Contrasting Contours

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I felt a bit bad about saying in my last post that our winter landscape here in the Free State is drab. In some ways that’s accurate, but if you look a little closer there is beauty in the starkness. You just need to look at these photos that my step-mother Barbara took at the start of winter to appreciate what I mean. The farm looks a little different now, with all the sunflowers and most of the maize harvested, but in essence it’s the same. No matter what time of year, standing on the mountain behind our house – as my father John and Quentin’s father Bill were doing that day – what stands out is the contrasting patterns made by the contours on our cultivated lands. It may be a little browner now than in summer, but no less striking and definitely not drab! In fact, I love the contrast of the bright green fields of oats (used as green feed for the cattle and sheep in winter) with the brown landscape.

Tomorrow we’re off to the National Boran auction in Parys. It’s always a very busy time with lots of socialising and interacting with other breeders. Of course the animals are important too, but this year we are only taking one cow and some semen from our top stud bull Rustin MHB 06-30 so it’s not as stressful for Quentin as last year. The big annual sale of our animals happens in a month’s time here at Vastrap so we will be very busy preparing for that on our return next week! Last year my post on the National Auction was entitled “How life has changed: weekends at cattle auctions“. Back then auctions were still quite a novelty, but apparently not anymore!

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Twenty one years on

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I can’t believe it’s Thursday already and I haven’t yet posted photos of our weekend with my girlfriends from school – don’t know where this week has gone! On Tuesday and Wednesday Quentin and I were on a tour of farms in the district visiting other Boran cattle farmers and then we attended a course on Boran cattle farming. It was great to see other farms  and we spent a night at the Oranje Guest Farm near Fouriesburg, which is owned by a fellow Boran farmer. We drove past fields and fields of very beautiful looking summer crops (maize, sunflower, soya beans), with only the odd bit of hail damage in some areas. I’m slowly learning more about the business and how to evaluate a good animal, but I’m not quite as passionate about it yet as Quentin!

Free State farmers (and me)..

On tour with a group of Free State Boran club members.

Anyway, back to the weekend. We had a great time chatting and eating and just generally relaxing together. A weekend goes by so quickly, but it’s so much better bonding time than just sitting down for one meal as one normally would in the city. My friend Lucinda recently moved to a farm in KwaZulu-Natal so we had a lot to talk about. Twenty one years ago when we were still at school I don’t think either of us could have dreamt we would end up being farm girls, but such is the mystery of life! Briggie and Yoza both have beautiful baby daughters (Briggie is pregnant with her second child), but they are both still very much city girls.

Sinéad is a professional photographer so I thought I would use her photos for this blog post. She was the most energetic of all of us over the weekend managing to fit in 25 kilometers of running! She is training for a big trail running race later this year and could not resist the opportunity to get out on our farm tracks. In between all of that she was running after her three gorgeous kids, taking photos and giving Quentin some photography lessons. She is a real star and I admire her so much for leaving behind her corporate job a few years ago and pursuing her dream of photography, make-up, and art. Check out her website and blog to see more of her work (www.sineadbrook.co.za).

I think her photos of Vastrap are stunning and capture the mood of that afternoon perfectly, particularly since they were taken under challenging conditions. We set off for sundowners on Saturday afternoon just as bad weather was setting in with strong wind and splatters of rain. That scuppered our idea of having sundowners overlooking the sunflower fields and we had to find a more sheltered spot behind the koppie instead. While the rest of us were carrying children and cooler bags, Sinéad was lugging her camera and tripod through the veld. Enjoy!

Kids on the back of the bakkie.

Kids on the back of the bakkie with sunflowers in the distance.

My babies.

My babies.

Madame Coco.

Madame Coco.

With my fellow farm-girl friend, Lucinda.

With my fellow farm-girl friend, Lucinda.

Walking through the long grass to sundowners.

Traipsing through the long grass to sundowners.

Sunflower vista.

Sunflower vista.

Dramatic sky and grass.

Dramatic sky and grass.

View from the koppie.

View from the koppie.

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Braving the wind and splattering rain!

“Sundowners” without the sun!