The rains bring the end of winter.  The rain falls here in the summer, and only in the summer. If you have a wet summer then underground water fills up and the boreholes last through winter. A dry summer means boreholes running dry somewhere between the last rain, usually in about April, and the first of the new season, sometimes as late as December. After a dry summer, crisis point is usually reached in the middle of the year, leaving a few months before your borehole is recharged.

Last summer was wonderful. Rain commenced in October and came down on and off till April. At one point the dirt road leading to our place looked more like a river than a road. The result has been a good winter, at the end of which we still had fairly good water from our borehole. The rains have started but only in the last few days.  We will need sustained rain to recharge our borehole.

An additional issue is that the later the rains begin, the longer fire season lasts. This year we thought fire season was coming to an end a few weeks ago. So much veld had been burnt that there did not seem to be much fuel left for new fires. We were wrong about that. In the last few weeks the biggest fire of the season broke out not far from our place. The cloud of smoke was bigger and blacker than any I have seen in the time that we have been here. It was also closer than any, excepting those on our own land. Many acres of grazing were destroyed and two houses burnt to the ground.

More tragic is the effect of these fires has on our four-legged co-inhabitants of this piece of earth. After three families lost everything when their houses burnt down, two little dogs from one of the houses were missing. Despite long and hard searching, they have not been found. With the house they knew as home, now destroyed, they may have they escaped and run off in a panic and still be lost in the bush somewhere.

Two weeks after the fire devastated the veld, an old wild tortoise, his shell badly scorched, starving and thirsty, waddled slowly to the door of a house next to where the fire raged. When water and food were offered to him, he ate as if it was the last food and water he would ever taste. His burns were attended to and he was given a sheltered spot with fresh food and water on hand while he recuperated. He must have been a wise creature to look for help, or just very lucky that the closest house was where caring people lived.

For some time we have been under the illusion that the fires were started by lightning strikes, but in fact all the fires have taken place on days when the area has not experienced lightning. The fire starters have been seen fleeing into the veld at night, but so far there have been no arrests for arson.

Fire starting is not the only problem of the area’s small holders. The amount of theft is greater and more destructive. My friend, Dawie, recently lost 4000 chickens in a single incident, shortly after having most of his pigs stolen. He has had to give up farming and has taken up a job in town. No property owner in the area has been able to keep out the thieves. Tools, car wheels, farm implements, but most of all livestock, are favourite targets.

While life on the plots has its grim side, it also has a lighter side. One of those has been the adventures with bees one of our little dogs had. Until recently he was a great fly catcher with reactions faster than a striking cobra. He caught any fly that was foolish enough to venture close. But until recently he had not noticed the difference between flies and bees. He discovered his mistake while exploring the garden one morning. The result was a badly swollen face that took a week to go down completely. Since then he has been a lot more careful around small insects. He still hunts round the garden in his usual confident way, but sometimes he will pull away suddenly, his whole body jerking, when confronted by a harmless beetle, mantis or even a moth. You just never can tell who might have a sting in the tail.

More stories on fires

Fire Season

Peace and Destruction

End of Winter
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