Monday, August 1, 2011

Lots of wwoofer action

Update from the forest

Greetings! The long silence does not mean that we have been abducted by aliens or fallen off the face of the planet. I have been suffering from "Blogger's Block"... but mostly, no news has been good news.

I'll begin my update with the goings-on in the pet enclosure (as there is always much happening here). You may remember Mr Sox, the boy guinea pig who considered himself to be a rabbit until sexy girl guinea pig, Paris showed up to remind him of his true nature. We swopped our 4 nasty roosters in exchange for her at an animal sanctuary, to which I have not dared return in case they want to give the roosters back! Anyway, Paris and Mr Sox are now proud parents!

We waited and waited, along with Casey and Sarah (WWOOFERS from California who are medical exchange students), while Paris grew fatter and fatter. When she looked like a football, our friendly neighbor S (who boasts many pet rat birth stories) Googled "guinea pig births" and we discovered that they have exceptionally long gestation periods. Long after the departure of our med students, we woke to find the triplets: covered in fur, eyes open and able to run around and eat solid foods from day 1! We named the girl baby Mimi (we knew she was female due to the fact that she had three colours, rather than the males' one or two). She has since unfortunately succumbed to a suspected quail attack, but brothers Felix and Chip are growing at a rapid rate and providing much delight and enjoyment.

Our finch family (white mommy and zebra daddy) managed to build themselves a nest in the enclosure and lined it with soft rabbit fur from where their tiny eggs brought forth two sweet little baby birds whose beaks are starting to turn the distinctive orange colour. Daddy and babies have since escaped, leaving a rather lonely mommy to wait for her new eggs to hatch and provide some company.

Meanwhile, our rabbit breeding programme came to a rather abrupt end after Big Daddy Fuzzy's "snip". I did recently spot our baby rabbit Flash Gordon humping Speckles, quickly picked him up and managed to lay eyes on his manhood, so I have no doubt we will soon be in business again. Our "Bunny Love" stall at the Friday market was a big hit a few weeks ago (R5 for 5 minutes of bunny cuddles), so this family business might have a future! I am also collecting rabbit fur which I hope to spin into wool and knit myself a beany - currently my most ambitious project.

On the chicken front, our sole hen Penguin stopped laying eggs a few weeks ago, much to our dismay of course. Whlie chatting to guru neighbour R about farm matters, he informed me that chickens don't lay eggs in winter (unless they are kept warm and given enough artificial light) - who knew? I was given another little hen as a birthday present from kind poultry producing neighbours, and since then Penguin has been laying again. Although we've had some lovely warm winter days, it seems that loneliness might also play a part in egg production. Now Penguin and Hoendertjie scratch around the yard, looking for worms, attempt to come into the house and regularly crap on the patio. Penguin recently discovered that Kevin's car is quite cosy and promptly laid an egg on his seat!

Justin and Gervais (a South African woofing couple) arrived shortly after the birth of our guinea pig triplets, sporting their own bakkie. This was the first time we had woofers with their own transport and within no time, the farm was a hub of activity. Loads of mulch, horse manure, sand and stone were carted around and the heavy (and welcome) rains meant that the bakkie got stuck in the mud on numerous occasions. They turned our growing tunnel into an oasis, with deep fertile raised beds. On most afternoons, the children and I can be found fighting over fresh baby carrots, munching greens and edible flowers - this gives me endless joy...My forage food project is slowly becoming a reality, although I do still prepare meals. I have sent the kids to the tunnel to forage when they presented with hunger from time to time (their friends think I a weirdo!).

Justin also brought a wealth of mushroom farming knowledge and inspired Kevin to use my bath (which has been sitting around waiting for a bathroom for 2 years) to house a multitude of plastic bags filled with sterilised straw and oyster mushroom spawn. I expect that we'll be having an oyster mushroom festival soon (unfortunately not in time for the Knysna Oyster Festival which ended last week). With my bath occupied and bathroom still in the ethereal reality, I managed to buy a plastic tub recently which is big enough for me to have a bucket bath. A tight squeeze and some imagination...Update on the mushrooms is that the straw is showing signs of gross green fungus which I suspect is bad news.

Karlo (from Cape Town) and Aysan (from Sweden) arrived shortly after the departure of Justin & Gervais and busied themselves with filling tyres to provide the flower garden with a barrier from the cows and grass. They also completed the foundation to the new shed, which went up last week.This is the first construction project which Kevin has taken complete ownership of and I (for one) am very proud of my handy husband! The shed came in panels and was acquired second-hand from mountain biking mate B, various woofers built and prepared the foundation, helpful handyman neighbour M brought his powerful drill and Kevin & I erected the last panels and attached the roof sheets. Now, we're eager to get going on the new spacious main bedroom with a spectacular view over the forest and mountains...

Rebecca is our latest woofer from Calgary, Canada where they have one month of summer each year. She's been enjoying our warm winter days while painting and preparing the shed for the Great Relocation of "Stuff" which took place last weekend. After unpacking and organising the last of our stuff, we were able to finally say good bye to the last remaining rented container. It's been almost 4 years. I now still have a stack of boxes on the patio to sort through (which I plan on covering with a table cloth and being in denial about for the near future)!

The last few months haven't been without sadness: we've said good bye to dear neighbour T (who returned to Germany), our friends (the A team) who returned to Canada after their sabbatical year in Plett, and the D'O family who left for Johannesburg. We've buried Mimi the guinea pig and Top Deck - the first of our baby bunnies to survive, who got trapped in a burrow. On the 13th of July I commemorated my mom's birthday - she would have turned 62. And although I miss her dearly every day, I am never far from her wisdom and love and blessed by the abundance of woofers she sends to help ease the load.

Mila has become quite the actress - she delivered all 60 of her lines in the recent school play impeccably even though she was coming down with the flu. She played Mohtep, the evil advisor to the pharaoh who planned to overthrow the throne. She has published her own blog: and has become a very keen mountain biker (finally, a biking buddy for Kevin)! She turns 8 on Saturday (6 August) and we're planning a mountain biking adventure and sleepover party...

Luke recently learnt about the dangers of fire when he landed with both his palms on the boiling hot Morso fireplace when he fell off the couch he was jumping on. He screamed for hours and nursed nasty blisters for more than a week, but has since recovered and is also learning to master his bicycle (in between building Lego and playing in the mud).

Kevin is constantly finding "amazing new apps" for his iPhone, developing his photographic talents and is soon off to Israel for his niece's wedding.