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.