Saturday, September 1, 2012

Slow Living in August

Come and meander though the highlights of the past month with me, guided by Slow Living Essentials

August started off as the month of fire and ice. Snow fell on the farm twice, but to my children's disappointment, it was not heavy enough to last long. August is also the windy month. Veld fires have raged through some  of the surrounding farms, keeping my son and husband fighting flames late into many a night. Until the Summer rains come and the dry gales subside, we are all on high fire alert.

Fires of a more comforting, crackling, contained kind continue to warm our home at night. 
Towards the end of the month as the temperatures soared into hints of the coming summer, new fires were made for al fresco meals and a little cheese smoking. There was ice then too, but the glass-tinkling cocktail-cooling type.

I have been making cheese incessantly as Rosie's milk flow relentlessly gushes into the buckets twice a day and more townsfolk discover the delights of jersey milk cheese. The constant stirring of pots of warm milk and monitoring temperatures has left me rather uninspired in the kitchen, that and the meager pickings from the garden and farm. Not much is left in my stores from last summer, some frozen tomatoes, plenty of apricot jam, bags of frozen apricots, a few jars of chutney, walnuts and some sun dried tomatoes. Cooking from scratch under these circumstances is depressing. Even so, the garden is beginning to show signs of spring but, as Barbara Kingsolver says, " this is the hungry season". Thankfully we have an overabundant supply of dairy products to keep us going. Even my chickens have not yet discovered the coming joys of spring.

This meal was made from the collection of beans that I dried at the end of summer, baked with our frozen tomatoes. The salad consisted of leftover brussels sprouts tossed with walnuts, sun dried tomatoes and some of my chabrie cheese in a yoghurt dressing. I make a pleasant mock mayonnaise by whisking oil, lemon juice or vinegar, mustard powder, sugar and salt into my natural yoghurt.

The only stockpiling happening here is in the form of golden cylinders of cheese. This month I tried making pecorino and parmesan. Waxing the cheeses once they are dry will hopefully let them mature without a thick, hard rind. Oh yes, all the butter making left us with buttermilk which we baked into bread and there are a few loaves of bread in the freezer now too. I did also store up a few tubs of gourmet ice-cream for our family who are visiting soon.

When I was a little girl, my doctor-daddy would bring us used glass injection vials which we filled with tiny shells or beads for ornaments. Well, a few months ago I quiveringly mastered giving injections to our animals. When Rosie was ill then I managed to save a cow-sized vial.

and this month, when I got around to cleaning it up, it made a pretty little vase for some dried tansy flowers.

Why toss a favourite pinkT-shirt just because it's stained. Buy some inexpensive black dye and have some tie-dying fun. 
Throw in a white pair of jeans that fit but aren't practical for the farm, botch up their dying to create a mottled grey pair of jeans and then you can buy more dye and have more fun next month too. 

I am pleased to say that the soap nuts my friend gave me are wonderful in the dishwasher. Our citrus cleaner also does a great job shining up the sink. I have run out of moisturizer and eye make-up remover. Natural plant oils work wonders for both.

Snowdrops, daffodils and rocket have been popping up in our garden, much to our delight. The flowers are almost too pretty to pick.

The rocket, on the other hand, once packaged, was gratefully received by a nearby restaurant, and put a few coins in my pocket in the process.
Other welcome spring plants that have made an appearance in the last few weeks are coriander, bok choi, asparagus and mustard lettuce. I have planted loads of seeds in trays. Here's hoping they will germinate. If I could only remember to water them. 

Another kitchen helper created by my husband - a recipe book stand that is off the work surface and swivels out of the way.

My clever husband also designed and built this impressive castle-bed, even hand stitching the pennants.

Two years of dedicated crocheting whenever I had a chance finally produced my daughter's granny stripe blanket.

What a wonderful relief to get back to a bit of sewing now. This apron was a delight to make.

Oooh, I have discovered a deliciously addictive, wonderfully educational website, called Craftsy. It is full of online craft courses, and some of them are free. I signed up for their free quilting Block of the Month course. I have never quilted before, but have wanted to learn ever since my talented aunt gave us a beautiful quilt as a wedding present twenty years ago. As you can see, my first two blocks are made. Not too shabby either, and I am using a South African traditional fabric, shwe-shwe. I am so excited about this project, jumping up and down inside, and there are so many more exciting courses. I just wish I had more time for quilting in my days.
I have also treated myself to a mail-order quilting course, thanks to my cheese income. Great big happy smiles.

I have started teaching some of the farm teen girls some knitting techniques, like cabling, and making those cute booties, and even a bit of what I am learning from the quilting course. Sitting chatting, listening to "Call me Maybe", cups of tea, young ladies each working on their own project, random displays of exuberance from my daughter... smile.

My talented daughter, in exploring her photographic creativity, and being relatively isolated here and having limited access to models for her photography, has decided to commit herself to 365 self portraits. I am so enjoying her passion for creative expression.

As the tempestuous days of fire and ice give way to balmy spring weather, pink peach blossoms line the road to our farm house, and white orchards adorn the hill, promising luscious summer fruit. I take a deep breath of joy as I surface for air after the breath-holding submergence under winter's frozen grip.


  1. Oh my, I'm sorry to hear about the wild fires. We've had a bad fire season here this summer

    1. Thankfully our fire season only lasts until the summer rains begin. I was watching the terrible fires in your area online.

  2. OMG I love that castle bed - my little boy is obsessed with bunks at the moment and would dearly love one as cool as yours.

    I also think your tie dyed tshirt is pretty funky too :-)

    1. My clever husband make that one for a very happy four year old client, I just had to share his creativity.

  3. Wow...makes me long to visit you on the farm and enjoy being with you and learning from you my sweet sister xxx

    1. We could learn from each other. Love you so much too. xxx

  4. Oh Catherine...the 365 portraits are astounding. Her talent is brilliant! Congrats on taking up the quilting day for me. xx

  5. I love reading your updates Cath, there is always so much goodness in them. A swiveling book stand, crochet blankets, castle beds and so much more. I'm totally impressed with your daughters project. Thanks for linking up. :)

    1. Thanks Christine. It's always a family effort around here. Most of the really creative stuff comes from my husband and kids.

  6. How inspiring, you and your husband seem so creative, that bed is fantastic and the quilt squares look great - love the colours. I've just started my first crocheted blanket for my youngest daughter, now I want to do a stripy one!

    Thanks so much for sharing it all with us!