Connectivity

My apologies for disappearing again.  I have had a short glitch in getting internet sorted out at Tiny House.  Hopefully I am up and running now.

Tomorrow I am off to Hoedspruit again for the grand opening of the iNyoka Gallery. One of the few glitzy affairs I will have attended in the last 5 years (maybe the only one even 🙂 )  I will take lots of pictures to show those of you who are not attending.  I am so excited to be involved in this project.

I will be back blogging on Monday 22 Sept.

I will leave you with two more pictures of the farm where Tiny House is located.

Rest

One of my friends here in Hoedspruit, Sarah, is involved with two charities mainly working with impoverished communities and children. Last week she was introduced to the Khutsong Center in Acornhoek  – just down the main road from our town.

Khutsong means “rest” in one of our local languages, and the Khutsong Center is just that – a place for 13 elderly people from rural villages to rest for their last days. It’s an incredibly poor project with a ramshackle hut that houses the eleven women and two men who are being taken care of. One of the aged is disabled and many are bedridden.

This is what Sarah says “……….. their gentle smiles have really tugged at my heart, and I would love to be able to make them feel, just for one day,on Christmas, that the world has not forgotten them………………………”

So what we are going to do is put together thirteen Christmas hampers for these wonderful old folk.  We need to include basic items such as tooth brushes and toothpaste and soap, a facecloth, some Vaseline, a blanket, something nice to make them feel good like a scarf or clothing item and then a few treats like biscuits and crisps.

If you would like to contribute in any way we would really appreciate your help.

Please contact Sarah at sarahdawnbergs@gmail.com if you can assist with any of the items.  Financial contributions can be made to  :

Paypal donations can be sent to nourish.org.za@gmail.com

OR

Bank details : nourish NPO, First National Bank,  account 62321718324, Hatfield branch number 252145. Reference OLD AGE ( and ur name ) or email a proof of payment to sarahdawnbergs@gmail.com

Photo’s courtesy of Sarah Bergs.

I will write another post on this center when we go to hand these folk their Christmas hampers. I can’t wait to see their faces!

Katse Dam – Lesotho

One would think that this small,dry, brown, mountainous country would not have much to offer in the way of export so it comes as quite a surprise to many that one of Lesotho’s biggest exports is water. Alongside electricity and diamonds, water makes up a large portion of the export income for Lesotho.  South Africa pays R37 million per year for water derived from the Lesotho Highlands water project.  Katse Dam was built as the first phase of this project. (pronounced cut-sea)

 

Katse dam is 50 kilometers long and holds a volume of 1 950 million m³ of water.  It is the highest dam in Africa and also the second largest in Africa.

 

Dam features

  • Height – 185 m
  • Crest length – 710 m
  • Design – double arch, concrete
  • Concrete – 2,320,000 cubic meters
  • 1993 meters above sea level

We took a tour into the dam wall but I was not allowed to take any photographs inside unfortunately.  It was very interesting and is quite an engineering feat.

Water is taken in at this tower and is transferred via a 45 km, 4 m diameter underground tunnel to a hydroelectric station near Muela after which it is piped a further 35km to just outside the town of Clarens in South Africa.  The pipeline itself is tunneled through the mountains and water travels downhill all the way making use of gravity for flow.

Here you can see the water exiting the pipeline and being fed into the ash river.

If you are ever in the area it really is well worth a visit to the dam.

This is the last of a series of three posts about Lesotho. You can read the first two posts but clicking on the links below.

On top of the world – Lesotho continued

 

 

This is a second post in a three-part series on Lesotho.  Read post one here.

Lesotho is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 metres in elevation. Its lowest point of 1,400 metres  is thus the highest in the world. Over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres. Lesotho is also the southernmost landlocked country in the world. Because of its altitude, Lesotho remains cooler throughout the year than other regions at the same latitude. Winters can be cold with the lowlands getting down to −7 °C (19 °F) and the highlands to −18 °C (−0 °F) at times. Snow is common in the highlands between May and September; the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.

As we wove through the mountains, climbing up towards Katse dam we started to see the temperatures plummet. Below you can see how the road cuts through the mountains.

Africa is most often depicted as a hot arid continent.  And it is mostly, so when we South Africans get to see a little snow, it is rather a treat.  Here in this region of Lesotho they have snow through most of winter and sometimes even in summer.  How strange for Africa!

As we reached the top, the most beautiful snowscape scenes surrounded us.

 

 

We stopped the car and had to clamber about in it for a bit like children of course 🙂

 

I felt like I was on top of the world.

The mountain kingdom.

 

 

 

 

Lesotho – the mountain kingdom.

 

Recently I was lucky enough to spend a week away on holiday in the eastern part of the Free State province of South Africa in a town called Clarens. This has been my first proper holiday since I arrived back in South Africa from Belgium, so was special indeed.

While there, we took a day trip into Lesotho to visit the Katse dam.  I took so many photos of this trip that it has taken me weeks to sort through them and decide which to share with you.  I will be publishing a series of posts from my trip so as not to bore you with reams of information at once.

I am going to start with some that embrace my love of this small mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

Lesotho , officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave, completely surrounded by its only neighboring country, the Republic of South Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 in size with a population of approximately 2,067,000. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name Lesotho translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sesotho. About 40% of the population live below the international poverty line.

Living such a poor life I am sure is extremely hard, however there are aspects here of the simple life that really attract me.  Lesotho in winter is almost mono-toned in colour yet there is still a vibrancy and happiness that I love.

I hope you enjoy the following pictures that show what I see in this beautiful country.

Most people dress in blankets and gum boots and the major form of transport in the rural areas are donkeys.

You may not see much at first glance at the above picture, but it is all about rural life here. The ladies doing the washing in the stream, the icy snow in the shade, the horse on the hillside, growing crops on the slopes and the homestead up above. Life in Lesotho.

Happy children and not a PlayStation or iPad in sight 🙂

Fields on the hillside

Doing chores

A driving school. The little shack is covered in road signs on all sides – probably for teaching purposes.

A plough-boy ran up to us to get some sweets

Just beautiful…………

 

How far can you spit?

A week or two ago I saw that a snake had slithered into my empty swimming pool. It is still empty due to our ongoing water problems but there was a small pool of water that had collected from the rain. I think the snake was attracted to a small group of frogs that were enjoying the water. Normally when I need to remove a snake I just use my snake hook or tongs to catch them and move them back into the bush but this little fellow (about 40 cm’s) turned out to be a juvenile Mozambican Spitting Cobra.

The Mozambican Spitting Cobra is second only to the Mamba as the most dangerous snake in Africa because of its venomous bite.  Adults are 1-1.5 meters long. These cobras don’t actually spit venom; they spray it.  Their muscles contract to push venom from the bottom of the fangs while air from the lung blows or sprays the venom at the victim’s eyes.

Their color can be olive-grey, brown, or grey with black scales in between.  Mozambican Spitting Cobras occupy a wide variety of habitats—they can be found in thicket and moist savanna, often near permanent water holes.  Adult Mozambican Spitting Cobras are mostly nocturnal but can be found by day sun bathing close to their hiding spot.

The spitting cobra has a broad diet, including snakes, lizards, frogs, rodents and other small mammals.  When disturbed, this cobra will rear up two-thirds of its body and spray its venom with quick accuracy toward the victim’s eyes.  Its poison takes effect instantaneously.  It can cause inflammation or permanent blindness if not washed out immediately.

Mozambique Spitting Cobras can be found in hollow logs, under rocks or termite mounds, in holes under ground, and under thick bushes.  Keep your distance from this cobra if you happen to run into one.  It can spray your eyes with surprising accuracy.

The juvenile snake (which mine was) moves really fast and although it’s highly toxic venom is the same as that of the adult, it has yet to learn how to control the volume of venom to inject into its prey, so more often than not, bites from these juvenile snakes are fatal.

After consulting with a few friends on how to remove him, I decided to put a really long (3m) bushy branch into the pool which he climbed onto and I lifted him out and walked him back into the bush.  I was really glad that I eventually got him out because he used to puff up his collar every time I walked past the swimming pool and he was freaking me out .  I think I may have been freaking him out too 🙂

Goodbye sweet beast…

Yesterday one of the owners here had to euthanize a young female wildebeest (gnu).  She had been caught in two snares and was suffering terribly.  When these things happen I get so mad because it is so cruel, and then I think of the poor labourers who set these snares because they get paid so badly they can’t buy food.  I feel pulled between the two.  I wish we had some decent solutions to these problems here.  All we can do is continuously sweep for snares and try to assist the neighbouring labourers as much as we can with extra work to help them out financially.

After she was shot,  the owner gave the animal to our labourer to cut up and use for meat so at least nothing is wasted.

Last night it was so hot here that I left my cottage door open to get some movement of air. At around midnight I heard Cleo chomping something behind me and I turned to see her gnawing on a thickish branch of a tree.  This is so out of her nature that I got up and turned the light on to find half a wildebeest leg on my carpet!  She had obviously found where the labourer had dumped the entrails for jackals and other animals to eat.  Yeugh!

Giraffe crisis – the full story

Those who follow me on my Facebook page will have heard a little about this story, but may be interested in the details.

Around noon on new years day a pregnant female giraffe was spotted on the farm with one of her babies legs sticking out of her rear end. She seemed to be in distress. By 2 pm we were getting worried about her so we called the local vet to attend to her.

We had quite a bit to prepare before the vet could dart her. We had to have 8 adults who could sit on her once she was darted and we needed many liters of cold water to keep her cool while the vet worked.  We recruited everyone we could find and filled up our fire tank so that by the time the vet arrived we would be ready.

At 2.30 we could not find the pregnant giraffe so search groups were sent out to look while my sister and I let the vet into the reserve.  He loaded up his dart gun and we joined the search groups just as they found her. The baby had just fallen to the ground. (3pm)

Our vet explained that this was very unusual because if only one leg is out they normally get stuck.  He was relieved though, because if he had had to dart her, the chances of the baby surviving were very low.

We all sat quietly about 50 meters away from the baby and mother behind some trees and watched the baby try to stand.  They are normally on their feet within 10 minutes.  If they are not up by 20 minutes one starts to worry.  Our baby tried very hard but could not get up.  The long and difficult birth had tired it out.  We left it as long as we possibly could because one does not like to meddle in the natural cycle. If you interfere with the baby you run the risk of the mother moving off with the herd and then we would have had to hand rear the baby.

After we waited an hour the vet said that the baby would die if we don’t get it up so he walked in very carefully trying not to chase the mother off too far but not wanting her to defend her calf, and he lifted the baby to its feet and held it up for a few minutes and then moved away so that the mother giraffe could approach her baby again.  He walked away and the baby fell to the ground after a minute or two of standing on its own.  After another 10 minutes he again went in and lifted the calf.  The situation was getting difficult now because the only way the baby would get some strength would be if it could drink some colostrum from its mother.  After a few more minutes the baby fell down again.

We then started calling around to cattle farmers in the area trying to find some cow colostrum but we were unsuccessful.

The vet left us at this stage and told us to keep lifting the calf every hour.  At 5.30 we went down to lift her up again and were so happy to find her on her feet.  We checked again at 6.30 pm and she was still up and was now moving around. She must have fed from her mother by this time because she was looking so good.  By morning the herd had moved off with the baby in tow.

Yesterday while on a game drive I spotted her with her mom again – looking well and happy.

Here are a couple of pictures taken by my friend Rina, of the calf with the vet as he was getting her up.

It was quite an eventful new years day and an awesome thing to experience.

Scaly visitors at Jackal’s Den

This morning Cleo chased this fellow up a tree just outside my bedroom cottage.

The rock monitor (Varanus albigularis), also called the legavaan or white-throated monitor, is a species of monitor lizard found in southern Africa. It is the second longest lizard found on the continent of Africa and the heaviest bodied. They reach 2 meters  in length, although this fellow was only about 1 meter long.  I love seeing them so I need to find a way to stop Cleo going a little berserk when they come to visit.

On another scaly matter, we have a resident black mamba that has decided to become our gate guard.  It has been spotted on quite a few occasions now, about 5 meters outside of our main reserve gate. We are being very, very careful now when we alight from our vehicles to open and close the gate.  Although we use torches at night, it does feel a little creepy when it’s dark and I try to get back in my car quite fast.

I snapped a picture of his tail yesterday afternoon.

My apologies for the poor quality of the picture – I had to take it fast before he/she moved off and it was taken through my dirty windscreen.

Here is some information from Wikipedia which may explain why we get a little nervous of him.

The black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis), also called the common black mamba or black-mouthed mamba, is the longest venomous snake in Africa, averaging around 2.5 to 3.2 meters (8.2 to 10 ft) in length, and sometimes growing to lengths of 4.45 meters (14.6 ft). Its name is derived from the black colouration inside the mouth rather than the actual colour of its scales which varies from dull yellowish-green to a gun-metal grey. It is the fastest snake in the world, capable of moving at 4.32 to 5.4 metres per second (16–20 km/h, 10–12 mph). It is a notorious snake that’s feared throughout the world. It has a reputation for being very aggressive and highly venomous. Many herpetologists have cited this species as both the world’s deadliest and most aggressive, noting a tendency to attack without provocation. They are among the world’s ten most venomous land snakes, and when threatened or cornered they become fiercely aggressive, which is why they are given mythical status.

Although it would much rather avoid confrontation and flee from any perceived threat, the black mamba can be extremely aggressive if badgered long and hard enough, during breeding season, when defending territory or an egg nest, or if cornered with no escape, it will stand its ground and display fearsome tenacity and explosive aggression while hissing loudly and striking repeatedly. No other snake in the continent is as loathed, and yet respected and feared at the same time.

The black mamba is known to be capable of reaching speeds of around 20 kilometers per hour (12 mph), traveling with up to a third of its body raised off the ground.

Although only 10 to 15 mg of it’s venom is deadly to a human adult, its bite delivers about 100–120 mg of venom on average,but they can deliver up to over 400 mg of venom in a single bite. Its bite is often called “the kiss of death” because before antivenom was widely available, the mortality rate from a bite was 100%. Severe black mamba envenomation can potentially kill a human within 20 minutes or less depending on the nature of the bite and the area bitten, but death usually occurs after 30–60 minutes on average, sometimes taking up to three hours. British wildlife enthusiast Nathan Layton was bitten in Hoedspruit, a small town near Kruger National Park, by a juvenile black mamba and died in less than 30 minutes after being bitten.

 

If he does not move away in the next few weeks we will probably have him relocated to a more remote area of the farm.

Update from the middle of nowhere

School is finally over for the Bean after a month of exams. It’s been a long hard year for her and I am so glad that I was able to stop working at the fruit packhouse to give us more time at home to get the school year done. Now it’s the nerve-wracking wait for her final results at the end of December.  Hopefully she will be off to university in Pretoria next year.

We are now holed up on the farm – only venturing in to town when we run out of supplies or for a few social occasions – this is how I want it to be. Things are really starting to come together for me now.  Bookings are rolling in for Jackal’s Den, I am busy on the farm from sunrise to sunset, loving every moment, and I have orders for paintings lined up well into next year.

With regards to the patio, the retaining wall is built

and the floor now filled in with rocks and soil

All I need now are the creepers which I hope to buy next week and then I will be making paving blocks to cover the floor area soon. I am also going to plant some lawn around this area to green it up a bit.  It’s been so much fun doing this project.

The Bean’s roof is still not done.  A job that was supposed to take 5 days is now on 21 days. Hopefully it will be finished by Friday when we leave for Johannesburg to visit our family and attend my sons wedding.

This is my current painting project which I am painting for a commissioned order. Still a long way to go on this too.

and finally here is a picture of our baby Savannah.

She has settled in very well. Cleo and Savannah have a strange relationship – sneaking up on each other when they think no one is watching to get a good sniff. So far there have been no fights or dramatic chase scenes – rather they respect each others boundaries mostly and give each other a wide berth (although this seems to be narrowing as they get used to each other).  Savannah, although very loving, is wild in the sense that she is very nocturnal. Much more so than Fred was. She sleeps solidly all day waking as the sun sets and then she is off out into the bush for the night. She eats at home but still catches mice and squirrels most evenings. We even got a bat as a present last week. She does not like being inside and only ventures in if there is a rain storm. Otherwise her favorite daytime haunt is our veranda where she has set up a type of nest in some hessian on a little wall where she sleeps.

While we are away for the next two weeks some friends of ours will be living at Jackal’s Den, having a well deserved break and feeding Savannah.  I hope Cleo will be able to travel with us as she won’t really cope well away from me, although I still need to clear this with my family where we are staying.  I hope she will be able to come but if she can’t my friends are the best folk to look after her.

I will be back in two weeks. Happy blogging 🙂