:: I sit and drink tea in the mornings, and come out at dusk to listen as the world tucks itself in for the night :: Please won't you join me? ::

In nature there is a large place for sentiment. Nature is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.

:: Living simply ::

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Pachypodium lamerei up-date


My Pachypodium lamerei, which I acquired in January 2009 at only 9" tall, has now grown into a magnificent 53" (1.35m) specimen and he had his first pot change last year in April 2013. At the rate he has grown over the past 18 months, I think he is going to need a new pot early in the new year! But I can't go too big with a pot, otherwise I can't bring him in for winter. A bit of a dilemma... I lost my first one due to the fact that he got too heavy to carry in and was thus taken out of the pot and planted directly in the garden, attaining a height of almost 2m before being killed by one extreme winter we had. At that time I swore I wouldn't get another one, but who can resist a beautiful Pachy smiling at you in the local garden centre?


My Pachy last year November 2013
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This popular Pachypodium from Madagascar, Africa, has a shiny silver trunk covered with long, sharp spines. The trunk may branch out, making it even more attractive. A tuft of long, narrow leaves grow only at the top of the trunk, like a palm tree, and it is also known as the Madagascar Palm. However, it isn't a palm at all, but a succulent from the Apocyanaceae family.
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In the summer, clusters of fragrant, white flowers will appear on mature plants that are grown outdoors. Don't expect it to bloom indoors, unless you can provide plenty of direct sunlight. You may want to move this sun-loving succulent outdoors to your porch or patio for the summer. Mine spends summer in my garden, but just remember to bring it back inside when the temperature drops -- it won't tolerate frost.
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My Pachy in April 2013, just before being re-potted and very top-heavy for his current pot.
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Repot in spring every 3-4 years or when it outgrows its pot. It's a good idea to use a heavy container to prevent toppling. This thick-trunked tree can get top-heavy. Also, be careful of those spines when handling this plant. Wear thick garden gloves and wrap a newspaper or old towel around the trunk when repotting it to protect your hands.
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Leaf drop in winter is perfectly normal. It may even drop all its leaves. But, don't worry. It'll grow more leaves in spring when it gets the sunshine and warmth it loves. When it comes out of dormancy and you see new leaves growing, that's your cue to resume normal watering and fertilizing.
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This Pachypodium can reach 6 ft (1.8 m) indoors, much taller if grown outdoors in a frost-free climate. It does require full sun. Water thoroughly and allow top half of soil to dry out between waterings. In winter, water sparingly just to keep the soil from drying out completely. Plant in a pot with drainage holes to prevent root rot. Cactus mix works well to provide fast drainage. Or you can use 2 parts all-purpose potting mix with 1 part sharp sand or perlite.
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Feed monthly in spring and summer with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Sow seeds in spring. Offsets can also be cut away from the parent plant and potted up separately.
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My Pachy in February 2010, a year after I got him.

If you live in a frost-free zone in South Africa, this is a beautiful succulent to consider for your garden. It's water-wise, doesn't need much care and remember not to over-water in winter.
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Monday, 17 November 2014

Learning from the chooks

I've learnt so much over the past few years from Solly's chickens. His chooks free range all over our plot and my garden and I've seen them lay eggs, hatch their babies and then watched as they grow up into teenagers and then fully integrate into the community. Of course I have my favourites, especially the abandoned or injured ones I rescue, nurse back to health and most of the time introduce them back into the flock.

Too many roosters!

Can't actually speak about a flock - they always seem to form several flocks. Many, too many, of the newly hatched chicks turn out to be roosters. And you know what happens when there are too many roosters! As teenagers they start squaring up to test their strength and then, as they come into adulthood, the serious fighting  for the available hens starts.


The hens watch, apparently unconcerned, from the side-lines, but one can't be fooled by their disinterest. Each fight is keenly watched and they have a keen eye for spotting the winner(s), who quickly claim their prize, with the chosen hens seamlessly falling into line with their chosen mates. Each rooster then has his own flock and they tend to group together and keep away from one another's territory. My heart always breaks for the losers, who end up all lonely, hanging around the perimeter, hoping for a hen to perhaps spot them. But beware them if they try to approach a specific flock's hen, she puts up one hell of a noise, alerting her rooster, who immediately puts an end to such daring cheekiness!

Soon after, the egg-laying starts, laying an egg a day until she feels she has enough to start a family and then serious business of sitting for plus/minus 21 days starts.

Mommy with her four newly-hatched babies



While the hen has her newly hatched chicks, she stays away from the flock, leading her chicks around, showing them them the territory and where all the very best tit-bits are to be found. During that time she even ignores her chosen rooster, solely concentrating on her babies and lovingly taking care of them.

But here comes the heart-break bit. When the little chicks are only a couple of weeks old, she starts showing an interest in the rooster again, with him leading her around, pointing out some lovely possible nesting places. She then totally abandons her babies (and they are FAR too young!), spending time with the rooster and even grabbing the little tit-bits I give them for herself, even pecking them and telling them to get out of the way. Then for days I have to listen to their pitiful little cheeps as they constantly call for her in their confusion, not understanding what is going on. Fortunately this unhappiness only lasts for two weeks or so and they soon learn to fend for themselves.

The four confused little chicks all on their own in the garden


 They would hang around the garden gate and as soon as I make an appearance, would follow me all over


Then, as soon as the hen is "free" from her chicks, it's a big happening in the community. Everybody will intently watch her choice of a new nest and when the first egg is laid, everybody, including the roosters, who stand watch over the event, will noisily cackle, crow and rejoice in the event, sending the little chicks scattering in fear from all the noise. And believe me, it's a racket!

One of the hens loudly voicing her discontent that her favourite nest is occupied by someone else

The intruder sits motionless, hoping nobody will spot her!

Choice of nest for any hen is another matter of contention. They all have a favourite nest and heaven forbid if anyone else dares to occupy it! Even though there are plenty of nests around, they will stand in line for that one nest, all the while trying to intimidate the occupier with insistent, loud cackling.

Another rooster standing watch as his hen searches for a perfect nesting spot

Solly's chickens are not to be confused with MY chickens living in my garden. They all originally came from Solly's stock, but never mix with their "wild" cousins, as part of my garden is walled and keeps Solly's crowd at bay. Just a bit on Solly - he is our general mechanic and handyman, living a couple of hundred meters away from the main house, where he has got his own little vegetable patch, flower garden and chicken coop, but for some reason, most of his chickens prefer to live in my back garden, nesting wherever they feel comfortable and following me around whenever I go into the back-yard. They seem to know that I know each of them and that each of them have got their own name. Or maybe it's just that they know that they are destined for the pot at Solly's place...

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Saturday, 8 November 2014

A week of pleasure


After an extremely cold and harsh winter, we seemed to skip spring and headed straight into above 30°C temperatures. My garden was absolutely devastated by the extreme frost we experienced and then suffered from heat exhaustion no matter how much I watered. Then, to top it, I sat without internet for ages, unable to get to my blogs except for some viewing via my phone or tablet.

But at last we've had our first rains of the season, my internet is back on, things are back to normal and my garden is smiling! So am I, with the rain came the relief of cooler temperatures and at last it's a joy to spend time in the garden again, chatting to the plants and my little garden friends. My lizards (African skinks, actually) just LOVED the heat and were to be seen all over - on the patio, on the walls, on the pot plants, sunning themselves on the rocks. They've gotten to be very tame, not moving even as I approach, but still keeping a weary eye on me, just in case.







I had some Guinea fowl visiting the garden, we don't see many of them these days, the area is getting very built up.


This African Masked Weaver was not perturbed by my presence at all, he was too busy singing and calling females to come and look at his masterpiece of a nest - he had quite a few visitors, but none of the females lingered longer than a few seconds. I wonder why, I thought his nest was beautiful!


Snoodles and Peeps spend a lot of time together, mostly getting up to mischief, choosing to uproot plants and looking under them for a snack in stead of finding stuff above-ground. Weird!


It seems the Hydrangeas were just waiting for the first few drops of rain because the very next day the first blooms started appearing. I might have a bumper crop this year...


Most of my garden has recuperated after the heavy frosts - after being cut down and with the first rains, the sword ferns came back with a vengeance, the Geraniums burst into bloom and I'm thrilled that the Kniphofia (Red Hot Pokers) started flowering already, that means the Amethyst Sun birds (Black Sun bird - Chalcomitra amethystina) will be here soon! They just love the nectar these flowers carry.



Last summer I managed to get a few pics of the female while the male refused to pose for a photographic session. The male is a stunning metallic black with a bright iridescent amethyst throat and the female, in stark contrast, is a dull grey and brown with spots under her throat and abdomen. Hopefully, this summer, I might manage to get some pictures of the male.

Female Amethyst Sun bird on a Kniphofia flower

Female Amethyst Sun bird on a Kniphofia flower

 Female Amethyst Sun bird on a Kniphofia flower


 Male Amethyst Sun bird


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Monday, 20 October 2014

Moving on


You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could've been, would've happened... or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move on. It happens to everyone as they grow up. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you've known forever don't see things the way you do. So you keep the wonderful memories and dump the rest.

You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won't happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life." Then cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness.

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Saturday, 18 October 2014

Make friends with the birds


People who have not made friends with the birds do not know how much they miss.
- John Burroughs - "Birds and Poets"

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Friday, 17 October 2014

Kentucky

Hope is a thing with feathers. 
That perches in the soul. 
And sings the tunes without the words. 
And never stops at all. 
- Verse from Emily Dickinson poem 

Watercolour on Bockingford

Besides my love for all animals, and for birds in particular, my love affair with chickens started in the late 70’s, when we bought our first smallholding (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa) and, of course, the first thing anybody on a smallholding does, is get chickens, ducks and geese!

After a couple of months of settling in on our new smallholding, I was given some Bantam chickens by a neighbour, and there was a mad scramble to erect some chicken coups. They were prolific little breeders and soon the yard was full of mothers with little chicks , all running like mad for a tit-bit when they see me.

One newly-hatched little fellow, however, seemed not to be able to keep up with the rest, so I duly ‘rescued’ him, carrying him around in a basket and feeding him at every opportunity. The result was Kentucky, the most beautiful specimen of a rooster I had ever seen, with bright, coppery feathers adorning his neck and the most beautiful blue, black and burgundy tail feathers a rooster could wish for! Although he ruled his chosen hens with an iron claw, he always was a bit of a loner, spending hours following me around, hens in tow, or roosting on the back of the couch in the lounge (with lots of newspapers on the floor!)

He spent many years with me, preferring to roost in the tree outside my bedroom window, in stead of the chicken coup with the rest, and my heart was broken when I went out one morning and found part of him under the tree, half eaten, killed by a Genet during the night. But he lives in my heart forever and I’m sure he’s still watching over me from chicken heaven.

My apologies that I haven't got any photographs, but this was in the days before I had a computer, wasn't much into photography and, of course, wasn't blogging yet!

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Sunday, 28 September 2014

Farm talk - A Special sanctuary


“The master bedroom is just the beginning of the problems. There is no master in the bedroom. She starts to give you things, “This is your closet.” You’ll act like a stranger and thank her!”
- Bill Cosby


I’ve had a couple of requests to ‘share’ a bit more about where I live way out in the country on my little piece of African soil, so I decided to do a short series of my home in Tarlton, South Africa, situated on an 8.5ha smallholding. This is purely for fun! I would just like to mention that, when building and decorating my home about 7 years ago, I have taken inspiration from Africa, and nature in particular, surrounding myself with natural (and sometimes living!) objects and colour. I am not ostentatious by nature and prefer the simple and natural things in life. Hope you enjoy and find this interesting! I know I just LOVE to see other people’s living spaces, be it small or large, simple or ornate, in suburbia or the country, in a basement or a sky-scraper, inland or at the coast.

There is a place where you can go to find some peace and quiet, a retreat from the rest of the world, where you can relax at the end of a long day. Here, you can reorganize and establish serenity. This place is your bedroom.

They say , “A man’s house is his Castle”, I say, “A woman’s bedroom is her Sanctuary”. This is the place where I unwind from the excitement of the day, reading a good book or watching some TV after a long soak by candle light in the bath-tub, and get revived and inspired for a new day lying ahead.


The King size bed is set between built-in concrete ‘bedside tables’, flanked by two woven grass wall lamps. An Nguni skin serves as a bedside rug. The floors are concrete finished off with Plascon EarthCote pigment and varnished. The EarthCote range of finishing pigments cost an arm and a leg, but I think I saved an arm and a leg in tiling … does that make sense…?


The opposite end of the bedroom with built-in spare bed and Plasma TV. An early 20th Century Teak chest of drawers serves as a bed-side table. A framed print of one of my paintings purchased from RB hangs above the bed. This bed was specially built for my youngest grand-daughter to sleep near us when she was still a toddler. Now it serves as a day-bed for reading a good book while sipping a hot mug of Cocoa!


The entrance to the bedroom from the passage – Wooden and metal masks from all over Africa adorn the walls and river pebbles are inlaid on the corners. An Oregon pine wooden trunk from the early 1900’s serves as storage space for extra blankets and throws and on the pillar is an African pot filled with grasses. A hanging candle chandelier in the corner adds interest and a crystal chandelier overhead provides lighting. The air conditioning unit is a must for our hot summers and faces the lounge.


A collection of river pebbles and crystals next to my bed in a carved wooden bowl with grass edging – this is where all my jewellery goes when I get ready for bed. I don’t wear any gold or silver jewellery, just crystals and other natural materials like stone, bone and wood. It is said that crystals get ‘cleansed’ by the presence of rocks.


The ceiling in the bedroom (and throughout the house) is wooden “latte” (de-barked Blue gum saplings and cut to lengths to fit between the rafters) and the light fitting is glass with pewter and Indian Silver strips dangling from the bottom, sort of acting like wind chimes – but I’ve never had a strong enough wind in my bedroom to hear them!

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Friday, 26 September 2014

It's Friday!


I crept out of bed early with the sound of the roosters crowing to one another - 4am - put on the kettle, made my coffee and came to the computer. By the time hubby surfaced around 6.30am, I had already updated a couple of blogs, up-loaded some artwork to RedBubble, let the chooks out, fed Solly's chickens and filled all the bird feeders in the garden. Time for another cup of coffee.

It's the end of the week and the weekend is lying ahead as an extra bonus, the hours are mine to do with as I please. No need to rush and open the doors for business, no staff coming in, just two lovely days of spending time with my chooks or whatever else takes my fancy.


But today ended up being busier than usual, with a constant stream of customers and eventually, when I did manage to join Chrissie in the garden, she informed me that Missy had been sitting in one place all morning. Very worried, I approached her to see what was the matter and was greeted by her screeching like a banshee! She fluffed herself in a threatening manner and I immediately knew what the 'problem' was - when I picked her up, I saw what all the melee was about - she was sitting on a couple of eggs. She had obviously been gathering them for some time and now she was broody and ready to stay with them till the little darlings hatched...


I remove all the eggs that my chooks lay - I've got nine roaming the garden, causing havoc, and I really can't afford to have any more. Missy obviously got sick and tired of me removing her eggs out of the nest boxes in the chicken coop and decided to do the sneaky thing and find a safe spot in the garden!

Missy looking on in disgust as I remove her eggs
And I have no idea how 6 eggs escaped our attention what with Chrissie regularly cleaning up and me watering the garden every couple of days. But the girls can be very innovative when it comes to hiding their eggs!


We spent another couple of minutes searching to see if there were any more stray eggs we might have missed and that sparked a major clean-up of areas trampled flat by the girls - it is just beyond and above me as to why they would like to sit ON TOP of the plants in stead of next to or under them... .

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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Just living is not enough


Just living is not enough…

One must have
Sunshine
Freedom
and Flowers!

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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A whole new enterprise?


Eggs have been called “the cement that holds the castle of cuisine together.” 


Eggs, eggs, eggs…..I get six to eight eggs a day from my hens and after months of having had them for breakfast three times a week, prepared them in salads, I even BAKED something! I’ve painted them, pricked holes in them, used the shells in various ways, feed them to my girls, given them away and now I’m running out of ideas now. Also, frankly, I virtually cannot face another egg at the moment!





Egg-stuffed Potato

Scrambled eggs

Omelette

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Breakfast being served!

Kiep 

Hettie

Micky

So the only solution is to start a farm stall and sell them – maybe I should plant some strawberries to sell as well….? And maybe some arts and crafts or a couple of paintings…. or a coffee shop specialising in breakfasts.... this could actually turn into a whole new enterprise! lol!

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