Eug and I celebrated our tenth anniversary this month. We didn't exactly do anything to celebrate, but neither of us minded. When we were just married a year or two it mattered a lot to me that we celebrated in some kind of fancy way, but now there are a million daily actions, and the memories of so many more, built up over the years, as reminders of grace.
We visited a cherry farm a couple of hours' drive away for a couple of days at the beginning of December. It was an experiment to remind us that travel right now is an awful business. We went to Butterfly World on the way there, and to Eagle Encounters on the way back. In between Hana screaming. The boys really loved both places. Of course, the real reason I ever want to drive anywhere north is to stop by Tulbagh nursery. It's totally not the right time to be planting but I heard bananas were R25 ($1.75) at the moment, and who can resist the lure of growing more bananas. Certainly not I. The boys hate it when we drive into the nursery parking lot, because they know there are likely going to be trees around their ears when we drive out. Oh well. I'm already planning our April purchases, this time with a more empty car...
|Noah saw an old leaking canoe and wanted to try it out... by himself. I was scared but Noah can swim, and we were nearby, so it felt like an opportunity for him. After finding himself in the middle of the pond, he was briefly scared then managed to navigate back to shore. The next couple of days he spent hours paddling.|
|returning safely to shore. Eli really liked pulling the boat back to shore, but didn't want to go in the canoe- he knows his own limits pretty well.|
|getting a ride.|
|Picking cherries. Our climate is not cold enough for cherries, so going to pick elsewhere is part of my cherry master plan. We picked enough for quite a bit of jam and a lot of eating.|
|yet another pet snail.|
|On the way home from Ceres, we stopped by Spier, which hosts Eagle Encounters. Eagle Encounters was perfect for the kids. During tourist season, I think it would usually be too overwhelming for them, but we just missed the tour group, which meant we got amazing one-on-one attention and learned about all their rescue animals. This is a bearded lizard, Eli's favourite.|
|Noah and a python. |
|The boys take a drama class at one of our neighbours', and this month there was an end of year celebration. Wow, it was overwhelming. SO MANY CHILDREN. But they got medals.|
|Coffee first fruits. Our first harvest is enough for about 1 cup of coffee... so we're a ways away from self-sufficiency. |
|We caught this very sweet wild rabbit to get it sterilized and out of our annual vegetable garden. We now have 2 small rescue bunnies who sleep in our house and spend the day outside. |
|One of ducks emerged from sitting on eggs (unsuccessfully) completely covered in fleas. Apparently fleas attack when ducks are sitting. These spread to our chickens. Noah has been completely committed when it comes to screening and removing fleas with tweezers and dusting the animals with diatomaceous earth (DE). DE actually works, which I find amazing. It seems to also have worked with a major aphid infestation on one of our citrus trees.|
|Everyone (every single animal we own) likes to eat banana leaves. In other news, our first set of young ducks are ready for eating in January.|
|Our lovely neighbours suggested that we join them in the evening at our nearby beach (just near Kommetjie lighthouse) for some stand-up paddleboarding. Their 10yo helped take the boys around the bay. Noah got to paddle around by himself a bit, too.|
|My dad and I tried to help a lady remove a swarm of bees. It was tough going: a huge swarm in a network of ivy...|
|cutting away the swarm... Can you find the queen? We couldn't.|
|In the end we removed the swarm but couldn't attract it to our box so the bulk of the swarm moved on. Disaster, but good bee experience...|
|Our version of homeschool. Ha! Just kidding. This is the one hour of the month when the legos were put away and Eli was not threatening Hana with violence. It is not representative but it's beautiful so I'm just going to look at it and remain hopeful. If you're in this place alongside me, ask someone to send you some 3 D dinosaurs. They'll do the trick.|
|We harvested our first honey from our own hive this month-- 5 frames...|
|Adopted a new guinea pig: Perry. Perry's friend at her old house died so she came to join us. Little One and Golden love her-- she's a little bigger than they are.|
|And the duck will live with the guinea pig... (sortof, Fluffy tries to peck but Little One is way too fast).|
|Little one (left) thinks the new enclosure is more of a guideline. She can fit through the mesh and spends much of the day running around-- but she goes back by herself and so far no snakes have decided to eat her.|
We kept our water use under the 6kL free municipal water mark for the first very hot billing cycle of summer (mid Nov-mid Dec). This is testament to having a low-pressure solar geyser and a bucket/composting toilet. We irrigated over 70 trees and shrubs, and kept 25 ducks, 9 chickens, 3 guinea pigs, 2 rabbits, and five humans in water with the same amount of water that our household previously used for just flushing a toilet. Our greywater watered an additional 10 trees and a couple of rows of sugar cane. We'll pay for some water the next three cycles, and there's still a lot of work to be done to make better use of our rainwater. Our trees are largely a ways away from bearing significant amounts of fruit, but next year we should start to see more fruit.
We've been at the farm for a bit over one year (it should be noted we have 3 small kids so your progress could likely be much faster) and our eggs and meat needs are now covered by the farm, as well as our honey/sweetener needs (though I think I'll still use sugar for jam for one more year). Although we had some unirrigated tomatoes and we're eating moringa, we didn't make heavy use of the hugelkultur beds yet, because of the drought. Of course, meat, eggs and honey are not really primary dietary needs, and we'll grapple with how the kids deal with the first round of ducks for eating in January. Although everyone says that kids under 10 intuitively understand the process, we don't eat much meat so I'm not sure Noah sees the need for it. We will figure it out together-- I am certainly a little conflicted about processing the ducks, which doesn't help. We have a five year plan for some staple crops, some olive oil, and all dairy, vegetables, nuts, and fruit to come from the farm, but our diet-- particularly our use of staples like rice, wheat flour and oats-- will have to change quite a bit before we're eating most of our calories off the farm. It's slow going, and we have to have a lot of margin-- space for mistakes not to completely derail us-- but it also gets a lot easier as time passes.
And today I'm picking up a trial quail from a neighbour (an extra male that was getting fighty) to see if our duckling enclosure could also hold some quail. Ok, the male is kindof bait to see if he'll escape and get eaten, or something will come in and find him tasty. Hopefully he'll make it and we can add 6 or 8 females in there. Quail and goats have been my longtime dream, so this is the beginning of a dream come true, so watch this space... quail central here we come.