21 April 2010

Cows Week

Yes, I'm afraid we have Cows.

Eight of them, to be precise. These poor cattle -- a weird mix of cows, heifers, bulls, tollies and even a month-old calf -- have been wandering around the neighbourhood, up and down the roads, for several days, now.

Not only are they a Hazard To Navigation, but they tend to wander into our garden (and, I suppose, everybody else's, too) and trample small trees, wander into the septic tank causing spectacular damage, nibble at fruit trees, and generally do Cow Stuff. Gods alone know where they've been getting water. We are 99.873% certain that they belong to the folk who live in the Forestry Houses, most of whom work for the local forestry company, MTO. Up to now the Forestry Folk have been allowed to graze their cattle in the firebreak between our smallholdings and the forest. But recently they were warned that, as part of a Fynbos rehab project, all the fences surrounding the firebreak were being removed. So it looks a lot like another case of people going, "Oh, it'll never happen." Only it has.

I decided to put these poor cattle -- and they really are in very poor condition -- to work. Not serious work, but work they'll benefit from and enjoy. I want them to eat off the long Kikuyu grass that infests what we refer to as the "Top Field" -- an area of around 25000m2 (about 30x90, but it varies) along our North border. The Top Field is relatively flat, though the topsoil is very thin, and I've long harboured ambitions of turning it over to field-scale crops -- grains, legumes, chiles on a larger scale -- in some sort of animal tractor/rotation system. Perhaps a Fukuoka style of thing. Not too fussed about the details.

So I ran the electric fence around the Field. Happily the cattle decided that they liked the look of the grass there while I was busy, so, by the time I had cleared tall grasses and branches from the path of the electric fence, planted a decent Earth pole, and set the whole thing up, they were all in the right place. And they've learned the Delights Of Electric Fencing pretty quickly.

I've informed locals so that if someone starts looking for their cattle they'll quickly find out where their cattle are being sheltered. I hardly want to be charged with Cattle Theft! The problem is that I really don't have a good supply of water for them. Right now we're managing by carrying buckets of (precious) house-water to a large bucket in their enclosure, but things cannot go on that way for too long. Then, too, these beasts really are in a very sad, parasite-infested and neglected state, and I would not like to leave them in that condition for too long, either. So that means I'll have to spend money on dips and such. Money I don't have... I guess I'm going to have to call Animal Welfare for some help if someone doesn't come and fetch them back in a day or two...

Still, I am enjoying having a bunch of Cows wandering about the place being useful. And once the grass is mowed shorter, I can, perhaps, invest in a couple of Pigs to root out the rest of the Kikuyu. Just a thought...

Sorry no pics. We left the camera with No.2 Son on the theory that it is better invested helping him earn his Honours degree than shooting happy snaps of the farm and sunsets.

Be Disturbed

With thanks to Gavin for this.

He warns that "some viewers may find this video disturbing". I'd comment that anybody who fails to find it disturbing probably needs serious professional help.

20 April 2010

Catch Up

There's a pretty good reason for the very slow rate at which I've been blogging here lately: It gets dull and tedious repeating the same litany of woe. I mean, what more can I say?

"Still no rain." 

"It's not raining."

"Things are still very dry."

No. It's boring! And demotivating. It means that there's absolutely no point in busting my butt out in the garden trying to prepare the desert-condition beds for plantings that cannot possibly survive.

Actually, truth to tell, we have had a little rain over the past 10 days or so - enough that I might start to believe that the drought may actually be coming to a (slow) end. Enough to convince me to get off my duff and start clearing the jungle of weeds from pathways, and to stick a few peas and beans into the ground in the optimistic hope that more rain will eventuate.

The Summer past has been a total write-off. Not a single Tomato. Perhaps a grand-total of 6 chiles. If the Bushbuck will leave the plants alone for a bit. The Perennial Rye I was growing -- through the kind offices of Patrick -- eventually died. The dam I use for irrigating seed-trays is (still) so dry that the pump will have to be primed once again before I can use it. When, one day, there's sufficient water in the dam to bother. (Soon! says the optimist in me.) The F2 generation Tomato experiment will have to wait for a second attempt next year.

Even more difficult to deal with is that, by now, I should already have all my Winter crops in the ground, but, with insufficient water for seed-bed care, it looks like we're going to largely miss the Winter season, too. Some things I have plenty of seed -- Cabbage, Onions, Snow Peas, Broad Beans -- that I can take the chance with them and don't mind too much if I plant them and they fail. But there are some -- Kabuli Black Chickpeas, for example -- that I just cannot afford to take chances with. And that means that they have to wait another year before I can bulk up the seed supplies.

Which reminds me... I must plant some Lettuce. It's been very tedious having to buy such basics as Lettuce and Swiss Chard, especially since I've been on a (weight loss) diet where leafy veg features largely. (Lost about 8kg so far! and feeling much improved.)

Last weekend we joined a small neighbourhood gathering at the historic Bibbey's Hoek Hotel. No longer a hotel, it is the home of our new neighbour, Sue. She has recently completed a Permaculture Design course, and is determined to remodel the old hotel in a permaculture mould. Perhaps to even start some sort of permaculture centre.This is great news!

Despite the fact that quite a number of us in the Bibbey's Hoek neighbourhood are practising some form of permaculture design, up to now we seem to proceeded in blissful isolation. I do believe that Sue might serve as a catalyst for us working in closer cooperation. Certainly the gathering at her home last Saturday was characterised by an easy neighbourliness and friendliness. Nobody on a ego trip or an agenda. Yay! Maybe we stand some tiny chance of developing a more integrated and sustainable community?

07 April 2010

A Small Journey Eastwards

We're off to the Wilds of the Eastern Cape tomorrow for a few days sojourn in Grahamstown to attend Dale's graduation ceremony at Rhodes U. Quite an occasion, and, since (still) nothing's happening in the garden, a welcome diversion.

Rhodes seems to make a much bigger fuss of graduation than my old uni: we've received invitations from both departments that awarded Dale his major subjects. Cheese and Wine with the Zoology department, and Breakfast with the Geography dept. We're especially looking forward to the Zoology do as we'll get a chance to meet some of the Profs and lecturers that Dale's dealing with this year - he's reading for his Honours degree in African Biodiversity this year.

And while we're talking academics, a big Thank You to the Zoology department for a scholarship awarded to Dale. Certainly takes some strain off our finances!

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