What a difference some rain makes!

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The past few weeks have been unbearably hot, windy and dry on the farm. The little bit of rain we had at the end of October quickly dried up and things started to look pretty desperate again. The sky all around us was thick with dust churned up by the wind and tractors hard at work preparing fields for the summer planting season. My heart really went out to all the tractor drivers sitting on open vehicles covered in clouds of dust. Being a tractor driver holds a certain amount of status and prestige amongst farm workers, but at times like this it really cannot be a nice job!

2013-11-17_0001The rain finally came on Friday and carried on all through Saturday. Soft, beautiful, drenching rain! Many other parts of the country experienced heavy flooding, but we had just enough to be satisfied. As luck would have it, we had important work to do on Friday with the start of our first IVF programme for our Boran cattle. Fortunately our new cattle facilities provided enough shelter for the vets to carry on with their work and everything went off smoothly. Many cattle breeders rely on embryo technology to reproduce top quality cows at a faster rate than would normally be possible using donor cows and surrogates. One way to produce and retrieve embryos is to stimulate the donor cow to produce more than one egg and then to artificially inseminate her so that the eggs are fertilised internally before being “flushed” out. Another way is to extract the unfertilised eggs or oocytes directly from the cow’s ovaries and to fertilise them externally in a semen culture. The resulting embryos are left to incubate for seven days before being implanted back into the receiver cows. This latter method is a new development in cattle reproductive technology and we are very excited to see the results. It should be less invasive to the cows since they don’t have to receive extensive hormone stimulation and it’s easier to synchronise the programme with our normal breeding season so that calves aren’t born at odd times throughout the year.

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2013-11-17_0004After two days of gorgeous rain, the sky was crisp and clear today and everything looked brighter and fresher. We took the dogs for a long run this afternoon and along the way checked some of the newly planted maize fields to see whether the seeds have germinated. Some of the fields look very patchy in places, but hopefully this rain will help to get things going nicely. Once the lands have dried up a bit the planting season will begin in earnest. In our area, we can only really plant maize until the first week of December so there is still much work to do! Fortunately the cattle won’t be as labour intensive now that there’s some water in the dams and newly growing grass. How quickly the mood can change after a beautiful gift of rain!

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A Gift of Rain

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I feel like I’m falling way behind on my blogging. I’ve wanted to post an update of the veggie garden progress for weeks, but other things always seem to get in the way. Like now, I can’t possibly focus on anything else but this weekend’s rain! I was away the whole of last week working in Joburg and Quentin joined me for a weekend visit to a friend’s farm near Klerksdorp. When we got home on Sunday night there was about 60mm (just over 2 inches) in the rain gauge. It was desperately needed as we were starting to run short of food and water for the cattle and the newly planted maize was wilting in the heat. It’s too late for the wheat crop, which is almost ready to be reaped, but hopefully it will be a better season for our summer crops (maize and sunflower).

After a good drenching everything looks brighter and more sparkly and the dusty air has been washed clean. Needless to say, my beloved farmer is in a very good mood! One can get pretty fixated on the weather when one’s livelihood depends on it.

On Monday morning I took the dogs for a long muddy walk. The sky was electric blue and there were puddles all over the place. Coco stayed at home because she was recovering from her third bout of biliary this summer. We were lucky to get home when we did on Sunday because she was looking very poorly and needed medication urgently. She is on the mend, but the poor little thing certainly knows how to look sorry for herself!

Convalescing Coco baby.

Convalescing Coco baby.

A glorious morning at Vastrap!

A glorious Monday morning at Vastrap!

The rocky drive leading to the house.

The rocky drive leading to the house.

Puddles for the first time this summer!

Puddles for the first time this summer!

Tumi, Paris and Patch having a swim.

Tumi, Paris and Patch having a swim.

Passing a lone bull.

Passing a lone bull.

Newly planted maize refreshed after the rain.

Newly planted maize refreshed after the rain.

Replenished dam.

Replenished dam.

Happy bulls chewing the cud.

Happy Boran bulls chewing the cud.

Gumboots!

My gumboots!

Muddy dog prints.

Muddy dog and cattle prints.

Vista.

Farm vista.

The rain came too late for the wheat almost ready to be reaped.

The rain came too late for the wheat almost ready to be reaped.

Water supplies still low.

Water supplies still low.