Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Note to self. Leaving the plug in the basin with the tap not fully close and going out for dinner is not a great idea.

Selling bits and pieces that we won’t need in Knysna through Gumtree has been quite successful. Although, I did end up caught up in a police investigation into a syndicate selling stolen cell phones. We met the person who was interested in buying my phone at the gate to the Estate, only to find out that it was undercover police, accompanied by one of the people whose phone had been stolen. All very professional, as were the detectives in another vehicle who came across. 
Stellies market on a blustery day, with the mandatory Easter rain marking the official end of summer. It’s been a regular spot for the years we have been at the cottage and something we will miss in Knysna. Bubbles, roses, and biltong for Polly.
A bunch of paintings to new homes. It was wonderful to see how the painting of the elephants too command of the room. Providing different aspects depending on where you sat, and how the light caught the painting. The Cart Horse Protection Association with their paintings creating a buzz of excitement. A gentle coffee with the small doorway painting. Very special.
Last, of last, packed. The cottage of boxes silent. The clock stopped. This adventure, over.
It’s National Poetry Month, and with a box of paintings from Afghanistan, the painting ‘Shattered Dreams’ of a guy with his kite caught in the tree came to mind.

Shattered Dreams

A tree

A boy stands

Dust swirls

Fists clenched

Branches whip

Tears stream

Wind whistles

Upturned face

Fabric tears

Shattered dreams

A kite, caught, tattered

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Braai time in the vineyards. Gentle sunset. Faint stirring of the trees. Seductive.

Mum sounded much better, after hurting her back in the shower, to go with her fractured pelvis and torn hip ligaments. Going to be awhile before she is moving about freely.
The River Nile in South Sudan is the most neglected development issue. Particularly given the useless road system and high cost of building roads through swamps. I pushed hard to get projects funded to upgrade the river infrastructure, one of which (to support the displaced population) has been approved for funding by the Government of Japan. Of even greater significance, the $4.5 Million project will be managed by a female, Japanese, Project Manager who was part of our development program in Juba.
Six monthly melanoma check a tad unnerving. Nothing to be concerned about, other than the ego bruising body scan. 
Perfectly angled to maneuver paintings from their storage in the roof. Between rafters, conduit pipes and the sharp edge of the ladder. For a moment. Balance. Legs of the ladder buckling under that ‘one step too high’. My shoulder bearing the brunt of the tumble. Half roll taking my knee through the painting. For now, a halt to the packing.
Sold another couple of small paintings. Nothing that will impress the bank account, but enough for a few cases of wine. Also donated the paintings of cart horses to the Cart Horse Protection Association for their art auction.

Warm in the vineyards. The idea of autumn shunted into a siding for now. A few chores sorted, and little enthusiasm for packing, we took a drive into Cape Town to shop for new glasses (the wine type) and look at kitchen options for the apartment.
Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Owl hooting at first light. Sunrise walk in the vineyard.

My painting not playing nicely. Canvas size a bother. Composition problematic. Head all over the place.

Cottage full of people as the holidays start. The easy familiarity of long standing friendships where we laugh more. Three hour, slow roasted pork belly in the weber grill worked perfectly. Didn’t manage the overnight salting that was recommended. The meat tender, crackling crunchy.

In the cottage garden, filled with bird song, the first of the summer flowers are almost at an end. White agapanthus still creating a show, punctuated by the odd purple flower. The Shasta daisies are over and the agora is almost ready to be trimmed. The lawn has survived the searing temperatures of the past month and the fertilizer and additional watering will hopefully ensure it makes it through the rest of summer.

Eons ago, we had a holiday that included the farm that belonged to some distant relations. The sort of farm where bales of hay were tossed in abandon by the giant who was a cousin, onto the back of the trailer, and a sofa hid the hole in the living room wall. Nostalgia kindled by our visit for lunch with Dad and Mary at the Dam Fine Cafe in Slanghoek.

Amidst the outside seating, under ancient oak trees. Two old, comfortable chairs, on which the owners sit. Their focus not to the distant mountains, a patch of pink Watsonia’s vibrant against the black, fire ravaged, mountain slopes, but the giant TV screen. Honest and authentic, reflected in the food.

Terry’s dinner menu started with her Terrine de Campagne, with blueberry jus. Followed by Chèvre wrapped in Parma ham, panfried on baby lettuce leaves with toasted pine nuts and a citrus gorgonzola sauce. Main course of baby chickens (which I stole from the oven and did on the weber) rubbed with Karoo salt and Mediterranean herbs, served with green vegetable bouquets. Quite amazing.

My painting ‘Forgotten’, of a women in the Konya-Konya market of Juba won an Honourable Mention in the 2014 London International Creative Art Competition.

Christmas Day, wet and unsettled. Candle light dancing on silver, turning champagne bubbles into twinkling lights.

Green Vegetable Bouquets with Citrus Gorgonzola Sauce
Recipe By: Siba Mtongana
Prep Time : 10 minutes
Cooking Time : 5 minutes

250 g green beans
200 g asparagus spears, rinsed
230 g tenderstem broccoli
12 rashers streaky bacon
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbls cold butter
1 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 to 1 tsp chilli flakes
2 juiced and zested orange
150 g Gorgonzola cheese
Cooking Instructions

Wrap 3 green beans, 1 asparagus spear and 1 broccoli spear in 2 rashers of bacon, securing one side with toothpicks. Repeat with the remaining beans, asparagus, broccoli and bacon. Rub the bundles with the sugar.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and cook the bundles for 5 minutes, turning often. Drain on kitchen paper.
To make the sauce, heat the butter in a pan and sauté the garlic for 1 minute. Add the chilli flakes, orange or naartjie juice and zest and bring to the boil. Stir in half the Gorgonzola, then set aside to cool slightly.
Arrange the bundles on a platter, top with the remaining cheese and drizzle over the sauce.

Slow Roast Pork Belly
Serves: 6 to 8
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours
This is one of the best ways to cook pork belly. The skin becomes crisp and crackly and the meat melts in your mouth. You don’t need to salt the belly overnight but it enhances the flavour, which is why I always do it.
You need
a handful of coarse salt
2–3kg pork belly with the skin, scored
a bunch of fresh thyme (or 4 tablespoons, dried)
a bunch of fresh rosemary (or 4 tablespoons, dried)
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup olive oil
1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine
coarse salt and pepper
Here’s how
Rub the coarse salt all over the pork belly. Wrap it in cling film and leave overnight in the fridge.
Rinse the meat and pat it dry. Finely chop the herbs and garlic and mix together with the olive oil (you can use a food processor if you like).
With the meat lying on its skin side, cover the meat side with the herbmix to form a crust.
a) Braai the meat, skin down, over warm coals for about 1 hour or until the skin is crisp and crackly. Be careful not to burn the meat. b)If you’re using an oven, roast with the skin side up at 200 °C, also for 1 hour. Getting the skin crisp is key.
Get the coals ready in a kettle braai like aWeber. Place a metal or foil dish in the middle of the grid. Add the wine and put the pork inside, skin side up. Put the lid on and leave it for about 2 hours until the skin is completely dry and the meat tender and juicy. You’ll probably have to add a briquette or two to keep the heat up. Don’t overdo it, though. You should be able to hold your hand over the coals for about 15 seconds before pulling it away. If you decide on the oven route, roast at 160 °C for the first hour and at 120 °C for the second hour. The slower the roasting time, the juicier the pork.
Use a sharp knife to loosen the skin from the meat. Chop it into pieces. Slice the pork belly into portions and serve with crispy skin, cauliflower mash and roasted garlic.
Aletta says: For a quicker alternative, use about 2kg pork loin with the skin still on. Braai it like the belly, but for only 10 minutes with the skin side down. Roast or braai in the Weber for 30 minutes.

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Trees, dusted with the pink and red eucalyptus flowers. Yellow-orcha, stone filed earth, shimmering in the heat of summer. Farm dam, relief in which children play with the freedom of summer holidays.

The summer menu at Clos Malverne intriguing. Litchi, wrapped in ostrich and stuffed with gorgonzola. Overshadowed by the simple salmon with avo that was sensational. Succulent venison, delicately supported by the cranberry jus. Dark chocolate creme brûlée (‘crime-brute’ in the auto spell, probably more accurate) with its summer berries, excellent.

An abundance of pink and blue hydrangeas. Purple agapanthus and yellow day-lilies, between emerald lawns. The gardens of La Petite Dauphine in Franschhoek. Our surprise anniversary stop. Red chairs, emphatic beneath ancient oaks. No less attention seeking, than the red dress of a women walking through Grand Central station in the early morning. A French urn, artfully placed, a balance to mountain peaks.

A courier truck loaded with cardboard boxes containing new canvases arrived at the studio. Larger ones than I have been using for awhile, which is a bother as the studio is full of the reneged covered furniture waiting to be moved up to Knysna. That, and the holiday wine stock doesn’t leave much room for paintings. Particularly wet ones!

Survived the spa evening, which certainly worked out the travel kinks. The wind, impatient, full of enthusiastic holiday spirit. Knocking at windows, a ceaseless invitation.

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Aventures

Oxtail perfection only possible with Terry’s three day stock, and Kirsten ensuring bubbles were plentiful. The fire necessary on a blustery evening at the cottage.

Around Stellenbosch are sculptures of people sitting on benches. Part of the ‘Kom Sit’ street art installation connecting people. I used the installation, together with one of the street men who roam around the city for my painting, ‘Kom Sit’. The inclusive, connecting people of the couple in the installation reinforcing the superficial nature of racial integration, with the black figure only present in silhouette. The street walker. Excluded. Discarded. The canvas probably a tad small.

After the market, we sat under the oak trees, enjoying pavement life of bubbles, gelato and sushi.

The wind whistling in the pine trees, and the chimes tinkling under stormy skies. Not this affected our lunch at Jordan. The menu intriguing. The setting, stunning. The wine, delectable. Far too much food in the three course ‘Winter’ menu, but worth every mouthful. The service was a tad sloppy, which was an irritation. The starters, looked fabulous on the plate and soon had us savouring each bite. I should have stopped halfway through the main dish, as the lemon soufflé is mesmerizing.

Terry’s insistence that I see the dermatologist has ensured that there is no additional treatment needed for the melanoma that was diagnosed and removed. A week before they can remove the stitches and the nitrogen burn bits are healed. The ‘Body Mapping’ has confirmed that I’m not a Men’s Health cover, which is a tad humbling. No place to hide under the bright lights and computer enhanced imagery. Not even sure an airbrush would sort it! Interestingly, the specialist isn’t interested in the other dodgy spots, but rather in any new ones, which are at a high risk of being malignant.

The weather has ensured that my clothing smells of braai fires most days. Blue Sky Organics, Herb salt creating a masterful chicken on the weber.

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Grey skies over the vineyards, clearing as we drove over the mountains to see Dad and Mary. Their new Prado very impressive, ready for the safari to Kariba.

Watching the mini-bus taxi stopping at a random spot, before rejoining the traffic in wild abandon, reminded me of Eddie’s observation of the taxi services in Juba Town. Which could be considered as perfect Customer Satisfaction. They stop where the client wants them to. Either to be picked up or dropped off. Waste the minimum amount of time in transit. Have a schedule that perfectly meets customer demands. When they are needed, without having to wait for some arbitrary time bound schedule. My perspective changed forever.

We have spent a fair amount of time at the Zevenwacht Restaurant, in the Manor House on the wine estate, both for its close proximity to the cottage and also for the atmosphere. Complimented by excellent service, an easily navigated menu and their great wines. After the rains, the lake in front of the restaurant is full, and with the oak trees sprouting their new summer growth, the terrace is an excellent late afternoon, or early evening stop. This has on multiple occasions turned into dinner as the lights come on across the valley.

The art in the restaurant is a tad disappointing and doesn’t enhance the beautiful building. Fit with the country style menu or give character to the wonderful wines. The culture of the estate workers, the history of the tin mine, or the unique flora on the farm aren’t represented in any form.

While the majority of the clientele are tour groups, the kitchen still manages to serve food that has authentic spices in the curry that fills the air with the mystery of the Far East. The fresh line fish is from the sustainable Green List, and the servings generous.

The service, is of the best. A place we will miss when we finally move to the studio.

Mountains of presence and strength. Fields of Van Gogh yellow. Cypress trees of Tuscany. ‘Soul Food’, oil on canvas 100cmx50cm. Painting of the view out to the Stellenbosch mountains from Clos Malverne. A large amount of paint made its way onto my shirt, as I moved the canvas around the easel to work more easily on parts. The challenge to maintain simplicity, capture the serenity of spring, and let the scene speak with minimal input, while still engaging the viewer.

Last of the bits from the storage locker sorted. Thrown out, sent for refurbishment or given to new homes.

Scallops Hondash (A bonito fish soup stock, with cream sauce), served in the shell with a sprinkling of caviar the unexpected find at Genki’s.

Awake early after a bunch of strange dreams. Polly restless with the full moon out, and monsters lurking behind every tree. Very brave she is, but I don’t think those who are sleeping appreciate her barking as she puts the world to rights!

‘Black Butterfly’ a movie, about the life of the South African poet, Ingrid Jonker. Beautifully made. Disturbingly sad. I wasn’t aware of her poetry before and may need to be brave enough to read it.

New glasses, sight transformed.

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

An Artists Garden. The vineyards. Jasmine hedonistic, as we watch the sun through the trees. Bubbles, red wine and Simon&Garfunkel while Polly rolls in the grass. Sunset shadows through the trees. Gurgling fountain. Felecia adding spots of blue.

The sun easing its way into a new day. Francolins and Guineafowl, broken voiced, discordant raucous. A quick catch-up with George before we were dragged kicking and screaming into the courtyard at the Salmon bar. Then forced to drink bubbles and enjoy the salmon platter. The only disappointment, for Polly, was that her stream for wading in wasn’t working.

Painting in the garden, my legs hammered by midges as I smeared charcoal and acrylic about the place. ‘Make a Wish’, a carefree illustration of the garden fountain at the cottage in a the vineyards, on a spring afternoon.

Boots tramping through the mud of the vineyards, still oozing water after the last rains. Polly in her ‘Farm Dog’ mode. Mud splattered, wet and happy. My bum less certain after the unaccustomed hills.

A day in the West Coast National Park with spring wild flowers. Mountain sides dusted with yellow and white. Eland walking delicately through swaths of purple and orange. A couple of tortoises forcing the traffic to adapt to their pace, which allowed for that special glimpse of fynbos, and the heady smell of the sea.

An unplanned stop at Durbanville Hills restaurant for lunch, looking out over a hazy Table Mountain. The cavernous interior almost a deck in space. We enjoyed stunning scallops, oysters wrapped in Parma ham. Butternut, spinach and feta spring rolls and a lamb hamburger with bacon, aged cheddar and fig. Lamp sculptures, the standout art in the restaurant. Edgy, without detracting for the main aspect, which is the view. Mirrored in the food, which while immaculately served, doesn’t overpower the wines.

Wine. Laughter. Braai fires. Music. Birds. Red, yellow and orange clivia’s and pincushion protea flowers. Hot days, interspersed with moody, misty weather. Spring in the vineyards.

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

On emerald grass, dusted with gold, stark ribs of garden sofas, squat beneath heavy skies, braced for winter. Maison, for their season ending lunch. Probably a tad too much wine, well anticipated by Terry and Hesta with Nicholas driving us.

An unexpected afternoon of sunshine, demanded a braai. My lack of practice evident in a fire that was too cold to give any colour to the steak, while mushroom skewers were cremated. Patient, tolerant, friends and Black Rock the antidote.

With rain sheeting down, sorting cupboards in the studio seemed a good use of time. Interestingly, there were more electronic bits to sort than paint supplies. Filing of painting pictures organized and old discs and drives cleaned and tossed. The paintings from Juba removed from their travel wrapping, and the print of Mina’s portrait prepared for her.

Lunch with Dad and Mary at Willow Creek on a stormy day. Mountains tinged with snow. Perfect weather for the excellent oxtail Terry prepared, accompanied by Crozes Hermitage. The heat from the fire making short work of the wine.

In the garden, clivia’s are starting to bud and the first of the camellia’s are in bloom. Wild Irises, spots of whiteness amongst the foliage. Lush after the first of the winter rain. The sage is still flowering, attracting sunbirds who somehow manage to cling to storm tossed stems.

Truth Coffee Shop should be on everyone’s list of Must Stop places in Cape Town. Being served excellent coffee by attentive staff in a setting that resembles a ‘League of Extraordinary Gentleman’ film set turns the experience into entertainment. The Croque-Monsieur on a wet, cold day should be mandatory.

As part of International Design Capital, the Castle of Good Hope was the setting for Karmers. Amongst the exhibits, spots of design flair. Casually discarded against the stone of the castle. Unexpected brilliance.

De Grendel, for their very good Pinot and excellent bubbles, watching the storms across the mountain. A charcuterie platter to nibble on as we watched the distant activity in the harbour that could, with wine fueled creativity, been sailing ships of the first settlers.

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Tinged in yellows and golds, the vineyards are welcoming autumn, exhausted from their summer of fruit creation. There are still spots of later harvest grapes, as there are hot days dotted between the cooler weather. In the garden, the first of the Camellia flowers are out, while the fuchsia’s are trying for a last push. Shirley poppy and Blue Flax seeds have been scattered for next Spring. Those that are not eaten by the Francolin!

We stopped in the tiny village of Greyton to see Dad and Mary, and eat lunch at the Vine. Excellent service from Maureen, who must have some Japanese ancestry as she seems to be forever running. Our steak was excellent, and it was good to catch up with Alan and Cynthia who are running the restaurant. The picturesque streets preened for the camera daring you to miss the view of a cottage peaking from behind a line of trees, or that mountain view deceptively concealed by a cloud. Not enough time.

Looking at the move to Thessen, I decided that my kitesurfing gear would not be a priority when I can paddle and SUP. Particularly given my tendency to being carted by the wind across the carpark! An online add, and a couple of hours was all it took for it to find a new home.

Glenmorangie single malt poured over the fillet on the braai, an innovation from Fredy. Certainly the meat was excellent! Pomegranate jewels in the lettuce and dill salad, spinning colours with the laughter around the table.

In the cottage, the new sofa has arrived. Curved to fit at the round table, the wave shaped back creates an arresting line that cuts across the perpendicular and straight surfaces of the room. The material, yellow whirls on a background tinged with grey is a tad intimidating to me and a red wine glass.