Tuesday 31 March 2020

Lockdown is tough on dogs

Rusty is used to going everywhere with me - to the hardware store, shops, visiting her granny and my friends. Every evening we go for a run or walk, often heading out of town to run on neighbouring farms.

For the past four days (we're on Day 5 today), we've been stuck at home. We play a bit of ball in the garden, I get her to run with me when I do circuit training and she hangs outside for a lot of the day if I'm out there gardening or reading. We did have an outing on Sunday when I did shopping for my mom, but for the rest, Rusty's 'normal' is completely disrupted.

With people, you can tell them what is going on. For a dog? They don't know what is happening. My mental state is fine but I think there are a lot of regularly-walked dogs that are going to take strain.

This morning, I let Rusty out of the gate and we went to the corner of our block and back. I think I'll do this with her once or twice a day.

We're also trying some dog training and I'll keep up with activities with her in the garden that I am so fortunate to have.

Rusty looking a big glum this morning.

Monday 30 March 2020

Settling into lockdown

The silver lining to the coronavirus lockdown is that there is bugger all that we can do about it. I made peace with this as I saw my business prospects plummeting - and just when 2020 was finally looking up for us after three years of very hard slog.

This lockdown is an appreciated break that is even better than a holiday. On holiday, the rest of the world continues as usual. Right now, everything and everyone that we deal with are shut-down too. As Mark Manson writes in his 'Motherf-cking Monday' newsletter, "And never in my adult life have I ever had more time and lack of obligations than now".

I've got no shortage of work to do but I decided to take a long weekend to do a lot of very little. I've tended to my new veggie garden, planted seeds, tumbled my compost, listened to an audiobook (while gardening), read two books, napped, done house cleaning, and I've exercised. I've allowed myself to awake without an alarm and I've lazed in bed drinking tea an reading - books or coronavirus articles online (I'm reducing this latter activity tomorrow!).

Breakfast on my patio on Day 1. I've been living here for four months and this is the first time I've had breakfast out here instead of in front of my computer. Every day during lockdown I will be eating breakfast outside.

My big work project involves intense image editing. I haven't had time to do this in the past 18 months because it is very time consuming and needs chunks of hours. I've got these now in abundance.

I am enjoying not having to go anywhere or do anything. I am just being. I haven't had this indulgence in a very long time. I've got lots of blog posts juggling around in my mind; but I haven't been drawn to turn on my computer even to write, from which I get great pleasure!

I count my blessings that I live in a cottage with a garden, I have running water and electricity (and gas), internet, and I have food in my cupboards. This makes lockdown very pleasant. I feel for those who do not have these luxuries.

I've been tired, exhausted and burnt out for so very long. Lockdown is exactly what I need to recovery and to be strong enough to deal with what life is going to throw at me again.

An afternoon read and nap under the blanket I made last year.
I have the pleasure of living in a place with a reasonable garden. When I open my driveway gate and that of my landlord, I can run a loop of about 90 metres. I've resurrected circuit training -  activity sessions with a variety of activities 'connected' by running loops between sets. I wrote about circuit training back in 2010 (OMG - 10 years ago!).

In short, you pick 5-6 exercises like burpees, squats, lunges, push ups, sit ups, mountain climber, tricep dips, stair climbs, jumping jacks, weight lifts. You assign these activities to stations. You can connect the stations with movement like jumps, skips, runs, backward-runs and the like. The completion of all activities with connecting element is one round.

I work the activities in a pyramid round. For example: the first round I do each activity twice. After completing say the sit-ups, I run a loop and head for the next station (can be in the same place or another location in the house/garden). I do the next activity - say burpees - for two repetitions and then run again. After completing each activity and run loops, I've completed a round. For the next round, I increase the reps by two - so in the next round I must do each activity 4 times i.e. 4 x burpees, 4 x sit-ups. The next round will be 6, then 8 and then 10. If I have the energy, I can bring the pyramid back down again.

If you don't have space to run, the connecting element could be skipping or running on the spot for a set count.

Circuits are great for cardio and strength. I've done two sessions and I can feel it! I get ideas for different activities from the internet - there is no limit to the amount of variations you can create.

I'm also committed to doing yoga daily - either a class or some stretching postures after a circuit. I love yoga, especially Ashtanga, but I haven't had space in my life for much of it for too long.

A few years ago, I discovered Lesley Fightmaster on YouTube and downloaded a bunch of her videos for Ashtanga classes. I think I did two or three of them and then lost the plot to self-practice. I'm back and I loved her 50-minute Ashtanga class that I did yesterday. She has posted tons of videos since I first downloaded a couple and I look forward to exploring her channel. I also have other videos saved from a variety of sources that focus on balance elements - I look forward to progressing with these.

Fixing forward head posture
I've become increasingly aware of my forward head posture - too much time spent on my computer and looking down at my phone. I'm not bad, but I could end up that way if I don't do something about it. I found this video two days ago. I have not doubt that it will prove useful to you too. I correct myself throughout the day (plus it helps not being on my computer much too!).


Rusty training
If there is one thing I've let Rusty down on, it is dog training. She is smart and learns quickly. She would have loved to be an agility dog or to do dancing with me. I just haven't had the time to commit on this. By chance, I discovered dog trainer Karis Nafte yesterday. She is posting daily videos on Instagram with training tricks to do with your dog. Rusty and I started with weaving - where she weaves between my legs. Fortunately Rusts is very food motivated. I'm so impressed with her progress in our three short sessions today. We'll pick it up again tomorrow.

Foot off the gas
While I have aspirations to do an online course and to accomplish other tasks during lockdown, I am also cautious of doing what I've been doing for the past 20-plus years: filling every waking moment with work, tasks and obligations.

For lockdown, I'm taking my foot off the gas: doing only what I need to. I'm not thinking too much (yet) about how to go about picking up the pieces of my businesses when lockdown ends.

Saturday 21 March 2020

Combating sea sickness (on rivers)

I don't have a very strong constitution when it comes to the sea - I feel queasy just at the thought of bobbing on the swell. When it comes to rivers, I'm fine going down, but my stomach can't handle too much in the way of catching eddies, ferrying and surfing. Watching that water flowing towards me, the deafening sound of the water, and the bobbing and weaving leaves me feeling very green after a short period of time.

These past weeks I've been working on my whitewater skills - paddle strokes, nailing a strong roll in current, eddy catching, ferrying and edging. I'm getting better but my tolerance for spending any duration on the water doing these skills is low.

Welcome Valoid!

I have successfully taken Valoid for paddling on the sea in the past and as I was intending to hit the Gatsien rapid for some drills, I headed to the pharmacy.

My session last Sunday left my head swirling for hours after getting off the water. My Valoid-assisted session on Thursday evening had me feeling quite normal on and off the water. I put in some better ferries in stronger current and even enjoyed a dash of surfing as I learn to feel the water.

As we have a factory of kayaks, we paddle a bunch of them. My personal kayak has been my green Marimba but now I'm proud to add one of our whitewater kayaks to my personal collection. On Thursday I climbed into my own beautiful blue Vagabond Pungwe. This paddle is also a new one - Celliers' new CEKR whitewater paddles (I've got one of his touring ones too). Beautiful paddles.

In my Vagabond Pungwe kayak.
I've still got a way to go until I feel really competent, but I am improving and it is rewarding to be able to do things now that I couldn't a month or two ago.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Making makataan jam

Makataan? As an English-speaking South African, I had never heard of 'makataan'. This hefty fruit is a 'wild melon' - one of 1000 varieties of watermelon. It is similar in size to a large watermelon but the inside is white / very pale green. The taste of the raw fruit is bland - not much flavour although you can tell it is of the melon family.

I processed the makataan that I received at night so I didn't take any photos. This image from herbgarden.co.za
The makataan ended up with me after being bumped down the line. I was the one to say, "Ok, I'll make the jam" - and this was before I'd seen the fruit!

The preparation of makataan jam is quite laborious, from chopping up the fruit to soaking in slaked lime, rinsing, blanching, syrup making, boiling and bottling. I found recipes online and did a bit of this and that.

It took me a while to chop the fruit. The part used for the preserve is the pith - the equivalent of the pale section of a watermelon. The peel and seed part is discarded - these went straight into my YOLO Compost Tumbler. Many recipes use big chunks. I went with smaller cubes (approx 1cm).

The first part involves soaking the fruit pieces in a solution of slaked lime, which can be purchased from a pharmacy as a powder. Calcium hydroxide is a preservative that can clarify raw juice and is used in the pickling of cucumbers. I'm not sure, but in the making of this jam I think it contributes to keeping the fruit crunchy.

After soaking overnight, I left the fruit to rinse in clean water for a few hours before blanching the cubes in boiling water. This is done in batches and took a long time to work through. I had the company of my friend Sylvi for this stage (she was tasked with grating ginger too and making the syrup).

The colour of the blanched cubes was amazing. The pieces looked whitish when pulled from the water but within seconds started turning this amazing translucent lime colour.

Raw fruit on the left and blanched cubes on the right.
While the cubes were being blanched, we started on the syrup -  a general sugar-water mix. We put grated ginger and lemon slices into a muslin bag to boil in the syrup - the juice from these went directly into the syrup. The only error we made was not putting in enough lemon juice - the pectin is needed to thicken the syrup.

With the syrup boiling, we added the fruit and left to boil for about an hour before bottling in sterilised jars.

The verdict - from a culinary lass who knows her makataan - is that our jam is superb. The fruit is crunchy with great texture and the taste is deliciously gingery. It is very tasty drizzled over vanilla icecream.

We made 13 jars, almost all of them have gone to new homes. I would definitely make it again.

Sunday 1 March 2020

Photos with my dog

There is an awesome photo studio in Parys called Kiki's Vintage Photo Studio. Belinda is a talented photographer with a lovely style. She had a special in Feb with an offer of two prints for R100. I found out about this after a friend went to have photos done of her grandsons.

My mom and I took the opportunity to have our photos taken with our dogs.

We love our photos. Rusty outshone me - she is such a pretty girl. I've got the two black-and-white prints at home in frames. The colour one was a bonus photo from Belinda. 
Rusty doing her happy sticky-out tongue thing.
Sitting like this on the couch made me look chubby - but Rusty looks magnificent - smile included.
This is my favourite xxx

My mom with Rosy. 
We've got other friends-with-dogs heading to Belinda too. 15 minutes with Belinda = special moment with our dogs preserved xxx

Out of the running shoe loop

I havent bought a new pair of running shoes - road or trail - for a few years. Needless to say, I've run the treads flat! My shoes are on their way out, especially the trail shoes, which have holes now in the upper. 

With what to replace them?

For the past few years my running shoe purchase has been more luck based as I've been running in Inov8s picked up on clearance sales. For R650 I'm happy to try something different and I've ended up with whatever was available in my size. 

I have the fortune of having great biomechanics and I've loved various trail models from Adidas, Asics, Saucony, Inov8 and Salomon over the past 21 years. So I'm open to trying shoes. But I'm not prepared to spend two grand to try something unfamiliar. 

I recently submitted one of those Asics team applications - I've had a few great pairs of Asics trail shoes. In fact, one of my all time favourites was the Asics Fuji Racer. Like a racing flat, this shoe had great tread, sufficient foot protection, almost no cushioning and was a superb ride.

My current Inov8 trail shoe is the Trailroc 245. I've never liked the heel box but the rest of the shoe has served me very very well. Flat, minimal, long lasting and tactile.

While my Asics team application was unsuccessful (they had something like 35,000 applications for 200 slots), they did send me a 20% off voucher (I don't know whether it is valid in South Africa?). I thought I'd take a look at their line-up to see what they have.

Back in the day when I was Gear Editor at Runner's World Magazine, I used to write the annual Shoe Buyers Guide and I knew well the road and trail shoes of the brands available in South Africa. In writing these guides, I'd researched the lineage of shoes and knew the background and heirachy. 

The Asics model names confused me with some looking like a fusion of two lineages. 

I was in JHB yesterday so I swung past a sports store to see for myself the one that had caught my eye. While they didn't have it in stock, I did try what they had as well as some from their sale table.

I realised how unaccustomed I have become to puffy, lifted soles (I'm on zero drop or no more than 4mm) in road and trail shoes. The shoes also felt narrow in the toe box (Inov8 has space) and it felt like the soles were 'forcing' my forefoot to over-roll inwards on the take off. No wonder physios are so busy. 

I didn't risk buying anything and will search online for a store that stocks the model that I'd like to try. 

I've also been keen to try Mr Price's Maxed shoe offering. Man, it is scary to spend a lot of money to just try a shoe. It helps that I know what to look for and what I like best. This 25-minute stop at the sports store reminded me what a minefield buying running shoes is - and even more for newcomers to road and trail who tend to focus on price and the colour and appearance of shoes.