A young Angora ram from Prince Albert has been presented to King Letsie III of Lesotho. This gesture was made by the Ladybrand-based agricultural company, OVK, (Oos Vrystaat Kaap Bedryf Ltd), as part of its efforts to promote wool and mohair production in the Mountain Kingdom. The ram came from the Van Hasselts in Prince Albert, who are widely known for breeding high quality stock and the presentation was made when OVK presented plans and proposals for increasing market share in Lesotho to the king and other dignitaries. In a news story on Radio OFM, James de Jager, an OVK and Cape Mohair and Wool (CMW) executive, said: “Lesotho is the second largest mohair producer in the world and our greatest partner in this market sector.” He also stated that OVK planned to open a branch in Maseru soon.


War Horse, the prestigious show currently wowing South African audiences, has a Karoo connection. One of the cast members who controls the puppet horse’s head and brings it to life is Richard Vorster, whose father farms at Graaff-Reinet. He is the only South African in the cast of the touring company of this production which, since it opened in 2007, has been seen by over two million people in London, and more than five million worldwide. The wood, cane, nylon and leather puppet horse has three sections – the head, the heart and the hind. It is operated by two teams of three puppeteers who work very closely together. Manipulation of this life-size animal is extremely challenging. Richard, who almost qualified as an accountant, but moved to the UK in 2008 to study acting, was delighted when he landed this prized role. In an interview with James Oatway in the Sunday Times of November 2, he said: “Physically the role of manipulating the horse’s head is immensely demanding. A great deal of stamina is needed to hold your arms above your head for almost two hours. This is immensely taxing and tiring. The ‘hind’ squats a great deal, so his legs take the strain and the ‘heart’s’ arms, chest and back have to be very strong because he makes the horse breathe.” Richard brings the horse to life through fine ear twitches, neck, muscle and leg movements. He also “voices” the horse through neighs, screams, snorts and grunts. The puppet horses were created by South Africans Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, directors of Handspring Puppet Company in Cape Town and acknowledged masters of the art of puppetry. Casting each puppeteer is a nine-hour ordeal – a three-hour audition and two three-hour call backs. Hundreds of elite actors who vie for the 12 roles need to prove sensitivity, skill, tenacity and strength of character.


The Southern Cape branch of the Simon van der Stel Foundation invited Stellenbosch-based, cultural historian, Professor Matilda Burden to address its meeting at the George Museum on November 10. At this meeting, hosted in conjunction with the Outeniqua Historical Society, the George Heritage Trust and the George Genealogical Society, Professor Burden, a recognized authority, will discuss Cape architecture and furniture styles. Her book on old Cape furniture, published in 2013, is highly prized by all interested in this subject. Professor Burden will also guide a tour along Caledon Street to discuss the various architectural styles.


The Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University is making a PhD and MA (Sociology) bursaries available for the 2015 academic year. These 100% thesis bursaries, available to South African citizens or permanent residents, are for the Cosmopolitan Countryside Research Programme. It addresses changing relationships to land, place and identity within the Karoo regions of the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape in the context of significant social, economic and environmental change and contested notions of ‘development’ and belonging. Two primary research areas have been identified. One is the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope project and the other is shale-gas (fracking) prospecting. The PhD bursary is worth R90,000 per annum for three years and the MA bursaries R40,000 per annum for two years. Additional funds are available to support research-related costs, field work and conference attendance.


Cecil Blevi at Doornkuil farm is already planning two exciting creative art workshops for next year. The first, led by Clare Menck is scheduled for March 30 to April 3, 2015. The medium will be oils and the theme water. The course costs from R4800 to R5800 including accommodation, meals and full access to farm activities. The second course scheduled for May 4 to 8 covers Land Art. Conducted by Strijdom van der Merwe it will accommodate only eight participants who will spend a great deal of time in the veld.


The annual Prince Albert Leesfees, (Literary Festival) took place from November 7 to 9. It featured some exciting reading and top authors. Among them were Carol Campbell (Esther’s House), Dennis Cruywagen (Brothers in War and Peace), François Smith (Kamphoer), Thomas Mollett (Bloody Lies – the murder of student Inge Lotz), Toni Younghusband (Wallop! An Advertising Phenomenon called Rightford Searle-Tripp Makin), Matilda Burden (Ou-Kaapse Meubels), Daniel Hugo, translator of The Keeper/Die Bewaker and Die Roebaijat van Omar Khajjam), Marthie Maré (Legkaart Van Jou Gesig/Your Face Puzzle), Eldridge Jason (Gerook), Barbara Castle (Finding My Own Way to Happy and Gay) and Jeanette de Lange (Ek en jy, jy en ek).


On November 1, three motor biking enthusiasts set off on a two-week ride across the Karoo. Dirk Ackerman, Nicholas Yell and Jaco Loots will collect roadkill data for the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and highlight the plight of wildlife on South African roads during this 5 000 round trip which started in Aberdeen. Their route will take them through Uniondale, Willowmore, Middlepos, Beaufort West, Merweville, Sutherland, Kenhardt, Brandvlei, Verneuk Pan, Luckhoff, Prieska, Hopetown, Schoombee, Trompsburg, Aliwal North, Cradock and Pearston. It can be followed on Facebook and Twitter. The EWT started a national campaign to collect roadkill data about a year ago. They also appealed to the public by reporting sightings and this has been most successful. Organizer Wendy Collinson said: “We even have volunteers collecting data in Namibia and Botswana. The information will help us identify ‘roadkill hotspot’ areas.” Members of the public who record and submit sightings between November 1, 2014 and January 31, 2015, will be eligible for some exciting prizes


Ever heard of a salted horse? This term was used in South Africa in the 19th century and referred to any horse that had suffered and survived horse sickness. These horses were much in demand among early hunters and transport riders as they proved to be immune to diseases of the road and resistant to virtually all other ailments suffered by transport animals of the time.


During the Anglo-Boer War Pieter Johannes Olivier, who farmed on Kweekwa in the Victoria West district, was arrested, charged with spying and thrown in jail. He was dumfounded particularly when he was accused of sending Morse Code messages about British troop movements in the district to the Boers at night. Pieter, a law-abiding man and prosperous farmer, took no side in the conflict. He was a forward-thinking individual who had imported an American wind mill to pump water for his 204 horses and other livestock. Shortly after being jailed without a hearing, he was released on parole, but confined to town. He learned his stock had been commandeered and only four donkeys left on his farm. He was devastated. Only after the war did Pieter learn the reason for his arrest states Marthinus van Baart in a story, researched by Elbie Immelman, and published in Vir Vryheid en Vir Reg and more recently in the Cape Rebel. It seems that on one moonlit night, British soldiers in the area spotted flashes of the light at night and assumed Pieter was using a lamp to send Morse Code messages to the Boers. In actual fact this was moon light flashing intermittently as the blades of the wind mill turned in a gentle Karoo breeze.


The Giant South African Flag, being laid out near the Valley of Desolation, in Graaff-Reinet, has gained a great deal of publicity in the Press as well as on radio and television. Backed by Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) and several other sponsors, this R170-million, world first, man-made phenomenon, termed a legacy project, has captured the imaginations of many. The flag, designed to celebrate the spirit of South Africa, will be created using millions of different coloured succulent plants, It will be l km long, 0,6km high and the size of 66 soccer fields. The black part will house a four- megawatt solar farm, an administration block, conference centre, boutique hotel, rental space for SMMEs, training facilities and commercial enterprises. The white parts of the flag will be “walk through” roads for tourists. Hailed as a “green innovation” and natural wonder this project is designed to create economic stimulus for disadvantaged communities, eliminate poverty through job creation, enhance skills and encourage tourism as well as awareness of environmental and climate change. The public can become part of the flag, which will be seen from space by purchasing a plant, a walkway or specific sector.


South Africa’s first Jewish wedding was quite unusual. In 1844 when Michael Benjamin, of Grahamstown, decided to marry Amelia Marcus, there was a slight hitch. South Africa had no rabbi perform the ceremony. Rev George Hough, senior Colonial Anglican chaplan was called upon to do the honours on June 19. He left out parts of the ceremony which might have offended the couple and their guests writes Louis Herrman in A history of the Jews in South Africa. “Once the law of the land was satisfied the ceremony was repeated according to the ancient laws of Moses and Israel.”


The extreme Mountain Bike Race – To Hell and Back – is scheduled for November 15 and 16. This exciting race to Gamkaskloof and back started in 1994, when two mountain bike enthusiasts decided it would be a wonderful way to promote visits to the isolated valley. It was. In time the race became an annual event attracting bikers who enjoy challenging routes


Karoo experts, Chris and Julie Marais, recommend The Karoo Heartland Route. They have just cruised it from Cradock through Graaff-Reinet, Aberdeen, Willowmore, Steylerville, Somerset East, Jansenville and Pearston. “We’d like to officially put it on record as one of the best tourism experiences in the country,” said Chris. “It is packed with warmhearted people, big skies and interesting towns.”


British soldiers serving in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War did not spend all their time in camp or slogging across the veld, there was times to play sport. According to Stephen Miller’s Volunteers on the Veld Lt Brian Alt, of the CIV, brought a football with him and this afforded his colleagues a great deal of pleasure. Lt C S Awdry, First Battalion Imperial Yeomanry, and Harold Hosling, First Norfolk Regiment, both wrote of playing cricket against the locals and squads raised by other British regiments. The 17th Imperial Yeomanry (Ayr and Lanark) Company played rugby against men from Wellington and the 14th (Northumberland) Company reported enjoying a boxing match against some Tasmanians. Yeomanry soldiers wrote of playing rounders, fishing, swimming, hunting, wrestling and playing tug-of-war as well as running obstacle and other races. H R Lister of the CIV described the game, “Alarm”. In it men had to run to their horses, saddle up, and ride off to a predetermined point. Cholondeley, a type of relay race that also involved riding and volley firing was popular, so was the pipe and boot race. This involved finding your boots, lighting your pipe and then running to a judge while keeping the tobacco burning. Other forms of entertainment included smoking, singing, storytelling, charades, card games and reading, states Miller.


In 1920 a pair of mute swans, being sent from England, escaped from their crate during a storm as the ship transporting them rounded Cape St Francis. They flew to land and settled on a large farm dam near Humansdorp. There they built a nest and bred. They later moved to the Kromme River where their numbers slowly increased and in time a colony of about 80 birds was formed. Local residents became so proud of these birds that they applied to Dr Nico Malan, the then Administer of the Cape, to protect them from poachers, states an item in Test the Team. In 1952 Dr Malan issued a proclamation declaring the mute swans protected birds and making them the only foreign species granted this status in the Cape, stated Dr Douglas Hey, a retired director of Nature Conservation. The mute swan is one of the heaviest flying birds. Mute swans can be seen near Plettenberg Bay, at the Birds of Eden sanctuary, the biggest single free flight aviary in the world.


The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Cape Critical Rivers (CCR) project has been created to establish how much water actually is in the rivers of the Kouebokkeveld. “This is a critical to effectively managing water resources to the benefit of people and the environment in this water stressed area, heart of the fruit growing area.” said researcher Alwyn Lubbe. The CCR team accompanied hydraulics engineer Martin Kleynhans and a team from the Department of Water Affairs, to undertake a topographical survey of selected rivers identified as National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas. “The surveys will provide baseline data which will enable accurately calculations to be made regarding the volume and timing of flows in these rivers throughout the year,” said Alwyn. “The surveys will ‘map’ cross-sections of the rivers from the ‘water’s point of view’. This will allow researchers to digitally model water movement from the smallest trickles in the dry season, to raging torrents during winter storms. This information is critical for developing a better understanding of rivers and their capacities so that sufficient water can be available to systems and species dependent on them. This survey is the first of its kind to be undertaken,” said Alwyn.


St John’s in Bathurst is said to be the oldest unaltered Anglican church in South Africa. It provided sanctuary for hundreds of settlers during the Frontier Wars of 1834, 1846 and 1851. Visitors often try to find the “church mouse” on the west wall. Bathurst’s Wesleyan Chapel, built by Samuel Bradshaw, opened in 1832, and was besieged in the Frontier Wars.

We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it – George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion.