April... autumn month of golden poplars and misty mornings, magnificent fiery sunsets and icy sunrises, first frost and late harvests, horses and puppies, the pain of lives ending and fragile hope of life beginning, holidays and hard work, fires in the hearth and in the braai, family and friends, fast frenzy and Slow Living. Join me, along with Slow Living Essentials as I keep track of the month that was for the twelfth consecutive month.
We fed many mouths at various intervals this month. Three Jersey cows, two calves, three horses, twelve plus chickens, four dogs, one cat, three family members, two farm staff, eight guests, two grandparents and one hundred or so horse lovers and countless customers at our market stall. Here, waiting for their afternoon dinner just outside the veggie tunnel are Thorn, Rosie, Hope and Joy. Each of our animals is fed twice a day. That, along with regular meals for family and friends, has resulted in much meal preparation. I love the cooking part, especially when it is for loved ones, but resent the daily grind of dishes and milk buckets that pile up into mountains every time my back is turned. Dish washing visitors are always welcome in my house. We cook with passion and nourishing others is definitely an act of love around here. Our generous animals in turn feed us... milk, cheese, butter, cream, yoghurt, ice-cream, eggs, meat, entertainment, rides, cuddles and joy.
Decadent Dad made his first batch of boozy cabernet salami. These delicious-smelling cured meats will hang for four months before we can taste them. His first chorizos are already proving to be fantastic.
We picked all the grapes off our verandah vine the night before the frost, then froze the whole lot to deal with at a later stage. I hope to make grape jelly, juice and smoothies.
Besides halloumi, feta, chabie and cream cheeses for market, most of Rosie and Joy's milk is made into an unpredictable farmhouse gouda that we mature for at least four months. It is always fun to cut through the red wax and discover the unique character of a cheese made months ago. With the summer grasses giving the last of their green sweetness, our store of red-waxed goudas has grown substantially. Hopefully it will provide enough cheese to see us through the winter.
REDUCE / RE-USE / RECYCLE
Elastic Mom USE-IT-DON'T-LOSE-IT principles sometimes send me into borderline hoarding tendencies. Challenged by the clutter accumulating in my craft cupboard, I hauled out my cande-making crate, untouched for more than six years, besides the random occasional tossing in of melted pieces of wax and spent candles. I, the unskilled dabbler in many crafts had all these wonderful visions of making candles with my growing children which we did when they were little, yet when the opportunities arose over the past few years for time with my teen children, we chose other pursuits instead, like tea and a chat, a walk on the farm, reading aloud, an outing to town or baking, sewing, and encouraging them in their interests rather than mine or just being together, and the candle-making crate gathered dust. Frustrated with my lack of creativity one afternoon when two young girls were visiting, I hauled out the heavy crate and we spontaneously made some dipped candles from bits and pieces of pink and purple wax. It was fun and I spent the rest of the evening melting my coloured wax into various tins, ready for another dipped candle session. There is a sense of satisfaction gained from making something useful and pretty from waste that I couldn't bear to throw away as it represented regrets over missed mothering opportunities . Repeated dipping and waiting for the wax to set as the organic-looking lumpy candles grow is slow living at its best... deliberate slowing down, pausing and sharing a moment with different enthusiastic children, or even time to ponder and mull over years gone by, extinguished like the puff of breath on a flame. It is a chance to turn regrets into hope for new special candlelit moments.
Juggling many things at once, I regularly burn the porridge in the pot, or even worse, let it bubble over onto the stovetop. A recently-read tip has helped me deal with these awful burns quickly and easily...
For burnt pots: boil up a little vinegar in the pot, leave it to stand off the heat and simply wipe away the burn marks.
For the stovetop: sprinkle a bit of bicarbonate of soda on the blackened marks, drizzle over vinegar, leave for a bit and then wipe with a soft sponge. Repeat if necessary.
I am pleased to say that it works.
This Atlantic giant pumpkin wandered far from its bed fellows. Our first frosts have come so we can haul in the many enormous round orange and flat white pumpkins from our pumpkin patch. I left them standing in the open until the frost could concentrate their flavour.
I greet the icy change with mixed feelings... sadness at the end of peppers, cucumbers, basil, tomatoes and brinjals and relief that the intense gathering of the harvest is over and it is time to enjoy the fruits of our summer labour. Other harvest foods best gathered after first frost are Jerusalem artichokes, celery and, apparently, rose hips.
It took a road trip for me to finish my first sock and cast on for the next one.
It arrived a few days ago in the mail, a brown paper package, a surprise, unexpected. The note read,
" Couldn't resist sending this one. Love from the UK. "
Chez Panisse Café Cookbook by the renowned Alice Waters.
The beautifully illustrated hardcover book has become my bedtime companion. Filled with detailed instructions, anecdotes and beautifully simple recipes for creating magnificent meals from freshly grown seasonal produce, this thoughtfully chosen gift book has already brought me much delight. Thank you kind Kerry.
I have had the privilege of visiting this lonely young mom and her precious prem baby in hospital. She was born ten weeks early.
My son and Xoche, this gorgeous 3 year old appaloosa gelding, participated in their first 40km endurance ride. Xoche was timid and head shy, but with gentle patience and tenderness we are winning him over. His owner is very kindly allowing our delighted son to care for him here and train him. He hopes to ride another 40 with him in May. Decadent Dad and Elastic Mom catered for the endurance event, cooking three meals, and providing cappuccinos and snacks for around 100 people.
We spent a wonderful Easter weekend with my namesake school friend and her extended family. It was a time of long walks and chats and good food, and of course, an easter egg hunt after dark. I value our longstanding friendship. We were in nursery school together. It's so good to pick up after months and years apart, and for our relationship to be as special as it was before.
The absolute highlight of my month was an unexpected, yet long overdue visit to my precious mum en route to a funeral. She, my stepfather and their two cute lapdogs live on the KwaZulu Natal south coast, about 8 1/2 hours drive from us.
We only spent a short time with them, but it was so, so good to be with her again. My mum is the most gracious lady I know, and such a strong role model in her character. I love her to bits and I savoured every waking minute with her. My family is split up all over South Africa, so we really value chances to be together. Being at the seaside again was an added bonus. There's nothing like walking barefoot on the beach, feeling the gritty sand and shells and the water rushing up, foamy and cold.
I have completed a year of monthly journalling of slow living in our home. In so doing, I have reached a personal goal, and I am not sure whether I will continue the record keeping, or not. Lately I have found myself writing poetry when compelled and part of me wants to focus on more creative writing, while another part of me so enjoys the online contact with like-minded Slow Living bloggers. I feel as if I have all these words tumbling in my head and waiting to be written, yet seldom find the time to record them.