Newsletter #89

September 2016 

Editorial - September 2016

Spring is here! Our Bushwillows and White Stinkwood trees are budding, our Barberton Daisies are starting to flower, and our swallows came to greet us for the first time on 21 August. And it feels as though summer is here already.

We are experiencing high day temperatures, and some of our members have informed us that the snakes have started to come out, and the owls have started nesting. (See the article on owl boxes). It is believed that rain is on its way when the snakes start to come out. We sincerely hope this will be the case.
So far, we haven’t had much of a fire season to talk about, but some of our members are experiencing low water levels. News reports state that level 2 water restrictions have already been introduced in Johannesburg, with other metros to follow suit. Dam water levels across the country are the lowest in many years – the Vaal Dam only has 33% water at the moment. If 15% of the available water cannot be saved by Johannesburgers, strict water restrictions will be introduced. Among other things this means that no garden may be watered between 06:00 and 18:00 (and only with buckets, water cans and hose pipes – no irrigation), and that swimming pools may only be filled with borehole water – no municipal water). People who violate these water saving measures will be fined R1 500, and will have to pay 30% more for water, according to the new water tariffs.
In July, a tornado touched down at Koesterfontein near Magaliesburg, and a severe hail storm occurred near Bekker schools. We need to become more ‘weather-smart’, as we will face more severe weather conditions each season. (See the article on troubled times ahead for cattle and grain farmers).
Our readers found the articles on bees and the high salt intake of South Africans in our previous newsletter interesting (see erratum below), and they were touched by the sad vulture story. Any comments (good or bad) on our newsletter will always be welcome.
Erratum: One of our committee members, Frik Mülder, who had insight into Government Notice no R214 of 20 March 2013 of the Department of Health, brought it to our attention that since 30 June 2016, when this Notice became effective, bread may not contain more than 400mg salt per 100g. We mistakenly reported it as 100mg. Other popular food stuffs with salt restrictions are pap (not more than 500mg per 100g); margarine (550mg per 100g); potato crisps (650mg per 100g); processed meat products (850mg per 100g); and soup powder (5 500mg per 100g).

With regret: Our deapest sympathy with oom Bokkie and Wilmie Meyer with the tragic loss of their son Eric after a car accident on the R560 on 6 September 2016. Our hearts go out to their children, grandchildren, next of kin and friends.


Travel blogs about our valley

Venues in our region have recently been featured in several travel blogs.

Shelter Rock Adventures: This beautiful resort with its hiking trails on the slopes of the Magaliesberg is the property of two of our members, Johann en Corry Botha. It received a feather in the cap from two visitors in the Getaways Reviews of 21 August 2016. Since they had moved to Hartbeespoort a few months ago, the surrounding mountains had been calling them to go and explore, especially the Magaliesberg, with a length of approximately 196km: They wrote: “Our morning alarm clocks went off. It was a Saturday. But we didn’t mind. We were going hiking. Once on top of the mountain, we really felt as if we were on top of the world. It was a day out in the great outdoors and was good for the soul. This is why we didn’t mind our alarm clocks waking us up early that morning”. They experienced the hike as really good, and one that can be done in a morning (before it gets too hot). It was challenging enough to make them feel they had achieved something that morning, but gentle enough to make it a very enjoyable day outing: “The hike takes about four hours to complete, but that is an estimation depending on your walking mood and the time you decide to invest in admiring the proteas, trees, birds and views along the way. These all deserve appreciation”. (Photo provided by Corry Botha).
Read the full review on www.bushbabyblog.com.
A visit to Shelter Rock was also broadcast on the Vrydag 4-uur programme on Kyknet Channel 147 on 26 August 2016. The photography was excellent, especially when the presenters climbed up the mountain with the only Via Ferrata (iron way) in Africa. The two presenters of these programmes usually feel the urge to get out of town on a Friday afternoon, then pack their Combi and travel to an interesting place, where they participate in the activities on offer.

Another feather in the cap for the There’s a River on my Stoep guest house:

Visit: carlimostert.wordpress.com.

Feather in the cap for Rustig and The Farmhouse: On 20 May 2016, The Naked Barista wrote that he and his partner usually work over weekends, but on one of their rare free weekends, they decided to spoil themselves with a weekend in the Magaliesberg area. They enjoyed taking a hike along one of the three hiking trails of the wellknown, historical Rustig (property of one of our members, Johan Oosthuizen of Oostermoed): “The hike into the mountains and the views of the farm were breathtakingly beautiful, and we spent a delightful three hours walking”. (Photo of the old farmhouse, dating back to 1930, provided by Rustig staff).


They had booked overnight accommodation in the quaint thatched roof guest house, The Farmhouse, property of two of our members, Wayne en Jenny Forster: “On our way, we opened the car windows, and the country smells streaming in were calm inducing. As we drove through the gate, a peaceful feeling settled in us. We started a fire in the fireplace outside under the vast variety of exquisite trees. The moon started showing her beautiful face. Without any visible city lights around, the magical starry skies were a stunning sight to behold. The next morning when we opened the sliding door, our senses were pleasured by a scenic splendour, musical birdsong and fresh farm smells”.
Read the full review on www.superblessedandloved.com/pretoria-part-2). (Photo provided by Jenny Forster).


Troubled times ahead for cattle and grain farmers

South Africa’s cattle herds decreased by 15% nationally during the past three years, and its maize crops by 30%. The good rain that is expected by some weather experts during the following few weeks, will therefore not solve cattle or grain farmers’ immediate problems.

The condition of cattle that managed to survive the worst drought in decades will deteriorate further during September and October. After good rain, it takes about four to six weeks for proper grazing to develop. Another risk is that grazing animals cannot resist the few green sprouts that appear when it rains after a drought. They will walk for kilometres to find these, and in so doing, waste valuable energy. Offshoots in dry veld are vulnerable, because animals pull out the germinating seedlings completely.
Some weather experts forecast a 55% to 65% possibility that a La Niña can result in at least average rainfall for South Africa during the current season (November to January). Others are of the opinion that a La Niña is not established well enough yet, and that we can expect another long, dry summer season. Good rain will restore grazing across the country and enable cattle farmers to start rebuilding their herds. Because of the drought, cattle slaughtering had more than doubled during the past few months. This will be a huge challenge for cattle farmers, who will also have to manage their debt carefully. According to Henk Vermeulen (chief executive of Free State Agriculture), correct herd management will be of utmost importance, especially where farmers are left with only a few head of cattle because of the drought, and now have to rebuild their herds completely. (Riana de Lange, Sake-Rapport, 21 August 2016).


Install your own owl box

“Every plant and animal teaches you something about how nature works” (Samir Randera-Rees, creator of the nature life App, Whispers in the Wild).

Owl families have started nesting on some of our members’ properties, high up in roof ridges or tall trees near the house. Farmworkers believe that the owls bring bad luck, but they play an important role in our ecosystems, as they keep rodent populations down. We should protect them, and members are encouraged to install an owl box or two on their properties. In order to install your owl boxes, you will need:
A drill and a drill bit, 6 x 5” or 6” nails or screws per box, a tall ladder, and somebody who is not afraid of heights. You will need to drill holes in the top and bottom of the spine (three at the top, and three at the bottom). You then shimmy up a tree and screw or nail the box to the tree, ideally at a height of 5-7m, but no lower (although the box can go higher). The type of tree is not tremendously important. What is more important is that you install the box high enough. The owl boxes do not need to be direction specific. You can install them facing in any direction. You should line your box with wood chips, shavings or pea gravel – or some similar material. Your owl box should be serviced every year in order to ensure its longevity and make it weather and bee resistant. If you are unable to service your boxes yourself, contact EcoSolutions on 072 365 9777 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for assistance.


For our horse lovers and owners: Healthy hooves

You should have a comprehensive understanding of how your horse’s hooves work before you can ensure they are kept healthy. Also, having your horse’s hooves seen to every four to six weeks is a small price to pay to avoid problems developing. The importance of healthy hooves can therefore not be underestimated.

Some tips: High quality hay and lucerne are not only good for the horse’s digestive system, but help to ensure healthy hooves. You should also evaluate your paddocks from time to time. If they are too moist or too dry, include water baths or oils in your daily hoof care routine. If the climate is dry, allow the water trough to overflow. This helps to keep the hooves moist. You can also blend seaweed and rose hip and feed this to your horse. Rose hip is very high in biotin and helps to ensure good quality hooves. It also contains vitamins C, E, K and nicotinamade, and makes a good tonic for an ill horse or one recovering from illness. Horses suffering from thrush due to a cracked heel also respond well after being fed dry rose hip. Cold pressed rose hip oil is a remarkable hoof dressing. It gives the hoof suppleness, preventing excessive chips and cracks. Another effective natural substance is kelp powder. It is highly palatable and rich in minerals such as calcium, iodine and potassium. Kelp is especially useful when you are feeding horses with little access to good grazing. Horses that suffer from brittle, slow-growing hooves will also benefit from kelp. Feed about 50g/day fresh or dry kelp (For a better understanding on how your horse’s hooves work, contact 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.. Please state ‘Horse therapy’ in the subject line). (The photos of Ferdie and Charmaine Leygonie’s beautiful horses were provided by Charmaine).


The uphill battle against invasive alien plants

A review of the invasion status and geographical extent of species catalogued in the Southern African Plant Invaders Atlas (SAPIA) from 2001 – 2016 has revealed some alarming statistics, and also some good news.

Over the past 15 years, some invaders have more than doubled their distributions and require urgent intervention. About 180 new taxa were detected growing outside of cultivation and have the potential to become future invaders.
There have, however, been some remarkable successes with biological control, with very little expansion and even range contraction, of some of our most prominent invaders. Some programmes have been so effective that no other intervention is necessary to reduce populations to acceptable levels.
Read the full review in SAPIA News no 41 of July 2016 on the ARC website: www.arc.agric.za or Invasive species website: www.invasives.co.za


Vulture fledgling season

Once again, it is vulture fledgling season from September/October to early next year. During this time, young, inexperienced vultures get themselves into potentially fatal situations as they start to experience the freedom of the skies. They have not yet learned of the threats that civilisation and modern developments create for them. Some of the threats that young vultures face are small high-fenced or walled gardens, swimming pools and reservoirs, dogs, unsafe food sources and ignorance or a lack of empathy from people. Small gardens often prevent them from being able to take off again, once on the ground. Dogs may worry or kill a grounded vulture if trapped inside their garden, and electric fencing creates the threat of electrocution, wire cut injuries and even death as the vulture attempts to escape. Heavy rain and swimming pools can end up water-logging a vulture’s plumage. With the added weight and the lack of functionality of their wet feathers, they are unable to fly. Kerri Wolter, founder of VulPro, and her staff are always available to assist with advice or guidance on how to handle injured or grounded vultures, or to come through and collect birds for rehabilitation. VulPro emergency numbers: Kerri Wolter 082 808 5113 or email: kerri.wolter @gmail.com.


Environmental Snippets

SA’s water challenges:

According to prof Anthony Turton (water expert of the Free State and Cape Town Universities), the biggest challenges facing South Africa are: Failing sewerage plants across the country; ongoing allocation of mining rights without any consideration of the negative impacts of mining on water; and perhaps the most concerning, the venomous microcystin neurotoxin in the cyanobacteria poisoning many dams across SA (VeldTalk no 79, 27 August 2016). Read the full article in the Rhenosterspruit Conservancy newsletter on www.veldtalk.co.za.
“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water” (WH Auden).

Beetle threatens Uganda’s coffee industry:

The multi-million dollar coffee industry of Uganda, largest coffee exporter in Africa, is being threatened by a beetle species (black borer beetle) that is thriving in most plantations, due to the current dry conditions. According to experts, these favourable conditions for the beetles migrating to coffee plantations are mainly due to shrinking forest cover and climate change. Some farmers have lost as much as 40% of their potential harvest. The beetle makes small grooves in the young branches of the coffee tree, in which the eggs are laid. This then infects the branches with a fungus that causes the leaves and branches to wilt and die off. (Reuters, August 2016).

Pecans certified as heart-healthy food:

Dr Rachel Johnson, the Bickford Green and Gold Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont and an American Heart Association spokesperson, said, “Adding nuts, fish and other foods that are rich sources of good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) gives more healthy options consumers can choose. With antioxidants as well as a tender texture, rich buttery flavour and gentle crunch, pecans make an ideal snack choice for everyone”. Findings from a study conducted at Loma Linda University showed that adding just a handful of pecans to your diet each day may help inhibit unwanted oxidation of blood lipids, thus helping to prevent coronary heart disease. Pecans also contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals. One ounce of pecans provides 10% of the recommended daily intake of fibre. They are a natural, high-quality source of protein that contains very few carbohydrates and no cholesterol, and are naturally sodium-free. (Source: The National Pecan Shellers Association, www.ilovepecans.org).


Did you know?

Tea from Chrysanthenums: In the Far East, a sweet tea, Jú hu chá, is brewed from chrysanthenums. It is believed to improve blood circulation and to help prevent vericose veins. When one spends long hours in front of the computer, the tea apparently helps to decrease negative effects of the radiation from the computer screen on the body.
South African males are involved in three times more car accidents (75,5%) than females (Lien Botha & Anet Schoeman, Rooi Rose, September 2016).

Interesting research:

Hungarian researchers have found that the bodies of people suffering from stress produce up to 51 additional metabolites. Of these, 34 are directly linked to stress-related diseases such as heart ailments.
According to Italian researchers, many people unintentionally give up important tasks more easily when too many things take up their time.
Australian research has shown that a game such as Tetris decreases cravings for food and even drugs with up to 30%. What about Sudoku, a crossword puzzle or cellphone games?
French research has shown that 54% of people on diet, complain of hunger while dieting (Salomé Delport, Rooi Rose, September 2016).

Heard on RSG news, 7 September 2016:

USA embargo on antibacterial soap: The USA Food and Medicine Research Council has placed an embargo on the sale of any antibacterial soap. Bacteria become resistant to the chemical substances in the soap, and this influences the effect of antibiotics. There is also no proof that these soaps get rid of bacteria, or that it works better than ordinary soap and water.
Big demand for donkey skins and meat from Asia: Thousands of donkeys are stolen in the Northwest Province mainly, in order to supply in the demand from Asia, where the skins and meat are used for medicinal purposes. Animal lovers are alarmed at the way in which these animals are transported and the cruelty of the way in which they are slaughtered.


Have you ever come across this term?

Dauwtrappen (v.): Walking barefoot in the morning grass (and gathering spring flowers) or cycling through nature, when the grass is still covered in dew (Dutch – wordstuck).



Many of our kids now growing up in our cities are suffering from a new disease – Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). “For this generation, nature is more of an abstraction than a physical reality” (Richard Louv, from his bestseller “Last Child in the Woods”).

I’ve always wanted to walk up to a stranger and hand him a briefcase and whisper “you know what to do” and walk away” (Anonymous).

If your eyes are positive, you will love the world. But if your tongue is positive, the world will love you” (Mother Teresa).

What you harvest in your mind will manifest in your life” (Yutamé Venter).

Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end” (Robin Sharma).

May my heart be kind, my mind fierce and my spirit brave” (Lessons Learned).

A great beginning is sometimes at the point of what you thought would be the end of everything” (Dodinsky).


On retirement and getting old...

It is not the same. Retirement is when we stop doing what we have been doing, and we either start doing something else, or we sit back and let the world get on without us. Old age refers to a stage when we have limited regenerative abilities and are more susceptible to disease and increasing frailty.
Our “job” is now ... to be. Just to be – in the moment, giving it our fullest attention, listening to our inner dialogue, allowing ourselves to feel without needing to find solutions and “make things right”, allowing silence, allowing ourself to contemplate our history and to forgive ourself for things done and not done, said and not said. And we need to express our fears. It is at this point that we need to find our spiritual connection to the world and to those around us (Alan Maguire, retirement coach and creator of “The Elders Journey”: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).