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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

No waste.

After the wheat harvest there's the wheat straw, seemingly useless stuff there is a huge market for it. In itself it has very little nutritional value, but it is used to bulk high energy cattle feed, keeps the bovine digestion healthy. Mushroom growers use it to grow mushrooms on, after it has been composted, people who have horses uses it as bedding in stables, the list just goes on and on.

Click to enlarge.


Baled wheat straw.

Herons just love the short wheat stubble, lots of insects and mice.
All neat and tidy, ready to be collected.
Close up.
A knot tied by a machine.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Minimal tillage.

The farm I live on is a minimal tillage farm, absolutely no ploughing is done.

Click to enlarge.

Above is the piece of equipment that does the tilling, the circular blade in front rips the soil, (as you can see by it's size not very deeply).

All planting, reaping and bailing is done by contractors, this equipment is extremely expensive and it would not be logical for a farmer to buy his own and it only gets use a few times a year. Contractors make full use of the equipment by working all over the country planting and reaping different crops, in different season, all through the year.

The state of the art tractor that pulls the tilling equipment, air condition, stereo radio system, semi automatic gear change, power steering, etc., etc.. (Even sissy's can be farmers now a days). The contractors name, "Clan Muir Contracting", is written on the tractors side window. The owner of the business is Hamish Muir, the Scots are very well represented in SA. I'd better take back that remark about sissy's, Hamish, a big brawny South African Scot, is definitely no sissy.

Straight as a dye. Every row has to be perfectly spaced as the planter has to place the seed right in the very narrow slit ripped by the tiller. The tiller rips six rows at a time, each group of six has to be placed exactly the same distance from the last six, the reason for this is that the planter only plants four rows at a time. How is this achieved? GPS of course, the tractor driver connects to the GPS satellite, which plots each row exactly. Apart from starting the tractor, putting it in gear the drivers work is done, all the tilling and planting is done on auto pilot, the driver sits back and relaxes.  

This field has already been planted with maize, the remains of last seasons maize crop and this winters wheat stubble, can still be seen lying on the surface. With minimum tillage all the humus producing plant remains, remain on the surface where it protects the soil and breaks down in a natural way. With traditional ploughing the soil is turned over which exposes the soil microbes to the suns UV rays, destroying them.

A field of soya beans planted with minimum tillage.

Early morning.

Got up before sunrise on Sunday morning to see if I could get some good shots of the sun coming up. As I was about to open the gate to go out of the farm yard into the field I saw three Mountain Reedbuck, standing in the newly harvested wheat field, quite close and undisturbed by my sudden arrival. Looking around I saw three more, in total six one of them a ram and one young one.

Mother and child.

I had my four dogs and one of my landlords dogs with me but they were so busy with their noses down sniffing all the night scents that they were unaware of the antelope. This gave me lots of time to take photos.

They were as interested in me as I was of them, with every click of the camera shutter  their ears twitched. It was almost as if they were posing for me.

Only after about 20 minutes when it was much lighter did the dogs become aware of the Reedbuck, and the chase was on. The antelope easily outpaced the dogs, but they had fun and came back after about 10 minutes with happy grins on their face.

The sunrise? well that was a bit of a let down.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

After the storm.

We had a tremendous build up to a storm yesterday which amounted to.. "All sound and  fury which signified nothing". The sky turned pitch black, the wind blew, lightning flashed and thunder crashed around us. As fast as it started it ended, leaving a beautiful rainbow and an unimaginable quality of light.

Click to enlarge.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The bigger picture.

Many of my flower photos when enlarged reveal some minute insect using it as home.

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Enlarge this photo as large as you can, (download it if you have to) and on the top right hand petals of the flower in the bottom left quadrant, you will find a tiny insect. It's these tiny insects and details that interest me, "all I want for Christmas is a camera with a macro lens". Not two front teeth!!!

A bee sipping nectar.

The horizon in this picture is about 3km away +/- 2  miles. The first of these flowers should only appear in February, is "Mother Nature" trying to tell us something?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Misty sunrise.

Got up at about 5 am this morning and this is the sight that met my eyes.

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Wide angle shot over the wheat fields.

Zoomed in a bit.

Zoomed much closer.

Zoomed right.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Fibonacci spiral.

...and Fibonacci numbers, also known as the numbers of nature.

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Fibonacci spirals and "multiplication" happening. It all has to do with numbers anyway. The thorns on these thistle buds are arranged in Fibonacci spirals. The two beautiful and fragile insects are busy working on the perpetuation of the species.

Among the thorns you also find beauty.

Fibonacci spirals and number occur throughout nature, from the double helix in DNA, pine cones right out to spiral galaxies.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Happines is......

... a nice muddy puddle to wallow in after a four kilometre walk on a hot afternoon.

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The big dog is Jess my landlords dog, she is the same X breed, Alsation x Rotweiler, as my old dog Rambo. I posted about him early last year, "Death of a gentleman". Tombi and Lady had literally wallowed in the water. Sissy at the back just splashed around a bit. Bruno is not in the picture as he hates getting his feet wet, it's quite a comedy to watch in the morning when he answers the call of nature, tip toeing through the dew wet grass.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Study to be quiet. II.

This post is basically going to consist of two quotations, one from Blaise Pascal's Pensees, and one by the theologian/philosopher, Soren Kierkegard.

I'm also including more photos of the roses I photographed in the back garden two days ago.

Click to enlarge.

Some one once said; "Only God can make a rose". How true!

"I have often said that the sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room... What people want is not the easy peaceful life that allows us to think of our unhappy condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the burdens of office, but the agitation that takes our mind off it and diverts us. That is why we prefer the hunt to the capture. That is why we are so fond of the hustle and bustle; that is why prison is such a fearful punishment; that is why the pleasures of solitude are so incomprehensible."  Pascal, Pensees.

"He hath made every thing beautiful in his time; ..." Ecclesiastes, 3:4.

Soren Kierkegaard once said; "If I were a doctor and some one asked for advice I would tell them; create silence in your life, it will heal you".

..and only God could have made this tiny wild flower in all it's perfection, only two or the millimetres across, but perfect in every way.

If I had a neighbour who had a camera with a macro lens I would be coveting it, definitely not his ox or his ass. I spend half of my photography time on me knees and elbows trying to photograph tiny flowers. Although my camera has a macro mode it's not a macro lens.
The leaves and detritus under the flower are the remains of last seasons maize crop. This is a minimum tillage farm and no plowing is done, at most the fields might be lightly discs ed. The next crop will be planted directly into this detritus.

PS to Pumice; our libraries are as noisy as the rest of the country, radio on, people talking at the top of their voices, etc., etc. I've given up using them.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Study to be quiet.

The much used, but little practised, quote from Izaak Walton's book, The Compleat Angler, first published in 1651. I have an 1897 reprint of the 5th edition, the last edition to be edited by the author.

This stained glass window is just above Walton's tomb.

It would seem to me from daily observation that most people dislike intently, maybe even hate silence  or quietness, they need some kind of constant noise to fill the emptiness of their souls.

Here in South Africa there are dozens of FM radio station in all the 11 official languages, all of them spouting non-stop drivel, 24/7/365. Go where you want you will hear at least one of them. Here in KZN it's East Coast Radio in English, 'nKhosi FM in isiZulu and there are others.

People working at their computer are connected to their favourite station via the internet, car radios blast them, the home without several radios and more than one TV is rare, most of them switched on, often to different stations, plus a CD player going somewhere. The moment people wake up they switch their radios and TV's on and they stay on until they go to sleep.

If you visit people you actually visit their TV set, heaven forbid that they miss one moment of some program. With satellite TV you now have 100's of programs to chose from, I'm of the opinion that most people would rather go without food than not pay the monthly rental for satellite connection, in SA only the really destitute don't have have satellite connection. Characters in TV soaps are discussed as if they were real and if you don't know who is being discussed you are looked at as if you come from another planet.

Watch CNN or Sky News 24/7 so that you can be up to date with what's happening in the world. Why anyone would want to watch the Syrians killing each other and destroying Damascus and their country is beyond me, none of us can do a thing about it except pray for the suffering thousands. America has been in debt since WW 2, so if the almighty $ is about to crash what can I do about it or anyone for that matter, but TV will rub your nose in it and the talking heads on CNN will discuss it endlessly.

Another source of "un-quietness" is the so called social media, which is anything but social, twitter, face book, (even blogging) texting, etc., etc. Where ever you go, almost every one has their cell phones in their hands, "communicating" (what is misnomer). Even while they are talking to you their fingers are busy.

I got rid of my TV twelve years ago, my radio hasn't worked for years, my car radio doesn't work and I haven't missed the noise one bit. I love to listen to classical music and I have 100's of classical CD's but unless I'm sitting and actually listening to the music I don't put one on.

I love silence, you can think, you  can dream, and listen for that tiny voice inside you. No better sound than the sound of silence.

This rose, which I photographed yesterday in the back garden, reminds me somehow of quietness.

I end with the title of a six part sermon by George Webb;

"The practise of quietness, or a direction how to live quietly at all times, in all places, upon all occasions, how to avoid or put off occasions of un-quietness."

I would have liked to have heard those.

Friday, 25 October 2013


The photographer photographed. While taking photos of wildflowers yesterday the Italian leprechaun photographed me. Never ask me to "pose" for a photo, I sort of freeze, my smile looks like the rictus on a corpse and my whole body language subtly changes.

Click to enlarge.

Photo by E Bucceri. Caught in the act intent on getting the photo.

The result, this cosmos flower has flowered 6 months to early.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

"To everything there is a season..."

The tiny body of a dead Red billed Quelea, and the lush new plant growth reminded me of this verses in Ecclesiastes, 3: 1 - 2.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven;

A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; "
And then verse 19,  ''For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth the beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as one dieth so dieth the other; yea they all have one breath; so that man hath no pre-eminence above a beast; for all is vanity".  Authorised King James version.

Monday, 21 October 2013

How the other half lives.

This weekend past I had the privilege of seeing how the other half lives. My sister in law, (ex wife's sister) and her husband invited the Italian leprechaun and I to spend a weekend, Friday to Sunday, with them at the exclusive resort/golf estate, on the Lower KZN South Coast, where they own a villa. The whole resort is built in a Mediterranean style, thus the "villa". I will write more about this place, but for now some pictures of the environment and some of the amazing bird life.

The other staff members at school wanted to know how we managed to get Friday off, I wonder if they've never heard of brown nosing? (Well something like that, just ask nicely, if you don't ask you don't get).

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Above is a picture from the estates country club where we had a late breakfast on Saturday morning. In view is part of the tournament class 18 hole golf course. There is also a 9 hole golf course.

One of the many beautiful views in this "paradise", it's all one can call it. In the background one of the hundreds of "villas".
Cape glossy starling in all iridescent beauty. The bird and animal life here are incredibly  tame, and the vegetation lush and verdant.
Miles and miles of pristine beaches, South Africa has +/- 3,000 miles of beautiful beaches. KZN is on the Indian ocean, with the warm Mozambican current flowing south down the coast.
Low tide and wet sand gleaming like a mirror.
Dabbling. This Egyptian goose was literally at my feet, I could have touched it.
The only negative aspect, I'm sure it's not constitutional, at least shouldn't be. I won't be exaggerating much if I say there aren't many private resorts/estates in the world measure up to this place. You got the money they got a place for you.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Walking buddies.

Apart from my dogs I have also acquired my landlords dogs as walking buddies.

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Left of picture is Bear, and he looks like a bear, huge and woolly, middle foreground is Dot, a scrap of a little mongrel. The dogs have given up trying to catch the guinea fowl, sometime just for the sake of their pride they will make a half hearted attempt, at which the guinea fowl fly off a little way and settle down again.

Bear and Bruno. My other three dogs were of into the lush wheat fields to terrorise mice and other small creatures.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Sky scape, sunset & purple perfection.

These photos were all taken on my evening walks earlier this week.

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Cloud scape over the wheat fields. We are desperately starting to need rain, every evening we see a clouds build up only for the to disappear over night. The last two days the temperature has reached the mid 40's Celsius. Weather people predict a cold front moving in from the south tomorrow, with possible rain, and a temperature of 17 Celsius, maximum.

Sunset, the arc of the sun is moving further and further south, nice to get up in the morning and the sun is up at 5:30.

Purple perfection, I find these tiny flowers irresistible, so do bees and other insects. Enlarge the photo to see the detail in the two flowers in focus.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Garden of rememberance.

One thing I remember is armistice day, 11hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month.  This was the time date and month that the 1st World War ended, and on this day the ending of both Wars is commemorated in South Africa. Every year on this day the old soldiers gather at this monument. The numbers are dwindling fast and soon they will be no more.

My dad was there every year with his campaign ribbons, Ethiopia, North Africa, (Egypt to Libya), and the his Italian ribbon, and all his medals (gongs he used call them). A bugler would play the Last post, one of the towns minister (usually the Anglican priest for some reason), Would deliver an eulogy, say a prayer, the old soldiers would come to rickety attention, salute the monument and would be dismissed.
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I wonder how long their names will live?

All the names of the men who fell in Weenen county, which included Estcourt at that time. Weenen means place of weeping in Afrikaans and with very good reason too,

Many of theses surnames can still be found in the local telephone book. R.LI (Rhodesian light infantry), this guy obviously joined up in the then Rhodesia. 1st R.N.C, (Royal Natal Carbineers) S.A.A.F (South African Air Force) my dad was in the Air Force, 31st Heavy Bomber Sqn, that flew Liberator Bombers. S.A.E.C. (South African Engineering Corps). The Engineering Corps was renowned for there bridge building and bridge repair work. S.S.B, usually known as the One Special Service Battalion, (I did my first three months of  infantry "basic" with 1 S.S.B).

One S.S.B. was founded in the 1920's it's purpose was criminal rehabilitation, if the judge/magistrate found you guilty of a crime obviously not murder or rape, you were sent to One S.S.B.  During the war they always managed to let the enemy know that they were facing a bunch of hardened criminals, and they had a ferocious reputation as cold blooded killers among the enemy.  Great psychological warfare. When I did my basic training with S.S.B (!966) it was no longer a dumping place for criminals, but the instructors still treated us if we were .

South Africans of all languages, creeds and colours, were always willing to volunteer, in great numbers, (to help the "auld" country) although most of them had no real connection with England.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Our dorp.

"Dorp" is the Afrikaans word for small town, and Estcourt is a small town. Had to go into town very early this morning to draw money at my banks ATM, get there too late and you have queues half way round the block, especially here at the beginning of the month.

Took my camera with to get some sunrise shots over our "dorp".

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Sunrise over our "dorp". Just behind where I was standing is the towns water works, the water in Estcourt is very, very good. The tree covered area centre right of the photo is known in Afrikaans as "Skuld bult," translation "Debt Hill", a k a "Snob Hill". The road on the left is the one I use coming in to work every day.

Top end of Wagen (Wagon) Road, on "Skuld Bult", the school I'm librarian at is about 100 meters  behind me at this point.

Heading down "Wagen road", the poor oxen must have sweated pulling loaded wagons up this hill.

Not many towns can claim to have their biggest factory right in the CBD! Directly ahead is the Nestle coffee factory, said to be the biggest coffee producer in the Southern hemisphere, and as you can see they are busy enlarging the plant so as to double it's capacity. Do South Africans like their coffee or what? Here you don't have to stop and smell the coffee, all day long you have the smell of roasting coffee beans permeating the air.

Harding street, the "Dorp's" main thoroughfare, the Nestle coffee factory is just to the left of me at this point. Just across the street on the right are the old Civic buildings, now a National monument. Where the three palm trees are with the two flag staff you can just see part of the Town Hall peeping out.

Albert street, named after Queen Victoria's husband, there is also a Victoria road. The ATM's I made use of are just to my left. On the right you will see a café advertising Halal Food. Most of the businesses in this street are Muslim owned.

Estcourt has a large Muslim community with several mosques. I have made very good friends with several Muslims especially during the time I though I might make my fortune as a businessman, The only people who ever helped me with credit, cash loans, (no security, no interest) were Muslims. There is one to whom I still owe thousands, when I told that the business was going down the tubes and there was no way I could repay him, he shrugged his shoulders and said "ins Allah" (God wills), patted me on the shoulder and told me to forget about it, and that I must never ever think about it again. To this day we are still good friends and I always get a great big bear hug as greeting when we meet.

Estcourt has several other large factories apart from the coffee factory. South Africa's iconic "Eskort bacon" is produced here. When the founders of this business round about the late 1920's approached the town fathers to be allowed to use the town's name as their product name, the horrified answer was a flat "NO!" use the town's name how very low class, thus the spelling "Eskort". There is a huge factory that makes "Masonite" (a tough, hard pressboard) out of low grade timber, a very big milk powder factory, that produces tens of thousands of tons of milk powder for export. There are also a wide range of smaller manufacturers, producing a wide range of goods.

Of course every "dorp" has a garden of remembrance, does not matter how small the "dorp" is there is always one commemorating it's sons who fell during the two World War's and other conflicts. More about this in the next post.