OK. Well things are going much better. The portable electric fence is up and it running, and to my surprise all nine cattle now stay inside the fence. I have made some improvements to the water situation and bought two 200 litre drums (from a recylce place) I cut them in half with a chain saw.
Perhaps a real adventure is one where you really don’t know where you are gonna end up. I can see now that our adventure of perusing Goedmoedsfontein is just such an adventure. I am not very sure where the adventure is going to lead, but for better or worse we have caught the train and we are headed out of the station.
In March last year (2013) we secured and option to purchase this beautiful 10 hectares. I have told you before that it has spring, a stream and a dam. I have told you before that it has some forest, some grassland and some marsh. I have told you before that is is just the right distance from town, to be in the country, but still allow our kids to go to school in the city. Just close enough for people to be able to drive out to the farm and buy their weekly supplies of eggs, chicken, boerewors and other fresh produce we dream of marketing from the little shop (or a ruin of a shop that we intend to renovate back to a shop) that is on the farm.
We managed to sell some property last year and secure the difference between what the bank would loan us and what the sellers wanted. That has all been finalised and all the documents have been signed at the transferring attorneys. (There is a bit of a “technical hitch” at the Bond Registration attorneys, but this should be cleared up in the next week.)
The funny thing is that I didn’t feel so much that the “train had left the station” when the sellers accepted our offer, or when the bank approved the finance or even when I paid the deposit to the conveyancers. In fact, I only felt it this weekend when we brought 9 or our cattle from where we were keeping them in Tsitsikama to the farm.
I had worked the week before to create fenced pasture for them. It measures about 40 by 60 metres. The pasture is good. I rigged up a water supply from a rainwater tank which I haphazardly installed to catch some runoff from the roof of the cottage. So we loaded these cattle up on a hired trailer on Saturday afternoon and drove them to the farm. It was the first time have have loaded cattle or pulled them in a trailer. It was quite scary. Number one its a heavy load and you cant go very fast and number two these guys kept jumping around causing the trailer to sway uncontrollably. It was not fun.
After this exhausting journey we got the trailer as close as we could to the new padock (but this was still the other side of the stream) We let them off the trailer and they scattered in all directions. If Litha was not here I dont know what I would have done. But we eventually got them herded together and moving slowly in the direction of the padock into which we managed to secure them. I was exhausted by the time I got home and a bit shaken by the experience. The next morning, Sunday, Litha and I drove to the farm. All nine seemed quite restful. Some were mooing for their mothers (even though they were quite a bit over 12 months old they had not been weaned at Tsitsikama) All seemed fine, but when I cam back on Sunday afternoon, I found the whole herd out. I was alone. I ran round like crazy at first trying to direct them back, but the were determined to get away from the padock. I called my neighbour Richard. Luckily he was in he and a friend came to help. We go them in and I spent the rest of the evening trying to make the fences more secure. But the more I tried the more I could see that two black cattle were absolutely determined to escape they pushed at the fences and then over they went. By this time it was bout 8 pm. I called Litha and Hlubi. I stayed by the fence that had just been jumped to be sure the others would not also come out. They did not and eventually the family arrived and herd to two black cattle back from the tar road where they had got to so that I could get them back in the paddock.
With family back home preparing for the first day of school the next day, I sat in the dark at the farm watching the fence, stepping up every few minutes to beat a cow back from the fence it was trying to trample. It was a loosing battle. By about 10 pm as the rain was staring to come down, the two belligerent black cattle again jumped the fence. I had no choice but to let them go. I was hopeless to try no again to find them in the dark and what’s more the remaining 7 cattle seemed reasonably complacent and not intent on leaving the paddock any time soon. I went home, defeated and depleted, to sleep. In the 20 minute ride back home I could not shake the stress. I was upset. I was rattled and I was exhausted. I did not sleep well. My mind was racing. fearing the worst. fearing the whole heard was now dispersed all over the neighbouring farmlands. But I new there was nothing that I could do till the morning.
I left home at 5:30 am. I found a job seeker next to the road near the farm before 6 am (I could not believe my luck that there would be someone there that early – his name was Marius) Marius and I found the two black cattle heading toward us on the side of the road. They were reasonably easy to herd back and seemed quite relaxed and content to be re-united with the group they had abandoned the night before. I was relieved that the others had not also jumped the fence. Marius worked the whole day with Boyce to get the fences as strong as we could get them. I had to go in to the office for some crucial meetings. By the time I got back to the farm in the afternoon the cattle were all still in, but the two black cattle were mooing loudly again and looking agitated. As sure as anything right in front of my eyes the two black cattle jumped the fence again.
Richard from next door gain came to my rescue. suggesting that we separate the two black cattle out. He arranged for them to be located on his neighbours land were 2.4m high electric fence contained them last night. I kept the remaining 7 on my side last night and set up the portable electric fence for the first time. When I went this morning to drop Marius, they were happily inside the paddock. As a write now from home 20 km away from the farm, I a feeling less anxious that fences will be jumped tonight, but I will find out in the morning. I have definitely been jolted into a place in which i am uncomfortale. This is not theoretical any more. I am not a spectator to the spectacle.
Before even getting fences ready for cattle, I have been working to repair the break in the dam wall.
My thinking is that its a reasonably small job, but the effects will be quite significant at the dam level rises.
I am interested in attracting the birds and animals that need permanent standing water to sustain themselves. Not to mention the fish of course.
It will be interesting to see what fish species, if any are in the dam. I wonder if there are any Tilapia. It is said that in South Africa Tilapia (Mocambicus) are only indigenous as far down the coast as the Bushman’s river. They have of course been introduced to rivers all along the coast as far as Cape Town, but it would be interesting to see if they are present here in our dam.
Perhaps I can play with the idea of cages in the dam to grow out Tilapia fingerlings that I raise in my tanks.
Port Jackson Willow (Acacia Saligna) is very invasive in our part of the world. Hlubi keeps some pigs in Tsitsikama which is 130 km west of where we are. I tried catting some branches to see if they would take to it. They really enjoy it. A free resource perhaps to small farmers who are trying to find affordabe options to supplement the pig feed needs.