Saturday, one of the Facebook pages that I follow, Towards Greener Borders, shared this picture and I knew immediately that I had found the author / illustrator of my childhood pictures.

After a Google search I discovered that Erich Heinemann and Fritz Baumgarten wrote and illustrated children’s books in the 1940’s and I just knew that these two created the book my mother used to read to me. So strange how we come across answers to things when we are not looking for them.

I have developed a sore shoulder which the physio diagnosed as a rotator cuff injury. It could just be wear and tear or tendonitis, whatever it is it’s a bloody nuisance. I’ve tried physio, ayurvedic anti-inflammatories, reiki, exercise and essential oil painkillers. It hasn’t got any better but it hasn’t got worse and, on the plus side, I smell quite nice. Still, I hate feeling incapacitated.

My mother was sick a while ago, a head cold and throat infection. She is basically a healthy person, other than being unsteady on her feet, and is seldom ill. She was put on antibiotics and some other medication and it really knocked her for six. She became very lethargic and down in the dumps – facing her frailty is a scary business, for both of us. Until she got sick she was quite capable of taking care of herself but it has become necessary for us to take over preparing her daily main meal, which she likes to eat at midday, as well as doing her laundry. Thandi cleans house for her once a week and does some work in her garden. I knew this day would come and I know it will only become more demanding with time but I’d rather have her here with me than in a nursing home. She so loves her garden, the birds and Buddy, who visits her every day and sleeps under her table. She has already told me that she wants to die in her wee house and I can’t bear to think what circumstances may arise that would necessitate moving her. As it stands, we are all coping quite well.

“So we beat on, boats against the current.”

autumn sunset

autumn sunset

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Life Is Hard

 

I often wonder why it feels as though life is such a bloody effort. Of course I’m grateful that for me it’s not a struggle for survival or a physical one but rather it’s a kind of internal battle that goes on incessantly inside my head.

I remember coming across Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when I was a psych student in the late 70’s. He wanted to explain what motivates people and came up with the idea that we have certain needs that we seek to fulfil and once fulfilled, we move on to the next one. These motivational needs are often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.

the peak performance centre

It’s the self-actualization level that I’m interested in. Maslow reckoned:

What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization…It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.

 Ja well no fine (I find that if I read it slowly, it makes more sense).

Perhaps this extract from psychology today explains it better.

“Self-actualization” represents a concept derived from Humanistic psychological theory and, specifically, from the theory created by Abraham Maslow. Self-actualization, according to Maslow, represents growth of an individual toward fulfillment of the highest needs; those for meaning in life, in particular. Carl Rogers also created a theory implicating a “growth potential” whose aim was to integrate congruently the “real self” and the “ideal self” thereby cultivating the emergence of the “fully functioning person”.

So, if I understand Maslow and Rogers correctly, I think my problem is that my “real” self and my “ideal” self are incongruent and I am therefore unable to self-actualize. Whew, I’m glad I got that sorted!

I love plans, order, systems and routines. I spend hours preparing timetables, to do lists, strategic life plans and vision boards. And then I completely ignore them. I have a schedule stuck on my bathroom wall stating quite categorically that the day should start at 6 and, after doing my morning pages, followed by yoga and meditation, I should be washed, dressed, fed and ready to take on the world at 9. Well please, what was I thinking? That’s my ideal self; the real self is still in her pajamas at 11.

Recently, I drew up a roster for lunches and dinners, sharing them out between Peter and me. I even put some clip art pictures on it to make it look pretty and stuck it on the fridge door. A week later Peter pointedly remarked that I hadn’t prepared one meal since the roster went up. I had excuses but that’s not the point.

So why are my ideal and real selves not converging?

My ideal self is a vegetarian, non-drinking yogi. She floats around dressed in Judi Dench’s Best Exotic Marigold Hotel wardrobe. She writes every day, at a scheduled time; spends weekends intrepidly exploring the countryside with her camera; produces an abundance of fresh vegetables all year round from her well managed allotment; hosts lively soirées with aplomb; runs a well-oiled household; and still manages to effortlessly devote time to helping those less fortunate than her.

My real self, on the other hand, ingests a lot of toxins and does not exercise regularly. She can be found most mornings in her pjs and later in tracksuit pants and LL Bean moccasins. Her writing is sporadic; weekends are spent in bed watching telly; her allotment, soirées, household and community work are all equally disorganised, her input into all of them is frequently rather last minute. Did I mention she’s a procrastinator of note and often has a hangover?

Is it any wonder that there’s constant conflict in my head? I want to self-actualize, really I do, but it’s just so darn hard.

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Buddy on the move

nose down a hole

nose down a hole

Buddy and Layla loving their walkies

Buddy and Layla loving their walkies

 

 

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