Newsletter #84

April 2016

 

 

Editorial

Autumn is definitely upon us – mild days and cool nights. We are already down to single figures at night! Hopefully, we are going to experience a real cold winter this year – not like the mild winters of the past two years. Although we are all hoping for more rain, it is widely believed in this area that it is a bad sign if we still receive rain until July, as then our next rainy season is postponed for a few months, and our fire season is also extended for some time.

When one talks to people nowadays, conversations mostly include the current drought, bad service delivery, levels of corruption and near junk status of our country. The general frame of mind is that of despondency, tiredness and frustration. It is probably easier said than done to encourage people to keep up one’s spirits under such circumstances. Personally, times like these always remind me of what Winston Churchill once said: “A positive attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”. A positive attitude is contagious – it helps one to survive in difficult circumstances, and it attracts positive things to you.

 

 

Important events to remember

Talk on rare water birds: By Willie Froneman at Wickedfood Earth (± 7km from Hekpoort on theR560, towards Skeerpoort, on the left – from Skeerpoort, on the right) on 7 May 2016 at 12:00. You are also invited to visit the market on the same day, from 09:30 – 11:30. The talk will be followed by a light lunch at ±13:30, 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.) by the beginning of May.

National Alpaca day and organic market: As part of National Alpaca day, Alliepad Alpakkas in Magaliesburg is hosting an open day and organic market on 30 April 2016, from 09:00 to 16:00. Please see event link:
www.facebook.com/events/1044857875570899/ or call Louisa Stade on 083 651 9005 for more information.

 

Seas of colour after recent rain

sea of colour 2016After the recent rain, the Barberton daisies on our farm are something to behold. Whenever I am looking for some inspiration, all I have to do is look out my kitchen window!

Those of you who are not so lucky to view their own Namaqualand when looking for inspiration, will have to be satisfied with the pink and white seas of cosmos along our roads. Unfortunately, the dreaded pink Pompom also appeared in spots everywhere, after having been kept under control by the drought. We appeal to our members/readers to get rid of these invaders, preferably before they can spread their seed.

 

 

Crime Prevention

We can expect crime levels in the country, as well as in our area, to increase as a result of the current difficult economic situation and increasing unemployment figures.

Continued vigilance and crime prevention measures must be applied by all residents and should not be neglected. Residents who do not form part of the Safety and Security WhatsApp group have probably wondered about the helicopter flying in our area at night. This is a crime prevention initiative of Oostermoed Security Services, who make use of sophisticated equipment in an attempt to spot suspect people moving across landowners’ properties and committing crime.

The Conservancy is relatively free of serious crime. This is made possible by continuous cooperation and communication among all role players involved in crime prevention. When less serious crime is addressed properly, serious crime cannot make inroads and is restricted to the minimum. We would like to thank Oostermoed Security Services, as well as all members of the community who dedicate time and render help with crime prevention in the area.

Deon Greyling

 

Encroaching bush, grass threaten SA farming


Warming can now be detected in temperature recrods from across South Africa.  This is according to prof William Bond, chief scientist at the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON).  There are not yet widespread detectable trends in rainfall.

What is also changing is atmospheric carbon dioxide, the invisible hand in global climate change. Since the early 20th century, this major greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming, has increased from about 300 parts per million (ppm) to 400ppm, mostly due to fossil fuel use. These are higher concentrations than have been experienced by plants for at least a million years.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide has direct and indirect effects on plant growth. Plants use less water as carbon dioxide increases, so for the same rainfall, plants should grow more or have longer growing seasons. Plants are also capturing more carbon through photosynthesis than before. Glasshouse studies on savanna trees have shown striking responses from some of our most common tree species contributing to large-scale woody thickening.

Seedlings today produce larger root systems, packed with starch reserves, and produce larger thorns and more chemical defenses as carbon dioxide increases. Trees establish as seedlings more readily, survive fire and browsing as saplings, and grow more readily than in the past. So, we have a new global change driver, particularly important in open ecosystems that have the potential to form forests, but have been prevented from doing so by fire, herbivory and the people managing the land. In this new, high-level carbon dioxide world, it will be far harder to maintain open grassy systems than in the past.

With regard to projecting future ecosystem changes, climate-based projections will get it wrong. In this part of the world, one has to factor in land management and the direct and indirect effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide. (For a full report, see “Change is in the air. Ecological trends and their drivers in South Africa” by Nicola Stevens, William Bond, Timm Hoffman and Guy Midgley or visit www.saeon.ac.za).

 

 

Undesirable plant species

dodder2016

Dodder (genus Cuscuta, Afr duiwelsnaaigaring) is a parasite that has a devastating effect on forage yield. Prof Charlie Reinhardt and dr Wayne Truter of the University of Pretoria published an article on dodder in 2012, entitled “Dodder, the plant killer”. It feeds on most legume pastures, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions and sugar bean but does not parasitise grasses or grains. After germination, dodder entwines itself around the host plant with long, string-like, yellowish tentacles that suck nutrients out of the host within ten days. Once it has attached itself, the base and start-up roots of the dodder die off, and it then becomes dependent on the host for all of its food. Dodder spreads rapidly and its hard seeds can lie in the soil for ten years or longer before germinating (John Fair, Farmer’s Weekly, 27 June 2014). The photo by John Fair, appeared with the article.

Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia suaveolens, previously known as Datura suaveolens, Afr Maanblom), a popular shrub in South African gardens, can be purchased at most nurseries. According to prof Kobus Eloff, biologist at the University of Pretoria, it contains alkaloids, specifically high consentrates of artopin and scopolamine. It also forms part of the poisonous Datura stramonium weed species known as thorn apple. Young people are currently using this flower as a drug. They either eat it or make a concoction known as “black tea”, which causes hallucinations. It also causes aggressive, psychotic behaviour, disturbed vision, palpitatiions and epileptic fits. In extreme cases it can be deadly (Sonja Carstens, Rapport, 10 April 2016). Photo from Wikipedia.

 

Environmental snippets


Mycotoxin risk in developing countries: The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has found that mycotoxins cause not only acute poisoning and cancer, but may result in high levels of stunting in children. According to the IARC, mycotoxins are toxins produced by fungi that commonly grow on dietary staples, such as maize and peanuts. Since poor agricultural practices are mostly to blame for human exposure to mycotoxins, affected areas are more likely to be limited to developing countries, where the poor are exposed to mycotoxins by eating staples such as maize, on a daily basis. Bio-control measures and a diverse diet could reduce the prevalence of mycotoxins (Gerhard Uys, Farmer’s Weekly, 18 March 2016).

Botulism basics: Also called lamsiekte, this disease causes paralysis. Botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum, bacteria living in the upper layers of the soil. From here they spread to dead animals, standing pools of water containing rotting plants or animals, and mouldy hay or silage, where they produce a powerful toxin. In winter, animals do not always get enough green forage. If they lack phosphorus, they chew anything from wire to stones, but especially bones. If they eat bones (or carcasses) containing the toxin, they may become infected with botulism (Source: Directorate Communication Services, Department of Agriculture).

Bush encroachment: One of the main causes of bush encroachment is long-term veld management that over-exploits the ecological potential of rangelands. Extensive bush encroachment of mainly Acacia species inhibits biodiversity, making the environment vulnerable to erosion and widespread dieback of less dominant and vigorous plant species. On very densely encroached areas, nothing grows under the bush. Many browsers cannot enter bush thickets. “We should not think that what has grown over decades can be undone in a few years” (Dagmar Honsbein, general manager of Agra Limited’s ProVision). The best approach to deal with bush encroachment is to harvest the bush population per annum – then ‘farming with wood’ could become the most important sub-sector in primary agriculture. Farmers will engage in activities that control bush encroachment as long as benefits are greater than the costs involved – the daily operational and technical management, labour management and marketing the wood products (Annelie Coleman, Farmer’s Weekly, 3 October 2014).

Sustainable veld management systems: At one stage, farming dealt only with the number of animals/ha. Nowadays, it’s also about biomass/ha (vegetation and crops) that is produced, and how this translates into profit. In simple terms, a veld management system combines rest and grazing periods into which the principles and goals of veld and livestock management are built. The level of management is probably more important than the system itself. Damaging veld practices include: Overstocking; continuous grazing; extended grazing periods; grazing the same camps at the same time every year; breeds or game species that are not adapted to the veld type; and injudicious lick supplementation (For more information, email Prof Hennie Snyman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call him on 051 401 2221).

overstock s
A Dutch company, working in cooperation with the Western Cape’s department of agriculture, eLeaf, measured biomass production in the Free State, Northern Cape and the Kruger National Park during March 2016. According to the company’s report, the production of biomass in the Free State decreased with 50% from August 2015, natural vegetation in the Kruger National Park with 37%, and crops in Vaalharts irrigation system with 20%. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), a combination of very little rain and continuous warm, dry circumstances may cause a crop failure in many areas. This will have a devastating effect on the economy (Ruben Goudriaan, project manager of eLeaf, 10 April 2016).

 

 

Tips on bananas, gardening and more

Stop blackening of banana peels by opening the plastic bag and by keeping them in the fridge drawer with tomatoes. (Marie Jonker, Mookgopong).

One can also cover the top part of a bunch of bananas with plastic wrap or pull them apart, to increase their shelf life (www.buzzfeed.com). Take a piece of the inside of a banana peel and gently rub around your teeth for about two minutes. Minerals in the peel like potassium, magnesium and manganese absorb into your teeth and whiten them (email, 19 May 2015).

Sweat marks on shirts: Grind one or two aspirins and make a paste with some water, lemon juice or vinegar. Apply the paste to marks and leave for an hour before washing (www.realfarmacy.com).

More innovative ideas:

Freeze grapes to chill white wine without watering it down. Frozen grapes are great, even without the wine.

Use cupcake cases to cover drinks glasses in summer (like an umbrella with the straw through it) and prevent flies from dropping in.

To prevent your eyes from watering while chopping onions, wipe the chopping board with vinegar (which won’t affect the taste of the onions).

Prevent soil from escaping through the holes in the base of flowerpots by lining with large coffee filters.

Create a thrifty watering can by punching holes in the top of a used plastic bottle of if you have a vegetable garden in containers, water the plants with plastic bottles, placed upside down in the container, without their lids. A mixture of dishwashing liquid, garlic and water gets rid of most garden insects, and a mixture of water for fungi.

Interesting articles to read: “Laat jou vullis blom”, under “Tuinmaak” at www.rooirose.co.za or get a copy of Jane Griffith’s Jane’s Delicious Garden for more information on food forests and jungle planting.

Garden tip: Bird boxes, feeding stations, roosting pouches and insect hotels will help bring your garden to life with bird and insect activity. They can thrive even in the smallest gardens, so make space for wildlife in your garden design. Attract more wildlife by planting their favourite flowers, which will please bees and butterflies and give you lots of colour. It will soon be a hive of activity! Want to know what to do in the garden now that it’s autumn? Visit www.joburgwest.getitonline.co.za

 

Did you know?

All about tail bandages: The herringbone tail bandage is often used by professional horse riders. It has several applications: It can be used to prevent a horse from rubbing its tail hairs off on the crossbar in a float; it will keep the horse’s tail clean in muddy conditions; and it will help to keep a plaited tail tidy at a show. Although effective, the bandage has to be applied correctly. The herringbone pattern prevents excess pressure on the blood vessels in the dock of the tail, but, if attached too tightly, it can lead to damage or even loss of the tail. (For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1Rzlonl or email Dr Mac at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject line: Horse Talk).

70 000 new computer viruses are found every day by antivirus companies (People Magazine, 19 September 2014).

Internet connection in Africa: A survey for a report entitled eLearning Africa, showed that lap tops were used by most African farmers (28%), followed by computers, smart phones and basic cell phones (each 15%). (Carien Kruger, Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015).

In 2014, an Eskom study showed that the farming sector was responsible for 48% of all stolen electricity. This has probably increased since then. Syndicates work on a large scale across the country, and they entice farmers to tamper with their electricity installations (Farmer’s Weekly, 5 September 2014).

In 2014, the average South African consumes almost 38kg of chicken per year making it the most consumed protein in the country at that time (Farmer’s Weekly, 27 June 2014).

 

Have you ever come across these words?

Elysian (adj.) – beautiful or creative; divinely inspired; peaceful and perfect
Abditory (n.) – a place into which you can disappear; hiding place
Solastalgia (n.) – the distress that is produced by environmental change

 

Food for thoughts

“The process of planning the future of your business is more important than the plan itself” (Peter Hughes).

“There is a major difference between intelligence and stupidity; intelligence has its limits” (Albert Einstein).

Memorable quotes by Gavin Sharples:

“The only way to succeed is to have the enthusiasm of a child”.
“There are only two reasons for being late – an act of God or you wanted to be late”.
“Live life on purpose and on your terms – set goals”.
“If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything”.

 

And finally – amazing nature...

The eggs of a canary hatch in 14 days, those of a barnyard hen in 21 days, eggs of ducks and geese in 28 days, those of the mallard in 35 days, and the eggs of the parrot and the ostrich in 42 days. All are divisible by seven – the number of days in a week!

The waves of the sea roll in on shore 26 to the minute in all kinds of weather – amazing!

Each water melon has an even number of stripes on the rind.

Each orange has an even number of segments.

All grains are found in even numbers on the stalks.

Every bunch of bananas has on its lowest row an even number of bananas, and each row decreases by one, so that one row has an even number and the next row an odd number.

(received via email on 17 March 2016).