Thursday, June 13, 2013

Slow Living in May

I know it's already almost the middle of June, but I am still going ahead with my May Slow Living post. The last time I wrote a Slow Living post, inspired by Slow Living Essentials, was November last year. I stopped for various reasons...

... My neck pain was prohibiting much time at the computer
... I uncomfortably felt as if my long lists of monthly achievements sounded like bragging and it felt awkward. That is not my intention at all.
... I was very busy with making the most of the summer harvests
... Generally life was exhausting and stressed. It was all I could do to live it, let alone blog about it.
... They may call it Slow Living, but it is time consuming, tough living doing things from scratch.
... Blogger stopped me publishing photos for some reason.

However, more than 6 months later, I feel the need to start journalling my months the Slow Living way again, also for various reasons...

... I have found myself referring back to last year's Slow Living posts, almost like an almanac of what to expect in the current month
... I enjoy keeping records of what I do, so that I can appreciate what happens to my time
... I would love to have a full year of Slow Living posts, they create a lovely picture of my life here
... I miss the friendly monthly contact with the other Slow Living regular bloggers. Ok, ok I do live in an isolated place.
... I do feel incredibly blessed with this lifestyle which I never dreamed I would live
... For some reason Blogger is letting me publish photos again

So here goes for May:

With the weather turning cooler, soups have made an appearance back on the menu. Often I alternate them on a daily basis with salads e.g. Monday soup for lunch, Tuesday salad, Wednesday soup again etc. Our leeks are out in full force, so I have turned to my favourite leek pie recipe many times lately. Now that the fruit harvest is over we have also started tucking into our bottled store of sunshine. We have been enjoying fruit tarts, or fruit on our breakfast regularly. Think peaches, walnuts and honey on oat porridge, walnut and green fig muffins, quince tart. Even the salads are enjoying summer's sun dried tomatoes, pickled peppers and the wonderful walnuts.

I have been thwarting Jack Frost by collecting herbs and hanging them prettily to dry in the sunny kitchen window. May was also a time for collecting and packaging the last of our summer seeds for next year's planting.

There are no oranges growing around here, so I bartered with a friend, swapping our honey and cheese for a whole lot of jars of marmalade and a few other lovely preserves of hers. This reduces the impact on my budget. I love bartering, the month before I swapped honey and cheese for crates of quinces.
We also fixed up our worm composting bin which had collapsed onto the worm-water-collecting-bucket. The worms had been a bit neglected over summer. I gave them a blanket of dried autumn leaves, and now I am feeding them regularly, poor things.

Extravagant Dad had a bad cough which kept waking me at night until I made him drink my homemade honey and lemon juice cough syrup. It worked, and I slept.

We collected a little river sand, mixed it with some compost, ordinary garden soil and vermiculite which came from the attic of this house and made our own seedling soil and potting soil.

I also made some Calendula salve using the recipe I found at Slow Living Essentials (see link above)

The last sad remains of our summer vegetables were pulled out of the veggie tunnel to make way for our winter crops of brassicas, onions, garlic, leeks and winter greens. We planted broad beans, peas, spring onions and radishes. I am still loving the heirloom vegetables grown from a generous seed gift from my brother-in-law.

In May we decorated our guest cottage with an African theme. Extravagant Dad painted it white, fixed the plumbing and put up curtain rods and new lights.
I sewed white curtains, made Mandela hot water bottle covers and cushions from shwe-shwe fabric.
 I used a Basotho hat and broom to decorate the wall and put blankets, that the Basotho people wear around their bodies, onto the bed. I hung two African prints from my friend and artist, Thandi, on the wall.

 Then I used typically South African enamel tinware for utensils. It was a fun project. I am still busy completing two more cushions and I would like to keep working on the finishing touches.

My most exciting discovery in May was Jane's Delicious Garden Planner. I used it for free on a 30 day trial, loved it so much that I have subscribed for a year. You can plot the layout of your garden, plan the vegetables and, according to your area, the program will provide you with a planting guide. They send an email every 2 weeks with recommended planting, harvesting times, garden chores etc. It is also jam packed with detailed information on each plant type. The program also helps you plan crop rotation, as well as calculating how many plants to put in each bed according to their growing requirements. I spent hours in May plotting and planning for the current season as well as next year's growing season. My May layout for our vegetable tunnel is here. If you scroll down you'll see the localised planting schedule for the year as well as buying guides.

My very clever husband, with no official  IT training, discovered how to replace the hard drive in his Mac that crashed. He bravely opened up the computer and figured it out with a little online help, letting our children learn from the experience too. He amazes me at his IT skills, all completely self taught. I think he has become the local Apple expert. He often receives calls from friends and family needing IT help.

I also spent a lot of time in  May gleaning information from my experienced uncle and looking online to learn how to care for foster lambs, or handslammetjies, as we call them here in South Africa. We had two little ones. One died in spite of my diligence.

I am giving weekly cooking lessons to our two staff. Molly, who helps with the garden, milking and the horses, didn't even know what a cucumber was. He tried to cook the first one I gave him from our garden. The lessons started when he asked me to to teach him how to use a microwave besides just for heating food. I am not keen on the microwave, but I showed him a 7 minute chocolate cake recipe. The following week I taught him and Blantina an oven chocolate cake recipe, and the recipes have progressed from there to jelly and custard, leek pie, roast chicken and pizza. Molly was amazed that one can bake a cake at home and that he doesn't have to buy cake from the shops.

Molly, an ex boxer, has started teaching my son how to box. I love looking outside at the end of the day, seeing the two of them working out at the punch bag. Molly is an excellent coach.

Mother's day was special. My husband and children gave me beautiful cards and gifts, a special breakfast and then later in the day we went out to lunch. Typical of living in the country, our meal was eaten to the accompaniment of bovine bellowing, and cows dominated our view.

My daughter's photography is going from strength to strength. She is more than halfway through her 365 day self-portrait challenge. I snuck this pic of her doing an Autumn self portrait in the apricot orchard. Take a look at her blog to see the resulting self portrait.


  1. A beautiful month, Cath - it was lovely to be able to share in it once again. Your guest quarters look fantastic, what fun it must've been to work on this project. I'm really interested in the garden planner too..the site looks very useful.

    I just popped over to your daughters self portrait page. Stunning images, you must be so proud of her. :) Enjoy the month. xx

    1. Thanks Christine. It's good to be back. Yes, I am a proud mum.

  2. So lovely and glad you are sharing again, Catherine. I know the kids are going to love being with you in September. Wish I could join them and enjoy a little of your life up there. xxx