Newsletter #83

March 2016



We received many positive comments on our last newsletter.

Our readers/members found the articles on global warming and Ria and Gert Smit’s owls very interesting. Good news – we have had lovely rain thus far during March! The Magalies River is also flowing again, although not as well as we are accustomed to this time of year. We are also experiencing much cooler, cloudy weather, and hope that this bodes well for further rain – otherwise we can expect a nightmare fire season.

Birding expert, Willie Froneman, of the Xanadu Nature Estate near Hartbeespoort Dam, identified the Smit’s owls as White-faced owls (Otus leucotis).

2016 owl
According to Willie, the Conservancy and surrounds are on the border of these owls’ range of distribution. Willie has the saying: “Birds have wings and can fly where they like – so they can be located anywhere” (email received on 24 February). Willie sent us one of his son Albert’s (well-known bird photographer) beautiful photos. See the invitation to a talk by Willie on rare water birds below.

Something worth knowing (received via email on 17 March 2016): Very few people know how a rain guage works. 1mm of rain is 1 litre of water per 1 square metre. If you measure 25mm of rain on 1 hectare, it is 250 tons of water. Therefore, if you own a farm of 1 000 hectares, and you measure 80mm of rain, it is 800 tons x 1 000 hectares. That is 800 000 tons of water. If you now calculate 800 000/10/10/365 days, it means that if you transport 10 loads of water in a 10 ton water truck each day of the year, it will take you 21.9 years to transport all this water!

Pete Bower (Gauteng Smallholder, February 2016) writes about global warming:
“We need to look for ways to change our behaviour. Obviously that means living as unwastefully as possible, switching off lights when one leaves the room, not wasting food by cooking too much, fixing dripping taps, etc. But it also means looking for new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking. From seemingly obvious little behavioural changes such as fixing broken appliances rather than replacing them, looking at the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar, growing one’s own food, using recycled inputs such as home-made compost and filtered grey water, redesigning one’s garden to include more edible species and water-wise indigenous plants, setting up barter and sharing networks with one’s neighbours, consciously seeking to cut down on food miles travelled by bought produce, i.e., only buying foods that are locally in-season, and so on, to major lifestyle changes using techniques and machinery that might not yet even been dreamed of. Think of the cellphone and the change it has brought to life on earth. That’s small compared to the sort of fundamental shift we need to turn climate change around”.

Footprint Limited Magazine: Interested in reading more about the environment, recycling, sustainability, biodiversity, global warming, etc? Visit

Would you like to learn more about butterflies? Attend a talk on butterflies at Buffelsdrift (Imbabala venue) on 2 April 2016 at 09:00. Contact Johan Rademan (082 375 4717 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information and directions.

While we are talking about climate change, did you know the following about Antarctica?
90% of the world’s fresh water is in Antarctica.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica is 14.5°C.
Ice melting in Antarctica has caused a small shift in gravity in the region.
Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, highest and driest continent on earth
(email received on 2 March 2016).


Important environmental dates

Earth hour: This year, celebrated on 19 March 2016. As always on this particular day, people were requested to switch off all electricity from 19:30 – 20:30 on that night.
National Water Week: 14-22 March 2016 – this is a national awareness campaign aiming at encouraging all South Africans to take care of our precious waters.

Talk on rare water birds

Where? Wickedfood Earth (± 7km from Hekpoort on theR560, towards Skeerpoort, on the left – from Skeerpoort, on the right).
Programme for the day? The market will be from 09:30 – 11:30, with lots of local produce on sale. Wickedfood Earth will be selling fresh free-range pork, sausage, cured meats and preserves, Goat Peter will be selling their award winning cheese, and Liz will be selling her preserves. Anyone else interested in selling food items, please contact Mike (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 060 761 0885). The talk starts at 12:00 and will last until about 13:30 (time for questions included). This will be followed by a light lunch provided by attendees/visitors themselves. Please bring something to eat and drink (e.g. a salad dish, cold meats, cheese, interesting breads or bread rolls, and maybe also some desert – preferably home-made).
We hope that as many members/readers as possible will be able to attend the talk and visit the market. Please diarise the date and RSVP to Liz Greyling (082 880 9297 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).


International alliance for the protection of vultures

This is no easy task and often proves to be heartbreaking for vulture champions. Vultures in southern and greater Africa are in dire straits with several species recently being up-listed by the IUCN (2015). The most common vulture species in Africa – the African White-backed vulture – is now listed as critically endangered, and the Cape Vulture has been up-listed to endangered. This puts them one small step away from extinction! Africa’s wildlife is one of our greatest treasures. Extinction is permanent, and in the case of vultures this will have irrevocable consequences for humankind. Vultures are capable of combating horrific diseases (e.g. anthrax, botulism, and foot-and-mouth), and in doing so, prevent the spread of epidemics that are capable of wiping out entire populations of people and animals. Vultures don’t need us, we need vultures!
For more information about the alliance and what you can do to help, 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.. Also visit or

Board of the Magaliesberg Biosphere

Elected members for specific interest groups:
Hermien van Schalkwyk – Tourism and recreation/Commerce and industry
Thabo L Molamu – Heritage
Tshepo Modise – Education/Sustainable development
Paul Fatti – Natural resource conservation
Merriam Modisakeng – Culture
Andrew Murray – Landowners
Elna van Niekerk – Benefactors
Gerry Comninos – Conservancies/Municipal planning
Hein van der Walt – Marketing/Legal and other services
Paul Bartels – Research.
No nominations were received for three of the interest groups, namely: Mines, Land occupiers and Cradle of Humankind.
We will keep members posted on further developments.

Nuts about coconuts

It’s an easily digestible energy source, an anti-microbial skin treatment, and an insulin regulator. It is also stable and does not go rancid easily, which makes it easy to store preferably in a warm area. It yields twice the energy of starch or protein. With so many anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties, it’s right at home in the stable. Horses love the taste of coconut oil. Medium chain triglycerides (MSTs), which are found in coconut oil, create a ‘super fuel’ which behaves like glucose, providing easily available energy. MCTs have also been reported to assist with ulcers, acidosis, colic and dysbiosis, as well as reduce yeast infections. Feeding your horse coconut oil can also help it recover faster after strenuous work. It is ideal for skin problems, and can be applied liberally on cuts to help fight infection and minimise proud flesh. Dry skin bites and stings heal faster with coconut oil, as do skin conditions such as eczema, flea allergies, contact dermatitis and itchy skin. The anti-microbial effects are ideal for treating mud fever and helping to prevent reinfection. Coconut oil also helps to prevent dry, brittle hooves. (For more information, email 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.. Subject line: Horse Therapy).
The beautiful photo was provided by Evarné van Niekerk, our valley’s very own horse whisperer.

Environmental snippets


Cherish friendly insects in pecan nut orchards: There are environmentally friendly ways to combat pests and diseases in pecan nut orchards, such as insects and diseases that kill harmful insects. This way, less chemicals will also be used. The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) is currently conducting research on developing an integrated programme for combating pests and diseases in pecan nut orchards. Biological combating procedures are vitally important for the export market, especially the European Union and Asia, where chemical residue in nuts is problematic. Up to 71% of insects on a tree can be classified as beneficiary. Some of these are ladybirds, ant lions, praying mantis, wasps, spiders and assassin bugs. Harmful insects include stink bugs, stem borers and snout beetles. There are also neutral insects, which don’t necessarily kill harmful insects, and which don’t cause any damage, such as a variety of beetles, ants, crickets, gnats and flies (Enquiries: Dr Justin Hatting, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

The other side of the (elephant) coin: In 2013, there were 207 000 elephants in Botswana’s wildlife sanctuaries. The elephants had been doubling their numbers every 10 to 15 years, and had eaten themselves out of house and home. They have progressively eaten all the edible grasses and woody plants for a distance of 25km² from all dry-season water, creating desert conditions within that zone. Those grasses and woody plants are the same the game reserve’s other animal species eat too. But these can’t walk the 25km that the elephants walk every day during the six-month-long dry season. They’re now forced to live within that desert zone where there is nothing left for them to eat. As a result, several of these species have declined by up to 90% in recent years. The average overall decline is said to be 60% - and the end is not yet in sight (Ron Thomson, Famer’s Weekly letters, 12 September 2014).

Combating perishable food spoilage: Massive quantities of food, especially perishable products such as fruit and vegetables, go to waste every year. Losses occur throughout the food chain. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that one-third of all food produced is not consumed due to spoilage, amounting to 1,3 billion tons annually. Most of this occurs in industrial/developed countries, where the per capita annual food wastage is 95kg to 115kg. In developing economies it is less: 6kg to 11kg. Common sense measures that should be taken at home include: eating perishable food first, planning meals carefully and buying only the quantities needed (Wynand van der Walt, Farmer’s Weekly Bio Monitor, 12 September 2014).

Green tips

With herbs

Clean with sage: A combination of herbs, vinegar and water works! Sage has several antibacterial characteristics Crush some sage until it has a strong odour. Put in a glass container, mix with two cups white vinegar and leave standing for three weeks. Then mix the solution with an equal amount of water in a spray bottle, spray on a surface and wipe with a clean cloth (
Freeze fresh herbs in olive oil in small plastic containers. You can also freeze the herbs in small amounts of water (
Dark circles under the eye: Chop and crush a sprig of mint leaves. Apply to dark circles under the eyes, leave on for 20 minutes and then rinse. Do this twice a week (email, 19 May 2015).
Wash your hair in apple juice to get rid of dandruff (

Natural skin cures

Lavender works for all skin types – also sensitive skin. It is antibacterial, regulates the excretion of sebum (which causes skin rashes) and decreases inflammation and signs of blemishes.
Lemons help to soften blemishes and also act as an exfoliator.
Honey is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, soothing, decreases scars and moisturises the skin.
Tea tree oil is antibacterial and regulates the excretion of sebum (Chanté Daries, Rapport Beleef, 12 July 2015).

Did you know?

The amount of energy generated by plants from sunlight per day, is equivalent to six times the total daily power usage of all of humankind (

Nuclear and renewable power prevented 1.8 million deaths between 1971-2009 as a result of lower air pollution from reduced coal usage (Staggering Statistics, 4 March 2016).

Clem Sunter (co-author of Mind of a Fox), March 2015: National health services are under pressure because of large numbers of senior citizens needing services. As the demographic ageing process increases across South Africa the situation will become much worse. Good news is that larger numbers of entrepreneurs will enter active economic lives during their seventies and eighties. Many pensioners are forced to keep on earning a living, as a result of their pension money not being sufficient to maintain their lifestyle. Although staff expenditure will probably increase employers are in favour of appointing older employees, as they are more satisfied with their circumstances, don’t make unreasonable demands, are more patient, diligent, organised, consistent and punctual, and have years of experience - making them excellent mentors. The whole concept of pension and retirement will have to be revised. So, put your retirement plans on hold – nowadays people reach an age of 90 without a problem, and the 120-year olds have been born already!

“The development of the “global village” with its instant communication, modern logistics, and fast transport connections has made the “just in time” economy possible, and brought down prices of many items to the benefit of consumers. But is the resultant death of the manufacturing sector a good thing, or a consequence we can live with? No, and it’s going to come back to bite us!” (Comment by Pete Bower, Gauteng Smallholder, September 2015).

More intelligent mobiles: In 1990, one million people worldwide owned a mobile phone. Today, there are between five and six billion in circulation. Smart phones have conquered the world – these devices already replace your money and house keys, and can even give instructions to your car (via a virtual car key that works via your cell phone). No wonder we are addicted! Smart phones are becoming more intelligent (with built-in Wi-Fi, etc.) – and the more adept we become, the more we become addicted … In 2013 already, Tomi Ahonen, an expert on cell phone habits, predicted that we would soon reach the so-called “mobile moment”. This means a sim card for every living being on earth, regardless of their age. In 2020, you’ll pay only R100 for the cheapest touch screen phone in Africa! (Huisgenoot, 13 September 2013).

What is fracking? It is pumping a liquid solution from a sealed section in a borehole to cause the surrounding layer of rock to crack in tiny hair’s-breadth cracks. The solution consists of water, sand and chemical additives (Jan-Willem Eggink of Shell).

Canned tomatoes are healthier than fresh tomatoes, as they contain more powerful anti-oxidants that fight free radicals in your body. This can be linked to a lesser risk of getting cancer. They also contain more vitamin B than fresh tomatoes (Carla van der Spuy, Vrouekeur, 16 June 2014).


“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future” (John F Kennedy).

“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking a things” (Henry Miller).

“Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul” (Pythagoras).

“A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else” (John Burroughs).

“A belief is not an idea held by the mind; it is an idea that holds the mind” (Elly Roselle).

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about” (Wayne Dyer).

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. Once we truly see this truth, we transcend it” (From M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled).

On digital burnout…

Kovert, an international company that focuses on research on technology and how it changes one’s conduct and posture, took 35 executive directors on a break-away to a Maroccan desert in June 2015. The group was completely cut off from technology. Neuro scientists monitored their conduct constantly. After three days, the following changes became obvious:

  • Better posture: All participants were looking up and keeping their heads in line with their spines – no longer bent forward.
  • Quality friendships: They were approachable and more inclined to make conversation.
  • More interesting conversations: The lack of being able to quickly google something made conversations last longer.
  • Improved memory: They were inclined to remember more details, as their attention was more focused during conversations.
  • More restful sleep: Although the group slept less, they felt more rested. This is because they had to do without the blue cell phone screens, which inhibit the production of melatonine (that makes you sleep better).
  • New perspective: When people haven’t been online for some time, they are inclined to reflect more on important aspects of their lives and to make important decisions concerning relationships, health and quality of life. The group felt that the digital detox was a life-changing opportunity, and that they would make a habit of it in future.