Today is basically the last day of 2017 that I will have access to a computer. Leaving the (sh)city for the usual weekend farming chores and pleasures in a few hours, means I can write this post quickly before work. I have skipped a few months of writing, and neglected this blog a little bit – both work and farm life have been busy and time was very limited. So let’s play catchup in two paragraphs, but for all reasons possible, I am keeping the location and name of the farm and people unrevealed. This is the internet after-all, and the farm is my escape from all of it. Sorry 🙂
We have settled on our piece of farm-land in the last few weeks, and made strides (most of which are still slightly invisible to the untrained eye) in progressing the immediate environment around the house. We got the farmhouse with so many things inside (fridge and stove, all powered from a fantastic solar system) thanks to the kind people we are involved with in this area. However, to make a place ‘truly yours’, you need to add the things that are essentially… you. Everything that I find distracting and corrupting in the city life, filled with failing technology and sleep-affecting distractions will not go along. The farm is back to basics, with just enough to live a full life. Healthy eating, reading, activities and labour keeps one busy everyday.
That is not to say there is nothing. Mornings are early start, as the sun comes up. Healthy breakfast and coffee kicks off the morning, and after a brush of the oral ivories, heading out into the veld (usually the dam) with the DSLR proves very rewarding and relaxing. Birds of prey, smaller karoo birds and cranes show up. If we’re there early enough, and hidden well, a cat or dog might show up to drink some water before the hot day starts. It is amazing, and my inner-nature-photographer just comes alive here, as does the spirit – the karoo spirit, my life essence.
After this, heading back to the farmhouse with a gentle hike, gets us ready for some work. It’s important to get the gloves & work-wear on and get some work done before the midday heat strikes. We have a supply of two boreholes at the farm house. One is a long-distance gravity feed from a hole that supplies sweet and delicious drinking water (for us and the cattle/sheep). The other is a hole directly at the house that fills a reservoir for irrigation purposes. Water is scarce, valuable and needs to be treated as such. Walking in the Karoo, you will see tonnes of windpumps, all squeezing out reservoirs full of water. It might seem like farmers are wasteful, but once you get to know them, and their planning, it becomes a superb dance of balance. Water is managed extremely well. The aquifers underground is handled carefully (by 99% of farmers, at least – we are aware of some neighbours who simply just don’t give a hoot, mostly because of their background as non-farmers).
Our place is an excellent example. All smaller holes are only pumped when needed, into sealed tanks. Water is either kept in a top-up state in troughs or pumped into reservoirs as needed. In the case of our drinking water, it’s manually pumped _only when needed_ and then gravity fed to houses. It’s a superb system, patrolled almost daily for leaks, and maintained with passion by Mr S. I am inspired and humbled by the management techniques he is committed to – and teaching me.
Back home, ample solar panels, charge controllers and battery banks suck up the hot Karoo sun during the day, filling the storage without fail. This provides the house with more than enough electricity at night to keep the lights on as required. There is no shortage of energy or water, not because it’s abundant (it’s not) – but because it is managed with respect.
Lastly, our projects are still akin to a huge salad right now. We are still making the house a ‘home’, cleaning up the yard area and planting new trees around it. This is building an oasis, bit by bit. The yard project will be ongoing, and long term, as plants are added, tried and tested. Not everything will grow, but I am going to try and learn anywhere. The Karooveld is a harsh environment, temperature goes from extreme hot and dry, to cold nights – snow may occur in winter, and rain is almost unheard of here. Plants need to be able to deal with all of it.
This brings me to another project in my scopes. Greenhouse! This is a dream project, I have huge plans, more than I am willing to share at this stage. The benefits of a greenhouse goes on and on, but to name a few… water retention, temperature management, frost protection, wind protection and disease and pest protection are the main points of interest to me. When I am done, two or more people will be able to feed themselves from it. The projects extends into my other areas of interest, electronics and programming, as I build a solar powered greenhouse management system to automate watering and possibly control temperature and humidity as well by means of my own Arduino based design.
Lastly, some other projects include helping the wifey build her chicken-coop, as per her plans and wishes to start keeping chickens (for learning and food). The other plus here is that she will be producing more eggs and/or chicks than we could use, so it would be a nice way to give back to our helping hand at the farm by allowing him to generate extra income and possibly some food as well.
On the other side of the hill, a small fire (which Mr S fortunately managed to extinguish quickly) ruined about 1ha of karooveld. Without aid, this will take many years to restore. Karooveld is not like fynbos that can restore itself after a fire, and it needs assistance by means of manual seed spreading and care. We are going to make this a priority. This ties in with a project that Mr S mentioned… a piece of natural reserve on the farm that basically contains all or most of the karooveld plants of that region. This task is composed of several items, and the first is finding this area, followed by protecting it from fire and animals.
I can go on and on, there is a lot to do, but it is fantastic. I would not give this up for a bag of money, in fact, If I could survive at the farm without my day job, I would be there all the time. If my plans work out, maybe. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Mr S read a book that helped him, and then I read it. It’s an amazing learning piece, with information everyone in the area should be aware of. I am convinced that if all workers, owners and collaborators in the Karoo-veld read this book, everything would be simpler and better (and less ruined… overgrazing *cough cough*)…. I will link you to it, since I believe in this book, but you can buy it wherever you want… I am not affiliated with this.
There are both english and afrikaans versions of this book, Karooveld – Ecology and Management: