Heatwave!

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We’ve had a serious heatwave over the past week and a half. Terrible wind has added to the discomfort blowing dust into the house from all corners of the farm. Yesterday was the absolute worst with gusts up to 50km/hr the whole day long!

We had a little bit of rain before Myles was born, but there’s been nothing since and everything has totally dried up. I managed to take some photos of the garden early one morning just before things got really parched and windswept. The garden has come into bloom about a month earlier than usual, probably because we had some rain in September and because the temperatures have been so hot for spring. We also had a relatively mild winter so things didn’t frost down as much as usual. I just love the riot of colour and the fragrance of honeysuckle, lavender and rose drifting through the air. A real treat when the wind isn’t blowing and it’s pleasant enough to venture outside!

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Lapping up the autumn sun

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I can’t believe my last blog was two months ago! Where has the time gone?? It certainly has been a hectic year so far and I find myself less and less able to indulge in time spent documenting happenings around the farm. I’ve also been spending a lot more time updating and writing for our official Vastrap Boran website and blog, which has left my personal blog lonely and neglected.

It’s pointless to even try to catch up on everything that’s been going on, but the main news I have to share is that we are expecting a baby boy at the end of September! I am just over 4 months pregnant and feeling great, but the first trimester was very draining and quite stressful waiting to see if we would get past the first three months. On top of that Livia was sick for quite a few weeks and teething badly which left us very sleep deprived, something that we’ll have to get used to!

Ashley is here this week for her holidays and Livia is absolutely loving having her big sister around. We had some fun in the garden this afternoon in our new outdoor seating area. The building was completed just in time for Easter when the whole de Bruyn family gathered at Vastrap to celebrate Bill and Karine’s 50th wedding anniversary. I got lots of ideas from Pinterest on how we could build something like this using the natural sandstone from the area. After showing all the photos to Quentin he made it happen using blocks that were carved decades ago by a stone mason who used to work on the mountain behind our house. I am so thrilled with the result, especially since it looks like it’s always been there. In summer it will be covered in shade from our beautiful tree and in winter it will be a lovely place to lap up the morning sun. The girls certainly approve!

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Dahlia delight!

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I simply can’t get enough of the dahlias in my garden. They never fail to delight and every day something new emerges in a different colour, shape and size. The neon yellow dinner plate dahlias are totally irresistible! It’s been a while since my dahlia patch looked this good so early in the season. Dahlias have been a staple in the Vastrap garden since Quentin’s grandmother lived here over 50 years ago. There weren’t any when I arrived, but it didn’t take long for me to revive the tradition, because they are so easy to grow and make wonderful picking flowers. Exactly the type I like, the more you pick the more they flower! Livia and I are loving summer, spending more and more time out in the garden. We’ve had such lovely rain followed by beautiful hot sunny days, exactly what one expects from a good summer season in the Eastern Free State. It’s the definition of delicious and exactly what’s needed to keep the farmer in our house content and happy over the planting and harvesting season.

Quentin's grandparents at Vastrap circa 1940s.

Quentin’s grandmother Berry’s dahlias. 

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Counting my blessings

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The first proper summer rains came on 1 November, the weekend of my 40th birthday. That must surely be a good portend for the year ahead! It was so dry and dusty and miserable and now everything is fresh and new again. I decided to beat the Monday blues this morning by taking Livia for an early morning walk. There is still a chill in the air, but the sky is brilliant blue. The face of summer is slowly becoming visible across the landscape, which is littered with groups of cows and their new calves. Dams filled to the brim with water shimmer in the rising sun and the sound of tractors leaving for the days’ work punctuates the air. From now until the new year there will be little time for rest on the farm as maize and sunflower crops are planted and wheat is harvested.

The garden has sprung alive too with new blooms appearing daily. I’m in love with the lupins that are flowering for the first time and the dahlias have started their summer show. There are plenty of artichokes and self-seeded holly-hocks are popping up all over the place. I can’t wait for the next flush of roses as I missed most of the first. The agapanthus as budding like crazy. What a beautiful and blessed way to start the week!

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder

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Livia and I have been away for a while visiting my dad in the Cape. While we had a great trip, and even managed to spend a little bit of time with Ashley at the beach, we were very ready to come home. For some reason I’m always away in October when the roses have their first flush and things start to really happen in the garden. It makes me very home sick knowing what I’m missing out on! At the same time, the garden is desperate for some proper rain to really get things going and the farm landscape is still very drab and brown offset here and there with bright green wheat fields. The contrast between the Cape and the Free State could not be greater than at this time of year after radically different winter rainfall. We did have a bit of rain while I was away, but it was accompanied by a massive hail storm which caused a lot of damage in the garden, but fortunately not too much on the farm. Quentin took these beautiful photos just after the storm. He even came across a porcupine that had been flushed out of its hole and looked very disoriented, poor chap!

2014-10-22_0009While we were away most of the seeds I planted in pots in September germinated and the stuff we planted under the bird nets in the veggie garden seems to have survived. I’ve got some beautiful italian tomatoes, lettuce, kale, brassicas, artichokes, rocket, carrots, beans, squash and a few other bits and pieces. Our electric gate stopped working though so it stands open in the day and creates a clear path for the chickens to feast on a buffet of greens! Tseliso doesn’t have the heart to keep them cooped up all day so roam free they will. I was expecting the strawberries to be ready for picking, but sadly they were flattened by the hail.

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While we were away our new bronze garden sculptures by an artist called Sarah Richards arrived. They are a beautiful life sized wattled crane and a purple heron. I think they look magnificent (thank you my love!)

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While we were away the roses put on a magnificent display that was cut horribly short by the hail. The garden now looks nice from far, but in reality is far from nice. My fantasy of picking arm loads of blooms for the house will have to wait for the next flush later in November or early December. The irises looks beautiful though and my dahlias are coming up well. The peonies are looking a bit fragile, but hopefully they’ll pull through. Sadly is looks as if my favourite indigenous tree that was a huge attraction for birds has died. It already looked poorly last season, but it still has no green shoots. I’ll give it a bit more time, but I think it’s a goner. I don’t even know what kind of tree it is, but will try to identify and replace it.

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While we were away the new installation for our pool heating system was completed and the water pump has been connected today. I must say, the guys did a magnificent job, especially our farm manager Andre who built the structure from scratch and connected up all the little pipes. I can’t wait to have late afternoon swims with Livia and for us to have an extended swimming season! This massive new structure now standing in the garden is going to require some work to finesse and soften and my head is buzzing with ideas. I’ve already bought some more honeysuckle, star jasmine and jasmine to train up the supporting poles and along the tennis court fence. Apart from the warm water that it will provide, I’m also very glad that we now have a shady patch around the pool. My next big mission is to find some nice outside furniture to transform this into a real living space.

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Late-Summer Garden

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There are signs all about that the seasons are starting to turn. Work on the farm started half an hour later today signalling the end of the busy summer period. The wild peach trees alongside the road are almost depleted of their fruit thanks to passing cars with plastic bags at the ready. Soon a sea of cosmos will bring shades of pastel to the landscape. I am more aware than ever of the subtle changes in light and temperature being awake a few times through the night feeding little Livia. In the garden, the fading agapanthus have been replaced by bright orange wands of crocosmia and the odd flowering clivia. Similarly, the spectacular pink Pride of India and bright red Bottlebrush tree add a splash of colour.  There may still be many glorious sunny days before the winter chill sets in, but it’s only a matter of time before the leaves on the poplar tree at the bottom of the garden and the virginia creeper in the courtyard turn auburn and start to fall.

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Koos’ iPhonography

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As predicted, there hasn’t been much time for blogging in my world! Livia is now 5 weeks old and thriving. I’ve been working hard to make sure she’s putting on weight and the effort seems to be paying off as she’s starting to fit into her clothes a bit better. Mothering a newborn is hard work, but I’m loving every sleep-deprived moment. She has already changed so much and this week the competition is on to see who she smiles at first! My mother visited us again this past weekend and bought my cousin Koos and his new wife Alix along with her. It was a rainy weekend so we spent a lot of time entertaining Livia and making magic in the kitchen. We managed to get out one afternoon for sundowners, or at least an attempt at it in the circling rain. The rain is extremely welcome after the scorching hot January weather. Our crops were starting to take serious strain, but this soaking will hopefully reinvigorate them. The veld is lush and green at least so all the cattle are looking very happy and healthy.

Our sundowner route took us past a herd of our Angus cattle and we had a beautiful view of the circling storms from our vantage point on top of the koppie. Koos is a skilled iPhoneographer so I left it to him to take photos and asked him nicely to use them for the blog. He also took some great photos in the garden when I sent him up to the veggie garden to pick tomatoes and rocket. The borage and zinnias are in full bloom, but the artichokes and echinacea are now past their prime. Thanks to Koos I’m now able to share these gems with you!

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