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

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Goodbye 2015

A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine. 
-Anne Bronte

"Golden wheat" - painted with Nescafé instant coffee, strong and black - ©Maree Clarkson

As the year draws to a close, I want to take a moment to thank you for allowing me to be an important part of your daily life. I've immensely enjoyed reading all of your blogs (even though I don't comment much!) and learnt so much and I'm always thrilled when you leave a comment and we can have a bit of discussion.

This year has had it's ups and downs in my garden (I've lost two big trees and a few frost-tender plants) and Mother Nature has taken and given in abundance, both in fauna and flora. I've seen many a brood of baby birds being raised but I've also experienced the loss of the baby Robins and a few of my beloved chooks. But overal-ly it's been a good year and I hope we will all still be together for many more years to come!

And remember, life is short. Laugh regularly and connect with nature - it helps you find peace in your busy life while making the world a better place!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Season's Greetings from my home to yours 2015

My sincerest wishes for hope, happiness and peace during this Holiday Season. May you spend wonderful, happy hours with friends, family and loved ones!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

It's Agapanthus time!

Every summer I look forward to the few Agapanthus (A. praecox) that I have, flowering. I say “few”, because I struggle to grow these beauties in my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa) – too much shade. I have found that they prefer full sun and not too much water.

The evergreen species is indigenous to the winter rainfall Western Cape and all-year rainfall Eastern Cape and shed a few of their old outer leaves every year and replace them with new leaves from the apex of the growing shoot. The deciduous species come from the summer rainfall Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Free State, Lesotho, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Mozambique, and grow rapidly in spring with the onset of the rains, and then lose their leaves completely and lie dormant during winter.

Agapanthus species are easily able to hybridize with each other, particularly when grown in close proximity and as a result, a bewildering array of garden hybrids have arisen.

Insects just absolutely love Agapanthus and the Agapanthus is undoubtedly one of our indigenous botanical treasures. It has been exported to all corners of the earth, but occurs naturally only in Southern Africa, where it grows in the wild in all our provinces except the Northern Cape, as well as in Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique.

I doubt that there is a South African gardener alive that has not come across an Agapanthus somewhere! They line our roads, and are in most gardens and parks, from the tall globular-headed ones to the ever-shrinking dwarf cultivars now available at garden centres. This one above is the smaller praecox minimus species I have in my bathroom court-yard garden.

Here's to another bloomin' blue summer!

. .

Monday, 14 December 2015

Friday, 20 November 2015

They crept into my heart

I must say that, after the Fiscal Shrike (Lanius collaris) killed my Cape Robin-chat's babies to feed her brood of four, I was totally pissed off with her and swore no more interaction with that mean little bird. 

Mean little bird!

But as the days passed and I saw how the parents were struggling to keep up with four hungry little mouths, I broke down and started offering little pieces of minced meat on the feeding table again. The parents were SO thankful and immediately took little pieces, endlessly flying between the four hungry youngsters, who shrieked and flapped their wings in anticipation.

Since they hatched in late September (about 4 weeks ago), they have grown in leaps and bounds and it wasn't long before they would be waiting at the feeding table for me, knowing what's coming. For a while they still preferred Mommy to pick up the pieces and feed them, which she obligingly did but about a week and a half ago I observed her behaviour changing as she with-held the food from them, swallowing it herself and then turning on the shrieking little one, chasing it into the next tree. Mommy was saying, "It's time to leave home, children!"

For a day or two they still tried coaxing Mommy into feeding them, flapping and screeching, to no avail, and soon they were eagerly hopping onto the feeding table as soon as I appeared, hardly giving me a chance to put anything down! I would sometimes have three of them sitting there, helping themselves as fast as I could supply.

I now have them taking little bits of mince straight from my fingers, albeit a quick grab, and retreating to the nearest branch to enjoy it. What a wonderful experience that is! and all the while staring me straight in the eye with absolute trust in their little eyes.

During the day, as soon as I appear in the garden, all four would fly towards me, sitting close-by, intently watching my every move just in case a snack is forth-coming. I only feed them twice a day, early in the morning and again late-afternoon. If I'm in the garden and I don't see them anywhere, I just have to whistle and they're there like a flash.

These little birds are totally fearless, secure in the knowledge of their "raptor" status. When the Thrush or Robin see an insect on the ground and go to retrieve it, they will immediately land at the same spot, and as young as they are, immediately send the Thrush and Robin scurrying away in a hurry.

Little Raptor in the making!

Looking for all the world like a small hawk!

"I'm going to be fierce, can you see?"

These little darlings have crept deep into my heart and will really miss them when they leave (if they leave!), but already this morning only three came to feed. The eldest one has always been a bit more independent, always coming to get food after the fact of the matter and I think it might already have left for greener pastures.  C'est la vie little one!


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Winter is dead

She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head... and whispered to her neighbour, "Winter is dead”.
- A A Milne


Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Daybreak: Make an Important Goal Happen with a Morning Habit

Rainy days in the empty forest.
Smoke rises late as I steam greens
And boil millet to take to the paddies.
Above the foggy waterfields
Fly white egrets
And an oriole sings in
Dense shade of summer trees.
In the mountain I practice silence,
Contemplating morning hibiscus.
I pick hollyhock beneath a pine,
A vegetarian now,
No longer looking for position,
An old man living in the wilds;
Why should seagulls still be wary of me?
- Wang Wei (699-759)  

The sun begins to come up, and the first rays of light begin to shine upon this fresh day.
What do you do with this time?

The most important thing.
If you have a project you want to happen (let’s say you want to write a book), this is the time to form a habit that will make that project happen. A morning writing habit will get the book done. Simply wishing for the book to get written, or saying you’ll do it “someday,” doesn’t make it happen.
If it’s important, you’ll make a morning habit of it:
  • If you want to lose weight, create a morning walking habit. Or morning strength training. Or a healthy breakfast with fruits and veggies.
  • If you want to start a new business, create a morning session where you work on it every morning.
  • If you want to become more mindful during your day, create a morning meditation habit.
  • If you want to work on your relationship with your spouse, have a morning habit of talking about your relationship over coffee.
  • If you want to journal, make it a morning habit.
Why is morning a better time for important habits? Why not afternoons or evenings? Well, I’m biased, because I really love the mornings. I’ve found the time to be quieter, less chaotic, better for reflection and focus.  Nature is at her best early in the morning, showing off her beauty as the sun rises on another perfect day. Some people will work better in the late nights, but I’m usually tired by then. So figure out what time is your magic time — I think for most people that will be mornings, but not all.
There are great habits you can create in the afternoons and evenings too, but I recommend trying a morning habit if you have something important you want to get done.
Make it a habit, and do it first.


Friday, 23 October 2015

I have this dilemma...

I’ve got too many interests.

I love painting and sketching. I love gardening. I love nature. I love succulents. I love my memories. I love chickens. I love books. I’m interested in simple living, I’m interested in the health and well-being of the mind and body and our planet, I like home-made remedies and love deep discussions on religion (or the lack of it) and I love doing various crafts, like making jewellery and every now and then I love a good recipe.

And I’ve got a blog for each one. Seventeen of them to be exact. And a few in Afrikaans. Plus ten that I’ve made private. I love blogging, writing and sharing my interests, and I’m blessed that I do actually have the time, but it’s killing me, trying to keep up with all of them! I feel guilty when I neglect one of them and then will probably end up posting any drivel just so the blog can stay alive.

And you might ask, “Why?! Why so many? Why not just have one blog for all of it?” And I actually do feel a bit silly having so many blogs, even Blogger is getting suspicious, wanting to know whether I’m a Robot when I post a lot! Even though the limit on the number of blogs one can have is 100. I wonder if there is anyone that has reached that limit…?

Well, here’s the thing. I feel that, when I subscribe to a blog, it’s because I’m interested in that particular topic, say for example chickens or art, and if there is all sorts of other random topics included, I probably won’t subscribe. There’s a gardening blog I love, but every now and then (in fact, more often than not!), the lady includes posts on do-it-yourself furniture making and restoration, and I’m not interested in that at all. So eventually I unsubscribed from her blog. And the people that are subscribing to and reading my various blogs are, so I presume, doing it because they’re interested in that particular topic.

So here’s my question - how do you feel about the matter? To do or not to do so many blogs? Should I just have one blog and combine everything in there? Would the regular readers of say, my Nature Journal or my gardening blog, still visit my blog?

I would love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Jewellery inspired by Nature

Did you know that I make jewellery? It started way back in the 1980's, when I used to do stained glass - panels, lampshades, trinket boxes and anything else that could be made out of glass! As you can imagine, one is left with a lot of off-cut glass pieces and I had boxes and boxes full. Racking my brains as to what to do with all this glass, I picked a few small shards and started experimenting with cutting and soldering them together and it turned out that they made beautiful earrings, pendants and brooches!

 Pink stained glass clip-on  earrings with pink dangling beads

Amber stained glass pendant

Blue glass jewel and copper brooch

It wasn't long before my imagination started taking over and, as always, inspired by nature, I started making insect jewellery, mainly as ornaments, but some I fashioned into brooches. Using my 'Insects of Southern Africa' encyclopaedia pictures as reference, I painstakingly crafted each insect using copper, pewter, glass jewels, beads, silver wire and silver solder. Each Goggo/insect can take 3 or more hours to make.

A lot of research goes into making these little creatures. I use photographs for reference, live study where possible and also Google the necessary information regarding their size, habits, lifestyle, etc. Hand-crafting these little animals has taught me so much about nature and given me a new respect for all Mother Nature's beauty.

 Dung Beetle and matching dung ball earrings

The larvae of some dung beetle species are able to produce feint sounds. Some species are horned and all live on dung. The female, having laid an egg, encases it in a ball of fresh dung, which is then buries and serves as food for the larva.

This little Dung Beetle can be used as a brooch


The Tarantula’s appearance is worse than its bite. Tarantula venom is weaker than that of a honeybee and, though painful, is virtually harmless to humans.

Tarantulas periodically shed their external skeletons in a process called moulting. In the process, they also replace internal organs, such as female genitalia and stomach lining, and even regrow lost appendages. Tarantulas sizes range from as small as a fingernail to as large as a dinner plate when the legs are fully extended. Depending on the species, the body length of tarantulas ranges from 2.5 to 10 centimetres (1 to 4 in), with leg spans of 8–30-centimetre (3–12 in).

The underside of the Tarantula - this one could also be fashioned into a brooch by just soldering on a brooch pin

A Leopard Tortoise hand-crafted with a shell, painted with oil paints, with soldered edge and feet. The head is a yellow glass bead.

Southern Africa is very fortunate to have the largest variety of animals in the world. It is home to more than 800 bird species, 150 mammal species, about 50 snake and lizard species, 11 tortoise species and thousands of invertebrate animals like insects and arachnids.

The Leopard Tortoise (or Mountain tortoise - Geochelone pardalis) inhabits a wide range of habitats, from dry Bushveld to moister coastal plains and is the most widely distributed and also the biggest of the 12 species of land tortoise found in Southern Africa. It is believed to take its name 'mountain' tortoise from its size rather than its habitat. ('Leopard' tortoise' comes from the black and yellow blotched patterns on its high-domed carapace.)

Baboon Spider - here I used 2 green glass jewels, silver solder and silver wire

Ground-dwelling, these hairy spiders are among the world's largest, ranging from 2-6cm (body length). Various species exist in South Africa, all of them living in burrows. They have large fangs which can inflict an unpleasant bite but without serious envenomation.

 Hermit crab - here I used a shell, lots of silver solder and silver wire

The underside of the crab

Hermit crabs are decapod crustaceans of the superfamily Paguroidea. Most species have long, spirally curved abdomens, which are soft, unlike the hard, calcified abdomens seen in related crustaceans. The vulnerable abdomen is protected from predators by a salvaged empty seashell carried by the hermit crab, into which its whole body can retract.

Hermit Crabs are very social animals and can live 10 years or more, changing shells, moulting several times throughout their lives and growing up to six inches in length. Did you know that Hermit crabs are sometimes kept as pets? Hermit Crabs are docile and are easy and economical to care for and their crabby antics, like climbing, digging and shell switching are as entertaining as they are educational!

Blue Emperor Dragonfly (Anax Imperator) - blue glass jewel for the thorax and blue glass bead for the head with silver wire wings and abdomen

The Emperor Dragonfly or Blue Emperor, Anax imperator, is a large species of hawker dragonfly of the family Aeshnidae, averaging 78 millimetres (3.1 in) in length. It is found mainly in Europe and nearby Africa and Asia. They frequently fly high up into the sky in search of prey, which includes butterflies, Four-spotted Chasers and tadpoles; small prey is eaten while flying. They breed in a variety of aquatic habitats from large ponds to dykes, but they require a plentiful supply of vegetation in the water. The females lay the eggs into plants such as pondweed, and always lay alone. The male is highly territorial, and difficult to approach.

Paper Wasp - Arthropoda. Order : Hymenoptera. Family : Vespidae
For the throrax and abdomen I used red glass beads and the rest of the wasp is made with silver wire and 
silver solder. Approx. 5cm (2") long.

Sometimes mistaken for a hornet, the larger Paper Wasp is a social wasp, building tube-like nests of a papery material under any convenient shelter. The smaller Paper Wasp builds much larger colonies that are aggressively protected. Larvae feed on paralysed insects.

Button Spider (Latrodectus) - Black glass jewel for the body and silver wire for the legs

The only potentially deadly spider found in South Africa. The male is small and harmless. The female's body is 10-15mm long, black, often with a red marking above the spinneret at the rear of the abdomen. Will only bite if accidentally pressed against the skin.

Inspired by the Eucalyptus trees on our property, a Blue gum leaf made out of copper covered in silver solder and a patina agent added (I use BlackIt) for a vintage look. The other earring is an Indian Silver bead depicting the seeds of the blue gum trees.

Porcupine quill wound with silver wire and soldered for a secure fit. A short dangling silver chain has a glass Mali bead. Pendant hangs from a silver chain, but some leather thonging can also be used for a more natural look.
No animals were hurt during the manufacture. All the quills I use are collected from the veld after porcupines have shed them.

A stained glass panel I made on commission in the early 80's for a game lodge in the Kalahari. Size 3m x 2m.

Another stained glass panel in 3D I did on commission, size 1m x 1.5m.

An amber Stained glass trinket box. Useful for storing jewellery, pens and pencils, tea bags, you name it!

I also use a lot of items from nature for some of my designs, like beach pebbles, stones, wood, feathers, shells and crystals.

An assortment of Rose Quartz crystal pendents.

If you're so inclined, please feel free to visit my jewellery site, "Afrika Street Jewellery", where you will find some other items I make, like cigarette lighter holders, business card holders and all sorts of other items.

Thanks for looking and hope you have a great day!



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