All In a Day’s Work


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Silent Sunday Stills

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Not so Neighbourly


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We are now on the warmer side of winter; nights are not as cold and days are getting longer. There is not long to go until the wheat starts to senesce and we begin preparing for harvest.

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We have not had any rainfall since March and it’s pretty dry, so until the drying out period for the wheat begins it’s important that we keep on top of our irrigation program.

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Power outages are normal around here. They happen almost daily and although we usually receive notification in advance, they can be quite disruptive to farming operations. When we woke up to no electricity this morning – with no prior warning – Piet contacted our local electricity supply company (ZESCO) who told him that power was out for maintenance. He then posted a question on the WhatsApp ZESCO chat group and got this response:

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Which was quickly amended to:

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Having elephants as neighbours can be rather trying at times!

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Cruel April Fool


This year has been a very dry one for us. Our records show we have only received 245mm of rainfall. Compared to last year’s 1,500mm that’s abysmal, and it would have been a disaster farming-wise if we weren’t able to draw water from the Zambezi River for irrigation.

But dry weather makes ideal harvesting weather and we started lifting soya beans by hand last week in anticipation of the combine arriving on Monday to finish the job.

Our peanut crop was also ready for harvest  and so last week it was all systems go! The ‘new’ second-hand peanut harvester we bought earlier this year and the tractors had been serviced, 50 extra hands had been hired and Piet was up before light, doing last-minute checks and reminding everyone of their duties.

Within minutes Piet realised something was amiss with the peanut harvester. It was blocking up with nuts and debris and just not doing the job properly. And so the frustrations began, and continued throughout the week and over the weekend.

Piet and the farm mechanic tinkered and tapped, removed parts, cleaned and then replaced them. They swore (a little), paced and scratched their heads. And they sweated! Temperatures (and tempers) were rising and clouds started forming on the horizon.

Eventually, on Monday, Piet conceded defeat, phoned around a bit and with a lot of perseverance and a little luck found a mechanic who specialises in fixing peanut harvesters – we are expecting him to fly in from Johannesburg today.

On Tuesday morning Piet realised that rain was inevitable, so he arranged to have some of the harvested nuts moved into our old managers house (our sheds are too full with next season’s fertilizer) where they would stay dry – the mechanic will need some dry material to test the machine with. Normally the harvested nuts are windrowed and left to dry in the fields – because it is normally dry at this time of year.

Then on Tuesday afternoon those clouds rolled in and it started raining. And it rained. And rained. And rained. It rained all through the night and only stopped at around 10 o’clock this morning, April 1st.

The offending peanut harvester hiding in shame

The offending peanut harvester hiding in shame

A new use for the manager's house!

Come on in – grab yourself some peanuts

A pile of peanuts. (At least these ones are dry)

A pile of (dry) peanuts.

These are not so dry

These are not so dry

Soggy windrows - and it's threatening to rain again!

Soggy windrows – and it’s threatening to rain again …

The soya-bean combine waiting for a sunnier day

Waiting for a sunnier day

Certainly an April Fools Day for us, although not a particularly funny one.

Sticky Wheel Tracks


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The constant circling of the centre pivots, round and round on the same tracks, creates ruts in the fields. Add water to that and you get a muddy, sticky quagmire and the wheels often become stuck.

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This can become quite expensive, especially if it happens at night and the pivot attendants have fallen asleep on the job; the wheels keep churning in one place, digging deeper and deeper into the mud, bearings seize, motors burn out and people lose their jobs!

It was an arduous and back-breaking daily task carting small rocks into the fields to fill in the ruts.

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So this year Piet decided to fix the problem once and for all. We hired a back-hoe, dug ourselves some gravel and deposited it along all the wheel tracks, forming a more solid road for the pivots to travel along.

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This has certainly made life a little easier for everyone.

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Cee's Black and White Photo Challenge: Open Topic

The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge – Silhouette


The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge – Silhouette

Photography is all about experimenting with light, and then positioning yourself (or your subject) in the right spot to achieve a certain effect. One such effect is a silhouette, in which an outline of someone or something appears dark against a lighter background. Silhouettes can be very dramatic and resemble black shapes without any details, but the effect varies from picture to picture.

Yello-billed Kites feasting on flying ants

Yellow-billed Kites feasting on flying ants

Crepuscular Yellow-billed Kites

Crepuscular Yellow-billed Kites

Midges dancing in the setting sun - Zambezi River

Midges dancing in the setting sun – Zambezi River

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Master of all he surveys

Master of all he surveys

The Textures of Africa – Part II


When Piet first arrived here nine years ago the farm now known as Sitikela was bush.  Thick, solid, tangled, dry bush. And it was brown. The trees were brown, the grass was brown, the leaves scattered on the sand were brown – even the sand was brown.

African winter bush

African winter bush

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As he drove up a sandy, unkempt track he noticed the top of a solitary tree towering above the rest of the forest – and it was green! Although it was mid-winter, the heat of the day was almost unbearable and the shade of this tree looked like a likely spot to set up camp; Piet and Sarel, his business partner, lived in tents under that tree for two years while they set to work developing the farm and today our house nestles comfortably in that same shade.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

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The rough and the smooth

Guibourtia coleosperma, also known as  Rhodesian Copalwood, African Rosewood and Large False Mopane is a beautiful, mostly evergreen tree which occurs almost exclusively on Kalahari sand. The tree is ubiquitous on our farm and we have at least ten growing in our garden. Our offices are also built under the shade of one of these magnificent specimens.

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I love the varying textures of the bark, smooth, cracked, knotty.

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Pockmarked with borer tunnels

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The paired leaves look similar to those of the Mopane tree (Colophospermum mopane) which also occurs in this area and it is easy to understand why this tree is sometimes called the Large False Mopane.

Shining emerald green in the sunlight

Shining emerald-green in the sunlight

The leaves look almost translucent from underneath

Almost translucent from underneath

The bright red arils, although somewhat tasteless, are edible and the indigenous people pound them into a flour which they cook into a nutritious meal; they do the same with the seeds and I have read somewhere that this has saved many lives in times of famine.

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Of course birds love the seeds and arils too, and we are often entertained by the raucous shouting of trumpeter hornbills, sounding uncannily like crying babies as they skirmish and scuffle for the juiciest ones.

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Guibourtia coleosperma  is a much sought-after hardwood. When first cut the timber has a unique pinkish-brown colour which later changes to a rich, warm, edible-looking dark chocolate-brown.

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Our own home-made Rosewood dining-room suite, made from wood salvaged during land clearing