The end of another month already! The gale force winds must be blowing the months away!
Weather-wise it has been an incredibly challenging month… and by the predictions, it is only set to get worse. There has been no spring rain yet and the forecasts by South African Weather Service are that there will likely be no significant rainfall until the end of the year. This is hugely concerning but seems to be a worsening pattern each year. Such conditions force creative thinking and only encourage the water storing efforts of regenerative agriculture. Besides for being unbelievably dry, on top of it, we have had strong winds almost daily. Usually August is windy but the wind has persisted through September and October, combined with extreme heat. When we first moved to the Midlands, we used to joke about having three days of Summer a year where the evenings would be warm enough to not need a jacket outside. Going over 32C was rare and friends would gather on those days for sundowners and braais to make the most of the warm evening. The last month saw most days going over 30C, some even up to 35C in the Midlands! With strong winds and no rain!
This poses immense challenges for farmers to grow crops and provide food for animals.
Pasture Raised Layer Hens
Our layer hens went cross country – they are now rotating through our neighbour’s field where his beef cattle recently grazed. The hens are spreading manure while also having the additional forage of insects and larvae in the manure. Our neighbour has his cattle now on our mountain side for additional grazing. Everyone is struggling for food. Last month we had green shoots of spring all round, the trees and grass had burst forth with growth. Two nights of sneaky frost killed off all of this green growth. The area looks like deep winter again with long, dry, brown grass. A far cry from the usual lush, green Midlands.
Our new layers have settled into life at Bramleigh well. They are growing cheekier by the day, keeping us very entertained! They are laying beautiful eggs now and keeping our Adopt a Hen subscribers well fed!
Pasture Raised Chicken
Our pasture raised chickens have taken strain in the heat. They don’t do well. We have had to use precious water resources to run sprinklers on the roof of their shelters to keep them cool.
Our first batch for the season were processed this week so chicken is back on the menu at Bramleigh. Our second batch of broilers moved outside yesterday and are enjoying the sunshine and grass. We have seen an increase in predator activity – likely due to the scarcity of food! So it is something we are trying to manage day to day. They continue to keep us on our toes!
Forest Raised Pork
The pigs are happy because they are allowed to create wallows when it is hot. We specifically moved them to a swampy area so they could keep cool and they just LOVE it! We sadly said our goodbyes to our last five big pigs this week too. Their death brings about new life as the impact they had on the land can be seen with green growth and more resilient grass, despite the frost and dryness. Their legacy will live on.
As hard as it is, it also encourages us when we see them rolling in the mud and playing under the trees. Not only are they doing good for the land, but they are living the best life a pig could wish for! And so we have to keep producing happy pigs. The earth needs their impact too – they are amazing at disturbing the ground to generate new growth, while foraging out weeds.
We had to terminate many of our first plantings of seeds and seedlings as they either struggled against the hot and dry, or didn’t germinate, or were victims of the frost. We were very lucky to have an amazing volunteer stay with us for a week last week. Christiane came from TERRA farm in Luxembourg. TERRA (Transition & Education for a Resilient & Regenerative Agriculture) is regenerative CSA farm whereby members buy in an annual share and get a box of 8 – 12 veggies delivered every week. The pressure is intense to ensure the 220 members are provided for every week but still, this farm is regenerative with chickens, ducks and make their own compost. We learnt so much about veggies and business from our week with Christiane. We are very grateful for her input. Check out the very cool Terra here.
Christiane was very interested in learning about REKO too as a different sales model. The REKO markets continue to grow with new producers and consumers joining every week. Hilton has become our busiest drop off point. From November we will be extending the delivery time to make it more accessible for people who work until 5pm. It will be a long delivery period for producers from 3.30 – 5.30pm but if it is busy, it will be worth it. And the vibe is great. In Europe the REKO deliveries are short, half an hour. It would be great to get to that point eventually but the whole concept is still very new to consumers and so we have to cast a wide net to make it accessible to as many people as possible.
Despite the crazy weather, the animal body clocks are still on track. We welcomed goslings again earlier this month and saw a family of ducks with ducklings on the dam for the first time!
The geese always amaze at how they raise goslings together – they really function as a family. The three females all laid in the same nest while one mommy trumped and sat on most of the eggs most of the time. The other females would quickly sit on the eggs if she got up. Although this was a bit to their detriment as there were too many eggs and squabbles did result in eggs being kicked out of the nest. Once hatched, everyone takes care of the babies. The two males are super protective and they all herd the babies around. It is very special to watch.
How is this little nose for cute:
Now it’s time for the weekend! Full house for us in the guesthouse. As I am writing this post, we received a warning for an even hotter and drier week ahead!