Everything’s peachy

Where did December go?  Actually, where did 2019 go? It’s hardly imaginable that it’s a year ago that I talked turkey.  Three things defined last month:  fire, Christmas and peaches.  All in the space of three weeks.

The fire, nothing like those happening in Australia, did leave a trail of destruction.  It started on the other side of the mountains to the south of the village.  Fanned by strong winds, it crossed the mountains and burnt its way through the valleys and kranse, down east of the village.

At one point the fire line was about 7 km long – just on this side of the Sondereinde Mountains.  To give you a sense of scale:  McGregor’s main thoroughfare, from the top of the village to its entrance, is just over 1 km.

On the other side it was much longer and destroyed an entire wine farm.  On this side of the mountain, friends of ours lost a family home.  Although it was used as holiday accommodation, it had been built, stone for stone by the family patriarch.  It was razed to the ground.  Also destroyed was the nursery essential to the propagation of proteas which is the farm’s major source of income.  I wrote a little about this here.

The smoke in the valley – as seen from our front stoep.

As I’ve mentioned, we’ve had our own experience with fire; so we don’t panic.  We watch and wait.  Also, having that the privilege in one of my last projects, to work with firefighters, I do know that if evacuation was on the cards, we’d have been told.  Instead we were asked for refreshments for the teams.  We, and the village obliged.  It was the least we could do.

An unedited sunset view of the fire line to the east of the village. The wind was blowing it towards Jan Boer and Marky Sparky’s farms.

 

The same fire line about 10 minutes earlier, from the road on the edge of the two farms.

Then, two days later, the wind dropped.  Just like that.  It allowed air reconnaissance and aerial firefighting in inaccessible areas.  By Christmas Eve, they were mopping up and happily, that evening, Jan Boer told us that the fire had gone around the homestead.  Marky told us that it had stopped close to, if not on, the boundary of their farm. It was a very long night for them, the 23rd of December.

Christmas in the village was fire and smoke free.

Normal programming resumed and we headed to the local on the Friday after Christmas.  Then Jan Boer arrived – as is his wont.  As he walked by, he looked at the regulars and said:

“There are peaches in the bakkie (pickup).  Kry vir jou“.

For various reasons, this hasn’t happened in a few years, so us “oldies” rushed to the kitchen to find a suitable receptacle.  Armed with a wine box, The Husband and I filled it to the brim with beautiful yellow cling peaches.

Yes, they’re a little blemished and a bit bruised, but that’s a small price to pay for what are, effectively oorskot (under grade, surplus).

Then came the big decision:  what to do with nearly 8 kg of peaches.  After some serious consideration, jam won.  I’d made chutney before, but not jam.  Also, there had been requests for peach jam at the market.  I have memories of peach jam from boarding school.  We didn’t get it often, and when we did, it was devoured with gusto.  I remember the golden slivers and the syrupy sweet taste of the somewhat runny jam.  The deal was sealed.

I looked for recipes in my trusty books and then consulted GoG.  Browsers at the market often ask, “Does this contain sugar?”

Well, jams and marmalades do contain sugar.  A lot.  Sugar’s a preservative so they’re essential to the process.  It also helps with setting.  When the fruit is naturally sweet and one doesn’t have a sweet tooth, sugar content does really become a conundrum.  In my search I happened on a recipe in which the ratio of sugar to fruit was very different from what I expected:  less than half to the quantity of fruit.  Usually it’s 1:1.  What’s more, the quantity of water is minuscule which a little extra liquid courtesy of the juice of two lemons.

I gave it a bash and decided not to peel the peaches.  I’d learned about that the hard way when I made chutney a few years ago.  I also decided to keep some slices so that the jam is chunky.

Peach Jam

Yield:  1,5 kg

Ingredients

2,5 kg yellow cling peaches

1 kg Sugar

2 lemons – juice and reserve pips

2 sticks cinnamon

½ cup boiling water

What to do

Stone and roughly chop the peaches. It’s not really necessary to peel them.  I admit, I don’t like the fur, so if I eat them fresh, I peel them.

Warm the sugar in the oven at 130°C for about 15 minutes and then pour the warmed sugar over the peaches and cinnamon (in a large saucepan/stock pot) and then add the lemon juice and boiling water.  Warm slowly over a very low heat until the sugar has dissolved – shake the pot every now and again to loosen and to make sure that the contents don’t stick. Do not stir  – stirring before it’s dissolved will probably cause the jam to crystallise.  I learned this the hard way.

This takes about half an hour.  Once sugar has dissolved, and there is a goodly amount of liquid in the pot, stir well.  Tie the lemon pips into a piece of muslin and suspend on a long string into the pot.  The lemon juice and the pips are the source of pectin to help the jam to set – peaches have no pectin.  You can make peach jam without either lemons or pectin (which is also sold separately), but I like natural pectin and the flavour of the lemon with the cinnamon.  Both are ever so subtle.

At this point, turn up the heat to high and bring to a rapid boil; stir often until setting point is reached. It takes about 1,5 hours and the quantity in the pot is reduced by about half.  Remove the cinnamon bits.  Pot in sterilised jars and seal.

Notes:

  • I was startled at the yield:  a total of 3,5 kg of ingredients yielded about 1,5 kg of jam.  Both times I made peach jam using this recipe.
  • Adapted from this recipe

A last word or three

Regular readers know that I blog from WordPress to the crypto blogging platform, Steemit.  Once a month, @streetstyle hosts an initiative where Steemians “power up”.  Essentially, it’s (re)investing all one’s earnings in the platform.  It’s dubbed “SPUD” or Steem Power Up Day.  Today, I powered up a peachy 40-plus Steem.  I’m not unhappy about this considering I managed only three posts during December.

Also, as I am starting a couple of new projects, one of which will keep me quite busy, I may not be able to blog as regularly as I’d like.  The bug will bit, though, I’m sure and you’ll hear from me.

Finally, may this new decade bring us all what we wish for.  And more.

Happy 2020.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Photo: Selma

Post Script

In addition to WordPress I blog on a number of platforms:

  • Steemit – a crypto, social network and blogging platform, to which I post from WordPress using the SteemPress plugin.
  • If you’d also like to use your WordPress blog to earn crypto, join us on SteemPress.

  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord
  • Should you join the Steem platform, you are welcome to contact me on Discord on be sure to look out for the Steem Terminal – a dynamic team of folk who will happily guide you through the apparent quagmire of blogging on blockchain.
  • Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff:  usually food and the cats as well as posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.

 

When Cape Town burned*

Fire is devastating:  we had a fire in the mountains above our village in spring (September) 2014.  It burned for what seemed like a month and because, to start with, it was in inaccessible parts of the mountain, it could not be effectively fought.  So it spread and threatened prime agricultural land and vineyards.  So it was with the Cape Town fire which started on the 1st of March 2015.  Fire is devastating and scary.  As I learned two or so years ago.

Cape Town surrounds the iconic Table Mountain – a national park and wilderness area – something residents often forget and take for granted.  I know.  I lived there for nearly twenty years.
Courtesy of Hilka Birns
So when the mountain burns, as it must, effectively in the centre of a city, the events that unfold are beyond imagination.
MountainOnFire2015
Although the mountain must burn – as part of the most diverse floristic kingdom in the world – this fire was started through human negligence.  And, while the fire burned, and homes were threatened, people criticised the work of the various fire services, the authorities and the outpouring of support.

A crisis teaches one about humanity and community.  The good and the bad.  So it is, I have learned in the virtual community in which bloggers “live”.  Fiona’s Favourites started on a whim, and I chose a platform.  Little did I know that it is not merely a platform;  I discovered that the blogosphere is a microcosm of any community with all the power dynamics and politics that characterise real life.

My journey into this new sphere was precipitated by a very simple motivation:  when I posted pictures of dishes that I cooked on social media, friends asked for recipes.  On the back of this, and years of “made-up” dishes that I often couldn’t replicate and The Husband unsuccessfully suggesting I write them down, Fiona’s Favourites was born.  If I am to be completely honest, the conception of Fiona’s Favourites also coincided with a time of very little work and few prospects.  Not a good place to be if one has been self-employed for more than twenty years and if one’s area of expertise is quite specialised.

What could I do to begin developing a body of writing that was quite the antithesis of my professional life?  Trawling the internet and freelance websites all seemed to suggest that a blog was a way.  I might, if I were to find the right “recipe”, even make some money out of it (that, is still a pipe dream and no longer a driving force).  More importantly, I was tired of the heavy, intense, argumentative type of writing that is my mostly “professional voice”.

I have always enjoyed the writing process.  Writing, for me, has been both healing and cathartic at different times of my life.  Not that any of that writing was shared – with anyone.  The prospect of personal writing was one thing, but how to walk the fine line between personal and private was a huge challenge.  The Husband is intensely private and cyberspace, the great unknown, is potentially full of dragons and many-headed monsters.  He is also fiercely protective of what he sees as my intellectual property:  “You can’t just put your recipes on social media and the Internet – they’re yours!”

A “website” of my won seemed to be a potential compromise.

My first posts were tentative and quite sterile; I was aware that recipes are two-a-penny on the World Wide Web;  just typing up a recipe is, in a word, boring; reading recipes can be equally boring.  This, and actually having known the original intended readers, almost all my life, even if they are now scattered all over the country and the world, resulted in my, almost sub-consciously writing “around” the food.

Then I ran into a friend in the village.

“I really enjoy your blog,” she told me, “I love the stories!”

I was blown away.  I didn’t even know that she had been following the blog!

Knowing that people eat with their eyes, photographs of the food I cooked were important.

Pictures also tell stories and, in text, they play an important role in breaking up dense material.  I have also long “fiddled” with taking pictures and when we moved to McGregor, I began looking at things around me with new eyes.  I wanted to capture and share what I saw.  So, with that, the content began to go beyond what I had originally conceived.

Initially, I was nervous.  Would “my” readers like the change?  Well, again, I learned something – people began commenting and the stats told me what I needed to know:  they did.

What have I learned about blogging?

The blogosphere is a virtual village, filled with people and personalities, rule makers, rule-breakers, nice people and nasty people (trolls, I learned they’re called) – just like in any community. They scrap and bicker, live and laugh together (or not), just the same.  They live in my computer but came from all over the world to partake of the fare I shared.  We all have blogs;  not all of us enjoy writing;  we’re all motivated by different things and we certainly don’t always agree.  And that’s not just ok, that’s good.

At the core, I’ve learned that Fiona’s Favourites is all about my favourite things and that’s what my readers seem to enjoy – surprisingly, to me.  From this learning, and from advice from bloggers like Opinionated Man*, I have created a set of rules for myself:

Fiona’s blogging rules

I’m a wannabe fulltime blogger.  I do this because I enjoy it – when I no longer enjoy the process, or it becomes a burden, I’ll stop.  Which I did for a while in 2017 when my world seemed bleak.  My rules:

  • I only claim photographs as my own if they are.
  • If I’m not sure of my facts, I’ll check them and acknowledge the source.  If I discover that something I thought was true, is not, I’ll correct it.
  • The stats interest me;  they don’t drive me.  I’m delighted with every new follower and every comment is appreciated and acknowledged.
  • I follow blogs that interest me, make me think, laugh, or both!  I don’t get irritated if I don’t agree with the blogger’s view, or if a topic doesn’t interest me:  I just don’t read it.  No offence intended and I’m sure, none taken.  It’s not realistic to read every post from everyone one follows.
  • I comment if I want to, and I’ll share my thoughts.  I don’t get mean – there’s no need.  Life’s too short for all that negative energy.
  • I don’t blog about blogging – on Fiona’s Favourites – anymore.  My readers don’t care if that they’re reading my 75th post or the 175th.  Nor do they really care how many likes or views I’ve had.  Why would they?  I reserve that for opportunities like this*, and only fourteen months into it, was thrilled with my 200 “likes” and just over 4,200 views from 78 countries.

Life lessons and the blogosphere

I was quite shocked to learn about bullies and trolls.  Quite naïve of me, I suppose.  Still, I don’t get it that people have nothing better to do than to stalk others and to be mean for the sake of being mean.  That said, the blogosphere “real” people do look after their own, as we saw when the Opinionated Man was forced to take a sabbatical.  Caring people power prevailed and a phoenix rose from those ashes.

And so it was in Cape Town.  Hilka, who took these photographs, and whose home and family were threatened with destruction, posted this on Facebook:

At the height of the terror on Sunday night, I was wondering whether it was worth living here, considering that this has been the 2nd major mountain fire we have been lucky enough to have survived in the 18 years we have lived in Noordhoek. Any brief doubts I may have had have been wiped away by the amazing community spirit and response to the crisis. People have really pulled together and supported each other and the firefighting efforts! I love this place! Wouldn’t live anywhere else!

So it will be for the moonscape the fire left on the mountain.
Proteas

Some final thoughts

Firstly –

* This article was originally published in 2015 on Jason Cushman’s A Good Blog is Hard to find, who blogs under the pen name, Opinionated Man.

The nom de plume perfectly describes Jason;  he is unapologetically so, and often deliberately provocative.  All of that said, he is a crusader for new bloggers and very generous with his time and his space.  This has been abused by someone who decided to publish something s/he had plagiarised, on his blog, then called HarsH ReaLity – as a guest.  As a consequence, Jason has had to deal with the repercussions and has taken the regrettable decision to no longer offer space (and, of course, his time), to guest bloggers.

I don’t get all of Jason’s posts and yes, there have been times I know I would have been offended if I had read some of them, but this belies someone who has encouraged and supported hundreds of novice bloggers.

I remain, all these years later, appreciative of his time, his space, his tenacity and his sense of humour!

Secondly –

There has been some bullying and trolling happening on Steemit, and which has had a nasty impact on people I care about.  Simultaneously, there has been an interesting discussion on Narrative and where I shared a little about why I blog, earlier today.

Revisiting and sharing these thoughts seemed appropriate.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Photo: Selma

Acknowledgements:

Thank you to Hilka Birns for allowing me to use her photographs.  Follow her on Twitter @Hbirns
The photographs of the proteas are courtesy of Boesmanskloof Accommodation, McGregor

Post Script

In addition to WordPress I blog on a number of platforms:

  • Steemit – a crypto, social network and blogging platform, to which I post from WordPress using the SteemPress plugin.  If you’d also like to use your WordPress blog to earn crypto, join us on SteemPress.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord
  • Narrative, a crypto blogging platform
  • Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff:  usually food and the cats; posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

Designed by @zord189

Let me help with your English writing
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
More about why I am offering this service here
Contact me

 

The stuff – and steem – of August 2019

As so often happens in life, stuff happens and this August has been no different – in and outside the blogosphere.  Beginning with the latter:  the penultimate weekend in August is usually a weekend of poetry in our village.  It’s a time of happy energy and busy-ness and this was its seventh edition.  This year, when the date was announced, I knew two things.  The weather would be what it would:  either boiling hot and unseasonally summer-like or freezing cold, howling, even snowy and wet – as it should be as winter wails its way out.  Secondly, the number of eateries for evening dining was limited – only two, potentially three.  Last year, they run out of food.  So, I went out on a limb and said that we’d do Suppers @ The Sandbag House – for three consecutive nights.  I was either very brave or barking mad.

As often happens – she says again – stuff happens and things in the village changed – as they often do.  Suddenly a slew of new “proper” eateries appeared on the McGregor-scape between then and now.  However, being of the ilk that once committed, and with the offering publicised, we would not pull out.

As the weekend approached, and understanding, as my poet blogpal always reminds us, poets are poor and starving.  Over the last seven or so years, I have also learned that poets are not really good at planning, so food is often the last things on their minds, so we decided to waive the regular requirement of booking by a cut-off time – for Friday and Saturday, anyway.   Part of the preparation involved much weather-watching with, of course, menu-planning.  The fare was to be price-sensitive and simple, so as not to detract from the conversation, poetry and conversations about poets and poetry.  It also had to be multi-purpose:  dishes that would work for both meat-eaters and vegetarians and, in the event we had no diners, with the least possible waste.  As you know, I have a thing about food going to waste.

The ultimate selections were simple:  I made a gallon (or so) of broccoli soup which was portioned and frozen. Friday, was jambalaya which is ideal for the major dietary choices and the dessert a traditional South African pastry – koeksisters.  The soup and dessert would work for all three nights and if any of them ran out, I had a plan B up my sleeve.  The jambalaya, if there was any left, would become the vegetarian option for the second evening because it is actually better on the second day – the flavours have really developed.

 

As it so happened, there was plenty left – we had no diners.  I was much relieved because the day had been a challenging one making 50 koeksisters and preparing for the market.  Also, a friend dropped in to rescue our poet guest – more of that, anon – and needed a glass of wine and an ear.  That’s what friends do.

Saturday dawned and the market done, I came home to make moussaka.  I was thrilled to have been able to source lamb mince (ground meat) which would have made the moussaka even more authentic.  I produced eight beautiful individual moussakas which were to be served with Greek salad – the perfect way to end a day that had soared to an unseasonal 32ºC (90ºF).

Or so I thought.  The old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover, in this instance, really does apply.

As I cooked the meat, I wasn’t entirely happy with it.  It seemed to have very little fat and a lot of liver – the latter I could smell.  I had wondered whether the herbs and tomato one must add to the moussaka would “disguise” the liver.  Alas, it didn’t. When we ate what looked like a beautiful meal, I was so grateful we’d not had any takers.  I could not have, in good conscience, have charged diners for that supper.

Someone was looking after us:  the best part of that meal was the salad and better than the salad, the beautiful, handcrafted and McGregor-made ceramic bowl.

So as with the best-laid plans of mice and men, Sunday would have to be plan B.  As it happened, we did have two potential bookings which were confirmed.  One of the diners is a friend, while the other wasn’t – probably now is.  The third, a friend we’d invited – just because.  The main for this dinner – Provencal style chicken casserole – is on the list for a future post.

But.

As so often happens in McGregor…stuff unfolds.  Our non-McGregorite poet and whisky-connoiseur-diner, is a teacher from my old home town and also a graduate of my almer mater, teaching at a school where I’d had taught as a student…

His thank you note says it all.

As does the mutual agreement that the conversation that happens around our table stays @ The Sandbag House.

A last word….

August just flew.  It was so busy that it feels like more than only a month ago, today, that I wrote my first “off-the-blockchain” post about the Steemit blockchain.  Then, I lamented not having achieved my goal of reaching my goal of 1,000 Steem.  I am delighted that over the last month, notwithstanding my inactivity and the significant changes on Steemit, I was able to reach that milestone thanks to @streetstyle for his monthly Steem Power Up Day and the incentive of squirreling away my Steem.  Powering it up all at once, well, it really has an impact.  Wow!

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Photo: Selma

Post Script

In addition to WordPress I blog on a number of platforms:

  • Steemit – a crypto, social network and blogging platform, to which I post from WordPress using the SteemPress plugin.  If you’d also like to use your WordPress blog to earn crypto, join us on SteemPress.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord
  • Narrative, a crypto blogging platform
  • Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff:  usually food and the cats; posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

Designed by @zord189

Let me help with your English writing
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
More about why I am offering this service here
Contact me

Roads trips – a retrospective

Having grown up in a small town and in high school, having gone to boarding school in another town, road trips were commonplace.  There are, however, some trips that remain embedded in my memory.  The first that I really remember would have been in 1967.  It was the year after we arrived in South Africa and my father had a new job, necessitating a move from Port Elizabeth to East London.  It’s a trip of about 300km and at the time, my parents didn’t have a car.  A friend offered to drive us to East London.  I remember little about the trip (I’d have been about four and my sister nineteen months younger), except that the car was huge.  The four of us – plus the driver – had ample space.  One thing I do remember – other than the heat and burning the backs of my legs on the shiny vinyl seats – was the bench-like front seat from which I could just about see over the dashboard.  A music play list? I doubt it.  The driver would have been accompanied by anything a capella – if anyone sang.  I don’t have a clue!

Granny and the Mini

The next road trip that I remember, was not long after that, and as my Dad was going for a(nother) job interview – in Grahamstown.  It would have been late 1969 or early 1970 because my granny was visiting from the UK.   By then, my parents had acquired a motor car which was the complete antithesis of the vehicle in which we made that other road trip.  It was a Mini Minor, much like the one below.

Source

What you do need to know, is that both my mother and my grandmother were tall women, so I still have difficulty thinking of their folding themselves up so that they could get into that car.

Granny outside her home in Cowley, Oxford. Ironically, this is where Austin manufactured minis and it’s likely that she had worked in that factory during the war. I wrote a bit about that here.

Back to that trip.  Granny sat in the back:  in the middle. She was bookended by her granddaughters.  I have vivid memories of putting my head in her lap and sleeping at least part of the way.  Although I don’t actually remember her singing, I have no doubt that she did.  This was her nightly lullaby.  I sometimes still sing it in my head and Joan Baez’s rendition reminds me of Granny and her beautiful voice.

As I mentioned, road trips were a regular feature of my childhood.  After moving to Grahamstown, there were frequent visits to Port Elizabeth and even one to Cape Town.  Then in my high school years there were regular trips from Grahamstown to East London and back – at least monthly, if not more often – to and from boarding school.  The subsequent series of motor cars didn’t have a radio in them, let alone a tape cassette.  Consequently, there was no such thing as a road trip play list.  I must have sung on some of these trips – especially as a little girl.  I loved singing, but my singing was not loved:

Daddy, what can I sing for you?

His inevitable reply:

Over the hills and faraway….

He meant not the tune, but … literally.

Consequently, road trips included games like “I spy with my little eye….” or counting cars, and more interesting, guessing the origins of motor vehicles from their number plates.  This was long before the advent of the current number plate series, and we could guess province, town and country.  We prided ourselves on knowing that TSN was Sandton (if memory serves).  TJ and TP were Johannesburg and Pretoria, respectively, both in the then Transvaal (now Gauteng).  There was a time I could recite the towns for number plates that started with C(ape) and from A to Z.  The Western Cape has retained this series for its towns and I can still tell you some of them, including that CA is Cape Town (a no-brainer since we lived there for years) and that CZ is Beaufort West.  B, C, D, E and F were all in the Eastern Cape and were, in order:  Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, King Williams Town, East London and Grahamstown.  I did have to check that I was right with Kimberley (Source).  Funny how these trivial things stick.  I wish some other information was so readily retrievable from the memory banks!  Actually, the second car I owned, was registered in Grahamstown, and it was with that CF number plate that my Blue Fiat Uno and I arrived in Cape Town in the mid-1990s.  Not a road trip I remember with any relish at all.

A stop in Parys

Moving swiftly back to happier times, well, sort of, is a road trip made not long after my 21st birthday and on which occasion this photo was taken.

Dad, Mum and I at my 21st birthday (garden) party

That road trip is memorable for a range of good and awful reasons.  It was a 1,000km trip from Grahamstown to Johannesburg.  On the trip up – in a clapped out Datsun – packed to the gills with students – the weather was appalling.  It poured with rain and there was a hole the floor of the car – my feet were perpetually wet.  Of course, the inevitable happened:  the car broke down.  The water pipe connecting the radiator with the engine … well … it burst.  Suffice it to say, we had to stop and have a Heath Robinson repair in Paris Parys, 100km from Johannesburg.  It was already dark and, as I said, miserable.  Even though it was early autumn and should have been balmy (we were all barmy at that point…).  It was pitch dark by the time we hit the road again.  All I remember of the rest of the trip, other than the belching and screeching of the water pipe, was the orange moon at which I stared out of the back passenger window, with frozen, wet feet, and to the sound track to the 1983 (this was 1984) film, Lawyers in Love.

Any of those Jackson Brown songs, particularly that one, take me back – less to the trip – and more to that moon.

Source

Johannesburg-Queenstown, return

Fastforward just about ten years to when I was living in Johannesburg (which skyline still does it for me…):  for the entire year or so prior to leaving that city, and once a month, I’d make the just under 700km trip to Queenstown and back – for the weekend.  At the time, I had a company car and it was the first of “my” cars to have a radio and a cassette deck.  I was in heaven.  Prior to that, I’d had a little 1970-something yellow Renault 5.  The Yellow Peril had no frills, let alone a sound system.  I compensated with my pink walkman portable cassette player and ear phones.  Any how, I digress.  As usual.

Those trips between Johannesburg and Queenstown were accompanied by a pile of cassette tapes.  They were all loud, sing-alongs because I was travelling alone and would leave around 1pm, and drive straight through, stopping once and just to long enough fill the car, the stomach and to use the ablutions, arriving some six and a half hours later.  I have wracked my brains to remember what those tapes were, and the only one I can remember, is Bette Middler’s Some People’s Lives and especially this song:

Spoilt for choice

Having travelled quite a bit for may day job in the last 20 years ago, and living where we do, I’m not so fond of road trips.  I prefer to stay put. That said, there is the odd trip to Cape Town and the-not-odd-enough-trip to places we’ve not been.  We don’t have a hard and fast playlist, and with our not-so-new Chevvy just having a CD player, we both select what we’d like to hear and put the discs in a box.  The selection ranges from The Beetles to Santana, Mango Groove to Edith Piaf, The African Jazz Pioneers and Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) and a whole lot in between.

There have been times, though, having selected the maximum number of CDs our carrier would allow, it lived in splendour on the diningroom table until our return from a trip.

Post Script

This post was inspired by thist month’s PHC Top 3 contest.  This is is not an entry as I can’t pick just three (can I ever?), so in support of the @phctop3 initiative, 50% of the Steem payout from this post will be transferred to that account.

Thank you

Thanks to @curie and @randomwanderings for their ongoing support of this initiative with an allocation of 80 Steem for distribution between July and August to boost the rewards over and above the original 50 Steem they contributed for May and June.

Curation Trail

There is a curation trail for @phctop3, which you can follow here to continue to add to the prize pool and the growth of the competition. Delegate to @phctop3

5SP 10SP 25SP
50SP 100SP 150SP
200SP 250SP 300SP
400SP 500SP 1000SP

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Photo: Selma

Post Script

In addition to WordPress I blog on a number of platforms:

  • Steemit – a crypto, social network and blogging platform, to which I post from WordPress using the SteemPress plugin.  If you’d also like to use your WordPress blog to earn crypto, join us on SteemPress.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord
  • Narrative, a crypto blogging platform
  • Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff:  usually food and the cats; posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

Designed by @zord189

Let me help with your English writing
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
More about why I am offering this service here
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Building up a head of Steem – SPUD4

It’s SPUD!

No, I’m not talking food, let alone potatoes.

Today is Steem Power Up Day.

In the just over two years I have been on Steemit, I have only ever reinvested the Steem Based Dollars I have earned, buying Steem.  Today, my 5.30 SBD converted to 20.227 STEEM.

In addition to that, I have only ever powered up any liquid Steem.  Today, it was (for me) quite a substantial amount

Although Steem is not as strong as it was, it is still at a level that it is not really affordable in the South African Rand (1SBD : ZAR14.05 source). My investment is instead, posting what I hope is mostly quality content, on the blockchain, and choosing to use my allocation of resource credits to support fellow Steemians.

I would, at some point, be more than happy to see some liquid return on that investment.  I started blogging with three goals: sharing recipes, cultivating a different voice (for years, my writing had been largely very formal, almost academic and businesslike), and earning. Fun though it was is, in more than five years, I didn’t earn a bean from blogging.  Until I arrived on Steemit. Although I’ve never powered down, and although Steem tanked along with Bitcoin, et al, not long after I joined, I have become one of those who –

came for the money and stayed for the community

AND

now have a long term view that Steem (and other alternative crypto currencies) will strengthen again.

That said, my website is paid for in Steem or SBD and I have a WordPress blog which is effectivly costing me nothing.  My .com blogging site had been costing me nearly ZAR1,400 a year and was going to go up.  Not only is WordPress my chosen blog platform, it is the main interface from which I post to Steem. This means that while I may not be earning fiat from my investment, I am both benefiting from, and constructively using, my time to build that investment – doing something I enjoy.  Seems to me, if I take a long term view, it’s a win-win.

For those for whom this is a foreign language (I confess that much of this is still gobbledeygook to me), here are the principles for building a head of Steem, as I understand them.  It is Steem which gives one currency – in every sense of the word – on the blockchain:

  1. create content (posts) and/or you curate by voting and commenting on posts:
  2. these transactions come at a cost and with a return, and
  3. in so doing one earns and is rewarded in different proportions in three ways, with
    • Steem tokens
    • Steem Based Dollars (SBD) – these two can be used to buy Steem Power (power up) and can also be traded for other crypto currencies or fiat.
    • Steem Power

However

Investing in Steem by powering up Steem to Steem Power or using SBD to buy it, is not just buying a share, but is how one literally works one’s way up the ranks on the blockchain:

STEEM Power

Rank

0 – 499

Red fish

500 – 4,999

Minnow

5,000 – 49,999

Dolphin

50,000 – 499,999

Orca

500,000+

Whale

With thanks to Steempal @nickyhavey for providing me with this breakdown.

The more Steem one has, the greater the value of one’s votes for others, and to add to the complication, one is also rewarded for voting, sharing (re-steeming) posts on the blockchain and by commenting on other people’s posts.

It really is a social blockchain, and where cooperation and collegiality should be the order of the day.  It isn’t always.  More of that, another time, perhaps.

As well as buying Steem, today, I also powered up what little “liquid” Steem I’d been squirrelling away since I heard about SPUD4, in the hopes that by 1 August, I’d have reached a head of 1,000 Steem.

Alas, not quite, and a little of my Steem is delegated (lent) to @PHCtop3 a fun project on the blockchain, and which is responsible for inspring some of my more lighthearted eclectic posts:

I have an awful long way to go to reach dolphin status, let alone whale or orca, but given that I’m in for the long haul and there are folk like this encouraging rank amatuers (you see what I did?) and little fish like me, to buy in, every little helps.  I’m not likely to feature anywhere in his incentive programme, but I share it to encourage folk to look out for SPUD5 which, I have no doubt, will be a thing.

Alternatively, if you read this, and haven’t powered up, and it’s still 1 August in your part of the world, why not join in?

SPUD4 PRIZES & HOW TO WIN

Prizes:

1st Place

  • 2500 Steem Power Delegation for 4 Weeks – sponsored by @xpilar
  • 1000 Steem Power Delegation for 4 Weeks – sponsored by @sultan-aceh
  • 20 SBI shares, “The Gift that keeps on Giving” – sponsored by @jlsplatts

*If the 1st Place Winner is from Aceh, Indonesia

  • +1000 Steem Power Delegation for 4 Weeks – sponsored by @sultan-aceh

2nd Place

*if no 1st Place winner from Aceh, Indonesia

  • +1000 Steem Power Delegation for 4 Weeks – sponsor @sultan-aceh

3rd Place

  • 500 Steem Power Delegation for 4 Weeks – sponsor @flipstar
  • 10 Steem Basic Income shares sponsored by @davedickeyyall

4th Place

  • 250 Steem Power Delegation for 4 Weeks – sponsor @taliakerch
  • 10 Steem Basic Income shares sponsored by me, @streetstyle

Rules to Win Prizes for SPUD4 :

  • MUST have a reputation score BELOW 69.00 ( so 68.99 is good & Can participate.) AND more than 75 STEEM POWER (prior to SPUD4) BUT LESS than 7501 Steem Power.
  • MUST have a reputation score ABOVE 42 (so rank of 41.99 will Not Win)
  • MUST have at least 1 Steem Post in their blog about SPUD4
  • MUST Power Up Steem on August 1st, 2019
  • On August 1st, you MUST make a post about your POWER UP. It can be as simple as “I powered up X amount of Steem” to a simple picture/screenshot of your Power Up and posted to your Steem blog, or it could be a super long dissertation on Steem Power. IMPORTANT: Use the SPUD and/or SPUD4 Hash tags so that I can be sure to see them.

Because I must – a last word

This is the second time I have participated in SPUD.  Both times it was at the behest of my witchy friend, fellow Steemian and blogpal @traciyork, but it’s the first time I’ve actually posted about it.  It’s also the first time I’ve written properly a little about Steem, itself, from on my WordPress blog in a way that, I hope, my non-Steemian readers may follow.

Feature Image:  Pixabay

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

In addition to WordPress I blog on a number of platforms:

  • Steemit – a crypto, social network and blogging platform, to which I post from WordPress using the SteemPress plugin.  If you’d also like to use your WordPress blog to earn crypto, join us on SteemPress.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars.  If you want more information, join the Steemblogs Club on Discord
  • Narrative, a crypto blogging platform
  • Instagram is a mostly visual platform where I post microblogs about fluff:  usually food and the cats; posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

Designed by @zord189

Let me help with your English writing
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
More about why I am offering this service here
Contact me

Bored Games

There is not one board game in our house.  When I met The Husband, there was an ancient game of Trivial Pursuit which arrived as part of the final merger.  Somewhere, though, over the last nearly 20 years, it’s gone.  I think it got thrown out because it was so old…

Source

I loathe bored board games.  As for games evenings, well, I’d rather sit around around a table, break bread and enjoy conversation.  I remember a time when when a group of us would gather at mutual friends’ homes to watch the rugby (local and international matches).  When the practise began, the match was followed by a meal – usually a braai or if it was a late-ish match, a winter warmer like a curry or oxtail would be consumed during the match. Of course, the post-match conversation included detailed and scientific analysis which could run the gamut of emotions from jubilation to anger and desolation.  It all depended on whose side had won or lost or the referee’s folly.  Generally, though, the conversation would move on to other things.

Then, something changed.  I’m not sure what, and instead of conversation it was either Trivial Pursuit or 30 Seconds.  Both games are fun with the latter being my favourite of the two, but having spent well nigh on two hours glued to a television, why?

I have a love-hate relationship with Trivial Pursuit and quizzes, generally:  although I can be, and often am, a mine of useless information, I don’t do well under pressure.  In a quizz, when I know the answer, I’m so happy about it that I develop a temporary Tourette’s-like condition and just shout it out.  Often I know I know an answer, but it doesn’t appear in my brain, let alone get to my mouth.  Until the following day.  Fat lot of good!

30 Seconds, on the other hand is a bit like charades with cards and words.  Need I say more?

Oh, and did you know that this game was invented by a South African? Source

Games from my childhood

Cold winter Sunday afternoons were times for board games.  In front of the fire after the parents had had their afternoon snooze.  The entire house, including the dog would take to their beds.  Except me.  Mother gave up on forcing me to have an afernoon zizz.  I just couldn’t and still don’t.  I’d prefer to curl up under an eiderdown, or in the sun, with a book.

Just another reason for a love-hate relationship with board games:  playing them was not an option.  That said, I will acknowledge that there were times when I allowed myself to have fun.

So, what were the games?

Well, I recall for Christmas one year, getting a compendium of games which included everything from snakes and ladders and ludo to tiddlywinks and bingo.  Although I played snakes and ladders, to this day, I don’t see the point.  Perhaps I’m a little dim.   Ludo, well, let’s just say that it didn’t seem quite so pointless.

Tiddlywinks
Source

With tiddlywinks, skill and dexterity are a prerequisite, as they are with Pick-up Sticks which I did enjoy.  Someone gave me a set, I can’t remember whom, and I loved them.  Technically, neither are board games, right?

Source

There were three other games that featured at different times in my childhood and all of which were much enjoyed and only ever played with my Dad.  It’s a long time since I played any of them:

Collage created on BeFunky with stockpics

But

It’s the board games I’m supposed to be talking about. There were two others that we played as a family.  One, I mentioned in passing here, was a present from Granny – Peter Rabbit’s Race Game.

Source

Mine looked exactly like this and when we played, I was always Jemima Puddleduck.

The other, and more frequently-played game was Monopoly.  We had the South African version and when I ventured, for the first time to one or other of South Africa’s major cities, I loved discovering the premium properties in real life:  Eloff Street where I’d shop and catch buses when I worked in the centre of Johannesburg.  Roeland Street down which I’d drive if I had occasion to go to the centre of Cape Town to, among other places, the parliamentary precinct.

Vintage South African Monopoly Source

If memory serves, “my” piece was always the iron.  My mother’s which I only remembered when I looked at the picture, was the battleship.

I have no idea what happened to those sets which, the research for this post suggests, would now sell for a pretty penny.  I wondered why until I realised that those sets would have been more than 40 years old…

An unscientific theory

I am not a gamer.  The closest I get to any gaming is one or other iteration of solitaire.  I will play it on the PC;  give me a pack of cards and I’ll play one or other version of patience.  I think of it as “brewing” time for the project(s) on which I’m working.

I have often been struck by the time that the male of the species will spend either on playing a game, or creating (a) game(s) and striving for perfection.  Frankly, I have too much to do – in the kitchen, around the house and just getting on with life.  It was one of my pet peeves that my ex-husband could would live in a pig sty and eat swill and spend all his spare time on a game.  I just didn’t get it.

So, my theory is that women actually have a whole lot less free time than men.  Whether we like it or not, managing the home and caring for children is still primarily women’s work – over and above what we might do to earn a living.  Time on their hands, and what do men who don’t have a hobby, play sport and who no longer hunt for food, or go to war, do?

Create and play games.

Perhaps this scientific notion, in addition patriarchy, could also explain why most of the arts are still dominated by men?

My favourite three board games, if I were to choose?

  1. 30 Seconds must top the list.  It can be serious educational and fun.  It can be played in teams which makes it elastic, and more fun.  It can also be played by people of all ages and “skill” level.
  2. Draughts – I’d love to play this again.  I recall watching folk play this on the streets of Johannesburg:  the games were as fast as the lightning of a Highveld thunderstorm.  I loved playing this game with my Dad.
  3. Finally, and it’s just for sentimental reasons:  Peter Rabbit’s Race Game

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let me explain what prompted this post:

An evil, really nice bunch of people in our PowerHouseCreatives group on Steemit run a themed contest once a month.  It’s always about one’s Top 3 of something or other.  I keep on saying I don’t do competitions because I don’t do competitive.  I really don’t.  But then, I keep on participating.

Ahem…

So far, all the topics have piqued my interest in one way or another, including last month’s to which I had absolutely no connection, but which got me thinking.  You can read that entry here.

This month’s theme:

Board Games

text16.png
Open up the cabinet and blow off the dust, we are breaking out the board games for the topic this month! Get ready to duke it out for your favorite game piece (we all had that lucky one, right?) and clear off the table for a night of fun. Perhaps it was a family tradition to come together at the end of the day, maybe a monthly date with friends, or getting the big guns out whilst the stereo system was playing dodgy Christmas songs! However it happened, we want to know, so share your top 3 favorite board games that you couldn’t resist bringing to the table!

Find the full post here

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

  • On Steemit, thank you to the team @curie for their support of the PHC Top 3 concept.  If you want to delegate to @phctop3:
5SP 10SP 25SP
50SP 100SP 150SP
200SP 250SP 300SP
400SP 500SP 1000SP
  • I blog on three platforms:  WordPress and Instagram, both of which auto post to Steemit.  Instagram is mostly a visual with microblogs about fluff:  mostly food and the cats and posts that sometimes promise hint about future WordPress posts.
  • My WordPress site is hosted by fellow Steemian, @gmuxx, with fees paid in crypto currency: Steem Based Dollars

On the Steem platform, I am part of these communities

 

Designed by @zord189

Share2Steem where compulsive Instagrammers like me, can earn

Original design for Team South Africa by @bearone

 

Let me help with your English writing
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
More about why I am offering this service here
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Television? After school? Never!

Nearly three months ago, a group of from the PowerHouseCreatives, a space in which I play on Steemit, launched a monthly competition with a theme.  We then choose our top 3 within that theme, and explain why we’ve chosen them.  There is the chance of winning something, but that’s not why I participate.  In the first two, I happily participated – one was comedy films (and you can read my entry here). The second continued the film theme, and was yes, tunes from the movies, a topic that I really could get into, which is why I participated – and went a trifle over the top.  That entry is here.

This month, is a somewhat different story – it centres around children’s TV programmes.  The full details are here, but suffice it to say, that kids’ TV programmes and I, well, we didn’t have a relationship.  The theme, however, did get me thinking about what I may, or may not have missed.

Television arrived in South Africa in 1976, a seminal year in my life and in South Africa.  This last had nothing to do with TV or me;  it was the year that South Africa’s black youth rebelled against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in schools.  That will be 43 years ago on June 16th.  For me, it was significant because it was the year I went to boarding school.

Neither of these events have anything to do with children’s TV, obviously, except that it was only at boarding school that I got to watch television.  There, television-watching was tightly controlled and most certainly not in the afternoon after school – that time was reserved for sport, homework and just generally getting on with “stuff”.  When I went home for the holidays, there was no TV, either, so we would watch selected programmes, next door, with our tv-owning neighbour.  I think it must have been three or four years later that my parents acquired a television.  It had certainly happened by 1981 because a crowd of my uni mates invaded my parents’ livingroom to watch the wedding of the century (as far as we were concerned):  Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer.

I digress.  Again.

I am reaching an age – yes, I have to use that word – when I realise that I grew up in a world that today’s generation finds inconceivable.  No television.  I concede that I know people who have completely eschewed the box, but they are far and few between.  My parents came to South Africa in 1966;  I was three.  I have a distant memory of our sitting room in Bridlington, Yorkshire, and a black and white television set. The next time I saw one, was not in anybody’s home, but rather in the Journalism Department at Rhodes University. It must have been 1974 and was part of a holiday activity organised by the Sunday School.  It’s also the first time I stood in front of a TV camera.  Saturday was the most recent – more of that if, perhaps, when, the programme is aired, and includes a snippet of that two minute interview.

Returning to toddler Fiona’s “memory” of TV, my mother used to tell me about Pogo.  I believe that I once owned a pogo stick.  And Camberwick Green.  Both also “came” in comic form which we received from England, with Camberwick Green, a large, hardcover annual publication.  We only had one, and I read it over and over.  There was, of course, the radio and on the station to which my parents listened, was an afternoon slot, Little People’s Playtime, at around 3pm.  I have no idea of its duration, but I do remember that it included serialised renditions of Enid Blyton’s Noddy and CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.  I was only ever a peripatetic listener in school holidays, on wintery afternoons, when it wasn’t possible to be outside.  During school terms, I listened only ever on a Wednesday:  our school day ended at 3.15pm.

So, that, and only having sons from other mothers, means that children’s television programmes are anathama.  What I did love, though, was sitting cuddled next to my granny while she read aloud.  The memories of her 1969 visit to South Africa, and this activity, are vivid.  She would sit in the middle of the sofa with her granddaughters on either side of her, a coffee table in front of her with a cigarette in a long black holder, smoking away in a large ashtray, while she clacked away with her knitting needles and read to us.

Delia Carroll Stockford, my maternal grandmother

She read the tales of Beatrix Potter – not all of them, then, because we’d get one or two to add to the collection, each Christmas.  I don’t know what happened to them, but I do believe we had an almost complete collection.

Source: Screenshot from a Google image search

It was not just Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter, but Tom Kitten, Squirrel Nutkin, Jemima Puddleduck, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle as well as Piggling Bland.  All names that cropped up all through my childhood including in the board game – also a Granny Christmas present.

Another much-loved set of characters was Little Grey Rabbit and her pals, Hare and Squirrel who danced around the may pole – among other things. It was also in because of series that I fell in love with The Speckeldy Hen and her speckled eggs.  I still love speckled eggs.

Source

When Granny couldn’t find another Beatrix Potter, it was a Little Grey Rabbit book that arrived in the post from Oxford, England.  We waited in anticipation, each Christmas and birthday.

Once I learned to read, I devoured books and would get as many as I possibly could out of the public or school library, often returning them early for a new crop.  I lived in those books and the pictures in my imagination were much more vivid and beautiful than anything on the covers or, I believe, film.

There is, though, something about listening to a story read aloud.  When we were a bit older, Granny sent another series:  all about Dr Doolittle, his dog, Gyp, and how Dr Doolittle could converse with animals.  By then I could read, and I’m not sure whether it was to spare her the agony of dispute resolution, or whether she wanted to read the books herself (that would have been me in her shoes), but Mum decreed, and would, read about a chapter an evening.  My sister and I would sit at her feet and listen in wrapt attention.

Source

It was only when I researched the various titles and authors of these books that I discovered that there was a vicarious link between CS Lewis and South Africa.  At the time, he was a member of the Literature Department at Oxford University, and a colleague of JRR Tolkein’s.  Tolkein was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  Tolkein’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are among the most memorable reads of my adolescence and early adulthood, and when television wasn’t the ubiquitous and pervasive phenomenon it is today.  They are also books I read again and again.

To ask me what my favourite books were are, is almost impossible.  I read many, and others I’ve not mentioned, remain in my memory.  Some – for reasons also connected to Granny – like AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Now We are Six and Christopher Robin. When it came to other series, which, I suppose one could liken to a TV series, my two favourite ones were, again, from Enid Blyton:  The Secret Seven and The Famous Five.  At the time, Enid Blyton’s books were frowned upon as not “proper” reading material, but they did give (and I hope still do), millions of children a way of escaping their humdrum existences and at the same time instill in them a joy of reading.  Her Noddy series to which I’ve already referred, has had some rather drastic modernisation because, as a product of her time, characters reflected the mores of that period.  “Gollywog” is now unacceptable as a description, let alone as the name of a character, and similarly, to call a policeman “Big Ears” – because he needed them to keep his helmet from covering his eyes, just simply isn’t done.

It may seem that after we left the UK, and television, I might have had a deprived childhood, it certainly wasn’t missed.  My childhood was filled with fascinating worlds, colours and characters that lived in my imagination;  some still do.  The ones I’ve mentioned, are just a few – there were many, many others.

Post Script

This cannot be an entry into the June PHC Top 3 for two reasons:  firstly, I’ve missed the deadline for entry by a day, but also, there are no kids’ TV programmes about which I have any real knowledge to even begin to make a choice of three.  However, in support of the @phctop3 initiative, 50% of the Steem payout from this post will be transferred to that account.

Curation Trail

There is have a curation trail for @phctop3, which you can follow here to continue to add to the prize pool and the growth of the competition. Don’t forget to log into steemconnect.

Delegate to @phctop3

5SP 10SP 25SP
50SP 100SP 150SP
200SP 250SP 300SP
400SP 500SP 1000SP

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

If you’re a compulsive Instagrammer like me, Share2Steem and earn

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Mixing and matching – topics and metaphors

Sometimes it’s only a mengelmoes* that will do.
You’ve probably gathered, if you read a few of my posts that I
  • love to point and click my camera at things
  • have things that often take me away from my computer and @steemit
  • enjoy drawing connections and generally just gabbling away about things.  Some that weigh heavily, and other less so.

A while ago, I shared another eclectic set of photos that I had taken in and around the village where I live:  one of them features the reed and thatch work that is a feature of so much of the architecture**.  @lyncoyle’s post about the repair of their palama sparked a conversation about dying arts and the preservation of traditional crafts.  At the time I promised to share more about the original houses in our village, and particularly of a property where we would be doing a cleanup job.

The clean-up job included tidying up an overgrown garden as well as the cottage, itself, for viewing by prospective buyers.  As it would happen, the work in the garden ended up being done over the hottest days of the early summer.

One of the joys of living in this village is that one often gets to hear stories about the properties from folk who have lived and grown up in the area.  So it was with this cottage.  Piet is The Husband’s go-to person when he needs a semi-skilled worker.  A bit of context.  Piet is a lovable skebenga (rascal) who has a checkered history.  He is unreliably reliable, has a couple of children (that we know about!), one of whom finishes school this year and another who is about two… He’s also had brushes with the law, and paid the consequences.  The Husband and he have a warm, scratchy relationship that has grown over the last six or so years.  I too, am fond of him, and have been presented with indigenous plants for the garden. When I ask where they come from, I regret that I did.

Piet taking a little respite in the not-so-cool shade on a 40°C day

Anyhow, the point of this necessary digression:  Piet could tell us how long the fruit trees had been in that garden, which ones had gone.  He spent much of his childhood growing up in the house next door – behind him but out of sight in the photograph. He and his mates would help the “Auntie” who lived in this house to water the garden.  What is important to understand, is that watering the garden was (still is) a big issue when the leiwater ran and still does – every two weeks.  The village has a network of channels that leads irrigation water from the dam, through the village and into our properties.  Each is allocated a day and a time in that day when the sluice can be opened and water floods in.  This is what they would help with – making sure that the water was led into the garden and channelled where it was needed.  Their “pay”:  as much fruit as they could eat, and on hot days, paddling and playing in the lovely cool water in the sloot.  I have no doubt that they also got the odd slice of home-baked cake or biscuit for their troubles, too.

The leiwater channel in which Piet and his mates would cool their feet after the hot work of watering the garden. Here, the hedge in the process of being tidied up.

Anyhow, back to the cottage.  It dates back to the late 1880s and although it no longer has the original reed roof, it is still thatched and original sash windows have, at the front, been replaced with metal frames.  Probably in the 70s.

It does still boast the original fireplace and chimney, but with a brick cowl, along with the orignal sash windows that are still in place at the back.  As is the tiny window in the fireplace – so necessary in the heat of summer when cooking on the range must have been hell.

Also, you see part of the garden before it was tidied up, as well as a little glimpse of the view from the font of the house.
Inside, the cottage retains some of the original features like the reed ceiling and the beautiful wooden lintels over the windows and the fireplace in what was, originally, the kitchen.
The chiminee and the light fitting are non-traditional eyesores, I’ll admit, but I’m sure whoever buys the cottage will sort that.
Almost lastly, a before and after of part of the garden – taken from the back of the house, looking past the old kitchen.
The gardener in me knows that it wouldn’t take too much to get this space going again – there is much that would recover and reward with just a little TLC and water.
Finally, the mountain view I promised.  We are so lucky to have mountain views from virtually every point in the village.
Also in the picture, on the other side of the field, is another of the original houses, sadly in a state of disrepair.  It does illustrate two things:  an original reed roof and its construction of mud and/or mud bricks.  All these houses have to be whitewashed – that is the only “paint” that takes on the surface, and it also helps to keep the houses alive – they can’t be sealed because they need to breathe.  The handmade bricks comprise not just of mud, but also straw.  Here’s a pile of bricks left from a recent new-build-cum restoration in the village, and where The Husband and Piet were responsible for the fencing.
*an Afrikaans word pronounced memg-el-moose (like goose) which means something like a delightful hodgepodge of things
** for those wondering, I live in McGregor, not far from Cape Town in South Africa.  It’s in the Winelands and is the best preserved Victorian village in the province which is largely characterised by Cape Dutch architecture.
Getting back to my love of snapping away at things – often with my phone as was the case one of these photographs (the one that shows the exterior chimney):  I am a great Instagram fan.  I like its immediacy and the ease of uploading and posting on the run.  I also like editing features – less so than the filters.
Imagine my delight when I found out that it’s easy, once you know how, to simultaneously share your posts on to @steemit.  And to Twitter.  Although I’m not much of a Tweep.

Join Share2Steem here
All in the good crypto cause :smile:

Oh, and a bit of advice

You can use all your @steemit hashtags when you publish and then edit your original Instagram post to the ones that best work for you on that platform, which is much easier editing there than on Steemit. For me, that’s one of the weaknesses of @steempress – I am sure they will address that, though, as much has been done to better integrate the two platforms.

There it is – until next time

Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

If you’re a compulsive Instagrammer like me, Share2Steem and earn

Set it up here

Let me help you – for blog posts and any writing in English
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
DM me on Discord  @fionasfavourites#1035
More about why I am offering this service here

Join us @steemitbloggers

Join Us On Discord

 

 

When the dog barked

Gale force winds are not unusual in South Africa, especially the Western Cape coastline, and into the Eastern Cape.  These winds are a feature of summer and winter, with the winter storms accounting for the Cape’s original appellation as the Cape of Storms.

We’ve had more than our fair share this year and wind, in combination with fire, can wreak havoc.  As it did two years ago on the Garden Route, and as it does every year in the townships of Cape Town, leaving thousands with just the clothes on their backs.  Eighteen months ago, a school friend, now living in the Garden Route area, had to evacuate her home.  She, her husband and their pets lived in their vehicles for days, fighting the fire around their home.  As I write, not far from their home, six fires are raging and one has destroyed more than 85,000 hectares of vegetation – much of it in the mountains.  According to this report, the plume of smoke is visible from space and the biggest fire has left a scar four times the size of that left by the 2017 fire.  Eight lives have been lost.

In my home town, Grahamstown, I heard that people were also being evacuated this morning, but mercifully, during the course of the day, there has been heavy and good rain, which has doused the fire – for the moment.  I remember, when I was about eight or nine, my father, then superintendent of the botanical gardens, joining the firefighters to fight a fire that raged for days – over those same hills.  I remember the constant smell of smoke and ash falling gently from the sky over the town and his red-eyed exhaustion.

I have had the privilege to work with firefighters;  one of whom was Fire Chief during that 2017 Garden Route fire.  Their courage, skill, knowledge and dedication in the worst of circumstances, is not to be underestimated, whether of wild, veld fires, house fires, or of those tragic fires in informal settlements, not to mention industrial and mine fires.

Until one has had one’s own brush with fire, one has little concept of how unpredictable and how terrifying it is.  Especially when the wind blows.

Two years ago this month, I had an unexpected request to work in a spot that meant a road trip and The Husband happily came along for the ride.  Well, actually, he did the driving.  I pointed the camera at various things.

FionaCameraNov2016

Here follows one of my now not unusual digressions:  notwithstanding the drought, work and taking an almost-wrong-turning, it was a pleasant and pretty trip; spectacular in places.TreeWheatFieldNov2016

A lone tree standing out against the golden stubble of harvested wheat.

WheatlandsHayNov2016

The bales of hay for much-needed fodder, waiting to be collected and stacked.

WindfarmsWCoastNov2016

There are wind farms everywhere: on every road and virtually around every bend.  I can’t make up my mind if they’re fascinating, benignly waving their arms at one, or a blight on the landscape.  The turbines are huge.  In the bottom, left photograph in the collage above, you will see a turbine blade on the ground, bookended by the portable toilet and the picnic gazebo, which give one a sense of how long it must be:  turbines can have a diameter of 40 – 90 metres.

Our destination was the seaside, mostly holiday, village of Paternoster.

PaternosterNov2016

The sea was brilliant;  the colours, exquisite, but the wind howled.  The apparently calm sea was very deceiving.

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Then, the morning we were to return home, a dog barked.  At 4 am.  It was a very agitated bark.  Neither of us went back to sleep, so an hour later we resolved to get up, pack and hit the road.

Good thing, too, because an hour or so after we were back in McGregor, we were fighting fires.  Literally.

FireNov2016_1

The Husband, Jan Boer, and a few other locals monitored the fire that was across the road from our house.  As I was taking this picture and the one below, the wind suddenly changed direction and the fire jumped the road and the fence.  Into our plot and vegetable garden.

sam_8444

I turned tail and ran back home and unceremoniously dumped the camera.  Friends and neighbours arrived from everywhere, including friends en route to a wedding, not caring that they would be.

Our two hose pipes were already in use, dousing the flames across the road, so every bucket and hole-free receptacle was dragooned into service.  Cool boxes, catering equipment and dustbins were passed from hand to hand, and every available tap was used to fill them.

FireBucketsSootNov2016

An hour and a half later (which felt like the longest day) after it jumped the road, the fire was under control, the fire service was on the scene, and the camera was retrieved from the tree.

The hose pipes came back blistered and burnt.  Small price.

The aftermath:  incinerated telephone lines, charred, smoked vegetables and homes unscathed.  Mercifully.  Dust, ash and moonscapes.

november20163

Within a week, even though no rain fell, the reeds in the vlei across the road, were sprouting.

sam_8653

Thanks to that barking dog, we had been home to fight that fire. A day I shall never forget.

Two years later, the drought has broken, but it’s dry again.  It’s the wind, that dries things out and as we have a Mediterranean climate, rain after October is rare, leaving the vegetation tinder-dry, not helped by unseasonally hot temperatures.

Eighteen months later, these photographs that I took in late winter, show not just the recovery from the fire, but also the drought.

Our garden is greener and the vegetable garden has crops in the ground.  The sad remainder of an orange tree that succumbed in the drought, though, is a reminder f the drought.  On the other hand, the vlei across the road, which had been denuded, was awash – not just with water, but the most magnificent showing of arum lilies that I have ever seen in my time in the village.

The power of nature to recover is not to be under estimated.

Nor though, is fire.

Post script:  Originally posted in January 2017 and updated;  photographs taken with a Samsung bridge and edited in Picasa.

There it is – until next time

Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Let me help you – for blog posts and any writing in English
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
DM me on Discord  @fionasfavourites#1035
More about why I am offering this service here

Join us @steemitbloggers

 

 

English help for bloggers, writers

I am constantly in awe of folk who write in English, when it’s not their mother tongue.  I know one other language, Afrikaans, which I was compelled to learn at school. I also had to do a one-year course at university – a requirement to be able to teach in the then South Africa.  Thirty years ago, I tried learning French.  I didn’t get very far because the tutor (a very gorgeous Frenchman) who had been allocated to our organisation, was allocated elsewhere.  The lessons were provided by the Alliance Francais for free, so I guess, he was sent to a paying client.  Thus ended the French lessons.

Having grown up in a household where neither parent spoke anything other than English, learning a different language was really difficult.  How I passed those courses, I’m blowed if I know.  I do know that I fouled (yes, do read another word that also begins with an “f” and ends with a “d”) up in the oral examination for my teacher’s diploma.  This was particularly embarrassing as one of the examiners was a family friend….

I now speak the language a little better because I live in an area where the majority of the population speak it, so I’ve had to learn how.  I still don’t write and read it very well.  I daren’t put anything out there without getting help from a first language, or competent, Afrikaans speaker.

Where am I going with this?

I am aware that there are many folk who blog in English, or would like to, but who are anxious about their capability, especially as there are trolls who are not very tolerant of their efforts, let alone forgiving of what are, often, minor errors.

I have been writing for as long as I can remember and have also helped innumerable people panel beat their writing – for research, reports, newsletters and just ordinary letters.  So if you, or anyone you know, needs help with this, I’d be happy to help – for writing on and/or off @steemit.  Rates will depend on the number of words and the type of help that is needed.

If I can help, comment below or contact me on Discord (see below) and I’ll get back to you, and please feel free to share.

There it is – until next time

Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

 

Photo: Selma

Let me help you – for blog posts and any writing in English
Rates depend on the depth of edit required
DM me on Discord  @fionasfavourites#1035

Join us @steemitbloggers

Join Us On Discord