Newsletter #92

February 2017


Compliments of the season: We hope all our members and readers enjoyed a blessed holiday season, and that they look forward to 2017’s challenges.

New Year’s resolutions? Francis of Assisi once said: “Start by doing what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible”. Congratulations to all members/readers who had some relation complete a successful exam. Remember, this exam is a step on the road to the development of a set of skills to enable him/her to build a successful career for themselves. And also remember, success or failure is not an end in itself, it’s a learning experience. Theodore Roosevelt once said: ”Someone who has never gone to school, will be able to steal something from a railway coach; with university education, someone will be able to steal the whole railway system!

This is our first newsletter of the year. Our members and readers found most of the articles in our previous newsletter informative and interesting, with the articles on the rain guage, the birds, tips for a ‘green’ Christmas and once again, the travel blog articles on guest house facilities in our Conservancy, stealing the spot light. (See the article on another of the Conservancy’s guest house facilities below). With reference to the article on a ‘green’ Christmas, the following from an articel in the Fair Lady of July 2011: “Don’t bin dead batteries – it is estimated that around 30 000 tons of batteries end up in landfills, polluting our water and land”.

Welcome: We would like to welcome new Conservancy member, Heleen Liebenberg. May her involvement in our Conservancy bring her joy in years to come.


Soaking New Year’s rain

From the second week in January, our valley has had soft, soaking rain, which resulted in the Magalies River running again from 8 January.

We are very thankful for this, as it means that ground water levels will start rising again. A section of the Hartebeestfontein Road (near Saddle Creek) was practically impassable, and a number of vehicles got stuck there on 9 January. This road was graded on 17 January, which means that it will be very dusty until it rains again (seeing that people tend to speed on this road), and, if it rains again any time soon, one will have to drive very carefully on this stretch of road.

In other parts of the country, dam levels have been rising steadily. The effect of the drought will, however, be experienced for a while still, and water restrictions will remain in place for the time being. Depending on specific areas, the lifting of restrictions will only be considered if dam levels reach an average of 70% capacity. On 24 January, the Vaal Dam’s level was 63,2% compared to only about 30%, before it started raining in the catchment area (RSG News). Dam levels in Natal and the Cape Province are, however, alarmingly low, and at the time of compiling this newsletter, a number of serious veld fires were ravaging large parts of the Cape Province in mainly mountainous areas, amid heat wave conditions. Although all municipalities in the affected areas don’t have sufficient resources, they cooperated in fighting the fires. However, as soon as a fire was brought under control, the strong winds would cause it to flare up again. The strong winds also prevented the helicopters from helping with the fire fighting, as they could not take to the air. In the Calvinia area, where dense, bushy plants burned like wildfire, due to their ceraceous and oily nature, about 10 000 hectares of grazing were destroyed, this amid one of the worst droughts in decades.

Did you know? One out of every five South Africans (about 12 million people) get water from the Vaal Dam (DSTV News, 4 January 2017). All rain that falls to the south of the Witwatersrand Ridge flows into the Vaal River. Many visitors to Gauteng wonder why, even in times of drought when other rivers might run dry, the Vaal River near Vereeniging and Van der Bijl Park is always full of water to the same level. That’s because the river, as it flows past those two towns, is effectively a 64km long dam itself, its waters held there by the Barrage, a 10m high spillway across the river between Van der Bijl Park and Parys, completed in 1923.

A busy time in and around the hives: With good rains upon us there will be plenty of honey for well managed bee swarms. Activity around the hives now becomes very busy, when only a short while ago during the heat waves and dry air, all looked doom and gloom. The nectar secreted by flowers in the mornings no longer dries up by 09:00, as during drought times, and the bees are able to forage practically all day (Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2016/Jan 2017).

Increase in frog populations: As a result of the soft, soaking rain and mostly cloudy weather, frog populations have increased at some speed. So, at dawn and dusk, we’re able to see a hive of activity, and every night we’re treated to a wonderful chorus. A while ago, a tiny little frog made its home in Lourie Laatz’s cement garden frog. Unfortunately, frogs also attract snakes, and Lourie thinks that the little frog might have fallen prey to a large Snouted Cobra that they found close by, which also bit their one dog. 


Our conservancy as tourist destination

This month, we focus on another of our Conservancy’s guest house facilities.


Clement’s Retreat, property of one of our members, Ronnie Jack, offers self-catering accommodation in two farm houses (Clement’s House and Delarey House), sleeping up to eight each, or the West Wing Chalet, which sleeps two. The facility offers a pool with the best view in the world and 46 hectares to stroll around, or along the Magalies River which is its southern boundary. The houses were decorated and made comfortable by a beautiful Princess (Ronnie’s late wife, Dawn). The farm is an ongoing tribute to her legacy. A recent CapeTown guest wrote: “Our stay was relaxing and peaceful. A much needed break from city life” - a theme echoed throughout the guest book. For more details, see www.clementsretreat.com or visit the facility’s Facebook page. (The photo of Clement’s House was kindly provided by Ronnie).


Poisoning of Dogs

On New Year’s day, two dogs of one of our members, Margot Stephen, was poisoned when they went with her to the gate that morning and ate something outside the gate.

One of the dogs died instantly, but the other one fortunately pulled through. The veterinarian who treated this dog, identified the poison as Aldicarb (Temik), also known as “Two Step”. A number of such incidents have already taken place in our Conservancy. Our members are requested to be on the lookout for odd bits of meat lying around which may contain the poison. This poison is deadly and causes resparatory problems, among others.

Important: Toll free number of the Poison Information Centre: 0861 555 777


Tips to reduce the impact of household rubbish

We have often reported about the fact that, as soon as one has established a sorting system for glass, plastic, tins, organic waste, paper and card board, the problem of dealing with household rubbish becomes much less of a burden.

Reducing the impact of organic waste: Fruit and vegetable peelings, unused stems and stalks, pips, eggshells, teabags, mouldy bread and just about any dry foodstuff that has gone stale, or is found to contain weevils, can be composted, or added to a worm farm. Coffee grounds and the dregs from your coffee plunger or percolator can be used as a gentle acidifying agent on loving plants such as strawberries. Meat and fish bones, fish skin, heads and entrails, and limited quantities of fat, which attract flies if not dealt with promptly, can be buried in a progressive trench which, when filled will become a nutrition-rich planting bed. Dig a trench at least two shovels-ful deep, and enclose it in a dog-proof fence. Add the day’s bones, etc., and cover them with a couple of shovels-ful of soil. Sprinkling the bones with a handful of agricultural lime before covering them with soil will speed up their disintegration. Continue to add waste atop your earlier contributions until you are about a shovel-depth from the surface, when you add soil to fill to the top.

Miscellaneous paper and cardboard is often left out of the recycling equation: If you set aside a separate box for this material, and flatten it before adding to the box, you will be surprised by how much can be diverted from your bedroom or study waste paper baskets and recycled. This includes envelopes, discarded magazines and newspapers, flyers delivered through the mail, the little boxes which contain your medication, and those that contain dry kitchen products such as herbs and spices, light bulbs and cosmetics, toilet roll and paper towel cores, and the blister packaging in which you buy a myriad small products such as batteries, razors, USB sticks, etc., not to mention the packaging attached to kitchen utensils and many other supermarket products. A separate box can be used to contain much clean plastic and cellphone packaging, including muesli and seed packets, torn bank coin bags and the like. (Gauteng Smallholder, Vol 17 (11), November 2016).

Recycle your old printers, computers and ink cartridges – visit www.ewasa.org

With reference to our article about water saving, some grey water facts: Calculate your grey water production before you spend money recycling it, because you probably generate less re-usable water than you think. A simple set of numbers will help you calculate your domestic grey water production:

  • A five-minute shower will generate about 35 litres. This can be reduced considerably by using a modern water-saving shower head.
  • A standard bathroom basin holds eight litres if filled to just below the overflow hole.
  • A standard kitchen sink holds 15 litres if not filled to the brim.
  • Modern water-efficient dishwashers use as little as 15 litres per cycle.
  • A modern washing machine uses between 50 and 120 litres per cycle (depending on the duration of the cycle used).
  • If you still use a bath for your daily hygiene, bank on using 300 or more litres per tub, depending on how full you make it.
  • Water used for mopping and scrubbing floors can be added at a rate of eight to ten litres per bucket. Similarly, a few litres can be added for the water used to rinse basins, showers, etc.

Thus, a household of three people, showering, using a dishwasher and washing machine once daily, will only generate about 250 litres of grey water (just more than a drum-full) daily, not including drinking water and toilet flushing. If you use grey water for irrigation, you should keep a watch on the pH of your soil and adjust if necessary. Better still, rotate the area you use grey water on frequently, giving parts of your garden a break from receiving a constant dose of what is in effect a weak liquid chemical fetilizer. (Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2016/Jan 2017).


The Miracle of Cicadas

When I was driving through the Kloof on my way to Krugersdorp on 10 January, I could not help but become aware of the deafening, shrill sound of Cicadas (Afr Sonbesies or Nuwejaarsbesies) – typical of this time of year.

It reminded me of an informative article I had read in Die Haakdoring, newsletter of the Cullinan Conservancy (Summer 2016-2017), a while ago (written by P Lemmer in “Oppie Koppie”). Some of this information was used for the article below, supplemented with information from ‘n Laslappie van Mieliestronk (http://www.mieliestronk.com/sss_sonbesie.html) and an article by Paige Ezzey on Ingwelala (http://ingwelala.co.za/articles/knowledge-base/251-cicada-the-summer-screamer), 18 January 2017.

These noisy little insects belong to the Hemiptera species (suborder, Auchenorrhyncha) – a very large group of insects (including among others aphids, leafhoppers and spittlebugs) that all have one thing in common – a sturdy, sharp, tube-shaped mouth part (proboscis) that they insert into their food source to suck up their food (mainly sap from the xylem of various tree species). Like most insects in this large group, Cicadas are vegetarians. There are about 1 300 Cicada species worldwide, of which 150 occur in South Africa. Cicadas are about 25mm in length and are in fact bugs that look like a strange mix of cricket, fly and moth. (See photo from the Ingwelala website). The males die after mating and the females after laying their eggs (up to 400 at a time). According to Paige Ezzey, Cicadas are said to make good eating because they are low in fat and high in protein. They are considered a delicacy by many people around the world, and in some places, they are people’s staple diet.

The Cicada song: The females are timid and quiet, while the males make the noise. The male Cicada does not use stridulation or the rubbing together of body parts to make its loud sound. Instead, they have a unique noise making organ, called a tymbal, located on the front side of the hollow body of the male that acts as a sound box. The noise is made with the contraction of muscles acting against the tymbals, which produces clicks that are combined into continuous notes. The Cicada actually has the ability to manipulate the sound by changing its position in relation to a surface. A female responds to a male with a flick of her wings. Some male species prefer to sing alone, while others prefer to sing in chorus, congregated in one particular location. But whether these little guys sing alone or together, to sit beneath them on a bench will surely leave you with a buzzing head!

(Reference: The Field Guide to Insects in South Africa by Picker, Griffiths & Weaving).


Environmental Snippets

Healthy pecan nut, layers of the earth, and fighting cancer with dry beans

Health benefits of pecan nuts: Tree nuts, including pecan nuts, have for long been misrepresented as favouring weight gain due to their high fat contents, but it has now been scientifically shown that they are high in unsaturated fatty acids such as Omega 6 (93.1%, compared to an average ratio of 86% in other nuts) that actually improve weight management. Pecan nuts are associated with health benefits such as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (being rich in polyphenols and phyto sterols), hypertension, type II diabetes and obesity. They are high in energy, plant derived protein, dietary fibre, antioxidants (linked to brain health, which may delay a decline in cognitive function and the progression of age related neurodegeneration), vitamins E and K, tocopherols, and folate. In addittion, they are high in minerals such as magnesium, copper, selenium and potassium, important in a number of metabolic pathways in living cells. These minerals also have anti-inflammatory properties, which are regarded as the main contributors to the health benefits of tree nuts such as pecans. (Dr Ronette Lategan-Potgieter & Dr Gert Marais, SA Pecan, Summer 2016/2017).

The layers of the earth: This may sound like primary school knowledge, but the functioning of the earth’s interior remains fascinating. With the help of seismic surveys, scientists have calculated the distance from the earth’s surface to its centre to be 6 371km. The world’s deepest mine, AngloGold Ashanti’s TauTona mine near Carltonville, is only about 3,9km deep. Seismologists and geologists are of the opinion that the inner centre of the earth is a solid iron ball with a radius of about 1 200km. The outer centre consists of liquid iron and nickel presumed to be about 2 200km wide. The rotation and heat of these centres generate enormous energy, thereby creating the earth’s magnetic field. According to scientists, the layer around the centres, the mantle, consists of magma and silicate (half molten rock) and is about 2 900km wide. The increase in heat and cooling of the silicate cause the earth’s tectonite plates (sections of the earth’s crust) to move, which results in volcanic eruptions, eartquakes and tsunamis. The earth’s crust, which contains more than 5 000 well known minerals, is about 60km deep.

Fighting cancer with dry beans: Dry beans are a major protein staple food with good nutritional properties. They contain essential minerals and vitamins and very little salt. They are also free of cholesterol, control blood sugar, and possess anti-cancer potential. They are versatile and delicious and have a good shelf life. Recent research results showed that the presence of cancer was related to the level of dry beans in the diet, with the highest reduction at 60% dry bean content. At this level, cancer incidence was reduced by 41%, tumour number by 53% and tumour size by 64%. An unexpected result was that, contrary to expectations of better protection form higher antioxidants in coloured beans, one white dry bean cultivar caused more reduction than red beans. Compounds in this bean are being isolated to identify the beneficial one. (Source: CSA News, August 2014). Also visit www.beans.co.za for more information.


Did you know?

February 2017: This year, February will have four of each day (Monday to Sunday). This happens only once every 823 years! (Anonymous source).

Rabbits vs hares: Many people don’t know the difference between rabbits and hares. So, is your pet a rabbit or a hare? The difference between rabbits and hares appears the moment they are born. Baby rabbits are called kittens, while baby hares are called leverets. Rabbits are born completely helpless, naked and blind. Hares are born fully furred, able to see and capable of independent movement. They are bigger and swifter than rabbits, and have longer ears and hind legs. Rabbits usually live in burrows or tunnels in the ground, where they prefer to stay during daylight hours. Hares always stay on the surface among plants und usually try to escape enemies by running. Rabbits’ fur coats remain the same colour year round, while hares’ fur colour changes during the year. Rabbits and hares have different diets. Rabbits prefer soft stems, grass or vegetables, while hares eat ‘harder’ food, such as bark and rind, buds, small twigs and shoots. A hare is a wild animal, while rabbits are domesticated and are grown as pets. So, there you have it – your pet is a rabbit! (Gauteng Smallholder Dec 2016/Jan 2017).

Singing in the shower: 86% of all people sing in the shower. So says cosmetic house, Veet. And 48% of these singing nightingales believe that this not only makes them more cheerful; it also makes them look forward to the day ahead (Finesse, May 2010).


From the latin...

Some Latin phrases you should know (from italki)

De facto – from the fact
Ergo – therefore
Et cetera – and the others
In flagrante delicto – in the act of committing a crime
Ipso facto – by the very fact
Mea culpa – my fault
Per se – through itself
Pro bono – done without charge
Status quo – existing state of affairs
Terra incognita – unknown land/territory
Vox populi – the voice of the people


Food for Thought

“Words. So powerful. They can crush a heart, or heal it. They can shame a soul, or liberate it. They can shatter dreams, or energize them. They can obstruct connection, or invite it. They can create defenses, or melt them. We have to use words wisely” (J Brown).

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time as they say, but with intention. So, go love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you” (LR Knost).

“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone” (Goethe).

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Some famous tongue-in-the cheek quotes:

“I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury” (Groucho Marx).

“By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher” (Socrates).

“Last week, I stated that this woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister, and now wish to withdraw that statement” (Mark Twain).