Hoatson Farm 8-10th December

Hoatson Farm 8-10th December

A good friend of my eldest son, John in Somerset West, is Dave Hoatson who I have frequently met. The Hoatson family has recently moved to the Northern Cape where father, Bruce, is farming on the banks of the Orange River whilst David is taking care of a cattle farm some one hundred Km’s distant near Olifantshoek. Knowing of my presence in the area, Dave kindly invited me to their new farm for a couple of days.

So after dropping off Steven at the Upington Airport at 8am, Wednesday, 8th December, I do some running repairs in Upington and then head due east for 130km’s before turning off and taking some minor farms roads for a further 20 odd Km’s before arriving at Dave’s very isolated farm at about 1pm. Unfortunately, Dave’s young wife, Candice, and their children are away in Somerset West for a while leaving Dave to tackle the enormous task of rebuilding a rather rundown +5,000 Hectare farm.

The Homestead

Rather like cousins Werner and Noleen Frenzel near Ladybrand in the Freestate, one can only admire the fortitude of these folk who can move into an old farmhouse, roll up their sleeves and get down to the task of fixing so much that is broken and dilapidated. But the potential of the place is so evident to me as Dave takes me for a drive that first evening. Following a couple of years of good rains, the grass is long and the place is harshly beautiful in a uniquely SA way. Given the precarious state of the Eskom power supply in the country, everything here works off solar power and together with Dave’s extensive vegetable garden, they are pretty much self sufficient. Which is not a bad thing when one is so far from “civilization”.

Water of course is the life blood of the desert

Dave, fortunately, has developed an interest in birds and is able to point out to me much of interest. In the trees surrounding the house, Pearl-spotted and White-faced Owls are in residence.

Pearl-spotted Owls

After dark the beautiful White-faced Owls become active.

So relaxed are these little owls that they even allow Dave to approach and stroke their backs.

A farm stocked with game and cattle necessitates it being divided up into smaller units, each with its own water trough – which in this part of the world acts as a magnet for the birds. And being semi-desert, these are beautiful and abundant. You will remember Steven and my failed water-dish attempts to attract Waxbills in the camps of Kgalagadi and which so incensed the staff there. No fear. The Hoatson farm is full of these exquisite little birds.

Violet-eared Waxbill
Black-faced Waxbill – which has proved so difficult for me to photograph – until now.
Golden-breasted Bunting
Yellow Canary
Namaqua Dove
Shaft-tailed Whydah – not yet in his full breeding plumage
Greater Striped Swallow

Red-faced Mousebirds
White-backed Mousebird

Such is the prolific birdlife here that both Steven and I should have spent part of our time at the Hoatson farm. I meet Dave’s parents, Bruce and Ingrid – like Dave so kind and hospitable. Goodness, but this is a place to ‘get away from it all’. So peaceful and so pure in all respects and I look forward to returning again. But time is pressing and I take my leave at midday Friday, 10th and am headed for the Augrabies National Park for the night.