A lifetime ago, when I worked in the corporate world, interruptions usually meant stopping, listening to a complaint or problem, taking note of it, and taking action in the hours or days to come. At worst, I'd be able to finish whatever task I was working on, and THEN deal with the problem "immediately."
When I went back to writing and editing, Nils knew better than to pull me from my writing cave, so interruptions came in the form of text messages or emails (even if he was in the next room). If it was really important, a note was slipped under my office door, e.g., "I'm getting really hungry and dinner is getting cold!" I could pretty much pick and choose my moments of interruption.
But here on the farm, interruptions take a whole different form. Most of the time there's no "I'll just finish this thought!" or "I'll get back to you in a moment."
Just this past week:
- Sitting at the computer, Kazu's lying at my feet, chewing away at a rawhide bone. EXCEPT, she hasn't been given a rawhide bone in a long time. I lean back in my chair, cringe, and look beneath. She's gingerly nipping off and spitting out feathers from what appears to have been a young sparrow. Rear back in horror. "Oh My Gawd!" Dog goes running, tail between legs. Grab wad of paper towels. Scoop up dead bird. Contemplate burying it. Conclude that the dogs will dig it up. Keeping at arm's length, carry the poor dead thing across the farm. Throw it over the fence where the dogs won't get to it again. Return to office. Pick out down, feathers, and what might be beak (I didn't look that closely) stuck in carpet. Is that blood or dog saliva on the carpeting? Get the cleaning solution and the vacuum cleaner from the terrace. Pick up vacuum cleaner hose, and concrete bits and paint chips pour out onto the carpet. Someone used the vacuum cleaner in the construction area of the house! Vacuum cleaner must be thoroughly cleaned, in addition to much of the carpet. A whole-afternoon-long event.
- Sitting at the computer, I look out toward the back of the farm where Nils, a neighbor, and staff are burning firebreaks. They've already burned on the upper farm behind the house. I spy several curlicues of smoke rising from areas they've long ago finished. It could just be the last smolderings. It could be. And then again. … I watch. The curlicues aren't diminishing. I think they're getting bigger. A fire hazard? Might be. Nils and the staff are now down at the other end of the farm. I get up. Squeeze through sliding glass doors so the dogs don't escape the house — they're already in a panic over the fire. Go to the shed next to the house. Look for a fire beater. Nothing. Must be in the workshop on the other side of the farm. Walk back to house. Squeeze back through sliding glass doors. Change fake Crocs to thick-soled hiking boots. Can always stamp out a small fire in the grass. Walk across yard to curlicues. No grass or veldt burning. It's large piles of cow poo! Pull out unburnt grass around flaming cow poo. Nothing but my feet to stamp out poo. Sigh. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. Drag feet back to house with hope that most cow poo will come off. No joy. Remove boots. Go to garden spigot to wash poo out of deeply carved soles. Garden hose no longer connected to the spigot. Garden hose nowhere to be found. Sit on potato box, rip branch off of apple tree. Spend next half-hour scraping cow poo out of crevices in boot soles.
- Sitting at the computer. The damned guinea fowl are going at it again. They make such a racket for no apparent reason. I refuse to be interrupted. Later that afternoon, we discover one of our Austraulope chickens is missing, likely taken by a raptor. The guinea fowl tried to tell me; I didn't listen. And they DO make a gawd-awful noise (turn down your volume before clicking below):
- Sitting at the computer. I hear Solo leap up from his "guard post" at the back door. "Rar, rar, rar, rar, rar, rar, rar." Not unusual for him. He barks at lots of things. But, this time, he's persistent. Learned my lesson days before with the loss of a chicken. Go out to terrace. Can't see what he's barking at. Walk across the orchard. The donkeys are at the fence, teasing Solo as they are apt to do. No big deal. Head back toward house. I haven't checked the tomatoes in a couple of days. A slight detour to the vegetable garden. Pick a few ripe tomatoes. We really haven't been taking very good care of the garden. Pull weeds. Pick the last of the season's beans. The raised bed meant for cauliflower, broccoli, and winter lettuce has become overgrown again. Pick out last season's plants. Pick out weeds. The afternoon passes.
With all this in mind, not to mention the periodic vomiting dogs, exploding forgotten boiling eggs, or clever escaping cattle that must be herded back into their paddocks, I'm now quite proud that I've managed to write this much today.
But, the dogs are awfully quiet, the birds and donkeys, too. This could mean trouble. Must go!
Over the past 15 years or so, I've worked on and managed to banish a lot of my fears.
Fear of great heights is NOT one of them.
As a result, information on the "highest anything" isn't usually on my "Fun Facts to Know and Tell" list.
So, little did I know that we lived so close to the highest waterfall in Africa, and the second highest in the world!
Nils, of course, knew this, and having discovered friends and neighbors equally interested in the challenge, departed on a hike with eight others last Monday to the top of Tugela Falls, looking over the Amphitheatre, considered one of "the most impressive cliff faces on earth".
Magnificent, isn't it? I quite enjoyed this hike from the comfort of our living room.
I so looked forward to moving to South Africa for a myriad reasons. Not least was that after 20+ years living in countries where English was not the lingua franca, I could finally speak my mother tongue! While South Africa has 11 official languages, in the province where our farm is, English is commonly spoken, and throughout the country, it's the most commonly spoken language in official and commercial life.
So big "Yay!" For the first time in nearly two dozen years, I could concentrate on "what" I was saying and not "how" I was going to say it..
Caught with my pants down
It didn't take long for me to understand the naivete and ignorance of that assumption. While I fancy myself well-versed in both American and British English(es), South African English is a whole 'nother kettle of mealies.
I've still got a lot of learning to do, but these are some words that had me completely befuddled and/or that I've found extremely useful.
Eish (aysh) – Expresses surprise, frustration, dismay, or outrage. "Eish! The dog just ate all our chickens in the yard!"
Jawelnofine – (ya-well-no-fine). You must say this as one, single word. The meaning found online is "Well, how about that?", but more accurately, it appears to be an expression of surprise that really means things aren't so fine, but you can't do anything about it. You just discovered that someone ate ALL the candy from the gift box you received for Your birthday. You might say, "Jawelnofine." (I would say something else, but you might say this. Not that I've ever experienced such a thing, of course).
Jol (jawl) – Jol can be a noun (a party) or a verb (to have a good time). "I just heard there's a big jol at Barb's tonight!"
Just now – I'll never forget my first contact with this phrase. Nils and I were online gaming with an international group. The South African player said, "I can play just now." We waited. And we waited. And we waited. If a South African tells you they'll do something "just now", it could mean anywhere from a few minutes from now to several minutes to an extended period of time for which I haven't yet found the limit. It is sometime in the future, but definitely not "now."
Lekker (lekk-irr, preferably with a nice rrrrrrrrrolling r) – Originating from Afrikaans, it means nice, good, or cool. "The concert last night was lekker, wasn't it?"
Now-now – The only time I'd ever before heard "Now now", was when it was used to comfort, as in "Now, now, don't cry." Contrary to "Just now" (see above), this means what the rest of the world means when they say "now."
Shame – Every time I think I've got a handle on this one, I hear a slightly different usage. It can be used in the same way that Americans or British use the phrase, "Oh, that's a shame!" However, it's often used as a filler in conversation, much in the same way that Americans use, "Ah, I see!, or even "Uh huh." And then there's this other usage I heard the other day, "Oh shame! It was a beautiful wedding!" This evidently does not mean that the person speaking was disappointed that it was a nice wedding. Basically, I think that "shame" means whatever the speaker wants it to mean at any given time.
So as not to starve to death
Biltong (bill-tong) – A (in my opinion) delicious dried and salted meat. Similar to beef jerky, but in South Africa it could be made from ostrich, kudu or other red meat animal as well.
Bobotie (buh-boor-tee) – Some will tell you this is an "everything but the kitchen sink" dish, but mostly it's made with ground beef (minced meat), a lot of spices, jam or chutney, and topped with an egg sauce. I'm told it's of Malay origin. We had it once at friends', and I improvised it once at home. It's a dish I like very much – and come to think of it I might make it this weekend. Mmmmmm.
Braai (pronounced like "eye" with a "Br" in front of it, and a long "aaa") – This is a barbecue, simple as that, with steak, boerewors (A South African sausage), and maybe chicken. A South African braai seems to consist of mainly meat and meat and meat.
Bunny Chow - If you're American you're likely thinking Purina and what you'd feed your rabbits. I've recently learned that bunny chow in South Africa is a curry served in a hollowed-out half-loaf of bread. It's cheap to-go food that you'd eat on the road or when backpacking. And no, it's not curried bunny meat.
Mealie (mih-lih) – Maize or corn. Mealie is corn on the cob; mealie meal is corn meal. You'll come across this more often than you'd think; it's a staple in the South African diet.
Sarmie - A sandwich.
This and That
Bakkie (buck-ee) – What we Americans know as a pick-up truck.
Cozzie - I first heard this from an instructor with whom I was taking a course. She was having the class at her home and she said, "It's going to be a very hot day in Durban. Bring your cozzie." This means bathing suit or swimming costume.
Geyser (gee-zer) - First time I heard this was in a sentence something like, "I've got two old 'geezers' on my roof." I'm not really sure about British English, but for us Americans, this would mean that there are two old men sitting on the top of this person's house. Geyser (spelled like Old Faithful Geyser) in South African English is a hot water tank or boiler.
Muti (moo-ti) – This comes from isiZulu language and means medicine. It usually refers to typically traditional African medicine, but you will hear people using it somewhat generically for medicine.
Robot - The first time Nils and I heard this was when we were lost and had to stop and ask for directions. We were told, "You'll come to a robot and turn left, continue on past the market and at the second robot take a right." I remember that Nils rolled up his window, we both looked at each other quizzically and one of the other of us eventually said, "Did she say 'robot'???" You've probably already guessed; a robot is a traffic light.
Sangoma (sun-go-mah) – Also from isiZulu, this mean a traditional healer or diviner.
Shongololo – This is a word that you're unlikely to come across, but I like the way the word sounds and feels on the tongue. A Shongololo is a large brown millipede. The word comes from isiZulu.
Stiffy - This is also a word you're unlikely to fall upon as it's now outdated, but it's amusing. A stiffy is a 3.5 inch floppy disk. Can you imagine? "Yeah, go down to Howard in the IT department, he gets stiffies regularly." Okay, that was 6-year-old humor, I know.
Takkies – What are otherwise known as running shoes, sneakers, or trainers. Fat takkies are extra-wide tires (or tyres for British English readers).
I assure you, no matter the difficulties or misunderstandings that come up from time to time with South African English, South Africa's just so lekker! Meet a few of the friendly locals and they'll have you jolling in no time. Come and experience the country now-now! The language might confuse you, but you won't be disappointed by the country and people!
Today is "D Day".
First and foremost, D is for Departure. Nils' parents have been with us for six weeks and they headed back to Deutschland this evening. In that time with us, we've grown quite accustomed to having them around, and they've been a big help in the renovation efforts. It will be very quiet here … actually, what am I saying? It will continue to be just as chaotic as ever …
Anyway, due to limited time today, I decided to make this a Diverse Stuff Day and use the opportunity to show (rather than tell) what's happening on the farm.
Please mouseover each photo as you go along.
Thanks for following us, and mousing over our photos.
and Nils and Shecky, Daisy, Daphne, Esme, Donatello, Waldo & Statler, Guenther & Gaby, Solo & Kazu, and all the babies and new additions that don't yet have names …
It's been several weeks. You'd think I'd be over it. But, as a huge advocate of good communication, it disturbs me when someone understands the complete opposite of what I intended.
By no means am I above bungling communicating my thoughts, but I've come to realize that in this case, I had only two of the three "elements" necessary for communication: 1. I had a sender (me), and 2. I had a message. But in order to have communication, one must also have 3. a recipient. The "recipient" was there physically, but the recipient had already determined what it was I was going to say and what my intention was. As a result, there was No recipient to my message.
I've thought about going back to clarify, but this is a case of "someone will hear only what they want to hear." I remain hopeful that this misunderstanding won't continue to be a wedge between us, but today I finally remembered the sage tenets of Osmo Wiio, a Finnish researcher who devoted many years to research in the area of human communication, and I think I can now Let. It. Go. One of his best known documentations on the subject has come to be called "Wiio Laws."*
If you haven't yet discovered the work of Professor Wiio, I gladly provide this synopsis of his points that I find most salient:
- Communication usually fails, except by accident.
- If communication can fail, it will.
- If communication cannot fail, it still most usually fails.
- If communication seems to succeed in the intended way, there must be a misunderstanding.
- If you are satisfied that your message will communicate successfully, it will most certainly fail.
- If a message can be interpreted in several ways, it will be interpreted in the manner that does the most harm.
- There is always someone who knows better than you what you meant by your message.
- The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication to succeed.
Sometimes — thankfully, not often — this just makes so much sense. This is one of those times.
*A parallel to "Murphy's Laws"
If you've been following us here and on Facebook, you know that we have two rescue dogs in our family. You also know that they are most precious to us. You also know that they are two real handfuls.
I won't say that adopting rescue animals is for everyone, but I can say that if you're willing to put in some work, you'll get back in return a hundred-fold.
The greatest challenges that have come up for Nils and me in raising Solo and Kazu relate to the belief systems they acquired prior to our adoptions.
Solo's Belief System
Sad to say, Solo was abused. Based on his initial behavior, we are certain that he was abused by both white and black men, and tormented by other dogs. In his reality, anyone who carried a big stick, or a tool with a long handle was a threat, and he would react as any proper Aussie Cattle Dog would — with aggression. Based on what we'd experience with him, combined with a few hints we'd heard about his previous home, we believe that he was chained up in a yard with other dogs that were free to attack him. As a result, whenever he was put on a lead in the company of other dogs, he would go ballistic. It took us a long time to break him of these "beliefs", but little by little, he re-learned, and became more and more comfortable with different people, situations, and even some dogs.
The downside of his comfort became that he wouldn't let us out of his sight, and was scared out of his wits when we would leave the farm. It was heart-warming in many ways because it was clear that he'd grown to love and trust us. But as we'd try to leave, he'd wrap his front legs around either Nils' or my leg, and would bite at our pant legs to keep us home — it was as though he was begging us not to abandon him. After one or the other of us would peel him away, we'd squeeze through the farm gate, close it behind us, and try to ignore the pitiful whimpering. As we'd drive off, we'd watch him through the rear-view mirror trying to dig under the fence. I eventually learned to just stare straight ahead or squeeze my eyes tightly shut. In Solo's reality, each time we went out of that gate, we were abandoning him.
Thankfully, that too has passed, and he now lets us leave — a sad look in his eyes, but no drama.
Kazu's Belief System
In Kazu's case, she came to us at a younger age, and, as far as we could tell, did not come from an abusive home. However, she did spend at least a couple of her six months of life at the SPCA in the company of many other dogs. As a result, Kazu has deep-seated food issues. It's clear that there were many others with whom she had to compete. When she came to us, she constantly sought out food or food scraps; she ate everything and anything (and I really DO mean anything) she came across. Unfortunately, we haven't yet made as much progress as I would hope in six months time, but she's gotten better (at least she doesn't eat EVERY frog she comes across, nor EVERY cow pattie). So, there's been some shifts in her beliefs and fears of starvations.
Now there are some who will say that dogs (or any other animals for that matter) do not have consciousness and are incapable of belief systems. I argue that anyone who's spent any quality, loving time with animals knows with certainty that they have a consciousness, and develop their own belief systems. For what is a belief system but a set of precepts that govern our thoughts and actions.
How Their Limiting Belief Systems Don't Work Anymore
Solo's belief system included "Big men with sticks will hurt me, I must protect myself and attack", "When I'm put on a lead, I won't be allowed to protect myself," "If I let these people out of my sight, they will abandon me." At a time in the past, these were all beliefs that served Solo well; they were true beliefs and reality. However, once he left that environment, he couldn't so easily leave those beliefs behind. But in a different environment, they became truly negative limiting beliefs creating behaviors that could have turned into self-fulfilling prophecies. There was a period of time when we weren't so sure if Solo would ever calm down; there were moments when we considered giving him up; we even wondered if having him put down would be best to ease his suffering. Brief moments came when we, indeed, considered "abandoning" him.
In Kazu's case, her beliefs and fears of never eating again probably served her well while she was in the SPCA. Because of her beliefs, she likely fought harder to get to the food bowls to get her share. However, today, these fears are no longer valid, and certainly no longer serve her. Quite the contrary. When she eats EVERYTHING, her stomach will reject, and she has had more than her share of a runny tummy; I have had more than my share of early morning clean-ups.
Are WE Any Different?
Are these situations with Solo and Kazu really any different than what you and I have experienced with our own belief systems?
- Do you keep up certain habits or behaviors "just because", even if those habits or behaviors are way beyond their "expiry date"?
- Haven't you ever thought, "I'm not good enough (smart enough, tough enough, pretty enough, creative enough)", and so not tried?
- Maybe you've said, "S/he's going to reject me (fight back, create a scene), so I'll do it to him/her first!", and done something stupid?
- How about "Others can do it better (nicer, prettier, more perfectly) than I can", so you don't bother?
- Perhaps, "If I go, people will laugh at me (ignore me, not care if I'm there or not)", so you don't go even though you really want to?
- Ever said to yourself, "If I get involved, I'll only get hurt (angry, upset, rejected)", so you justify not making an effort?
- Are you still holding onto beliefs that might've served you very well long ago, but that are keeping you back now?
If any of these resonate or ring familiar, consider:
If Solo and Kazu can change their belief systems, so can you!
When I said I was going to post on this subject, several people said,
"Don't Post That!"
"Don't give away this secret. You could make a business out of this.", "I'd be happy to buy this. You could make a lot of money.", "Delicious! Make this professionally. I'd sell this at my shop!", "Don't just give it away … except to me, of course."
Only one person said, "Do it!" She strongly believes in the Abundance Mindset, that there are sufficient resources and success to share with others. I'm simply delighted when something I make or create brings joy, and passing it onward is a true win-win. Others might just say, "The more you give, the more you receive." Any and all of these scenarios work for me!
Besides, what I have is really no secret. If you grew up on the East Coast of the United States, you might even have your own. Though, those from elsewhere, especially from other countries, could be unfamiliar with it, and may even find it — as did friends and acquaintances here in South Africa — exotic.
Today, A is for Apple Butter
For those to whom this is new, according to Wikipedia, Apple Butter dates back to colonial America. As I know it from visits to Pennsylvania Dutch country, I would hazard to guess it (or something similar) was brought over to America by the Germans (the Deutsch).
Contrary to what its name suggests, apple butter does not contain butter. "Butter" refers to the thick, smooth, buttery texture.
According to all who have tasted mine, I've concocted a great recipe here. Great chefs of the world will, no doubt, turn their noses up. I'm a believer in K.I.S.S. and as long as it doesn't impact taste or texture, I WILL cut corners to Keep It Simply Simple!
Easiest, Awesome-est Apple Butter (Slow Cooker Style)
- 6 pounds (3 kilos) apples* – peeled, cored and cut into chunks
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 1 cup (220 g) light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or you can also use 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Place the apples in a slow cooker.
2. Add the two sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom (or cloves) and salt.
3. Cook on low for about 10 hours (or longer, if you want to sleep in), stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and evenly dark brown.
4. Stir in vanilla.
5. Continue cooking uncovered (to thicken) on low for another 2 hours (or so, this is NOT a recipe that requires precision).
6. Puree the apple butter with a stick blender or regular stationary blender until consistently smooth.
7. Spoon into sterile containers.
8. or, spread and eat immediately!
9. Refrigerate for up to two weeks or freeze.