Monday, November 30, 2009

Noorsveld


The Karoo is well known for its many different succulent species. Driving through some parts of the Karoo, specially around the Jansenville area, one will find a variety of euphorbia plants. One in particular stands out. The local euphorbia are smallish, thorny plants with a milky sap and are known as noors, giving the region its name of Noorsveld.
It is uncertain where the word noors comes from. The plant with its yellow flowers reminded the British of gorse and it is thought the gorse was evolved to noors by the Dutch settlers settling in the area.

The noors only flowers in dry conditions and not when it is full of water after good rains. The noors is often chopped as fodder for stock with the result that Noorsveld farms can carry more livestock than farms in Karoo conditions where the noors does not occur.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rain in the Karoo

The Karoo can be a dry and lonely if it hasn't rained for a while. Farmers are very dependent on water and most farms have boreholes and windpumps to get the water for their farms to be able to function. But when it does rain, the Karoo and its inhabitents rejoice. Specially if a thunderstorm approaches after a hot day and cools everything off.
One of the things the people of the Karoo loves most is seeing water in puddles and dams after the rain

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Red succulent flower

I have a number of succulents and plants in pots around my pool and the other day I noticed that one of the small succulents had a couple of flowers in bloom.

I liked the little "frog" peeking at me from below the flower

Friday, November 27, 2009

Greater Striped Swallow

Recently on a early morning walk while visiting in the Karoo, I found this Greater Striped Swallow sitting on the barbed wire farm fence while his kin was sweeping all over the show chasing insects. The Greater Striped Swallow, like all the other swallows you get around here, are summer visitors to our part of the world. They are fairly widespread throughout South Africa and can usually be seen perched on trees and fences or gliding over open, rocky or urban terrain. They have a soft "chissik" call which can be heard while they are in flight. They can be identified by their pale, streaked underparts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Farm road

It is inevitable to drive around the Karoo and visit all its interesting towns and places and not venture onto a dirt road somewhere. And when you do drive along one of the dry Karoo gravel roads leaving a plume of duct in your trail, I bet you will stumble upon a couple of old rusty road signs. In this case the sign indicates a cattle grid on the road.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Grass fire

On my way home on Friday I noticed the fire department's grass fire unit go by towards some smoke in the distance. I took a shortcut and actually got there before the truck, just to find a grass fire next to the surburb of Overbaakens.

There were three crew members in the truck and they got the hose out very quickly and started working on stopping the fire from getting to the houses. I took this pic litterally moments before the truck nearly ran over me. I was standing right up against the truck to get the pic when the fireman (not seeing me there) decided to pull it forward. Thank goodness for my catlike reflexces. *wink*

Here the fireman firelady is doing her thing with hose in hand

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lizard

Standing at one of the view points when I visited the Valley of Desolation near Graaff Reinet recently, I found this little guy sunning himself on the rocks. As I got closer he ran down the side of the rock to hide. Literally seconds later he was back and as I got myself comfortable and in a position to take a photo, off he went again. But again seconds later he was back. Either he was really enjoying his spot in the late afternoon sun, or he was keen (but a bit shy) to be photographed.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Poetry Project - At God's Gate

One of my cyber friends, Nadine Larter, recently started a poetry website called The Poetry Project. It is a site where she brings together the poems of a number unknown South African poets and pair it up with pictures by local photographers. In her own words: "For a long time now I have been wanting to bring picture and pen together in a symbiotic relationship of expression. What you see here is simply the start of what I hope will be an ongoing project of passion shared with my fellow South Africans for many years to come."
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A little while ago she sent me a poem and asked me if I would perhaps have a picture that she could pair with it. I sent her a couple and she chose the picture below taken at the Holy Trinity church in Central, Port Elizabeth. The poem is called At Gods Gate and it is by very deep and talented poet named Kathleen Flanagan.

Here I stand at Gods gates, his cradle of wrought iron bars.
Here, I lean expecting cold metal, yet my balance is lost, my hold falters with lost senses.
I fall face to the ground, the shock reverberating up my spine and my head explodes with realisation.
My thoughts, expectations and doubts, caused this fall from grace.
How was I so confused?
Consumed?
Doomed?
Here, is an emptiness of promises. Here, I pick myself up, cradle me in the nook of my arm, and rock myself to sleep.
Here in this limbo, this grey landscape, Here in my mind.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Windpomp

Windpompe goes together with the Karoo like ice cream and chocolate sause, Batman and Robin, Egypt and the pyramids, and Angelina and that Pitt guy. Windpomp is the Afrikaans for windpump and is the heart that pumps the life blood of the Karoo to the surface. The Karoo is a semi desert area and most farms and towns are relient on the water from boreholes and windpompe. They also make for nice subjects in photographs.
This specific windpomp was standing in front of the selfcatering units at Buffelshoek Farm Guesthouse where I stayed on my recent trip to Graaff Reinet.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Two suns

The reflection of the sun in one of the farm dams at Buffelshoek near Graaff Reinet. The previous day the area had a monster of a thunder storm which filled in all the dams in the area, so the picture would not have been possible the day before.
For more absolutely awesome sky pictures from around the blogosphere, visit Skywatch.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Farm fence

On my trip to Graaff Reinet we stayed at Buffelshoek Farm Guesthouse. The guest house is on a farm about 15km outside Graaff Reinet. Even though Graaff Reinet is a quiet place, its nice to get away from the whole city life thing and stay a couple of nights on a farm. Quiet nights with no lights around to spoil the view of the stars, the only sound being the frogs by the dam, no cars driving past all the time, fresh air, coffee with rusks on the stoep at breakfast... and so I can go on. It was awesome to get up early in the morning and taking a walk around to get some pictures in the early morning light. More to come from the farm over the next couple of days.


For some reason I seem to have a thing for barbed wire these days. See here and here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Valley of Desolation

One of the iconic tourist attractions in the Eastern Cape is the Valley of Desolation just outside Graaff Reinet. It is situated in the Camdeboo National Park which covers an area of 19, 457 ha and virtually encloses the town.

The drive up to the top of the mountain from where the Valley of Desolation can be seen is a very interesting one in itself. Along the way up visitors can stop and walk to a lookout point from where the whole town and surrounding area can be seen. A feature of the landscape is the imposing figure of Spandaukop standing next to the town.

A short distance further visitors get out their vehicles and walk up to the top of the mountain for the awe inspiring view of the Valley. The Valley of Desolation is a geological phenomenon. The vertical cliffs and columns of dolerite that teeter precariously 120 metres above the valley floor are breathtaking. This unusual feature is the product of volcanic and erosive forces that have taken 100 million years to form. They stand sentry over a valley with the plains of the Karoo stretching out behind them. It really forces one to contemplate the force and beauty of nature.
The best time of the day to visit the Valley of Desolation is in the late afternoon or early morning when the light is perfect for photography. A lot of visitors go up to the top at sunset with a picnic basket to watch sun setting over the distant mountains. The picture for last weeks post on Karoo Sunset was taken from here as well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shongololo

Millipedes are known as shongololos in South Africa and are arthropods. Arthropods have two pairs of legs per segment (except for the first segment behind the head which does not have any appendages at all, and the next few which only have one pair of legs). Each segment that has two pairs of legs is a result of two single segments fused together as one.

The name "millipede" is a compound word formed from the Latin roots milli ("thousand") and ped ("foot"). Despite their name, millipedes do not have 1,000 legs with common species having between 36 and 400 legs.



Millipedes are detritivores and slow moving. Most millipedes eat decaying leaves and other dead plant matter, moisturising the food with secretions and then scraping it in with the jaws
Millipedes range from 2 to 280 millimetres (0.079 to 11.0 in) in length, and can have as few as eleven, to over a hundred segments. They are generally black or brown in colour, although there are few brightly coloured species.
For more information on millipedes, visit Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Graaff Reinet Church

Graaff-Reinet is South Africa's fourth oldest town and is home to some magnificent examples of Cape Dutch architecture. The town has over 220 heritage sites which is more than any other town in South Africa. For more information on the town, go to Graaff Reinet Tourism.


As you drive down the town's main street, an imposing building waits for you at the end of it. The Dutch Reformed Church is situated in the centre of town and is one of Graaff-Reinet's main landmarks. The church is a replica of Salisbury Cathedral with the corner stone laid on 12 April 1886.
The architect was Bisset and it is said to be one of the best examples of early Gothic style architecture in South Africa. The church is the fourth church to be erected on the same spot. It was built using local sandstone. The ecclesiastical silver in use at the church is exceptionally valuable and is only viewable in pictorial form. The church's steeple is 150 feet high and the church is lighted throughout with stained glass windows. The pulpit is an extremely handsome Gothic style structure.



At night this magnificent building is lit up and makes as beautiful a sight as it does during the day.

The history and information on the church I got off the Karoo Park Guest House website.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Big Karoo Ants

Those who have ever walked around the veld in the Karoo would know what I talk about when I mention the ants dance. Its those little hops you make while shaking your feet and legs and slapping with your hands when big ants climb up for a lift.

The second day on my visit to Graaff Reinet, the area was hit by a huge thunder storm which dumped a lot of water. The next morning out on my early morning walk looking for something to photograph, I noticed dark spots on the ground. On closer inspection I realised it was fresh excavations by the ants that were causing it. The ants were clearing their nests.

Then I decided to take a bit of a closer inspection...


...and before long I was on all fours chasing ants with my camera

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Karoo sunset

On my visit to the Karoo last week, I got to experience an awesome Karoo sunset from one of the viewpoints at the Valley of Desolation. You can see why the Karoo is called "Big Sky Country".
This is the original picture. No extra colour added. No enhancement. Just a brilliant Karoo sunset.
For more pictures of the sky from other exotic places all over the world, visit Skywatch.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Angora Goat competitions

So to avoid boring you with all this Angora goats / mohair stuff, this will be the last post on the topic. Its not the last post about the trip though, as I have lots to show you as far as places and scenery from the area. So stay tuned.

An intricate part of the whole International Mohair Summet was the two days of Angora goat competitions. Now I'm not a Angora goat expert, not by a long shot, but I will try to explain some of it in layman's terms. All the goats that took part in the competition were kept in pens under a big marquee for everybody to look at.

There are many different categories that the goats compete in. Some are individual categories while others are combinations of 2 or three goats from the same farm. Although the kids have a higher quality hair, I must say that I loved seeing the big rams. They are just magnificent.


During the judging they inspect everything. They check the hair to see the length as well as evenness all over. They also check the teeth and then ask the handlers to let the goats walk away from the judges. This is to see if they have straight legs and not knock knees.

I was very impressed with the trophies handed out at the end of the two days. In Afrikaans we would say: "Dis nie sommer so nie." (Its not just any old trophy).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shearing

Imagine being held between a guys knees (no people! no kinky thoughts now) and having a huge pair of scissors cut off all your hair all over your body. Sometimes only centimeters from your eyes. Well, that is what a poor sheep or angora goat must feel like when being sheared.
During the International Mohair Summit there were several shearing demonstrations both with scissors as well as the electric shearer. Although the electric one is probably the way of the future, I found the guys shearing with the hands much more interesting. The Angora goats get sheered twice a year, before breeding and before kidding. They are first sheared when they are only a couple of month old, as the hair of the kids are the finest and the most sought after.

They had the best of the best doing the demonstrations. On the Angora goat side the demonstration was done by Sameel Nkomoye. He is a 5 times South Africa and 3 times World Angora goat shearing champion.
Shearers normally work in groups who go from farm to farm shearing. They get paid per goat that they do and a top shearer can finish between 150 and 180 goats on a good day. It takes about 5 years of training before a shearer can do that many and the only way to get there is to spend your days with "your ass in the air and your head down".

There was a demonstration of Merino sheep shearing as well which was done by another 3 times world champion. This time world sheep shearing champion Zolile Hans. Now this man knows how to shear a sheep. Apparently at the last world champs he finished his last three sheep in just over 1 and a half minutes per sheep. That takes some doing.

After Zolile finished his sheep, they spread the fleece on the table for everybody to see and touch. It is absolutely amazing how these pro's keep the fleece together like this.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mohair Products

Yesterday I kicked off my series of posts related to the International Mohair Summit with some background information. For today's post I want to show off some of the mohair products that was on show at the trade show that was held at the summit.

One of the most popular mohair products are mohair blankets. There were several stalls with blankets, but some of the most exquisite ones must have been those on the stand of Jan Paul Barnard (Mohair Weavers).

People always go mad about Persian carpets, but if you ask me, I would much rather prefer a mohair carpet from Elsa Barnard Mohair Carpets. The designs are absolutely awesome, the colours great and then there is the fact of "Local is lekker".

I was very impressed with the mohair collection of dresses by Natalie Creed. Her mohair collection is called Bon Foret and the designs are done mostly in earthy colours.

Although not a mohair product, probably the stand that got the most attention was the one with Angora goat meat products. An Angora goat can produce quality mohair until they are about 7 or 8 years old. Elna van den Bergh (elna001@telkomsa.net) and her partners are from the town of Jansenville and they have started to produce angora meat for the market. Now don't go and imagine somebody braaiing angora steak and chops. The products include burger patties, boerewors (sausage), cheese grillers, salami, brawn, droë wors (dried sausage) and the most divine liver paté.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

International Mohair Summit

Last week I attended the inaugural biennial International Mohair Summet. Hosted by Mohair South Africa, the summit took place in the Karoo towns of Graaff Reinet and Jansenville from 3 to 8 November and brought together role players in the mohair farming, production and fashion sectors from all over the world.


In 1839, the Mosenthal family first imported angora goats from Turkey. The region in Turkey where the goats came from is called Ankara or Angora, hence the name ‘angora goat’.
The goats, included twelve rams and two ewes, arrived in South Africa accompanied by their Turkish handlers. On arrival in Port Elizabeth, it was discovered that the rams had been sterilised prior to leaving Turkey to safe guard the country's mohair industry. Unbeknown to the Turkish, one of the two ewes was later found to be pregnant and gave birth to a ram kid, which was the start of our the South African mohair industry. Today South Africa produces over 50% of the world's mohair, also called the Noble or Diamond fibre. The majority of this mohair gets exported through Port Elizabeth, making the city the mohair capital of the world.

The majority of the activities took place in the Karoo town of Graaff Reinet. Graaff Reinet is situated about 270km north of my home town of Port Elizabeth. The town must be one of my favorite places and is the fourth oldest town in South Africa, with over 220 heritage sites. The town is also surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park with its main feature being the Valley of Desolation. The area is also well known for its rich wealth in fossils.

The Summit included a conference, trade show, shearing demonstrations and various Angora goat and mohair competitions. Before this I knew very little about mohair, but I have learned tons during the two days I attended. Over the next couple of days I would like to share with you some of my new found knowledge as well as the sights and sounds (ok, so I don't really have sounds to share) of the mohair summit and the Graaff Reinet area.