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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Antlion

For several evening while taking the dogs for their evening walk I've spotted these two antlion traps next to the cattle path. One would think that this is a very dangerous spot for them, considering what damage a cows hoof could do. Obviously the antlions have weighed up the pro's and con's and decided it's worth the risk. Notice that the traps are right on the edge of the path.

I remember as a child watching these traps avidly for hours waiting for an ant to meet it's doom, sometimes assisting in it's demise. Once in these traps there is no escape for an ant, the sides just keep crumbling under it's feet, and quick as a flash the antlion grabs it's helpless prey.

Antlions are the larval form of Myrmeleontidae insects, also known as doodlebugs in North America.


Photo above that I took this evening, of the two antlion traps.


Diagram of the antlion funnel, with antlion catching it's prey. (Wikipedia)


Every ants worse nightmare! (Wikipedia)


The beast turns into a beauty. (Wikipedia) The adult form of this insect, also know as an antlion lacewing.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Trout at last!!


When I started this blog in February it was going to be all about fly fishing for trout and other species of fish here in the Drakensberg foothills of KwaZuluNatal. Well apart from one or two bass, some which were not caught on a fly, not a trout to be seen, I started to doubt that I had ever caught a trout. I'm not the worlds greatest fly fisher, but every outing in the past I have usually manage to land a couple of trout. 

Most of my trout fishing until lately has been in still waters and takes place mostly in the winter months. During the summer still water fishing for trout is not practical if you are thinking catch and release. Water temperatures are too high and the chances are that any trout you might catch will die. Trout also become very lethargic in very warm water.

Since April this year, as the weather started to cool, I have been trying to catch trout on fly. Apart from several snapped tippets, nothing not one fish, (bought a whole bunch of new leaders and tippet material)  until today that is. This morning before sunrise I headed out to the Mooi River to try my luck in catching brown trout. The morning was cool and overcast and the river flow much reduced since I was there 3 weeks ago.

On my second cast I was into a fish, not big but a fish, counted my chickens too soon and it managed to shake my fly, a small size 16 elk hair caddis. Lost two more before the fish went off the bite. Decided to walk downstream and try again, changed to a size 14, long shank, stimulator. Tried several pools with one missed for being too quick and actually pulling the fly out of it's mouth. Came to a small pool with a very fast current on the far side, cast right up against the far bank and let the fly drift across the current. In the fastest part of the current a brown trout rose and swallowed my fly, and virtually hooked itself. My first brown trout and my first stream caught trout!! Not big, just a shade under 10", but perfect in every way, a perfect wild, river trout.  This is about the average for this river, but fish of 2lbs and up are often caught. The colouring was amazing, with bright red rosettes down it's flanks, and a creamy yellow belly. 

Click on photos to enlarge.


The photo does not do the fish justice, I was in a hurry to get it back in the water and didn't spend much time thinking about how the photo will come out. The tape measure hides a lot of the fish's colouring and you can't read the figures any way.


This photo gives a slightly better view of the trout's colouring. This fish is something like the 120th generation of the original Loch Levins brown trout that were seeded in the Mooi River in the 1890. A little while after catching this fish the wind started blowing a gale and I decided to leave.


This tree, an Australian eucalyptus, always catches my eye on the way to Reekielynn. This morning I stopped and photographed it. To me the epitome of a perfect tree.


Don't know what it's called but worth a photo.


A red hot poker, that's it's name, growing next to the river. A common flower in SA gardens.


The banks of the river is just covered with wild flowers.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Mother and daughter.

Sissie and Tombi relaxing on their favourite chair.


The shredded corners on the chair is Cats work.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Update, hail storm casualties.

Went to check up on the the hadeda ibis with the damaged wing this afternoon and found it had gone. Saw no signs of any violence, feathers, etc., so I can only presume that it has left. Maybe its wing was only badly bruised by the hail and not broken as I had thought.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

New Book

Succumbed  to my book addiction on Saturday and bought myself a book. Not just any book but a facsimile copy of Wild Sports Of Southern Africa. By Captain Sir William Cornwallis Harris. This book is a reprint of the 5th edition, published 1987, by C Struik, Pty Ltd, Cape Town. First edition of this book published in 1840.


Captain Cornwallis Harris was an officer in the Royal Corps of Engineers stationed in India. He received his commission at the age of sixteen. I wonder how many sixteen year old's would be able to do the same today. The book was the result of a trip taken through Southern Africa in the years 1836 - 1837. 


The area of Southern Africa north of the Orange to the Limpopo river, was wild and unexplored, this was the area Cornwallis Harris explored.


A very interesting and well written book, not only about hunting but full of social commentary, regarding the various tribes encountered, their customs, and traditions. He also describes the political situation and the devastation caused by the wars of extermination unleashed on the tribes of Southern Africa by Shaka, the Zulu chief, and Mzilikaats, the Matabele chief. Between them they murdered tens of thousands and left huge tracts of Southern Africa depopulated. (Hundreds of thousands? No one knows how many. Whole tribes were wiped out.)  



Dust jacket of the book.
   


Title page and illustration on the facing page. Cornwallis Harris did all the illustration in the book. All officers in the Engineers Corps those days had to be able to make good sketches and drawings, no cameras to photograph with.




Mode of transport, ox wagon.




Illustration of an elephant, with huge herds in the valley below. The author describes the country as teeming with game, to numerous to count. All gone now.




Illustration of Wildebeest, or Gnu.




Hunting buffalo.




Title of this illustration, Pretty Bushmaid, (Bushman). While she was distracting the wagon drivers and herdsmen, her compatriots stole and slaughtered all the trek oxen, leaving them stranded on the African veldt. (Some things never change.) Fortunately they were able to purchase more oxen from Trekkers (pioneers) who took part in the mass migration of Afrikaans farmers (Boers) from the then Cape Colony, over the Orange river, to the north and north east. This trek is known in our history as the Great Trek, 1836 - 1838. Cornwallis Harris also gives a first hand description of this event.




Lingaap, a Matebele warrior.




Title of this illustration Trauey the Griqua maid. Trauey, diminutive of Gertrude, was the daughter of a Griqua chief, kidnapped by the Matabele, and ended up in Mzilikaatz, the Matabele Chiefs harem.


Griqua's were mixed race people of white and Khoi Khoi (Hottentot) stock. White deserters from the Cape fled to the Orange river where they took Khoi Khoi wifes. The Griquas wore European dress, were expert horsemen and deadly shots with a rifle. Most of them were no more than brigands and  terrorised the area along the Orange river. 




I tried to photograph the map, the bottom page actually has to overlap the top page to show the map correctly. An epic journey if ever there was one. Click on the photo to enlarge. 

Monday, 24 October 2011

Hail storm casualties.

Took a walk Friday evening to see what other damage the Wednesday hail storm had caused.



The reeds growing at the edge of the dam, just below the cottage, looked as if someone had taken a rush cutter and cut them down. Above is a close-up.


Above a broader view of the same reeds as above.


This patch of reeds at the other end of the dam was devastated, about 2/3 of their hight cut down. These are a totally different type of reed to the ones in the previous photos. A colony of red bishop weavers nest in these reeds every year, this year was no different and they were well established with dozens of nests hanging over the water. After the hail storm not one was left, weather they will come back this year is doubtful, but, who knows, maybe, just maybe.


Sitting under this willow tree was a Hadeda Ibis with a broken wing.


Can't be seen clearly in the photo, but it's left wing was hanging all skew. Weather this bird will recover is uncertain but it's picked a good spot to recover against the dam wall. Lots of food here, insects, frogs and tadpoles. Yesterday when I went to look it was still there but had managed to get on to a safer perch over the water for the night.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Curiosity of youth.

While I was fishing at Grantchester yesterday, I heard the clatter of little hoofs behind me. I looked and saw a whole bunch of calves galloping down the hill behind me, for a moment I thought they were going to run right over me and into the water. At the last moment they swerved and ended up under some pin oaks to my right, where they stopped, butting each other and kicking their back legs in the air, full of the joy's of spring.

Moments later I heard more hooves, this time their mothers were galloping down the hill in hot pursuit of their offspring. They also swerved at the last moment, and joined the calves under the trees, entered the water and started drinking. Just as I thought I was safe a lone cow came galloping down the hill, (45 degree slope) straight at me. I was just considering the option of jumping into the water to escape certain death, when she made a couple of sharp zig zags to the right and left and came to a stop with her legs splayed out, about 2 meters from me. The cow was panting from her run and then had quite a coughing fit. If cows could look embarrassed, I'm sure she looked embarrassed. ("Not quite as fit as I used to be, motherhood sure takes it out of you").

The whole lot of them must have stood on the top of the hill watching me and decided, "let's give that old man down there the fright of his life!" Well they almost succeeded, it was very close.

The cows drank their fill of the cool clear water. The calves? Well the calves had milkshake!


This little fellow, a bull calf, approached me along the bank, nose outstretched, to within a metre of me. When I lifted the camera to take his portrait he bounded up the hill behind me, still very curious.



Then they all wandered off a little way, fun over, the mums thirst slaked, over to where the little ones had their milkshake, and they all lay down for an early morning siesta.  

I think these are Charolais beef cattle, (Bos taurus).



Photo: Wikipedia.

The little guy in the photo above could end up looking like this. Sure am glad that dad wasn't with them!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Sunrise over the Bushmans river valley

Photo taken at 5:15 this morning.

Click on photo to enlarge.



The N3 highway seen on the right dips down to the bottom of the valley, crosses the Bushmans river, and rises up the other side on it's way to Durban, almost 200km away, on the shores of the Indian ocean.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Burning bush?

No, just another of God's beautiful sunsets. Who needs to hear words, the message is clear enough.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

New profile photo.

Replaced my old profile photo with one taken this year July, at Grantchester, my favourite still water. It was one of those brilliantly clear sunshine, but freezing days, we often have here during the winter months.



Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Hailstorm

Today we had a vicious hailstorm which hit Estcourt and surrounding areas at 12:20 this afternoon.  About an hour after the hailstorm we had a torrential down pour, which included more hail.


My last post about the change of seasons I posted the photo below.




Before the hail storm.




After the hailstorm, above.




Before.


After.




My new vegetable garden before the storm.




After the storm.




Trunk of the bougainvilla outside my front door, note the hail damage to the bark.




All that's left of a bucket left outside.




Hail still lying next to the cottage two hours after the storm.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Seasons


You hardly notice the seasons changing then it suddenly hits you in the face. During the harshest part of winter you start to think it will never be summer again, but in spite of your pessimism it arrives and you hardly notice.


This photo of the mulberry tree in my garden was taken in August during one of the harshest winters we've had for a very long time.


The same tree, photo taken about six weeks after the one above. What looked almost like a dead tree is now covered with a lush canopy of leaves. Since the beginning of October every branch and twig on this tree is just thick with berries, some green, some pale red, almost translucent, and still other a deep purple as they have ripened.

Every bird in the neighbourhood knows about this tree, each generation passes on the knowledge. All day long the birds hop from branch to branch eating while the eating is good. Fruit eaters, seed eaters, insect eaters, (weaver birds, red bishops, glossy starlings, Indian mynahs, too many to mention), all take part in the feast which will last until November.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Food

Saw the following video on the Joy's blog http://snapthatpenny.blogspot.com/2011/10/good-eating-continues.html.

Seems quite fitting after my post about my organic vegetable garden.

Organic vegetable garden.

Two weeks ago I decided to start a small vegetable garden. The theory is that with a garden the size of a normal house door you can produce enough vegetables to feed a family of four. Well my garden is about the size of three doors, so in theory I could feed three families. This garden will actually feed two households, myself, and my housekeeper, Maria's family of six people. As you use up your vegetables you replace the plants. 


A huge amount of compost was dug into the soil. I also bought several large bags of "kraal manure", (kraal is Afrikaans for cattle pen), and several bags of chicken manure. The kraal and chicken manure was well composted. Also added some agricultural lime and bone meal, quite a bit of the former as the soil is quite acidic, and a slow release, organic fertilizer. The day after the soil was prepared we had three days of soft penetrating rain, almost 2 inches. 


For insecticide I will used Epsom salts dissolved in water, about five teaspoons in five litres of water, then poured over the plants with a watering can. Seems to have the same effect on the insects as it has on humans. They eat part of a plant with this solution on, and well, they just gotta go.


Click on photos to enlarge.




General view of the vegetable garden.




Row of lettuce, (rocket) and cabbages. The lettuce will be ready in a week or two, rocket can be picked a leaf at a time. The cabbage will give me several coleslaws.




Three rows of spinach, (Swiss chard), can also be picked a leaf at a time and will produce for the rest of the summer.




A row of tomatoes, about seven plants, a row of green peppers, and a row of brinjols, also known as egg plant in South Africa, nice in stews and curries, several ways of preparing this vegetable. Not quite sure about the spelling of "brinjols", or what it's known as elsewhere in the world.


The picture above shows my irrigation system. The water comes out of the farm dam below the house, pumped up to a small reservoir about 200 meters from the garden, then to a tap in the garden. Very low pressure, literally  drip irrigation and each plant is watered individually, so it runs almost 24/7. The beauty of this water is has no chlorine or other chemicals.




Around the edge of the garden, on two sides, I planted these "wild" onions, a sort of cross between, chives, spring onions and shallots. These onions seem to grow without much help. The whole plant can be used, from the bulbs, to the leaves. Pull up a whole bunch, replant one of the bulbs, and it grows again. Lovely in salads, soups, and stews. 




This is what the plant in the photo above will eventually look like. I keep these on the garden table just outside the front door. Several plants in this small pot. You can see where I've cut off leaves to use in salads, etc..


I need to put in a row of green beans, and some carrots  and on the compost heap I'll plant butter nuts and gem squash,then I have all the basics covered. 

Celestial butterfly.

This photo below was taken by the Hubble space telescope. Looks like a delicate butterfly. 


This year is Man's fiftieth year in space, since Yuri Gagarin orbited the planet in 1961.