Backsberg – yes it’s wine again

Maybe I should change the name of this blog from ‘A pic a day’ to ‘Several pics now and then’. I’m surprised my lack of entries hasn’t elicited complaints from certain quarters ūüôā

We were recently invited to Backsberg by Simon Back when Sarah and I were jaunting around Franschhoek. It had been a while since I sampled some of this fine wine which used to be part of my staple diet, and years since I visited the farm so I was quite excited.  A cheap added thrill was being given the access code for the main gate because it was after hours Рit felt just right to see that gate swing open just for us.

After a brief hullo and goodbye to Mr Back Senior who is shy and doesn’t need gushing females after years of producing some of the finest wines in the region, we settled under trees on the lawn with Simon and several bottles. There was the Family Reserve blend, the Pumphouse 2008 Shiraz and the 2010 Beyond Borders Pinot Noir – so named because the grapes come from further afield, beyond the farm. I’m no wine connoisseur so I won’t go into noses and tinges and other such descriptions – they were just bloody fabulous and I got to take home what was left of the Family Reserve.

I’m definitely a Backsberg fan again. And I enjoyed the story of how the farm came into being, many generations ago – from Lithuania to Paarl, from pogroms to wine, fascinating.

The midges or some such little early-summer late-afternoon creatures were attacking my ankles to the extent that I was covered in very itchy bites the next day. Sarah wasn’t, however, so now I know what it is that causes this devastation on my ankles at the start of every summer: an allergy to some flying insect and its poison. So, to get away from the midges, I left Sarah and Simon chatting, and took a walk in the garden.

What a beautiful one it is too! This is the perfect time of year for all gardens so they all look good but this one lends itself to photo after photo. It’s not enormous, but as I walked along the paths I kept seeing something new and more lovely. I envied the several houses that look out on all this beauty. Actually, I envy anyone who lives on a wine estate but some are more enviable.

So, here are some photos of the beautiful gardens at Backsberg. The grounds staff are obviously very good at what they do because all the plantings, around the buildings, around the lawns and paths, were lovely without being too fussily maintained.

I haven’t forgotten the access code, but I doubt I’ll need it when I take guests there on my Winelands Tour.

Social media – more than just a status update!

Sarah tweeting in Bo Kaap

Previously, I promised to write about the fabulous two days I spent touring with CoZa Cares teachers and I’ve done it on the Tours du Cap blog.

The following two days were spent with Sarah Britten, a social media marketing expert (one of her many talents) from Johannesburg that I’ve known online for about 12 years. We met once, years ago, but I got to know her and her work better through various online media that we both use. When she told me she was coming down for Creative Week and the Loeries I was thrilled that she took up my offer of free touring in return for publicity, and I also arranged a few nights’ accommodation at various places in return for publicity. Win-win!

Social media is now indispensable to promote a business or product but it’s so new and innovative that many people don’t quite understand it. A lot of companies are losing out by not making proper use of it but can’t figure out why profits are sliding. It’s not for all industries but if your clients are end-users you can’t afford to ignore a tool that allows you to engage directly with them. ¬†Strangely enough, of the various people who stood to benefit from our campaign, the only one who didn’t understand it and made no effort to get anything out of it was the youngest person – so it’s not a question of age but rather receptiveness¬†to learning new methods!

The first thing Sarah did when I collected her on day one was to give me one of her paintings. This was a thrilling gift as I’ve been dying to own one but didn’t think I could afford it. I included it in a blog entry about the Nguni Bulls of Solms-Delta. Sarah paints in lipstick and one of her recent projects was a new painting every day for September, Women’s Month, and all proceeds went to charity.

Sarah tweeting while interviewing Shaun, the chef of Fyndraai Restaurant at Solms-Delta

It was fascinating and very informative to see in real-time how social media works, especially Twitter which I haven’t yet used extensively enough. As I drove her around she was tweeting away about everything (including some of my more off-beat comments, yikes) and receiving instant responses, suggestions, retweets, invitations, the workls – our meander got lots of attention, the exact purpose of social media. My Twitter following has already increased, I’ve made some good contacts and it’s not over because she’ll blog about it all on her website, where Tours du Cap is listed and linked as a sponsor, as part of her on-going Creativity project. It’s her belief that if this country doesn’t increase and promote creativity in everything we do and think, we are doomed to continue rewarding mediocrity.

An added bonus for me was that it allowed me to explore more fully certain aspects of where I usually take tourists. In Bo Kaap we went to  a cemetery with the most amazing views in Cape Town. Bo Kaap is definitely my choice for the best views Рyou can see Table Mountain, the city centre, Table Bay and beyond Рwhat more could you ask for?

I learnt even more about Solms-Delta than I knew already – that visit warrants writing about¬†separately, so watch this space but in the meantime a photo of my divine scallops is in order, just to whet your appetite. The chef, a genius and a big flirt, has learnt to cook with¬†indigenous¬†plants – no mean feat because some are quite bitter so it takes a lot of trial and error to get the ingredients right. And there’s no formal training available for that!

Yummy scallops

Sarah was very interested in the creativity of Mijou Beller of ¬†&Banana and she will wear to the Loeries the brooch Mijou gave her – and tell everyone where she got it from. Mijou makes beautiful things – pop in and have a look next time you’re in Hout Bay and I challenge you to walk out without buying something.

As I type, Sarah is happily ensconced at La Pastorale, a lovely Provencal type guest house in Constantia owned by my good friends Sally and Gilles who are making her stay a great one with good conversation, amusing anecdotes, great wine and warm hospitality, ¬†and she’s telling the Twitter world all about it.

We ended a fun and tiring two days at Backsberg and that’ll be the topic for next time.

Sunset on Table Mountain

I’ve been very busy these past few days so blog entries have taken a back seat. I spent 2 days with some very special people last week, I’ll write about that when I have more time to focus properly on what I write.

I spent today with Sarah, a friend from Jo’burg who specialises in social media marketing. As I drove her around Cape Town showing her the sights and doing touristy things she was tweeting all about it. I’m totally impressed at how she finds interesting and amusing things to say about stuff I would not have thought were worthy. ¬†Some of my throwaway comments and observations were all over the twittersphere in seconds.

She has a very large following on Twitter so I’m hoping to get loads of exposure out of this. It means I’ll have to tweet a lot more and build up a bigger following. Social media is unavoidable nowadays and I love it but it’s very time consuming.

We ended the day off with a sunset trip up Table Mountain. There are only a few days each year when it is warm and wind-free up there and today was one of them – what bliss! As it was sunset there were lots of people with sundowners an of course many cuddly couples. I once again cursed my little old simple camera, it’s just not good enough any longer!

Upper Liesbeek River Garden

The Liesbeek River as you don’t often see it

I can’t remember who told me about this but it’s a hidden treasure. Next time you’re driving along the M3 in the direction of the CBD from the south, look on the left after Bishopscourt but before Paradise Road and you’ll see an open piece of grass. You can’t see what’s behind, or rather below, it but there is something very special.

Aside from it being the only section of the Liesbeek River that is not canalised, there is a magical public garden filled with beautiful indigenous plants, several steep paths, a wheelchair friendly path, benches and tables for a picnic or a quiet moment.

Look at those clivias! Clumps of them everywhere.

The most amazing thing about this garden is that it is a residents’ initiative. Locals look after it, pay for most of ¬†it, employ people to work in it, and they are doing a very good job of it. Okay, so it’s a very wealthy suburb and they can afford it but they didn’t have to do it, although it certainly makes the surrounding houses worth a heck of a lot more than the ones 2 blocks away.

Paths, benches, lots of shade… tranquility.

We popped in there today on our way to a proper walk. This is not considered a proper walk because dogs have to stay on a lead, but I wanted to have a look and take a few photos.

It was looking stunning and there were small children playing in the river – you don’t see that often in the suburbs.

Read more about it here and make a point of going to have a look.

Gardening time!

Garden as it looks today, after a little bit of cleaning up. You can’t see the mess that still needs to be trimmed.

I’m receiving ¬†complaints about not blogging often enough – sorry, I haven’t been out and about much on sunny days lately. Seeing as it’s spring let’s go gardening. Warning: lots of pics!

I moved in 18 months ago and it was a horror. What little was planted was overgrown and revolting, including a tree that hadn’t seen a saw in years and the neighbour’s unruly climbers. The previous owner and her tenants were happy with their low maintenance garden – stones and aloes are very undemanding.

The first thing I did was find Richard. Richard is a gem and an expert gardener, as he repeatedly told me. Keen as mustard, he wanted to be here at the crack of dawn or earlier if possible but we negotiated the more civilised time of 8am. He took one look at the place and tutted “Lots of work here”. Then he scornfully threw down my tools, “I’ll bring my own next time” and asked for tea. He understood what was needed and, after tea and a little chat, he got stuck in. Within a few hours he had removed all the revolting overgrown rubbish, keeping exactly ONE aloe, a very large one.

In the process he found a large quantity of different types of stones and paving slabs. The large section of garden that was not planted up but instead was full of small gravel-type stuff and used as parking was dug over and the gravel was added to the driveway gravel.  A path was laid from the stoep to the car, and leaving me with instructions and a shopping list, Richard had finished day one.

The different stones unearthed by Richard. This is AFTER I sorted them into types.
The large aloe is all we kept. We moved it further away and Richard dug a hole that was too big but didn’t bother filling it in a bit so he just dropped the aloe in. It is now half the size of when we started.

Then we built a raised bed (which I insisted on painting myself because Richard’s daily rate doubles as soon as he touches a paintbrush).

Stones for the raised bed.

Richard, bless his soul, is extremely bossy and high maintenance, mainly because he drinks a lot of tea, needs a lot of praise, and has only 2 teeth. In winter soup was easy but as the weather warmed up I found it difficult to come up with things to feed him.

Richard was eager for me to go shopping for plants but I was forced by a sudden tightening of budget to leave things as they were for a while. I would sit at my desk and stare out at that empty garden every day until I wanted to cry. Eventually Caroline took pity on me and so began the great plant donation drive.  I planted.

The planting begins.

Richard was called to action one more time and helped me make full use of each and every single stone and paver we had found. He also helped prepare a vegetable garden, which has yet to be planted – I gave it a full season’s fallow break in the hope that all the weeds would stop growing and all the stones in it would disappear. The weeds are mainly gone but Vida keeps burying bones in it. Well, it’s the same bone, over and over.

I have also received some lovely plants from Pauline and divine clivias from Devos – I was thrilled when he said to leave them in their pots for a few seasons.

Nice and lush!

I’ve spent the last 4 months stepping over and around massive weeds and I can’t see half the middle path so when I wanted to braai the other evening I started preparing early in the day. First task was to dig out the wheelbarrow which serves as a braai (Weber got stolen, as yet unreplaced) and cut back the daisies that were taking over the ‘braai area’. By the time the wheelie bin was full of weeds and daisy branches it was time to braai. In other words, I was at it all day.

The braai

Well into the gardening spirit, I continued the next day and dug up a further few tonnes of weed. Sadly the job is not over yet, but it does look a lot neater and some flowers can actually be seen. It was so good to be gardening again – the aching muscles and the sun on my body, bliss!

Quite chuffed with the great variety of nasturtiums all over the garden. Seeds gathered from various parts of the Green Belt.

No garden is complete without a few ornaments. Here are some of my favourites.

Zimbo Man. I’ve been dragging him around every since I found him in Zimbabwe. He’s carved from a thin piece of slate. I think he’s very cool.

Skull picked up by Paul last year in the Karoo

A couple of flowers …

Have no idea what this is called but it’s extremely lovely and flowers for ages. I had lots. Then came Vida.

Another pretty flower, name unknown.Started out as a stick pilched from Mrs Schultz’s garden.

And finally, Richard.

Wynberg Park

These trees are stuck in an autumn time warp.
Note the boat at the back of the pond, it’s full of water.

I finally made the effort to check out Wynberg Park today with the 4 legged wonder. She loved it, boy oh boy, so many new smells and so many things to chase … geese, ducks, some sort of heron or ibus, and hadedahs of course. And several ponds and mud to cancel out yesterday’s bath. And big lawns – she goes nuts in open space because she can run far without losing sight of me. She exhausted herself chasing the various birds, it’s so easy to please this dog.

There was a gardening crew and I could see they’ve been clearing and cutting and carrying out various gardening activities but I would have preferred to see litter clean-up – in the thick bushes that form a cover with overhang there are plastic bottles and broken glass and tissues and condom wrappers. And this drum in one of the ponds. I can accept that litter in the bushes can’t be collected all the time but that drum?

At one point a white rabbit ran past us (Vida didn’t see it). I felt like Alice for a moment but it was gone before I could follow it. A few seconds later, as we turned a corner, there was another one lying on the path. Vida had never seen one before so she was fascinated. It had died very recently and I was stroking it and wondering what to do when a woman and a security guard came strolling along. She told me the rabbit had been sick lately, picked it up in her arms and off she went with the guard.

There are beautiful trees in the park

This 22 hectare park used to be called the King Edward Park to commemorate the Coronation of Edward VII. I think it  should be called the Williams Park because the land grant was made possible back in 1902 by William Horne, a Wynberg resident and William Morom, a local councillor.

Hard to see because of the reflections but there’s a very protective pair of ducks protecting their ducklings

Four pics today to make up for the last few days, okay?

 

Frank’s garden

I was too lazy to get cracking early today to hike in Silvermine so I decided to go and see what the celebrated Rondebosch Common is looking like at the moment – after all, spring is here.

Clearly my expectations of this common need to drop because it was a major disappointment. ¬†Firstly, it’s very muddy at the moment and I hadn’t donned my lovely wellies so within minutes my feet and the bottom of my trousers were soaked and muddy. Vida loves mud and she’s always keen to share it with me so I had mud all over the back of me as well.

I wouldn’t have minded so much if the flowers weren’t such a major let down. We saw bulbs and the promise of some flowers in the next month or so, so maybe I’ll have another look soon but the more I think about it, the more I believe that huge piece of land is not worth the fuss. They should just give it over to housing or something useful; the locals can simply get in their cars and go walking somewhere else locally – there’s enough to choose from within a short distance. They all have SUVs, perfect for dogs and muddy wellies.

Vangie came along, as well as Frank and his dog Inge. Vangie and I very soon got fedup with the mud in our wrong shoes so we steered everyone back in the direction of the car and went back to Frank’s place for coffee. The dogs played beautifully, we enjoyed a lekker coffee, some cheese and delicious bread from a bakery in Stellenbosch. Frank and I discussed our upcoming tour and we¬†marvelled¬†over Frank’s garden which is a darn sight more interesting than the Common.

And Frank’s garden is an absolute delight which is why I am treating you to several photos of it. They’re all from pretty much the same angle because the sun was too low in the other direction, and I can’t choose only one. Note this garden is not even a year old.

Completely¬†indigenous, full of his beloved aloes, bursting with colour, attracting birds, beautifully laid out, it’s enough to make anyone envious. Considering that mine is a weed infested Vida-bone burial ground I am quite envious but also inspired to pull finger, with or without Richard the Bossy Gardener, and sort out my little patch of ground.

Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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