Wednesday 12 December 2012

Hurry up and wait.....

I don't know if it is just me, but I am sure that bureaucracy was invented to stifle creativity and entrepreneurship. The legalities for the guesthouse seems to be taking forever. Some afternoons I get so despondent that I get in my car and go for a drive in the park.

My camera always makes the trip with me.

The impalas have dropped their fawns. I have never seen so many pairs of twins in my life. I have an idea it may be because we have had a couple of years of drought with bad grazing. This year the grazing is abundant because of all the rain so I think Mother Nature is trying to make up for the bad years when the mortality rate must have been very high. And yes, their legs really are that long. They have to be able to see over the grass from a very young age.
The Hubcap, Girlchick #2 and I went for a very early morning drive and found these two lounging about at Kwankwankwa view site. (My colour editing skills leave a lot to be desired. It was rainy and dull).
A couple of days later we came across these two cuties. Unfortunately the one at the back has one blind eye. This is not good for an animal in the wild and does not augur well for its long term survival.
The nyala female grazed right up to us where we were sitting in the picnic site.
And then the cherry on top. The African wild dog has the most amazing markings. They are highly endangered but we are fortunate that there are several pack in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. They are closely monitored and all packs have one or more individuals with a radio collar.
For more info on wild dogs
So when people ask me why I left the big city and moved to this little corner of paradise, I show them these pictures.

Monday 15 October 2012


The opening has been set for the first day of November. Not that I expect to be overwhelmed by bookings from day 1, it is just that we need something to aim at.

Up to now all our budget, time and efforts have gone into fixing things that were wrong and badly maintained. So now we have finally gotten to the good stuff. We are slowly but surely getting down to putting our own stamp on the place.

The Hubcap made a compost bin from pallets that I managed to scrounge. I did not want to get into the garden in a serious way without having somewhere to put all the clippings.
The bin in the foreground is for the grass clippings. It is not a good idea to put in too much grass clippings at one time so the bin serves as storage. Whenever leaves or foodscraps go in the bin, iy get covered with a layer of grass clippings.
I also managed to get started on some of my dumpster diving finds. As I am in need of a long narrow coffee table for the odd shaped lounge, we decided that one of the wooden toolboxes would be perfect.
This is how it started out. One day I am going to ask Plascon for sponsorship. I sing the praises of their paint stripper to everyone I know who might be vaguely interested. It is bio-degradable, water based, you can use it on water based as well as solvent based paint, it's non-toxic and just the best thing since sliced bread.
So this is as far as I have gotten with this one. The dilemma that we all face with this sort of thing is do we carry on cleaning and sanding or do we stop here. Once you put that sander to the wood you cannot go back. I will have to ponder that one for another day or two or maybe week or two. Nah, definitely not week or two, the deadline is too close. I will have to decide today.
The paint had covered up a couple of serious problems. The lid is made of a very inferior wood but the bottom part is gorgeous Oregon pine. So we are going to have to upholster the top and turn it into seating as well as a side table and I am going to have to get stuck into some of the other boxes to find my coffee table.
Back to work.

Monday 24 September 2012


I finally have an internet connection. So the next couple of days are going to have flurry of entries as I catch up with all the goings on at The Fever Tree.

The Hubcap came up for the weekend and left at 4 this afternoon to go back to work. As I was feeling a little blue I decided to take a quick drive to the park to see what I could see.

At 5:16 pm I saw a spoonbill feeding in a wallow that is full of water after the rain.

At 5:18 I came across huge herd of buffalo. There was another herd away on the hill.

At 5:19 I saw a group of 6 rhino right next to the road. They were so close we all had to wait for them to make room for us to pass.
This must be an extended family group. White rhino are very social animals, unlike the black rhoino. They are solitary.
At 5:28 I found a breeding herd of elephant. I was a bit wary as our adventure with elephants of a few weeks ago are still very fresh in my mind.
The colour is a bit washed out as it was starting to get dark.
On my way to the gate I saw a rhino with the cutest little one. That was at 5:50 pm.
So in less than an hour, I saw three of the Big 5. As usual, only the kitty cats were missing.

This is exactly why I moved here. Such a privilige to be able to see such an abundance of wildlife almost on my doorstep.

Tuesday 21 August 2012


No, not the kind that goes whoosh through the sky, the kind that lies in dark corners and make you feel guilty that you did not finished them, AKA unfinished objects.

So while packing my vast stash of craft materials and tools (and I really mean VAST), I came across an equally vast stash of things that need to be finished. I love re-purposing clothes so I have a couple of boxes marked "Clothes for Recycling".

I recycled some old denims and all the bags need are some clasps. I still have to figure that one out.
 I Battled for a while to figure out how to do the straps, but I got that one sorted.
My next challenge is going to be the clasps. I do not want a conventional button. Something a little more creative is in order.

Believe it or not, but this little bag is made from knitted computer cable.

Those old grey cables that used to connect printers to towers have the most beautiful coloured wire inside. A lining and a long matching strap and there you have a nifty little purse.

Hunting for lions

We went up to Hluhluwe this past weekend to start fixing and cleaning and getting ready for the move at the end of the month. We also needed to take Mehlo Shoba, our new caretaker, gardener and general factotum to look after the place for the next two weeks.

I wanted him to see the bigger picture regarding the park, conservation and the fact that his job, as well as the jobs of thousands of others, are all closely interlinked with the park. He had never seen any of the large animals before.It was not long after we entered the park at the Nyalazi Gate that we ran into this young fellow who was really just showing off.

It was late afternoon when we were approaching the Memorial Gate when we ran into this handsome rhino. The reddish colour is from the mud that she wallowed in.

We spent our first night at the guesthouse. Getting up early was a treat as the abundant birdlife seemed to put on a special show for us after the grey day before. The scarlet chested sunbird is particularly special to me.

Large parts of the park has had seasonal fires. How many were managed and how many were accidental, I do not know, but the areas affected are huge. It makes for some rather dramatic photographs.

At four in the afternoon we dashed back to try and find some lion for Mehlo, but no luck. The park closes at six in winter, so we had to dash to make it back to the gate before it closes.

So we headed back home (home? I already feel that the guesthouse is my home) and got to bed early as we were quite exhausted and intended getting up early to hunt those elusive lions.

No lions, but we did see this gorgeous brown hooded kingfisher.

On our way back to the house we passed a piece of land where the burnt veld makes a wonderful contrast to the pale trunks of the fever trees.
And immediately I remembered where I have seen something similar before.

The weaving is an art project my daughter did in grade 11. It hangs in the stairwell in the house in Durban. I think I am going to miss seeing it every day.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Close encounters of the elephant kind

I found another image of the close encounter with the elephants in the park. I sat there blubbering like an idiot with my eyes closed instead of enjoying the moment.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Chocolate Crunchies

In all the years that the Hubcap and I have hosted people from all over the world, food was the one topic that never got exhausted.

I enjoy cooking for people. In fact, I have great difficulty in cooking small quantities. I suppose coming from a large family and marrying into an even larger one is the reason that I love really big cooking pots.

So now I am back to compiling menus and shopping lists, trying out all my old recipes I have not touched since the kids were small and rediscovering the joys of baking.

Top of my list is Chocolate Crunchies. This seems to be a purely South African treat as I have not come across them anywhere else in the world. I intend every guest to have a couple of these in a cookie jar with their tea and coffee tray in their rooms.

I have looked all over the web and compared various friends and family recipes, and this is my deluxe version. Here is a link for another variation.

My Deluxe Chocolate Crunchies

1 cup flour 

1 cup oats (NOT the instant kind)
1 cup coconut 
1/2 cup sugar 
2 tablespoons cocoa (if you really want to show off, add some dark chocolate instead!)
125 g salted butter (NOT margarine) 
2 tablespoons honey 
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Melt butter and honey and add the bicarb.

Combine the rest of the dry ingredients until crumbly and press down evenly into an oblong greased baking tray and smooth. Best to use the back of a spoon for this.
Bake at 180C for 20 minutes

While the crunchies are baking, prepare the icing.

1 cup sifted icing sugar 

2 tablespoons cocoa  (again, equivalent amount of dark chocolate can be substituted)
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 tablespoons water (maybe a drop or two more)

Microwave 30 seconds and stir vigourously. If any lumps remain, microwave another 20 seconds and stir again. Repeat until smooth. Getting the consistency right is important. It took me a couple of tries but stick with it, it is so worth it. Pour over crunchies and cut into squares just before icing is properly cold. It helps to use a wet knife to stop everything sticking together. Dip the knife in between each cut.


Friday 3 August 2012


D-Day for the special consent came and went. It turns out that there was an administrative glitch and our special consent was not on the agenda. This means we have to wait another month. AAAaaaargh! I do not think we can survive another 31 days of tension like the last couple of weeks.

Another problem raised its ugly head...Our option to buy was dependent on special consent being granted within the two month period and if we wait for the next town council meeting, we miss that deadline completely.

The Fever Tree should be opening for business on the 1st October 2012.

Special consent or not, I am moving. We can sort the legalities out later. It is just a question of formalities. Hluhluwe depends on tourism so it is very unlikely we will be turned down.

 I am packing and sorting and packing at a pace that is sometimes too fast and sometimes too slow. Twenty six years worth of junk needs to be sifted through. Half done projects, craft materials, beads, half made clothes that no longer fit me, and memories from the kids' schooldays. It is rather exhausting on an emotional level. So many places and times revisited if only in thought. 

Here and there I find projects can be completed with just a little bit of effort. I am going to set myself a target of finishing at least one UFO (unfinished object) a week. 

So, for the first time, here is a picture of where we are moving to. The place is a bit grim. It was a holiday home for a wealthy family from Johannesburg but it never had the care and attention a home should have. So my first month is going to be spent cleaning, painting, decorating and getting the garden going, The veg garden is small and needs to be tripled as we want to offer our guests homegrown organic vegetables. The garden is going to be strictly indigenous, except for the fruit trees and veg. 

Lots and lots of hard work ahead.

Monday 2 July 2012

And so we wait.....

So we spent two days dashing all over Hluhluwe to get the signatures we need for the special consent to run a guesthouse. If you want to meet the locals in a new town, this must surely count as the best introduction. Everybody was so kind and supportive, even though we are going to be competition for some of the people we met.

On our way home we chose to go through the park and this is where the fun and games REALLY started. We were on one of the little side roads on our way to a view-site when we stopped to look at some elephants that were grazing a little way off. Mesmerised, we did not notice the HUGE ones coming towards the car from the back .......

The view through the rear window

I was terrified. They were very calm and non-threatening, but they were HUGE! Our car is a rather large SUV and the ellies towered over us. The one female gave us a nudge to see if there was a reaction. When none was forthcoming, she calmly walked off.

My apologies for the bad quality photographs, but under the circumstances, this is as good as it is going to get!

We were trapped for about 30 minutes. The Hubcap kept on telling me to look at the babies but I sat with my eyes clenched shut. 

I can imagine that in the future, we will have more adventures like this. Maybe I will open my eyes and look next time.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Dumpster Diving.

I am going to miss the folks at the Bellair Garden Dump something serious when I move to Hluhluwe. My latest haul includes 3 wooden tool boxes, a perfectly good pine chair, some window frames and light fittings.

The selection of windows is staggering. Some are going to end up as picture frames, chalkboards, mirrors and all sorts of funky stuff like that. The trellis cabinet doors are going to become bedside table tops. 

I got four of these wall mounted light fitting. Imagine what it will look like with flowers cascading out of them.

And my favourites. I have always had a thing for boxes. Some tool hire company threw all their wooden boxes out and replaced them with plastic crates.

I am not going to be able to do much about my treasures-in-the-making for the next couple of days as I am going on an extended roadtrip. Durban toOrpen Gate at Kruger National Park, then to Hluhluwe, where I will meet the Hubcap, and the all the way to Vilanculos. And all this is 90% work and 10% play.

Saturday 2 June 2012

What has a guest house and DIY projects got to do with each other?

Well, a guesthouse needs furniture, doesn't it? Lots of furniture as a matter of fact. And I have discovered that dumpster diving is a wonderful source of amazing furniture.
So far this week I got
1. A pine bedsite cabinet, louvre door, all painted black.
2. An old workbench, too big to get in any available vehicle so we dismantled it and discovered that the wood is GORGEOUS.
3. Old toolboxes x 3. I am so chuffed about these.
4. A wooden door, with glass missing. I am going to clean this up and it will become my menu board in the guesthouse.

We went up to Hluhluwe to fill in a wad of forms to get planning permission for the guesthouse. We also spent the rest of the day measuring up the place for the Hubcap to draw the plans. So things are moving along.

And to answer the question, why the tiny little dusty village of Hluhluwe?
It is the closest we could get to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. The Hubcap and I go up there as much as we can, so why NOT there?

Maybe a bit premature\, but I have started packing.

Tuesday 22 May 2012


The negotiations for the property is going reasonably well.

We have a meeting with the seller and the estate agent over the weekend to find a way to make this work. Apparently he freaked when he heard what it was going to cost him to get plans drawn and passed, BUT, that happens to be the business my Hubcap is in. So here is the deal..... we will offer him what he asking for the property, but we want the furnishings thrown in. Also, the sale is valid for as long as the lady at town planning thinks it is going to take to get the legalities sorted out. So if she estimates 3 months, the agreement will be valid for that long. So, looks like it may all be happening.

In the meantime I have started fixing up some old furniture that I want to sell. Running a guesthouse means a lot of work in the morning, a lot of work later in the afternoon and quiet in the middle. So I thought I would indulge my hobby of DOING THINGS to earn a bit of extra income. I will post some "after" pictures as soon as I am finished with the first stuff.
This is a table made from reclaimed wood. It has plenty layers of paint on it. I cannot decide whether to strip it completely to expose the Oregon pine, or leave some of the paint for a shabby chic effect.
I found a shopfitting company that was closing down and bought some stunning old stuff. I got 2 old tool boxes and these cute little trays that held nails of different sizes. Will see how they end up.

Renovating things is so satisfying.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Let's start at the beginning......

This whole blog may be a bit premature. Let me start at the beginning......
The Hubcap and I have been married for 34 years. We had our ups and downs, raised our kids and are now approaching retirement.Living in a big city is not my idea of fun, so the plan is to retire to Zululand, open a Bed & Breakfast, and live off that while in retirement.

We have found the property we want, but it is hugely problematic. It has five bedrooms, each with a full bathroom and kitchenette. There is also five garages that can be converted into extra rooms.It has a borehole so the cost of services will be much cheaper. The problem is that none of this has been built to approved plans. So step number one is to get the present owner to get the plans passed. Their is no way we can get financing without that.

so, lets see what happens from here.