Highlands Farm

The farm was situated in the district of Misundu, 11 kilometers outside of the town of Ndola in Zambia. Ndola is situated in the wealthy Copperbelt region of Zambia, having its own copper refinery.

My father purchased the farm from the Dominican nuns who ran a convent in Ndola. The farm had been used by the nuns both as a home for the blind and as a retreat for the nuns.

The farmhouse had been unoccupied for some time so the property was very overgrown at the time of purchasing the farm. The farm was 70 acres in extent and was all bush, nothing having been cultivated on the land other than a small vegetable garden.

The farm was too far out of the town to have municipal electricity and water so we had to rely on electricity generators and water pumps. These were both out of order and had to largely be replaced at the time of my parents arrival at Highlands.

The farm on which I grew up and had the most wonderful of upbringing, was a dream home to me. The rural and wild side of living there was exciting. I have many wonderful memories as a farm boy of this beautiful and peaceful home. I was fortunate to have done so many exciting things.

 

Ploughing the Land

Ploughing the land to plant maize was one of the real highlights of living on a farm. Just you, the tractor, nature and this huge open piece of land.

I remember well, the hot African sun on my back and the smell of the rich dark soil being turned over as the plough blades sliced through the ground. High overhead the hawks and eagles would want to pounce on the rats, mice and moles whose homes were disturbed by the blades and who were now exposed to the powerful gaze of a variety of birds of pray. These magnificent birds with their huge wing spans would swoop down at lightning speed, at times, as close as arms length from the tractor.

Maize Fields

Farm Shed

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting Experience

Shooting doves and pigeons with my pellet gun. I frown upon doing this today but then, somehow it was different. Fortunately for the birds, lizards and snakes my Diana pellet gun wasn’t very powerful and I was a poor shot.

 

Mickey – Our little friend

Mickeys Final Hours

We were fortunate to have a “lap dog” as a pet during our childhood.  Farm dogs normally comprised the large Alsatians and Dobermans.  The smaller dogs would be terriers, but seldom softies that loved being picked up and cuddled. Mickey was such a dog.  With her longhaired sausage like body, long curly tail, enormous whiskers and huge brown eyes, he would make any heart melt.  He loved attention.

Mickey although very loving, would always be the first to confront any intruders and because of his acute sense of hearing, would be the first to bark.  His best friend was also my best friend, Rex, the cross-alsatian that I spent so much time, with from a puppy to his final days.

Mickey would be the first to hear any strange noise, bark and so set-off the other dogs.
We adopted Mickey when he was about 2 years of age and had him for about 4 years before the fateful day when his life was taken so early.

I was lying on my bed at about 2pm, after lunch, reading a comic or a Louis L’Amour western, when I heard Mickey barking outside.  I immediately knew from the tone of the bark that this was not an “idle” bark but one of urgency.  He had confronted something, which to him was dangerous.  I rushed outside to where he was, to discover him barking at a large puff adder which was slithering against the front veranda wall.  My first reaction was to draw him away from the snake.  I ran down the steps of the veranda and far away from Mickey before calling him to get him away.  He just continued barking and would not come to me.  I called and called running further and further away but he would not listen.  As if mesmerized by the eyes and hissing, and I’m sure also to protect me, he suddenly went for the snake.  With the quickest of strikes the fangs bit deep into Mickey’s side.  He ran away yelping, initially dragging the snake still with its fangs lodged in his body.  I managed to grab him and quickly called Edson, a farmworker, to kill the snake.

My mum and I rushed Mickey to the vet in the hope that a snake serum would save him.  It took us half an hour to get to town during which time he was whimpering all the time.  The vet had his doubts as to whether Mickey’s little heart could take all the poison. The vet injected him and did what he could.

We brought him home and kept watch over him, distraught with grief of losing our little friend.  At 9pm he passed away.  As an 11 year old boy, this was my first encounter with losing a member of the family.

 

Sliding Down a Laterite Pit

As children a great adventure for us was playing in the laterite pit about 1 km from home.  The pit was created when laterite was extracted from the ground to surface the road from the Misundu farming area to the town of Ndola.

The excavation resulted in a pit of about 80m in diameter and 15m deep being created.
To get there we had to walk or cycle down to the trading store, walk along the railway line, which went along the front entrance boundary of the farm and then through the bush to the pit.  We loved the walk on the line, listening to trains coming by putting our ears to the tracks, and also rubbing the ballast stones together which contained flint, sparked and gave off a smell like that of crackers.

What was exciting about these trips was sliding down the slippery slopes on sheets of cardboard or wood into a large pool of brown water at the bottom of the hole.  We mainly went in the rainy season, October to March, so there would be plenty of water. The appeal of splashing in water, even though brown, was exhilarating probably more so because of the summer heat and the fact we all loved swimming and did not have a pool at home.  We would race one another to see who would get to the bottom first.  There were gentle and steep slopes and the more adventurous or older you were, the steeper the chosen slopes.

We always did a reccé before sliding into the pit for any unwanted visitors.  These would range from snakes, lizards, spiders and any crawlies that appeared too large for comfort.
Once the way was cleared the fun would begin.  Our fox terrier, Pixi, would enjoy the hype as much as us, sliding on her four paws down the slopes into the water.  As with all children’s adventures and the excitement of the bush, being close to nature and being a little out of control when going to fast, there would be a few mishaps, mainly bruises and grazes.  We were always very cautious with regard to walking on the railway line and looking out for snakes.  We respected and feared them but they never prevented us from playing in their home.

 

Gaboon Viper – Victim and Friend

In June 1966, when 11 years of age, I was at home playing with my friend Boy, the farmworkers son, when Maxim, the trading store keeper came up to the farmhouse to tell me about a snake he had just killed not far from the store.  He knew of my great interest in snakes so we hurried down the 400m farm road to the trading store to be shown the largest venomous snake I had ever seen.  I had seen large pythons before, but a viper 6ft long with a head as large as a mans hand was unimaginable.

Maxim had been eating his lunch in the shade of a nearby tree, when he heard the rustling of leaves near his foot looked down and nearly became the first African to change his pigment to white. He quickly got his ‘catti”, loaded up with the nearest stone, and shot the snake twice on the head.  The accuracy with which the Africans could shoot with the ‘catties’ had to be seen to be believed.  I just stood there over-awed by the size and beautiful colouring and markings of this magnificent reptile.

I found a large strong stick and, after ensuring a number of times that the snake was indeed dead, pushed it under the belly of the snake and the two of us carried  “our” viper to the farm house. It took some time, because of its weight and also because it kept on slipping off the stick. You can just imagine my mothers reaction when I showed her with great excitement, our catch. She was horrified. I couldn’t wait for my dad to return from work. Because of its size and beauty  he agreed that we have it skinned and framed. The next morning he took the snake to the local vet and a week later returned with this beautiful skin which had still retained its colour. The skin of the head had been kept, together with the huge fangs. These were eventually removed when the skin was framed. I still have this framed memento of my childhood and the farm, at home in my study. It shall remain a prized possession of mine till my dying day. Little did a snake and an 11 year old boy know that they would be together for the life of the hunter.

The impact of the beauty of the snake resulted in us never killing another snake on the farm, and there were many, unless absolutely essential. They would be put in a hessian bag and released far into the bush.

 

Picking of the Fruits

We had many fruit trees on the farm, namely mango, guava, orange, paw paw, lemon, mulberry, banana and avocado pear. As young children we spent hours sitting in either the guava or mango trees picking and eating the fruits. There was never a problem with the guava trees, but the big dark leafy mango trees were often delightful homes or places of refuge for our snake friends, the boomslang and mamba. We would always thoroughly survey all branches and foliage before indulging. In our haste to eat the first fruits of the season, we often ended up with upset tummies due to the fruits still being too green. The taste of slightly green mangoes, sliced with a pen knife and sprinkled with salt, was one of our favourites. The guavas were often shared with little white worms which were rather a nuisance, especially for my sisters. A big juicy guava with a few worms, what the heck!

My father would be up at 5am to attend to the early morning farm duties and be off to the office by 7am. He would regularly get me up at 6.30am to catch paw paws. He had placed a noose at the end of a long bamboo pole and would use it to pull off a pawpaw away from its stem, which was way up the tree. I would have to hover below to catch this soft, delicate fruit. I can assure you this was certainly an art, especially if you had got to bed quite late the night before and you were catching, still in a slumber with just one eye open.

We were fortunate to have many avocado trees which produced plenty of fruit. We as a family all enjoyed the fruit with salt, pepper and vinegar. Any that fell to the ground before we got to them were devoured by my faithful friend, Rex.

Orange Trees

Vegetable Garden

 

 

 

 

 

Trading Store

At the entrance to our farm, my father had built a trading store to provide provisions to the other farm labourers and those living in the rural area of Misundu. The store was stocked with mealie meal, kapenta fish, sugar, beans, cooldrinks, sweets, various tins and packets of food, cooking oil, paraffin, clothing and other items commonly found in rural stores. Walking into these trading stores today with their similar smell of blended meal, sugar, fish and oil always takes me back home.

I remember our monthly pocket money being a tickey (Harry) sixpence (Sue) and a shilling (Ann). We could buy quite a lot of sweets with the value of money what it was in those days.

 

Putt-putt evenings

My father was a very keen golfer and on those days when he was not playing, he would invariably take out one of his clubs at the end of the day and go through analysing his swing. He read whatever golfing literature was circulating at the time, mainly provided at the Ndola Golf Club, and would adjust his swing to the latest devised technique to either hit the ball further, straighter, with a draw or a fade, etc.

Being a strong, powerfully built man with a surprisingly full and easy swing he could hit the ball for miles and as straight as a die. His handicap wavered between a 3 and 6 handicap. It was his putting that often let him down so he decided to prepare a rectangular putting green at the one side of the house with a hole at either end. The green was floodlit and after ploughing, mowing, fixing or cleaning we would regularly have our evening putting competition with beer in hand. These are moments which I will always cherish with my father. After supper we would often take out the telescope and look at the heavens with her trillions of bright stars. With no light around, the sky was a maze of twinkling stars.

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  • Farmhouse - Our Home on Arrival (1950) -
  • Farmhouse - Our Home on Arrival (1950) -
  • Harry in pram - 1955 -
  • Ann and Harry - 1955 -
  • Farmhouse - Sue, Mom, Ann and Harry (1958) -
  • Farmhouse - Ann, Sue, Harry, Pixi and Mom (1958) -
  • Dad and Harry - 1958 -
  • Harry with Tubby - Mom's Old Faithful (1960) -
  • The Family - 1965 -
  • The Family - 1965 -
  • Mom and Ann -
  • Farmhouse - 1970 -
  • View from front of House - 1970 -
  • Mickey - Our little friend -
  • Rex and Mickey -
  • My Best Friend - Rex -
  • Harry and Rex -
  • My Best Friend - Rex -
  • Rex and Bonnie -
  • Packing eggs in trays -
  • Chicken Runs -
  • Chicken Runs -
  • Chicken Runs -
  • Chicken Runs -
  • Dad - 1976 -
  • View from front of House - 1976 -
  • Driveway -
  • Driveway -
  • View from front of House - 1976 -
  • View from front of House - 1976 -
  • View from front of House - 1976 -
  • Farmhouse - 1976 -
  • Farmhouse - 1976 -
  • Farmhouse in Winter - 1976 -
  • Farmhouse - 1976 -
  • Mom -
  • Dad - 1976 -
  • Carport and Poinsettia -
  • Ann -
  • Vegetable Garden -
  • Vegetable Garden -
  • Orange Trees -
  • Driveway -
  • Maize Fields -
  • Maize Fields -
  • Maize Fields -
  • Farm Shed -
  • Inside our Home -
  • Inside our Home -
  • Inside our Home -

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