Hello dear Reader
If you look closely at the above photo, taken in October 2013, you can see a bumble bee in the middle of the picture enjoying the nectar of the keurboom (virgilia oroboidies). This tree was planted in our first shelterbelt alongside our first pastures two and a half years ago.
A shelterbelt is strip surrounding our pastures (started off 5m wide and is now 15m wide). It is where we plant indigenous and endemic trees and shrubs and is one area where the cattle will never graze. The methodology and results of our grazing is explained here. There are many reasons why we have given up precious pasture for these shelterbelts.
1. The trees and shrubs form a windbreak. Our desiccating summer wind needs to be broken.
2. The shelterbelt area becomes a seed bank as the grasses and legumes that grow there are not mown by the cattle and chickens every 6 weeks and can accordingly complete their life cycle.
3. it becomes a home for the birds and the bees (as per above photo). These animals do an important role in cleaning up the pasture of bugs as well as fertilising and pollinating.
4. Most importantly, for me at least, the shelterbelts bring microbial balance onto the farm. I am referring to soil microbes here. Don’t forget that in a handful of healthy soil there are more microbes than there are humans on earth. A tree dominant area is fungally dominant whereas a grassland area is bacterially dominant.
5. The shelterbelts add tremendously to the beauty of our already beautiful farm. As you will see from the photos below there are always plants in flower as we have planted a great variety of indigenous and endemic trees and shrubs.
6. We have a few, long beefwood (casuarina) windbreaks and we need to replace these with indigenous trees and shrubs.
7. The trees and shrubs in the shelterbelts sequester Carbon. Our beef operation generates Carbon credits. Click on the green to read about it. Although our shelterbelts are not calculated in our Carbon project, through the growth process of these trees, Carbon is being stored in the soil.
Below is a selection of photos from the shelterbelts that criss cross our farm.
We really like the succulents as they dont need much water or attention and when they flower the colours are superb.
In case the purple was not bright enough here is the succulent in all it’s glory.
Before I continue you need to meet the team who grow the plants, plant them into the shelterbelts and then look after them.
Spier have the most amazing indigenous nursery where over 2 million plants have been propagated over the last 5 years. Most of these plants have been reintroduced into the veld on Spier and another Stellenbosch farm. The green fingered wizard who manages this operation is Wilton Sikhosana. Seen below on the right showing Jabulani and Mike (with their backs turned) which plants can go out into the shelterbelts.
The team that manages the planting (this winter alone they planted out 4,000 plants) and then maintains them is headed by Jabulani. Looking serious next to him are Dumisani, Machingura, Norman and Terence.
Jabulani takes himself so seriously he cannot even manage a smile.
In reference to some of the points made above, the picture below consists of the following. In the background is the start of a long Beefwood windbreak. In the foreground is Rhodes Katambora grass that is going to seed and the purple flowering plant on the left and right is the September Bush (polygala myrtifolia).
The grass going to seed on the left is Smutsfinger and on the right Tall Fescue. Helderberg mountain in the background.
We cannot allow the purple plant to be the only one to be admired so we planted this pink succulent too.
In the background a Beefwood windbreak that will be removed once the shelterbelts are more established. On the left a honeysuckle’s last flowers and on the right Smutsfinger grass.
Below is one of the newly planted shelterbelts. It is the now standard 15 meter wide variety and Jabulani’s team planted it this past July. Crimson clover is fixing nitrogen. The trees are so small they have to be staked.
One of the advantages of having such diversity is that there is always a plant in flower. In early winter the aloe arborescens comes out to dazzle.
Coulter Bush (hymenolepis parviflora) in the foreground. Eggmobiles behind and Helderberg on the horizon. November 2013.
Finally we are a Wine Farm and we apply the shelterbelt principles there too. Here is the shelterbelt that runs through the Merlot vineyard.