Monthly Archives: March 2013

My Typical Day Living on a Farm

Farm

I’ve always wanted to live on a farm. Without the distraction of cellphones, email, social media and television. But before I tell you about my undoubtedly incorrect vision of what living on a farm looks like, I’d just like to apologise in advance for my naivete and that I mean no disrespect to those of you who do actually live on a farm. My version of farm life is probably as far removed from reality as one can possibly get without becoming a cartoon wallaby called David. Having said that, I did used to ride horses on a plot in Kyalami and I know what dirt look, smells, feels and tastes like.  Anyway, with that caveat out of the way, let me describe what My Typical Day Living on a Farm would look like.

7:46am Stretch toes. Followed by legs. Slowly bring one arm out from under big, fluffy down-duvet (made from feathers collected by my own hand from around our farm) to test the temperature, it being winter. Unravel right eyelid to allow in a little watery sunlight. Determine that it is in fact light and eyeball has survived assault. Open second eye. Employ all muscles in a whole-body stretch. Lie and snooze gently for 10 minutes or so until body becomes accustomed to the idea of being not asleep. Sit up very slowly and feel around for fluffy pink bunny-shaped slippers, slip on warm, definitely-not-anywhere-near-sexy-lingerie gown. Slowly stand up and make way to large, heart-of-the-home farm-style (it being a farm and all) kitchen.

countryside8:00am Pour a strong coffee made from very expensive, delicious and imported from the rain forests of Peru coffee beans in a big coffee machine I would never in real life know how to operate. Sit down at country table with very hot and large coffee, stare thoughtfully out of large, security-barless picture window over rolling hills whilelooking poetic, beautiful and refreshed after good night’s sleep. Contemplate the magnificence of the morning and acknowledge my good fortune in being able to experience the quiet farm-life far away from the rat-race and stress of the city where I once lived. Ponder the close connection I now have with the Earth and my renewed relationship of the life-gving land.

9:00am Pull on my pink and purple faux fur-lined Wellies in the beautifully decorated mudroom, inspired by the lovely ideas I found on Pinterest. Grab my hand-woven (by me of course, I’m Uber-talented) basket and step outside into the soft wintery sunshine to go about my morning chores of: collecting the free-range eggs, feeding the chickens, hand-milking the gorgeous black and white cow called Isabella, and exercising my magnificent horse, Queen’s Ransom.

12:00pm return to my sun-bathed, decor-magazine house with wrap-aroundhazelnut torte porch, small apple orchard, herb-lined kitchen garden and four big dogs of questionable pedigree and intelligence. Step into the wood-burning stove-warmed kitchen and dish up some hearty organic vegetable and lentil stew to be taken with (not eaten – in this picture I’m very Victorian and sometimes speak like I’m from Downton Abbey) home-made cheese and sage bread. End off leisurely lunch with a cup of Chai, sweetened with the honey from my own bees, and a hearty slice of cake drenched in salted caramel (click here for the recipe http://bit.ly/XARDaC). When you live on a farm you have to eat a great deal of delicious, highly calorific food and home made cakes. Because that’s what one does on a farm.

1:00pm settle myself down in the drawing room ( I don’t know what that is but my farmhouse has a lovely one) on my green and toffee-coloured damask wing-back chair for a spot of needlework. Farm ladies always do needlework and I have a sampler to complete. And a jersey to knit. And some socks to crochet. I’m proficient in all types of needlework.

3:30pm whistle for large, brown dogs as I step into the late afternoon weakening sunshine, my Idumbe_resizedhand-woven basket from earlier now replaced by an orantely-carved wooden walking stick – a beautiful trinket given to me as a gift from the blind man in the village after I helped him by mending a pair of his pants. Walk around a portion of my farm as my daily constitutional. I like to survey my land and take the dogs for a run. They enjoy chasing the guinea fowl.

4:30pm Sit down in the library in front of the fireplace to read my Tale of Two Cities First Edition that the lady who owns the general dealer bought for me as a thank you gift when I helped rescue Gherkin, her Persion cat from a tree on my farm.

6:00pm begin cooking dinner for myself and the four friends who’ll be coming to stay with me for a few days for a little country R & R. I’ve decided to do a mushroom and chickpea Wellington made with the wild mushrooms I collected on the farm when I went out with my dogs for my afternoon walk. I’m expecting them to arrive at 7:30pm and they’ll be tired from the drive. I have a delicious Merlot for them to try out with dinner. As I stand at the gas stove frying the mushrooms and nuts and chickpeas, I reflect on my day and think how fortunate I am to have this special farm and the time to do all the things I’ve always wanted to do. Life’s too short not to be doing the things you love. I don’t miss my Blackberry, iPad or laptop days at all. And it’s great to be able to switch off from the world and news and Facebook. Being on this farm, living this lifestyle means I’m living the life I was always meant to live.

If you think you could do with a digital detox too then grab the April issue of Essentials and see how technology might be affecting your life.

Or if you’re looking for  an escape to the country Mount Grace will be holding their next market day on Sunday 14 April, to be held under the trees at this magnificent country estate, situated 50 minutes from Pretoria or Johannesburg in the heart of the beautiful Magaliesburg. Visitors will be able to browse stalls to sample and buy fresh produce and there will also be interactive farm stalls set up by the Mount Grace culinary team where you can sample tasting portions of the award-winning hotel’s signature and seasonal dishes. Entrance to the Mount Grace Market is R50 per person. For Mount Grace Country House & Spa enquiries call the Mount Grace Country House & Spa direct on 014 577 5600, email reservations@mountgrace.co.za or go to www.mountgrace.co.za for more information.

If horses were wishes…

Donkey

I used to ride an incredibly intelligent beast whose philosophy in life is: Why run when you can walk? Why walk when you can not walk? One Friday afternoon, after a long week at work, Masochist Mike (the riding instructor) decided that it would be good idea for us to trot without stirrups. I knew instinctively, like an ant knows not to crawl down the bath drain, that I wasn’t going to stay elegantly perched on the back of the horse. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I was born with no sense of balance at all – I’m the only person I know who can quite easily, and quite readily does, trip over invisible objects.

Anyway, back to the horse. So there I was being instructed to remove my feet from the stirrups and trot. I had a feeling of impending doom. And maybe I’m entirely to blame for putting my imminent close-encounter with the sandy paddock out in the Universe. Maybe the Universe did no wrong and just answered the call I sent out to fall flat on my bum. As the usually laziest horse in the history of the world gained speed and trotted on in what can only be described as anticipatory glee, I began to lose my balance.

Falling off I did the only thing a quick-thinking, horse whispering tamer-of-beasts in my predicament would do: I decided on the controlled-fall approach. Don’t be fooled: this isn’t as easy as it sounds. It requires much manoeuvring of the body into positions that contortionists can only wish to emulate. I slid slowly from the saddle and twisted around so as to land on the soft cushiony pad of my rump. My reasoning was that it is far easier to break your arm than it is to break your bum. So there I was, inches from the end of my life (a little melodramatic, I concede but then I’m allowed a little melodrama when I barely escaped death) when I hear Mad Mike shouting: ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing disembarking from moving horse?’

And as I pondered the profundity of his question, I hit the ground with an oomf. Fortunately, my well-thought-out plan turned out to be just that and the effects and scarring were minimal. Nothing bites deeper than the disappointment of a bruise that doesn’t appear when all you need is a little evidence to show and tell the world about your near-death experience.

I lay on the sand looking up in to the eyes of an Smiling horse
extremely amused and, I’m not going to lie,
self-satisfied horse. Andy is not mean. There is
not a malicious bone in his gorgeous horsey body.
But he is smart. And he does have a wicked sense
of humour. I swear I heard him chuckling from the
bottom of his belly, which was now surprisingly close
to my face.

Again I was faced with a monumental decision. Well two decisions really: How was I going to react to this situation, and what was I going to do about it? I was running out of time to show those watching that I was not in fact dead so I decided to go against everything I believe in and against all my morals and values. I decided not to cry. And with that decision I stood up and walked it off. Like the cowboys did in the days of yore.

I grabbed my chuckling 800kg horse by the reigns and frog-marched him to the mounting block. I could have stared adversity in the face and tried mounting him from ground zero but all that stuff I said earlier about contorting myself was a blatant bald-faced lie. My legs just don’t bend that way. So off we tramped to the mounting block in order for me to regain a little of the dignity that now lay smeared in the horse manure.

I parallel parked Andy alongside the mounting block and prepared to climb up and back onto the throne from which I’d so recently been removed. I stood, hoisted up my right leg ready to show the world how brave I was, when Andy decided that he’d finished with his riding lesson for the day and began to lope exhaustedly back to his stable. I just about heard him say: ‘Thanks, I’m a little tired now. I think I’ll go for a lie down. Bye, Lady.’

Horse in stable I dismounted the mounting block to retrieve my gentle giant who was quickening his pace the closer he got to freedom. I grabbed the reigns and took the horse by the mane (please appreciate the subtle use of metaphor) and parallel parked him once more against the mounting block. I was again in mid leg throw when Andy decided, with much certainty, that he was finished riding for the day and off he went to have a nap.

I once again dismounted the mounting block in a way it really never should be, and went trotting (without stirrups I might add) after Andy. We parallel parked for the third time and I prepared once again to grasp at the remaining tatters of my dignity and remount the most obedient horse in the yard. Fortunately a bystander, now bored with my lack of command and the general repetitiveness of me failing to mount my ruddy steed, decided to help out by reigning in my mule.

Once again I threw my leg energetically towards the heavens where the Universe now lay rolling on the floor laughing and Andy loped off. To cut a really long story about climbing on the back of a horse short, it took three people to hold down my horse while I pathetically and without any dignity clambered up on his back. And off we went in search of more humiliation.

In the April issue of Essentials magazine (http://bit.ly/dVqXd1), Taryn, our travel ed, visits Ant’s Hill in the Waterburg and enjoys an unforgettable horse-riding safari. Fortunately she manages to stay on top of her horse and shares her amazing experiences with us.

aprTrvlAnt8es

She also tells us about a couple of other weekend-away destinations if you’re looking to go somewhere lovely for Easter, including a country manor in the North West, a spa in Chinsta and a gorgeous wine farm in the Cape.

Shades of summer

Autumn

While we were making dinner on Sunday evening, and our backs were turned, the seasons decided amongst themselves that it was time to do a WWE-style, tag-team manoeuvre and now it’s autumn. I’m not surprised. Every year it gets a little chillier and rains on my birthday. This didn’t matter too much when I was a little girl – swimming parties work just as we’ll in the rain as out when you’re seven years old. But now that I’m a little older and my swimming parties have become drinks or lunches with friends out in the great wide open, it’s a whole different kettle of wet fish. Anyway, back to the old season switcheroo.

welliesSo there we were enjoying the last of the summer sun when that came to a dramatic end and in stomped a moody autumn with her pink Dora the Explorer wellies and her purple polka-dot umbrella, ready for some rain and mud. But it’s not all bad. While summer is amazing and we all like a little wine time around a braai or by the pool, autumn and winter also offer their own little treats to be savoured.

Autumn is the time to unpack those forgotten winter clothes (bought on sale at the end of winter last year and never worn) and start packing away the swimming costumes and sundresses, only to haul them out again in a few days because summer has decided to make a final reappearance. Autumn is also the time we start thinking of those delicious, warming and comforting winter dishes Mom used to make. And because autumn in most parts of South Africa is approximately 18 minutes long, that’s all there’s really time to think about. So let’s move on to winter.

Winter’s the time for boots and tights and snugly jerseys and, if Pinterest is anything to go by, a time for long chunky socks that stick out the top of your boots (it looks much more awesome than it sounds, promise). It’s also the time for leg warmers (I know! How 80s, but this time around we’ll wear only one pair at a time instead of mixing andbundled up matching lumo yellow and neon pink) and gorgeous scarves. Caryn, our fashion ed, has been hard at work looking for the most fab winter trends and, in April’s issue http://bit.ly/YcwiVW, she gives you stacks of style for under R300 and all the latest accessory trends. And we feature the results of the Top of the Shops Awards that you voted for.

And that’s just the clothes! There’s also the delicious winter food hot chocolatewe can look forward to tucking into and sharing with friends over a couple of bottles of glühwein. Nothing warms the cockles of your heart more quickly than a piping-hot pot of scrumptious mixed mushroom soup http://bit.ly/WIS73n  or, try a delectable spicy casserole http://bit.ly/16tyFtj and finish your meal off with tangy lemon pudding http://bit.ly/10Jpv7K.

So as we wave a sad, and perhaps slightly tearful, goodbye to summer as we remember those blissful, carefree days in the sun, don’t get too down in the mouth. Winter can be a time you look forward to if you know how to make the most of it. And that’s exactly what we’re here for: to help you enjoy this new, fabulous time of the year.

Memories as safe as houses

House.jWhile out looking at houses this weekend I noticed that the only houses I could actually picture my little family living in had a particular feel to them. And it wasn’t just that they weren’t horrible cockroach-infested pig sties either (some of them have been, to tell the truth). I couldn’t figure out what it was that gave a house ‘the feel’ until my Mister pointed it out: all the houses I seemed to like had a specific smell to them. They all smelled vaguely earthy and damp. And before you think I’m a little strange, let me explain.

I spent some of my childhood in Estcourt (of bacon and sausage fame. The Estcourt bacon factory – the name we gave it when we were small – was the first thing you’d see and smell as you entered the town.) and living in a small town meant we spent most of our time playing outside in the garden. And much of that garden time was spent in the mud.

PigMy mom had the most beautiful rose garden that she was extraordinarily proud of. But she was also a fantastic mother who believed in providing the most exciting experiences for her children – often at the expense of her magnificent roses. She knew how important it was for her children to get dirty and to play with different textures, so she’d fill the rose garden with water and my brother and I would roll around in the mud like piglets. And we absolutely loved it! Those hours spent in the mud constitute some of my happiest childhood memories. And that’s where the damp smell comes in.

I think I’m drawn to the idea of creating special memories for my own daughter. I want her to have happy memories of being a little girl like I do. I remember how my mom used to make us sherbet out of Enos and icing sugar because (I’m not lying) we couldn’t buy sherbet in Estcourt. And she used to make us home-made glue out of flour. This glue would go off if we forgot about it and it stank! And while it did stink horribly, it’s still one of my very best childhood memories because it was time spent doing fun stuff with my mom.

CupcakesSo I think that’s why smell plays such an important role in what I feel is my ideal house – it helps create the image of a home, with a family, and a little girl running around playing ‘Thundercats’ with her friends, and getting hand prints on the walls, and baking cupcakes with her mommy. And if I can picture all of these things, assisted by the dodgy scent lingering in a house, then I know I’m pretty close to finding a home for me and my family.

If you’d like to read about the childhood experiences and memories of cherryrolypoly
some of our readers, turn to page 34 of the March issue of Essentials. Or if you’re looking for a fab dish to bake with your little one, try this Cherry-choc Roly-poly http://bit.ly/YSxsaA, a Peanut and Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding http://bit.ly/12HSf5U or these Double Hot chocolate Puddings http://bit.ly/ZtLBJ4. They’ll certainly help you create some special memories of your own!

Thandora packs her trunk (and says goodbye to the zoo)

elephant-1600x1200-pictselcom

I came across this heart warming story that seems to be straight from a children’s storybook. I can just see it, ‘Thandora gets a new home’. But it’s actually a real life, true story and it’s lovely. Gondwana Game Reserve on the Garden Route is embarking on a project with the Bloemfontein Zoo and Conservation Global to relocate Thandora, a 27-year-old-elephant, from captivity to the wild.

Thandora has been in captivity for 23 years. Recently her elephant companion at the Bloemfontein Zoo died and it was decided she needs a more suitable home where she could be part of a herd. Gondwana Game Reserve has a herd and an environment that suits Thandora’s needs and it has the facilities to support her transition.

The biggest challenge is preparing her for her new free-roaming life. Because of her captive environment, she has low muscle tone and is unfit, which could be life threatening if she’s released directly onto the 11 000 hectare reserve. She’ll embark on a rehabilitation program including diet and exercise. Thandora’s diet will change and she’ll participate in a fitness program where she’ll be walked daily, building up to a target of 10 kilometres a day.

The last time I was at a game reserve, I very nearly didn’t make it back. And this story involves an elephant (in the distance) too. And I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life! Let me start at the beginning of this dramatic tale by setting the scene.

After spending a somnambulant and comparatively uneventful day dozing in the African heat, the slow, hypnotic buzz of insects lulling us gently to sleep, we decided to pack a cooler box and find a quiet spot to watch the sun as She sank slowly to sleep and turned out her reading light. To many a person this may seem like a simple enough task – packing a cooler box – but when it comes to The Family, nothing at all is ever simple. Absolutely everything, from going out to dinner to taking a walk down to the beach, must be made into a project of gargantuan proportions.

Everyone wanted something different to drink. And there had to be options in case we got bored with one type of drink. And there had to be chips, in case we got hungry. We had to take blankets in case it got cold (in December, in the southern hemisphere). And then there was the usual night-time game drive paraphernalia: game-viewing torches; insect repellent; Brad’s Kindle (in case he got bored); Darren’s raptor guide (in case he saw a raptor and couldn’t identify it – as if); my ever-present bottle of water (in case I got thirsty and didn’t want to drink what was in the cooler box); and my calm, un-beleaguered Mister.

LandyWe dragged the entire contents of the bungalow to the Land Drover and proceeded to… chat about who would sit where. Brad said he didn’t mind where he sat; as did Darren; as did Erica; Clinton; and my Mister. I minded where I sat so I gathered up my suitcase of belongings and climbed in to ‘my’ seat directly behind the passenger seat of the Land Drover and my settling in ensued. This position has great strategic implications for me and my ability to be alive. I fear dying by elephant and I have done a quasi-scientific risk analysis of all the potential seats in the vehicle and found this to offer the greatest amount of potential protection. Of course there really is no protection (potential or otherwise) in an open-topped game viewing vehicle when you find yourself in the middle of a breeding herd of elephants who want to murder you painfully because they think you’re trying to steal their leaves. Or children.

So there we were fifteen minutes later, everyone bored with standing and discussing where they would sit and having retreated back into the yard to sit down and discuss Erica and Clint’s upcoming nuptials. Without diminishing the importance of the wedding, I would like to point out that this is a story about a night drive and would like to suggest that we skip a head a few decades of chatter and begin the story from where we encountered the Enormous Unidentified Flesh-eating Brain-sucking Demon of Death.

We had driven around a little, spotted some (lovely) really rather peaceful impala and some beautiful (being off in the distance) and majestic elephants, and were now all standing up on our benches with our right hands reaching for the heavens as we tried in vain to scoop up some cell phone signal particles (at least that’s how I think they work). Out of the darkness and from Brad’s gaping maw came a high-pitched scream. His cellphone clattered helplessly to the floor while we watched in perplexed amusement as Brad tore off his clothes like a man on fire. Brad was down to his Polo briefs before he could explain what had so excited him and moved him to show his friends his undies.

Brad had his pants around his ankles and was boogying like he was deranged. Behind me were the fallen bodies of my comrades – they had abandoned all attempts to stay upright as they too prayed for an end to the agonising hysteria of out-of-control laughter. Sundowners lay discarded and dismembered on the Land Rover floor as finally, finally, we managed to calm ourselves down. What began as a peaceful evening game drive had turned into full blown war-time pandemonium. Praying Mantis

And there we were. Brad’s friends doubled (and sometimes tripled) over in laughter as he fought bravely to find this beast that threatened his very survival. It took a little while, but eventually he found the praying mantis. On the seat. Beside his shorts and t-shirt.

If you’d like a visit to a game reserve (you may even see a praying mantis) and would also like to see Thandora at her new home, visit Gondwana Game Reserve near Mossel Bay. For all reservation enquiries contact Gondwana Game Reserve on reservations@gondwanagr.co.za or call them on 021 424 5430.

Mother of all breaks

Picking myself up and dusting myself off after a particularly gruelling print deadline (or as I like to call it, death line) has got me reflecting on work, home life and juggling the two. It’s made me wonder: How do we cope with the demands and stresses of work, and the pressures and anxiety that come with having a full and meaningful life outside of the office?

Train

It’s coming to that time of the year where we’re all getting a little tired, our motors are running out of stream and we’re fast becoming the little engines that would if only we had a little more energy. In short we’re in need of a break. As I’ve mentioned before, sleep is something other people do, but still remains the Holy Grail for all mothers. Juggling a home (including a baby and a husband) and a job that I love and am committed to, is exhausting. So, how do we do it?

Without trying to sound like a martyr, the way we cope is, we just do. And that really is the long and the short of it. But maybe there are a few things we do along the way to push ourselves forward a few metres when we threaten to fall down. And those things really do help, like going for a mani or a pedi or even just having our eyebrows mowed while we catch a little nap on the treatment bed. Yes, I didn’t know it was possible to sleep while having my eyebrows waxed until I had a baby. Anything for a chance to shut my eyes!

And if you’re looking for a little make-up related R and R, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics is launching the Pretty Powerful campaign for women and girls on 8 March, International Women’s Day. This campaign ensures that women and children affected by HIV receive the education, life skills and job skills necessary to thrive. Join Bobbi Brown for event activations at Gateway Theatre of Shopping from 12-18 March, Sandton City and the V & A Waterfront on 19-25 March.

Or if you’re looking for a gorgeous weekend break where you can escape the crowds and lie on the beach, try Rocktail Beach Camp, in the Maputaland Marine Reserve. Cosy and luxurious accommodation is available from R 1 686 per person sharing per night (please note that the price quoted is per person sharing per night, as specified in the T&Cs on page 124). For more information on this fab beach camp, visit wilderness-safaris.com and read more in the March issue of Essentials.

Something else I’ve always loved doing and I’m struggling to make time for now is reading. My Bookspassion for reading and for books started at a very young age and has by no means dimmed over the years. To my long-suffering Mister’s utter horror, I insist on buying rather than borrowing books. So, as our library grows and our bookcases groan and creek under the weight of millions of well-thumbed pages, the bank balance takes a steady beating. Still I can’t part with my beautiful little friends. Although I know in my heart I’ll never, out of choice, read a book more than once, I cannot seem to let them go. I will, and do, read anything that is printed in English. From cereal boxes at the kitchen table to shampoo bottles in the bath. Nothing escapes my addiction.

As I grew older, I was introduced to the library and the millions of little rectangular possibilities awaiting me. From Richard Scary and his beautiful poems, to Dr Suess, the paragon of madness, and his green eggs and ham. I soon progressed from fairy tales to Enid Blyton and her exquisite world of imagination, mystery and adventure. I journeyed with the Famous Five (Julian, Dick, George, Ann and Timmy the dog) on every one of their amazing quests. I had clandestine meetings with the Secret Seven at the bottom of their little garden. I learned about ‘Bellypoppers’ from the Big Friendly Giant and travelled all over the world with James in his giant peach. I detested the Twits and their spiteful cruelty to hapless birds and almost tasted the delectable chocolate in Willy Wonka’s factory. Nancy Drew and her friends became my friends and we went everywhere together. I never tired of reading and eagerly awaited birthdays and Christmas presents that would undoubtedly include a box of books. When I was sad I had my own worlds to which I could flee. When I was happy, I had millions of friends with whom I could share my joy. I am so grateful to my brother, Nicholas for teaching me to read and for unlocking a world of endless delight, and increasingly grateful to my mother for encouraging me to read and for supporting my habit. I hope one day I can bestow the same passion on my own children. I am a bibliophile and proud of it.

If you’re looking for an amazing new book to sink your teeth into, have a look at the Essentials website for our book editor, Taryn’s recommendations at http://bit.ly/XjTyTC.  And if you have any favourite favourites that you’d like to share with us, or even if you want to share your most memorable reading experience, visit us on Twitter at essentialsmagsa or Facebook at Essentials Magazine South Africa; we always love hearing from you!