:: 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 ::

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Technology and country living


A sketch of a track leading up to a friend's farm - dodging the rocks and ditches in the road is quite a feat. The Roads Dept. has long since stopped grading most of our farm roads and it's up to the individuals living along that stretch to maintain the road. And the telephone poles don't actually have any wires, that's artistic license - those have been stolen long ago and not been replaced by Telkom, our tele-communications provider. So, the general mode of transportation around here is 4 × 4 and the general method of communication is the iPhone as technology meets up with Country Living.


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Friday, 15 May 2015

Childhood memories

"Since it doesn't cost a dime to dream, you'll never short-change yourself when you stretch your imagination." 
~ Robert Schuller


This sketch (done from memory) is remembering my childhood days in the 1950's, I was about 10 years old, when I lived in the Limpopo Province (then it was known as the Northern Tansvaal) in Pietersburg (Now Polokwane), when I used to go fishing with my dad at the Albasini Dam, surrounded by the Soutpansberg Mountains, at Louis Trichardt. Once we'd arrived and set up the fishing rods, we'd sit for hours waiting for a bite, chatting about everything and nothing in particular, sipping cold coffee from the flask my mother had packed.

A bite, however, would result in scrambling for the fishing rod, excitedly reeling the fish in, me not being able to wait to see what we'd caught. Most of the time it was only a Barbel, a carp-like freshwater catfish that cooked beautifully over our camp fire. My dad would gut and clean it, slicing it into big, round, fat steaks, and then fry it together with slices of cold potatoes, and we would devour it with fresh home-made bread and thick butter. My mother always packed far too much food for our trips - the fresh, home-made bread she'd baked the night before, hard-boiled eggs, baked potatoes still in their foil, beef sausages and gherkins and pickles. And, of course, the coffee flask.

Barbel catfish

The Albasini Dam was built in 1952 and is named after Joao Albasini, who was born 1 May 1813, in Lisbon, Portugal. He came to Lourenço Marques in 1831 and became a slave trader and Elephant hunter. The remains of his trading post can be found at the new Phabeni Gate, 10 km from Hazyview.

This dam was built primarily to supply the Levubu Irrigation Scheme. The dam has a capacity of 28,200 cubic meters (1,000,000 cu. ft), and a surface area of 3.498 square kilometers (1.351 sq mi) and the wall is 34meters (110ft) high.


Above is a small tributary off the Albasini Dam - The upper Luvuvhu, Sterkstroom, Latonyanda, Dzindi, Mukhase, Mbwedi and Mutshindudi are steep, narrow rivers dominated by cobble riffles and occasional pools with a few bedrock rapids. These were our favourite fishing spots.

What I would give to spend a few days fishing with my father again...

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Friday, 8 May 2015

A bath and a clean nest


After Kiep's broodiness finished a couple of days ago, I decided she needed a bath after sitting on her golf ball for almost a month. She looked decidedly drab and worse for the wear and needed a bit of special TLC.

I prepared some luke warm water in a tub and put her in. At first she struggled a bit (it was her first bath ever), but the minute she felt the warmth of the water, she actually lay down! I gently shampooed her back, chest and vent area, careful not to ruffle her feathers too much.

I remembered using vinegar as a youngster to rinse my hair after a wash when we'd run out of conditioner and it always left my hair soft and shiny. So, after a first rinse, I transferred Kiep to another tub with a bit of vinegar in the water, gave her a good rinsing, dried her gently with a towel and then used the hair dryer to get her nice and dry. I was a bit worried about the noise of the hair dryer, but she seemed to enjoy it, fluffing up her feathers to let in the hot air.

Kiep sunning herself in the bathroom court-yard

After she was all nice and dry, and oh so extremely soft and fluffy! we went out into the bathroom court-yard, where she spent a while preening and getting her feathers in the correct order again and when she was ready, I led her out to the main garden where she immediately rushed up to Artemis, greeting him with some wing-flapping and a lot of prancing around.

Kiep meeting up with Artemis after her bath

Spending some time with Artemis in the garden after a nice warm bath

Now it was time to also clean out her nest-box, which is on top of one of my art tables in my studio. I cleaned out the box thoroughly, put in fresh grass and then placed it back, all nice and clean.


Later in the morning she strutted into my studio to deliver her breakfast, but it turned into a big to-do. She took one look at the nest and, horrified, she proceeded to unpack all the grass and then putting it back to her liking before settling down to the serious job of laying the egg!



Her eggs are different after this last broody incident, much bigger and not so white, more brown.

My little girl is growing up now…

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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The consciousness of trees


Researchers at the University of British Columbia are concluding that trees are interacting with one another in a symbiotic relationship that helps the trees to survive. Connected by fungi, the underground root systems of plants and trees are transferring carbon and nitrogen back and forth between each other in a network of subtle communication. Similar to the network of neurons and axons in the human brain, the network of fungi, roots, soil and micro-organisms beneath the larger ‘mother trees’ gives the forest its own consciousness.

Read more here and watch the video

Sunday, 3 May 2015

A splash of White

Not much gardening has been happening over the past couple of weeks - raking up leaves, tending to the compost heap, neatening edges, nothing exciting.


I've got no Shasta daisies in my garden this year, but I've always had a patch somewhere. What happened? (Note to self: get some more Shasta’s). As a child I always admired the Shasta Daisies in my father’s garden. What I remember most was the dazzling brightness of the white blooms that always offset the bright colours of the dahlias, larkspur, gazanias, arctotis and zinnias that grew so prolifically under the African sun.

The simple white flowers with yellow button centres are a symbol of purity and are perfect for cutting. Easy to grow, they are a favourite for beginner flower gardeners and are effective when planted in small groups.

Crab Spiders seem to favour Shasta's as their favourite while ambush-hunting their prey in flowers. These tiny spiders take on the colour of the flower they're sitting on and it's wonderful to come across a pure white or bright yellow little specimen on your flowers.

A white crab spider catching a butterfly on some Shasta daisies

Yellow crab spider

Until recently, Shasta Daisies were considered members of the Chrysanthemum family. But the daisies’ lack of fragrance and hairless stems caused them to be recently reclassified to Leucanthemum, the Sunflower family.

These Daisies like rich, fast draining soil, ample water and lots of sunshine. However, they are hardy and will tolerate poor soil conditions and partial shade. Work some old animal manure or compost into the soil to help promote abundant blooms. Picking often and cutting off dead flowers will extend their bloom period.

So do yourself a favour and get some of these easy-growing, sun-loving daisies for your garden and you'll always have an abundance of butterflies and ready-to-pick flowers for the vase.


::

Shasta Daisies at my pond a couple of seasons ago. Every summer I SO looked forward to when my Shasta's would appear again. With their splashes of white they brighten up any corner of the garden and the more you pick them (they look lovely in a simple glass vase!), the more prolific they get.

::

"If you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive."

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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Nature and your well-being


Research reveals that environments can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies. What you are seeing, hearing or experiencing at any moment is changing not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are working.


Previous scientific studies have shown that exposure to nature can both increase self-control and also improve our valuations of the future. With much of the world's population now living in urban environments access to is out of reach for many.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-11-nature-affects-decisions.html#jCp
Previous scientific studies have shown that exposure to nature can both increase self-control and also improve our valuations of the future. With much of the world's population now living in urban environments access to is out of reach for many.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-11-nature-affects-decisions.html#jCp
The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, or sad, or helpless. This in turn elevates your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. A pleasing environment reverses that.

“Nature deprivation,” a lack of time in the natural world, largely due to hours spent in front of TV or computer screens, has been associated, unsurprisingly, with depression. More unexpected are studies by Weinstein and others that associate screen time with loss of empathy and lack of altruism.


Scientific studies have shown that exposure to nature can both increase self-control and also improve our evaluations of the future. But with much of the world's population now living in urban environments, access to natural environments is out of reach for many. 


Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality.

Nature restores mental functioning in the same way that food and water restore bodies. The business of everyday life -- dodging traffic, making decisions and judgement calls, interacting with strangers -- is depleting, and what man-made environments take away from us, nature gives back.


Natural environments promote calmness and well-being in part because they expose people to low levels of stress. These stressful experiences are tame in comparison with the trials and tribulations that most of us associate with stress -- workplace drama, traffic jams, and wailing children on international plane trips. Humans thrive with some stimulation, but we're incapable of coping with extreme stressors, which push us from the comfortable realm of eustress (good stress) to the danger zone of distress (bad stress).

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort, Gauteng, South Africa.

But not all is hopeless! Get out of your apartment or house as often as you can and visit parks and nature reserves, the beach or your local Botanical Gardens. Nature is sometimes only as far as a short walk or short drive.


Take your dog for a walk, even if it's just down the road you live in. If you're close to the beach, make the effort, your dog will love you for it!


Hug a tree, your dog always does! and


talk to any plants you may pass (albeit softly, or passers-by might think you're a bit looney!) and pick some flowers or a stalk of grass, feel the texture, inhale its aroma.


Take note of the birds and the bees - there's a whole community of small life going on around you! Take your camera with you when you go walking and capture some special moments.


Start a collection of 'natural' items - stones, pebbles, rocks, crystals, pieces of bark, shells. Touch them often and feel the energy revitalise you.


Surround yourself with nature inside your home - pick or buy fresh flowers and have them in every room


Get out into the garden more. If you do not have the space for a garden, buy a pot plant or two and keep them in the room where you spend most of your time. Seeing them often will remind you to tend to them and reconnect with nature.


Take up a hobby that gets you outdoors as much as possible - maybe a garden club or bird watching. Not only will it help you to reconnect with nature, but you'll also be meeting some great like-minded people!

There are many more ways for you to reconnect with nature, but my favourite is taking off my shoes and socks and sinking my bare feet into the grass or soft ground. One of my favourite quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us to slow down and notice nature, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

The next time you walk out your front door, feel your feet connecting with the earth, step by step.

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Monday, 20 April 2015

Simple living - what does it mean?


Is the measure of a simple life how small your home is? Whether or not you have a yard? Whether or not you have money?

Living a simple life doesn't mean giving up all or any of your luxuries. It doesn't mean you have to live like a pauper and not enjoy art, books and travel or living in a beautiful, big home.

It doesn't mean living in a small, cramped space. It doesn't mean that, if you have money, you must give it all away in order to "live the simple life."

Living simply is a state of mind. To me, living a simple life simply means not having UNNESSARY, not-beautiful or not-useful stuff in my life. It means cutting out useless, time-consuming activities that serve no purpose.



It doesn't mean doing nothing. It could even mean taking on extra activities, like planting your own vegetable garden, free of hormones, insecticides and pesticides and reducing your carbon footprint on our planet. Living simply means living with purpose, on purpose and being passionate about life.

Any time that is not spent on loving what you're doing is wasted and unnecessarily complicates life and counter-acts simple living.

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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

He has blue eyes!

Over the weeks, since my last report on the Indian Ringneck that has moved into my garden, we have progressed in bounds and leaps in our friendship. He has become quite at home, coming when we call him for food and calmly staying put on his perch or the bird feeder when we approach. Here are just a few more photographs of this beautiful chap. (And to my utter amazement, he has the most beautiful blue eyes!)









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Sunday, 12 April 2015

The bliss of birds

Nobody else knows your reason for being. You do. Your bliss guides you to it. When you follow your bliss, when you follow your path to joy, your conversation is of joy, your feelings are of joy — you're right on the path of that which you intended when you came forth into this physical body. 
 --- Abraham-Hicks 


Birds... those lovely little creatures that just brighten up any day, no matter how cold. Without any complaints they just go about their business, finding food for the family, basking in the sun on a bare branch, singing soft melodies that gladden the heart.


Having the birds in my garden visiting my various bird feeders makes me feel so special. Makes me feel alive with purpose. Brings a smile to my face and makes me feel grateful to be part of Mother Nature who surrounds us and takes care of all her siblings, me and you included.









A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.
~ Maya Angelou, “Caged Bird”

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