When spring flew in!

Jack and Jill
Jack and Jill, our Lesser African Swallows

Late last summer, a pair of African swallows, built a nest under the eaves of our front veranda.  At the time, we thought it a bit late in the season for a brood, but a brood they had.  Many a late afternoon, we watched as they went about the very frustrating job of getting their babies to bed.  Much like humans, these swallow parents had to deal with the exuberance of a new-found, fun skill:  the children did not want to go to bed – flying about was such fun!

Winter arrived.  Jack and Jill left and I missed their cheerful “chissick!” greeting as they swooped along the veranda past the office window several times a day.  They would be back, I knew, to add to the nest that they had so carefully built.

Along with winter, came the need for work on our roof.  Large men with even larger boots stomped about on the veranda roof – Jack and Jill’s house came tumbling down!  I was horrified!  There, in smithereens, was their hard work, and lying amongst them, the most beautiful warm bed that they had made with, among other things, guinea fowl and pigeon feathers.

Jack and Jill's feather bed - top (l) and bottom (r)
A feather bed – top (l) and bottom (r), beautifully curved to fit into the base of the nest

Then, about six weeks ago, much to our delight, as we were contemplating something or other in the office,  we heard a flutter and something swooped past the window, under the eaves.  Then another.  And then a “chissick!”

Jack and Jill were back!  For a few days they were much in evidence, flying about, and generally having a ball…

After a cold snap and some rain, we noticed that they had started to work on the old nest.  The weather cleared and went from winter to summer in a single day, and there was no more mud.  Work stopped.

A couple of weeks passed and we had another cold snap and rain – lots of mud about again.  Jack and Jill began rebuilding in earnest, and this is what they have built over the last 10 days, from the ruins of their old home.

Jack and Jill's big build

Yesterday and today, they have been literally feathering their nest, so I suppose we will soon see less of Jill as she sits on her eggs in the nest under the eaves of our veranda.



If I am able to get good pictures of the babies, I’ll update this post and re-blog….

© Fiona’s Favourites 2014

Autumn – preparing for spring (and winter!)

Although the grape harvest in our valley seems to be later this year, autumn seems to have arrived early.  Along with this, we have had a wonderful experience:  a pair of swallows building a nest in preparation for the spring.  100_2476Jack and Jill are Greater Striped Swallows, indigenous to Africa, and they summer south of Namibia, and winter in Northern Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  They will leave us in two to three weeks’ time.  Their nests are characterised by a tunnel which they will build when only when they return in the spring.100_2475

Clever little birds, planning for the future, I reflected as I made basil pesto on Sunday.

Basil pesto

You will need a very, very generous picking of sweet basil, leaves stripped from the stems and the damaged leaves discarded.

Rule of thumb:  about two-thirds more basil than nuts and Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, coarsely grated.

About the nuts:  traditional (and the best) pesto is made with pine nuts.  They are expensive so I substitute them with cashews which also have a high oil content.  To enhance the flavour, toast them in a dry pan, allowing them to cool before you crush and add them to the other ingredients.

One or two cloves of garlic.  Be careful with the garlic:  even if you like lots of garlic, remember that combining dairy with garlic makes the garlic flavour stronger.  I’ve learned this the hard way…..

Basil, garlic, grana pradano

Then, of course, the ubiquitous pinch of salt which is optional if you’re not using a pestle and mortar (which does make the best pesto…), and because the salt does help with the maceration of the leaves and the garlic. Enough olive oil to make a thick paste.   I usually add it as I go along.

Bung all the leaves into the food processor, with the garlic cloves and whiz for a few seconds – not too long;  then add olive oil and the other ingredients and whiz or pulse until you have a good, thick paste, adding more olive oil as you need.


Bottle as you would other preserves, in sterilized jars and top with olive oil to keep it fresh.

Make a caprese salad, enjoy on pasta, sandwiches, as a dip with yoghurt for crudites or as an accompaniment to  whatever you please!

Tomatoes & pesto branded