Wednesday, March 13, 2013

So the prodigal friend is back. When I first moved to Phokeng, I had so many good intentions about business  and creative life, friendships ( both offline and online) as well as this blog and my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

I was going to take care of Mma while also making the house into my new home amd keeping up with my business and creative projects. And I was going to keep up with my projects and friendships while I did it. By now you know it was all an epic FAIL I'm sorry for worrying you so much, though many of you emailed me directly and I let you know how I was doing to the best of my ability.

I'm finally starting to emerge from the darkness, to the extent that I now feel the urge to communicate again. I'm hoping you still want to keep me company. (Unfortunately, my nature is to cocoon and not communicate much when life is a bit rough. Very frustrating for friends and family and not a good trait to have.).

However, while I was extremely quiet, life went on. Let me share with you some of the developments:

Mma's Health

That was the reason for the big change, wasn't it? Anyhoo, she had ups and downs throughout 2012. More downs than ups really, with three sugar-induced comas, several months bedridden/unable to care for herself, several trips to the nearby health centre by ambulance culminating in a January/February 2013 hospital stay. 

Way forward: Mma's sugar levels and blood pressure have stabilised, but we've had other issues crop up, basically blindsiding us, as we thought the stroke and chronic conditions were the major issues we had to deal with. She is now on a waiting list for a minor stomach procedure that will see her go back to the hospital soon. However, all in all, I'd say she is doing much better these last couple of weeks... the best that she's ever been since I moved here really, being able to sit upright for hours now, and walking around the house by herself. So we're all optimistic.

The move

Mma's improved health means my move to Phokeng has become permanent. That meant, essentially personalising Mma's place to create a home for me. That was odd:-)

A good friend of mine is renting my house in Joburg, which I'm not planning to sell any time soon, giving me an advantage of a place to stay when I have to go down to meet clients.
Client Work

Because of the amount of time required to care for Mma, I was unable to keep up with the work from my full client base.  As a result, most of them had to go as project were completed, and I only kept enough long-term client to work part-time. Some  months, that amounted to a maximum of one hour  or two per day, though I'm now planning to increase the work load for another couple of hours per day. The pay cut had a huge impact. Not good at all!

Way forward: I'm now in negotiations with a possible associate who will do the lion's share of the client work, to start later in the year ( possibly October). That will ensure that the company grows  even while I play a limited role. I'm also planning to blog more regularly, so I can get back into the routine.

Creative Work

Along the way, my muse went silent.  Completely, absolutely silent. I can't tell you how scary that is. At first I kept writing, thinking to write through the drought until the muse came back. It didn't work. Then I was just overwhelmed with fear, and I couldn't even write an email, blog post or even a tweet to save my life. What could I say? Brain gone fishing?

I'm still not writing anything that I would deem useful. But the other day, a story popped into my head. It's original. And something much more imaginative than I ever came up with throughout my whole career. I haven't written a word yet, but the fact that I can feel the characters sitting there in my brain, waiting for me to pay attention, is very reassuring. My muse will come back. I will write again.

And in the middle of all this drought, Macmillan India asked me for permission to publish one of my previously unpublished stories in a prescribed school textbook. Twenty thousand copies to start with, printed early this year.  And another organisation approached me to write five children's stories, to be translated into the rest of SA's national languages ( there's 11 languages in total). We haven't finalised the project yet and I don't know if they will end up going ahead with it, but it was heartening just to be asked. Their requirements match some of the children's stories I'd drafted and never polished, thank God, so the fact that my muse went AWOL won't affect delivery thank God. Though it would be nice if I could create more stories along a similar theme. We'll see how that goes.

Way forward: I'm going to create a writing routine again. That means writing for at least two hours a day (excluding research, emails and interviews, blogging or anything that does not involve writing a story down). I'll also look at ongoing projects that I abandoned when the muse left, to see if i can still finish them.

Life in Phokeng in general

Besides taking care of Mma and trying to resuscitate my ailing creative life, I spend a lot of time outdoors trying to create gardens that are both productive and visually appealing. The physical labour provides me with plenty of exercise and a way to decompress and it is a creative outlet of a sort. The side benefit is that I've lost a lot of weight and built some muscle. It's also something to do in a place where I don't have any close friends.

Anyhoo, we live on approximately 2 thousand square metres of land (or maybe a bit more). My grandfather and father had previously raised most of our vegetables in the garden, but years of neglect after their deaths ( Pappa in 2002) had taken their toll on the land.
The trees surrounding the property were overgrown, the shrubs and flowers being choked by runner weeds climbing the fences and up into the trees.I'm convinced that there was a very big population of snakes hidden in the mess, waiting for the right moment to take over our house and keep us as pets. For my own sanity, I had to try to make the place habitable again.

I also needed a relaxing past-time away from the sickroom, a way to exercise without paying gym fees and a source of fresh food in an environment where the cost of living was getting too high and I was scaling down on my writing ventures.  And, it was something to do that did not remind me that I didn't have a single creative thought in my head.

Yet to be weeded patch of yard behind my SIL's chicken coops(Patch 6)

By Spring of 2012, we had a small crop growing. At this stage, I was still learning the soil and climate, as i hadn't l lived fulltime in the area in more than 25 years and the North West region, where the village is based has a different climate than  Gauteng, where I previously lived.

This small patch  (Patch 5) was next to the house and not in the main garden.

By the beginning of summer 2012, a large portion of the main garden had some structure ( beds) and we did a big planting session. Some of the crops went on to provide a bumper harvest, allowing me to feed my own family of 4, freeze plenty for winter and also share with 3 of my siblings and their families.

We also managed to provide our workers with bags of vegetables twice a week (SIL runs a chicken business with 4 coops accomodating 400 chickens in each, employing 1  fulltime and 5 part-time people and I have part-time gardener helping with the heavy lifting and a housekeeper) and to sell left-over tomatoes, spinach and some greens to people in the village to make some seed money. Jam it was A LOT!

The section in view is about a fifth of the main veggie garden
Since then, the garden has grown. We are still sorting out the largest portion of the yard, restructuring for greater productivity (if something useful is growing, the weeds don't have the space to grow), clearing out previously neglected corners and improving the productive capacity of each bed. I've also decided to go with the potager theme for the garden, planting herbs, fruit and flowers among the vegetables. So far, I've planted two peach trees ( we already had four), one apricot tree and one avocado tree. I also plan to plant a couple of mango, plum, orange, naartjie and lemon trees, as well as some berries ( have only two strawberry bushes so far)

We have harvested and dried lots of basil and thyme, and more is growing. We also grow sage and rosemary.
There is a still a lot of work to do - I want to create more gardens in the unused patches of land and to make the front-yard more cosmetically appealing.

I plan to plant sweet potatoes on the small patch behind the cottage (Patch 2). The roots of sweet potatoes are too invasive for the rest of the garden, and this patch is in an awkward space and has lain fallow for years, so I can let the sweet potatoes do what they like here.
Patch 3: A long stretch of lawn along the driveway. Lawn is such a waste of space! So I plan to move the boundary fence separating the living space and the main gardening space closer to the driveway eliminating most of this lawn.

Front yard (Cosmetic garden) :  I want Mma to spend a lot more time here to relax and enjoy the outdoors. So we've built a ramp for her wheelchair coming into this area, and we'll trim the trees and shrubs and add more flowers to make it visually appealing for her.

Way forward: We're now planting Autumn and Winter crops.  So far we've planted  lettuce, beetroot, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower,  beans (various types)  nastatuims (sic), onions, pumpkin, carrots, butternut, cucumber, spinach and peas. We plan to plant more veges and winter flowering plants in the coming weeks.

And although we have a borehole supplementing our municipal service, we're not really water-wise and I'd like to start harvesting rain water and grey water for the gardens. But that will take time (we've only been operational for two seasons really) and money I don't have at present.
Anyhoo, that's my main update for now. Next time the post will be short and sweet. And I do look forward to hearing from you.


tiah said...


seamonkeypo said...

Hi Damaria, am so glad to hear from you again, I thought you had disappeared for good. I am glad that you are alive and kicking and your gardens are very impressive. Most of the people whose blogs I read seem to have stopped blogging, which made me sad, so I am glad that you are still around!

Copyright Notice

With the exception of entries specifically credited to individual authors, the content on this blog is copyrighted by Damaria Senne and may not be reprinted without permission.