Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Life on a Farm

We are going to start travelling again on the 24th March. While we perspire of heat in Cape Town, Europe shivers like never before. 

I have been living on a little farm in Stanford near Hermanus. I love it, it is so tranquil. Recently I have been rudely reminded of the closeness of the vagrancy's of Nature. One minute all is calm and beautiful, then the next moment nature decides that it is time to stand things on her head, so I thought I would get some practice at writing again before we set off once again through Central America, to depart back to the UK on 24th June from our destination point San Francisco.


My painting of above

If you don't have electricity you have to start cooking early. Not because cooking in the dark is not an unusual occurrence, I am always in the dark when cooking. But it is all about preparation as Jamie Oliver et al will tell you, but in my case it is because of snakes. I know that there are snakes under that pile of wood outside the back door next to the tractor with the flat front tire that I am too lazy to fix, as I saw a baby one the other day and I am pretty sure the mother of the baby one did not put it there for protection while she went out to forage and there is a distinct possibility that the male snake is no different to a male lion who simply lies in the warmest place waiting for the female to bring in the bacon before he impregnates her yet again. After all it is an African snake.
So you see as much as I envy the awaiting snake under the wood pile, if I am to disturb his refuge I would prefer to do it in daylight, that way I give him the chance to make a decision to move further in to the woodpile or move on to a less changing environment on Chris the (alleged) Perlamoen Poacher’s farm as he has Escom and certainly does not have to cook supper early.
I wonder about the day in the life of a Perlamoen smuggler?  Maybe he doesn’t sleep well at night knowing that he is playing a big part in making a species extinct, so he eats late. If he doesn’t care about wiping out Perlamoen, I am sure he is not scared of snakes, maybe he has already wiped out all the snakes on his property, that is why they all come to stay at my place as they don’t trust smugglers. I raised the question the other day saying if the authorities know who the smugglers are why don’t they arrest them? I was told that one of sea fisheries main sources of income comes from selling off the confiscated boats and equipment.
There are challenges on a farm, not least of which is the lack of water. The JoJo tank is empty. “You don’t know what you have got ‘till it’s gone” Is so true. I knew we were low, but I was sure we would get some rain before it ran out. I was wrong! All of a sudden you become VERY aware of how water is being used. I thought I was aware before I ran out, but now not a drop goes to waste. Fortunately the good old Kombi has a built in 40litre water tank with a 12 volt pump, so when I go to town I fill up the tank, and drain it into various containers on my return to the farm. So I now have about 100 litres on hand at any one time. That may sound like a lot, but have you any idea how much water you use a day?
My daily water consumption prior to running out would be as follows: A stagger to the loo for a pee 7 litres for flush. To the kitchen to boil the kettle for tea, 250 ml (7.25 l), extended period on loo while reading the paper and drinking tea. 7 litres (14.25 l) Basin of hot water 5 litres of cold is wasted before the hot water arrives 3 litres of hot water (22.25). Shower 7 litres (29.25). Breakfast 1 litre (30.25 l) washing up 5 litres (35.25), water intake during the day 2.75 litres (38 l), evening meal and washup 5 litres.(43 litres) and I have not done any clothing wash, watered the plants, fed the dog or put ice in my wine! I estimate every person must use in excess of 50 litres a day.
When you have NO water the day would go as follows: Stagger outside and pee on the lavender. Measure a cup of water to boil for tea (also saves energy input). Measure 2litres of water to shave, tipped onto the lavender when finished. Stand in a bucket and quick shower with solar camping shower in hanging plastic bag. Throw grey water into loo for only flush of the day. Washing up at the end of the day takes two litres which drains into a bucket and is emptied onto the lavender bushes. Daily water consumption 3 litres. Maximum 10 litres a day. Clothes wash? No need for clothes on the farm, only required when going to the village. One set of clothes for the week!
Unlike the demise of the Perlemoen, I can do something about the lack of water
It is hot. The to-do list got smudged by my sweat doing nothing, I just lent forward to see what tasks I had set myself and just dripped onto the page washing that task to another day. Clearly the most sensible thing to do was to lye quietly and read in the hammock hanging so invitingly under the precocious rhesus tree whose branches obey no logical form but provide dappled shade, as all of nature waits for the cooler evening air. The distinctive cry of the Fish Eagle and a hooting owl announce that the evening is approaching. I put my book on my chest and stopped to absorb the sounds and wonder why I have never made such a practice part of my daily routine. The weavers and finches chatted above my head, the crickets, frogs were there, a line of flamingos flew up the river hard on the heels of the cormorants. But there was another sound, almost a non-sound, something was in my presence. I lay still. A pair of Reed buck were not five meters away oblivious of my presence. What fascinated me was their caution. I suppose there could be leopards in the mountains or a domestic dog or two guarding the Perlamoen at Chris’s farm, but the area is pretty benign by danger standers, yet they grazed with caution, only moving when they were confident that it was safe to do so, which brought me back to my to-do list.
If it wasn’t so soporifically hot I would have forced myself to complete the to-do list, missing out on such a special quiet time. I could not help thinking that maybe if like the buck, I only moved forward when it was safe to do so, maybe I would save a lot of energy, time and money, but best of all I would certainly be better off listening and observing natures bedtime stories..

I can smell someone smoking a mile away. This was a different smell of smoke, a suffocating smell that filled all the air as it sucked in all the surrounding oxygen. An ignorant farm hand grinding a piece of metal and tossing the remains into the dry fynbos sets alight the whole mountain range for four days. The birds of prey circle above and in front of the great columns of smoke and massive flames. Swooping down on whatever homeless, retreating, unsuspecting prey it chooses. You are at the mercy of the wind as you watch the front line of fire bear down on your few possessions. The only way to stop the onslaught is to fight fire with fire. Fireman clad in black fire suits sweat in the heat as they start back-burning downwind from the fire, cutting of its means of retreat. As the fire edged ever closer to the farm the gods looked down on us and changed the wind direction creating a chance to back-burn ten meters from the house. The speed, ferocity and sound of the back-burn as it devoured the parched fifteen year old vegetation was awesome. It raced away up the hill to confront the opposing fire front like two armies squaring up for battle. Huge flames shot up the pine trees which exploded with superheated sap resin shooting it up in all directions. We are saved for the time being. Armies of farm hands, farmers and fireman, burn firebreaks for miles in either direction to prevent any chance of the flames jumping across the divide that separates most of the farmhouses in the lower part of the valley. Darkness descended giving 9ne a spectacular reminder of the power of nature as the whole evening sky turned red and the front line of fire defined its position. A spectacular scene. The fire-fighters worked right around the clock for four days, many animals perished and people and animals lost their homes just because of an ignorant action…………….now I hear rain on the corrugate iron roof………….there is a God.

For those of you who are homesick, while in a meeting with my Patent Lawyer the other day, I glanced out the window to see the QE2 leaving Duncan dock. I had no camera with me so my lawyer kindly took the pic and sent it attached to the account!