Sunday, 30 March 2014

Building Procedes

Well, quite a bit of work has been done on the cottage. I have a great team on the site headed by Gavin Fortuin and his colleague Roland. The gables have been repaired a new room has been prepared inside for the toilet and the floor of the living room has been excavated in preparation for the earthen floor. I met Diane on site on Thursday. She has made and earthen floor before. In fact she has built a cob house along William Moffat drive in Port Elizabeth. You can see it here.

Water for the works is still a big problem.

In the meantime we have moved the cattle over the stream to the grazing on the road side of the property.
The grazing is good there, but I was concerned to have them close to the road not trusting that they would not want to wonder off. The have been very well behave though since I put them there on Wednesday. I just moved them to a new patch of pasture this morning.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Pebblespring Farm

In a family meeting last night we agreed on the name for the farm.... "Pebblespring"

The name, "Pebblespring farm" is a nod to the Khoisan and what they called "Kragga Kamma" lake. The surrounding area that is named "Kragga Kamma" after this lake. One of the streams that feeds the Kragga Kamma lake has as its source the spring on the eastern boundary of our property.
The most reliable source we can find (Margret Harrodene) records the Khoisan translation for Kragga Kamma as being "pebbly waters". Our spring is at the source of a little river that feeds the "Pebbly Waters" so we called the spring "Pebble Spring" and the farm Pebblespring Farm. I love it! The name talks to the fact that this property would have been a centre of human habitation for a very long time before the dutch arrived an called it Goedmoedsfontein, in itself a beautiful name meaning "Spring of Wellness and Contentment".
The collapsed wall is being replaced down to the foundations
In other news, the builders started today on the maintenance and repairs to the shop and cottage. All work is proceeding in accordance with a heritage permit received from the Provincial Heritage Resources Agency. (which by the way required us to do work by June this year.)

I am also glad that the truck made it up the new (still very bumpy) driveway.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Clearing Alien vegetation off the dam wall.

Today we brought in a TLB. I booked it for three hours. we started at 9am. I am trying out the TLB to see what it can do in what space of time. I am happy to say we managed to clear alien vegetation in a 3m wide strip all the way though to the cottage. We cleared Ink Berry, Black Wattle, Port Jackson ( Acacia Saligna) and Poplars. Our plan is not to surface the cleared strip we are driving on or build any culvert, as these could be understood to be  "Structure" the construction of which are "listed activities" in wetland areas in terms of environmental legislation.

I can now drive my car along this cleared strip and get all the way to the cottage. There has been vehicular access to the cottage for the last 20 or 30 years. Not since the subdivision which somehow cat off the access route and located in the neighbours property. The strip of alien vegetation I have cleared runs along the existing dam. I am sure it will be a problem in a very big flood once every 10 years, but I suppose then we will have to be cut off from the world for a day or two.

The TLB can knock down trees, move sand, dig the dam deeper. Its a very versatile tool.

It cost R300 per hour. so R900 rand in total for this morning work. We hired it from a company called Glendore Sand. The drivers name was Nathi. He was great.

To hire people to do that by hand would have been much more expensive and take a huge amount of time and management input.Its quite sad. So many people are looking for work, but it just does not make sense.

I loaded these videos that give an idea of the work.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

What's in a name?

I have let it slowly sink in. The knowledge that the farm is now ours. We have title. Its been such a long journey. Since 2010 when I first saw the place and made contact with the seller's agent.

The feeling I have is not relief, its more like feeling of contentment, or a sense that things are as they should be. The last year especially, has been quite intense. In March last year I secured an "option" to buy the property, since then I have been in a kind of purgatory, a "no man's land". In this time, the answer has been not quite yes and not quite no. If it had been "no" I suppose I could have moved on to do other things. (But then again, I have encountered a number of "nos" in this journey, but each time I heard no, I new that my task was to come back and ask the question in a different way.)

The little bit of work I was able to do on the farm, some with the help of volunteers, I had to do in the knowledge that it could all be wasted effort if the deal did not go through. But another part of me decided to continue as if the farm were mine already. Clearing paths, fixing dams, fixing roofs, building fences and grazing cattle. And I suppose that part of me won the day, the part of me that is the believer, the part of me that does not give up, the part of me that keeps pushing and does not easily tire.

Can you see the Woodpecker?

So now that the place is ours, I feel we have to give it a name. When I go out there, I say I am going to "The Farm". Its formal name is Portion 3 of Farm 43, Goedmoedsfontein East. But Goedmoedsfontein East is the name of the "parent" farm from which this piece was subdivided. Gavin Flanagan's farm across the road has a signboard that says: 'Goedmoedsfontein East", So while the farm is, I understand, the site of the original homestead of the farm, Goedmoedsfontein, it seems impractical to give that as is official name. So what is it to be then? We are in discussion as a family, but until then we will have to go by, Portion 3 of Farm 43, PE!

On the farm this weekend, working on a new "temporary paddock", The moved the cattle this afternoon into the space marked "10" on the diagram. Perhaps 2 days worth of grazing in there. Its very small, will have to see how it looks tomorrow. The work involved in setting these paddocks up is mainly in clearing a path for the single strand electric fence to run. I then fix plastic insulted clips onto tree stumps and branches on the edge of the pasture or through the forested edge. Th actual running of the fencing strand takes only a few minutes.

paddock layout, revision 3

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Padock Shift

I moved the cattle into this new pasture yesterday (5 March 2014). They were very happy. very eager to get to the new grazing as soon as possible. This evening when I went there they had done a lot of work, but still seemed very happy with what they had left to eat. Perhaps one more day, perhaps two.

In my grazing plan below (revsion 2), the cattle are now in temporary paddock number 9. The plan is to move them to 10 and 11 after than then to 12, 13,14,15.

Grazing Plan, (revision 2)

Monday, 3 March 2014

Expanding the pasture

I spent some time this morning moving the field fence closer toward the river giving an expanded grazing area. I worked by myself. The weather was warm. I enjoy working by myself - Working up a sweat. Its a kind of meditation for me. Working step by step - problem solving - figuring it out as I go on.

Filled the 1 kl rainwater tank up yesterday. With water from my neighbour Richard. Rain water would stretch a lot further, if I had more storage and if I could catch more of the water coming off the roof. I spent yesterday morning adding an additional 6 m of guttering. very temporary, but its the best I can do right now. The other thing I did yesterday was to begin to build a path along the stream. The idea is to have permanent fence on both sides of the stream, so as to keep cattle out. Working with the chainsaw in the forest is heavy work. The chainsaw is new to me, I feel like I am learning to do new stuff. Expanding the range of what I can do, extending what is possible.

The cattle have kept inside of camp "B" this week. The strand of electric fence around the camp seems to be enough to stop them wandering off into the forest. But the good grazing is all gone. They like the grass, not so much the bramble and he other shrubs and trees. (the trees they like are the Port Jackson and Keurboom)

Ran some stocking density calculations based on Allan Savory's method (and as discussed in plain English by Joel Salatin) So if I were to observe that my 2500 sqm camp "A" has a weeks grazing for 4,5 cattle (three full grown and three calves)  after resting for 28 days, then I would be able to extrapolate that the whole 10 ha would be able to carry 29 head of cattle. The following inputs apply:

  • 80% of the land can be developed as pasture.
  • pasture required 28 days rest before it can be regrazed
This would assume that the whole farm had pasture the same quality as camp "A". I am far from achieving that objective.

If these I can achieve these rates I would be at about three times the stacking density touted as "local knowledge" of the area. I remain therefore sceptical of my own calculations.

I have set up the formula in a spreadsheet, so as I am able to make observations that can perhaps impact on the calculation, I can add them and see what I get out. For example I may see that I need to rest the pasture more or less than the 28 days I am estimating. The amount of rest required will be impacted by rain and season. I may see that  4.5 cattle can be grazed for longer than 7 days on any given 2500 sq sample. This will require some record keeping.

Transfer is still not through. Just waiting now. It was "lodged" in Cape Town last Friday, 20 March 2014. So I am waiting. I don't like waiting. Lawyers say - 8-10 working days. So by my calculation that means Tuesday or Thursday this week!!!