Monday, September 2, 2013

Slow Living in August

Dry August blew dust through the cracks, chilling my parched skin, draining the dams and withering the drought burdened veld. My bone thin Rosie cow struggled valiantly through the month, suffering endless injections and tonics as we persisted in trying to boost her after she went down with milk fever and some unknown ailment shortly after her calf was born.  This time last year we had green oats pushing through the soil in the field next door, now all we have is a sandy, bare wasteland. Our cows have chomped their way through my budget, needing veterinary care, as well as more lucerne and dry hay than I would care to mention. All hopes of an early spring, and the accompanying rains, after a warm July were dashed as winter, in its dying throws, sent the morning temperatures plummeting down the thermometer again. Join me, along with Slow Living Essentials, as I reflect on the month that was.

After a forced freezer clear out, I have continued in the same vein, planning meals around the remnants of last year's harvest. My family have stepped up their cooking duties and now they each see to one breakfast, lunch and dinner a week. That leaves me with only four days of cooking a week, and frees up my tightly crammed time to see to other things, like my sanity. This new arrangement has resulted in some rather tasty meals as they all enjoy their time in the kitchen. My son baked this beautiful loaf of herbed bread for one of his lunches.

We also learned the rewarding art of handmade pasta

Another psychologically big step for us along the self sufficiency road has been growing our own meat. This month I made a very tasty coq au vin from one of our young cocks. My brave husband also helped to dress (undress is more like it) five sheep on the farm next door. I will spare you the pictures, but they did a surprisingly clean job. We were very kindly given a whole sheep which will last us for many months to come. Considering that until recently, I would prefer to only eat filleted meat that came in a supermarket package, this is a huge step for me. 

My slightly-more-deserving-of-her-name-now cow, Joy, has been faithfully giving us at least 5 litres of milk a day. So we have been regularly making yoghurt, cream cheese, feta, gouda, chabrie, ice-cream and butter. The goudas are the only cheeses that last long enough to count, as the rest is all gobbled up in a flash. 

I nearly killed my brassicas last month by making an aphid spray that was a little too potent. This time I followed a recipe:
20ml cayenne pepper
10ml liquid soap
4.5 liters water
1 t garlic

Typical Elastic Mom style, I winged it on the cayenne pepper, using dried peppadews instead. It seems to work fine. I mixed it all together, soaked it for a few hours, strained it, then sprayed it. It smelled delicious.

Many hours have gone into the nurturing of our haphazardly germinating heirloom seeds, only to have our darling cat use some of them as a kitty toilet, and another darling forget to water them while I was out. We sadly lost quite a few tender young seedlings. I refuse to give up and keep planting more seeds, each time experimenting with a different method of starting them off. Hopefully my experimental research will produce the goods at harvest time. 

Reduce the budget, reduce waste, reuse or recycle...

Coiffure en plein air

Now who gets a view like this in an ordinary hair salon.... and whose hairdresser is dressed in full camo gear?

My hubby takes almost all the credit in this department this month. He completed the installation of the beautiful cedar wood bar he designed. Considering this is his job, I suppose this is more work than hobby, but his creativity more than makes up for my present lack. The top of the bar is made from a single piece of cedar wood. The chairs are cedar wood too. 

I love his clever use of lighting.

He also turned some of last month's loofahs into back scrubbers.

Our teens have put all their creative effort into photography (hers) and drawing (his).

We visited an NGO in town where they were teaching people in the local township community how to grow their own food gardens to help themselves in spite of their poverty. 

This lovely lady giving the lesson is a regular supporter at my stall at the local monthly farmer's market. This month she sweetly brought me some succulents to pot. Besides my kitty piddling in two pots, any other ideas why some of their leaves are yellowing?

I sold out at the farmer's market, all except one jar of apricot jam. The rest: cheeses, croissants, honey and jars of jam, were snapped up by eager customers. Many of them have become regular visitors to my stall. 

Community in the country is very different to what we experienced in the city. Participating in the farmer's market and the local farm watch has helped us to get to know the people in our community. The neighbours from the surrounding farms help to fight veld fires, and look out for each other, dropping everything to respond to a call on the radio. I appreciate their genuine concern and dedication to each other and us. Thankfully my men have only had one night of fighting fires this month. 

Home education is a lifestyle of discovery by definition. My daughter is busy completing a basic bookkeeping course at the moment alongside her other studies. Although I keep my husband's books well enough to submit the data to our awesome cousin who helps us with things financial, my knowledge of formal bookkeeping is shameful, so I am enjoying learning alongside her. 

I can't resist another punt for Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which I am now reading  for the third time, and reading aloud to any family member who cares to listen. Our experiences here are so close to what she describes in her book, we have been chuckling over the similarities. We are now at the end of winter and "waiting for asparagus". This book has had a profound influence on where we source our food. 

There is a delightful café style restaurant at the old station in town. I took my two there for tea the other day. We sat outside on mismatched chairs, drinking tea and hot chocolate and munching baked treats. All around us there were pots of pansies and pretty things to see.

Farm living can sometimes be lonely. We were delighted to be invited to a cheese and wine lunch by some friends of ours. The lady of the house decorated the tables in black, white and red. She must have spent many days preparing for a magnificent spread. It was just so special. 

I couldn't resist a chuckle when I saw our young friend feeding her many hungry orphan lambs all at once.


  1. We are waiting for asparagus too! Oh I wish I was coming with my kids on Tuesday....I think they need to read this blog post...son will be happy about the lamb and that Aunty C isn't only going to feed him vegetables :))

    1. Oh my friend, how I would love to have you here too. Maybe one day ...

  2. thanks for commenting on my blog, so that I could find and follow yours! It is nice to read about South Africa :)

  3. You live a very sustainable life - I love that you make yogurt and cheese as well as the other essentials. We've raised meat in the past too, though we aren't doing it at the moment (we ordered some chickens from a friend that should be here soon - all the work done and ready for the freezer). I enjoyed reading about your month.

    1. Thank you. I popped over to your lovely blog and spend a good while reading your interesting posts.

  4. Busy and wonderful....need a prolonged visit to you....

    1. Yes, that would be so wonderful. Maybe next year?

  5. I always look forward to reading about your month, Cath. Sorry to hear of challenging times with the weather and cows. Sending good vibes and requests for rain your way. Take care of yourself, it's true we all need a window of time for our sanity's sake. Bring on the asparagus, eh? xx

    1. Thanks Christine. Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't live quite so far away, I think we'd be good friends.