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Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year, 2012.

Came across these famous word at the following blog. 

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year.
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied,
'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way!'

The 43rd anniversary of my 21st birthday.

Yesterday was my birthday. As you can see from the caption above, my 21st. My friend Trevor phoned me yesterday morning and invited me for breakfast. Not at his house as I thought but at a restaurant called  Terbodore near the village of Nottingham Road. The village is actually named for a  British regiment the Sherwood Rangers from Nottingham in England, (might have been kin of Robin Hood) also known as the 45th regiment. This regiment was stationed here during the 1870's. 

This regiment left their name all over Natal, in Durban the suburb of Sherwood  is where their original camp was when they landed in the then colony of Natal. On their way out of Durban they literally had to cut their way through the dense coastal bush to create a road. One of the main roads out of Durban still goes through the 45th cutting. The Sherwood Rangers were sent here to suppress the so called Langalebelile uprising, one of the less savoury chapters in South Africa's history. 

As you can see on the photo Terbodore coffee roasters, and roasting coffee is their main line of business. You want coffee they've got it. 

Photo I took, at the end of the table Nils, Trevor's son, just turned 38 and a consummate businessman. To the right of Nils his daughter Anna and youngest son Luke. On Nils' right his older sister Lisle and her daughter, also Anna, sitting on her dad Mikes lap. This was a sort of general birthday celebration, Lisle will be celebrating her 40th in a couple of days time and Mike's birthday a few days later.

Nils is the kind of man I wish I was at 38, but wasn't. When Nils turned 25 he said to he said to his dad, "Dad, you preach the Gospel, I'll make the money". And that is what he did, owns three supermarkets and a Wimpy fast food outlet. Not only that, he preaches the Gospel too, actively and in the way he lives his life,  he also has an active prison ministry. (At 38 I was trying to set a beer drinking record in Africa, if not the world, (well Southern Hemisphere anyway)).

This photo Trevor took, yours truly at the end of the table, (with my mouth open, actually giving Trevor instructions on how to take the photo). To the left of Nils, Mike and Lisle's eldest daughter, for the life of me I can't remember her name and I've known her for several years now. (One of the problems of turning 21 so many times), one of those whizz kids who home schools herself, completing high school in 2012. Next to her, her grandmother and Trevor's wife Naomi. Just behind Mike, on the right, is his second daughter Emma. Mike and his family live in George in the Eastern Cape, only up for the Christmas holiday's 

While we were sitting there Mike and Emma asked to be excused as they had to go and fetch Emma' best friend. "Oh", I said, "So nice that Emma's friend lives so close." Only then I heard that Emma's friends mother was flying her up in her own aircraft from George, in the Eastern Cape, and would be landing in a few minutes on a private airstrip nearby.(Oh!) We're talking of almost a 1000km's here. 

Trevor delivering some bottled water to the table.

This big guy, a Great Dane, one of the resident dogs, wasn't feeling too well. Very sick actually but still had to be where the action was.

Accommodation to rent on the property. Nice place to stay for a couple of days if you wanted to explore the area.

The Midlands Meander concept, an idea that started in the 1970's when people in the area got together to market it as a tourist destination. The Meander straddles the R103 route, from Howick in the south to the town of Mooi River in the north, so called Midlands of KwaZuluNatal. The R103 really meanders through the Natal country side, going up, down and arround rolling hills and through small hamlets and villages, with names like Dargle, Rosetta, Tweedie and Fort Nottingham. 

There are B&B's, hotels, lodges, trout fishing, artists studious, restaurants, and curio shops, with names like, Granny Mouse's, Hobbit's hut, and Trout Bagger Lodge, (5kg trout guaranteed). The tourist income runs into billions of Rands a year and provides work for thousands. The Meander area is so large that you never get the feeling of being swamped by tourists, even during the busiest seasons.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Valley of a thousand hills.

One of the places Jane and I visited while I was in Durban for Christmas, was the small village of Botha's Hill, overlooking the Valley of a thousand hills. The valley, and there are literally a thousand hills, starts just outside of Durban and stretches almost to Pietermaritzburg, about 80km to the west.

The reason we went there, was to have lunch at a restaurant that overlooked the valley. A real tourist place but the food was excellent. Not your average fast food joint.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Khoi pond on the terrace bellow the restaurant. It seems there must be some kind of law that states that every place that caters to tourist must have a Khoi pond. Not that I mind, I can watch fish swimming around all day. Just wish I had one of my fly rods with me.

A general view across part of the valley. This area is traditional Zulu territory, and very rural right on the edge of a big city.

All the little villages in the area are built right on top of the hills, the sides are too steep.

A very hazy view of another part of the valley.

Tetatively identified as a Cape rock thrush. Maybe my sister Jo at could confirm this for me.

Just another tourist enjoying the view. Vervet monkeys have thrived in and around Durban and can be quite a nuisance, living happily among their human "cousins".

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Masked weaver building a nest.

Among African weaver birds it's the male that builds the nests. When he has finished building one he invites a female weaver bird to come and inspect it, with lots of wing fluttering and chirping to attract her attention. If a female is interested she will enter the nest and inspect it, while the male flies around overcome by great excitement. If she approves of the nest everything is fine, but if it does not meet her exacting standards she proceeds to destroy it, while the male watches meekly. Afterwards he starts to build another nest in the hopes that it will meet with some ladies approval. 

The male weaver bird will build dozens of nest every year. To watch these birds build their nest is absolutely fascinating and mind boggling.

Nests are always built at the extremities of the branches with all the foliage stripped of. This is to make it difficult for nest robbing snakes to reach the nest. 

This is one of two palm trees growing in Jane's front garden. 

New books and fly tying material.

As I mentioned in the previous post I bought a whole lot of fly tying material while I was in Durban over Christmas. I also bought myself three books on fly fishing.

Above some of the fly tying material I bought in Durban.

These two books I bought at a second hand bookshop/book exchange. Hardy's guide to angling Salmon & Trout. No name of publishers, date of publishing, with articles written by several authors. I suspect that it is an in house publication by Hardy Brothers of England, the rod manufactures. The second book is titled Fly Fishing, by Maurice Wiggin and first published in 1958 with a reprint in 1970. Neither of the books could be classified as collectors items, but interesting nonetheless.

The book above was a real find. Norman Maclean's A river runs through it. I've seen the movie and read a lot about what others have written about this book. Now I own my own copy. Second hand book shops are like Aladdin's cave, full of fabulous treasures.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Bass popper.

Bought two foam bass poppers while I was in Durban. On Old Village Road, in Hillcrest, a suburb of Durban, there is an angling shop called the Complete Angler. True to it's name it covers every aspect of angling. Rock & surf, deep see, art lure, bait fishing, etc. Most importantly it has a big section dedicated to fly fishing and fly tying, this is where I bought the poppers plus a whole stash of fly tying material and hooks, almost broke the bank. 

Well this evening the dogs forced me to go and try one out. (honest I have to be forced to go fishing :¬) ).

Below is the result. These poppers are really weedless, and I was casting right into the reeds and water grass. One such cast into some thick grass and this bass took it with meaning as it hit the water.

The popper can be seen on the fish, and the very effective weed guard can be seen.

Estimate this fish at about 1 1/2 lbs.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas lunch.

Spent Christmas with my friend Jane in Durban, as I always do every year for the last 12 years. Jane and I only see each other once or twice a year, and Christmas is a must. Our Christmas lunch has a very fixed tradition. I cook lunch, which consists of of a large chicken, purchased from my landlord here on the farm. (this one was more than 2kg, about 5lbs.). Most of the vegetables are roasted with the chicken, and fluffy rice. This year it was Basmati rice.

Jane's contribution is a steamed Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. The Christmas pudding is full of nuts and dried fruit, and the brandy sauce consists of about a pint of cream, two eggs separated,  a large chunk of butter and quite a bit of brandy, (though a small bottle of brandy lasts us several Christmases).  The whipped egg whites are added after the previous ingredients have been cooked in a boiler, (pot placed in another pot of boiling water). 

Chicken on the left, plate of roast vegetables in the middle and a dish of spinach lightly fried in olive oil with some black pepper and salt. Chicken stuffing, 3 slices of bread, white or brown, crusts removed and slightly wet. One large onion, chopped very fine, some herbs, Rosemary, Sage, Parsley and Thyme, one teaspoon of crushed garlic. One egg and a tablespoon or two of cake flower, quarter teaspoon of salt. (really good even If I say so myself).

Gravy dish with gravy made in the pan which the chicken was roasted. In the front is a dish with the chicken neck, liver, etc, which has been roasted for Jane's two dogs and her cat. The bottle of red wine, Pinot Noir, from the Two Oceans estate in the Western Cape. Price R34, about $7 US, excellent wine. South Africa's wine industry dates back to the 1650's.

Not very fancy and no ceremony, all about friendship and the food. 

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Plum coloured starling.

Had a very rare visitor to my garden yesterday. The mulberry tree has suddenly started to bear fruit again, not many, but enough mulberries to interest the birds.

Plum coloured starling, (Cinnyricinclus leocogaster). I'm told by the birding experts that they have never seen one of these birds in this area. (Well there you have it, my claim to fame). As the bird is in the shade it's hard to see the plum colour. If you enlarge the picture it's just discernible.  

This bird was totally unaware of me and at ease, I watched and photographed it for 40 minutes or more.

Reaching for a mulberry. 

Female, the males win the fashion stakes once again.
Photo; Wikipedia.

i'Khowe mushrooms.

I wrote about these mushroom in a previous Post, in that post I called it maKhowe. Said by those who know mushrooms to be one of the best tasting.

i'Khowe mushroom.

I put my wrist watch on top of the mushroom to indicate the size.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Diedericks cuckoo

Managed to take a photo, at an extreme distance, of a Diedericks cuckoo, also known as the rain bird. This bird is always very vocal before it rains, the more insistent the call, the closer the rain.  A better weather forecaster than the met office.

Click on photos to enlarge.

This photo taken at a 100m +. The bird always sits right at the top of a tree while singing, in this case, a willow tree. Here I manage to photograph it in full song.

Virtually impossible to get close to this bird as it has a clear view from his high perch and flies away if you approach too close. The photos just give you glimpse of the birds beautiful iridescent green plumage.

Other birds who give an indication of coming rain are the red breasted cuckoo and Burchell's coucall. Coucall's call sounds a lot like water being poured from a bottle, just more melodious. Google Burchell's coucall for recordings of it's song.

The photo above from the Internet.

Brass ware..

Yesterday the Italian leprechaun and I had one of our monthly 'braai's' (BBQ). The leprechaun arrived quite early as he had decided my brass ware needed polishing. First he made a solution of tartaric acid mixed with some dish washing liquid in a bucket of very hot water. Every item was soaked in this solution for several minutes which removes all the surface grime, then he polished them with a metal polish. According to the leprechaun this activity is very therapeutic.

The leprechauns father, Bucceri Snr., used to be a foundry man specializing in the casting of bronze, thus the leprechauns attraction to all things brass. 

Below are some before and after photos. Click on photos to enlarge.

Hand made brass tea caddie. All the brass items in my cottage used to belong to my late Mum, who used to keep them gleaming like gold. Above is a before picture.

Two small brass partridges and brass candlestick, about 3" high.

The tea caddie after the leprechaun magic.

Camera reflection in the base of the caddie.

Partridges after the leprechaun treatment.

The candlestick after treatment.

Detail on the base of the candlestick.

One thing these photos showed me, is that my garden table needs a coat of paint. 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Garden birds.

Sat in my lounge and took the photos through the window.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Apair of turtle doves.

Weaver bird.

Black eyed bul bul.

Natal Robin having a bath.

Weaver bird.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Howick falls 2.

Had to go to Howick, a town about 70km south east of Estcourt, +- 40minutes drive. Stopped by at the famous 365 foot waterfall and took a few photos.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Howick falls. The falls are right in the middle of the town, only a few hundred metres from the CBD. Howick is a very popular retirement centre in South Africa, with a very pleasant climate.

Local ladies doing their washing. Across the gorge you can hear their happy laughter and conversation.  The lip of the falls can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the picture. The photo above was taken from a video I made, once I've worked out the technicalities I'll post the video.

Just to give an idea as to how far down it is. Natal rivers are always very muddy in summer. The falls are situated on the Umgeni river, home to Natal yellow fish, small mouth bass, carp and other fish species. The upper reaches of the river hold trout.

At the falls is this sign giving distances to other famous falls in the world, with distances in kilometres.

More famous falls above.

Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Hawaii.

Red winged starling sitting on the pointer to Africa's most famous waterfall. These birds gather at tourist sites knowing that lots of people = food, bits of hotdog, hamburgers, crisps and fruit. How healthy their fast food diet is? Who can tell.