Water, water – everywhere!

Followers of this blog will know that we have been praying for water to fill our new 50 million litre dam in front of the property. Well it seems as though our prayers may be being answered.

 

In this area of low rainfall – just 250ml per year – we have already had more rain this year to date than in the whole of last year. Our rain gauge is proving very useful in providing this information. Of course it is not the direct rain falling into the dam that causes it to fill but the run off from the Langeberg mountains behind us – this vast expanse of rocks and kloofs act as a huge catchment for the surrounding farms and estates.

 

In a further attempt to find additional water sources we have been ‘flushing’ the existing bore holes on the property and are very pleasantly surprised to see that they are ‘alive and well’ and so by means of solar pumps we are able to have an additional source for irrigating the olives and also for filling the dam.

 

Speculation is rife as to how long it will take to fill up the dam – watch this space!

 

These ‘before and after pictures’ tell their own story. Also for those of you familiar with Geneva – it seems that we have our own ‘Jet d’eau’ here on Galenia Estate – as they were ‘flushing’ the bore holes.

Dam---Before

Dam---after

Galenia-bore-hole

 

Time for a break and a little additional construction

Our first season of operating as Galenia has surprised us all, as we have been far busier than we anticipated. So it is with a sigh of relief that we approach the South African ‘winter’ season and our decision to close for three months (we reopen on 14th August). This is not because we think that the estate is not suitable for winter stays – in fact the South African winter can be very similar to some northern European summers – with bright sunny days, but cool evenings and cold nights. Galenia is well designed for the colder season with log fires in each room and electric blankets on the beds and for those not brave enough to cope with the outdoor shower there is a free standing bath in each bathroom!

 

However this year we have decided to close in order to address a few issues that have arisen whilst operating with such high occupancies. Our kitchen is far too small and whilst we have tried to keep to a well thought out, but restricted, menu – behind the scenes has been pretty chaotic to say the least. So we are in the process of extending the kitchen area to include more storage, preparation and cooking space. Similarly our administration area/store/wine cellar just cannot physically fit in the number of people and the demands made upon it, so it is also a good opportunity to extend that as well. Work is well under way – and we will soon be ready for the thatchers and then Galenia will truly have a new ‘look’.

 

Hopefully all will go according to plan, and time schedule, and it will be finished and fully operational for when we are ready to welcome our first guests of the new season.

building

Galenia Extra Virgin Olive Oil receives International recognition

To say that we were delighted to win two gold and one silver awards in The South African Olive Association 2016 competition is an understatement. As this was our first year of producing our estate pressed oil, we were ‘doing it by the book’ literally, as well as calling in favours from friends and colleagues from near and far to give us their best advice. Well it certainly seemed to pay off.

 

Encouraged by our first year’s success we decided to enter our oil on an international platform by submitting it to the prestigious New York International Olive Oil competition. This is a truly international competition with Extra Virgin olive oils being submitted from most olive oil producing countries around the world. We were quietly confident that our South African produced oil was top quality, but reticent about how it would stand up internationally.

 

You can imagine our response to discover that we had been awarded a silver medal for our Directors Blend. This is particularly gratifying as this was our own blending of two of the three cultivars produced on the estate (Frantoio and Mission) to our own –now secret – formula! As each of the cultivars produces oil of its own particular ‘personality’ and that appears to change each year depending on weather and growing conditions we decided that the Directors Blend would be our selection as to which of the season’s oils complemented each other. Yes there was a fair amount of discussion – less of this, more of that – is it now too pungent? too bitter? – do we need that? In fact a group of amateur olive oil enthusiasts trying to engage their senses of smell and taste to produce a Galenia Estate oil we could all be proud of.

NYIOOC

Well we are certainly proud now!!!

 

 

Galenia africana

Galenia is a genus of plant, occurring within the Fynbos and Karoo biomes, but has a wide distribution, from Northern Cape through the Western Cape into the Karoo. The species found on the estate is called, Galenia africana, which can be easily overlooked, as there are several similar looking shrubs. However, it has quite a bright narrow, aromatic, greenish-yellow leaf, and same coloured inconspicuous flowers appearing from October to December. After two days of good unexpected rainfall in January, everything started shooting out and green returned to a lot of the drab wilted looking plants, which hadn’t received enough rain in the last year. This included the Galenia on the property, which were quite drab looking, and suddenly burst into life again, revealing itself all over the estate.

 

As you know Les Hauts De Montagu, went through a name change to Galenia – see blog of 27th June 2016 – but why Galenia?

 

The decision to change the name came about as not many people around the Montagu and surrounding areas, including our own guests who weren’t French speaking, could pronounce it correctly. This led us to play around with several name ideas, possibly Boontjiesrivier? The name of the stream originating and flowing through the property, but Boontjiesrivier is no easier to pronounce than Les Hauts De Montagu. It took us a long time and a lot of pondering to come up with the name, but in fact the name already existed on the property. Whilst out on a walk around the property, we stopped and looked at an old, historical staff cottage called, “Galenia cottage”.

That is when the name came to us, Galenia, it is pronounced exactly as you read it, (Ga-len-ear) without any silent letters, or guttural sounds.

 

The name Galenia, has Spanish origins and means, “small intelligent one” and is used medicinally for the treatment of wounds, eye and skin infections, whereby it is made into an aqueous infusion and then applied. In the Montagu region, this infusion is also drunk, to help with bladder infections and prostrate problems, however, in all pharmaceutical trials no evidence was determined that this is indeed a successful treatment against any of these ailments. So perhaps Galenia africana is still holding on to its secret, but whatever it is – we have plenty of it here on Galenia Estate.

Galenia

Compliments to the chef

 It has been interesting to see how the whole rhythm of the main building has changed – from hardly ever seeing any of our guests who used to go into Montagu for dinner we now find that from 6.30pm the lounge and bar areas begin to fill up with guests attending the olive oil tasting or having a drink before or after dinner.

 Almost all our guests opt to stay in for dinner – it makes a pleasant evening to have a relaxing dinner accompanied by local wines and to have no worries about driving home. Our four / five course menu can be a little too much for some of our guests but we try to keep our portions relatively small – knowing that we can always serve second helpings if desired. Our starters are ‘dainty’ our soups ‘rich and flavoursome’ our main courses concentrate on the main item with not too much starch accompaniment, we always have a vegetarian option which tends to be lighter. For those with red wine still in their glass, we offer a local cheese board before the dessert, but it can equally appear after the dessert depending on preference. Our desserts are tempting to the eye and to the taste buds.

For those who need a digestif with their coffee or rooibos we have sourced local Limoncello from Klaasvoogds, Grappa from Barrydale and Brandy from Robertson – we are certainly fortunate to be well located amongst amazing wine farms.

Our guests frequently comment favourably on their dining experience with us saying ‘imaginative and delicious’ ‘fantastic’ and ‘amazing’ for which we are highly flattered and grateful – we have tried to create our own style of ‘estate cuisine’ – simple and unpretentious letting the flavours and freshness speak for themselves and when our guests are happy then so are we.

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A walk on the wild side

 

 

For those guests who would like to know more about the estate, its history, its ecology, its agriculture and its daily operational challenges they can join our morning ‘estate’ walk. The daily escorted walk starts from the main house at 7.30am and takes about an hour to an hour and a half before arriving back ready to do justice to an ‘estate’ breakfast guaranteed to satisfy even the keenest appetite.

There is no set template for these walks and it is left to the ‘guide of the day’ whether it is Walter, Cade or Patti to decide what is of most interest on that morning. As each guide has their own particular sphere of interest it might be identifying birds and looking for the tracks of the cape leopard with our wildlife and nature specialist Walter, checking the progress of the olive grove and vegetable gardens with our plantsman and estate manager Cade or differentiating between fynbos and renosterbos with our resident ecologist and reservationist Patti. Of course each guide is knowledgeable about the estate, its history and geography, flora and fauna together with its past and current agricultural activities, so can answer questions on most subjects or at least give an opinion.

The walks are very relaxed and suitable for all ages and abilities and have proved to be a good introduction to the walking trails which are set out on the estate allowing our guests to wander (or trek) to the Langeberg kloofs behind us, to the dams and bird hide, up hills and mountainsides, amongst Proteas and Wabooms (better when in flower) and even to visit Rosalie and Cesar who are always appreciative of an apple!

Not so wild…..Ostriches

We have four supposedly wild ostriches on the estate – we treat them with respect and try to keep them at ‘arm’s length’ recognising that they are wild and enjoying the natural fynbos and renosterbos that forms the majority of the 550 hectares of the Galenia Estate. When they walk through the olive grove we enjoy the spectacle, they don’t eat the olives or the leaves, and in fact they help to keep down the undergrowth and occasionally even help with the fertilisation.

They also like to ‘promenade’ on the paddock area in front of the main stoep providing a photo opportunity for our guests, who are equally likely to meet up with them again whilst walking on the nature trails. We advise that the guests take a walking stick, in case they come across the ostriches, not to frighten them but to hold the stick above the head to make the human appear taller than the ostrich. As the average height of a male ostrich is between 2.0m and 2.5m – admittedly a lot of this is neck – the walking stick needs to be held high. It seems to do the trick. If they are not threatened they seem to be unconcerned by trekkers, although there are times when the males ostrich’s legs turn a bright pink – indicating the mating season – when he can be a little ‘frisky and unpredictable’, however his main interest appears to be the three ‘hens’ who he chases relentlessly at this time.

Of late the ostriches are getting even closer and have taken to helping us to ‘mow the lawn’ at the swimming pool – despite the fact that there are guests in the pool or sunbathing. This is probably due to their main source of food drying up and them knowing that there is tasty green irrigated grass in the pool area. Unfortunately their ‘mowing’ is a little too severe for our liking as they pull out the grass rather than bite it off, so we are having to find a way to dissuade them. Although we read, but have never seen, that ostriches can swim so one never knows we might even find them in the pool one day!

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ostriches-pool