Autumn in the Eastern Free State is synonymous with poplar trees, which decorate the landscape with streaks of gold. Poplars, along with Blue Gums, Pine and Willows, are one of the few types of trees that thrive in the harsh Free State climate. Often planted in rows at farm entrances or in valleys along water courses, they put on the most magnificent display in the autumn with golden fingers reaching up to the blue sky. Most of the trees around Vastrap were planted by Quentin’s father, Bill and his grandfather, Tok. Bill is passionate about trees and has made it his life’s work to plant and nurture them through summer droughts and winter frost. At Vastrap we have the traditional line of poplars next to the house, a long line of blue gum trees alongside the road which passes the farm and a good number of willow trees in the valley. Thanks to Bill’s dedication and nurturing there are also some oak trees scattered around the farm, a rare sight on the Free State landscape, but equally beautiful in the autumn.
The days are still clear and warm but one can feel the chill of winter in the night air. The pace of work on the farm is slowing somewhat with the seasons, but there’s still lots to do with the harvesting of the sunflower and maize crops and preparing the lands to plant wheat. The veld is in good condition for winter grazing, but in the worst winter months the cattle will also eat the oats that has been planted for them (green feed) and the maize left over on the lands after the harvest (“maize rests”). In addition, hay has been baled to ensure there’s enough food for the animals until the first summer rains, which could come as late as November. That really does seem like a long time away, but no doubt we’ll be there in a flash. Just a small thing called winter to get through first! Let’s wrap up warmly and enjoy it.