Newsletter #82

February 2016



We received many positive comments on articles in our previous newsletter, especially the articles on water scarcity and our feathered friends. The drought and its effect will still be with us for quite a while. Welcome rain during January and February brought temporary relief to our valley. As a result of extreme heat, it is, however, very dry once again, and the Magalies River is still not flowing. Currently, our country’s dam reserves are 55%, compared to 82% at the end of January 2014. R56 million has already been collected for Operation Hydrate, but according to John Weaver, a hydro geologist of the South African National Association for Bottled Water (SANBWA), the collection of water for towns and people that have to make do without water, cannot be seen as a long term solution. The drought pointed the finger at weak spots in the water infrastructure – 75% of the current water crisis is not as a result of the drought (Herman Scholtz, Rapport Nuus, 31 January 2016). Also see the article on global warming below.

When it rains, we usually experience power cuts. As we know all too well, we can never have both rain and thunder and power at the same time – it’s either one or the other! One also quickly learns that it is a good idea to unplug pumps and other electrical appliances as soon as the first peal of thunder sounds.

Membership fees: Membership fees for 2015/16 are now payable. Invoices were issued to all with outstanding membership fees during January. Please feel free to contact Liz or Deon Greyling (contact details in the letterhead) for any queries or more information.


Increase in snares

snare remove

There has been an alarming increase in the number of snares found in and around the Conservancy.

Game, birds, livestock and even domestic animals are being caught in these snares.

We would like to urgently appeal to members to be aware of this trend, and to report it to us. From September to December 2015, 44 cable snares were collected in the area to the east of Steynshoop. (The photo of some of the skulls found there was provided by Tracy Robb).


Strange fungus species


As a result of the recent rain and the mostly cloudy weather, a strange fungus species appeared in grass cuttings near our outbuildings, and disappeared after three days. We have never seen this fungus anywhere on our property before. Hundreds of minute (what looks like) toad stools are grouped together to form one large fungus. 
Did you know? More than 100 000 different fungus species (including mushrooms and toad stools) have been identified worldwide. The South African Association of Mushroom Farmers (SAMFA) has conducted a successful study on weight loss in males to prove that by replacing red meat by mushrooms, weight loss is promoted as a result of the low calorie count of mushrooms.
Remember: Never regard all mushrooms or toad stools as edible – some are highly toxic. “There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters. Know your mushrooms!” (from: A Field Guide to the Mushrooms in South Africa by Hilda Levin, Margo Branch, Simon Rappoport & Derek Mitchell, Struik Publishers, 1985).


A family of owls make a home

owl at home

One of our members, Ria Smit, reports that a family of owls have started nesting in the trees close to their house. The farm workers believe that the owls bring bad luck and chased away. However, Ria and husband Gert are very pleased that all rodents in the area seem to have disappeared. (The photo was provided by Ria).

Labour: Farming, forestry minimum wage increased

On 3 February 2016, the Department of Labour announced an increase in the minimum wage for workers in the farming and forestry sectors, notes a Cape Times report. The department said it applied consumer price index (CPI), excluding owner’s equivalent rent – which is lower than what the department used to apply – to calculate minimum wage increases.

The department said as of 1 March, the minimum wage increases will be adjusted to:
* An hourly rate of R14.25, up from R13.37 in 2015/16;
* A weekly rate of R641.32, up from R601.61;
* A monthly rate of R2 778.83, up from R2 606.78.
* A daily wage for a farm worker who works nine hours per day will now be R128.26 – up from R120.32 in the 2015/16 financial year (email received on 4 February 2016).


Climate change trends in South Africa: Can we afford to ignore global warming any longer?

Three professors from Wits University (Robert Scholes, Mary Scholes and Mike Lucas), predict difficult times ahead for the country in their new book, Climate Change: Briefings from South Africa. (News24 reports 2015-11-23).

A warming trend is already apparent, and it is much higher than the global average rate. Temperatures in the interior of the country could rise by about 3°C by the end of the century if the world greatly and urgently reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, but by up to 6°C if it does not. The global average air temperature measured near the surface in 2010 has risen by 0.8°C since 1870, when accurate records began and, measured over multi-decade periods, the rate of warming has been accelerating.

The rise in air temperature has been unsteady: there is a general upward trend interspersed by some long periods of no change, or even cooling. For instance, in the decade after 2000, there was little overall rise, just as there was little rise in the period 1945 to 1968, but in between were periods of rapid rise. Over the period of accurate records, the annual average temperature in South Africa has risen by around 1.2°C. In the medium term, global warming in the northern hemisphere will generally exceed that in the southern hemisphere because oceans, which dominate the southern hemisphere, warm more slowly than the land.

Despite this, the rate of warming in South Africa is nearly twice the average rate recorded worldwide so far. This is partly because inland regions of South Africa are distant from cooling oceanic influences. It is also because much of South Africa falls within a dry belt. Projections of future warming in southern Africa are a further 3°C to 6°C within the 21st century, but perhaps more later if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations remain high. Greatest warming is projected for the western interior from the Northern Cape to southern Angola, particularly in the Kalahari, where temperatures could rise by 5°C to 6°C. Coastal areas will eventually warm by 3°C to 5°C.

A global mean temperature rise of 3°C would be highly damaging (reaching 6°C for parts of South Africa), but probably within the bounds of adaptation. Above this global mean temperature rise, there are serious questions regarding our ability to cope. Life on earth has experienced hotter temperatures in the distant past, and will survive in some form, but complex human societies have never faced a climate challenge of that magnitude.

What about our water resources?

In South Africa, the water that people use for drinking, agriculture and industry ultimately comes from rivers and underground aquifers. How much is available there depends not only on the amount of rainfall, but also on what fraction evaporates and runs off the soil surface. To provide the same water supply, places that are sunny, hot, dry and windy need more rainfall than places that are cloudy, cool, humid and calm. Evaporation rates throughout southern Africa are projected to increase over the next century as the land warms due to climate change. Increased evaporation results in increased cloud formation and subsequent rainfall – but that rain may not occur where the evaporation occurred. So, a modest increase in rainfall could be completely offset by a larger accompanying increase in losses due to evaporation. Another complicating factor is the effect of future higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on the amount of water used by plants, which in turn affects the amount of water that reaches the rivers. (Source: GDARD Weekly Brief (Issue 4), November 2015).

Read more  on


Labour: Farming, forestry minimum wage increased

On 3 February 2016, the Department of Labour announced an increase in the minimum wage for workers in the farming and forestry sectors, notes a Cape Times report. The department said it applied consumer price index (CPI), excluding owner’s equivalent rent – which is lower than what the department used to apply – to calculate minimum wage increases.

The department said as of 1 March, the minimum wage increases will be adjusted to:
* An hourly rate of R14.25, up from R13.37 in 2015/16;
* A weekly rate of R641.32, up from R601.61;
* A monthly rate of R2 778.83, up from R2 606.78.
* A daily wage for a farm worker who works nine hours per day will now be R128.26 – up from R120.32 in the 2015/16 financial year (email received on 4 February 2016).


Green tips

The wonder of lemons! Cut a lemon in half, squeeze out the juice in a small container with water, add the lemon halves, and microwave for five minutes. The fresh odour eliminates food smells and dislodges any old food rests in the microwave. Wipe away with a clean, damp cloth (Vrouekeur, 4 April 2014).

Mix one cup of olive oil with half a cup of lemon juice to clean your furniture. It works even better than furniture polish! (

Cure for taps: Rub your taps with a cut lemon and leave for a few minutes before rinsing. They will shine like never before! (

Best natural deodorant: Slice a lime and apply to the underarm – it’s simple, and it works great! (email, 19 May 2015).

Bathroom tips: Ban aerosol fresheners. Light a perfumed candle or put a container with potpourri somewhere in the bathroom. Plants in the bathroom will serve to filter the air. (Die groen strook, Michelle & Riaan Garforth-Venter).

For the rubbish bin: Recycle newspapers by covering the bottom of your rubbish bin with it. It will absorb bad smells and wetness (


Did you know?

According to Plastic Recycling South Africa, South Africans buy millions of plastic bottles of cooldrink and water annually. About 77% of these bottles are not recycled. According to a United Nations report, four out of five of these bottles end up in landfills, where they take more than a century to biodegenerate (Rapport Beleef, 31 January 2016).

Invader trees: While individual invader trees are extremely valuable for their shade, shelter and nutritious pods, extensive invasions, especially in arid and riparian areas, are detrimental to water resources and compete with and replace indigenous plant communities. They need to be controlled and/or eradicated wherever possible (received via email on 22 January 2016).

GCSA Facebook page: Please visit the Gauteng Conservancies & Stewardship Association (GCSA) Facebook page.  

South African Green Industries Council (SAGIC) 2016 Invasive Species Training: One day invasive species module courses – Module 1: Introduction to NEMBA legislation, including: Landowner duty of care, Organs of state, Permitting and compliance & Invasive species list. Module 2 – Developing and implementing control plans, including: Work load assessments, Control methods, Compiling & Implementing a control plan.
Gauteng training dates, Johannesburg: 2 March (Module 1) & 3 March (Module 2).
For more info, contact Hazel or Kay at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 011 723 9000.

The Zika-virus: This virus is carried by mosquitoes and causes an acute infection – fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and rash, along with joint and muscle pain. When pregnant women are infected, the virus may be transmitted via the placenta to the fetus and cause microchepaly, a condition where a baby is born with an abnormally small head and incomplete brain development. Zika is spreading rapidly as a result of movement between affected countries, since many people do not experience symptoms, and travel while infected. There are no specific drugs for treating the virus, so most patients drink plenty of water and get lots of rest. Mosquitoes that spread the Xika virus bite mostly during the daytime. According to dr Albert Icksang Ko, Yale School of Public Health, “this is a very rare disease, and we’re learning a lot about it in a very short time”. (Susan Scutti, email 28 January 2016).

Too much salt: All salt intake is linked to hypertension, and eventually to heart disease and strokes. More South Africans die as a result of this than all types of cancer together (Salomé Delport, Sarie, February 2016).


Environmental snippets

World Wetlands Day and Leap Day for Frogs: The 2nd of February was World Wetlands Day. The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) fourth annual Leap Day for Frogs, a national day of awareness and celebration of frogs, will occur on the 27th of February. Amphibians are among the most endangered species on earth, with 43% of the species populations declining globally. Around 120 species of frogs call South Africa home, of which many are endangered. South Africa’s smallest frog is also one of its most threatened. The appropriately named Micro Frog, which will only grow to a maximum length of 18 mm, is critically endangered, and our largest species, the Giant Bullfrog, which reaches 25 cm and weighs in at 1.4 kg, has already lost up to 80% of its habitat, particularly in urban areas of Gauteng. Visit for more froggy facts. You don’t have to be a scientist to save frogs! Leap Day for Frogs is an opportunity to increase awareness around the importance of frogs, and to remove the negative stigma and superstitions that have unfortunately surrounded these fascinating creatures for many decades. Dr Jeanne Tarrant, Manager of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme highlights the importance of this initiative. "Understanding why many South Africans fear or dislike frogs is essential to changing the attitudes towards these animals, and ultimately protecting them. There is a genuine growing interest in ‘frogging’ and Leap Day for Frogs also encourages learning more about, and celebrating, the amazing diversity of frogs in South Africa, especially amongst our youth". Frogs are crucial in our ecosystems through their role as both predator and prey. They are also important bio-indicators of the health of the environment, and the fact that almost half of all species are declining should be a clear warning that our global ecosystem is under strain (email received on 3 February 2016).

Urban carnivores: South Africa’s urbanites are getting used to baboons and monkeys, attracted by food, in their backyards. Predators, too, are getting closer. In September 2013, a young brown hyena had to be captured in Blairgowrie, Johannesburg. A small pack of them is reported to live in the green belt spanning the west of the city. A wide variety of carnivores appears to be surviving – despite a lack of conservation efforts – on the fringe (within 20km) of one of the largest human populations in SA, according to Dr Brian Kuhn of the Paleosciences Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand. Brown hyenas, black-backed jackals, servals, caracals, mongooses, honey badgers and a leopard have been spotted in and around the Cradle of Humankind (Roelof Bezuidenhout, Farmer’s Weekly, 3 October 2014).

Indigenous veld goat types: Indigenous goats arrived in South Africa with migrating tribes and are found in the specific areas where the different ethnic groups settled. The general appearance of these goats tends to support theories that they originated in different ecosystems. The Boer Goat is famous throughout the world as a hardy meat goat, with a high resistance to disease and an ability to adapt well to hot, dry, semi desert conditions. However, this breed is the result of selective breeding which drew on a variety of goats found locally, particularly in the Eastern Cape. There are four distinct eco types of indigenous goat (excluding the Boer Goat):
Nguni type goats (Mbuzi) – multi-coloured with semi pendulous ears
Eastern Cape Xhosa – multi-coloured with lob ears
Northern Cape, Lob Eared, Speckled (Skilder) Goats
Q Kunene Type (Kaokoland) – multi-coloured with lob ears
(For more information: 083 383 2737 or 051 445 2010 or go to

Growing snails can be profitable: For most people, they’re just a garden pest which, like moles and aphids, one seeks to get rid of – but, for those in the know, garden snails (Fr gourmet escargots) are a prized resource that can, with a little care and preparation, be turned into a gourmet snack. Snails spend nine months from hatching to harvest. One of the features of snail production is that no waste is generated (apart from wash-down water in an indoor growing system), as every part of the harvested snail is usable. Snail meat that is unsuitable for use whole is minced and made into pâté. Snail slime finds a ready market among cosmetic manufacturers, particularly as a skin tightening preparation. Cracked or damaged shells are ground up as a chicken-feed additive. (For more information, contact Stanley Micallef at Stanley’s Snails, 011 849 6430 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

When the veld turns toxic: One of the greatest risks to livestock in South Africa is plant toxicity. Toxic plants are usually the first green plants to sprout after a dry season or a veld fire. A number of these are at their most toxic in the young stage when they are most attractive to livestock. Similarly, some are highly resistant to drought and may be the only green plants available during drought.
What to look out for: Toxic plants are often found as weeds in harvested lands and along the roadside (areas frequently used for grazing in times of scarcity). Certain poisonings occur after a sudden change in the weather, usually after an unseasonable frost or when wet, cool conditions are suddenly followed by a warm, dry spell. Wind or hail can knock poisonous acorns or pods to the ground, making them available to animals. Fodder such as hay, silage, stover or concentrates may contain toxic plants, fungi or chemicals.
Plants to watch out for: About 600 indigenous toxic plant species occur in South Africa. Different parts of these (e.g. leaves or seeds) may be poisonous. For cattle, the most common poisonous plants include those producing cardiac glycosides (tulp and slangkop, e.g. gifblaar (Dichapetalum cymosum); Fadogia homblei (causing gousiekte); and Lantana. Dangerous plants for sheep and goats include plants causing geeldikkop, Vermeersiekte, gousiekte and diplodiosis; sceneciosis; and plants producing cardiac glycosides.
(Source: ‘Poisonous plants’, Animal Health for Developing Farmers Programme, ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute).


Have you ever come across this word?

Acyrologia: An incorrect use of words – particularly replacing one word with another word that sounds familiar but has a different meaning – possibly feulled by a deep-seeded desire to sound more educated.


Food for thought...

“You’ve got to tell the world how to treat you. If the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble” (James Baldwin).

 “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other” (Audrey Hepburn).

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver” (Mahatma Ghandi).


“Children are the keys of paradise” (Eric Hoffer).


“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you” (Khalil Gibran’s words from The Prophet).

“Aim high. What’s the worst that could happen?” (


“Confidence is allowing luck to happen” (Anonymous).


“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia!” (Charles Schulz, creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip).


And finally...The Charles Schulz philosophy:

“The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. There are no second-rate achievers – they are the best in their fields. But the applause dies ... Awards tarnish ... Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners”.