Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Water a precious resource on any farm

Over the past week, large parts of South Africa have been receiving good rains, which for some parts of our country has been wonderful news as they have been experiencing very very dry conditions.  .

Rain is always welcome but I can distinctly remember trying to negotiate the muddy, slippery gravel roads in my first year of February at Rookwood.  I was teaching at that stage and would have to travel 35km of gravel road every afternoon to reach home.  Having grown up in an urban tarred

environment, sliding on the clay-type soils we have, was common practice but I certainly did not like this.  However as the years have flown, one learns to master these minor challenges.

I told you about the two rivers we have - one called the Mbelandla and the other the Tuli.  As to which one owns which name, is debatable as our neighbour George Filmer, who grew up here, names them differently to what the map has them recorded.  The Tuli/Mbelandla rises on Mapassa and Rookwood is the second on the list of farms it runs through before meeting up at the fountain with the Mbelandla/Tuli.  They then join forces and flow into the Swart Kei beyond the boundaries of Rookwood.   The Swart Kei ultimately joins the White Kei to become the Kei River which flows into the sea north of East London.


Over the years we have had these rivers run dry and at other times they have come down in flood.  There are small fountains that do feed the rivers during the dry period but possibly the biggest fountain on the whole farm is where they meet.  This area is registered as a Natural Heritage site called Mhoge (named after the cycads present - Encephalartos friederici).  This area is home to numerous bird species including the bishops and weavers as well as the Cape Clawless otter.  In another blog, I will share my story of Charli the clawless otter I released there.

The cussonia species on the kranzes above the fountain

The fountain area at Rookwood

Cycads on the hill above the fountain

This fountain has never dried up and one is be able to spot the Chubby-headed and Goldie Barbs in there or even higher up in the river when it is running.  This is a sign of a clean unpolluted river.  The previous owners used to pump water from this fountain area up to the house (at least 1km away) and somehow fish eggs must have landed up in the reservoir behind the house.  These fish have been living in the reservoir for years now with the Giant Kingfisher coming to feed at times!!  We do not draw water from either of these rivers for any form of irrigation as they are not sustainable enough besides there is other life that depends on this water.  Both rivers are used for stock water when the cattle, sheep or goats are in those camps.
Possible Red-finned minnows?

Recently I came across some interesting fish in the river that originates from Mapassa side.  I have not been able to identify them but have been told they are Red-finned minnows.  They were eating on a cow that had died when she got stuck in the river during our very dry October this year.  She was trying to chase whatever was green in the river and was in a poor condition at that stage.

Both our rivers at Rookwood are not flowing that well at present as the rains have not been that good.  If it does rain heavily then we can here them run and it sounds like the sea.  The most important thing is that they flow fairly cleanly taking very little topsoil with them.

Klaassmits river near Lehmansdrift Queenstown

The river running at Rookwood.

The photo on the right is of the Klaassmits river in the Queenstown area - note the amount of topsoil being washed away.  This is a 'cancer' of our precious resources in South Africa.

Although this river is not flowing as strongly there is far less soil being washed away.

I certainly hope that we will get some more good rains this summer at Rookwood and many other places.   One thing we must remember this is a precious resource which we do not need to abuse.


  1. You would have laughed your head off at us slipping and sliding in a cloudburst on the pass above Rhodes. No sticky clay skilz at all.

  2. Marie, I can understand how you felt. something I still do not like to do although have managed to 'master' the art a little bit better now.