Second Cold Front July 2019
  Short but intense. The approach of our second cold front of the season produced howling winds that had me up on the tea garden roof putting in a few more roofing screws as the roof is still only "tacked" on. Our daytime temperature dropped to 13 degrees for a day before going straight back up to our normal 19 degrees the following day. It's as if nature's just showing that it can still give us the chill if it really wants to, but as we've started this global warming thing, let's just get on with it!
   Menacing looking cloud formation on the front edge of the cold front
  Cold front morning 0 degrees, morning after that 3 degrees and then back up to a more "comfortable" 5 to 7 degrees for the rest of the first week of the month.

But that cold for a day or two had us wrapped in blankets and waiting for the sun to come up every morning. That's one thing about farm living, getting up really early is part of the deal. The roosters start crowing at first light (or when you switch the floodlights on in the middle of the night!) and none of the animals "sleep in". And it's actually great to be up and about and outside early - not that our bed isn't nice and warm, the sun's warmth is just so much better.

     Frost "powder" on the fence poles
But it's the birds and ducks that have it tough. Even though they have nice down feathers underneath their flying feathers, they have to sit on frozen branches and walk on the frozen grass. And an early morning drink is just out of the question - all water is frozen on those cold early mornings.
   Birdbath frozen solid again

   Thick white frost blanket on the ground just as the sun rises up over the hill

  With our big winter cleanup operation in full swing the burn pit is now working whenever there is no wind. This includes some early mornings. So as well as working through the pile of branches,
Fire still burning in the centre of the pit and a few hot coals    
scraped under the braai grid to cook breakfast    
sticks, and leaves quite quickly, we can keep nice and warm feeding the fire until the sun gets up higher and we almost always have hot coals available to cook on.

Just so happens Martie was working on her tea garden breakfast menu and needed a "sample" breakfast photograph. So one morning she got all her breakfast ingredients together and I cooked it all for her.

The dish was toast, scrambled and fried eggs, tomato, beef sausage and one of the new cuts from our local Eskort butchery - "Bacon Braai Stukkies", which is an interesting variation on bacon where instead of the bacon
  cut being sliced thinly, it is cut into thick chunks. Very tasty. On the left, meat and toast just off the braai.

But looks like we may have to redo the photoshoot after brushing up on our food photography. Our normal "wood finish" kitchen table was still up at the tea garden from Martie's birthday party, so we had to use the rather dark and dull grey

Formica kitchen counter background for this photo session.

Martie may also have to speed up her preparation and plate contents change as you don't have much time before the coffee loses it's lovely foam topping.

On the left, two pictures of her breakfast variations. Needless to say we ended up having a great breakfast that morning.

  Tea Garden Structure - Lapa Corner Progress
  Having the builders take another few days off early in the month gave me a chance to catch up on some projects I needed to get on with. First one was to get that lapa corner finished so when
  the final bit of concrete for the veranda was mixed, we could cast the little corner slab there at the same time.

I chose a nice warm afternoon, mixed up a wheelbarrow of mortar, collected a pile of cement bricks and built the base of the retainer wall onto the foundation concrete up to ground level.

Next afternoon, same lovely weather, another little mortar mix, I was able to get the retainer wall built to just under ground level. And that was it for that stage of the project as the wall was really just a guide line for the rock wall that will actually clad it and will be built higher to above ground level later.

    Mortar mixing on a really small scale for me
Brickwork built on foundation to ground level   

   Little retainer wall as high as it needs to go for now

  Tea Garden Structure - Braai Progress
  And with the bit of mortar left over each day from the lapa corner retainer wall, a few more bricks were layed on the braai project.

This is really slow going and I'm determined not to get the job done without having to set up profiles. It's a relatively small job and I'm working with a level and using a long profile just to get the bricks straight across the long back wall.

This project wasn't planned too well but if we do it right, should work out just fine.

  I just don't get it with these Highveld veldfires. I know there's always been winter veldfires on the Highveld for as long as anyone can remember, but how do they really start? For a fire to start naturally, there has to be a very specific set of circumstances, for example dry grass stalks rubbing against each other continually on a windy day. But the chances of that starting a fire are slim, though admittedly possible. So it can only really be people that start these fires, either out of negligence or deliberately. And this must have been going on for centuries.

And then why some days we have fires all over the place, other days not? An example was the first Saturday of the month. It seemed the whole south of Gauteng was burning. Reports were coming in that there was big fires in the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, in parks in the town suburbs and on farms to the west and south of us. They were all sorted out (except
  Suikerbosrand that burned for three days) and then the next day, with almost exactly the same weather conditions, not one fire was reported!? That really gets me thinking.

Anyway, below a picture from our front gate of a fire on some of the farms on the hills to the south west of us. The farmers from the area did manage to get it sorted out in a few hours.

Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve burning in the distance    

But as much as we dislike the horrible destructive veldfires, the resulting smoke particles that get suspended in layers in the late afternoon air is what gives us those amazing winter sunsets:

  Introducing . . . "Zorro"
  Not quite an orphan, this one, but will now need to be hand raised. It all came about when we had a call from Leno in the township. His two ewes had given birth to lambs the day before. The one was fine but the second ewe wasn't recovering from the birth experience too well. He rushed the ewe and it's lamb out to Heidelberg in his new bakkie and we arranged to meet him at a farmer down the road who was more experienced at these things. Turned out the ewe had a vaginal prolapse but the farmer and his workers were quite capable of fixing it up. They managed to get everything "back inside" and with a stitch and some antibiotics, the ewe and it's lamb were sent off to our farm.

We tried to get the ewe and her lamb to bond and the lamb to latch, but I think all that stuff was too painful for the ewe and it kept rejecting the lamb. After much effort we gave up and Martie got all her bottle feeding gear together. We've learned a bit more about raising little animals and this time we decided not to go the expensive milk powder supplement route. The dairy down the road can provide us with fresh "biesmelk" (colostrum milk) daily which we will use for a week or so and then change over to their normal, unpasteurized milk (and that's what we're now drinking as well). That should be fine for the lamb until we can get his little rumen digestive system up and running properly.

The ewe was left with us for a few days to recover before being taken back to the township and Martie made a deal with Leno to swap our youngest ram that was born on our farm last year for the new little lamb.

But our new lamb is not pure Dorper like (we think) the rest of our flock are. It is definitely a cross breed Dorper/ Merino. I don't think it's going to make too much difference to the future of our little farm flock, it maybe even contribute better genes for wool and meat (but we don't really discuss that sort of thing here yet). We named him Zorro (those face markings) and he is doing
Two days old - out for a wee-wee in the tortoise enclosure    
just fine so far. He is drinking well and follows anything around, even on long walks around the farm. He sleeps through the night (mostly) and has already settled in to a good daily routine - drink, sleep, wee, play, repeat.

Mid-morning snoozies in the dog basket

Zorro seems to have taken a particular liking to Charlie and Charlie doesn't seem to mind too much.