🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Farewell to Mbuso

I've been following the progress of the Black Eagles and their chicks (nesting at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort, Gauteng, South Africa) for many years now, and this is the latest news on their new chick, Mbuso.

Nov 2011
Mbuso, our juvenile Black Eagle chick, will soon be leaving the Garden to establish his own territory. He has been practicing to fly for a while now and hopefully all these efforts have perfected his skills that would allow him to hunt and fend for himself. Even if he still enjoys 'home' his parents will soon chase him out of their territory. We wish him every success and hope he will find a life partner and a suitable habitat to thrive in.

On Wednesday, 31 August, Mbuso the juvenile Verreaux’s eagle took his maiden flight from the nest site at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden. The young eagle was very keen to fledge from the nest at 89 days, and this surely indicates that it is a male, as females usually take a week or so longer, at over 100 days.

Mbuso was very active on the nest at a very young age, with wing exercises starting early on in his second month.

The adult eagles did a sterling job again this year in finding prey and in raising a strong and healthy chick, who will spend another three months in the natal area learning the eagle ways from its parent birds.

The adults will still provide prey for him, and at the end of November the adult male will start to show aggression towards Mbuso, as it will then be time for him to leave the area and find his own home territory.
Info from my SANBI Newsletter (South African National Biodiversity Institute)

Although, Black Eagles pair for life, they will replace their companion. In the Roodekrans scenario, the female, Emoyeni replaced her mate 3 times after 2 of them disappeared... Read the full story of the Black Eagles at 'Black Eagle Project Roodekrans'

You can go HERE to watch the EagleCam. The Black Eagle Cam is situated in the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort, Gauteng, South Africa.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Queen of my own Compost Heap

"I'm queen of my own compost heap & I'm getting used to the smell!"

Don’t throw away materials when you can use them to improve your lawn and garden! Start composting instead! I find it highly satisfying having a separate bin in the kitchen for egg shells, potato peels, tea bags and other food waste. This gets emptied on top of my compost heap every morning and three times a week all the leaf litter and grass cuttings from the garden is added. I bought a couple of tins of (live) earthworms from a fishing tackle shop and, besides adding them directly to my garden, have also put some into the compost heap and I've been surprised at how they have multiplied!

Compost is the end product of a complex feeding pattern involving hundreds of different organisms, including bacteria, fungi, worms, and insects. What remains after these organisms break down the organic materials is the rich, earthy substance your garden will love. Composting replicates nature’s natural system of breaking down materials on the forest floor. In every forest, grassland, jungle, and garden, plants die, fall to the ground, and decay. They are slowly dismantled by the small organisms living in the soil. Eventually these plant parts disappear into the brown crumbly forest floor. This humus keeps the soil light and fluffy. I therefore hardly ever clean up leaf litter from within my flower beds and though some might not like the look of such an "untidy" garden, I also enjoy watching the Thrushes scratching around in the leaves, enjoying the insects and snails hiding underneath.

This work is deeply simple. All you need is a shady piece of ground large enough for a compost pile that is at least 1×1x2m. First you fork open the soil beneath your proposed pile and arrange a base made of old plant stalks, stems, and soft woody debris. Next you mound on top of this base a deep layer of green, nitrogen-rich materials like garden weeds and grass clippings, mixed with animal manure and kitchen scraps.

The following layer is dry, carbonaceous material like straw and old leaves, or wood chips and sawdust, all well watered so that your pile is nice and moist. Continue to layer your compost green material and then let dry until you have a tall, noble pile, as high as you can reach.

Every compost pile is alive, teeming with billions of invisible micro-organisms digesting your autumn mountain of garbage. In a few short days a healthy compost pile begins to steam with metabolic life as clouds of heat-loving bacteria break down raw protein and complex carbohydrates into amino acids and simple sugars, generating temperatures as high as 72ºC.

This breakdown stage is followed a few weeks later by a build-up stage that lasts for more than a month as complex fungal networks absorb the pile’s free gases into their web work of mycelia, reducing leaching of nutrients, disarming pollutants and disease pathogens, and physically binding soil and compost together, creating stable aggregates that increase water infiltration and retention.

In the last stage of decomposition a few months later—or sooner, if you turn your pile—your mound will be alive with sweet, woodsy-smelling compost laced with up to one hundred industrious compost insects per square foot, intertwined with writhing red compost worms testifying by their presence that decomposition is complete.

Compost Materials
Almost any organic material is suitable for a compost pile. The pile needs a proper ratio of carbon-rich materials, or “browns,” and nitrogen-rich materials, or “greens.” Among the brown materials are dried leaves, straw, and wood chips. Nitrogen materials are fresh or green, such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps.

The 50/50 Rule: A perfect mixture of material consists of brown (carbon-based material) and green (nitrogen-based) material by weight.

To Turn or Not to Turn: The organisms that live inside your compost bin need air to survive. Mix or turn the pile three to five times per season using a pitchfork, garden hoe or shovel. Proper aeration can make a big difference. You will know if your bin is not getting enough oxygen if the pile smells of ammonia.

Moist, Not Damp: The organisms need water to survive, but not too much or they will drown. The ideal moisture level of your compost pile should be like that of a wrung out sponge.

Surface Area
Small is Best: Cut up or shred organic waste materials before placing them into the compost bin. This increases the surface area and speeds up decomposition. You can also store your kitchen scraps in your freezer to speed up decomposition, as your materials break down at the cell level when frozen.

When it comes to WHAT NOT TO COMPOST, the best is to use your common sense. Obvious items like chemically-treated wood products, diseased plants, human and pet waste and MEAT, BONES, AND FATTY FOOD WASTES are big no-no's, as is plastic in any form, tins and glass. Keep it natural and you can't go wrong.

And remember: "A good compost pile should get hot enough to poach an egg, but not so hot it would cook a lobster!"


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Rhus lancea (Swart Karee)

People in suburbia see trees differently than foresters do. They cherish every one. It is useless to speak of the probability that a certain tree will die when the tree is in someone's backyard .... You are talking about a personal asset, a friend,
a monument, not about board feet of lumber.
- Roger Swain

21st November 2011 - Finally we've had some GOOD rain! (30mm in a couple of hours) and this will really boost my lawn, which has still been yellow since the winter. The trees are also all fresh, green and sparkling clean, as is evident from the sketch of a few leaves of one of my Karees (Rhus lancea) indigenous to Southern Africa. It's a bit of an untidy tree, with a weird growing habit of the branches backing up on one another and having most of its leaves right at the tip of the branches. It has a graceful, weeping form and dark, fissured bark that contrasts well with its long, thinnish, hairless, dark-green, trifoliate leaves with smooth margins.

The small, inconspicuous flowers are presented as much-branched sprays which are greenish-yellow in colour and are produced from June until September. The male and female flowers occur on separate trees (luckily I have quite a few of them in my garden, so some must be male and some female). The fruit are small (up to 5mm in diameter), round, slightly flattened and covered with a thin fleshy layer which is glossy and yellowish to brown when ripe. The fruits are produced from September until January.

The fruit is eaten by birds such as Bulbuls, Guinea fowl and Francolins. Game animals such as Kudu, Roan antelope and Sable browse the leaves of the tree which can serve as an important food source for them in times of drought. The sweetly scented flowers attract bees and other insects to them. Now re-named Searsia lancea, it is useful in providing natural soil stabilisation and increasing infiltration of rainwater into the soil thus reducing erosion and raising the ground water table.

The leaves of the Karee provide valuable fodder for livestock but can taint the flavour of milk if eaten in large quantities by dairy cattle as a result of the resin contained in them. The tree is also an important source of shade for livestock in certain regions. The bark, twigs and leaves provide tannin. In the past the hard wood was used for fence posts, tool handles and parts of wagons. Bowls, tobacco pipes and bows were also made from the wood. The fruits are edible and were once used as an important ingredient of mead or honey beer. The word karee is said to be the original Khoi word for mead.

Camera : Kodak EasyShare C195 - pic taken in my garden (Tarlton, South Africa).


Are Hedgehogs Intelligent?

Sense and Sensibility

The answer usually given to this question is, "not very". The hedgehog is a primitive animal; its brain and the rest of its anatomy have remained largely unchanged since the first hedgehogs rolled off the production line some 15 million years ago. This is because the hedgehog's way of life - for example, having a food supply which is abundant and readily available - does not demand the sophisticated mental and physical skills that are required by, for example, a leopard.

People who have a tame hedgehog often report that their pet has acquired a number of basic skills, such as responding to its name and using a litter tray. Many hedgehogs can distinguish between their carer and other people. Researchers have taught hedgehogs simple tasks, such as choosing between a black trapdoor and a white trapdoor to reach food regularly placed behind one but not the other.

One researcher even taught his tame hedgehog to roll and unroll in response to the relevant commands!

The hedgehog seems to have quite a good memory, especially for places, and, remarkably, this memory is not affected by hibernation - during the winter, the hedgehog brain shuts down almost completely, yet when the animal emerges in the spring, its memory is 'switched on' again, unimpaired; it will head without hesitation for a place where food has been regularly put down for it.

As human beings, we tend to think of sight as the most important of the senses, but hedgehogs are chiefly active during the hours of darkness, so good eyesight is not particularly important. Also, as the hedgehog's eye-view is only a few inches above the ground and is often obscured by vegetation, it relies heavily on other senses.

But they can distinguish between shapes - particularly silhouettes against the sky - and moving objects. They may have a limited degree of colour vision, but as they're usually asleep during the day, they don't often have the chance to use it.

The sense of smell is the one on which the hedgehog chiefly relies. It is mainly by smell that it finds its food (even under about three centimeters of soil), detects the approach of danger and recognizes other hedgehogs.

The hedgehogs external ears are small and inconspicuous, but its hearing is very sensitive and is important in locating food and recognizing danger. An earthworm moving gently in the soil of a beetle rustling in leaf litter is making really loud noises to hedgehog ears. Its hearing is particularly sensitive to high frequencies; clicks, squeaks and hand-claps will cause a hedgehog to instantly crouch down, bristling its spines.
Info from "Everything You Want To Know about Hedgehogs - Dilys Breese"

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Grass Aloes

In the hope of reaching the moon
men fail to see the flowers
that blossom at their feet.
- Albert Schweitzer

Align Center
Watercolour sketch in my 'Nature' Journal

I found a large clump of Grass Aloes not far from home on the road to Magaliesburg (South Africa), flowering profusely after all the veld fires we have had this winter, spread out over the charred landscape, providing bursts of red colour.

Grass Aloes are an appealing group of deciduous aloes. As the name implies, they grow mainly in grasslands subject to winter fires. Their leaves and colours resemble their habitat, making them difficult to find when not in flower. These largely miniature aloes have very attractive flowers, making them desirable, if difficult, plants to cultivate. Their growing pattern is closely related to the winter fire cycles of the veld here in South Africa, some species responding directly to burning and producing leaves, flowers and later seed after such events.

This interesting Aloe belongs to a group of deciduous aloes known as the "Grass Aloes", which are adapted to grassland habitat and are able to survive both fire and frost during the cold dry months. They are often burned during winter and then re-sprout with the onset of spring.

This well known grass aloe is commonly found along rocky ridges and rocky slopes on the Witwatersrand and Magaliesberg as well as in mountainous areas of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga. In years gone by it was even more prolific, but numbers have been greatly reduced due to development on the ridges and from harvesting by succulent collectors. A number of different forms are found throughout its distribution range.

Grass fires used to be less frequent in earlier centuries. They were initiated by lightning strikes, on the whole, at the beginning of the rainy season in September and October. These fires were ideal in that they cleared the habitat of moribund grass and other vegetation just before grass aloe species initiated their growth cycles.

Fires are more frequent nowadays and may occur at any time during the dry winter months from May until late spring, October. Plants are as a result, left exposed to harsh conditions for many months before they start to grow. Some species are even starting to appear on the endangered species list.


Friday, 18 November 2011

Red-chested Cuckoo (Piet-My-Vrou)

A bird in the hand is a certainty, but a bird in the bush may sing.
Bret Harte

30th October 8.04 am and I've just heard the Piet-My-Vrou (Red-chested Cuckoo - Cuculus solitarius) for the first time this season! It's rather late, I normally hear them at the beginning of October, but it's as if they've waited for the first rains before being heard! (We had 20mm of rain last night and 15mm the night before, so the world around here in Tarlton (Gauteng, South Africa) is looking and smelling sparkling clean!) They're extremely shy and very hard to spot, but I managed to get a quick (not-so-good! so I couldn't post a photograph) shot with my camera before he disappeared back into the thick foliage. Had to use my bird book to complete all the colours.

I have held most bird species in my hands at least once, but with the Red-chested Cuckoo I have not had that pleasure.

In Southern Africa, all cuckoos are "migratory" (the Klaas's and Emerald Cuckoos appear to be resident in the warmer east), arriving from Central or Eastern Africa at the start of the rainy season in late September and October. Upon arrival, the males establish territories and advertise their presence to females (and birdwatchers!) by calling incessantly, sometimes even after dark.

The Red-chested Cuckoo is mainly found in the eastern half of southern Africa, and is quite common in protected areas, living in a wide range of habitats. It feeds mostly on invertebrates, particularly hairy caterpillars but also grasshoppers and beetles, amongst others. It mostly parasitizes members of Muscicapidae (robins, thrushes, flycatchers, etc.), rushing into their nests, and removing the host's eggs before laying one of its own, all in just 5 seconds! Once the chick is 2 days old, it evicts the host's eggs and nestlings. It stays in the nest for 17-21 days, and is dependent on its host parents for 20-25 days more, before becoming fully independent. (Info from Wikipedia)

This Cuckoo occurs throughout Africa south of the Sahara, but avoids arid regions. In southern Africa it is common in eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and eastern and southern South Africa. It generally prefers Afromontane forest, closed woodland, Miombo woodland, open savanna thickets, stands of trees in human settlements, mature gardens and parks.

Piet-my-vrou [Afrikaans]; Uphezukomkhono [Xhosa]; uPhezukomkhono [Zulu]; Mukuku (generic term for cuckoos and coucals) [Kwangali]; Tlo-nke-tsoho [South Sotho]; Phezukwemkhono [Swazi]; Ngwafalantala [Tsonga]; Heremietkoekoek [Dutch]; Coucou solitaire [French]; Einsiedlerkuckuck [German]; Cuco-de-peito-vermelho [Portuguese]
Info from "Biodiversity"


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Hedgehog sounds

Hedgehogs don't often make noises - not that human ears can hear, at any rate. But babies in the nest, for example, make a high-pitched twittering, while non-vocal sounds include the quiet snufflings made while a hedgehog is hunting for food and the 'huffing' noise often heard during fights.

Hedgehogs produce this sound by sharply breathing out through their nostrils. Courtship, sometimes mistaken for fighting, is accompanied by loud and aggressive snorting. But the most alarming sound must be the very loud scream occasionally made by a hedgehog in distress.
Info from "Everything You Want To Know about Hedgehogs - Dilys Breese"

Luckily that's not a sound I've ever heard!

So the hedgehog world isn't really so quiet after all!


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Pachypodium lamerei 1

My 15-year old 3-meter tall Pachypodium lamerei in the summer of 2005/2006. With fragrant frangipani-like flowers, this barrel-shaped tree exudes character.

My 15-year old Pachypodium lamerei (also known as the Madagascar Palm) suffered many a severe winter here in Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa, to such an extent that it had been frosted down so many times that it eventually had 3 stems. Then in the Winter of 2006, it finally succumbed and died completely, much to my utter distress.

Pachypodium dead after the severe winter

It started off as a baby in a pot, being outside all summer long and brought into the house every winter. It got transplanted into a bigger pot every year until, finally, it was too big to bring into the house and I decided to plant it out in the garden in 2003. Every year it got bigger, rewarding me with those most beautiful white flowers every spring. I was truly devastated when that winter killed it.

Pachypodium flower

I'm not one for replacing plants that get killed by winter, but in January 2008 I broke down and got a new Pachy, and yes, he's in a pot and comes inside every winter! I'm a sucker for succulents, what can I say?!

October 2009 - next to my 'Old Man's Beard' cactus

February 2010 - sharing space with some Echeverias

11th November 2011 - sharing space with some newly-planted nasturiums

He has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 4 years and will soon also have to get transplanted into a bigger pot and DON'T ask me what I'm going to do when he gets too big to be moved around, one step at a time!

Pachypodium lamerei has a tall, silvery-gray trunk covered with sharp 6.25 cm spines. Long, narrow leaves grow only at the top of the trunk, like a palm tree. It rarely branches. Plants grown outdoors will reach up to 6 metres. It has large thorns and leaves mostly just at the top of the plant. It is a stem succulent and comes from the island Madagascar and bears large, fragrant flowers. Blooming time is late spring to early summer.

This plant grows best in warm climates and full sun. It will not tolerate hard frosts, and will likely drop most of its leaves if exposed to even a light frost. It is easy to grow as a house plant, if you can provide the sunlight it needs. Use a fast-draining potting mix, such as a cactus mix and pot in a container with drainage holes to prevent root rot. Water sparingly and do not fertilize. Do not water in the winter months when there is no foliage, for this is what killed my Pachy.

Today Pachypodium consists of about 20 species; five are native to continental Africa and the rest to Madagascar. In Africa they are found in arid areas or in dry situations in Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa (Northern Province, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern, Western and Eastern Cape).

Camera used: FujiFinepix 2800Zoom


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Farm talk - Winter in S.A.

After quite a severe winter and struggling with the many 'veld' fires we get here in South Africa every year (we're very much similar to Australia in that regard, and where do they COME from?) - the first spring rains have arrived - and it really amazes me that, no matter HOW much you water the garden, just 5mm of rain and everything is flowering, towering and spreading with zest and zeal.

The fires are always a mystery to me - part of our smallholding is not situated near a road, so it cannot be from somebody carelessly throwing down a match or cigarette, yet the fires would always start 'somewhere' and then spread ferociously the length and breadth of properties in its path, resulting in every possible helping hand rushing in with wet sacks, branches and whatever is available to try and extinguish the demon and rushing to get animals out of harm's way.

Life on a smallholding or small farm is always very much at the mercy of the rain - too little and you have to supplement from the borehole and in any drought situation, there's always the worry that the borehole might dry up. This is every small farmer's greatest fear, as it's costly and time-consuming drilling a new borehole, or two or three, because no matter how strongly the 'water diviner' insists THIS is the place to drill, there is no guarantee that one will find any water. Too much rain and the potatoes might rot.

During one such drought, the water level in our trusty 20-year old borehole dropped to beyond a depth that was viable to try and retrieve, so we opted for drilling a new hole. Now this takes major organisation, because you must remember that, from the minute that your water tanks run dry, you are in a position of having absolutely NO water - no bathing, no cup of tea, no water to cook with (so you end up frying or grilling everything), not even to wash your hands with!

So while the drilling contractor is busy setting up his equipment, we were busy organising with the next door farmer to get some water pumped into our tanks for daily use - pipes and fittings have to be bought and trenches dug for hundreds of meters to get the water into the tanks 10m high - there are equations to be worked out between the Kilowatt strength of the neighbour's pump, the distance to the tanks and the pressure needed to get the water 10m up ...

Once the water from the neighbour has filled the tanks, utter caution is exercised in the usage of the water - every spare drop is used to full capacity for flushing toilets, watering plants and supplying the animals with enough to drink. And possibly weeks later, when the new borehole is finished, all the equipment is removed from the old borehole and fitted to the newly drilled hole, once again trenches are dug for new electrical connections and then, hopefully, beautiful, sweet cool water once again flows.

I wonder how many town folk ever give this precious commodity a second thought ...


Monday, 7 November 2011

Male or Female?

    Anatomy of a Hedgehog -


    It is often assumed that large, powerful-looking hedgehogs are male and that smaller, more delicate ones are female. This is not the case.

    If your resident hedgehog is co-operative and lets you take a look at its underbelly, sexing it is a straightforward matter.

    In adult males, the penis shows as a large projection (similar to dogs) approximately where you would expect the navel to be, about 5cm in front of the base of the tail.

    In females, there are two opening close together, near the base of the tail.

    Info from "Everything You Want To Know about hedgehogs - Dilys Breese"


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Crocodile in Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

What if you decided to visit a Botanical Garden and, while enjoying a nice and relaxing picnic, you were suddenly faced with the jaws of a crocodile some metres away? That possibility is now a reality at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden (Roodepoort, Gauteng, South Africa) after an approximately 80 cm young crocodile made the waterfall its new home. It has been named Snapper.

It was first sighted by a visitor, Vimal Sewlal, who took a picture of it whilst trying to capture the majestic flow of the water at the waterfall. He told the staff on duty about his scoop. This was dismissed as there was a possibility that it might have been mistaken for a huge monitor lizard sighted at the Garden a few months earlier. He then forwarded the pictures to the office proving beyond any doubt that we had a real crocodile on the estate.

Professor Graham Alexander, a reptile specialist, confirmed that it was indeed an indigenous Nile crocodile that was probably kept as a pet and might have escaped accidentally or was released on purpose by its owners. ''People are not responsible with these dangerous animals and it's highly likely that the owners did not have a permit and decided to release it in the Garden'' he said.

He said the predator was unlikely to make the waterfall its home as the area is too cold. At its age it is not yet a danger to humans although as young as it is, according to Prof. Alexander, it can deliver a nasty bite to anyone encroaching on its territory.

The Garden management is in the process of getting the young crocodile relocated but still working on procedures with the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development regarding a permit. The new tenant has become a draw card and talking point of visitors who come to the Garden. He became a celebrity when he featured on the second page of some national newspapers on 21 October. People have been descending on the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden over the past weekends in the hope of glimpsing this beautiful reptile. It can usually be seen sunbathing near the waterfall. Snapper is probably feeding on frogs, fish, birds and crabs. The Garden is now home to the king of the sky (Black/Verreaux's Eagle) and the beast of the fresh water. Coincidentally the river that runs through the Garden is known as Crocodile River. Visit us on www.facebook.com/wsnbg to see more.
- Taken from my WWBG Newsletter

Thursday, 3 November 2011

FARM TALK - Straight from the Cow's Mouth!

Life on a farm or smallholding is certainly exciting and out-of-the-ordinary, to say the least. The thrill of having a big tract of land at one's disposal conjures up images of green fields, herds of cows, goats, sheep or whatever and neat, tidy and sturdy fences keeping everybody organised and in their place, sheds for lots of storage and the farm cat lazily strolling around on the look-out for those pesky rodents. The (old) tractor and trailer is loading and moving bales of food and the sprinklers are gently wetting the earth and getting everything to grow, grow, grow into MONEY!

For the lady of the farm, there are images of a rambling, yet comfortable, old farmhouse with chimneys and wrap-around porches, rolling green lawns and a herb garden close to the kitchen. Home-made butter, full cream Jersey milk, home-made bread and fresh garden vegetables are first on the list of things to do.

And of course, there have to be chickens (for Sunday lunch - except we can't slaughter Kentucky, the rooster, because he's such a character, or his wife Hendrina, because she's so sweet) and eggs for breakfast, to go with the home-made bread. You might have a couple of pigs (for the bacon - just not Miss Piggy because we reared her with a bottle) and then the kids want some rabbits, because there will be lots of carrots to feed them.

So now the vegetable garden has become a priority (after all the pens for chickens, pigs, rabbits, goats and sheep have been erected). And after all the beds have been properly prepared, fertilised and planted, at great expense, the first seedlings start showing their heads. Your next priority is a scarecrow or SOMETHING to keep away all the birds destroying the seedlings (after you have put up bird feeders all over the garden to attract garden birds!).

The vegetables are ready to be harvested and suddenly you find that EVERYTHING is ready at the same time! You now have 20 bags of cabbages, thousands of carrots (the rabbits can't keep up! even though the original two have now become 11), enough beetroot for several restaurants (a business opportunity?), every shelf and drawer of the refrigerator is packed with tomatoes and you have enough green beans and peas for six months. And family and friends can't understand why they have to pay for "free" vegetables from your own garden.

You also have so much milk and butter and cream now, that you decide this is definitely worth the trouble of selling it. You spend your mornings in the 'bakkie' (LDV) delivering milk (which has to be in an utterly bacteria-free bottle otherwise it goes sour within a couple of hours, so you spent the whole of last night sterilising bottles and getting up early was a nightmare) ... and there's still so much to do when you get back ... The chickens and rabbits have to be fed (and there's a hole in the fence so the rabbits are all in the vegetable garden), the milk from the cows that were milked at dawn has to be de-creamed (for the butter), the butter has to be made and bottles sterilised once again - and some of the neighbours never left their bottles out, so you actually have to rush to town as well to buy a dozen more. And the local market where you established a contact for selling some of your vegetables expects their delivery before 7.30am. You suddenly remember that you also have to be back in time for the truck collecting the pigs you sold because everybody at home suddenly had an aversion to bacon and besides, nobody wanted the job of cleaning the pig sties ... besides, the tractor broke down last week, so the trailer couldn't be loaded with all the muck to be taken away - will have to wait a while now ...

You're sitting on your wrap-around porch, exhausted, having a well-deserved cup of tea, admiring your green fields and neat fences and your heart swells with pride and gratitude - this is ALL YOURS! No matter all the hard work and early mornings - you now have a steady income from the vegetable garden, which has grown to three times its size, and the milk and butter, and the kids are enjoying the new pony enormously. You have learnt what to cut down on (like rabbits, for instance) and everybody has fallen into a comfortable routine, knowing exactly what needs to be done and when.

Your thoughts stray to a new idea - how about a strawberry patch? Surely there's a big market for strawberries - and mushrooms, maybe ...?

"Whatever you put your attention on gets energy from you and grows."

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Hidden Hedgehog traps

Garden Dangers

You've done everything you can think of to welcome hedgehogs to your garden - you've put out food on the patio, left some leaf litter for them to scrounge in and now you're sitting back to watch your first prickly guests arrive - BUT YOUR GARDEN IS SCATTERED WITH DANGERS!

Hedgehogs will manage to get through amazingly small holes to reach the next garden or feeding area. They can also climb over fences or up walls, or reach roof gutters by squeezing up inside drainpipes, and getting stuck in food and soda cans carelessly left lying around.

Another hazard for the hedgehog is getting tangled up in nets. Unless it is rescued quickly, it will very likely die. Tennis nets should be looped out of the way, off the ground; other garden netting should be kept in the shed or hung on a wall. Netting used to protect soft fruit should be pegged down tightly at the edges, this holds the netting taut and so a hedgehog is far less likely to get tangled up.

But they also fall into things - holes, trenches, rubbish pits and ponds. They are not likely to be injured by falling on hard surfaces, since their spines cushion their landing, but being left in a trench or hole for an extended period of time means certain death.

Falling into a pond is not a big disaster as, like most mammals, they are quit competent swimmers. They will happily cross small streams in this way, but if they fall into a swimming pool or garden pond that has nowhere to climb out, they will certainly drown. Make sure your Koi pond has a gentle slope on one side or some vegetation which will provide an easy exit, but plastic pond-liners and fibreglass ponds, with their slippery sides, can defeat the most agile of hedgehogs.

Take care with pesticides, especially slug pellets. Only use pellets that have an unpleasant-tasting substances added, especially to put off hedgehogs, and conceal them where hedgehogs can't reach them.

But one of the most effective ways of controlling slugs and other garden pests is by using the services of the hedgehog itself! A high proportion of the hedgehog's natural diet - slugs, caterpillars, weevils, crane-fly larvae and many more - consists of creatures gardeners would be glad to be without.
Info from "Everything You Want To Know about Hedgehogs - Dilys Breese"

So why not make the hedgehog feel at home?


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