🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year!

♫♫ A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, 
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn ♫♫
- Edward Payson Powell

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

Can’t wait to connect with you during 2013!


Sunday, 30 December 2012

Companion planting in the garden

“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 organically.

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!
(This recipe from 'AllRecipes.com')

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Season's Greetings 2012!

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!


Saturday, 22 December 2012


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)

Harrismith area

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.


Monday, 17 December 2012

December gifts

. . . tomorrow’s flowers . winter food for hungry birds . shapes and shadows for a grey landscape . something to look forward to . december's delights ...









Wednesday, 12 December 2012

M.I.A. because of lost chicks

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 old.

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...



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