Latest News

This guest house along the Bultfontein road on the banks of the Magalies River, property of two of our members, Lourie and Pete Laatz, received a well-deserved feather in the cap in the Getaways Reviews of 19 June 2016.

Bits are a complex and fascinating subject. Things can, however, become very complicated, as everyone has their own ideas and theories. So, before you run out and buy an expensive new bit, it is essential that you understand why your horse may be resisting. Ask yourself the following:
When last were the horse’s teeth checked? An equine dentist or horse vet should check your horse’s mouth once per year.
Does the saddle fit properly? This needs to be checked regularly.
Are you quite sure what your horse is eating? Most horses require 10% protein in their diets.
Is your horse not too big for its shoes? No bit in the world will bring a youngster into shape, or force it to maintain a head carriage.
Is your horse fit enough? Resistance due to being unfit shows itself in different ways.
Is your horse in pain? A horse’s natural instinct is to run away from fear and pain.
Do you have enough experience? If need be, take a few riding lessons.
(Contact Kim Dyson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information. Please state ‘Horse therapy’ in the subject line of your email).
Did you know? Our valley is home to a beautiful Arabian horse stud! Visit http://figtreebluearabians.co.za/History.htm

calf in treeA while ago, one of our members, Frik Mülder, sent us a photo of the carcass of a calf that had been caught and dragged into a tree by a leopard on his farm on the slopes of the Magaliesberg in the Hartebeestfontein area. It is a pity that the calf was caught but leopards play an important role in maintaining a balance in the area, as they mainly prey on the huge baboon and vervet monkey populations which cause much destruction in vegetable crops and pecan orchards. Vervet monkeys, in troops as large as 60-70, has caused huge financial losses to the farmers the past few years.

serval hartAt the beginning of June, one of our members, Johan Wilkens, sent us a photo of a beautiful Serval (Leptailurus felis) that was caught in a snare on his property. Servals are seldom seen during the day. Their diet consists mainly of rats and mice, finches, ducks, lizards, snakes, hares and locusts. Once again, we would like to encourage our members to report snare incidents to us.

Identification of SA frog species: Identify that frog with the new App “Complete guide to the frogs of Southern Africa” by Louis du Preez & Vincent Carruthers. Comprehensive coverage of all 167 SA frog species @ R249.99.
Apple app store: http://apple.co/1RoRFBm
Android app store: http://bit.ly/1TFj69h

SA Green Industries Council – 2016 Invasive Species Training:
29 & 30 June – Pretoria
5 & 6 July – Potchefstroom
25 & 26 July – Johannesburg
For more info, contact Hazel or Kay at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 011 723 9000.

Dangerous Animals Seminar: Fangs, venom, canines and claws by Warren Schmidt. Learn how to identify dangerous snakes, scorpions and spiders, how to prevent bites and stings, as well as avoiding unpleasant confrontations with leopard, lion, elephant, crocodiles, and more. Dates:
28 June – Pretoria
5 July – Potchefstroom
26 July – Johannesburg
For more info, contact Warren at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 081 039 4176.

On scorpions – did you know? Scorpions generally have a life span of about four to 25 years. There are about 130 species of scorpion found in South Africa, and in fact only two species cause death. A useful book if you regularly encounter scorpions on your smallholding or if you fear poisonous spiders: First Aid Guide to Spider Bites and Scorpion Stings by renowned arachnid specialist, Jonathan Leeming.

According to Constant Hoogstad, Manager of EWT’s Wildlife and Energy Programme, most power lines built before the 1990s were not subject to environmental impact assessments, and the structures were not designed to be bird friendly. This means that we are sitting with thousands of kilometres of power lines across South Africa which are extremely dangerous to birds.
Vultures are especially vulnerable to power line electrocution due to their large wingspans, heavy bodies and gregarious nature. When combined with contributing factors like treeless environments that force birds to sit on electricity poles, wet feathers which increase conductivity, sunning behaviour, artificially supplied food sources (such as vulture restaurants) and a concentration of carcasses often located in close proximity to power lines, vultures are the birds that are at highest risk from power line electrocutions.
Eskom’s biggest challenge is to ensure that these old designs are phased out as soon as possible, and that all new power lines being erected are bird friendly. Eskom takes the electrocution of birds on power lines extremely seriously. During the last financial year, Eskom changed more than 1 215 poles to bird friendly, insulated 63 transformers/strain poles, and fitted 724 spans with bird flight diverters which amounts to more than 12 108 units.
To continue to assist in decreasing the number of bird mortalities on power line infrastructure, the EWT would like to encourage members of the public to report any wildlife and power line incidents to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 011 372 3600 or 0860 111 535.
Please visit www.ewt.org.za or contact Constant Hoogstad (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 082 334 4176) for more information about the EWT-Eskom partnership and the Wildlife and Energy Programme (email received on 17 May 2016).

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).

 

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).

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).

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.

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.

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

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.

Earth hour: This year, celebrated on 19 March 2016. As always on this particular day, people were requested to switch off all electricity from 19:30 – 20:30 on that night.
National Water Week: 14-22 March 2016 – this is a national awareness campaign aiming at encouraging all South Africans to take care of our precious waters.

Members of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Management Board were elected on 15 December 2015. The new board members met with the outgoing Magaliesberg Biosphere Initiative Group on 5 March 2016, and will now have to tackle many challenges.

There has been an alarming increase in the number of snares found in and around the Conservancy.

Game, birds, livestock and even domestic animals are being caught in these snares.

We would like to urgently appeal to members to be aware of this trend, and to report it to us. From September to December 2015, 44 cable snares were collected in the area to the east of Steynshoop. (The photo of some of the skulls found there was provided by Tracy Robb).

As a result of the recent rain and the mostly cloudy weather, a strange fungus species appeared in grass cuttings near our outbuildings, and disappeared after three days. We have never seen this fungus anywhere on our property before. Hundreds of minute (what looks like) toad stools are grouped together to form one large fungus. 
Did you know? More than 100 000 different fungus species (including mushrooms and toad stools) have been identified worldwide. The South African Association of Mushroom Farmers (SAMFA) has conducted a successful study on weight loss in males to prove that by replacing red meat by mushrooms, weight loss is promoted as a result of the low calorie count of mushrooms.
Remember: Never regard all mushrooms or toad stools as edible – some are highly toxic. “There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters. Know your mushrooms!” (from: A Field Guide to the Mushrooms in South Africa by Hilda Levin, Margo Branch, Simon Rappoport & Derek Mitchell, Struik Publishers, 1985).

Three professors from Wits University (Robert Scholes, Mary Scholes and Mike Lucas), predict difficult times ahead for the country in their new book, Climate Change: Briefings from South Africa. (News24 reports 2015-11-23).

A warming trend is already apparent, and it is much higher than the global average rate. Temperatures in the interior of the country could rise by about 3°C by the end of the century if the world greatly and urgently reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, but by up to 6°C if it does not. The global average air temperature measured near the surface in 2010 has risen by 0.8°C since 1870, when accurate records began and, measured over multi-decade periods, the rate of warming has been accelerating.

White Stork: During November, a balloon pilot in our area, Tracy Robb, came across a seriously dehydrated White stork (Ciconia ciconia) during one of her flights. She took the bird to one of our members, Lourie Laatz, where it drank a lot of water, but wouldn’t touch the food presented to it. This is because storks prefer catching their food (grasshoppers, frogs, small reptiles and mammals) themselves. After two days, the stork was set free, and quite happily marched off towards the river. These storks are relatively common in the whole of South Africa and Namibia. However, their numbers are declining sharply, mainly as a result of collisions with power lines, thunder storms and pesticides used to get rid of locusts. (Photo by Tracy Robb).

Black Eagle: On 16 December, an injured Black Eagle (Verreaux’s Eagle, or Aquila verreauxii) was found by a hiker on one of the Rustig hiking routes. The bird was fetched by Kerri Wolter of VulPro (Vulture Rehabilitation Centre). When enquiring about the progress of the bird on 21 December and once again on 30 December, we were informed that the bird’s condition had stabilised and that she was somewhat better, but that she still couldn’t walk, in spite of all their efforts, and that the prognosis was guarded. Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending – the eagle died on 10 January. These eagles are quite common in rocky mountain areas and kloofs in large parts of South Africa, where they can find rock rabbits (their main diet). Urbanisation and deforestation have limited their habitat, and they sometimes have to fly great distances to find food, which has resulted in their numbers declining sharply. (Photo by Elmar Steenkamp).

Our members/readers might be aware that the Magalies River is an important conservation area, and has been identified as a sensitive catchment area in the Gauteng Nature Conservation Plan.

A very rare fish species, the Marico Barb (Barbus motebensis - Afr Ghieliemientjie), can be found in this water system. This tiny little fish (maximum length about 8cm) can only be found in South Africa, and is indicated as endangered on the IUCN Red Data List. The photo was taken by Roger Bills of the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB). Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information and/or visit the most interesting website: www.saiab.ac.za/

An unusual garden visitor: In spite of the drought, our day lilies are in flower at the moment. While sitting on the veranda on 8 November, a beautiful Black Sunbird (Nectarinia amesthystina) flew from day lily to day lily, feasting on the nectar. What a beautiful little bird! Members from a neighbouring farm have a breeding pair on their property. They are apparently quite common in our area (Liz Greyling). The photo was taken by well-known bird photographer, Albert Froneman.

On 19 October, we spotted a beautiful moth on the floor in our TV room. Unfortunately, it died after two days. The moth was particularly colourful and very large, with a 14cm wingspan. South Africa is home to more than 7 000 moth species. Hopefully, there will be a lepidopterist (moth and butterfly expert) among our readers/members, who can help us identify this moth species.