Water, water everywhere…

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Ten days ago it started raining, and it rained for three days, almost non-stop. In 48 hours we received 170mm rain, almost half our annual average! On Landmeterskop we had to quickly dug furrows above the dams to get some of the runoff water away from our already full dams.

In spite of the bad weather, our guests still had a good time – relaxing and resting, and fortunately for the children there was the thrill of helping with the milking of the goats and the feeding of the lambs!

The entrance to Landmeterskop Farm.

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And on Sunday, with many of the roads closed due to heavy flooding, we had to try and find a road which would be safe for our guests to use, as they had to get back for work Monday morning. And with a little precautionary help from Theunis (as you can see in the photo), they all made it home, safely.

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Fresh free-range eggs for breakfast!

Free range eggs

Another new experience for city dwellers and children staying over on Landmeterskop Farm! Delicious fresh eggs delivered to your cottage or the homestead, or you could join one of our staff members and fetch your eggs from the nests yourselves!

Hoender

Our Lohmann Brown chickens are now ± 7 months old and have been laying eggs for the past two months. During the day time they walk around freely in a designated pasture which they naturally fertilize. At night they sleep in a movable chicken tractor (a coop without a floor) which is daily moved to a new spot, thus allowing free ranging along with shelter and protection from predators, but without vegetation in a single spot being stripped away completely. This creates a natural, symbiotic cycle of foraging through which the birds eat down vegetation, deposit fertilizing manure, and then go on to a new area.

Chicken tractor

The Lohmann Brown chicken is a hybrid that was developed in Germany. They are the most common type of hen used for commercial egg production farms in Europe thanks to their egg quality, production efficiency and adaptability.  They often start egg production earlier than other chickens – at 14 weeks as opposed to 20-24 weeks.

These chickens are not fancy.  Their plumage is caramel-brown with cream highlights.  Medium in size, they have a long neck, typical comb, and short tail feathers.

Called the best of the backyard chickens by some urban farmers, they are very friendly, and are good chickens to keep as pets for children.

Quack, quack, quack… there is new sound on Landmeterskop!

Pond

Yes, there are now also ducks roaming around the pond nearest to the Homestead – Khaki Campbells, Buff Orpingtons and Dutch Quakers! And more will shortly join their ranks.

Ducks

The Khaki Campbell (or just Campbell) breed of domesticated duck was developed by Adele Campbell of England and introduced to the public in 1898. Adele Campbell purchased a Fawn and White Indian Runner Duck which was an exceptional layer (195 eggs in 197 days) and crossed it with a Rouen Duck in an attempt to create a strain that would lay well and have bigger bodies. The offspring were crossed with Mallards to increase their hardiness. The resulting birds were prolific layers. But, Mrs Campbell was still not satisfied with the colour and in an attempt to create a more attractive buff-coloured duck she crossed her original Campbells with Pencilled Runner Ducks. And voilà! A duck which colour reminded Mrs. Campbell of the Khaki-coloured British Army Uniforms!

KCPairPair of Khaki Campbell ducks

The Buff Orpington duck is a dual-purpose breed of domestic ducks used for meat and egg production. It is capable of laying up to 220 eggs a year. They were originally created by William Cook, a famous poultry breeder from Orpington in Kent, England, and was introduced to the public in 1897. Cook was also the developer of the Orpington Chicken. Cook blended Cayuga, Runner, Aylesbury, and Rouen ducks to create a buff coloured duck that would allow him to cash in on the early 20th century English fad for buff-colored plumage. This first duck was called a Buff Orpington and Cook went on to develop Blue, Black and Chocolate Orpington versions that had white bibs on their chests.

The Buff, as it is commonly known, is a long, broad bird with an oval head, medium length bill, and long, gracefully curved neck. It’s body carriage is twenty degrees above horizontal, its wings are short and it has a small, well-curled tail. Both the duck and drake have buff plumage, orange-yellow shanks and feet, and brown eyes. The drake’s bill is yellow while the duck’s bill is brown-orange.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: We have received valuable correspondence regarding the validity of the general information available on the internet on the Campbell & Orpington ducks (from which we have gleaned the above information) from Jonathan M. Thompson in the UK (jonathanmichael_thompson@yahoo.co.uk), who along with Prof. Wolfgang Rudolph of Rostock, have researched the origin & history of domestic waterfowl since 1984. Instead of us updating our information, we include their findings here for your perusal and then you could  see for yourself where the general misconceptions are:

The Doctor’s Wife (pdf)

The Orpington Ducks 2013 (pdf)

buff_orpBuff Orpington ducks

The small white Dutch Quacker Duck or Call Duck is a bantam breed raised primarily for decoration or as pets. They look similar to Mallards, but are smaller in size. The first recorded mentions of the breed are from the Netherlands where it was used as a decoy and known as a Coy or Decoy Duck. The high-pitched distinctive call was used to lure other ducks into funnel traps. Later, hunters would tether Call Ducks to draw other species within range of the guns. It is believed to have originally come from the Far East, although no records of its introduction to the Netherlands exist.

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Just like us humans, ducks have personalities and each duck has its own little habits. They talk to each other by quacking – the female duck (hen) has a loud “quack”, while the male (drake) has a raspy quack. The peaceful coexistence of the flock is regulated by the law of “Pecking order” – the number 1 bird in the flock can peck and dominate all the others, the number 2 bird can dominate all but the number 1 bird, the number 3 bird can dominate all but 1 and 2, right on down the line until we reach the last bird who dominates no one.

All ducks forage for food. They dabble and tip up in shallow water, drilling in mud to get the goodies. which mainly consists of seeds, berries, fruits, nuts, bulbs, roots and grasses. Ten percent of their diet consists of insects, mosquito larvae, snails, slugs, leeches, worms an occasional fish or tadpole. Sand and gravel are picked up to serve as grinding stones in the gizzard. Ducks thrive under harsh conditions with limited shelter, resist diseases and parasites, and produce food efficiently.

Not only are ducks beautiful to look at, but they can also make one laugh with their little “mannerisms”, especially during mating season! Ducks prefer to mate on water, but most do well on land. During “courtship” the drake’s head may be bobbing up and down, as if to say, “Hey, your cute, how about a date?” Then he would bite and/or pull the back of the hens neck feathers, and stand on the hen’s back dunking her head in the water, as if he’s trying to drown her!

Although drakes may have a favourite hen, they normally will mate with any hen in the flock.

They lay eggs at random on the ground, and sometimes even while swimming. When a nest is made, it is a shallow depression in the ground, lined with twigs, grass and leaves. If eggs are left for natural incubation, the hen will pluck down from her breast for additional insulation. If the ducks have a house with straw, hay or some type of bedding in it they may make their nest there.

Several times a day, ducks preen and oil their feathers using a feather conditioner from a hidden oil gland located on the top of the tail base. As they preen, they squeeze the oil gland with their bills and spread it onto the feathers. Contrary to popular belief, this oil does not “waterproof” a duck nor it’s ducklings. What does then? The way their feathers are structured!

Each feather has a main shaft, or rachis, that supports the whole structure. While the feather is growing, the rachis has blood vessels within it that carry nutrients to the growing parts of the feather. When mature, these blood vessels die and the rachis is sealed at the base, leaving the feather shaft hollow. This helps to make the feather very light.

Branching off the rachis are barbs. These barbs each have branches called barbules, and the barbules have branches called barbicels. These three parts make up the vane of the feather, which gives the feather its “feather-like” shape. The barbicels are very tiny, and you’ll need a good magnifying glass or microscope to see them. They are generally hook-shaped, and interweaved with each other. They hold the vane of the feather together, sort of like Velcro or a zipper. If you’ve rubbed a feather the “wrong way” and then smoothed it back to its original shape, what you’ve done is unhook and re-hook the barbicels, like “zipping it back together”. The barbicels can hold the feather vane together so tightly that water cannot go through. And this is what actually keeps water off a duck’s back, not the oil they apply to their feathers. In fact, the oil is only used to keep the feathers clean and in good condition, not to coat them for “waterproofing”.

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Landmeterskop Goatherd: Meet mothers, Betty & Daisy, and their three kids

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Oops, sorry, wrong side…

Do I really need to show my face? Oh, well, now you all know, I’m Betty, and they call me “the stubborn one”. You can remember me by my torn ear. I am raising only one child, Billy-the-kid. No, no, no, not that American outlaw! But I must say, with these rough cords around our necks, it is easy to think that! Fortunately, Valerie promised that we shall have elegant new collars soon…

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Daisy, the one resting in the shade of the tree, is raising twins – Rosy and Annie.

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Milking time… what a relief! Valerie is thinking of learning to make cheese… that would be quite neat, I think.

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We are British Alpine goats and were bought from Walter Curlewis (0847758172) of Paarl who has been breeding goats for ten years now – he started when he was only fifteen. Before joining his father in the family-business, he worked at Fairview Farm.

Walter Curlewis

The British Alpine goat was developed in the early 1900s and is used for milking, showing, breeding or just for keeping as pets. We are black all over with white ‘Swiss’ markings – white facial stripes stretch from above the eyes to the muzzle, while the edges and tips of ears, legs from the hocks and knees downwards, and both sides of our tails are also white. Quite handsome, don’t you agree?

Important: Please check with the owners or manager for a suitable time to interact with our kids!

The names of our cottages

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At present Landmeterskop farm grazes 1000 ewes – Dormer crossbreeds which we breed for stock production. In winter oats, rye grass & clovers are sown as pasture and in summer these cultivated pastures have to be irrigated. Our two cottages are named after the Dormer and Merino sheep breeds.

DORMER

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The Dormer was developed at the Elsenburg Research Station in the Western Cape by crossing Dorset Horn rams and German Merino ewes. Further development took place in co-operation with farmers in the Western Cape Province where winter pastures are used for slaughter lamb production. The first sale of Dormer rams was held at Elsenburg in 1947. A Dormer Breed Society was established in 1965 and the breed was recognised as a developing breed in 1970.

The dormer is a white-woolled mutton sheep with a sturdy frame – developed for the climatic and grazing conditions of the Western Cape. As a temperate climate breed, it is fairly widely distributed in the Free State and Gauteng Provinces.

Qualities

• An efficient producer of slaughter lambs off pastures

• high fertility

• excellent mothering ability

• long breeding season

• easy lambing

• multiple births – depending on the system of management

• quality mutton

Normal production environment

Natural and planted pastures in temperate climates.

Merino

merino

The SA Merino’s history can be traced back to 1789, when the Dutch Government donated two Spanish Merino rams and four Spanish Merino ewes to Col Jacob Gordon, the military commander at the Cape. Later introductions (1891 onwards) included American Vermont and the Australian Wanganella and Peppin merinos. It was soon clear that the Australian varieties were more suited to South African conditions and these formed the bulk of the merino imports in the early years. Selection for adaptive and functional traits over a period of 200 years led to the emergence of the South African (SA) Merino – a locally development breed that is on a par with the best of the world and that makes up over 50% (14 million) of the total number of sheep (25 million) in South Africa. The SA merino’s locally developed status is supported by the fact that it is the only sheep in the world that can produce 10-15% of its own live mass in clean wool.”

The SA Merino is found in the drier Northern Cape province, on the fertile lands of the winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape and in the Karooveld and Grassveld areas of the Eastern Cape and Free state. Wellknown Merino Breeders with large top quality flocks are also found in the East Griqualand of KwaZulu Natal and the most parts of Mpumalanga.

The merino is a unique dual-purpose breed, producing unequalled top quality medium to ultra-fine wool and marketable carcass from a wide spectrum of grazing/climatic conditions.

Normal production environment

Semi arid grassveld, The Karoo, Sour Grassland and semi intensive crop production areas, like the Overberg.

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Feeding time for some of the lambs on Landmeterskop!

KARAKUL

The largest of our three cottages is name after the Karakul sheep, a breed of domestic sheep which originated in Central Asia. Some archaeological evidence points to Karakul sheep being raised there continuously since 1400 BC. Karakul sheep are a multi-purpose breed, kept for milking, meat, pelts, and wool. As a fat-tailed breed, they have a distinctive meat. Many adult Karakul are double-coated; in this case, spinners separate the coarse guard hair from the undercoat. Karakul is a relatively coarse fiber used for outer garments, carpets and for felting.

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