Extending a helping hand to farmers in drought-stricken areas

Landmeterskop, known to the public mostly because of its popular holiday cottages, is a substantial farming operation which combines Dormer Merino sheep with wheat crops. The owners, Theuns and Valerie Steenkamp, recently were in a position – with the help of equally generous transport companies – to help other farmers in need.

Parts of South Africa are currently experiencing what some termed “the worst drought in a century”. Farmers in many areas of the country are facing disaster. On 3 February this year, the fourth consignment of animal feed that Landmeterskop donated to the farmers were loaded onto trucks. This time they were delivering to the West Coast. The transport of the load was sponsored entirely by Sean Myburgh and Donald Stockhall from DPMM Hauliers.

Danie Hefers of Fokus, an Afrikaans TV programme about social, economic and political affairs, was on Landmeterskop to film the event. (Watch Fokus on Sunday evening, 14 February 2016 at 18:30 – 19:00.)

Flip de Bruyn who co-ordinated all of this, explains: This incredible journey began one evening in Langebaan in December 2015. Chatting with a group of friends around the fire, Derrick Linde mentioned how his parents in Hertzogville were struggling from the effects of the severe drought in the area. Franco Koch (Derrick’s friend) had generously offered to help with feed but had no means to get it to Hertzogville. The plan seemed so simple in theory but putting it into action proved to be very challenging. As frustration mounted, my wife and I turned to prayer. Believing and trusting God to set the wheels in motion – literally! The next day I went to my friend Jacques Brand of Truck & Cargo. Jacques posted a request on Facebook for transporters willing to drive at no cost. Within three hours we had our first transporter and soon after many very enthusiastic offers came in. The first load soon left Moorreesbburg for Hertzogville. Soon we had willing transporters but no feed. Derrick Linde stepped in and put me in contact with Theuns Steenkamp – he had 500 bales of feed which he donated and off it went to Reddersburg, Bethlehem, Hertzogville, Bloemfontein and the West Coast. It is heartwarming to see how willing people are to step up to the plate when others are in need!

A memorable stay on Landmeterskop

Dear Valerie

Thank you again so much for the most wonderful time spent on Landmeterskop farm.

Not only did Mila have a fantastic time but so did we. From the accommodation, to the Du Bois home styled cooking everything was delicious and beautiful.

We would also like to give Tsala a special mention… she had such a good way with Mila, always including her and making her feel part of the “group”.

We certainly will be returning with friends.

Gosh, was it hard waking up this morning and going to work.

I have attached a few pictures of our stay.

Regards

Nadine and Allan

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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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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