Crazy Chivero Cranes

Looking at a Three-banded Plover

If our blog posts are more spaced out, it is because our lives have settled in a happy pattern and/or we’ve forgotten to take nice photos. Fortunately, we broke both trends this Sunday when the family BUNKED CHURCH (!) and went on a spontaneous trip to Lake Chivero National Park.

Chivero is a lovely park, with lots of wildlife on display. We see White Rhinos almost every time we go, and this time we came across a little baby! We followed our standard Chivero plan: drive around, find a spot for tea, drive around some more, walk around Bushman Point, scan the shores for birds, establish ourselves in a picnic spot and have a tasty lunch, amble back towards the gate and head home in time for mid-afternoon tea.

Grey Crowned Cranes look at a crocodile – photo by Richard Whitaker

The park has a birdlist of 400+ species, but most are migrants that are only seen infrequently. That said, we still saw >60 species, including 12 that were new to our year-list (and Ellie’s life-list!). Not to brag, but miombo specials like the White-breasted Cukooshrike (which make visiting birders drool with envy) are becoming familiar and ‘old hat’ to us these days. There was one super-special sighting though – the Cranes pictured above. I shared the photo with a birding group, who are all very excited; the last time these birds were seen in this particular park was ~10 years ago!

A male ostrich displaying

There was one other sighting that got the blood pumping in a different way. It’s that time of year when ostrich are especially uppity. The males have neon pink shins and the fanciest of plumage, and the lucky ones might already have some eggs to guard. So when one appeared out of the reeds nearby and started in our direction, the family retreated to the car to cries of “Run faster! Don’t look back!”. A wise choice, but one that entertained some nearby fishermen on the lake no end.

Other news:
– We’re staying with my folks while our previous hosts have guests
– We made another new friend, who is visiting Zim and happy to find people interested in showing her all the fun places. Our perfect job description!
– I’m now lifting Ellie to her workout class, which leaves me with just enough time to go for a run at ART Farm. I say “run” – I take my binos and stop to look at interesting birds. I may or may not find lots of birds interesting when I need to catch my breath. On Monday I found a Hottentot Teal chilling in a river and unperturbed by my gasping noises – score!
– My work is going well, and should mostly wrap up by mid June. Holiday plans are afoot, and I’m starting to plan a new project to fill my days. Stay tuned.

This blog post the product of an unusually early morning wake-up. Here’s a happy verse from today’s reading from Ephesians 1:

17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.


Nyanga and Misc

Ballyfyne – Our weekend getaway

We’ve been pretty busy, but ‘we should do a blog post’ has reached critical mass 🙂 This last weekend, we took a break from our relaxed lives and relaxed in a different setting for a few nights with my parents and a whole lot of nature. This trip was a present for Ellie, who is now officially older than my for a whole three months. We stayed in a cottage on Conomara lower dam, courtesy of a friend of my dad’s. As a sign of gratitude to them, I’m not going to brag with photos of the trout dad caught… instead, here’s the biggest thing I caught:

Walks around the dam, birding, fishing, messing about in boats, good meals, fires and books. Lots of books. We read ~4 books each? Partly because Ellie and I have discovered Jon Scalzi – a prolific new author whose works range from classic action to sci-fi to “buckwild”. Anyway, enough about that trip.

Painting with Karen today – spot the cottage 🙂

We’ve done some painting:

We’ve had lots of time with friends, including Potjie/bonfire:

We’ve been to Mukuvisi a lot, seeing baby giraffes, going with friends, watching birds

We’ve seen a lot of my parents, and played a fair bit of ping-pong. They have an orchid:

We’ve introduced some friends to ‘Swoggle”, a game invented last Christmas at the Ker household:

Swoggle by candle-light, thanks to a power cut

Work is getting more busy (in fact this is procrastination) but with bad power and internet the last few days, I haven’t done much. This evening we have life group, tomorrow a breakfast, tomorrow pm dinner and sokkie plans… It’s tough fitting everything in 🙂

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith – Heb 12

Making Cajons

A week ago, our neighbour Scott invited a bunch of people over for lunch and instrument-making. The majority of the people who came made made whistles from pvc pipe (which I believe we’ve mentioned before). There was good food and good social, as everyone tried to make tuneful squeaks on their meticulously shaped bits of plastic.

The whistle-making crowd being instructed by Scott.

But Scott, his brother Doug, Jonathan and I had already made whistles. We wanted to try making cajons. It was a marvelous excuse for multiple trips to the hardware store. Hardware stores are such happy places. They speak of industry, and possibility, and I always find things I didn’t know I needed. This time was certainly no exception.

I’ve always enjoyed making things, making noise and getting messy, and building a cajon provided marvelous opportunities for all three. It wasn’t long before sawdust was flying, the circular saw was making a GRRRAAAOUUURRRL, and our cajons were shaping up. I started out by building a frame, while Doug and Johno decided to build one without a frame inside.

Perhaps my favourite part of the whole process was learning to use a circular saw. The noise! The dust! The delightful ease of chopping things into pieces! Yeehaw! By the end of the day, Johno and Doug had assembled their first (draft) cajon, and cut the pieces for a second one. I finished cutting out my final piece as dusk fell, and we decided to finish them tomorrow.

Day 2 of cajon building. On the work table outside our cottage, Johno tightens screws on his draft cajon, while I use wood glue to attach sides to my frame.

We didn’t finish the cajons the next day. In fact (as indicated by the fact that I’m only writing about it now) it took us a week. The glue eventually dried. I spent about three days sanding my cajon and gained bulging biceps. Johno gave his a decorative side with some oil paints. I doodled on mine with permanent marker. Finally we were satisfied. Time for the last step.

We had bought some clear wood sealant at the hardware store, and some turpentine to use with it. Of course, the turpentine got me thinking about oil paints. Pretty soon I decided that I was going to attempt to tint the wood with oil paint before I sealed it. But I was afraid of messing up my wooden pride and joy. To allay my fears, Johno kindly used one side of his cajon as a test of the concept, and it worked beautifully.

After about a day of inhaling fumes, our cajons were finished. We now have cajons/stools/side tables! It was a jolly good beginner woodworking project, and I’m already looking around for my next one. Johno has all the components for another cajon all ready to assemble. Right. Enough drumming on my own cajon. Here’s some final pictures.

Johno’s multicoloured masterpiece. Also known as the “draft cajon”. Complete with impressionistic dashes of oil paint and a cool triangular hole/handle.
The back of my cajon, complete with blue tint and permanent marker doodles.
I left the front untinted, and added my signature. I’m quite proud of my box. It’s pretty and it makes nice sounds.

Anyways. Can highly recommend cajon making as a project. Such fun.

This is your resident carpenter, signing out.


A happy tea spot – the river by Pamuzinda lodge

This weekend I (Johno) had work. Specifically, 10hrs/day mostly in front of my screen. Admittedly, some of that time was in a hammock, but it still took a toll. So Ellie and I took Monday and Tuesday off. Monday to blob, and Tuesday to escape into the bush and get some new birds on our list!

Pamuzinda pool

The chosen destination was Pamuzinda lodge, just over an hour outside Harare. That might not sound far, but the difference in altitude and climate makes for a very interesting ecological transition from one to the other. We booked two activities and lunch, selecting guided walk and canoe from the long and appealing list.

Some Elephants

The game walk was glorious. Our guide, Foster, was knowledgeable and personable. Seeing that we were interested in birds and knew our stuff, he quickly turned it into a quiz game. “Which way was this cobra travelling?”, “Who is making that noise?”, “Who is responsible for these tracks?”. Every time I got one right I was awarded an enthusiastic “10 points!!!”.

After tea and breakfast by the river, we lounged by the pool and spent time chatting with a lovely chap by the name of Brian Pettit. One of the staff had seen our binoculars and sent him to chat to us, presumably on the assumption that we shared interests. What a guy – he takes incredible photos and focuses on the hidden side of Pamuzinda. Dragonfly walks, insect photography etc. He writes for their blog: We showed each other photographs and I was inspired to pull out the macro lens:

A fly that I tracked down when trying to demonstrate my lens

We also found two frogs:

Back to human scale. After a massive buffet lunch and a quick nap by the poolside, it was time to take to the river and go looking for Finfoot. Still water, greenery on the sides, peace and tranquillity in abundance.

On the river

All in all, this was a wonderful getaway. How could one not feel refreshed by such a good dose of God’s creation?

7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; 8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. 9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. – Job 12:7-10

My phone takes good pictures.

While scrolling through my camera roll looking for good pictures of taxi names, I came across a number of pictures I really like. I thought I might as well share them here so you can enjoy them too.

I like the composition of this one, but the detail of the following one. Some moss on a rotting rafter.

Hope these have made you happy. I’m inspired to take more.

Taxi Names

One of my least favourite things about driving the roads of Harare are all the taxis. They drive like maniacs, and we’ve already had a few near misses. The taxis are also one of my favourite things about Harare roads. Why? Because unlike in Cape Town, Harare taxi drivers seem to have complete freedom in the way they decorate their vehicles of terror. And as a result, every other taxi has a Bible verse, a picture, or an ominous slogan emblazoned boldly across it.

I’d like to give you a few examples of ones I actually got a picture of as they careened by.

Other examples of things I’ve read on taxis include:

  • Loose hope
  • Plan maker
  • Hugger – Real Thing
  • Blessed and Balanced
  • Hustlepreneur
  • Ghetto Gucci

There are so many more that I’ve forgotten to write down. Maybe I’ll add a part two once I’ve added the famed Cat Taxi to my collection. (Apparently it has ears, whiskers, and makes a very convincing Cat noise as it hails pedestrians.)

In which J rediscovers sepia

My temporary phone has ‘sepia mode’ and it’s glorious

Sepia is wonderful. I’ve been taking artsy photos of feet:

Our lovely house
The lovely Ellie
My lovely herbs!

I also learnt how to crochet! So cool – as far as I’m concerned it’s a wonderfully malleable fabrication method. I got frustrated by the few tutorials I looked at – none of these bunnies know the word ‘chirality’…

My little mug now has a cover like Ellie’s! And the bobble-beast now has a hat 🙂

In other news, I have a job. Although it’s ~2h a day means we haven’t really had to change our idyllic schedules. Also, my phone went swimming, so I lost all my cool microscope pictures.

A complete absence of tardigrade

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17