Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Moth-Eaten Friends

For some unknown reason, Bruce Soutar thinks I know things, so he sends me stuff. Which I really enjoy! What’s this? he often asks. This was a moth on his car in Mbona, an ‘eco estate’ in the KwaZulu Natal midlands.

– what’s this on my BMW? he asked – bragging –

Of course, I immediately knew – after asking Roy Goff of African Moths. He identified it as Pingasa abyssinaria – ‘a regular from that end of the continent. It has an unusual resting posture which often makes people notice it.’

Common name: Duster. Bruce’s picture (shown) is better than any of the pictures I could find on moth websites – not bad! Maybe we can call it The Mbona Duster? Thank you to African Moths and Christeen Grant’s magic Midlands nature blog for info and the use of their pictures temporarily till I found Bruce’s pics.

Judging by the beautifully fringed trailing edge of its wings, I’d guess it flies very quietly – the better to dodge bats and nightjars and other predators.

– Bruce has a thing about moths – and he looks better all covered up –
– another Bruce moth – from their Masizi Kunene Road home in Durban –

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Africa, Life

Recycling Toilet Water

Durban is finally waking up and planning to start recycling waste water. When? Who knows.

Most people will be pleased and see the common sense; A few will be saying Ew! We’re gonna be drinking toilet water?!

On the facebook group Durban’s Dogs the repeated question has been So What’s The Big Deal, Man? Arf! We’ve Been Doing It For Years . .

Africa, Free State, Vrystaat

Holy Harrismith

An Israeli city tired of being confused with Nazareth, the iconic city next door where Christians believe Jesus was raised, is hoping to change its name, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Just three kilometres and a ten minute drive separate Nazareth Illit from its famous neighbour.

Oy Vey! Residents kvetsch they’ve had enough of people, including tourists, thinking that our city is part of Nazareth,” says a Nazareth Illit city spokeswoman. “The resemblance between the two names causes confusion.”

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Surely the answer is obvious? Change the name to Mecca or Salt Lake City or Varanasi, and the confusion will end – stat. No more loud pesky goyim wandering around in short pants looking for mangers.
People should consult me when they have problems.
~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Now, Harrismith – no-one confuses us with our neighbouring town Bethlehem, a mere fifty minutes drive away if the potholes are fixed.

Bethlehem was famous for something at one time but then they couldn’t find three wise men so they lost the tender.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Bethlehem alumnus Stephen Reed wrote: It is also common knowledge that they had trouble finding a virgin.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Me: Which is surprising. When you look at Beflehem ous and Beflehem tjieks you’d fink there’d be some life-long virgins there.

The answer, one supposes, is alcohol.

Wonderful stuff. I know it has personally come to my rescue on more than one occasion.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

They did change the name. The village is now to be known as Nof HaGalil (the Galilee view), OK?

Africa, Aitch, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Another Garden Snake

We were happily sitting on a septic tank in River Drive when progress came rudely knocking. The municipality was putting in water-borne sewerage and the pipe was going to go through our garden and across the Mkombaan River at the bottom of it.

There would be some dynamite blasting. Deep blasting where they were going right under the river bed.

Bliksem. I was not happy. Our little wilderness was about to be badly shaken up.

Aitch arranged to meet with the high-ups and extracted some undertakings from them – We hereby undertake to minimise damage; to let you know the exact path so you can move your precious plants; to give you ample warning so you can move your dogs in time – we were still blissfully child-free – etc. they intoned solemnly. And she kept them to their word!

I asked the guys onsite to please not kill any creatures and to bring me anything they found so I could move it away safely. I would reward them. That’s how I came to receive this in a big bucket:

– Natal Black Snake – Macrelaps microlepidotus –

What a beauty! A solid-looking snake about 80cm long. Fascinating. I read up on them: They’re back-fanged, mildly venomous, not life-threatening; very reluctant to bite; slow-moving, placid; Look at the beautiful coloration and scales. 

Relatively rare, they spend most of their life underground – note the small eyes. Found under rotting logs or when doing excavations. Move about slowly on warm, overcast days; good swimmers. Natal Black Snakes feed on frogs, lizards, legless lizards and small rodents; are known to take carrion.

As I promised them, I moved it to a safe place that same evening: the other end of our garden.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Thanks Nick Evans; Tyrone Ping; Chad Keates

Africa, Books, Family & Kids, Nostalgia, Travel Africa

We’re Famous!

Us Blands have published a book. One of us was the author and one was the photographer.

OK, it was tenth-cousin Hugh that actually did both!

Mind you, I do play my small part in keeping this particular trappist monastery afloat by testing eyes there mahala every second month! Who’da thunk I’d ever help the Catholics? Holy me! Thank Allan Marais for that. If it wasn’t for us Hugh might not have had Marianhill to photograph.

– marianhill monastery –

Well DONE, cousin Hugh! That is quite an achievement; your book is stunning.

Here’s another beautiful book by Hugh:

. . this one includes sister Barbara and husband Jeff’s Umvoti Villa homestead, now inhabited by niece Linda and husband Dawie, MissMadam Mary-Kate and Meneer Dawie jr:

Hugh has driven thousands of miles around KwaZulu Natal photographing things that interest him. If you like old buildings, graves, churches, farms, railway stations, shops, government and church buildings, houses in towns and cities, hospitals, monuments n kak, seek no more! Go here. 70 000 images!

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

mahala – free

You can get your own copy of Hugh’s books here or here.

Africa, Family & Kids, Food, Travel Africa

Sheffield Beach Tribal Gathering

When I found them they were huddled together like Vaalies on a beach. Oh, wait! They WERE Vaalies on a beach. I should have taken a picture of Brauer’s beach outfit: A double-padded fluffy anorak. Sort of a Tshwane Tshpeedo. And a hoed.

We soon scurried off the dreaded sand in search of lunch. In their defence, it was blowing a gale. I kindly took them on a guided tour of – what place was it? – and then speedily straight to Canelands overlooking ve beach.

Back at the cottage:

– ‘thinks’ – is this old top in an anorak in pain? What’s that noise? –

Their cottage overlooked the beach from on high and despite being grandkid-infested, was very pleasant except for the absence of beer.

Perched high on a cliff, it puzzled me. I thought I remembered our cottage back in 1980 as being right on the beach . .

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

. . and then I remembered: It was Blythedale Beach in 1980. Not Sheffield . .

Sat, Feb 12, 2011(Newser) – An asteroid all but buzzed Earth on Friday, NASA has revealed. The asteroid, known as 2011 CQ1, passed just 3,405 miles above the Earth’s surface as it hung a sharp turn around the planet. That’s the closest near-miss ever recorded, beating a record set by a rock in 2004 by a few hundred miles. The asteroid was just a meter wide, small enough that Earth’s gravity would affect its course, in this case bending its path 60 degrees. Not that there was any real danger if the asteroid had veered into Earth’s atmosphere . . OK, they’re starting to talk nonsense so we’ll cut them off there.

Me: Brings to mind the heroics on Blythedale Beach when we single-handedly (the other hand was holding cheap liquor) fended off the comet which was threatening planet Earth at the time. Whether it was the coleanders and coriander and spatulas or the alcohol fumes from our breath that caused it to veer away is a moot point: Bottom line is it BALEKA’d and the planet was saved.
Funny how little credit we have got for that over the years. Maybe we fell asleep at the medal awards ceremony . .

Steve reed wrote: Jees – I had [almost] forgotten that heroic weekend. I now recall the collander, and making do with some pretty substandard alcohol [probably not a GREAT wine as in 4 Hillside]. Also I recall some of us may have slept on the beach. Bulletproof days. Was that Filly with us as well as her friend whom I remember clearly was from Marandellas in Zim. Wait! A flashback:

‘Comet – it makes your breath small clean;

Comet – it tastes like gliserine.. ‘

Of iets. Not sure that I want to remember too much more…

Me: So many flashbacks! Maybe as the brain cells die, those old pickled ones gain more prominence? Maybe the flashes are vitreous detachments? Surreal. The sales jingle for comet continues:

‘Comet! It makes you vomit

So take some Comet

and vomit

Today . . ‘

Hooligans. I was innocent. I fell amongst thieves . .

But its all true. You can check the 1980 newspapers: How many comets hit Blythedale beach that year? NONE. Not one.

OK, so our comet – probably 8P/Tuttle 1980XIII – may have been further away at 37,821,000km, but it was 4500m in size, not a puny 1m rock. So it’s still a good thing we were out there all night shaking our fists at it, daring it to approach.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

The next day the weather improved, so I claimed some credit: ‘Did you get the good weather I prayed for for you guys?’

Brauer: You clearly have a more direct line then this bunch of unbelievers.

The sun shone down on them. Smiling grandkids, happy windloos days. Actually I hadn’t actually prayed. I pulled some strings. As St Peter I have connections, so I called on the Roman god Venti and the Egyptian god Amun about the wind. Together, they delivered. Bacchus was unable to help with the wine situation.

Africa, Birds & Birding, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Another Friendly Garden Snake

This one on sister Barbara’s beautiful farm Umvoti Villa, on the Mispah side of Greytown. She’d seen a snake on the big homestead veranda, but then no, it wasn’t a snake. What was it? She sent some blurry pictures of the mystery serpent . .

I asked for clearer shots, but by the time she went back to try and get them, the ‘problem’ had been solved! No more snake. Barbara was happy: ‘All gone for breakfast. My problem solved . . no stomping . . no moving . . no doom!’ (spray – aargh!)

– gobbled up by the girls –

Barbara had noticed the ‘snake’ was actually a whole bunch of ‘worms’ marching in line, nose-to-tail. So had the hens and they proceeded to munch them.

Here’s the ‘snake’:

A closer look at its ‘head’:

– the ‘head’ – or the leading ‘worms’ –

. . and here’s what I found out: They’re Fungus Gnat larvae! Each one is tiny and leaves a mucousy slime trail, and they gather together to move. Here’s a single one, looking a bit like a small slug:

– fungus gnat larva – about 5-6mm long –

. . and here’s the even tinier gnat next to 1mm marks:

– fungus gnat – body about 2mm long –

Fascinating!