A year ago today Greg and I left for South Africa to take care of my dad’s affairs, attend his funeral and pack up the house. It seems surreal that a whole year has passed, and:

a) My dad’s house is still no closer to being sold (although we’ve had a buyer for 11 months);
b) His estate, which is totally uncomplicated with no debt etc., has barely been started to be worked on; and
c) I haven’t been able to speak to my dad in over a year.

I’m a “daddy’s girl”. Always was. I look like my dad, sound like my dad, have the same sense of humour, wit and sarcasm that my dad had, and I’m constantly hearing “you’re just like your dad”, which is fine for me to hear. In fact, it’s a compliment.

When I was a little girl, I would always be following my dad around. If he had a hammer in his hand, I had one too. In fact, I loved hammering nails into things. Sometimes (ok, most times) not the right nails, and not hammering them into the right places either.

As I grew older, we butted heads – because we were so alike. I remember him yelling at me and trying to teach me trigonometry, while I was yelling back at him telling him that I can’t do it. Turned out I was right! He was a tool maker and used maths all the time. For me, once they introduced the alphabet into maths, they lost me, and I zoned out and never found a loophole to zone back in.

So, exactly a year has passed. Greg and I boarded a plane from St. Louis, to Atlanta to Johannesburg where friends met us at OR Tambo and took us back to the house. Dad’s house. My childhood house. As we arrived, we realized that there was load shedding going on and there was no electricity. We threw our bags down and exhaustedly just fell into bed. It was Spring in South Africa, still chilly in the morning’s and evening’s but beautiful during the day. I had 4 days to put a funeral together and then 3 more weeks to pack up the house, donate everything inside the house, decide what I wanted to keep and figure out a way to get it home. I kept having that feeling that it’s the last time I’ll be on South African soil. I grew up here, in this house, in this neighbourhood, in this province. It’s my home. My soul is here. My heart will always be here. I had a great childhood here, made wonderful, timeless friends who I still miss desperately. It’s so hard to emigrate. Every time we go back to Joburg I’m reminded about how hard it is to not be there. My lifeline to South Africa was cut when my dad died and it scares me that this could truly be “IT”.

We have a nice life in St. Louis. We are a happy couple and lucky enough to own a house and be owned by three cats. Our little family is complete. Memories are a funny thing. The good, the bad and the ugly can mess with your mind and sway you from happy to sad in a nanosecond.

We’ve been through a lot. More than most couples will ever endure (hopefully), but God doesn’t test you with more than you can handle, right? Hey God, I’m on the thin line here. Can you back off a bit and let me catch my breath? Sure would be great! Major catastrophes really are a great way to measure your faith, reflect on your relationship and test your decision-making talents and we’ve experienced most of them! I’m quite happy to forego the ones we’ve missed!

Stay strong, stay healthy, wash your hands, wear a mask!

The Squash Bug Fiasco

‘Tis the season! Autumn is approaching and the garden is starting to wind down. It’s been a bit of an odd gardening year, but we did reap the benefits of some veggies. From a long, cool spring, to a hot and wet early summer and then a very hot rest of the summer, to an approaching Autumn which, fingers crossed, will result in an abundance of cool weather veggies. Right now, part of the garden looks lush and the other part is dying.

• The first crop we were able to reap was potatoes. We dug up 25 lbs of them this year. I planted 4 different types (can’t remember the names), 3 were yellow spuds and 1 type was red.
• I did manage to get 3 zucchinis from the mystery plant. All 3 of them were as big as baseball bats! I have 2 of them still in the fridge.
• Gem squash (a South African squash, similar taste and texture to spaghetti squash, but look totally different) are doing very well. I’ve given a bunch away and should be ready to pick them all off the vine soon and then clear out that space. Right now, that area is looking badly kept because the 2 plants are dying off. The vines are huge and have burst out through the chain link fence into 2 of my neighbors’ yards. It’s fair game! If they grow on their side, they’re theirs! Not sure they know what to do with it though. There will be lessons, and maybe a test! A taste test, perhaps!!
• My 3 tomato plants are still producing but not many of the tomatoes are turning red. I may have to just pick them and let them ripen on the windowsill (if the cats will allow it). It’s still a bit early to be doing that though, so I’ll leave it a couple more weeks.
• The bell peppers are doing fairly well and are turning red. One plant is tired and ready to be put out of its misery while the other one is bursting with peppers.
• I have 2 hot pepper plants, which are exploding with peppers. PSA: I’m a little afraid of it! Last time I picked some, my hands were burning for a full 24 hours!
• The 2 eggplant trees are doing well and producing well, but I’m concerned that the butternut vines will overpower it.
• Then there’s the butternut…! I planted one seed! ONE! This “trifid” has grown so huge, so quickly that I suspect the vines are larger than 20 ft. I’ve trained the vines around the bed it’s in, but it’s still growing. There are tons of baby butternuts forming, which really excites me, but there are also hundreds of squash bugs that want to race me to the finish line! Every year I fight the battle of the squash bugs. Last year they beat me to it, and I reaped nothing. This year I’ve tried to keep on top of their production and even resorted to using chemicals, which I hate to do. I don’t think it helped in the slightest. I think it just annoyed them and made them bionic! I shall prevail! This year I’ve been at home, so have more time to beat them to the finish line.
• I also have asparagus growing, and it seems to be doing wonderfully. It’s a 3-year asparagus and this is the 2nd year, so one more summer and then hopefully in the summer of 2022, we will be eating it!
• My herbs are also wilting, so I really do need to get out and pick some of it and turn it into something wonderful. Lots of basil for pesto, and other herbs for Italian seasonings that I can freeze.

This past week (maybe a little late) I planted some Fall veggies. I have garlic, various types of lettuce, spinach, radishes, and a lot of beetroot. Some of it is already starting to poke its head out of the dirt, so I’m hopeful.

It’s been horribly hot and humid the past couple of weeks with very little rain, so I’ve been watering the garden and dealing with mosquitoes and chiggers feasting on me.  Seasonal allergies are no fun either, so I’ve limited my time outside.

I’d say it’s been a fairly successful gardening year.  It’s a lot of work to maintain a garden and yard.  Awful temperatures don’t make it easy either.  I’d enjoy it more on my terms, but Mother Nature does what she wants.

Time for me to prepare my little rain dance outside.  It’s cloudy, so I’m hopeful!

Happy gardening!