Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A special sighting

Last week we took a ride down to the Drakensberg to visit John, Debbie and the grands. As usual, we stopped off at Golden Gate National Park and enjoyed our  [packed] black coffee and sandwiches in the car park. I wandered around taking photos while Grant organized the food. A male Southern Brown-throated Weaver landed on and posed on my helmet which was hanging on bike's handlebars. Isn't he a beauty. We've never seen this bird in that area before so this was a special sighting for us. (We'd seen him in a Ndumu Game Reserve, Northern Zululand in 2008) BTW I'm thrilled with this photo as I managed to get a clear image of the subject while blurring the background. Whoo-hoo!

For more other people's worlds, click here

Monday, November 29, 2010

Special times in the Berg

Grant and I still seem to work on our North African body clocks which were an hour ahead of South Africa therefore I'm posting this mid-week family time as a weekend happening.  Accommodation around the country is also cheaper during the week and as we can visit anytime, this time was as good as any.

On Wednesday we joined John and Debbie and family in the Drakensberg. They were looking after a backpackers lodge for a friend. I will post more about this lodge in tomorrow's post.

We returned home on  Friday at midday and had a rather full weekend programme which I will post about later on in the week.

The Hedges grandchildren love the outdoors and of course, stomping through mud puddles in the road while out walking is great fun!

These round huts with thatched roofs are known in South Africa as rondawels and are very popular as holiday accommodation 
The accommodation is surrounded by flowering plants, wild bushy shrubs and indigenous succulents and trees which are backed by the magnificent Drakensberg mountains still shrouded in early morning mist
I took number two and three grandchildren for a walk in the fields while their mum home-schooled our oldest (number one) granddaughter. Here big brother gives his sister a flower. In fact, he picked so many flowers for Gran and his sister that the pram was soon full of blooms!  

Mmm, the flowers smell nice!
Beautiful angel
Our littlest girl is walking! She turned 20 months on Saturday.
John explains the peaks to us (posted on Scenic Sunday, yesterday) while Debbie plays around with the settings on the camera

Thanks to Gattina of Writers Cramps who hosts this fun meme: What did you do this weekend? For more click here

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hedges Menagerie

Megan, Eddy and Angie enjoy their early morning ant-acid pill in my wild garden

 Grant's apprentices wait at the garage doors for him to open up shop

Has Shadow taken to birdwatching? Sitting on the bird feeder, (which we use infrequently and  mainly when the fruit and berry season is over) the cat watches the world go by

For more on pets around the world, click here

Cathkin Peak and Monks Cowl

A view of the mountains from Nkosana Backpackers Lodge where we stayed with John and Debbie last week (photo credit: Debbie Hedges)

The majestic Cathkin Peak (large flat edifice),  Monk's Cowl almost hidden, next to it and Sterkhorn to the extreme right (photo credit: Debbie Hedges)

This post is dedicated to Gaelyn of Geogypsy who hiked these Drakensberg mountains and loved our beautiful country when she visited here in March this year.

For more beautiful scenes around the world, click here

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Birds in my garden

We've been unbelievably blessed with birds in my garden over the past five years. When I first became interested in watching birds, my sister-in-law (who helped with my Red-throated Wryneck identification on Tuesday which you can read about here) told me to identify all the birds who visit my garden in a given day. 

At the time (back in early 2007) I wandered around my garden, binoculars in hand and from sunrise to sunset spotted 21 birds which - until then - I'd been unaware of.  I noticed Black-collared barbets, African Red-eyed bulbuls, Cape Canaries, Cape -  and Orange River White-eyes, Cape sparrows, White-browed sparrow weavers, Cape Robin-chats, Whattled Starlings, Red-eyed doves and mourning doves. I constantly referred to my Roberts field guide and of course, sent frantic messages to said SIL when I was unsure of where to check in the book.

Since that day, I've watched a multitude of birds in the garden, enjoying a bath or drink in the ponds, drinking nectar from my aloes and salvia, and still others who nest in the many trees in the garden. I've had Malachite - and White-bellied sunbirds, Tawny-flanked prineas, Cape - and Pririt batisses, a Diderick's cuckoo and African - and Green wood-hoopoe, Black-throated canaries, Spotted flycatchers, Red-faced - , Speckled - and White-backed mousebirds, African pied wagtail, Karoo- and Olive thrushes,  Hadeda ibis and even a visiting Hamerkop on quite a few occasions.

For the past month,  I spent a considerable amount of time working with the gardeners and later in the day wandered around taking photos.  I thought I'd share three photos of beautiful birds in the garden.
The Cape Robin-chat, who is the first bird awake in the morning, is also the last bird sound at night. I'm talking EARLY morning: 3.30 am in the summer time and about 6am in the winter. And when darkness has fallen at the end of the day, Robin is the bird who is still uttering soft sounds as he readies himself for bed. He has a beautiful melodious call and also mimics other birds. He also maintains territory for life. Here he was on the edge of my second pond almost posing for me. Isn't he gorgeous?
The Karoo thrush and Olive thrush is a regular in my garden. Above is the Karoo thrush. They, like the Cape robin-chat above love to scrummage around in the undergrowth of my wild, grassy garden. They also spend a lot of time around the ponds and more than once, we've seen them catching a frog in the pond, beating it on the rocks (eewgh) and eating it
I have two types of White-eyes in my garden. Cape white-eye (above) and Orange River white-eye. They are very difficult to photograph so I was thrilled to get this photo while the beautiful lad was eating berries in my Karee (Rhus lancea), No prizes for guessing where he gets his name. LOL!


Friday, November 26, 2010

Another full moon

For more skies around the world, click here

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Lord's promise

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you," says the Lord. "I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I send you and bring you home to your own land."  Jeremiah 29:11-14

If anyone is reading this post today and wondering when the Lord will deliver them from their hardships, pain, fear, suffering or illness, be assured that if you surrender to Him and follow Him obediently, He will come through for you. I pray that you find solace and comfort in this promise from our almighty and everlasting God. Amen!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I've had a great time in the garden this week photographing the newly-planted beds and shrubs which are thriving after all our hard work these past few weeks. Yesterday I sat under the white stinkwood (Celtis africana) and snapped away at the beautiful water plants and the reflections in the ponds.

I've posted a few photos for you, my dear friends and fellow-bloggers to enjoy with me!

I photographed the various shrubs and plants in and around the first pond (far side) and their reflections in the second pond (near side). The Gallardia are in full bloom; I captured this perennial in the second pond below

The reflection of the blooms in the second pond

No, this image is not upside down! While photographing the reflections in the second pond, I noticed Eddy lazing on the far side of the large pond...
...and managed to capture this!

When this post is aired today, we'll be on our way back down to the Drakensberg. Yes, we're going by motorbike. Is the Pope Catholic? LOL!

We're going to stay over with John, Debbie who are minding a self-catering place near their home. Of course, we'll see our precious grands again!

I hope to get "back to normal" and visit and comment on all your blogs to my heart's content once we arrive back home on Thursday. Everytime I think I have time to myself, my darling husband decides we should go away again. Thanks to everyone for your regular visits and comments and especially for your kind wishes and encouragement while we "train" Shadow to become a hard-core, outdoor cat!

Bless you all

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Lifer Spotted

Other birders will understand the excitement of spotting a "lifer" This means you see that as a bird-watcher you see a certain bird for the first time. Often it's one which you've wished you could see and imagine you never will.

Ever since returning from the Sudan five weeks ago, I have heard a different bird call in the garden. A loud, harsh Tshweat-tshweat-tshweat. I haven't actually given much thought to what it could be (don't ask me why, I normally am very interested in any new bird calls in my garden) but today while sitting here in the office at my desk I heard the continous call again so I decided to investigate. 

Taking my binoculars, I went outside in the direction of the call. I spotted the bird almost immediately with my naked eye; it was sitting in the tree which we lopped to remove the shade from my vegetable garden. (BTW, the vegetables plants are THRIVING and I promise to do a post on them soon) 

I dashed back to the house and this time, I grabbed my camera. The bird was sitting very high up on the edge of a stubby branch and the light was not at all conducive to good photography. Nevertheless I began to snap away at the bird while it sat there calling at regular intervals.

Returning indoors, I downloaded the photos onto my laptop and then the search was on. I opened my Roberts Birds of Southern Africa field guide and my first thought was to look under the cuckoos. Not found. Then I tried the Honeyguides. No success there either.

After searching a few more birds which I thought it could be, I called Grant to come and help me with the ID of the bird. As he saw the image on the screen, he said: "Phew! I've never seen this bird before." Then he also said try the cuckoos or the honeyguides etc.

At the same time, I was on Skype with sister-in-law in Kwa-Zulu Natal who is a bird boffin and often helps me with identification of birds. I sent a couple of the clearer photos to her. She'd obviously left her computer as I didn't hear from her for a while. Next minute she came back to me and congratulated me on the good photos and said it was a Red-throated Wryneck (in SA these birds are grouped with Woodpeckers) Now, we never see Woodpeckers in this part of the Free State and Grant and I both have NEVER seen a Wryneck. So this was a great sighting and very exciting for both of us. (Grant saw the bird in real life when it returned half-an-hour later and sat in the same tree, calling) My sister-in-law also said that they normally sit very high up in trees and are difficult to spot and to photograph properly.

Here below is the best photo of the series I took of this bird.

Red-throated Wryneck in my garden!

For more of other people's worlds, click here

Monday, November 22, 2010

Another blessed weekend

Would you be able to remember what you did over the weekend of 20 and 21 November, 2010? Gattina of Writers Cramps (who, BTW has become a grandmother this week, congratulations again, Gattina!) hosts a meme called What did you do this weekend? Do join us on this fun meme if you wish.

Our weekend started off quite normally. Early on Friday morning, Grant decided that Shadow should be let out of the window without his leash. I'm not ready for this yet and reluctantly agreed. He opened the window, and within a few seconds Shadow had jumped out into the garden and wandered off on his own.

I completed a few chores (which always entails feeding animals) and when I looked again, Grant was at the motorgate at the top of our garden. Shadow had somehow gotten into the street and didn't know how to come back inside.

I dashed back into the house to fetch the gate remote and before I even returned to the driveway pressed the "open" button. Unbeknown to me, Grant had his arm around the back of the gate trying to cajole the cat through the gap, so of course, I almost took his arm off.  After bellowing at me for opening the gate (how was I supposed to know he had his arm behind the gate), he walked into the street and fetched the cat, who was blissfully unaware of the ruccus he was causing in our family so early in the morning!

Once we had the cat back inside, I put his harness on him,  took him to the "large" garden where he has been acclimating for the past five weeks and let him roam without a leash. Once again, Grant said he was sure the cat would do what all our cats do and stay within our garden boundaries. Once again, I left Shadow and came indoors.

Within a few minutes though, I checked the place where I'd left him and... he was gone! Missing! Vanished!

Grant and I dashed about the garden (I banged Shadow's two metal plates together) and called the cat. No sign. Grant then looked over our rear boundary wall and there was the cat. He was sniffing around in the bank manager's yard, ignoring our calling and begging. Brat!

We decided we'd have to drive around the block and enter the bank manager's property from the front. Which is what we did. We raced past his house to the back and gave the house-lady who cleans for them,  the fright of her life. She thought we were intruders. I apologised and explained that we lived next door and that our cat had come over the back wall. She said she'd just seen the cat and he went "that-a-way"

While we looked in the direction which she indicated, I told Grant of our other neighbour, Prashant, who's cat had recently disappeared for a month. Grant was so agitated by this story that he hopped over our OTHER neighbour's wall (the lad who's tree I had cut to open my vegetable garden to the sun) and there was Shadow! Brat!

Grant managed to pick him up by the sruff of his neck (Shadow is very tense when he's out in the garden and growls if your touch him suddenly) and held him over the wall for me to attach the leash. We got him into the car and drove back home with him.

So much for leaving Shadow to "roam" as all cats do, according to my darling husband. As I was in the garden for most of Friday morning, I had Shadow playing all around where I and the gardeners could keep an eye on him.

On Friday evening, I once again had Shadow out in the garden (on the leash, which he drags around freely) I was taking photos of the garden. My favourite passtime, especially on a Friday! When I looked up again, Shadow was missing!

I called Grant and together we walked around and around the garden and house calling the cat! The third time I rounded the front of the house (which we don't use that much) I peeked in on the veranda. No cat. Just then I saw the blue leash at my feet in the flowerbed. Looking up, I saw Shadow sitting on an empty bird bath gazing at the birds in the weeping mulberry tree. Brat!

So that is why when you see photos of our crazy Sudanese cat, he is still on his leash. I walk or sit near where Shadow is playing and exploring but if he should dash after a bird or lizzard (which is why he went over the bank manager's wall), I can step on the leash and pull him back to safety. We will persevere and continue to walk Shadow out in the garden and hope and pray he soon becomes "street or rather garden" wise.

When I'm indoors or we leave the house for any length of time, Shadow is asleep on "his" chair in the office lounge. At least we know where he is. And at least we don't spend HOURS running around the neighbourhood after a brat-cat!
After the rather traumatic start to our weekend, we needed a motorbike trip into the country! Early on Saturday morning we packed a flask of coffee and sandwiches and headed east towards the Lesotho border, sixty kilometers down the road. Not a long ride by our standards, but it did the trick! We returned relaxed and ready for more of Shadow's escapades
 The Eastern Free State is looking absolutely beautiful after the abundant rains this month
 Trying my hand at an artistic angle of the barbed wire fence and the farmlands beyond it
This road which leads to Lesotho, (a neighbouring country) is normally very quiet on a Saturday morning. However, this weekend was the world-renowned Cherry Festival in Ficksburg and these vehicles were obviously on their way to it
Coffee and sandwiches on the side of the road

After a quick cuppa and a bite to eat, I picked up a huge pile of litter where we had stopped. As I could'n take it back home on the bike, I placed it under the tree. I 'll phone the recycling centre I deal with and ask them to get their driver to look out for it when he travels that road later this week
 I couldn't resist adding a photo of the ponds as we braaied in the garden
After church on Sunday, while Angus and Amanda were visiting us, they took the motorbike for a "spin"

Our Marquard grandson has recently had a bout of measles (after his innoculations) and is teething furiously now. So he has been a little out of sorts, poor little mite
I just had to snap Angus and Amanda who were taking photos in the garden
As usual, Grant braaied (BBQ'd) and I made a focacia bread as one of the accompaniments (recipe to follow)

For more posts on what people did this weekend, click here

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One of the boys!

Shadow has breakfast with the boys...
...and girls

For more posts on pets around the world, click here

Postcard Pretty

The view over Kwa-Zulu Natal from Oliviershoek Pass

Travelling down from the Free State to the Drakensberg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, we always use the alternative route over Oliviershoek Pass. We also always stop near the top of the pass at Coyote Cafe where we have tea or lunch. You can read about this here.

This weekend, however, we'd packed a flask of tea and sandwiches and we had this while enjoying the view above. I think it's as pretty as a postcard, dont' you?

For more scenes around the world, click here

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Garden Photos

Heaven is wandering through my garden, camera in hand and photographing nature in all its glory

The beautiful indigenous Scabiosa africana (Pincushion)  in my garden
I have a few Hollyhock (exotics) plants in my garden which reward me with stunning blooms every year
I love the way the sun shines through the flowers
On Thursday I posted a Macro photo of one of these butterflies. Here I managed to capture another one on the Acacia Karoo (Sweet thorn) which I posted on Skywatch last Friday
Clarice, our cat with the nicest nature, often sleeps under the shrubs at the top of the garden. She was the first of all the animals to befriend Shadow

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sunset over the Drakensberg

Sunset over the Natal Drakensberg

For more beautiful skies around the world, click here

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I know I shouldn't be proud, but I am thrilled to bits in an-old-lady-trying-to-improve-her-photographic-skills-kinda-way with this image! 

There were many, many butterflies in the garden on this particular day and I took many, many photos with disastrously disappointing results. I sat on a low wall in my garden while Shadow played in front of me. I waited patiently for a photographic  opportunity.  

I zoomed in and focussed on this butterfly from quite a distance away. Once the image was downloaded onto my computer, I darkened the edges and yellow shade slightly to eliminate the "noise";  otherwise this photo is exactly as it was on my camera.

I just LOVE the way eyes, the feelers, wings and hairs on the body are emphasized  while the background is fuzzed out.  (Apologies to insect and bug experts out there if these are not correct names of the insect's parts)

I wanted to share this with you, my dear readers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A call to obedience

This post is partly a continuation of our weekend in the Drakensberg and partly a testimony of faith and obedience.  At the end of July, Grant and I spent two days at the cottage near John and Debbie's land in the 'Berg. 

John and Debbie's home in the Drakensberg at the end of July 2010

This weekend we visited them again and ...

 Ta-rah!  John and Debbie's home now
"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them" Romans 8:28

Grant and I are  blessed with sons and daughers-in-law who follow the Lord and are obedient to His guidance in every sphere of their lives.

You can read more of John and Debbie on their interesting blog  here. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Precious moments

As I mentioned yesterday, we spent the weekend in the Drakensberg near John, Debbie and children. We had a most blessed time. The littlest Hedges has grown like the proverbial weed and everyone is blooming with health and happiness, praise God. We had a wonderful weekend and a special time of fellowship together.

Debbie with our third and fifth grandchildren. The blonde angel is 20 1/2 months old while her baby brother - who made a hasty appearance in the Karoo in May this year - is five-and-a-half months old and thriving. Aren't they just TOO beautiful?

This little beauty doesn't intend to pander to any of our expectations that she should walk. She still crawls all over the place (with the speed of light!) and we think she does walk when no-one is watching. Here her older sister placed her in the doorway and with her mum, beckoned her closer. Gran was ready with the camera! She took a few steps and then sank to the ground and crawled the rest of the way. Her dad also took long to walk; she will walk when she's good and ready!  
The three older children wait at the kitchen counter while Gran makes them lunch
Three of our four beautiful Kwa-Zulu Natal grandchildren "ride" granddad's bike. We always rent this, Wattle Cottage for our stays in the Berg. John and Debbie's land is only a kilometer away to the front the of motorbike 

The children and I walked to a half completed future guest house near Wattle Cottage.  Here the two oldest were picking up wood cuttings to play with back at Wattle Cottage, while I collected for the little one in my arms

Grant, John, Debbie and the littlest Hedges joined us at the cottage which is still a work in progress. This abode is a wooden structure. The owners bought a defunct garden shed from a nursery which closed down in Durban and transported the pieces to the Berg earlier this year. At the end of July when we rented Wattle Cottage (as we always do), they had thrown the concrete foundation. When we arrived there four months later, we were most impressed to see the progress that had been made. The owners live and run their business in Durban, 160kms/100miles from the Berg and can only work on this property over the weekends

Grant and our two oldest grandchildren walk to the dam below Wattle Cottage. Grant and I received full toiletry bags on our flight back from Khartoum. Instead of opening them, we kept them for these two children who were THRILLED with the teeny toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash and other interesting items (Look Gran, a pen!) in the bags. Here they swing their "gifts" as they walk along with Granddad

For more other worlds, click here