The lamb saga on the farm continues…

 This photo op sent me swooning with delight.  Too cute for words.

Fascinating Fact of the Day about Witheridge: 
From this site:

The village of Witheridge is set in a gloriously scenic area dominated by the waters of the Rivers, Little Dart, Dalch, Taw, and the lovely River Mole. It is a charmingly un-spoilt village that has clung steadfast to its rural way of life, with farming mostly at the economy’s center. The village is perhaps best known for its beautiful village church. This has a sturdy clock-face tower crowned with pinnacles and is surrounded by an attractive churchyard. There is a village store, a post office, and a newsagent. Two village inns provide good food and lively conversation – the pub is the place to be if you want to meet the locals! Witheridge is on the Two Moors Way. Thus it offers easy access to the delights of both Dartmoor and Exmoor. The townships of Crediton and South Moulton are both just a short drive away.
We’re still reeling over the entertaining experience we both had on Tuesday while assisting John and Renate in herding the 6-month old lambs from a paddock located across the road to the fenced area where the barns and outbuildings are located.
At one point, the lamb herd wandered over to the pond next door to our house, Pond Cottage. We couldn’t help but laugh.

I can’t help but tease Tom over his participation in this process as a competent shepherd. Moving this many sheep at one time always requires a third person to assist, most often a neighbor or friend.

The lambs wandered off to wherever they liked with little regard to the mission at hand.
Knowing we wanted to take photos, they asked Tom if he’d take the role of the third person while I would do what I could with both of my hands on the camera poised to take photos, and videos are shown in yesterday’s post here.
They checked out the pond.
Although we’ve always appreciated the work of farmers, we had no idea how challenging a process such as this can be, along with all the other endless chores facing a farming family.  
They stopped to graze on some fresh grass, far from where they were headed.
Living on this farm in Witheridge gave us an entirely new perspective. Not only do John and Renate handle 350 sheep (they have professionals do the steering), but they harvest tons of apples from their orchards and make their cider and apple cider vinegar. (Tomorrow, we will post photos and details for this fascinating process).
Finally, they acquiesced and entered the area to which they’d be nudged along. 
In addition, they have a good-sized garden, greenhouse, and apple orchard to maintain and harvest, wood to gather, chop, and sort for the wood-burning stoves, chickens, ducks, and geese to feed, the day-to-day management of the sheep, and the maintenance and management of their substantial 500-year-old house and of course, this separate house we’re renting. 
The chickens were curious as they watched the lambs herded into the barn.
John is on his tractor many hours each day. Renate works right along with him. The most fantastic aspect of this well-managed farm they handle without permanent staff is that they are both in their 70’s. John is 79! We can’t imagine working so hard at this point in life, but they seem to enjoy it thoroughly.  
With all of them in the fenced area, John nudged them along further.
John and Tom have spent hours chatting. They have similar views on many topics and can’t seem to get enough.  Unfortunately, they are leaving on holiday late tonight and won’t return until after we’re gone. We’ll be alone at the farm, but they have a friend coming to feed the chickens, ducks, geese and check on the sheep.
Still, a little resistance from the young ones.
They encouraged us to wander about at our leisure while they are away, and when there’s a sunny day (if there’s a sunny day), we may do just that. The grass, the rocky paths, and the walkways are slippery and muddy from the constant rain.
With all of them inside the fenced area, John and Renate locked the gate.  John is a retired doctor (no retiring for them working so hard on this 150-acre farm) and handles most sheep’s health issues with expertise and ease.
Today, when it stops raining, we’ll head out to the garden to pick a few tomatoes for dinner and see if we can roust up a few more tender morsels this late in the season.

May you have a fine day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 3, 2018:

A giraffe visiting our garden was quite a thrill. We’d seen this large male at other locations in the park.  For more photos, please click here.

Tom, the shepherd…A truly exciting farm experience…Out sightseeing, late posting…

Part 1…Tom, the shepherd…
Part 2…Tom, the shepherd…

Fascinating Fact of the Day about Devon: 
From this site:

Devon is home to the last castle built in England:
Not everything in Devon is really, really old. Castle Drogo dates from 1930 – and is the last castle to have been built in England. In 1910 Julius Drewe bought about 450 acres south and west of the village of Drewsteignton and asked Edwin Lutyens to build him a castle. The First World War and the economic downturn caused many delays. Exeter City Council had nothing to do with this one. The castle’s defensive characteristics are purely decorative and it had electricity and lifts from the outset, with power being supplied by two turbines on the river below.”
It’s 5:30 pm (1750 hours) and we just returned from a day of sightseeing when this morning we awoke to much-appreciated sunshine.  Based on the weather reports we may be bombarded with more rain over the next several days making today our big chance to get out.

When we noticed the sun was shining first thing this morning with the sky mostly blue with few scattered clouds, we hoped it would last throughout the day and to our delight, it did.  
Suddenly, they’ll stop and decide to go back the way they came.  It takes some coaxing to get them walking in the correct direction.  The sticks are never used to hurt them, only to guide them along the way.  It definitely is a minimum of a three-person job.  They often bring in outside help to assist when possible.  But, we were here and thrilled to assist.

Now, we see the grey clouds rolling in leaving us grateful we’d made this decision. We took many photos, but first, over the next few days, we’re thrilled to be sharing today’s photos and the heartwarming experience we both had yesterday when John and Renate asked if Tom could help with herding the sheep.

Finally, they were headed in the right direction.

Of course, my job was to take photos and assist when and if the lambs took off in the wrong direction near where I was standing. Each of the four of us had a specific spot as to where to stand. I didn’t have any sticks for guidance with my hands busy with the camera but Tom was well-equipped.

The lambs (150 of out a total herd size of 350), all born in March or April this year, began their journey down the road to be moved to the barn for worming and later returned to a different paddock.  Tom had two long sticks to help Renate and John with the shepherding while I took photos.  

He couldn’t wipe the smile off his face, nor could I. He’s not necessarily a farm-type of guy. His grandparents, mother, and father both grew up on farms. Renate said he was a “natural” sheepherder. Perhaps sheepherding is in his DNA!

Where we lived in Minnesota, we had some exposure to farms, by purchasing free-range eggs, chickens and organic produce from local farms. We always appreciated the hard work of farmers and the commitment to the lifestyle.  

After considerable guidance, they were headed to the barn.

A few times over the years we attended gatherings at various farms owned by Tom’s relatives or our friends.  We always treasured the experiences. Since we began our travels seven years ago as of October 31st, we’ve had the blissful opportunity to live on a few farms. This beautiful farm is the second in the past 30 days.

It’s always a treat to have an opportunity to interact with the farm animals and yesterday’s example will remain in our hearts and minds as one of our favorite hands-on experiences in our travels.

At one point, they turned and made an incorrect turn (herd mentality) and again, Tom guided them back in the right direction. 

For us, the “experience” has so much more meaning than seeing one more historic stone building, one more church or one more museum.We’ve already done that. And, no doubt we’ll continue to do that again for many years to come (God willing).

However, experiences such as yesterday’s sheep herding is hard to top in our realm of things. We loved every moment and we look forward to sharing more farm photos in the next few days. Please check out our videos, albeit a little jittery when I had to pitch in and assist.

This adorable boy wanted some attention which Tom and I freely offered.  So sweet!

From there we’ll share our sunny day photos of the Torquay, known as the English Riviera.Thanks for your patience in being able to see this late post. Please check back for more each day!  

Photo from one year ago today, October 2, 2018:
It’s important to always stop and wait patiently when wildlife is crossing the road.  No honking necessary!  They’ll move on.  For more photos, please click here.

Thinking back to many months ago…Five days and counting…More favorite photos…

Downtown Clifden.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“Connemara Chaos is a region of chaotic terrain on Jupiter’s moon Europa.”

After a much-needed good night’s sleep, I awoke this morning determined to get started packing, beginning with all my clothes in the master bedroom’s walk-in closet. 
Twenty minutes later, all of my clothing was neatly folded in my suitcase. I’d even begun packing the “supplies” suitcase which I’ll complete later today or tomorrow leaving out toiletries we’ll use over the next several days.  
An island in the lake.
I’ll place those items in a large ziplock bag for easy access for our overnight in Dublin and following two nights in Amsterdam. TDuringthose three days and nights, the clothing I’ll wear will be left on top of the other clothes in the suitcase, again for easy access.
While packing this morning, I couldn’t help but recall packing in Marloth Park as we prepared to leave almost three months ago. Where has the time gone? This morning as I packed in blissfully cool weather, I asked myself how I managed in the heat in South Africa during those last three months as I edged closer to be well enough to fly the long distance to Ireland.
Ruins in the area.
Sure those last three months were February, March, April, and part of May which are cooler during the summer months in Africa. But, it had been unseasonably hot during that period with humid temperatures well into 32Cs, 90Fs.
Without aircon in the house except for the master bedroom and numerous power outages, it was a difficult time. Looking back to how awful I was feeling then, I don’t know how I got through it.  
A Belted Galloway grazing among the rocks.
On the other hand, Tom was continuously busy cooking and caring for me. He, too, was feeling the heat along with the brunt of the seemingly endless power outages, and occasional water outages. It wasn’t easy.
And yet, when I was finally able to go out on the veranda during the last two to three weeks before we left, seeing the wildlife a few more times, made all of it worthwhile and bearable.
Ruins of a former home, partially restored.  It appears the house is occupied.
Oddly, many of our favorites came by, as if to say goodbye which brought tears to my eyes, how we loved our time in South Africa with only the final three months being difficult after my four surgeries. Also, sit was challenging to say goodbye to all of our friends, not knowing when we’d see them again.
We may be banned from South Africa for five years based on the fact we overstayed our visas by those three months. Although we’ve produced medical documents to request a waiver, we may never be approved.
This beautiful horse appears to be pregnant.
All of that is behind us now and although my recovery still continues, especially as I wean myself off several toxic drugs, those last three months in Africa have become somewhat of a distant memory.
This afternoon, I may go back upstairs to pack a little more.  In the interim, we’ll go about our day. Not unusual, it’s another dark and rainy day. We’ve already chopped and diced everything we’ll need for dinner and can sit back and relax knowing our time to leave is coming near.
One of the many small fishing boats we see daily.
May you have a peaceful weekend.
Photo from one year ago today, August 3, 2018:
The closest living relatives of hippos are porpoises and whales. For more Kruger National Park photos please click here.

Cruise upcoming…Six days and counting until we leave Connemara…Favorite photos continue…

Sunset across the bay.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland Halloween originated in Ireland. Halloween as we know it today actually originates from the ancient Celtic
festival of Samhain, when the people would light bonfires and wear scary
costumes to ward off unwelcome spirits. Samhain is an old Gaelic word which
translates to ‘darker half,’ thus marking the beginning of winter.”

It’s been easy living in Connemara, Ireland. We didn’t go out more than necessary for shopping and minimal sightseeing. We had Ann as our weekly house cleaner each week, except three weeks when she was ill. Tom did the bulk of the cleaning in her absence.

We cooked easy but delicious meals, healthful and suitable for my way of eating.  The kitchen is well stocked with almost everything we’d use during a three-month stay. (We’ve since replaced the French Press coffee plunger, which Tom accidentally broke last week).

The only drawbacks to the house were the spiral staircase and its difficult-to-use oven, which prevented us from using it more often than necessary. It’s part of the complicated stove used for heating the house and water system and requires 30 minutes to preheat the oven with inconsistent temperatures.

Kylemore Abbey castle…quite stunning.
Everything else has been ideal. There are two beds in the master bedroom which allowed me to avoid the risk of Tom bumping into my still-healing incisions.  In the future, we’ll be sharing a bed once again, as we always had and ultimately prefer…in a mere six days.

The living room has been comfortable for us after we moved the furniture around to suit our needs with comfy chairs with views of the sea and other comfy chairs facing more ocean views and the flatscreen TV.  

Kylemore Abbeys Victorian Garden.
Unusual for us, we’ve spent a lot of time with the TV on, not necessarily watching anything during the day but enjoying our streamed shows in the evenings, which we download from various sites, some free, others paid.

At 1630 hours, 4:30 pm, each evening, we’ve settled into “happy hour” seated in the two comfy chairs looking out to the ocean from the big picture. Tom had a cocktail while I had a glass of red wine.   

World-famous food truck, Misunderstood Heron, draws tourists from all over the country.
An hour later, we’d be drinking iced tea (for Tom) and Pellegrino sparkling water (for me) as we’d get busy putting dinner together with a plan to sit down to eat by 1800 hours, 6:00 pm.

After dinner, Tom cleaned the kitchen while I figured out the evening’s viewing, setting up my laptop with the HDMI cord hooked to the TV. Since it stays light so late, I’ve stayed up later than in the past, and we often “knocked off” three favorite episodes.

View of Killary Fiord from the Misunderstood Heron.
Endless chatter and laughter between us ensued during the day and well into our viewing time in the evenings. Often, we’ve had to replay a portion of a show when we were talking over it. It has been a favorite time of the day for both of us.

Was I going forward?  Everything will change. Two days in Amsterdam and then onto the cruise won’t necessarily allow time for lounging. I’m so used to lying on the sofa when I run out of steam. I’m going to have to push through these periods.  

Formerly an actual food truck, the Misunderstood Heron changed to a renovated shipping container, providing more space for food prep. However, it’s still referred to as a “food truck.”
We’ve never enjoyed spending time in our cabin during the day. Mornings will be busy with breakfast in the dining room at a shared table to meet new people. No doubt, we’re ready for some socialization.  

After breakfast, we’ll get our laptops and head to a comfy location to prepare the day’s post taking the better part of the day when friendly folks stop by to chat. We never say we’re too busy for socializing!

What a spectacular spot for boating!
This particular cruise only has a few sea days. We are booked on one two-day tour in St. Petersburg but no others. For the other ports-of-call, we’ll grab a taxi at the port to give us a time of the city for a few hours, allowing us to take photos and experience the local charm.

Evenings, we’ll head to the Crown & Anchor Society complimentary happy hour(s) for priority club members such as us, usually hanging out with other passengers.  Appetizers are typically served at this time; often, I can have: raw veggies, prawns, and a variety of imported cheeses.

After the happy hour, we’ll head to dinner for a shared table in the main dining room. We prefer not to have assigned seating which requires sitting with the same passengers each night.  

The Misunderstood Heron’s view from their backyard.  
We seldom make dinner reservations and show up at the dining room, usually by 1930 hours, 7:30 pm, whenever we’re ready to eat. Generally, the queue is short, and the wait is insignificant. We’ve found that choosing when we want to dine and the freedom to be seated at a shared table with new passengers each evening creates a more well-rounded experience for us.

I can only hope and pray I can do all of this. At this point, I have no idea. Thank goodness Tom is supportive of what I will and won’t be able to do. This takes a lot of pressure off of me. So, we’ll see how it goes.

Have a fantastic weekend!
Photo from one year ago today, August 2, 2018:
What an animal!  We feel fortunate to have been able to get today’s photos of lions. For more lion photos, please click here.

Starting to wind down…Seven days and counting…Trying to get well…

Family of four walking along the road.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“The shamrock is not the national symbol of Ireland. The shamrock is recognized worldwide as a symbol of Ireland and the Irish, but the harp is the official National Symbol of Ireland. You can see the real harp on which the symbol is based at the Trinity College library, which dates back to the fifteenth century.”

As I struggle to wean myself off yet another dangerous drug, Amiodarone, that had recently caused me to bump into walls, feel dizzy, and be very unsteady on my feet, I feel exhausted and out-of-sorts.  
The drug has a long half-life and may take a year to get entirely out of the patient’s system. Here is a document on its awful side effects. Here’s additional information from the US FDA, which considers the drug with a “Black Box” warning.
We often see abandoned boats along the shore overgrown with vegetation.
After reading tons of information on this drug and having been told by the surgeon I could get off these and other drugs “in a few more months,” at my last visit, and when I began experiencing side effects, last Saturday I took the last pill, going cold turkey. It will take a long time for the side effects of the drug and the weaning process to subside. I couldn’t wait another day.
Why get off such a dangerous drug so close to the time we’re leaving? The side effects were worsening daily, and I felt I had no choice. Side effects may easily result in permanent damage to many parts of the body.
Cloudy reflections on the lake.
If you are currently taking this heart medication (or others), please talk to your doctor before changing or stopping the dose. For some, this could be life-threatening. I am not offering any form of medical advice. I am only sharing what has happened to me.
I’d hoped once I stopped the statins, I would feel better—foolish me. I have two more drugs to wean myself off of but won’t do so for some time until Amiodorane is more out of my system.  
Wildflowers are blooming throughout Ireland this time of year.
This drug is used for an irregular heartbeat, known as AFib, which I only had in the hospital while in ICU. Once at “home,” I had no more incidences.
Due to the nature of this drug, my resting heart rate has been too low, often in the high 40’s. It’s no wonder I have been so exhausted and lacking in energy.  Why I was given such high-risk medications baffles me.  
Yellow irises at the water’s edge.
I wish I’d been told the risks and could have made my own decisions. But at the time of the surgery, I was frightened, confused, and relying on medical professionals to decide for me. I wish I’d been more curious about the medications instead of taking them blindly.
Now, I am on my own, trying to figure it out. I contacted the doctor for advice but he made it clear I am no longer under his care based on the fact we have left South Africa.  
Even the craggy rocks appeal to the sheep during times of rest.
I do not want to go to a cardiologist at this point. I was told to see one on the first anniversary of the surgery providing I wasn’t having heart issues which I am not. The only problem I’m having at this point is the side effects of various dangerous heart medications.
No, I won’t get out my soapbox about Big Pharma and how its influence has become worldwide. That’s for another day. Right now, I’m looking forward to not walking into walls and doorknobs and feeling steady on my feet. Hopefully, soon that will come but I have to be realistic that I may need to get off more drugs to feel totally well which could take many more months.
Sheep family on a hill.
I deliberated over whether I should mention this here. But, after being so candid all along, and if any of my experiences helps only one reader in some small way, it is worth it. Again, please consult with your doctor for any medication changes.

Today, I will begin packing in bite-sized pieces over the next several days instead of rushing at the last minute. I always dread packing, but once I get started, I realize how easy it is.

Thanks for listening. Have a fantastic day!
Photo from one year ago today, August 1, 2018:
Our bird feeder is often surrounded by hornbills. For more photos, please click here.

Turning a corner?…Perhaps the time has come…I made a pie!…

Tom called me outside to see the tiniest baby kudu we’ve seen to date.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This adorable young kudu, most likely born in the past 24 hours, was waiting for an excellent opportunity to suckle, noticing mom was preoccupied with the pellets.

Ironically, the first thing I did for myself during this long recovery period was to bake a pie, my favorite low-carb cheese pie, to be exact. Losing so much weight since we returned from the hospital nine days ago, from surgery 20 days ago, I knew I needed something sweet to help me stop losing weight.

Statistically, coronary bypass patients do better when they don’t lose much weight after this major surgery. I can’t get the photo out of my mind when seeing former president Bill Clinton a few months after his surgery looking 25 years older than his actual age at the time, 58 years old. Here’s his story at this link.

I will make every effort to be fit and healthy during the recovery period and for years to come after that. Vanity aside, I don’t want to look worn and haggard as he did months after the surgery.
With the umbilical cord still evident, they most likely were born in the past day or so.

On top of that, he suffered from severe cognitive dysfunction, as specified in this article. I may not feel great yet and still experiencing a fair amount of pain and discomfort, but my mind is as sharp as ever, if not more so, from increased blood flow to my brain.

From the article mentioned above posted by one of the world’s top cardiologists, John McDougall, the following is stated:

“In 2001, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 5-years after bypass surgery, 42% of patients showed a decline in mental function of approximately 20 percent or more. A study published this year (2008) in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery using MRI testing after bypass surgery found brain damage in 51% of patients. Three years after their time on the bypass pump, a significant permanent reduction in mental capacity was identified in 31% of patients. I am not talking major stroke here, but these patients can’t remember names or numbers as they once did, experience sleep disturbances (including nightmares), suffer mood swings and lose intellectual acuity. Approximately 30 percent of people suffer persistent depression, and some even contemplate suicide.”

This was quite a sighting for both of us.

Wow! It’s a good thing I didn’t see this article before I agreed to the surgery! Not only do I remember almost everything that transpired in the ICU unit and later the hospital ward, but I also remember the most minute details of trips we’d planned well into the future and trips we relished in the past.

I am so grateful for this, and if I have to continue to experience some pain and unease over the next many months, so be it…a small price to pay for one’s retained mental acuity.

Thus, this morning with the scale showing another loss of a kilo (2.2 pounds), I knew I had to up the ante on my caloric consumption while remaining my regular way of eating. Both cardiac physicians explained I didn’t develop three 100% blocked arteries from my diet, instead clearly stating it resulted from my heredity—no need for a dietary change.

After all, my typical meal includes a reasonable portion of lean protein, two types of colorful vegetables, and a salad. What way of eating could dispute the quality of this way of eating?

By making this favorite pie (since my childhood), I can afford myself an extra 350 calories with each slice with less than five grams of carbohydrates. Plus, it’s a feel-good pie making me smile at every delectable bite.

Too cute for words.

As much as the value (to me) of enjoying a piece of this pie over the next several nights, I wanted to see if I could make the pie in my weakened condition.  Everything I read about recovery from this surgery mentions getting back into a routine of performing tasks I’d done in the past without any strain on my body.

Right now, I’m walking 30 minutes a day, sitting up for the better part of the day, able to shower and take care of personal needs, and do my breathing exercises with relative ease. Surely, making one pie wouldn’t be more strenuous than any of these other tasks.

It wasn’t. Yes, I had to ask Tom to take the mixer down from a high cabinet, but once that was accomplished. The delicious pie crust was baked with almond flour, butter, cinnamon, and sweetener and allowed to cool. I easily made the filling, poured it into the baked pie crust, and gingerly placed it into the oven setting a timer as I always do.

Once cooled again, I’ll add the topping and place it in the fridge, looking forward to the first bite and the second, third and fourth. I take tiny bites to savor each morsel. I’ll gather my innate sense of self-control to avoid taking a second piece, remembering that prolonging the availability of this pie makes it all the more delightful.

This may be a segue into performing more tasks shortly, of course always keeping in mind my clear thinking mind that the baby steps is the name of this game.

Have a safe and healthy day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 4, 2018:

This female bushbuck flipped into the air after something bit her! For more photos, please click here.

Part 3…Outstanding day in Kruger National Park…Elephants are amazing!…People are too!…A fabulous night at Jabula…

Video #1 – A surprise participant in the background.
 Video #2 – Playful elephants.
 Video #3 – More elephant antics.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A very young impala.

It’s Wednesday morning, a typical day in the bush. Vusi and Zef are cleaning the house. The Mom and Babies (four piglets) are busily munching on pellets at the edge of the veranda. Ms. Kudu left a few minutes ago after she’d had her fill.  

The sky is partly cloudy, and we’re in for another cool day. There are thousands of dead insects on the veranda floor overnight (a daily occurrence). Soon, when the interior of the house is clean, Vusi and Zef will come outside to clean the veranda while we’ll go inside to get out of their way.
The matriarch was watching the youngsters play in the Sabie River.

Once they’re done, we’ll come back outside to spend the balance of the day outdoors, as we always do, busy working on the post and plans for the future. Tom spends some time on Facebook and Ancestry while I work on projects around the house.

Once I’ve uploaded today’s post, I’ll finish doing laundry, preparing tonight’s dinner, and perhaps work on some items to be packed for our departure in 15 days. Today’s project is neatly folding all of our “bugs-away” and safari clothing I’d washed yesterday and have since dried. Safari in Kenya isn’t too far away. 

It was irresistible…she joined them.

Last night we had a fantastic time at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant, celebrating Dawn’s (friend and owner) birthday. It was delightful to see how many loyal fans came to extend our best wishes and gratitude for the beautiful job (along with partner Leon) in making this a memorable establishment with great food, ambiance, and service.

Many brought gifts, hugs, kisses, and warm wishes for Dawn. A table filled with scrumptious-looking appetizers and drinks hosted by Leon added to the festivities. 

They wanted to play with her.

If there ever was a “Cheers” type bar, Jabula fills the bill. The new and the familiar faces, the lively conversation, loud laughter, and the ease with which everyone in attendance feels welcomed and included are unreproachable. 

We met a new couple originally from Germany, living in Marloth Park part-time and soon moving their business to live in Florida, USA. We saw old friends with health challenges possessing upbeat attitudes off to work on the next phase of hopeful recovery.  

Finally, it was time to get out of the river and continue their day.

We chatted with new friends we’ve made this time around, along with old friends from five years ago. Tom and I arrived early to sit at our favorite spots at the bar and eventually ordered delicious dinners, never giving up our barstools.  

It wasn’t the first time we dined at the bar when we were having too much fun to go to a table on the veranda. I can’t recall ever enjoying dining at the bar until Jabula.

The littlest one followed close to the adults as they were on their way.

Leon played the role of DJ, and the music had most of us either dancing in our seats or on our feet to kick up our heels. Women danced with women and men, well, they danced with all of us. It was grand. It was memorable, as were so many nights we’ve spent in this unique establishment over this past year.

When Tom and I danced to a slow song, holding close in each other’s arms, I felt an immense sense of happiness wash over me, coupled with a bit of melancholy. But, the melancholy quickly wafted away when I reminded myself that those arms will still be around me long after we depart Marloth Park, and the memories will always remain in my heart.

Thank you for sharing this special time with us…

Photo from one year ago today, January 30, 2018:

This elephant seal was so relaxed, a bit of drool dripped from her mouth. A bath would be nice. For more stunning scenes from Antarctica, please click here.

Part 2…Outstanding day in Kruger National Park…A heartbreaking sighting…Part of life in the wild?…

 A short video of this gaunt-looking lioness.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A herd of impalas at the side of a dirt road we traveled in Kruger.

We often hear others say, “This is life in the wild.” Hearing this doesn’t lessen the emotions we feel when we see an animal suffering. It’s sad to see a human or an animal in pain, ill, or emotionally distraught for any reason. But, the realities of life don’t diminish the emotions we feel when we observe such a scenario when often there is nothing we can do to help.

A few evenings ago, a little male duiker, a timid member of the antelope family, was trapped inside the chicken wire-fenced garden area within our garden. Somehow he’d managed to find his way inside this lush area of greenery and became trapped when he couldn’t navigate an exit.

It was sad to see the lioness suffering.

We were seated at the big table on the veranda and noticed him ramming his head into the chicken wire, trying to escape. Helping an animal, however small, in a panicked situation such as this could be dangerous.

We’d seen a photo where a bushbuck died trying to extricate its head from being stuck in a fence in Marloth Park. But we weren’t going to let him die before our eyes. If residents feel they need fences they definitely should be a type that prevents wildlife from potential injury or even death.  

One can only guess why this particular lioness hadn’t been hunting and eating.

We often wonder why there are hazardous fences in the park. Don’t people come here to be “one” with nature, not hiding behind fences? None of the Big Five permanently reside in Marloth Park and rarely does a lion, leopard, or cheetah rarely find its way into the park. Surely, a fence of any type wouldn’t necessarily protect a human from such a dangerous encounter.

Tom grabbed the long, extendable pole he used to chase off baboons and monkeys and attempted to raise the bottom of the fence to allow the duiker an exit. The poor little creature bellowed in total fear while Tom tried to help.

There is a gate to this area, and we immediately opened it hoping the duiker would see the open exit. While Tom tried to help him, I stood at a distance from the door, hoping to see him escape.

We assumed she was ill or injured.

Finally, after several minutes of him running into the impenetrable wire fence in different enclosure locations, he spotted the open gate and escaped. We both sighed in relief. 

He’s a duiker we’ve often fed and wondered what he was after in that area. Perhaps it was a type of vegetation he particularly liked. Once he ran off, leaping through the air, we wondered if we’d ever see him again.  

A few hours later, Alas returned, and we tossed him some pellets, tiny bits of carrots, and apples. (We always cut the veggies into small bite-sized pieces for the duikers and bushbucks. Kudus and warthogs can handle big chunks but not the tiny antelope or babies of most species).

Every step she took appeared to be an effort.

We were relieved to see he was uninjured and back to his shy little self, often appearing with a female he seemed attached to.  But, the lion we spotted in Kruger didn’t have the potential of a good outcome after we’d seen her looking so unwell.

Sure, we can say, “This is life in the wild,” but that harsh reality doesn’t insulate us from feeling sad for a suffering animal in the wild. Nor, in essence, do we ever want to feel less compassionate. It’s that compassion and love for wildlife that brought us to Africa in the first place. We don’t want to become “tougher” and more accepting of the often gruesome realities.

In today’s world, horrifying videos portray atrocities lodged upon wildlife, many too horrific to mention. Is it possible to see these repeatedly can cause us to become immune to appalling scenes that diminish our ability to feel compassion?

She appeared to have made her way under the bridge where we’d no longer be able to see her.

Seeing the lion in such sorrowful condition left us feeling in tune and touch with nature, that even after many such sightings in this past year of living in the bush, we still care, we still feel, and we still treasure the beauty of life in the wild.  We remain untarnished by the harsh realities.

In 16 days, we’ll leave Marloth Park. We’re grateful for this life-enhancing year in the bush while looking forward to what lies ahead of us.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 29, 2018:

At lunch that day in Antarctica, one of the chefs prepared a beef and vegetable stir-fry outdoors. We all partook of the delicious offering but decided to dine indoors. It was a little too cold to eat outside for our liking. For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…Outstanding day in Kruger National Park…A few first time sightings…So exciting!…

This was an exciting sighting for us, the elusive nyala which we’d never seen during this past year in South Africa.  From this site:  The handsome slate-brown shaggy coat is marked with white vertical stripes and spots on the flanks. Rams appear more charcoal-grey in colour. The rams have long inward curved horns 650 mm (26 inches) and a white chevroned face. They have a ridge of long hairs along the underparts, from behind the chin to between the hind legs, they also have a mane of thick, black hair from the head along the spine to the rump. Rams weigh 115 kg (254 pounds) and measures 1.05 m (41 inches) at shoulders. Ewes are much smaller and do not have horns, and weigh 59 kg (130 pounds) and stand 900 mm (35 inches) at shoulders. Ewes are chestnut-coated with even more prominent white stripes on the flanks.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This is a black-shouldered kite.  From this siteThe black-shouldered Kite is a small, graceful raptor and the most voracious eater in the raptor family. It needs to consume up to 25% of its body mass every day – that is the equivalent of about two mice. This means each bird probably kills around 700 mouse-sized animals a year.
Its late in the day, almost 1600 hours (4:30 pm) and I’m anxious to get today’s post uploaded to ensure we can begin wildlife watching on the veranda by our usual 1700 hours (5:00 pm).
At first, when we glimpsed at these three well-hidden animals we thought they were kudus based on the stripes on their bodies.  But, after further inspection, we realized these three antelopes were not kudus but, the elusive nyala.  

Thus, I’m rushing a little and only sharing a few of the highlights of today’s outing in Kruger National Park, leaving the balance of the exciting sightings for tomorrow.

It was a perfect day to enter the park. The weather was a moderate 26C, (79F), the sky was overcast and cloudy but there was no rain in sight.  These were ideal conditions for wildlife to be in plain view. We weren’t disappointed.
Known to be rather shy it was tricky taking a few photos.
On the hottest of days, the animals often stay undercover from the scorching sun or gravitate toward water holes we’re unable to see from the paved or dirt roads.  With the recent rains many formerly dry waterbeds now have some water to attract the animals.  Considerably more rain is desperately needed to have an impact on the river.  
The Crocodile River we cross upon entry into the park is practically bone dry.  Five years ago during this same time period, the river was practically overflowing as opposed to its current sparse sections of water leaving many animals seeking smaller bodies of water for sustenance.  

It was difficult to take a photo of the three of them together but we waited patiently for this shot.

We took off at 9:00 am, leaving the preparation of today’s post for our recent return. Subsequently, we’re breezing through as quickly as possible and will provide a more comprehensive post tomorrow.

I tried sitting outdoors on the veranda while preparing this but the biting black flies were so bad, I had no choice but to come indoors to finish here.  The sofas and chairs in the living room, although comfy for lounging, are not suitable for working on a laptop.
While we waited we were able to finally able to take a few photos of the individual nyalas.
So i apologize for this quick post but promise more for tomorrow especially since we have some stunning sightings to share that we’ve saving exactly for that purpose.
It was a shame they wouldn’t come out from the dense bush but we did the best we could.
Our plan today was to drive on the paved road all the way to Lower Sabie and to stop for breakfast at the popular Mugg & Bean, one of few restaurants in Kruger National Park. The food was hot, fresh and served quickly based on the fact that we were two of only about eight diners in the entire restaurant.  
After breakfast we were back on the road, taking a dirt road off the beaten path.  It was during this diversion that we saw the two bird photos were sharing today.  We’d previously posted photos of the European roller but never of the black-shouldered kite.
A wildebeest mom and her offspring.
As many of our readers are well aware, we aren’t necessarily “birders” in the truest sense of the word.  However, from time to time when we spot something unique we’re excited to share it with our readers.  Of course, we have a special affinity toward our resident francolins, Frank and The Mrs., and the mating hornbills.
The mom kept a watchful eye on us to ensure we were no risk to her young calf.
There were few tourists in Kruger although at a few sightings, four or five vehicles were stacked up making it difficult to get into a good position for easily taking photos.  

In these circumstances, our mutual patience and persistence pays off.  We picked a good spot and waited for a better position to open up.  Eventually, other observers lost interest and moved on, enabling us to move into a better location.  
This was the first photo we’d taken of a tree squirrel in Kruger National Park.
That’s what self-driving in a national park is all about, having the flexibility to do what’s necessary to take good photos while maintaining a degree of courteousness and kindness – a winning combination.
This evening we’ll stay in, cook dinner and look forward to darkness when the flies seem to disappear but then, the pesky mozzies appear.  Oh well, TIA (this is Africa) after all, isn’t it?
This a a European roller.  From this site:  The European roller is the only member of the roller family of birds to breed in Europe. Its overall range extends into the Middle East and Central Asia and Morocco. They are migratory, wintering in Africa, mainly in the east and south.           

We hope you have a pleasant evening and that all is well in your world!


Photo from one year ago today, January 28, 2018:

This elephant seal on Steeple Jason Island didn’t care for our photo taking.  For more photos from Antarctica, please click here.

Busy social calendar over the holiday season…Link to two favorite holiday recipes from our “old lives”…

It’s a sad time right now without enough rain to sustain the wildlife.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This is one of our favorite pairs of warthogs, Mike and Joe, named after two US vice presidents, non-partisan of course, Mike Pence (current) and Joe Biden (last presidency). Tom always says, “The VPs are here.”

We had a busy social calendar in our old lives, most often with us doing the bulk of the entertaining. Scattered among our events were several parties and get-togethers, some work-related, some family events, and some with long-time friends/neighbors.

It was a festive time we always enjoyed, although, at times, it proved to be exhausting when I made too much work for myself while Tom continued to work long hours, day after day.  

Handsome male zebra.

As a business owner for most of my career, I’d take time off work during the holiday season when possible to plan and orchestrate holiday events, including decorating, shopping, gift wrapping, baking, and always sending hundreds of Christmas cards, each handwritten inside the card.

Each year we made over one hundred bottles (wine bottle sized) of Tom’s Homemade Irish cream with hand-designed and printed labels and delivered these in person as gifts to special people on our list. It was a daunting task, but we both participated in the process and loved sharing the holiday treat with family, co-workers, and friends.

Sustenance is low in the bush right now.  Zebras often graze on the dry bush.

When we left Minnesota to begin our world journey, those days were over. There are no more Christmas cards to be sent, no more decorations, no more baking, no more handmade dog biscuits for our animal lover friends and family, and no more Tom’s Homemade Irish Cream. This part of our lives was over.

If you’re interested in Tom’s Homemade Irish Cream recipe and my 
Polish Poppy Seed Bread (Strudel) recipe, please click here.

Only hunger will bring a shy impala to our garden.  

The only shopping we do now is for gifts for our six grandchildren. We agreed with our adult children that we’d no longer exchange gifts or cards. It was too difficult to do so from afar.

Thus, when we “left,” we also left behind all of the festivities, social gatherings, camaraderie, and events we so much. This will be our seventh Christmas since we left Minnesota. Of course, we’ve missed the activities with family and friends, but oddly we don’t miss all the commotion and work.

Impalas are very resourceful in finding food. Plus, they are one species we see out and about on the hottest of days, whereby others find shelter from the sun and the heat.

Overall, we’ve spent the bulk of the past Christmases on our own except for the first in 2012, when we rented a holiday home in Henderson, Nevada, and spent Christmas with some of Tom’s siblings and spouses, my son Richard, my sister Julie, cousin Phyllis and daughters Robin and Wendy and a few friends.  

And then, in 2014, three of our adult children, spouses, and six grandchildren joined us on the Big Island in Hawaii for the Christmas season. During that time, all of us saw lava for the first time, flowing from Mt. Kilauea, and the festivities were many.

The symmetry of the bodies of impalas is a beautiful sight to behold.

The remaining Christmas eves (we spent 2013 Christmas Eve with friends Kathy and Don at their lovely bush home here in Marloth Park) and Christmas days, we were on our own, although we spent all of those in restaurants and hotels. In each case, we had a good time.

Last Christmas, we were in Buenos Aires, Argentina, awaiting the Antarctica cruise departing on January 23rd. Everything was closed, so we ended up eating cold cuts we found at a local minimart. We were the only guests in the hotel. Here’s the link and a photo of our Christmas Day meal. We had to laugh!

Our Christmas Eve dinner last year in a boutique hotel in Buenos Aires, which we repeated on Christmas Day.  We were the only guests in the hotel.

This year, everything is different. Here are our plans over the upcoming holiday season:

Thursday, December 20, 2018: Dinner-buffet at Ngwenya Lodge and Restuarant (we have a standing reservation)
Friday, December 21, 2018:  Dinner at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant (we moved our standing Saturday reservation to Friday)
Saturday, December 22, 2018:  Holiday sundowners and starters at Kathy and Don’s river-view bush home
Sunday, December 23, 2018:  Tom’s birthday dinner at Rita and Gerhard’s temporary home at Ngwenya is a fully equipped luxury on-site holiday home
Monday, December 24, 2018:  Christmas Eve at our house with Rita and Gerhard joining us 
Tuesday, December 25, 2018: Christmas Day dinner at Kathy and Don’s
Thursday, December 27, 2018: Back to Ngwenya with Rita and Gerhard for the Thursday night buffet dinner
Saturday, December 29, 2018:  Jabula Lodge and Restaurant for our standing Saturday night reservation with Rita and Gerhard
Monday, December 31, 2018:  New Year’s Eve party at a popular local resort, details to follow.

Usually, males stop by together while females also visit separately.  

As for New Year’s day, we’ve yet to make a plan, but surely something will be on the agenda. Whew! This busy schedule makes us smile and, of course, feel grateful for our beautiful friends who have included us in their inner circle.

Whatever you do (for those who celebrate), we hope you’ll have a festive and meaningful holiday season.

Photo from one year ago today, December 19, 2017:

Shipwreck in Puerto Madryn in Patagonia, Argentina, a town we toured as a port of call on the South America cruise.  For more photos, please click here.