One day last week I took one of our visitors to the beach on a particularly hot day and we just lay in the river, gently bobbing and being investigated by thousands of little fish. The opening up of the river to the sea has definitely increased the number of fish in the river and as a consequence the number of fishing birds has gone up too. Yesterday afternoon my husband and I sat watching hundred of birds wheeling and diving into the river – it was quite a spectacular sight. When we moved to the Pinkhaus in May last year one of my favourite daily happenings was watching groups of white birds (which I still haven’t identified) flying up the valley from the sea every morning and then returning in the evening. What made it so special was that the groups ahead would circle around and around every now and then to allow the back markers to catch up – the group would grow and grow until it looked like a huge white sheet blowing in the wind. At a certain angle they’d be invisible then, whoosh – there they all were.We haven’t seen them for a few months but last week they started again and their numbers have increased dramatically – I wonder if this is as a result of the drought having been broken and more food being available? I love to watch them from my kitchen window as I drink my tea early in the morning. On the subject of more food being available – there seem to be scores of new babies at Botlierskop. When I took our guests for a drive there last week there were so many little impala and wildebeest at the fence and this morning another 11 guinea fowl chicks came onto the property. The chicks have beautiful markings – little stripes and dots so that they just disappear in the long grass.
Our own chicks are flourishing and are exploring all over the property, however we have to keep a watchful eye for the rooivalk as he keeps coming over to look for a quick snack. I’m amazed at how diligent Rodney, our rooster is though. On Friday I went into the enclosure just in time to see the rooivalk cruising over just above head height. I ran inside to find that Rodney had herded all the hens under a piece of shade cloth and between the tanks but couldn’t see the chicks although I could hear one or two peeps. Upon investigation I found them hiding under the metal platform that the tanks stand on.
Two eagles entertained us on Wednesday by doing what I think was a courtship dance up and down the ravine. They would start at the top of the ravine next to the house then scream down the valley until they were out of sight and suddenly shoot straight up together with their legs hanging down. They would twirl round and round each other in ever increasing circles, calling and calling to each other the whole time until they reached a certain altitude where they would just soar for a while , then they’d start all over again. It was so beautiful that although I was on my way out I just dropped everything and stood and watched them. Eventually they landed together in a big tree on the opposite hill. Again, I’m not sure what they were (I make a lousy ornithologist) but they had broad white bands along their wings and darkly feathered legs. My other special sighting this week was down at the dam when I was watching the fish – a brilliant jewel flashed by and landed on the wire over the dam to join me – a malachite Kingfisher, electric blue and red with a white collar over his shoulders. Fortunately he didn’t pinch my fish – I think they’re too big for him. We’ve also had some huge snails down at the dam – picture under Fauna.
In my quest to do everything organically I decided that it was time to feed my slugs some beer. They have been decimating my vegetables so something had to be done. One morning Andre and I hand picked about 140 off the lawn alone. They are huge black things and unfortunately the chickens don’t eat them but they do enjoy eating the babies. Anyway- I sunk three containers of beer into the soil in the vegetable garden to see what would transpire and, sure enough, the next day they were full of drowned little slugs. My intention was to clear the corpses out and refresh the beer but later in the day when I went to do that I discovered that all the slugs had gone! I haven’t seen any seriously sloshed birds around but it seems pickled slugs are a delicacy highly prized.
Last Saturday we took our visitors to the Sedgefield Market for breakfast. When I visited a while back I saw a lady preparing lovely looking falafels so that was my choice this time – mmm, it was delicious. I haven’t had a falafel since I left Gauteng. Next time has to be the lady with the cooked baby spinach, salmon, poached egg and hollandaise sauce. I bought a selection of smoked fish, fish pate and pickled fish from one stall – they were outstanding in quality and flavour. As we left the food section to walk over to the Craft market the band who play music under the trees had been joined by a young boy from the audience playing the violin. There was such a lovely vibe as they jammed along – the crowd enjoyed it too, clapping and stamping their feet in time to the music. Sunday was spent watching a cricket match in Klein Brak – a very informal affair between two local pubs won by Great Brak. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an umpire with a fag in his mouth and an ice bucket full of cold ones at his feet. Picture under Local attractions!)
A few months ago I met a lovely lady called Viola when I was collecting milk from a local farm. She was walking home to her wooden house with her three children in tow so I gave her a lift and we got talking. Her husband is a farm hand but she finds it difficult to work as she has a small baby and her middle child is profoundly deaf. They are fairly isolated too and also have no family here to help them out. BUT …. She has a sewing machine and is a trained seamstress. I was very excited by this piece of info as it has long been my desire to help unemployed women. I asked her to come and help me when I have visitors in the cottage and told her she can bring her children so when she came two weeks ago I gave her fabric to take home and gave her carte blanche to make whatever she wanted. Today she gave me the most lovely handbag which I will try to sell for her at the market on Saturday. So Viola will be the first member of the PINKHAUS PROJECT – I need to find some more ladies who want to sew. I will develop a project page under the Home page with info about the participants
Finally – I went at last to visit Outa Lappies in Prins Albert on Thursday. It was the fulfillment of a long held desire and I wasn’t disappointed but I will tell you about the trip in my next blog. Right now I want to tell you about another old man I met on the beach. Every time I’m down at the beach early in the morning I see this man striding along the beach with an enormous dagger which he plunges into the sand and drags along. One morning as Andre and I passed him we greeted him and he stared at us wildly and carried on walking without saying a word. My dear husband muttered that he was ‘as mad as a hatter’ but this week when we saw him I could see he was digging in the sand and putting things into a plastic bag. I went up to him again and greeted him, he stared around wildly and then focused on my voice and I realized he is blind. We chatted and it transpired that he used to be a fisherman and, in fact, still has a boat but that since becoming blind his only source of income is finding bait to sell. So – he walks for miles along the shore running his knife through the sand until it hits a mussel then he digs it up. At the end of his journey he sells them, I think he said he gets R40 for 50 mussels. He amazed me – firstly because he knows the shore and the sea so well that he is content to walk along completely blind and secondly because he hasn’t sat down waiting for hand outs. We have so much to be grateful for. Till next time.