Friday, 22 November 2013

Cauliflower Fountain ... more commonly known as Fairview Estates, Western Cape ...

A Good Thing Happened post took me back a few decades into South Africa days .. Lynn had posted a photo of a wine bottle with a wonderful label – which she marvelled at ...
The wizened 'old boy' goat on his tower

... well the “La Capra” wine with its whimsical label, as she describes it, comes from Fairview Farm Estates ... which from the early marketing ventures I remember they have continued to expand their range and develop their vineyard into what looks like a centre of excellence ...

Cheese Tasting
The Backs were one of the first to offer wine and cheese tasting evenings in Johannesburg –and we booked the Back siblings as they were then to put on a tasting for us.   What more would encourage us to buy ... than tasting, learning the history of the wine and enjoying a platter or two of different cheeses ... I remember it well!!

Cape Regions ... note the 'winelands'
I’ll give you some photos and a little of the history of the estate and that back story to Lynn’s description of the label:  a goat carrying a tower of things on its back ...

The Back family bought the vineyard in 1937, which had been through a chequered history of no less than eight insolvent estates ... the present owner, Charles Back, declares “he’s doing his best to break the habit!”

Fairview estates with some of their other animals

In recent years they’ve cultivated some virgin land unearthing stone tools providing proof of the presence of hominids at the foot of Paarl Mountain some 700,000 years ago.

Centuries later, probably about 1,000 years ago, the hills became home to nomadic pastoralists from the north called Khoi – these peaceful peoples remaining until the Europeans settled in the mid 1600s.

They offer an after-school facility ... making
some children very happy
By 1699 the first wine was made on the farm ... and the official tax records of the time reflect a farm ‘inventory’ which listed a few barrels of wine, among items ranging from bags of wheat to rifles and slaves.

Happy workers too

Thankfully someone had the foresight to change the name of the farm to Fairview from its previous descriptive name of 'Cauliflower Fountain' (Bloemkoolfontein - in Afrikaans)!!

I’m sure I got my love of feta cheese from the Fairview tastings ... and there was an outlet in Jo’burg where we could go and buy fresh cheese and olives – delicious! – rather than from a food shop.

Wine and cheese lunch .. that looks just delicious!

Back in those apartheid days ... a lot of the best produce was sent overseas ... so the fruits and vegetables weren’t brilliant – unless you grew your own. 

I did a little of that and had a few fruit trees in the houses I owned ... I tried cauliflowers ... which bolted very quickly but at least were fresh.

Reading about the Fairview goats and their tower I noted that there’s another link to a holiday my mother and I had together in Portugal – inland from Porto.

He's great isn't he .... 

We stayed with friends but having hired a car were able to drive around and were sent off on various jaunts ... one of which was to the Aveleda, a winery in the Vinho Verde region of Portugal.

This was where we saw goat towers, which reminded us of the climbing goats we’d seen on our journey across the Rockies to Vancouver – another trip.

The goats are magnificent creatures aren’t they ... and do they love climbing ... the first goat tower at a winery was built by Fernando Guedes da Silva da Fonseca (1871 – 1946) at Aveleda ... Charles Back at Fairview built the second in South Africa in 1981, and there are now a few others.

The wine label tower described:

Locals and visitors gather for the  ...
Cheeses        - Festival La Capra in Spring
Fork           - Goatshed Restaurant
Farmer       - long hours and hardwork of the farmer and 
                      that’s just to get the grapes into the cellar
Violin         - contagious beat of La Capra .. violins, 
                      accordions to drums and tambourines – 
                      brings together a wide variety of styles, artists 
                      and influences
Globe         - travellers and trekkers arrive from all over
Wine barrels – wine flows freely, laughter fills the air and 
                        you dance til dawn
Goat            - a mainstay for the La Capra brand, and the 
                      innovative flair of the Back family at Fairview

Fairview estates, Western Cape
The first Charles Back, an immigrant from Lithuania, landed in South Africa in 1902 opening a butcher’s shop in Paarl, which also sold fresh farm produce ...

... from those humble immigrant beginnings, his descendants have continued on his work ethic with a spirit of endeavour and innovation, as well as ensuring that the early Charles Back’s knowledge of the vine and wine making will not be forgotten through the wonderful Cauliflower Fountain farm that was bequeathed to one of his sons.

A Mediterranean flat bread topped with tasty morsels,
including tower blue cheese - recipes on website

Thanks Lynn you’ve opened up my memory bank to many happy times ... back in South Africa, a holiday to Portugal and another holiday with my mother to western Canada ...

Fairview logo - recently designed ... the goat,
the hard-working farmer, the sheaf of wheat for
the bread they bake etc ... 

I highly recommend Fairview as it appears
not to have changed much since my days in South Africa ... and most of the wording in this post was 'dug' from their website ... for which I thank them.

Here are some links:  the Tower Label and how it came about ... you can turn the music off – which you just might want to quite quickly ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 18 November 2013

Want to Make a Difference Blogfest by helping with emergency food?

This winter and then ongoing into 2014 extreme food poverty will affect many of us across the UK ... I had no idea that 13 million, out of a total population of 70 million, are on or below the poverty line ...
Remember to give to
others blogfest ... 

I have been aware of the recent talk and articles on food banks – there are 'baskets' to collect food in the supermarkets, and I’ve noticed a food bank sign near where I have my car serviced.

So MJJoachim and Tina’s invitation to participate in this blogfest seemed a good idea ... please join us ... so many people in our local community, locality need our help ...

I had heard of the Trussell Trust and seen/heard snippets about their work on the tv or radio ... but had not looked into the organisation or found out how the Trust got started.

Then there was a link across to The Cinnamon Network – and what they were about ... you do live and learn – well I do!

The Cinnamon Network is the catalyser here ... it was/is Christian based, but now encompasses all churches and denominations of peoples who wish to make a difference.

“Rather than come up with an idea and ask God to ‘bless it’ the approach adopted was to see what God was doing and join in. 

It was observed that local churches responding to local needs were developing successful local community transformation projects which other local churches began to replicate.

Powerful examples of this included Street Pastors which developed from Brixton, Foodbank in Salisbury and CAP debt advice emerging from Bradford.

The closest marketplace model to this approach was commercial franchising however the projects were not for commercial benefit but community benefit so they were described as Community Franchising.”

Foods recommended
for donation
TheTrussell Trust let us know why people need emergency food – because of redundancy, illness, benefit delay, domestic violence, debt, family breakdown and paying for the additional costs of heating during winter are just some of the reasons many go hungry.

So if we can donate something every time we go to the supermarket – it will brighten someone’s life ... and perhaps save a life ... suicide can be a considered alternative ... life at this stage desperately needs comfort and support.

Each food box the foodbank gives out contains a minimum of 3 days nutritionally balanced, non-perishable food ...

I saw in one of the local churches recently requests for other items specific to the needs of the community – often these will be baby foods, nappies etc ..

So at this time ... with Thanksgiving coming first, Christmas following and the New Year – let us give something to lighten others’ loads ... and then make sure we continue on ...

This country raised (pledged) over £31 million for Children in Need last week, while we also raised £33 million for the Philippines Disaster Fund ... and we will come together to help our own during the coming winter – that will be bleak for some ... small supplies of regular food will always help.

There are over 400 food banks and I expect these will grow in towns where, for now, there is no presence ... 

I found reading about these two organisations very heart-rending, yet warming ... as people reach out to help.

There are also soup kitchens and many other volunteers who are doing so much for their local communities ...

I also spotted two breadline bloggers in the Telegraph magazine, Stella ... I don’t normally buy the Telegraph – but was glad I did for the information on these two breadline bloggers ...

As the magazine quotes:  One feeds her young son and herself for less than £10 per week, another made it his mission to eat like a king on a shoestring budget when his world fell apart.

Meet the breadline bloggers whose brilliantly inventive recipes are going down a storm ...

Jack Monroe’s blog: A Girl called  

Tony’s blog:  TheSkint 

c/o Entyce Creative
Give tins instead of tinsel
And still there are all the peoples of this world who suffer, or have, from drought, flooding, disasters of various sorts ... and now the tornado storm that has ripped through middle America ...

Let’s do what we can to alleviate others’ lives ... so they can develop a positive spirit and be inspired to help others ...

Thank you ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Duchy originals ...

Happy Birthday pensioner King to be ... though I’m sure he’ll be happy to wait a while longer ...

... after a hesitant start, and who wouldn’t in the harsher circumstances of the 1950s and 1960s; Prince William by those standards has a lot to be grateful for that he is growing into the role now ...

However Charles is a passionate philanthropist – who has always been interested in healing and making things better in the world – and he has pursued those ambitions with a refreshing honesty and sheer hard work.

Arms of the
Duchy of
As his birthday present ... the Queen ‘decided’ he should represent her at the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Sri Lanka ... it is the first time the Queen has not attended the Conference, another indication of the Royal Family’s resolute confidence in Prince Charles’ ability to lead ‘the Firm’ into the future.

Twenty plus years ago Duchy Originals, a brand of organic food, was originally set up by Prince Charles, being named after the Duchy of Cornwall.

Fresh Roasted
Vegetable Sauce
The brand sits in the high end of the market – i.e. premium organic food and drink – but always good quality.  Waitrose, an upmarket supermarket, together with various independent retailers and various charities, are the major outlets for the Duchy Original Products.

Duchy Originals has now signed an exclusive deal with Waitrose, who will be expanding the range from 200 to 500 products and will continue the tradition of donating royalties to charity – Prince Charles will continue his involvement with the brand.

Fenland Celery (PGI status)

This ties in with an article I read in the free  ‘Waitrose Weekend’ about Fenland Celery, which I picked up when I was in Suffolk ... a heritage crop that joins 54 other British foodstuffs recognised by Europe.

The UK has few food and drink products that have protected status partly because of the industrialisation of agriculture ...

The Protected Food Names scheme was introduced throughout Europe in 1992 to protect cultural methods and knowledge and help specialist products stand out ... and the three different designations are ...

Melton Mowbray Pork Pies (PGI status)
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) is the status for its high quality, history and links to the local area.  Fenland Celery has PGI status, while others are the Cornish Pasty and Melton Mowbray pork pie.

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) covers produce from a specific region ... eg Stilton – can only be made in the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire conforming to a strict code.

Blue Stilton (PDO status)
Which is somewhat ridiculous as the village of Stilton, after which the cheese was named, is in Cambridgeshire ... and thus cannot use the Stilton name ... crazy or what ... !

Early species of Gloucester Old Spot -
painted in 1834 by John Myles
(both Prince Charles and Princess Anne
breed these particular pigs)
(TSG status)
Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) foods have to be produced under a quality scheme for traditional foods, ensuring unique qualities irrespective of where a product originates.

Gloucestershire Old Spots Pig Breeders’ Club was awarded the TSG status for their purebred, pedigree pigs ... the Club actively pursues traders who miss-label meat trying to pass it off as Gloucester Old Spot pork.

Isle of Man 'Queenie'   (PDO status)
Other countries have similar arrangements ... eg Vidalia onions from Vidalia, Georgia (USA) ...  Columbia has coffee ...

While Geographical Indication status - another worldwide definition  ... eg for Mallige Jasmine, in Mysore, India, provides Intellectual Property Rights to the local community to cultivate the crop for 10 years ... the GI Tag or Patent protects that jasmine industry and excludes others outside the specific geographical region to sell under the same name.

Jersey Royals  (PDO status)

Over and above all the bureaucratic paper work ... and constant enforcement, or watching for illegal trading ... I admire all who pursue their dreams ...

Arbroath Smokies  (PGI status)

Prince Charles at 65 is still outspoken, but is very knowledgeable about many subjects and always willing to learn ... he deserves the happiness that has come to him in later life.  Life is difficult enough at the best of times ...

So here’s to everything that strives through life ... people, flora and fauna ... which reminds me of the Seven Generations of Sustainability – an Iroquois Perspective ...

Rural England showing grazing sheep and fields of
crops in the distance

Rodda's Cornish Cream  (PDO status)
... what effect will something we do today, both individually or as a community, or as a peoples of this world, have on our future generations ... in every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation ...

That is a sobering thought, but one we should remember ... be forward thinking for our children’s children ...

Happy Birthday to a Duchy Original Prince ... and if there was some crusty, the best bit!, Cornish Cream around ... I'd have some on my strawberries or raspberries, which can still be found in the shops.

A very early post of mine on Jasmine and the film SlumDog Millionaire

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Poppies on Remembrance Day ...

Poppies which probably have become our most famous wild flower ... particularly at this time of year – Remembrance Day - when we in the Commonwealth countries come to a two minute silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th  month ... 
The common poppy

Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of hostilities of World War 1 on that date in 1918.

Hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” ... in accordance with the Armistice, signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning, 1918.

World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919 ... reference links are available within the Wikipedia paragraphs I have quoted.

Flanders' battle fields

As Wikipedia observes ... at the 11th hour refers to the passing of the 11th hour, or 11.00 am) World War 1 officially ended with the signing of the Armistice ... which is why we observe Remembrance at eleven o’clock in the morning ... with a two minute silence, when we all stop and remember.

This year I thought I’d remember as well as comment on this great survivor in Flanders fields – the Poppy flower – see John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” ... he wrote about the day after his great friend was lost.

c/o BBC

The corn poppy symbolises war and remembrance – remembering those lost in World War One battles ... as it was the one flower that grew amongst the devastation, as McCrae’s evocative words reflect ...

The Royal British Legion was formed in 1921 and adopted the scarlet corn poppy as its symbol of Remembrance.   

... the poppy is this great survivor and great opportunist that blooms with courage after being lost ... the common poppy which has evolved to produce 60,000 +/- seeds per flower head ...

Showing the geographical area
that was Flanders, with the English
south coast nearby

...  and can wait patiently in the undisturbed soil for many decades – even as much as 50 – 60 years –until disturbance brings the seed to the surface when they can and do germinate.

There are eight species of wild poppy in the UK .. including the Rough, the Opium, the Common and the Prickly ...

The poppy, two varieties of which are truly native, arrived thousands of years ago probably from those early lands where agriculture started ... The Fertile Crescent (Egypt, Phoenicia, Mesopotamia, Assyria).

"Ice Pleasure on the City Canal" in 1622 by
Sebastian Vrancx (1573 - 1647).  The Little Ice
Age was in full swing (1550 - 1850)

They are now extremely resilient having evolved to push and fight through crops against other competition ... while those early peoples realised the ‘pretty poppy’ had other uses, such as pain relief.

Poppies have a canny survival system, germinating some seed in autumn for early summer flowers, with the rest flowering, from springtime germination, in the autumn.

Prickly Poppy c/o Sheepdrove Organic Farm

The Prickly Poppy a true native is only found in South-East England on chalk and cannot stand competition from other plants ... it is an elusive flower, being so ‘independent’ ... and will flower early in the morning – then the petals fall off ...

... the prickly body of the plant keeps some competitors at bay – but its survival is being encouraged ... another difficulty as it produces only 200 or so seeds compared to the tens of thousands of the common poppy.

This tough little survivor is the perfect choice as the symbol for Remembrance Day ...  when we now remember all those who have encountered challenges in all the wars we have been involved with ...

Papaver Rhoeas - the three common stages of the poppy -
bud, flower, seed pod (capsule)

... and let us have courage to continue to remember those who have died letting us keep our freedom ...

... and let us have empathy with those wounded and their families ... giving them understanding and appreciation ... not forgetting all the wonderful carers, supporters and friends working tirelessly in the background ...

Drifts of wild poppies c/o BBC

... then let us show similar qualities to our fellow man – wherever they may be ... giving comradeship to all ...

... let us make a difference to others during our lives ... open our hearts to all ... and never forget ...

My 2012 post: entitled Remembrance ... 

My 2011 post entitled:  Lest We Forget - Remembrance Day ... with its two minute silence at 11.00am - where I quote John McCrae's poem in full ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Hallowe'en, Guy Fawkes, All Souls and ...

... St Jude, the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes, seems rather a good name for my recent antics ...
St Jude by van Dyck  (1619/1621)

I don’t fall into the lost causes group ... but life has sort of thrown a few wobblies, nothing serious luckily ... just stupidity!

The St Jude storm struck us ten days ago ... trees were downed, sadly some people died ... power lines were felled, transport was disrupted ... however it was not nearly as bad as many had predicted.

It was around this time that I realised I was going to East Anglia to see a friend – but 24 hours earlier than I was expecting – my brain had atrophied!

Sycamore tree down - but the one
to the right could be susceptible too
- at least I get more light in, now the
sun is lower in the sky
It was Linda’s birthday up at the Nursing Centre and I knew I wouldn’t be there, but had thought at least I’d see her the day before ... I’d organised a flower card for her, so knew that was coming and I dropped off a birthday card for her to open on the day ...

... then I’d emailed Lenny and asked if he could write her a birthday email ... which I knew she would love ... and which I was able to put in an envelope for her to open on her birthday: making it special.  Lenny has been a ray of sunshine for her ...

The storms did come through – we had a tree down ... it was rotten, but thankfully wasn’t tall enough to crash into the building – the tree next to it probably would do some damage and would crush my car as I don’t have access to the garage (I rent).  I didn’t hear it crash down ... 5.00 am is my time for sleeping soundly apparently ...

Abbeygate, Bury St Edmunds
I went away by train and just took my time in case there were residual travel delays - thankfully not.  No storms were due, so I leave my car at the back.

I had a lovely time up in Bury St Edmunds ... a walk round the town, off to see Lavenham and Long Melford ... all three very interesting historical sites.  Suffolk, or East Anglia, are areas I don’t know much about ... so I’m looking forward to going back and having a good look round.

Bury St Edmunds may well date from Roman times, but was one of the royal towns of the Saxons.  Sigebert, King of the East Angles, founded a monastery here about 633 AD, which in 903 became the burial place of King Edmund, who was slain by the Danes in 869, and owed most of its early celebrity to the reputed miracles performed at the shrine of the martyr king.

Crooked House, Lavenham
King Edmund freed the town from all secular services, while Canute then freed it from Episcopal control.  The abbot was made lord of the franchise by Edward the Confessor.

So you can see from the historical names ... Bury St Edmunds has lots to offer ... as has Lavenham, which in the medieval period was, due to its wool and trade, among the 20 wealthiest settlements in England.

Love Lavenham!  seems to be its brand name ... it is as they say one of the finest and more beautiful medieval villages in England.  Once again ... history abounds ...

c/o Lavenham village website
I’d arranged tickets to go back to Houghton Hall, Norfolk and see The Hermitage paintings, on loan from St Petersburg and Washington, part of Sir Robert Walpole’s great picture collection (Britain’s first de facto Prime Minister).

This painting was stolen from
Houghton Hall in 1990 -
"The White Duck" by
Jean Baptiste Oudry (1753)

Some of these had been sold by Sir Robert’s grandson to Catherine the Great of Russia to pay off some of the estates, accumulated debt.  The others that came from Washington and private owners ... had similarly been sold on by the Russians in the 1920s and 1930s.

Somewhere around this time we had Hallowe’en ... nothing untoward happened in East Anglia ... Sussex had that in store!    

But generally in this the 21st century Hallowe'en now dominates our landscape ... I have to say I prefer it when we reflect our different cultures ... and don't become one homogenized cultural morass ... so we remember our historical roots ...

... Bury St Edmunds was the setting for the witch trials between 1599 and 1694 ... and today has a witchcraft exhibition at Moyse’s Hall Museum.

Now we’re into November ... good luck all you NANOWRIMO participants ... happy writing ...

... right into All Soul’s Day ... the remains of a mummified cat were discovered in a Lavenham roof ... it would have been placed there to protect the building’s owner from evil spirits!

iphone photo from guide book ...
showing the devil watching
St Michael weighing his souls:
part of the panel
"The Wenhaston Doom"

While in another local village The Wenhaston Doom, a 16th C (pre-Reformation) panel painting depicting the Last Day of Judgement in which St Michael can be seen weighing the souls of the dead, while the Devil looks on is a wonderful historical treasure.

Somewhere around this time I get home to find Lenny has sent Linda a beautiful bunch of carnations, with some chocolates and a tiny birthday cake ... what a surprise – she was delighted and I was so happy she'd been made to feel special ... what an amazing kid.

Carnations from Lenny

All Soul’s Day arrives as do more storms over the weekend ... so I decide to leave my car at the front – then at 8.00 pm the alarm goes off ... frustratingly it is sensitive and tends to go off in the wind and the rain ... so I need to go out to switch it off ...

... on returning I keel over ... I think ‘oh bother’ and then bounce ... well I realise my face isn’t in too good a shape, everything else seems ok, and after being patched up I wait out the night.

Revellers in Lewes, East Sussex
with their tar torches
I have to say to my staggered amazement I have one or two minor, hardly apparent, other bruises or dents – while my face isn’t that bad either.  I have a cut between the eyes, above my lip but below my nose it’s graunched ... and obviously I have two wonderful very puffy red and yellow eyes ... much the same colour as this Lewes photo!

I’m on anti-biotics for the graunch ... but can see, can breathe, have my teeth, no headache, no bruising ... in fact I’m just counting my blessings rather quietly ...

Colourful fireworks
The staff at the Nursing Centre and Linda took one look at me and went AARGH ... Lenny’s favourite word! ... and burst out laughing into fits of giggles ... I’m not sure at the beginning whether they thought I’d got made-up for a Halloween scare ... well that will provide much amusement and that’s what life is about, and Linda has ‘news’ to tell Gilbert, another of her visitors.

Catrinas - one of the most popular
figures in the Day of the Dead
celebrations in Mexico
Now we’re onto November the 5th .... the day we celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder plot ... when the Catholics were foiled in their desire to blow up the Houses of Parliament ...

So tonight we’ll be having lots more snap, crackle and pops, with some rather loud explosions to make us jump, but thankfully I still have a head I can hold up and eyes still clear to watch the strontium-red, calcium-orange, copper-blue, barium-green, titanium-white powders as they colour the sky ...

Here’s to a more peaceful end of October/November – Hallowe’en – All Soul’s Day – Guy Fawkes’ sorry night of failure ... next year!

An iphone photo from the Guide
Book of the mummified cat
Once again ... good luck to all NaNoWriMo entrants ... as I admit I’m grateful to St Jude looking after this lost cause ... how do you fall flat, bounce and come away with ... not a lot to show for it?!  Lucky me ..

I wrote quite a good post last year on Hallowe’en, Guy Fawkes with cross references to Christian and Pagan festivals ... but didn’t refer to the Spanish Dia de Muertos ... which is celebrated in Mexico – but I know other bloggers mentioned it.  eg Tasha at Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax (always hooks me this blog title!) ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories