Saturday, December 30, 2023

Rainy Christmas week and critters

 Good day dear Blogger friends. Living in a tourist destination, I feel sorry for guests who plan an extended Christmas holiday in the Central Drakensberg, and it is raining when they arrive; it rains for the duration of their stay and it's raining when they leave. Such has been the case this December. 

However, for me, cleaning my holiday accommodation on Boxing Day, I was rewarded with critters who enjoy inclement weather conditions. 

I've never thought a grasshopper enjoyed wet weather, but here I snapped a teeny critter on the watery patio

Frogs I equate with water. I snapped this little critter with a gammy back leg. When he moved, the leg reverted to a more normal position

After cleaning indoors, by the time I got to the patio, the weathr had warmed and dried up for a short period
Cape Robin-chat scrummaging for bits of meat which the guests had spilt while BBQ'ing
This bird has distinctive markings...
... and a very confident manner. I was standing above it while snapping with my Smartphone

I'm linking to Saturday Critters with Eileen, here


Thursday, December 28, 2023

Christmas could have been different

 Good morning, dear Blogger friends. As posted and illustrated yesterday, Christmas at the farm was, as always, BRILLIANT! 

But... almost was very different. 

On Saturday night, 23 December, I had fallen asleep at 8.45. I awoke with a start when Skabby (asleep on the floor beside my bed) gave a loud bark. 

When I checked, he had continued to sleep. I sat up in bed, wondering what he had heard.  Then I saw lights move across my bedroom window. I thought it was the nightwatchman doing his rounds with his flashlight. 

Watching I realized that it was a car's headlights and heard the vehicle stop on the driveway. I got up and looked out of the window facing John and Ron's home and saw that their house was ablaze with lights. Just then I saw Mandy, their daughter from Johannesburg, spending the week in the Valley at their timeshare, running down the garden path.

I grabbed my dressing gown, slipped my feet into shoes and went outside. John has been poorly these past two weeks. His heart rate has been very high and he has been short of breath. Ron had him at two different doctors on three occasions. By Thursday last week, the doctor had adjusted his medication and said he'd like to see him after the holidays. When Ron told me this, I said but the holidays are ten days long. Who knows that John may need a doctor before then.

This is exactly what happened. On Saturday, John took a turn for the worse; Janine said he was incoherent, his eyes were closed, and he was perspiring profusely. Janine had already phoned the emergency team, Freddie's,  who is always on call in the Valley and Winterton.  

The chief (Freddie) told Janine he'd already dispatched an ambulance from the city and that he personally was on his way to the farm. Janine and her daughter had their phone torches on; Mand's SUV's hazard lights were flashing and I had an old fashioned torch in my hand. We were waiting to see Freddie's vehicle turn off the main road onto the farm and would be able to help him to enter the farm yard without delay.

Which is what Freddie did. He duly arrived and taking his emergency bag, he ran into the house to the bedroom. Through the stress and anxiety about John, I chuckled when I heard him greeting old John with: Yes, young man, and what are you up to now! 

I also entered the bedroom at one stage and was horrified to see the state that John was in. Freddie had lifted him to a seated position with his legs over the side of the bed. He attached the tags to his torso and checked the ECG machine on the bed behind John. His heart, although beating quite fast, was quite stable and strong according to Freddie. 

Ronnie was sitting on the bed on John's left and rubbing his arm and shoulder. John still had his eyes closed and was mumbling and groaning terribly. Watching Ron, I felt such compassion for her. I could just imagine the anguish she was experiencing yet she stayed strong for John's sake. 

Freddie asked me to wait on the driveway as his daughter and another young woman were on their way. To show them into the house when they arrived. I did, and shortly Cassie arrived with her partner, Aneri, and I guided them to John and Ron's bedroom. 

While Cas set up the BP gadget. Aneri, moved to John' s right side, and with her knee on the bed behind John, she supported him. She rubbed his back and shoulders and continued to banter in reply to John's garbled chatter. At one stage she asked what John's age was. Janine, standing next to me, said he's 79. Aneri said, Mr. M, they tell me you're 79 but I think you're 21! He looked towards her voice, eyes still closed and a twisted smile on his face. 

I swallowed hard at a lump in my throat. 

I walked out onto the driveway again and met Gavin going to pack a small bag. He would travel behind the ambulance with his mother and sister in the car with him. I told him I would go back to the room and help his mom pack her bag and a few things for John. He said he would appreciate that.

By now the Netcare 911 SUV arrived and parked on the lawn. Freddie met the paramedic and showed him into the house. 

Emergency response from the city

Shortly afterwards, the ambulance arrived and entered the garden walking closely next to Gavin. They were very nervous of Jock and Smooch, the two black Labs on the veranda. 
The ambulance and flashing lights on the farmyard driveway

Now the paramedics were busy tending to John so Ron could focus on packing a small bag I checked she had her insulin. I asked her to open her purse and we checked that she had her medical aid card, John's ID, her ID and her bank card. She is very organized, and everything was in place.

We women sat in the lounge with Ron trying to catch our breaths after the upheaval. We could hear the men in the bedroom and we heard the paramedic say: this man is diabetic and is in insulin shock!  We looked at each other in horror. Not one of us had thought of John's sugar levels being so low; we'd been concerned about his heart. The GP had checked his sugar on Thursday and pronounced it normal. 

The administered a drip with dextrose intravenously and eight minutes later we heard John saying, lucidly and in true John style: What are all you gentlemen doing here! 

A little while later the men and Gavin came out helping John to walk to Gavin's SUV on the driveway. What a transformation!

We helped Ron collect her small bag and walked to Gavin's car with her. I told Janine in an aside, to check that their little beagle x Jack Russell, Dot hadn't got into Gavin's car. And sure enough, there she was. On her dad' s lap in the car!

Janine told Ron she'd take Dot home with her. Amongst her twenty dogs (five of whom are indoor dogs) is Dot's brother, Blue, So Dot would be quite at home.

I closed Ron's front door, ensured the two Labs and Meggie, the Staffie, were on the veranda and locked the gate.

By now John had been transferred to the ambulance and the paramedics were hanging his drip on a stand next to the gurney. Janine and I both went to the back of the ambulance and wished him well. 

Finally, Freddie's emergency vehicles departed. The Netcare 911 SUV pulled out with the ambulance behind it and coming up in the rear was Gavin with his mother and sister. 

Nine, holding a heavy Dot in her arms, said she would keep me informed. It was 1.45am! 

Next morning the WhatsApp message from Janine said John is stable; he's being held in hospital for observation. Gavin had returned home; Ron was in her house and Mandy had gone back to the timeshare. Each was trying to catch up on their sleep.

On Christmas morning, Ron went back to the city with their oldest granddaughter to visit John. While she was there, the doctor arrived and discharged John.

What excitement on Boxing Day afternoon when we all congregated in John and Ron's lounge to welcome the patient back into the fold.

It could have been so different...

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Christmas on the farm

 Compliments of the season to all my Blogger friends!

As usual, Christmas was celebrated on the farm; Christmas Eve is BIG here. We have a seated dinner for 23 guests.  We ladies prepare the starters (a cheese and crackers board),  meats, veg and dessert. 

My contribution is pictured here below.

I cooked and glazed two gammons

I roasted a shoulder of mutton

I made a cranberry, celery and apple stuffing; cooked separately from the meat (so I could eat it!)

I made green beans and also cooked up baby carrots which I sautéed in syrup.

I steamed a store-bought Christmas pudding
I made a trifle

My neighbor, Janine, loves Christmas. Every year she creates beautiful table settings. This year, however, she excelled herself. She ran with an unusual color scheme in pastel pink linen and silver place mats paired soft turquoise dinnerware. 

The table linen, place settings and festive Christmas center pieces, were exquisite
The Christmas crackers (bon-bons) beside each plate, were also upmarket. The gifts which emerged once we'd made the crackers bang, were useful and interesting

The guest list always consists of an eclectic mix of old and young. Ron and John live on the farm and always attend this dinner. Janine's 80-year-old widowed dad lives in the city and Janine brings him up for Christmas. The oldest daughter is married and she and her new husband are always at this dinner. The younger daughter is engaged and her fiancé's two sisters with their boyfriends, his parents AND his maternal grandmother join us for this annual dinner. 

Of this whole group, I am the only lady (and a vintage one at that!) who is not a mother or grandmother to the youngsters connected to the farm family. When I phoned Gavin last night to thank him for another wonderful Christmas celebration, I also thanked him for making me feel part of their family, he replied: It's a pleasure, Jo, you are family! Isn't that sweet...

This year was my sixth Christmas on the farm! 


Sunday, December 24, 2023


 Dear Blogger friends. AGAIN, just when you thought it was safe to read Jo's blog without a post on the Parkrun, there she goes. Again.

I must explain here. Most gym clubs, yoga classes, weight loss societies, etc. take a break over the festive season, All, except Parkrun. It's a like an analog clock. It just keeps going week after week! 

Today was our Christmas Parkrun and Winterton, being in the tourist belt of the Central Drakensberg, we always have plenty of visitors at this time. 

Today was also a very special day for Skabby. The weather was cool; the sky overcast, and I decided to take him along. He's been staying at home since mid-November when he developed a hotspot and was under veterinary treatment. The hotspot has healed, leaving a great white scar in his black skin. Just as a precaution, I covered his exposed flanks and back with total block out cream.

So excited to be included in the Parkrun outing again!
Skabby and I both wore Christmas adornments to Parkrun

A friend brought a Christmas gift for Skabby. A natty water bottle with a sprinkler stopper. So cool! 

It had been raining all Friday night through Saturday morning. Until 7am. So, although we'd not had to walk in the rain, the going was very muddy and slippery.
My Weigh-Less Group Assistant, Esme, and I did today's Parkrun together
I believe Skabby enjoyed today's walk because of the cooler weather. I know I did! 


Saturday, December 23, 2023

Dragon flies, bulbuls and a frog

 Good morning, Blogger friends, I'm determined to capture every interesting critter that crosses my path. 

While at the large house in October, with my visiting children, I snapped a dragon fly on just above the sliding door. 

While waiting for our Taigelates class to start last Friday, a pair of bulbul landed on my car. One flew off and landed on the roof of the building in front of me. The other sat on my car's rear-view mirror offering several photo opportunities. 

Dark-capped bulbul
Back home, I saw a movement in the dog's water bowl which is half concealed by my lush mint garden. Checking, I scooped out a tiny frog!

A type of tree or reed frog (I'm not able to ID it)

I'm linking to Saturday Critters with Eileen, here


Thursday, December 21, 2023



Good morning, dear Blogger friends. Last week I drove to the nearby town of Estcourt to renew the second lot of vehicle licenses on the farm. 

A few months ago, I renewed the other section of farm vehicles and at the end of August I renewed my own car's license. As you can imagine, I have built a strong relationship with the clerks who man the table outside the hallowed halls of the Estcourt Licence Bureau. 

After successfully renewing eight vehicles for Gavin and one for Ronnie, I traveled up to the supermarket. After my shopping, as I was preparing to reverse my car out of the parking lot, I spotted two elderly gentlemen approaching a pick-up truck parked in front of me.

They were the image of Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence who acted together in the comedy Life.

Unfazed I went to the driver's window and greeted them in Zulu. They politely responded. I asked if they were brothers to which they replied, they were. I asked if they lived near to each other, to which they answered that they were next door neighbors. I also asked after their respective spouses whom they said were well. (I was thrilled that they understood my newly acquired Zulu) 

When I asked if I could take a photo them, they said certainly and looked straight at my phone while I clicked. 

Unbeknown to these two polite gentlemen, they resembled the main actors in the film called Life


Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Family holiday accommodation

Good morning, dear Blogger friends. My blog would be incomplete if I didn't share the other accommodation which I manage. Nyathi Valley Berg House. 

I post quite regularly about The Bunker which is a two-sleeper holiday unit. Nyathi Valley Berg House belongs to Mark, who has his home base in Durban and works in Somalia. Mark is known as Buffalo in his work and social life. Hence the name of the holiday home. Nyathi Valley Berg House sleeps 14 people and has been very popular since I started managing for Mark in March 2021.

In October, my son, DIL and three grandchildren spent a long weekend in this house. In order to spend more time with them, once I had done Parkrun on Saturday, I drove up and spent the night with them. 

Apart from having an enjoyable evening, it was good for me to actually to spend a night in the house as a guest. At one stage, we had a challenge trying to have a hot shower. I phoned Mark and  he, in turn, guided Angus how to turn on the taps and activate the gas geyser. Hot showers for everyone! 

One aspect of this accommodation is the spectacular view of Cathkin and Champagne Castle peaks.

A breathtaking image of the sun setting over the Central Drakensberg
I was impressed with my photo at the top until I saw this one above... (Credit: Amanda Hedges) 

The children sitting on the rockery which my artist friend, Steven built for Mark

With Angus, Joel, Liam and Abby in the forest 
behind Nyathi Valley Berg House


Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Weigh-Less Christmas party

 Good morning dear Blogger friends. Once again, the end of the year is upon us and it's CHRISTMAS! While members in my Weigh-Less groups are never "off Weigh-Less" (Weigh-Less is a lifestyle and not a diet), I close the venue meetings for approximately 20 days over this period. The members send their weights in via WhatsApp during that period. I keep motivating them online to be vigilant; to make the best choices that they can and always to revert to their healthy eating plan in between office parties, work functions, church lunches and family gatherings. 

Last week we had our Christmas party to end of a very, very successful year of weight losses and goal weight achievements with Weigh-Less. 

Before any eats or treats, I gave a lecture on how to cope during this challenging festive time! 
Each member brought Weigh-Less approved snacks, cracker or dips for the table

I was so proud of my members. Every one of them brought delicious eats which are compliant with the Weigh-Less eating plan. 

In the Champagne Valley and Winterton Weigh-Less Groups (two respective groups held on two different days to suit the members logistically), in 2023, there have been five goal weight achievements in the Valley and three in Winterton.  Our WhatsApp group name is Winchamp (Go figure: Winterton and Champagne Valley aka Winners and Champions) These are the Venue Groups. I have another four online groups with members all over South Africa, in the neighboring states and worldwide. They all keep me on the hop! 
Members tuck into the snacks and drinks!

Weigh-Less is suitable for everyone, men and women, from nine to 90 years old

A year ago, a mother brought her 15-year-old son to Weigh-Less. Last week, I awarded this debonair young man with his Goal Weight Certificate!
Zander, after losing 20kg in just over a year!
At the Christmas party, two sisters had reached their Weigh-Less goal weight simultaneously.
 They both lost the same amount of weight as well! Irma and Susan showing off their Goal Weight Certificates! 


Monday, December 18, 2023

The show goes on

 Good morning, dear Blogger friends. In between my cosmetic sales, online life coaching and farm administrative tasks, I have had almost back-to-back bookings at my holiday accommodation.

On Sunday Thandi and I went up to The Bunker to meet and check out the weekend guests. Once they had left, we started preparing for guests arriving at 2pm that afternoon. 

As always, we strip and remake the king-sized bed together. Then Thandi cleans the kitchen counters, checks and wipes the kitchen cabinets. She sweeps the floor and mops it with household cleaner and water. 

I set out the chocolates on rolled towels; fill the fridge with Continental breakfast food. I also polish all the wood surfaces, mirrors and television. 

Because the outgoing guests had used the braai (BBQ) facilities on the patio, which Thandi cleans, I opted to help her by cleaning the shower and toilet area. 

The king-sized bed made up complete with rolled towels and chocolate treats! 

Scrubbing the shower cubicle

Message in my guest book

On Tuesday morning, Thandi and I do this all over again. And again on Thursday...

My Christmas weekend guests arrive on Saturday and check out on 26th December. Thandi has the week between Christmas and New Year off, so I will go up and clean The Bunker and prepare it for the New Year week guests arriving at 2pm that day.



Sunday, December 17, 2023

Just when you think...

 ... it's safe to read Jo's blog, there's ANOTHER Parkrun post!

Apologies, dear Blogger friends. Parkrun is my most favorite leisure pursuit (an oxymoron if ever there was one, LOL!) as one of the only TWO leisure activities (another oxymoron!) I take part in on a weekly basis. 

Parkrun is what I do every Saturday. And Taigelates is tri-discipline class where I join five to six lovely friends in the Valley every Friday morning. 

I'm still trying to catch up on my life since I posted about Mary's memorial service in early November this year. After the service as is traditional in South Africa, we moved to the church hall for tea and eats. By 4pm I said goodbye to Mary's daughter, Trasi, now owner and chairman of Weigh-Less and set off for Howick. I had phoned ahead to [Aunt] Gill to say I would be with her in under an hour. 

I popped into the supermarket and bought a pizza and some dessert for our supper. Gill and I spent a lovely evening together. 

Again, I was near a tour Parkrun and after conferring with my dear friend and Weigh-Less member, Judy, I arranged to collect her at 7.30 on Saturday morning. She would show me the way to the Hilton Parkrun. She had registered on  the site and this would be her first official Parkrun. 

It was a very different venue to the one we have in Winterton and looked a lot easier than my first "tour" Parkrun a month before. You started out on a school sports field, walked down a grassy track, through a forest (Hilton/Howick abound with pine forests!) and then out along the school grounds perimeter. And back to the start at the sports field. 2.5km. A marshal guides you to the tunnel which takes you onto the sports field again and you do the whole route a second time. 5km total. 

Judy and I started together and although she said I should go at my pace, I told her I was staying with her. When we reached the grassy track which took us up to the first 2.5km point, Judy said: "Jo, I think I will wait here while you complete the Parkrun." I told her no way do you stop now, let's hit this second 2.5km.

 Which we did. 

When we returned to the start, the volunteers applauded loudly while we skipped into the finish paddock! I had done my second "tour" Parkrun and Judy had done her first official Parkrun. 

Afterwards she said to me, "Not only do you watch what I eat but today you made me stay and finish the course."  

I nodded sagely! 

Judy and I at the end of the Hilton Parkrun on 4 November 2023

Once I'd dropped Judy at her home, I drove back to the retirement village where I had a final cup of tea and a chat with Gill. 

I arrived home on the farm by mid-afternoon. I popped over to my neighbors, Ron and John to tell them I was home safely and tell them about the memorial service.

Regarding my Taigelates attendance. The classes take place on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. I work the first three days in the farm office, so Friday is the only day I can attend.  Our instructor, Caroline has returned to Australia for two years. She sends two WhatsApp messages of 30 minutes each. Estelle, another dear friend of mine, attaches her mobile phone to a bluetooth enhancer and with this in the center of the room with our mats in a circle around it, we follow her instructions as if she is in the room with us!

A few weeks ago, in one discipline she exhorted us to, while sitting on our mats, to place our heads on the floor and then on each knee (leg straight), while gripping your toes. She said it was quite a challenging move and if anyone managed to get close, she would like photos. 

Unbeknown to me, the other "younger" mid-sixty year-old ladies, and Estelle (my contemporary at 70 plus years) were struggling to do this.  And photographed the person who was able to do it!

Mmm, one thing about a close up of one's feet, you realize that
 not only your hands give away your age! 

This Friday past was our year end breakfast at the restaurant adjacent to where we exercise. 

We had an hour of exercise. Because it was my last session with the girls, and because of the season, I wore an appropriate head decoration. Estelle was so impressed; she wanted a photo of me to send to Caroline. 

As Estelle aimed her phone at me, Anne said "Estelle, you stand with Jo, and I will take the photo." Then Monique, arriving that moment, said, "You three stand there and I will snap you." I said, "Hold it,  girls.  I'll set my phone up on the selfie function and a 10second timer; we all pose and ALL will appear in the photo." They had never heard of this before but trusted me and we got our group photo! 
We had a group photo to share with Caroline, thousands of kilometers Down Under! 

We certainly enjoyed a wonderful year together and rounded it off with a jovial breakfast!


Saturday, December 16, 2023

Farm walks

 Good afternoon my Blogger readers. I've stopped taking Skabby to Parkrun due to the incredibly hot weather recently, Instead, we go out for a walk on the farm as we did in days gone by. And a swim in the dam. The dear lad LOVES it!

Gulping a mouthful of water while swimming! 

Of course, the local wildlife residents have not seen this big black dog for 18 months. The pair of Egyptian Geese with goslings were quite skittish! 

Back home, Skabby is treated to a bone. When he's finished with it, the Glossy Starlings arrive on the lawn, picking a bits of fat, sinew, meat and bone left in the grass! 

I'm linking to Saturday Critters with Eileen, here