Saturday, December 8, 2012

Slow Living in November

Now that Summer is here, along with the end of the school year, I am barely managing to keep up with this monthly posting with Slow Living Essentials, let alone more general posts. End of year activity acceleration has kept me running in the slow lane, wading through treacle and trudging up shifting sand dunes.

November has brought wonderfully warm days as well as the long awaited, very welcome first Summer rains. The parched earth just keeps soaking it all in. In the space of one month we have experienced impressive electrical storms that shut down the power for days; destructive deluges of hail that shattered my roses, bruised the cherries, apricots and other crops; rip roaring winds that lifted our vegetable tunnel, uprooting my heirloom tomatoes that were strung up (just as they were starting to fruit) and mangled our car port; dusty desperate drought a week ago had the ducks dabbling in the drying mud in the bottom of many forlorn farm dams; then this weekend we sloshed and slid to town as the rain gauges filled and the farmers smiled. On top of this, we have, on various occasions, experienced the muddy Caledon River flowing out our house taps thanks to some befuddled bungling. On other days we had no water at all.

This year's strawberry crop came with a flourish and then stopped fruiting just as abruptly. The last of the strawberries made the most delicious chocolate strawberry ice-cream. So simple really - cream, sugar, cocoa, chocolate and berries, and so absolutely yummy.

I found a wonderful way to prepare asparagus,which we have in abundance: Trim the stalks, toss in olive oil, pop in a very hot oven - 200deg C- for 5-10 min, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and enjoy.

*Cherries in vodka and hazelnut liqueur for next year's ice-creams (How does chocolate, almond and cherry sound?) - one jar
*Cherries on their stalks, in sugar syrup - to top the ice-creams - half a jar
*Strawberries steeped in spirits to make a strawberry liqueur - two jars
*Peach chutney - five jars
*Apricot jam - 26 odd jars
*Rhubarb and ginger jam - 12 jars
*Crystallized ginger - one large jar
*Ginger honey made from the parings - lovely in tea, or for sore throats - one jar
*Ginger beer - 20 liters which turned to real beer before we could drink it all.
*Basil whizzed up in olive oil and frozen - 6 freezer bags
*Basil pesto - 1 jar, already demolished
*Leeks sliced and frozen - 1 bag
*Batches and batches of rusks and market bakes: surplus croissants frozen for future breakfasts.
*Ice-creams, butter and cheeses till the cows come home...

Oh by the way, the beer brewed last month is fantastic, improving as the weeks go by.

Egg shells, dried and crumbled over my rows of just-planted beans keeps the snails from chomping the new leaves as they emerge.

Yay! My beer trap is in my lettuce bed, hoping to catch lots of slugs. So far it has caught one cricket, quite a few slugs and a some poor earthworms.

Comfrey tea is regularly nourishing my fruiting veggies.

Before recycling paper in other ways, all waste paper with a blank side is first used in the school room as my teaching paper instead of a classroom black board, or it is used for my essential list making, or, if my son gets hold of it, for paper airplanes.


Ooh, I love Summer colour in the garden. Earlier in the month,we were treated to the showy display of this bed of gorgeous poppies.
Now the striking sunflowers have shown their sunny faces. I can't bear to remove the straggling sweet peas, pansies and calendulas leftover from Spring so they are still straggling.

The vegetable tunnel is happily providing the bulk of our meals. We have eaten barrows of leeks (I had so hoped that some of them may prove to be giant garlic). The garden also has some onions, the last of the broad beans, more asparagus than we hoped for, mange touts, sugar snap peas and now some lazy housewife beans. The potatoes are flourishing. We picked a few tiny red carrots, some orange ones, massive turnips, beetroot, two giant parsnips, celery, lettuces, spinach, rocket, radishes, the first marrows and the biggest rhubarb plant we have ever grown. We have rather optimistically planted a cornucopia of pumpkin varieties at the edge of the field, hoping the cattle don't annihilate them. There are also scarlet runner beans waiting to climb the arch, flanked by a few sweetcorn plants.

Besides all the ordinary plants, we have all sorts of wonderful heirloom seeds and seedlings, like salsify, safflower, exotic chillies and much much more than I can list here. Thank you, Guy.

I managed to make two teeny tiny gift tags.

A friend lent me Monty Don's The Complete Gardener. What a wealth of inspiration and information, a feast for the eyes, and a useful reference book. It is now on my wish list.

The main thrust of the month was the three day Cabin Cherry Festival market that we participated in.

We spent grueling weeks preparing for the market...

...making enough cheese to fill my dairy fridge...

...and french pastries...

...and then the time came to display our wares....

... the whole family helped to make a success of the market, setting up the stall, selling, frying halloumi, printing labels, sewing tablecloths, and at the end of the three days...

... we did well.

Our son turned fourteen and so we had six boys to sleep over to celebrate. He braaied sausages for them as the rain pelted down, then they melted marshmallows over the coals. They made forts in the forest and ambushed each other.

His birthday present was a special-delivery bicycle all the way from Cape Town. Family and friends helped us to spoil him with a beautiful mountain bike. We drove to Bloemfontein to collect the surprise parcel, but he had pretty much guessed what it might be. I am so glad to see him enjoying the bike so much after his last one was stolen.

I feel as if my most precious commodity is time, and that it is slipping away. Just today my son discovered that he is overtaking his sister in height. I feel the urgency to enjoy these special days with them. I love my teens so much. We recently spent a lovely day exploring the countryside as a family, ending the outing with the best burgers in the Free State.


  1. It sounds like the weather has been tough on you. But it all sounds delicious. :-)

  2. My Picasa album was full this month too - after years of blogging. I was so mad! However, I have found that you can upload a photo into Picmonkey, resize to 600X800 or 800X600 depending on which way the photo was taken, rename/resave (I call all these something like 1234 blog.jpg so I know it is low resolution for the blog) and then can happily keep uploading photos onto Blogger without paying extra fees. I hope that helps! Cheers! Evelyn