Several years ago it was unusual to see donkeys in town, let alone in the suburbs. Then it was more common to see them pulling a cart of firewood or, as in this case, collecting garden refuse to take to the town dump.

Times change and donkeys appear all over town these days. We frequently see them walking along our street.

Unlike the Urban Herd of cattle, donkeys are more difficult to identify as individuals. If you observe them closely though, you will see that they do indeed look different from each other. Like most residents, I have become resigned to their presence and now actually enjoy seeing them about – like these ones seeking shade on a very hot day. They are a stone’s throw from our house.

They are generally very dear animals and many of them enjoy a pat or a gentle rub. One has to approach them very carefully though because some shy away from contact. They can sometimes be seen sharing the grassy park nearby with members of the Urban Herd.

This one is nibbling grass opposite a primary school.

These ones are waiting expectantly outside my back gate!

My main concern is that these animals pose a danger to traffic, especially at night for they sometimes choose to sleep or stand in the middle of a street. This means that we all have to be particularly wary when travelling at night – especially as not all the street lights work and, of course the town is plunged into complete darkness during the periods of Eskom load-shedding!




Earlier this month we were visited by a small number of the Urban Herd, including this very fine looking speckled cow:

They gathered on the verge outside our home. The Bronze Cow is on the left and the Mud Cow can be seen on the right – recognisable as she looks as though she has been splattered with pale mud:

Here the Mud Cow is on the left and on the extreme right is the Brindled Jackal Calf:

The Bronze Cow can sniff something in the air as the Mud Cow lifts her tail:


No wonder she lost interest!


We are used to members of the ever-increasing Urban Herd making themselves at home in our suburbs. These ones are chewing the cud on a pavement next to an outside garden shed.

A cow and her newborn calf take advantage of an unmown grass verge.

These cows are in the street behind our home.

There are an increasing number of donkeys roaming the town too. This donkey and her foal can be seen next to a school sports field.

Now we have goats added to the mix. This is only part of a herd of large, sleek goats seen roaming the suburbs a few days ago.

They look very at home!


… the part of the Eastern Cape where I live. Grahamstown is surrounded by farms, game reserves, hunting areas, and is close to the coast. We are not going to reach the sea on this virtual trip, but will stick closer to home. The first scene then is of an abandoned windmill. These wonderful wind-driven pumps were iconic structures of farming communities all over South Africa. Most have now been replaced by solar pumps and the old stalwarts have been left to rust … clanking uselessly in the wind.

Grass fires spell danger and destruction to anything and everyone who lives in their wake. Many fires are fanned by strong winds and recently our town was smothered in thick smoke coming from a bushfire on the side of the surrounding hills. In this view across the valley, you can see the brownish layers of smoke from grass fires somewhere in the region.

Now many of you are familiar with my tales of the Urban Herd: cattle that are left to wander around the suburbs to feed on the unmown grass verges, unkempt public parks – and to drink water from ditches and potholes. These two almost look as if they wish to pay the homeowner a visit!

The number of donkeys seen in town as well as in the suburbs has also increased over the years. These two are typical of many of them: finding grazing wherever they can in the suburbs:

From time to time some may be collected by their owners and in-spanned to pull a donkey cart. The latter are frequently used for collecting firewood, or wood from the wattle forests that are growing on the fringes of the town for building houses. In this case, these youngsters may have delivered something or are simply going on a ‘joy-ride’ through the suburbs at the end of the day:

We have become so used to seeing these domestic animals both in town and in the suburbs as well as along the road that skirts through what is euphemistically called the industrial area on the edge of town – there are no factories here – that we tend not to worry about them anymore. Yesterday evening a cow stood in the middle of a busy street while she suckled her calf: vehicles simply slowed down and moved past them without a fuss. A boon for the bird-watcher in me is that the presence of cattle in the area means that I occasionally see Red-billed Oxpeckers feasting on the ticks they carry:


We tend to gloss over the things that go wrong – or potentially wrong – and, quite rightly, focus on the more positive aspects. Sometimes, however, life’s little niggles cannot be ignored. The part of the Eastern Cape where I live is notorious for its dangerous ticks. Even though we are very careful to inspect ourselves after walking through the veld, a few years after we had settled here I fell victim to a tick-borne disease that attacked my nerve sheaths. It was traced to me having imbibed non-pasteurised milk! All ended well. I was nonetheless wary when I found a tick crawling up my wrist while I was out walking.

Then there is the summer that I look forward to from the moment the weather starts cooling down. We are used to experiencing temperatures in the middle to high 30°C, but swelter when days peak at 41°C or above.

I reversed out of our driveway only to discover I had a flat tyre! It isn’t nearly as easy to get the wheel off as it used to be, so changing it took a while and I was grateful to receive help.

Do you remember when, at the start of the Covid pandemic and most of the world was in lockdown, people began to panic-buy. Shelves in supermarkets were quickly cleared of bread, tinned food and especially toilet paper. Well, last week I was faced with shelves empty of loo rolls and was confronted by the sign below. On Thursday I heard tell of people exiting the supermarket with bags of toilet paper in their trolleys – the following day there was nought to be found.

I often mention the lack of water in our taps. This is a reality we have had to become used to over a number of years. The prolonged drought has had a lot to do with this as has increased water usage as a result of the enormous increase in population when the university students and boarding school pupils return at the start of each academic year. Ageing infrastructure and a lack of maintenance means pipes regularly burst all over town and these leaks are not always seen too. The resultant potholes are a boon for cattle and birds to drink from – but not good for the rest of us. Our water supply is cut off every night, but there are times when we have no water at all for more than a day at a time. To remedy this situation, we have at last installed a buffer tank with an electric pump that will provide us with limited domestic water over such dry days – providing there is electricity of course! Note the metal cage covering the pump: a necessity these days as they have increasingly fallen prey to thieves – which is also why all the pipes are plastic rather than copper.

While on the subject of water connections: I turned on the tap yesterday morning so that I could do a load of laundry, only to find the connection burst away from the tap covering me with water in the process. The hunt for plumbers tape was on and eventually a washer was found to replace the perished one. I gingerly turned the tap on for the third time – and it worked!

Life’s little niggles indeed.