Friday, March 18, 2011

Farm life

Farm life

We've had our first chicken egg! Our little hen, Penguin, neatly deposited her delivery on a shelf in the chicken coup cupboard where it was met with much excitement and then enjoyed by the family plus wwoofing volunteer. And what a delicious egg it was - fresh, dark yellow, nutricious yolk...

For all the joy derived from our hen, we've been equally dismayed by the behaviour of our 4 roosters, however. Yes: Popcorn, Lovely and both Golden Girls do now appear to be roosters, and the bigger of Golden Girls has developed into the terrorist of the chicken coup. He pecks at people (ouch!) as well as quails and rabbits - presumably because he thinks that everything that moves is edible. I suspect chickens' lack of intelligence precludes them from being sinister or malicious, nevertheless, I awoke on Sunday morning with murder on my mind. Armed with John Seymour's Ultimate Guide to Self-Sufficient Living, I was fully prepared to wring that little chicken's neck, de-feather and gut it & have a lovely Sunday braai on the Weber with our friends. We could not get Mila to agree to the slaughter (it being her chicken) and so Golden Boy #1 can still be counted among the living.

After discussing the matter with one of my catering clients who has some experience in meat matters, I was advised to slice the chicken's neck and let it bleed out after which it should be kept in the fridge for 2 days before cooking it in order to avoid the meat becoming tough. Well, that was enough to put this vegetarian off that idea! And once again, Kevin's Jewish heritage came to the rescue in the form of our sukkah which has been converted into the chicken detention facility, with Mila's approval. Golden Boy #1's people pecking has ensured his incarceration, soon to be followed by Golden Boy #2's decapitation of a quail. These 2 have also now started cock-a-doodling in the mornings (and throughout the day) making sure no-one sleeps late on the farm - or at our neighbour's restful guest houses!

We have a new WWOOF volunteer: 20 year old Freya from Canada, who has been chasing summer for a year before starting college in cold Ontario in September. Her trip started in Costa Rica, moved to Argentina and after SA she's off to France and Norway (the land of her forefathers). While waging war against the ceaseless weeds last week, she made the gruesome discovery of 3 dead baby rabbits chewed on by our lovely dog, Mushroom. Much to our delight we discovered 2 live baby rabbits who had not yet dug their way out of the cage to follow their siblings' destiny. Top Deck and Chocolate are the sweetest little things - spreading loads of bunny love as they are cuddled often and spend lots of time in the bed with all of us. Coco (the mommy rabbit) has started digging another burrow, so I suspect we'll be having another litter soon. Initial enquiries have indicated that it would cost more than R400 per "snip" to curb the wave of procreation soon to follow. I love my rabbits way too much to start looking for a recipe for rabbit stew!

On the garden front: we've started experimenting with the quickest and easiest form of making vegetable beds: planting bags. I took a bag of Potting Soil (purchased from our local nursery) sliced a hole in the top and planted some tomatoes and cucumbers in the bag. According to the experts, it's quick and easy (I can vouch for that), the bag retains the moisture and the soil is weed-free (yeah!). Will report on the progress soon. Freya has also started preparing our first proper vegetable bed in the growing tunnel from which we will hopefully have some yield before the end of the growing season.

The Liquid Amber tree I planted on my mom's ashes is growing strong. The leaves are turning yellow for its third season and I always feel loved and cared for when I hold the still-slender trunk for some inspiration and strength. Yesterday, as I stood stroking the bark, Sade's lyrics "Is it a crime, that I still love you" drifted through Kevin's office window, carried by a breeze which softly rustled the leaves of Trudy's tree and I sensed her nearness.

I am progressing well on the ladder of technology: I am the owner of an iPad (on which I am composing this blog, while sitting in a coffee shop). Courtesy of a tax refund - we love SARS! The non-materialism which I have endeavoured to adopt over the past few years has become so ingrained, that I find it difficult to not experience some shame regarding the acquisition. But now I finally have the ultimate disciplinary tool - I have never seen the children clean their room quicker than when their iPad privileges are in question!

The children and happy and well: Luke is still a strong Lego-man and loves playing Plants vs Zombies on the iPad while Mila is discovering the joy of reading and has keenly taken up gymnastics (with no assistance from my genes!). We're planning a trip to Cape Town at the end of March to see Cirque du Soleil, which will no doubt inspire her to leap and somersault from high and dangerous places.

Our Bibby's Hoek Book Club remains a continual source of support, laughter, advice and good reading. After my introduction to Tom Robbins, I laboured through "The Road": the most depressing book I have ever read and something I cannot recommend with ease. It follows the journey of a man and his son as they wander around a dismal post-global warming landscape in search of the odd can of tinned fruit, while fending off other survivors-turned-cannibals. I believe that it's an important read and has made me seriously reconsider my survivalist ideas. I'm now enjoying Isabel Allendes memoirs to her dying daughter, Paula - much lighter reading!

Kevin returned from Mozambique where he did a photoshoot for a new lodge. He is finding a balance between the silence on the farm, his Apple computers and the occasional mid-life crisis, and has started distributing a lovely brochure for his family photography which should get him off the farm more regularly.

With the shock of the tsunami in Japan, the marriage separation of a dear neighbour/book club member and the sudden and tragic passing of our friends' 14 year old son, I find myself holding onto my family tighter, appreciating life more...with love and gratitude.

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