Tom and a wildlife rescue…Load shedding and…water outage…

Yesterday, our local monitor lizard had quite an ordeal when he couldn’t get out of the pool.

Yesterday afternoon, when we were both sitting at the table on the veranda on a scorching day, I looked toward the splash pool and noticed activity in the water. We both jumped up to investigate to discover a monitor lizard trying to lift herself out of the water. We could see she was panicky when she flailed about at the four edges of the pool, unable to lift herself out.

The water was off in Marloth Park due to load shedding, which prevented the reservoir from pumping sufficient water for the homes in the area. Due to this situation, Marloth Park has no water until the problem is resolved by pumping. The backup generators don’t have adequate power to keep the reservoir full, supplying the lines in Marloth Park.

As a result of no water, we couldn’t add water to the pool, and the level was low, just from evaporation in the hot weather. Nor could we fill the birdbath as a water source for many animals who stop by. Many couldn’t reach the low level in the pool.

If a lizard could look panicky, this one did after countless attempts to get out of the pool.

After watching the lizard for a few minutes, fearful she would eventually drown, Tom went into action and got a bucket and a broom, wondering which way would be least traumatic for the monitor lizard. In only a minute, Tom scooped her up into the bucket and gingerly placed her on the ground.

We both moved back to avoid frightening her further, but she lay completely still on the ground for some time. We placed a raw egg nearby, hoping she’d see it and come back to life. But she didn’t move. She must have been stunned by the close encounter with humans. We gave her space, and several minutes later, she scurried off at a fast pace.

She tried all four sides of the pool to no avail.

From this site:

“Monitor Lizards in Africa

Did you know that all species of monitor lizards can swim? It is speculated that monitor lizards swam and island-hopped from Asia and Australia over to Africa. In Southern Africa, there are 2 species of these large lizards that some herpetologists say are more closely related to a snake than a lizard. Like the rest of their genus Varanus, the Nile monitor lizard and the Rock Monitor lizard stand on their hind legs to monitor their surroundings, hence their name. These fast and fierce creatures are sometimes spotted at our lodges in Hwange National Park and we recently captured one of these monitor lizards on video in the Zimbabwe bush.

At one point, she was close to the step but didn’t realize it was a means of escape. The frustrated flailing continued while we watched with concern.

Monitor lizards can grow to be incredibly large, in fact, the famous Komodo dragon is a species of monitor lizard. Of the 2 species found in Southern Africa, the largest size they can grow to is 2 metres long, although this is rather rare. Nile monitor lizards are actually Africa’s largest lizard. The Rock monitor lizard is a bit shorter and stockier but has a longer tail. The monitor lizards use these long tails as oars when swimming and whips when defending themselves.

She was struggling to pull herself up and out of the pool.

Monitor lizards are interesting in that they are very similar to snakes, with their distinctive forked tongues that they use to detect scent molecules from the air. They also hiss when they feel threatened. They are also considered the most intelligent of all lizards, when kept in captivity they can be trained to count to 6 and in the wild, they are able to remember where their hiding places are, specifically the various routes to get there. They are also the only lizard species that don’t regrow their tail after losing them.

They are also excellent hunters and will work together to raid a crocodile’s nest, with one lizard distracting the mother and the other stealing the eggs. Monitor lizards have incredibly strong jaws and will grip tightly without letting go, they also secrete poisonous toxins in their saliva that harms their prey. Being carnivores they’ll eat anything from eggs to small mammals, fish, other small reptiles and birds.”

Tom to the rescue. He scooped up the monitor lizard into a bucket and gently placed it on the ground.

“Monitor lizards are oviparous, laying from seven to 38 eggs, which they often cover with soil or protect in a hollow tree stump. Some monitor lizards, including the Komodo dragon, are capable of parthenogenesis.”

“Parthenogenesis is a form of reproduction in which an egg can develop into an embryo without being fertilized by a sperm. Parthenogenesis is derived from the Greek words for “virgin birth,” and several insect species including aphids, bees, and ants are known to reproduce by parthenogenesis.”

Someone ate the egg. It might have been her, a genet, a porcupine, or a mongoose. We never know since it disappears during the later part of the day when the trail cam wouldn’t pick it up.

Once on the ground, she froze in sheer terror and didn’t move for a while.

Last night and this morning we were without water. A few weeks ago, Danie installed a JoJo (a water storage tank run by an electric pump) to ensure we’ll have water during an outage, but apparently, the pump wasn’t working. He and the electrician were here last night trying to figure out what was wrong. This morning they replaced the pump with a new one and as of a short time ago, we have water!

Last night, we ate our salad and pork tenderloin on paper plates since we didn’t want to leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight when surely insects would appear overnight. We cooked the pork on the braai, well seasoned using disposable tin foil pans. We ate dinner in the dark at the dining room table since, it’s impossible right now to eat outdoors with all the bugs. Tomorrow, we’ll shop in Komatipoort and buy some yellow bulbs which don’t attract the bugs, like white bulbs do.

Her left front leg was tucked under her body, but she didn’t move to adjust it. She looked like she might be full of eggs with her belly enlarged.

We’re thrilled to have water and soon, I’ll take the shower I missed this morning. Tom will do the few dishes we had to leave last night. We’ll no longer have to haul a bucket of pool water into the bathroom when the water isn’t running in Marloth Park. If the water is off for many more days, we could easily exhaust the water in the JoJo. Fortunately, yesterday, only an hour before the water supply ceased, I’d finished a few loads of laundry.

The load shedding continues and based on reports from Eskom, it will continue indefinitely, especially as the weather heats up and more and more people use aircon. It will be a hot summer ahead, especially at night when the power is often off for 4.5 to 5 hours during a 10 hour period and we can’t use the aircon.

TIA…This is Africa…all of the above, “goes with the territory.” We aren’t complaining. We are reporting to our readers that this blissful life in the bush has some downfalls, but it never drives us away.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 6, 2021:

A small band of our mongoose friends. For more photos, please click here.

Yesterday’s memorial service…

This is Derek, the duiker who is a mate to Delilah. He is timid and won’t jump the fence to the nearby garden, although Delilah doesn’t hesitate to come over.

Yesterday morning, we left the house at 10:50 to arrive on time for the memorial service for our friend Bruce Barnes who passed away last week, only six days after our friend and houseguest Jeff passed away at our holiday home on his “dream visit to Africa to see the wildlife. We were shaken by losing two friends in such a short period.

Bruce and his dear wife Sinndee were long-time residents and homeowners in Marloth Park. Bruce owned a thriving electrical business serving the needs of Marloth Park and surrounding area residents. He was only 58 years old and sadly passed from the horrible COPD, which had taken the lives of other dear friends in the past 11 or 12 years.

We met Sinndee and Bruce at Jabula many moons ago and started an easy and delightful friendship with them. We spent last Christmas Day at their home with their family, Dawn, Leon, and a few other friends. It was a day we’ll never forget. We were grateful for the opportunity to spend Christmas at their home and to feel so included.

Zebra visitors this morning.

The Sunday before our friends Connie, Jeff, and Lindsey arrived, we visited Bruce at their home, and it was apparent he was struggling to breathe. It was heartbreaking to see him struggling, but he and Sinndee had a good attitude and continued to make plans incorporating the oxygen equipment they’d have to take with them whenever they’d leave the house.

But, when we left their home a few hours after we arrived, we didn’t feel optimistic about Bruce being able to travel. And then, only a few weeks later, Sinndee found him at home when she returned from work. He had given up the flight and succumbed to this dreadful disease while she was at work. We are heartbroken for her and her family.

A local pastor conducted the memorial service. It was beautifully presented with about 40 family members and friends in attendance at the outdoor braai at Jabula, which easily had ample room for everyone. Dawn, Leon, David, and their staff provided excellent service for beverages and casual lunch-type delicious food. I didn’t eat anything since most of it was sandwiches and fried foods, but I had breakfast before we left the house, so it didn’t phase me not to eat.

A mom and a growing youngster eating pellets.

When the memorial ended and guests started wandering off, we headed to Daisy’s Den to purchase two more bales of lucerne to be delivered next week on Saturday and Wednesday. Tom had to use the squirt gun to chase off the four zebras who were about to wipe it out if we didn’t intervene. They left enough lucerne for other animals who will stop to eat the next few days.

After Daisy’s Den, we dropped off the keys to Louise and Danie’s place for the two guest houses on our property, where our guests stayed for two weeks. Before we knew it, after lively conversation ensued, we were sitting at the table on their veranda, having sundowners (it was 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs., by then), enjoying every moment with the two of them and the same visitors coming into their garden as do ours, which is only five houses away.

I must admit I was a little envious to see their francolin family who visited us last week but always returns to their home. It was a Frank and The Misses and one adorable fast-growing chick. Their other five chicks had been eaten by the genet that often visits at night, perhaps the same genet we get here. The parents were keeping a watchful eye on their remaining chick. It was interesting to watch their behavior. We do miss having Franks at our house.

Zebras often drink from the pool: Lollie, photobombing.

By 5:00 pm, 1700 hrs., we were back at our house with plenty of time to make dinner and enjoy a restful evening at our holiday home.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 5, 2021:

Stringy, who arrived months ago with vines hanging from his horns, has become quite a regular, even responding to his name. Now he visits this house, almost two kilometers away from the last. For more photos, please click here.

Memorial service this morning…Why so many passports in the past ten years?…

Nina and Norman often visit together. Such a handsome couple.

It’s hard to get myself ready for the day when there is load shedding every morning from 7:00 to 9:30. The bathroom is dark unless I open the blinds, and I wouldn’t say I like opening them and showering with the window facing the street. Humans walk on the street in the mornings on their way to work, but if it isn’t humans, a kudu or wildebeest could easily stand at the window and look at me. This can startle me and yet be funny at the same time.

I tried to nap a few days ago (no luck), and first, a kudu stood at the window with her nose touching the glass, looking for me. Minutes later, a wildebeest did the same. They had a look on their faces that asked. “When are  you comin’ out?”  Pellets were on their minds.

The poor animals are hungry, and some have begun to look very lean. Hopefully, the rains will soon fill the bush with tasty green vegetation for them to eat. Last week, we had glorious rain for two days, but we need much more in the days to come.

They posed for the camera!

We have fed lucerne, carrots, apples, veggie scraps, pellets, meat for the mongoose, yogurt for the bushbabies, and bird seeds. Yesterday, we tossed out a few ripe bananas for the bushbucks, but before they got to them, a starling came by, pecked open the peel, and pecked at the tender contents. Even the birds are hungry.

The bales of lucerne have been especially nourishing for them, which we’ll continue until the rains come.  October is the very beginning of the rainy season, as shown in the graph below:

Photo from one year ago today, October 4, 2021:

Frank’s and The Misses’ chicks came to call! For more photos, please click here.

Where are we going in 2023?…Planning for the future…More of Tom’s great photos…

“The Eurasian hoopoe (Upupa epops) is the most widespread species of the genus Upupa. It is a distinctive cinnamon-colored bird with black and white wings, a tall erectile crest, a broad white band across a black tail, and a long narrow downcurved bill. Its call is a soft “oop-oop-oop.” It is native to Europe, Asia, and the northern half of Africa. It is migratory in the northern part of its range. It spends most of the time on the ground probing for grubs and insects. The clutch of seven to eight eggs is laid in an existing cavity. The eggs are incubated by the female and hatch asynchronously. Some ornithologists treat the African and Madagascar hoopoes as subspecies of the Eurasian hoopoe.”

We will leave Marloth Park in approximately eight months and may be gone for a year. We’ve decided we need to pick up the pace and visit those locations we’ve had on our minds for a long time. It’s been easy to settle into an easy routine in this blissful environment, this land of wonder, wildlife, and ever-expanding friendships.

Plus, the low cost of living for us in this country can’t be matched anywhere we’ve visited in the past ten years of world travel. (Yes, this is our tenth anniversary month which we’ll celebrate. We left Minnesota to travel the world on October 31, 2012).

Once again, Tom took some fantastic photos of this Eurasian hoopoe.

Of course, we’re considering what we’ll write about on that special day, four weeks from today. Instead of repeating places we’ve been in the past years, which we’ve mentioned repeatedly, we’ve decided to post a new itinerary and the most significant highlight of each of the ten years with photos, if available.

We are building the itinerary, something we haven’t done in a long time. So much has changed due to the pandemic, which has prevented us from booking venues beyond a few months in front of us, except for a few cruises, some of which have been canceled over the past two years.

Tom was excited to take photos of the woophoe.

At this point, engaged in research, we’ll avoid mentioning where we’ll be going until we are able to pin down some venues, pricing, and dates. By the end of this month, we’ll have an idea of what will work for us. As always, the cost of these preferred locations is a significant factor.

We lost a lot of money on bookings during the pandemic, and we don’t want to risk that happening again. Also, after paying entirely out-of-pocket for my heart surgery and subsequent surgeries in 2019, we’ve had to tighten our belts and be very selective about what we choose to book.

Several Big Daddies have been eating the leaves from this bright green tree in our garden.

Plus, we must renew our passports since most countries require a passport with at least six months left until it expires. We’ll have to start this process soon to be able to go on a few of our upcoming cruises in 2023. We’ll start that process soon. Since we began traveling in 2012, we’ve used up our ten-year passport, a two-year passport, and a four-year passport. We’ll explain why we had so many US passports in tomorrow’s post. Please check back for that information tomorrow.

It’s been a long time since we allowed ourselves to become engrossed in travel planning, other than going on those trips to obtain a new visa stamp for South Africa. As much as we’re enjoying our time in this country, we realize it’s time we can think about the future and fulfill some of our objectives to visit unique locations that have always been on our minds.

A female kudu was eating a potato we’d tossed into the garden. We had potatoes left from our recent friend’s visit. Many antelopes dig for roots and thus enjoy eating most root vegetables.

With the school holiday in full force right now with many holidaymakers in Marloth Park, we plan to stay put most of the week, except for a memorial service for our friend Bruce tomorrow at 11:00 am at Jabula, whom we visited a few weeks ago, before Connie, Jeff and Lindsey arrived, when sadly, Jeff passed away at our home. Bruce was suffering from COPD, a life-ending pulmonary disease.

It’s hard to digest that yet another dear friend has passed away in a mere ten days. We offer our love and prayers for the loved ones left behind in their time of great sorrow and sadness.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 3, 2021:

Multiple species in the garden. For more photos, please click here.

Was lucerne a hit on a holiday weekend?…Funny photo of appreciative animal…

Last night’s photo, taken in the dark from a distance, of Bad Ear resting in the remaining pile of lucerne. Later, his eyes were closed, and he was asleep.

Yesterday morning, after the bale of lucerne was delivered, we didn’t see any wildlife for quite a while. Finally, they started drifting in, one by one; wildebeests, Earl and Bad Ear (who ate the most); warthogs, Busybody, Lollie, Rueben, and pesky Trouble; bushbuck Marigold, Tulip, and Lilac, and a variety of impala, all of whom we call Chevy (there’s too many of them to name).

Last night, some activity was around the bale, but wildebeest Bad Ear laid right on top of it, as shown in today’s main photo. We couldn’t stop laughing after he claimed the entire balance of the lucerne. We took the main photo, and the trail cam picked up the other.

Two young kudus were nursing by one mom. It’s rare for kudus to have twins.

Today is a cooler day, and it feels especially good to be outdoors on a cloudy day. Load shedding ended this morning at 9:00 am, so I took my time getting up. With the increased dose of the medication for my headache starting two days ago, which makes me sleepy day and night, I somehow managed to sleep through the night and was still groggy when I started moving around.

The pain from the Covid-19 headache I’ve had since April tends to come and go right now instead of being constant. Doc Theo ordered a new prescription for me for 35 mg as opposed to the 25 mg I had been taking for two weeks when I reported the headache was still there. But, every few days, I experience relief for several hours, during which I hope it won’t return.

A giraffe visited our garden this morning.

Alas, several hours later, it returns. I can’t pinpoint what causes it to return. It’s not as if I am doing anything to precipitate it. This morning, after that long sleep, I awoke with it, but now a few hours later, I am pain-free for who-know-how-long? When it’s gone, I find myself having a little more energy and using the time to complete tasks around the house. I can’t wait for it to be gone.

Four Big Daddy kudus just arrived and are enjoying the remnants of the lucerne. Also, we had some potatoes left from our friend’s visit, and they are finishing those off. Vegetables are a safe food for the wildlife since many frequently dig up roots for sustenance when the trees are bare during these dry months.

Bad Ear was still sleeping on the lucerne this morning.

We’re staying in today, enjoying quiet time in the bush when fewer vehicles are driving on our dirt road. Many holidaymakers go to Kruger National Park on the weekends. During busy times, they must make an appointment to enter the park. We don’t care to go when an appointment is required.

If that many visitors are in the park, too many vehicles are gathered near a sighting, often too many for us to even take a single photo. We will return when this current holiday period ends in a week. Nor do we care to drive to Two Trees to search for wildlife on the river. We couldn’t find a place to park the last time we headed that way.

When Bad Ear left, Norman stopped by the lucerne this morning.

Sometimes, we worry that the magic of this special place will fade away as more and more houses are built. As more ground surface is covered by homes, driveways, and fenced gardens, there is less and less natural habitat for the wildlife to eat. We see this fact when we drive around and see so many houses being built. In time, the animals could be gone, mainly from dying of starvation. It’s an awful thought.

Many say that regular culling is a solution. But doesn’t that defeat this magical place’s entire value and purpose? There’s no easy answer. There are many sides to this perplexing situation, all valid to one degree or another.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 2, 2021:

No photo was posted one year ago today.

Settling back into our lives in the bush…

Tom took this fantastic morning photo of a colorful agama lizard while it was looking at him.

When the bale of lucerne arrived early this morning, we were thrilled. In a matter of minutes, two wildebeests, Bad Ear and Earl came and dug into it with such enthusiasm that we feared there wouldn’t be enough left for other animals. After their fill, they took off, leaving plenty for the other animals.

Tom grabbed a big chunk of the bale and put it in the garden close to the house where all the bushbucks and duikers stop by several times a day. The warthogs can’t access that area, and since they can get very destructive, it makes sense to put some of the lucerne in the side garden next to the veranda.

Speaking of destructive warthogs, which Lollie is not, there is a warthog our friend Lindsey named “Trouble” that somehow manages, with her bulky weight, to climb up onto the wood deck adjacent to the pool. This happened before we left for Jabula for our usual Friday night dinner.

The only way Tom could get her to leave was back the way she had entered, of the wood area of the veranda by the pool. She was obviously panicky when she couldn’t quite figure out how to retrace her steps. The only option Tom had was to shoo her in the right direction using a harmless squirt gun our friends Marylin and Gary left for us.

They look grumpy!

The process worked. After a five-minute scuffle between the water and Trouble, she managed to escape. I doubt she’ll try to do that again. It’s funny how each of the animals possesses its unique personality. Some are gentle and unobtrusive, and others are persistent and annoying.

Last night, we had a pleasant evening at Jabula with our dear friends Dawn and Leon and other patrons who also enjoy sitting at the bar as we do.  There’s rarely a lull in the conversation at that bar, but if there is, we only need to wait for a few minutes while chatting amongst ourselves, and moments later, others will arrive to liven up the scene.

We consistently arrive by 5:00 pm, 1700 hrs., and usually head home by 8:00 pm, 2000 hrs. We’ll be full from the delicious meal and have had all the drinks we care to have. Even though I drink wine with 5.5% alcohol content, compared to 13.5% to 14.5%, after a few glasses and a can of Sprite Zero, I’ve had my fill.

When we’re with other guests, we’ll stay later when involved in a fascinating conversation. This has happened on many occasions over the years. But, we always prefer to get back to our house before 9:00 pm, 2100 hrs., to be able to stream an episode of a series we may be binge-watching.

This morning, we headed to the shops in Marloth to buy a jar of a cream that I’d used in the past. Bulbinella helps with itching from bites or rashes. Often, at night I awaken to something itching. It could be as simple as one chigger bite. I’ve tried many products, and this cream seems to help the most. Tom rarely has any itching during the night or even during the day.

We had lucerne delivered this morning. Norman and Noah arrived in no time to partake of their favorite food.

We’re staying in for dinner after being out the past four evenings and will eat leftovers we froze earlier and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator. We aren’t buying much meat lately due to the load shedding, often for as much as ten hours a day. There will be load shedding tonight when we’d be reheating our dinner. We can always reheat our dinner on the gas stove using a lighter to light a burner if necessary. The oven is electric.

The holidaymakers have arrived. The excess vehicles on the roads make this evident. The WiFi is another way we can tell they are here when the signal comes and goes. This time, it’s for about ten days, so they should be gone by a week from Monday, and our usual animals will return. So far, today, we’ve had luck with several visitors due to the lucerne. Maybe this is a recurring solution for us during holiday periods to ensure we see our animal friends.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 1, 2021:

Zebra’s tails appear to be braided, but they are not. The pattern on their tail hair creates this illusion. For more photos, please click here.

Our friends have left…Leaving so much behind…Lindsey’s photos…

Lindsey took this fantastic photo of these four zebras lined up to eat pellets off the railing on the veranda.

Losing a loved one while in a foreign country on holiday is terrifying. Over the past few weeks, we witnessed first-hand the sorrow, the legal process, and the angst over the complicated documents and procedures necessary to complete the mountain of paperwork required.

Connie faces complicated legal issues in transferring all that accounts in the US require. But she’s highly competent and organized, and we have no doubt she’ll get through this process with grace and determination. With her children, Lindsey and David, providing love and support and the many other family members and friends they have in the US, we feel sure she’ll see her way through it all.

This morning, they packed their rental van and went to Johannesburg for their flight tomorrow. They’ll spend one night in the airport hotel, and a day later, they’ll arrive back in Minnesota. We look forward to hearing they’ve arrived safely.

Louise and Danie said these three francolins, mom, dad, and a growing chick, are from their house only a few houses away from us. Perhaps, they were scoping us out to see if they’d like to move here. Sorry, Louise!

We can only imagine how sad it will be for them to walk in the door of their family home without Jeff. The full blow of this loss will surely be felt much more significantly when they are back home.

Shortly after they left this morning, Tom and I headed to Louise and Danie’s office to drop off a few low-carb items and share some details about this sorrowful situation. In the short few weeks, Connie and Lindsey were here; they easily became close to our dear friends, which provided all the more support they needed.

Lindsay was so thoughtful when she left us a heartfelt letter thanking us for our love and support and the considerate girl that she is; she also left letters for Louise and Danie and Dawn and Leon at Jabula, all of whom wrapped their arms around them on several occasions during this period.

Since the chick doesn’t stay with its parents, maybe it will live here and find a mate. We will be watching. This is the mom and dad.

The friends we have made here reached out to them during this painful time and Connie and Lindsey often mentioned that they see why we love it here so much…not just the animals, but the humans, too. The outpouring of kindness was felt by them and by us.

Tom and I headed to Komati this morning to pick up my new prescription from Doc Theo. He was headed out for the school holiday for a week off, and I was lucky to catch him in time before he left. We picked up the prescription, stopped at dentist Luzaan’s office to book teeth cleaning appointments for both of us in a few weeks, and then drove to the pharmacy where I had the new prescription filled.

From there, we went to Spar for a few items since we didn’t need a full grocery shop until next week. Once back in Marloth Park, we drove to Daisy’s Den to purchase two bales of lucerne delivered tomorrow and Wednesday. We figured the wildlife would visit us during this upcoming holiday if we had lucerne. We’d report back if this plan was successful.

This funny expression on the male kudu’s face results from having two oxpeckers in his ears. They seem to go into a trance when this happens. Very funny.

By 1:30 PM, 1330 hrs., we were back home, putting everything away, leaving me plenty of time to finish today’s post. Thankfully, Lindsey had taken today’s fantastic photos on her phone since I was distracted and failed to take many photos the past ten days.

It will take a few days for us to return to our routine. To begin the process, we’ll return to Jabula for dinner, even after being there last night with Connie and Lindsey. Amid all the grief and sorrow, the four of us had good times together since losing Jeff. The conversation was easy, and we often found ourselves laughing amid the tears. It was a special time for all of us.

This monitor lizard scrambled across our garden so fast it was difficult to get a photo.

Tomorrow, our posts will return to our usual theme of life in the bush with our wildlife and human friends. Thank you for sharing this challenging time with us and for all the heartfelt and beautiful messages we received.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, September 30, 2021:

It’s easy to see why we call him Thick Neck. His neck is almost twice as thick as other bushbucks. For more photos, please click here.

Tomorrow morning, Connie and Lindsey begin the journey back to the US…And for us?…

This lush green tree attracted many of the giraffes. There were nine giraffes in the garden.

Today, Connie and Lindsey are organizing and packing, which includes countless pieces of medical equipment, they’ll be hauling back to the US. They are leaving one wheelchair with us, which we’ll keep upstairs to be used by whomever we encounter who may need it. Also, if Louise has any renters who may need it, we’re happy to provide it for their temporary use.

This was the first giraffe to arrive.

Once they leave, I’ll have to go through our refrigerator and clear out any food that may have begun to spoil since we’ll have eaten out four days in a row this week, including tonight at Jabula for the four of us and again tomorrow for the two of us, for our usual Friday night. Connie and Lindsey loved the idea of going to Jabula one more time before they departed, and we agreed enthusiastically.

It was fun to watch the youngsters eating leaves with their parents.

Last night, we headed to Giraffe, where we had a great conversation at the bar and a lovely dinner in the outdoor area where there were no insects. Compared to the number of bugs pestering us outdoors a few nights ago, it was a welcomed relief to be outdoors without the pesky springtime flying insects.

There’s Lollie in the background, as always.

It’s pleasant weather today, and the four of us are currently sitting at the table on the veranda, watching wildlife, and working on our phones and laptops. After Jeff’s passing, Connie has a lot to figure out with arranging memorial services in Minnesota and South Dakota and handling financial matters, which are daunting tasks for a grieving spouse but necessary to handle.

There are some fresh buds on other trees since the good rain last week.

As for us, we’ve stayed on top of our financial matters these past two weeks, including record keeping and setting up our regular payments in BillPay for the first of the month. I’m happy we got our taxes done through our accountant in Henderson, Nevada, and we have nothing hanging over our heads now.

A mom and a baby was included in the tower of giraffes that came to call

Tomorrow, we have to pay the final payment for the upcoming Seychelles cruise in November. We don’t have to pay other final cruise payments until next March. We’re still uncertain if South Africa will let us enter after the Seychelles cruise, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed and our thoughts positive.

Such beautiful animals.

Last night, after dinner at Giraffe, we tried to stream a show on my laptop in our bedroom. But, I was so tired from the medication I was on for the headache that I couldn’t stay awake. The drug makes me sleepy during the day, but I cannot nap, which might make it possible for me to stay awake a little longer. The literature for the medication suggests taking it an hour or two before retiring for the night to reduce daytime sleepiness, but that isn’t working for me.

We couldn’t tell what this giraffe was doing by the ant hill.

I will return to Doc Theo in about a week to discuss increasing the dose since the head pain has produced the past few days, much to my frustration. I was so hopeful it was gone. Perhaps the past week’s events have been instrumental in the headache returning, but at least the face pain is gone.

The garden was busy with zebras and giraffes.

Based on our photos, we’ve had a lot of wildlife in the garden the past several days. We’ve been especially thrilled that Connie and Lindsey have been able to see so much over the past several days. Another holiday weekend will begin when they leave, the “school hoildays,” lasting for ten days. We’ll be glad when that’s over so we can return to our everyday life of enjoying wildlife in the garden and making plans for the future.

More parents arrived with youngsters.

Ah, dear readers, that’s all I have today. I hope you are doing well and enjoying life.

Photo from one year ago today, September 29, 2021:

Little was picking up the pellets I dropped on the veranda without hesitation. For more photos, please click here.

The loss of a husband, father, brother, and dear friend…Jeff’s story…

Jeff and his UTV, utility task vehicle, at their farm in Howard, South Dakota.

Can a single blog post fully appreciate a person’s life and lifestyle? It’s not an easy task, but today, a  week since a dear friend, husband, father, and brother Jeff Blanchard passed away while staying at our holiday home in Marloth Park, we’re making every effort to fully appreciate and revere the life of this fine man, whom we’ve known for 30 years.

Jeff had a dream to visit Africa to see the wildlife he’d only imagined for a lifetime. Knowing his final days were on the imminent horizon, he knew time wasn’t on his side to postpone it another day. When they decided to come to South Africa to fulfill their dream, we offered them to stay with us with the utmost enthusiasm.

In a recent photo, son David, daughter Lindsey, wife Connie, and Jeff.

Having the opportunity to share this magical place with our dear friends and their adult daughter Lindsey was indeed a gift for us. We were anxious for their arrival on September 17, and when they arrived, our hearts filled with joy to share this special time with Jeff, Connie, and Lindsey.

It was evident this awful disease seriously struck Jeff, but he was alert and fully capable of enjoying the adventure before him. Arriving on Saturday, with holidaymakers in the park, the steady stream of wildlife was hindered, as always. But, we’d arranged for two deliveries of lucerne from Daisy’s Den for both Monday and Thursday, hoping to attract more animals for Jeff to see.

. Connie and Jeff in front of the renovated farmhouse in Howard, South Dakota.

On Tuesday, the five of us headed to self-drive in Kruger National Park, during which we sighted countless wildlife. We could see the joy on Jeff’s face each time we witnessed another species. We never saw lions, but we saw cheetahs, an exciting sighting in the cat family. We’d planned to return to Kruger several more times during their two-week stay, but Jeff passed away early Wednesday morning, September 21, before we had a chance to do so. We were all grateful he’d had a chance to see as much as he did.

As for Jeff’s life, we share the following;

Jeff spent most of his youth in Howard, South Dakota, a small farming community. He and Connie met in the town during their school years. They first interacted as cast members in a  school play, Twelve Angry Jurors, in 1969.

In 1972, Connie and Jeff married in Howard at her home church. Recently,  they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on August 12, 2022.

Connie and Jeff attended college in separate cities in South Dakota but were able to build their relationship since Jeff commuted daily. Immediately after marriage, they both began working in a group home for autistic children, where they worked for a year.

The farmhouse before the renovation.

Later, Jeff got a position on KELO TV as a writer in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he worked until 1988. In 1992, they moved to Minnesota, where Jeff worked in data security as a technical writer until 2018 and retired at 66. Connie’s career revolved around sales, marketing, and information technology consulting. In 2010 she turned a hobby into a career and became a professional caterer and chef.

Jeff possessed a fantastic sense of humor and was quick-witted with delightful, non-offensive sarcasm. He was a man that chose family and adventure over a focus on career aspirations. As an avid outdoorsman, he loved to hunt and fish, which kept him away about three months of the year, but Connie busied herself with work, family, and occasional travel.

The farmhouse, after Jeff and Connie had it remodeled.

Jeff loved Alaska and took every opportunity to visit the US state that attracted the most passionate outdoorsmen. He relished in the Great Frontier and challenging drives on the Alcan Highway.

Connie’s family were farmers and owned an old farmhouse in Howard, and over the past ten years, Jeff enjoyed spending as much time as possible at the farm to hunt and work on maintaining the farm. No other family members lived in the house over these past years.

Jeff, with Connie in France.

Connie and Jeff had two children, David, born in 1984, and Lindsey, born in 1990, with whom he had a close and loving relationship centered on mutual interests, including sailing, water sports, horseback riding, and outdoor activities. They eventually purchased a lovely home in Deephaven, Minnesota, in 1995 on the gorgeous, highly revered Lake Minnetonka. They’ve lived in that home and treasured all the social and boating opportunities lake living in Minnesota offered, including sailing and motorboating. The views from their veranda provided a peaceful and calming environment which we enjoyed with them on many occasions.

Jeff was close to his dad, David, who lived with Connie and Jeff part-time from 1998 until 2018. (His mother, Kathleen,  passed away on February 14, 1997). He leaves behind one sister, Holly, who is in the process of moving to Florida. Jeff also enjoyed close relationships with many longtime friends, including Greg and Matt.

Jeff’s dad, David, Lindsey, and Jeff, together on a day of horseback riding.

In 2018, Jeff was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Still, after about two years, they visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he was further diagnosed with MSA, Multiple System Atrophy, described on the Mayo Clinic’s website as follows:

“Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a rare, degenerative neurological disorder affecting your body’s involuntary (autonomic) functions, including blood pressure and motor control.

MSA was formerly called Shy-Drager syndrome, olivopontocerebellar atrophy, or striatonigral degeneration. MSA shares many symptoms with Parkinson’s disease, such as slow movement, rigid muscles, and poor balance.

Treatment includes medications and lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms, but no cure exists. The condition progresses gradually and eventually leads to death.”

Jeff, at his 70th birthday party on July 11, 2022.

And now, the grief is palpable as Connie and Lindsey spend their remaining days with us in Marloth Park, South Africa, where the wild animals still come to visit, reminding all of us of the reasons Jeff wanted to visit Africa and how much he may have missed after he left this world only a week ago today.

We’ll send Connie and Lindsey back home to the US with compassion and love in our hearts and this special memory ever-present in our minds. May they find comfort in giving this precious gift to the man they so dearly loved and cared for…the gift of the fulfillment of a dream…one that we call “experiencing Heaven on earth” in this magical place.

Photo from one year ago today, September 28, 2021:

This female kudu was somewhat dazed, with two oxpeckers working on her ticks, fleas, other insects, and hide-related conditions.  For more photos, please click here.

The viewing is completed…Now, we wait for the ashes…

Our friend Connie, wife of Jeff, has been able to enjoy time here in Marloth Park amid all the sorrow of losing her beloved husband.

What a busy morning! At 6:00 am, Tom bolted out of bed to get ready to drive Connie back to Tonga for the final viewing. The mortician will drive Jeff’s remains to Nelspruit, and the ashes will be delivered to us tomorrow, Wednesday. This will be an emotional event.

Connie has a lot of paperwork to complete before they depart for the US this Friday, only three days from today. It’s hard to imagine that they will be gone. We’ve become closer than ever under these sorrowful circumstances. Once they depart,  we’ll strive to return our lives to a familiar pace.

Of course, having almost completely recovered from the headache and facial pain, I am in a much better state of mind. It’s not as if I was down in the dumps during those painful months, but it undoubtedly impacted my quality of life. We went out for dinner; we socialized; we visited Kruger National Park, and we spent countless days and nights enjoying the visiting wildlife.

But, now, everything has changed, and I am glad I started to improve, after three weeks on the meds, to be present for our arriving guests ten days ago and the tragic loss that transpired last Wednesday, stretching well into the remaining time that Connie and Lindsey are spending here with us.

We all agreed to dine out the next three nights with load shedding continuing and high temperatures. We’ll spend their last night in the bush on Thursday at Jabula. They both love the food and atmosphere at the Cheers-like bar and wanted to spend one more evening there. Tom and I will still spend our usual Friday night at Jabula after Connie and Lindsey have left for the US.

Lindsey, Jeff and Connie’s daughter, has been quite a trooper after losing her beloved Dad. Photos were taken at Jabula last Friday night.

Today, we’re heading to Ngwenya Lodge for sundowners at sunset and later dining indoors away from the flying insects we encountered last night. Last night, we had no choice but to come inside the house to eat at the dining room table when insects beyond any past experiences bombarded us. TIA…This is Africa…this is what happens here in the spring and the heat.

My desire to cook has waned considerably in the past few days. The number of flies that mysteriously appear in the kitchen while preparing a meal is in the dozens, longing to land on any meat they can. Yuck. Flies annoy me more than most other insects.

I suppose we will most likely dine out two or three times a week over the upcoming hot summer months to make life easier. We’ll cook on the cooler days, but on the 42C, 104F days, we will go out to dinner. I have no desire to prepare meals and leave Tom in the kitchen in the dark at night, during load shedding, trying to do the dishes using a battery-powered lantern. The warmer the temperatures, the more flies, join me in the kitchen.

Right now, Connie and Lindsey are visiting the little shops here in Marloth Park. Tom is on the veranda watching football on his laptop via NFL Game Pass. As soon as I am done here today, I may take a little break and lounge in the bedroom with the big fan running off of  the inverter.

The house is clean, animals have returned to the garden after the holiday weekend, and we’re bracing ourselves for the influx of tourists who will be flooding Marloth Park, starting this weekend and continuing for ten days, due to the “school holiday,” which brings people to Marloth Park from all over the country and some from other countries.  We’ll see less wildlife and hear more cars passing at the house and when out and about.

Thank you to many of our readers who’ve written to express their condolences. If we missed responding to you, please bear with us. We’ve had more responses than we could count.

Have a great day and evening!

Photo from one year ago today, September 27, 2021:

Peter, Paul, and Mary (she’s in the center) couldn’t have posed better for this shot. For more photos, please click here.