Scimitar Oryx

This beautiful species of Oryx, also known as Sahara Oryx, were once widespread across North Africa but became extinct in the wild around 2000.

How sad is this! – and whatever could have caused it?

In short….. human disturbance, over-hunting, drought and loss of food due to excessive livestock grazing were all reasons for this elegant antelope to diminish so drastically in the wild.

Scimitar Oryx are supremely adapted to desert life, and can dissipate heat through their appendages, so their extinction is particularly onerous for conservation today.

These antelope are amazing in that they are able to tolerate an internal body temperature of 116 deg Fahrenheit do not need to sweat much, so can therefore conserve water. They rid themselves of excess heat at night when their body temps can drop well below normal.

So, despite their developed adaptation abilities, these graceful Antelope have become seriously threatened in the last  two decades.

Conservation Scientists are presently working on reintroduction programs in Tunisia, Chad and Niger, and we are happy to report that our Karoo programs in this arena have been enormously successful.

Lifespan of Scimitar Oryx in the wild is unknown, but it is thought that with human care, they can live well into their 20’s.

On our Karoo farm just south of Richmond in the Northern Cape, we have found our Scimitar to be perfectly well adapted to the Karoo climate and conditions; they reproduce well, a most telling sign of good adaptation.

We need to keep our Scimitar Oryx separate from the generic Karoo Gemsbok to prevent interbreeding, so have them roaming Vlei Camp, which covers approximately 3000 hectares of Karoo Veld.

We #LoveOurKaroo – and all that we protect within this biosphere!

Rain at last

Drought has been Broken!

Thankful that after our worst drought in living memory, we have had excellent rains, and all farm dams are full. 133 mm since the beginning of 2017!

Having studied Weather Reports for months, always in hope of rain which the Karoo desperately needed, we were overjoyed last week; first a downpouring, then soft patter rain to embed itself into the parched Karoo earth.

Warm sunny weather after good rains is critical – to enable grass and veld to shoot, and grow.  Rains come during Autumn or Winter aren’t much help to the Karoo Veld.

Dam alongside the road to BloemhofKaroo fuller than we’ve ever seen it.

rain at last

Christmas in the Karoo

Always a reminder of how the year has flown by when once again we cut a tall Aloe flower that has already begun to dry……and that becomes our Karoo Christmas Tree.

This ritual provides us with so much joy, and our Chapel takes on the Spirit of Christmas.

Never cease to be amazed by the diversity of the Karoo, and the ingenuity of the local people.

Aloe Christmas Tree

Martha is busy every spare minute Preparing, Preserving and Bottling!….. she’s turning out the most delicious Apple Chutney, delicious with Christmas ham; Apricot Jam; various Marmalades, and much else.

All of these items available from our farm Gift Shop – gorgeous Christmas and Holiday Gifts!

Bloemhof Karoo chutney

 

Chris Barnard Museum and Birthplace

When travelling to the Karoo, don’t forget to spend half an hour in the frontier town of Beaufort West, for many the true entry into the Great/Upper Karoo.

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“Beaufort” belongs to one of our most beloved South African citizens, the late Professor Christiaan Barnard.
Visit the Barnard Museum, the Missionary Church, and the Birthplace of Marius and Christiaan Barnard, their father having moved to Beaufort West to establish a Missionary Church.

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Pop in to Proudly Karoo across the road to meet Hillet Scheun and browse their lovely mohair and embroidery creations.

Land of Thirst

The Karoo’s name is derived from the Khoisan word meaning “land of thirst”.

Despite the barren landscape, the Karoo is home to some 9000 species of succulents and abundant wildlife.  The borders of the Great Karoo (home of BloemhofKaroo country guest house, near Richmond, Northern Cape) touch 4  provinces of South Africa, and this area forms the second largest plateau region outside Asia!

The original residents of the Karoo were the Khoisan and the San.   The Khoisan relied on sheep and cattle for their livelihood, whereas the San were Hunters. These 2  tribes were the last Stone Age people in South Africa, but their way of life dissipated due to settlers who began farming  the Karoo in the 19th century.

One reads about 7 year droughts in the Great Karoo.
The indigenous people and early settlers developed a method of irrigation using “lei-vore”.
These are manmade furrows or channels, which offer an ingenious method of flooding crops and lands.
This tried and tested method of irrigation is still used in parts of the Karoo, for example at BloemhofKaroo near Richmond in the Northern Cape.

Rainwater is held in tanks, and the underground water is pumped by Windmills at every opportunity into a dam, from where water is channeled  into furrows which lie in parallel lines in the planted lands.

These pictures show the flooding mechanism so successfully used in the Karoo.
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Karoo Drinking Water

Four years down the line, there are still grave concerns about long term effects of shale-gas fracking in the Karoo

Click here for full article: “Scientist call to test Karoo water before Fracking begins”

BloemhofKaroo took initiative 3 years ago and had their underground water tested by Bemlab.

“The water is ideal, and microbiologically extremely pure.”

PH value of 7,5.
No bacterial growth detected.

These tests should prove invaluable in time, should Fracking proceed.

Karu Blu is bottled at the spring source, and is available at BloemhofKaroo.

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This water gushes out from deep underground all year round from a very inaccessible part of the farm.

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For full scientific report on the excellent properties of this water, contact jenny@bloemhof-karoo.co.za

Fascinating Facts – Gemsbok

Gemsbok (Oryx gazella) has been referred to as the “Aristocrat of the Plains”, and are often rated as the most handsome of the antelope species.

Four Fascinating Facts:

1.  Gemsbok can subsist in waterless landscapes, utilizing habitats that other grazers can only use during rainy seasons.  They love grazing on short grasses, but will turn to browsing thick leaves with a high moisture content when necessary – their teeth structure allows them to graze and browse.
23aThey extract moisture from wild melons, juicy roots, tubers and bulbs, which they dig for with their horns.
When water is scarce, the Gemsbok can raise its body temp to 45deg before beginning to sweat (evaporative cooling) – this would be a deadly fever temp to humans.  They can also concentrate their urine and absorb all the moisture from their faeces to reuse it.
Waterless Landscapes!

2.  Male and Female Gemsbok are almost identical in appearance, ie. they have a very low sexual dimorphism.  The thought is that this facilitates longer acceptance of juvenile males by older territorial males, helping them to better survive in vast empty spaces where finding mates can be
a serious challenge.    Reproduction ensured!

263.  Gemsbok social structure is different from most other antelope species, in that they don’t use a harem system where one dominant breeding male controls a group of females and young.  Gemsbok form mixed herds of males and females;   rank within these groups is maintained with sparring contests/fights. Territorial males use an extreme crouch defecation position as a visual display of social status.    Unusual Social Structure!

4.  Gemsbok cows isolate themselves before calving, and after giving birth, hide their calves for 4-6 weeks, and only thereafter join the herd. 23 The Gemsbok mother remains within sight of her concealed offspring, visiting a few times a day to suckle. The black and white face markings only begin to appear when the calf is ready to join the herd They suckle up to about 9 months.
Hide their Young!

This is the Karoo area where Gemsbok thrive – the Plains of BloemhofKaroo!

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Karoo Awakening

Waking up in the Karoo in winter is always an experience involving all the Senses!

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“We look again at the rise of the early sun.  The ravenlocks are now all golden and radiant…”
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First Thought…. is this going to be a freezing couple of days, or hopefully milder than expected?

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First Sound…the Tractor revving itself up, an unmistakeably deep throaty sound of rebellion in the early morning.

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First Sight….  the falling moon and the imminent sunrise.    How is it that the Sun rises, and the Moon drops at equivalent moments? – how gracious is our Creation?

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First Taste…that Filter Coffee!

First Sensation…the crispest Karoo morning, biting into one’s cheeks with a vengeance!

And so the day unfolds….  I never feel more alive than when waking on that first morning in the Karoo.

What is it about Windmills?

What is it about Windmills?

Have you ever met anyone that is not fascinated and soothed by a slowly turning gently clunking windmill?

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I never tire of seeing the windmill that stands so
tall and proud outside theBloemhofKaroo homestead – so elegant,  yet so vitally crucial on the farm.

The wind in the Karoo can be so tiresome but we always console ourselves with the fact that life-giving water is being collected at a rate of knots for our crops, animals and gardens!

WINDMILLS are an ingenious invention dating back to the 12th century, and we’re still using them all over the Karoo;    our lifesource in the veld.
Until 1750, windmills were turned by hand to face the wind;  thereafter the new fantail automatically kept the windmill in an optimal position.

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I never realised how much expertise there is amongst the Karoo people to understand, repair and even salvage windmills – almost any farm worker can scramble up to the top in a jiffy, set the brake (yes, a windmill has a brake), and do all sorts of tweaking to enable gathering (but not overflowing!) of water.

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‘LOVE IS THAT TO LIFE WHAT WIND IS TO A WINDMILL’

“The Windmill never strays in search of the Wind”.

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Lifesource at BloemhofKaroo.