Friday, 29 March 2013

Snowy, we will all miss you.

 Snowy and Lily wrecking Tiekie’s garden
A rare moment of Snowy relaxing on the lawn.
More news from Heloise:

On a very cold winter’s night in July 2009 a four week old puppy with a string around her neck walked up the long drive way to the house where Tiekie lives. The security guard saw the puppy and, thinking it was Tiekie’s, took care of it during the night and made sure it was tied up when he left the following morning. Tiekie found the puppy tied up and was most upset with the security guard for leaving his puppy behind when he went home. Tiekie took care of the puppy during the day. That evening the two men spoke to each other and discovered that this little puppy had strayed from somewhere and decided to move in here. She could not have chosen a better home. She was named Snowy because of her white body with some light coffee colour markings. Around her eyes she had black patches, and a very long tail that could not wag but was always curled into a circle, looking like a handle on a tea pot.
Tiekie’s other dog, Lily, is a natural mother and she raised Snowy and taught her to be the pleasure Snowy was to have around. When Tiekie started farming at Luyengo Snowy was there every day, enjoying the space to run around and was always seen just two steps behind Tiekie. When Tiekie was on the tractor Snowy was there trotting alongside the tractor, up and down every row, never stopping for a break until Tiekie did so. Other times Snowy would be lying behind Tiekie’s desk in the office taking up most of the floor space there with her long legs. 
Both Tiekie’s dog are examples of a land race called Africanis.  Archaeologists have told us the earliest remains of dogs were found in Egypt near the Nile and dates back to about 7 000 years. It is believed that the herdsmen brought the dogs onto the African continent via what is now known as Sudan. Gradually they found their way all the way down south. Dr Ina Plug, an archaeozoologist, discovered, identified and dated the earliest remains of domestic dogs in South Africa. These remains were found on a farm called Diamant  near Ellisras and she dated it to AD570 or Early Iron Age.  Remains of dogs dating about back to the same age were also found in KwaZulu Natal in the Lower Thukela River area as well as in the Eastern Cape around the Cape St Francis area. Historians believe all these dogs belonged to livestock farmers and they probably had contact with each other and bartered. 
The dog that evolved is the Africanis, a race that is resistant to regional sickness and tolerant to prevailing internal and external parasites. Johan Gallant, the chairperson of the Africanis Society of Southern Africa who has been doing research on this land race for years says, “The Africanis as an aboriginal land race has been preserved and can still be found deep in our traditional tribal lands. Don’t go looking for them in the modern day townships and squatter camps. They have survived with the African culture in the former “homelands”. However their natural state is increasingly coming under threat because of their changing environment and the Eurocentric approach which still considers them rejects and bequeaths this unfounded opinion to the public at large.” He also says we are dealing here with a ‘natural’ breed because it was nature and the stringent conditions of the African environments over the centuries that were responsible for this breed. (It is important to note that when the European settlers came to Southern Africa, many bringing their exotic dogs along, there were cultural barriers and so there was minimal contact between these exotic dogs and the Africanis). 
Gallant describes Africanis as genuine dogs, with behavioural patterns that are unspoilt and intense. They are attached to people; unobtrusive; non-demanding; extremely intelligent and hardy; eager to learn and work; loyal and courages;  good at tracking and searching. The Africanis is medium sized, slender built and well-muscled. It is agile and supple, moves in a very natural and easy manner, and can run at great speed. They need open spaces to run as they have tremendous stamina; good with kids and very social. In profile when sitting they look very much like the dogs in Egyptian hieroglyphics. They will live in peace with other animals in their environment and Tiekie can testify that neither of his dogs ever chases the chickens, guinea fowl, cats or birds in his garden.  (Admittedly Snowy did have an on-going barking contest with one of the neighbouring dogs at Luyengo.)
Snowy was a great example of her breed as all of the above describe her. But this story has a sad ending as Snowy died this week. Tiekie had been away from his home and the housekeeper, not noticing Snowy was still in the house, locked her inside. Tiekie thinks she must have been desperate to get out of the house and tried to force herself through an open window but in her effort she broke her neck when she got stuck in the burglar bars.  Tiekie has planted a shrub or small tree commonly known as Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow  (Brunfelsia exemia) in front of the office at Luyengo in memory of Snowy. 
*The Africanis and the Rhodesian Ridgeback are the only two indigenous African domesticated dogs; there are African Wild Dogs and jackals which live in the wild."


Snowy at Luyengo watching Vusi on the tractor.

Monday, 25 March 2013

This week at Luyengo Fresh Produce 22 March 2013

Vusi on the tractor. 

Good African soil just waiting to receive the seeds.

At Luyengo Fresh Produce we are in a celebratory mood. Our target was to have planted 6Ha before the end of March on this farm and we achieved it this week. 
The crops planted this week include  1,5 Ha cabbages, 1,5 Ha tomatoes, 1,8 Ha sugar beans for seed production, 0,5 Ha green mealies, 0,2 Ha sweet corn, 0,6 Ha carrots and 0,6 Ha butternuts.
Crops being harvested at the moment are cabbages, tomatoes and green mealies.
All the workers at Luyengo Fresh Produce are now kitted out in green overalls with the farm’s name embroidered onto the back, bringing unity and professionalism to the farm. 
Average max temp this week on the farm: 28°C
Average min temp this week on the farm: 16°C
Rainfall Averages 2013 To Date
January 169mm 270mm
February 140mm 180mm
March 100mm 132mm

Death has visited Luyengo and the next blog will be a sad one. 
Some wisdom from Africa:  What you help a child to love can be more important than what you help him to learn.

Friday, 22 March 2013


What happens in Swaziland in February
Buganu Ceremony 

The Marula fruit ripens and falls from the trees in the Swaziland lowveld during the months of February and March. It is then collected by rural women who prepare a fermented and quite potent alcoholic beverage from the crushed fruit. Once the green fruits fall to the ground, women and children gather and store them until they ripen to a creamy yellow colour. The fruits are then placed into water, sugar is added and it is fermented, and distilled into a beer. This potent alcoholic mixture is called it buganu, or marula beer.
His Majesty King Mswati III, King of Swaziland joins regiments of emabutfo (warriors) and lutsango (woman's regiments) in a jovial ceremony of song and dance at Buhleni Royal Residence on a weekend in February, in celebration of Buganu - the fermented marula wine. Due to prominence of women's regiments, lutsango, in this ceremony it is quite usual for the Swazi Queen Mother, Her Majesty the Indlovukazi, to also be in attendance.

The ceremony regularly attracts scores of people from all walks of life and for independent and adventurous tourists with an interest in African cultural this is an undiluted and not commercialised event (yet) that is typical of centuries of African tradition.

Buhleni is situated in the northern Hhohho region of Swaziland. Women will begin to deliver the brew on the Friday afternoon. The main celebration kicks off after lunch and carries on well into the night. After the celebrations there, the entire entourage moves to Hlane Royal Residence in the eastern Lubombo region for more celebration and general merriment.
Some say that, unlike most alcoholic beverages, bugano stimulates sexual urges to the degree that it is considered dangerous for men and women to drink it together if they wish to avoid adultery breaking out. In men it also said to bring an uncontrollable urge to eat meat, and livestock thefts increase significantly during marula season.
Thousands of women attend this festival every year. The local newspaper quoted two local residents on why they attend this event. Gcinile of Nkoneni in Nhlangano said for the past four years, she had been bringing marula to Their Majesties and this was an honour to her.

“For as long as I live, I will continue coming here. This is where we get the opportunity of showing our respect and love to Their Majesties. I also encourage even other women who did not come to make it a point that they do not miss such events,” she said. Meanwhile Thoko of Siteki said attending the ceremony was a way of showing their loyalty to Their Majesties. “As you see the king himself sometime watching us while we were in the dancing arena something that is really appreciated. It shows that the king loves his people and that is why we will always be loyal to him,” she said.
( In a next blog post I will tell you more about a company called Swazi Secrets which uses the marula fruit to make less intoxicating products.) 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

These chickens crossed the road

In Swaziland, as in most other countries, egg farms are not Shangri-La for the hens. At any point when they are not producing eggs at the optimum rate, they have reached their expiry date, regardless their age. Personally I do not even want to think about what happens next. However at Luyengo Fresh Produce there are some chickens that have a happy tale to tell.
Farm manager, Tiekie, keeps a few chickens at his home near Malkerns. His rooster, Hendrik, was recently challenged by a younger off-spring and Tiekie realized one of the boys would have to go. He decided to bring the beautiful, but older Hendrik to the farm at Luyengo. He then went looking for some hens to keep Hendrik company and headed to the local egg farm. Here he bought three hens that were on death row. 
Tiekie says these hens hardly had any feathers on their bodies and they literally could not walk. He kept them in a big chicken run he built just behind the nursery on the farm. He fed them but kept them behind a closed gate. It breaks ones heart to hear that these chickens did not come out into the sun for a few days and to learn that they gradually learnt to walk again. After a few days Tiekie opened the gate for them to venture out but the chickens were not that brave yet. In the mean time Hendrik saw them and was so afraid. His previous harem consisted of happy healthy free range hens covered in shiny plumage.  
It is three weeks later and there is lots of good news. The hens have ventured out of their run and have become so confidant they roam all over the farm now. They are doing what hens should be doing so naturally: foraging for worms and insects. Their feathers are growing back and they are starting to look healthy. They have put on weight and they are starting to rewards us by producing an egg each a day.  One hopes to think that at night before these chickens fall asleep, they say thank you to be living on Luyengo Fresh Produce now. 

Monday, 11 March 2013

This week at Luyengo Fresh Produce

This week at Luyengo Fresh Produce 

Another busy week at Luyengo Fresh Produce is drawing to a close. For most of the farm workers it means a relaxing weekend at home with their families but for a few it still means work as usual. Someone has to be there to see the seedlings and plants are watered, and that no strangers come onto the farm to help themselves to our harvest.  
Last week one of our batches was rejected by a client who said the cabbage looked wilted. We have adopted a new strategy. In the summer we will start harvesting at 5am when it is still cool and deliver the product to the client before 10am. The workers that have to come in early to harvest are happy with the arrangement as they go home two or three hours earlier on those days. 
Only Cabbage was harvested this week. We have once again prepared 1 hectare to plant 5 000 cabbage seedlings, 5000 tomato seedlings, .25 hectare carrots, .25 hectare sweet corn and a small area of green mealies. We planted 1 Ha off sugar beans for seed production for a local seed producer, Mr Harry van den Burg, in conjunction with the seed quality control board of Swaziland.
We have planted our first F1 Hybrid Klabishi Cabbage seeds in the nursery and the germination is excellent. We also planted the first F1 Hybrid Star 9009 tomato seeds that is, hopefully, Fusarium Wilt tolerant.
In the coming week we are looking forward to harvesting our green mealies, tomatos and cabbages. 
Average max temp this week on the farm: 30°C
Average min temp this week on the farm: 17°C
Rainfall Avarages 2013 To Date
January 169mm 270mm
February          140mm 180mm
March 100mm 77mm 
The past week we had great weather (that means when it did rain it was during the night) so the workers were able to put in a full day’s work everyday this week and we feel we were very productive.   
A lovely story from Africa: When God was creating the animals and He was busy with the hippos God said they had to be land animals and live off green bushes. But the hippo begged Him and pleaded to be allowed to live in water. God said there were already enough animals living in the water and off the other animals in the water. Then God and the hippos came to an agreement – the hippo can live in the water but they must eat grass and land growing plants. They agreed, so during the heat of the day hippos are always in the water and at night they graze like cattle. To this day the hippo shows God it keeps to it side of the bargain. The hippo always uses its tail to spread its excrement over the lower branches of plants so that God can see there is not a fish bone in sight. 

Friday, 8 March 2013

I am grateful to Heloise de Beer for her help with these updates from Luyengo Farm.

This week at Luyengo Fresh Produce 

The year is heading into the third month and early mornings one can feel the season is changing. The winter is slowly approaching. 
Only Cabbage was harvested this week. We have prepared 1 hectare to plant 5 000 cabbage seedlings, 5000 tomato seedlings, .25 hectare carrots, .25 hectare sweet corn and a small area of green mealies as maize / corn is called in Swaziland.
Our tomatoes and cabbage seedlings in the nursery are looking good and we are patting ourselves on the back for a success we achieved. We have always bought our seedlings from a local nursery. They use open pollinated seeds to make plants. We were happy with their seedlings but decided to do a test. We made our own tomato seedlings using an F1 hybrid. Our seedlings turned out to be very strong plants. We are so impressed with this achievement that we have decided to do the same with the cabbages and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the F1 Hybrid Klabishi seeds, hopefully by next week. 
Farming is not just fun. Recently we had two incidents that got the heart rates up and the adrenaline pumping. While Tiekie took a rare weekend off and went away sword fishing in the lowveld the staff member who was assigned to water the plants in the nursery over that weekend, also decided to leave without telling anyone. We lost nearly half our tomato plants that weekend. The other incident is of great concern. The Malkerns valley has been battling Fusarium Wilt, a disease that attracts tomatoes, green peppers, brinjul/egg plants and potatoes, ever since people started farming here. It is cannot be killed and attacks the plants when they become stressed, like during a drought period or when the plants start making fruit. If the plants are in sandy soil the spores are carried by water through a field and you can lose a crop in a day. Our newly planted tomatoes were attacked like this recently and we lost some plants. Fortunately prompt reaction on our side saved the most of the crop as we were able to move the plants to an area of the farm where the soil is heavier and Fusarium Wilt will be kept at bay. We must now start looking for a tomato cultivar that is resistant to Fusarium Wilt and any suggestions from knowledgeable readers are welcome.  
In Swaziland 80% of the tomatoes that are bought are cut up and cooked to make a sheba (as a sauce is called in Swaziland). This knowledge has helped us make a decision that could improve productivity on the farm. The tomatoes we were planting had to be tied up. That meant planting stakes and making a trellis for the tomato plants. This is a time consuming task. We have decided to change to a tomato plant that grows in a bush and have settled for the F1 Hybrid Chibli. The difference between the two types of tomatoes is just the shape. The bush tomato has a pear shape and, as we found, our market really does not care about the shape of the tomato. 
In the coming week we are looking forward to harvesting our green mealies. They are on average three and a half metres high.
Average max temp this week on the farm: 28°C
Average min temp this week on the farm: 18°C
Rainfall Avarages 2013 To Date
January 169mm 270mm
February         140mm 180mm
March 100mm 77mm
Look out for the next blog in which we will tell you a heartwarming story about chickens who have crossed a road and will never look back.
We end this blog with a saying from Africa: In Africa when the sun rises the lions knows it has to run faster than the buck or it will go hungry. The buck knows it must be fast not to be caught and eaten by the lion. The moral is: When the sun rises in Africa, you have to start moving if you want to survive.
Tiekie’s motto is: When the sun rises at Luyengo and you wear a LFP overall you better be running. 

Meet Tiekie de Beer!

Dear Friends and Family,

 Some of you probably already know, I foolishly joined an animal rescue group last year and have been assigned to protect the African Antelope.    Last week was my first real action, and fortunately my
 efforts were captured on the attached video.  I hope you enjoy it. 
 This type of work is rather tiring for a man my age, but it is most rewarding.   Even so, one rescue a day is all I can handle right now.   Tiekie de Beer