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Newsletter #85

May 2016

 

 

Editorial - May 2016

leucosidseriWe received many positive comments on our previous newsletter. Our readers found the articles on global warming and invader plants interesting. One of our Lynne Harrison of Clarens in the eastern Free State found the article on bush encroachment informative. On 26 April, she wrote via email that they have found that Oldwood (Afr Ouhout or Leucosidea sericea) has proliferated on their farm and is encroaching on grazing. They wonder whether this is because of the drought or perhaps increased carbon dioxide levels. The plant is endemic to the Eastern Cape, western Kwazulu-Natal, Lesotho, eastern Free State, Northwest, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. It forms dense thickets on overgrazed, eroded or otherwise disturbed areas and can therefore become a problem plant on farmlands. (Photo from www.plantzafrica.com).


gomphocarpLarge areas of grasslands in the Conservancy have died as a result of the drought. Our members might have noticed that barren spaces have now been invaded by thorny invasive shrubs (Acacia species), and also Milkweed (Afr Melkbos, or Gomphocarpus fruticosus). (See photo, also from www.plantzafrica.com). Fields of paper thorn weed have also appeared on all empty spots on our property.

Legal matters

The 2016 Expropiation Bill

Albert Einstein once said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
It would appear that landownership falls in the same category – instead of protecting landownership against arbitrary expropriation, the Bill introduces an element of “public interest” as well as a principle that property is not limited to land. This means that property such as copyright, intellectual property, “know-how”, a harvest, a cow and even a taxi can now be expropriated.
”Public purposes” is as old as human kind as it relates to public infrastructure such as dams and roads. “Public interest” on the other hand is as wide as the Creator’s grace and can differ from one geographical area to another and will make it impossible to define in legislation of national application.
Expropriation is normally resorted to where the willing seller/buyer principle fails. Provision is made in the Bill to approach the courts in determining compensation. It is matter of grave concern that municipalities will also have the power to expropriate for “public interest” purposes whilst their constitutional powers, duties and obligations are limited to service delivery – that is” public purposes” only.
During a hearing of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature on the Bill held on 21 April 2016 in Krugersdorp, the above concerns were highlighted with the request that the Bill be rejected, as the 1975 Expropriation Act withstood constitutional scrutiny for 22 years and contains no element of any discrimination. Various organisations, including major banks and civil rights groups, have indicated their displeasure with the Bill and indicated that the constitutionality thereof, once signed into legislation, will be tested in the Constitutional Court. (Frik Mülder, Local Governance Practitioner and member of the Conservancy Management Committee).

The environment: Our rights and responsibilities

The South African Constitution has made headline news over the past month or so. Are we – the public and state – aware of our rights and responsibilities towards the environment?
Section 24 of the Constitution says the following about “Environment”:
“Everyone has the right –

(a) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and

(b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that –

(i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
(ii) promote conservation; and
(iii) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development”.

(From: SAPIA NEWS, no 40, April 2016).

 

Scale down to a greener life – recycle!

After the recent about five-week long strike by employees of Johannesburg’s refuse removal company, Pikitup, most households in this city became acutely aware of exactly how much rubbish and refuse they create every day.

When you live in the country like us, you gradually become aware of how your life is complicated by things you don’t really have any need for. We have no choice but to make a mind shift, because we ourselves are responsible for our refuse removal. People often think that it is silly to sort refuse because it doesn’t really make a difference. The fact that you will be minimising your carbon footprint, should, however, be very satisfying. Initially, recycling your refuse might seem like a lot of hard work but, as soon as you have established some infrastructure, it actually becomes very easy.

One should only discard rubbish that burns easily and doesn’t make black smoke (e.g. polystyrene makes lots of black smoke) on your rubbish dump, to burn at a later stage. Always keep fire extinguishing equipment handy, and never leave the fire unattended. Make compost of your organic waste. However, don’t add any citrus or avocado kernels to your compost. The kernels become hard as stone, and the citrus will have an antibacterial effect, which will prevent the waste from breaking down. Keep different containers or bags for glass, paper, cans, polystyrene and plastic. Then find collection points or dumping sites in your area where you can drop off your refuse once per month. At most collection points there are people whose job it is to sort the seven different types of plastic (e.g. tetra packs, plastic bottles and lids, hard and soft plastic, etc.), but you can easily do it yourself by looking for the recycling number or code on the package and putting the same ones together. Also leave the stickers on paint, oil and aerosol cans so that recyclers can see if these contain any dangerous substances. Rinse bottles, cans and polystyrene containers before recycling. Bulbs and batteries cannot be recycled as they release dangerous gasses. Most Pick n Pay and Woolworths branches have containers where these can be discharged to be destroyed safely. (Adapted from an article by Terésa Coetzee, Rapport Beleef, 24 April 2016 – translated from Afrikaans).
Visit www.treevolution.co.za for a useful guide to put you on the road to recycling.
Refuse collection points (dumping sites) in our area: Magaliesburg, Brits, Kommandonek (Hartbeespoort), Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens and Pikitup, Roodepoort.
Food for thought: “Less is more. In their forties, most people realize that they have been collecting too many things. From earthly goods to emotional baggage. Just like too many things in your house, insecurities, fears, grudges, negative people and toxic relationships rob you of precious space and energy you could have rather used for something or somebody that can enrich your life” (Ilze Salzwedel, Rooi Rose, May 2016).

Cost-effective polystyrene homes save the environment

Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak! Hartbeespoort will soon be one of the first towns in South Africa to benefit from father and son team, Hennie and Muller Snyman of Get Connected Construction’s innovative, quality and cost-effective green building method. With this method, they not only re-use polystyrene, which poses a great threat to the environment, they will also help alleviate a critical housing shortage, especially in the low-cost housing market.

The company spent six years testing and researching to patent the fire and water resistant, lightweight and durable mixture that is used in the panels (measuring 1.2m x 3m each). Recycled polystyrene is mixed with a concrete mixture, to make panels and walls that are almost indestructible. The product has been tested by the SABS and carries its certification. Polystyrene has excellent insulation properties. According to Muller, it is estimated to be between five and ten degrees cooler in summer, and five to ten degrees warmer in winter than the outside. This method of building is approximately 30 – 35% cheaper than conventional brick construction. A small-sized home (80m²) can be built and fitted from foundation phase to handover in about 10 days.

The panels are not yet available commercially, but will soon be. If you have any polystyrene lying around, the company will gladly take it off your hands. They will take any type or colour of polystyrene. You can either take it to the site at Kommandonek (in Cosmos, just before the turn-off to Caribbean Beach Club, on the right) or contact Muller (079 747 3406) or Hennie (081 309 3008) to arrange for collection. For more information, contact Hennie via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A winter vegetable garden

Planning ahead  

By about July, oceanographers studying the central Pacific Ocean will have a pretty good idea on how the temperature of that vast body of seawater is going to behave over the ensuing six to ten months. If they predict that the temperature will rise, they’ll be telling us in the southern hemisphere to prepare for another dry summer – an El Niño effect. If they believe the temperature will be lower, they’ll be telling us to prepare for a wet, or at least a normal, summer – a La Niña effect. By about July, we in South Africa will be in the full swing of winter. Here, in the Highveld areas, this means endless cloudless days of bright sunshine followed by bitterly cold cloudless nights in which pipes freeze up and frost hammers vegetables, flowers and grassland alike. And in time, this dry brown grassland will turn black as the veld fire season gets into full swing.

By about July, too, the effects of this season’s drought will have started to be felt throughout the food supply chain. You can, of course, choose to do nothing and simply ride out whatever the effects of the drought are for you, your family and your property. Or you can use the intelligence you will glean from the Pacific oceanographers in about July to plan ahead and prepare for whatever next season throws at you. For your family, this should at the very least entail planting a winter vegetable garden, to foresee the needs of the kitchen and in doing so make you at least partially independent of the high-priced supermarkets.

In Gauteng and the north-eastern parts of the Northwest Province, where we live, we are able to grow beetroot, brassicas such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, broad beans, carrots, dwarf spinach, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, Swiss chard and turnips during winter. Careful soil preparation is necessary, and much depends on how much water you have available. Irrigation water is not unlimited, and some attempt must be made to use it sensibly, if not sparingly. How you irrigate, and when you irrigate, and how frequently you irrigate, will have a direct bearing on both the health of your plants and the amount of water you use (Comment, by Pete Bower, Gauteng Smallholder, vol 17, no 4, April 2016).

 

Planning ahead – a winter vegetable garden

By about July, oceanographers studying the central Pacific Ocean will have a pretty good idea on how the temperature of that vast body of seawater is going to behave over the ensuing six to ten months. If they predict that the temperature will rise, they’ll be telling us in the southern hemisphere to prepare for another dry summer – an El Niño effect. If they believe the temperature will be lower, they’ll be telling us to prepare for a wet, or at least a normal, summer – a La Niña effect. By about July, we in South Africa will be in the full swing of winter. Here, in the Highveld areas, this means endless cloudless days of bright sunshine followed by bitterly cold cloudless nights in which pipes freeze up and frost hammers vegetables, flowers and grassland alike. And in time, this dry brown grassland will turn black as the veld fire season gets into full swing.

By about July, too, the effects of this season’s drought will have started to be felt throughout the food supply chain. You can, of course, choose to do nothing and simply ride out whatever the effects of the drought are for you, your family and your property. Or you can use the intelligence you will glean from the Pacific oceanographers in about July to plan ahead and prepare for whatever next season throws at you. For your family, this should at the very least entail planting a winter vegetable garden, to foresee the needs of the kitchen and in doing so make you at least partially independent of the high-priced supermarkets.

In Gauteng and the north-eastern parts of the Northwest Province, where we live, we are able to grow beetroot, brassicas such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, broad beans, carrots, dwarf spinach, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, Swiss chard and turnips during winter. Careful soil preparation is necessary, and much depends on how much water you have available. Irrigation water is not unlimited, and some attempt must be made to use it sensibly, if not sparingly. How you irrigate, and when you irrigate, and how frequently you irrigate, will have a direct bearing on both the health of your plants and the amount of water you use (Comment, by Pete Bower, Gauteng Smallholder, vol 17, no 4, April 2016).

Environmental snippets

Cycads threatened

Although cycads are not endemic to our area, the general state of cycad species in our country is of great concern to all who are in favour of a balance in nature.
Cycads are the most threatened group of plants on earth, with 62% classified as threatened in the 2010 IUCN global assessment. South Africa is a cycad diversity hotspot, with 37 species in die genus Encephalartos, yet 78% are threatened with extinction. The greatest threat to our cycads is illegal harvesting from the wild. Three species are already extinct in the wild, four are close to extinction, and another seven have fewer than 100 individuals remaining. The rate of loss has placed the existence of wild cycads on a knife’s edge.
A collaborative study between the SA National Biodiversity Institute and UCT is developing a solution to regulate the illicit trade in cycads by using stable isotopes to distinguish between wild and cultivated cycads. Having been used in numerous forensic studies, stable isotopes are now being applied to cycads.
As from May 2012, it is prohibited to harvest, trade, sell, buy, donate, import, export, convey or receive any wild indigenous cycad (even plants that have possession permits). If you suspect foul play, report this to the Department of Environmental Affair’s Environmental Crimes Hotline: 0800 205 005 (KZNCA email, 15 June 2015).

Soil health

Healthy soil is the foundation of agricultural ecosystems. It builds healthy agricultural economies that, in turn, support national economies. “Soil is teeming with micro-organisms, fungi and bacteria. Just one teaspoon contains more than 100 000, and farmers, growers and gardeners are becoming aware of the huge role they play” (Bunny Guiness).
South Africa is a water-scarce country, and there is limited soil for agricultural production. Of the 100 million ha of farm land in South Africa only 12,75 million ha is arable agricultural land, some of which is prime land, i.e. more arable than the bulk. In fact, a full 47% of agricultural land is unsuited to cultivation of any kind, suitable only for grazing, game, recreation, etc. Using techniques such as no-till planting, deep mulching with natural compost, companion planting and conservative drip irrigation, helps with carbon sequestration and lowers the loss of carbon and moisture from the soil. It prevents large-scale erosion through wind and water and improves soil health, leading to improved yield and sustainable production over time. Maximum cover on top of the soil – plants, either living or dead, serve as armour for the soil, just as our epidermis forms an armour against the sun and rain. It keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter, provides food for the soil organisms that help sequestrate carbon, and builds soil structure. For every one percent of added carbon to the soil, the water-holding capacity of that soil doubles (Dr Johan Strauss & Richard Findlay, Farmers Weekly, 14 October 2014).
According to soil health expert, dr Jill Clapperton, healthy soil will comprise a large number of functioning soil services, including: Limited soil erosion due to high soil organic matter content; increased nutrient cycling; good nutrient availability and nutrient recycling; good water-holding capacity and water filtering; and good biodegrading of potentially toxic compounds from the likes of chemical fertilisers and agricultural chemicals in the soil: “Today’s intensive use of nitrogen fertilisers, besides supplying the most important plant nutrient for achieving high yields, is generally believed to build soil organic matter by increasing the input of residue carbon as well as supplying nitrogen, itself a key constituent” (‘The Browning of the Green Revolution’ by RL Mulvaney, SA Khan & TR Ellsworth).

Did you know?

Humus is a complex and rather resistant mixture of brown or dark brown amorphous and colloidal organic substance which results from microbial decomposition and synthesis, and it has chemical and physical properties of great significance to soils and plants (Gauteng Smallholder, September 2015).
For more information on soil health, email dr Clapperton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website at www.rhizoterra.com

Make your life easier

A self-made detergent to clean just about anything

Mix 1kg washing powder, 1 bottle of dishwashing liquid and 1 cup of spirits in a 5L can and fill up with water. Dilute a little bit of the mixture with water, and start cleaning. It lasts a long time and cleans beautifully (www.lapa.co.za).

Trick with tooth paste

Rub the paste on wood with water marks with a soft cloth. Then wipe with a moist cloth.

Tips with corn flour (Maizena)

Put corn flour on oil stains on material and leave for about 12 hours. Remove and wash as usual. Sprinkle corn flour on your carpet and vacuum after about half an hour. Apply corn flour to soft toys. Leave for half an hour and brush off. Put corn flour on oil stains on leather and leave overnight. Brush off the next day. After having polished your wooden furniture, sprinkle some corn flour and rub it in. This will make the wood shine. If you have too little scrambled eggs, stir in 12,5 ml of corn flour while cooking to make it more (Vrouekeur, 6 June & 29 August 2014).

Tips with salt

If you make a mess in the oven or on the stove, sprinkle salt (while still in liquid form). Wipe when cooled down. Soak a cloth in saline water and use as a dust cloth. Add one table spoon of salt to 3,5 litres of water to clean your floors.

Burned pans?

Pour some saline water in the pan. Bring to the boil. The burnt layer will come off.

Uses for paraffin

Mix one cup of paraffin with 5 litres of water or mix equal amounts of bleach and vinegar to get rid of stubborn marks on windows. Add a little paraffin to the water you use to clean the tiles in your kitchen and bathroom. This will keep insects away (www.thecountrychiccottage.net).

Did you know?

Our exponential future: Recently, Udo Gullob from Messe, Berlin, wrote the following on artificial intelligence and smart phones:
Artificial intelligence: Computers are becoming exponentially better in understanding the world. By 2030, computers will have become ‘more intelligent’ than humans.
Smart phones: The cheapest smart phones already sell at 10 dollars in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. There is already an App called “moodies” which can tell the mood you’re in. By 2020, there will be Apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying.

Will an apple a day make you healthier? Researchers from the University of Sydney found the following:
Apple pectin is a soluble fibre with the ability to absorb cholesterol, thereby decreasing your cholesterol levels.
Apples also contain insoluble fibre which apparently protects one against cancer of the digestive organs, like cancer of the colon and stomach.
Apples are rich in nitroxide – the same as the active ingredient in the under-the-tongue-tablet used by people with heart conditions (Leef Gesond, Rooi Rose, May 2016).

Words, words

Have you ever come across this word?
Sonder (n.) – the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own – populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness (Laurens Martens)

Food for thought

“There is nothing wrong with loving the crap out of everything. Negative people find their walls. So never apologize for your enthusiasm. Never. Ever. Never” (Ryan Adams).

Inspiring quotes by Gabriel García Marquez:
“I’m only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand”.
“Don’t confuse my personality with my attitude … my personality is who I am. My attitude depends on who you are!”
“I’ll not say everything I think but definitely think all I say”.
“Everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain, forgetting that it’s how we climb that’s all that matters”.
“Always tell what you feel, and do what you think”.
“Nobody would remember you if you keep your thoughts secret. Force yourself to express them”.

And finally...
Everyone has their peculiar needs, desires and agendas. They have secrets that they are not sharing with you. Most are stressed, busy, and often feel overloaded. To cope, people put up mental barricades that make it difficult to reach them. Everyone, every day, is trying to get through to people. From his experience, Mark Goulston, in his book, Just Listen, identified two facts. The first is that simply listening to people will change both their lives and yours. And the second is that nearly all people will respond to true, agenda-less listening in an authentic and heartfelt way.