A second edition of Karoo Veld Ecology and Management is being published. This well-illustrated, 224 page, full-colour book, edited by Karen Esler, Sue Milton and Richard Dean, is available in English or Afrikaans, from Briza Publications. It costs R169-95. Karoo Veld outlines veld management and assessment approaches for a wide geographical area of arid South Africa, ranging from the vygie veld of Namaqualand, through the Great Karoo to the grassier parts of the eastern Karoo. The book is designed to assist practical and ambitious land users to apply ecologically friendly veld management techniques and to evaluate the effects of grazing and veld restoration. It will also interest anyone who needs to estimate the potential and suitability of land for new enterprises, as well as those generally curious about the Karoo. Generously illustrated with colour photographs, figures and maps, the book has sections dealing with Karoo veld ecology, veld management, veld assessment and monitoring. Appendices provide information on palatability of common Karoo plants, invasive alien weeds and large Stock Unit equivalents for small stock and game. There is also a brief reference guide to common Karoo plants. Karen J. Esler, an associate professor of Conservation Ecology at the University of Stellenbosch, says her interest in the Karoo stems back to the time when she was studying at the University of Cape Town and when she completed her PhD (1993) on vegetation dynamics at Tierberg, the Karoo Biome Project research site in the Succulent Karoo. Sue Milton and Richard Dean co-authored the first edition of Karoo Veld which grew out of their involvement with the Karoo Biome Project, a National Research Foundation study, initiated in 1987 at the Tierberg field site near Prince Albert. The research stimulated a great deal of interest in the ways in which organisms interact and respond to rainfall, drought and grazing management. Sue is a freelance researcher, lecturer and consultant. Richard, an ornithologist at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, recently co-edited the 2005 revision of Roberts’ Birds of South Africa. His main field of interest is studying the biology of birds and plant-animal interactions in arid and semi-arid ecosystems. He recently edited a synthesis of research in the Karoo with Sue. In 2004 he wrote a book on nomadic desert birds, published by Springer in Berlin.


There is an interesting place to stop on the road so often disparagingly referred to as “The Road of Death. It is the Leeu Gamka Indigenous Nursery, now being run be Charlotte Olivier who, until she married a local farmer last year, ran the Prince Albert Tourist Information Office. “This nursery started in 1998, when a concerted effort was being made throughout the Karoo to rid the region of alien trees, such as the Prosopis, that was choking waterways,” says Charlotte. “The Karoo badly needs shade, so alternative trees had to be planted. The local Dutch Reformed church decided to provide saplings for this purpose and almost before they knew it a nursery was born. Today we have about ten “Kweekhuise” (greenhouses) where we grow a variety of indigenous plants, such as geraniums. We are the only succulent nursery on the N1.” Leeu Gamka Indigenous Nursery has an interesting variety of succulents on offer, as well as more than 40 aloe species. “We try to encourage people to plant indigenous trees. We also encourage people of the Karoo, as well as those who visit from other arid areas, such as the Free State, to create waterwise gardens,” says Charlotte, who writes a monthly newsletter on the nursery covering some of the interesting plants and special offers. She looks forward to hearing from anyone who wishes to be on the mailing list. We have a small tea garden and invite any plant enthusiast travelling the busy N1 to pause, enjoy the plants and enjoy some refreshments in a relaxing atmosphere. Quite frankly we need people to spend a little time and money with us. Our local communities not only need this, they depend on it.”


Delicious Travel, written by South African freelance broadcaster, writer and restaurant critic, Gwynne Conlon, has won a Gourmand World Cookbook Award for 2005. Announcing this in Madrid, Edouard Cointreau, President of Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, said “South Africa, has become a high level international culinary destination, with great chefs and good authors.” Delicious Travel is now automatically entered into the competition’s “Best in the World” category where it will compete against 23 other winners from around the world. The overall winner will be announced at a gala dinner in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 21 May 2006. Delicious Travel, which takes its readers to remote places, some of them in the Karoo, competed against cookbooks from seven countries outside the United States and the United Kingdom (which have their own categories). Over 6 000 entries were received from 65 countries.


Loxton, one of the largest garlic-producing areas in South Africa, offers visitors a range of tasty treats. Annetjie van Wyk, of Karoo Garlic, (Tel No 053-381-3100), makes garlic relishes, pickled garlic, and garlic-olive, as well as garlic-chilli pastes. Traditional home-made pickles, jams, marmalades and other products, such as catawba or crab apple jellies are made by Helen Naude, at Best of Karoo, (Tel No. 083-583-1870). A qualified aromatherapist and reflexologist, she also offers therapeutic and relaxing treatments, and a range of aromatherapy hand, foot and face creams. Karoo Images, studio of photo-journalists Steve and Brent Moseley, has a range of articles and pictures to tempt visitors to travel further.


A renewed interest in the tiny Karoo villages is bringing tourists to places like Loxton. The town started in 1899, when the Dutch Reformed Church bought Phezantefontein from A E Loxton and, as a tribute, named the village in his honour. Despite the 1961 flood that devastated many of the earliest houses, sufficient remain for visitors to enjoy typical vernacular Karoo architecture. Different veranda and roof styles give Loxton an old-world atmosphere. Verandas were central to Karoo social life. The ideal spot to entertain visitors, most had diamond windows in their end walls, and these proved an ideal place to take a peek at who was calling on the neighbours. The oldest building, Phezantefontein’s original horse stable, now part of the old power station, still stands at the end of Magrieta Prinsloo Street. There is also an old hand-operated water pump in Church Street, once part of the transport route across the Karoo. In its day this pump provided welcome water to travellers, their horses and draft animals. A dam was built in 1912 and water was relayed to the village in wooden pipes. Part of this pipeline is still in use.


That Old Furniture Place in Murraysburg is a new shop specialising in cottage furniture. Started by Lisa McKane, it stocks predominantly Oregon pine pieces, including ‘kassies’, wardrobes, chairs and tables. In an effort to help alleviate poverty and unemployment, Lisa has a small-scale skills training project that handles minor repairs and restorations. “This ensures that each item is clean, polished and in the best possible condition, without destroying its character and charm.” Those wishing to browse can order a cup of tea or coffee. Lisa hopes to expand this service to include snacks and light lunches. She also offers self-catering, bed-and-breakfast accommodation in an en-suite bedroom at R140 per person per night.


In 1887 Karoo farmers thanked the proprietor of Waverley Mills for using their wool in its blankets. In The Beaufort Courier of June 21, 1887, they state: “At last, after a quarter of a century’s advocacy, some of our wool is being turned into blankets at Waverley Mills. We heartily congratulate the proprietor on his enterprise.” Another writer praises the Ceres factory “where pure wool blankets are sold for 5/-. They cost half the price of imported half-wool, half-cotton blankets, but are quite as warm, thick and heavy.”


“It is remarkable that Australia, now our most powerful competitor in the wool market, got her first sheep from the Cape,” writes a reader of The Beaufort Courier of February 7, 1888. “The fact is particularly interesting at the present time when Australia is stocking-up her newly-made ostrich camps with birds from the Cape. This begs the question: Will she soon beat us in feathers?”


In 1887 the Karoo was abuzz with arrangements to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. Newspapers were full of adverts regarding specific celebrations. Shops advertised fireworks, transparencies for windows, commemorative plates, mugs, lamps, flags, various fancy lights and Chinese lanterns. Royalists even proposed changing the name of the Swartberg Pass to Victoria Pass, but that was not approved. In Beaufort West Dr Davey, secretary of the Illumination Committee expressed concern: “The official programme for Jubilee Day calls for illumination from 19h00 to midnight. It will be difficult to keep every place lit up all that time,” he said in The Beaufort Courier of June 21, 1887. “I only hope that the official instructions will not be taken too literally and if someone’s lights burn out an hour or so before twelve that it will not be taken as proof of his disloyalty, and so earn him a few broken windows. Parents must inform their young men about problems surrounding illumination and impress upon them to act with discretion, so as to prevent possible trouble.” Dr Davey felt well entitled to express these concerns because only the week before “three young working men had been fined for holding a midnight orgy, creating a public disturbance in the streets and breaking the bridge near Mr W Lotter’s house.”


Vandalism is not new. At a meeting of the Beaufort West Municipality in June 1887, the town clerk was instructed to ask the owners of Stolshoek farm “whether they would kindly re-erect the beacon on the point of Platberg as it had been up-rooted and thrown down by a malicious party or parties unknown.” J A Thwaits told the Council that Platberg Beacon had been erected by land surveyor, J Auret, in 1849. “Since then almost all farmers have used it to ensure their boundaries are correct.”


By 1860 several Jewish shopkeepers, among them the Kretzmers, had opened businesses in Victoria West. A few years later the Mosenthal Brothers, pioneers of commerce in the Karoo, established a branch there to the delight of the villagers. By the time the Anglo-Boer War broke out in 1899 about 20 Jewish families had settled in Victoria West. “Old Mr Kahn,” a man who many considered the patriarch of the community, announced his intention to serve as a member of the Town Guard, “to set an example to other residents.” A Hebrew Congregation, which maintained a rabbi, who conducted regular services, was formed early in the 1900s. A cemetery was acquired in 1926 and by 1930 a decision was taken to build a synagogue. The foundation stone was laid by the congregation president Michael Jocum. According to an article in the South African Jewish Times of May 30, 1947, the most prominent members of this small, thriving community were the four Anstey brothers, Isaac, Sam, Abie, and Max, as well as F Hurwitz, J Barnett and S Weinberg, all prosperous merino farmers. Together they owned over 80 000 morgen. The Ansteys alone were said to own more than 25 000 sheep.


Some time ago two former South African’s met in Australia and commented on how many suburban names in Melbourne reminded them of places in Johannesburg. Among these were names like Richmond, Kensington, Malvern, Kew, Waverley, Forest Hill, Blairgowrie, Sandringham, Croydon and so on. The conversation sent one, Ian Kendall, off on a search to find exactly how many similar suburban place names could be found in both cities. “Believe it or not the number is as high as 20,” said Ian. “By the time I discovered this I had created an Excel spreadsheet, so I decided to enter the names for suburbs in Sydney, Adelaide, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and so on. The search became addictive and like the proverbial Topsy, my fascination with place names (and, of course my list) grew and grew. Five years down the line my spreadsheet contains over 42,000 names of suburbs from English-speaking cities around the world and I have barely started with the minor American cities. My main interest now is in places names that have a link to Scotland, places named in honour of Scots and with some kind of Scottish connection. I keep a ‘side’ file of names with Celtic links, because now and again, by some quite circuitous route, I can trace a link to Scotland.” Ian would now like to hear from anyone who can make any sort of contribution to his lists. “I would particularly love to hear from people living in the small, isolated villages in South Africa. In fact, I would love to hear from anyone, anywhere in the world, regarding place names with a Scottish connection.” Ian visited South Africa in December to spend some time with his family. While in the country he was able to do a bit of research and to give some talks on his unusual hobby.


Water bird research conducted at the Prince Albert Sewage Works has revealed some interesting results over a short period of time. “We have been counting water birds in this area every two weeks since January 2005,” Dr Richard Dean, Research Associate, at the Centre of Excellence at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. “Despite these counts having taken place over a relatively short time period, some interesting results and patterns are beginning to appear. Some of these are predictable, but others not. For example, rain in the general area has resulted in a sudden drop in numbers of all water birds, including some species, such as Cape Wagtails, that would have been expected to remain. Other disappearances are more difficult to explain. The Kittlitz’s Plovers were present in numbers the early part of 2005, but suddenly went away when there was no change in the weather. Water Dikkops (or Water Thicknees) were resident at the ponds for 10 months, despite rain elsewhere, but they too have gone away. Three-banded Plovers have shown the most striking changes in numbers. The population at the sewage works has gone from about 50 to 2. They fluctuated around six for most of the year, but have not again reached the very high numbers of January and February last year. We probably need to continue this research and collect data for another five years before we can start to make any sense of our observations. This is characteristic of any research done in an arid environment – only long-term studies can provide an understanding of what goes on in what are essentially desert bird communities.”


In April,1888, Beaufort Westers rushed to Percy Alport’s shop to buy tickets for a “grand concert.” Shortly after it was announced that the great Hungarian violinist, Remenyi, was to visit almost all tickets were sold. “Local music lovers can almost not believe they are to be treated to a “Grand Concert” in the town hall,” wrote The Beaufort Courier reporter on April 24, 1888. “We are proud that such a great musician is to honour us with a specimen of his rare talent. Some residents proudly boast that they have heard the great Paganinni play; well, now many more of us will be able to say we have heard a world-class violinist playing. We were even further honoured when the great man announced he would drop his prices in consideration of the impecunious circumstances of some Beaufort West music lovers.” The concert was scheduled for April 30. R R Fraser was contracted to assist with arrangements and Harold E Stidolph agreed to preside on the piano. Tickets cost 4/- for reserved seats and 2/6 for seconds.


In the 1870s Karoo roads were not the safest places to outspan and take a snooze. Someone always had to keep “an ear to the ground,” listen for lions, or take a turn “to bark.” In Africanderisms – a glossary of South African Colloquial Words and Phrases, the Rev Charles Pettman explains that “to bark” was a slang term meaning to sit up at night, watch the camp fire and keep a lookout when camping on the road or in the open veld. In To the Cape for Diamonds, (1873) Boyle states that a delightful tale was attached to the original term. “Two sailors got lost in the veld one night and heard lions roaring all around them. They were very frightened. They had no means to light a fire, nor did they have a dog. So, turn and turnabout, one slept, while the other circled around barking as best he could. After that most travellers set someone ‘to bark’ while the others slept. On trips to the diamond fields, newcomers, unused to the total darkness and strange noises of the night, often volunteered ‘to bark’ on their first night out because they were too scared to sleep. Many coaches had official ‘barkers’ or watchman.”


Ds Willem Petrus de Villiers, who was the Beaufort West Dutch Reformed Church minister from 1868 to 1875, was a highly talented man. He could fluently speak and write seven languages. He was also a gifted musician. In 1875 he accepted a call to the then newly established town of Carnarvon where he spent the rest of his life. Former Beaufort West resident, Anglo-Boer War enthusiast and Round-up reader. Ray de Villiers, who now lives in Somerset West, says: “Dominee de Villiers was pro-Boer and endured the wrath of the British throughout the War. His son Jean Ettiene Reenen, who born in Beaufort West, went on to become a well-known advocate and Judge President of the Orange Free State. Jean’s wife, Minnie, became the first woman to obtain an LL B degree in South Africa.”

It is a mistake to suppose that men succeed through success; they often succeed through failure.
Samuel Smiles, born East Lothian, Scotland on December 23, 1812. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He later he became a magazine editor and respected author of many books.