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

Table Olives are a mission!!

The Manzanilla olives that we harvested in March are at last ready for eating. We look with envy at our neighbouring fruit farms that harvest their crop and sell it immediately whilst we have to wait for eight months before we can start to sell our produce. Also we have the added complication in that if we don’t get the processing and fermentation process exactly right we end up either with foul tasting olives or olives that are too soft and squashy and that we cannot take to market.

Fortunately the ‘pickling’ process appeals to Walter’s fastidious side and for the last eight months he has religiously checked on his ‘babies’ in the olive store. Armed with his refractometer (to test the salinity of the pickling brine) and his ‘ph’ sticks (to test the acidity/alkalinity) he has nurtured them through their transformation from bitter tasting inedible ‘drupes’ (single stone fleshy fruit) into remarkably tasty processed green table olives. Although there have been times when even he thought that the lactic acid

fermentation process was out of control.

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olives

So now at last we are ready to allow our guests to sample the Manzanillas both in the whole form and as olive paste – we are still trying to find the correct term to describe our olive paste – a ‘blitzed mix of stone-less olives, garlic, lemon and herbs’ – others use the term ‘tapenade’ which should really contain anchovies and capers, or ‘pesto’ which should contain pine nuts and parmesan – but we would like the flavour of our Manzanillas to ‘speak’ for itself. Our brains are being tested but hopefully we will eventually improve upon Manzanilla Mash which appears to be the current favourite.

Our Mission olives that were harvested in April are almost ready, these black olives are still a little bitter but we think that within a few weeks will be ready for the tasting – and ‘mashing’.

olivepaste

 

The story of Rosalie the sheep

Part of the chattels of the purchase was that we inherited a donkey called Cesar and a sheep called Rosalie. However they are not what they appear to be. Originally there were two donkeys called Cesar and Rosalie but unfortunately Rosalie (the donkey) died leaving Cesar all alone and feeling lonesome. So to give him a chum to brighten up his loneliness they bought a ram (male sheep), but for continuity they decided to call the ram Rosalie. Whether this trans-gender naming has had an effect we are not quite sure – but certainly Rosalie does not appear to be very cheerful.

 

Perhaps another reason for Rosalie’s grumpy demeanour could be due to the fact that his woolly fleece had not been shorn and in the hot season it cannot be pleasant wearing a thick woolly coat. So we decided to give him a surprise and remove his many years of growth. Well as you may have gathered Rosalie does not like to be ‘interfered with’ so it took Ricardo and three of the estate workers supervised by Cade (the cameraman) to persuade him to lie down and submit to a de-fleecing. You can imagine that this did not go down too well – but it did get to a point where surrender seemed to be the best option.

 

And bravo! A new sheep appeared from underneath the woolly coat – so slim and handsome and not nearly half as grumpy as before – in fact I think we even saw a few jumps for joy – well a few jumps anyway.

Now what to do with the fleece? – There have been lots of suggestions – you may even see woolly jumpers and hats on sale when you next visit!

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Residents in the fynbos

Having a 1300 acres (550hectares) estate in the Western Cape, especially as it is located on the slopes of the Langeberg Mountains, it is no surprise that quite a large percentage of the land is covered by native fynbos and renosterbos. Whilst we have established and maintain a number of walking trails, which prove to be very popular with our guests, there are still huge areas of undisturbed ‘bush’ that provide a natural habitat for a good selection of mammals.

 

As many know Walter is an avid wildlife expert who delights in spotting and monitoring anything that moves (whether walking, running, jumping, flying or crawling!) so will not be surprised to learn that he has already compiled a list of his ‘sightings’.

 

His ‘mammals’ list already contains Karoo Bush Rat, Four-striped Mouse, Cape Crested Porcupine, Cape Hare, Scrub Hare, Hewitt’s Red Rock Rabbit, Rock Hyrax, Aardvark, Striped Polecat, Striped Weasel, Honey Badger, Cape Gray Mongoose, Yellow Mongoose, Caracal, African Wild Cat, Leopard, Bat-eared Fox, Black-backed Jackal, Common Duiker, Klipspringer, Cape Grysbok, Grey Rhebok, Large-spotted Genet, Reddish-grey Musk Shrew, and Chacma Baboon.

Whilst all these mammals might not be able to be ‘ticked off’ in one visit – and we agree it is hardly ‘the big five’ – it does provide a significant moment of excitement for our guests walking on the estate – especially the leopard!!!! Unfortunately (or fortunately) it is usually a Leopard Tortoise.

tortoiseshrew