Sunday, 27 November 2011

Pear shaped tomato

We've been watching it for ages.  Our first tomato of the season. It glows like a flare. A cherry tomato  blushing bright red on a bunch amid the green ones. It's so utterly tempting.  A forbidden fruit. I imagine slipping it whole into my mouth and running my tongue over the smooth, firm skin. I want to bite on it slowly until it bursts in my mouth releasing  the sweet, piquant, juice that tastes of summer. A bit over the top? Definitely, but any of you who have ever eaten a perfectly ripe cherry tomato, plucked straight from the bush will know exactly what I'm talking about.
Anna asks me every day. "Can we eat it yet?" We've made a pact the two of us. When it's deep crimson,  fully ripened by the sun, we are going to share the first tomato. After that the tomatoes will all ripen in quick succession. There will be so many. We will gorge on them, and they will become boring in their abundance. But the first one is special.
"Look Mama, It's ripe, we can eat it today."  Reverently she picks it. She brings it to me, a gleeful smile on her face. " You have the first bite, " she offers.  I have a mother's sacrificial heart. "It's  okay sweetheart, you can have it all. I'll have the next one."
 She insists, so I take the first bite. It's as delicious as anticipated. Anna doesn't take her eyes off that tomato for a second. She can hardly wait  and her hand is poised ready to snatch it away should I take more than my share.  I hand it back to her. She's about to pop the remains into her mouth when she pauses. There are three of us in our family, not just two. Papa must also have a bite. A cherry tomato shared three ways? I smile to myself at the seriousness of the ceremony.
She calls out to her Dad. He's in the bathroom brushing his teeth. "Here Papa, have a bite, it's our first tomato, have a taste."  Sadly the moment is way over Papa's head. He refuses, saying he's just brushed his teeth, it'll taste awful.  "Please Papa, just one bite." I hear the frantic earnestness in her voice. He's irritated. "No Anna. Next time."
Oh dear. Now they are both cross. "Fine!" Anna storms out of the bathroom, green eyes flashing.  In a fit of temper she tosses the half eaten tomato out of the window. I'm the only one who's had a taste.
The gravity of what she's done hits her and she starts to cry. The tomato is ruined. Her Dad didn't want any. She never tasted any, and her perfect life is over. How did things go so pear shaped?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dancing in the moonlight

It's been a good day at Langbaken. According to the wise King Solomon, there is nothing better under the sun, than for man to eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour. (Eccl 2;24) It is the gift of God.(Eccl 3;13)
We are relaxing in the satisfaction that our busy day has been fruitful. It's yet another beautiful evening and we're enjoying our customary sundowner on the front lawn. We're celebrating life. The doors and windows of the house are open in order for us to hear the music better. Albert Hammond is belting out, "Hang on to your hat! New York city here I come."
 Anna is dancing on the roof of the bakkie, and every time she hears the chorus she slides down the windscreen ,singing along, "Whee-ee-ee! New York city here I come!" For a moment I consider joining her, then I realise I'll probably dent the roof of the bakkie. Instead I hop on the bench. I dance like there's no one watching. Thank goodness there isn't.
Jack  puts down his G 'n T. He lift's Anna off the bonnet, and waltzes her around the lawn. She screeches with delight, calling for me to join them. We form a huddle as we sway around the garden together in time to the music. What a party we're having...Just the three of us.

The Hatchlings

Every now and then the Lord presents us with an out of the ordinary gift that makes us marvel anew at his wonderful creation.
The Karoo has a harsh, arid climate and yet I'm always blown away by the miracle of life, and the variety of creatures that make their homes in this stark land. Steenbok, aardvark, porcupines, meerkat, and dassies to name a few of the more common species. Beauty in the Karoo is more than skin deep. It's subtle and restrained. For this reason it's extra special. Vivid pink flowers growing on a dry thorn bush for example, dazzle us with their brilliance, and the ashy colour of Bosman grass shimmers like molten silver in the scorching sun. It 's an austere beauty that touches your soul, drawing you ever nearer to the creator.
On the next door farm there is a Kraans where pair of Black Eagles have been nesting for years. Every Summer we risk our lives leaning over the edge of the cliff to see the two baby chicks. There are always two, but only one survives. I've heard that the stronger chick eats it's weaker sibling. In nature nothing is wasted.
It was Sunday morning and we all had that lazy feeling one feels entitled to on a Sunday. By 9.00 am Anna and I were still lying in the big bed enjoying our morning cuddle, along with coffee and Milo. An hour later Jack insisted we get out of our pyjamas and come with him for a ride on the motorbike. He had something he wanted to show us.  Curiosity got the better of us, and dragging our heals a little we dressed and gathered the necessary sunglasses, caps and jackets for the ride.
Jack took us to Daintjie's Suiwer which is one of the  sheep camps on the farm. There at the top of a windmill was a large bird's nest, roughly constructed out of sticks. We climbed the ladder to have a peep and Oh what a precious sight. Four, baby raptor hatchlings snuggled together. What a privilege to see them so closely. They're  "adobarel," Anna commented with awe in her voice. And it was awesome. Our own little miracle. At that moment I felt as close to God, as I'll ever feel on this earth. God is Great, and I love it when he reveals his Greatness in little things.  Madam Brattex

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Tydelik Verlig

Laat ek hierdie frustrasie van my sommer vroeg in ons gesels agter die rug kry. Ek is redelik bo aan die lys van lojale Suid Afrikaners. Ek is egter verward omtrent een vervelige, tog belangrike kwessie.  Ek verstaan nie swart Afrika politiek nie.  Ek glo ek is 'n Afrikaan. Sal nooit vrywillig hierdie vasteland verlaat nie. 18 000km deur Afrika met ons motorfiets, ek en die vroutjie, het my nog meer onseker gelaat. Wat 'n rustige, vredeliewende ervaring  het ons nie gehad nie.  As daar nie swart politiekuste in Afrika was nie, sou dit sekerlik 'n beter plek kon wees?
Hoe staan 'n Afrika land saam wanneer hul nasionale span die wereldbeker huis toe bring? Soos een man! Totdat die politiekuste ingryp en die afrigter afdank omdat sy velkleur nie so goed by Afrika pas nie. Watter ander rede kan dit nou wees? Hier wil ek nooit weg, nooit!  Altans, nie willekeurig nie.
Ek bly dom, ek verstaan nie Afrika politiek. Wie kan my help? Die voorbeelde van jul flaters is duidelik te sien by ons en ons bure. Nou toi toi julle vir presies wat julle weet nooit sal werk nie, nooit! Of het dit? Al ooit gehoor van 'n 100 000 000 doller geld noot?  Nog nie erg genoeg nie? Daar word toe nog 'n 100 000 000 doller noot gedruk, die keer met 'n vervaldatum.  Net langs ons! Gaan kyk self. Eidlik moet ek sê:  "Van 1 US tot 1 Rodesian doller na 1US tot 1biljoen Zim doller in 'n kort Swart Afrika (daar is 'n ander woord daarvoor) tydjie. 

 Ek wil jou die K-woord noem maar sal nie so laag daal nie. Ek haat jou nie, ek mag nie. Ek verstaan jou net nie. Kyk! Sien! Is julle gelukkig met die resultate van jul dade? Hoekom sien ek anders? Kom drink 'n kom bier saam met my en verduidelik asseblief. As ek nie "reg" gehelp word nie sal jy dom onnosel in my boeke bly. Jy wil my doodmaak? Jy toi-toi in die strate omdat jy nie verstraan hoekom jy nie mag skreeu "Kill the boer kill the farmer" nie. Watter gedeelte van jou eie kreut verstaan jy nie? Die "struggle" is oor. Vok jou! Ek is 'n boer, ek voorsien jou van jou daaglikse brood. Ek is so bly jy is "gefire" Julias. Ek is so bang jou opvolger is vlakker as jy.  Ek is tydelik verlig. Ek bly kwaad, ek verstaan nie!

"Our system is wekking very well"

To all my gentlemen black friends, sorry!
Waar is jy oom Nelson? Praat! Sê iets vir oulaas!
We love you tata Mandela. Klein Anna sal nog baie hoor van my (en ander) se respek vir jou. Viva! Viva Tata. Hamba Kahle:  Baas Jack

Friday, 11 November 2011

Clean Laundry

There is something absurdly gratifying about freshly washed clothes. I'm not referring to laundry that comes out of a tumble dryer, smelling of scorched fabric. I'm talking about washing that has been flapping in the African sunshine, crisp and slightly crinkled, with the clean, faded scent of laundry detergent.
I find the gaiety of a laundry line equally appealing. Old man's pyjamas hanging alongside baby's vests, and ladies lingerie next to men's boxer shorts. A picture of domestic harmony. Naturally, the sight of laundry hanging over a wire fence on a Karoo farm, is far prettier than the Laundry hanging over the balcony of a council flat in London.
There is a vast difference, I feel, between poverty and squalor. Our Karoo volk don't have large bank balances; nor do they have mortgages. Their homes, though a little shabby, are cleanly white washed and picturesque. They work hard for their daily bread, but it's work done in an unpolluted, pleasant, country environment. They also enjoy the added benefit of Karoo lamb, with their daily bread on the side. Their Luxuries are few; Boxer tobacco, home brewed beer, and the time off to  consume both liberally.
It has often occurred to me that, we should implement the Israeli Kibbutz system here at Langbaken. Surely people would jump at the idea of a working holiday on a Karoo farm? We are exceedingly blessed to live in a relaxing, peaceful environment, and I'm happy to say that in spite of the fact that we do work hard it's never tedious, and airing ones laundry is nothing but satisfying. Madam Brattex

Carrot seeds

The Karoo garden is a real challenge! I can't say I'm an avid gardener, but the miracle of planting a seed, nurturing it, and watching it grow has always appealed to me.

It's easy, (and huge fun!) going to a garden centre and spending hundreds of rand on plants, but a cutting taken from a friend's garden is always a treasure. Most of the plants in my garden have been given to me by friends and family, and a stroll through my garden has the same effect on me as a social gathering.
"Oh look! There's Ouma Vrede's salmon-pink geranium, so pretty. The red one from Schuitsberg looks lovely too. Klokkies lavender had really grown, and Sybil's daisy's just flower non stop."
So it continues. Mum's miniature red petunia, Sylvia's Watsonias, and Sam's trailing plant with white flowers that I can never remember the name of. I greet my friends.

As with everything I do, Anna wants to join in the gardening experience. Our sun room also serves as a green house, and there are always seedlings growing in rows against the windows. Anna decides she is going to plant carrot seeds in a little pot. I try to convince her that the pot could be a tiny bit small. I should know better than to argue with a five year old. Naturally, I must be present, but I mustn't help. She'll do it herself. She is totally absorbed in the job at hand. Chubby little-girl hands clumsily sprinkle the seeds into the pot of her choice and she callously squashes them into the soil.  "It'll be a miracle if those grow," I think to myself.

I'm amazed at how seriously Anna takes on the responsibility. She understands that the seeds need her help to grow. They are alive, and without water they will die. Every day, without fail she takes her pint-sized, brass watering can and waters her seeds. Miraculously the carrots sprout. Oh!Joy! She is so excited she can practically taste them already. She's decided she's going to share them. Papa can make carrot juice, and I can put some in the salad. Maybe the guinea-pigs can have one or two. This is "Faith like potatoes" in action. She believes she's going to reap a ton! Who am I to dampen such faith? Aren't we intructed to become as little children? As always,  I feel humbled by the simple lesson.

Monday, 7 November 2011

I can't find my socks!!

Ons klein Anna "The little Brat" kan van die gelukkigste, liefdevolste bondel vreugde, verander na 'n klein heksie wanneer sy soek na iets wat sy nie kry nie. Altyd iets onbenullig!  Haar sokkies byvoorbeeld. Dis nooit weg of verlore, maar genoeg om haar oningewikkelde lewetjie totaal te verander. Soos sy dit stel " My whole life is ruined" So is dit met die Barbie se skoene, haar "lunchbox" vir skooldag en honderde ander items. Dit is oorlog wanneer so iets gebeur.  Vroutjie hardloop by die agterdeur uit en ek by die voordeur. Terwyl ek en Brattex daaronder lei, besef ek. As dit maar net al is wat haar so hoef te onstel in die lewe, laat dit so wees. Solank ons kan voorkom dat erger dinge oor haar pad kom, sal sy veilig wees. Ons kan egter niks waarborg nie. Ons paaidjie is mooi voorbery vir ons, maar die ertvark kan besluit om sy gaaitjie te grawe waar ons dit die minste verwag. Voorbereiding, of om voorbereid te wees, sal jou nog baie hartseer spaar Anna. Voorspoed en sterkte met al jou slaggate. Wees voorbereid!:  Baas Jack

A night in the Veldt

It's a glorious April evening. The worst of the cruel summer heat is over. Anna has been begging us to sleep in the veldt ever since Jack mentioned the possibility two months previously. It was a suggestion he'd made without thinking. As a result we've been coming up with an endless array of excuses. Too hot, too windy, too rainy,  too many mozzies, not tonight , Mama must make cheese in the morning.
"But Papa promised to teach me about the stars," she persists. We've exhausted all the excuses. We're tired of the whining. Let's get this over with.
Don't misunderstand me. There is nothing I enjoy more than an evening in the veldt; watching the crimson sunset, a frosty beer, and then as the evening turns cool, lighting a fire and braaing some wors as a snack. I love lying back dreamily and watching the stars. These are all things that can be done before heading home... to bed.
We throw some bedding on the back of the bakkie, pack a cooler box, the book on stars and a kettle for morning coffee. We drive up to "the beacon" which is the highest point on Langbaken. Jack clears a space amongst the rocks and bossies  and unceremoniously throws the bedding in a heap.
As I take in the view, (which is miles and miles of nothing) I'm reminded of how blessed we are. There is something very liberating about space. There's no other human dwelling in sight, no roads or lights twinkling on the horizon to suggest inhabitants. I feel as if I own the world.
Anna is in her element, an endless flow of chat, "Here's the coffee, did you bring my-milo? This is your pillow Mama. Let's put the chairs here, no Papa, here..." She's in charge. Always planning our lives for us. Her enthusiasm is contagious.  I'm choked with emotion. I'm glad she nagged us, so glad we're here. She'll keep us young.
The night air is cooler than expected. We've discussed every star in sight. There are billions. The three of us snuggle closely. Only Anna sleeps well.

In the morning Jack and I wake with the sun. As always I have my coffee in bed.  This time however, I'm huddled in a sleeping bag, watching the sunrise. Wow! The soft morning light soothes away the rough edges of the Karoo veldt. It looks truly beautiful, although not as beautiful as my sleeping child. She's curled up against me, her pouty lips slightly parted. Her dark lashes flutter and I brace myself for the inevitable.  " Mama. Where's my-milo?" My day has begun. Madam Brattex