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Pebblespring Farm (Port Elizabeth South Africa - 34 deg South)  RSS feed

 
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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28 December 2015

The Lady Frere district is dry and barren. I fear for the future of the people living here.

 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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It really helps a lot now that we are able to pump water out of the spring. We have planted a number of trees that need water in these hot dry months.

The supply seems very reliable, but we will have to monitor through the year.

The first setup we tried was not great; required complicated priming and the use of non return valves.

The second, improved arrangenment involved improving the spring and running 10m of 40mm pipe into 15m of 25mm pipe downstream to ensure about 500mm of head by the time it reaches the 370 watt pump.

The videos should give n idea.



 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Octagonal Chicken House at Shimmering Farm

My sister Lindi has been a great inspiration to me. Many of the projects I dream of for Pabblespring Farm have come out of long early morning coffee chats with Lindi at here beautiful home in the cool forest of South Africa's southern coast.

The chicken house and garden that surronds it have been productive for almost 10 years now. Have a look. I tried as best as possible to capture it on video.

 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Mohair Project at Shimmering Farm.

I have slaughtered a goat once, but have never kept them for their wool. My sister Lind has a lovely wool project that I thought I would share with you.

 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Its gonna take us a long time but we will persist in reclaiming the pasture from the terribly invasive Port Jackson (Acacia Saligna)

 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Returning carbon to the soil by chipping the alien invasive tree species that have cluttered up the pasture and the wetlands
 
pollinator
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Location: Vancouver Island
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I thought I had this one on my watch list... Guess I missed a message. Anyway, It looks like things are going well. I have some things to catch up on.
 
pollinator
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Location: Western Kenya
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Being a little slow with technology, I have just discovered that there was an "African" forum, and have spent the last hour perusing your thread here.  Great writing, photography and really inspiring!  I'm sad that there haven't been any updates for 6 months or so.  Please, continue!  I am an American ex-pat, now in Kenya for almost 6 years now... working a tiny 2.5 hectare farm.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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More return in rural infrastructure

(I worte this piece for the Herald here in Port Elizabeth this week - I thought that Permies people may enjoy it was well)

I try at the beginning of each year, during my break from office life, to pull off at least one lasting “capital infrastructure” project at home or at the farm. I do this because I’ve seen that a change of work routine is much more refreshing to me than “vegging out” on the couch. For the last few years I have been focusing of farm projects rather than home projects. A few hundred metres of fence, replacing the rusted roof on the old cottage or installing solar panels for off grid electricity. I insist to be “hands on” with these projects, so I spend the time physically working, lifting, hauling and digging.
It’s a kind of a therapy I suppose. This year I spent time running the heavy duty electrical cables that bring the municipal electrical supply from the roadside to the cottage. You make ask, “What do you need and electrical supply for when your previous project was installing your solar panels for off grid power?” A good question; and one with a very unfortunate answer. The panels were stolen (twice in fact) causing me painful financial loss and even more painful self-flagellation for allowing this to happen. But I don’t want to talk about going off grid today; I don’t want to talk about crime today. I rather want to talk about what goes through my head as I haul cable, as I dig trenches or as I cool down under the tree by the dam.
I’ve spent a good part of my professional life working on capital projects that provide infrastructure to those of use trapped in poverty. I am really grateful that we live in a country where we are able to attempt to provide infrastructure that addresses basic needs.  I am grateful that our system is able to build RDP houses, roads, electrical supply and sanitation. I am glad that the less tangible “infrastructure” of birth registration, identity documents and title deeds is in place and working reasonably well.  My concern is that while this infrastructure makes the urban poor a little more comfortable (and maybe relieves the middle class of a little guilt) it does not make the poor any less poor. The infrastructure does not offer any real improvement of the prospects of the urban poor of entering the economy which doggedly continues to exclude them.
I know it’s completely different, but what I see in my holiday farm infrastructure projects, is that every little investment of time and cash dramatically increases my potential to support revenue generating projects. When I install fences, I am able to keep cattle that will give me beef and milk. When I install electricity, I can brood my day-old chicks that will become free-range drumsticks and chicken fillets. When I install pipes to pump water from the spring I can irrigate my Pecan Nut trees in the dry months and generate revenue from a nut harvest. When I spend time and cash on replacing the windows on doors on the derelict farmstall, I can generate revenue by selling, pecan pie with fresh cream, free-range eggs and chicken soup. What I have come to see is that investment in basic rural infrastructure has the ability to give a much greater “bang for the buck”, especially if we measure that “bang” in terms of its ability to continue to provide regular revenue. This is especially true if we consider that the infrastructure that is currently being provided for the urban poor has all kinds of revenue generating potential, if only it were installed in a rural location where it could unlock the ability to enter the agricultural economy, if even on a micro scale. I’m talking about giving individual title to well located, small acreages with basic water supply, basic fencing and electricity. Just the essentials to allow people that would otherwise be stuck in poverty to at very least provide some of their own food, but with very little extra effort be able to produce a modest surplus. It’s not rocket science, especially when we live in a confusing reality where millions of us are unemployed yet millions of us eat chicken everyday imported from the Brazil and the USA. Perhaps it’s time that we get out of the mind-set where we believe that the only route out of poverty is 12 years of formal schooling and a 4 year degree. The truth is that many “unemployable” urban dwellers actually possess motivation and skillset that can be geared into real income and wellbeing in a reimagined agricultural economy on the periphery of our towns and cities. Let’s give thought to providing infrastructure in locations where our people can be productive in the agricultural economy. We must give this thought because our metro and every other municipality in our province includes much more rural land than urban land. We must give this more thought because our democratic process  is skewed  in such a way as to allow urban dwellers to direct public spending, through the IDP process, to the urban areas where they currently live and effectively away from any future possible improved rural existence perhaps just 10 or 20 km  away. We must give this thought because it is foolish delusion to think the city is separate from its rural hinterland, or that “they” are not separate from” us”, or that you are separate from me.
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Maureen Atsali
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Location: Western Kenya
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Great article!

Well, you said you don't want to talk about your stolen solar panels - but I'll share what we had to do anyway - we had to build a steel cage which fit around the panel like a picture frame, holding it securely, but not obstructing it.  We then bolted the cage to the roof.  I see your panels aren't on a structure, but perhaps you could find a similar solution that would make it a little harder to snatch?   Theft is a constant problem here, but we haven't lost a solar panel yet.
 
Posts: 78
Location: Eastern Cape,South Africa Zone Cfb, Annual rainfall 570mm,
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Hi Timothy, I have followed your journey for the past year or so. You have a great talent for narrative-keep it up.

I am with you on empowering the poor rural communities. I have a million ideas running around my head. I firmly believe that (in my neck of the woods anyway) there is enough unused/under utilised land either owned by local government or marginal no-mans land to begin projects incorporating food production, bio char, and using rotational grazing instead of continually overgrazing a large area. I think community is already in place, it's organising and motivating that community that is the challenge. I listened to an interesting speaker on community who emphasized understanding local culture in getting started, progressing and withdrawing from projects. Granted, he was funded by an organisation and could pay wages, buy plants/infrastructure etc, but I think there is a lesson to be learned non the less. I think community is important to build infrastructure especially in informal settlements. I am mulling over plans using local materials -wattle & daub/thatch/rammed earth etc to build community centres like a communal kitchen and ablution facilites-water provided from the roof supplying showers & loos, biodigester providing fuel for cooking. I am hoping to create a network of volunteers and goods donation-ie asking people to consider donating their old bathrooms/gas stoves/table and chairs to the project, maybe getting builders involved for plumbing surplus/offcuts etc Even the big builders supply companies to donate damaged goods. Garden services could drop off "carbon" at designated points. Garden centres could donate old seed, unsaleable plants etc. Farmers could provide mulch in the form of unwanted/spoiled bales. As you said, the middle classes feel guilt-here's a way they can "assuage" that guilt by being generous with the stuff they no longer need and those with an interest could volunteer/collect and drop off donations etc. It's a momentous task and one that requires more than me to get going and keep afloat so it's on the back burner for the mo. I'm just putting out feelers, making connections, planning. I may start small, maybe approach a school/church and just start veggies with greywater or such. We have so much to do.....

On a personal note, where did you get your pecans? Having just purchased a derelict farm in the Port Alfred area, we are busy setting up a food forest and are sourcing crop trees. I am sure you know already but  FYI Builders Warehouse in PE has a good selection of fruit trees-Figs, bananas, pomegranates (Less than R100ea) olives(too expensive for me at the mo R300ish), many varieties of peach, apricot, nectarine, apple, pear and plum R130-R190ish),grapes, blueberries. They have almonds but just one variety and they need to cross pollinate. They can get other varieties of grapes, apples and pears etc-speak to the supervisor. I have her email if you want it and she offered a discount on orders over 20 trees. However I am looking at alternative sources especially for mangoes, guavas, kiwi, avo,citrus etc  

I shall soon be setting up a projects page for our site, hopefully I can be as entertaining, thought provoking and educational as you!
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
Posts: 158
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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(this piece first appeared in Port Elizabeth's Weekend Post on 1 July 2017)

Elon Musk is dead wrong about Mars!!

I am inspired by the phenomenally innovative work of, California based,  Elon Musk. You may know him as the founder and CEO of the ground-breaking Tesla Company. You may know that in spite of Elon growing up with the smell of mind-numbing bureaucratic paralysis in the Pretoria air, his thinking on electric cars and battery storage is proving to be hugely disruptive. His bold ideas will absolutely and fundamentally change the way we all live and work. This dramatic transformation will happen very soon and I am very excited to see it all pan out.
But I heard Mr Musk speaking the other day about his planned missions to Mars to build a colony there. I just can help feeling that that this kind of thinking is just a lot of crap, perhaps not unlike the kind of thinking of other technologists like (the American) J. Robert Oppenheimer,  who applied his incredible skill to enable our species to blow up Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


I can see that I think a little differently to Musk and Oppenheimer. In my reading and in my quiet time, I have come to see that we, as a species, have evolved here on this planet and are an integral part of it, perhaps like our gut bacteria are an integral part of us. To just plonk us somewhere else, is misunderstanding just how integral we are to our ecosystem and to what extent we are a product of it. I see this in the writings of brilliant and enlightened souls and I see this when I watch my cattle going about their business in the pasture.
Pasture and grasslands are a fascinating subject, but I do understand that it  is quite possibly more interesting to me than it is to you. Books have been written about pasture. Entire library shelves filled. The important thing to take from our knowledge of pasture is the undeniable fact that we are dealing with a living interconnected system. In a very real and observable way cattle and grass and soil are part of the same “organism”. Grass has evolved to thrive on nutrient provided by herbivore manure, which in turn is digested by specifically evolved  soil based mycelium and bacteria. Grass had evolved to look, taste and behave the way it has because of grazing animals like cattle. Cattle have developed their size, shape and biology because they have evolved in the pasture (alongside their predators) eating the grasses that they do. These are not just curious facts of anatomy and biology. These are fundamental truths. They are absolute “laws”, that whether we choose to or not, are a governing force in all of our lives. It may appear to me that I, as an individual, am a separate organism to the people around me and to the things that I consume and to the things that try to consume me, but in truth, with the perspective of evolution and of time, I am not.
So much of what I see around us attempts to convince me that I am a separate organism, that I am able to survive even without this planet; that I am separate from the earth. The spectacular 1960’s project to send a man to the moon, walk around up there and take photographs of the blue planet from that far off position, is one in a sequence of events, since the beginnings of consciousness, that have made us feel more and more comfortable with the argument that we, human beings, are a separate and distinct organism.
But when I sit in the pasture. When I observe the earthworm magically building soil from excrement, when I appreciate the cattle, I let the picture remind me of who I am. I let the picture remind me that I am a part of an organism that is beginning to show signs of disease caused largely by  people (people  very much like me) that have somehow come to forget the obvious truth that they are only a small (yet very important) part of a big and complex organism. Perhaps, with time, we will come to see that the disease afflicting our planet is like the disease of cancer that afflicts so many of our bodies.( A disease that killed my own father.)  Some doctors say that a cancer cell is a cell that has forgotten that it is part of body, that it is part of an organism. A cancer cell consumes energy and replicates very rapidly, but it has forgotten its function within and as part of the organism. Cancer cells grow and grow until they kill the very same body that it forgot that it was integrally part of. Cancer cells form tumours that are fuelled by excess sugar in the system. In the same way perhaps as our bodies make up rapidly growing populations that cluster in cities that have become distorted way beyond any useful shape and size by the injection of excess energy in the form of over exploited fossil fuels.  Perhaps tumours, cities and Elon Musk behave in this way because they have forgotten what our species has known since it has first emerged from the cradle of human kind all those years ago.
So what do we do about all this? I can only suggest that you come sit with me in the in the pasture one afternoon. Perhaps we can be still, observe and help each other remember.
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Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Sarah, Good to hear of your Project in Port Alfred. I sourced my Peacans from a farm in the Freestate called Sandvet. They cost me R170 each dry root. I bought 100 of them. Please send me links to the page your setting up. Also contact me by email tim@noharchitects.co.za
 
Len Ovens
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Timothy Hewitt-Coleman wrote:
Elon Musk is dead wrong about Mars!!

I am inspired by the phenomenally innovative work of, California based,  Elon Musk. You may know him as the founder and CEO of the ground-breaking Tesla Company. You may know that in spite of Elon growing up with the smell of mind-numbing bureaucratic paralysis in the Pretoria air, his thinking on electric cars and battery storage is proving to be hugely disruptive. His bold ideas will absolutely and fundamentally change the way we all live and work. This dramatic transformation will happen very soon and I am very excited to see it all pan out.
But I heard Mr Musk speaking the other day about his planned missions to Mars to build a colony there. I just can help feeling that that this kind of thinking is just a lot of crap,



The whole thought process is based on fear. If one has fear for life on Earth... life on Mars would be much more fragile. However, if he has the money to go... not my place to say no.

The point for me though is to look at my own fears and look to see how I can step beyond them so I can progress.
 
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we can only hope that the technology needed to get onto mars will give some kind of spin off /return for the earthlings ,  i hope musk has studied the EDEN project , we could not get that to work here on earth how does he hope to do better in the near vacuum of mars then it would still have to work with the biggest flaw in the system ---us humun beings,   plus eden  had a huge advantage of an extremely simple escape plan---break a window , jump out and run away screaming into the night.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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I love design, I love simplicity. I love the idea that we can rethink cheap readily available materials and use them in a way that was not imagined by the manufacturer. So in the video below I show how I use 75 mm diameter PVC down pipe as a guttering system. Building a rain water harvesting system normally takes a complicated range of fittings brackets screws and masonry anchors.But very often the same objective can be achieved using only 75 mm diameter PVC down pipe and elbow fittings.Watch this short video to see how we use this idea at Pebblespring Farm.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Friends Its been really dry here so I have had to think of clever ways to test the system without waiting for rain.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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I sometimes like to say that "Architecture is where building meets consciousness."

The great Roman Architect Vitruvious speaks of Architecture comprising 'Firmness, Commodity and Delight".

We look at this delightful little chicken coop/ Rabbit Hutch combination at Pebblespring farm and share the very real and universal architectural design principles that guided its construction and can be applied to small projects like this and much bigger ones.

 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (34 degrees south)
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Comparing the Husqvarna 440e with the Stihl Ms 250





Husqvarna 440e


40.9 cc 1.8 kW 4.4 kg

Paid R3400.00 incl vat in March 2014




Stihl MS 250

45.4 cc 2.3 kw 4.6 kg

Paid R3900.00 incl vat in March 2015



I am already enjoying the MS 250 quite a bit more than the 440e. Make no mistake, I really enjoyed the Husqvarna. It gave me many hours of pleasure clearing bush, felling small trees, cutting fire wood and fence poles. The MS 250 is more powerful though and the additional weight is not really  noticeable. I suppose it is an unfair comparison, I should be comparing the  45 cc Husqvarna with the MS 250. The truth though, in my part of the world, is that the Husqvarna is a more expensive machine. Right now the new 440e sells for R600.00 more than the MS250. So the expectation is that the ....(read more)
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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When I set out contour swales at Pebblespring Farm (or when I help my sister Lindi to do the same at Shimmering Farm), I like to use a simple "A - Fram"  DIY leveling device.

These two short videos will help explain how to build one and use it on your own project









 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Its Springtime here at Pebblespring Farm. We are planting trees. One of our favorites is the Coral Tree (Erythrina lysistemon)

 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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[b]Aquaponics in a Suitcase anybody?[b]

 
pollinator
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Tim,

I appreciate the posts. This is pretty similar to only a few of my projects, but many of my ideals. What is interesting is the musings, I hate to say. I keep my musings to myself by and large, but I appreciate you putting yours out there.

I guess my musings are expressed in my projects. You get both, which has to be more fulfilling. Kudos on documenting this, that's a strength. I am very good at making excuses why not to document stuff, almost world class.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Thanks for Reading TJ - To be honest, I have a lot more "musings" going on in my head than I have the time (or the courage) to write down!!!
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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I learn from contrast. I only know warmth by contrasting it to cold. I only know wetness by contrasting it to dryness. Perhaps in the same way I love the city because of the farm and I love the farm because of the city. Make sense ??

 
Tj Jefferson
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Tim,

I think you have nailed it with your contrast idea. It is funny, we try to get edges in our ecosystems, and we forget that those are simply inflection points between two or more biological regions. Why not in our life as well? I try to develop a new skill each year, and I may lay aside a skill I used before to accommodate it, but that is still something in my makeup. This allows me to see things from a new perspective.

This is not metaphysical BS, this year it is large equipment maintenance, last year it was mushroom cultivation. I am not tanning hides this year because it is the same time of year I will be clearing the junk trees. Each has allowed me to understand better the goal of habitat restoration in a new way, for instance. Sure I could have hired out the machine work, but it would have been prohibitively expensive and meant it remained in the "possible" category instead of moving into the "concrete" category. I will make mistakes and pay for them. That is part of the learning experience.

Professionally, it has given me a chance to interact with people I would not have likely interacted with. This is part of making me a more valuable part of the community.  

BTW, your tree planting ideas are great. Stalin is supposed to have said "Quantity has a quality all it's own". I am careful not to vegetatively propagate from less than six unique specimens because I want to keep some diversity around (and I'm working on improving some varieties so I want to limit feral genetics for, say, thorns) but overall it is a very cheap way to go. I start out with brush piles for a year and then plant my hardwood cuttings directly in the rich soil to compensate for the likelihood they will never get tremendous root systems.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Thanks for the reply TJ - the honest truth though is that living in two worlds is really tough. I try to put a brave face on it, But I really, really, really would like to be able to committ more, time effort and money to my farm projects. I run a busy little office in town though and in the past when I have neglected that life and not put 100% in there it has come back to bite me. Within a short time I begin to loose money and see things going back wards. I push on though and continue to find ways in which I can make my life work for me.
 
Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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Night Patrol 27 October 2018

I hate it when my night Patrol duty falls on a Saturday night. That means I must leave Poppina in the cottage alone with Tank. And another thing – this was the third Saturday Patrol I’ve had been allocated this year. It doesn’t sound fair. In fact I had almost forgotten about the patrol and just remembered 30 minutes before I was due to report at 19:00.

The way it works here, it that the patrol vehicle is parked at the Service Station just up the road from me at Cow’s Corner. So I drove up, bought some snacks for the road and signed for the keys with the lady in the shop. My co-driver didn’t pitch. I contacted him, but his was pissed off because he didn’t receive the email roster that sets out the dates for all the night patrollers. I am perhaps more forgiving. I admire the volunteer energy that the people heading up “Farmcomm” put in, including the people that assemble and send out the night patrol roster.

Normally, not much happens on my night patrol shift, but last night was different. About an hour in to the three hour shift there was a call in the two way radio. Mr and Mrs Thomas, from just over the road from us had been attacked. 4 men in balaclavas beat the two pensioners and took a shot gun, a 9 mm hand gun and cell phones. Very quickly the radio control guys stepped into place and coordinated the activities of the many “responders” who arrived at very short notice in their private vehicles. You see, each Farmcomm member has a two way radio. Many keep it on their person at all times. So if there is an emergency the response can be quite rapid. Some responders were directed to form cordons along certain roads, others were directed to launch the drone which is now fitted with a Fleur night vision camera of sorts. I was tasked to park at the corner of Kragga Kamma and Louisa roads, to direct police and other emergency personnel who were beginning to arrive on the scene. While this was going on the attackers were being pursued. The place where they cut the fence into Flanagans farm was found and as the police dog unit arrived they tried to find a spoor. The pursuit of these attackers went on until early hours of the morning. We come very close to apprehending the suspects as they took refuge in thick bush between Doorly and Destades road.

For much of the time from when the attack happened at 8ish until we received the order to stand down at 2:30, I was part of a vehicle cordon. Basically a row of cars parked along a road with lights shining so as to back it impossible for the attackers to pass. So I had a bit of time to think. At first my mind moved to how sad it is that we have this crime situation that requires all of us in this neighbourhood to lock ourselves in hour houses as soon as the sun goes down and to live behind high fences protected by viscous dogs, alarm systems and armed response companies. No it’s not nice. But I think what is good is that the community has organised itself and is taking responsibly for its own security. (Collaborating with the police of course.)
My mind also wandered to how futile it is to feel sad about this situation (or any other I suppose). The situation “just is” and I am faced with the option to deal with it or to move somewhere else where I may not have to deal with it. I have chosen to be here at Pebblespring farm. For better or worse, this is the decision I have taken. And with that mind-set, my only choice is to find joy in making every effort I can to protect my family and prepare myself as best I can to be able to deter and resist intruders. It feels better to have this mindset. It in fact feels better actively pursuing attackers at 2 in the morning. Just knowing that I am doing something perhaps. Not waiting for them to take the initiative and spoil my day.
I have a lot of work to do to be fully prepared. But that’s what I have decided to do.

By the way we never caught the guys, but we learned a lot. We are getting better with each of these “operations”

 
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