Where has the time gone?!

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It’s been five months since I last posted anything on my blog. A whole summer has passed and within a blink of an eye winter has arrived on the farm. It’s been a wonderful few months for us, but our little toddlers suck up all the spare time I used to have for taking photos and writing. These days my lens is mostly focused on my little loves, Livia and Myles as they go about their daily activities on the farm. They are so different, but it warms my heart to see their little friendship grow. Livia is petite and small with a strong character and penetrating gaze, while Myles is big and tough with a gentle touch, loving heart and an absolute passion for anything mechanical, especially tractors and combines! I know this crazy busy phase will pass too quickly, replaced with a different routine involving more time in the car driving them to and from school and around the province for sport and other activities. Through all the busyness, I cherish this time with them and love nothing more than capturing their joy as they experience all the wonderful things around them on the farm.

This summer, it was such a blessing and relief to have relatively normal rainfall after the terrible drought of the past few years. There were still a couple of dry spells, but good rain in February made all the difference to our crops and livestock. Our cattle are strong and healthy and most of them have come out of the breeding season pregnant, which is all any farmer could wish for! The maize and sunflower crops will be reaped soon and then it will be time to plant winter wheat and to prepare for the Vastrap Boran auction in August. The cycle goes on, every year the same, but completely different.

December Reaping

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This is what we are up to at Vastrap in December while everyone else is at the beach on holiday…. hard at work harvesting wheat and praying that it’ll rain soon so we can plant our sunflower crop. Ashley and my niece Sophia visited us for a few days last week, but they are now also at the beach! It’s just us and dogs left here for a very quiet Christmas. It’s Livia’s third birthday on 29 December so we still have a lot to look forward to before the new year.

Wishing everyone a very blessed and happy festive season! 🎄☀️🌻🌽🌾💦☔️

It’s been too long!

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I’ve neglected my blog so badly over the past few months. I don’t know where the time goes, but there doesn’t seem to be time for any fun projects in the few moments I do manage to steal at my desk. Life seems to be a constant juggling act with an almost 3 year old and 15 month old in the house! I’ve become very adept at doing most things with one hand and child on hip, but photography and blogging aren’t amongst them! Instagram is a much easier option for quick updates and a rolling commentary on the kids who are a constant source of delight. Myles is a real farm boy – his eyes light up at the sight or sound of anything to do with wheels, water or balls. His favourite word at the moment is “tractor”, and he is always in the driving seat of the bakkie when Quentin takes him farming. Livvi is more passionate about people and animals and also loves farming with her daddy, but insists on sitting on the back of the bakkie like a real farm girl!

Sometimes Instagram just can’t give the whole picture, so I really wanted to share these photos taken by our friends Ryan and Caro who visited us with their son, Oscar this past weekend. Ryan was a friend of mine in high school, but he has been living overseas for the past 25 years. His wife, Caroline is French. They have been very active followers of the Vastrap Farm blog since it started five years ago. It was a huge pleasure to host them, especially since they are in the process of relocating to South Africa and we will hopefully see them more often in future. On their last evening we piled them in the back of the bakkie with the dogs (our boerboel, Duma now weighs almost 70kg so he is a real beast!) and took them up the mountain for sundowners. It was a beautifully still and clear evening with a gorgeous Free State sunset. I always love seeing the farm from above with all the contrasting colours of the contoured lands – dry wheat, newly planted maize and lands prepped for sunflower planting. We had really good early summer rain so the farm is looking green and beautiful, but it’s been very hot and dry in December so far. Full credits for the photos must go to Ryan and Caro – thank you for capturing our sundowner fun so perfectly and good luck for your new South African adventure. We are very glad to have you back!!

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A dry, dry summer

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It has been such a strange summer. The farm is still firmly in the grip of drought and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. With the growing season almost over we are getting very worried about what lies ahead for the winter. We were so hopeful that the drought had been broken when it rained in January, but that wasn’t to be. Thunderstorms have been extremely scattered and uneven and it hasn’t rained for a few weeks now. At Vastrap we’ve had a total of 60mm (about 2 inches) of rain since December, a dire situation given that this is supposed to be our wet season!! The grass turned green for a brief moment, but it’s already tinged brown again and grazed to the ground in most places. The crops that we did manage to plant are barely making it and some parts of the farm have run out of water completely. Our dams, normally full with water at this time of year are almost empty, a huge concern for our cattle as we move towards winter.

Amidst all this I have had my hands full with Livia and Myles. They are such a joy and growing by the day. The drought has dampened my enthusiasm for blogging as there has been very little to report in the garden and around the farm. It’s simply too depressing to take photos. We still go on lovely walks though and yesterday morning we set off early with the dogs down to the valley. Livia is very energetic and loves to walk rather than being pushed in her pram, but it’s quite a long way on a rocky road to I take the pram anyway. I usually carry Myles so that he can have a little sleep while we walk. The dogs love these outings and Duma, our 1 year old boerboel, is really developing into a beautiful specimen. He is huge and still has the enthusiasm of a puppy so Livia tries to steer well clear of him when she walks!

There is not much we can do about the drought except hope and pray that the rain will come soon. In the meantime, we can just be grateful for our beautiful, healthy children and the special times we are able to spend together as a family.

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Farmscapes

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Life at Vastrap is very busy at the moment. Looking after Livia and Myles is a full time occupation – she will be 2 at the end of the month and he is now 11 weeks old. Time is really passing so quickly, mostly in a sleep deprived haze! I am also trying to get everything prepared for our holiday visitors. We’ll have a house full of de Bruyns for Christmas and a few other family and friends passing by on their way to the coast. The logistics of shopping and menu planning are quite a challenge living as far as we do from good shops, but a bit of organisation will hopefully mean that we can just relax and enjoy it when everyone is here. Quentin is also extremely busy on the farm. The maize crop has been planted and they are now busy with sunflower and reaping what little there is of the wheat. He never seems to have a moment’s rest, because our annual embryo flushing programme for our Boran cattle is also happening this week, something that takes weeks of preparation and planning, and a lot of stressing about whether it will be a success!

At busy times like these, the only way to spend quality time together as a family is to join Quentin on his trips around the farm. This past weekend we all went up the mountain to check whether there is water in the dam up there. Although there’s a lot of grazing on the mountain it is very under-utilised, because the veld is sour so the animals don’t like it and water is scarce. The road was extremely bumpy so I got out with Myles to take photos, while Quentin and Livia went to check on the dam, which turned out to be empty. I just love the views from up there and it was wonderful to see spots of green emerging. On the way home we had to herd some cattle that were in the road. Our little cowgirl Livia was a very eager assistant to her daddy! 2015-12-07_00062015-12-07_00092015-12-07_00052015-12-07_00032015-12-07_00102015-12-07_00042015-12-07_0011

Blessings from Above

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It’s been a nail-biting November waiting for rain. Massive dust storms have been a regular occurrence in the district and it feels like there hasn’t been a day without a howling wind. By last week the veld at Vastrap was looking very desert-like with no roughage or green shoots for the animals. Things were so bad that we started grazing animals in the road and calling in favours to get extra feed bales from the Cape. Worse than that, most of our earth dams had run dry. In his 16 years on the farm, Quentin cannot remember it ever looking worse. Don’t even mention the poor wheat crop!

I am very happy to report that things are looking considerably brighter since this weekend. There was a huge storm on Friday that brought hail and lovely drenching rain, enough to refill most of our dams, some even to overflowing! It will take a week or two for the veld to rejuvenate, but at least there is water for the animals to drink. The rain also heralds the start of the summer crop planting season, which in our district includes maize, sunflower and soya. Work kicked off early this morning with the tractors heading out first thing to get the planting started. It will be a mad rush now to get everything done by 10 December, the very latest that maize should be planted given the risk of early frost.

It was wonderful driving around the farm after the rain knowing that things will look different very soon with green shoots colouring the drab brown landscape. The cattle also looked very happy and clean. Livia just loves driving around the farm with her daddy and he took this video of her and a cute little Boran calf. She is totally fearless, a real cowgirl in the making!

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Duma Love

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I love impromptu weekends that aren’t planned months in advance, but are last minute affairs that turn out perfectly. Such was our Valentines weekend when my mom and sister decided they were missing Livia too much and just had to visit us on the farm. With a free pass from respective family duties, they convinced friends Eben and Francois to join in for the drive. After the first round of cold G&Ts were poured on Friday evening, we watched a huge storm build up that brought some much-needed rain. It was thunderous and dramatic and my farmer love was incredibly grateful for it. The rest of the weekend was spent playing with baba, planning the next lazy meal under the stars and deep afternoon slumbers. We had glorious Valentines sundowners on the mountain. The air was fresh and clear after the rain opening up vistas for miles.

On Sunday I decided to drive back with them to Joburg to go and fetch the latest addition to our family of pets, a new male Boerboel puppy. That was my only mission so I left Livia behind with her dad. I drove back again on Monday morning with the sweetest little companion in the car. He was so good and slept all the way. Livia gave him a rapturous welcome to Vastrap with hugs and kisses all over. We’ve decided to name him Duma, which means thunder in Sesotho. Hopefully he will be our good luck charm for rain and a very good protector for Livia and me on our farm adventures. The rest of the pack are a bit put out by this new imposter, but I’m sure they’ll chill out soon. What’s not to love?!

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