The transition of the veld from bleak grey to lush green has begun and it started after just 30mm of rain! After each rain event, plumes of steam rise gently from the tree canopy, as if the veld has been holding its breath all this time and is letting out a sigh of relief.

After commenting on climate change in the last newsletter I did further research. Of the 42 years of records we have of the rainfall at Mhlopeni, I compared the average rainfall over the past 12 Years to the previous 30 years average. A reasonable sampling in my opinion.

There is a staggering drop in average rainfall of 169mm. No wonder those gum boots I bought back then are so dusty! If the environment for a species does not exist, that species shall cease to exist naturally. Something we all need to consider. I pray for rain.

Many times, I have been asked as to the value of a share in Mhlopeni? Apart from a National sense of unity and national pride, I usually respond;
Value is in the eye of the beholder, and their reality in value. Nobody notices what is gone already. They only focus on what they see, not looking at what is missing.

Value is subject to viewpoint. Many a fire I have shared has had this topic discussed at length. This can be from a fiscal viewpoint, but that is not our primary value. Land protection and restoration is. Dry valley bushveld is the smallest biome and the least protected in this country.

Mhlopeni is the last protected original piece of the northern variety of this biome. This was first identified by the late Dr. Ian Player. I quote him, “No habitat, no species!”

Our German Students cannot apply “Nature conservation”. They are forced to apply “Landscape re-engineering”.

We are privileged to be able to follow the Conservation route in their opinion, as outside the reserve there are many endemic species, fauna and flora that have become locally extinct. Mhlopeni acts as a genetic reserve that future generations will thank us for.”

The animals that inhabit this wilderness are free of financials due to the shareholders, I have deep respect for this. They are protected, proliferate and spread out naturally. Who is to teach Mother Nature? She has been doing her job for Millenia! Yes, sometimes, in heart rendering moments, they are exterminated on adjacent lands. Many survive! In the eyes of nature there is no asking for forgiveness or mercy, just survival. That is Natures price tag.

Spring sprung and the temperatures bouncing around the day starts with a few layers on and as the day progresses the layers are shed. The hottest day was a whopping 36 degrees, and after the rain we experienced a 9-degree minimum. I need not comment on the bone shakers and Sooth Sayers that do weather forecasts! There was even a prediction for 45mm which turned out to be 5 mm when it arrived. Perhaps I did not have my glasses on? On a prediction of no rain we had 10mm?

As the daylight hours increase. The temperatures increase, for the sake of comfort, the night shift work begins, as the nights and early mornings are pleasant. Afternoon siestas are common to beat the heat! In the background the little solar foot pump can be heard humming the rainwater harvest song. Once again, a very big thank you to two of our shareholders for donating two 5000-liter tanks.

30mm received. Not good as the average for October is 73mm. Hi HO, Hi HO! With the rains come the roadwork and the alien species eradication program begins. With the bees no longer raiding the shower for water, I can take a shower during the day to cool off.

The packs of jackal’s have taken to doing a morning and evening curtain call, each pack taking their own turn. This has probably been triggered by the Impalas, who are all bulging with the new seasons’ babies, with more rain they will lamb. With the weavers in full cry, the cuckoo’s have found their voice, early morning eerie calls of the Burchell’s cuckoo and the Piet my vrou, who has no respect for time! By the end of the breeding season the day and night call of the Piet my vrou will become a “Skiet my nou!”.
I must replant all the mielies as something decided they were a rather tasty morsel. Suspects on the list were Peter rabbit, Sir Fritz van der Vlakvark, Female bush buck, porcupine, monkeys and kudu. Deployment of a camera trap revealed the culprit to be none other than those frustrated noisy weavers! While visiting my neighbor I also noticed his palm trees are completely stripped as well! At least I know that Fencing will be a waste of time! I cannot blame them as there is no green grass till the main rains arrive.

There are also those classic moments, that make life here fun. Going fishing on the Mooi river is one. Having to swim after your fishing rod because it got dragged into the river, because you were distracted by goats trying to steal your picnic lunch, creates endless amusement and while casting into a deep pool the handle on the reel fell off and plopped unceremoniously into the river. At least you are cool thereafter.

Yours in Nature Conservation,
Richard, Andy and Jason.