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

Saturday, 16 November 2019

The Bliss of life on a smallholding

Kentucky in the middle of his moult
Life on a farm or smallholding is certainly exciting and out-of-the-ordinary, to say the least. The thrill of having a big tract of land at one’s disposal conjures up images of green fields, herds of cows, goats, sheep or whatever and neat, tidy and sturdy fences keeping everybody organised and in their place, sheds for lots of storage and the farm cat lazily strolling around on the look-out for those pesky rodents. The (old) tractor and trailer is loading and moving bales of food and the sprinklers are gently wetting the earth and getting everything to grow, grow, grow into MONEY!
For the lady of the farm, there are images of a rambling, yet comfortable, old farmhouse with chimneys and wrap-around porches, rolling green lawns and a herb garden close to the kitchen. Home-made butter, full cream Jersey milk, home-made bread and fresh garden vegetables are first on the list of things to do.

And of course, there have to be chickens (for Sunday lunch – except we can’t slaughter Kentucky, the rooster, because he’s such a character, or his wife Hendrina, because she’s so sweet, or Betsy and Babs because they're best friends...) and eggs for breakfast, to go with the home-made bread. You might have a couple of pigs (for the bacon – just not Miss Piggy because we reared her with a bottle) and then the kids want some rabbits, because there will be lots of carrots to feed them.

So now the vegetable garden has become a priority (after all the pens for chickens, pigs, rabbits, goats and sheep have been erected). And after all the beds have been properly prepared, fertilized and planted, at great expense, the first seedlings start showing their heads. Your next priority is a scarecrow or SOMETHING to keep away all the birds destroying the seedlings (after you have put up bird feeders all over the garden to attract garden birds!).
The vegetables are ready to be harvested and suddenly you find that EVERYTHING is ready at the same time! You now have 20 bags of cabbages, thousands of carrots (the rabbits can’t keep up! even though the original two have now become 11), enough beetroot for several restaurants (a business opportunity?), every shelf and drawer of the refrigerator is packed with tomatoes and you have enough green beans and peas for six months. And family and friends can’t understand why they have to pay for “free” vegetables from your own garden!
You also have so much milk and butter and cream now, that you decide this is definitely worth the trouble of selling it. You spend your mornings in the ‘bakkie’ (pick-up) delivering milk (which has to be in an utterly bacteria-free bottle otherwise it goes sour within a couple of hours, so you spent the whole of last night sterilizing bottles and getting up early was a nightmare) … and there’s still so much to do when you get back … The chickens and rabbits have to be fed (and there’s a hole in the fence so the rabbits are all in the vegetable garden), the milk from the cows that were milked at dawn has to be de-creamed (for the butter), the butter has to be made and bottles sterilised once again – and some of the neighbours never left their bottles out, so you actually have to rush to town as well to buy a dozen more. And the local market where you established a contact for selling some of your vegetables expects their delivery before 7.30am. You suddenly remember that you also have to be back in time for the truck collecting the pigs you sold because everybody at home suddenly had an aversion to bacon and besides, nobody wanted the job of cleaning the pig sties … besides, the tractor broke down last week, so the trailer couldn’t be loaded with all the muck to be taken away – will have to wait a while now …

You’re sitting on your wrap-around porch, exhausted, having a well-deserved cup of tea, admiring your green fields and neat fences and your heart swells with pride and gratitude – this is ALL YOURS! No matter all the hard work and early mornings – you now have a steady income from the vegetable garden, which has grown to three times its size, and the milk and butter, and the kids are enjoying the new pony enormously. You have learnt what to cut down on (like rabbits, for instance) and everybody has fallen into a comfortable routine, knowing exactly what needs to be done when.
Your thoughts stray to a new idea – how about a strawberry patch? Surely there’s a big market for strawberries – and mushrooms, maybe …?

“Whatever you put your attention on gets energy from you and grows.”


Sunday, 15 September 2019

Here comes the rain...

Here comes the rain 
 Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you?

 Photo credit : Unknown

Thursday, 8 August 2019

The life of our Planet...

... Planet Earth will not be able to exist longer than four years without them...

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Guide to bees

Most of us have been there, sitting in a park or on our porch, enjoying the beautiful summer day and a refreshing cold drink, when suddenly an unidentified flying bugger approaches. Is it a bee? Is it a wasp? We’re just not sure!

So here's that long-awaited comprehensive guide to all those yellow stripey things!

P.S.: Please note, the Honey Bee can only sting once, after which it dies. So please be careful and try not to get stung, you will be saving someone's life! 

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Peace and love...

Photo by Joe Neely 

Did you know that bees sleep between five and eight hours a day, sometimes in flowers? Also, they like to sleep with other bees and hold each other’s feet.  😍

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

She taught me to yodel! 🎢🎡🎡🎢🎢🎡🎡

This is the effect my singing had on Snoodles, my pet hen! I was softly crooning to her (or so I thought!) and her response was opening her mouth wide and letting out the most ear-piercing, awful squawk! Luckily I had my camera at the ready but I’ve decided I’ll keep my singing to the shower!

Aaaaah, how I miss my Snoodles…

Monday, 17 June 2019

What a wonderful find! - Hawk Moth Caterpillar

Hawk moth caterpillar in a pot of Arum Lilies, now stripped of their leaves - Pic taken in my daughter's garden in Ballito, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

This is the caterpillar of the Hawk moth, (family Sphingidae), also called sphinx moth or hummingbird moth, sitting on the left-over stalk of an Arum Lily. Butterflies and moths, as innocent as they appear, have a definite sting in the tail. To enjoy their intricate colours, their delicate dips and swings across the sun-kissed garden and their evening hovering among scented blooms, we have to live with their myriad off-spring which chomp, chew and generally deface our carefully tended plants, shrubs and trees.

Silver-striped Hawk moth (pic from "Butterfly conservation")

One of the most voracious of these is the caterpillar of the Hawk Moth, which can strip a plant of all its leaves in a matter of days. The Arum lily is one of the host plants for Hippotion celerio, commonly known as the Silver-striped Hawk Moth or Grape Vine Hawk Moth. This is an exceptionally handsome, neat looking moth with a wingspan of 76 mm and longitudinal pale brown and olive-brown stripes along the body and wings. The Arum lily is one of the host plants for this moth. These moths are widespread and abundant in Africa, breeding along the North and East coast and subsequently colonising southern Europe.

Hawk moth caterpillar in a pot of Arum Lilies, now stripped of their leaves - Pic taken in my daughter's garden in Ballito, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

This resident moth flashes reddish-brown patches on under-wings if disturbed. The wings can sometimes have a pinkish/purplish tinge. Adult, with a wingspan of 6.5 - 9cm, can be seen flying between May and early August.

Hawk Moth caterpillars are medium to large in size, with stout bodies and five pairs of legs. Usually the hawk moth caterpillars’ bodies lack any hairs (he/she was beautifully smooth to the touch!, and most species have a ‘horn’ at the posterior end (seen in the top photograph). Many are greens and browns, and have counter-shading patterns that help to conceal them. 

Female hawk moths lay translucent greenish, flattened, smooth eggs about the size of a tomato pip. These are usually laid singly on host plants and take between 3 to 21 days to develop. Most species are capable of producing several generations each year if weather conditions suitable.

The eggs hatch out into pale green caterpillars about a centimeter long. They hide under the leaves during the day but eat ravenously and grow at an alarming rate at night. As they grow their colour darkens darkens slightly and they lie along the upper stem of the arum where they blend perfectly.

A week or so later the teeny, cute little green caterpillar will be  staunch 7 or 8 centimeters long, turn brown and descend to the base of the plant where once again it will blend perfectly with its surroundings. Here it may spend the day in hiding, creeping up during the night to continue its depredations.

Next morning - Hawk moth caterpillar resting on the edge of the plant pot

The damage to the arum lilies was the loss of their leaves which admittedly hindered their growth but they recover. To save your Arums, visit them regularly and check for eaten leaves and along the stems, where you will find the culprits.

Before you go on the rampage, consider the results of your actions.


So now it's up to you. You may decide to pick off and destroy both the eggs and the caterpillars, but bear the results of this action in mind: birds will find less food in your garden and may leave to find food elsewhere, night blooming flowers will not be pollinated and bats will be deprived of a protein packed 'snack on the wing'.

Although appearing delicate, the eggs are surprisingly strong and difficult to crush.
Pic from Kumbulu Nursery

Saturday, 11 May 2019

I'm missing my Nature Journal...

I'm really missing "my" Nature ... I'm missing my old garden and "my" birds and all the little mammals and insects I used to interact with. I miss my wildlife pond, I miss my potting shed and I miss digging and getting my hands dirty in the soil. I miss my early-morning walks in "my" bluegum bush and I miss identifying the various weeds I used to see coming up among the rolling fields of Eragrostis (Weeping love grass). I miss Mollie ("my" resident Mole Snake in my garden) and I miss the flocks of Guinea fowl and unexpectedly coming upon Hedgehogs and tortoises passing through our property.

I miss my various "useless" collections like feathers, terracotta pots, my succulent and cactus collection, twigs and leaves, seeds, fallen birds' nests, various droppings from little buck passing by (yes, I used to collect their droppings!), stones, pebbles and rocks, small rodent and reptile skeletons I used to find on my walks and I dearly miss my Chooks - Snoodles, Kiep, Chi-Chi, Kentucky, Micky, Missy and Mr. Brown. The only chickens I have seen in 18 months are those when we had coffee at Burnedale Farm and Restaurant here in Ballito when we went there for breakfast.

And I hear you you asking, so why don't you collect and dig in the soil and discover new things on your early-morning walks? The answer is simple - I have not had a garden for the past 18 months (luckily that is soon to change) and I've spent my time exploring vistas like the ones above and below.

I'm slowly starting to identify with the trees and plants of the coast, like the beautiful Fever Trees (Vallechia xanthaphloe, above, one of the beloved thorn Trees I never managed to get growing in my previous garden because it was too cold, this is decidedly a coastal and hot climate tree.

I have also managed to establish a new little succulent collection and some of them will find a home in the ground in our new place we are moving to. And in the pipeline is a whole new collection of terracotta pots!


Saturday, 12 January 2019

Adieu, Not Goodbye

People may enter our lives through many different doors -
Some stay forever, while others only pause.
Did they happen here by chance? Or was it really fate?
Their impact is not always known until a later date.

Some accept the loss, while others continue to feel pain -
We need to reflect on the positive, in order to see the gain.
Our children leave eventually and go their separate way;
After having explored a bit they might come back some day.

 Often we will connect with that special love or friend -
It could last forever or have an unjust end.
A sudden departure may signal a change has just occurred;
It may trigger sadness and leave our vision blurred.

Understand that sometimes separations might be for the best -
True love and friendship can endure emotion's greatest test.
Just say Adieu for today, there is no need for blame -
special people will remember more than just your name ...

Should they not return, understand they still may care -
Remember, life is always changing, not everything is fair.
~ Robert Beau


Saying goodbye to the old year is actually saying hello to the new year. And in this year ahead of us, we will meet new people, we will experience triumph and failure and we will love and hate. But most of all, we will live our daily lives as before, maybe better, if we can remember to tread softly on this earth, respect all living creatures and most of all, teach our children to respect all living creatures.


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