Go out by yourself, face the wind, hold up your head and thank the Universe for this world we live in.
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
🐾 Hedgehogs, Chooks, Nature, gardening and other rambles. In summer I always enjoy an early-evening walk on our smallholding. No need to get in my car to find nature, I have 8.5ha right here to explore, always hoping to see the Barn Owl or some Guinea fowl, but always enjoying the Bluegum trees and beautiful grasses and wild flowers along the way.
Hi, I am Maree Clarkson, a watercolour wildlife and conservation artist and Nature-lover living on my little piece of African soil in Tarlton since 1975 (Gauteng, South Africa), in love with life, my chickens, gardening and nature!
I know it's blowing the same old trumpet, but it’s hard to believe that it’s this time already, that another year has gone by. I never make resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and moulding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.
31st december 2012 - i was one of the lucky ones . 365 days of crazy beautiful precious life were gained . for this i feel blessed
one of my favorite gifts of this year . Robins come to stay in my garden . their trill was the music of summer
I had this in my garden this year…. another few gifts...
This coming year, give peace a chance, let 2013 be a peaceful year to all and on this last day of the year... I wish you the clarity to see that life is the gift
“Some people change their ways when they see the light; others when they feel the heat”
- Caroline Schoeder
This year is ending in a BIG bang of a heat wave - we've been suffering temperatures way up in the 30℃'s and heat like this just changes me completely. I end up feeling totally listless and can't get round to doing anything. My brain seems to shrivel and I don't seem to have any clear thoughts. I enjoy temps in the early 20℃'s, then I'm at my happiest.
Even the chickens have been walking around gasping with open mouths and trying to find some solace having sand baths in the cool ground that I've wet for them. Normally I like standing with the hosepipe in my hand, day-dreaming while I give the garden a good wash, but lately I've been putting the sprinkler on and dashing inside to the cool of the aircon.
But on the positive side, we've had lots of rain in the afternoons which helped cool things a bit and my garden is smiling! And nobody shows gratitude like Marigolds do! My kind-hearted gardener, Chrissie, once strew a couple of seeds
somewhere in the garden and since then I’ve had them come up in the most
unexpected places! If you grow a vegetable garden, plant Marigolds
amongst the vegetables. Marigolds are easy to grow and they help keep
away aphids. The relationship between plants and insects is known as
‘companion planting’ and it’s by far the safest, natural way to garden
Annual Marigolds can be used anywhere to deter bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies. They are also known to repel harmful root knot nematodes (soil dwelling microscopic white worms) that attack tomatoes, potatoes, roses, and strawberries. The root of the Marigold produces a chemical that kills nematodes as they enter the soil. If a whole area is infested, at the end of the season, turn the Marigolds under so the roots will decay in the soil. You can safely plant there again the following spring.
Another great use of Marigolds is for freshening up the chicken coop. I mix them with nasturtiums, lavender, rosemary and sage, cut them up and sprinkle on the coop bedding. The lovely smells are released as the chickens trample on the 'coop potpourri', keeping the coop sweet smelling.
Nasturtium is another annual, in this case a trailing vine, that keeps away potato bugs, squash bugs, and whiteflies. There is nothing not to like about nasturtiums. The petals are
bright, vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange. They grow no matter how sandy the soil and the more sun the better.
Shade greatly reduces the amount of blooms each plant will produce.
Nasturtiums are common companion plants,
so plant them with vegetables. They can be used to trap aphids, but
mostly they repel insects, particularly squash bugs. When planted in
proximity, nasturtiums are also said to make cucumbers taste better!
The colourful blossoms are edible
themselves. Nasturtiums make an appealing salad topping for both their
look and taste. As a variation of flavoured butter, try mixing together butter, lemon
juice and chopped nasturtium blossoms for a mildly, peppery butter,
which enhances chicken fish and dips. For a great starter, the blossoms
can be stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese or ricotta cheese, chives
and pesto. Guacamole also works well as a filling for the blossoms. The
blossoms are fairly fragile, so gently pipe the filling down the throat
of the blossom.
Nasturtium vinegars can be made using the blossoms. Place a variety of
different coloured blossoms in a bottle (the more you add, the more
‘peppery’ the vinegar will be), add a clove of garlic and cover with
white wine vinegar (make sure the blossoms are totally submerged). Leave
to infuse for 4 weeks or so and the vinegar is then ready to use in
salads or sauces. As the blossoms lose their colour after a while,
remove and replace with fresh blossoms.
While I'm on the subject of companion planting, I'd also like to mention Sunflowers. They are great companions and beautiful throughout the garden. Plant with Cucumbers, beans, and vining plants to provide a trellis. They are hardy and a great trap crop for aphids and other pests. They typically produce plenty of their own seeds to use next year and I usually harvest the dry heads for my Cockatoo, who just loves to pick out the seeds himself.
Sunflowers grow best in locations with full sun. They are remarkably tough and will grow in any kind of soil as long as it is not waterlogged. They do fine in soils that are slightly acidic to somewhat alkaline (pH 6.0 to 7.5). Once sunflowers get started, they can tolerate drought as befits plants whose ancestors grew happily in dry prairie regions. They are so easy to grow that they often plant themselves, springing up unbidden beneath a bird feeder.
Sunflower seed, leaves and stems emit substances that inhibit the growth of certain other plants. They should be separated from potatoes and pole beans. Where sunflower seeds are regularly used as bird feed, toxins from the accumulated seed hulls eventually kill the grass below. Harmless to animals or people, the toxins eventually biodegrade in the soil.
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamins, proteins, and minerals, as well as linoleic acid which helps the body metabolize fats properly. They contain about 24 to 27 percent protein, only slightly less than an equal weight of ground beef. Furthermore, sunflower seeds contain about twice the iron and potassium and about 4 times the phosphorus of beef. Raw sunflower seeds also contain vitamins B and E, and a dash of vitamin A. Sprouted, they also contain vitamin C.
Use the seeds for snacks, alone or mixed with raisins, dried fruit chips, and nuts. Add hulled sunflower seeds to salads and use them in fruit or vegetable recipes. Substitute sunflower seeds for nuts in baking.
Apple and Sunflower Seed Salad
4 to 6 servings
2 green apples - washed, cored and cubed
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 head lettuce of your choice - rinsed, dried, and chopped
2 dill pickles, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup ranch-style salad dressing
I hope you enjoy companion planting as much as I do, especially the eating part!
The magic of Christmas is in the air and New Year is just round the corner. It’s the perfect time to take a break from work and cherish the warmth of the season. Reach out to all your friends, family and loved ones this festive season and, if you're travelling, be safe!
at the beach . to breathe . embrace the surf . bare feet freedom . feel the spray . celebrate summer
It's wonderful what a week at the coast can do - no wonder
they say, 'a change is as good as a holiday'. Spending time in nature is always a plus for me. When we open ourselves to the natural world, we escape the
fast-paced bustle of our daily lives. That experience, not only reduces
our stress, it also grounds us, reaffirming our connection to the Earth
and all its creatures.
Just the 6½-hour, 650km, drive in itself is quite an
experience - it is a route well-known to me and I have my favourite landmarks
which tell me how far I am and how far I still have to go. I never do the whole
trip in one go, but often stop to take photographs, do some sight-seeing and have
a bite to eat.
Driving through the flat landscape of the Free State, situated
on flat boundless plains in the heart of South Africa, one of my favourite
stop-overs is a quaint coffee and gift shop about 200km into my trip - unusual
building style, excellent food and a shopper's paradise for curios, gifts and
even clothing. I often take a short walk through the grassy landscape and it is
here where I spotted a Spike-heeled Lark(Chersomanes albofasciata) for the first time but was not quick
enough to get a photo.
The first half of the journey goes through this flat
landscape for about 300km and as one gets to the border of KwaZulu Natal at
Harrismith, which is 1661m above sea level, the scenery changes dramatically.
Big plains get overtaken by mountainous terrain, sharply dropping off as one
descends Van Reenen's Pass into KwaZulu Natal, with a breath-taking view over
the Valley of a 1000 Hills.
(Pic from KwaZulu Natal tourism)
The drive through Natal, which is green year-round, is a
real pleasure with lots of sightings of various Eagles, Vultures and other
birds of prey and on one particular stretch of road near Swinburne, I always
keep an eye out for the Yellow-billed Kite and I am never disappointed - they
seem to have a great liking for that area.
After the long drive, seeing the beach for the first time is ALWAYS like seeing it
for the first time again! A wonderful sight which also means the long journey
is at an end!
One of my favourite tidal pools
A beach plant bravely enduring the elements and flowering
against all odds
A perfect end to the day - cocktails at sunset at one of my
favourite restaurants over-looking the ocean.
I've been 'missing-in-action' for a couple of weeks and it's all summer's fault! Everybody is broody and Solly's chickens have been hatching
babies like mad, but the heavy rains and predators have been taking
their toll. One of his hens hatched six little chicks but within a few
days there were only two left.
I suspect a stray cat which I spot every now and then, skulking in the
bushes and behind tyres in the workshop, but have never managed to
befriend it so that I can catch it and take it to the S.P.C.A. Then, to
top it all, the mother suddenly abandoned the two chicks and I found
them woefully calling under one of the shrubs in the garden. I managed
to catch them, fast and wild they are! and brought them inside and, to
my delight, within the hour they thought I was their Mommy! I didn't
expect imprinting to happen so fast as they were already almost a week
Their Mommy did a good job of teaching them to eat the corn and seeds I
put out for Solly's chickens every day because they immediately took to
eating and drinking some water after I showed them where it was.
After having their fill, it was time to settle down for a quick preen and a bit of a roost.
Then a couple of days later, another one of Solly's hens hatched five of the cutest
little chicks, but by the next day there were only four left, the little
black one at the bottom of the photograph being gone.
Early one morning at about 5.30am, in pouring rain, I heard the panicky
calling of a little chick and upon investigating, I saw one of her
little black chicks all alone in the grass outside the garden, soaking
wet and close to collapse - the mother and other chicks were nowhere in
sight. I rushed out into the rain, collected it and rushed back, drying
it off and cupping it in my warm hand while I prepared a hot water
bottle for the basket. It soon warmed up and within half-an-hour it was
preening itself and looking around.
Solly's chickens do have a coop but they are REALLY free-range with only
a few of them choosing to sleep in the coop, the rest wander and nest
all over our property. I normally try not to interfere with 'nature',
but it's impossible for me to see a lost chick and not to rescue it...
So there you have it, taking care of little demanding chicks didn't leave me much time to get round to blogging, it's like being a young mother all over again!
Up-date - The same day I found the little black chick, and still pouring with rain, later in the morning I saw the
Mommy and her three other chicks having some seeds outside my Studio,
so I rushed out, put the black baby down and she fairly attacked me,
gathered the baby under her wing and then herded them all to safety under a canopy and out of the rain. Whoot whoot! Another happy ending and one less baby to take care of! To date, all four are still safe and have grown into beautiful healthy little chicks!
The first two are still in my care, having gotten used to the routine
of sleeping in their basket every night and being let out into the
garden in the morning, calling when they miss me and following me back
to my Studio for a rest and some roosting. I've also taught them the
route to the bathroom court-yard garden and every now and then they
wander over there for a scratch and a sand-bath. But it's a full-time job and I'm just now catching a breather as they prefer to be in the garden scratching around with the other chickens. Seems they will be
joining my girls in the coop shortly...
Unlike in human beings, where many families share a lifetime of existence together, bonds between parents and offspring only last a for few months for many animals.
Verreaux's eagles (black eagles) are no exception. The juvenile that hatched a few months ago at the Walter Sisulu botanical Gardens in Gauteng, South Africa, jealously guarded and fed by its parents, will soon be chased away forever to start a life of its own. The eaglet, dubbed Jabulani, enjoyed all the protection it needed to make it in life. It even had the dubious privilege of killing and eating its own sibling with the ‘approval' of its parents. After several months of learning how to fly and hunt, along with other survival skills, Jabulani's future now depends on her wings.
She took her maiden flight on 13 September 2012 and has been seen taking plunges on some of the canopies. Although she has not yet mastered the art of hunting, all the other features she need have now fell in place - a sharp beak, strong feet with claws as sharp as daggers and wings that will give her total control of the skyline. Her parents will soon chase her out of their Garden territory and she will have to fly away to establish her own territory until she meets a suitable mate who, like her parents, is likely to become a lifetime partner.
For now, her main concerns will be to learn and perfect hunting skills, and gain weight that will be needed for her battles ahead. Verreaux's eagles are capable of eating any small to medium-sized animals and typical prey includes guinea fowl, francolins and dassies (rock hyrax).
On a hot, windy Monday morning in mid-October 2012, the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden staff on a plant survey of the ridge nature reserve areas, took a photograph of a wary francolin which, with another, was making its way along through the low bushes. The pair was identified as Orange River Francolins and had not been previously recorded for this Garden. This brings the francolin and spurfowl species number up to four; Coqui and Red-winged Francolin and Swainson’s Spurfowl having been recorded before.
Orange River Francolin, like most gamebirds, have a varied diet, feeding on bulbs, seeds and insects such as beetles, grasshoppers and termites. The nest is a shallow scrape in the earth made by the female and she broods the chicks when they hatch. Both adults help to care for the chicks.
Info from Walter Sisulu Newsletter
View from my daughter's house
Well, I'm off to the coast tomorrow for a week to Ballito on our North Coast (South Africa), for a week to visit my daughter and grand-children, but I hope to be doing a post or two as I am taking my Samsung Galaxy tablet with me. I've never used it to post anything on Blogger, so will have to see how it goes. Otherwise I'll have lots of pics and news when I get back! Have a great week ahead and remember, "The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but seeing with new eyes." - Marcel Proust
How many of us turn to Nature when it comes to healthy eating and living? I know ALL foods like fruit and vegetables come from nature, but often we buy them after they have gone through strict cleansing and preparation, ready for purchase by us, the public, often with extra additives like bleach to get the potatoes nice and white.
Having a garden sporting a few of your favourite herbs and vegetables is a great way to ensure that you have some healthy, un-treated food at hand, straight from nature to your plate. One of my favourite plants in the garden is Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), which is used as a decorative plant in gardens and has many culinary
and medical uses. The plant is said to improve the memory. The leaves
are used to flavour various foods, such as stuffings and roast meats.
Rosemary is a tonic, astringent, restorative herb that relaxes spasm
and increases the rate of perspiration, while stimulating the liver and
gall bladder. It improves digestion and circulation and controls
pathogenic organisms and has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, spasmolytic,
antioxidant, smooth muscle modulating, analgesic, venotonic, as well as
I have used Rosemary in many ways - for cooking, as a pest repellent in my chicken coop and even as a conditioning rinse after washing my hair. Here is what I do to make the conditioner:
Take 1 cup of coarsely chopped, fresh Rosemary and 1 quart of distilled
water. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let
infuse (soak) for 1 hour. Strain, then add 1 quart of white vinegar to
the liquid. Store in plastic containers and keep in a cool, dark place.
(You may be worried about adding the vinegar, but it acts as wonderful softener for your hair and is also a
preservative. You can make your rinses without it, but then they must be
stored in the refrigerator and used within two days.)
One of my favourite Rosemary recipes is Rosemary-Garlic Cream Cheese Spread :
ROSEMARY-GARLIC CREAM CHEESE SPREAD
1 8-oz. package softened cream cheese (light or regular)
4 Tbsp. sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
2–3 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Fresh mashed garlic to taste
Blend softened cream cheese and sour cream or yogurt in a small bowl;
add lemon juice and blend well. Then add the rosemary and garlic and blend well. I use old cream cheese holders to store mine in the fridge. (They can also make great little gifts for a friend - dress up the container with some string or ribbon and a little card or other accessory that you find beautiful.)
This makes a nice spread for bagels, focaccia bread or other kinds of
flat bread–spread on warm bread, top with some tomato slices, add some
sliced olives, and sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese – yum! You can
use it as a dip for fresh veggies, too–add another teaspoon of lemon
juice to thin it out a little more if using as a dip. I also like to have some Sweet Chilli sauce at hand for added flavour.
I often make myself a cup of Rosemary tea. Containing powerful antioxidants and many vitamins, rosemary tea is easily made by adding 1 tsp. of the dried or fresh leaves to 1 cup of boiled water. Steep for 10 minutes, strain and sip. As it has a strong rather bitter taste, you can add honey if you need a sweeter concoction.
It seems that the ancient art of foraging is in decline but in these
tricky economic times, it makes perfect sense to collect free food from nature. There is much you can do to ensure your own constant supply of 'food from nature', like planting your own vegetable and herb garden, planting a few fruit trees and keeping a few chickens for a constant supply of fresh free-range eggs. Living off nature is one of the greatest pleasures of life!