I have just had an interesting week on the farm that has really tested my conservationist heart! I bought Witkrans farm a few years ago primarily because of my love for nature and the fynbos in particular. Witkrans is situated in the beautiful Flower Valley behind Gansbaai and we are surrounded by magnificent fynbos and wildlife. As part of the purchase agreement we happily agreed with the previous owners (Fauna and Flora International) to placing title deed restrictions on the property that would ensure the conservation of the natural veld in perpetuity, we cleared all the exotic invasive trees that were throttling the fynbos and I started photographing and documenting our fynbos and wildlife. My wife Michelle and I had great plans for sustainable living including having our own sheep, pigs and goats and (here is the catch) growing our own food and making our own wine. Well after preparing a small area of previously disturbed land, sourcing, planting and lovingly nurturing our few hundred Cabernet and Merlot vines we were all ready last February for our first grand harvest. A few weeks prior to harvesting Dirty Dave the valleys notorious lone baboon arrived and started wreaking havoc. I was out in a shot and set up a temporary electric fence to keep Dave out and sleeping a few nights in the vineyard to repel his early morning attacks. Although he did make a few more sorties into the vineyard, the resultant electric shocks sent him off to easier pickings. Imagine my dismay when my daily grape inspections in the final two weeks prior to harvesting showed less and less grapes. You see there had been a huge fire to the east of us that December that had burnt thousands of hectares of fynbos. I think every bird on the Agulhas Plain had converged on my vineyard and were enjoying the fruits of our labour. Well come harvest date there was not a single grape to be had. So this year, with renewed energy and lessons learnt we set up the electric fence in good time and I sourced and installed bird proof netting! We are now once again about three weeks from harvesting and I have spent the last week chasing a new, younger lone baboon, who we have nick-named Smiley, from the vineyards on a daily basis.
This chap seems immune to electric fences and has delighted in devouring at least half of our crop. As I write this blog I have stationed myself above the vineyard and am awaiting the next attack. For me wine making was to be a hobby but I am starting to understand why the old timers of this valley who lived off the land had no time for baboons and why according to the locals some thirty years back there were no baboons living in our beautiful fynbos clad Valley!