Even before we moved to the Farm, when we talked with our country neighbors about wanting to raise animals, in the course of conversation, someone always eventually said, "… make sure you don't name them!"

Now I completely understood this for animals being raised for consumption. Who wants to sit down at the dinner table only to discover that the main course is Henrietta stuffed with apples, raisins and sausage. But we were pretty sure that the first generation of animals on our farm would be more like pets than a source of food. 

As those who have followed us from the beginning know, when we got our first hens and rooster, what'd we do almost immediately? We named them!

Over the first six months of (our) life on the Farm, we've lost:

  • 1 Zulu rooster named Boris.
  • 3 white layers — the first went so soon after arrival that she died without a name, one was named Lucy, the last was named Posh.
  • 1 Zulu hen named Natasha.
  • 7 no-named chicks, 1 chick named Groucho (I couldn't resist, he had the eyebrows!).

Most died at the hand (sic: mouth) of our "loving" Australian Cattle Dog named Solo. (Clever dog that he is, he quickly figured out how to get into the chicken yard; more recently, he learned how to jump a four-foot fence. In his defense, however, some of these fowl deaths occurred when the birdbrains ventured into dog territory) A few of the babies died "just 'cause" — they weren't strong enough to make it through infancy, Still others were killed and devoured by a raptor — we're guessing a falcon or a hawk, in another instance, perhaps a mongoose or a rat. 

All very sad.

But, without a doubt, the losses that were the hardest for me were those animals that had names. In my mind and heart, the choosing and giving of a name (contrary to what Shakespeare's Juliet suggested when she said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.") allows personalities to blossom, and, of course, creates a connection. 

I've learned there is some value to "make sure you don't name them!"

You may have noticed that seven of our chicks went un-named. Perhaps you believe that I've come to agree about not naming? With the death of a few chicks early on, we, indeed, wanted to see how many would survive before committing. But, it really has been only a waiting game. 

If you saw our holiday greeting on Facebook, you know that we have added a goose and a gander, a drake and two ducks (or hens), and five guinea fowl to our brood. Whether by way of domestic or wild animal attack, accident, or otherwise, it's likely one or some of these may not die of old age. Each loss will impact me. But, I don't want these animals to go through their lives as "goose", "gander", "duck 1" and "duck 2." I'll likely feel differently if/when we start raising for food (see above reference to Henrietta on your plate), but these animals have gone long enough without names. 

And, I'd like to invite you to help us name them?

Gander and Goose 

The gander (with gray feathers, left of both photos) is quite vocal and a little cheeky. If I'm late for feedings he will hiss up at me as a reprimand. The goose (right of both photos) is quieter, stands back, and usually lets the gander do the talking. Contrary to the rep, they are not at all aggressive. Admittedly, they haven't yet been tested with strangers. They make a very nice couple.

Horace

We've already named our drake (sorry).  We're not sure if one of the geese picked on him, if he got caught in the fencing, or if unbenownst to us, Solo got a hold of him, but, he has a lame foot. For the past two weeks, we've had him isolated in a cat box (without the cat), and I've been hand-feeding him, and cleaning his (very, very, very smelly) box twice a day; Nils has been handling him a lot to spray his leg with antibiotics. He's now back on his feet (with a little limp) and is most definitely a pet … when he sees me coming, he comes hopping over with his tail wagging. Somewhere along the way, Nils and I decided that he was a Horace (Actually, I wanted Francis, Nils wanted Carlos, we compromised on Horace. Don't ask.).

Duck, Duck

But, Horace's two female companions still need names. By nature — they're Muscovy ducks — they're both rather "demure" and not very talkative. They are, however, very friendly and are happy just hanging out together. If they were human, I'd assume they were BFFs. 

The guinea fowl, who have by now gotten very big, will have to wait. Call me a "fowl-ist", but frankly, aside from varying sizes, they all look alike to me.

We're open to any and all (preferably adorable) suggestions for our 2 geese and 2 ducks … the more animals we have, the harder it gets to find nice names. Help!

 

It's taken several days longer than promised, but here's the recipe for my Gingered Carrot Soup — simple ingredients, reasonably simple process. So far, it's been a hit with friends in Hamburg, Germany; Vienna, Austria; and now in Kamberg Valley, South Africa. Please give it a go with your friends and family and let me know if it's also a hit where you are. People have commented how nicely subtle and creamy it is, but with an extra "wow factor" from the ginger.

But, shhhh, don't tell anyone it's this simple; everyone believes it's some complicated "gourmet thing."

CORINNE'S GINGERED CARROT SOUP

Serves 4 – 6
INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tbls vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 cups (or more) chicken stock or chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups sliced peeled carrots (about 1 1/2 pounds or 700 grams)
  • 1 cup orange juice (approx. 3 or 4 oranges)
  • 1/2 cup "Half and Half" (half light cream and half milk — of course the higher the cream content, the more fat, the creamier, the yummier, and fattening-er).
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • several sprigs of fresh cilantro (coriander)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add minced onion and minced ginger. 
  3. Sauté until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. (do not let the onion and ginger over brown)
  4. Add chicken stock and sliced carrots. 
  5. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. (though I admit, I've been known to get too involved in surfing the net and leaving this for much longer). 
  6. Working in batches, puree mixture in blender or processor. (If you have a "stick mixer", puree the whole mixture right in your saucepan).
  7. Return soup to saucepan. 
  8. Mix in orange juice, then Half and Half. 
  9. Cook over low heat 5 minutes. 
  10. Mix in ground cinnamon. 
  11. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  12. Let simmer until ready to serve (if it's too thick to your liking, thin with a bit of stock)
  13. Ladle soup into bowls, top with springs of fresh cilantro, and serve!
 
NOTE: This can be prepared a day ahead, just cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well. 
 
p.s. – the delay on posting this recipe was due to the launch this week of our new Chrysalis Project after-school program. More info on this non-profit effort to come. 
 

At 1:12 p.m. (South African Standard Time) yesterday, perhaps you heard my voice in your head? Driving homeward along the N3 highway after grocery shopping for new year's, I said a final goodbye to all my loved ones, and those who've touched my life in positive ways. 

Moments before, I had watched as a tractor trailer truck wheel catapulted onto the highway up ahead, flying up and over a car that was in the passing lane. The monstrosity struck the asphalt at an angle and changed course. I white-knuckled the steering wheel and my sight glued to the tire's trajectory. It was advancing straight at me. 
 
They say that time goes funny in these situations. It's true. It was exactly as you see it in the movies, or like having the DVD set on slo-mo. As those frames ticked by, I had the time to say goodbye to everyone. 
 
After that, I don't recall seeing the highway. My eyes just followed that tire. It pounded the road no more than two car lengths ahead, and then seemed to float toward me. I could swear that I caught a glimpse of the design of the tire treads. I braced for the impact, and a black mass passed over me. Instinct had me look into my rear view mirror and I saw the tire bounce off the highway and down a ravine.
 
My lungs violently expelled air; I realized I'd been holding my breath. 
 
I'd rather not think too much about the "what ifs", but it is certainly a reminder of the fragility of our lives. 
 
My sister and I remember well our father saying, "I believe I haven't wasted a moment of my life." Yesterday was my reminder that I'd like to continue on with that family tradition. 
 
So many things to do, people to cherish, and dreams to dream and to make reality.

p.s. – For those who are curious: though, thankfully, not a common occurrence, flying trailer truck wheels are not unheard of. Two fatal incidents have been reported in the last two weeks in Canada. Some fear that as governments are faced with fewer resources, enforcement of trucking regulations could go the wayside. Please be vigilant, my friends.

Holiday Spirit for us is: 

  • Goin' visitin' just to say "Hey!"
  • Dropping off firewood to a new neighbor so they don't freeze. 
  • Delivering used (Hurray for recycling!) containers that are perfect for chicken nests.
  • Providing a body/mind therapy session on a "someday I'm sure you can do something for me in return" basis.
  • Giving away raspberry jam and overstock of veggies just because you can.
  • Volunteer bartending at a community event. 
  • Giving new neighbors a place to stay for their first days in their new country. 
  • Helping wait tables a bit at the local pub on a crazy-busy night.
  • Providing materials, tractor, and trailer for neighbors building an addition to their home.
  • Baking cookies for neighbors despite the fact that your oven has two temperatures: "Off" and "High".
  • Giving the first hen and rooster to a new farmer to start her chicken flock.
  • Rendering assist when another's electrical mainline is hit by a pickaxe.
  • Spending four hours on country roads delivering cookies to "nearby" neighbors.
  • Including a new neighbor in a family outing to a rugby match (and having the patience to explain the rules of the strange, "new" sport)
  • Supporting friends' children by attending their concerts and plays (all which turned out to be a blast!)
  • Making raspberry ice cream for the neighbor who let you pick several pounds/kilos of berries from her garden.
  • Sending calves over to mow a neighbor's lawn. 
  • Painting the front of a local school that's in desperate need of an uplift.
  • Seeing the ear-to-ear smile on a child's face as she eats your home-made ice cream. 
  • Giving rescue animals a good home. 

… to name a few.

A few of the acts above were happily performed by Nils and me since arrival in South Africa in July; the vast majority were provided to us by our new friends and neighbors.

We're proud and grateful to be a part of this community where "Holiday Spirit" of giving, receiving, and sharing lives in the hearts and minds of many throughout the year. 

And you? Any "Holiday Spirit" you'd like to share here? 

Happy Holidays, Corinne & Nils

Rainy day on the dam

It's rainy season here in the Drakensberg Mountains and lemme tell ya, it's pretty darn gray and depressing.
 

Even the dogs are looking depressed these days.

 
But nature compensates for everything and this is no exception at Chrysalis Farm. 
  1. Since I can't do all the outdoor things I need to do, I can actually write this very, very overdue blog posting, and 
  2. with all this rain (102 mm in November according to Nils, my precise German engineer), our porcini are starting to pop up all over the place!!

And here we have …

... our first harvest this year.

 
Nils and I (and a few friends online) imagined some elaborate recipes for our "firsts", but our stomachs and greed took over. "Let's do something good and fast!"
 
Porcini mushrooms have a fairly strong and very distinct taste of their own. We saw no reason to distract our tastebuds, so decided to do something simple that would do justice to our first harvest.
 

I sautéed an onion and garlic in olive oil.

 

And added the roughly sliced porcini.

 

We served it up over pasta, and Nils grated some fresh parmesan on top.

 
And soon we had 
 

THIS!

 
But before that we had

THAT!

 
Okay, perhaps it's not the most colorful of dishes — rather beige on a gray day, huh? But its flavors and aroma were vibrant and intense. It helped make up for the rainy day.
 
#1 rule of thumb: if you have good ingredients, keep it simple so the true flavors shine through.  (scroll down for the recipe!)
 

 

 

RECIPE

PORCINI PASTA
Servings: 2 
 
Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cups roughly cut Porcini mushrooms*
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped (we're garlic lovers and aren't socializing today, so we used 3)
  • 1/3 cup good quality olive oil
  • 2 cups of fusilli (corkscrew) pasta (approx. 230 grams or 8 oz)
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Fresh grated Parmesan
*If using dried porcini, combine about 1 ounce (30 g) of mushrooms with 3/4 cup of warm water. Let stand for approximately 30 minutes or until mushrooms soften. Squeeze excess liquid from mushrooms before using. (do not throw out the liquid, save it and/or freeze it for another sauce or soup)
 
Instructions:
  1. Brush clean your porcini with a paper towel or soft mushroom brush, cut off tough parts of the stem, and cut out any yellow spore sections under the cap (only found if the porcini are very large). Note: never wash your mushrooms in water, it will "water down" the taste and destroy the texture. The "great chefs" will probably tell you not to use the stems, but I don't believe in wasting such precious delectables.
  2. Roughly chop one large onion and 2 garlic cloves.
  3. Heat water to a rolling boil. 
  4. Add pasta to water and cook according to instructions on your package (unless you make your own pasta and if so, you get my respect big time!)
  5. Heat pan and add olive oil (or if using a non-stick coated or ceramic pan, add oil first and then heat).
  6. When oil is hot, add onion and garlic. 
  7. Stir and heat until onions "glisten" and the garlic turns golden.
  8. Add porcini and saute and turn for another 2 minutes or so.
  9. Add salt and ground pepper to taste.
  10. Spoon "sauce" over your pasta. 
  11. Grate fresh parmesan on top.
  12. Enjoy this simple pleasure of life.

 

It hasn't been for lack of material that I've neglected you here on our blog. Quite the contrary.

Life has been chock-a-block (I learned that adjective here in S. Africa), and while I used to write all my blog postings late at night, nowadays, by 9:00 p.m. the only thing I'm generating is a lot of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs.

I haven't yet figured out how to get the blog writing done in between tending, feeding and spying on chickens (the last because one was sick, but I couldn't figure out which), making compost, chasing after Solo as he herds the neighbors' cows AND the wild blesbuck, designing my worm farm, establishing two businesses in a "foreign" country, researching sheep and Muscovy duck raising, and keeping up with the laundry and household messes that magically appear out here in the country. 

Complaining? Well, maybe just a little bit, but as proof that we've been busy, here are 

a few things we've learned without our computers

►Never wear "city flats" with shiny metal bits in the chicken yard. I nearly had heart failure when the chickens rushed at me and started pecking at my feet! (ditto decorative flip flops)

►Contrary to what I could've sworn I'd learned in elementary school (did you learn this, too?), if you cut a worm in half, you don't get two worms. You MIGHT get the head of the worm to grow back a tail, but you're just as likely to end up with two halves of a dead worm.

►When you live on a farm, there's NO hope of wearing the same pair of pants or shirt twice. A dog greets you = paw prints on your chest; you lean your elbows on a fence post = bird doo on your sleeves; you slide into the pick-up truck = dried dirt on your backside. Heck, this time of year when it's dry and windy, just lean against a piece of furniture that was just cleaned = you have a brown dusting. Browns and beige are my new fashion color choices.

►When tugging violently at a stubborn, invasive plant in squatting position, make sure there isn't a cow pattie directly behind you (see above). 

►When you've got an important client meeting in the "big city", don't wear your suit, tie and fancy black shoes into the pick-up truck (see above).

►One of my favorite stress reducing exercises used to be using the paper shredder in my office. Pulverizing sheets of paper into teeny tiny flakes really helped to ease feelings of aggression or frustration. However, it doesn't begin to have the same impact as turning nice big tree branches into wood chips! Better than meditation! 

►Everyone in South Africa has an opinion on how to do something; each one of the opinions is different. 

►"It's Africa" is a phrase often said with a shrug and smirk when something goes awry or one's faced with incompetence. While we've had our share of both in South Africa, no more than anywhere else we've lived … France, Germany, Austria, England, the United States … there are problems and joys everywhere.

►When you have a dog, don't bother to clean the bottom two-feet of your sliding glass door. It's a losing battle.

►Sheep are "trunk-sized" ("boot-sized" in British English), which is one of the reasons why lamb is so outrageously expensive. We are going to try raising sheep nonetheless.

►If you're embarking on an adventure like ours, it's good to be married to a German engineer.

►Alpaca are perhaps the most adorable animals I've yet to encounter. I'm trying to justify the high investment required by claiming to use them as "guard alpacas" for our sheep. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, I can only recommend you get away from your computer too; you might learn something new. :-)

During the building of an addition to our farm house (more on that later), we've decided for the sake of my personal sanity, and the safety of Solo and all the builders, to build a kennel run for Solo. We already have a large area on the property that's fenced in on three sides. We only have to add a fourth side and a gate.

Nils figured once he had all the materials, it would take him less than a day to get the fence up. "End of day Tuesday's a no-brainer."

Monday – Nils drives into town to buy wire mesh. steel posts, a pole and a gate. He returns with the mesh and steel posts. No store in town has the gate nor pole he needs.

Tuesday – Nils drives to the next furthest town and brings back the pole and gate. Yay! He unrolls the mesh, begins to install it, and discovers that it's poor quality. He takes apart the work he did.

Wednesday – Nils drives back to town, returns the mesh, and gets the right type. (and yes, he also complains!).

Thursday – Nils re-begins installing the new fencing, He discovers that they sold him only half the amount that he purchased! (I don't think I've seen Nils that close to tears). Corinne has a cold beer at the ready!

Friday – Nils drives back to town to get the rest of his mesh (and complain again). The store doesn't have any more in stock. Nils drives to the next furthest town and pays A LOT more for the same thing. It was a two-beer night!

Saturday – Nils sees the light at the end of the tunnel. He will finish this project today. He lifts the roll of mesh upright, unrolls it, and pulls a muscle in his back. 

It's a double ibuprofen and Tylenol day.

Nils is in bed. 

This idea that "Africa isn't for sissies" continues to whirl about in my head. 

Coming from a well-established suburb in the United States and having lived and worked in large urban metropoleis in the States and Europe, admittedly, I've been spoiled. Nils, growing up in Hamburg, Germany, the same.

I can think of maybe a handful of times in my life when I've gone without a basic like electricity or water (for a few hours max), and my exposure to animals and nature has been of a relatively gentle fashion. So, indeed, life's recently been throwing us challenges to test our levels of sissiness. 

In pondering that "Africa isn't for sissies", I can't help but look at the path my life has taken and the paths of family and friends, and think … 
  • getting older isn't for sissies
  • having chronic kidney disease isn't for sissies
  • picking up and moving from what has been home and familiar for decades isn't for sissies
  • losing a family member isn't for sissies
  • having unidentified allergies to foods isn't for sissies
  • having any chronic illness isn't for sissies
  • losing your job isn't for sissies
  • ending a relationship isn't for sissies
  • committing to a relationship isn't for sissies
  • dealing with infertility isn't for sissies
  • having children isn't for sissies
And you? I'll bet there are reasons you're NOT a sissy!

During the past two weeks,

  • I lost one of my new chickens to Solo.
  • we went without access to water for a day, 
  • then had only brown liquid come out of the tap for the next two days. 
  • Power lines were stolen in the Lowlands and we, and our entire valley, went without electricity for most of a day.
  • We discovered a buck snare on our farm — evidence that there is, indeed, poaching going on in our own backyard.
  • I had contact with one of the most unpleasant people I've met in a very long time.

The impact

  • I went without a shower for four days (it wasn't pretty).
  • We had to haul many Jerry cans to go fetch clean, fresh drinking water from neighbors' down the road. Imagine!
  • I had already been backed up in doing laundry, and without water, ended up wearing underwear previously delegated to the rag pile. Mom definitely wouldn't have approved (I know, this is too much information).
  • The many seedlings we had started suffered from lack of water.
  • Nils and others missed the South Africa vs. Fiji Rugby World Cup match on television. 
  • I couldn't blog or surf!!!
  • We couldn't do most of the (electricity dependent) things we planned to do,
  • so, we went and spent the afternoon having a braai and fun with new friends. 
  • I was reminded to listen to my own instincts, and do what I know is the right thing to do.
  • I think that Nils and I talked to each other more (unavoidable since I couldn't surf or blog, and there was no television).
  • I learned I can get dishes clean by hand with a small amount of water.
  • We drank less coffee (electric coffee machine) and more fruit juice.
  • We get more exercise since we take slightly longer walks on the farm to survey for traps and snares.
  • I re-started meditation and began putting more efforts into a "Five Elements" exercise course I've wanted to develop. 
Nope, Africa isn't for sissies; maybe that's not a bad thing.
 
==================
 
Having nothing to do with anything except it's news for us, and we're both in shock: Nils has lost  8 kilos (17.5 lbs), I have lost … drum roll, please … 10 kilos (22 lbs)!!  I guess Africa isn't for fat people either. :-) … well, okay, so maybe it's the faaaaaarm livin'. Maybe I will be able to wear those size 3 jeans … the ones I just got rid of! Rats!

Last Saturday, we got invited to our first official braai. For those of you who are not conversant with South African English, a braai (pronounced like "pie" except with a "br" in front) is a barbeque or a grill. The word is actually Afrikaans and can be a verb ("I'm going to braai some sausages tonight") or a noun ("We're having a braai at the weekend"). 

When the invitation came, I thankfully went into American mode and had Nils ask "What can we bring?" I say "thankfully" because unbeknownst to me at the time, a braai is like our "potluck party" where everyone comes with something in hand. Much to my surprise, the response was, "Bring meat." I expected to provide a salad, side dish or dessert, but "when in Rome …"
 
So, I took this as the perfect opportunity to introduce my Ribelicious Ribs to South Africa. And now here, online, I introduce to the world and beyond. 

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Sawubona*


Hi! I'm Corinne.
After many years of meeting challenges of the corporate world as a (moderately) Type-A city gal, I embark with my DH, Nils, on a completely different adventure in living.

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*Sawubona means "Hello" in Zulu.
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