Farm Documentary; Dust, cows, hooves and blood sucking ticks!

I woke early this morning in search of some farm action. I was hoping for a frosty morning; blades of grass brittle and white, pockets of mist bellowing from the dam and our local fish eagle swooping in to perch on their favourite branch. But there was no frost, just a little mist and the fish eagle had flown elsewhere today. I was about to head home when I heard the familiar ‘yhop’ and the crack of a whip.

Sunrise (1)

“God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road.” – Karen Blixen


The cattle were being herded to the dip tank to be treated for ticks. Ticks have been particularly bad this year. Maybe it’s because of the mild winter we’ve had these last 2 years, resulting in an explosion of blood sucking parasites.   Not so long ago, we had a picnic at the far end of our farm in the bushveld. We had to leave early because we could literally see the ticks crawling towards us! And just recently our old black Labrador went down with a bad dose of the deadly disease ‘biliary.’ He had a close call with death, but after force-feeding him pureed chicken livers for a solid two weeks, along with giving him a blood transfusion, he miraculously survived. His red blood cell count had been 16%!

Herding cattle

Farm traffic

Early morning traffic jam on the farm! I suspect this chap would have been late for work!

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the documentary aspect of farm photography, of capturing the ‘every day moments’ of what it is to farm – of a lifestyle. A labour of love; of driving around in a rusty old pick up, of mending fences, of tending to your herd, of predicting rain, drought or sunshine, of forecasting the market, of fighting disease, of fighting fires, of finding solutions, of being here on your farm, present. It’s a lifestyle for sure. It’s not unusual to hear of a farmer who has not had a holiday in years. To hear of the farmer who ploughs absolutely every cent he earns back into the development of his farm, despite the risks of doing that.

Silos (1)



I have a lot of mixed feelings right now. There is a motion towards taking farm land without compensation. There is the argument that the land was taken from the ancestors and that it should be taken back now, without compensation. The motion reminds me of Zimbabwe. Only now, if you drive through Zimbabwe, much of the farmland that was taken back is growing back to bush and hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans are here in South Africa and not there on the land that was ‘taken.’ And then I am also aware that there is a need for reform, that black African’s need to be more active and productive in the agricultural industry. They need the education and opportunity to farm and that apartheid, deeply ingrained in the mindsets of all South Africans, is a slow-healing wound.



Cattle dip

It’s such a complex situation in South Africa and there is no simple solution or black and white scenario. I feel for our new president right now who must navigate the stormy seas and appease the unhappy masses while being bombed from every angle! I wonder about this country. Where is it going? If I had a crystal ball, what would I see fifty years from now? I think of my children’s children. I think of Africa’s children. Will it be better or will it be worse?

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -” Heraclitus

Cattle dip

“Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever” – Karen Blixen

Tick Killer

This little fella must have stuck his head in a tick nest….


If you look at history, there is always change. Nothing stays the same.

If I look at our history, I see plenty of change. It started with my husband’s family losing their farm to violent land invasions in Zimbabwe, to moving to Malawi, to moving back to Zimbabwe and losing it all again during the years of hyper-inflation. Then we moved to Mozambique for 7 and a bit happy years until the political unrest started again.  To our family being threatened with kidnap and death. To moving to Malawi again. Then having a blissful two years of expat life, exploring Lake Malawi and the surrounds. And recently, moving back to my home country ‘South Africa’ and back onto the farm I grew up on, to now – where it all might change again…

The thing I’ve learned from all of this is that as long as we are safe and we are together, we can be happy again. That life can be good, though different, in more than one place. That the daily routine of dust, cows and hooves seems constant,  but change is often hovering and the edge is closer than we like to think…in hindsight.


“It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn.” – B. C. Forbes

Cattle dip (2)


“When in the end, the day came on which I was going away, I learned the strange learning that things can happen which we ourselves cannot possibly imagine, either beforehand, or at the time when they are taking place, or afterwards when we look back on them.” – Karen Blixen

8 replies »

  1. Lianne, I was sad to not see the old fashioned dipping tank. We used to live visiting cousins farms in the Eastern Cape and watch the cattle being herded towards the long tank. The noise and the bellowing were so exciting and we would encouraged the wide-eyed beasts to swim faster!

    • I’ve got a vivid picture in my head now of what that would have looked like! I remember that too now, when cattle would swim through the dip 🙂 But not anymore on our farm, as far as I know. The old fashioned way would have made brilliant pictures though!

  2. Interesting times indeed Karen and although I work in Uganda I yearn to be back in South Africa but sadly opportunities are few in my field. My family and home are all there…..along with all sorts of apprehension but nothing can change the fact it is my country and the one I love..we can only pray that the bumpy road ahead smoothes out for all of us. Thank you for your post.

  3. More stunning photos, Lianne. And many heartfelt conundrums. It is hard to unpick what has happened in so many African countries – to come out with something that works in everyone’s best interest. I admire your and your family’s resilience. Of the land.