Diary of a madman

Entry date: January -1, 2018

Dickens has started writing haikus. Well, dictating them, anyway:

Clouds break, clouds reform
A breath of wind, my eyes open
It is walkies time

Entry date: April 43, 2018

Not to be outdone, Bruno offered this:

Magenta canna
A sunbird gently probing
Walkies time again

Entry date: Tomorrow2

I’ve finally domesticated the ant population here. It took some time but I’ve convinced all the local colonies of my position as perpetual and undisputed emperor.
What would you do with a trillion ants at your command? I have a few ideas:
1) Dismantle the Pyramids of Giza, grain-by-grain, and rebuild them right here, for my viewing pleasure;
2) Disperse the seed of Helianthus annuus across every arable square meter of the Western Cape, before the winter rains, to create a field of sunflowers which could be seen from outer space (portraits or corporate logos available at a premium);
3) “Resignations” of select politicians. Poetic justice for some of these characters who nibble away at public trust and finances…

Once I control the termites and the bees, this planet is mine – I’ll decide if anything is pollinated or anything decomposes.

Ahem.

But seriously, the ants are out of control this year. You can’t stand still for five seconds without becoming part of their landscape and being subjected to a clinical analysis by about a million tiny antennae. Normally, different insects all seem to have their season here: there are discernible fly, ant, and tick seasons (the millipedes are the exception; they seem to thrive in all weather). I’m told, however, that because of the ongoing drought, the ants are much more active than normal, especially on the surface.

There’s been a drought of bloggery around here, too, but perhaps I can at least replenish those water-holes of curiosity with a veritable monsoon of nonsense and patter…

No, this is too weird! Can’t I just look at pictures?
Not yet, will upload some soon.

The midday sun

Don’t mind my ramblings…the mind wanders, you know. Instead, let me welcome you back and wish you a very Happy New Year, if it’s not too late. We’re still here, our house is still here, and we’re doing pretty well despite what you may hear about our part of the world. Down here, the drought is on everyone’s mind, and although many South African farmers have been suffering for a few years, it is Cape Town’s situation that has brought the international spotlight on us, with “Day Zero” only about three months away. That’s the day, they declare, that the taps will be turned off to all but the most essential services.

Kogie, during her time in Cape Town, has been living under water restrictions for a year or more, if memory serves. As of February 1st, this demands that every resident limit himself to 50 litres a day! There have been all kinds of levies, fines, and other schemes put forward as deterrents but apart from enraging one group or another, have had little effect. Blame, disbelief, and denial have no doubt contributed to the problem and even the acceptance that there is a problem, but I guess all will become clear on Day Zero.
The knock-on effects of a water shortage in a densely populated area are hard to conceive of in their entirety, but from basic personal hygiene to blocked, clogged sewage systems, the potential for a health crisis is real. I’m sure many other international mayors and town planners will be watching Cape Town closely over the next few months.

Out here on the farm we’ve been under less severe restrictions during the same time period. The winter rains seemed plentiful to me, but then I’ve only been here since 2014, which is roughly when this drought is said to have begun. However, all one has to do is drive around; local dams went dry before even December, normally they tend to dry out in Feb/March, depending on their size. There probably isn’t a more telling picture, though, than that of Theewaterskloof Dam, Cape Town’s biggest supply, as shown in this video taken in 2017.

Our own dams are still quite new, and are probably in need of more compression, so for the second year in a row we’ve lost our water by late December. Given that, in 2017 we increased our water-holding capacity by 20,000L with two new tanks. It’s no joke to imagine that these will become a highly-valued and thiev-able property, and if they didn’t weight 10 metric tonnes when full, I would honestly be worried about people stealing them.
However, compared to last year we are in really good shape. With just a few exceptions, all of the trees we planted in 2016 are alive and have demanded very little water so far – one of our nectarine trees even bore fruit in November! Those trees planted in 2017 need a little help getting established, but at the moment we haven’t over-extended ourselves in terms of water usage as we did last year.
In fact, our landscape did not change much in 2017. There were still several loose threads left over from 2016, and while some were neatly tied up, others became frayed and turned into many threads, and at least one became tangled in the rusty gears of the local municipality. We had intended on completing a few “big” projects: getting chickens, creating a small vineyard, and building a garage and deck area, but for one reason or another, none of these happened.
I have to shoulder some of the blame – while I continued to enjoy the blessings of working from home, I failed to give adequate time to the projects that would help us become more self-dependent. In retrospect, my mental transition to small-holder has been painfully slow since completing the house.
Plus, I am stubborn to accept help here because gardening is a joy to me and I even take perverse pleasure in digging my own beds and tree holes. Plus, there are all those other little masonry and carpentry jobs to cut my teeth on…what was it Bob Dylan sang? “You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you”? Well, somewhere there has to be a compromise, and as New Year is as good a time to make honest personal assessments, I’ve agreed to hire a local chap to do all the drudge work that I’d pushed to the bottom of the to-do list.
So what was to-done in 2017? Eh, a few things. We sold our stalwart Jeep and in return further furnished our place with more lovely sleeper-wood creations. We installed our little coal stove, complete with rustic plinth/support, and added a few touches to the kitchen. We finally sealed our border entirely with new fencing and a sliding metal gate. We added grass to half our front slope, and probably planted about thirty more trees.

We managed to do a fair number of trips locally and discovered some more treasures in the Cape. Winter seemed to come and go without much bother this year, but in October, just as the sun was beginning to dominate the skies once again, we packed our bags and headed for places where it doesn’t shine quite so much, to mingle with that singular group of humanity known as…

Englishmen

And Canadianmen. And women, too. For the first time since our arrival we, uh, departed, for much more northerly climes. First, it was a long-ish London layover, which allowed us time for some errands, before jumping on a direct overnight flight to Vancouver. Everything went amazingly smoothly, and thanks to a sympathetic limo driver, we made a last dash to the ferry terminal and caught the last day’s sailing to Vancouver Island, arriving -after almost 30 hours of travel- at the doorstep of my mom’s place at 11pm.
After an extended period of jet-lag, we settled into to enjoy nearly three weeks on the magnificent island, which brought a welcome change of climate, culture, and menu. For us, it was a much more relaxed and settled vacation, with plenty of local sightseeing followed by nightly seafood feasts.
Lots of walking, when the autumn weather allowed, including many walks along the lovely coast. On one such walk I strayed from the script a bit and … proposed marriage to Kogie. I interpreted her eye-rolling shrug as “yes”, and am still under that impression…(just kidding, she was more enthusiastic than that.)
After the Island we spent a day in stunning Vancouver, then back to the UK, where after two whirlwind stops in Southampton and Wales, we settled for four nights near our old stomping-grounds in NW London. Everything was pretty much just as we left it, except the traffic was exponentially worse. However, we managed to catch up with many old friends and (my) family members, and came away thoroughly refreshed.
Another long plane ride followed, but we landed safely, packed to the gills with UK goodies, almost a month after we left, to once again enjoy the riches of sunlight, space, and clean air.
Although it was a wonderful trip, the Albion isle couldn’t quite muster the temperatures and solar exposure I’ve become addicted accustomed to.
Thanks to our awesome neighbours, who stayed at the Blue Crane Cottage in our absence, everything was just as we left it, including our two…

Mad Dogs

Yes, Bruno and Dickens remain the other dominant animal species on our little farm for the moment, demanding most of our attention and time.
Dickens has followed in Bruno’s footsteps and become adept at catching lizards and mice, and thanks to a set of jaws and digestive system that an hyena would envy, has grown into quite a handsome specimen. He is the most harmless, loving, silly companion in contrast to the little black and white Emperor that terrorizes him.

2017 was a bad year for our boys, though. First, in June, we discovered the limits of their friendship when the neighbour’s two Alsatian bitches went into heat. At the time our fences still had some gaps underneath, which our two exploited very quickly to make nightly excursions next door. The first morning Bruno came home limping with minor injuries, I was helpless to explain it, until I started noticing the relationship of our two boys deteriorating, and it soon became clear what was causing the trouble.  Our choices were limited, so we did the easiest fix and, well, fixed ’em both. This meant each was vulnerable for a time period after their operation, and it was quite a task keeping them apart and give each enough time.
Just when we thought peace had been achieved, one calm afternoon soon after Dickens’ operation, Bruno perceived some provocative signal or hierarchical injustice and went for Dickens, who, simply defending himself, tore open two gashes in Bruno’s neck. More hospital time, more isolation, and more uncertainty about these two. Those are almost fond memories in retrospect, though, compared to what happened on November 17th…out walking before sunrise on our usual route, which does border the road for about 100m, I had let my guard down and allowed Bruno to get ahead too far when a minivan came past. Bruno was on the road, and like he always does (when unattended), went for the taxi’s tires, and was hit. We will never forget the next horrible hour that followed; rushing him to hospital while he fought to breathe, in shock, with two paralysed front legs. Thanks to the modern medicine and the excellent practitioners of it at the Vet’s in Caledon, we managed to save most of him. Sadly, the trauma affected circulation in one leg, which became infected, and had to be amputated. It’s been ten weeks since the accident and although he has mentally returned to his old self, and is walking ably with his one foreleg, he has to heal more before we can give him a clean bill of health.

And so we ended 2017 on rather a low note.
That’s life, though – there are just too many moving parts in this world to predict what will and will not happen. That’s what makes it so interesting, I guess.

I am optimistic about 2018, despite the potential for calamity both here and worldwide. If I can think of anything interesting to report mid-year, I’ll post it here. If not, I’ll just post more of the dog’s poetry. Thanks for reading!

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