A Man & His Dog



The story of a farm, a man and his dog: 2005 to 2016

      Our New Life Together  

 Umjoji our new puppy – 9 weeks old! 

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 Just before my 64th birthday, in August 2005, as a special surprise, my family decided that they wanted to buy ‘Brian’ a dog, as a birthday present.  Behind the scenes, the whole of Dullstroom had been inveigled into the task of helping to find a suitable ‘friend’ that would complement the personality of ‘Yours Truly’.

All sorts of breeds were suggested, and the town and my family, came up with plenty of very revealing, weird and wonderful suggestions amongst themselves, considering that it should ‘compliment my personality’. Some suggested a Boston Terrier, some thought a Jack Russell, some even a ‘Worsie’ and worse. All totally behind the scenes and without my knowledge!

We had at that stage, just sold our restaurant “Die Tonteldoos Bistro”, after 14 years of long hours, really hard graft, and very little privacy.
Gerda and I had made a policy decision that we would move, permanently, to our farm ‘Paardeplaats’, near Lydenburg, within the next few years. However my move would virtually be immediate, to prepare the farm for our future life, and our exit from Dullstroom. They informed me of the intended surprise, and supplied me with a copy of  ‘The Dog Annual’  to help me choose a breed, for this special gift. ‘After all Brian should have some say in the matter!’
Now, the cover had a photo of an American Staffordshire Terrier in all his glory – and guess what? I loved it! My family and the town had actually expected me to choose a little “skoothondjie”, but alas! my mind had been made up.

Our beloved little puppy, Umjoji, was born on 1st September 2005. We bought him from Charmaine Hoebben, who lived south of Johannesburg. The dog on the cover of the magazine was Umjoji’s father and he became the National AmStaff Champion for several years in a row (real royalty!).UMGEORGIEs DAD
And so it was, that our little puppy of impeccable background and breeding, came into my life, on Paardeplaats, as my new companion.

His name was to be “Umjoji”, a name I found, and thought very appropriate, in “Shaka Zulu”, a book on the legendary king’s life.
Shaka had, in his time, been a feared, yet very successful, albeit expansive king. He was greatly impressed and intrigued by the fact that the King of England, at the end of the 18th century, had a larger kingdom than his own. The king of course, was King George III. Shaka Zulu referred to him, out of admiration and respect, as “Umjoji”.

 So, 9 weeks after his birth, my new friend and companion, Umjoji, joined me in “our” new life’s adventure in  Dullstroom and on Paardeplaats.

And adventure it certainly would become, not dissimilar to Sir Percy’s, Jock, who had also spent much of his life in our ‘valley’

Umjoji overlooking ‘Masjienkloof’ – December 2008



“Now look, my mama didn’t tell me there were all sorts of other dogs out there? I don’t quite know whether I like them or not?- but it’s fun being here.”

Umjoji’s first adventure in life, was to attend Carol O’Leary’s ‘Dog School’, in Dullstroom – held once a week, on the SANEL sports field, on Monday afternoons, together with his new found friend and companion, Yours Truly – after all we both needed schooling, we both had to learn.
Discipline and obedience were, of course, the key words, but being a typical AmStaff, he didn’t always appear to be the brightest spark on the block. Being a puppy, he needed to find himself and his own confidence, and not that it was always approved of, more than anything he needed to have fun. For a month or two, each week, after school, we would pack up, and ride off into the great unknown – To our farm ‘Paardeplaats’, on the top of the Long Tom Pass.

On reflection I do believe that his schooling played a pivotal role in his early life, because it taught him to know and obey my ‘big voice’ and certain commands. We got to know one another. However, he always remained a free spirit, but his main pleasure in his life was to please me. On the “farm” he got to know Lucas’s farm dog, “Fly”, who was a “pavement special” version of what Umjoji was going to become. Fly looked very much like a thinner version of a staffie. He was an adventurous, farm-wise dog of the world, and Umjoji looked up to him and learned all sorts of valuable tricks and fun “things”, from him, in those early days. Fly, like Umjoji was well fed, so he never had to steel – this sets a good example for Umjoji.

Fly’s favourite pass time was to chase Vervet monkeys, and he was alert to all the farm noises and smells, which taught Umjoji a lot. Fly was never aggressive towards the wild horses on the farm, and did not interfere in nature. In fact he was very cautious of baboons, a valuable lesson he passed on to Umjoji.

This healthy relationship continued through Umjoji’s first eight months. Fly was the dominant male, and he was respected by his junior.
Umjoji’s mother had taught him ‘pack behaviour’ well. In fact, Charmain Hoebben, his breeder, maintained that puppies should only be separated from their mothers, after 9 weeks, for it is between 6 and 9 weeks that they are taught important social behaviour, without which, they can develop unstable personalities.
By now Umjoji was weighing in at about 25kg, and because of the physical lifestyle he lived on the farm, he was becoming very muscular, and strong. Whenever I worked on my ‘blue tractor’, Umjoji and Fly would run with me, where ever I went. Sometimes up to 10km a day.

Yours truly on the ‘blue tractor’ You must watch out for those wheels!

brian & trekker (3) But by now Umjoji had developed his own typical AmStaff mentality, his true personality was coming to the fore. He loved all people to a fault, particularly children, but there was not actually enough room in his life or on the farm, for himself and Fly. He had started to lift his leg to mark his territory – this was his place!
One short tête-a-tête, one afternoon, was enough to teach Fly who the new boss was! Keep out of my territory, was the message.
So from then on, Fly lived up at Lucas’s house, about a kilometre away, and Umjoji at our house. Unfortunately, Fly, lost perspective one day, shortly after their disagreement, and broke the golden rule – he chased after some baboons, never to be seen again.

Alfa male baboons are vicious, and dangerous towards any unsuspecting dogs or even leopards. They cunningly, lure them into a trap and then attack and tear them apart, with their sharp canine fangs of up to 10cm long, rounded on the front edge and serrated on the back edge – ideal for ripping apart and tearing!

I think baboons hate dogs!

 The Big Water

‘Water, water, everywhere nor any drop to drink.’

F1000008 - Copy (2)Brian jnr. & Umjoji at Fish River

In December of 2005 with Umjoji, just a few months old, we planned a family holiday to The Great Fish River Mouth, over 1400 km from home, near Port Alfred. Our son Arno was already two years into his university career at Tukkies, Roland had just written matric, Brian jnr. was 12 years old and my daughter Kate at 37, lived and worked in Durban. For the two week  holiday we would be staying in my friend Johnny Bonsma’s ‘packing case’ cottage, in blissfully primitive conditions, in a seaside paradise, that defies description. Our only challenge was that we virtually needed to take the ‘kitchen sink’ along with us.

So, after weeks of careful planning, with many phone calls and emails, and with long lists and checklists, with details that would be hard for most to even imagine, except possibly those who really know ‘Yours Truly’, we were ready for our holiday adventure.
There were detailed route maps from Dullstroom for us and from Durban for Kate. Roland and Brian Jnr. packed all, and with carefully planned meeting and resting places along the road, and plenty of padkos, we set off from Dullstroom at 02h00 on Friday 23rd December 2005, in my Toyota 4×4, packed to the brim, and towing a trailer (also packed to the brim) with a boat, and an outboard motor (remember this detail later!). Arno would be arriving at Fish River by bus, from Cape Town, as he had been visiting his school friend Sieve Bans, for the December holidays, so we were at least spared his body and baggage. in our journey to the sea.
We met Kate at Bethlehem at 06h00 for our ‘on-time’ breakfast appointment, after which we shed Roland plus some (lots) of baggage, into Kate’s car. Off we drove again, with an equally excited Brian jnr. and Umjoji lying in the back of the bakkie, with considerably more room for them to move in.

We were heading for the great unknown – heading for the Great Fish River Mouth.
On reflection, we must have looked hilariously like a typical ‘old South African bakkie’ heading for an ‘old South African homeland’. The only difference being that we didn’t have chickens on the roof!
There was no room for slackers, though, as we were driving ‘right through’ (1400 km) in one day.
Yours Truly, having lived and worked like this for over 30 years, as a land surveyor, knew nothing else – ‘don’t just talk about it, do it!’ was my motto.  It was an ordeal, albeit, a pleasant and exciting ordeal, but we arrived at our holiday destination on schedule at 16h00.
We pitched a tent for our maid Agnes, who wore her customary ashed white face, and turban, with spots around her eyes. I’d known her for several previous family holidays before my wife Jean had died. Agnes’s home was just over the river in the Ciskei.

We moved in, and had a few cold beers! Agnes had arrived, as planned, a few days before, and although primitive, the cottage was clean and the gas fridges were switched on, and cold. We were ready for our holiday.

This whole experience, for Umjoji plus the three young boys, Kate and ourselves, was to leave a lasting impression and memories for all.
Our little dog was living in a puppies dream world come true. We all, including Agnes, spoiled Umjoji rotten. His new experience of this vast unending ‘big water’, chasing vervet monkeys, as Fly had taught him, left him ‘dog’ tired at the end of each day.
If this was what life was all about, he was ready for it!
Many of my well intending friends, from Dullstroom, who had ‘helped’ choose my puppy, had warned us that Staffies were not good swimmers – ‘so be careful – keep an eye on him!’ they said.
Umjoji took to this big water like a duck to water. He was a born swimmer, without a scared hair on his head. He loved the adventure, and the company and friendship of the children. He loved gambolling in the surf – he was everyone’s friend. What a life!

A few days before the end of our holiday we decided to use the boat, once more, to cross the river mouth, for a picnic braai under the huge boulders at ‘bats cave’, as we had done a few times before.
Again the planning was thorough and off we went at low tide, in our boat, to squeeze some of the last drops of pleasure and enjoyment from our holiday.                                                                               

It was almost time for my snooze

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A wonderful day was had by all – we had eaten oysters, we had, had a fish braai, accompanied by a bottle of well chilled Sauvignon Blanc. We had lazed and swum, but now we needed a snooze.

Eventually we managed to pack up, and I planned 2 boat trips back to the other side, to drop our goods and our tired body’s. The first trip went well.
I returned for the rest – We were slightly overloaded, – the tide was coming in strongly! But never daunted, Yours Truly, full of confidence as usual, opened the outboard throttle, equally full, and headed into the current – equally full!
Roland with his normal dry and off centre sense of humour, mumbled something like ‘Isn’t this the way you sink a boat?’
Before you could say ‘Jack strike a light’ we were all in the water, including Umjoji. Fortunately the motor was chained to the boat, but the boat was upside down but still afloat in the surf. Our braai rooster was gone, plus a spade and some other hardware. The red cold box was afloat and Umjoji, as was Rools, Brian jnr. and Yours Truly, were swimming for all we were worth. I was dragging the boat behind me. We had passed the half way mark, and several kind hearted fishermen, all in fits of laughter, came to our rescue.
Umjoji in a very dignified way, did his own thing. He reached the shore, walked out onto the sand and shook himself off, with water spraying in all directions, as if to say ‘you see I can swim!’                                                                               Umjoji saam met die manne! 

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Our two week holiday, as a family, in that paradise, was a God sent blessing, that nobody, including our dog, will ever forget.
Umjoji surpassed all expectations, he was now a well seasoned and experienced ‘old salt’, and what’s more, I think he knew it!

Terug oppie Plaas

Our experienced, and well travelled, young dog of the world, back in his own familiar surroundings.

Umjoji 2 years old

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Our farm, Paardeplaats, being 770ha in extent, was proclaimed a Nature Reserve, in July 1956. Gerda’s uncle Jaap bought the farm in 1979. We have been graced with the presence of a variety of small antelope: oribi, grey rheebuck, mountain reed buck, duikers, klipspringers, blesbuck and very often elande and kudus.

Elande near the house


Of course there are also those darn baboons and vervet monkeys, plus other species like porcupines, honey badgers, clawless otters, Smith’s red rock rabbits, brown hyenas, bush pigs, of which there are plenty, black-backed jackals, rooikatte, African wild cats, African civets, servals and leopards. All of these, are virtually permanent residents here on Paardeplaats, but some, being mostly nocturnal, are not often seen.  Old gold mining shafts, of which there are many, become the lairs for some of these creatures, during the day. We have also been graced by the company of two or three warthogs in the last three years – these will no doubt multiply in the future. We don’t see them during the cold months, as they migrate to the warmer, lower altitudes of the farm.
Then of course, our farm derives its very name, registered in September 1874, from the beloved wild horses that have lived here for well over a hundred years. There are, at present, two herds of about 10 horses in each. These animals come and go at will – this is their territory, and they have become quite tame and accustomed to people. Lucas feeds them apples, by hand, in the summer months, with apples from my Dullstroom garden.

We border on the Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve on our western boundary, and form part of the Mt Anderson Catchment Reserve, where we have endeavoured to drop all fences, in the interests of nature conservation. This conservancy – the bigger picture – is over 25 000ha in extent. This is the legacy that Umjoji was born into. The unrestricted wide open spaces and freedom, of Paardeplaats.
Being a typical staffie, it was not always easy, in the beginning, to convince him that all these creatures, had as much right to an existence as he does. This is of course what we tried to teach him, at school. All in his own interests and for his own safety – It all had to do with discipline and obedience. Life in nature is a delicate balance – it’s very much a case of live and let live. One being, needs the other and we all have to learn to coexist. Now for a boisterous personality like Umjoji, this was very difficult, because of his fun-lust, and his loner mentality. My rather big voice, that I have, and that he learnt to respect at school, helped a lot to control him, even from a distance.  Big voice to him, meant listen!
Gerda’s voice, which is pitched a lot lower, and with a much lower volume, does not have the desired effect, at all.
Umjoji also didn’t and still doesn’t like to be reprimanded. He gets that ‘hang dog’ look in his eyes, which speaks volumes for him. You can see the embarrassment and humiliation, fully expressed in his eyes. He virtually, without words, is begging forgiveness!
A very good characteristic in a dog is the will to please! Always cultivate that!

Sooo – after all the excitement of that great experience, called a holiday, we were back to the more mundane existence of the plaas, with ‘Yours Truly’, Lucas and Fly. All his exciting, newfound friends were back at university and school.
Now was the time to knuckle down and set a pattern to his life.

 My Life’s Mistakes

Ah-gee man, why can’t I do that? I’ll make up in other ways. Pleeease!

On reflection, if I look at Umjoji’s life, he has made mistakes, at times. Sometimes wilfully, sometimes in error, but I think, all have taught him a lesson.
At the end of the day, I must in all fairness give him credit, for his better characteristics. My ‘little boy’ is now over 10 years old, and he has never once, snapped at, or shown intolerance towards any human being, and most importantly towards children. He loves them all! I have always jokingly said that Umjoji would never deter a ‘farm attacker’ with aggression – he would do it with love and licking!
My command ‘no licking, no jumping!’,  which he knows and understands so very well, says it all.
When it comes to people – he loves them but finds it very difficult to comply with commands. I myself am like that, and I often wish I could comply, cause then I could comply with God’s command to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’, far more easily.
Umjoji certainly has got a few of his own personal favourites, in his life. My children and their friends, plus Etienne and Anthony the Vet. Then of course there’s Lilo the Jack Russell,  and his new companion and friend Pampata, the Staffie. They all fall in that category – any child would always be made to feel loved and welcome by him. He was born with an over dose of love for humans!

Umjoji with one of his favourites – Etienne (and Lilo).

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Another of his characteristics is that he never feels sorry for himself. He never whimpers or yelps or cries, when he is in trouble. Even when he is in extreme discomfort, or pain, he takes his punishment like a man.

I must say, I do love classy girls!

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‘All these strange creatures? And I didn’t even know that they were dangerous’

That darn Zebra – so unfriendly he was!

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Some months after our holiday, when I was busy burning fire breaks on the farm, with my neighbour Chris Joubert, we came across the wild horses, one morning.
They had a lone Zebra stallion that had latched onto the herd – I suppose because he was lonely.
Umjoji took one look at this lot, and decided that this horse with striped pyjamas, was an intruder, so he gave chase. The Zebra was not going to have any of this, particularly from a young wipper-snapper, like Umjoji.
Great surprise – the zebra turned on him with vengeance – but the Zebra was serious! His dignity had been hurt. He gave chase, stamping and kicking as he went – he was determined to eliminate this insult.
Umjoji, with his ears hanging, and tail between his legs, which showed his alarm, turned and ran for all he was worth.
My heart sank, because the zebra was much faster, with more staying power than Umjoji. Just one of those kicks would have been the end of him. ‘The lucky dog’ was let off the hook because the Zebra eventually lost interest.
When Umjoji returned, he looked very sheepish indeed, but we both knew that he had learnt an important lesson. As a matter of interest, the Zebra continued his stay with the horses, until I noticed that there were no new foals being born. The zebra was killing them, because they were not his own offspring. I suppose because of his stature, he was not able to reach a mare when in esterus, and he therefore suffered from ‘small mans syndrome’. I had to shoot him to save the foals.

 My Life’s Adventures

  ‘Cowboys don’t cry’:

About 3 years ago, one Sunday afternoon after we had, had a Church braai in the ‘old kraal’, Umjoji disappeared. We had remnant visitors, from the braai, visiting at our house.
Now Umjoji’s very absence, was a sure sign that there was something wrong! He always loves to be around when there were visitors. ‘After all they’re people and I love them’ So Gerda left me with the task of preparing coffee and snacks for the guests, and she and Lucas returned to the old kraal to look for Umjoji.
Sure enough, he had wondered off  towards the end of our braai, with some folks who had gone for a short walk, and he had accompanied them – as could be expected!
Unfortunately he had, during the walk, got himself caught in a poachers snare, made of thin steel cable. The very design and nature of the snare, was intended to cause harm. He had only been in his predicament for about an hour or so, but because of his natural determination and strength, he had tried to use brute force to free himself from the snare.
In the process the cable had cut into his groin, and if he had been left for another hour the cable would have cut through his penis! He was obviously in agony.
Lucas and Gerda removed the snare, with difficulty, which in itself must have been painful. Never once did he whimper or cry. His only reaction was to wag his tail: ‘thanks my friend!’

The Vets bills, for the damage repair were astronomical, but Umjoji recovered fully from his trauma. However, I was obviously very angry to put it mildly – Who had set the damn snare?
I had given a contract to clear wattle, to a young man some months earlier, and it was his workers who were the culprits. Needless to say, that was the end of the young man, his workers and his contract!

Tête-a-tête with a wild pig:

Another incident showing his high pain tolerance, was when he was about 3 years old, and tried to settle a small difference with a wild pig.
He had been visiting Lucas up at his house, one afternoon, when out of the blue, a wild pig dashed for cover, from out of the trees. I with my ‘big voice’, was not present, to intervene, so Umjoji latched onto this golden opportunity for a little fun, and gave chase.
Lucas had given him no chance of catching up with the innocent  porker, – but that was an error of judgement on Lucas’s part!

We had overseas guests, from the USA, in our lodge that evening, and at that time I was preparing dinner for our guests and Gerda was busy setting the dinner table.
Again, when Umjoji was obviously absent, it was a sure indication that there were problems. I phoned Lucas, who immediately realised what probably had happened. He dashed off in the direction that Umjoji had given chase, and sure enough, there they were still locked in mortal combat.
Umjoji weighed in at 35kg and the pig at about 55kg. By then they had been fighting for about 45 minutes. Umjoji’s tactics had been to grab hold of the porker, and in typical staffie fashion, violently shake his opponent. Unfortunately for Umjoji the weight ratio was not in his favour. The pig was too heavy, and Umjoji had snapped his top jaw in the middle, next to one of his canines. Both pig and dog were covered in blood – Umjoji’s.
The pig, which was a sow, had only one defence – to bite Umjoji in the rump – a rear guard action. Lucas separated the combatants without much difficulty, and the pig sped off. All Umjoji did was to wag his tail and pant, with the pride of a fisherman that had just caught a whale.

Gerda and Lucas bundled him into the car and again sped off to Anthony the Vet, for help. Umjoji had lost a canine, and with major surgery, had to have his broken jaw wired up with platinum wire. The lacerations on his bum were not too serious, but all in all Umjoji looked a disaster! Like Delville Wood after the battle.
I suppose the pig has recovered happily, with a few fatty scars to remind her to steer clear of the likes of Umjoji, in future. Again there was never any self pity on his part. He never showed any sign of pain. He just loved the Vet, Anthony, and gained another friend, who has become one of his favourites.

Elizca my exciting young friend:


Elizca and I ‘on site’ the day after

In early December 2012, we were graced by the visit of young family friends -The Middelberg family from Potchefstroom.
Dad – Conrad, Mom – Sanlie and their three young girls, Elizca 7 years old, Karin 5 years old and Sané 2 years old, arrived latish in the evening, at about 18h30. The sun had set and was fast turning to dusk – the shadows were long, and it was becoming decidedly chilly.
Remember we’re situated at 2000 meters above sea level.
With lots of excitement, and fun and games, we proceeded to welcome them, and to help unpack their vehicle.
Of course, the first bonding exercise was between, the children and Umjoji.
This was probably the joy of Umjoji’s life – to meet new young friends, and to share his excitement, with them.

Yours truly, in anticipation, had already started the preparation for our supper. I had made, Aïoli, to accompany the ‘new potatoes’ fresh out of our garden – just as a starter of course.
The rest we’d tackle, around the table, when we’d settled down, with lots of laughter and good conversation … Or so we thought!

All in the space of a couple of exciting minutes, we did our thing.
Then Sanlie asked “Waar is Elizca?”  I was back in the kitchen with Conrad, doing the man’s thing! Preparing the meal! I had of course, learned a few tricks in my 14 years of owning a restaurant!
“Conrad, waar is Elizca????”
Then Gerda asked, “Brian have you seen Elizca?”, but I was focusing on potatoes …
No response!
Then the atmosphere suddenly changed from one of fun and laughter to one of anxiety and stress: “Conrad, Waar is Elizca – sy’s nie hier nie?!” “Conrad!!!”

By now It was past 19h00. The real threat was, Elizca was missing in a strange place, and it would soon be dark and cold.
There was no time to waste!!!

We suddenly became aware that Umjoji was also missing,  and we then realised what had most probably happened – He had taken Elizca for a short, fun walk.

Yours truly and Conrad jumped into my bakkie, and drove off in great haste, to do a recce around the house, area. Gerda and Sanlie would search in closer proximity.
The seriousness and urgency had now dawned on us!

I realised that Umjoji had a couple of favourite routes, and Conrad and I increased our search parameters to include them. I stopped every 100 meters or so, for Conrad to call for his daughter.
Conrad is a man of well over 2 meters tall – he’s large – not fat! But with his size he only has a small voice. When he called out he called: “Elizca”, “Elizca”, “Elizca”.
I become more anxious and impatient, and said “No Conrad! when you call – shout!” “Call  Elizca!” …..  The ‘big voice’ kicked into play!!!
We continued searching – The whole ‘Nooitgedacht Hiking Route’ – calling and shouting as we went!
But with no response!!! This time not because of potatoes!
When we got back to the house at 19h30, it was dark. Still no luck!
We were experiencing a nightmare.
Elizca and Umjoji were missing!

Everyone was upset. There were lots of tears. The atmosphere was one of intense anxiety.
I sat down quietly, in a corner, trying to gather my thoughts. I tried phoning the police.
In the ‘New South Africa’ there was no such luck!
I tried phoning a friend in the SAPS dog unit, Marcelle Oosthuizen. I got through to explain our predicament. Between he and I, we phoned several other senior regional officers in SAPS, in Lydenburg and Nelspruit. The wheels had started turning – and they said we might even get a helicopter!?
Again no such luck! The helicopters floodlight for night-search, was faulty! Maybe tomorrow?
No that’s too late, for us!

By now it was 21h00, with still no sign of Elizca or Umjoji. The atmosphere was frightening and disturbing!
Marcelle said he would be out shortly with his dogs. Big problem!!! Umjoji is not dog friendly!!! Marcelle suggested he would be extra careful and on guard! “His dogs were disciplined!”
But I still needed to get help, to calm the family and Gerda down. We all seemed to be losing control of the situation.

I phoned our local padre Fred Wilson, for spiritual assistance. But being December, he was on holiday and out of town! He suggested that I phone Christie Smit the ‘Moeder gemeente dominee’ – new in town but very willing and helpful. Christie and his wife Christelle said they would be out shortly to help.

At about 22h00 Christie, Christelle and Marcelle  all arrive as promised.
Marcelle however arrived with half the town: Ettienne, plus all Marcelle’s contacts from the local security groups in town. Even the uniformed police in whom I had no hope, arrived. The two black constables, slotted in with everyone else and helped with the search! Ultimately there were 30 people on site, all ready and able and actively searching for the missing girl and dog.
Christie and Christelle did what they are best at, and trained for: They sat down with the family and Gerda to bring peace and hope through the much needed prayer.

By now it was really cold and Sanlie remembered that Elizca was only dressed in a thin summer dress and ‘plakkies’ –  It would be difficult for her to survive the elements!

I remembered the Aïoli and the garden potatoes. So I brought them out with bread, cheese and olives, to feed the masses. All 30 of them.
I think a little went a long way, that night, in the same way as the ‘fishes and loaves’ did all those 2000 years before.

All of a sudden, out of the blue, at 22h30, my friend Umjoji walked in, wagging his tail, as if nothing had happened. However he was alone and he was wet.
He can’t talk, but we wished he could!
He must have been through water, which boded badly for Elizca. There is a small  dam near the house, and at this stage we needed to be realistic.  Marcelle contacted the police diving unit, who would come out. They were in Nelspruit, so it wouldn’t take too long.
People were still crisscrossing the farm in their ongoing search for Elizca.
Marcelle said: “I have a little girl of 10 years, myself, so I will not stop until I find Elizca”.

 To cut a long story short, most of the team continued through that dismal night, without a break.
Christie and Christelle carried on till the small hours with their prayers and comforting spiritual support, and returned again at 06h00 to continue. The family were distraught and never slept.

As it started getting light, the intensity of the search increased, and the divers started donning their diving suits, to search the dam. Our neighbour, Dean Hunter had been called out in his Microlite to do an air search. He was flying at low level, in a grid pattern, to cover the area.
A helicopter had been arranged for a little later.

A sensitivity, cropped up: It was little Karin’s 5th birthday today.
How could anyone celebrate a birthday, in such dismal circumstances?
However Gerda phoned Andre from the Spar and got him out of bed,  to order a birthday cake for Karin, plus 30 ‘boerewors dogs’ to feed the hungry masses, for breakfast.

As ‘Faith’ would have it at 07h00, who should walk in, but a timid, scared little girl, ‘dying’ of the cold! Everybody cried and shouted with heartfelt Joy – I think, even Umjoji!

Elizca, had run out of steam when it started to get cold and dark.
“Hondjie, ek dink ons moet nou huistoe gaan!”
In the dark, she and Umjoji had found an old shed, not too far from our house. She lay down and fell asleep on an old dirty mattress. That was when Umjoji had left her, assuming she knew the way home.

From that moment onwards, the ‘well intended visit’ changed for the better, and the nature of the prayers changed to prayers of thanksgiving. Needless to say everyone enjoyed their ‘boerie’ roll breakfast, and the Middelberg’s  celebrated Karin’s birthday with great joy.

The family will never forget their experience on Paardeplaats and I’m sure, Elizca will never forget her experience with her friend Umjoji.

 An adder out of Eden:

Same story – plenty of excitement and bravado: ‘Wow, what a day!’

A year ago we were in Pretoria, on one of our normal doctor / business / visiting routines with children and family. Lucas was holding the fort, on Paardeplaats. – Phone call: ‘Sir, Umjoji has had a fight with a snake. The snake is dead but I think it bit him on the mouth’. The snake was a puff adder, and Umjoji was very proud of his trophy – wagging his tail and panting as usual.

We phoned Anthony the Vet from Pretoria, to tell him the story and our predicament; We were away from home etc: ‘don’t worry I’ll drive out and have a look’ Two days later, we’re back home and get the full story:
Umjoji had killed the snake, which had bitten him. Anthony drove out,  injected him with anti-venom, put him into his bakkie, on the front seat, (VIP treatment), with a photo to prove it. He was placed on a drip and was kept at the Vet for 24 hours (more VIP treatment). I really love this man! So, ‘Don’t anybody ever touch him, cause he’s my friend!’

So taai soos ʼn ratel:

Paardeplaats has many Honey Badgers, that tend to wonder around in the evening and at night, I suppose, looking for something to eat, which is quite normal.
One evening at about 7pm when it was just beginning to get dark, Gerda arrived  home, in her normal boisterous, busy fashion. She stepped out of her car with the normal ‘hello Ma se klein kinders – hoe gaan dit met my honde?’, with plenty of French commentary in between – Lots of (over) excitement. All of a sudden, Umjoji, in the confusion, breaks away and streaks off like lightening, giving chase to something in the dark?
The ‘big voice’ is not there to stop him! Further up the hill, about 100 meters distant, a big commotion ensues. There’s no ‘tjanking’ but lot’s of goings on!
Gerda runs off to help. She finds him in serious combat with a creature, which in turn, out of fright, let’s go of Umjoji and darts off into the dark. Umjoji’s snout is covered in blood, with quite a few teeth marks around the nose. Again, same pattern, tail wagging, panting. Great pride. ‘I’m just trying to defend you, but what fun!’ The creature was a Honey Badger.

On several occasions under similar circumstances, he also ‘defended’ Gerda against a civet which was resident in the area near our carport. I’m sad to say that we know it was a civet, because he and Pampata recently killed it, when Gerda was out for a walk. Unfortunately he does not seem to understand Gerda’s tears and anger, when he does this. More tail wagging and panting.    ‘You can’t win em all’!

A leopard never changes it’s spots:

On Christmas Day in 2013, we had guests staying in our guest lodge for the festive period.
As was mostly the case, Umjoji, preferred the company of the guests, mostly because there were children involved.
So when Stephanie and Arrie decided to go for a walk with the children, guess who joined them? They took the ‘Klipspringer Route’ towards the ‘old mine shaft’, when all of a sudden, and with quite a commotion a young, but startled leopard jumped up and dashed off for its life. Of course Umjoji gave chase and again, the ‘big voice’, was not there to stop him. The terrified animal raced down the hill towards the waterfall, with the dog in hot pursuit. The leopard dashed up a tree, to escape the demon, but Umjoji managed to grab hold of a paw, and hung on for all he was worth. We will never know the full outcome, but the leopard managed to get rid of Umjoji, and he arrived back at the lodge an hour later, wagging his tail, and panting with great pride as usual.

I think that Umjoji should thank his lucky stars that the element of surprise was in his favour, on this occasion. He’s no match for a leopard! Even a young one. 

Brian’s Problem:

Isn’t it strange how one’s pets grow on you like your children?

Its October 2015. Umjoji is now 10 years and 1 month old, he still looks well, although he’s losing weight – his ribs are showing, and he is not himself. He’s down to 25kg. He sleeps a lot and we’re all concerned.  I put him into my bakkie, on the front seat (VIP treatment again) and we leave for his friend, Anthony.
Diagnosis: A grade 4 heart murmur, he might live for another 6 months or with luck, even a year, but this will be the end of the line for him.
The ‘happy hunting ground’ beckons. On reflection, I suppose, that all his physical exertion, must have had a negative effect. He has been placed on a prescription diet for dogs with heart problems, plus pills to improve his blood flow.  This has all happened so suddenly and so unexpectedly.
He looked so strong a month ago?, when he killed that civet and Gerda reprimanded him – with those ‘hang dog’ eyes – to say ‘I’m sorry!’  

Blissful peace. Asleep with his friends Pampata & Lilo (July 2015)

dogs (1)                                                                                     

  Brian’s thoughts, and pain:

My friend, you have been such a blessing to us as a family, we have all had such wonderful times together. We have such rich and full memories of our life’s journey together. You have been a wonderful companion, and friend, for us. I’m no longer so sure, who was blessed those 10 years ago.
Was it you, or was it perhaps us? We were often rather angry with you, because your enthusiasm got out of hand. We often considered using that horrible thing called a ‘choke chain’ to enforce discipline.  Thank heavens we didn’t!
We might have taught you some lessons in your life, but you have taught us a lot too – and ‘nogal’ without words!
We see your example of unconditional love – it’s very good!
We see your loyalty and that’s good.
You place no demands, that’s good.
You’re very brave with no self pity – that’s good.
As God said on the seventh day – “and it was good!”
Umjoji you have taught us a lot! We thank you, for being who you are! We will not let you suffer. We will never forget you! You’re a ‘Good Boy’! We have not told our children, of the bad news yet, because we know that it will upset them, and they will cry. Umjoji still looks at me with those ‘hang dog eyes’ when I pat and scratch him, as if to say ‘Thanks, I love you’.

A man & his dog, overlooking Masjienkloof.

A MAN & HIS DOG (2)  

Sunday 21st February 2016:  Umjoji’s weight is down to 20kg. He does have a heart murmur! But there must be something else wrong – very wrong! His weight loss is too dramatic, he has got a few lumps around his head, ears and neck – I suppose cancer? Today he did not eat at all.
He looks at us with those beautiful but pleading eyes. I think he is telling us that his time has come, and that he is ready! With lots of tears we make the painful decision that tomorrow, early, we will take him off to his friend Anthony, for some sound advice.

Monday 22nd February 2016: I phone Umjoji’s friend Anthony: he says he will come out to the farm at 16h30, to have a look – To preserve Umjoji’s self dignity, we will spare him the embarrassment of going to the vet’s rooms, in his condition.
The diagnosis is that Umjoji is suffering from kidney failure, as a result of his ‘heart murmur’. His time has come! ‘Yours Truly’, Gerda and Lucas sit down with Anthony and Umjoji. We stroke him. We talk to him, we reassure him. He loves the attention. He loves us!!! The tears flow uncontrollably,  and at 17h00 Anthony does what he has to do.
Within less than a minute, Umjoji is relieved of his pain and suffering, and he has found real peace!

We lay him to rest under a lone tree overlooking the ‘Finsbury Valley’. One of his favourite places on the farm – His cool, resting spot, when he was exhausted after running with me and my tractor.

Umjoji, we will remember you for who you were. Thanks for your unconditional love and loyalty. Thanks for the fun and games, we had, together. You have been a wonderful friend and companion. We love you and will miss you terribly. Enjoy the ‘happy hunting ground’.

This goodbye is so very painful, for us,  because you were part of our family!
You will live on in our memories!
God bless you Umjoji!!!   Good boy!  You can lick me!



Easter ‘Son Rise’ Service Sunday 27th March 2016

‘Sonrise’ Service

Paardeplaats Jesus Hill

Sunday 27th March 2016

 Hallelujah, the Son has risen!

On Easter Sunday 27th March at 6am, more than 100 enthusiastic people gathered at the ‘Jesus Hill’ cross on Paardeplaats, to worship the most important event on the Christian calendar.
Both young and old, locals and visitors, of all races creeds and cultures, braved the cold and the dark to climb the hill and celebrate the ‘good news’ that the ‘Son has risen’.

Hymns were sung and Pastor Andre Hanekom of the Full Gospel Church, delivered a powerful message that our Lord has indeed risen and that we do not worship a dead God!
As the sun rose at 06h15 there was a very touching and inspiring silence of a minute, held,   as everyone contemplated what He did  for us.

We have been holding this service on Easter Sunday, on the ‘Jesus Hill’ for the past 6 years, and will certainly continue doing so in the future. There will be a similar service held at ‘Penticost’ on Sunday 15th May at 3pm. This service will be held as part of ‘The World Day of Prayer’ when millions of people throughout the world will be praying.
All will be welcome.

Diarise this and let’s join together to make a difference in our own town and country.

Burguhl & Lentil Fritters with Tsatsiki

LENTIL & BURGHUL FRITTERSSaucy Chef Recipe of the Month November 2015



A very successful Mezze or snack for the health conscious

Makes 35


Brown lentils (washed)                                                                                                       150g
Burghul (Bulgar wheat)                                                                                                      100g
Olive oil or Canola oil                                                                                                         100ml
Onion large (finely chopped)                                                                                               1
Ground cumin                                                                                                                    2 tsp
Ground coriander                                                                                                               2 tsp
Mint leaves (freshly chopped)                                                                                         3 tblsp
Garlic (crushed)                                                                                                                 1 tblsp
Eggs (lightly beaten)                                                                                                           4
Cake flour                                                                                                                             ½ cup
Sea salt                                                                                                                                  1 tsp

Greek Yoghurt                                                                                                                    1 cup
Garlic (crushed)                                                                                                                  2 tsp
Lemon juice                                                                                                                        1 tblsp
Black pepper (freshly ground)                                                                                         1 tsp
Mint leaves (freshly chopped)                                                                                         1 tblsp
Cucumber (seeds removed and shredded)                                                                    7 cm
Sea salt                                                                                                                                  to taste

  1. Place the lentils in a pan with 2½ cups water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, until tender (al dente).
  2. Remove from the heat, and add just enough water to barely cover the lentils. Add the Burghul, toss with a fork, Transfer this to a bowl, cover and stand for 1 hour, until the Burghul has expanded, and absorbed all the liquid.
  3. Make the Tsatsiki, by mixing all the ingredients together, and tasting for salt.
  4. Heat half the oil in a pan, add the chopped onions and the garlic, and fry very gently until soft. Add the cumin and coriander.
  5. Add this to the lentil and Burghul mix, with the eggs, flour, chopped mint and sea salt, and toss to mix together. The consistency should be runny enough for heaped teaspoons full to drop into the pan. If it is too wet, add a little more flour.
  6. On medium, heat the remaining oil, in a clean non-stick pan, then fry heaped teaspoons full of the batter, in batches, for about 3 minutes, each side, until golden brown. Drain on paper towel, salt lightly and serve with the Tsatsiki a squeeze of lemon juice, and a garnish of fresh mint.

Artichoke & Parmesan Salad

artichoke and parmesan salad 1

Saucy Chef Recipe of the Month August 2015


Best to use fresh home grown baby artichokes if possible Then you don’t have to remove the choke.


Do yourself a favour in Spring or Summer, and plant Globe Artichokes in your garden. The foliage is very pretty and you will have fresh artichokes on hand when you need them! The plants will last, and produce artichokes for up to 5 years

Ingredients:                                                                                                                 Serves 6
Freshly picked baby globe-artichokes (trim excess leaves, peel and quarter.
Keep 5 cm of the stem on.)                                                                                             8
Lemon juice freshly squeezed.                                                                                       2 tblsp
Olive oil (extra virgin best quality!)
One can use walnut oil instead, for a lovely nutty flavour!                                      3 tblsp
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.                                                                          to taste
Parmesan shavings.                                                                                                          8-10
Fresh thyme  (for garnish)                                                                                               a few sprigs

  1. Trim and peel, then quarter the artichokes and place immediately into cold water with a little lemon juice, to prevent the hearts from discolouring.
  2. Using a bamboo steamer, steam the hearts for about 12-15 minutes until tender when using the point of a sharp knife. Salt and pepper lightly to taste.
  3. Whisk the lemon juice and the oil together in a bowl, until emulsified. Add the artichoke hearts and toss well but gently to coat them.
  4. Arrange the artichokes on a pretty salad platter pour over the excess dressing, and grind over a little more pepper. When cooled sufficiently arrange the parmesan shavings over the artichokes, garnish with a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and serve while still luke warm.
  5. They can also be served on freshly toasted ciabatta slices 2 cm thick, with garlic rubbed on one side, and drizzled with a little more oil, as a starter snack (called bruschetta)
  6. This is an ideal, light, lunchtime salad served with your favourite dry white wine.



Cabbage Gratin


Cabbage Gratin


Ideal family, winter food to be enjoyed around the fire, with a bottle of your favourite wine.



Ingredients:                                                                    Serves 6

Cabbage (shredded)                                                              ½ or more if needed
Potatoes peeled and sliced into 5mm slices                      4
Apples peeled, cored and sliced as above                           4
Onions peeled and sliced                                                      3
Carrots peeled and sliced                                                      1
Garlic chopped (optional)                                                     1 Tsp
Pork rashers cut into 3cm pieces                                         6
Bacon lardons (or minced bacon)                                        200g
Juniper berries (lightly crushed)                                         10
Emmenthaler cheese grated                                                  250g
Breadcrumbs                                                                            ¼ cup
Cream (or milk if you need to cut the fat)                          ½ cup
Dijon mustard                                                                         1 tbsp
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley chopped (garnish)                                                     ¼ cup

1. Use a steel or ovenproof glass, baking dish (about 30cm x 45cm)
2. Preheat the oven to 160°C
3. Steam the potato slices for about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
4. Steam the apple and carrot for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
5. Fry the onions gently in a little butter, until soft a lightly browned.
6. Layer the potatoes then the apple, then the onion, in the baking dish.
7. Layer the bacon and the pork on top of the onion.
8. Cover with the carrot, garlic and juniper berries.
9. Sprinkle the shredded cabbage over the top.
10. Lightly, salt and pepper.
11. Blend the cream and mustard with a little salt and pepper. Carefully pour this
blended cream and mustard, down the side of the gratin.
12. Sprinkle over the grated Emmenthaler cheese and then finally the breadcrumb
13. Cover with a loose sheet of tin foil and bake in the centre of the oven for about 1½ hours.
14. Cover with a loose sheet of tin foil and bake in the centre of the oven for about 1½ hours.
15. Remove the tin foil, turn the oven heat up to 180°C,  and bake for a further ½ hour, until the cream reduces and starts to become sticky, and the top is evenly browned.
16. Remove from the oven and garnish with the chopped parsley.
17. Serve with a  Bordeaux Blend notably Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, both known for their power and elegance and can stand up to and even enhance the full flavours of  the cabbage.

A good crisp, fresh, rye bread with cumin seeds and some good Dijon mustard, will do the trick for a “lekker long kuier”!

Bon Appetit!

Risotto di Fungo (Mushroom risotto)

Risotto di Fungo (Mushroom Risotto) 

Ingredients:                                                                                             Serves 8
Arborio rice (Risotto rice) – 500 g
Onion chopped – 2
Chicken stock (Well flavoured) – 750 ml
Dry white wine – 350 ml
Brown mushrooms sliced thickly – 10
Button mushrooms sliced thickly  – 500 g
Exotic or wild mushrooms – 150 g
Dried Ceps or Chanterelle mushrooms or both – 50 g
Mushroom soup (good quality – cans are OK) – 800ml  
Lemon juice (fresh squeezed) – 2 tblsp
Chopped parsley – ½ cup
Butter – 150 g
Olive oil – 4 tblsp
Freshly grated parmesan cheese – ½ cup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste

  1. Mix the mushroom soup and the chicken stock, together. While still hot, add the dried mushrooms. Set aside and allow to reconstitute for about an hour.
  2. Wipe clean, and slice the mushrooms into fairly thick slices.
  3. Heat 50g butter in a large pan over a high heat, until a nut brown in colour. Stir fry the brown and button mushrooms, with plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Until just done. Add the wild mushrooms, and continue to fry for another ½ minute, tossing frequently. Squeeze over about 1 tblsp lemon juice , toss, and set aside.
  4. For The Risotto: In a large flat pan, like a paella dish, fry the onion in the olive oil with 50g of the butter, on a medium high heat, until soft and golden brown.
  5. Add the rice and toss well to coat with the butter. Fry gently for about 5-8 minutes, tossing regularly.
  6. Add the white wine and toss very well. It will “sigh” as all Italians will tell you it needs to do. Fold gently and regularly, using two wooden spatulas, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. From now on the risotto will need your permanent focused attention! and will take about 30 minutes to completion, until the rice is cooked a light al dente.
  7. Here goes: Working on a medium heat, and using a soup ladle, spoon in one ladle of the stock mix. Fold the liquid into the rice with two wooden spatulas and work the risotto continually until the liquid begins to run dry. Try not to stir – a folding action is required. Add another spoon of the stock, fold in and continue working the risotto.
  8. This must continue without the liquid ever running dry, until the stock is all used up and the rice is cooked al dente.
  9. Through this cooking process and up to the final serving, the consistency of the risotto must remain very moist and creamy – this is the secret of any good risotto. It must never dry out!
  10. When you get to the last ladle of stock, add the stir-fried mushrooms, toss gently and allow to cook in with the rice for about a minute, when the rice should be lightly al dente,
  11. Remove from the heat and working very carefully, toss in the rest of the butter, and lemon juice. Dust with the chopped parsley and the parmesan cheese as a final garnish.
  12. Serve immediately with a crusty ciabatta,  in good company, with a green, herbed salad and a bottle or two of good, well chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Chianti wine.
  13. A good Gorgonzola with figs, will go well after the meal.

Bon appétit!


  •  Turn this into an excellent vegetarian dish by using a vegetable stock!
  •  In our normal South African summers we often have a lot of wild mushrooms – if you know them, and are absolutely sure of yourself, use them. (Ceps, field mushrooms, ikowe – all good – much better than the commercial versions!)
  •  Woollies normally have all the ingredients needed.