From mid November all our year end functions with different groups of friends started to kick off. I was fortunate to visit and have meals at a number of different venues in the area. My favourite was lunch at Eight Bells, a lovely old fashioned country hotel at the foot of the Robinson Pass where I had an excellent Ploughman’s Platter and a lot of laughs with the ladies from the Great Brak Craft group.
One morning before leaving for breakfast with friends I was horrified to discover that two of my hens had been killed during the night. There was nothing left of a black hen but a few feathers and my biggest brown hen was wedged in the doorway of the shed where her attacker had tried to drag her out. The rest of the hens were totally traumatized and it was clear from the scene inside the hen house that a civet had broken in and gone on a rampage. We immediately moved them down to the goat’s enclosure which is also closer to the house – I felt so terrible because I hadn’t heard a thing during the night although Jack had been barking. I cut short my breakfast and Andre and I spent the next three days modifying enclosures and ‘civet-proofing’ them. It kept the civet from my hens but a week later it went to my neighbour and killed five of his brood hens. He caught and killed the civet – I have mixed feelings about him having done that but I can understand how he felt.
The chicken killing set me back time wise because in total it took four full days to relocate the chickens and then modify the old hen house for the goats to move into. I had carefully planned my days because we had the dyeing workshop early in December, we were expecting a lot of visitors plus I had a market every Saturday from the end of November until January 8. All the plans had to go on hold as we had to get the chickens settled quickly because they were all at point of lay – eventually they were all sorted out and are now laying beautifully.
The goats took all the building and moving in their stride, in fact they seemed to enjoy all the action. They are so affectionate and inquisitive that we would often end up helpless with laughter when they became too involved with the building process. I would be trying to nail planks into a crate and they’d be hopping on and off the crate, mock head butting me, eating my hair and just generally getting in the way. They know my voice and if they hear me they start to call – I really am very fond of them.
A little grysbok and a lone guinea fowl have moved into the goats’ enclosure. I don’t know why the grysbok has that name – it is a beautiful russet colour. She is quite bold and just ignores me when I go into the enclosure. A big rhebok male and two does appeared on the property and they seem to have moved into the ravine, I hear them grunting down there. I’d wondered how they got in and out of our property as we have 6 foot fencing all round until I saw all three of them clear the fence with great ease. There are now two mongooses living under the deck – our granddaughter, Jenna, informed me that there were ‘cute kittens ‘ eating the dog food one day, I suppose they do look a little like cats. The vervets have three babies, the guinea fowl, ten chicks and, despite our best efforts to deter them, the sparrows have hatched out a second batch of babies in the dining room.
The fynbos continues to surprise me – I thought it only flowered in winter but there are still new plants flowering every week and they are so diverse. My favourites at the moment are blue cornflowers which flower anew and die every day, the colour is so intense.
The evolution of the dam is a constant source of joy for me, I can’t wait to get down there every day when we walk the dogs to see what’s new. There have been lovely rains in the area so we run all the overflow from our tanks down to the dam and it’s now holding about 250 000 litres. Initially, whenever it rained and a little water would flow into the dam and stir up the water and soil, tall grass would grow. Later when the wind blew it would topple over and eventually all the grass formed into floating islands which started to support small animal life. The turtle and snake came and went, leeches abounded and then the frogs came. There are now hundreds of platannas and pointy nosed frogs swimming around. On the island there is a huge orange spider who has a nest full of eggs, on the water blue and red dragonflies, water skaters and water beetles dance over the surface. We introduced roughly 130 tilapia fingerlings into the dam about 10 days ago and they are thriving. If they grow successfully we may consider farming with them as we certainly have the facilities to do so (the previous owner of the Pinkhaus bred Koi fish and there are huge tanks, ponds and filtration systems in place).
Our vegetables and strawberries have been abundant, everyone who visits goes away with something; strawberries, tomatoes, bunches of herbs and Pak Choi, beans, eggs and the cream cheese that I make. I took all the grandchildren to a neighbouring farm to watch cows being milked, then we skimmed all the cream off the milk we bought and they all had a chance to make their own cream cheese – they were very pleased with themselves. Strawberries and cream are also a favourite for breakfast.Our potatoes have been lovely too and all our excess cauliflowers, broccoli and cabbage are given to the goats – they love them.
On the craft front the Dyeing workshop run by Samantha Gross on 6 December was a success. I thoroughly enjoyed learning the different techniques and everyone was so excited at the end of the class to open up their tied fabric to see their colourful ‘creations’. Samantha has written a Guest blog on the class. We experimented these holidays with Lino cutting and Mono printing as well as Flower bashing. Sounds dreadful I know but we achieved some lovely effects on fabric with a selection of plants from the garden. I also managed to finish a simple baby’s quilt and have two more on the table.
From the end of November our visitors started arriving from all over the country – some just for a day visit and others, like our children and grandchildren for up to two weeks at a time. At present we have a family from Bloemfontein renting the cottage for a week.
Having the kids here was good fun- they are always up to something which made us laugh. They built themselves a ‘car’ from an old packing crate and car parts that they’d found at the dump when I went to dump garden refuse. At the crack of dawn they’d be off in their pajamas, picking handfuls of tomatoes on the way for breakfast, and then they’d pile into ‘Chitty Bang Bang’ and head off around the world in their imaginations. I don’t know why we bother with Christmas presents. Two of the children played for days with a few strips of blue tape from around the packing case – tying things and each other up, dancing with it, fishing from the deck with it and trying to catch their great granddad whilst he was eating breakfast.
Our youngest grandchild, Abi, found a drowned blue headed skink in the goats’ water trough, decided she ‘loved’ it and insisted on carrying it around all day. That day the children decorated the Christmas tree and Abi felt that the dead lizard would enhance the decorations. The corpse was placed at the bottom of the tree on a brick but fortunately a ‘miracle’ occurred overnight and it disappeared. We told Abi that it had just been playing dead and had gone home to his mum.
What we hadn’t realized when we moved here is how popular this area is as a holiday destination. We have had so many friends visiting from up country – it’s been good to see them all and to catch up on their news. We’ve had to do so many guided tours of the Pinkhaus that I’m thinking of starting to charge.
After the long holidays and all the ‘kuiering’ and partying Andre and I have a fair amount of catching up to do around the property- the weeds in the driveway are spectacular and I don’t think we can get away with categorizing them under our ‘bid to conserve the fynbos’ any more. Still – all in good time.
I trust that everyone who reads this has a wonderful 2011 and we hope to see some of you in the coming year. Don’t forget to look at the photos under the different tabs. Till next time.