Sunday, April 13, 2014

Back to basics

Everyone looses perspective sometimes. We also get overwhelmed and stressed. Sometimes we are to blame because we try to do too much, when we don't count the cost, in time or money, before committing to a new project or simply because life throws a series of curveballs at you for whatever reason.

I have come out of a very fulfilling but tiring time of 8 weeks of giving and giving and giving. The job is done and now I need to pick up the pieces of my life again and find the lovely rhythm of my days, weeks and seasons.

The only way I know how to do this is by getting back to basics.

First I prune back my life which includes our children's commitments outside of the home, I say no to more things for myself that would draw me away from my first priorities - which in my life are time sitting at the feet of my Lord Jesus, connecting with my husband, mentoring my children in their different stages of life, guiding their education needs, being busy in my home growing then preparing the right food for us and finding a place to just breathe.
This process started over the last two weeks and today has found me at home on Sunday with nothing on my to do list and the freedom to rest, sleep, read...or type a blog post! :)

Things that have slipped through my fingers this year has been making sure the basics are attended too. No soap was made, no bread made, and because I refuse to eat the toxic shop bought breads, no bread eaten either. Meal plans were not done and garden planning, sowing and planting not attended to. Cupboards and drawers were in a shambles, and the chaos and time wasting that resulted from this was frustrating.

Soap cooling slowly. I will cut it tomorrow. This gives us enough bars for 3 months.

Getting back to basics allows me to see what is important and what I value and how much a simple thing like making soap or bread, or having orderly shelves, means to my family as well.

So today I made Down To Earth's plain lovely rich soap. This will cure for 5 weeks and be ready for use. A similar soap that I buy at the Earth Fair market costs R20 per bar. I can make soap for 18 of the same size bars at R20 for all 18!

These are some we made two weeks ago and were never filled. Sam made another 3 trays on Friday.

Making sure that I have newspaper pots for seed sowing is also something I got going again this week and we have 5 beer boxes of pots ready for seeds which I will sow this week.

My mom gave us this Can-O-Worms in 2008 and it is still working well.

Our wormery also needed attention as we use the worm tea all the time for our fruit trees and strawberries. Switching around the trays and feeding the worms was also on the agenda.
Each Tuesday Superman fetches 3x25 litres of water from Newlands Spring for our drinking and cooking.

One of our water bottles that we use to collect spring water has had green algae growing on the sides and allow strong vinegar water to stand in it for a day or two will solve this.

What a joy to move quietly and smoothly through my day doing some simple tasks that reap huge rewards.

What simple tasks do you enjoy that "ground" you in your home?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Slow Living 2014 - March

And we blinked then March was over. It was time to take out jerseys in evenings and warm slippers at night. The rain we have had this month is winter rain - days of drizzle - not Autumn wind. But there were lots of highlights to March, even though it whizzed by in a blur. Linking up with Christine at Slow Living Essentials for her monthly review.


I have really trying to work on my wastage (and waist-age :)) and use up what we have in the garden. As it gets seasonally wetter and wetter from now on I know I will loose a lot of my herbs. Basil is finding its way into lots of meals as is thyme. We have started working through our huge pile of butternuts and the best way to do this was to simply roast one every now and again when the oven was on. One large butternut can be split into two meals - our favourite is a gorgonzola and butternut pasta and another a chickpea and roasted butternut filling for rootis (chapatis). I also pureed one and made it into flapjacks and served with a fried egg and sage for breakfast - so yummy.


Nothing in the bottling jarring way...chilies need to be picked and pickled this weekend and I need to make two batches of soap.


It is cupboard cleaning time in our home. With a week (only) of school holidays each kiddo needed to clean out their cupboard (3 have) and give me old clothes to give away.


Two things come to mind...flies have been a never ending pest this past summer. A friend told me about Ecomist which is a spray that you can get which once installed releases a natural pyrethrum spray which repels flies, mosquitoes and other pests. We had one installed and have reduced our file visitors by 90%.

The other thing she told me about was Triple Orange's Wonder Gel which we now use for all our cleaning and dishwashing. After years of vinegar and bicarb I have made a switch. I love the fresh orange smell and it really does a good job of cleaning our home.


Quite honestly, if it wasn't for Sam, right now my garden would be bare, however, I have turnips, carrots, brinjal, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and beets growing. My garden plans are done and this Friday when Sam gets here he will sow our seeds in newspaper pots for our winter garden.


The other day I took my one and only hand knitted socks from the cupboard and longed to get back into knitting. The moment passed in a flash {grin} was I know I just do not have the time to dedicate to any project. I create food (as I have said before) and I need to be content in this season.


Well...allow me to bend the boundaries of this category a little - I have discovered the power of social media i.e. Facebook and how it can be used for wise purposes. I tried it out in 2012 and hated every moment there. 2014 saw me needing to reach a wide audience for our Franskraal Ferals and I sucked in my breath and tried it again. I will share the success of this in the enhance category. But through Facebook I met up with my cousins who I hadn't seen in over 20yrs and we got together for lunch. I have reconnected with old church buddies and been able to peep into their lives. This time Facebook has been a pleasure. Will I be there forever? Not sure, but it has certainly done what it needed to do.


Last month I shared about our fundraising campaign for the feral cats. The project is a go ahead and the massive trap, sterilise and release program will run from the 7th - 11th April. We have raised over R25 000 for this and the community that has sprung up around this need has been astounding.


So much to enjoy this month...In order of happenings:

Watching my son waltz through the first phase of his Gr 12 and passing with everything above 80%.

My 15 year old daughter dressing up in a glamorous evening gown and attending one of her closest friends Matric (prom) dance.

My younger son's 12th birthday - this turned into two parties! One a pizza evening making pizzas in a wood burning oven an the other swinging from treetops at Acrobranch.

My Mom and Dad visiting after not seeing them since October.

Picnicking at the gorgeous Bishops Court Community Garden where they have reclaimed the Liesbeeck River from its polluted canalised state.

My adopted feral cat allowing me to pick him up and hold him.

When I write this out I have a sense of needing to take another deep breath, but while busy and a whirlwind, I am alive and kicking and very very grateful for this week of school break. How was your month?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Round about on our little patch of Earth

Things have been rather kitty-fied around here for a while...

Getting school done is hard when you have cats on your books.

Old Boy Buster spends a lot of his time sleeping but is still confined to the few rooms and isolated from the other animals. He takes up a lot of my time in the evening which used to be gardening time with the other cats :) but its just a season. I think.

Even so, a few things are growing and healthy, mainly thanks to Sam.  This past Friday he prepared the asparagus for winter by cutting them back and composting the ground around. He has also tenderly nurtured the beets, carrots, turnips and spinach he planted 4 weeks ago.

Our coop is done and really nice now...big enough for me not to fret if the girls don't go out for a day. They just wander around and sand bathe, scratch and eat what we give them. They are shut up snug and tight and with winter pushing in on the fronts of the breeze I am glad we made this choice.

And joy of joys - after 5 years of trying to find just the right spot for a granadilla, the 7th and 8th plants I have tried are growing beautifully.

 Little bits and pieces of our are you doing?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

It's never wrong to love....

This is what a friend told me when I was in tears a few weeks ago about our Buster boy's future. Having taken him from the only environment he knew for the last 7 - 10 years we brought him to our home in the suburbs. A house with doors, dogs, other cats, chickens, cars in the street and a busy family.

Buster when we met him
Of course we expected that he would struggle to adjust but when he just stopped urinating and ended up at the vet for a week, without hope of gaining bladder control again, I was devastated. Then all the thoughts went through my mind:

"Did we do the right thing?"

"Should we have left him there?"

"Could we have supported him from afar?"

We had made the decision that there was simply no way we could leave this sick old chap there to die under a bush. He crept into our cottage and hearts the first night we were there and that is where he has stayed.

So my longest standing friend told me its never wrong to love.

We asked everyone we knew in our little network and with filtering the suggestions hit on a winning ticket to take him outdoors 3x a day once we had locked up all the other animals. We haven't looked back.

While it is still a way to go to getting him integrated into the existing animal family here we make a little progress everyday.

Buster now

Can you send a little love his way by supporting his offspring who will continue to live the lives of feral cats?

1. Like our Facebook page and send the link on to your networks
2. Deposit funds into our bank account - even R10 counts towards the total for sterilisations of the cats: Capitec Bank 1373312554 Branch Code: 470010 Account name: Frans Ferals
3. Take a pledge at our crowd funding campaign and claim your gift.

Thank you
Wendy, Buster and The Young Ones.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Slow Living Essentials Monthly 9 Link up - February 2014

Gosh I miss blogging about the small things in my life - food, gardening, food, discoveries, food :)

Here is a little of what has been going on around the homestead recently as I link up at Christine's Slow Living Essentials.

January ended with my 44th birthday being celebrated in our traditional way far from the maddening crowds. We treated ourselves to lunch at Mariana's in Stanford which was superb. They grow all their own veggies, source local cured meats and cheeses and wines. Really good eating.

February started with our 23rd wedding anniversary while away and was an amazing time where we could really connect again away from the hustle and bustle of our very busy lives. This being said, in my quiet moments I know that this busy season will pass one day and we will again live the slow life we enjoyed.

Food eaten this month was cooked from three sources - my children's free range meat business, our garden and Earth Fair Market Tokai pickings. Seeing that I am there every Saturday morning to set them up to sell their meats I just do a quick spin around the market and chat to the sellers and buy what I can. Fresh breads from the baker, organic veggies I can't grow from Shaun, other veggies from Michelle, smoked mackerel from the fishmonger, smoked Chorizo from Rudi...20 minutes and my shopping for the week is done.


This month saw me making granadilla butter as a friend kindly gave me 4 shopping bags full of fruit!

My sons made 8 batches to sell at the market. A jar sells for R25 and can be used on ice-cream, in tarts, on scones or muffins...we enjoy it by the teaspoon too :)

I also made fig preserve from our figs. This tree was transplanted from the front garden two years ago & is happy in its sunny spot.

Dill and coriander seeds were harvested, lemon verbena dried for tea and curry leaves from our small tree dried and stored.

Pumpkin vines were removed and the 30 butternut and 5 pumpkins stored in the pantry.

We decided it was time to fix up our chicken coop. Our coop was long but not high and now that the kids are all big we needed to make something that they could walk into upright and clean easily. We broke down the previous two we had made over the last 5 years and reused the wood to make this one below. We also moved the Wendy House to be their overnight roosting space. This shed has been in our family for 17years and has been variety of things from a little girl's playhouse to a garden shed and now a chicken house. 
I have for a long time desired more hands in the garden. With my eldest working three jobs, my son busy with his GED and my daughter busy with her Gr 9 and a big workload I new the the work would be too much for me and my littlest. An answer to prayer came in the form of Sam, a young Malawian man. Sam is a well spoken experienced gardener who I can trust to work carefully in the vegetable garden. He cleaned out all the summer plants that were spent, dug and raked over the beds and sowed the following: beets, red onions, brown onions, carrots, turnips and beet.

I also designed and made my herb garden that I have been planning for a long time. I hope to blog about it soon.

While on our recent holiday to just outside Gansbaai in the Western Cape we stumbled onto a desperate situation that we couldn’t ignore. This old chap arrived on our chalet doorstep the first night and then spent the next week with us, and we brought him home for medical care and have made him part of our family along with another teen kitten. 

While there we cared for him as best we could as he had gooey eyes, battle wounds and was very thin. We contacted the resort manager to find out if there were vets in the area that we could get aid from and he told us that his wife had been fighting an ongoing battle for 5 years for the 250 feral cats that live at the resort.

With no help from the local community she has tried to raise funds for sterilization and for a feeding scheme but to no avail. She cares for 19 cats directly who feed at her home each day, have their babies in her back garden which now houses a kitten nursery and self medicates then after fights or other illness.

We have now teamed up to come up with a proper solution to the problem and I have an appeal to all who read this blog. We need to sterilise all 250 cats. Animal Rescue Organisation will do the cats for R250 per cat. This involves spending a week there, trapping, sterilising, giving rabies injections and releasing.

We need to set up a feeding scheme where any funds left over or collected after the sterilisation campaign can be allocated for food. Permanent residents around the resort will be given the food to feed to the cats that are already eating scraps at their homes.

Any further funds collected will go into a separate budget for medical needs. Many of these cats have FIV, Chlamydia and Snuffles. Besides for this, there are territory wars between male cats. And sadly some uncaring people trap and hurt the cats.

Even readers in other countries can help out by depositing funds either into our account or via Thundafund here:

Donate directly into our bank account: Capitec Bank 1373312554 Branch Code: 470010 Account name: Frans Ferals Savings Account

I know there are so many causes that are greater and nobler than this, but this is the one that is before us now.  You can follow the happenings with this community endeavour here on Facebook. You can also help drive traffic to the crowd funding page by putting this code in your side bar for the next 42 days until the deadline arrives: 

So that is the month that was! Hope to be back here blogging regularly soon. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Can you help?

Yes, you can! Please share this link on Facebook, Twitter, email and any other way so that we can reach our target...

We have until March to raise the funds for the remaining sterilisations of this feral cat community. The first 20 were done today and now we have another 230 to go!

Monday, February 3, 2014

New things on the horizon...

We have just returned from a wonderful holiday. It took us about 5 days to unwind and get to that lovely peaceful place that reminds us that we live life at a pace that we cannot maintain without breathing space.

While there we stumbled onto a situation (if you are on Facebook please go and like Franskraal Ferals page) that is going to require my attention for a few months so I will not be blogging for a while. I will be back, but as this is a big year for schooling my children, business plans and other developments, it is only fair that something is shelved for a while. In assessing priorities blogging here has to be one of those things.

Here is our happy holiday photo taken yesterday and a wish from me to you for a great 2014.