November was an unusual month for us… busy but in a different way (hence this post only being released nearly half way into December!)
Mob grazing workshop:
Our big excitement for November was the run up to the mob grazing and holistic management course with Ian Mitchell-Innes. We had a small turnout which is a bit disheartening when so much effort goes into the organisation. But it reminded us again that not everyone wants to be challenged in their thinking and doing so we were incredibly grateful to each person who attended. It also provided the opportunity for a lot of discussion and personal application. We were also so grateful to Ian for his insightful and challenging presentation. We are very excited to implement some of these ideas soon!
Andre also hosted a week long solar conference in Durban through Maxx-Solar so it has been a busy month!
Chickens and Geese:
For now, we have our chickens and geese doing the grazing and land preparation for us:) Our little goslings are looking like miniature geese. They have their adult feathers, four boys and three girls. They make a very sweet little family and flock together wherever they go! We have three hens sitting on eggs, due to hatch mid-December. Hoping we can get more pullets than cockerels this time! Our little rescue chick has an enclosure within the chicken run where she spends her days since she has her big feathers now too. The rest of the flock have not yet accepted her and still chase and peck her. We are hoping with her spending days in her enclosure closer to the flock that they will begin to accept her. At night we still fetch her in when we close the coop and she sleeps in our bathroom in a little pen (previously known as our bathtub!). We have debated whether to build her an enclosure closer to the house where she is safe but can live outside, close to us, or whether to try and leave her with the other chickens. Since she was raised by us, she is very attached to us but also not so aware of predators which is our main concern. She may be a lonely chicken on her own, but close to us, or a bottom of the pecking order chicken with the flock….
The flock of geese; our little rescue chick perching happily; Elliot and chick assisting the braai
The market farm has been expanding with the addition of new beds every two weeks to create succession. We have harvested the first full beds of produce and begun supplying two local restaurants, when we can, which is great and very encouraging. We have had some tough lessons on growing micro-greens but managing to find a rhythm to it now. A lone baboon made his way into the market farm and dug up all of our seed potatoes, and on one of the goslings’ expeditions, they ate all the shoots of spring onions and edible flowers! We have two rather sad looking areas now but luckily we have a long growing season and can sow again. A swarm of bees have made their home inside one of our tyres used to grow potatoes in. Great news for pollination as they are right in the veggies garden but we have to be very cautious. We have seen so many bees this year, and so many wild flowers popping up in the garden!
Market Farm Produce: Microgreens (radish, beetroot and pea shoots), baby carrots, radishes and gourmet lettuce mix
And, finally, in the guesthouse, we welcomed Hlengi to the team who has been remarkable and willing in both the guesthouse and in our vegetable garden!
Picnic breakfasts now included in your stay (homemade muesli and yoghurt, homemade sourdough bread, butter, jams, fruit and juice)
The unusualness of November:
Earlier this year, we hosted Hope Rising, a sourdough baking retreat. During a time of reflection, someone mentioned that we need to be shrewd in business. The word shrewd is generally associated with negative connotations but actually it is about being smart, being savvy, being astute and calculating. That’s what November was for us! We were faced with some very difficult situations that challenged every bit of business sense we thought we had! Too often we are expected to be soft, kind and gentle resulting in people taking advantage. We have had to learn how to be firm but fair; there is always room for more kindness in this world but it is just a sad state that it is often seen as weakness and too many people take advantage in business. Especially when it involves welcoming people into your home!
From staff to guest issues, economic and environmental constraints, and everything in between. It has left us quite emotionally and mentally exhausted – perfect timing ahead of December season in the guesthouse – but grown us immensely, personally, as a couple and as a business.
Some of our resolutions have been that we need to be able to make more time for friends and family, for social time. For the last year and a half, everything has been about the business and we realise that relaxation time is as important as business time. It actually makes us more productive. A series of cancelled bookings provided us with TWO weekends this month of more freedom. It was great! We went on some beautiful hikes on our property, rare to get a whole afternoon to ourselves to do this! We enjoyed soaking in all the details of the forest and grassland as well as the views across the Drakensberg. Oddly for this time of year, we were treated to snow on the ‘Berg! We don’t often get to enjoy these aspects of Bramleigh so it was a real treat for us!
At the same time, these cancellations caused us to also consider why, what was the root cause, which has sent us on a bit of a marketing drive.
We realised that being so far out, no restaurants or malls (yes, people ask for a mall!) nearby, no cellphone signal or TV is not to everybody’s taste and we need to be able to reach people who find that attractive. There has been lots of brainstorming and ideas tossed about to move ourselves in that direction. We are at a crossroads in the business where we need to really define ourselves as something different, or to move towards a B&B with all the standard bells and whistles kind of place. There are too many of those in our area and being able to offer an experience of farm fresh, wholesome produce in a quiet country getaway where you can learn about living life differently, is what makes us tick! We are nervous as we approach our first peak season in the guesthouse but look forward to what we will learn from this, and what next year holds.
And so, on this rainy December morning, we embark on an adventure into making our own cheese for the first time!
Thank you for following our blog this year, please feel free to give feedback on what you’d like to see us sharing next year.
See you on the other side of 2017!