Waterbuck Portrait Session February 2017
  One late afternoon, with the long grass on the hillside and a light breeze coming in from the direction of the animals, it was fairly easy to sneak up quite close to our waterbuck herd grazing on the hillside and spend a few minutes taking some pictures of them.

The trick to get a good picture is to get them alert without having them run off. I managed to get a few good pictures before they dashed off into the hillside black wattle forest. They really are the most majestic and beautiful animals.

 

  Harvesting
  And the beans and tomatoes just keep coming. On the left, Martie with her early morning bean harvest and below right, a little while
later in the morning her harvesting basket now full
of tomatoes.

The beans are going to get washed, sliced, frozen and stored until we can use them. The tomatoes will be squished, cooked and bottled for Martie's favourite recipe of tomato and chilli jam.



  Working out in the Fields
  With the fruit orchard coming along nicely we've decided to attempt to secure it against our omnivore occasional visitors. We're also concentrating on developing that entire area which includes our big crop lands, so the enclosed area will be quite large and will include the area between the pumphouse and our top log fence.
 

For the sake of simplicity we're going to run one of our "standard configuration" log fences from the end of our growing tunnels past the pumphouse and right up to the top log fence and then probably put some "veldspan" on it to keep the smaller animals out.

We're still working on a plan to keep the big guys out but with at least a low fence in place we have a starting point.

5 x 3 meter logs cut in half to give us the 10 uprights for the start of our ne log fence. Freshly painted with that horrible carbolineum stuff.
      Post hole drill now fitted to the tractor. I set up the
      two end poles for alignment and drilled the
      ten holes in the lovely soft ground.
 

We used some of our untreated poles from our original log fence (still got quite a pile of them out next to our entrance driveway) so we had to treat them ourselves with a coating of carbolineum.

Then, while we were working on that side of the farm, on to our large crop area. That long grass was just getting so out of hand and we didn't want to just cut it short so Mandla spent two days ripping it all out so we could start preparing the soil for our winter crops. Not sure what we'll be planting there yet, but the soil will be ready for it.

 
Mandla getting all that long grass in the large crop area out. Mouse over the picture to see before and after. Most of the new log fence poles lined up and stamped in - just the last three to go now.

  Valentine's Dinner
  Martie and Maria were planning a big Valentine's Dinner event at Che's Saloon but unfortuately Maria's sister passed away just before the event and she had to fly off to Germany to be with her family. That left Martie with the mammoth task of doing the event solo. At fairly short notice she was able to change the menu to something she could manage and I shopped around for some plastic blowup hearts, Valentine's balloons and red and white table cloths and serviettes
 
Che's Wild West Saloon entrance      
and then quickly designed and printed the menus for her.

She spent most of the day preparing the food and Mandla helped her with the decorating of the saloon - and it looked great. She did wonders with the resources available to her.

On the guest list were Che, Brenda and Buzz and one of our local lawyers, Jane. The rest of the group was made up of Hans (the game farm manager from over the hill) and all his friends with their wives and girlfriends.

Martie did the cooking and plating and two of Che's kids, Cindy and Tye were assigned as waitress and waiter for the evening. The event ran perfectly and everyone had a great relaxed evening.

Starter dish and my printed menu

 
Inside the Saloon, furniture rearranged to seat 20 guests with space for the live band and small dance floor

  Two Week Dry Spell and then Tropical Cyclone Dineo
  Although we've had such good rains so far this summer, we are still having some of those long dry spells - but not nearly as bad as we had over the past two years for February.

We had good regular rainfall up until the 6th of the month, then some small thundershowers on the 13th and then a hot and dry spell until we were pelted with over 100mm of rain in just three days on the 20th as the effects of Tropical Cyclone Dineo influenced the entire mid and northern parts of the country. Our rainfall was mild compared to the downpours experienced further north and to the east of us, filling all the dams upstream of the Vaal Dam and raising the Vaal Dam level from under the 30% mark to 100% in a week!

But for us, with all that very welcome rain came a full six days of overcast weather - action stations on battery management again. But we are getting kind of used to that now but will need to increase our charging capabilities in cloudy weather (add more solar panels) some time soon. Or maybe we can hold out until next summer.

      Just before the rains, even our
      khakibos was wilting
 
During Dineo's influence: dark, manacing cloud bank just passed over us and moving off to the west
  Interesting that our weather station showed rainfall for the first time ever. During one of our full days of rain at 08h33 it showed humidity at 84% and temperature 15.9 degrees. And although we were very comforable snuggled up in our garage and workshop home, the comfort level
  smiley face symbol was showing "sad". I'm sure it was just trying to tell us that it was uncomfortable outside.

First time we've seen the
weather station showing rain!!
    Early afternoon during a full day's rain and the solar panels
    getting a good wash but not generating much power for us here!


  Baby Bunny
  I was going to head this entry "Baby Bunny Saved" but it turned out to be a bit of a sad story. One day working out in the fields Martie noticed a dog commotion in the long grass and thought the dogs were after a mouse. But out hopped a little bunny with the dogs in hot persuit. She managed to get the dogs away from it and successfully rescued the frightened little creature.

Very, very soft and cute it was a leveret Scrub Hare. The Scrub Hare is a very common little wild animal found throughout South Africa mainly in grassland areas - preferably tall grass to give them cover during the day as they are nocturnal. They often give you a big fright when you're out walking in the veld as they lay in "forms" (lies flat with it's ears folded back) in the grass and will only jump up and run away when you're almost on top of it.

They are solitary and they mainly eat fresh green grass and I'm sure is one of the main predators of our meagre struggling lucern field - we see their droppings around there often. The young are fully haired, open eyed and are developed enough to take care of themselves after birth. They only suckle for a few days and don't get much life instruction from their mothers. So they're basically on their own in the big dangerous world out there within a week of birth.

Anyway, Martie checked the little hare out and it didn't have any apparent wounds or damage (and was so soft and cute and cuddly) so she made a comfortable little box house for it to recover from it's dog chase ordeal until we decided what to do with it. The box was kept in the garden shed and all was well for a few days. Then the rains came and she decided to bring the little box house into the spare bedroom as it was so much warmer and cosier there.

 
Little bunny tucking in to some mealie and carrot slices      

But our dogs have a bit of a bad habit which we're still working on (but for security reasons it may not be so bad). When any vehicle comes down the driveway and they're outside they give us a warning bark and dash off to meet the vehicle but when they're inside they go a bit crazy and bark uncontrollably until they know that the visitor is friend or family. Unfortunately the spare bedroom door was open one day when Martie came home and the wild barking must have put the bunny into shock and within a few hours it died. We continue to learn.

  Mealie Field News
  Our first planted field of mealies is now reaching end of harvest and we've basically eaten as many mealies as we possibly can. And now the birds are moving in. I think it's the weavers that rip open the tops and eat the tender pits at the end of the mealie (pictures below). Not too serious as the rest of the mealie can still be cooked and eaten but right now they're not as tender and juicy as the ones we picked a week or two ago. We'll have to pick the remainder of the crop soon, store them in a dry place and use them for chicken feed during the winter months.

But we've still got our second planted field harvest to look forward to. That crop was planted a little late (and with no soil preparation) so the mealies are not as big as the first planting. The first few picked from there have been delicious.

 

  Another Visit to the Dam
 
Misty early morning on the short grass path out to the dam

With three days of solid rain and over 100mm falling after Tropical Cyclone Dineo passed by the farm dams were all filling nicely. We took a walk out to the closest one to us one morning early to check it out. It's so amazing to be close to such lovely fresh water running down from the hills and filtering through the little grassland filter system before streaming into the dam. We could see every stone a meter down into the pool at the dam entrance where the little waterfall used to be.
    Charlie and Spottie soaked
 

Water gives life - suddenly there were wild ducks, egyptian geese and very noisy frogs with their first tadpoles already well developed in the shallow protected water edges where the grass was still growing. And everything was fresh and clean.

And thanks to Johan, getting to the dam is now such a pleasure. While he had the tractor and cutting his paddock area outside his cottage, he made a pass all the way across the dam wall to our log fence gate and back, making a lovely short grass path for us to use to get to the dam.

Wild ducks headed off to the other side of the dam for some peace
    Pure clear water

 
That's a lot of water! But still a long way to go to 100% in this dam and soakaway is reasonably quick

  Very Lucky Annular Solar Eclipse Sighting
  As we weren't even aware of the event, on our walk back from the dam one late afternoon we were so lucky to catch the amazing sight of the February 26 annular solar eclipse. Conditions couldn't have been more perfect for us as a bank of light smog from the township across town to the west rose up on the horison just as the sun was setting to dim the brightness of the sun and show the image of the moon coming between the sun and the earth nicely.

It was an annular eclipse because the apparent diameter of the moon was smaller than the sun's and here in South Africa we weren't able to see the full annular solar eclipse where the moon obscures the sun perfectly and we would see the sun as an annulus - often termed the "ring of fire". Only people up north in Angloa would have witnessed that but it was a spectacular sighting for us anyway.

 

  More Moths
  It's still summer and the evenings are warm so the moths are out in their thousands at night when we put the lights on. Not much point in dashing about in the dark trying to catch them when you feel like a bit of moth identification research (and so difficult as we don't have the necessary nets) so we just wait until morning until we can see them clearly for identification. We find them all over the place inside the garage workshop, especially around the power panel where there's a bright blue USB LED on all the time. The colours on some of our moths are almost as beautiful as on our butterflies.

Below left, I'm sure that's one of the emeralds, although I haven't seen any documentation with the cream stripes so wide. But the outline and positioning of the stripes is typical of the species. It is found from the Karoo through the bushveld up into the sub-tropical forests.

Below right is the Pretoria Red Lines. It's larvae feed on lichens (lots of that on the rocks up on the hills) and it habitats the bushveld and forests.

 

  Modelling Workshop Productive
  I'm still bringing stuff across from our Joburg house but the modelling workshop is kitted out with the essentials and production is in full swing. I'm starting off by completing some of the unfinished projects brought across from Joburg that either me or the kids just lost interest in. I would have lost interest in them because for a few years I was into much more high tech competition flying and the kids
  probably lost interest as they grew into the girlfriend phases of their lives.

Anyway, I took on finishing off two model gliders at the same time - a Carl Goldberg Gentle Lady and a Global Easy Answer. Both pretty similar in size and construction, so with no TV out on the farm to get in the way in the evenings, progress was reasonably quick and by the end of the month they were both almost ready for covering and radio installation.