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Newsletter #93

March 2017 

Editorial

Our members and readers found the articles on the frogs, bees and Cicadas in our previous newsletter very informative, while some thought that the articles on SA’s dam levels and the impact of household waste were interesting. We appreciate all the positive comments.

Regarding the article on frogs in Newsletter 92 – did you know?

Frogs are important bio-monitors, and their state of health is a clear indicator of the health of the environment. A polluted environment is reflected in abnormalities and deformities in the amphibians. Extra limbs or missing limbs and growths have been detected in frogs living in a polluted environment. Fungus infections can also manifest in frogs living in polluted rivers, streams and pans. In some areas frog populations have been wiped out. (Lindsey Sanderson, Village Life, no 29, April/May 2008).

 

Water Issues

A weak La Niña is currently bringing South Africa some wet weather. However, according to prof Francois Engelbrecht (Climate change specialist at the CSIR), this is not solving our water problems yet. South Africa is more vulnerable than many other countries with regard to climate change, as here, temperatures tend to soar at twice the speed as that of the rest of the world.


While South Africans are boasting that we are in the 30th position on a list of 200 countries with the least water, we are actually in a precarious 15th place as far as guaranteed water delivery is concerned. According to Fred van Zyl (Director of Strategic Planning at the Department of Water and Sanitation’s head office in Pretoria), our water run-off is inconstant and erratic. Moreover, our rainfall is less than the long-term average 60% of the time, with 70% during the recent drought. So, we were in a dorught situation 70% of the time. South Africa currently has 200 dams – but building more dams will not solve our water problems. The main reason for our concern about water security is bad risk management, a lack of expertise, and infrastructure that is not maintained or regenerated. Every year, up to 1 580 milliard litres of water is wasted as a result of leakages and theft – nearly twice as much water as that of the Vaal Dam! Although 96% of South Africans have access to a tap, only about 42% of these taps are in a working condition. Moreover, according to the Blue Drop Report, South Africa’s drinking water quality had declined sharply from 2013, especially in the country’s poorest provinces, and hundreds of millions of rands that had been budgeted for improving water quality had not been spent. The Green Drop Report that measures the quality of waste water, showed that water plants had deteriorated seriously since 2013-14.

Since water restrictions had been instituted in recent months, and made stricter recently, there had been a sharp increase in the demand for boreholes. According to Colin Rice (President of the Borehole Society of South Africa), there was a waiting list of about nine months, especially in affluent Gauteng and Cape residential areas, where people were desperate to get water for their designer gardens. In the Cape Peninsula, the water situation was a matter of great concern, as on 15 February, there was only sufficient water left 10 days. According to hydrogeologist, Andrew Johnstone, underground water levels do not decrease as quickly as dam levels, because there is no evaporation. Depending on weather conditions, groundwater is also replenished by leakages in municipal systems. About 10% of the water used to water gardens also flows back to the water table. Sales of pool tarpaulins had also increased. Depending on the quality, this will decrease water loss with anything from 70% to 95%. (Leanne George, Jan de Lange and Aldi Schoeman, Rapport, 29 January 2017).

 

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Our conservancy as tourist destination

The Open House @ B61 Bed & Breakfast facilities and niceties: Property of two of our members, Ferdie and Charmaine Leygonie, situated on a beautiful farm overlooking both the Witwatersberg and the Magaliesberg mountain ranges.


It offers peace and tranquility with rooms tastefully decorated and unobtrusive hospitality in a gracious, homely atmosphere. With the Magalies Meander and Cradle of Humankind on its doorstep, The Open House is the perfect home base for you to explore this wonderful environment. Features: Workshop and conference facilities for up to 20 guests; exclusive arts and crafts annual event; visits to the working cucumber farm; ideal children’s venue; beautiful picnic spots (picnic baskets available on order); and home-baked bread (one of its hidden gems). Guests who stayed over at The Open House recently commented on their visit as follows: “We were just reminiscing about our stay at The Open House. It was such a nice break away from everything. Thank you for spending the morning with us and showing us around your farm. You really have carved yourselves into a place of peace. We wish you all the best with your cucumbers and horses, and we’re looking forward to our next visit. We do hope it won\\\\\\\'t be too long from now”.

Contact Charmaine on 082 389 2309, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.\\\\"\\"\">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website www.theOpenHouse.co.za for more information or bookings. (Photo provided by Charmaine).

 

A feathered friend

On 11 February, one of our members, Rob Villarini, observed a beautiful feathered friend that is quite common to our area.


A Blackheaded Oriole (Oriolus larvatus; Zulu name umBhicongo) decided to come and enjoy a late afternoon snack in their garden. The photo, taken by well known bird photographer, Albert Froneman, was kindly provided by his father, Willie Froneman, birding expert and friend of our Conservancy. Currently, 87 different bird species are listed on the Conservancy’s species observation list. Hearfelt thanks to all our members and readers who send us birding information and photos regularly.

 

Useful tips for a food garden

Forget about the price of petrol and sugar by walking more and eating less. Put on your gardening gloves and grow a waterwise garden or some spinach. When we live simple lives, we are happier and healthier – and so is our environment” (Chat e-newsletter, January 2017).


Gardenening enthusiasts will tell you that pretty pots and containers for your garden cost a packet. But veggies don’t mind whether their container is fancy. Convert old items you don’t have any use for any longer into plant containers. Old shoes, tins, glass bottles and plastic soft drink bottles of all shapes and sizes can be painted to serve as containers for smaller plants. These can be attached to a wall to make a vertical or horizontal garden. An old tractor tyre, filled with garden soil and painted in a light colour to prevent it from getting too hot in summer, will be an ideal container for bigger plants. It is therapeutic to create your own food garden – what joy to watch your own seedlings grow! Some useful tips:

Save water – install a water tank in your garden.

Plant lucerne or spinach to combat weeds. It also prevents erosion and protects plants from heat and the sun. Garlic plants will keep insects away from spinach and tomatoes – it does, however, inhibit the growth of beans and peas.

Plant legumes such as peas and beans to increase the nitrogen content of the soil.

Broken egg shells are a good source of calcium and keep snails away – especially useful when sprinkled around cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Use dry leaves and pieces of bark as mulch around your plants – it keeps the soil moist.

(Abrie Burger, Rapport Beleef, 22 January 2017).

 

For horse owners

If you install a bat box near your stables and encourage bats into your environment you might have a fighting chance of preventing your horses from contracting the deadly African Horse Sickness (AHS).


The AHS virus is spread by a tiny midge named Culicoides imicola that is active in the early morning from around dawn and late afternoon towards sunset. C.imicola is only one of an estimated 1 000 varieties of midge occurring worldwide. Insect-eating bats feed from early evening to early morning, when they consume a vast number of insects. They require masses of insects daily to sustain their high-metabolism systems (about 3 000 midges per night). Being opportunistic feeders, they go after just about anything in their path. Thus, they constitute another weapon in your war against mosquitoes, flies and other flying bugs- cost-free and completely natural. C.imicola is also a transmitter of the bluetongue virus, a serious disease of sheep and goats, so keepers of sheep should also install a bat box near their animal housing. If you would like to introduce bats to your property, you should offer them decent housing. For more information on installing bat boxes, contact Eco Solutions: 011 791 7326. (Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2016/Jan 2017).

 

Environmental Snippets

Cradle of Humankind listed as top tourist destination: National Geographic recently named this World Heritage site one of the 21 must-see places on the planet – one of their 2017 Best Trips choices. Michael Worsnip, MD of Maropeng, sees this as an exciting acknowledgement of the tourism potential of the whole region (Berg & Cradle, February 2017).

Important environmental date: Earth hour – 25 March 2017. Switch off all electrical appliances for one hour on this day.

We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire, next to a moon that moves the sea...and you dont’t believe in miracles?” (Unknown).

Bee-friendly plant book: This definitive book on plants that supply bees with their vital sources of nectar has been published by the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The book was written by MF Johannsmeier, author of the famous “Blue Book”, Beekeeping in South Africa, and is the latest in SANBI’s Strelitzia series of books on local plants. It can be ordered online or purchased at the SANBI bookshop in Pretoria.

DAFF gazettes protected tree list: The Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF) has published a revised list of protected tree species in terms of the National Forestry Act (no 48 of 1998). For details of the list see Government Notice 1602 of 23 December 2016, published in the Government Gazette (no 40521) of the same date. (Gauteng Smallholder, February 2017).

Armyworms wreaking havoc in southern Africa: According to a media release of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on 6 February 2017, it was confirmed that the Fall Armyworm (FAW) had been positively identified in maize crops in the majority of SA’s provinces. Kenneth Wilson (News24, 13 February 2017) said that this was a combination of native African armyworms (Spodoptera exempta) and FAWs from tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America (Spodoptera frugiperda). Little is known about how these pest catterpillars had entered southern Africa, but it most likely arrived via imported plants. A sequence of outbreaks began in mid-December 2016 in Zambia and have spread rapidly since. This is the worst outbreak ever in southern Africa and poses a serious threat to about 73% of South Africa’s maize crops. It is now also targeting other crops, such as wheat, cotton, soybeans, ptatoes, ground nuts and sorghum. (RSG news, 13 February 2017). Nine different types of pesticides are available currently, but none of these seem to make any inroads, which means that new pesitcides will have to be produced as soon as possible to combat the pest – otherwise it could have disastrous effects. More information available on

http://m.news24.com/news24/SouthAfrica/News/fall-armyworm-identified-in-south-african-crops-20170203.

Shoes from the sea’s plastic: The World Economic Forum warns that if plastic waste ending up in the oceans continues at the current rate, there will be more plastic waste than fish in the oceans by 2050. Moreover, it takes between 500 and a 1 000 years for plastic bags to disintegrate. Sports gear manufacturer, Adidas, is of the opinion that sports shoes manufactured from plastic could partially solve the problem of plastic pollution of the oceans. The first 700 sports shoes, manufactured from 11 million bits and pieces of plastic waste from the oceans, are currently on sale for about $200 (R2 700) per pair in the USA. Adidas plans to manufacture a million of these shoes this year still.

South Africa’s contribution to plastic recycling is progressing slowly. According to Plastic SA’s most recent report, South Africans recycled about 292 917 tons of plastic in 2015, but manufactured 1 490 000 tons of plastic in the same year. Municipal water departments are struggling with the problem of solid waste – especially plastic – blocking sewers and causing processing problems at water treatment plants. (Hendrik Hancke, Rapport, 22 January 2017).

Three iconic animal species up-listed on the IUCN Red Data List for 2016:

Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis): Habitat loss, civil unrest, illegal hunting and ecological changes have taken their toll. The combination of these threats have caused a decline in the global Giraffe population of 36 - 40% over the last 30 years. Now up-listed as vulnerable.

The Plains Zebra (Equus quagga): A population reduction in 10 out of its 17 range states since 1992, with the overall decline estimated at 25% during this period. Now up-listed as near-threatened.

African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus): Up-listed to endangered after analyses of wildlife trade patterns for this species revealed that over 1.3 million wild-caught individuals had entered international trade from 1982 – 2001.

(Chat e-newsletter, January 2017).

Our technological world: Albert Einstein once said: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”. He might have been right, and this moment has probably already arrived. Wherever one goes, just about everybody one comes across, has their fingers on their cell phone screens. In stead of communicating verbally, we now do finger communication! Another new trend is that people from the technological world are now hired for posts that don’t even exist yet. There are, however, some sought after skills that a machine can never produce (in order of priority and degree of difficulty): Creativity and innovation; leadership; emotional intelligence; adaptability; and problem solving. (Rapport Beleef, 22 January 2017).

The importance of insects for a healthy ecology: We have often reported on the nutritious qualities of insects. They play a vital role in the food chain – think pollination, products like silk and honey, a food source for birds and other animals, and the fact that they break down organic waste, thereby promoting soil health. According to Pia Addison, entomologist of the University of Stellenbosch, insects are highly adaptable to to environmental change and have well-structured sensory systems. Because they have a short life span, they have to adapt more quickly than larger creatures. Insects are also well known for having intricate relationships with plants and other insects. As plants change, they adapt to the changes. So, when we consider our relationships with insects, it’s all a question of balance. Unless insects pose a serious threat to other living creatures on our property, or are causing structural damage, such as termites might do, we should live and let live.

Did you know? Just under one million insect species have been identified on the planet. It is estimated that the total insect biomass is 300 times greater than the total human biomass. Ants and termites alone are estimated to weigh more than all humans put together! (Gauteng Smallholder, November 2016).


Health benefits of eggs: Recent news reports have informed us that our country’s poultry industry is experiencing serious problems and that large numbers of employees have therefore had to be retrenched. According to experts, this was not the result of large amounts of sub-standard chicken being imported from especially the USA. Bad planning and management of the local poultry industry and exeptionally high poultry feed prices were to blame for the situation. It becomes increasingly more difficult to keep even a few chickens just to be able to collect fresh eggs.

Eggs are exeptionally good for you. They are a natural choice for a healthy, active lifestyle, and have been described as nature’s piece de resistance. With 6g of the highest quality protein and 14 key nutrients, eggs provide the energy to keep you going. They contain all nine essential amino acids, are high in iron, minerals and carotenoids. The myth spread by Swiss doctors that one should consume no more than two eggs per week because of their high cholesterol content has been revised. New dietary guidelines have given adults the green light to enjoy eggs once again.

Did you know? If you are collecting your own eggs, do not wash them. Unwashed eggs have a natural antibacterial coating called bloom – so try to clean the eggs without wetting them. (Gauteng Smallholder, November 2016).

 

Did you know?

Strange, but true:

Four is the only number that has the same number of letters as its numerical value.

A man stole diamonds worth millions of dollars, bypassing a 100 million dollar combination lock, infra-red sensors, seismic sensor, and private security fence, but was convicted by DNA he’d left on a partially eaten sandwich near the scene.

The reason why old books have such a distinct smell is because hundreds of organic compounds in the pages break down over time and release chemicals that smell like almond, vanilla, and grass.

Coke makes so many different beverages that if you drink one per day, it would take you over nine years to try them all (Sources: wtffunfact.com; People Magazine, 10 October 2014).

Intuition is the art of knowing something without knowing how you came to know it.

Empathy is the ability to be in someone else’s shoes, to experience their feelings.

(Vrouekeur, 9 May 2014).

 

Do you know these terms?

Acatalepsy (noun.) – the impossibility of comprehending the universe.

A group of rhinos is called a crash of rhinos. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Newsletter #92

February 2017

Editorial

Compliments of the season: We hope all our members and readers enjoyed a blessed holiday season, and that they look forward to 2017’s challenges.


New Year’s resolutions? Francis of Assisi once said: “Start by doing what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible”. Congratulations to all members/readers who had some relation complete a successful exam. Remember, this exam is a step on the road to the development of a set of skills to enable him/her to build a successful career for themselves. And also remember, success or failure is not an end in itself, it’s a learning experience. Theodore Roosevelt once said: ”Someone who has never gone to school, will be able to steal something from a railway coach; with university education, someone will be able to steal the whole railway system!

This is our first newsletter of the year. Our members and readers found most of the articles in our previous newsletter informative and interesting, with the articles on the rain guage, the birds, tips for a ‘green’ Christmas and once again, the travel blog articles on guest house facilities in our Conservancy, stealing the spot light. (See the article on another of the Conservancy’s guest house facilities below). With reference to the article on a ‘green’ Christmas, the following from an articel in the Fair Lady of July 2011: “Don’t bin dead batteries – it is estimated that around 30 000 tons of batteries end up in landfills, polluting our water and land”.

Welcome: We would like to welcome new Conservancy member, Heleen Liebenberg. May her involvement in our Conservancy bring her joy in years to come.

 

Soaking New Year’s rain

From the second week in January, our valley has had soft, soaking rain, which resulted in the Magalies River running again from 8 January.


We are very thankful for this, as it means that ground water levels will start rising again. A section of the Hartebeestfontein Road (near Saddle Creek) was practically impassable, and a number of vehicles got stuck there on 9 January. This road was graded on 17 January, which means that it will be very dusty until it rains again (seeing that people tend to speed on this road), and, if it rains again any time soon, one will have to drive very carefully on this stretch of road.

In other parts of the country, dam levels have been rising steadily. The effect of the drought will, however, be experienced for a while still, and water restrictions will remain in place for the time being. Depending on specific areas, the lifting of restrictions will only be considered if dam levels reach an average of 70% capacity. On 24 January, the Vaal Dam’s level was 63,2% compared to only about 30%, before it started raining in the catchment area (RSG News). Dam levels in Natal and the Cape Province are, however, alarmingly low, and at the time of compiling this newsletter, a number of serious veld fires were ravaging large parts of the Cape Province in mainly mountainous areas, amid heat wave conditions. Although all municipalities in the affected areas don’t have sufficient resources, they cooperated in fighting the fires. However, as soon as a fire was brought under control, the strong winds would cause it to flare up again. The strong winds also prevented the helicopters from helping with the fire fighting, as they could not take to the air. In the Calvinia area, where dense, bushy plants burned like wildfire, due to their ceraceous and oily nature, about 10 000 hectares of grazing were destroyed, this amid one of the worst droughts in decades.

Did you know? One out of every five South Africans (about 12 million people) get water from the Vaal Dam (DSTV News, 4 January 2017). All rain that falls to the south of the Witwatersrand Ridge flows into the Vaal River. Many visitors to Gauteng wonder why, even in times of drought when other rivers might run dry, the Vaal River near Vereeniging and Van der Bijl Park is always full of water to the same level. That’s because the river, as it flows past those two towns, is effectively a 64km long dam itself, its waters held there by the Barrage, a 10m high spillway across the river between Van der Bijl Park and Parys, completed in 1923.

A busy time in and around the hives: With good rains upon us there will be plenty of honey for well managed bee swarms. Activity around the hives now becomes very busy, when only a short while ago during the heat waves and dry air, all looked doom and gloom. The nectar secreted by flowers in the mornings no longer dries up by 09:00, as during drought times, and the bees are able to forage practically all day (Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2016/Jan 2017).

Increase in frog populations: As a result of the soft, soaking rain and mostly cloudy weather, frog populations have increased at some speed. So, at dawn and dusk, we’re able to see a hive of activity, and every night we’re treated to a wonderful chorus. A while ago, a tiny little frog made its home in Lourie Laatz’s cement garden frog. Unfortunately, frogs also attract snakes, and Lourie thinks that the little frog might have fallen prey to a large Snouted Cobra that they found close by, which also bit their one dog. 

 

Our conservancy as tourist destination

This month, we focus on another of our Conservancy’s guest house facilities.


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Clement’s Retreat, property of one of our members, Ronnie Jack, offers self-catering accommodation in two farm houses (Clement’s House and Delarey House), sleeping up to eight each, or the West Wing Chalet, which sleeps two. The facility offers a pool with the best view in the world and 46 hectares to stroll around, or along the Magalies River which is its southern boundary. The houses were decorated and made comfortable by a beautiful Princess (Ronnie’s late wife, Dawn). The farm is an ongoing tribute to her legacy. A recent CapeTown guest wrote: “Our stay was relaxing and peaceful. A much needed break from city life” - a theme echoed throughout the guest book. For more details, see www.clementsretreat.com or visit the facility’s Facebook page. (The photo of Clement’s House was kindly provided by Ronnie).

 

Poisoning of Dogs

On New Year’s day, two dogs of one of our members, Margot Stephen, was poisoned when they went with her to the gate that morning and ate something outside the gate.


One of the dogs died instantly, but the other one fortunately pulled through. The veterinarian who treated this dog, identified the poison as Aldicarb (Temik), also known as “Two Step”. A number of such incidents have already taken place in our Conservancy. Our members are requested to be on the lookout for odd bits of meat lying around which may contain the poison. This poison is deadly and causes resparatory problems, among others.

Important: Toll free number of the Poison Information Centre: 0861 555 777

 

Tips to reduce the impact of household rubbish

We have often reported about the fact that, as soon as one has established a sorting system for glass, plastic, tins, organic waste, paper and card board, the problem of dealing with household rubbish becomes much less of a burden.


Reducing the impact of organic waste: Fruit and vegetable peelings, unused stems and stalks, pips, eggshells, teabags, mouldy bread and just about any dry foodstuff that has gone stale, or is found to contain weevils, can be composted, or added to a worm farm. Coffee grounds and the dregs from your coffee plunger or percolator can be used as a gentle acidifying agent on loving plants such as strawberries. Meat and fish bones, fish skin, heads and entrails, and limited quantities of fat, which attract flies if not dealt with promptly, can be buried in a progressive trench which, when filled will become a nutrition-rich planting bed. Dig a trench at least two shovels-ful deep, and enclose it in a dog-proof fence. Add the day’s bones, etc., and cover them with a couple of shovels-ful of soil. Sprinkling the bones with a handful of agricultural lime before covering them with soil will speed up their disintegration. Continue to add waste atop your earlier contributions until you are about a shovel-depth from the surface, when you add soil to fill to the top.

Miscellaneous paper and cardboard is often left out of the recycling equation: If you set aside a separate box for this material, and flatten it before adding to the box, you will be surprised by how much can be diverted from your bedroom or study waste paper baskets and recycled. This includes envelopes, discarded magazines and newspapers, flyers delivered through the mail, the little boxes which contain your medication, and those that contain dry kitchen products such as herbs and spices, light bulbs and cosmetics, toilet roll and paper towel cores, and the blister packaging in which you buy a myriad small products such as batteries, razors, USB sticks, etc., not to mention the packaging attached to kitchen utensils and many other supermarket products. A separate box can be used to contain much clean plastic and cellphone packaging, including muesli and seed packets, torn bank coin bags and the like. (Gauteng Smallholder, Vol 17 (11), November 2016).

Recycle your old printers, computers and ink cartridges – visit www.ewasa.org

With reference to our article about water saving, some grey water facts: Calculate your grey water production before you spend money recycling it, because you probably generate less re-usable water than you think. A simple set of numbers will help you calculate your domestic grey water production:

  • A five-minute shower will generate about 35 litres. This can be reduced considerably by using a modern water-saving shower head.
  • A standard bathroom basin holds eight litres if filled to just below the overflow hole.
  • A standard kitchen sink holds 15 litres if not filled to the brim.
  • Modern water-efficient dishwashers use as little as 15 litres per cycle.
  • A modern washing machine uses between 50 and 120 litres per cycle (depending on the duration of the cycle used).
  • If you still use a bath for your daily hygiene, bank on using 300 or more litres per tub, depending on how full you make it.
  • Water used for mopping and scrubbing floors can be added at a rate of eight to ten litres per bucket. Similarly, a few litres can be added for the water used to rinse basins, showers, etc.

Thus, a household of three people, showering, using a dishwasher and washing machine once daily, will only generate about 250 litres of grey water (just more than a drum-full) daily, not including drinking water and toilet flushing. If you use grey water for irrigation, you should keep a watch on the pH of your soil and adjust if necessary. Better still, rotate the area you use grey water on frequently, giving parts of your garden a break from receiving a constant dose of what is in effect a weak liquid chemical fetilizer. (Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2016/Jan 2017).

 

The Miracle of Cicadas

When I was driving through the Kloof on my way to Krugersdorp on 10 January, I could not help but become aware of the deafening, shrill sound of Cicadas (Afr Sonbesies or Nuwejaarsbesies) – typical of this time of year.


It reminded me of an informative article I had read in Die Haakdoring, newsletter of the Cullinan Conservancy (Summer 2016-2017), a while ago (written by P Lemmer in “Oppie Koppie”). Some of this information was used for the article below, supplemented with information from ‘n Laslappie van Mieliestronk (http://www.mieliestronk.com/sss_sonbesie.html) and an article by Paige Ezzey on Ingwelala (http://ingwelala.co.za/articles/knowledge-base/251-cicada-the-summer-screamer), 18 January 2017.

These noisy little insects belong to the Hemiptera species (suborder, Auchenorrhyncha) – a very large group of insects (including among others aphids, leafhoppers and spittlebugs) that all have one thing in common – a sturdy, sharp, tube-shaped mouth part (proboscis) that they insert into their food source to suck up their food (mainly sap from the xylem of various tree species). Like most insects in this large group, Cicadas are vegetarians. There are about 1 300 Cicada species worldwide, of which 150 occur in South Africa. Cicadas are about 25mm in length and are in fact bugs that look like a strange mix of cricket, fly and moth. (See photo from the Ingwelala website). The males die after mating and the females after laying their eggs (up to 400 at a time). According to Paige Ezzey, Cicadas are said to make good eating because they are low in fat and high in protein. They are considered a delicacy by many people around the world, and in some places, they are people’s staple diet.

The Cicada song: The females are timid and quiet, while the males make the noise. The male Cicada does not use stridulation or the rubbing together of body parts to make its loud sound. Instead, they have a unique noise making organ, called a tymbal, located on the front side of the hollow body of the male that acts as a sound box. The noise is made with the contraction of muscles acting against the tymbals, which produces clicks that are combined into continuous notes. The Cicada actually has the ability to manipulate the sound by changing its position in relation to a surface. A female responds to a male with a flick of her wings. Some male species prefer to sing alone, while others prefer to sing in chorus, congregated in one particular location. But whether these little guys sing alone or together, to sit beneath them on a bench will surely leave you with a buzzing head!

(Reference: The Field Guide to Insects in South Africa by Picker, Griffiths & Weaving).

 

Environmental Snippets

Healthy pecan nut, layers of the earth, and fighting cancer with dry beans


Health benefits of pecan nuts: Tree nuts, including pecan nuts, have for long been misrepresented as favouring weight gain due to their high fat contents, but it has now been scientifically shown that they are high in unsaturated fatty acids such as Omega 6 (93.1%, compared to an average ratio of 86% in other nuts) that actually improve weight management. Pecan nuts are associated with health benefits such as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (being rich in polyphenols and phyto sterols), hypertension, type II diabetes and obesity. They are high in energy, plant derived protein, dietary fibre, antioxidants (linked to brain health, which may delay a decline in cognitive function and the progression of age related neurodegeneration), vitamins E and K, tocopherols, and folate. In addittion, they are high in minerals such as magnesium, copper, selenium and potassium, important in a number of metabolic pathways in living cells. These minerals also have anti-inflammatory properties, which are regarded as the main contributors to the health benefits of tree nuts such as pecans. (Dr Ronette Lategan-Potgieter & Dr Gert Marais, SA Pecan, Summer 2016/2017).

The layers of the earth: This may sound like primary school knowledge, but the functioning of the earth’s interior remains fascinating. With the help of seismic surveys, scientists have calculated the distance from the earth’s surface to its centre to be 6 371km. The world’s deepest mine, AngloGold Ashanti’s TauTona mine near Carltonville, is only about 3,9km deep. Seismologists and geologists are of the opinion that the inner centre of the earth is a solid iron ball with a radius of about 1 200km. The outer centre consists of liquid iron and nickel presumed to be about 2 200km wide. The rotation and heat of these centres generate enormous energy, thereby creating the earth’s magnetic field. According to scientists, the layer around the centres, the mantle, consists of magma and silicate (half molten rock) and is about 2 900km wide. The increase in heat and cooling of the silicate cause the earth’s tectonite plates (sections of the earth’s crust) to move, which results in volcanic eruptions, eartquakes and tsunamis. The earth’s crust, which contains more than 5 000 well known minerals, is about 60km deep.

Fighting cancer with dry beans: Dry beans are a major protein staple food with good nutritional properties. They contain essential minerals and vitamins and very little salt. They are also free of cholesterol, control blood sugar, and possess anti-cancer potential. They are versatile and delicious and have a good shelf life. Recent research results showed that the presence of cancer was related to the level of dry beans in the diet, with the highest reduction at 60% dry bean content. At this level, cancer incidence was reduced by 41%, tumour number by 53% and tumour size by 64%. An unexpected result was that, contrary to expectations of better protection form higher antioxidants in coloured beans, one white dry bean cultivar caused more reduction than red beans. Compounds in this bean are being isolated to identify the beneficial one. (Source: CSA News, August 2014). Also visit www.beans.co.za for more information.

 

Did you know?

February 2017: This year, February will have four of each day (Monday to Sunday). This happens only once every 823 years! (Anonymous source).


Rabbits vs hares: Many people don’t know the difference between rabbits and hares. So, is your pet a rabbit or a hare? The difference between rabbits and hares appears the moment they are born. Baby rabbits are called kittens, while baby hares are called leverets. Rabbits are born completely helpless, naked and blind. Hares are born fully furred, able to see and capable of independent movement. They are bigger and swifter than rabbits, and have longer ears and hind legs. Rabbits usually live in burrows or tunnels in the ground, where they prefer to stay during daylight hours. Hares always stay on the surface among plants und usually try to escape enemies by running. Rabbits’ fur coats remain the same colour year round, while hares’ fur colour changes during the year. Rabbits and hares have different diets. Rabbits prefer soft stems, grass or vegetables, while hares eat ‘harder’ food, such as bark and rind, buds, small twigs and shoots. A hare is a wild animal, while rabbits are domesticated and are grown as pets. So, there you have it – your pet is a rabbit! (Gauteng Smallholder Dec 2016/Jan 2017).

Singing in the shower: 86% of all people sing in the shower. So says cosmetic house, Veet. And 48% of these singing nightingales believe that this not only makes them more cheerful; it also makes them look forward to the day ahead (Finesse, May 2010).

 

From the latin...

Some Latin phrases you should know (from italki)

De facto – from the fact
Ergo – therefore
Et cetera – and the others
In flagrante delicto – in the act of committing a crime
Ipso facto – by the very fact
Mea culpa – my fault
Per se – through itself
Pro bono – done without charge
Status quo – existing state of affairs
Terra incognita – unknown land/territory
Vox populi – the voice of the people

 

Food for Thought

“Words. So powerful. They can crush a heart, or heal it. They can shame a soul, or liberate it. They can shatter dreams, or energize them. They can obstruct connection, or invite it. They can create defenses, or melt them. We have to use words wisely” (J Brown).


“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time as they say, but with intention. So, go love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you” (LR Knost).

“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone” (Goethe).

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Some famous tongue-in-the cheek quotes:

“I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury” (Groucho Marx).

“By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher” (Socrates).

“Last week, I stated that this woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister, and now wish to withdraw that statement” (Mark Twain).

 

 

 

 

 

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Newsletter #91

December 2016 

Editorial

As always, the end of the year arrived sooner than expected. When we reflect on 2016, we realise that the year was marked by political turbulence, a rapidly deteriorating economy (accompanied by an ever increasing inflation rate), and exceptional drought conditions.


Since our last newsletter, we’ve had welcome rain (albeit accompanied by strong winds and hail) – a blessing we’re very thankful for. The popular view of especially Gauteng residents is that the drought is something of the past, and that everything is back to normal once again. They don’t seem to understand why water restrictions are still in place. The effect of the drought will, however, still be experienced for some time to come. It is a fact that national dam levels remain critically low. (See the article on seasonal weather forecasts below).
Annual General Meeting: The Conservancy’s 2016 AGM took place at Mokoya Lodge on 12 November. It was attended by 29 of our members. As is customary after the AGM, membership fees are now payable. The minutes of the meeting and invoices will be sent out early in the new year.
This is our last newsletter for this year. The next newsletter will be published end January/beginning February 2017. Our members and readers found most of the articles in our previous newsletter informative and interesting, with the travel blogs about the Conservancy’s guest house facilities proving most popular. (See the article on two more of the Conservancy’s guest house facilities below).
Christmas wishes: We wish all our members and readers a merry Christmas and a prosperous 2017. A friend sent some wishes, which I’d like to share with our readers and members – “As we reflect on the past year, let us take time to slow down and enjoy the simple things. Christmas brings family and friends together; it helps us appreciate the love in our lives we perhaps often take for granted. May this holiday season give sparkle and shine for you, and may the true meaning of Christmas fill your hearts and homes with many blessings”. Those who are fortunate enough to travel to faraway places, travel safe and come back home safely. Whether you are staying at home, travelling to the bush or coast these holidays, we encourage you to always care for the environment. Could Reduce, Re-use and Recycle be your New Year’s resolution?
Some holiday quotes:
“There are two kinds of travel – first class and with children” (American humourist, Robert Benchley).
“Throughout history it has been man who worships and polishes the vehicle, and woman who packs the suitcases” (American writer, John Fowles)
“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home” (American writer, Dagobert D. Runes)
“If you don’t like museums at all here, why go to them somewhere else?” (American writer, Gail Rubin Bereny).

 

Our Conservancy as a tourist destination

This month, we focus on two more guest house facilities in the Conservancy.



Ziggy’s River Cottage: This self-catering cottage on the banks of the Magalies River in Hartebeestfontein will let you enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Magaliesburg Mountain while relaxing and unwinding from the stresses of daily life. While sitting on the covered patio overlooking the Magalies River, you will enjoy the activities on the river and maybe see the elusive otter. In the mornings, you’ll wake up to the sounds of nature. You may decide to amble through the natural forest which surrounds the property, or view the bird life with your binoculars, or take your mountain bike for a spin on the 8km bush and river trail. Braai or make your camp fire to enjoy the bush, have a romantic dinner under the stars, or book at Mokoya lodge Sweet Thyme Restaurant for a gourmet meal. Being on the Magalies Meander allows for all the Meander activities to be experienced on your doorstep, such as horse riding at Saddle creek, ballooning at Bill Harrop’s, hiking at Rustig or Castle Gorge, rock climbing at Shelter Rock, as well as mountain biking on the Van Gaalen MTB routes. You can also visit the Sterkfontein caves and the Maropeng World Heritage Site in the Cradle of Humankind, or the Hartebeestpoort Dam, which all make for a nice day outing from the property. The guest house is located just off the R560 between Skeerpoort and Hekpoort, and approximately one hour’s drive from Sandton, Pretoria and Rustenburg.

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Eco Retreat: The Eco Retreat is a self-catering, pet friendly cottage in Hartebeestfontein, nestled between the Magaliesberg and Witwatersrand mountain range, along the Magalies River. Here you can restore and revitalise your soul in the secluded spacious “wooded” bush environment and connect with nature. You’ll wake up to the sounds of birds in the river reeds or monkeys canopying from tree to tree. The wooded canopied braai area is ideal for a shaded lunch time meal. An open boma fire pit is there for you to enjoy the starry night and listen to the concert of the frogs or jackals crying in the distance. The facility is great for families and friends (1-12 people), ideal for yoga and wellness groups, retreats, workshops, cycling and walking. What makes Eco Retreat so special is the way in which reclaimed materials have been up-cycled, like the old windmill and furniture, and building materials sourced from the property, like the stones and reeds. Solar panels have been installed for hot water, and water tanks to collect rain water. Little touches, like the food and herb garden, complete the green picture.
Information and photos were provided via email by Hayley Livesey on 3 October 2016. Read feedback from guests on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/197887543576787/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1017921848240015
Contact details: Mokoya Lodge & Sweet Thyme Restaurant: 078 248 5149 (Bookings); 082 423 1469 (Ray); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.\\"\">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.mokoya.co.za

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Seasonal weather forecast: Dec 2016 to April 2017

The effect of the drought: It is common knowledge that 2015 was the year with the lowest rainfall for South Africa since 1904, and that this effect had continued through the first three quarters of 2016.


In the eastern summer rainfall regions, it had since strated raining – in many cases, severe electrical storms were experienced, causing much hail damage, flash floods and even a tornado or two. (See precautions to be taken under such conditions below). In the central and western parts of the country, however, the drought is continuing. All the provinces, except Gauteng, were therefore declared drought disaster areas. According to economist, Johan Willemse (Rapport Sakenuus, 5 December 2016), these conditions will persist for quite some time still – probably for another year or two. The after effects of the worst drought this century will leave a permanent mark on the agricultural sector, the rural areas and food production for a nation that is urbanising rapidly. In November 2016 already, dam levels were alarmingly low: Eastern Cape 62,8%; Free State 51,2%; Gauteng 78,4%; Kwazulu Natal 41,6%; Lesotho 37,1%; Limpopo 46%; Mpumalanga 47,3%; Northen Cape 54,4%; and Northwest Province 56,2%. This time last year, the average dam levels were over 60% - this year, the average is 49% (Farmer’s Weekly, 4 November 2016, DSTV News, 15 December 2016). In the news, we read that the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme is being accelerated and expanded – to ensure that Gauteng doesn’t run out of water in the next 10 years. The tough water restrictions have, however, not had the desired effect on water wastage. According to Tian Claassens (News 24, 12 October 2016), the water consumption of many Gauteng households is not measured and/or they are not billed for their water consumption. In these areas, water is wasted in huge quantities, simply because it is free. It seems that emergency measures instituted by authorities to reduce water consumption, have very little or no impact on over-consumption of water in such areas. In the news, we also read that conditions in especially the Kruger National Park are deteriorating at some speed, and that visitor numbers have declined sharply, as people don’t wish to see the animals in their weakened state. While sufficient water is still available, animals are forced to travel long distances to reach water holes under heat wave conditions, thereby making them weaker. Grazers are suffering the most, as the veld’s biomass is critically low and will take years to recover.
According to the South African Weather Buro (14 Desember 2016), indications are that South Africa’s summer rainfall areas can expect wetter conditions during the early and mid-summer periods. The likelihood of cooler conditions for the mid-summer season have further increased, which could be attributed to the expected wetter conditions. As has been predicted, weather conditions are generally increasing in intensity, and many parts of our country have already experienced severe storms. Although such conditions are not the norm and have up to now only occurred rarely, it will be wise to take the necessary precautions, in order to keep your family and property safe.

Tornados: In the event of seeing a tornado, move to a pre-designated building or else, move into the centre of your home and get under a sturdy piece of furniture, like a table. Get out of vehicles, caravans or mobile homes as these can be moved, overturned or even destoryed by the strong winds or flying debris. Stay away from windows as flying glass and debris cause most deaths. Do not attempt to outrun a tornado in your vehicle. Leave it immediately and seek shelter. If caught outside in the open, lie flat in a ditch or depression but beware of flooding if there is heavy rain associated with it, as is often the case.

Lightning: Unsafe areas during an electric storm are tall structures, such as trees, telephone and power lines, hilltops, open water (like a swimming pool), unprotected gazebos or picnic shelters. If your hair stands on end, leave the area as fast as possible, as lightning will almost certainly strike that spot shortly. Avoid being near or touching metal objects such as fences, golf carts, bicycles and motorcycles. If indoors during a storm, stay away from windows. Do not hold any metal objects, use any electrical appliances or the telephone/cellphone, or take a bath or shower. If you are travelling, stay in the vehicle. Do not play sport during thunderstorms. Golfers and fishermen are at high risk.

Flash floods: Although flash floods are rare, when they occur, they can wreak havoc, especially where the existing infrastructure cannot handle such water masses. Following the latest flash floods in Johannesburg, it’s easy to see how quickly a torrent can occur and the extreme dangers it holds. Flash floods are distinguished from regular floods by a timescale of less than six hours. You will not always have a warning that these deadly, sudden floods are coming. The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), have provided important tips and information that may just save your life:
In your home: Keep emergency numbers and important information handy. You should also keep emergency supplies like water, canned food, a can opener, battery operated radio, flashlight and protective clothing ready. Ensure that your first-aid kit is fully stocked. When there are signs of lightning and thunder, turn off and unplug all your household electrical devices. Lock all doors and windows. Leave the area before the flooding rises too high. Get to higher ground.
If you find yourself outdoors or in your vehicle: Climb to higher ground and stay there. Avoid walking through floodwaters – even 15cm deep can sweep you off your feet. If flood waters rise around your vehicle, but the water is not moving, abandon the vehicle and move to higher ground. Never drive on a flooded road. If you get swept away in the flood waters, try to grab onto anything, so you can to pull yourself to safety. If your vehicle is swept into the water and submerged, don’t panic! Stay calm and try to get out through a window. Otherwise, preferably wait for the vehicle to fill with water. Once the vehicle is full, the doors will be able to open and you can swim up to the surface.

 

Did you know?

How does a rain guage work? Few people know how a rain guage works.


1mm rain equals 1 litre of water on 1 square metre. If you get 25mm rain on your 1 000 square metre stand, it equals 25 tons of water, and on 1 hectare, this will be 250 tons of water. If you have a 1 000 hectare farm and you get 80mm of rain, this equals 800 ton x 1 000 hectares. This is 800 000 tons of water. If you now take a 10 ton water truck and you transport 10 loads every day of the year, it will be 800 000/10/10/365 days. It will take 21.9 years to transport all that water! (Anonymous source).
Animals’ water consumption: One elephant’s daily intake of food and water equals that of 30 head of cattle (Piet Gouws, Namibia Livestock Producers’ Organisation). Water consumption of livestock per head - litres per day: Cattle (70), horses (55), sheep (4), pigs (25), poultry per 100 birds (20). Household use per person is 200 litres per day (Gauteng Smallholder, November 2016).

 

Tips for saving water

We should all save water – it is our duty! Below are some handy tips for saving water. You may think that you’ve heard about these tips over and over again, but maybe we just need a little reminder.



Monitor your usage. A family of four can easily use less than 25Kl per month.
Repair water leaks. During the drought it is easy to see patches of green grass where water may be leaking underground.
Use a water saving shower head – less than R100 from most hardware stores. Shorten your shower by a minute or two and turn the flow rate down.
If you are replacing household appliances, look for ones that save electricity and water. Before running washing machines and dish washers, fill them up. You can collect the used washing machine/bath/shower water in a bucket and water your garden with it.
Turn the tap off when you aren’t using water while brushing teeth or washing hands. Liquid hand soaps also use less water than bar soaps.
Use a broom instead of a hose pipe for cleaning driveways and paths. Wash your car less often and use a bucket.
Drinking water actually saves water. Most cold drinks and other beverages use many litres of water to produce just one bottle or can. Bottled water is a waste when you are at home. Consider installing a water filtration system, but avoid reverse osmosis systems, as they waste a lot of water.
Keep a bucket at hand in the bathroom and kitchen. While you are running hot water and waiting for it to heat up, collect the water and re-use it. You can also use bath or shower water to flush toilets.
Collecting rain water can be simple and cost effective, using a dustbin and plumbing fittings. Plans are freely available on the Internet, or ask your local hardware store for some advice. (Chat Newsletter, Watersaving Edition, 2016-11-07).

 

Save Water and Schlepp in your Garden

An indigenous, water wise garden will enhance your envrionment and is environmentally friendly. Six steps to follow, if you wish to establish your own water wise garden:



Rezone your garden: Take plants with similar water needs and plant them together. Plant some indigenous trees with deep root systems to create shade.
Mulching is the answer: It prevents evaporation, keeps weeds out and moisture in. Popular mulching options include biodegradable items, such as grass cuttings, wood shavings, bark, decomposed animal droppigns and garden compost. Non-living options include among others broken stones, small rocks and gravel. You van also do “xeriscaping” – this gardening technique focuses on saving water, by planting drought resistant, slow growing plants that will thrive under your local climate conditions.
Soil quality: Add organic material, such as compost and other decomposed plant material to your soil to keep moisture in. And make sure that some earth worms are living in your garden to improve your soil quality.
Your lawn: Decrease your massive lawn by replacing some sections with ground covers or other interesting water wise landscaping methods. It is better to mow your lawn more often than to mow it irregularly and more severe.
Water correctly: It is possible to “teach” your plants to be water wise, by watering them less often – this will encourage deeper root growth and make your plants more drought resistant. Water before 09:00 in the mornings and after 18:00 in the evenings, and avoid windy days.
Plant indigenous: Remove exotic plants and replace them with indigenous plants. Note, however, that not all indigenous plant species are necessarily water wise. Ask the experts at your local nursery for advice.
(Sources: jamieddesign.co.za; stodels.com; gardenshop.co.za; gardenworld.co.za; waterwise.co.za).

 

A New Sunbird is Born

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In spring, two sunbirds picked a chain on two of our members, Mike and Cilla Crewe-Brown’s verandah, about a metre from their front door, to start building a nest.

They watched as the parents took turns sitting on the egg and became excited when they eventually heard the chick squawking for food. Then the big day arrived. Early in the morning, the chick climbed to the top of the nest, plucked up the courage and tumbled to the floor. Undaunted, it gathered all its strength, and with a perfect second attempt, flew to the safety of the nearby bushes. They watched it for the remainder of the day, as both parents took turns to catch insects on the wing, as many as 15 at a time, all still alive, to feed to the chick. It still lives in the Crewe-Browns’ garden, and most mornings, it comes and sits by the office window to say “hi”.
Cilla was also fortunate enough to discover a huge bullfrog under some bushes in their garden. One morning, she heard the dogs bark and discovered a tortoise. They also have a number of mongooses on their property.

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(All the photos were kindly provided by Mike and Cilla).

 


More bird stories:
On 25 November 2016, many people took part in a bird census, by making a note of all the bird species they could observe in their immediate vicinity. According to Ernst Retief of BirdLife SA, 847 different bird species call SA their home (RSG, 25 November 2016).
Swifts spend months in the air: A small, dark-feathered bird known as the common swift flies for 10 months on end without ever landing, the longest time spent aloft of any known bird, scientists said recently. The findings in the US journal Current Biology, were from a study by a team of researchers from Sweden who fitted tiny backpacks on 13 of the birds. “When the common swifts leave their breeding site in August for a migration to the Central African rainforests via West Africa, they never touch ground until they return for the next breeding season 10 months later,” said researcher Anders Hedenstrom of Lund University (The Citizen, 28 October 2016).

 

Tips for a green Christmas

Here are a number of tips to help us all to celebrate a “greener” Christmas.

Sustainable wrapping: Buy fabric shopping bags at your local store or craft market.

Charity: Clean out your cupboards and give to the needy.

Green Christmas tree option: Buy an indigenous tree to decorate, and then plant it outside in January.

Choose handmade and homemade: Create your own gift tags/Christmas cards from last year’s cards or calenders.

Energy-efficient lighting: Replace your light strands with newer LED bulbs and install a timer to save electricity and avoid overheating.

Ornaments: Wood, metal or cloth are natural substances and will last longer than plastic or thin glass.

Shop local: Buy South African products instead of imported products.

Give “battery free” gifts: Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard.

Connect with nature: Get outdoors! Decorate a tree for the birds – place seed bells, suet, pine cones with peanut butter and seed trays on any tree in your garden. (Chat Newsletter, Holiday Edition, 2016-12).

 

Snippets of Environmental News

The Green Key Award: Green Key, in partnership with WESSA, was launched in South Africa in 2015. The Green Key Award is a leading standard of excellence in the field of environmental responsibility and sustainable operation within the tourism industry. Read more: http://www.greenkey.global/

Africa Land-Use Training (ALUT) courses: Africa Land-Use Training is currently conducting a survey to determine future training needs for you or your employees. Current courses on offer include the following: Control of problem plants; cultivated pastures; ecological restoration (degraded veld); farm planning; fire management on the farm; game ranch management; grass identification; grassland (veld) assessment and monitoring; soils and soil classification; and veld (natural resource) management. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.\\"\">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

Tomato pest: South Africa’s annual tomato harvest of about 600 000 tons is now being threatened by a destructive pest in tomato harvests worldwide. Tuta absoluta is a highly destructive insect that attacks the leaves and stems of tomato and potato plants. According to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, this pest has now also reached South Africa, after having spread from South America and then to Europe. Moreover, within one planting season, this pest has become resistant to most chemicals used to get rid of it. (Netwerk24 and Reuters, 6 November 2016).

Biodiversity: South Africa is one of the most bilogically diverse countries in the world, only slightly less diverse than Indonesia and Brazil. According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), we are not only surrounded by two oceans, but the country covers about 2% of the world’s land mass and is home to about 10% of the world’s flora, 7% of the reptile, bird and animal species and 15% of all coastal and marine life (Rapport Beleef, 9 October 2016).

National Environmental Managament: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) (Act no 10 of 2004): Updated Alien and Invasive Species Lists were published in Government Gazette (no 40166 of 29 July 2016). Draft distribution maps for certain indigenous species were also published in Government Gazette (no 40398). The distribution maps are applicable to the implementation of the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations of 2007 and the Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) Regulations of 2014. The Gazettes are available free online at www.gpwonline.co.za.

Solar-powered SA airport flying: Built in 1977, George Airport is now a transit hub for shipments of flowers and oysters, as well as golfers visiting one of the region’s many golf courses. About 700 000 passengers pass through its doors each year. This small site is South Africa’s first “green” airport powered by the sun. The solar plant, launched in September 2015, is only the second solar-run airport in the world after Cochin in India. The control towers, escalators, check-in desks, baggage carousels, restaurants and ATMs all depend on a small power station a few hundred metres away in a field of dandelions next to a runway. Its 2 000 solar panels produce up to 750kW every day, easily surpassing the 400kW needed to run the airport.The excess is fed into the municipal power grid, which supplies 274 households with green electricity. The environmental value of the project is already evident, as the hub has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 1 229 tons. According to airport manager, Brenda Vorster, the electricity bill has been cut by 40% in the space of only one year. (The Citizen, 11 October 2016).

Municipality ordered to deal with electricity thieves: Electricity thieves may have met their Waterloo countrywide. In an article in the Eastern Cape daily, the Daily Dispatch (10 November 2016), it was reported that the Buffalo City Metro had been ordered to act against Nkandla informal settlement dwellers, who had been stealing electricity from a private farm for the past two years. This was ordered by the Eastern Cape High Court (East London) in a victory for the farm owner, who had been battling to get the Metro to protect him from the electricity thieves. He claimed that the illegal connections had caused frequent power cuts on his farm and had posed a danger to people and animals, as the fencing was always live, due to exposed wires coming into contact with it. The judge ordered the municipality to do all in its power to stop the settlement dwellers from stealing electricity and to ensure that all exposed wires on the farm were removed. The municipality was also ordered to remove electricity poles and install a new electricity line that would be located inside the farm, far away from the reach of the squatter camp. The Metro also had to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the farm.

 

Food for Thought

“I opened two gifts from God this morning – my eyes” (Beach artist, Umhlanga)

“I’m at the point in my life where whatever direction life takes me in – and it feels right – I’ll go for it” (Kerusha Govender).

“Beauty is being in harmony with what you are” (Peter Nivio Zarlenga).

“The paradox of our time is that the aged enjoy better health than they used to and that they remain “young” longer. This makes their idleness all the harder to bear. Those who live on must be given some reason for living: mere survival is worse than death” (From Simone de Beauvoir’s book, Old Age).

“And when you get the choice to sit out or dance...I hope you dance” (Anonymous).

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” (Robert Frost, www.TheSilverPen.com).

 

 

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Newsletter #90

October 2016 

Editorial - October 2016

The recent cooler weather and some rain were welcomed by all of us. We keep on hoping for more rain in the forseeable future. In our area, it is widely believed that the first summer rain won’t fall before Oom Paul’s birthday (10 October). Personally, I feel about the rain as Maggie Smith does: “I am always mesmerized by rainfall. I get lost in the sound and sight of the heavens washing away the dirt and dust of the world”.

With regard to the continuing effect of the current drought, and especially the countrywide water restrictions, Llewellyn Price (Beeld, 26 September 2016) and Virginia Keppler (The Citizen, 11 October 2016) wrote that SA’s average dam levels continued to dwindle to unprecedented levels. The implication was that water levels in the country’s river systems were also decreasing rapidly. Water restrictions had now also been imposed in the Vaal, Orange and Caledon river systems. If residents in especially the metros did not reduce their water consumption, they faced the prospect of water shedding. This would entail measures to throttle the water supply system by partially closing main water outlet valves at reservoirs so that flow was restricted and reservoirs could maintain good levels. Water flow restrictors to high water consumers/users would also be installed, and water pressures in low-lying areas be reduced (where possible), as well as water supply to residential complexes, businesses and retirement villages be restricted. The drought circumstances on the whole of the African continent remained critical, with other countries such as Brazil also experiencing the worst drought in decades. According to environmental experts (National Geographic channel, 25 September 2016), 47% of the Brazilian forest, which should form a “rain cover” over this country, had already been destroyed.

As a result of a somewhat balmy winter, relatively good late rain and the already high summer temperatures, the normal pests such as moths, spiders and mosquitos have already appeared. Some of our members are also complaining about an outbreak of flies on their properties.  Many of us have been sneezing or coughing because of pollen in the air, and some are experiencing unexpected bouts of flu or allergies – probably as a result of the changing seasons.

What is an allergen? According to Christa Swanepoel (Vrouekeur, 11 April 2014), it is something that triggers an allergy. When someone suffering from allergic rinitis breathes in such an allergen (like dust and pollen), the body produces allergies (and histamines) to guard against the attack, and this, in turn, causes allergic symptoms. One’s immune system attacks the allergens in one’s body and causes symptoms such as sneezing and a watery nose, especially when one wakes up in the mornings. It can also cause swelling of the mucous membranes in one’s nose, itching of the eyes and palate, and will often result in the excessive production of watery mucous that leaves one with a headache.

Natural moth–repellent mix: Instead of distinctive–smelling moth balls, use herbs to repel moths, and leave your clothes smelling sweet and fresh. Stuff old socks with herbs and tie a knot in the top to create a no-fuss herb sachet. Use equal quantities of strong-smelling dried herbs such as lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary and rose-scented pelargonium, and add some cloves and dried citrus peel. Toss in with jerseys and winter clothes. You can also fill an old sock or stocking with left-over pieces of used toilet soap to make your cupboards smell nice and fresh (SA Garden & Home, September 2016).

Our members and readers found most of the articles in our previous newsletter interesting and entertaining, but especially the travel blogs about our beautiful valley. One of our readers wrote via email on 19 September: “You seem to live in a busy little plekkie”.

The correction on the article about South Africans’ salt intake caused a stir once again. One of our members, Mike Crewe-Brown, who processes and cures meat himself, might be quite correct when saying (email, 19 September) that processed meat only containing 850mg salt per 100g, would taste bland, and that this would decrease the preservation period of cured and processed meats to a large extent.

In response to the article on the vulture fledgling season, one of our other readers, Willie Froneman, sent us a beautiful photo (taken by his wellknown bird photographer son, Albert). On 19 September, Willie wrote via email: “Yes, the Cape vulture chicks are hatching. The vulture on the rock ledge is a fully grown vulture, and a young bird is coming in to land”.

Vulture update: Congratulations to VulPro (the Vulture Conservation Programme of South Africa) for having been fortunate enough to have been one of seven organisations shortlisted and nominated for the most prestigious conservation award that South Africa has to offer. The South African of the Year Award (SATY), in conjunction with Africa News Network (ANN), is hosting this annual awards evening, which is of an international standard, to celebrate extraordinary South Africans. They represent a call to action for all of us to achieve and to celebrate excellence. The ethos behind the awards is that “We can all make a difference!” This year's SATY Awards theme is "Reflection and Progression". The award ceremony will take place in November 2016 at the TicketPro Dome, North of Johannesburg. To vote for VulPro, simply sms CONS 7 to 43043 or vote on the website by following: http://www.ann7.com/saty/ann7-conservationist-of-the-year/, click on Vote and select VulPro, or send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with CONS 7 in the subject line. Voting closes early in November.

 

Editorial

The recent cooler weather and some rain were welcomed by all of us. We keep on hoping for more rain in the forseeable future. In our area, it is widely believed that the first summer rain won’t fall before Oom Paul’s birthday (10 October). Personally, I feel about the rain as Maggie Smith does: “I am always mesmerized by rainfall. I get lost in the sound and sight of the heavens washing away the dirt and dust of the world”.

With regard to the continuing effect of the current drought, and especially the countrywide water restrictions, Llewellyn Price (Beeld, 26 September 2016) and Virginia Keppler (The Citizen, 11 October 2016) wrote that SA’s average dam levels continued to dwindle to unprecedented levels. The implication was that water levels in the country’s river systems were also decreasing rapidly. Water restrictions had now also been imposed in the Vaal, Orange and Caledon river systems. If residents in especially the metros did not reduce their water consumption, they faced the prospect of water shedding. This would entail measures to throttle the water supply system by partially closing main water outlet valves at reservoirs so that flow was restricted and reservoirs could maintain good levels. Water flow restrictors to high water consumers/users would also be installed, and water pressures in low-lying areas be reduced (where possible), as well as water supply to residential complexes, businesses and retirement villages be restricted. The drought circumstances on the whole of the African continent remained critical, with other countries such as Brazil also experiencing the worst drought in decades. According to environmental experts (National Geographic channel, 25 September 2016), 47% of the Brazilian forest, which should form a “rain cover” over this country, had already been destroyed.

As a result of a somewhat balmy winter, relatively good late rain and the already high summer temperatures, the normal pests such as moths, spiders and mosquitos have already appeared. Some of our members are also complaining about an outbreak of flies on their properties. (See the warning about violin spiders below). Many of us have been sneezing or coughing because of pollen in the air, and some are experiencing unexpected bouts of flu or allergies – probably as a result of the changing seasons.

What is an allergen? According to Christa Swanepoel (Vrouekeur, 11 April 2014), it is something that triggers an allergy. When someone suffering from allergic rinitis breathes in such an allergen (like dust and pollen), the body produces allergies (and histamines) to guard against the attack, and this, in turn, causes allergic symptoms. One’s immune system attacks the allergens in one’s body and causes symptoms such as sneezing and a watery nose, especially when one wakes up in the mornings. It can also cause swelling of the mucous membranes in one’s nose, itching of the eyes and palate, and will often result in the excessive production of watery mucous that leaves one with a headache.

Natural moth–repellent mix: Instead of distinctive–smelling moth balls, use herbs to repel moths, and leave your clothes smelling sweet and fresh. Stuff old socks with herbs and tie a knot in the top to create a no-fuss herb sachet. Use equal quantities of strong-smelling dried herbs such as lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary and rose-scented pelargonium, and add some cloves and dried citrus peel. Toss in with jerseys and winter clothes. You can also fill an old sock or stocking with left-over pieces of used toilet soap to make your cupboards smell nice and fresh (SA Garden & Home, September 2016).

Our members and readers found most of the articles in our previous newsletter interesting and entertaining, but especially the travel blogs about our beautiful valley. One of our readers wrote via email on 19 September: “You seem to live in a busy little plekkie”.

The correction on the article about South Africans’ salt intake caused a stir once again. One of our members, Mike Crewe-Brown, who processes and cures meat himself, might be quite correct when saying (email, 19 September) that processed meat only containing 850mg salt per 100g, would taste bland, and that this would decrease the preservation period of cured and processed meats to a large extent.

In response to the article on the vulture fledgling season, one of our other readers, Willie Froneman, sent us a beautiful photo (taken by his wellknown bird photographer son, Albert). On 19 September, Willie wrote via email: “Yes, the Cape vulture chicks are hatching. The vulture on the rock ledge is a fully grown vulture, and a young bird is coming in to land”.

Vulture update: Congratulations to VulPro (the Vulture Conservation Programme of South Africa) for having been fortunate enough to have been one of seven organisations shortlisted and nominated for the most prestigious conservation award that South Africa has to offer. The South African of the Year Award (SATY), in conjunction with Africa News Network (ANN), is hosting this annual awards evening, which is of an international standard, to celebrate extraordinary South Africans. They represent a call to action for all of us to achieve and to celebrate excellence. The ethos behind the awards is that “We can all make a difference!” This year's SATY Awards theme is "Reflection and Progression". The award ceremony will take place in November 2016 at the TicketPro Dome, North of Johannesburg. To vote for VulPro, simply sms CONS 7 to 43043 or vote on the website by following: http://www.ann7.com/saty/ann7-conservationist-of-the-year/, click on Vote and select VulPro, or send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with CONS 7 in the subject line. Voting closes early in November.

 

Our Conservancy as a tourist destination

Our Conservancy is mainly a farming area and a tourist desitination, hardly one hour’s drive from Johannesburg or Pretoria. In response to the favourable comments on recent travel blogs about our beautiful area (as was reported in our previous two newsletters), we have decided to publish contact details of our members’ guest facilities in this newsletter, and to request all our readers to forward this to family members and friends.

We also plan to feature monthly reports on one or two of our members’ guest houses, as well as one of the local farming enterprises. This month, we focus on the guesthouse and restaurant facilities of Mokoya Lodge, property of the Massey Mclean family since 1994.

Mokoya Lodge is a breathtakingly beautiful country lodge, ideally situated on the enchanting banks of the Magalies River. The natural stone cottages are some of the oldest buildings built with the natural rocks picked up on the farm. This miniature Eden is a highly sought after event and conference venue, due to the fact that it lies between the much loved Hartbeespoort Dam and the town of Magaliesburg. Mokoya Lodge offers a great escape from overwhelming city life. The gorgeous lodge will take you away from your stresses and day to day anxiety. Here you find yourself in awe of the stunning river that runs below the lodge, and you will discover paradise in 27 hectares of landscaped gardens enveloped by the unique African bushveld. The gardens have been carved out preserving the bush, and planted with shrubs and plants that survive the harsh winter frost and summer droughts, while the buildings have been placed in position to preserve the natural trees and bush that characterise the property. Mokoya Lodge is the epitome of tranquility and serenity, one of the best holiday accommodations the Cradle of Human Kind has to offer! (email received from Hayley Livesey on 3 October 2016). A link to guest feedback posted on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/197887543576787/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1017921848240015
Mokoya Lodge & Sweet Thyme restaurant: 078 248 5149 (Bookings); 082 423 1469 (Ray); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.mokoya.co.za.
Visitors who visit our valley via links on the Conservancy website are environmentally aware and appreciate the beauty of the valley. Please visit the Conservancy website (www.hartebeestfonteinconservancy.org.za) for more information.
Esther’s Country Lodge: 014 576 4000; 081 502 2998; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.esthers.co.za
Clement’s Retreat: 083 602 5984 (Ronnie); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
There’s a river on my stoep: 014 576 2294; 073 148 4101 (Lourie); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Openhouse@B61: 014 576 2345; 082 389 2309 (Charmaine); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Ziggy’s River Cottage/Eco Retreat: 078 248 5149 (Bookings); 082 423 1469 (Ray); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.mokoya.co.za
Quiet Mountain: 083 702 1113 (John); 083 470 2290 (Terence); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The Farmhouse: 083 441 0735 (Jenny); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Rustig: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.rustig.co.za
Combretum Cottage (Golden Frogcc): 082 888 2724 (Sue); 083 292 2932 (Carol); 083 633 2466 (Elena); 083 629 4582 (Pat).
Shelter Rock: 071 473 6298 (Corry); 082 340 7378 (Johann); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.shelterrock.co.za

 

Threats close to home

Violin spiders in SA homes:

In a press release of 19 September 2016, researchers of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) warn against violin spiders which are multiplying at some rate as a result of the sudden hot weather conditions, and that more and more violin spiders are found in SA homes. There is also a sudden outbreak of other poisonous spider species. The public is warned to always rinse kettles before boiling water again. Upon asking one of our readers and spider expert, Nicholas Mclean, to comment on the above, he said (email, 7 October 2016) that there was no danger of being poisoned by any venomous spiders if they had been killed. So, if the hot water has killed a violin spider, don't panic when the dead spider brushes your lips or enters your mouth, even if it gets as far as your stomach, then consider it good protein!


Rabies outbreak:

In Newsletter 86 of June 2016 we reported on widespread cases of rabies in the Muldersdrift area, as well as the Boons area near Magaliesburg and in the Cradle of Humankind. At the beginning of October, a case of rabies in our Conservancy was confirmed by a veterinary surgeon, and a family of Zwartkrans was attacked by a rabid badger in their farm house. Two cases of rabies were also reported in Krugersdorp recently.

 

Environmental Snippets

SA's first Garden Day

South Africa's first Garden Day was celebrated on 9 October 2016. On this day, everybody with green fingers was encouraged to relax and enjoy their gardens. Whether one had a huge garden, a small garden patch behind one’s townhouse, one’s own food garden or only a few potted plants on one’s stoep, everybody was encouraged to invite some friends over to come and relax among their plants or to just sit and read a book in the peacefulness of their gardens. October is one of the most beautiful months of the year. For advice and tips on gardening, download the free App, Gardening with Babylonstoren. Then you can chat to other garden experts, ask questions and share your knowledge. Visit www.gardenday.co.za for more information.

Transport Month

October is Transport Month in South Africa: During this month, emphasis is placed on the safety of all road users. The first national guidelines for reducing wildlife mortalities on roads were published on 11 October 2016. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) also developed a handbook entitled “The road ahead: Guidelines to mitigation methods to address wildlife conflict in South Africa”. Copies of the handbook can be downloaded from the EWT website:
https://www.ewt.org.za/WTP/WTP%20handbook%202016.pdf

Disaster Reduction

International Day for Disaster Reduction, 13 October 2016: To commemorate this day, Co-operative Governance Minister Andries Nel remarked on the identification of ‘capacity shortages’ as just one of ‘several challenges’ undermining integrated disaster management and proactive risk reduction planning at provincial and local government levels in South Africa. Other challenges included institutional malfunction and inadequate planning. As a result, policies and legislation aimed at promoting a holistic approach to mitigating and managing disasters and adapting to climate change were not achieving the desired outcomes. Read the full report:
http://www.gov.za/speeches/international-day-disaster-reduction-2016-13-oct-2016-0000.

Neighbour Day

Neighbour Day to be celebrated on 6 November 2016: For most of us it is no longer a priority to get to know our neighbours better. Use your opportunity on Neighbour Day to get to know your community better. Everybody likes traditional home-made dishes – prepare a delicious bite to eat, and go knock on your neighbour’s door!

 

Fowl Stories

An interesting look at a duck farm in South Africa that has a very special purpose: Duck farmer Denzel Metthys manages over 1 000 Indian Runner ducks which are used as a natural form of pest control on the Vergenoegd Winery.

These ducks are absolutely brilliant! Each day, the “Quack Squad” parades in front of the farm house on their way to the fields where they eat their fill of snails, helping to keep the vineyard healthy.
Read more at http://www.youtube.com/embed/H6Ehoxu9QY8

Did you know? Geese are not only excellent “guard dogs”, they will also keep your flower beds free of weeds. On our farm, they do not damage or eat the Barberton daisies or arum lily plants – they carefully pull out the weeds from among the plants. One shouldn’t let them lose in one’s vegetable beds though – they love spinach, cucumbers and lettuce!

A duck story: A duck in a bar kept on asking for peanuts. In the end, the barman became outraged and barked: “No, we don’t have any. If you ask for peanuts again, I’ll nail you to the counter”. The duck took a few sips of beer and then asked: “Do you have nails?” “No, we don’t have,” said the barman. “Nothing?” asked the duck. “So then, do you have any peanuts?” (Pollux, Rapport, 2 October 2016).

 

Local aquaponics

A recent job advertisement for a tilapia farm manager stated: “This is a position for someone who is willing to do everything: building, welding, vehicle and pump maintenance, fish handling, etc., so you need to be jack-of-all-trades, and master of several. In other words, it is not a job for the guy who wants to play golf on Wednesday afternoon and drive a BMW ... but if you want a head start in tilapia culture, this offers immense opportunity” (Nicholas James, ichthyologist and hatchery owner).


One of our committee members, Lance Quiding of Integrated Aquaculture (BH34, R560) agrees. He has an in-depth knowledge of this method of farming and actively practices aquaponics. The attached photographs are from his aquaculture and aquaponics farm here in Hartebeestfontein. He agreed to send a short article on auaponic farming (below):
Aquaponics is the farming of fish and plants in a closed, recirculating water system. The waste from the fish is the nutrients for the plants, and the plants in turn, remove these nutrients from the water, purifying it for the fish. The fish waste is used to grow a plant crop that becomes a second income stream for some pioneering farmers or simply an amazing soilless way of keeping your kitchen stocked with veggies. There are four methods of aquaponic farming to choose from:
The first and most popular is the ‘Flood and Drain’ technique: This is where the plants are grown in an inert media (stone aggregate, shale, expanded clay, etc.), and the water floods and drains by means of a flow-out system. As the water floods and drains, the roots are exposed to oxygen and nutrients.
‘Deep Water Culture’ (DWC) is method number two: Here, the plants are placed on a floating raft, and the roots grow suspended in the water from the fish tank. Additional aeration is required to ensure that the roots get sufficient oxygen. Any grow bed can be used as long as it holds water and is best suited at a depth of 300mm.
Option three is the ‘Vertical’ technique: Here, the plants are grown in a substrate in vertical towers. There are several different designs of towers, and it is an extremely good use of limited space.
The final method is the ‘Nutrient Film’ technique: This is a horizontal pipe or tube where the roots grow in a film of flowing water cycled from the fish tanks.
Commercially, DWC is the method of choice. There are a number of small backyard systems available for one to learn on before investing in commercial production. Contact Lance on 082 561 0013 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

 

The plight of the honeybee

Honeybees “are the glue that holds our agricultural system together”, wrote journalist Hannah Nordhaus in her 2011 book The Beekeeper’s Lament. And now that glue seems to be failing.

Around 2006, commercial beekeepers began noticing something disturbing: their honeybees were disappearing. Scientists coined an appropriately apocalyptic term for the mystery malady: Colony-Collapse Disorder (CCD). (Incidentally, we have reported on CCD in previous newsletters). Years later, honeybees are still dying on a scale rarely seen before, and the reasons remain mysterious. Scientists are working hard to figure out what’s bugging the bees.
Agricultural pesticides are an obvious suspect – specifically a popular new class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids, which seem to affect bees and other insects even at what should be safe doses. These chemicals are used widely on crops as well as in home gardens, meaning endless chances of exposure for any insect that alights on the treated plants, thereby posing real threats to the viability of pollinators. There is growing evidence that neonicotinoids can have dangerous effects, especially in conjunction with other pathogens. Studies have shown that these chemicals attack the nervous system of bees, interfering with their flying and navigation abilities, without killing them immediately. Other suspects are bee-killing pests like the aptly named Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite that has ravaged honeybee colonies since the 1980s. It burrows into the brood cells that host baby bees. Bacterial and viral diseases can also be the cause of the problem (such as American Foul Brood (AFB), which kills developing bees).
The loss of honeybees would leave the planet poorer and hungrier, but what’s really scary is the fear that bees may be a sign of what’s to come, a symbol that something is deeply wrong with the world around us. The simple fact is that beekeepers live in countries that are becoming inhospitable to honeybees. To survive, bees need forage, which means flowers and wild spaces. Industrialised agricultural systems have conspired against that, transforming countrysides into vast stretches of crop monocultures – factory fields that are little more than a desert for honeybees starved of pollen and nectar.
As valuable as honeybees are, the food system wouldn’t collapse without them. But our dinner plates would be far less colourful, not to mention far less nutritious. The backbone of the world’s diet – grains like corn, wheat and rice – is self-pollinating. Although many crops are only partially dependent on bee pollination, others, like the almond, cannot get by without it. For all the recent attention on the commercial honeybee, wild bees are in far worse shape. Unlike the honeybee, the bumblebee has no human caretakers. This is what happens when one species – that would be us – becomes so widespread and so dominant that it crowds out almost everything else (Time, vol 182, no 8, 19 August 2013).

 

Rhino Poaching

South Africa, Namibia, Kenya en Zimbabwe are some of the countries that are going to work together in future to protect their rhinos according to the rhino conservation plan. Together, these countries have about 25 000 rhinos. South Africa has 20 306, Namibia 2 768, Kenya 1 122, Zimbabwe 802, and seven other countries have 630 in total. There are only about 5 250 black rhinos left on the continent. According to the conservation plan, these countries want their rhino populations to have grown with at least 5% by 2010. Dr Michael Knight, chair of the Africa Rhino Conservation Group, says it costs about $12 500 per rhino to protect it during its life time (Elise Tempelhoff, Beeld, 26 September 2016).

 

What is Heritage?

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary heritage decribes “characteristics of a specific society, like tradition, language or buildings that were created in the past, and that still have historical value”. Sherlanne Pillay, Miss Heritage Gauteng, has an interesting opinion on this: “Many people think heritage consists only of your culture, but this is not necessarily true. Your heritage is closely linked to your identity and how you are influenced by people, culture, music and food around you” (Metro-Beeld, 21 September 2016).

 

Food for thought

“Cut out all the exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke” (F. Scott Fitzgerald).
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something” (Plato).
“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing” (Camille Pissarro).
“Your life is your story. Write well. Edit often” (Susan Statham).
And finally… Seven dangers to human virtue (Received via email).:
Wealth without work;
Pleasure without conscience;
Knowledge without character;
Business without ethics;
Science without humanity;
Religion without sacrifice; and Politics without principle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Newsletter #89

September 2016 

Editorial - September 2016

Spring is here! Our Bushwillows and White Stinkwood trees are budding, our Barberton Daisies are starting to flower, and our swallows came to greet us for the first time on 21 August. And it feels as though summer is here already.

We are experiencing high day temperatures, and some of our members have informed us that the snakes have started to come out, and the owls have started nesting. (See the article on owl boxes). It is believed that rain is on its way when the snakes start to come out. We sincerely hope this will be the case.
So far, we haven’t had much of a fire season to talk about, but some of our members are experiencing low water levels. News reports state that level 2 water restrictions have already been introduced in Johannesburg, with other metros to follow suit. Dam water levels across the country are the lowest in many years – the Vaal Dam only has 33% water at the moment. If 15% of the available water cannot be saved by Johannesburgers, strict water restrictions will be introduced. Among other things this means that no garden may be watered between 06:00 and 18:00 (and only with buckets, water cans and hose pipes – no irrigation), and that swimming pools may only be filled with borehole water – no municipal water). People who violate these water saving measures will be fined R1 500, and will have to pay 30% more for water, according to the new water tariffs.
In July, a tornado touched down at Koesterfontein near Magaliesburg, and a severe hail storm occurred near Bekker schools. We need to become more ‘weather-smart’, as we will face more severe weather conditions each season. (See the article on troubled times ahead for cattle and grain farmers).
Our readers found the articles on bees and the high salt intake of South Africans in our previous newsletter interesting (see erratum below), and they were touched by the sad vulture story. Any comments (good or bad) on our newsletter will always be welcome.
Erratum: One of our committee members, Frik Mülder, who had insight into Government Notice no R214 of 20 March 2013 of the Department of Health, brought it to our attention that since 30 June 2016, when this Notice became effective, bread may not contain more than 400mg salt per 100g. We mistakenly reported it as 100mg. Other popular food stuffs with salt restrictions are pap (not more than 500mg per 100g); margarine (550mg per 100g); potato crisps (650mg per 100g); processed meat products (850mg per 100g); and soup powder (5 500mg per 100g).

With regret: Our deapest sympathy with oom Bokkie and Wilmie Meyer with the tragic loss of their son Eric after a car accident on the R560 on 6 September 2016. Our hearts go out to their children, grandchildren, next of kin and friends.

 

Travel blogs about our valley

Venues in our region have recently been featured in several travel blogs.

Shelter Rock Adventures: This beautiful resort with its hiking trails on the slopes of the Magaliesberg is the property of two of our members, Johann en Corry Botha. It received a feather in the cap from two visitors in the Getaways Reviews of 21 August 2016. Since they had moved to Hartbeespoort a few months ago, the surrounding mountains had been calling them to go and explore, especially the Magaliesberg, with a length of approximately 196km: They wrote: “Our morning alarm clocks went off. It was a Saturday. But we didn’t mind. We were going hiking. Once on top of the mountain, we really felt as if we were on top of the world. It was a day out in the great outdoors and was good for the soul. This is why we didn’t mind our alarm clocks waking us up early that morning”. They experienced the hike as really good, and one that can be done in a morning (before it gets too hot). It was challenging enough to make them feel they had achieved something that morning, but gentle enough to make it a very enjoyable day outing: “The hike takes about four hours to complete, but that is an estimation depending on your walking mood and the time you decide to invest in admiring the proteas, trees, birds and views along the way. These all deserve appreciation”. (Photo provided by Corry Botha).
Read the full review on www.bushbabyblog.com.
A visit to Shelter Rock was also broadcast on the Vrydag 4-uur programme on Kyknet Channel 147 on 26 August 2016. The photography was excellent, especially when the presenters climbed up the mountain with the only Via Ferrata (iron way) in Africa. The two presenters of these programmes usually feel the urge to get out of town on a Friday afternoon, then pack their Combi and travel to an interesting place, where they participate in the activities on offer.

Another feather in the cap for the There’s a River on my Stoep guest house:

Visit: carlimostert.wordpress.com.

Feather in the cap for Rustig and The Farmhouse: On 20 May 2016, The Naked Barista wrote that he and his partner usually work over weekends, but on one of their rare free weekends, they decided to spoil themselves with a weekend in the Magaliesberg area. They enjoyed taking a hike along one of the three hiking trails of the wellknown, historical Rustig (property of one of our members, Johan Oosthuizen of Oostermoed): “The hike into the mountains and the views of the farm were breathtakingly beautiful, and we spent a delightful three hours walking”. (Photo of the old farmhouse, dating back to 1930, provided by Rustig staff).

farmhouse

They had booked overnight accommodation in the quaint thatched roof guest house, The Farmhouse, property of two of our members, Wayne en Jenny Forster: “On our way, we opened the car windows, and the country smells streaming in were calm inducing. As we drove through the gate, a peaceful feeling settled in us. We started a fire in the fireplace outside under the vast variety of exquisite trees. The moon started showing her beautiful face. Without any visible city lights around, the magical starry skies were a stunning sight to behold. The next morning when we opened the sliding door, our senses were pleasured by a scenic splendour, musical birdsong and fresh farm smells”.
Read the full review on www.superblessedandloved.com/pretoria-part-2). (Photo provided by Jenny Forster).

 

Troubled times ahead for cattle and grain farmers

South Africa’s cattle herds decreased by 15% nationally during the past three years, and its maize crops by 30%. The good rain that is expected by some weather experts during the following few weeks, will therefore not solve cattle or grain farmers’ immediate problems.

The condition of cattle that managed to survive the worst drought in decades will deteriorate further during September and October. After good rain, it takes about four to six weeks for proper grazing to develop. Another risk is that grazing animals cannot resist the few green sprouts that appear when it rains after a drought. They will walk for kilometres to find these, and in so doing, waste valuable energy. Offshoots in dry veld are vulnerable, because animals pull out the germinating seedlings completely.
Some weather experts forecast a 55% to 65% possibility that a La Niña can result in at least average rainfall for South Africa during the current season (November to January). Others are of the opinion that a La Niña is not established well enough yet, and that we can expect another long, dry summer season. Good rain will restore grazing across the country and enable cattle farmers to start rebuilding their herds. Because of the drought, cattle slaughtering had more than doubled during the past few months. This will be a huge challenge for cattle farmers, who will also have to manage their debt carefully. According to Henk Vermeulen (chief executive of Free State Agriculture), correct herd management will be of utmost importance, especially where farmers are left with only a few head of cattle because of the drought, and now have to rebuild their herds completely. (Riana de Lange, Sake-Rapport, 21 August 2016).

 

Install your own owl box

“Every plant and animal teaches you something about how nature works” (Samir Randera-Rees, creator of the nature life App, Whispers in the Wild).

Owl families have started nesting on some of our members’ properties, high up in roof ridges or tall trees near the house. Farmworkers believe that the owls bring bad luck, but they play an important role in our ecosystems, as they keep rodent populations down. We should protect them, and members are encouraged to install an owl box or two on their properties. In order to install your owl boxes, you will need:
A drill and a drill bit, 6 x 5” or 6” nails or screws per box, a tall ladder, and somebody who is not afraid of heights. You will need to drill holes in the top and bottom of the spine (three at the top, and three at the bottom). You then shimmy up a tree and screw or nail the box to the tree, ideally at a height of 5-7m, but no lower (although the box can go higher). The type of tree is not tremendously important. What is more important is that you install the box high enough. The owl boxes do not need to be direction specific. You can install them facing in any direction. You should line your box with wood chips, shavings or pea gravel – or some similar material. Your owl box should be serviced every year in order to ensure its longevity and make it weather and bee resistant. If you are unable to service your boxes yourself, contact EcoSolutions on 072 365 9777 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for assistance.

 

For our horse lovers and owners: Healthy hooves

You should have a comprehensive understanding of how your horse’s hooves work before you can ensure they are kept healthy. Also, having your horse’s hooves seen to every four to six weeks is a small price to pay to avoid problems developing. The importance of healthy hooves can therefore not be underestimated.


Some tips: High quality hay and lucerne are not only good for the horse’s digestive system, but help to ensure healthy hooves. You should also evaluate your paddocks from time to time. If they are too moist or too dry, include water baths or oils in your daily hoof care routine. If the climate is dry, allow the water trough to overflow. This helps to keep the hooves moist. You can also blend seaweed and rose hip and feed this to your horse. Rose hip is very high in biotin and helps to ensure good quality hooves. It also contains vitamins C, E, K and nicotinamade, and makes a good tonic for an ill horse or one recovering from illness. Horses suffering from thrush due to a cracked heel also respond well after being fed dry rose hip. Cold pressed rose hip oil is a remarkable hoof dressing. It gives the hoof suppleness, preventing excessive chips and cracks. Another effective natural substance is kelp powder. It is highly palatable and rich in minerals such as calcium, iodine and potassium. Kelp is especially useful when you are feeding horses with little access to good grazing. Horses that suffer from brittle, slow-growing hooves will also benefit from kelp. Feed about 50g/day fresh or dry kelp (For a better understanding on how your horse’s hooves work, contact Kim Dyson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please state ‘Horse therapy’ in the subject line). (The photos of Ferdie and Charmaine Leygonie’s beautiful horses were provided by Charmaine).

 

The uphill battle against invasive alien plants

A review of the invasion status and geographical extent of species catalogued in the Southern African Plant Invaders Atlas (SAPIA) from 2001 – 2016 has revealed some alarming statistics, and also some good news.

Over the past 15 years, some invaders have more than doubled their distributions and require urgent intervention. About 180 new taxa were detected growing outside of cultivation and have the potential to become future invaders.
There have, however, been some remarkable successes with biological control, with very little expansion and even range contraction, of some of our most prominent invaders. Some programmes have been so effective that no other intervention is necessary to reduce populations to acceptable levels.
Read the full review in SAPIA News no 41 of July 2016 on the ARC website: www.arc.agric.za or Invasive species website: www.invasives.co.za

 

Vulture fledgling season


Once again, it is vulture fledgling season from September/October to early next year. During this time, young, inexperienced vultures get themselves into potentially fatal situations as they start to experience the freedom of the skies. They have not yet learned of the threats that civilisation and modern developments create for them. Some of the threats that young vultures face are small high-fenced or walled gardens, swimming pools and reservoirs, dogs, unsafe food sources and ignorance or a lack of empathy from people. Small gardens often prevent them from being able to take off again, once on the ground. Dogs may worry or kill a grounded vulture if trapped inside their garden, and electric fencing creates the threat of electrocution, wire cut injuries and even death as the vulture attempts to escape. Heavy rain and swimming pools can end up water-logging a vulture’s plumage. With the added weight and the lack of functionality of their wet feathers, they are unable to fly. Kerri Wolter, founder of VulPro, and her staff are always available to assist with advice or guidance on how to handle injured or grounded vultures, or to come through and collect birds for rehabilitation. VulPro emergency numbers: Kerri Wolter 082 808 5113 or email: kerri.wolter @gmail.com.

 

Environmental Snippets

SA’s water challenges:

According to prof Anthony Turton (water expert of the Free State and Cape Town Universities), the biggest challenges facing South Africa are: Failing sewerage plants across the country; ongoing allocation of mining rights without any consideration of the negative impacts of mining on water; and perhaps the most concerning, the venomous microcystin neurotoxin in the cyanobacteria poisoning many dams across SA (VeldTalk no 79, 27 August 2016). Read the full article in the Rhenosterspruit Conservancy newsletter on www.veldtalk.co.za.
“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water” (WH Auden).

Beetle threatens Uganda’s coffee industry:

The multi-million dollar coffee industry of Uganda, largest coffee exporter in Africa, is being threatened by a beetle species (black borer beetle) that is thriving in most plantations, due to the current dry conditions. According to experts, these favourable conditions for the beetles migrating to coffee plantations are mainly due to shrinking forest cover and climate change. Some farmers have lost as much as 40% of their potential harvest. The beetle makes small grooves in the young branches of the coffee tree, in which the eggs are laid. This then infects the branches with a fungus that causes the leaves and branches to wilt and die off. (Reuters, August 2016).

Pecans certified as heart-healthy food:

Dr Rachel Johnson, the Bickford Green and Gold Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont and an American Heart Association spokesperson, said, “Adding nuts, fish and other foods that are rich sources of good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) gives more healthy options consumers can choose. With antioxidants as well as a tender texture, rich buttery flavour and gentle crunch, pecans make an ideal snack choice for everyone”. Findings from a study conducted at Loma Linda University showed that adding just a handful of pecans to your diet each day may help inhibit unwanted oxidation of blood lipids, thus helping to prevent coronary heart disease. Pecans also contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals. One ounce of pecans provides 10% of the recommended daily intake of fibre. They are a natural, high-quality source of protein that contains very few carbohydrates and no cholesterol, and are naturally sodium-free. (Source: The National Pecan Shellers Association, www.ilovepecans.org).

 

Did you know?

Tea from Chrysanthenums: In the Far East, a sweet tea, Jú hu chá, is brewed from chrysanthenums. It is believed to improve blood circulation and to help prevent vericose veins. When one spends long hours in front of the computer, the tea apparently helps to decrease negative effects of the radiation from the computer screen on the body.
South African males are involved in three times more car accidents (75,5%) than females (Lien Botha & Anet Schoeman, Rooi Rose, September 2016).

Interesting research:

Hungarian researchers have found that the bodies of people suffering from stress produce up to 51 additional metabolites. Of these, 34 are directly linked to stress-related diseases such as heart ailments.
According to Italian researchers, many people unintentionally give up important tasks more easily when too many things take up their time.
Australian research has shown that a game such as Tetris decreases cravings for food and even drugs with up to 30%. What about Sudoku, a crossword puzzle or cellphone games?
French research has shown that 54% of people on diet, complain of hunger while dieting (Salomé Delport, Rooi Rose, September 2016).

Heard on RSG news, 7 September 2016:

USA embargo on antibacterial soap: The USA Food and Medicine Research Council has placed an embargo on the sale of any antibacterial soap. Bacteria become resistant to the chemical substances in the soap, and this influences the effect of antibiotics. There is also no proof that these soaps get rid of bacteria, or that it works better than ordinary soap and water.
Big demand for donkey skins and meat from Asia: Thousands of donkeys are stolen in the Northwest Province mainly, in order to supply in the demand from Asia, where the skins and meat are used for medicinal purposes. Animal lovers are alarmed at the way in which these animals are transported and the cruelty of the way in which they are slaughtered.

 

Have you ever come across this term?

Dauwtrappen (v.): Walking barefoot in the morning grass (and gathering spring flowers) or cycling through nature, when the grass is still covered in dew (Dutch – wordstuck).

 

Quotes

Many of our kids now growing up in our cities are suffering from a new disease – Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). “For this generation, nature is more of an abstraction than a physical reality” (Richard Louv, from his bestseller “Last Child in the Woods”).

I’ve always wanted to walk up to a stranger and hand him a briefcase and whisper “you know what to do” and walk away” (Anonymous).

If your eyes are positive, you will love the world. But if your tongue is positive, the world will love you” (Mother Teresa).

What you harvest in your mind will manifest in your life” (Yutamé Venter).

Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end” (Robin Sharma).

May my heart be kind, my mind fierce and my spirit brave” (Lessons Learned).

A great beginning is sometimes at the point of what you thought would be the end of everything” (Dodinsky).

 

On retirement and getting old...

It is not the same. Retirement is when we stop doing what we have been doing, and we either start doing something else, or we sit back and let the world get on without us. Old age refers to a stage when we have limited regenerative abilities and are more susceptible to disease and increasing frailty.
Our “job” is now ... to be. Just to be – in the moment, giving it our fullest attention, listening to our inner dialogue, allowing ourselves to feel without needing to find solutions and “make things right”, allowing silence, allowing ourself to contemplate our history and to forgive ourself for things done and not done, said and not said. And we need to express our fears. It is at this point that we need to find our spiritual connection to the world and to those around us (Alan Maguire, retirement coach and creator of “The Elders Journey”: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).