We had a very busy December and January planned – family visiting from America as well as friends and family from South Africa coming to stay at the cottage, all of which meant lots of outings planned and much fun and laughter. There were visits to markets and mountains, seaside pubs and game reserves, the Cango caves and beaches, motorbike trips, boat trips and even another trip on the Powervan in which we laughed just about the whole way up and the whole way down the mountain. (Pics in Gallery under My family and other animals and some nice ones of Andre under Biking)
Everything slid to a dreadful halt just before Christmas when Andre became ill – on Christmas Day the doctors told us that he had Stage 4 lung cancer and lymphoma and very little time to live. The shock was so great that I feel as though I fell into a time warp but we made a decision on Christmas Day to live every day to its fullest. Andre is a fighter but his health has deteriorated rapidly so it has been a period of serious readjustment for us all. My creativity flew out of the window as we have been learning to ‘survive’ day to day, dealing with the challenges that Andre’s illness have thrown at us. One of the biggest readjustments has been not hearing his bike starting up every day as he took it out for a spin – I also miss not being able to ride with him, we had wonderful times on the bike. The National rally for Ulysses is being held in East London in May and we had been hoping to go on that. There is also the Whale Rally in June in Plettenberg Bay which is organized by the local Ulysses guys – for all you bikers out there , go and support them, all the money goes to charity and it is a great rally. You can visit their website on www.whalerally.co.za .
So – yes, much has changed, but it is on a very personal level which I won’t dwell on here. The Pinkhaus blog has always been about our rather quirky house, our animals and our beautiful environment and these things, along with the love of family and friends is what sustains us.
We’ve had so many visitors over the last four months and every time I hear and see their responses to the Pinkhaus and its environs I realize how fortunate we are to live here. There are many evenings and early mornings when I stand on the hillside with my goats and look to the Outeniqua Mountains, breathe in the fresh air and feel that I draw strength and comfort from just being outside, surrounded by the bush.
I have done virtually no planting over the last few months but started again a few weeks ago and enjoyed getting my hands dirty. Although I hadn’t planted anything new we still had a bumper crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, pumpkins, strawberries and tamarilloes. I’ve frozen the excess tomatoes, made strawberry ice cream and strawberry and rhubarb coulis( very yummy) and have made my first batch of tamarillo jam and chutney. The chutney is lovely and the jam is a beautiful deep red. I found a wonderful recipe for pumpkin in one of Madhur Jaffrey’s books which ends up spicy and very tasty (the pumpkin, not the book) and has become a family favourite. Another winner is our paprikas, stuffed with goat’s cheese, drizzled with olive oil then grilled –delicious! I’ve also been experimenting with making feta cheese and am starting to get the hang of it.
We have a new puppy, Dingo who feels it is her duty to help me in the garden so I have to make sure that she is kept busy with something else otherwise she digs up everything I’ve planted. She has a thing for tomato plants and keeps dragging them into the house – I’ve even found tomatoes in my bed! Every area that Dingo decides to settle down to in the house quickly resembles a compost heap – she drags her blanket (or my bath mat, underwear, towels ) to establish a base then reinforces it with plants, rocks, sticks, dead frogs, snakes, birds and lizards, bones and assorted bits of plastic and shoes. Lost my glasses, my cell phone, cell phone charger – all found in her ‘stash’ looking decidedly the worse for wear. As a result of her behaviour we’ve lifted all the carpets, the remains of the hifi, barricaded all the side rooms and everything we own is on top of a shelf – we look like we’re squatting in our own house but hopefully, as with most pups, it will be a passing phase!
When Dingo first arrived she was quite wild as she’d come from a big farm in the Karoo and was used to running around with a pack of hounds. Initially she would hardly let me touch her and hated going in the car so when I took her to her first Puppy Socialization class she had the poor teacher despairing of us both. I had great faith in her though because I know how bright her mother and father are and she hasn’t let me down. She walks well on her leash now and loves going to ‘school’ to learn new tricks. Granted she does think that my head is the best place to sleep at night and no matter how many times I throw her off the bed she makes a sneak assault from another direction and I waken with her draped around my head. It’s hell on my hair. She has brought us a great deal of pleasure though as we’ve watched her blossom into an affectionate little pup. I also love taking her outside at night for her ‘last wee’ before bed – the nights are refreshingly cool now and the stars so bright. Dingo invariably ends up chasing a frog around the lawn in the dark. A friend who came to visit gave me a set of solar lamps to light the pathways in the garden and they have proved to be wonderful frog magnets. In the dark there are often a little circle of frogs of varying sizes sitting around the lights like so many boy scouts around a bonfire. Obviously insects are attracted to the lights and make for easy pickings. I love to watch the frogs and expect them to all start singing the frog song – remember the one that went “Bom,bom,bom; baayayah;bom, bom, bom – win or lose, sink or swim, one thing is certain we’ll never give in’! Ben has taken well to Dingo but I’m afraid Sputnik the cat still does not entirely approve of her.
The chickens and goats are all doing well. I had an excess of chicks so advertised them for sale and was delighted when they were bought by a farm nursery school. At the moment we have three chicks who are starting to approach laying age. They were named Darkie, Whitey and Cheepy by my grandchildren – a rather unfortunate choice, I thought, considering the dark history of our country, but – the children refused to rename them.
My goats are an enigma at the moment – all the goats in the area seemed to come into season very early this year and I thought that my girls were all pregnant. We had sold the males as they were starting to become quite bolshie when they hit puberty. Then, lo and behold, three days ago Lolly started bawling her head off at the gate and the others joined in. This wouldn’t have been a problem were it not for the fact that I have a couple staying in the cottage who had wanted to get away to the ‘peaceful’ countryside – goats bawling day and night were not on the agenda!( Re-reading this I realize that many of you may not know that she goats bawling at the gate means they want a mate and they want him NOW!) I phoned my neighbour but her boys are all gone, then I remembered that the husband of the doctor’s receptionist had been walking around the village a few months ago with a baby goat. Went to see her and was sent in the direction of the local pharmacist whose eyes lit up when I asked him if he had a ram he could spare. (Don’t you just love village life – imagine doing this in a city!) He felt under the counter and produced a thick photo album of all his beautiful goats. His goats are mostly boerbokke and he has a Kalahari Red and a Savanna. To cut a long story short he very kindly came to fetch me, took me to his farm which is in the middle of Botlierskop and absolutely beautiful and I spent a while roaming over a hillside with two strange men watching rams perform their duties until I saw one I liked (Of necessity, he was the one with the longest legs - my girls are tall!). This was then delivered to my doorstep later in the day by the farm manager. Country life is fantastic. My girls took one look at the ram and shut up but they don’t appear to have DONE anything with him so I really don’t know if they’re in season, pregnant or just straight naughty. On my way back from my visit to the farm I stopped in to visit a neighbour and must have smelt really interesting because her Alsatian cocked it’s leg and peed up mine! It was so funny and my neighbour was so embarrassed that I was helpless with laughter.Eau de randy goat – funky!
During the Christmas holidays my brother and niece caught some baby tilapia in the big dam and we put them into the smaller dam next to the swimming pool. They cleared the dam of all the algae then I started feeding them and they are growing beautifully. Yesterday a little boy came to visit with his mum and was delighted when I showed him how to knock on the walls of the concrete dam to ‘call’ the fish before feeding them – they are quite impressive as they bubble to the surface in a feeding frenzy.
Well – it’s full moon tonight, the naguile are singing their hearts out and it’s another beautiful night. Sleep tight.
P.S. The Pinkhaus is featured in the latest Stitches magazine- a lovely article written by Melanie Brummer. Also there is a lovely pic of a little bat I found in the Gallery under Fauna.