Newsletter #78

October 2015

Summer arrived quickly this year. This means that sinusitis and flu are hopefully something of the past. Many people in our area believe that it doesn’t normally rain before Oom Paul’s birthday (10 October), but we had lovely rain (and hopefully the last cold snap) during the second week of September, for which we are grateful.

Unfortunately, summer brings the usual pests and diseases for us to endure, like spiders, moths, flies, and after the first rain, fleas, mozzies, ticks and midges (muggies). Then, “’n boer maak ‘n plan” with a “boereraat” or two (see below).

Tip to get rid of mosquitos: Put a container with vinegar in your children’s rooms to prevent mosquito bites (Tanya de Vente-Bijker). Or crush some mint leaves, put it in a small bag and hang it in the bedroom. Mosquitos hate this smell. If you and your family do get bitten, rub some toothpaste on for quick relief.

Why do mosquito bites itch? Mosquito saliva produces histamine, which makes the skin around the bite itch.

With salt or white pepper: Sprinkle salt or white pepper in window sills and at doors or on ant paths to keep them away (

Fleas in your home? Sprinkle borax or salt on carpets, floors, along skirting boards, on your animals’ bedding, underneath beds, furniture and matrasses. Seal the vacuum cleaner properly or you’ll spread more fleas. If there are fleas on your lawn, spot spray some diatomite. Also plant Pennyroyals, gladioli and stinking weed (wurmkruid) in your garden.

Cook without flies: Put a slice of bread on the lid when cooking cabbage to keep flies away (Maretha Coetzee, Britanniabaai).

Comments on our previous newsletter: It seems that our members/readers found the articles on the fire season not being over yet, the trees of the year, Sylvester (the Karoo lion), and the Glyphosate debate interesting. Nice words from one of our readers, Tallies Taljaard: “The newsletter is like a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day – interesting, informative and well researched”.

One of our readers, Lynne Harrison, of Clarens in the eastern Free State wrote via email on 30 August: “We have many parsley trees on our farm. They are hardy and also endemic to the area. Having been to the Karoo National Park earlier this year (just before Sylvester escaped), we followed his exploits keenly.


A balanced outlook on conservation?

Conservation outlook

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it is attached to the rest of the world” (John Muir). 

Do we have a balanced outlook on protecting our natural resources in Hartebeestfontein – or not?

When I see and hear how people react to events in our environment I often ask myself this question. Often, opinions are expressed that clearly indicate ignorance, assumptions and self-interest, with the latter mostly given preference. It is often said that humans will be responsible for their own downfall, and sometimes, one cannot but wholly agree with this and relate it to events in one’s own environment.


This past week, much was said about our country’s looming water crisis and that water consumption will be strictly regulated, similar to load shedding. Fact is that we do not have sufficient clean water, and that we cannot generate more water as with electricity, while the population is increasing at an unsustainable rate. Then there are people who tell me “This doesn’t concern me, I have lots of water, a strong borehole, and I’ll pump as much as I want and do what I want on my property, because I’m making good money”. They are oblivious of the fact that the water is not only on their property, not knowing where it comes from, or that their careless attitude can result in a water shortage for them and others, and that the plug may be pulled on their financial resources. They also don’t take into account that more people with more new boreholes use more water every year, and that available water resources have decreased alarmingly over the past two decades. They are also unaware of the fact that many boreholes that always had strong water have now dried up or are producing much less water. Furthermore, groundwater quality is decreasing as a result of salinisation and pollution, sometimes quite a distance from where it is pumped. This is probably indicative of the over utilisation of our water resources.

Few people realize that the mountains, and in particular, the Magaliesberg, is a reservoir of clean water in our area. Nearly all our groundwater comes from the mountains where it is stored and protected by the vegetation on the mountains and their slopes. So, if we don’t protect our mountains, we won’t have water. Some say we should not destroy any indigenous bush and vegetation, while others are of the opinion that deforestation must take place in certain areas for fire breaks, as prescribed by Law. We will thus prevent those veld fires, which are difficult or impossible to control in the mountains. (See the photo of such a fire break that was recently made at the foot of the Magaliesberg).

Admirers of vervet monkeys complain when bird lovers complain that the monkeys raid birds’ nests and fruit and vegetable farmers suffer huge losses and want to cull some of these monkeys. When a leopard is seen attacking baboons or monkeys in the mountain, some say leopards shouldn’t be there, and it also poses a threat to their livestock, while others are of the opinion that it is dangerous for hikers frequenting the various hiking routes on the mountain. If game is culled in order to protect the remaining game against starvation and death, there are numerous complaints.

Although various measures to curb crime with an effective communication system, for those who are interested to make use of it, in place, and although crime prevention has been relatively successful, excessive measures are taken with impenetrable fences and lights, etc., keeping everything in or out in order to ward off the “onslaught”. Protecting the environment or its flora and fauna becomes unimportant when people develop a fear of crime.

We can cite many examples, and each point of view will probably have merit from own conviction. I urgently request people to cultivate a balanced outlook in respect of protecting our natural resources and environment. Short-sightedness and self-interest in this regard will lead to your own downfall and that of many others. We cannot always point the finger at other people, while our own actions leave much to be desired. We should all do some soul searching and ask ourselves, what am I doing wrong, or what can I do to make a contribution in creating and maintaining a sustainable environment? This is not to say that one shouldn’t rebuild what has fallen into disrepair, but excessive revamping may just do more harm than good, especially if we keep on tugging at nature. Will we in Hartebeestfontein be able to keep our perspective and maintain a balanced approach in respect of protecting our natural resources? This will depend on everyone’s personal motivation and willingness to adapt and cooperate, as well as how we manage external influences that we’re all exposed to. Time will tell, and when we look back after some years, we’ll know whether we have succeeded or not.

Deon Greyling

Bird of the month: Cape Robin

One of our members, Lourie Laatz, sent us a beautiful photo of a Cape Robin (Afr Gewone Janfrederik, or Cossypha caffra) that has come to fetch a worm from her every day, for a while now. This cute little fellow will therefore be our bird of the month.

The colourful Cape Robin is greyish brown above, with an orange rump, conspicuous white eyebrow, black face and bill, brownish pink legs and feet, light orange breast and throat, greyish white belly and orange tail with black centre. When disturbed, they make a harsh 3-syllabled alarm note, WA-deda, and their call can be likened to someone reading off a shopping list – teeu teetoo, teeu tiddly-too, teeu teetoo teetoo. They are common throughout South Africa, except in much of the Northern Cape. Their favourite habitat is forest edges, wooded kloofs, riverine bush, gardens, parks, farmyards, wattle and Eucalyptus plantations. They like feeding on insects, spiders, worms, small frogs, lizards and fruit. The breeding season lasts from June to December, when they usually lay 2-3 pale pinkish or greenish, spotted eggs. Incubation and nestling usually takes about 18 days. (Source: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, sixth edition, 1993).

Rose-ringed Parakeet Project

The Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) is native to sub-Saharan Africa, but in SA they were introduced, where after they became naturalised as they spread to new areas. According to Wits researchers, Craig Symes and Elize Fourie (School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences), most of these populations are derived from escaped birds, and probably originate from aviculture.


This is an invasive parrot species, which inhabits urban areas of South Africa, and which is currently listed as a Category 2 invasive species in the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA). The impact of the species on local biodiversity and the environment is, however, not known. The Wits researchers are launching the Rose-ringed Parakeet Project to firstly, locate parakeet roosting/breeding sites and secondly, investigate the size and distribution range of the parakeet population in Gauteng. This will be complemented by parallel studies (in association with European researchers and ParrotNet), focused on the behaviour of these birds in Gauteng. It will improve understanding of the ecology and behaviour of the species in South African urban environments and ensure that informed decisions are made by policy makers regarding the status and management of this parrot.

All birders, citizen scientists, outdoor enthusiasts, and members of the public are invited to assist with and collaborate on the project by submitting sightings of these parakeets to the project database. Particularly needed is information on the exact location of permanent roosting and breeding sites as well as the number of parakeets seen.
To diarise: Spot-a-parakeet day, Saturday 22 August. Best time: 06:00 – 08:00 or 16:00 – 18:00. Please join the Facebook group (The Rose-ringed Parakeet Project) for more information and updates. If you have any photos of parakeets, or any questions or need further information please contact the Wits researchers and send photos 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..

Data can be submitted to the project in the following ways:

1. Using Google Forms. Please follow this link to the data form, fill it in, and submit. You may submit more than one form for the project. Please fill in all required fields as completely as possible: OR
2. Via Birdlasser, the technological partner of this project. All data of Rose-ringed Parakeets logged on Birdlasser will be shared with the Wits researchers. This application is available for download on Apple and Android devices. More info at

Birds; Bats; insects; load shedding

On feathered friends:

A young Secretary bird was recently found in the middle of Pietermaritzburg – definitely not normal habitat or a safe area either! The bird was emaciated when found, proving that it had been battling to find food. FreeMe in Gauteng reported similar incidents of these birds ending up in urban areas, their desperation for food forcing them closer to human habitation in an effort to find it (Raptor Rescue Newsletter, June 2015). To read the full newsletter, go to

Only 250 Bearded vultures (Afr Lammergier, or Gypaetus barbatus), are left in South Africa. This species has now been added to the ICUN Red Data List of critically endangered birds (Rapport, 12 June 2015).

Interesting facts about insects

From the Gauteng Smallholder (July 2015) and Huisgenoot (12 February 2015):

Ladybirds (Afr. Liewenheersbesies) are a farmer’s best allies, as they eat scale insects and aphids that cause damage to crops. They act as a natural pest control and are far more effective than commercial pesticides. In its lifetime of three to six weeks, a ladybird can consume up to 5 000 aphids.

Dragon flies have exceptional aerodynamic abilities. They can fly in reverse, change direction in flight and glide-hang at one spot for longer than a minute.

The silverfish or silver moth is one of the most primitive species of wingless insects. Ctenolepisma longicaudata is the most common silverfish species in South Africa. There are about 370 silverfish species in the world.

During the summer season, a queen bee can lay about 2 000 eggs per day – much more than her own body weight. 


Bats play an important role in ecosystems: There are at least 19 species of bat in Gauteng, with 56 in total throughout South Africa. Of the 75 species found in the sub region of southern Africa, 20 insectivorous bats and two species of fruit-eating bats are listed as threatened in the IUCN Red Data List of threatened animals. Bat populations are decreasing nationwide. Human encroachment and chemicals used on the insects and plants they eat has led to loss of habitat. There are four species of fruit-eating bats that typically occur in South Africa, but only two of these species occur in Gauteng, namely the African straw-coloured fruit bat and Wahlberg’s epauletted bat (Gauteng Smallholder, July 2015). 

River pollution:

Tests found that the Hennops River contained more than one million units of E.coli per 100ml of water. The current level of E.coli puts the content in the same category as raw sewage.
Each kilometre of the Jukskei River in Gauteng contains up to a 1 000 tons of garbage in areas such as Alexandra, and about 300 tons per kilometre elsewhere. Visit to read about efforts to clean up the river (VeldTalk, no 76, July 2015).

Load shedding:

Load shedding has become part of our lives, like traffic jams, crime and heartburn. In many cases it is just an irritation, like when the food is half-cooked, and the soapy on TV remains without an ending, but when the milking machine stops working, the cooling system in the warehouse switches off, and the mixer in the feedlot comes to a standstill, it becomes a crisis. Then you should have your Plan B ready to roll. All of us want to be able to function without Eskom, but it is expensive to switch over, and the technology, especially with regard to storing energy in battery systems, has just not advanced as far as it should have yet (opinion expressed in ProAgri, no 184, June 2015).

The Springboks have been playing load shedding rugby for a while now – one half on, one half off – Ed.

Cholestrol and the sandwich generation

World renowned heart surgeon, Dr Dwight Lundell, with 25 years’ experience (having performed 5 000 open-heart operations) and author of the book “The great cholesterol lie” says that diets to lower cholesterol and severely restrict fat intake are not helping to cure or stop heart disease.

Inflammation in the artery walls is the real cause of heart disease. This discovery is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated in future. Mainstream diets are low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats and carbohydrates, thus causing repeated injury to blood vessels. This repeated injury creates chronic inflammation, leading to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and eventually even Alzheimer’s. Excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils, like soybean, corn and sunflower, found in many processed foods, causes an imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3. One should eat natural (unprocessed) food – more protein, fruit, vegetables, olive oil and butter made from grass-fed animal milk (received via email on 6 January 2015).

The “sandwich generation” is people who are sandwiched between the demands – also financial demands – of their children on the one hand and their elderly parents on the other hand. About 40,5% of retired people find themselves in this difficult position. Grandchildren (44%), children (43,6%), extended family members (20,2%), parents (12,8%) and spouses (11,1%) have all become dependent on retired people. In the words of tax expert, Matthew Lester, “Don’t expect to inherit from your parents; you are going to inherit your parents” (Huisgenoot Leefstyl, 12 February 2015).

Food for thought...

“I’d rather look back at my life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that’ instead of saying ‘I wish I did that’” (Unknown).

“Faith is doing what you love for a living and watching the bills pay themselves” (Rudy Francisco).

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things” (Leonardo da Vinci).

And finally…
These ten things will disappear in our lifetime!
1. The Post Office: Worldwide, Post Offices are so deeply in financial trouble there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email and cell phone communication (immediate, direct communication) have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.
2. The Cheque: Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with cheque by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process cheques. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the cheque. Cash? In Norway, only 5% of financial transactions use cash, and the country could be cash free by 2020.
3. The Newspaper: The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.
4. The Book: You say you will never give up the physical book you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes, but I quickly changed my mind when I discovered I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books.
5. The Land Line Telephone: You don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for the extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.
6. Music, as we know it: The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalogue items," meaning traditional music the public is familiar with, older established artists. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."
7. Television: Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. Cable rates are skyrocketing, and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Highly irritating!
8. The "Things" You Own: Many of the very possessions we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud" Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of this is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." It means when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider.
9. Joined handwriting: Already gone in some schools who no longer teach "joined handwriting" because nearly everything is done now on computers or keyboards of some type.
10. Privacy: If there ever was a concept we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. It's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure 24/7, "they" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. All we will have left with, and can't be changed, are "Memories" (email received on 8 June 2015).