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!

ostriches-pool-2

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.

ph

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!

 rosalie1

rosalie2

rosalie3

 

 

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

 

Our favourite bubbles

One of the most pleasurable duties of launching the new Galenia is the sourcing of supplies for our guests from this incredibly rich and varied region of the Western Cape. It really is difficult to decide amongst the many growers and producers of food and wine in our immediate area just who to feature on our menus and wine list. Of course we try to support as many of our neighbours as we can as we feel that there is something extra special about consuming food and wine in the location where it is grown and produced. In Italy they call it Kilometre Zero – eating as close as possible to the point of production. We cannot claim to be Kilometre Zero (our guests might be munching on ‘Fynbos’) apart from our own estate-produced Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but certainly the majority of our supplies come from the Langeberg area.

 

It is really a delight to meet the diverse and fascinating people so passionately committed to producing such high quality food and wine.

 

One of our recent ‘finds’ is a superb sparkling wine (Methode Cap Classique) from Silverthorn Wines called ‘Jewel Box’. In true champagne fashion it is fermented in the bottle and a classic combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. It is obviously the creation of a truly gifted winemaker – John Loubser- from grapes grown on his farm located between Robertson and Bonnievale.

 

The handpicked grapes are ‘bunch pressed’ producing a precious, if meagre, 550 litres per ton of grapes. The Chardonnay is then given its primary fermentation in stainless steel tanks and also French oak barrels whilst the Pinot Noir is fermented in stainless steel only. This separate fermentation process gives a selection of wines to build a complex blend of the 60% (Chardonnay) and 40% (Pinot Noir) that is then bottled for its secondary fermentation. This wine then stays in the bottle (on the lees) for a minimum of 42 months before ‘degorgement’.

silverthorn_jewel-box-02Jewel Box is described as ‘dry, rich and full on the palate with a soft toasty creaminess – a nose of complex roasted almond and marzipan with a hint of cherry compote and strawberry with a zesty citrus finish’. We agree with all of this, even though we might not be able to be so articulate. Suffice to say that this superb quality MCC wine would leave any champagne aficionado confused but delighted to find that it comes from our native South Africa.

 

We recommend a glass or two as a sundowner or as an aperitif.

Come dine with us

 

 

As we have mentioned already we are pleased to say that we are no longer just a bed and breakfast guest house but now are happy to serve platter lunches and also dinners by candlelight.

We are the first to admit that we are not a restaurant – that is not our aim – we like to think that our dinners are more like ‘dining with friends’ with the accent being on freshness, quality and taste. We are also keen on presentation but more like ‘looking nice and tempting to eat,’ rather than ‘art on a plate’ in fact something you might like to find when dining on a country estate.

dinner-39

Our kitchen is small, so we cannot offer a lot of choice, but we can be flexible and always offer a vegetarian option – which is not something often found in ‘meat loving’ South Africa. We try to source our food from neighbouring producers wherever possible and intend to ‘grow our own’ as soon as we are able to do so.

Being so close to the Robertson wine valley we are spoilt for choice when it comes to the wines to complement our dinners – we have chosen some of what we think are the best available varietals and blends for our small but constantly updated wine list. Our dinners are an ‘unhurried pleasure’, relax in our comfy dining chairs, enjoy the view (in the summertime), let our cheerful and friendly service staff attend to you whilst our kitchen staff delight your taste buds. We know that our guests do not have to drive home so why not an after dinner brandy, local liqueur or grappa with the coffee?

Our menus change daily, depending on our food supplies, so two or three night stays mean that those lucky guests get to experience our candlelight dinners over and over again! Here is a copy of a sample menu to give you an idea of what it is like to dine at Galenia.

Dinner Menu

Starter

Halloumi & Avocado

With Baby Salad Greens & Dill Vinaigrette

Soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Main Course

Slow Roasted Pork Belly

Served with Potato & Leek Bake and Seasonal Garden Vegetables

Accompanied by a Pineapple Chutney

Or

Pumpkin Gnocchi

With Sage & Parmesan Butter

Dessert

Strawberry Sorbet & Limoncello