Fairview Homestead | Philda Benkenstein
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I once sat in a meeting targeted at accommodation providers and the speaker twice repeated the words: ‘We can not allow ourselves to become too precious about our B&B’s’. Well, It took all my self-control not to shout: ‘if your B&B is not precious to you, you should not have a B&B.’ A fellow guest house owner argues that our B&B’s are so personal to us that we often take criticism about as well as we would if we were told that we have an ugly or a naughty child.

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I have noticed that guest houses will often set the television to a news channel during breakfast.To me that is just one notch above listening to rap while having a meal – who wants to start his day with bad news, and let’s face it, ‘news’ will inevitably be bad news. For seventeen years my background music of choice at the breakfast table has been light classical music, but I also have quite a collection of ‘soothing’ background CD’s. I think one should be careful with vocals and I prefer to play soothing instrumental music if not light classical.

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We take pride in our unique fruit entrées- sometimes a plated fruit salad, other times a mini portion of Bircher Muesli garnished with apple shards, or a homemade smoothie with carrot, ginger, orange and apple… On the buffet we have an assortment of cereals: homemade muesli, ProNutro, bran flakes, Weetabix as well as yogurt, more fresh fruit and a baked fruit compote, which in season consists of rhubarb or quince from the garden, otherwise stewed prunes, guavas or peaches.

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Questions to a man addicted to gardening
Where do you get your love for gardening from? From my parents. My mother always had a beautiful flower garden and my father was very serious about his vegetable garden.

Plant collector or landscape gardener? I am more of a plant collector.

Your favourite flower? Aquilegia

Favourite tree? Indigenous: Cape Chestnut. Exotic trees: Acer family

Your favourite garden in South Africa? Old Nectar in Jonkershoek. And Vergelegen in Somerset West.

Your favourite international garden? Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France.

Favourite shrub? Viburnum family

How would you describe the style of your garden? a Romantic garden with formal sections and mixed borders. A Complete garden in the sense that it has flowers, herbs, orchard and vegetable sections.

What advice do you have for new gardeners? Make your own compost. Keep at least three compost heaps going. Use organic fertilizer like ‘bounce-back’; plant self-seeding flowers. Propagate your own cuttings.

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In The Oudtshoorn Courant and Het Suid-Western on Wednesday, September 27, 1978, Brenda Hartdegen reported:

GEORGE: A magnificent leather-bound 260-year-old Bible was sold for R535 after brisk bidding at an auction of mostly antique furniture. The Bible was bought by a Cape Town dealer, Mr. H A Lammers, who flew to George especially to attend the sale. And he is confident that he will sell it immediately to one of several Dutch dealers who are out in South Africa from Holland to buy up all the Dutch antiques they can find.
Antiques in Holland have become very scarce and the dealers have now turned their attention to South Arica which is still regarded as a rich field for many Dutch antiques.

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It is grapefruit time again and when my guest told me how much she enjoyed her grapefruit starter (a take on Bircher Muesli served with grapefruit) I remembered how my daughter loved her grapefruit. As she remembers: ‘ When I was a little girl my mother would give me half a grapefruit sprinkled with sugar, each segment delicately cut loose for me to eat it more easily. I still remember that bittersweet deliciousness, it’s such a fond memory, but thinking about it now I realize it was quite unusual for me to be eating, not to mention enjoying grapefruit at that age! Somewhere along the line, probably when I started doing my own shopping and choosing what to fill my fruit bowl with, grapefruit didn’t quite make the cut and many years passed without me giving them much notice.’

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I have a few friends who also run B&B’s and whenever we get together, you can be sure that within minutes we’ll be sharing tips, recipes, a joke or a funny incident. Exactly a year ago my friend Liza encouraged me to write candidly about the joys (and frustrations) of running a guest house, categorized on my blog as “My B&B Life”. This week I want to tackle tricky issues around accents and cultural differences.

An Afrikaans speaking person will ask for breakfast at ‘half sewe’ (6h30), someone from England will talk about ‘half seven’ (7h30) and another person may talk about ‘half-past seven’ – three different meanings to similar-sounding request, fertile ground for misunderstandings! I’m sure fellow B&B owners will sympathize with my frustration (because it’s probably happened to them often!) when a guest who requested breakfast at 6.30 (which requires a wake-up time of 5.30 for the guest house owner) then casually waltzes in at 7.30. The problem is that you’ve been robbed of an hour of sleep with only yourself to blame as, chances are, you were the one who made the mistake with the half-past six / half six story.

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We are situated opposite Van Kervel School- a double medium school that caters for learners with special educational needs, but also offer normal academic subjects. To quote their school website:

‘These learners benefit more from concrete learning programs where they learn by doing.  In most cases they will eventually find employment in practically orientated professions;  therefore more emphasis is placed on the skills or vocational learning programs in our school where learners can acquire skills such as panel beating, spray painting, motor vehicle repairing, woodworking, welding, building and maintenance, hospitality studies, educare, office administration and hairdressing. ‘

Our beautiful screens and arches that transform our rose garden into the spectacular, bears testimony to Mr. Myburgh and his metal work learners. Because we are situated close to the school, Mr. Myburgh could walk across with his pupils and they could take ownership of the project – from taking the initial measurements to the final product. We are as proud as they are of their craftsmanship.

 

I think I should offer cooking class exchanges officially on my website! I was delighted when Dani, who lives in London, but is of Greek descent, offered to teach me how to make dolmathes using the new leaves from our vine. Last year I exchanged recipes with an Ukrainian guest and in December we had guests from Mumbai who demonstrated and cooked us a traditional Indian meal. What fun! Not only do they learn something about South Africa food, but they get an opportunity to have a home cooked meal and we get an opportunity to eat something exotic.

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I never realised that Dolmades are cooked in a tomato sauce (either in the oven or on hob over very low setting) Dani showed me how to use two plates as weight to ensure that the Dolmades remain covered in this delicious, buttery tomato sauce.

Today I would like to share the following, written by our son Alex:

“We headed out from a launch near the Cape Town Waterfront to hunt for snoek, those nasty looking wolves of the sea – to most people the quintessential South African fish. We must have looked rather comic as we chugged out of the launch site, four big guys perched on a tiny, pink rubber duck. After cruising about for a while we spotted a group of boats floating together about two kilometers offshore and we immediately knew they were into the snoek. The adrenalin was pumping, but we had to keep to a pretty moderate speed as the small boat climbed up and down the swells. Eventually, we joined up with the other boats and rushed to get our lines in the water.

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