Living with Herbivores June 2012
  What a disappointment to find all the shrubs we planted in the new road garden had been eaten. Our local duiker obviously discovered this lush foodsource (yep, we saw the footprints) and chomped them away to almost nothing!

We had decided when we took on the farm that we would like to share the farm with the local wildlife (no, the cows were not part of this local wildlife) and although it was upsetting, the challenge would be to protect what we wanted to grow without having to chase the animals away. So we took some time to think up some practical solutions to the problem.

The eland herd had also been through and demolished the sagewood bushes on the western side of the property near the main road. It was mid-winter, food for the herbivores was scarce and they would take on anything.

       Munched shrubs and footprints

  Fire!!!

We got a call from our neighbours one Thursday afternoon that a veldfire was approaching from the Old Durban Road. I was in Sandton at a client and quickly made my way home, loaded the farm box on the bakkie and we headed out to the farm.

By the time we got there it was all over but for the smouldering. The fire had jumped our tarred road and got into the south western section of our forest. Our neighbour Kallie and Kevin, the horse trainer from Che's farm, had taken care of it before it got too far. Thanks Kallie and Kevin. We spent the rest of the evening and well into the night pumping water onto the smouldering tree stumps to prevent any flare-ups.

When we went back to the farm on Saturday morning we still had to put out some "burning ground" where the thick compacted layer of leaves and twigs under some of the black wattle trees was still smouldering.



All the grass on the tarred road side burned

Fortunately we had cut the grass very short
- and the flames moved through so quickly
they didn't even have a chance to damage our fence poles
 

The problem with fires in a forest is that the base of the trees get damaged. And very often firefighters don't even venture into the forest for danger of the trees falling onto them.

In our forest there are many trees with damaged bases. Some survive the fire, only to be further weakened by another fire a few years later. Eucalyptus trees sprout new branches from their base immediately after a fire (or being cut down). Sometimes the main trunk dies off, sometimes it doesn't. But when a strong wind comes up, the weak - live or dead - are always blown over. And that's our firewood source - hundreds of smaller and some of the larger trees fallen over in the forest due to burned bases.


  Cleaning Up

The rest of the month we spent the weekends cutting grass and clearing saplings a few meters from the game fence around the perimeter of the farm in order to try and prevent any more fires getting through to the forest.