Saturday 31 August 2013

I throw petals at your feet.....

One year ago I packed up my life in Durban and moved here to Hluhluwe. In a way I was leaving home and coming home.

The leaving part was difficult in a lot of ways. The granddaughters had just moved to Durban with their parents and I knew I would miss them. I have lived in the same house for 26 years and knew so many people in the neighbourhood. My good friend Fiona , purveyor of countless cups of coffee, would be sorely missed. Shopping for the weird and wonderful things I need from time to time for crafts would be rather difficult. My kitty cats had to stay behind as I could not risk setting off a guest's allergic reactions. And off-course, The Hubcap had to stay behind.

The coming home part goes back a longer way. I was born in Stanger, now Kwa Dukuza, and moved to Mtubatuba at the age of three in the early sixties.We lived all over Zululand for most of my childhood. Going to St Lucia or the game reserves every weekend was glorious.

So now I have come full circle and am thoroughly enjoying living in Zululand again.

In the beginning it was full steam ahead to get the guesthouse up and running. Then it was hard work getting the news out there that we were ready for guests. Now we are sitting with the problem that we do not have enough rooms. We have had to turn a number of guests away and I hate doing that. Plus, we need more rooms to enable us to go beyond break-even.

So as from the end of September, we will have two extra rooms available, but at the same time I have to give credit where it is due. We would not have been able to get to this point without the help of a couple of people.....

To Ciska, I throw petals at your feet in thanks for the help you have given us. Not only did you find this property for us (, but you send us all your guests that you cannot accommodate at your own guesthouse (

To Hennie and Tanith, thanks for putting up with me and doing the alterations and building work so well.

Watch this space for pictures of the new additions.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Local food and alphabet soup.

There are so many establishments offering accommodation in this area, that it is quite difficult to stand out and make sure that potential visitors notice us. So from the beginning I set myself a target of being as environmentally friendly as possible (without sacrificing comfort). One way we can do that is to eat local and seasonal. I try to make sure that we do not serve any imported food and that we grow as much of our own as is possible. At the moment my little urban farm is home to a growing vegetable patch and soon I am hoping to add fresh eggs to the menu.

I want to build a chicken run in the far corner and get six hens. Not only will they contribute eggs, but their manure will be a welcome addition to the garden and their pest control activities will be most beneficial.

For years my aim has been to use ingredients that my grandmother would have had in her kitchen. As soon as I see a string of letters in place of names on an ingredient list on packaging, I put it back on the shelf. Ingredients that read like alphabet soup cannot be good for you.

One thing I will not be able to accommodate on my little farm is my own milk cow, but I can buy milk and make my own products out of it. I recently made my first batch of yoghurt and cannot believe how easy it is. If I had known I would have done this a long time ago as I can go through quite a lot of the stuff.

I found the recipe here and adapted it to South African measurements and products.

  1. Large, heavy pot. My Le Creuset Christmas present came in handy.
  2. A cooking thermometer, aka a sugar thermometer.
  3. Five Consol jars.
  4. Whisk.
  5. Cooler box.
This is how I did it:
  1. Run the Consol jars through the dishwasher to sterilise, or wash and rinse in really hot water. Turn upside down to dry.
  2. Heat 2 litres of  full cream milk in the heavy saucepan to 84 - 88 C. This is the temperature at which the milk is sterilised.
  3. Remove from heat and cool to 44 - 48 C.
  4. Add one cup of plain yoghurt (make sure it says on the container that it has live culture) to the warm milk and whisk through. (I use Greek yoghurt for my starter)
  5. Pour milk into the Consol jars and close. The fifth jar will not be full.
  6. Place the jars in the cooler and add warm water, 44 - 48 C, so that at least three quarters of the jar is in the water.
  7. Close the cooler box, or warmer box as it is in this case, and leave for three hours.
  8. This yoghurt will keep for about a month in the fridge.
  9. If you use full cream milk, the yoghurt will be quite firm. If you use low fat, it will be quite runny.
Reasons why I like my home made yoghurt:
  1. It tastes better and I can add my own flavouring.
  2. It does not contain all sort of other gunk like starch to thicken it or preservatives.
  3. I do not contribute to the landfill with disposable containers made from petrochemicals.
  4. If I add anything like fruit to it, I know exactly what I am adding.
I have no picture of my yoghurt, but will include some soon with my recipes using yoghurt.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

My Urban Farm

Growing at the moment:
Leeks! The biggest leeks I have ever seen in my life!
My Four and a half year old granddaughter holding one up. Unlike the recipes that only use the white part, I use the whole thing. My Leek and Potato soup is a definite khaki colour.

My Bright Lights Swiss chard is magnificent. I think I am going to plant a couple more packets of seeds and plant them out in bare patches in the flower garden.The colours are amazing and they grow huge.
The bok choi is doing well but will start bolting soon. I am going to have to plant them sooner next year. I think it is already too warm for them here. I am going to try and shade them to see if that will not slow down the bolting.

I am trying the trick of planting potatoes in a wire basket and filling the basket with straw and leaves. I saw this in  "Cultivating Flavour" by Toni Walters. It seems to be going well so if it is a success I will do a step by step tutorial sometime in the future.
The small potato plant sticking its head out for the first time. Since it has appeared it seems to take off like a rocket.

I had a couple of red lettuce plants that bolted. I took the seed and planted them. It seems like they ALL came up. Besides that I have a row of lettuce plants that keep us going. 

The onion seedlings I planted are doing well and the brinjal (eggplant or aubergine) is covered in new shoots.

I have just added a HUGE new bed to the veggie patch. I am so looking forward to planting it full of gorgeous stuff to eat. Check back in a few days for that particular update.

Monday 5 August 2013

Urban Farming

I have always been fascinated with the idea of urban farming. Type "urban farming" into Google and the variety of projects around the world is astonishing. The idea that city slickers can grow their own food appeals to me no end. The fact that we may HAVE to in the not too distant future is also at the back of my mind. This is exactly what happened in Havana, Cuba. Back story can be read here , here , here and here

When I lived in Durban I has a small veggie patch that produced an astounding array of veg. It was not much bigger than a double garage. The argument that many people have to NOT plant more food is that they do not have space. That is total BS.

The first time I became aware of people using every square inch in an urban setting was many moons ago on a visit to Dar es Salaam. Every bit of ground was used to grow something. The soil was a powdery sand but that did not stop people trying.

My son recently sent me photographs he took in South Korea.
The topography in South Korea is very hilly and mountainous. There is not a lot of land suitable for agriculture so every little bit counts. Slopes are terraced to gain maximum planting space.
Note the little stream (storm water drain?) running through this garden as well as the tank to save water. The photographs were taken from a moving vehicle.

Even roof tops and balconies are used. To prove that this is not a flash in the pan I am including a wider shot that spoilt by some sun flare, but you can get the idea.
Which now begs the question, why are we so lazy? We have lots of ground, yet we have so many people claiming poverty and hunger. If the people of Dar es Salaam can grow food in sand, if the Cubanos can replace their expensive imports and the South Koreans can grow food along freeways and on roof tops, why do we still have issues with hungry people?

Sunday 4 August 2013

One year on.....

The beginning of September will be my 1 year anniversary of moving to Hluhluwe. Not only that, but also the beginning of SPRING!!!!!!

I am so excited and cannot wait to see how the garden is going to look in a months time. I have noticed that there are lots of green bits sprouting all over. So here is a wrap up of what is going on at the moment in the flower section.
A fresh coat of paint always works wonders. The whole property is in the process of getting a new coat of paint. Plascon's Waxen Tint and Stonewash is just what the doctor ordered.
Making the entrance welcoming is always a bit tricky, but lovely pots and gorgeous plants does the trick. Please note the brass plaque with our three stars!

My first nasturtium flower. The variety I have here is Alaska (?). We are making sure that the whole garden is either ingigenous, edible or plays a role in permaculture. Nasturtiums fullfill the 'edible' and 'permaculture' requirements.
 Some info on nasturtiums

Not many of the vygies survived to adulthood but the ones that did are absolutely amazing.
Barberton daisies (gerbera) are one of my favourite flowers. I got a couple of plants at a nursery in Kwambonambi  and they have rewarded me magnificently, not only with flowers but also self seeding. I started with about eight plants and now have about twenty.
I visited Twinstreams Indigenous Nursery last week and bought some stunning small trees for the garden. I am still figuring out where to plant what so will have to be patient until I am certain that each tree has a position where they will look their best.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

The Joys of Living in Zululand.......Part 2

So after the pineapples and pottery and Pongola, I had a rerun of the early morning drill of Saturday, except for the fact that BOTH my camera batteries were fully charged.

I made a beeline for the park at 5.45 and drove straight through to the very far southern end of the iMfolozi section.

Along the way I saw a reasonable variety of wildlife. Giraffe and zebra are pretty much a certainty on the Hluhluwe side of the park. They are often found together.

Giraffe have managed to combine haughtiness with curiosity.

 I do not know why people go on early morning drives as I seem to see very little on these drives. It was a good while later that I got a good sighting again.
Vervet monkeys are to be found in reserves as well as urban areas. A pest in towns and cities but cute in the park

Glossy starlings are quite spectacular when seen in sunlight. They are often to be found with larger game where they catch the insects that get disturbed by grazing.

I was slowly but surely making my way to where the cheetah with the three cubs have been seen. Driving and looking for game can be a bit of a job when you are on your own, so adding taking photographs into the mix makes for some strange contortions sometimes. It also means that sometimes you miss something that was worth photographing or you end up in a deep rut or hit a stone because you were not watching the road.

And this is exactly what happened when I HIT THE JACKPOT!

No, not the cheetah and cubs, but eleven lions on the sandbank in the White Umfolozi river.

By the time I parked the car without ramming the one other car that was there, got my camera ready and started taking photographs, the pride had scattered and only five were visible.

The standing lioness was either very pregnant or had just eaten a huge meal or both. She tried to lie down and relax but could not settle down.

I realised that there was no way that the cheetah with the cubs would risk staying in the same area. She has most certainly moved off somewhere where her cubs would be safe from lions. In the wild predators do not accept competition from anyone and would try to kill other predators on sight.
I sat and watched them lazing around for a good half hour. By this time another car had arrived and I left to give them a good vantage point.
I must admit that I find it rather difficult to get enthusiastic about buffalo. To me they are too much like cattle on the farm to get excited by them. They even sound like cattle.

Rutting season has arrived and all the male impalas have gathered their harems together. They are very protective of them and will chase any males that dare to come close.

The ever present warthogs.

By this time it was quite late in the day and I had seen no elephant. All the signs and tracks were there, but no ellies. Mountains of poop and lots of devastation but no elephants. Elephants can be very destructive but this is part of grazing management. Savannah will turn into bush if the elephants did not help control the trees.
Wildebeest and impalas often hang around together for protection.
Such a beautiful face.


The last part of my day was going along the Lower Mangangeni road. And there in the middle of the road was this old gentleman.
There are a number of game reserves in Zululand that houses an abundance of different ecosystems and biomes. We are truly privileged to have access to all this so close at hand.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

The Joys of Living in Zululand.......Part 1.

I have spent the past week planning and scheming. The southern part of the park has been beckoning for ages and I wanted to spend my Saturday roaming around the area where the cheetah with the three cubs hangs out. I woke up very early, got myself ready, packed lunch and made a flask of coffee. Everything was waiting at the door and all I had to get ready was my camera equipment. And then the realisation hit me.....neither of my two batteries for my camera had been charged.

So, change of plan. I decided I was going on a roadtrip. I set off on the N2, travelling north. First stop, Mkhuze. After looking around the street market, I remembered that we bought some fillet steak at the supermarket a couple of years ago. It was VERY cheap. So I went to inquire if they still had specials on fillet steak.  Lo and behold, R73.00 a kilo. Needless to say, peppered fillet is on the menu the next time the family get together.

Further north is the town of Pongola. The town itself won't win any beauty contests but the setting is magnificent. I could easily live there. next time I go there I will make sure my camera batteries are charged and take some pictures.

I managed to find some preserving jars at a reasonable price at one of the supermarkets and set of for home. Just outside the town I saw a board for Vincents Pottery. Now if there is something that really gets me going, it is hand made things. I just love the amazing variation that something handmade has. Two people can use exactly the same materials and produce startlingly different results.

After an hour of chatting and discussing the possibility of hand wash basins for the new rooms we intend adding in the future, I headed home. By this time I was in a hurry as I wanted to put my new preserving jars to good use.

Besides the nearby game parks, Hluhluwe has another claim to fame. Pineapples.

Acres and acres of pineapples.

So my new jars got put to work and some of them are now filled with a delicious Pineapple Relish, or Chutney, or Pickle. Whatever you want to call it, it is delish.

So here is my recipe for Pineapple Delish
(makes 1,5 litres)

3 tbsp oil
1 tsp turmeric
2 cups finely chopped onion (350 g)
2 tsp garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
5 cups finely diced pineapple ( 750 g)
1 - 2 chillies
1 cup wine vinegar
400 g brown sugar
2 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp salt
a couple of sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup raisins
1 large orange, yellow or red pepper, finely chopped. (NOT green)

1. Lightly fry the turmeric, onion, garlic and ginger.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium to low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. 3. Put the lid on at an angle and cook slowly till the pineapple is cooked through. At this point I like to use my hand held liquidiser and turn about a third of the mix into mush. Leave the lid off and reduce to a thick consistencty.

1. If you like your food to have a kick, chop chillies including the seeds. If you prefer a milder version, remove the seeds.
2. Red onions give a nice dark colour.
3. For a yellowish relish, use white vinegar, bleached sultanas and white onions.

Part 2 and 3 of why I love living in Zululand will be up soon. Please come back and check it out.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Cultivating Flavour........with apologies to Toni.

I have been having some problems in the vegetable patch. The garden in Durban, where I used to live, has a sandy soil that I had built up over the years to a good loamy sandy soil with lots of vegetable matter. Now I have dense clay and I find myself at sea.

My cucumbers started off well and then just fizzled out. My peppers grew and then just dropped their leaves and produced small hard fruit.

And then I remebered Toni's book. I bought it a while ago at the House and Garden Show in Pietermaritzburg. With the move here to Hluhluwe it got packed away in a box marked "Books to Keep" and I forgot about it. As I had recently bought a wonderful old bookshelf I started unpacking my "Books to Keep" Boxes. And the first one I unpack has "Cultivating Flavour" by Toni B. Walters in it. I promply suspended my unpacking, made a good cup of coffee and sat down to figure out what the problem is.

When I built the raised beds I placed thin layers of clay, then compost and organic fertiliser and then another thin layer of clay. I think the layers of clay are a little too heavy and the rich nitrogen from the decomposing compost is just a little too much so I am going to dig in a little more compost and then follow that with strict crop rotation.

Bed 1 will get Cabbages, onions, bok-choi, spring onions, interspersed with marigolds. These veges love the nitrogen from the decomposing compost.
The other beds will just have to lie fallow until they have had their turn with the above veg.

So hopefully, problem solved.

And Toni, thanks...from a kindred spirit.

PS The reason this book is my favourite is because it deals with local condition and seasons.

Friday 5 April 2013

Slowly, slowly does it.

I had no idea that getting up and running was going to take quite so long. We reached another  milestone today.
It would have happened sooner but the flash drive I had 6 months worth of photographs on went missing so I had to start from scratch.
So here is a repeat of The Kudu Suite!!!!!

Monday 18 March 2013


One of the problems with growing your own fruit and vegetables is the feast or famine scenario. We harvested a beautiful bunch of bananas and in absolutely no time we had a whole lot of ripe bananas and a day later we had over ripe ones.

Thankfully banana bread is a universal favourite. I have been searching and searching for a good recipe and I think I have found the best. I amalgamated a couple of recipes and tweaked the mixing and this is what I came up with.

The Best Banana Bread Recipe....EVER!!!!!
For me, in any case.
I forgot to mention that this is for 2 loaves. If you want only one, halve the recipe.

8 small overripe bananas (450 g)
500 g white sugar
4 eggs
250 ml vegetable oil
160 ml milk
450 g flour
10 ml baking powder
10 ml bicarbonate of soda
5 ml salt

1.       Mash bananas and add sugar. Mix till most of the sugar is dissolved.
2.       Add eggs and mix well.
3.       Add milk and oil and mix well.
4.       Sieve dry ingredients together and add spoonfuls to the banana mixture, mixing well in between each addition.
5.       Bake in two loaf pans at 170C for one hour or until a skewer comes out clean.

All the guests we have had up till now has been people we have known before. If anybody had told me that it would take so long for me to be comfortable hosting perfect strangers I would have laughed at them. I now have two rooms that I am at ease with. It is the little things that take time to get sorted out.

Anyway, here is the Kudu Suite.
The artwork on the wall is a beautiful piece of beadwork that I had framed.
The kitchenette has everything you could need. Should our guests choose the self catering option, all they need to bring is their food.
The only thing I am still looking for is a bistro table and two chairs.

Friday 8 March 2013


We are so extremely fortunate to have a climate in which just about anything grows.
Since we moved in six months ago we have harvested an impressive list of fruit and veg.

  • More spinach than I knew what to do with. I cooked and froze some, my staff took bunches home and friends and family benefited from the bounty.
  • Lettuce! By the bushel! A friend who also owns a B&B got the leftovers.
  • Mangoes by the bucket. We have three trees all bearing prolifically.
  • Litchis. Now these I share with no-one.
  • A big basket full of parsley that I added some basil to and made the most awesome pesto. I froze some for later.
My adorable grand daughter with the basket of parsley.

  • One bunch of bananas busy ripening.
  • And finally...GUAVAS!!!!
I have already bottles a couple of jars and made a couple of litres of juice that I froze and still they just keep on coming. I am going to have to buy some more bottles to preserve some more and I am going to bake some guava sweets.

The branches are still bent double under the weight. Unlike a lot of fruit, the bearing season is quite long.

Still to come....
  • A couple of figs off the fig tree that is only a couple of months old.
  • Some oranges that are busy ripening.
  • Avocados that will be ready soon.
  • The lemon tree is flowering.
  • And the in the veggie patch the aubergines are nearly ready to be picked.

  • Also planted is Zucchini, sugar dumpling squash, cucumber, more parsley, spinach, onions, leeks, spring onions and the runner beans are just starting to run. to make your own guava juice.
  1. Wash ripe firm guavas and cut off the top and stem scar.
  2. Slice and put in a pot with just enough water to cover.
  3. Simmer approx 15 to 20 minutes until quite mushy.
  4. Puree and strain out the seed.
  5. For every 1 litre of pulp add 250 ml sugar.
  6. warm gently and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  7. Freeze till needed.
  8. Dilute according to taste. 
Lovely fruit juice with no preservatives of chemicals.

Talking about chemicals, our garden is very organic. We have worms for liquid fertiliser and compost bins for ordinary compost.


Friday 15 February 2013

Its the little things that count.........

Living so close, both physically and emotionally, to a game park makes it easy to get caught up in the whole BIG 5 thing and we sometimes forget to look at the really small things that enrich our lives.

I was thrilled to find some small spiny mantises in the garden.
The proverbial butt shot as he was trying to get away from me. I say 'he' as male mantises are smaller than female mantises.
I have tried to find some links to give some scientific background but as I do not know the scientific name I could not do so.
This is the female I found about 15 cm away from the flower with the male. She is about twice the size of him.

I am particularly please to find mantises in the garden as they are carnivorous and eat other harmful insects. Unfortunately they are not big enough to tackle this fella.
This must surely be the stinkiest smelliest grasshopper ever.

I will keep my eyes open for more small treasures.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Field Trip Part One

This is surely one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa. On Sunday The Hubcap and I went to check out some of the surrounding areas so we can advise our guests with firsthand knowledge. Basically that was just an excuse to go for a walk on the beach.

The village of Hluhluwe is situated smack dab in the middle between the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This huge complex has a number of attractions and we decided to visit Sodwana Bay which is one of them. Getting there from The Fever Tree takes about an hour, but it sure is worth the drive. The water is warm and as it was off-season, the beach was not crowded. The wind blew a bit too hard for my liking, but I will most certainly be going back, and soon.

We left when the wind became too much for me and decided to go home through uMkhuze Park. We have been there many times before so we knew what to expect. What we did not expect was the condition of the road.
The rough bits on the right is what is left of the tar road.
The powers that be of iSimangaliso are going to have to see to this soon. I know we have had a lot of rain which does not help but this is not good.
The Nguni cattle in the area is a sight to behold. 
In Africa we use whatever we can find if we cannot afford to buy what we need. This ingenuity produces some truly picturesque building projects.

As we got near the park we had to cross the Mkhuze River. I have never seen it flowing as strong. Hopefully we will not have the same drought as we have just come out of this winter. We found this gorgeous
Pied Kingfisher sitting on the bridge.

In the park we were treated to some wonderful sightings.
During the dry season the edge of Nsumo Pan is the line of reeds behind the hippos, but the water level is so high that there is space enough for them in front of the reeds.
They were getting a bit agitated as we were quite close to them, so we left. BTW, more people are killed by hippos than by lions.

The number of young animals in the park is astonishing. We came across impala, wildebeest and giraffe nursery groups.

We left the park at exactly 7 pm and had to brave the shortcut in the dark. This road used to be the main road from Durban to Maputo.

All in all, a day of seeing beautiful sights, bad roads and fabulous wildlife.

Wednesday 23 January 2013


No, not the halucinatory kind, but the dreamy kind. When we started renovating this property, I had a vision, or maybe I should call it a dream, or maybe a wish.... never mind, I just knew how I wanted the place to look.
In the beginning we spent so much time and money just fixing what was wrong that we sort of lost track of what we wanted. Now we have done most of the have to's and have started on the want to's.
The back courtyard was a desolate place. Four walls and a paved floor with a couple of pots with herbs.
The Hubcap is very handy though. In no time we had beams cut to size and ready to go up.
Already the space looks a lot more inviting, even if it is just the bare beams. We got them all measured and made sure they fitted. Then we took them down and painted them.

Getting closer and closer to my vision.
We made a trip to Kwambo Poles and bough a load of laths. What a job to get them painted! But so worth it. Thank goodness for electric screw drivers. If we had to do this by hand it would have taken forever. So we are 99% of the way there. Just a couple of things to go on the wall and Phase 1 would be complete.