“Quick! Come see the hippo!” A call from a neighbour at four in the afternoon made us drop everything, grab cameras and rush off, barely remembering to lock the front door.
Half of Hills and Dales residents were already gathered at a fence between Pylon Road and one of Northern Farm's dams, excitedly taking pics. The hippo was in great form, rearing up every few minutes, opening its mighty jaws and splashing back into the water. It was barely 30 metres from the dam's edge and a photographer's dream. I swear it was showing off for the admiring audience.
A hippo was spotted in this area for the first time on 12 April 2010 by a local resident, Morag van Niekerk. “I was driving to work along a dirt track near home at about 7 o'clock in the morning,” she said. “There was thick fog all over the area and suddenly there was this huge animal coming down the road at me!” She slammed on brakes, hoping that a car behind her would stop in time. “The hippo then veered off the road and disappeared into a thick copse. I was so stunned I didn't even think of taking a photo!”
Subsequent sightings and photos vindicated Morag. “To all my fellow Hills&Dalers who called to ask me what I smoke and drink at seven in the morning - can I now please be released from the looney bin?” she retorted. That stretch of track has since been dubbed Hippo Road.
There seem to be more than one hippo in the area. Pics of two adults and a juvenile were taken in a dam on nearby Gomes' quarry and a hippo has been spotted regularly in various dams on Northern farm. The Northern Farm fence is flattened sporadically as Mr/Mrs Hippo decides to try another dam in the area for size and quality. Efforts to capture it have failed.
We took a photo of the hippo on Northern Farm on Sunday morning, 9 October. It was grazing in a field of lucerne while we were riding our bikes! We have seen it a couple of times before in the water but were really surprised to see it grazing in broad daylight at about 10am. Penny Hoets, Carlswald
Home-made, home-grown, local talent and enterprise - that's what's on sale and on show at the HillDilly Country Market on October 23. The Market is twinned with Artists in the Veld - six artists with very different approaches to art!
The Market is held in Hills and Dales in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy, set under shady trees in the Waaigras Farm gardens. Come and sample the following:
The Luscious Lemon Stall - lemonade, crunchies, lemon meringue, juicy lemons
The “Eendag” Dairy Stall - fresh milk, "kraphoenders", cream cheese, yoghurt, eggs, milk tart
Veggies, seedlings, herbs, plants, seeds
Your personal Poem - have a special poem written just for you!
Homemade Christmas cards, bookmarks, birthday calendars, jewellery, books
Homemade gingerbeer, juices, beaded tins for candles
Treasures from Granny's House - linen, antique/old china, audio & video tapes, books
Flavours Deli - chutneys, jams, preserves, pickles, biscotti, salad dressings, herbs and berry seedlings
A selection of knives
Lena's Homebaking - everything that used to flow abundantly from Granny's pantry, jam, rusks, curried beans, canned fruit, pies, tarts, biscuits and koeksisters
Fudge, meringues, cupcakes
Lots of space for kids to play and for the rugby fans a big screen will be set up to view the final game.
The six artists are Jeanette Horn, Paula Tetluk, Stephan van der Merwe, Antonike, Dawn Dale and Karin Scheepers. Jeanette was the sole exhibitor at the first HillDilly Market and the combination of art and market proved to be a winner. Marketers bought art and art lovers snapped up the local delicacies!
Sneak a preview at the following websites:
Phone 082 657 2120 to check on what the weather is doing!
“Our society is dominated by the pressure to produce and consume. The world glorifies and measures itself against the affluent nations - looking to them as a moral compass. Yet it is those same affluent nations who consume the majority of the world’s resources and whose people increasingly abandon faith in the divine for a commodity fetishism. As we approach COP17 we have a responsibility to speak for future generations. We need to protect our world and its peoples from the unsustainable exploitation that dominates the world’s economies.” Jesuit Institute
The fourth annual Ride the Rhenoster mountain bike ride faced stiff competition from the Rugby World Cup on 11 September but those who chose the wild blue yonder throroughly enjoyed the challenge. And a challenge it was, agreed a few who brought up the rear, panting back to Hennops River School!
Mountainbikers as a breed are decent people, but their reputation is marred by some arrogant individuals. Special permission is requested from and granted by local landowners for Ride the Rhenoster to cross their private properties once a year. This favour is now abused by riders who regularly climb over fences and gates. This may lead to the Ride being cancelled next year, denying the opportunity to hundreds of cyclists.
Any advice from the cycling fraternity?
Contributed by Glyn French, Kalkheuvel
The ecological importance of fallen wood and dead trees is seldom considered.
They are condos for birds, small mammals, reptiles and arthropods. Dead trees play a critical role for a variety of nesting birds. Removing them reduces nesting space for both cavity and branch-fork nesters. In our area Pearl-spotted and Scops owls use holes in dead trees, Spotted eagle owls use natural tree cavities. Striped and Woodland kingfishers often use holes previously excavated by Barbets as do African and Wood hoopoes. Gnarled and twisted trees form natural cavities favoured by hornbills, whose very particular needs make it difficult for them to find suitable sites. Barbets, who so many others rely on for their RDP houses, seek out dead trees or dead branches. Arboreal Woodpeckers take turns excavating nesting holes, generally preferring dead wood.
When we first came to Hills and Dales (umpteen years ago) we occasionally used to see groups of Cape Vultures circling high above us. Sometimes they would alight on the huge pylons on the boundary of Northern Farm. It was a privilege to have them, the only endemic vulture species in Southern Africa. But they have long since disappeared from here. Now they are classified as “vulnerable”, with their numbers declining and facing continual threats from poisoning by farmers, use of their parts by muti gatherers and electrocution through collisions with high-tension cables.
Cody the Vulture is famous for his public appearances.
A winner! The Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy was thrilled to receive prize money of R20 000 at the biennial MTK (Mma Tshepo Khumbane) Awards, organised by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD).
The RNC won first prize out of 16 entries in the category, Best Environmental Awareness, for its 10 year long effort to foster a positive and proactive response to alien invader species. The Conservancy is custodian of some of the last extensive tracts of Egoli Granite Grassland, a threatened vegetation type which only occurs in Gauteng. Invaders such as Pompom are a major threat to grasslands.
The 2011 winners were announced on 13 October at a lively ceremony attended by 500 people at the Turffontein Race Course. The awards serve to recognize and reward individuals, communities and schools that take responsibility for their environment and for people in their care. The competition, named in honour of 74 year-old Mma Tshepo Khumbane, the pioneer of the Water for Food Movement, is growing in popularity. This year 142 entries were received from across Gauteng.
RNC's winning awareness programme comprised of regular stories and photographs that appeared in Karee Chronicle (2000 - 2005), in VeldTalk and on the Conservancy websites: www.rnc.za.net and www. rhenosterspruit.co.za, as well as extensive eradication programmes run annually. The websites provide detailed information to assist in the identification of aliens species, the correct time and method to treat invaders plus a list of appropriate herbicides.
Helen Duigan and Fransa Cole receive the Best Environmental Awareness Award on behalf of the RNC
Over the years the Conservancy provided landowners with access to trained and equipped teams to tackle the problem. These were available "at cost" and were supervised, so there was no additional burden to the landowner. A selection of the articles on invaders may be viewed on www.rnc.za.net .
Conservancy committee members have played a major role in tackling invaders. Lynne Clark of Kalkheuvel inspired the first large-scale intervention. In the year that followed, Mercia Komen (Doornrandje) trained unemployed women to identify Pompom, spray them and cut the flower heads to be burned.
Niko Knigge, also from Doornrandje, spearheaded the following year's effort. Areas were assessed, landowners were given quotes and trained teams were deployed to treat Pompom, Verbena and Lantana.
During the past season Fransa Cole (Riverside Estates) and a work team of five unemployed people cleared around 200 ha of Pompom in the Oori Game Reserve. Ten more landowners tackled their own properties. About 200 black bags of Pompom heads were burnt to prevent further infestation.
Special thanks also to all those landowners who tackle their own properties, year after year, often at a cost of thousands of rands.