The beginning of another year! And we cycle again through the months, through the blog posts, the seasons, yet beginning a whole new adventure! The same, yet in a spiral form of cycle. Although we revisit the same months and seasons, we do this with a whole lot of growth and experience below us as we move forward into familiar yet new territory.
If you have ever come across the “Golden Ratio”, the exquisite math employed by every aspect of nature, we can only hope that our growth will be reflective of this natural pattern. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtIf4ky1XJ8
I am reminded so much of the first ever blog post in January 2017… the thoughts, the photos and contemplation that went into it. To be honest, I wasn’t sure we would get to a 2018 blog… let alone actually complete 12 posts for 2017!
The first thing we have noticed about our new spiral cycle for 2018 is a real uptick in the guesthouse. This time last year we had very few bookings … as in maybe one a month! We are now receiving almost daily enquiries, and starting to see our reach being more refined in the guests who choose to visit us. This is very exciting, the start of our vision for the guest experience here at Bramleigh Manor. On the other, a slight anxiety in managing this increase! Last year took its toll on us, trying to manage so many aspects of life at Bramleigh. And a fear of some of the negative past experiences repeating. But hopefully we are more equipped.
The guesthouse has also seen a lot of transformation – the extension of our family suite into a spacious two bedroom, two bathroom unit with a kitchen. Hopefully providing a more comfortable experience with the possibility of longer stays. Our Orchard Suites also received a bit of a facelift. They were the only rooms to escape a major change last year. We also see the close of our Owl’s Nest suite due to a distinct unpopularity. The Lourie Suite replaces this, with its beautiful double volume thatch ceiling and doors opening directly onto the deck. December – January was our first peak season in the guesthouse. With us both working ‘normal’ jobs outside of Bramleigh, having worked a full year, then peak season during our ‘holiday’ time, and then straight back to work has left us reeling a little! We are looking at scheduling a bit of away time in Winter when both the farm and guesthouse are quiet. Maybe an adventure to see some inspiring farms???
Part of a repeating seasonal cycle was the season of heavy rain. We recorded almost half of last year’s total annual rainfall in January of this year! The stream is flowing beautifully with a peaceful lull for the rooms on this side of the house. The rain has been greatly appreciated, although guiltily, as we think of Cape Town in the throes of such a severe and serious drought.
The rain was also accompanied by some terrific storms in the last two weeks. Locals have begun to talk about the concept of “normal thunderstorms” after the last few weeks!! Intense thunderstorms and hail that saw the complete destruction of our entire crop in the market garden. While this is detrimental at this stage of the season, it has also given us time to reevaluate mid-season. Once the weather calms down and the risk has passed, we will replant. The one particular storm (in some areas it has been defined as a tornado???) that finished off the market garden also felled a beautiful tree across our driveway, caused the stream to burst its banks and remain in flood for nearly a week, but also did quite serious damage to the thatch roof. Despair was in full force here for a good few days!!!!!!
Our spirits were lifted by the sense of community and generosity from neighbours, pulling together to repair fences and solidarity in their despair.
We excitedly collected a number of huge old potato crates from one of our neighbours that will be used to grow a wider variety of vegetables, but in smaller quantities. Probably only for us, staff and the guests but it will also be a good test of what grows well. We have learnt a lot about soil fertility in different areas of the property. At the end of 2016 we established a series of raised beds for subsistence growing. The vegetables have done incredibly well in these beds, compared to the market garden. This is due to the quality of soil used in these beds, as well as having been filled with old rotting tree stumps that provide a delicious variety of necessary micro-organisms. A great number of weeds in the market garden indicated that the soil there was very low in fertility and the right kinds of micro-organisms as well as the bacteria to fungi ratio being unfavourable for vegetable growing. Mulching and compost will be added to the beds when we replant to try and improve this but it will likely take a few years. However, the improvement from the attention and growth of a selection of plants will improve the fertility tremendously.
We are looking to start up a new section on our blog just for lessons learnt about soil, chickens, vegetable growing and other bits of information that we learn along the way.
Our chicks from December have grown beautifully and so far, been well protected by their moms. We saw only one loss so far. But now they become more adventurous and cheeky so this is the danger time! We will be converting one of our wood sheds into a new chicken coop where they can be allowed to free range during the day, but if we are out, they will have a secured outdoor area, doubling up as a nursery too. They have done a great job over the last few weeks of fertilising the “Goose Camp” that could potentially be used if we ever needed to expand the market garden.
We have had great delight watching them grow, especially having them so close to the house.
The beautiful summer days allowed us to enjoy delicious harvests of brambleberries, figs, plums, peaches, rainbow chard, and other delights. There was a little bit of competition with the baboons for some fruit, and with the escaping chicks who took a fancy to cauliflower and broccoli!
One of our greatest delights in the last month was a caracal sighting! One has not been spotted here for sometime. We first saw it in the chicken run trying to unsuccessfully escape with a chicken. The second time was waking up in the early hours of the morning to find the caracal outside our window watching the chicks! We haven’t captured him/her on camera yet but sometimes, watching a creature of such majesty requires full presence rather than fumbling for a camera! It is very exciting to see the change in flora and fauna here! But also hence the building of the new chicken coop!
And so that is all for this month, as we begin to soak up the sun of the last month of Summer, enjoying early mornings, warm evenings and gorgeous days.
Check out our Facebook video for the last week of January 2018