Tag Archives: Suurbraak

No one can tame a fence like Japie Presence

If you live in Suurbraak or its environs and need a fence constructed or repaired, a chicken hok rooikat or otter-proofed, bollards constructed or your lawn mowed, then Japie Presence is your man.

Jakob Present repairing a chicken hok
A rooikat (caracel or African lynx) took out my two ducks one night after the other. Jakob knew what I was up against, fortified the gate using a bent dropper I had on hand and ensured the base around the cage was impregnable and end of problem
Jacob goat-proofing a fence
Freyja the goat was a real pest as she insisted on jumping the perimeter fence in order to feast inside. Jakob improvised and end of problem
Otter that killed ducks and chickens on a neighbouring farm
This otter terrorized neighbours Mark and Dori wiping out almost their entire poultry operation. I recommended Jakob who then ensured that the chicken coop was otter-proof

Japie, whose real name is Jacob (or Jakob in Afrikaans) is a man of many talents. Consequently he has been a boon to me. For instance it was he who noticed that the metal chimney to my Dover stove was rusted and needing replacing. He did a MacGyver and it not only no longer leaks but pulls far better than it did.

On request Jakob also arrives with his weed eater and will do an excellent job mowing your lawn.

He’ll also tends to the garden, rakes leaves and will prune your fruit trees.

For big jobs he’ll quote, but also has a daily rate. If his quotation isn’t to your liking please engage with him as he is open to discussing his and your needs to ensure that neither is short-changed.

If you need to contact him leave a note below and I’ll get back to you with his mobile number.

LinkedIn Learning is a life-changer – or was, for me

This unsolicited post will argue that you should take out a trial subscription to LinkedIn Learning to rivet those joints: yours and/or your employees

Photography has featured strongly in much of my working career in education (photographic clubs, school magazines, newspapers, newsletters, websites, press releases and social media), so I reckon I knew something about how to shoot a reasonable image.

However, mine was always just-in-time learning based on a lifetime of hands-on, manuals, physical courses, YouTube and Adobe Support videos.

In short: Heath Robinson.

So my scaffolding has taken some strain over the years and, then, a short while ago, it collapsed (well kinda – I know I’m dramatizing, but it certainly felt that way) on a photoshoot suggested by long-time friend, Ken Barris, of the Swartberg Pass to Prince Albert where, throughout, I had enormous difficulty coaxing the kind of images I wanted from my Nikon D800E and two prime lenses, whereas Ken was in his element (refer the photo above and the credit below).

Since then, defeated and depressed, my camera mostly remained in its bag.

In the meantime, however, I had an upcoming commission by Peter Baker – who, with Darryl David, put together the annual Booktown Richmond in the Northern Cape, South Africa – to shoot and report on another chapter of Bookbedonnerd. That, and encouragement by conversations with Ken, convinced me to take the financial plunge, and I purchased a 24-85mm medium zoom.

Additionally I signed up for a monthly LinkedIn Learning subscription (which enticingly comes with a free one-month introduction and the option to cancel anytime). After providing my payment details I logged in, listed my training needs (Photography, Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, WordPress, and Premier Elements) and was presented with abundance: hundreds, if not thousands of full-length courses to choose from.

I followed their recommendation which was tutoring by Ben Long, and selected his Photography Foundations: Exposure, Photography Foundations: Lenses and Nikon D800 Essential Training. Additionally I worked my way through Morten Rand-Hendriksen’s WordPress Essential Training and WordPress Themes: Twenty Fourteen.

I was blown away at how professional, comprehensive, accessible and helpful all the courses were.

My modus operandi was to work through each course – not skipping a single lesson – even though I thought I knew something about the topic in question, and I’m glad I did it that way because I was then able to rebuild from the ground up thus trading Heath Robinson for solidity and elegance.

I don’t in this post wish to run myself down completely because I do suspect I’m not the only one depending on rickety scaffolding. My sense is successful people mostly play to their strengths. In fact a colleague, Alixe Lowenherz, once suggested that most everybody in IT in those early days was flying by the seat of their pants.

And it’s because I suspect I’m not unique, and that we’re all a little rusty or rickety that I’m recommending you, too, sign up to LinkedIn Learning.

LinkedIn Learning is a professional, polished and comprehensive LMS (learning management system) with courses on every topic under the sun – it seems, so if you own a business or are responsible for training in your company I would like to make one further suggestion: their staff option. It’ll return dividends.

Bookbedonnerd? Didn’t make it. My car broke down. But I do have some nice goat pics.

Goats ‘oor die rivier’ (across the river) from Suurbraak

Photo credit: feature image at the head of this post of me not getting it together on the Swartberg Pass was shot by Ken Barris who was in top form

The Buffeljags is running dry

“This is the first time in 30 years the river has been this low,” reports Bertrim Oliver, who lives in Suurbraak, a small village that straddles the Buffelags Rivers on the way to or from Barrydale in the Western Cape.

Where I live, in line with the confluence of the Caledon and Buffelags, neither river seems to flow anymore, and the Buffeljags is fast drying up.

Where the Caledon River meets the Buffeljags in Suurbraak

“Never seen it this bad,” comments Matthew Mentz, “but we have had worse droughts, which makes me think water tables are disappearing.”

The Municipality of Swellendam administers Suurbraak and supplies farmers and all of us who live ‘oor die rivier’ (across the river from the village) with irrigation water from the Buffeljags, which they pump to a storage dam up the hill.

When the level falls below the pump feed we on this side of the river will be in trouble as the irrigation dam water is our only source – unless we have rainwater tanks of sufficient capacity.

Buffeljags in line with the pump station in Suurbraak

Organic farmers, Mark and Dori September, are therefore at risk.

Dori and I spoke with the Suurbraak Municipal Manager, Desmond Marais, about the situation. Marais confirmed that bulk water is available from Swellendam (purchasable via the Municipal cash office).

Caledon River that runs close to the plot where I stay in Suurbraak

Update, Wednesday 2018-11-21

Two days later the heavens opened (see below), and it then poured throughout most of the night.

Rain collecting around the cob house

The next morning, what do we see:

The Buffeljags flowing strongly over the weir in Suurbraak

In view of the comment below by Carol Browne in response to Matt’s hypothesis about groundwater levels mentioned above, it will be interesting to monitor for how long the flow continues.

The featured image at the head of this post is of Dori and Mark’s and my goats surveying the new geography of the Buffeljags

This is a developing story.


A hidden geography

The longer I live alone here, off-grid in Suurbraak, managing my son (Matt) and daughter-in-law’s (Sasha) small Niche Unity farming operation, the more absorbed I become in what I call a hidden geography, captured also in a short film by Green Renaissance:

 

Ostensibly, the film is a creation of Justine du Toit (producer), Michael Raimondo (director), Warren Smart (cinematographer), and Jackie Viviers (editor) all of Green Renaissance.

Back left clockwise: Jackie Viviers (editor), Michael Raimondo (director), Justine du Toit (producer) and Warren Smart (cinematographer)

My sense, however, is of deeper processes at work. Let me try to explain.

Seeing

For me the film was uncanny, as I had been looking for both pairs of my glasses up until minutes before Justine and Michael’s arrival to show me the rough cut of their movie. While searching, the question popped into my mind: ‘Hendrik, what aren’t you seeing?’, and then as if to reinforce the question halfway through their movie hanging in the barn were my glasses.

Déjà vu

For me seeing my glasses hanging in the barn evoked a sense of déjà vu, but what of the viewer?

The film opens in darkness, with nothing to see, just the sound of milking: ‘whoosh, whoosh’, cut to (narrative text is indicated in italics): And there’s nothing else, just you in this goat world, cut to Daisy’s eyes looking over the gate at the three of us inside the barn (Daisy is the matriarch) followed by the piano score and movie title, What actually IS superimposed over a close-up of a rather sinister image of one of the goat’s eyes (see the screen grab below),

What aren’t we seeing?

perhaps reminding us that goats are intimately associated with the occult – as in that which is hidden.

My sense is that the tension set up by the goats’ eyes juxtaposed with the glasses hanging in the barn lie at the heart of this little movie.

Loss

So if the movie is about seeing, what should we be seeing?
Is it a case of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get): photogenic goats, an old man sounding off, footage of the luscious Suurbraak valley or is what we should be seeing invisible: as in that from which the visible emerges (the surrounding darkness out of which the goat’s eye peers, comes to mind)?

Certainly it’s not WYSIWYG, as the tight edits, narrative and voice-overs signal: It’s deep, deep stuff (Kashkha looking back into the camera). Humans have lost respect for animals (Daisy looking into the barn). Batteries and feedlots… If we don’t look after our animals and we just turn them into food factories … (aforementioned glasses, fade to antique Chinese urn, fade to transgenerational photographic image of Matthew glass raised as if toasting his father, fade to steaming clay and ash espresso cup from the Camino, referencing Sasha, born French, fade to barometer indicating stormy).

For me the movie reaches into what is below the surface and has been lost.

Hidden geography

So what has been lost?

I spend most of my day caring for and thinking about the needs of all the animals on the farm. They, in turn, are continuously conscious of my presence.

Each provides a gateway to other, or what might traditionally be described as God. I provide the animals with a sense of security, governance and routine. They put me in touch with that which is primordial (William Blake’s The Tyger comes to mind). This mutuality is the hidden geography.

This self-same geography Justine most likely sensed when she interjected: “If only we had had a camera here to capture your saying that.” Michael’s searching interview questions that evoked my responses helped articulate it. Warren’s saturated, pregnant footage conveyed it. Justine and Michael’s brief to Jackie must have spoken to it. Jackie’s uncanny, David Lynchian edits framed it.

All mentioned above, as also the goats, sensing something important was happening, helped us see: if we don’t respect them …the animals are lost, and their loss is our loss.

Suurbraak rolling mass action: a commentary

Commentary on the march held in Suurbraak Sunday 14 May, 2017.

This report provides:

  1. commentary on the march
  2. commentary on the period shortly after the march ended
  3. commentary on the handover of the list of demands
  4. update on the racial incident
  5. ruminations about  where this is all heading

To read about and see footage and images of the march for housing, upon which this report is based, please go to: Ons soek huise’: Suurbraak march for housing

1. The march itself

Politics vs the community: Whereas earlier I had had grave misgivings about the possibility of party political interference in community affairs and/or the stoking of pockets of discontent within the Suurbraak community the march was, instead, from the outside, community driven; kudos therefore to the organisers for getting the community behind them on the matter of housing. Continue reading Suurbraak rolling mass action: a commentary

‘Ons soek huise’: Suurbraak march for housing

This report gives you a taste of the day as it happened and is divided into three sections:

  1. The march itself
  2. Shortly after the march ended
  3. Handover of the letter of demand

For commentary on the day please go to: Suurbraak rolling mass action: a commentary

1. The march itself

The organisers of Sunday’s protest march in Suurbraak (14 May 2017) were the SYM (Suurbraak Youth Movement chaired by Donovan Julius) and the SCA (Suurbraak Civic Association chaired by Burton Beukes). Both these organisations can feel justly proud of what they achieved. Apart from one troubling incident, about which I’ll report below, the march was efficiently managed and executed.

The organisers amassed an impressive Suurbraak-style turnout comprising children, young men and women, middle aged and the elderly following in cars, bakkies and on a truck. In fact I felt quite sorry for the kids who must have been forbidden by their parents to take part and who watched the passing cavalcade with longing.

Click on the window below in order to see footage of the march.

2. Shortly after the march had ended

Continue reading ‘Ons soek huise’: Suurbraak march for housing

Reasons for, report on, and thoughts about the Suurbraak protest

I reported earlier how I came away troubled from a meeting I had attended two weeks back called by the Swellendam executive mayor, Councillor Nicholas Myburgh, to address a host of community-related issues.

Flowing from that meeting was a protest action this past Sunday 7 May 2017, which ended in the symbolic burning of a banner depicting Swellendam Municipality.

As has repeatedly been demonstrated, Suurbraak is a microcosm of the whole. This being so, I believe this current protest enables us to understand why this country is imperilled. I therefore urge you to read my earlier post (Canaries in the Suurbraak coalmine) as background to this report.

In order for this all to make sense I shall:

  • briefly describing Suurbraak, its history and its people
  • provide some background to some of the issues that surfaced during the protest
  • provide a synopsis, from memory, of what happened during the protest
  • try to pull together all the threads and show, as I see it, why this process holds significance for Suurbraak and South Africa as a whole

Continue reading Reasons for, report on, and thoughts about the Suurbraak protest

Housing protest in Suurbraak

A demonstration is planned (at 14:00 on Sunday 7 May 2017) on the Suurbraak braak (village green) to which the press has been invited in order to protest the non-delivery of housing because (as I understand the talk) of alleged routing of sums of money meant to be utilised for Suurbraak (an ANC-controlled ward) for use in Swellendam (run by the DA), to the detriment of the people of Suurbraak, and of housing.

Insinuations along similar lines were levelled during a report-back called by the Swellendam mayor, Nicholas Myburgh, on Monday 24 April 20917, to respond to a range of Ward related issues (see an earlier post).

Yesterday afternoon I took a look see, was warmly welcomed by members of the Birds of Xairu who, when asked who was the boss and from whom should I seek permission to take pictures, replied that the community was in charge and that I was welcome to take these pictures of preparations for Sunday’s protest: Continue reading Housing protest in Suurbraak

Canaries in the Suurbraak coalmine

I came away troubled from a meeting I attended on Monday 24 April 2017 in the Suurbraak community hall called by the Swellendam executive mayor, councillor Nicholas Myburgh, to address a host of community-related issues.

After prayers the meeting immediately turned ugly when Myburgh laid down the rules: only three questions allowed for each point on the agenda, the meeting would end promptly by 21:00, if we didn’t abide by these rules he would pack up and drive off.

There was an immediate outcry slamming Myburgh’s attitude. Somewhat chastened, Myburgh adopted a more conciliatory approach although his persona slipped at times within a context where it appeared that there was at least one individual present whose goal seemed to be to stoke emotions.

The dark mood of the meeting constellated around five issues: heritage, services, oor die rivier (over the river), housing and fluisteringe (whisperings)

Heritage

There were repeated references to Suurbraak’s heritage. For instance, the aforementioned gentleman complained about hideous Eskom electricity poles which he believed detracted from the character of Suurbraak. Heritage or precedent underpinned many of the other issues raised, as in: this is the way it has been for generations why these incursions, fences and/or rules? Continue reading Canaries in the Suurbraak coalmine

Portent

I manage a small agroecology farming operation in Suurbraak on behalf of my son (Matt) and daughter-in-law (Sasha). On my return Japie Present reported that when he had tried to secure the ducks and chickens for the night he wasn’t able to find the fourth duck.

Continue reading Portent