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Newsletter #90

October 2016 

Editorial - October 2016

The recent cooler weather and some rain were welcomed by all of us. We keep on hoping for more rain in the forseeable future. In our area, it is widely believed that the first summer rain won’t fall before Oom Paul’s birthday (10 October). Personally, I feel about the rain as Maggie Smith does: “I am always mesmerized by rainfall. I get lost in the sound and sight of the heavens washing away the dirt and dust of the world”.

With regard to the continuing effect of the current drought, and especially the countrywide water restrictions, Llewellyn Price (Beeld, 26 September 2016) and Virginia Keppler (The Citizen, 11 October 2016) wrote that SA’s average dam levels continued to dwindle to unprecedented levels. The implication was that water levels in the country’s river systems were also decreasing rapidly. Water restrictions had now also been imposed in the Vaal, Orange and Caledon river systems. If residents in especially the metros did not reduce their water consumption, they faced the prospect of water shedding. This would entail measures to throttle the water supply system by partially closing main water outlet valves at reservoirs so that flow was restricted and reservoirs could maintain good levels. Water flow restrictors to high water consumers/users would also be installed, and water pressures in low-lying areas be reduced (where possible), as well as water supply to residential complexes, businesses and retirement villages be restricted. The drought circumstances on the whole of the African continent remained critical, with other countries such as Brazil also experiencing the worst drought in decades. According to environmental experts (National Geographic channel, 25 September 2016), 47% of the Brazilian forest, which should form a “rain cover” over this country, had already been destroyed.

As a result of a somewhat balmy winter, relatively good late rain and the already high summer temperatures, the normal pests such as moths, spiders and mosquitos have already appeared. Some of our members are also complaining about an outbreak of flies on their properties.  Many of us have been sneezing or coughing because of pollen in the air, and some are experiencing unexpected bouts of flu or allergies – probably as a result of the changing seasons.

What is an allergen? According to Christa Swanepoel (Vrouekeur, 11 April 2014), it is something that triggers an allergy. When someone suffering from allergic rinitis breathes in such an allergen (like dust and pollen), the body produces allergies (and histamines) to guard against the attack, and this, in turn, causes allergic symptoms. One’s immune system attacks the allergens in one’s body and causes symptoms such as sneezing and a watery nose, especially when one wakes up in the mornings. It can also cause swelling of the mucous membranes in one’s nose, itching of the eyes and palate, and will often result in the excessive production of watery mucous that leaves one with a headache.

Natural moth–repellent mix: Instead of distinctive–smelling moth balls, use herbs to repel moths, and leave your clothes smelling sweet and fresh. Stuff old socks with herbs and tie a knot in the top to create a no-fuss herb sachet. Use equal quantities of strong-smelling dried herbs such as lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary and rose-scented pelargonium, and add some cloves and dried citrus peel. Toss in with jerseys and winter clothes. You can also fill an old sock or stocking with left-over pieces of used toilet soap to make your cupboards smell nice and fresh (SA Garden & Home, September 2016).

Our members and readers found most of the articles in our previous newsletter interesting and entertaining, but especially the travel blogs about our beautiful valley. One of our readers wrote via email on 19 September: “You seem to live in a busy little plekkie”.

The correction on the article about South Africans’ salt intake caused a stir once again. One of our members, Mike Crewe-Brown, who processes and cures meat himself, might be quite correct when saying (email, 19 September) that processed meat only containing 850mg salt per 100g, would taste bland, and that this would decrease the preservation period of cured and processed meats to a large extent.

In response to the article on the vulture fledgling season, one of our other readers, Willie Froneman, sent us a beautiful photo (taken by his wellknown bird photographer son, Albert). On 19 September, Willie wrote via email: “Yes, the Cape vulture chicks are hatching. The vulture on the rock ledge is a fully grown vulture, and a young bird is coming in to land”.

Vulture update: Congratulations to VulPro (the Vulture Conservation Programme of South Africa) for having been fortunate enough to have been one of seven organisations shortlisted and nominated for the most prestigious conservation award that South Africa has to offer. The South African of the Year Award (SATY), in conjunction with Africa News Network (ANN), is hosting this annual awards evening, which is of an international standard, to celebrate extraordinary South Africans. They represent a call to action for all of us to achieve and to celebrate excellence. The ethos behind the awards is that “We can all make a difference!” This year's SATY Awards theme is "Reflection and Progression". The award ceremony will take place in November 2016 at the TicketPro Dome, North of Johannesburg. To vote for VulPro, simply sms CONS 7 to 43043 or vote on the website by following: http://www.ann7.com/saty/ann7-conservationist-of-the-year/, click on Vote and select VulPro, or send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with CONS 7 in the subject line. Voting closes early in November.

 

Editorial

The recent cooler weather and some rain were welcomed by all of us. We keep on hoping for more rain in the forseeable future. In our area, it is widely believed that the first summer rain won’t fall before Oom Paul’s birthday (10 October). Personally, I feel about the rain as Maggie Smith does: “I am always mesmerized by rainfall. I get lost in the sound and sight of the heavens washing away the dirt and dust of the world”.

With regard to the continuing effect of the current drought, and especially the countrywide water restrictions, Llewellyn Price (Beeld, 26 September 2016) and Virginia Keppler (The Citizen, 11 October 2016) wrote that SA’s average dam levels continued to dwindle to unprecedented levels. The implication was that water levels in the country’s river systems were also decreasing rapidly. Water restrictions had now also been imposed in the Vaal, Orange and Caledon river systems. If residents in especially the metros did not reduce their water consumption, they faced the prospect of water shedding. This would entail measures to throttle the water supply system by partially closing main water outlet valves at reservoirs so that flow was restricted and reservoirs could maintain good levels. Water flow restrictors to high water consumers/users would also be installed, and water pressures in low-lying areas be reduced (where possible), as well as water supply to residential complexes, businesses and retirement villages be restricted. The drought circumstances on the whole of the African continent remained critical, with other countries such as Brazil also experiencing the worst drought in decades. According to environmental experts (National Geographic channel, 25 September 2016), 47% of the Brazilian forest, which should form a “rain cover” over this country, had already been destroyed.

As a result of a somewhat balmy winter, relatively good late rain and the already high summer temperatures, the normal pests such as moths, spiders and mosquitos have already appeared. Some of our members are also complaining about an outbreak of flies on their properties. (See the warning about violin spiders below). Many of us have been sneezing or coughing because of pollen in the air, and some are experiencing unexpected bouts of flu or allergies – probably as a result of the changing seasons.

What is an allergen? According to Christa Swanepoel (Vrouekeur, 11 April 2014), it is something that triggers an allergy. When someone suffering from allergic rinitis breathes in such an allergen (like dust and pollen), the body produces allergies (and histamines) to guard against the attack, and this, in turn, causes allergic symptoms. One’s immune system attacks the allergens in one’s body and causes symptoms such as sneezing and a watery nose, especially when one wakes up in the mornings. It can also cause swelling of the mucous membranes in one’s nose, itching of the eyes and palate, and will often result in the excessive production of watery mucous that leaves one with a headache.

Natural moth–repellent mix: Instead of distinctive–smelling moth balls, use herbs to repel moths, and leave your clothes smelling sweet and fresh. Stuff old socks with herbs and tie a knot in the top to create a no-fuss herb sachet. Use equal quantities of strong-smelling dried herbs such as lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary and rose-scented pelargonium, and add some cloves and dried citrus peel. Toss in with jerseys and winter clothes. You can also fill an old sock or stocking with left-over pieces of used toilet soap to make your cupboards smell nice and fresh (SA Garden & Home, September 2016).

Our members and readers found most of the articles in our previous newsletter interesting and entertaining, but especially the travel blogs about our beautiful valley. One of our readers wrote via email on 19 September: “You seem to live in a busy little plekkie”.

The correction on the article about South Africans’ salt intake caused a stir once again. One of our members, Mike Crewe-Brown, who processes and cures meat himself, might be quite correct when saying (email, 19 September) that processed meat only containing 850mg salt per 100g, would taste bland, and that this would decrease the preservation period of cured and processed meats to a large extent.

In response to the article on the vulture fledgling season, one of our other readers, Willie Froneman, sent us a beautiful photo (taken by his wellknown bird photographer son, Albert). On 19 September, Willie wrote via email: “Yes, the Cape vulture chicks are hatching. The vulture on the rock ledge is a fully grown vulture, and a young bird is coming in to land”.

Vulture update: Congratulations to VulPro (the Vulture Conservation Programme of South Africa) for having been fortunate enough to have been one of seven organisations shortlisted and nominated for the most prestigious conservation award that South Africa has to offer. The South African of the Year Award (SATY), in conjunction with Africa News Network (ANN), is hosting this annual awards evening, which is of an international standard, to celebrate extraordinary South Africans. They represent a call to action for all of us to achieve and to celebrate excellence. The ethos behind the awards is that “We can all make a difference!” This year's SATY Awards theme is "Reflection and Progression". The award ceremony will take place in November 2016 at the TicketPro Dome, North of Johannesburg. To vote for VulPro, simply sms CONS 7 to 43043 or vote on the website by following: http://www.ann7.com/saty/ann7-conservationist-of-the-year/, click on Vote and select VulPro, or send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with CONS 7 in the subject line. Voting closes early in November.

 

Our Conservancy as a tourist destination

Our Conservancy is mainly a farming area and a tourist desitination, hardly one hour’s drive from Johannesburg or Pretoria. In response to the favourable comments on recent travel blogs about our beautiful area (as was reported in our previous two newsletters), we have decided to publish contact details of our members’ guest facilities in this newsletter, and to request all our readers to forward this to family members and friends.

We also plan to feature monthly reports on one or two of our members’ guest houses, as well as one of the local farming enterprises. This month, we focus on the guesthouse and restaurant facilities of Mokoya Lodge, property of the Massey Mclean family since 1994.

Mokoya Lodge is a breathtakingly beautiful country lodge, ideally situated on the enchanting banks of the Magalies River. The natural stone cottages are some of the oldest buildings built with the natural rocks picked up on the farm. This miniature Eden is a highly sought after event and conference venue, due to the fact that it lies between the much loved Hartbeespoort Dam and the town of Magaliesburg. Mokoya Lodge offers a great escape from overwhelming city life. The gorgeous lodge will take you away from your stresses and day to day anxiety. Here you find yourself in awe of the stunning river that runs below the lodge, and you will discover paradise in 27 hectares of landscaped gardens enveloped by the unique African bushveld. The gardens have been carved out preserving the bush, and planted with shrubs and plants that survive the harsh winter frost and summer droughts, while the buildings have been placed in position to preserve the natural trees and bush that characterise the property. Mokoya Lodge is the epitome of tranquility and serenity, one of the best holiday accommodations the Cradle of Human Kind has to offer! (email received from Hayley Livesey on 3 October 2016). A link to guest feedback posted on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/197887543576787/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1017921848240015
Mokoya Lodge & Sweet Thyme restaurant: 078 248 5149 (Bookings); 082 423 1469 (Ray); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.mokoya.co.za.
Visitors who visit our valley via links on the Conservancy website are environmentally aware and appreciate the beauty of the valley. Please visit the Conservancy website (www.hartebeestfonteinconservancy.org.za) for more information.
Esther’s Country Lodge: 014 576 4000; 081 502 2998; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.esthers.co.za
Clement’s Retreat: 083 602 5984 (Ronnie); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
There’s a river on my stoep: 014 576 2294; 073 148 4101 (Lourie); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Openhouse@B61: 014 576 2345; 082 389 2309 (Charmaine); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Ziggy’s River Cottage/Eco Retreat: 078 248 5149 (Bookings); 082 423 1469 (Ray); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.mokoya.co.za
Quiet Mountain: 083 702 1113 (John); 083 470 2290 (Terence); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The Farmhouse: 083 441 0735 (Jenny); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Rustig: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.rustig.co.za
Combretum Cottage (Golden Frogcc): 082 888 2724 (Sue); 083 292 2932 (Carol); 083 633 2466 (Elena); 083 629 4582 (Pat).
Shelter Rock: 071 473 6298 (Corry); 082 340 7378 (Johann); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; www.shelterrock.co.za

 

Threats close to home

Violin spiders in SA homes:

In a press release of 19 September 2016, researchers of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) warn against violin spiders which are multiplying at some rate as a result of the sudden hot weather conditions, and that more and more violin spiders are found in SA homes. There is also a sudden outbreak of other poisonous spider species. The public is warned to always rinse kettles before boiling water again. Upon asking one of our readers and spider expert, Nicholas Mclean, to comment on the above, he said (email, 7 October 2016) that there was no danger of being poisoned by any venomous spiders if they had been killed. So, if the hot water has killed a violin spider, don't panic when the dead spider brushes your lips or enters your mouth, even if it gets as far as your stomach, then consider it good protein!


Rabies outbreak:

In Newsletter 86 of June 2016 we reported on widespread cases of rabies in the Muldersdrift area, as well as the Boons area near Magaliesburg and in the Cradle of Humankind. At the beginning of October, a case of rabies in our Conservancy was confirmed by a veterinary surgeon, and a family of Zwartkrans was attacked by a rabid badger in their farm house. Two cases of rabies were also reported in Krugersdorp recently.

 

Environmental Snippets

SA's first Garden Day

South Africa's first Garden Day was celebrated on 9 October 2016. On this day, everybody with green fingers was encouraged to relax and enjoy their gardens. Whether one had a huge garden, a small garden patch behind one’s townhouse, one’s own food garden or only a few potted plants on one’s stoep, everybody was encouraged to invite some friends over to come and relax among their plants or to just sit and read a book in the peacefulness of their gardens. October is one of the most beautiful months of the year. For advice and tips on gardening, download the free App, Gardening with Babylonstoren. Then you can chat to other garden experts, ask questions and share your knowledge. Visit www.gardenday.co.za for more information.

Transport Month

October is Transport Month in South Africa: During this month, emphasis is placed on the safety of all road users. The first national guidelines for reducing wildlife mortalities on roads were published on 11 October 2016. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) also developed a handbook entitled “The road ahead: Guidelines to mitigation methods to address wildlife conflict in South Africa”. Copies of the handbook can be downloaded from the EWT website:
https://www.ewt.org.za/WTP/WTP%20handbook%202016.pdf

Disaster Reduction

International Day for Disaster Reduction, 13 October 2016: To commemorate this day, Co-operative Governance Minister Andries Nel remarked on the identification of ‘capacity shortages’ as just one of ‘several challenges’ undermining integrated disaster management and proactive risk reduction planning at provincial and local government levels in South Africa. Other challenges included institutional malfunction and inadequate planning. As a result, policies and legislation aimed at promoting a holistic approach to mitigating and managing disasters and adapting to climate change were not achieving the desired outcomes. Read the full report:
http://www.gov.za/speeches/international-day-disaster-reduction-2016-13-oct-2016-0000.

Neighbour Day

Neighbour Day to be celebrated on 6 November 2016: For most of us it is no longer a priority to get to know our neighbours better. Use your opportunity on Neighbour Day to get to know your community better. Everybody likes traditional home-made dishes – prepare a delicious bite to eat, and go knock on your neighbour’s door!

 

Fowl Stories

An interesting look at a duck farm in South Africa that has a very special purpose: Duck farmer Denzel Metthys manages over 1 000 Indian Runner ducks which are used as a natural form of pest control on the Vergenoegd Winery.

These ducks are absolutely brilliant! Each day, the “Quack Squad” parades in front of the farm house on their way to the fields where they eat their fill of snails, helping to keep the vineyard healthy.
Read more at http://www.youtube.com/embed/H6Ehoxu9QY8

Did you know? Geese are not only excellent “guard dogs”, they will also keep your flower beds free of weeds. On our farm, they do not damage or eat the Barberton daisies or arum lily plants – they carefully pull out the weeds from among the plants. One shouldn’t let them lose in one’s vegetable beds though – they love spinach, cucumbers and lettuce!

A duck story: A duck in a bar kept on asking for peanuts. In the end, the barman became outraged and barked: “No, we don’t have any. If you ask for peanuts again, I’ll nail you to the counter”. The duck took a few sips of beer and then asked: “Do you have nails?” “No, we don’t have,” said the barman. “Nothing?” asked the duck. “So then, do you have any peanuts?” (Pollux, Rapport, 2 October 2016).

 

Local aquaponics

A recent job advertisement for a tilapia farm manager stated: “This is a position for someone who is willing to do everything: building, welding, vehicle and pump maintenance, fish handling, etc., so you need to be jack-of-all-trades, and master of several. In other words, it is not a job for the guy who wants to play golf on Wednesday afternoon and drive a BMW ... but if you want a head start in tilapia culture, this offers immense opportunity” (Nicholas James, ichthyologist and hatchery owner).


One of our committee members, Lance Quiding of Integrated Aquaculture (BH34, R560) agrees. He has an in-depth knowledge of this method of farming and actively practices aquaponics. The attached photographs are from his aquaculture and aquaponics farm here in Hartebeestfontein. He agreed to send a short article on auaponic farming (below):
Aquaponics is the farming of fish and plants in a closed, recirculating water system. The waste from the fish is the nutrients for the plants, and the plants in turn, remove these nutrients from the water, purifying it for the fish. The fish waste is used to grow a plant crop that becomes a second income stream for some pioneering farmers or simply an amazing soilless way of keeping your kitchen stocked with veggies. There are four methods of aquaponic farming to choose from:
The first and most popular is the ‘Flood and Drain’ technique: This is where the plants are grown in an inert media (stone aggregate, shale, expanded clay, etc.), and the water floods and drains by means of a flow-out system. As the water floods and drains, the roots are exposed to oxygen and nutrients.
‘Deep Water Culture’ (DWC) is method number two: Here, the plants are placed on a floating raft, and the roots grow suspended in the water from the fish tank. Additional aeration is required to ensure that the roots get sufficient oxygen. Any grow bed can be used as long as it holds water and is best suited at a depth of 300mm.
Option three is the ‘Vertical’ technique: Here, the plants are grown in a substrate in vertical towers. There are several different designs of towers, and it is an extremely good use of limited space.
The final method is the ‘Nutrient Film’ technique: This is a horizontal pipe or tube where the roots grow in a film of flowing water cycled from the fish tanks.
Commercially, DWC is the method of choice. There are a number of small backyard systems available for one to learn on before investing in commercial production. Contact Lance on 082 561 0013 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

 

The plight of the honeybee

Honeybees “are the glue that holds our agricultural system together”, wrote journalist Hannah Nordhaus in her 2011 book The Beekeeper’s Lament. And now that glue seems to be failing.

Around 2006, commercial beekeepers began noticing something disturbing: their honeybees were disappearing. Scientists coined an appropriately apocalyptic term for the mystery malady: Colony-Collapse Disorder (CCD). (Incidentally, we have reported on CCD in previous newsletters). Years later, honeybees are still dying on a scale rarely seen before, and the reasons remain mysterious. Scientists are working hard to figure out what’s bugging the bees.
Agricultural pesticides are an obvious suspect – specifically a popular new class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids, which seem to affect bees and other insects even at what should be safe doses. These chemicals are used widely on crops as well as in home gardens, meaning endless chances of exposure for any insect that alights on the treated plants, thereby posing real threats to the viability of pollinators. There is growing evidence that neonicotinoids can have dangerous effects, especially in conjunction with other pathogens. Studies have shown that these chemicals attack the nervous system of bees, interfering with their flying and navigation abilities, without killing them immediately. Other suspects are bee-killing pests like the aptly named Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite that has ravaged honeybee colonies since the 1980s. It burrows into the brood cells that host baby bees. Bacterial and viral diseases can also be the cause of the problem (such as American Foul Brood (AFB), which kills developing bees).
The loss of honeybees would leave the planet poorer and hungrier, but what’s really scary is the fear that bees may be a sign of what’s to come, a symbol that something is deeply wrong with the world around us. The simple fact is that beekeepers live in countries that are becoming inhospitable to honeybees. To survive, bees need forage, which means flowers and wild spaces. Industrialised agricultural systems have conspired against that, transforming countrysides into vast stretches of crop monocultures – factory fields that are little more than a desert for honeybees starved of pollen and nectar.
As valuable as honeybees are, the food system wouldn’t collapse without them. But our dinner plates would be far less colourful, not to mention far less nutritious. The backbone of the world’s diet – grains like corn, wheat and rice – is self-pollinating. Although many crops are only partially dependent on bee pollination, others, like the almond, cannot get by without it. For all the recent attention on the commercial honeybee, wild bees are in far worse shape. Unlike the honeybee, the bumblebee has no human caretakers. This is what happens when one species – that would be us – becomes so widespread and so dominant that it crowds out almost everything else (Time, vol 182, no 8, 19 August 2013).

 

Rhino Poaching

South Africa, Namibia, Kenya en Zimbabwe are some of the countries that are going to work together in future to protect their rhinos according to the rhino conservation plan. Together, these countries have about 25 000 rhinos. South Africa has 20 306, Namibia 2 768, Kenya 1 122, Zimbabwe 802, and seven other countries have 630 in total. There are only about 5 250 black rhinos left on the continent. According to the conservation plan, these countries want their rhino populations to have grown with at least 5% by 2010. Dr Michael Knight, chair of the Africa Rhino Conservation Group, says it costs about $12 500 per rhino to protect it during its life time (Elise Tempelhoff, Beeld, 26 September 2016).

 

What is Heritage?

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary heritage decribes “characteristics of a specific society, like tradition, language or buildings that were created in the past, and that still have historical value”. Sherlanne Pillay, Miss Heritage Gauteng, has an interesting opinion on this: “Many people think heritage consists only of your culture, but this is not necessarily true. Your heritage is closely linked to your identity and how you are influenced by people, culture, music and food around you” (Metro-Beeld, 21 September 2016).

 

Food for thought

“Cut out all the exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke” (F. Scott Fitzgerald).
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something” (Plato).
“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing” (Camille Pissarro).
“Your life is your story. Write well. Edit often” (Susan Statham).
And finally… Seven dangers to human virtue (Received via email).:
Wealth without work;
Pleasure without conscience;
Knowledge without character;
Business without ethics;
Science without humanity;
Religion without sacrifice; and Politics without principle.