The goats don’t seem to mind the heat – the kids lie in a white pile of lolling heads in the sunshine, they look like a piece of modern art. It’s been a difficult month for them, especially Paprika and Jensen because Blossom died very suddenly early in October when they were just five weeks old. It seems she choked whilst she had her head through the fence eating her favourite flowers – we were devastated because we had fed her about half an hour before and the next thing she was lying dead with her kids still trying to suckle from her. Lollipop, her sister, and all the babies were very distressed –one hears about how intelligent goats are and it was very obvious during the whole sad episode. My daughter, Sonja, and Andre carried her body from the pastures with the other goats all following on and bleating behind them, it was dreadful. It happened in the evening and we wanted to see what would happen regarding feeding the next day but every time any of the kids went near her Lollipop kicked them away – she wouldn’t eat and went into a rapid decline, just lay like a statue with her eyes closed and wouldn’t respond even when I spoke to her and brought her delicacies to eat – things were getting desperate and I had visions of losing them all. I spoke to some local farmers to find out what to feed the babies, purchased bottles and strong teats and then made a mix of raw cow’s milk, egg and honey and Sonja and I fed it to the babies. That sounds easy but, believe me, it wasn’t initially. I had just come out of hospital and was supposed to be having a week of full bed rest so wasn’t very strong. Sonja had to catch the kids one at a time and wrestle them into a semi sitting position between my legs whilst I sat on the ground. I’d hold the head and mouth still whilst Sonja forced the teat in until they got the hang of drinking. Thank heavens after about three days they got the hang of it and now when they see me with their bottles they bawl ‘MAAAHHAAAHHHAAAHHHH’, come thundering across the field, feet up on my chest and guzzle.
Meanwhile we had to sort Lolly out –she would allow her kids to suckle only when her udder became uncomfortable, otherwise she ignored them. Because she wasn’t showing them how and where to graze all four kids were just lying near her like little lost souls. On the fourth day after Blossom had died I had a brainwave (of sorts – thinking logically was difficult as I was drugged to the eyeballs!). The greater portion of our property is fynbos which the goats are not allowed into because we want to preserve it – Blossom and Lolly had always looked longingly over the fence at the abundant delicacies there so I decided to take Lolly into my precious fynbos in the hope she would start eating again.
When I went to fetch her she didn’t even want to stand up so I dragged her to her feet by her horns and hauled her down the hill towards the fynbos. She started to grunt in protest at me and I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear her ‘talk’ again, she started muttering under her breath and moaning at me until we reached the gate to the fynbos which I opened for her. Time stood still as we stood there gazing at the flowers and delicate bushes, then, she looked up at me, grunted and trotted into the bush and started to eat! What a relief- all the kids followed her in and started nibbling too. Since then they have all recovered and are strong and healthy but we still miss our beautiful Blossom with the wonky horns – she was an excellent mother too. I've put pictures of the kids in the Gallery under My Family and other animals.
At the same time as all this was going on Honey was sitting on a nest of eggs but being terrorized by a mongoose – eventually she abandoned what were left of her eggs and I had them in a box in my bedroom, under an orange light. Four chicks hatched out and we put them with Honey into a mongoose proof enclosure.
As the days lengthen and become warmer all the wild birds are nesting – we have starlings outside our bedroom, swallows in the shed, sparrows everywhere (we’ve had to keep throwing them out of the house again), sunbirds in the macadamia tree and Knysna loeries in the valley – their brilliant flashes of red wings amongst the trees always give me a thrill. Interestingly I saw the vervet monkeys chasing the loerie out of a black wattle tree the other day. The guinea fowl are moving closer and closer to the house and I often catch them in the chicken run picking up scraps. Some yellow finches have made nests in the reeds in the dam – they are little feats of engineering ingenuity. The nests are suspended in a circle of reeds all pulled together and with all the tops taken off. We watched fascinated one morning recently as the wind blew strongly across the dam – all the reeds were bending in the wind but the reeds holding the nests stood strongly and didn’t budge. The finches have collected chicken and guinea fowl feathers to line the nests so they look very pretty. A female rhebok has been grazing around the dam recently – she doesn’t seem to worry about us moving around up at the house.
The beach seems to be recovering after the floods and the sand is slowly building up again, we have had some lovely walks there recently. The air just fizzes with ozone and the cool sand is so wonderful to walk on. Also - as the sun is starting to move back around the mountains again it shines directly onto Jonkersberg in the morning and we can see features like waterfalls and ravines that are not normally visible, I never tire of looking at it.
About two weeks ago Andre and I went on an interesting trip which I can recommend to anyone visiting this area. We met the local Ulysses guys at the George Train Museum and took the Powervan up into the Outeniquas. What an awesome day. The Powervan is the vehicle which was used to inspect the railway lines when we had a rail system that actually worked in South Africa. It is small, seats about twelve and runs on diesel with a top speed of 32km/hour although the speedo reads up to 200km/hour, a scary thought! The van left George station, made its way through the suburbs and then started to climb the mountains. Almost as soon as it leaves the town it goes into quite dense forest and then up through that into the most fabulous mountain passes. There are six tunnels and when it reaches the highest point on the trip the van stops, everyone disembarks for a wander around (awesome views) whilst the train driver and the guide turn all the seats to face the other way and then it heads off back down the mountain! We crossed waterfalls and all along the route was abundant fynbos, most I’d never seen before. The most lovely was a bush covered in large purple flowers called the Fonteinbos and a tree covered with pink flowers which I think the guide said was the Kareeboom but I could be wrong (in my defense the van was very noisy so I couldn't always hear the Guide!). On the return trip the van stopped at a little station- we disembarked and headed up the hill to a picnic spot overlooking George and shared lunch. What I really enjoyed was that the driver would stop at interesting spots for photo opps – we saw nesting eagle owls and at one point on the journey all four of the passes over the Outeniqua Mountains are visible – the very first one that the Voortrekkers took which is marked with white stones, the Montagu Pass, the railway pass and lastly the Outeniqua Pass. It was funny looking at the faces of everyone as the little van chugged up the mountain – grins all round like a bunch of little boys with a new toy! There is something endearing about an old fashioned ‘train’. I’ve already booked to go again in December. I’ve made a page for the Powervan pics under the gallery tab.
Other than that all our vegetables are doing well –we’ve been eating broad beans prepared in every imaginable way (my favourite is just as they are with couscous, onion and home made butter), strawberries every morning as we head off on our walk, lettuce, red onions, pumpkin, petit pois and the ever present paprikas. We also had the most amazing crop of potatoes which were self seeded. I love to have a meal of baked potato with home made garlic butter and herbs from the garden – it is so satisfying to eat what we’ve grown ourselves. Our tomato plants are starting to bear and we have pumpkins all over the place. Also, my mystery trees have turned out to be tree tomatoes and they are full of fruit. I can feel a jam making session coming on! Till next time.