Heifer-calf on a lead… and new chicks!

The latest addition to our family of animals at Landmeterskop, a heifer-calf, normally hangs out with a flock of lambs and our chickens in the paddock nearest to the farmhouse. When the lambs were brought in to the craal to be weighed, “madam” came along. The workers couldn’t separate her from the lambs, as she simply stayed in the middle of the flock. Eventually Louis managed to get a lead around her neck, and she obediently followed him back to the paddock.

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Valerie also recently had to fetch new Leghorn chickens as most of our laying hens are a little over two years old and will now start to lay less eggs. The first 2 years of a hen’s life is her most productive. By the time she’s 5 years old she will only lay half as frequently as she did during her first 2 years. While Louis and Luca were “unloading” the new chicks and making sure that  they had food and water and were settling in, Jack and Jesse, kept a close watch!

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A letter from Terry

Hi Valerie
It is more than a week since we left the farm or should I say tore ourselves away.
To write in the guest book is a great way of expressing the amazing stay we had, but I just wanted to personally thank you.
Thank you so much of allowing us to share a part of your piece of paradise. Everything was just so fantastic.
Janis (my wife) turned 60 on the day we arrived. She had no idea where we were going, only that I was taking her away for the week. I cannot tell you how excited she became when we entered the main gate and came around to the dam and saw a pair of Blue Cranes doing the dance. That was the start of our incredible stay.
We so enjoyed feeding the Lambs, the Ducks and the Alpacas! We felt like kids again! We even drank goats’ milk which was surprisingly nice.
Then there is Tsala! What a treasure you have in her. So efficient and friendly – a huge asset you have in her!  Wow!
We were sad to leave but we have tons of photos to look back on and I mean tons. Janis is an artist so she sees art in just about everything even the dew on the grass so she clicks and clicks away.
I hope when we next visit, we will meet. Please  give Tsala our regards
Warm Regards
Terry
 PS  I’ve attached a few pics
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Pretty, but not at all welcome

The masses of pretty purple-blue flowers one often sees along roads at this time of year – also at Landmeterskop – are in fact a menace, and one that is difficult to get rid of. Paterson’s Curse (Echium plantagineum), also known as Salvation Jane (English); Franklin weed or purple echium, is a Category 1 Declared Weed in terms of the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, Act 43 of 1983, which must be removed by landowners as it competes with cultivated crops and pasture species and indigenous ruderal species. (In Afrikaans these are called bloudisseldoring or natterkop.)

Echium plantagineum is native to western and southern Europe (from southern England south to Iberia and east to the Crimea), northern Africa, and southwestern Asia. It has been introduced to Australia, South Africa and United States and is an invasive plant. Due to a high concentration of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the shoot it is poisonous to grazing livestock, especially those with a simple digestive system like horses. The toxins are cumulative in the liver and death results from too much Paterson’s curse in the diet.

It is a deep-rooted biennial that can grow up to 1m high. The leaves and stems are covered with coarse, white hairs. The stem leaves are long and small and the basal rosette leaves are broad and large with prominent lateral veins. Blue or purple flowers appear from spring to autumn.

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An afternoon on Landmeterskop

We do not have the Big Five, but we offer many smaller wonders for the visitor to enjoy! On a recent drive through the wheat fields, pastures and up the mountain on Landmeterskop, we saw many, many bird species, amongst them herons, Cape Sugarbirds, Egyptian Geese, Kori Bustards, Spur-winged Geese, guinea fowl and a Jackal Buzzard. In the veldt gazanias, oxalises (pink sorrels), various bulbs and other little veldt flowers were in bloom. Up the mountain were proteas and other fynbos, and fascinating sandstone rock formations. And naturally there were also all the farm animals – sheep, alpacas, goats, pigs and chickens.

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There were also a herd of grey rhebok. The grey rhebok or grey rhebuck (Pelea capreolus), locally known as the Vaal rhebok or Vaalribbok in Afrikaans, is a species of antelope endemic to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Swaziland. The specific name capreolus is Latin for ‘little goat’. (The Afrikaans/Dutch spelling of the species, reebok, lends its name to the British sportswear manufacturing company Reebok).

 

Rates for Bookings from 1 January 2018

Rates for Bookings from 1 January 2020

Cottages 2 & 3:

Adults: R495.00 per person sharing per night
Children (2 – 12 years old): R275.00 per child per night
(Please specify ages of children in your enquiry)
Minimum rate per cottage per night: R1265

Cottage 1:

Adults: R495.00 per person sharing per night
Children (2 – 12 years old): R275.00 per child per night
(Please specify ages of children in your enquiry)
Minimum rate per cottage per night: R2035

Peggy, grand mother goose

Theunis of Landmeterskop one day found what he thought were three orphaned Egyptian goslings in the veld. He brought them home and placed them with our new batch of runner ducklings. Two of them died within a couple of days, and only one survived and thrived, and also soon showed her true colours. She was indeed a Spur-winged Goose, scientifically known as Plectropterus gambensis!

For almost a year she lived with the other geese and ducks, until about ten days ago when she was reported missing… We have looked everywhere but cannot find her. We can only hope that she is well and on a grown-up adventure and that she will eventually return, as this species is partially migratory, making seasonal movements of several hundred kilometres. They normally breed during or near the end of the wet season in solitary pairs.

This brought to mind the story we once read about Peggy, the famous Spur-winged Goose of Somerset West, as told and photographed by the late Nico Myburgh, renowned bird-photographer and at that stage curator of the Helderberg Nature Reserve and published by Village Life Magazine:

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Peggy, grand mother goose

This is the true story of a courageous Spur-winged Goose who became a legend in her own time, told by Nico Myburgh, who knew her better than anyone else.

It all started in 1971 when a mixed batch of six week old water birds was donated to the Helderberg Nature Reserve by the water bird hatchery at Jonkershoek on condition that subsequent hatchlings would be allowed to fly free. The batch consisted of two Spur-winged Geese, two African Shellduck, and various other species of ducks. All were pinioned birds.
At the reserve they were fed well on duck pellets and other mixtures and grew fat fast. They had all reached maturity when tragedy struck: the female spur-winged was killed and eaten by a lynx. (Unlike the ducks, the spur-winged wandered around in the fields in the buck camp surrounding the duck pond most of the time, so they were always a bit vulnerable.)
Luckily, about a week later a flock of wild spurwings landed in the buck camp. The male was nearby all the time, so he joined up with them. They wandered around there all day and late afternoon when the flock left, one female stayed behind. She kept her distance at first for a few days, but gradually she came nearer. Then about ten days later, after we had been holding our breath for so long, she came down to the dam with the male and started eating pellets. All was well. A marriage was arranged and soon took place. The female was now quite settled in her new domestic life. The duck pond was now called the Spur-winged Pond.
Then tragedy struck again. The male bird was killed by a lynx. The lynx is about the only predator that can cope with a spurwing, which has a 5 cm spur on the edge of its wings which could keep any other predator away. We were sure we would now lose the female as well.
We didn’t see her for about three to four days, but then she came back. For the next thirty-five days she came down from the mountain to have a good feed, then went back up the mountain. At that time we had no idea what this was all about.
Then one morning at about ten-thirty suddenly all became clear. Down the mountain road she came, with eleven day-old goslings following her. Straight down to the dam she went with her whole new family. They headed straight for the feeding trough, where they were soon eating away merrily. Then onto the dam they went swimming, all twelve of them.
What had been happening was “Mother Goose”, as she became known then, had been going up the mountain to a sheltered valley, about 1,5 km away, where she had made a well-hidden nest. She was laying one egg per day, then coming down every day for eleven days until her clutch was complete. For the next thirty-five days, while she was incubating, she came down once a day just for a meal.
The goslings grew fast because food was available all day long. All eleven grew to full size, then they all went off, going their own ways. Mother Goose stayed on for about a month. It was now April. Then one morning she was gone. We were all very sad, as we thought this would be the end of a wonderful story.
Then in early May, there she was back again on the Spurwing Pond. Just a day or two to feed up well and up the mountain she went, to the same sheltered valley.
The whole story now repeated itself. Ten goslings this time. So it went for four years. The pond had now been fenced to protect the goslings from mongoose, etc., so every time she came down we had to lend a hand and lift the babies over the wire fence. This was a dangerous operation, because of the spurs on her wings. She was once the cause of my assistant, who was helping to catch the babies, ending up in hospital with a wound in his behind that required nine stitches!
After four years tragedy struck again. The fourth brood was about four weeks old when Mother Goose caught her leg in the fence and it was broken so badly that it had to be amputated. The local newspaper reporter then christened her Peggy, for peg-leg.
This remarkable bird brought down seven more broods of goslings safely to the pond, hopping on one leg with a little support from the fifteen centimetre stump. She successfully reared eighty-seven goslings in her lifetime of fifteen years.
In her honour the first line of Christmas lights in the main road of Somerset West depicts Peggy with nine goslings. And a Peggy weathervane over the entrance gate at the Helderberg Nature Reserve will serve as a reminder of this special mother goose for many years to come. What a bird!

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Original article posted in Village Life No 14

Join us for our first photography course!

One cannot rely just on luck to capture that special photograph! Good images of animals, birds or even bugs don’t just happen – they require knowledge and skill. Join us for a three-day introductory course to nature photography, presented by accomplished wildlife photographer Stephen Hammer of Cape Town.

Even in the age of digital photography, the basics still matter! Stephen will take you through the factors that affect your exposure – ISO, lens aperture and shutter speed – and then move on to learning your camera’s controls and practical application of these principles. Landmeterskop offers ample opportunities to try out your new-found knowledge, with birds, landscapes, fynbos and more.
Imagine learning great new stuff while relaxing and having fun on a peaceful farm! This weekend promises to be a rewarding experience!
Dates: 15h00 on Friday, 21 August to Sunday afternoon, 23 August.
Cost: R1 850 per person, includes accommodation, all meals and course material (bring your own drinks)
Accommodation: Shared in The Homestead.
To book, e-mail Valerie val@landmeterskop.co.za to book. Don’t delay – only the first 12 people can be accommodated!
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