Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fall/winter gardening in the kalahari

Here in the southern tip of the kalahari, we can grow food year round, more than in oklahoma, anyway. Its coming on winter now, nights are getting really cold, but days are generally warm, sometimes hot, and sunny. Our rainy season is summer, but we have been experiencing an, apparently, unprecedented amount of tiny showers. In general, the only problem with winter gardening here is lack of water.

keeping that in mind, i wrote a letter to an ag supply shop in kuruman asking for a hose, so my host family and i aren't breaking our backs hauling water from the community taps to our garden. They did donate a hose, but it only reaches halfway there. Until i get to town again, we are only half breaking our backs. :-)

i turned over three trench beds which grew carrots last season, and lined one with glass wine bottles, to see if it helps hold water better than just soil. In bed one, i planted garlic, sweet pea and swiss chard. Bed two has african daisy, radish and i forgot. Bed three has cabbage and rocket.

we can still plant broad beans, carrot, onion, kohlrabi, spinach and some others. We have chilies going strong, the last tomatoes, and spinach. We have a slow compost pile with old plants, scraps and ash. When we feel like it, or after a rain, we dig a bit more to slowly expand. We are teaching each other and reaping the fruits of our labor. No clay is really nice, i must admit!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tuck's visit part 2

The following day, we thought to head to the wine region, which is east of capetown. It being easter weekend, it seemed all the cars were rented out. So we left our backpackers not sure what we were doing the next couple days. If we couldn't get transport out of the city, we planned to attend the big jazz festival, with regina carter playing sunday. As it turns out, the lodge we were in contact with about doing an eco wine tour let us ride in the back of one of the employee's land rover's who was running errands in town at the same time we were waiting. The guy turned out to be the co-owner of the lodge and our tour guide the next day, and he comes into this internet cafe where we were waiting and booms, "is there a jenneffer in here?" that set the tone for our laid back, off-the-beaten-path weekend in elgin valley. We stayed in tented cabins, which are like wood cabins but with a canvas roof and in a sort of rustic setting. The staff were local kids and immigrants from zimbabwe, and were really invested and excited about their hospitality jobs. They treated us like royalty, and fed us even better. We toured local wine makers farms, tasted at more established wineries, saw the commercial flower industry up close, and got an ecological education in conservation and restoration of local flora. Plus had a lovely picnic in an apple orchard. Three nights there, and we returned to capetown on tuck's birthday, this time staying in green point, closer to the beach. And beach we did. We explored two days, finding the best one and our best meal on that second day. It took us over an hour, maybe almost two, to get to clifton beaches, but it was totally worth it. Walking uphill, rounding bends and getting to see the ocean the whole time was the experience there. Finally, we arrived and descended to the white sands and green blue waters of clifton. Once at the shore, you could turn your back on the ocean and see lion's head mountain like it was almost in your face. The water was ice ice cold, and my friend shirley is training in it to do this epic swim sans wet suit! I dipped in one toe and decided to make a sand bicycle, which tuck then proceeded to ride. Then i did some yoga while tuck electrified his persona with atlantic ocean. On our way back, we did a pint hop and eventually made it for dinner at doppio zero on main road, right across from the new stadium. I highly recommend it! Wonderful service, outside seating, great menu selection, and nice wine. We had mussels in white wine, chilies and garlic, gnocci with a roasted lamb sauce, brick oven pizza (which is all over south africa and actually really good) with gorgonzola, carmelized onions, pine nuts and honey. I had amarula creme brulee for dessert, and when i say i had dessert, that always means tuck says he doesn't want anything, but helps me eat mine. Which is a good thing. Next day, a little babbalas, we enjoyed a late breakfast at this place called miss k, which was like a fairy tale come true for a baker. In the center of the bistro were giant bowls of meringues, plates of little cakes and platters of muffins, which almost looked too good to eat. I enjoyed (immensely) scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and rocket, while tuck liked his poached eggs with spicy chili sauce with toasted ciabatta slices and rocket. I tried a lime pistachio mini cake, which reminded me too much of those sliced cakes they sell at wal mart, but they did have wonderful espresso, so i don't worry too much about the cake. Then we stocked up for another epic journey on the intercape bus.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuck's visit to south africa, including marathon update

This is a blog entry from my cell phone, so the formatting is bound to be horrific. This is my disclaimer. Tuck arrived to o r tambo airport, safe and sound on march 24th, with only a little harassment from airport security. We rested a bit before taking the intercape bus to nelspruit, the capital city of mmpumalanga province. They are growing avocados, mangoes and the like there. Then we took a local taxi up the mountain passes to sabie, where we left the next day to run the big marathon in longtom pass. I made a nice supper of pap with tomato, onion and pilchard gravy, then off to bed and up at four am to board the bus and travel to the starting line. On the bus, as we kept climbing higher and higher in the early morning fog, the bus was full of excited, chattering runners and a few supporters. Some stretched, some drank water, some continued chatting until the start of the race. Tuck somehow got to ride with a referee, because i was about 3-4 k into the race, getting into my groove, when all of the sudden i hear, "sixkiller!" and i turn to see a camera clicking pics. It was a nice, if funny, surprise. After about k 10, i am going up a really steep hill and think there is a rock in my shoe, so i stop to quickly dump it, only to discover it is instead a giant blister. I knew i should have gotten new shoes, but then it was too late. I press on. The mountain roads were majorly sloped, which was also difficult. I hobbled for about half a k, trying to find the inner strength to keep going, because by then i was really hurting. My foot was sprained from all the issues, and by then i could see a water station. Not sure how i did it, but i kept on and kept on and finished at 2:33:02 for 21k. Tuck was waiting at the finish line, snapping pics and with cold liquids. I've never experienced anything quite like it, pushing so hard through pain but knowing your greater goal is worth more than temporary feelings. I was elated, even though i was limping for about three days. Two days later, we boarded the intercape for capetown. We left nelspruit at ten am, and arrived capetown two pm the following day, non stop. It was epic. But i managed to book us a room at the backpackers, plan to meet my friend trevor, who lives there, and tuck and i got a ton of time to talk. We arrive capetown and the wind is blowing our hats and hair around like crazy. You can get four seasons in one day there! We stop for some spicy, healthy chow at nando's and check our map and hoof it to the backpackers. These are like hostels, but nicer, all over southern africa. I negotiated a peace corps discount, we got settled in, washed some clothes and i think we cooked there that night, just trying to get accustomed to the time. By the way, it is not advisable to eat a ripe camembert on a bus, as people complain and you can smell it for a long time after you finish eating. Next day we pack a picnic lunch and head to table mountain. The weather looked good and it is a capetown must-see. Myself, i have now seen it twice. About an hour after we arrived at the top via cable car, clouds began descending and it got very cold. The hooter sounded, to let us know to queue for descent. We must have stood in line for forty five minutes, positively shivering. It was beautiful, though. After hiking back down to town, we went for caipirhinia cocktail and a fabulous seafood dinner. Giant tiger prawns, langostinos, calamari and portuguese sardines, all grilled to perfection, accompanied by a chilly, local sauvignon blanc. Next day was find good espresso then picnic in the company gardens day. The national library is at one end, which we visited, and several museums on another. The squirrels were vying for our seeds, and the children for the squirrels. Then we hit the waterfront, which is on the northeast end of town. I was told we should rent a car to really enjoy capetown, but we decided to walk. That way, you don't miss anything and really get the feel for a place. So we did, discovering a brewery (not in our guidebook) and one that was. We marveled at the different boats and ships, and the beautiful atlantic ocean, as well as a slave of garlicky mussels. Our way back was around quittin time, so we dodged traffic and walked down long street. This is "the" happening place in capetown, tons of bars, lodging, travel companies and just about everything else you can imagine. A nice detour, but we had to look presentable for dinner with trevor, so we didn't dally too long. Trevor took us for asian fusion cuisine, which was nice. I was happy to order amarula for us, since tuck had not yet tried it. The morula trees grow only here in south africa, and when the fruits ripen and fall, the elephants like to eat them to get drunk. They look like litchis. Anyway, a liquor is made from them, and it is kind of like baileys irish creme. Nice for dessert, and in south african car bombs. As you can imagine :)