Free range fynbos bunnies

img_1776

 

img_1778

 

img_1779

 

img_1783

 

img_1784

 

There is now an offer of R10 per rabbit up for grabs for kids – Sean and I enjoy plenty of laughs in the evenings now as we see rabbits hopping through the fynbos with crazy kids chasing behind!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leopard sightings in our valley

What an amazing valley we live in. Not only are we surrounded by remarkable diversity of fynbos with all the beautiful flowers that brighten up the landscape throughout the year, but we also regularly encounter bushbuck, greysbok, hear the sound of fish eagles overhead and now it has been confirmed that there are at least two leopard for whom our valley forms part of their range.

These photo’s were taken by camara traps in mid December and again earlier this month!

Click here to read more  about the leopard from our neighbour, Flower Valley.

slide4

 

web_leopard3

 

slide2

 

slide3

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The great egg yolk debate response

Following my last post about the superior quality of Witkrans’ eggs, we got the following response from Farm 215:

‘Your eggs look great and I assume that with all the hard work you have put in this year, they will have greatly improved.   You still have a way to go though looking at your eggyoke-eggwhite-spread-ratio of 1 on 4 instead of the ultimate ideal as realised by the farm 215 eggs, 1 on 2. Your eggwhite is all over the plate !   I also think you should cut down on the amount of chillies you feed your eggs, the eggyolk is a bit on the red side.   If you want I can train one or two of your chicken at no charge. Just bring them over, I let them run with my chicken who can explain your chicken what exactly to eat in the fynbos.’

Witkrans has decided that this calls for an ‘Egg-a-thon’ Competition in the Uilkraalvallei – watch this space!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The great egg yolk debate

I was informed at a party by Whale Song Lodge (whom we supply the majority of our eggs to) that Farm 215′s eggs have a nicer yellower egg yolk than ours.

We could not quite believe that someone could have better eggs than us and we set out on a secret mission to ask Maarten various questions about what he feeds his eggs, how long they free range etc.  Matt, the chicken farmer and I did various random visits to Farm 215′s chickens but could not see much difference.

We decided to increase the greens in their food and let them free range in the garden every afternoon.  They also get the occasional bowl of Pronutro on the trampoline from the children.

On a recent Lomond wine tasting trip at Farm 215 Maarten came and surprised me with a box of his Golden delicious eggs! He had recently been informed of Witkrans’ sly chicken snooping ;-)

Next morning I took one egg from Witkrans and one from Farm 215 and guess what…………………..

egg_yolk

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Apricots

We got a box of apricots!

img_1198

So we boiled them up………..

img_1199

and out came………..

web_icecream

apricot ice-cream……

web_cordial

apricot cordial………

web_jambread

10 jars of apricot jam and a bonus bread out the oven……

And there is still half a box of apricots waiting – any other idea’s???

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s a farmers life

Most of the time we feel blessed and privileged to live in this piece of heaven, however there are days were I wish to move into a flat in Camps Bay and enjoy sundowners and cocktails from my stoep.  Today is one of those days.

The baboons have been at the top of the farm and have done something to our water tank so that we are now left with no water.  Last night the children and I had to get ready for a music evening where we had to boil water from our rain tank and ‘enjoy’ a bath & hair wash in a bucket.

This morning I was woken at 4am by my lamb ‘Shaun the sheep’ who was given to us by the local kennel owner as he was off on a fishing trip for a week.  After two weeks of bottle feeding him 4 hourly, I am now his adopted Mom.  A quick coffee enjoying the silence and sun rising with some peaceful classical music was not long lasted and then it was off to check for bugs in the vegetable garden where I found ‘Keemo’ – the mommie bunnie that has escaped with her 5 rabbits.  We have managed to catch 2 out of the 5 babies so far.  Most days I feel a bit like Mrs McGregor from Beatrix Potter books as I take up my broom and get chase them out.  This morning I made it my mission to catch her, 1 hour later I did it!!!

Next up was the chickens who need food and water.  On arrival I found a dead hen, which looked like it had died of natural causes so off to the shed to fetch a spade and a hole was dug and the chicken laid to rest.  Thankfully it was not one of the treasured hens and so we won’t have to go through another chicken funeral.

Boldrick, the pig, by this stage had spotted me, so it was off to feed him with food from the pig waste we get from coffee on the rocks – rather a smelly business dipping the bucket in and throwing the food over the fence, normally to be splattered with bits of waste – loverly.

Next up to check on Cutlet and Rebecca in the sheep paddock and check their water and give them a treat of bread as I got to enjoy another coffee whilst sitting on the paddock fence listening to the birds.

Next up children, who have woken up with far too much energy!

Good thing about being up so early is that the bread has risen and can go in the oven, the stove top coffee maker can be put on, milk frothed and cappuccino’s enjoyed with our bread and homemade Mulberry Jam just in time for the Farmers husband to wake up………when I think I will dissapear for a long walk on the beach :-)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wine Times Part 2 – to bottle or not to bottle?

While one might be able to get away without purchasing or borrowing certain wine making implements a press is absolutely essential.  As we mentioned in the previous blog, Eddie’s garage was cooking and our grapes fermented in just a few days.  Suddenly the search for a press was on.

Now we had spotted the perfect small-scale garage wine makers press in Stellenbosch a few weeks earlier.  When we phoned to order it, it had been sold.  Of course, being the middle of pressing time in the winelands there was not a wine-press to be had anywhere.  We phoned every wine shop and contact we had and we were eventually led to a cellar outside Wellington who kindly rented us their basket press for 48 hours.  So Jaco was once again sent on a road trip and returned many hours later with a large basket press that took 4 of us to unload from the bakkie.   Unfortunately the press came with no instructions and being novice wine makers it took us a couple of hours to figure out how to reverse the direction of the press so that we could actually get the grapes into the basket.  This baby was fully electrified and at the turn of a switch, out poured lots of delicious looking juice.  The residue skins were collected in plastic tubs and fed to Boldrick our pig who had a fantastic afternoon and was last seen swaying off to his bed of hay.  He was very groggy the following day and not that keen on the remainder of the grape skins.

winepress_web

 

press_web

 

jaco_web

 

wine_web

 

The pressing was rather a messy business and fortunately Eddie was away on a golf trip as by the end of the day, his garage was swamped with Merlot.  We managed to produce about 700 litres of juice which was transferred by bucket into our brand spanking new stainless steel floating lid fermentation tank.   The garage was mopped, flushed and scrubbed and by the time of Eddie’s return was sparkling clean with just the sophisticated smell of fermenting grapes in the air.

Needless to say our partner was very pleased with our efforts and offered to arrange the return of the press to Wellington on Monday morning.   This was a great relief as we were not keen to drive all the way back to Wellington.  To our horror, we were called by the owners of the press a couple of days later to inform us that four vital pieces were missing and we had to get them back as without them the press could not be used.  A Privett road trip was organised and the four said items driven out to Wellington with a trip to Butterfly World included to entertain our kids.

According to our well read ‘Guide to Wine making’, malolactic fermentation (which is the second fermentation which takes place in the closed tank) should take about 7 weeks.  Basically what happens is that stuff in the wine called malic acid has to be converted to other stuff called lactic acid.  This is a pretty simple process done by very clever bacteria.   So after a couple of weeks, Eddie offered to take a sample of our pride and joy to Vinlab in Stellenbosch for testing.  The results looked good and fermentation was well underway.

Two weeks later, Eddy took another sample to Vinlab and nothing had happened. And two weeks later, he took another sample and still nothing had happened.  And so on for quite a few more weeks…….we started to get worried and phoned a couple of our real wine making mates. OK – so Merlot can sometimes struggle to get through malolactic fermentation as our friendly bacteria can run out of food.

So off we went to Goodwood and bought a couple of bags of very expensive food for hungry wine making bacteria.  We headed over to Eddie and all tasted some of the wine and deliberated over how much food to deposit in the tank.  The lid was lifted and three-quarters of the food gently stirred into the vat.

Around this time it was our other partner, Michael Lutzeyer’s birthday and we thought it would be a good idea to present him with a bottle of our fine brew.  A label was printed and name concocted ‘Lutzbergett’  This comes from Lutzeyer,Burger, and Privett.  At this stage, due to our lack of confidence in the wine, you’ll notice the Privett inconspicuously placed at the end of the name.  A great evening was had and our wine even made it into the Grootbos cellar alongside some great Walker Bay wines.  Not much was actually drunk and general consensus was that it was somewhat raw and needed more time.

A few weeks later it was back to Vinlab.  NOTHING had happened.  Back to our experts who advised a gentle stirring in a clockwise direction.  A few weeks later, it was back to Vinlab and NOTHING!

Then we were given some really good advice.  Our friendly wine making bacteria don’t like the cold and no matter how much food you give them or how much you stir it aint going to help.  So it was time for the Burgers to come up with a wine heating device.  This included a wall heater on bricks under the tank and roof isolation (that think pink stuff) taped all around and on top of the tank.  A strict schedule was implemented to ensure the temperature was maintained around 22 degrees celsius.  Hey presto, the next morning we walked into the garage it was alive with the scent of fermenting Merlot and the sound of gentle bubbles escaping from the tank.

eddie_web

 

heater_web

 

O.k, so our seven week fermentation has now taken nearly 9 months but we believe we are finally there!  One more vinlab trip is planned for this Friday – the bottles are being ordered, the label is on the design table, the eggs are being collected for our organic egg white wine filtering…………and that is another story.

hands_web

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring has sprung

My vegetable seeds are starting to germinate, the chickens are laying more eggs, it is lighter in the morning, the garden is in full bloom, the birds are singing and the weather is hinting at getting warmer.

A couple of field mice and I havegarden been at war recently.  I have planted out loads of seeds in the garden as well as some seedlings.  The seedlings disappeared the next morning and the seeds were not germinating.  I got a couple of yogurt containers, cut holes in them and poured some beer in them, which is meant to trap the snails – checked them every morning to find one or two tiny little snails and then peeking out the rocks I saw a little mouse nibbling happily on my  seeds.  I have tried really hard to keep the veggie garden organic and not to use any poisons etc but with this little guy I did use the drastic route and hopefully we will not have any more trouble.  So far so good.  Inspired by my neighbor I have been making pots out of newspaper and the kitchen is full of little seedlings happily germinating.  I have never had a very good success rate with seeds as when I eventually get them to germinate (if I do), when it comes to transplanting them, I seem somehow kill them in the process – the joy of these pots is that you can plant them straight into the ground with the newspaper.

I have some lovely purple podded pea’s; beans;popcorn-seeds cauliflower; tomatoes; celery; strawberries all come along nicely.  Trying to interplant flowers to attract bee’s and which help the vegetables etc.  Not my strong point at all, I really should stick to my day job but it’s been great fun.

We got another 10 chickens from Growing the Futures to increase our laying as we are now supplying eggs to Bodhi Khaya; Whale Song; Haus Giotta; Private Villa De Kelders and various individuals.  There was a bit of unsettlement in the coup with the new recruits and laying ceased for a few weeks, but it seems to be increasing again.  We are also working hard at trying to improve our egg color by letting them free range a lot more in the garden and giving them more kitchen leftovers.  They are also enjoying the pig food from Coffee on the rocks as Boldrick, our pig is on sabbatical visiting his girlfriends on the neighboring farms.

Sadly we had to say good-bye to Matthews favoritegoldie_old chicken of 5 years, Goldie.  She really was an amazing chicken who enjoyed eating cereal with the children on the trampoline, went down the slide, bounced on the trampoline with the kids.  She would also sometimes get decorated with hair clips and bracelets around her neck to come and do egg delivery.  She sat on Matthew’s shoulder whilst watching children’s t.v; came up to the dam whilst the children swam and gave the children endless hours of enjoyment.  She was really old and Matthew had to pick her up to take her out the hock in the mornings and then lift her back in again in the evenings.  She couldn’t get up on the perches anymore and unfortunately a Genet managed to get in a hole one evening and she was obviously the easiest target.  Poor Matthew was devastated and a funeral was held later that day.  All the chickens had to come to the funeral and they enjoyed a bowl of pronutro (Goldie’s favorite cereal), a stone was painted for the grave stone and many happy stories were shared about a special chicken and few tears shed.  We enjoyed a chocolate cake afterwards made in Goldie’s honor.  We then lit a big bonfire which Matthew really enjoyed and helped cheer him up a little.  R.I.P Godie – you will be missed by us all.

goldie

 

gravestone

 

bonfire

 

egg-boxes

 

The cottage has been fairly busy from the overflow of Bodhi Khaya’s retreats next door.  The children have enjoyed helping entertain the children whilst the parents were at the workshops next door.

roah-and-chickens

 

We think that we have speeded up the fermenting process of the wine and now await results from Vinlab for our next Wine Times blog.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wine Times Part 1 – the great stomp

So we have already explained the problemswine_mattgrapes associated with growing our grapes in our previous wine blog. Five years and still no harvest! But undeterred we were able to source some top quality Merlot grapes from a friend who is a real viticulturalist – Braam Gericke. We had no idea how much a tonne of merlot grapes were until they arrived at Eddie’s garage in two huge blue plastic containers, the 1.3 tonne Hyundai groaning under the pressure! They had been loaded with a forklift and Jaco who had kindly gone to fetch them together with all twelveGreen Futures students struggled to shift them off the bakkie on to the garage floor. Jaco very nearly losing his big toe in the process!

OK so it’s the last Friday in February and the probably the hottest weekend in the year coming up and we have a tonne of grapes to de-stem, lightly crush and press…oh yes the press, we did not have one never mind a de-stemmer. We quickly phoned around, only to find that of course everyone is de-stemming and pressing at this time of the year and there are no presses to buy for love or money. Fortunately one of our last leads resulted in a press that we could hire – only catch was that it needed to be collected in Wellington. Now the basic process is fairly straight forward. Take bunch of grapes, remove stem and lightly break the skins. Pour the juice with skins into a large fermentation tank (open to the air for alcoholic fermentation), allow to ferment on the skins for about a week and then press before pouring into a sealed tank for malolactic fermentation (3 to 6 weeks). We had purchased ourselves a 5000l plastic water tank with the lid cut off for the alcoholic fermentation and a 1000 l floating lid stainless steel tank for the malolactic fermentation.

So back to the 1 tonne of grapes. No problem Mom, dad,wine_mishkids Matt and Emma start carefully removing the grapes from the stems by hand and stomping them in plastic washing buckets on the floor of Eddies garage. After about 4 hours of toil it didn’t look as if we had made the slightest dent on our pile of grapes, it was time to take stock. Not only was progress really slow but the ambient air temperature had hit 35 degrees and the grapes were starting to ferment in the plastic container. Time to call in the reinforcements. Fortunately it was our mate Richard Storeys 40th birthday at De Uilenes that weekend and we managed to get all his friends out to help with the de-stemming and stomping. But after about an hour and a half they had had their fun and decided lunch at the Birkenhead Brewery, where they could actually drink some alcohol rather than making it would be more fun. It was now Saturday lunchtime and we still hadn’t done more than a tenth of our grapes. Time for extreme measures so we phoned our wine-making partner Michael Lutzeyer convinced that he could bring a posse of Grootbos staff to help out – at this stage the temperature had hit 37 degrees and the grapes were starting to bubble and trouble.

Michael arrived by himself, no Grootbos team, but quicklywine_michael set about reorganising are approach and methods. Instead of carefully removing the grapes from the stems we loaded as much as we could into the stomping buckets, jumped up and down on them like crazy and then sifted out the loosened stems by hand. This definitely sped things up Michael and Sean spent the rest of the day stomping, sifting, sweating and pouring the grapes into the fermentation tank. By 7pm it was time to join Richard for some well earned lagers and spit braaied lamb.

The next day at lunch time we went to check on our juice and it was cooking! The air temperature had once again hit 37 degrees, the juice was well above 30 degrees and as a result the fermentation was going too rapidly. You could barely look over the rim of the fermentation tank without having your eyebrows singed, – it was once again time for desperate measures. Call in Michael and he arranged plastic bags of ice that we dropped into the fermentation tank. We used an improvised boat bilge pump connected to our Hilux bakkie battery to pump the juice from the bottom of the tank over the ice and back into the juice to cool things down. This had to be repeated twice daily for the rest of the week as we had been warned that temperatures above 34 degrees could stop fermentation all together.  While the juice never went above 34 degrees, it stayed above 30 degrees resulting in very rapid fermentation and lots of fumes in Eddie’s garage.

So it was off to Wellington by the Thursday to collect our press ready for pressing the following weekend – and that is another story.

wine_emmagrapes

 

wine_kids

 

wine_liftingup

 

wine_grapepressingafteroneday

 

wine_stiring

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Witkrans joins Facebook

Witkrans has officially succumbed and joined in the social networking scene.  Visit our page at https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Witkrans-Farm/237777056245183

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment