Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Winters Tale

On a Wednesday in the first week of the July school holidays, we drove up to the plot. It was a very tight squeeze in the car because now, not only do we have our two dogs with us, but, Gypsy the cat goes too! 

Within an hour of our arrival, she had efficiently nabbed herself a fresh snack.

 She wriggled around on her back right next to it but as we got closer to take a photo of her prize, she grabbed it, trotted off and crunched it away!


She continued to catch one or two mice every day while we were there and I wondered why I had bothered to bring along food for her. 

One evening, I thought I heard the screeching noises of a frog that had been caught by something.... but then I saw the young barn owl on our roof. It was as though it was protesting the hijack of it's live larder on our field

On that first day, after speaking to John, our faithful worker when we are there, I called out the SPCA from Swellendam to collect his dog and we paid to have her sterilized. 

We had had the dog inoculated 3 months previously and it was the picture of health then because somebody in the area was buying a bag of dog food once a month for him. Circumstances have changed and he no longer receives this bounty. We were devastated at its condition. Apparently the dog had also had  a miscarriage a while ago and I believe that if we had not said we would pay, the SPCA would have confiscated the dog. Our argument in not following this course is that John will just get another dog. Rather sterilize and encourage him to try and feed it more nourishment than bread or porridge.


Not being too clued up, I told him that even if he gives the dog one raw egg a day with the porridge, that should help. But of course, earning an average of R100 - R200 a week at the moment, its hopeless advice. 

Two days after we arrived, our huge purchase was delivered.  A ten thousand litre water tank to be installed atop our brick platform. We had been told two years beforehand that water pressure and water supply could not be guaranteed and that we should install a storage tank for the municipal water, to provide for both in the event of a local water system failure. It took me the best part of eighteen months to save up for this and when we bought it, discovered that the cost had increased by a considerable  amount. No wonder some young people in this country expect to earn a million rands a year by the time they are 25!

Anyhow, now it is installed and despite it being so high, secured ingeniously by Roy and John that day.

My brother-in-law joined us for a few days over the weekend and helped Roy to thread the wiring for some of the plug-points in the building. It seemed a bit pointless to be doing this when we have no intention of connecting up to Eskom but the plug-points and conduiting were installed already and so it remains an unfinished item that we feel compelled to complete as far as possible. As usual, I did not think to take photographs. Recording the chaotic action of trying to thread three insulated wires through and around corners of pipes in the wall would have made for some amusing memories.

It snowed overnight on the Friday and we were treated to some dramatic clouds and dusting of snow on mountains. The temperature plummeted and on the Tuesday night I believe the lowest overnight temperatures in 37 years were recorded across South Africa. On three nights there, thick ice formed on the surface of the deck and icy shards were proudly displayed to me alongside my morning tea in bed!

Once brother- in- law returned to Cape Town and the weather improved, I braced myself to have a detailed look at the trees. I had been putting it off for the first few days, just to stave off facing the reality of deliberate drowning of our trees. Some smaller trees were definitely dead. Some did not look good but the shock was still only two weeks in progess. The Wild Plums are definitely not usually so light in colour and I believe are showing distress.


Many are without any leaves where they are deciduous, so I might have to wait for spring for a true accounting. The white stinkwoods usually retain a few leaves but currently are completely bare, as are the deciduous fruit trees.


 The soil was still wet when we had arrived and then, we had tons of rain and hail on that first night, before the snow. I tried not to think about it all.

On the second day up there, something happened which showed me how easy it is to earn malicious intent from others. It certainly placed me in a dilemma. What do you do if you see someoneA taking two sheep off the field near to you. Assuming innocence before guilt, you imagine that their two sheep got mixed up with the small flock belonging to someoneB, who has left them there to graze for the day. That someoneB comes along the next morning and frantically tells you that his sheep are missing, asking whether you saw anything. So, reluctantly you give a description and a name of someoneA. Why reluctant? Because you wonder : will we be punished for being a "snitch" and have our trees bear the brunt again? and someoneB will drive past our place, happy with a full complement of sheep again (yes! the sheep were miraculously still on the hoof when he found them in the possession of the identified snatchers!) , not a care in the world and without sparing a glance at our "pets" when we are absent.  

Whoever said that country life is simple...
if it involves people, don't you believe it!

From a neighbours spot, checking  our tank's visual impact
see on the  extreme right of the image

One of the local meat barons has started to breed goats alongside his sheep and cattle and grazes the entire caboodle on an adjacent field. I noticed some damage on some more mature trees and could only guess that the goats had managed to break in. I do not think that sheep and cattle eat bark like this when there is plenty of food in the veld?  I seem to remember hearing the Afrikaans saying (or is it a song?): " 'n Bok is 'n lelike ding" , and boy, is that true!


We took a trip through to Heidelberg to buy more chicken wire to try and protect some of the more vulnerable trees from sheep. 


And trees, where I had already removed protection because they seemed big enough to be safe from sheep, had to have wire wrapped around their trunks once more, this time to foil obstinate goats.

We also took some small precaution against possible future sabotage before heading back to Cape Town on the Thursday.