Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Slow Living in November

November has been even more beautiful than October. The magnificent early Summer landscape has helped me to stop... and breathe... and slow down… and give thanks… as we hurtle towards the end of the year. Join me, along with Slow Living Essentials as I remember, remember the month of November. 

Beetroot has surfaced in our tunnel and added it's paradoxical earthy vibrancy to our meals. We are harvesting two heirloom beetroots: Chioggia which, with their pretty concentric rings, are just big enough to pick, and Detroit Dark Red. We also have commercial Crimson Globes. The Detroits have grown big and round. Their colour is truly deep red, their taste more earthy and sweet with a softer cooked texture than the Crimson Globes. The Globes are brighter in colour, firmer with faint concentric rings, but a slightly sharper flavour. Votes are even as to which beet is better.
Forget pickled beets. I decided to experiment with this exciting vegetable. We have enjoyed it tossed in apple cider, tansy and olive oil then roasted and served as a side dish. I have added it into salads, grated raw and in cooked chunks. The Asian salad pictured below was spectacular.
Most unusual, but a definite must-make-again, were the roast root vegetable, bacon and rosemary mini quiches that I made for the market. Along with the beets I roasted a few red onions, little round Paris Market Carrots and freshly dug garlic. 

There's something comfortingly rustic about plaits of garlic and red onions drying in the kitchen. The onions didn't last very long though. I used them up faster than they could dry. All the November cream from Rosie and Joy was turned into many kilograms of butter for croissants, except for a few cups of cream that became peanut butter and chocolate ice-cream for a certain birthday boy. Almost all of their milk became cheese. Most of this preparation was for a market, sadly not my rather empty freezer or pantry. After the market, at the end of the month, when I was about to put my feet up, the apricots arrived, all golden and luscious and needing urgent attention. Now we're jamming…

"We're jammin: I wanna jam it wid you. We're jammin, jammin, And I hope you like jammin too." (Bob Marley)

Reusing, recycling and reducing is everything Elastic Mom is about. A tear through Decadent Dad's T-shirt shelf left him a few shirts less and his workshop a pile of wipe-it-all-up rags more.
Tomato sauce bottles line up in our storeroom, waiting for homegrown tomato sauce to fill them, but then I found these adorable stickers. I am head-over-heels in love with my cute Free State farm milk bottles. I have a set of four stickers but, being Elastic Mom, I'll have to wait until our existing milk bottles break before I can line up my pretty new bottles in the fridge. Considering the current breakage rate, I won't have long to wait.
Just when I thought that was it for new ideas, I noticed a pile of paper bags waiting for recycling. All our November market baking left us with strong flour and sugar bags. Simple. Use-It-Don't-Lose-It. Fold in the top. Punch holes. Tie string and there we have carrier bags for our market customers. They look trendy too, you know, African Chic and all that.

Our broad beans were looking wistful, so we watered them with a little epsom salts. While we were at it, we fed the roses and poured it around some pesky ant holes. A few weeks later we were rewarded with a new crop of beans, a flush of roses and fewer ants.


Brilliant red poppies, along with Hunter our young Rhodesian Ridgeback,  have cheerily greeted visitors entering the gate. Poppies on either side and Hunter in the middle. Quite formidable. No sneaking in quietly around here.The poppy seeds I sprinkled in the flower beds last Autumn burst into bloom after the late Spring rains came. I adore their joyful shout of red, especially when blue cornflowers, columbines or purple campenula are their bedfellows. They have made a striking display, enhancing our view. (Can you spot our cows enjoying the grazing?)

Our vegetables are also flourishing. The potatoes are big and bushy and we haven't been able to resist a little grabbling here and there. Lovely word, grabbling. It's exactly what we do under the roots when we sneak a few for supper.  The runner beans are racing up their stakes. The strawberry popcorn is looking healthy and strong. Our tunnel is such a pleasure, I think our vegetable garden and all it has to offer warrants its own blog post. (Our Joy cow seems to be in the picture quite a lot lately.)

While Elastic Mom and Decadent Dad have been busy baking and making all things market related, our competent kids have continued the creativity. His hand blisters were proudly displayed after this hand-carved bow was completed. Strings of stars decorated our Christmas-themed market stall, bringing their own blisters on her scissor-tired hands.
My heart was delighted to walk into my daughter's bedroom and hear music playing, and see her stringing beaded bracelets. Peaceful creativity. Unhurried. Just because.
Halfway through the month she completed her 365 day self-portrait challenge. It has been a pleasure to see her photography skills develop as her project progressed. Every so often I snuck in a behind-the-scenes pic of my own. Take a LOOK at the portrait she produced from the scene below. Her brother's role was just to spray her. She set up the scene, the camera, and took the photo herself.
How does one pose when being sprayed by a high pressure hose?

Her blog is well worth a visit. All of her 365 Self Portraits are on display. Take the time to read her last post. Slow Living on this farm has given her the time and freedom to discover her passion.

I am a late-comer to the entertainment and education of watching River Cottage and all things by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Although rather extreme, his fascinating Cook on the Wild Side series amused us in November. I share a moderated version of his "passion for food integrity and consumption of local, seasonal produce", and have indulged in a little foraging of my own this year.

The big community event of our month was our three day market stall at the local Cabin Cherry Capers. It was exhausting but worth it. Our whole family pitched in to make it a success. Our little business, Rosewood Country Kitchen, was exposed to more local, appreciative customers. There's nothing like a buttery croissant-tasting or cheese-tasting to draw people in. I love meeting different people at these markets. We live near the border of the tiny country, Lesotho, so this seemingly remote Eastern Free State farmer's market attracted a cosmopolitan range of customers. My stall was visited by leather-clad motor-bikers, burly conservative Afrikaans farmers with their poppies, elegantly dressed Basotho couples, Chinese factory managers,  missionaries, travellers passing through, vegetarian humanitarian workers, transient engineers, barefoot little boys and foreign diplomats. I met someone who worked with my Uncle on the Katse Dam many years ago, someone else whose godson is attending the faraway college we are sending our daughter to next year and even managed to find a home for a farm kitten with the new grocery store manager in town.

Our precious son turned fifteen this month. We celebrated his birthday with a picnic in the Peter Pan forest beside the barn. Friends joined us for a feast under the poplar trees.We set up chairs and tables. The adults sat in the shade. Happy voices rang out as children of various ages enjoyed the day. The boys made a base. The girls posed for photographs and wandered chatting arm-in-arm in the dappled forest light.
Our poor birthday boy was recovering from tonsillitis which left him tired but happy nonetheless.
Bed time for babies: Our daughter bringing in Hope and Thorn for the night.
 Fifteen years ago we cancelled the application for our little daughter to attend preschool and decided to educate her at home. Our journey, starting as play dough on the kitchen table, stories with a little blonde toddler on my lap, counting with blocks, and learning shapes and colours, has come a long way. Together we studied the stars, battled over trigonometry, discussed the difference between Roman civil law and natural law, shared poetry teas, and generally filled our days with rich learning. 

November marked the end of her homeschool journey, the day she closed her last book and completed Grade Twelve. Words fail me at the gamut of emotion tumbling through my heart, everything from pride and joy to an aching emptiness now that our school days are over. 

Next year she is off to explore new horizons. 


  1. Aaah Cath so lovely and happy and sad all together. Your garden is looking wonderful.

    1. Thanks my friend, so sorry we couldn't get our dates to coordinate so you could see for yourself.

  2. those quiches looks devine. where is the market you sell your goods?

    1. Ah, we're in the Free State. I see you are in Cape Town.

  3. What a great sounding month you have been having, and your garden looks like it is positively blooming.
    Love that last picture!

    1. Thank you Emma. The last pic is bittersweet for me. Soon I'll have to say goodbye to her.

  4. Congratulations on the completion of you and your daughter's homeschooling journey, Cath. I cannot imagine how emotional this must be for you..I find myself getting choked up when my daughters finish a school level at their local primary school.

    And I have to mention ..I love your flour/sugar bags - they are just my kind of thing. :)

  5. Thank you Christine. It is quite a challenge to embrace the new season in our lives.