Monday, 2 June 2014

You know what they say about hell and good intentions?

Irony is an amazing thing in life. Especially when it comes to living on a farm.

It all started with a church sale. You know, the one where people donate things that get sold for proceeds going to the church?

Yep. So weeks ago, they were asking for those donations and me and my mother (Anna-marie, who incidentally writes most of the posts on this blog) said that we'd use the cake decorating skills we'd learned so far (we're doing a course, in case you missed my telling you) and donate the cakes we make to the cake table for the sale.

Then, as things go on Rooshoek, we got so busy with a million things that it was the week before the sale was on (this past Saturday) that we remembered that we even wanted to do those cakes. But Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was so crazy with getting things for picking, packing and transporting our flowers to the market that by Wednesday night, it was the unspoken consensus that the cakes would have to be donated next year.

But Wednesday night I went to the small group I belong to, and the lady in charge of the cake table asked if we couldn't possibly help by donating cakes.

And of course, I get guilted into saying yes to two.

On Thursday, my mother and I got to work on making the decorations. I did royal icing butterflies and my mother made plastic icing roses.

And this is where the woes started. See... it was raining. And this meant that my mother's roses didn't dry fast enough. On top of that, my icing just wouldn't work like it was supposed to to make the textured yet smooth look I was going for. In the end, these took six hours.

But hey, I figured that the worst would be over. I already learned how to cover cakes with plastic icing and it was easy. So as soon as my mother and I had time to work on the cakes together, we'd get it done, stick the decorations on and voila.

Eh... no.

We only found time to get started at 7 pm. (Anyone who knows cake decorating will groan here, since there's no way of really judging the smoothness of the icing unless you can look at it in natural light.)

And... you guessed it. It was raining. So the plastic icing was even softer than before. No problem though, since we'd just knead some icing sugar into the plastic icing until it's the right consistency.

Eh... good in theory. Except when we bought said icing sugar, we bought bulk. And where every single time before, the bulk icing was one brand, the shop we buy at had switched brands on us. And... we didn't know.

Which resulted in incredibly brittle royal icing butterflies and even worse, terrible, terrible plastic icing to cover cakes with. I mean, it tore for no reason whatsoever. 

Result: 4 more hours of work to get the cakes to look right, only six workable roses, six rose buds, and one butterfly. But, we made do with what we had. (We had to. No chance of getting better icing etc. on a farm at 10pm)

And this is what the cakes looked like (plus some of the mess that came from making them happen):

My mother's


They got lots of love at the cake sale (thank heavens), although we don't know what they sold for. We're just glad we managed to get them done in time, and that hopefully we'll never repeat the awful, awful experience with inferior icing ever again. 

Anyone else have crafty horror stories to share? 

Saturday, 31 May 2014

The flowers we harvest...

The winter is here... most of the leaves of the oak trees and grapevines are on the ground and  almost every day, if it is not raining, a thick blanket of mist covers the mountain only to lift later in the day and the most beautiful days are revealed. 
The gravel road to the farm is a slip and slide affair after the rain and this makes a trip into town quite and adventure.
We started to harvest the Proteas and fynbos for the market in Johannesburg. 
This first week of the harvest was a bit of a trail and error. Getting the cites license from Cape Nature has been a mission. We started off by getting all the samples of the flowers and fynbos we plan to send to the market.  Tinie van der Westhuizen from Cape Nature then kindly visited Rooshoek for the inspection. He had some trouble identifying some of the species and these Tinie took to their offices in Jonkershoek for identification because Cape Nature can't allow  us to harvest any species, in anyway endangered. 
On Tuesday we received the license. 

It was quite an effort to get the harvest organised. Jan and a team of pickers pick the flowers in the mountain and in the pack house another team trim the leaves and make bunches and pack in the cartons.
We then fly it into Johannesburg where it is delivered to the Multiflora market and  put on auction. 
The flowers are auctioned on a clock system and auctions take place every day of the week. During the auction trolleys filled with buckets of flowers are pulled through auction room where buyers can see the flowers. An auctioneer then puts a price on the clock and bidders then bid for the product and the quantities they need. The clock is  similar to the one shown below.
The following information is displayed:
1.       Number of containers still available from the same party
2.       Number of stems or bunches per container
3.       Grade of flowers being sold
4.       Price where on the buyer, displayed in 5, stopped the clock
5.       Number of the current buyer
6.       Trolley number

We are so blessed to live on a farm so abundant with natural gifts. 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Gravel Travel

On Saturday the 10th of May the annual Wellington Gravel Travel, a mountain bike race, took place. Part of the race was done on Rooshoek.
Unfortunately it rained since the Thursday before and by Saturday the whole route was WET, MUDDY, SLIPPERY and just a general mess.
Pieter van Dyk, organised the event and 550 mountain bikers took part in the grueling race.
                                          Pieter, the organiser of the Gravel travel.

Mountain bikers could choose one of the circle routes 65km,  35km, and 15km respectively.
Rooshoek had some ditches that sadly had seen several participants eating mud. Apparently the also worked less than well with the cocks on the gears and quite a few of the bikers were looking for lubricant by the time they reached Rooshoek's water point.

In the end it was more a mudbath than a race. Luckily I believe mud is good for the complexion and the outdoors good for clearing the head, so all in all it must have been a good experience.

I want to thank Pieter and Ellane van Dyk for the info and TC Botha for the photos.
Next year we hope for a sunny and dry day!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Flora kingdom of Rooshoek

At least once a week my mother and I go out to the veld to pick flowers for the house.
Every week the flowers are different. As the season changes so do the plants in our veld.
Every time we go on our flower expedition we find new bulb plants pushing their heads through the soil. It is such an exiting time for us to discover every small little plant and all the varieties of plants. With the help of " Field Guide to Fynbos" compiled  by John Manning, we have discovered and learned almost every time we go into the Veld, everything from beautiful different grasses and flowers to shrubs and succulent plants.
At the moment the pink Erica's and the new green of some of the other fynbos make a spectacular show.
The Veld looks and smells fresh and new.
 Here and there the Proteas are also coming into bloom. At the moment we see Protea repens and Protea longifolia.
Still, it is only the start of our flower season and I will update the blog as the season progress.
It remains a source of amazement to me that God has seen it fit to place me on this amazing farm, where every small flower is testament to His amazing work!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter at Rooshoek

With the falling leaves Easter has arrived!
We started Good Friday with a  family communion in the garden. Although it is always nice to celebrate a long weekend it is important that we never forget  exactly why we are having these holidays. A Friend this week told me that one must never forget that God looks after the "clear" of heart and not the perfect. For this I am thankful because every day I am confronted with just how imperfect I really am.  Thankfully because He died on the cross I am not expected to be perfect but I am forgiven!
On Easter Sunday we had a lovely family picnic in the Oak forest and being there, I can again only thank God for blessing me with the beautiful farm and supportive family. 

Hiding the eggs in the garden for the farm children is fun and oh, so exiting for them. My mom and all the ladies working in the house created a beautiful Easter show and lesson for the children before they were sent on a major Easter egg hunt. 
Misha and I ( because of the icing lessons) created the Easter eggs and I think we had more fun making it than they did hunting and eating it!
 My little mouse looks friendly... 
Misha's looks a bit scared as is appropriate in a house with six cats!

Easter is also a time for reflecting on one's life. We, during this weekend had friends visit us, whom we have not seen in years. Life has, in the six year since we last had a good get together, taken strange turns for all of us.  
My wish to all this Easter and for the rest of this year, is that they never forget that they are blessed by the love of friends and family and Our Savior, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross just for you. 
Be Blessed.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Olive harvesting

The time has finally arrived for us to harvest the olives... for me this is a totally new experience... because it is something I have never worked with before.
Luckily I have blessed with Jan, our foreman. He has harvested olives every year for the last twenty five years on Rooshoek... and also some neighbours who are very interested in our olives and gives a hand wherever they can.
Rooshoek olives are 100% organic. We have not been near them with any chemical sprays or fertilizer. We also sort of inherited the trees quite late  in the season so they are quite difficult to harvest.
The trees have not been pruned in years and as such we have problems to reach the fruit. In this process we use small rakes, like the ones Jan is holding in his hand on the photo. We are also cutting the trees so that with our next harvest we do not have the same problem of reaching the fruit again. Basically all that happens in our harvesting process is the fruit is shaken and raked from the trees and a team of woman picks it up from the nets on the ground.
The olives are then put in crates and taken to the press where the olives are being pressed for the oil. We pick everything not just the ones that are dark. For the oil it is not necessary to select the fruit according to color. We expect a yield of about 141 liters of oil from one ton of product. Will tell you later what the exact yield was. 

We have two different types of olives on the farm and we are picking the olives for laying into brine a little bit later. These olives will be picked into water so as to prevent any damage and excess bruising to them.

At the moment the excitement of our first olive harvest is causing a stir on the farm and we are enjoying every moment of it.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Autumn is in the air

This morning I was driving in from Stellenbosch and in a conversation with a friend about the beautiful days we are having I remarked that there is something different in the air... Autumn has arrived.
The leaves are slowly being painted yellow or red. The air has a crispness to it.
The mountains looks as if had been hand painted  on a piece of paper and then stuck on a canvass of amazing blue skies, the edges crisply reflecting the beautiful, beautiful shades of gray and green..
This coming week we will start with the harvest of the olives and I will write another blog  about this... however today on this beautiful Saturday I will just enjoy the rich autumn shades. Soon though we will complain about all the leaves that we have to sweep... but for now while they are still clinging to the branches... we will enjoy the kaleidoscope of color they are blessing us with. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Hunting the Pigs

Today we are living on Rooshoek for exactly four months. What an event full four months this has been.
This week alone we have had a snake in the garden, said goodbye to our friend from the Falklands and last night we had wild boar hunters.
The Hunters we actually have quite often but these ones actually shot a wild boar. The first one shot since we moved here.
It rained the whole day yesterday and the evening air was quite cool so when Billy called at around nine I thought he was calling to tell me that he had finished hunting because he was dying of the cold but no ... the hunter had shot his pig.

Although I realize that some of my readers might frown about the hunting of the animals but please remember that we are farmers and these pigs are classified as vermin.
The wild boars were initially imported from Europe because they were the only natural enemy to a moth that was destroying the pine plantations.
Unfortunately there was no natural enemy to the wild boars and they soon became a pest.
We now have a situation on Rooshoek where they destroy fields of produce and sometimes even come as close to the house as our front lawn.
The meat we use for all kinds of "organic" pork cuts and use the meat fully.
The meat quality of the pigs are excellent and contrary to what one would believe it not a white meat but red and tastes almost like a cross between beef and mutton.
The pig weighed in at 123kg and after it was slaughtered we had 68kg of good quality meat  left.
Today as a postscript I am adding this beautiful picture of the pig's teeth that Billy sent me just yesterday. We cleaned it for him but he took the beautiful picture above.  I know plenty feral pigs will be shot on Rooshoek, but because this was the first, it would always hold a special place in my memory.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Our Owl

About  a week before we moved to the farm, we started coming to the farm every day to clean  the house. One day while having a picnic lunch on the front lawn we became aware of a very interesting ( and interested) audience.
From his nest in one of the oak trees  a baby owl has fallen. With his big big eyes he watched our every move.  The next weekend heavy rain fell and we were all worried that he will not survive, but he did.
His mom fed him on the ground and he became "our" owl.
Recently he was so tame he would actually come sit next to us on the steps or at night sit in the tree in front of Misha's window.
When our friends from all over ( even Italy and the Netherlands)  visited and  he was the most photographed item on the farm. He became out pet and we loved him. He had the most amazing eyes and sometimes he would look at one with eyes that looked almost human.
This morning we found him dead. We don't know what the cause  of death was but we suspect that he was killed by the grape harvesters, because they are still very superstitious about owls.
It is heartbreaking
that such a beautiful creature had to pay with it's life for something that  has no relevance in this day and age.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Tennis- the Rooshoek way

The game of tennis on Rooshoek is nothing like any game you will see on Wimbledon or Roland Gaross.
The Rooshoek version is also exiting and eventful but always different and the spectators... they are amazing.
Ben, our labrador loves tennis balls... not just loves, adores, so despite our best efforts to keep him in the house, he somehow always manages to escape.  the sound of the tennis ball hitting the court just drives him completely "bezonkers" ( mad)  and  I swear, he will find a way out of a high security prison to play with a ball.

So we made Ben our ball boy. He runs after every ball and the brings them to the server. Amazingly sometimes he would bring three balls at the same time(like on the photo). He would bring them to ones feet and then... one, two, three he will pop them out. ... And he is quick!!!  Off course after a while the balls are disgustingly wet and heavy with doggy drool and when one hits it... it goes splat... all over one! All the while Oscar, on the outside of the court is barking like mad, mainly because Ben is allowed inside and he is not.

Our night time game takes a completely different turn. For some reason, unknown to me, when the light goes on at the tennis court, hundreds of crickets come out to play. The five cats finds this challenging.  Like Ben chases every ball, they make it their mission in life, to chase every cricket on the court. This makes serving and playing quite tricky, because they have no concept of the "no cat allowed on the court while the game is on" rule.
So imagine the game... two rather unfit humans, one mad ball chasing dog, a loud dog spectator, five cats a lot of crickets. It might not be Wimbledon but it is quite a spectacle!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


As my mom might have mentioned, we're planning to open a guest house/venue on the farm. We're decorating it at the moment, but hopefully it'll be done in March. 

In the meantime, we're doing a variety of things for the venue, like planning menus and the like. And... we're taking a cake decorating course. That way, we'll eventually be able to do the wedding cakes ourselves. Which might be useful, given the dangers of transporting a wedding cake on dirt roads.  

Yesterday was our first ever lesson. We learned the basics of Royal Icing. 

This is the result:

Yeah... Very basic. But me being me, I've already started practicing on more interesting patterns. At the moment I'm working on butterflies. So once they're done, I'll put them up for you to see (either here, or on TCoML). 

For interest's sake, the yellow crib and the green heart is mine. The white heart (with the smudge) is my mom's as well as the gingerbread man with the green shirt. My gingerbread man was being digested by me at the time of the photo, as my decorating attempts had gone awry. As it would, when my classmates nicked my icing. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The water on Rooshoek

Once, years ago I was on a train in England on my way from Sussex to London. It was late afternoon and the train was full. The woman sitting next to me must have found me quite a strange traveling companion and because of my accent she quickly wanted to know where I was from... On my " South Africa" answer, she informed me that she always wanted to live on an African farm. I thought it funny, because I then was living on an African farm and did not always find it so amusing or romantic ... Years have passed since then, and after a move into first a town and then the city, we are now back on a farm in Africa.
A farm, where wild animals still roam freely and this morning I decided that we have to share our story...
I hope you enjoy it... and love it as much as we love living here...

Rooshoek, the name of our farm translates to "corner of roses"... however don't be fooled, life on the farm is anything but the proverbial "moonshine and roses".
The event this morning that made me decide that I am going to keep a daily blog about our life here ( and get Misha to help writing it) was... wait for it... the coloring of my grey roots...!!
At six this morning, I was jerked awake by gunshots... not quite unexpected, because we had hunters overnight. Finally giving up all pretense of being asleep, I decided I might as well color my grey roots. Grey roots, which I for days have been trying to hide, by giving my hair more body when blow drying. The dye applied, I joined Misha for breakfast when Grandma arrived at the breakfast table and informed us that there was no water in the taps. "Not to worry though," she said " Jan has already gone to look at the water...".  Since you are all new to the farm, I have to give you a bit more back ground information.
 Jan is our foreman. To look at the water he has to drive up the mountain. Our water comes from a fountain about a kilometer away from the house. The fountain is quite a bit up the steep slope of the mountain, but twice a day Jan, or one of the other workers, will do the trip up the mountain to make sure that all filters are clean and the water is running. This trip to the water can be quite exiting as well, since they can and have encountered leopards, snakes and baboons on the way. These encounters are blogs for another day.
 Today however, I think Jan's trip was a little less exiting than what was going on while I waited for the water.
Usually the half an hour waiting time is always too long for me to be sitting around, I get irritated, but would you believe, today it passed amazingly quickly. So quickly that before Jan could get the water running again, it was time to rinse the hair and I was in trouble. I gave it ten minutes more, but still... no water.
Undressing and hoping for the best I got under the shower, but the few drops of water  in the shower pipe was just enough to have a lot of dark hair dye spread all over me. I feverishly opened the hand basin tap and lo and behold another liter of water came forth! Soon this water was just as mud dark as the dye and I had to pull the plug on that idea as well. I tried the other basin ( his and her basins) and another few drops came forth from the pipes... however not near enough to get the dye rinsed of.
Desperate now for a solution I grabbed the only option still open to me... the dog's drinking water. I didn't even stop to think about Oscar's slobber... No way.. I grabbed it and rinsed my hair. Hair that by now felt as dry as winter grass. I slathered on the conditioner because surely the water can't  be too long in coming  though the pipes. Twenty minutes later I was looking at the toilet with anxious eyes, but I could not bring myself to put my head in the toilet and rinse it. I did however open the bidet's faucet and rinsed of the conditioner with the little water still in those pipes. I  had to stand on my knees to get it done though.... And would you believe I just turban wrapped the towel about my now slightly darker, but very well conditioned hair, when water gushed  from the still open taps?