2012 December – A much needed festive season break.

IMG_0313IMG_0305December is my 6th month on McNicklebee farm and as this is a worm farm, I thought it high time I actually make a proper wormery for the kitchen. I’ve built many different kinds of wormeries over the years, and once again I built this with what I had on hand. 20l bucket, bit of shade cloth and an irrigation tap to tap off the liquid. very simple, but very effective.

DSCF7958Proceeding the success of my hydroponic vertical garden I thought I would do a self irrigating seed tray. Running a organic vermiculture farm comes with a few perks, one of these being a large supply of earth worm vermileachate commonly known as worm tea. This nutrient and microbe rich liquid fertiliser works great as a hydroponic plant food. The design is simple, sump tank is a bucket, filled with water and worm tea, fish tank water pump controlled by a manual timer supplies regular irrigation to the polystyrene seed tray that sits in a plastic lined tray that directs the nutrient under the seedlings and back down into the bucket, Again very simple and again… very effective.

DSCF7966 DSCF7967 DSCF7970 DSCF7973The eye sore that was the varnished natural stone clad internal low wall is now gone, Hip Hip Hooray. With the help of my nephew Don, and a few beers, I finally got round to knocking out that monstrocity. The lounge now flows nicely into the dining room and is the first stage in a more open plan design for the house.

DSCF8029 DSCF8065 DSCF8076 DSCF8081Following the completion of the new water park here in Nelspruit came the official launch organised by my sister in-laws company Find-it Promotions. Armed with my camera and a violently protesting liver, I joined in the fun with free drinks by the pool, to help out with the photography.

IMG_0331The latest garden to be added is the right hand side long garden running along the fence line. Previously a dust patch under the Wild Fig tree doused in shade, the new garden now lines the new circular front driveway and should provide some much needed privacy from the neighbouring house and block off the view of their tools and storage piles. Wild Fig trees have enormous roots that will happily protrude above the ground like octopus tentacles. I used soil from the emptied swimming pool to fill in between these as the new drive goes right over them.

IMG_0336 DSCF8100Last project before the holidays began was my nice new pond. In front of the house and a blight on the landscape, was an old garbage fire pit used by previous tenants, to burn all kinds of rubbish and brush. Being right in front, I decided rather than filling it in, to convert it into a pond. I cleared out the ash and left over branches and trash, carved the hole and shaped it to form a sloping left side, flat bottom and plant shelf around the rest. I lined the hole with plastic, filled with water and did a neat surround with bricks to finish it off.  All she needs now is some water plants and some fish.

Here in South Africa, I replaced cycling the streets of London on my road bike with bombing around on my mountain bike. With a lack of good asphalt and skating tracks in the area, I’ve found running a good replacement for skating. Well to be honest, there is no replacement for skating, but I sure am enjoying the running.

Out at Night is a  group that organise monthly trail running events in White River, a town down the road from Nelspruit. Leaving in the early evening, you take a torch and run an 8km circuit starting at sunset and arriving back in the dark. With evenings as beautiful as they are here, it’s a great evening out. Escape into the twilight,  past farms and through orchards of orange trees, simply beautiful.

DSCF8109IMG_0387DSCF8116IMG_0352IMG_0356IMG_0360IMG_0364IMG_0391IMG_0393IMG_0376


To kick off our holidays, we headed to a place in Waterval Boven called Tranquilitas.

About an hour’s drive from Nelspruit they offer chalets or camping and a multitude of activities. There is cycling with a bunch of single track routes to choose from, some of the best climbing in the country, cliff top trails for a bit of trail running, and an awesome swimming pool complete with a climbing wall overhanging it. Needless to say I maxed out on all the fun stuff and also met the owner Mike, who Dave and I joined for a ride. A special route, through adjoining farm lands, past trout farm lakes, though forests and streams, some lovely single track, some technical patches, heavy accents, right up into the hills and popping out on top of the world. After all of that there is nothing better than sitting under the shade of a tree on soft comfy grass, reading a good book.

DSCF8179 DSCF8182Christmas eve for most people is probably something along the lines of, friends, family, food and all washed down with copious amounts of booze. We opted for the next logical option which was of course tickle torture by feet scouring Thai Garra rufa fish…naturally. The Sudwala caves in Mpumalanga are a well-known South African attraction. It is no longer just a  cave system to explore though, but also offer a restaurant, gift shop and  aquatic peticurocity.

DSCF8198 DSCF8205Christmas was great with lots of good food and family and a South African Christmas past-time that you just don’t get in Europe, beer in the pool!

DSCF8210Cutting the grass is a chore and not fun or relaxing holiday behaviour, so having neglected cutting the grass in a place where it grows so fast you can actually sit and watch its progress with a cup of tea, it is clearly not a good idea. Along with the long grass comes all the exciting creepy crawlies that come with living on a farm. So walking down my passage, just before New-year, I found a cute little Mozambican Spitting Cobra taking a wander elated to chance across such a comfy new spot amongst all this long grass, needless to say I had different plans for his ass and think I stressed the poor boy out while trying to catch him as he regurgitate his lunch, the slower of the frogs we have hopping all over the farm.

DSCF8226 DSCF8244 DSCF8294 IMG_9455 IMG_9473I kicked off my New-year by heading back to the small town of  Waterval Boven. I joined my Nephew Donovan and stayed in a very cool backpackers run by Roc and Rope. We saw in the New Year with a great bunch of people from all over, ranging from JHB South Africa, to Mozambique, France and Israel.

Having climbed them since he was a kid, Don is an experienced climber with an extensive knowledge of the Walerval Boven Crags. It was nice to get back into it and spend my first week of 2013 climbing on some of the best rock I’ve ever seen.

All in all it sure has been an eventful year, let’s see what 2013 has in store!

Happy New-year everybody!

🙂

There to here and back again -10 years in England

10 years have passed since I first set foot  in my new home. England has treated me well, I have had the greatest of times and made the most amazing friends. You might ask though, how the hell did I get here, why and what have I been up to?

Its weird that what started on a warm summers night as  drunken conversation around a table in a bar, would set me on  course so different as to if I had remained in South Africa.

The decision to emigrate was pretty much made at that table and all the details simply follwed in its wake. Back in those days, The Overseas Visitors Club helped me organise my Visa, having British ancestry obviously helping.
It just so happened that my mate Cathy was considering similar plans and my paperwork, passports and visa’s etc were all supposed to be done in time so that we could fly together. But, Africa being Africa, my documents where delayed and I flew a month or so later.

My brother Vinny, who now lives in a most beautiful spot in Spain, was sharing a house in Bristol and he sorted me a room in his shared house. Having missed Vin for many years after he traveled to England, I was looking forward to living with my brother again.

Those where good days, living in the suburbs, just round the corner from work eating tandoori masala chilli two minute noodles in pitta bread. The story of me walking out the door in the morning, letting out the loudest and most inappropriate burp, to the utter surprise of this poor women walking her children to school. Clearly shocked by the behaviour of this tall long haired uncultured South African, she quickly ushered her children away to safety. That story has now slipped into legend and It gives me a sense of pride to know I could mark my arrival in such a way.

First pair of blades I got in England, I got in Bristol. Massive heavy pair of Oxygen aggressive skates. I skated the whole of Bristol flat in those things, in the summer sun on weekends, through traffic and backwards down Gloucester road or late at night, slipping out and hammering it around the dark empty streets and car parks, listening to Linkin Park and Limpbizkit on my Sony Minidisc player…Yup, you remember those.

Eric the little Ford Fiesta was 900cc’s of fun with the heart of a lion. He would carry my to London to visit friends on weekends and the odd road trip here and there. Eric finally went to heaven when I moved to London. The doctor said he had too much rust and he had to be put down.

I lived in Wimbledon for many years and once again, more great memories. Fires in the back garden, inflatable pools in summer filled with cans of beer. Loads of friends and parties and braai’s. Partying at the Walkabout pub down the road or Fulham Slug and Lettuce. Mid week therapy session which involved beer on the couch in Walkabout to deal with the stresses of London living Haha. Summer festivals and road trips to Cornwall and Wales.

Eric was replaced by a Specialised Hardrock mountain bike, who carried me to work in Fulham everyday. Faster and cheaper than public transport and way healthier. When I moved jobs though, I had to switch to catching the train and those long unconfortable train journeys is something I will not miss. But it is those journeys that made going back to the cycle commute years later, all the more sweet 🙂

Vin joined me in London a few years later and naturally after getting our own place together the only logical next thing to do after stocking the fridge with beer, was to get ferrets. Flux Feretini and Loki Goodvibes were our little naughty sharp toothed bundles of chaos. So much fun and so full of energy, we all smelt of ferret until we found a new home for them and moved over to Spain.

A couple of years before the move I had skated to a mates housewarming party and someone asked if I skated with the large organised street skates. Getting home I curiously googled street skating in London and there began my long love affair with the LFNS (London Friday Night Skate) and London Skate groups. I had and to this day, don’t think I have ever met a group of people more open and inviting to strangers. I arrived one day and was welcomed and introduced to people and before I knew it, I was making new friends, going to parties and events and skating all the time. A diverse and interesting bunch, from the investment banker to the social worker all joined by their common interest in skating. I felt like a kid in a candy store with the city my playground, we joined the organised street skates, and did our own unmarshalled suicide skates, played roller hockey or went to rollerdisco. Skated all the heart foundation bike rides, like London to Brighton, London to Oxford, Oxford to Cambridge, London to Windsor etc. When I was naturalised and got my UK passport, the whole of Europe opened up. Apart from normal travel, we skated the Berlin Roller Marathon, Le Mans 24 hour relay in France, RAPS 24 hour in Holland. Skating also led to other shared interests like travel, biking, diving, road trips and hiking.

Between stressful work and soul destroying commuting, moving to Spain was a breath of fresh air. The idea of leaving my friends was difficult, but I needed a break. We stayed in Lalinea, the boarder town next to Gibraltar. My brother and his girlfriend finding jobs in Gibraltar and me living the life of luxury, taking a nice long holiday, drinking and eating under the Spanish sunshine. Mates visiting time to time and we travelled up and down the coast, site seeing and mountain biking and kite surfing. The European economic recession hit literally within days of me starting my job hunt. My potential job leads all dried up and bored of the job hunt and missing my mates in London, decided to make my return.

Moving in with my house mate Saf was the coolest spot of luck anyone could wish for. Living in a block of flats in Putney, dubbed “Putney Towers” and with her also being involved in the skate, so ensued years of fun. The job hunt continued and after a few false starts, I found a great company and a great team with whom to continue my design career. The arrival of Tess in Putney Towers a few years later was icing on the cake as we proceeded to set our energies towards drinking all the wine in the South East.

Plans for my return started to smoulder with a call from my brother in South Africa. Him knowing that I’ve always wanted to own my own piece of land with enough space to do some fun stuff on, he called with a proposition. A piece of land had become available and it was something worth looking into with a variety of option for me to either stay in the UK or plan my return. Making a pro’s and con’s list for such a decision, I soon realised that this was the right move for me and with a 2 year time scale, I would have plenty of time to save some money, make business plans and plan my return to South Africa.

With help from my family, the property was organised and due to options materialising faster than planned, the economic hardship in the UK and the final eviction from our flat, I felt the universe was telling me that perhaps I should move up the date. So the 2 year plan went to a 1 year plan and the 1 year plan went to a 6 month plan.

Standing on the precipice of a new life, I fly in less than two weeks. Although quite a change, I feel like ive been planning for this forever. Researching and designing and collecting idea’s for years, Im looking forward to putting those things all into action. Getting out from behind a desk and getting my hands dirty.

I have set up this blog as a diary for myself to note how things progress and also for you all to see what I get up to. In addition, I am hoping that the projects I will be working on might prove beneficial to others working on or doing similar things.

This is a farewell, but not a goodbye, I look forward to hearing from you all. For those who’s travels take them to South Africa, please drop me a line, I can offer you green grass, clear skies and bright South African sunshine, we’ll ensure the lions and elephants are safely penned for your visit 🙂

I’m sure my travels will bring me back to the UK for a visit at some point, so until we meet again, farwell and good luck.

🙂

Nic