Monday, 29 August 2011

The Possible Pecking of the Pecan Pie

We are continuing our saga with the chickens – simply because they offer hours of amusement. 

Our little black hen is still sitting on her eggs in the pot pourri basket in the dining room. We had a group of 14 wonderful people staying for the weekend, so there has been lots of food and fun! Little hen was not disturbed in the slightest by all the party noise and mayhem going on just two feet from her nest. Such a dedicated and special mother!  She sits there day and night as still as a stone, only going out for half an hour a day to stretch her legs, grab a bite to eat, a drink of water and fluffing her feathers.  Then after her ablutions she sneaks back into her nest, shifts the eggs around, as they need to be turned every so often and there she lies looking after her brood.  Actually, it is quite comical to see her off the nest because she has a genuine problem with walking and looks like a cat with socks on.  She can’t quite decide what to do with her feet after all the sitting!

On Saturday for dinner we served roast lamb, venison pie with vegetables and two puddings – one of them was Pecan Pie (this is a pecan producing farm, so all our guests get a pecan pie experience at least once!).  While I was out of the kitchen, one of our guests, Linda, who was sitting on the stoep like a dassie in the sun with her knitting, heard a noise in the kitchen and found our darling, cheeky (foul) fowl “Chicken Pie” in the kitchen on the counter sniffing around for a tasty morsel.  The Pecan Pie was cooling on the counter and she was fast approaching it with serious intent when she was shooed out of the door.  I then came in to hear of this near disaster and on telling the story to my daughter, Kate, we decided to name the incident “The Possible Pecking of the Pecan Pie”!  I was relieved to see that she had not started on her snack and the pie was unscathed all thanks to Linda, “The Protecter of the Pudding”!  It was enjoyed by all and soon the recipe will be posted on this blog for all to enjoy.

Right, enough about the chooks and on to the change in the weather.  Spring is springing and it is just bloody marvellous!!  Everywhere there are signs of new life.  Newborn lambs, blossoms, pale green new leaves on the trees, especially the willows.  There is almost no sight more heart-warming for me than to see than the willows coming back to life after a hard, cold winter.  Having grown up here in the valley, I have always had a soft spot for willows in particular.  We had them in our garden and one of our favourite playtimes was grabbing a branch and swinging over the furrow – so much better than a jungle gym!  Also, they were very climbable so we spent many an hour pretending to be monkeys and other creatures.  My ‘cuz’ Alan did the best impression of a monkey – but more of his antics as a child another time.  A legend and still naughty to this day!!

Oh, so much to tell you and so many recipes to share!  Today’s recipe is for Easy Cheese Puffs.  And the name describes them to a T.  I made them for breakfast this morning to wide acclaim. So here goes:

Flour                      - 1 cup (250 ml)
Baking Powder    - 1 dessert spoon
Cheese                  - 1 cup (grated Cheddar)
Milk                       - 1 cup
Oil                          - 50 ml (mixed in the milk)
Salt                        - small pinch
Cayenne Pepper - small shake
·       Mix all the ingredients together
·       Put into muffin tin
·       Bake at 180 deg - +- 20 minutes

 See how easy it is?  They can be baking while you set the breakfast table or if a friend pops in for coffee, while she (I am presuming it will be a she, but you never know!!) is talking, you can mix a batch while the oven is heating and the kettle is boiling and you are hearing about the latest shopping expedition/bargains/husband irritations (but don’t we just adore them!? – most of the time!) you can sit down and enjoy soft cheesy puffs with butter oozing out of the centre and forget about any angst for a few minutes.............. YUM!


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Clever clucks!

Our darling chickens - bantams and the other hens - are proving to be both a joy and extremely invasive! On one hand, they provide us with endless entertainment and on the other they have a fascination with the inside of the house and will sneak in at any unguarded moment.  No matter how we have chased and shooed, they still give it a go and although we at first thought it was rather sweet, it has become quite an irritation.

Observing their behaviour has been really interesting as we had never thought about poultry having brains but birds do have brains, pea-brained as they may be! The roosters (cocks sounds downright rude in polite society!) are so very good to their women and humans could take note.  The male will find a tiny morsel and make a particular clucking noise which gets the females running to him.  He then puts it down for one to eat and immediately presumes she will be willing to pay in kind.  He prances around her doing a sideways dance with his feathers splayed out beautifully and then pounces.  To us humans it is most comical.

Currently we have a little black hen sitting on eggs in a large basket of potpourri in the dining room  As you can see from the photos, the menfolk find the right spot and try it out for size.  Then they encourage their ladies to test it and once one has shown her approval, she will begin to lay her eggs - usually one a day.  Once she has enough, she will start to sit continuously, getting off once a day to eat, do her ablutions and stretch her legs. Such good and devoted little mothers they are!

We have decided to allow this hen to stay inside to give the chickens a chance to hatch because if they are outside, their eggs are stolen by a grey mongoose who has dined royally these past few months and we have had two bantams and a large hen taken in the night by some predator - possibly a wild cat of some sort.  So they need to be closed in their 'hoks' at night to keep them safe.  In fact it is almost time to go and see to them now.  They will be given some stale bread which they absolutely love and follow me like I am the pied piper and before they know it, they are safely put to bed.


Friday, 12 August 2011

Harvest Time!

We have had a busy week with guests - all such super people.  I love meeting so many people who all have stories to tell and are so interested in the farm and our history here in the Karoo.  I took them up to Grassridge Dam and we were lucky to see Rhino close up next to the road.  They are on a lion farm close to the dam.  We went on drives around the farm to see the new lands and centre pivots being installed.  But more of that next time.
Recently the mielies were harvested and it was quite exciting to see the combine harvester in action.  The three children from next door had a wonderful time sitting in the cab with the driver, in fact they spent three hours in there which is quite something for two boys of 8 and 6 and a girl aged 4 years old. 

The golden mielies which have been removed from the cobs by the harvester are transferred into large metal bins on a trailer and taken to the silo for storage.  We climbed into the silo a few months ago when it was fairly empty and lay on the mielies with the children.  We felt like Scrooge McDuck who apparently enjoys swimming in his money vault!  It was great fun until one of the children got a mielie in his ear and it was time to go home.  He wasn’t  amused when I said I wondered if he would wake up in the morning with a mielie plant sticking out of his ear!  But his dad was able to remove it without too much drama so next time we will have to wear beanies to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

The dried cobs are just wonderful for heating up the fire for a last blast of heat before heading off to bed on a cold winters night.
Bouts of freezing weather have left brilliant displays of winter wonderland scenes.  If sprinklers are left on at night, the ice and icicles are begging to be photographed the next morning.  Flowers are encased in ice and recover completely once the ice has melted. Some plants are remarkably resilient and tough even though they look so delicate!

The first daffodil has opened , so Spring is finally on the way!  Pruning of fruit trees and roses is under way and the vegetable garden is busy being prepared and planted.  Can’t wait for everything to start growing and offering forth its bounty.  One of lifes many pleasures!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Congratulations, ewe are pregnant!

A new farm experience for me was seeing how much time and effort is put into the care of sheep.  They need correct feeding programmes, mating sessions, health checks etc.
I was fascinated to see how the ewes were scanned for pregnancy.  Who would have thought that sheep would go throught the same process as humans do to check their babies!  It is important to see who is pregnant and with how many - mostly one or twins but there were some who were carrying triplets (poor things!).  Those which were not pregnant were put back with rams and checked at a later stage.
The process does not appear to cause distress as they are literally in the chair for a few seconds and when they are released from the chair they look back and seem to be thinking "What the hell just happened there?"

We are expecting the first lambs to be born from 21st August onwards.  Can't wait to see these precious babies frolicking in the early mornings and at sunset.  They congregate like a bunch of children in the playground while their mothers wait for them to tire out so they can have a good sleep afterwards.  The similarity between humans and animals is so fascinating!

Ruaan, Kate's fiance, recently found this little darling in the veld with no other sheep in sight and it was already becoming dark on a freezing winter night.  It had the umbilical cord still attached so he knew it was a very new lamb which would have died had it not been found, so he had to take it home where we could feed it and give it a chance.  We had guests staying at the time and their little girls were fascinated - they christened it "Snowy".  My daughter Kate became it's mother and the little thing became her shadow over the next few days.  It is thriving and a joy to us all.

 Best regards,

Monday, 1 August 2011

Welcome to our blog!

Having fairly recently moved back to the wonderful Karoo where I grew up, it seemed unfair to keep this to myself.  So here goes with regular updates on what happens on a farm which supplies that great South African delicacy Karoo Lamb and beef.  Also grown on the farm are pecan nuts and walnuts plus maize and lucerne.
My husband Dave and I run two guest houses catering for anyone looking for a real Karoo Farmstay. There are various activities available or guests can chill, sitting on the stoep drinking coffee or having an afternoon nap under the trees.
Our daughter and her fiance have moved to the area and she is now helping us with our marketing plus she is a great chef in the making so we are being spoilt and kept on our toes with new ideas.
We have had a very cold snap and it is wonderful to wake up in the morning to a winter wonderland of frost and ice.  Spring is the most beautiful time of the year with roses, blossoms and new leaves bursting forth, not to mention newborn lambs frolicking in the lands.  Summer brings hot weather which is just perfect for river activities such as canoeing and river rafting as the Great Fish River runs through the farm.  Autumn is a relief after the hot summer with stunning colourful leaves falling.

 Please check back often for regular updates of whats new and happening on the farm and in the community. We'll be sharing recipes, events, gardening & because there's never a dull moment on a farm there will be many incidents to report on!

Till next time,