Hartebeestfontein Conservancy


Where every footprint counts

The Conservancy - established in 2002 - is situated in Gauteng Province. The Conservancy falls in the valley between the top of the Magaliesberg and the top of the Witwatersberg, and borders the core zone of the Cradle of Humankind, and is in the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve, The fertile valley between the two ranges is both productive farm land and conservation areas.
Spanning approximately 5 000 hectares, it is zoned primarily for agriculture with the Magaliesberg Mountain enjoying the conservation status of "protected environment" under National legislation.
Action taken by the committee is guided by the memberships’ needs and the Conservancy Constitution. The Conservancy slogan, ”Where every footprint counts”, is indicative of the mission to embrace the heritage embedded in the area and to protect the biodiversity that will ensure a sustainable future.
Inevitably, every action, good or bad, in the past and future, will eventually become part of the recorded history of this area. The Conservancy forms part of this history, and therefore wants to make a positive contribution towards this heritage.

Wildflower of the Month

Asclepia fruiticosa

Asclepia fruiticosa is often seen along the edge areas of roadsides -  look for it the next time you travel along the roads in the Magaliesberg areas. It is also found growing among other weeds in previously cultivated fields that are not being used anymore.

2013-01-08

Wildflower of the Month

Pineapple flower

April’s Wild flower of the Month is Eucomis autumnalis, commonly known as the Pineapple flower/Wildepynappel.

2016-03-21

Tree of the Month

Common Wild Pear

Dombeya rotundifolia Common Wild Pear, Bushveld Bride/Gewone Drolpeer, Bruid-van-die-Bosveld Tswana: Motubane, Mokgofa (SA National Tree number 471)

2009-09-12

Wildflower of the Month

Frithia pulchra

The Flower of the Month for March 2010 is the Frithia pulchra, common name Fairy Elephant's Foot/Olifantsvoet.

2016-03-21

Tree of the Month

Wild Olive

Olea Europaea subsp. africana Wild Olive / Olienhout,Swartolienhout,Olyfboom   Tswana: Motlhware  (SA National Tree number 617) 

2009-02-28

Bird of the Month

Blue waxbill

Bird of the month is the tiny Blue waxbill (Uraeginthus angolensis).

2013-01-12

Newsletters

October 2016

  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=1017921848240015Mokoya 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.zaClement’s Retreat: 083 602 5984 (Ronnie); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.’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..zaOpenhouse@B61: 014 576 2345; 082 389 2309 (Charmaine); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.’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.zaQuiet Mountain: 083 702 1113 (John); 083 470 2290 (Terence); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Farmhouse: 083 441 0735 (Jenny); 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.; www.rustig.co.zaCombretum 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.                

September 2016

  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.. 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).   Quotes 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.).                

August 2016

  Newsletter #88 August 2016   Editorial Our members/readers found all the articles in our July newsletter very interesting and commented that the articles were informative and relevant. We are heartened by this – thank you!Erratum: Unfortunately, we provided the incorrect contact number for the cottages to rent on Weleda Farm. The correct number is 083 226 7835. News from our valley Magalies Rocks The Cradle: An invitation to celebrate life! Save the date: 2-4 September 2016. Experience an unforgettable fun-filled 72hour weekend in Magalies! Visitors are invited to relax, explore and experience the diversity of our beautiful area. Come for the day or spend the weekend. Stay over in a self-catering unit, five-star accommodation or camp under the stars. The programme offers a variety of recreational and adventure activities, and lots of opportunity to enjoy cultural activities such as recycled art, pottery, poetry and photography. Enjoy beer, ice cream, chilli and chocolate tasting, visit the many markets or participate in a variety of activities like potjiekos competitions, casual day (with a donation for kids with disabilities), sightseeing tours, cycle races, 4x4, hiking trails, and many more. Entrance to the markets and exhibitions is free, but entrance fees and bookings are required for some of the activities. Visit www.magaliesrocksthecradle.co.za/mrtc/ or the Facebook page @MagaliesRocksTheCradle or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for the full weekend programme.A call centre will be operational for the weekend at the Pep centre in Magaliesburg, where you can get a free map, or call 076 171 1196 for more information. Esther’s Country Lodge: This brand new restaurant on the R560 in Hartebeestfontein (BH24) officially opened for business on 21 July 2016. According to some of our members and readers who have been to the restaurant, both the service and the food are excellent. Call 014 576 4000 or 081 502 2998 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to book for lunch or dinner, parties, accommodation with breakfast, etc. One can also order pizzas and takeaways and fetch your order later. The restaurant is open from 09:00 every morning, except Monday morning. Credit cards are welcome. It really is convenient to have such a quality restaurant in our valley. We wish Esther Müller everything of the best with this initiative. Visit the website www.esthers.co.za and please support them! Mooiloop-programme: This programme, currently broadcast on Wednesday nights at 20:30 on SABC2 (DSTV Channel 192), takes one to small towns in our country. It differs from other travel programmes in the sense that groups of residents are interviewed, which tells one more about the specific area and local historical sites via the stories people tell. In July, the programme focused on Magaliesburg. Amongst others, the Book Club ladies were interviewed at the Staudes’ Alpacca farm, Ruth Mylroie of New Harmony Farm shared her chicken recipe, and some of the members of the Hekpoort Valley Girls and Hekpoort Heksie (who makes chilli products) were interviewed at the Colonial Restaurant. All the ladies outdid themselves! The Bonkers Pop Up market, the Maze drummers at Corriloch, Melon Rouge restaurant and Black Horse brewery were also visited. Two 30 minute programmes on Magaliesburg were broadcast on 3 and 10 August. What an experience it was to see at least some of the people and sights in our beautiful valley through others’ eyes! Equine dentist: We have the services of an equine dentist in our valley. Call Hantus Eksteen on 078 856 9386. Interesting reading: In our newsletter, we regularly report about the effect of current economic circumstances on especially farming and conservation activities in our area. Are you interested in reading more about how economic growth, living standards and welfare economics are related or about branding, and how brands become iconic? Read a study by Julian Slabbert and Nicholas Tech (March 2016): “Comparing the Netherlands and Brazil, using indicators such as income per capita, unemployment, poverty line and human development index”, and a literature review on iconic brands by Julian Slabbert (February 2016): “An exploration of the economic factors of branding and how brands become iconic”. Contact Julian at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.   Winter time is aloe time! In our valley, winter is a beautiful time of the year! This year, it is much greener later than usual, as we had wonderful late rain. That is why we are blessed with fields of aloes everywhere. The pale pink little aloes, Aloe greatheadii v. Davyana, have been flowering prolifically. This aloe species are endemic to the Northern Province and Gauteng and are an important succulent component of the Witwatersrand area. According to one of our beekeepers, Sue Oxborrow, bees love it, because the concentration of nectar is very high in their flowers: “This is nature’s way of ensuring that bees and other nectar gathering species like sunbirds get a high level of energy, providing food during winter. Isn’t nature amazing? Flowering just when needed!”   Arbor month Spring is around the corner, and soon there will be lots of colour all around us. Then we can garden once again, and maybe also plant a tree or two, preferably one of the trees of the year. Arbor week takes place annually, from 1 to 7 September. This year’s common tree species is the Common wild fig (Ficus thonningii). The more uncommon or rare tree species are the Common bush-cherry (Maerua cafra) and the Bead-bean tree (Maerua angolensis). None of these tree species are endemic to our area but the Common wild fig and Bead-bean tree should do reasonably well here. Both these tree species grow reasonably fast and are hardy (drought and frost reistant). Garden tasks for August/beginning of September:Water spring bulbs and remove the dead flowers. Fertilize your day lilies, other perennials and shrubs with granular fertilizer, and enrich the soil with compost. Add compost to flower beds, working it in to the top 30cm of topsoil. Keep on watering and feeding your winter veggies. Don’t fertilize your lawn until it starts to grow. (Joburgwest Get it, August 2016).Important notice: The 2016 NEMBA Invasive Alien Species (IAS) lists have been amended. The latest NEMBA IAS lists were released by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, on 29 July 2016. Contact Dr Seb Rahlao (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Tendamudzimu Munyai (021 799 8702 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) for more information. Environmental Snippets Winter time is red louse time: Red lice (also known as Red-headed lice, or Bovicola ovis, or biting lice), a permanent parasite on sheep, is active during the winter months. These lice are host specific and target sheep when their condition and general reistance are under pressure. Older, sick and underfed sheep, high stock density and animals with thick wool are more susceptible to the lice. The lice do not suck blood but feeds on epidermal tissue, scales on the skin or dandruff, hair, wool and dry blood clots from old wounds on the skin surface. Red lice cause severe irritation, itchiness, biting and scratching. When one discovers red lice for the first time, the sheep had already been infected six to seven months before. Most infections result from direct transmission. The lice can only survive three to four days if not on a sheep. The parasite also comes into a flock of sheep when infected animals are purchased or can be spread by shearers from farm to farm.(ProAgri, no 197, July 2016). Heavenly honey: SA’s apiculture industry is threatened by too many beekeepers and too few suitable plant sources. As reported in previous newsletters, the SA Beekeeping industry has now been forced to turn to foreign plant sources to meet the ever-increasing demand for bee forage, hence the various eucalypt species found across the country. However, the continued existence of eucalypt species in South Africa has been under threat since 1996, mainly because invader plants such as some eucalypt species need to be controlled in eco-sensitive areas. Kidney beans, sunflower and lucerne crops are also important forage crop for honey production in South Africa.Honeybees need access to a variety of flowering plants to provide food for their coloniesat different times of the year. Eucalyptus trees, certain crop species such as sunflowers, canola, citrus and lucerne, as well as indigenous trees and shrubs, flowering plants and wild flowers are critically important for honeybees to build strong solonies. As current natural habitat and forage resources dwindle, there is an urgent need to protect and maintain existing bee-friendly vegetation by planting more bee-friendly plants (as long as they are appropriate to the specific localities to prevent hybridisation or invasions). Gardeners should consider planting complementary crops (such as lavender and basil) or rotate land with legume crops that are important bee-forage resources. Kidney beans, sunflower and lucerne crops are also important forage crop for honey production in South Africa. One can also find out which weeds are attractive to bees (e.g. wild raddish, cosmos, etc.), so that some can be left for the bees (Gauteng Smallholder, September 2015).Did you know?A hive of bees will fly the equivalent of three orbits around the earth to collect 1kg of honey, but it’s well worth the trip! According to Ferdie du Preez (Farmer’s Weekly, 5 September & 3 October 2014).All natural honey will granulate (go sugary) over time due to the formation of dextrose crystals. This natural process does not imply spoilage in any way. Honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil. The granulate process can be reversed by heating or by standing honey in the sun or in hot water. Large bottling plants filter liquid honey to retard granulation. Fynbos honey is known for its variety of flavours and wonderful aroma. It has also won awards on the global stage.Scientists across the world are attempting to find the “Super bee” that can resist pests and diseases, habitat loss and poisonous chemical substances. According to prof Keith Delaplane, director of the American University of Georgia’s honey bee programme, some scientists are of the opinion that the answer could be genetic modification, while others maintain that bees should be allowed to develop the necessary resistance naturally. “Unfortunately, a productive bee species that is mite resistant has not been found yet” (Marleen Smith, Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015).Note: American Foulbrood disease (AFB), which causes destruction in bee populations, has now also spread to South Africa. An American Foulbrood guide has been launced for the SA bee industry. To read or print the Western Cape Bee Industry Association’s (WCBIA) A guide for Beekeepers: How to manage AFB, visit www.farmersweekly.co.za, click on the News tab and then on the Useful documents tab).   A sad vulture story On 27 June 2016, VulPro published a press release with the heading: “From triumph to tragedy – “Sunset”, one of VulPro’s first captive bred chicks electrocuted”. Last year, VulPro experienced the triumph of being the first vulture conservation organization on the African continent to release captive bred, parent raised Cape Vultures (Gyps coprotheres) into the wild in SA. With the IUCN Red List conservation status of Cape Vultures being “Endangered”, the survival of every single vulture counts in order to sabe the species as a whole.Cape Vulture Tag 148, also known as “Sunset” (named in honour of Copper Sunset Sands (Pty) Ltd, who sponsored his GPS tracking device, was released in February 2015 from the VulPro rehabilitation facilities, outside of Hartebeepoort Dam. He was hatched at VulPro on 2 July 2012, and was released when he was almost three years old – a behaviourally and physically fit Cape Vulture. For over a year, Sunset roosted at VulPro and foraged only within 8km of the release site. On 8 June 2016, he ventured further afield. t hy verder weggevlieg. However, on 21 June, this trip ended tragically in the Randfontein area (72.35km direct line from VulPro). His body was found electrocuted under a T-structure which was missing a spark gap in the earth line. The force of the electrocution was so powerful that the GPS device he was wearing was found 10m from his charred body. In the blink of an eye, three years’ effort and research to facilitate his successful relase was extinguished in a single incident…VulPro is currently working on a reaearch proposal to teach captive bred vulture chicks through classical conditioning to avoid perching on dangerous power line structures. For more information on VulPro’s work, contact Kerri Wolter (082 808 5113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or visit the website: www.vulpro.comImportant: On 17 September 2016, from 08:00 – 13:00, the Spinathon Fundraising for VulPro will take place. More information at www.vulpto.com/events.   More birds species in a farm garden One of our members, Neels Nothnagel, who has not been living in the area for long, writes via email on 24 July: “We enjoy nature in the valley, especially the many bird species. We feed the birds and always see to it that there is clean water for them. Recently, we saw a Secretary bird in our veld”. We are placing two of Neels’s photos, namely of a group of Coqui Francolin (Francolinus coqui) and a Crimsonbreasted Shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus). We would like to thank bird expert, Willie Froneman, for identifying the birds for us.   Call centre to boost water service delivery Communities across the country are set to benefit from the services of the re-established Department of Water and Sanitation’s call centre. The call centre will be a point of access to all information about the programmes and services of the department. The hotline will further enable the department to receive and resolve issues related to water-use registration and licensing; vandalism and theft of infrastructure; treatment plants and other problems; illegal water connections; revenue, billing, and debt management; water supply interruptions and other issues as well as basic sanitation supply, community sanitation problems and buckets which are not collected.“Given the recent water challenges and constraints, South Africans are urged to use the hotline as this will assist the department to respond to and accelerate service delivery. Members of the general public, service providers, community structure leaders and businesses are some of the stakeholders encouraged to use the hotline,” said the department in a statement.The hotline number 0800 200 200 is free of charge, easy to use and convenient for communities. It will operate in all 11 languages and is operational from 6am - 10pm during weekdays. (Pretoria, SAnews.gov.za)     Food for thought “Advice from the ocean: Be shore of yourself. Come out of your shell. Take time to coast. Avoid pier pressure. Sea life’s beauty. Don’t get tide down. Make waves!” (Unknown).“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things” (Leonardo da Vinci).“Greatness is not measured by money or stature. It is measured by courage and heart” (Unknown).“Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical” (Sophia Loren).“Respect your body. Eat well. Dance forever” (Eliza Gaynor Minden).“Life is too short to worry about small matters. Enjoy each day as if it were your last” (Tayla Skye Robinson).“Friends are connected heart to heart. Distance and time can’t break them apart” (Truthfollower.com).“Dance before the music is over. Live before your life is over” (American Hippie).“Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic” (Carl Sagan).   Did you know? South Africans consume too much salt: Legislation on restricting salt in some food products came into effect on 30 June 2016. Amongst others, stipulates that bread may not contain more than 400mg of salt per 100mg. Bread products of major food producers, as well as bakeries of retail outlets and on street corners are now being tested to determine whether regulations are followed. According to prof Edelweiss Wentzel-Viljoen, member of the task team who made recommendations regarding the legislation, bread seems to be one of the main culprits of bad health, because people don’t realise how much salt it contains. This is one of the main causes for South Africans consuming way more than the recommended 5g per day. According to the department of health, black people consume about 7,8g salt per day, coloured people about 8,5g and whites about 9,8g. Research has shown that South Africans get about 60% of their salt from processed food and the rest (40%) from salt used when preparing food and when eating. Studies have shown that there is a direct link between salt intake and hypertension. (Johan Eybers en Sange Bom, Rapport 17 July 2016). A third of SA’s food is wasted: Nine million tons of food, worth R61 million, end up in SA’s waste bins annually, and experts such as Ali Conn of UpCycle, warn that more of this food, of which large quantities are still edible, will be wasted, as food’s shelf life decreases due to the current drought. According to the most recent available research, a study conducted by dr Suzan Oelofse, a CSIR expert on waste management, in 2013, 22% of the water used for irrigating these crops, are therefore also wasted. Most food products are wasted before being displayed on shop shelves. Fresh products are not always packed and transported as it should. It must be chilled as soon as possible after harvesting and kept cool while being transported, but the cooling mechanisms of refrigerator trucks are often switched off to save fuel. Consumers are choosy, and don;t want to buy vegetables and fruit with marks on. Shops are not allowed to sell food of which the shelf life has expired. Large chain stores have plans in place to waste as little food as possible and donate food that has not expired yet to welfare organisations – many of which are totally dependent on such food donations for survival (Elaine Swanepoel, Rapport, 24 July 2016). Your body and oxidation stress: This means that too many free radicals are in action in your body. The more of them there are, the more your body suffers from oxidation stress. The secret is to decrease your oxidation stress. When taking in more antioxidants, free radicals will be eliminated, and the health damage they cause, will be stopped (Salomé Delport, Rooi Rose, August 2016). Us and our mindfulness: Mindfulness is all about bringing yourself back to the moment and becoming aware of what happens here and now, without critisising the moment. It enables you to get to know someone step by step and creates a sound foundation for building a relationship, because you are getting to know the person the way he or she really is. This ability helps us to experience the quality of the moment. There is an App for your cell phone, called “Headspace”, which can help you to improve your mindfulness. (Mariska van Rooyen, Rooi Rose, August 2016). Fight flu naturally: Steeped as a tea, ginger helps to ease headaches and sore throats, making it good for warding off or assisting recovery if you have a cold or flu. Honey can be a powerful immune booster – its antioxidant and antibacterial properties can also improve digestive wellbeing and help you stay healthy to fight off diseases. Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fibre, bursting with vitamins B, C andE, and is known to fight infection. Eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants, lowers blood pressure. (Clicks ClubCard magazine, Issue 4/2016). Proofreading is a dying art, wouldn’t you say? Headings in newspapers:Man kills self before shooting wife and daughter.(Ya?)Something went wrong in jet crash, expert says. (Really? Ya think?)Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers. (Now that’s taking things a bit far!)If strike isn’t settled quickly, it may last a while. (Ya, well, no, maybe!)Couple slain. Police suspect homicide. (They may be on to something!)New study on obesity looks for larger test group. (Studying the cause or the effect?)Hospitals are sued by seven foot doctors. (Boy, are they tall!)  

July 2016

  Newsletter #87 July 2016   Editorial In our previous newsletter, the articles on fly larvae (it gave most people the creeps!), the large number of farms up for sale, and the electrocution of vultures drew attention.As a follow-up on the large number of South African farms up for sale, the following comment by Pete Bower (Gauteng Smallholder, vol 17, no 6, June 2016): Land reform programme. Smallholder agriculture. Commercial farming – all terms that raise the temperature of anybody contemplating the subject of farming in South Africa. To turn a homeowner with land into a productive small farmer requires training and education, access to cheap finance for the acquisition of movable assets such as tractors, irrigation equipment and annual inputs, and established channels through which to market and distribute the result. But the vast majority of the population is urbanised, and survives on food grown and processed by others. Nobody (unless they are farmers) grows their own wheat, yet everybody eats bread. Very few people grow poultry, yet many rely on processed chicken as a main source of protein. The mass production of staples (e.g. grains, sugar, meat, poultry, dairy products) is most efficiently done by large commercial ventures able to work large tracts of land which afford them huge economies of scale. This kind of agriculture is not best suited to small farmers with limited resources. Neither is, frankly, smallholder agriculture best suited to environmental factors such as carbon emissions. A single, large, modern, fuel efficient tractor working a 1 000ha field will use far less fuel and emit far less greenhouse gas than 100 probably old, possibly Chinese, small tractors each working the 10ha allocated to 100 new smallholder farmers). Feather in the cap for “River on my stoep” 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. Well-known travel blogger, Kelly Robertson, and her husband spent two days at the guest house. They could enjoy nature’s peace and quiet and experience a rich variety of birds and night sounds. She wrote: “At night, we heard the calls of jackal and the nightjars crooning. During the day, we saw many birds and ducks along the water’s edge. We spotted Malachite kingfisher, bee-eaters, crested barbets, bull-bulls, arrow-marked babblers, red-billed hoopoes and weavers. There was a river on our stoep for our short getaway where we celebrated in our favourite, relaxed, exploring way and reminded ourselves again what real life is about”. Visit www.bushbabyblog.com for the full article.One cannot help but think of the wonderful experience of nature in our area, and that we should more than often take a moment to appreciate what we have. Bird species in the garden On 12 July, two of our members, Rob and Linda Villarini were sitting in the sun outside his workshop when a Whitefronted bee-eater treated them to a wonderful acrobatic display while catching insects. Fortunately, Rob was able to take some photos. They also came across a Greyheaded Bush Shrike and a Rock pigeon (which they haven’t seen for quite a while) in their garden. Another PAAZA award for Vulpro! In a press release, dated 6 June 2016, it was announced that the Vulture Conservation Programme (VulPro), has won the prestigious PAAZA (Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria) conservation award for the second year running. In 2015, VulPro was recognized and rewarded for their captive breeding programme which resulted in the successful release of captive bred Cape Vulture chicks for population supplementation, the first ever on the African continent. This year, VulPro was recognized for their hard work and commitment to saving vultures through rehabilitation, education, population monitoring and surveys, research, captive breeding and ongoing involvement and interaction with landowners, farmers and the general public. According to Kerri Wolter, VulPro’s founder and CEO, winning the PAAZA Award is no mean feat – it is awarded to honour individuals and organisations that have made significant contributions to the conservation of African species diversity or ecosystems. See photo of Kerri and her team. (Visit the PAAZA website at http://www.zoosafrica.com/).Did you know? Vultures are vital indicators of the health of our ecosystem and are invaluable guardians against disease outbreaks of Botulism, Anthrax and Foot and Mouth, due to their amazing ability to metabolise these deadly bacteria with no danger to themselves. They are, however, very susceptible to poison, certain NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ketaprofen, lead toxicity, habitat loss and threats such as power lines. VulPro has been instrumental in arranging for the conversion of numerous dangerous power lines and pylons to ‘bird-friendly’ structures and conducting ongoing surveys to monitor potentially problematic structures. (Visit www.vulpro.com or contact Kerri on 082 808 5113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information on VulPro’s work). The right bit 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 Environmental Snippets Massive die-offs in the Kruger National Park: This park is expecting massive die-offs of animals due to one of the worst droughts in history. According to research findings published by Navashni Govender, senior chief manager of conservation in the game park, this is not mainly as a result of too little drinking water, but because of a shortage of grazing. In the short term, the drought has caused a loss of biomass, while in the long term, encroachment of wood species and a decrease in animal populations can be expected. Trees, elephants and predators survive better with a water shortage but grass eaters suffer. Currently, only half of the game park’s vegetation is available for these animals. The available biomass (grass) is 66% less than in 1992. Under normal circumstances, 4 000kg biomass per hectare is required, but only about 399kg/ha is available. While predators survive a drought better because more weakened prey is available, there is a sharp decrease of animal populations such as buffalo, hippo and buck. The current drought is much worse than the previous most serious drought (1991-92), as this drought was preceded by a much drier year (2014), and, since July 2015, the temperature had been much higher than in 1991-92. Although it did rain in March and April, it was too late, as the growing season was over. The heat and low rainfall also caused a lower water level in many of the rivers. Although anmials must travel further to reach drinking water, sufficient surface water is still available. (Hanti Otto, Beeld, 10 June 2016). Australian mangrove die-off blamed on climate change: Some 7 000 hectares or 9% of the mangroves in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in Australia’s remote north, perished in just one month according to researchers from Australia’s James Cook University, the first time such an event has been recorded. Norm Duke, a mangrove ecologist from this university, said climate change was the likely cause: “We are experiencing an unusually long dry season. Droughts are normal, but not so severe”. The dieback occurred synchronously across 700km in one month. Some of the mangroves suffering “dieback” were defoliated, meaning they were not yet dead but had lost all their leaves, and could recover. Most will, however, not recover. Local rangers told scientists they were seeing creatures like shellfish, which need the shade of the trees, dying, and that turtles and dugongs that are dependent on the ecosystem could be starving in a few months. By all accounts, the climate is going to become more erratic in future, and these types of events are expected to become more common. (News 24, 11 July 2016). Pecan nut terms: Pecan nut trees are hermaphrodites (androgynous), which means that the male flowers (Afr blomkatjies) and female flowers can be found apart and in different positions on the same tree. There is a time difference among different pecan nut cultivars for pollen production, so that cross-pollination can take place. This process is called diagagomy. Pecan nut trees are also heterozygous, which means that seedlings are not replicas of the mother tree. In most cases, seeds or nuts that are then planted do not perform as the mother tree did. The concept ‘biological control’ is increasingly practised by pecan nut producers, because of the resistance of certain plagues to chemical agents, pollution of the environment, poison residues on products, the increasing cost of insecticides, as well as the withdrawal of certain insecticides from the agro-chemical industry. Insect predators that feed on aphids include, amongst others, Ladybirds (Coleoptera coccinellidae), Lacewings (Neuroptera chrysopidae) and Hoverflies (Diptera syrphidae). The advantages of the larvae of these predators are, however, not so well known to producers. As the larvae increase in size, they moult, and each moulting stage is called instars. The larvae play an important role in the agro-ecosystem and provide free ‘biological control’. (SA Pecan, vol 73, Summer 2016). Value for your money: In spite of potato prices having skyrocketed recently, a recent study have found that potatoes are the best buy as far as price and nutritional value is concerned. Although dark green vegetables contain the highest nutritional value density, researchers have found that potatoes offer more nutritional value per cent. It is one of the cheapest options for four key nutritional substances, namely, potassium, fibre, vitamin C and magnesium. One medium sized potato (150g), with the skin, contains more potassium than a banana, provides nearly half of your daily dosage of vitamin C and contains no fat, sodium or cholesterol. Potatoes are nature’s legal performance booster. It is readily available, quick and easy to prepare, delicious and natural – an excellent source of carbohydrates. Except for the fact that it boosts performance, it can also assist with the recovery process after a race or strenuous exercise. If you need fuel for a big race, get some potatoes! Visit www.potato.co.za for more information. (Sources: Health24.com, Livescience.com, BBC.CO.UK)Did you know? The word ‘potato’ comes from the Spanish name for the tuber – patata. This is a joining together of two South American names – batata (sweet potato) and papa (potato). About 5 000 potato varieties are grown around the world. (Source: ‘International Year of the potato 2008’, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation).   Did you know? More than half of the timber produced in South Africa’s 1,27 million hectares of forestry plantations goes to the pulping and paper industry. New eucalyptus hybrids have been introduced to the South African paper and pulping industry to improve fibre quality and produce a higher pulp yield (Karen Eatwell, CSIR environment science researcher. Source: Farmers Weekly, 26 September 2014). Your own vegetable garden can support your health in many ways: Grandma and company have always believed that pottering around with your hands in the soil regularly, keeps you healthy. Scientists have now confirmed what the green finger brigade have always said: Exposure to the microbal diversity of the soil – and specifically the soil bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae – not only suppresses inflamation in Homo sapiens, but is also a natural anti-deppressant that boosts the prouction of serotonin and makes you feel happier and more relaxed. Buy Groente van tuin tot tafel by Wynand Boshoff (Lapa Publishers). Codeine addiction: This type of addiction has suddenly become such a massive problem that medication containing more than 10mg of codeine may not be sold over the counter any longer. In terms of the new regulations of the health department that came into effect two weeks ago, medication containing more than 10mg codeine is now schedule 3 medication. According to the Council for Health Occupations of South Africa, 37 million codeine products to the value of more than R1 milliard were sold over the counter between October 2012 and October 2013. Codeine abuse in South Africa is estimated at 0,84%. In Britain it is 0,83% and in Ireland 0,93%. Quintin van Kerken, chief executive of the Anti-Drug Alliance of South Africa (Adasa), blames this on a general increase in opiate abuse and accidental codeine abuse by uninformed users. It is cheap, effective and readily available, not like other opiates such as opium and heroin. According to Lorraine Osmond, spokesperson of the Chemist Association of South Africa, codeine is not addictive if prescribed dosages are followed (Johan Eybers, Rapport, 19 June 2016). Passionate pomegranates: The average pomegranate contains ±600 crunchy fibre-rich arils (seeds). It is the symbol of Armenia and represents fertility, abundance, hope, and is a semi-religious icon. Pomegranates are high in antioxidant polyphenols like tannins, antheyanins and ellagic acid, with one pomegranate providing about 40% of the daily requirement for vitamin C. They have anti-cancer properties (University of Maryland Medical Centre), reduce arthritis symptoms and support joint health (Israeli Medical Association Journal), and promote heart health (proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). In his book, The Antioxidants, Richard A Passwater says that humans have such a long natural lifespan, most likely because of the wealth of antioxidants in our omnivorous diet (received via email from Slow Food, June 2016). We are not alone: If you have ever wondered if there are aliens somewhere out there, here is something you should know. Your body tissue also contains foreign microbes. In 1972 already, microbiologist Thomas Luckey found that the number of microbes in our bodies was ten times more than our own body cells. So, we are 90% alien material. Most recent studies, however, show that we are about 40% - 50% ourselves. This means that less than half of what you see as your body is human. Actually, you are a massive colony of microbes! (Leef gesond, Rooi Rose, April 2016). Have you come across these words? Doohicky (n.): The name for an object or person you either can’t remember or never knew in the first place. Other variations are whatchamacallit or thingamajig.Ecocide (n.): The extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other cause. Food for thoughts “I love rumours. I always find out amazing things about myself I never knew” (Anonymous). “Happiness doesn’t depend on what we have, but it does depend on how we feel toward what we have. We can be happy with little and miserable with much” (@mindsetofgreatness). “The ultimate prize for having lived well does not go to the naturally bold, the unconciously competent, or those whose confidence has never been shattered. It goes to those who, despite fears and insecurities and self-conscious doubts have the radical courage to lean all the way into the very living of it all the way ... to those who will not compromise for sake of comfort” (Jacob Nordby). And finally...Nobody forces us to live busy lives. We do it because we want to feel a sense of purpose, commitment, and accomplishment. You may have to maintain a full schedule out of obligation—kids to feed or loans to pay off—but there are a lot of things we could sacrifice if we truly wanted a simpler life.If you’ve chosen to do various different things, engage with many people, and strive toward numerous goals, realize a lot will feel out of control at times. The more elements you introduce to your life, the more unpredictable the days will be. Sometimes the uncertainty is both the most exciting and terrifying part. Choose to focus on the former. Why fight the game you’ve chosen to play? (Unknown).              

June 2016

  Newsletter #86 June 2016   Editorial - June 2016 We received many positive comments on our previous newsletter. Our readers found the articles on recycling, threatened cycads and cost-effective polystyrene buildings interesting. As soon as the polystyrene are available commercially, we’ll follow up with the manufacturers, and maybe we’ll also be able to then post a photo of a building built with these panels.Recycling: According to Anton Hanekom, chief executive of Plastics SA, nearly 80% of all plastics manufactured in SA last year landed on rubbish dumps, in spite of all efforts to increase recycling figures. This mainly resulted from low crude oil prices and therefore also lower polymer and recycled material prices. In addition, our country does not have an established recycling culture or a constant supply of recyclable material. Much of the recycled material is also rejected because of containing impurities. Recyclers work in an increasingly difficult business environment, with high costs and problems with power cuts, increasing electricity bills, a shortage of water and a weakening economy. In order to improve recycling, members of the public should sort recyclable products and should demand recyclable packaging (Sake Rapport, 29 May 2016). Threatened cycads The following non-detriment findings were published in the Government Gazette (no 575 of 27 May 2016: “Overuse/exploitation for horticultural purposes is the major factor threatening the survival of most Encephalartos species in South Africa, and adult plants continue to be lost from the wild due to poaching (a countrywide problem). There has been an exponential increase in ex situ cultivated cycads, which are regulated by provincial conservation ordinances/Acts and the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Act 10 0f 2004) (NEMBA): Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations. Enforcement of the strict protection measures afforded to cycads has been hampered by the human resource and budgetary constraints facing the provincial conservation authorities that are mandated to enforce provincial and national environmental legislation. Past ineffective implementation of conservation legislation in particularly Gauteng, where the requirements for cycad possession permits have not been consistently enforced, has facilitated the entry of illegally harvested cycads into the legal trade. Wild-sourced plants have been and continue to be legalized and incorporated into private collections, and their use as parental stock for the propagation of seedlings for both the domestic and international cycad trade cannot be ruled out. Micro-chips inserted into wild plants have proven to be largely ineffective for establishing wild origins of cycads and have failed to deter poachers. The failure of the legal protection measures has been further exacerbated by prosecutors and magistrates, who are not well informed about South Africa’s cycad extinction crisis, and the small fines issued and minimal jail sentences passed for cycad related offences are ineffective deterrents”. Of a leopard and a serval A 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. At 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. Important environmental update 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/1RoRFBmAndroid app store: http://bit.ly/1TFj69h SA Green Industries Council – 2016 Invasive Species Training:29 & 30 June – Pretoria5 & 6 July – Potchefstroom25 & 26 July – JohannesburgFor 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 – Pretoria5 July – Potchefstroom26 July – JohannesburgFor 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. Get-together of Valley Girls! On 27 May 2016, thirty of the Valley girls were treated to a stylish lunch by Esther Müller, owner of the new restaurant, Esthers. On the photo of staff  who helped on the day, appear from left to right, Frank, John, Werner, Marianne, Esther & Patrizia. The restaurant is situated off the R560, on the premises of the former Hideaway. This beautiful venue, with its indigenous gardens, pool, boma, play area for kids, sleepover accommodation, and many more, really is an asset in our valley. The restaurant will open shortly. We will keep our members/readers posted. Vulture electrocutions in South Africa 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). Environmental snippets Fly larvae to feed animals ...and possibly also humans! Those bothersome flies zooming around during meal times in summer can help to make our world ecologically sustainable, says Jason Drew, founder and director of AgriProtein. This company in Phillipi, Cape Town (said to be the world’s largest fly farm) produces 7,5 tons of fly larvae daily, which consumes 110 tons of refuse, and is used to manufacture protein animal feed. This product, made from dehydrated fly larvae, is a substitute for fishmeal (which is very expensive) and soya meal (which is less effective). The fly larvae are also environmentally friendly as they are fed organic refuse such as left-over food or garden refuse that can be used as compost. The process relieves pressure on agricultural activities and fishing stock and leaves a smaller carbon footprint. Currently, the product is used as fish and chicken feed, but plans are under way to also use it as pet food. In future, it may be used in protein supplements for humans. All the products were tested scientifically in cooperation with the University of Stellenbosch (Sake Rapport, 22 May 2016). Climate will cost milliards By 2030, the cost for developing countries to cope with and adapt to changing climate conditions will amount to between $140 milliard and $300 milliard annually [a milliard is a thousand millions] This is at least four times more than previous estimates, says the UN’s environmental programme (UNEP) in a report presented at the bi-annual Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam recently. Many cities in Africa and Asia do not have proper strategies to make changes, and are also concerned about financing such initiatives. According to Parks Tau, mayor of Johannesburg, it is estimated that it will cost this city about R116 million to prepare for climate change. The city can expect an increase in heat waves and exceptionally cold conditions in the near future. The eThekwini municipality in Durban, which is more exposed than Johannesburg, expect sea levels of more than a metre higher than currently by 2100. Rainfall will also increase, but it will rain at shorter intervals, which means that water levels will be much higher and that the water will flower much more rapidly. This will increase pressure on the city’s sewage system (Yolandi Groenewald, Rapport, 22 May 2016). Concern over SA’s water-intensive coal industry Higher temperatures and diminished rainfall are wreaking havoc in two of South Africa’s largest economic sectors – agriculture and energy. Yet, on the face of this growing crisis, the SA government continues to display unyielding allegiance to the nation’s water-guzzling coal sector, whose 50+ billion tons of coal reserves fuel 90% of the country’s electrical generating capacity and provide a third of its liquid fuels. When completed in 2020, the 4 800 megawatt Medupi coal-fired power station near Lephalale will consume 6.9 billion litres of water annually, which, according to forecasts based on the current drought, will not be available. Coal also generates hundreds of millions of metric tons of climate-changing carbon emissions annually that aggravate SA’s warming and drying. The other side of the coin is that 13 wind power plants and 31 solar generating stations are already operating in South Africa, and R95 billion has already been invested in renewable energy installations. The country appears well on its way to reaching the national target of 6 000 new megawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2020, and 18 000 new megawatts by 2030 (Keith Schneider, senior editor and chief correspondent for Circle of Blue, 27 May 2016). Make your life easier For washing day Mix 3 table spoons of vinegar, 2 table spoons of washing powder and 4 cups of warm water to make your own stain remover for clothes. Rub the mixture into the stain and wash like normal. Get rid of ink stains by spraying these with hair spray before washing. If you think a new garment will stain other clothing, soak it in a few cups of vinegar for about 10 minutes. Cooking tip If you have too little chutney, mix two parts apricot jam with one part Worcester sauce as a (Vrouekeur, 4 April 2014). Clean your matress Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on your matress and leave for about two hours. Then vacuum clean the matress to give it a nice fresh smell (http://lifeinryans.com). Do you struggle to open a bottle? Wrap a rubber band around the lid to get a better grip (Vrouekeur, 11 April 2014). Did you know? Report on minimum wages According to the first report on the increased minimum wages, there are about 5,5 million employees in our country who earn less than R3 000 per month. A minimum wage of R3 000 means that between 2,6 miljoen and 3,6 million employees will lose their jobs. The only solution will be to exclude some categories of employees from the minimum wage, as is customary in England for younger employees and apprentices (Sake Rapport, 22 May 2016). According to a news report on RSG (5 June 2016) the Swiss are currently voting for approval of a minimum wage for all Swiss nationals of R28 000 per month. Gambling – cheap entertainment? According to Marcel von Aulock, chief executive of the hotel-and-casino company, Tsogo Sun, gambling is seen as cheap entertainment for middle class and rich people – the average best equivalent to dining out. Gambling is one of the last expenses these people will cut, together with satelite television and dining out (Rapport, 29 May 2016). Farms for sale According to the Farm Sales Platform at landbou.com (compiled by Property 24), the number of SA farms for sale jumped by 45% in the last 15 months. About one third of these farms are located in Gauteng and are grain or livestock farms.  In May 2016, at least 19 280 farms were up for sale, compared to February 2015, when 13 254 farms were up for sale. The large number of farms that are for sale can possibly be attributed to, amongst others, uncertainty about policies (land expropriation and land reform policies), the current drought, cash flow problems and an increasing urbanisation trend, due to the fact that young people no longer want to continue on family properties (the average age of SA farmers is 62). Many of the farms that are up for sale are bought by mega farmers for consolidation with their properties (News 24, 7 June 2016). Two interesting snippets that appeared in The Scottish Daily recently: On birds damaging thatched roofs The thatched roof of the 17th century Great Barn in Avebury, Wiltshire, is being destroyed by jackdaws. Three years ago, the roof was re-thatched at a cost of £100 000. Since then, the birds have been taking the new straw for their nests – because it is clean and dry.Karl Papierz, surveypor for the National Trust, which owns the barn says: “We’ve tried umpteen solutions. I’m beginning to tear my hair out”.In our area, Indian Minahs cause extensive damage to thatched roofs. It now seems that squirrels are also in the habit of doing the same. On 8 June, one of our members , Adri van Rooyen, reported that squirrels have caused extensive damage to a newly thatched roof on their property. On increasing property rates By 2020, househunters in London will require a salary of at least £106 000 – plus a deposit of £138 000 – as the average typical home’s price will be £558 000. The prediction suggests that home ownership will be far beyond the reach of experienced teachers and police officers with earnings of about £30 000.Maybe we should be thankful to live where we live an complain less about property rates. Words, words Have you ever come across these words?Flawsome (adj.): Individuals who embrace their “flaws” and know they’re awesome regardless.Alexithymia (n.): Inability to describe emotions verbally.               <div class="acymailing_content">&nbsp;</div> <table border="0" style="max-width: 100%; border-collapse: collapse; border-spacing: 0px; width: 600px; color: #555555; font-family: Fira, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; letter-spacing: -0.5px; line-height: 22.4px; background-color: #fbf0e1;" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" align="center"> <tbody> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <p><img src="/images/logo.png" alt="logo" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p class="acymailing_title" style="margin: 0.75em 0px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 25.2px; color: #333333; font-size: 28px; letter-spacing: 0.5px;">Newsletter #85</p> <table border="0" style="max-width: 100%; border-collapse: collapse; border-spacing: 0px; width: 580px; color: #555555; font-family: Fira, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; letter-spacing: -0.5px; line-height: 22.4px; background-color: #fbf0e1;" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" align="center"> <tbody> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <p class="acymailing_title" style="text-align: right;">May 2016</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;">&nbsp; <div class="acymailing_content"> <h2 class="acymailing_title">Editorial - May 2016</h2> <p><img src="/images/leucosidseri.jpg" alt="leucosidseri" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />We received many positive comments on our previous newsletter. Our readers found the articles on global warming and invader plants interesting. One of our Lynne Harrison of Clarens in the eastern Free State found the article on bush encroachment informative. On 26 April, she wrote via email that they have found that Oldwood (Afr Ouhout or Leucosidea sericea) has proliferated on their farm and is encroaching on grazing. They wonder whether this is because of the drought or perhaps increased carbon dioxide levels. The plant is endemic to the Eastern Cape, western Kwazulu-Natal, Lesotho, eastern Free State, Northwest, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. It forms dense thickets on overgrazed, eroded or otherwise disturbed areas and can therefore become a problem plant on farmlands. (Photo from www.plantzafrica.com).</p> <p><br /><img src="/images/gomphocarp.jpg" alt="gomphocarp" style="margin-left: 10px; float: right;" />Large areas of grasslands in the Conservancy have died as a result of the drought. Our members might have noticed that barren spaces have now been invaded by thorny invasive shrubs (Acacia species), and also Milkweed (Afr Melkbos, or Gomphocarpus fruticosus). (See photo, also from www.plantzafrica.com). Fields of paper thorn weed have also appeared on all empty spots on our property.</p> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <h2 class="acymailing_title">Legal matters</h2> <h3>The 2016 Expropiation Bill</h3> <p>Albert Einstein once said: &ldquo;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.&rdquo;<br />It would appear that landownership falls in the same category &ndash; instead of protecting landownership against arbitrary expropriation, the Bill introduces an element of &ldquo;public interest&rdquo; as well as a principle that property is not limited to land. This means that property such as copyright, intellectual property, &ldquo;know-how&rdquo;, a harvest, a cow and even a taxi can now be expropriated.<br />&rdquo;Public purposes&rdquo; is as old as human kind as it relates to public infrastructure such as dams and roads. &ldquo;Public interest&rdquo; on the other hand is as wide as the Creator&rsquo;s grace and can differ from one geographical area to another and will make it impossible to define in legislation of national application.<br />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 &ldquo;public interest&rdquo; purposes whilst their constitutional powers, duties and obligations are limited to service delivery &ndash; that is&rdquo; public purposes&rdquo; only.<br />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 M&uuml;lder, Local Governance Practitioner and member of the Conservancy Management Committee).</p> <h3>The environment: Our rights and responsibilities</h3> <p>The South African Constitution has made headline news over the past month or so. Are we &ndash; the public and state &ndash; aware of our rights and responsibilities towards the environment?<br />Section 24 of the Constitution says the following about &ldquo;Environment&rdquo;:<br />&ldquo;Everyone has the right &ndash;</p> <p>(a) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and</p> <p>(b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that &ndash;</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">(i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;<br />(ii) promote conservation; and<br />(iii) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development&rdquo;.</p> <p>(From: SAPIA NEWS, no 40, April 2016).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <h2 class="acymailing_title">Scale down to a greener life &ndash; recycle!</h2> <p>After the recent about five-week long strike by employees of Johannesburg&rsquo;s refuse removal company, Pikitup, most households in this city became acutely aware of exactly how much rubbish and refuse they create every day.</p> <p>When you live in the country like us, you gradually become aware of how your life is complicated by things you don&rsquo;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&rsquo;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.</p> <p>One should only discard rubbish that burns easily and doesn&rsquo;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&rsquo;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 Ter&eacute;sa Coetzee, Rapport Beleef, 24 April 2016 &ndash; translated from Afrikaans).<br />Visit www.treevolution.co.za for a useful guide to put you on the road to recycling.<br />Refuse collection points (dumping sites) in our area: Magaliesburg, Brits, Kommandonek (Hartbeespoort), Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens and Pikitup, Roodepoort.<br />Food for thought: &ldquo;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&rdquo; (Ilze Salzwedel, Rooi Rose, May 2016).</p> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <h2 class="acymailing_title">Cost-effective polystyrene homes save the environment</h2> <p>Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak! Hartbeespoort will soon be one of the first towns in South Africa to benefit from father and son team, Hennie and Muller Snyman of Get Connected Construction&rsquo;s innovative, quality and cost-effective green building method. With this method, they not only re-use polystyrene, which poses a great threat to the environment, they will also help alleviate a critical housing shortage, especially in the low-cost housing market.</p> <p>The company spent six years testing and researching to patent the fire and water resistant, lightweight and durable mixture that is used in the panels (measuring 1.2m x 3m each). Recycled polystyrene is mixed with a concrete mixture, to make panels and walls that are almost indestructible. The product has been tested by the SABS and carries its certification. Polystyrene has excellent insulation properties. According to Muller, it is estimated to be between five and ten degrees cooler in summer, and five to ten degrees warmer in winter than the outside. This method of building is approximately 30 &ndash; 35% cheaper than conventional brick construction. A small-sized home (80m&sup2;) can be built and fitted from foundation phase to handover in about 10 days.</p> <p>The panels are not yet available commercially, but will soon be. If you have any polystyrene lying around, the company will gladly take it off your hands. They will take any type or colour of polystyrene. You can either take it to the site at Kommandonek (in Cosmos, just before the turn-off to Caribbean Beach Club, on the right) or contact Muller (079 747 3406) or Hennie (081 309 3008) to arrange for collection. For more information, contact Hennie via email: <a href="mailto: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.</a></p> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <h2 class="acymailing_title">A winter vegetable garden</h2> <p>Planning ahead &nbsp;</p> <p>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&rsquo;ll be telling us in the southern hemisphere to prepare for another dry summer &ndash; an El Ni&ntilde;o effect. If they believe the temperature will be lower, they&rsquo;ll be telling us to prepare for a wet, or at least a normal, summer &ndash; a La Ni&ntilde;a 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.</p> <p>By about July, too, the effects of this season&rsquo;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.</p> <p>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).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing" style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Planning ahead &ndash; a winter vegetable garden</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;">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&rsquo;ll be telling us in the southern hemisphere to prepare for another dry summer &ndash; an El Ni&ntilde;o effect. If they believe the temperature will be lower, they&rsquo;ll be telling us to prepare for a wet, or at least a normal, summer &ndash; a La Ni&ntilde;a 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.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;">By about July, too, the effects of this season&rsquo;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.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify;"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri, sans-serif;">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 (<em>Comment, by Pete Bower, Gauteng Smallholder, vol 17, no 4, April 2016</em>).</span></p> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <h2 class="acymailing_title">Environmental snippets</h2> <h3>Cycads threatened</h3> <p>Although cycads are not endemic to our area, the general state of cycad species in our country is of great concern to all who are in favour of a balance in nature.<br />Cycads are the most threatened group of plants on earth, with 62% classified as threatened in the 2010 IUCN global assessment. South Africa is a cycad diversity hotspot, with 37 species in die genus Encephalartos, yet 78% are threatened with extinction. The greatest threat to our cycads is illegal harvesting from the wild. Three species are already extinct in the wild, four are close to extinction, and another seven have fewer than 100 individuals remaining. The rate of loss has placed the existence of wild cycads on a knife&rsquo;s edge.<br />A collaborative study between the SA National Biodiversity Institute and UCT is developing a solution to regulate the illicit trade in cycads by using stable isotopes to distinguish between wild and cultivated cycads. Having been used in numerous forensic studies, stable isotopes are now being applied to cycads.<br />As from May 2012, it is prohibited to harvest, trade, sell, buy, donate, import, export, convey or receive any wild indigenous cycad (even plants that have possession permits). If you suspect foul play, report this to the Department of Environmental Affair&rsquo;s Environmental Crimes Hotline: 0800 205 005 (KZNCA email, 15 June 2015).</p> <h3>Soil health</h3> <p>Healthy soil is the foundation of agricultural ecosystems. It builds healthy agricultural economies that, in turn, support national economies. &ldquo;Soil is teeming with micro-organisms, fungi and bacteria. Just one teaspoon contains more than 100 000, and farmers, growers and gardeners are becoming aware of the huge role they play&rdquo; (Bunny Guiness).<br />South Africa is a water-scarce country, and there is limited soil for agricultural production. Of the 100 million ha of farm land in South Africa only 12,75 million ha is arable agricultural land, some of which is prime land, i.e. more arable than the bulk. In fact, a full 47% of agricultural land is unsuited to cultivation of any kind, suitable only for grazing, game, recreation, etc. Using techniques such as no-till planting, deep mulching with natural compost, companion planting and conservative drip irrigation, helps with carbon sequestration and lowers the loss of carbon and moisture from the soil. It prevents large-scale erosion through wind and water and improves soil health, leading to improved yield and sustainable production over time. Maximum cover on top of the soil &ndash; plants, either living or dead, serve as armour for the soil, just as our epidermis forms an armour against the sun and rain. It keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter, provides food for the soil organisms that help sequestrate carbon, and builds soil structure. For every one percent of added carbon to the soil, the water-holding capacity of that soil doubles (Dr Johan Strauss &amp; Richard Findlay, Farmers Weekly, 14 October 2014).<br />According to soil health expert, dr Jill Clapperton, healthy soil will comprise a large number of functioning soil services, including: Limited soil erosion due to high soil organic matter content; increased nutrient cycling; good nutrient availability and nutrient recycling; good water-holding capacity and water filtering; and good biodegrading of potentially toxic compounds from the likes of chemical fertilisers and agricultural chemicals in the soil: &ldquo;Today&rsquo;s intensive use of nitrogen fertilisers, besides supplying the most important plant nutrient for achieving high yields, is generally believed to build soil organic matter by increasing the input of residue carbon as well as supplying nitrogen, itself a key constituent&rdquo; (&lsquo;The Browning of the Green Revolution&rsquo; by RL Mulvaney, SA Khan &amp; TR Ellsworth).</p> <h3>Did you know?</h3> <p>Humus is a complex and rather resistant mixture of brown or dark brown amorphous and colloidal organic substance which results from microbial decomposition and synthesis, and it has chemical and physical properties of great significance to soils and plants (Gauteng Smallholder, September 2015).<br />For more information on soil health, email dr Clapperton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website at www.rhizoterra.com</p> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <h2 class="acymailing_title">Make your life easier</h2> <h3>A self-made detergent to clean just about anything</h3> <p>Mix 1kg washing powder, 1 bottle of dishwashing liquid and 1 cup of spirits in a 5L can and fill up with water. Dilute a little bit of the mixture with water, and start cleaning. It lasts a long time and cleans beautifully (www.lapa.co.za).</p> <h3>Trick with tooth paste</h3> <p>Rub the paste on wood with water marks with a soft cloth. Then wipe with a moist cloth.</p> <h3>Tips with corn flour (Maizena)</h3> <p>Put corn flour on oil stains on material and leave for about 12 hours. Remove and wash as usual. Sprinkle corn flour on your carpet and vacuum after about half an hour. Apply corn flour to soft toys. Leave for half an hour and brush off. Put corn flour on oil stains on leather and leave overnight. Brush off the next day. After having polished your wooden furniture, sprinkle some corn flour and rub it in. This will make the wood shine. If you have too little scrambled eggs, stir in 12,5 ml of corn flour while cooking to make it more (Vrouekeur, 6 June &amp; 29 August 2014).</p> <h3>Tips with salt</h3> <p>If you make a mess in the oven or on the stove, sprinkle salt (while still in liquid form). Wipe when cooled down. Soak a cloth in saline water and use as a dust cloth. Add one table spoon of salt to 3,5 litres of water to clean your floors.</p> <h3>Burned pans?</h3> <p>Pour some saline water in the pan. Bring to the boil. The burnt layer will come off.</p> <h3>Uses for paraffin</h3> <p>Mix one cup of paraffin with 5 litres of water or mix equal amounts of bleach and vinegar to get rid of stubborn marks on windows. Add a little paraffin to the water you use to clean the tiles in your kitchen and bathroom. This will keep insects away (www.thecountrychiccottage.net).</p> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <h2 class="acymailing_title">Did you know?</h2> <p>Our exponential future: Recently, Udo Gullob from Messe, Berlin, wrote the following on artificial intelligence and smart phones:<br />Artificial intelligence: Computers are becoming exponentially better in understanding the world. By 2030, computers will have become &lsquo;more intelligent&rsquo; than humans.<br />Smart phones: The cheapest smart phones already sell at 10 dollars in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. There is already an App called &ldquo;moodies&rdquo; which can tell the mood you&rsquo;re in. By 2020, there will be Apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying.</p> <p>Will an apple a day make you healthier? Researchers from the University of Sydney found the following:<br />Apple pectin is a soluble fibre with the ability to absorb cholesterol, thereby decreasing your cholesterol levels.<br />Apples also contain insoluble fibre which apparently protects one against cancer of the digestive organs, like cancer of the colon and stomach.<br />Apples are rich in nitroxide &ndash; the same as the active ingredient in the under-the-tongue-tablet used by people with heart conditions (Leef Gesond, Rooi Rose, May 2016).</p> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <h2 class="acymailing_title">Words, words</h2> <p>Have you ever come across this word?<br />Sonder (n.) &ndash; the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own &ndash; populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness (Laurens Martens)</p> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="cat_8" style="font-size: 14px;"> <div class="acymailing_content"> <h2 class="acymailing_title">Food for thought</h2> <p>&ldquo;There is nothing wrong with loving the crap out of everything. Negative people find their walls. So never apologize for your enthusiasm. Never. Ever. Never&rdquo; (Ryan Adams).</p> <p>Inspiring quotes by Gabriel Garc&iacute;a Marquez:<br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;m only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand&rdquo;.<br />&ldquo;Don&rsquo;t confuse my personality with my attitude &hellip; my personality is who I am. My attitude depends on who you are!&rdquo;<br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll not say everything I think but definitely think all I say&rdquo;.<br />&ldquo;Everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain, forgetting that it&rsquo;s how we climb that&rsquo;s all that matters&rdquo;.<br />&ldquo;Always tell what you feel, and do what you think&rdquo;.<br />&ldquo;Nobody would remember you if you keep your thoughts secret. Force yourself to express them&rdquo;.</p> <p>And finally...<br />Everyone has their peculiar needs, desires and agendas. They have secrets that they are not sharing with you. Most are stressed, busy, and often feel overloaded. To cope, people put up mental barricades that make it difficult to reach them. Everyone, every day, is trying to get through to people. From his experience, Mark Goulston, in his book, Just Listen, identified two facts. The first is that simply listening to people will change both their lives and yours. And the second is that nearly all people will respond to true, agenda-less listening in an authentic and heartfelt way.</p> </div> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>

May 2016

  Newsletter #85 May 2016     Editorial - May 2016 We received many positive comments on our previous newsletter. Our readers found the articles on global warming and invader plants interesting. One of our Lynne Harrison of Clarens in the eastern Free State found the article on bush encroachment informative. On 26 April, she wrote via email that they have found that Oldwood (Afr Ouhout or Leucosidea sericea) has proliferated on their farm and is encroaching on grazing. They wonder whether this is because of the drought or perhaps increased carbon dioxide levels. The plant is endemic to the Eastern Cape, western Kwazulu-Natal, Lesotho, eastern Free State, Northwest, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. It forms dense thickets on overgrazed, eroded or otherwise disturbed areas and can therefore become a problem plant on farmlands. (Photo from www.plantzafrica.com). Large areas of grasslands in the Conservancy have died as a result of the drought. Our members might have noticed that barren spaces have now been invaded by thorny invasive shrubs (Acacia species), and also Milkweed (Afr Melkbos, or Gomphocarpus fruticosus). (See photo, also from www.plantzafrica.com). Fields of paper thorn weed have also appeared on all empty spots on our property. Legal matters The 2016 Expropiation Bill Albert Einstein once said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”It would appear that landownership falls in the same category – instead of protecting landownership against arbitrary expropriation, the Bill introduces an element of “public interest” as well as a principle that property is not limited to land. This means that property such as copyright, intellectual property, “know-how”, a harvest, a cow and even a taxi can now be expropriated.”Public purposes” is as old as human kind as it relates to public infrastructure such as dams and roads. “Public interest” on the other hand is as wide as the Creator’s grace and can differ from one geographical area to another and will make it impossible to define in legislation of national application.Expropriation is normally resorted to where the willing seller/buyer principle fails. Provision is made in the Bill to approach the courts in determining compensation. It is matter of grave concern that municipalities will also have the power to expropriate for “public interest” purposes whilst their constitutional powers, duties and obligations are limited to service delivery – that is” public purposes” only.During a hearing of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature on the Bill held on 21 April 2016 in Krugersdorp, the above concerns were highlighted with the request that the Bill be rejected, as the 1975 Expropriation Act withstood constitutional scrutiny for 22 years and contains no element of any discrimination. Various organisations, including major banks and civil rights groups, have indicated their displeasure with the Bill and indicated that the constitutionality thereof, once signed into legislation, will be tested in the Constitutional Court. (Frik Mülder, Local Governance Practitioner and member of the Conservancy Management Committee). The environment: Our rights and responsibilities The South African Constitution has made headline news over the past month or so. Are we – the public and state – aware of our rights and responsibilities towards the environment?Section 24 of the Constitution says the following about “Environment”:“Everyone has the right – (a) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and (b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that – (i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;(ii) promote conservation; and(iii) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development”. (From: SAPIA NEWS, no 40, April 2016).   Scale down to a greener life – recycle! After the recent about five-week long strike by employees of Johannesburg’s refuse removal company, Pikitup, most households in this city became acutely aware of exactly how much rubbish and refuse they create every day. When you live in the country like us, you gradually become aware of how your life is complicated by things you don’t really have any need for. We have no choice but to make a mind shift, because we ourselves are responsible for our refuse removal. People often think that it is silly to sort refuse because it doesn’t really make a difference. The fact that you will be minimising your carbon footprint, should, however, be very satisfying. Initially, recycling your refuse might seem like a lot of hard work but, as soon as you have established some infrastructure, it actually becomes very easy. One should only discard rubbish that burns easily and doesn’t make black smoke (e.g. polystyrene makes lots of black smoke) on your rubbish dump, to burn at a later stage. Always keep fire extinguishing equipment handy, and never leave the fire unattended. Make compost of your organic waste. However, don’t add any citrus or avocado kernels to your compost. The kernels become hard as stone, and the citrus will have an antibacterial effect, which will prevent the waste from breaking down. Keep different containers or bags for glass, paper, cans, polystyrene and plastic. Then find collection points or dumping sites in your area where you can drop off your refuse once per month. At most collection points there are people whose job it is to sort the seven different types of plastic (e.g. tetra packs, plastic bottles and lids, hard and soft plastic, etc.), but you can easily do it yourself by looking for the recycling number or code on the package and putting the same ones together. Also leave the stickers on paint, oil and aerosol cans so that recyclers can see if these contain any dangerous substances. Rinse bottles, cans and polystyrene containers before recycling. Bulbs and batteries cannot be recycled as they release dangerous gasses. Most Pick n Pay and Woolworths branches have containers where these can be discharged to be destroyed safely. (Adapted from an article by Terésa Coetzee, Rapport Beleef, 24 April 2016 – translated from Afrikaans).Visit www.treevolution.co.za for a useful guide to put you on the road to recycling.Refuse collection points (dumping sites) in our area: Magaliesburg, Brits, Kommandonek (Hartbeespoort), Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens and Pikitup, Roodepoort.Food for thought: “Less is more. In their forties, most people realize that they have been collecting too many things. From earthly goods to emotional baggage. Just like too many things in your house, insecurities, fears, grudges, negative people and toxic relationships rob you of precious space and energy you could have rather used for something or somebody that can enrich your life” (Ilze Salzwedel, Rooi Rose, May 2016). Cost-effective polystyrene homes save the environment Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak! Hartbeespoort will soon be one of the first towns in South Africa to benefit from father and son team, Hennie and Muller Snyman of Get Connected Construction’s innovative, quality and cost-effective green building method. With this method, they not only re-use polystyrene, which poses a great threat to the environment, they will also help alleviate a critical housing shortage, especially in the low-cost housing market. The company spent six years testing and researching to patent the fire and water resistant, lightweight and durable mixture that is used in the panels (measuring 1.2m x 3m each). Recycled polystyrene is mixed with a concrete mixture, to make panels and walls that are almost indestructible. The product has been tested by the SABS and carries its certification. Polystyrene has excellent insulation properties. According to Muller, it is estimated to be between five and ten degrees cooler in summer, and five to ten degrees warmer in winter than the outside. This method of building is approximately 30 – 35% cheaper than conventional brick construction. A small-sized home (80m²) can be built and fitted from foundation phase to handover in about 10 days. The panels are not yet available commercially, but will soon be. If you have any polystyrene lying around, the company will gladly take it off your hands. They will take any type or colour of polystyrene. You can either take it to the site at Kommandonek (in Cosmos, just before the turn-off to Caribbean Beach Club, on the right) or contact Muller (079 747 3406) or Hennie (081 309 3008) to arrange for collection. For more information, contact Hennie via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. A winter vegetable garden Planning ahead   By about July, oceanographers studying the central Pacific Ocean will have a pretty good idea on how the temperature of that vast body of seawater is going to behave over the ensuing six to ten months. If they predict that the temperature will rise, they’ll be telling us in the southern hemisphere to prepare for another dry summer – an El Niño effect. If they believe the temperature will be lower, they’ll be telling us to prepare for a wet, or at least a normal, summer – a La Niña effect. By about July, we in South Africa will be in the full swing of winter. Here, in the Highveld areas, this means endless cloudless days of bright sunshine followed by bitterly cold cloudless nights in which pipes freeze up and frost hammers vegetables, flowers and grassland alike. And in time, this dry brown grassland will turn black as the veld fire season gets into full swing. By about July, too, the effects of this season’s drought will have started to be felt throughout the food supply chain. You can, of course, choose to do nothing and simply ride out whatever the effects of the drought are for you, your family and your property. Or you can use the intelligence you will glean from the Pacific oceanographers in about July to plan ahead and prepare for whatever next season throws at you. For your family, this should at the very least entail planting a winter vegetable garden, to foresee the needs of the kitchen and in doing so make you at least partially independent of the high-priced supermarkets. In Gauteng and the north-eastern parts of the Northwest Province, where we live, we are able to grow beetroot, brassicas such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, broad beans, carrots, dwarf spinach, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, Swiss chard and turnips during winter. Careful soil preparation is necessary, and much depends on how much water you have available. Irrigation water is not unlimited, and some attempt must be made to use it sensibly, if not sparingly. How you irrigate, and when you irrigate, and how frequently you irrigate, will have a direct bearing on both the health of your plants and the amount of water you use (Comment, by Pete Bower, Gauteng Smallholder, vol 17, no 4, April 2016).   Planning ahead – a winter vegetable garden By about July, oceanographers studying the central Pacific Ocean will have a pretty good idea on how the temperature of that vast body of seawater is going to behave over the ensuing six to ten months. If they predict that the temperature will rise, they’ll be telling us in the southern hemisphere to prepare for another dry summer – an El Niño effect. If they believe the temperature will be lower, they’ll be telling us to prepare for a wet, or at least a normal, summer – a La Niña effect. By about July, we in South Africa will be in the full swing of winter. Here, in the Highveld areas, this means endless cloudless days of bright sunshine followed by bitterly cold cloudless nights in which pipes freeze up and frost hammers vegetables, flowers and grassland alike. And in time, this dry brown grassland will turn black as the veld fire season gets into full swing. By about July, too, the effects of this season’s drought will have started to be felt throughout the food supply chain. You can, of course, choose to do nothing and simply ride out whatever the effects of the drought are for you, your family and your property. Or you can use the intelligence you will glean from the Pacific oceanographers in about July to plan ahead and prepare for whatever next season throws at you. For your family, this should at the very least entail planting a winter vegetable garden, to foresee the needs of the kitchen and in doing so make you at least partially independent of the high-priced supermarkets. In Gauteng and the north-eastern parts of the Northwest Province, where we live, we are able to grow beetroot, brassicas such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, broad beans, carrots, dwarf spinach, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, Swiss chard and turnips during winter. Careful soil preparation is necessary, and much depends on how much water you have available. Irrigation water is not unlimited, and some attempt must be made to use it sensibly, if not sparingly. How you irrigate, and when you irrigate, and how frequently you irrigate, will have a direct bearing on both the health of your plants and the amount of water you use (Comment, by Pete Bower, Gauteng Smallholder, vol 17, no 4, April 2016). Environmental snippets Cycads threatened Although cycads are not endemic to our area, the general state of cycad species in our country is of great concern to all who are in favour of a balance in nature.Cycads are the most threatened group of plants on earth, with 62% classified as threatened in the 2010 IUCN global assessment. South Africa is a cycad diversity hotspot, with 37 species in die genus Encephalartos, yet 78% are threatened with extinction. The greatest threat to our cycads is illegal harvesting from the wild. Three species are already extinct in the wild, four are close to extinction, and another seven have fewer than 100 individuals remaining. The rate of loss has placed the existence of wild cycads on a knife’s edge.A collaborative study between the SA National Biodiversity Institute and UCT is developing a solution to regulate the illicit trade in cycads by using stable isotopes to distinguish between wild and cultivated cycads. Having been used in numerous forensic studies, stable isotopes are now being applied to cycads.As from May 2012, it is prohibited to harvest, trade, sell, buy, donate, import, export, convey or receive any wild indigenous cycad (even plants that have possession permits). If you suspect foul play, report this to the Department of Environmental Affair’s Environmental Crimes Hotline: 0800 205 005 (KZNCA email, 15 June 2015). Soil health Healthy soil is the foundation of agricultural ecosystems. It builds healthy agricultural economies that, in turn, support national economies. “Soil is teeming with micro-organisms, fungi and bacteria. Just one teaspoon contains more than 100 000, and farmers, growers and gardeners are becoming aware of the huge role they play” (Bunny Guiness).South Africa is a water-scarce country, and there is limited soil for agricultural production. Of the 100 million ha of farm land in South Africa only 12,75 million ha is arable agricultural land, some of which is prime land, i.e. more arable than the bulk. In fact, a full 47% of agricultural land is unsuited to cultivation of any kind, suitable only for grazing, game, recreation, etc. Using techniques such as no-till planting, deep mulching with natural compost, companion planting and conservative drip irrigation, helps with carbon sequestration and lowers the loss of carbon and moisture from the soil. It prevents large-scale erosion through wind and water and improves soil health, leading to improved yield and sustainable production over time. Maximum cover on top of the soil – plants, either living or dead, serve as armour for the soil, just as our epidermis forms an armour against the sun and rain. It keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter, provides food for the soil organisms that help sequestrate carbon, and builds soil structure. For every one percent of added carbon to the soil, the water-holding capacity of that soil doubles (Dr Johan Strauss & Richard Findlay, Farmers Weekly, 14 October 2014).According to soil health expert, dr Jill Clapperton, healthy soil will comprise a large number of functioning soil services, including: Limited soil erosion due to high soil organic matter content; increased nutrient cycling; good nutrient availability and nutrient recycling; good water-holding capacity and water filtering; and good biodegrading of potentially toxic compounds from the likes of chemical fertilisers and agricultural chemicals in the soil: “Today’s intensive use of nitrogen fertilisers, besides supplying the most important plant nutrient for achieving high yields, is generally believed to build soil organic matter by increasing the input of residue carbon as well as supplying nitrogen, itself a key constituent” (‘The Browning of the Green Revolution’ by RL Mulvaney, SA Khan & TR Ellsworth). Did you know? Humus is a complex and rather resistant mixture of brown or dark brown amorphous and colloidal organic substance which results from microbial decomposition and synthesis, and it has chemical and physical properties of great significance to soils and plants (Gauteng Smallholder, September 2015).For more information on soil health, email dr Clapperton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website at www.rhizoterra.com Make your life easier A self-made detergent to clean just about anything Mix 1kg washing powder, 1 bottle of dishwashing liquid and 1 cup of spirits in a 5L can and fill up with water. Dilute a little bit of the mixture with water, and start cleaning. It lasts a long time and cleans beautifully (www.lapa.co.za). Trick with tooth paste Rub the paste on wood with water marks with a soft cloth. Then wipe with a moist cloth. Tips with corn flour (Maizena) Put corn flour on oil stains on material and leave for about 12 hours. Remove and wash as usual. Sprinkle corn flour on your carpet and vacuum after about half an hour. Apply corn flour to soft toys. Leave for half an hour and brush off. Put corn flour on oil stains on leather and leave overnight. Brush off the next day. After having polished your wooden furniture, sprinkle some corn flour and rub it in. This will make the wood shine. If you have too little scrambled eggs, stir in 12,5 ml of corn flour while cooking to make it more (Vrouekeur, 6 June & 29 August 2014). Tips with salt If you make a mess in the oven or on the stove, sprinkle salt (while still in liquid form). Wipe when cooled down. Soak a cloth in saline water and use as a dust cloth. Add one table spoon of salt to 3,5 litres of water to clean your floors. Burned pans? Pour some saline water in the pan. Bring to the boil. The burnt layer will come off. Uses for paraffin Mix one cup of paraffin with 5 litres of water or mix equal amounts of bleach and vinegar to get rid of stubborn marks on windows. Add a little paraffin to the water you use to clean the tiles in your kitchen and bathroom. This will keep insects away (www.thecountrychiccottage.net). Did you know? Our exponential future: Recently, Udo Gullob from Messe, Berlin, wrote the following on artificial intelligence and smart phones:Artificial intelligence: Computers are becoming exponentially better in understanding the world. By 2030, computers will have become ‘more intelligent’ than humans.Smart phones: The cheapest smart phones already sell at 10 dollars in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. There is already an App called “moodies” which can tell the mood you’re in. By 2020, there will be Apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Will an apple a day make you healthier? Researchers from the University of Sydney found the following:Apple pectin is a soluble fibre with the ability to absorb cholesterol, thereby decreasing your cholesterol levels.Apples also contain insoluble fibre which apparently protects one against cancer of the digestive organs, like cancer of the colon and stomach.Apples are rich in nitroxide – the same as the active ingredient in the under-the-tongue-tablet used by people with heart conditions (Leef Gesond, Rooi Rose, May 2016). Words, words Have you ever come across this word?Sonder (n.) – the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own – populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness (Laurens Martens) Food for thought “There is nothing wrong with loving the crap out of everything. Negative people find their walls. So never apologize for your enthusiasm. Never. Ever. Never” (Ryan Adams). Inspiring quotes by Gabriel García Marquez:“I’m only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand”.“Don’t confuse my personality with my attitude … my personality is who I am. My attitude depends on who you are!”“I’ll not say everything I think but definitely think all I say”.“Everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain, forgetting that it’s how we climb that’s all that matters”.“Always tell what you feel, and do what you think”.“Nobody would remember you if you keep your thoughts secret. Force yourself to express them”. And finally...Everyone has their peculiar needs, desires and agendas. They have secrets that they are not sharing with you. Most are stressed, busy, and often feel overloaded. To cope, people put up mental barricades that make it difficult to reach them. Everyone, every day, is trying to get through to people. From his experience, Mark Goulston, in his book, Just Listen, identified two facts. The first is that simply listening to people will change both their lives and yours. And the second is that nearly all people will respond to true, agenda-less listening in an authentic and heartfelt way.  

April 2016

  Newsletter #84 April 2016     Editorial Autumn is definitely upon us – mild days and cool nights. We are already down to single figures at night! Hopefully, we are going to experience a real cold winter this year – not like the mild winters of the past two years. Although we are all hoping for more rain, it is widely believed in this area that it is a bad sign if we still receive rain until July, as then our next rainy season is postponed for a few months, and our fire season is also extended for some time. When one talks to people nowadays, conversations mostly include the current drought, bad service delivery, levels of corruption and near junk status of our country. The general frame of mind is that of despondency, tiredness and frustration. It is probably easier said than done to encourage people to keep up one’s spirits under such circumstances. Personally, times like these always remind me of what Winston Churchill once said: “A positive attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”. A positive attitude is contagious – it helps one to survive in difficult circumstances, and it attracts positive things to you.     Important events to remember 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.   Seas of colour after recent rain After the recent rain, the Barberton daisies on our farm are something to behold. Whenever I am looking for some inspiration, all I have to do is look out my kitchen window! Those of you who are not so lucky to view their own Namaqualand when looking for inspiration, will have to be satisfied with the pink and white seas of cosmos along our roads. Unfortunately, the dreaded pink Pompom also appeared in spots everywhere, after having been kept under control by the drought. We appeal to our members/readers to get rid of these invaders, preferably before they can spread their seed.     Crime Prevention 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. Continued vigilance and crime prevention measures must be applied by all residents and should not be neglected. Residents who do not form part of the Safety and Security WhatsApp group have probably wondered about the helicopter flying in our area at night. This is a crime prevention initiative of Oostermoed Security Services, who make use of sophisticated equipment in an attempt to spot suspect people moving across landowners’ properties and committing crime. The Conservancy is relatively free of serious crime. This is made possible by continuous cooperation and communication among all role players involved in crime prevention. When less serious crime is addressed properly, serious crime cannot make inroads and is restricted to the minimum. We would like to thank Oostermoed Security Services, as well as all members of the community who dedicate time and render help with crime prevention in the area. Deon Greyling   Encroaching bush, grass threaten SA farming 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. What is also changing is atmospheric carbon dioxide, the invisible hand in global climate change. Since the early 20th century, this major greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming, has increased from about 300 parts per million (ppm) to 400ppm, mostly due to fossil fuel use. These are higher concentrations than have been experienced by plants for at least a million years. Atmospheric carbon dioxide has direct and indirect effects on plant growth. Plants use less water as carbon dioxide increases, so for the same rainfall, plants should grow more or have longer growing seasons. Plants are also capturing more carbon through photosynthesis than before. Glasshouse studies on savanna trees have shown striking responses from some of our most common tree species contributing to large-scale woody thickening. Seedlings today produce larger root systems, packed with starch reserves, and produce larger thorns and more chemical defenses as carbon dioxide increases. Trees establish as seedlings more readily, survive fire and browsing as saplings, and grow more readily than in the past. So, we have a new global change driver, particularly important in open ecosystems that have the potential to form forests, but have been prevented from doing so by fire, herbivory and the people managing the land. In this new, high-level carbon dioxide world, it will be far harder to maintain open grassy systems than in the past. With regard to projecting future ecosystem changes, climate-based projections will get it wrong. In this part of the world, one has to factor in land management and the direct and indirect effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide. (For a full report, see “Change is in the air. Ecological trends and their drivers in South Africa” by Nicola Stevens, William Bond, Timm Hoffman and Guy Midgley or visit www.saeon.ac.za).     Undesirable plant species Dodder (genus Cuscuta, Afr duiwelsnaaigaring) is a parasite that has a devastating effect on forage yield. Prof Charlie Reinhardt and dr Wayne Truter of the University of Pretoria published an article on dodder in 2012, entitled “Dodder, the plant killer”. It feeds on most legume pastures, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions and sugar bean but does not parasitise grasses or grains. After germination, dodder entwines itself around the host plant with long, string-like, yellowish tentacles that suck nutrients out of the host within ten days. Once it has attached itself, the base and start-up roots of the dodder die off, and it then becomes dependent on the host for all of its food. Dodder spreads rapidly and its hard seeds can lie in the soil for ten years or longer before germinating (John Fair, Farmer’s Weekly, 27 June 2014). The photo by John Fair, appeared with the article. Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia suaveolens, previously known as Datura suaveolens, Afr Maanblom), a popular shrub in South African gardens, can be purchased at most nurseries. According to prof Kobus Eloff, biologist at the University of Pretoria, it contains alkaloids, specifically high consentrates of artopin and scopolamine. It also forms part of the poisonous Datura stramonium weed species known as thorn apple. Young people are currently using this flower as a drug. They either eat it or make a concoction known as “black tea”, which causes hallucinations. It also causes aggressive, psychotic behaviour, disturbed vision, palpitatiions and epileptic fits. In extreme cases it can be deadly (Sonja Carstens, Rapport, 10 April 2016). Photo from Wikipedia.   Environmental snippets Mycotoxin risk in developing countries: The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has found that mycotoxins cause not only acute poisoning and cancer, but may result in high levels of stunting in children. According to the IARC, mycotoxins are toxins produced by fungi that commonly grow on dietary staples, such as maize and peanuts. Since poor agricultural practices are mostly to blame for human exposure to mycotoxins, affected areas are more likely to be limited to developing countries, where the poor are exposed to mycotoxins by eating staples such as maize, on a daily basis. Bio-control measures and a diverse diet could reduce the prevalence of mycotoxins (Gerhard Uys, Farmer’s Weekly, 18 March 2016). Botulism basics: Also called lamsiekte, this disease causes paralysis. Botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum, bacteria living in the upper layers of the soil. From here they spread to dead animals, standing pools of water containing rotting plants or animals, and mouldy hay or silage, where they produce a powerful toxin. In winter, animals do not always get enough green forage. If they lack phosphorus, they chew anything from wire to stones, but especially bones. If they eat bones (or carcasses) containing the toxin, they may become infected with botulism (Source: Directorate Communication Services, Department of Agriculture). Bush encroachment: One of the main causes of bush encroachment is long-term veld management that over-exploits the ecological potential of rangelands. Extensive bush encroachment of mainly Acacia species inhibits biodiversity, making the environment vulnerable to erosion and widespread dieback of less dominant and vigorous plant species. On very densely encroached areas, nothing grows under the bush. Many browsers cannot enter bush thickets. “We should not think that what has grown over decades can be undone in a few years” (Dagmar Honsbein, general manager of Agra Limited’s ProVision). The best approach to deal with bush encroachment is to harvest the bush population per annum – then ‘farming with wood’ could become the most important sub-sector in primary agriculture. Farmers will engage in activities that control bush encroachment as long as benefits are greater than the costs involved – the daily operational and technical management, labour management and marketing the wood products (Annelie Coleman, Farmer’s Weekly, 3 October 2014). Sustainable veld management systems: At one stage, farming dealt only with the number of animals/ha. Nowadays, it’s also about biomass/ha (vegetation and crops) that is produced, and how this translates into profit. In simple terms, a veld management system combines rest and grazing periods into which the principles and goals of veld and livestock management are built. The level of management is probably more important than the system itself. Damaging veld practices include: Overstocking; continuous grazing; extended grazing periods; grazing the same camps at the same time every year; breeds or game species that are not adapted to the veld type; and injudicious lick supplementation (For more information, email Prof Hennie Snyman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call him on 051 401 2221). A Dutch company, working in cooperation with the Western Cape’s department of agriculture, eLeaf, measured biomass production in the Free State, Northern Cape and the Kruger National Park during March 2016. According to the company’s report, the production of biomass in the Free State decreased with 50% from August 2015, natural vegetation in the Kruger National Park with 37%, and crops in Vaalharts irrigation system with 20%. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), a combination of very little rain and continuous warm, dry circumstances may cause a crop failure in many areas. This will have a devastating effect on the economy (Ruben Goudriaan, project manager of eLeaf, 10 April 2016).     Tips on bananas, gardening and more Stop blackening of banana peels by opening the plastic bag and by keeping them in the fridge drawer with tomatoes. (Marie Jonker, Mookgopong). One can also cover the top part of a bunch of bananas with plastic wrap or pull them apart, to increase their shelf life (www.buzzfeed.com). Take a piece of the inside of a banana peel and gently rub around your teeth for about two minutes. Minerals in the peel like potassium, magnesium and manganese absorb into your teeth and whiten them (email, 19 May 2015). Sweat marks on shirts: Grind one or two aspirins and make a paste with some water, lemon juice or vinegar. Apply the paste to marks and leave for an hour before washing (www.realfarmacy.com). More innovative ideas: Freeze grapes to chill white wine without watering it down. Frozen grapes are great, even without the wine. Use cupcake cases to cover drinks glasses in summer (like an umbrella with the straw through it) and prevent flies from dropping in. To prevent your eyes from watering while chopping onions, wipe the chopping board with vinegar (which won’t affect the taste of the onions). Prevent soil from escaping through the holes in the base of flowerpots by lining with large coffee filters. Create a thrifty watering can by punching holes in the top of a used plastic bottle of if you have a vegetable garden in containers, water the plants with plastic bottles, placed upside down in the container, without their lids. A mixture of dishwashing liquid, garlic and water gets rid of most garden insects, and a mixture of water for fungi. Interesting articles to read: “Laat jou vullis blom”, under “Tuinmaak” at www.rooirose.co.za or get a copy of Jane Griffith’s Jane’s Delicious Garden for more information on food forests and jungle planting. Garden tip: Bird boxes, feeding stations, roosting pouches and insect hotels will help bring your garden to life with bird and insect activity. They can thrive even in the smallest gardens, so make space for wildlife in your garden design. Attract more wildlife by planting their favourite flowers, which will please bees and butterflies and give you lots of colour. It will soon be a hive of activity! Want to know what to do in the garden now that it’s autumn? Visit www.joburgwest.getitonline.co.za   Did you know? All about tail bandages: The herringbone tail bandage is often used by professional horse riders. It has several applications: It can be used to prevent a horse from rubbing its tail hairs off on the crossbar in a float; it will keep the horse’s tail clean in muddy conditions; and it will help to keep a plaited tail tidy at a show. Although effective, the bandage has to be applied correctly. The herringbone pattern prevents excess pressure on the blood vessels in the dock of the tail, but, if attached too tightly, it can lead to damage or even loss of the tail. (For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1Rzlonl or email Dr Mac at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject line: Horse Talk). 70 000 new computer viruses are found every day by antivirus companies (People Magazine, 19 September 2014). Internet connection in Africa: A survey for a report entitled eLearning Africa, showed that lap tops were used by most African farmers (28%), followed by computers, smart phones and basic cell phones (each 15%). (Carien Kruger, Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015). In 2014, an Eskom study showed that the farming sector was responsible for 48% of all stolen electricity. This has probably increased since then. Syndicates work on a large scale across the country, and they entice farmers to tamper with their electricity installations (Farmer’s Weekly, 5 September 2014). In 2014, the average South African consumes almost 38kg of chicken per year making it the most consumed protein in the country at that time (Farmer’s Weekly, 27 June 2014).   Have you ever come across these words? Elysian (adj.) – beautiful or creative; divinely inspired; peaceful and perfectAbditory (n.) – a place into which you can disappear; hiding placeSolastalgia (n.) – the distress that is produced by environmental change   Food for thoughts “The process of planning the future of your business is more important than the plan itself” (Peter Hughes). “There is a major difference between intelligence and stupidity; intelligence has its limits” (Albert Einstein). Memorable quotes by Gavin Sharples: “The only way to succeed is to have the enthusiasm of a child”.“There are only two reasons for being late – an act of God or you wanted to be late”.“Live life on purpose and on your terms – set goals”.“If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything”.   And finally – amazing nature... The eggs of a canary hatch in 14 days, those of a barnyard hen in 21 days, eggs of ducks and geese in 28 days, those of the mallard in 35 days, and the eggs of the parrot and the ostrich in 42 days. All are divisible by seven – the number of days in a week! The waves of the sea roll in on shore 26 to the minute in all kinds of weather – amazing! Each water melon has an even number of stripes on the rind. Each orange has an even number of segments. All grains are found in even numbers on the stalks. Every bunch of bananas has on its lowest row an even number of bananas, and each row decreases by one, so that one row has an even number and the next row an odd number.(received via email on 17 March 2016).            

March 2016

  Newsletter #83 March 2016   Editorial We received many positive comments on our last newsletter. Our readers/members found the articles on global warming and Ria and Gert Smit’s owls very interesting. Good news – we have had lovely rain thus far during March! The Magalies River is also flowing again, although not as well as we are accustomed to this time of year. We are also experiencing much cooler, cloudy weather, and hope that this bodes well for further rain – otherwise we can expect a nightmare fire season. Birding expert, Willie Froneman, of the Xanadu Nature Estate near Hartbeespoort Dam, identified the Smit’s owls as White-faced owls (Otus leucotis). According to Willie, the Conservancy and surrounds are on the border of these owls’ range of distribution. Willie has the saying: “Birds have wings and can fly where they like – so they can be located anywhere” (email received on 24 February). Willie sent us one of his son Albert’s (well-known bird photographer) beautiful photos. See the invitation to a talk by Willie on rare water birds below. Something worth knowing (received via email on 17 March 2016): Very few people know how a rain guage works. 1mm of rain is 1 litre of water per 1 square metre. If you measure 25mm of rain on 1 hectare, it is 250 tons of water. Therefore, if you own a farm of 1 000 hectares, and you measure 80mm of rain, it is 800 tons x 1 000 hectares. That is 800 000 tons of water. If you now calculate 800 000/10/10/365 days, it means that if you transport 10 loads of water in a 10 ton water truck each day of the year, it will take you 21.9 years to transport all this water! Pete Bower (Gauteng Smallholder, February 2016) writes about global warming:“We need to look for ways to change our behaviour. Obviously that means living as unwastefully as possible, switching off lights when one leaves the room, not wasting food by cooking too much, fixing dripping taps, etc. But it also means looking for new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking. From seemingly obvious little behavioural changes such as fixing broken appliances rather than replacing them, looking at the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar, growing one’s own food, using recycled inputs such as home-made compost and filtered grey water, redesigning one’s garden to include more edible species and water-wise indigenous plants, setting up barter and sharing networks with one’s neighbours, consciously seeking to cut down on food miles travelled by bought produce, i.e., only buying foods that are locally in-season, and so on, to major lifestyle changes using techniques and machinery that might not yet even been dreamed of. Think of the cellphone and the change it has brought to life on earth. That’s small compared to the sort of fundamental shift we need to turn climate change around”. Footprint Limited Magazine: Interested in reading more about the environment, recycling, sustainability, biodiversity, global warming, etc? Visit www.footprintlim.com Would you like to learn more about butterflies? Attend a talk on butterflies at Buffelsdrift (Imbabala venue) on 2 April 2016 at 09:00. Contact Johan Rademan (082 375 4717 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information and directions. While we are talking about climate change, did you know the following about Antarctica?90% of the world’s fresh water is in Antarctica.The highest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica is 14.5°C.Ice melting in Antarctica has caused a small shift in gravity in the region.Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, highest and driest continent on earth(email received on 2 March 2016).   Important environmental dates 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. Talk on rare water birds Where? Wickedfood Earth (± 7km from Hekpoort on theR560, towards Skeerpoort, on the left – from Skeerpoort, on the right).Programme for the day? The market will be from 09:30 – 11:30, with lots of local produce on sale. Wickedfood Earth will be selling fresh free-range pork, sausage, cured meats and preserves, Goat Peter will be selling their award winning cheese, and Liz will be selling her preserves. Anyone else interested in selling food items, please contact Mike (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 060 761 0885). The talk starts at 12:00 and will last until about 13:30 (time for questions included). This will be followed by a light lunch 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.). International alliance for the protection of vultures This is no easy task and often proves to be heartbreaking for vulture champions. Vultures in southern and greater Africa are in dire straits with several species recently being up-listed by the IUCN (2015). The most common vulture species in Africa – the African White-backed vulture – is now listed as critically endangered, and the Cape Vulture has been up-listed to endangered. This puts them one small step away from extinction! Africa’s wildlife is one of our greatest treasures. Extinction is permanent, and in the case of vultures this will have irrevocable consequences for humankind. Vultures are capable of combating horrific diseases (e.g. anthrax, botulism, and foot-and-mouth), and in doing so, prevent the spread of epidemics that are capable of wiping out entire populations of people and animals. Vultures don’t need us, we need vultures!For more information about the alliance and what you can do to help, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also visit https://www.facebook.com/VulProAfrica/ or https://twitter.com/WeLoveVultures Board of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Elected members for specific interest groups:Hermien van Schalkwyk – Tourism and recreation/Commerce and industryThabo L Molamu – HeritageTshepo Modise – Education/Sustainable developmentPaul Fatti – Natural resource conservationMerriam Modisakeng – CultureAndrew Murray – LandownersElna van Niekerk – BenefactorsGerry Comninos – Conservancies/Municipal planningHein van der Walt – Marketing/Legal and other servicesPaul Bartels – Research.No nominations were received for three of the interest groups, namely: Mines, Land occupiers and Cradle of Humankind.We will keep members posted on further developments. Nuts about coconuts It’s an easily digestible energy source, an anti-microbial skin treatment, and an insulin regulator. It is also stable and does not go rancid easily, which makes it easy to store preferably in a warm area. It yields twice the energy of starch or protein. With so many anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties, it’s right at home in the stable. Horses love the taste of coconut oil. Medium chain triglycerides (MSTs), which are found in coconut oil, create a ‘super fuel’ which behaves like glucose, providing easily available energy. MCTs have also been reported to assist with ulcers, acidosis, colic and dysbiosis, as well as reduce yeast infections. Feeding your horse coconut oil can also help it recover faster after strenuous work. It is ideal for skin problems, and can be applied liberally on cuts to help fight infection and minimise proud flesh. Dry skin bites and stings heal faster with coconut oil, as do skin conditions such as eczema, flea allergies, contact dermatitis and itchy skin. The anti-microbial effects are ideal for treating mud fever and helping to prevent reinfection. Coconut oil also helps to prevent dry, brittle hooves. (For more information, email Kim Dyson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject line: Horse Therapy).The beautiful photo was provided by Evarné van Niekerk, our valley’s very own horse whisperer. Environmental snippets   Cherish friendly insects in pecan nut orchards: There are environmentally friendly ways to combat pests and diseases in pecan nut orchards, such as insects and diseases that kill harmful insects. This way, less chemicals will also be used. The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) is currently conducting research on developing an integrated programme for combating pests and diseases in pecan nut orchards. Biological combating procedures are vitally important for the export market, especially the European Union and Asia, where chemical residue in nuts is problematic. Up to 71% of insects on a tree can be classified as beneficiary. Some of these are ladybirds, ant lions, praying mantis, wasps, spiders and assassin bugs. Harmful insects include stink bugs, stem borers and snout beetles. There are also neutral insects, which don’t necessarily kill harmful insects, and which don’t cause any damage, such as a variety of beetles, ants, crickets, gnats and flies (Enquiries: Dr Justin Hatting, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The other side of the (elephant) coin: In 2013, there were 207 000 elephants in Botswana’s wildlife sanctuaries. The elephants had been doubling their numbers every 10 to 15 years, and had eaten themselves out of house and home. They have progressively eaten all the edible grasses and woody plants for a distance of 25km² from all dry-season water, creating desert conditions within that zone. Those grasses and woody plants are the same the game reserve’s other animal species eat too. But these can’t walk the 25km that the elephants walk every day during the six-month-long dry season. They’re now forced to live within that desert zone where there is nothing left for them to eat. As a result, several of these species have declined by up to 90% in recent years. The average overall decline is said to be 60% - and the end is not yet in sight (Ron Thomson, Famer’s Weekly letters, 12 September 2014). Combating perishable food spoilage: Massive quantities of food, especially perishable products such as fruit and vegetables, go to waste every year. Losses occur throughout the food chain. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that one-third of all food produced is not consumed due to spoilage, amounting to 1,3 billion tons annually. Most of this occurs in industrial/developed countries, where the per capita annual food wastage is 95kg to 115kg. In developing economies it is less: 6kg to 11kg. Common sense measures that should be taken at home include: eating perishable food first, planning meals carefully and buying only the quantities needed (Wynand van der Walt, Farmer’s Weekly Bio Monitor, 12 September 2014). Green tips With herbs Clean with sage: A combination of herbs, vinegar and water works! Sage has several antibacterial characteristics Crush some sage until it has a strong odour. Put in a glass container, mix with two cups white vinegar and leave standing for three weeks. Then mix the solution with an equal amount of water in a spray bottle, spray on a surface and wipe with a clean cloth (www.naturallymindful.com).Freeze fresh herbs in olive oil in small plastic containers. You can also freeze the herbs in small amounts of water (www.buzzfeed.com).Dark circles under the eye: Chop and crush a sprig of mint leaves. Apply to dark circles under the eyes, leave on for 20 minutes and then rinse. Do this twice a week (email, 19 May 2015).Wash your hair in apple juice to get rid of dandruff (www.realfarmacy.com) Natural skin cures Lavender works for all skin types – also sensitive skin. It is antibacterial, regulates the excretion of sebum (which causes skin rashes) and decreases inflammation and signs of blemishes.Lemons help to soften blemishes and also act as an exfoliator.Honey is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, soothing, decreases scars and moisturises the skin.Tea tree oil is antibacterial and regulates the excretion of sebum (Chanté Daries, Rapport Beleef, 12 July 2015). Did you know? The amount of energy generated by plants from sunlight per day, is equivalent to six times the total daily power usage of all of humankind (Factslides.com). Nuclear and renewable power prevented 1.8 million deaths between 1971-2009 as a result of lower air pollution from reduced coal usage (Staggering Statistics, 4 March 2016). Clem Sunter (co-author of Mind of a Fox), March 2015: National health services are under pressure because of large numbers of senior citizens needing services. As the demographic ageing process increases across South Africa the situation will become much worse. Good news is that larger numbers of entrepreneurs will enter active economic lives during their seventies and eighties. Many pensioners are forced to keep on earning a living, as a result of their pension money not being sufficient to maintain their lifestyle. Although staff expenditure will probably increase employers are in favour of appointing older employees, as they are more satisfied with their circumstances, don’t make unreasonable demands, are more patient, diligent, organised, consistent and punctual, and have years of experience - making them excellent mentors. The whole concept of pension and retirement will have to be revised. So, put your retirement plans on hold – nowadays people reach an age of 90 without a problem, and the 120-year olds have been born already! “The development of the “global village” with its instant communication, modern logistics, and fast transport connections has made the “just in time” economy possible, and brought down prices of many items to the benefit of consumers. But is the resultant death of the manufacturing sector a good thing, or a consequence we can live with? No, and it’s going to come back to bite us!” (Comment by Pete Bower, Gauteng Smallholder, September 2015). More intelligent mobiles: In 1990, one million people worldwide owned a mobile phone. Today, there are between five and six billion in circulation. Smart phones have conquered the world – these devices already replace your money and house keys, and can even give instructions to your car (via a virtual car key that works via your cell phone). No wonder we are addicted! Smart phones are becoming more intelligent (with built-in Wi-Fi, etc.) – and the more adept we become, the more we become addicted … In 2013 already, Tomi Ahonen, an expert on cell phone habits, predicted that we would soon reach the so-called “mobile moment”. This means a sim card for every living being on earth, regardless of their age. In 2020, you’ll pay only R100 for the cheapest touch screen phone in Africa! (Huisgenoot, 13 September 2013). What is fracking? It is pumping a liquid solution from a sealed section in a borehole to cause the surrounding layer of rock to crack in tiny hair’s-breadth cracks. The solution consists of water, sand and chemical additives (Jan-Willem Eggink of Shell). Canned tomatoes are healthier than fresh tomatoes, as they contain more powerful anti-oxidants that fight free radicals in your body. This can be linked to a lesser risk of getting cancer. They also contain more vitamin B than fresh tomatoes (Carla van der Spuy, Vrouekeur, 16 June 2014). Quotes “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future” (John F Kennedy). “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking a things” (Henry Miller). “Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul” (Pythagoras). “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else” (John Burroughs). “A belief is not an idea held by the mind; it is an idea that holds the mind” (Elly Roselle). “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about” (Wayne Dyer). “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. Once we truly see this truth, we transcend it” (From M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled). On digital burnout… Kovert, an international company that focuses on research on technology and how it changes one’s conduct and posture, took 35 executive directors on a break-away to a Maroccan desert in June 2015. The group was completely cut off from technology. Neuro scientists monitored their conduct constantly. After three days, the following changes became obvious: Better posture: All participants were looking up and keeping their heads in line with their spines – no longer bent forward. Quality friendships: They were approachable and more inclined to make conversation. More interesting conversations: The lack of being able to quickly google something made conversations last longer. Improved memory: They were inclined to remember more details, as their attention was more focused during conversations. More restful sleep: Although the group slept less, they felt more rested. This is because they had to do without the blue cell phone screens, which inhibit the production of melatonine (that makes you sleep better). New perspective: When people haven’t been online for some time, they are inclined to reflect more on important aspects of their lives and to make important decisions concerning relationships, health and quality of life. The group felt that the digital detox was a life-changing opportunity, and that they would make a habit of it in future.(Sources: fastcompany.com; atthatpoint.co.za; lifehacker.com; forbes.com; today.com; huffingtonpost.com).            

February 2016

  Newsletter #82 February 2016   Editorial We received many positive comments on articles in our previous newsletter, especially the articles on water scarcity and our feathered friends. The drought and its effect will still be with us for quite a while. Welcome rain during January and February brought temporary relief to our valley. As a result of extreme heat, it is, however, very dry once again, and the Magalies River is still not flowing. Currently, our country’s dam reserves are 55%, compared to 82% at the end of January 2014. R56 million has already been collected for Operation Hydrate, but according to John Weaver, a hydro geologist of the South African National Association for Bottled Water (SANBWA), the collection of water for towns and people that have to make do without water, cannot be seen as a long term solution. The drought pointed the finger at weak spots in the water infrastructure – 75% of the current water crisis is not as a result of the drought (Herman Scholtz, Rapport Nuus, 31 January 2016). Also see the article on global warming below. When it rains, we usually experience power cuts. As we know all too well, we can never have both rain and thunder and power at the same time – it’s either one or the other! One also quickly learns that it is a good idea to unplug pumps and other electrical appliances as soon as the first peal of thunder sounds. Membership fees: Membership fees for 2015/16 are now payable. Invoices were issued to all with outstanding membership fees during January. Please feel free to contact Liz or Deon Greyling (contact details in the letterhead) for any queries or more information.   Increase in snares 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).   Strange fungus species 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).   A family of owls make a home One of our members, Ria Smit, reports that a family of owls have started nesting in the trees close to their house. The farm workers believe that the owls bring bad luck and chased away. However, Ria and husband Gert are very pleased that all rodents in the area seem to have disappeared. (The photo was provided by Ria). Labour: Farming, forestry minimum wage increased On 3 February 2016, the Department of Labour announced an increase in the minimum wage for workers in the farming and forestry sectors, notes a Cape Times report. The department said it applied consumer price index (CPI), excluding owner’s equivalent rent – which is lower than what the department used to apply – to calculate minimum wage increases. The department said as of 1 March, the minimum wage increases will be adjusted to:* An hourly rate of R14.25, up from R13.37 in 2015/16;* A weekly rate of R641.32, up from R601.61;* A monthly rate of R2 778.83, up from R2 606.78.* A daily wage for a farm worker who works nine hours per day will now be R128.26 – up from R120.32 in the 2015/16 financial year (email received on 4 February 2016).   Climate change trends in South Africa: Can we afford to ignore global warming any longer? 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. The rise in air temperature has been unsteady: there is a general upward trend interspersed by some long periods of no change, or even cooling. For instance, in the decade after 2000, there was little overall rise, just as there was little rise in the period 1945 to 1968, but in between were periods of rapid rise. Over the period of accurate records, the annual average temperature in South Africa has risen by around 1.2°C. In the medium term, global warming in the northern hemisphere will generally exceed that in the southern hemisphere because oceans, which dominate the southern hemisphere, warm more slowly than the land. Despite this, the rate of warming in South Africa is nearly twice the average rate recorded worldwide so far. This is partly because inland regions of South Africa are distant from cooling oceanic influences. It is also because much of South Africa falls within a dry belt. Projections of future warming in southern Africa are a further 3°C to 6°C within the 21st century, but perhaps more later if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations remain high. Greatest warming is projected for the western interior from the Northern Cape to southern Angola, particularly in the Kalahari, where temperatures could rise by 5°C to 6°C. Coastal areas will eventually warm by 3°C to 5°C. A global mean temperature rise of 3°C would be highly damaging (reaching 6°C for parts of South Africa), but probably within the bounds of adaptation. Above this global mean temperature rise, there are serious questions regarding our ability to cope. Life on earth has experienced hotter temperatures in the distant past, and will survive in some form, but complex human societies have never faced a climate challenge of that magnitude. What about our water resources? In South Africa, the water that people use for drinking, agriculture and industry ultimately comes from rivers and underground aquifers. How much is available there depends not only on the amount of rainfall, but also on what fraction evaporates and runs off the soil surface. To provide the same water supply, places that are sunny, hot, dry and windy need more rainfall than places that are cloudy, cool, humid and calm. Evaporation rates throughout southern Africa are projected to increase over the next century as the land warms due to climate change. Increased evaporation results in increased cloud formation and subsequent rainfall – but that rain may not occur where the evaporation occurred. So, a modest increase in rainfall could be completely offset by a larger accompanying increase in losses due to evaporation. Another complicating factor is the effect of future higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on the amount of water used by plants, which in turn affects the amount of water that reaches the rivers. (Source: GDARD Weekly Brief (Issue 4), November 2015). Read more  on www.news24.com   Labour: Farming, forestry minimum wage increased On 3 February 2016, the Department of Labour announced an increase in the minimum wage for workers in the farming and forestry sectors, notes a Cape Times report. The department said it applied consumer price index (CPI), excluding owner’s equivalent rent – which is lower than what the department used to apply – to calculate minimum wage increases. The department said as of 1 March, the minimum wage increases will be adjusted to:* An hourly rate of R14.25, up from R13.37 in 2015/16;* A weekly rate of R641.32, up from R601.61;* A monthly rate of R2 778.83, up from R2 606.78.* A daily wage for a farm worker who works nine hours per day will now be R128.26 – up from R120.32 in the 2015/16 financial year (email received on 4 February 2016).   Green tips The wonder of lemons! Cut a lemon in half, squeeze out the juice in a small container with water, add the lemon halves, and microwave for five minutes. The fresh odour eliminates food smells and dislodges any old food rests in the microwave. Wipe away with a clean, damp cloth (Vrouekeur, 4 April 2014). Mix one cup of olive oil with half a cup of lemon juice to clean your furniture. It works even better than furniture polish! (www.simple-ways-to.com). Cure for taps: Rub your taps with a cut lemon and leave for a few minutes before rinsing. They will shine like never before! (www.simple-ways-to.com). Best natural deodorant: Slice a lime and apply to the underarm – it’s simple, and it works great! (email, 19 May 2015). Bathroom tips: Ban aerosol fresheners. Light a perfumed candle or put a container with potpourri somewhere in the bathroom. Plants in the bathroom will serve to filter the air. (Die groen strook, Michelle & Riaan Garforth-Venter). For the rubbish bin: Recycle newspapers by covering the bottom of your rubbish bin with it. It will absorb bad smells and wetness (www.allyou.com)   Did you know? According to Plastic Recycling South Africa, South Africans buy millions of plastic bottles of cooldrink and water annually. About 77% of these bottles are not recycled. According to a United Nations report, four out of five of these bottles end up in landfills, where they take more than a century to biodegenerate (Rapport Beleef, 31 January 2016). Invader trees: While individual invader trees are extremely valuable for their shade, shelter and nutritious pods, extensive invasions, especially in arid and riparian areas, are detrimental to water resources and compete with and replace indigenous plant communities. They need to be controlled and/or eradicated wherever possible (received via email on 22 January 2016). GCSA Facebook page: Please visit the Gauteng Conservancies & Stewardship Association (GCSA) Facebook page.   South African Green Industries Council (SAGIC) 2016 Invasive Species Training: One day invasive species module courses – Module 1: Introduction to NEMBA legislation, including: Landowner duty of care, Organs of state, Permitting and compliance & Invasive species list. Module 2 – Developing and implementing control plans, including: Work load assessments, Control methods, Compiling & Implementing a control plan.Gauteng training dates, Johannesburg: 2 March (Module 1) & 3 March (Module 2).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. The Zika-virus: This virus is carried by mosquitoes and causes an acute infection – fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and rash, along with joint and muscle pain. When pregnant women are infected, the virus may be transmitted via the placenta to the fetus and cause microchepaly, a condition where a baby is born with an abnormally small head and incomplete brain development. Zika is spreading rapidly as a result of movement between affected countries, since many people do not experience symptoms, and travel while infected. There are no specific drugs for treating the virus, so most patients drink plenty of water and get lots of rest. Mosquitoes that spread the Xika virus bite mostly during the daytime. According to dr Albert Icksang Ko, Yale School of Public Health, “this is a very rare disease, and we’re learning a lot about it in a very short time”. (Susan Scutti, email 28 January 2016). Too much salt: All salt intake is linked to hypertension, and eventually to heart disease and strokes. More South Africans die as a result of this than all types of cancer together (Salomé Delport, Sarie, February 2016).   Environmental snippets World Wetlands Day and Leap Day for Frogs: The 2nd of February was World Wetlands Day. The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) fourth annual Leap Day for Frogs, a national day of awareness and celebration of frogs, will occur on the 27th of February. Amphibians are among the most endangered species on earth, with 43% of the species populations declining globally. Around 120 species of frogs call South Africa home, of which many are endangered. South Africa’s smallest frog is also one of its most threatened. The appropriately named Micro Frog, which will only grow to a maximum length of 18 mm, is critically endangered, and our largest species, the Giant Bullfrog, which reaches 25 cm and weighs in at 1.4 kg, has already lost up to 80% of its habitat, particularly in urban areas of Gauteng. Visit www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za for more froggy facts. You don’t have to be a scientist to save frogs! Leap Day for Frogs is an opportunity to increase awareness around the importance of frogs, and to remove the negative stigma and superstitions that have unfortunately surrounded these fascinating creatures for many decades. Dr Jeanne Tarrant, Manager of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme highlights the importance of this initiative. "Understanding why many South Africans fear or dislike frogs is essential to changing the attitudes towards these animals, and ultimately protecting them. There is a genuine growing interest in ‘frogging’ and Leap Day for Frogs also encourages learning more about, and celebrating, the amazing diversity of frogs in South Africa, especially amongst our youth". Frogs are crucial in our ecosystems through their role as both predator and prey. They are also important bio-indicators of the health of the environment, and the fact that almost half of all species are declining should be a clear warning that our global ecosystem is under strain (email received on 3 February 2016). Urban carnivores: South Africa’s urbanites are getting used to baboons and monkeys, attracted by food, in their backyards. Predators, too, are getting closer. In September 2013, a young brown hyena had to be captured in Blairgowrie, Johannesburg. A small pack of them is reported to live in the green belt spanning the west of the city. A wide variety of carnivores appears to be surviving – despite a lack of conservation efforts – on the fringe (within 20km) of one of the largest human populations in SA, according to Dr Brian Kuhn of the Paleosciences Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand. Brown hyenas, black-backed jackals, servals, caracals, mongooses, honey badgers and a leopard have been spotted in and around the Cradle of Humankind (Roelof Bezuidenhout, Farmer’s Weekly, 3 October 2014). Indigenous veld goat types: Indigenous goats arrived in South Africa with migrating tribes and are found in the specific areas where the different ethnic groups settled. The general appearance of these goats tends to support theories that they originated in different ecosystems. The Boer Goat is famous throughout the world as a hardy meat goat, with a high resistance to disease and an ability to adapt well to hot, dry, semi desert conditions. However, this breed is the result of selective breeding which drew on a variety of goats found locally, particularly in the Eastern Cape. There are four distinct eco types of indigenous goat (excluding the Boer Goat):Nguni type goats (Mbuzi) – multi-coloured with semi pendulous earsEastern Cape Xhosa – multi-coloured with lob earsNorthern Cape, Lob Eared, Speckled (Skilder) GoatsQ Kunene Type (Kaokoland) – multi-coloured with lob ears(For more information: 083 383 2737 or 051 445 2010 or go to www.indigenousveldgoats.co.za). Growing snails can be profitable: For most people, they’re just a garden pest which, like moles and aphids, one seeks to get rid of – but, for those in the know, garden snails (Fr gourmet escargots) are a prized resource that can, with a little care and preparation, be turned into a gourmet snack. Snails spend nine months from hatching to harvest. One of the features of snail production is that no waste is generated (apart from wash-down water in an indoor growing system), as every part of the harvested snail is usable. Snail meat that is unsuitable for use whole is minced and made into pâté. Snail slime finds a ready market among cosmetic manufacturers, particularly as a skin tightening preparation. Cracked or damaged shells are ground up as a chicken-feed additive. (For more information, contact Stanley Micallef at Stanley’s Snails, 011 849 6430 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) When the veld turns toxic: One of the greatest risks to livestock in South Africa is plant toxicity. Toxic plants are usually the first green plants to sprout after a dry season or a veld fire. A number of these are at their most toxic in the young stage when they are most attractive to livestock. Similarly, some are highly resistant to drought and may be the only green plants available during drought.What to look out for: Toxic plants are often found as weeds in harvested lands and along the roadside (areas frequently used for grazing in times of scarcity). Certain poisonings occur after a sudden change in the weather, usually after an unseasonable frost or when wet, cool conditions are suddenly followed by a warm, dry spell. Wind or hail can knock poisonous acorns or pods to the ground, making them available to animals. Fodder such as hay, silage, stover or concentrates may contain toxic plants, fungi or chemicals.Plants to watch out for: About 600 indigenous toxic plant species occur in South Africa. Different parts of these (e.g. leaves or seeds) may be poisonous. For cattle, the most common poisonous plants include those producing cardiac glycosides (tulp and slangkop, e.g. gifblaar (Dichapetalum cymosum); Fadogia homblei (causing gousiekte); and Lantana. Dangerous plants for sheep and goats include plants causing geeldikkop, Vermeersiekte, gousiekte and diplodiosis; sceneciosis; and plants producing cardiac glycosides.(Source: ‘Poisonous plants’, Animal Health for Developing Farmers Programme, ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute).   Have you ever come across this word? Acyrologia: An incorrect use of words – particularly replacing one word with another word that sounds familiar but has a different meaning – possibly feulled by a deep-seeded desire to sound more educated.   Food for thought... “You’ve got to tell the world how to treat you. If the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble” (James Baldwin).  “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other” (Audrey Hepburn). “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver” (Mahatma Ghandi).   “Children are the keys of paradise” (Eric Hoffer).   “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you” (Khalil Gibran’s words from The Prophet). “Aim high. What’s the worst that could happen?” (QuotesIdeas.com).   “Confidence is allowing luck to happen” (Anonymous).   “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia!” (Charles Schulz, creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip).   And finally...The Charles Schulz philosophy: “The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. There are no second-rate achievers – they are the best in their fields. But the applause dies ... Awards tarnish ... Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners”.        

Jan 2016

Newsletter #81 January 2016 This is our first newsletter of 2016. We hope that our members and readers experienced a wonderful holiday season, and are ready to tackle 2016’s challenges: “Whatever is beautiful, whatever is meaningful, whatever brings you happiness ... May it be yours throughout this coming year”. Comments on our previous newsletter: Our readers seemed to have found the articles on the scarcity of water, the beautiful moth species and the owl chick interesting. One of our members, Linton Raaff, identified the moth species as an Emperor moth. They observe this species in their area quite often. The moths are sometimes much bigger than the one who visited us. The colourful spots on the wings resemble eyes, and serve to scare off predators. White Stork and Black Eagle found 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). A dry, hot season In many of our country’s provinces, the arid landscape reminds us of the seas of sand of the Namib desert rather than of South Africa’s fertile bread basket (Leon Schreiber, Rapport Weekliks, 6 December 2015). Large parts of our country are suffering from the worst drought in three decades, with five of the northern provinces having been declared as disaster areas. Water levels of all the largest dams are critically low, while the taps in some towns have long since run dry. The Department of Water and Sanitation’s Weekly State of Reservoirs released in October 2015 said the average reservoir level of dams was 11% lower than at the same time in 2014. Dam levels decrease with an average of 2% per week. While the immediate cause of the current drought can be ascribed to an exceptionally strong El Niño, scientists agree that human-made climate change is the actual reason for the severity of climate disasters. Yes, there have been devastating droughts in the past, but the effect of the current drought is that much worse, because many more people are now dependent on available water resources.We can all identify with Annemarie Bremner’s editorial letter in ProAgri of November 2015 (translated from Afrikaans): “Statistics on when last it was this dry are communicated daily. The price of maize is averaging around R3 000 per ton at this stage. Planting equipment remains unused. El Niño is having a ball in the ocean, and large parts of the country have had less than 25% of its normal rainfall up to now. It is a struggle to keep livestock herds/flocks going. Nevertheless, we complain loudly about the price of meat. Lettuces, apples and potatoes with little marks are tossed aside, because we are used to only the best and freshest in the shops every day. The reality of food production in South Africa will only be experienced when the price of imported maize products eat away the monthly food budget, and when taps run dry. And then it will be much too late to pray for rain… In the meantime, I turn off the hose when walking from tree to tree on our plot, because those nine metres of wasted water on the ground can save the life of a tomato plant, a cabbage or a mealie. Rain forecasts for 2016 are not promising. Good luck to every farmer who has to make difficult decisions at this time. We can only hope and trust that relief will come”. Most city dwellers are unaware of the severity of the current drought. Those of us living close to the soil are experiencing the oppressive drought first hand. Many boreholes are running dry, and the Magalies River, as well as the Zwartspruit in Hekpoort, Hartebeestfontein and further down to Skeerpoort, stopped flowing in October already. At only a few places in the river bed, pools of water can still be found. This has a devastating effect on the environment. Lucerne and crops that were planted along the river have perished as nothing can be irrigated. Pecan nut farmers are expecting a small harvest (if any) next season as the flowers on the trees have shrivelled up because of the dry, hot air, even if the trees are being watered. Lawns have died, and even indigenous trees are dying, which also resulted in the fire season being extended until end December. Plans are being made to supply those whose water resources have dried up with water from tankers (with the help of well-wishers who still have strong water), and to move fish species and otters to deeper pools in the river. (See the article on a very rare fish species in the Magalies River). In the midst of all this, an illegal wall was built in the river and sluices broken down to get hold of water, while some farmers higher up along the river have claimed all available water for themselves. The Department of Water Affairs have known about this state of affairs since 18 October 2015, but has up to now not lifted a finger to rectify the situation. The Steenkoppies Aquifer near Magaliesburg, which supplies water to most of the West Rand, is under severe pressure, and has not supplied water to the Magalies River since 31 December. Therefore, there is a serious shortage of water for sewage purification, resulting in pollution of the remaining water in the river. The Farmer’s Weekly of 30 October 2015 reported that The National Water Act (Act no 36 of 1998) provides an extremely good basis for managing water availability, but unfortunately the Act has never been implemented. Deon Greyling’s opinion: The current drought is probably the worst that can be remembered. When an oak tree of more than seventy years old, that had grown well and was healthy before the drought, is now perishing, I realise that previous droughts could not have been this severe. The drought won’t be over soon, and the winter season is lying ahead. The time has come to give serious thought to weather experts’ and researchers’ forecasts. Months ahead, we knew that we were facing a serious drought. Nevertheless, crops were planted, the Magalies River was pumped dry, and the Steenkoppies Aquifer that supplies water to the river was put under such stress that no water could be supplied to the river by Maloney’s Eye. The natural environment in and along the river is now being destroyed. The crops that were planted are now perishing, and even the pools of water that give life to the fish and help to replenish the underground water, are being pumped dry. Farmers’ boreholes are running dry, with a number being forced to decrease or stop water use, but nevertheless borehole water is being used by some to irrigate lawns with rows of sprayers on the heat of the day, when more than half of that water is lost due to evaporation. We can agree with the statement that city dwellers are usually not aware of the country’s serious water shortage or that they can’t be bothered by it, but it is sad when people in the rural areas who should know better, cannot exercise control, and can waste water like this. Until such time when the Department of Water Affairs and the municipalities will enforce the Law and also ensure the clean-up of more than half of the country’s severely polluted rivers, and all water users realise the value of clean water and strive towards applying their own water saving measures, the situation won’t normalise. Most probably, we will be unable to survive another drought without famine and starvation. With available, drinkable water decreasing at an alarming rate and the population growing unsustainably, our water resources will simply not be sufficient. Endangered fish species in the Magalies River 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/ Dogs to make wind farms safer for birds and other wildlife In a press release on 13 November 2015, it was announced that Eskom, in partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and Bioinsight South Africa, has deployed two carcass detection dogs, Aston and Wanda, in an attempt to increase the safety of wind farms for birds and other wildlife in the long run. The detection dogs will use their keen senses of smell to improve the estimations of wildlife fatalities during operational monitoring, and is a measure that goes above and beyond the industry minimum standard. This is the first project of its kind in South Africa, and will be carried out according to a rigorous protocol in order to deliver scientifically justifiable results. The two Belgian Malinois selected for the work, have been specifically conditioned to detect birds and bats and have been on site since early November. They will work alongside human carcass searchers to assist in areas where vegetation is particularly dense, and at the same time measure efficiency of the current search methodology. Unlike humans, a dog’s detection ability is independent of carcass visibility, and carcasses can be detected in various states of decomposition. “Similar work in Europe has illustrated that sniffer dogs can increase detection rates from 30% to over 90%, and they may also decrease the time it takes to search each turbine. No such study has, however, been conducted in South Africa and we look forward to having local results to which specialists and developers can refer”, said Constant Hoogstad, Manager of EWT’s Wildlife and Energy Programme. This work presents massive challenges as search plot size, vegetation, substrate, fences, weather, searcher efficiency and carcass removal rates are all variables and limitations that must be considered during the final mortality estimate. Human searchers have a carcass detection accuracy of 3/10 on average while most carcasses disappear completely from the veld within five to seven days. This often results in questionable mortality estimations and crucial data not being recorded such as species, age, sex and nature of injury. The Eskom/EWT partnership hopes to replicate this work across different habitats in the future which may assist other projects in designing operational protocols of their own where habitat provides a challenge to conventional carcass detection methods. Please visit www.ewt.org.za or contact EWT Manager, Constant Hoogstad (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), for more information about the Eskom/EWT Partnership and the Wildlife and Energy Programme. SA Reptile Rescue List Many of our members have had encounters with snakes recently, mainly with Rinkhals (Hamachtu haemachatus) and Mozambique Spitting Cobras (Naja mossambica). Both these species are very dangerous and are quite common to our area. A summary of contact details of snake handlers in our area follows below (a complete list was emailed to all our members during December). At all times, please be aware that snakes play an important role in our ecosystems, and that they should not be killed regardless, especially if no one’s life is in danger. Gary & Rex Strydom (Hartbeespoort & Brits): 082 469 2979Lee Jovanovic (Hartbeespoortdam & surrounds): 072 638 9250Louis Trichard (Brits, Mooinooi & Hartbeespoort): 076 588 1082Hartbeespoort Snake and Animal Park: 012 253 1162Chameleon Village Reptile Park: 082 469 2979/012 253 5119Bertus van Jaarsveld (Hartbeespoort & surrounds): 071 541 8206Clinton Braun (Krugersdorp/Roodepoort): 083 556 1664 Environmental snippets Protecting our Longnecks: According to dr Francois Deacon, game expert of the University of the Free State, giraffes like watching their own shadow. He fitted GoPro cameras to giraffe’s heads, so that he could study social interaction among giraffes, and to find out which leaves they like eating, and in which ones they’re not interested. The theory that giraffes close their nostrils to prevent ants from creeping in, was confirmed with use of the cameras. Together with dr Deacon, Discovery Channel is now shooting a documentary, The Last of the Longnecks, on declining giraffe populations worldwide, to emphasise the role of technology in conservation of this species. Although elephants are also fast becoming a threatened species, there are still six times more elephants than giraffes on the African continent. In 1999, there were more than 140 000 giraffes on the continent, but currently, only about 80 000 are left – 30 000 in South Africa. This is the only country where giraffe populations have doubled the past 15 years, as a result of excellent game conservation methods (Jaco Nel, Rapport, 6 December 2015). African Greys are becoming extinct: Research indicates that African Greys are close to extinction. These birds’ intelligence is similar to that of a four year old child. According to Rowan Martin of the World Parrot Trust, the parrots are on the brink of extinction in countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and the Cameroons, while countries such as Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are following suit. Large-scale, illegal parrot exports to South Africa (about 5 500 annually), where the birds are sold to breeders and collectors of exotic bird species worldwide, are the main problem. According to dr Hanneline Smit-Robinson of Birdlife Africa, the only way to stop the extinction of African Greys in nature will be to put a complete embargo on imports (Johan Eybers, Rapport, 29 November 2015). Battling invasive species – across the world: A new manual on “Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Wildland Stewardship: Protecting Wildlife when using Herbicides for Invasive Plant Management” was published recently. The manual includes field techniques from experienced land managers as well as risk charts for commonly used herbicides. It can be downloaded for free from www.cal-ipc.org/ip/management/BMPs. Human-wildlife conflict: A German Master’s degree student, Benjamin Ghassemi, is investigating the attitudes of various sectors of society in South Africa, and their tolerance to predators, especially the Black backed Jackal, Caracal and Cheetah. This has been a highly contentious and sensitive issue for livestock farmers and conservationists for a long time. It you would like to provide an input to this research, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JMPKHGX. New floral wonders appear: According to Rupert Koopman, a botanist of Cape Nature, the optimal fire cycle for fynbos is between 10 and 14 years, and some of the veld that burned during the summer of 2014/15 was over 15 years old (Farmer’s Weekly, 17 April 2015). However, Johan October, a field guide in Cape Town and surrounds, says that new floral wonders are appearing on Table Mountain after the veld fires of 2015. Some of these species have not been observed for many years. At the moment, there are many species of orchids, and recently, the very rare yellow Disa, that was last sighted over seven years ago, was spotted. Green heather, usually only seen between Muizenberg and Kalkbaai, have now spread to other areas, as a result of the 2015 veld fires. It is widely believed that the fynbos in the area will be most spectacular during the 2016 season (Rapport, 6 December 2015). Did you know? Interconnectedness: We often don’t realise that everything, but everything, on this little ball of slowly-cooling lava we call Earth is interconnected. It is worth reflecting on just how our actions – and inactions – affect what happens around us, now and in the future. And also to reflect on how big, and yet how small, the issue of environmental change, degradation and management really is. When you decide to fell a tree that has been growing for decades, because you wish to grade a new road, plough the field in which it grows or do anything similar in the name of “progress”, be aware that you are destroying a habitat for creatures of all sizes and varieties, many of which will simply die as a result. If you cut down enough trees, like in destroying a forest in the name of progress, you risk driving entire species to extinction. There is no quick fix for climate change and/or global warming. To a great degree, ordinary humans are going to have to adapt to a new reality which will include a hotter environment and more violent weather patterns (Pete Bower, Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2015/Jan 2016). The green light: Arguments in favour of a green light on legislation to reduce carbon emission are growing stronger by the day. There is no Planet B if the world turns into a microwave oven. (Clem Sunter, co-author of Mind of a Fox, March 2015). Sweet, sweet basil: Basil is one of the most versatile, delicious and easy herbs to grow. You can never have too many sweet basil plants growing in your garden. Sweet basil is used extensively in aromatherapy for ailments such as stress, migraine, colds and hay fever. It is also quite effective for tension headaches, exhaustion and digestive upsets such as stomach cramps, constipation, diarrhoea and enteritis. Make an infusion by adding two teaspoons of freshly chopped leaves to half a cup of boiling water. Steep for about 10 minutes. Strain and drink hot, three times a day. Traditionally, the dried leaves were pounded and, taken as snuff, used as a remedy for colds. Sweet basil is a most beneficial companion for your other plants. It is a good insect repellent for white fly, aphids and fruit fly (Get It, Joburg West, Dec 2015/Jan 2016). Quivering forest: The kokerboom or quiver tree is indigenous to the semi-arid northern Bushman Land and southern Kalahari regions of the Northern Cape. Although called a tree, the plant, Aloe dichotoma, is a member of the succulent family. A well-known quiver forest is located about 4km south of Kenhardt on the Brandvlei road. One quiver tree – on the Keetmanshoop-Koës road in Namibia – has even been declared a national monument! (Jaco Visser, Farmer’s Weekly Perspective, 12 September 2014). Know your alternative agriculture terminology:Sustainable agriculture is the efficient production of safe, high quality agricultural products, in a way that protects and improves the natural environment, the social and economic conditions of farmers, their employees and local communities, and safeguards the health and welfare of all farmed species.Organic farming refers to the type of farming that is done without the use of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, fertilisers, fungicides and insecticides, or genetically modified seeds.Permaculture is an approach towards designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationship found in natural ecologies.Biological farming focuses particularly on the soil: It is a system that uses both nature and science to build the quality of soil, with the understanding that healthy soil will be able to support healthy crops and livestock.(Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2015/Jan 2016).        

Nov/Dec 2015

Newsletter #80 November 2015 There is good reason why families everywhere gather around Christmas trees during this festive time of year: It holds the promise of intimacy, warmth and companionship, recalls old memories and creates new ones, thereby making this time of year a special time of togetherness.This will be 2015’s last newsletter. The next newsletter will be posted end January/beginning February. We wish all our members and readers a wonderful holiday and festive season. Those of you who are fortunate enough to drive on far roads and to go and relax somewhere, please drive safely and come back safely. We wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2015: “Blessed are those who can give without remembering, and can receive without forgetting” (Elizabeth Bibesco). Comments on our previous newsletter: Our members/readers seemed to have enjoyed the article on the Blue gum debate. One of our readers, Tallies Taljaard, wrote via email on 30 September (translated from Afrikaans): “When I read the newsletter, I had to leave everything, and share my love for Blue gums with someone. I have always thought of Blue gums as mystical, majestic, special – more than just a tree… Have you ever travelled through the Free State flats with kilometres of grassland and maize crops? Everywhere, a blue gum or even a blue gum plantation can be seen – large, not only in height, but also in bulkiness and splendour … like a shepherd watching over God’s creation, farm houses, kraals, the ‘perkeerplek’ of farm implements, by old farm houses and ruins. Can you think of any farm without a Blue gum? It not only catches your attention because it overshadows all other trees, but because it forms part of the big and perfect diversity and entirety. This is the Blue gum, my favourite tree… I attach some photos that I took myself – to share it with all, because I enjoyed the article on the Blue gum so much, and because it made me think back to days long gone”.We would like our readers/members to do as Tallies did and send us some photos of Blue gums on their properties – Ed.   Feathered friends 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. An owl chick found: On 1 November, a hiker on a hiking route at Shelter Rock found an exceptionally large bird chick. He took it to the Bothas (owners of Shelter Rock), who gave it some water and contacted Kerri Wolter of the Vulture Rehabilitation Centre (VulPro) in Rietfontein. She fetched the chick, and identified it as an owl chick. (Read the article on the vulture fledgling season below). Important Bird Areas (IBA) update: Bird Life South Africa has now published a revised Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) directory. This revision was published after more than four years of research and interviewing many experts and conservation role players, and includes a change in boundaries of many IBAs, delisting of some, a few new IBAs, and also an amalgamation of a number of IBAs. The IBAs are available on http://bgis.sanbi.org/IBA/IBA.asp. If you have any queries about the BGIS website, please direct these to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Visit from a beautiful moth species 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. Road cleaning project Our members would have noticed lots of rubbish along our Conservancy roads, as well as roads leading into the Conservancy (mostly polystyrene food containers, empty chips packets, water and soft drink bottles), left behind by weekend visitors. It seems that, except for locals dropping their rubbish at taxi ranks, weekend visitors (cyclists, bikers and motorists) are also guilty of this. In 2007, one of our Conservancy members, Shelley Bownass, decided to put an end to this. She organised four unemployed ladies of Hekpoort Informal Settlement to pick up rubbish along the Conservancy roads twice per month. The AFM church in Magaliesburg, where Shelley is a member, took responsibility for this job creation project, and it became known as the Barnabas Road Project. The church donated bags, safety clothing, overalls, backpacks and shoes donated to the church, and Mogale City Local Municipality also provided bags. Another Conservancy member, Linton Raaff, collects the bags and drops them off at the collection point, at his own cost. Currently, only two ladies are picking up rubbish along our roads. The Conservancy contributes towards their salaries. We would like to thank Shelley and Linton from the bottom of our hearts for their much-needed help with this project. Vulture fledgling season Once again, it is vulture fledgling season (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. Young vultures have not yet learned of the threats that civilisation and modern developments create for them. Power lines and poisonings contribute to the greatest number of fatalities and injuries. Such collisions often result in various broken bones and permanent disabilities. Other threats that these 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. Vultures are large, heavy birds that require significant space in order to be able to take off and fly. 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 it is 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 rains 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. Young vultures may also not yet have sufficient body weight and condition to enable them to survive cold and wet for a sustained period. Kerri Wolter, founder of VulPro, appeals to the public to remain observant and aware of vultures in trouble. Assistance and advice is a phone call away, as Kerri is always available to assist members of the public with advice or guidance on how to handle injured and grounded vultures, until VulPro staff is able to come through and collect birds for rehabilitation. It is not recommend that members of the public attempt to handle grounded or injured vultures without advice from experienced handlers, as both the frightened vulture and the good Samaritan are at risk of injury. While vultures are not aggressive and intentionally dangerous, they are powerful and will react if cornered, threatened or in pain. Understanding how to handle them in the correct way, may be the first step in saving their lives.VulPro emergency numbers: Kerry Wolter 082 808 5113 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Threat status of vultures: In an email message of 29 October 2015, Dr Julius Arinaitwe, Bird Life International’s Programme Director for Africa, warns that this continent’s vulture populations are under threat of extinction. Six of the continent’s 11 vulture species have had their global threat status upgraded to a higher level, meaning that they face a very real danger of extinction. The main causes of the drop in African vulture populations are thought to be indiscriminate poisonings, where the birds are drawn to poisoned baits, use of vulture body parts in traditional medicine, and deliberate targeting by poachers, as the presence of vultures can alert authorities to illegally killed big game carcasses. According to dr Arinaitwe: “As well as robbing the African skies of one of their most iconic and spectacular groups of birds, the rapid decline of the continent’s vultures has profound consequences for its people, as vultures help stop the spread of diseases by cleaning up rotting carcasses. However, now we are becoming aware of the sheer scale of the declines involved, there is still just enough time for conservationists to work with law-makers, faith-based organisations, government agencies and local people, to make sure there is a future for these magnificent scavengers.” Worldwide, 40 more bird species are now classified as having a higher risk of extinction in the 2015 Red List.South African vultures are all endangered, and every single bird is vital to the stability and survival of the species. Even one death, is one death too many. The threat status of three of our vulture species have been upgraded to critically endangered, namely the Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus, that is more common in the northern parts), White-backed Vulture (Gyps Africanus), and White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis). The status of five other vulture species is indicated as vulnerable, namely the Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres), Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos trecehliotus) and Palm nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis). National Invasive Species Week National Invasive Species Week took place together with the annual national Weed buster Week, from 10 – 17 October 2015. Invasive species week aims to create awareness and increase public understanding about invasive species and NEMBA regulations. Do you have a regulated plant on your land? Invasive species are controlled by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act no. 10 of 2004) – Alien and Invasive Species Regulations (AIS) which became law on 1 October 2014. NEMBA is divided into four categories of species management, namely: Category 1a, which are species that require immediate compulsory control; Category 1b that includes species that are most widespread and troublesome, and which require control, where landowners must comply with species management; Category 2 species, which include commercial plantation species, where permits are required for growing, and which require control outside areas of growth; and Category 3 which includes species that need to be controlled in water catchments. Some of the worst invaders in South Africa include famine weed (Parthenium hysterophorus, which up to now has mostly invaded large parts of Kwazulu-Natal, but is now also invading Gauteng), pompom weed (Campuloclinium macrocephalum), water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and house crow (Corvus splendens). In our area, the Category 1b invader, Queen of the night (Cereus jamacaru) and Pompom weed can also be found in specific spots. Older people used to believe that rain is on the way, once the Queen of the night starts flowering. This year, this belief does not ring true, as the plants flowered, but we had no rain. The drought also seems to have prevented the spread of the Pompom. Learn more about invasive species at www.invasives.org.za and read more about National invasive species week at http://bit.ly/1L3shwM‪#‎InvasiveSpecies Serious water problems In our area we haven’t experienced petrichor – the smell of earth after rain, often during the current rainy season. We are experiencing a severe drought, like in the 1960s and 1980s, according to people who have lived here for a long time. Rain forecasts do not look promising, and long periods of heat wave conditions make it worse. Some landowners in the Conservancy are already experiencing problems with boreholes drying up, and the Magalies River has stopped flowing. Many discussions are taking place, and accusations are the order of the day, about who is responsible for the shortage of water and what should have been done to not have ended up in such a situation. Such discussions and accusations are not going to solve the immediate problem, and should be left for later, to prevent a recurrence of the problem. Fact is that we are facing a disaster, and that not a drop of water can be wasted. As a community, we should now focus, prepare and plan to provide water where boreholes run dry. Unemployment is increasing, and food prices are skyrocketing (e.g. dairy products) as a result of the drought. The drought is also resulting in an escalation of crime. We therefore also have to prepare to prevent and control crime better (Deon Greyling). In our previous newsletter we reported on ever increasing sea temperatures in the Indian Ocean, resulting in an active El Niño. At a recent conference in Sweden, it was forecast that Africa could expect severe droughts during the upcoming three years. South Africa is classified as a water-stressed country, due to the amount of rainfall we have. If we do not monitor, manage and conserve our current water resources, the population will be under tremendous stress in the very near future. South Africa has a number of key ‘water factories’, one of which is the Steenkoppies aquifer near Magaliesburg. Many of these ‘water factories’ are under threat, and some have been severely degraded. The questions we should be asking are: How important is fresh water really? Do we do enough to conserve our water resources? Do we need to sacrifice our key ‘water factories’ in the name of unsustainable short-term development? Water restrictions have been instituted in the majority of our provinces. The country’s honey production has declined sharply, as well as the production and quality of wood for the paper industry (RSG news, 12 November). Against this background, water use pressure on SA farmers is increasing.According to prof Kobus van der Walt of the Faculty of Science of the Northwest University, government regards water provision to industries and municipalities as more important than food production. The demand for water is already 50% higher than what our water resources can deliver. According to government calculations, agriculture uses 62,7% of SA’s water, municipalities 31,2% , and industries only 6,1%. Water will become scarcer and more expensive, farmers will be forced to farm more water effectively, and stricter water quality measures for feedlots are underway. There will be more pressure on farmers to make ‘un-effective’ water available for other uses. Each drop of water falling on a farm should be managed in such a way that it won’t be wasted. Biomass on farms must be conserved, and farmers must prevent veld fires. A healthy biodiversity should also exist on farms. Farmers cannot continue to farm as they did before. They need a mind shift to be able to use the ‘ecological tools’ they have, scientifically (Theuns Botha, Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015). Worldwide, water sources are under severe pressure – a water crisis is looming: 25 million refugees were displaced by contaminated rivers last year; according to the UN, a child dies from a water-related disease every 15 seconds; it’s been said, we’re going to run out of water before we run out of oil; and our water problem is fast becoming a hunger problem. It’s time to give water a second thought. (Source: www.apolloideas.com/thirst).Join conservations about water across the social media platforms: Facebook: www.facebook.com/EndangeredWildlifeTrustTwitter: www.twitter.com/TheEWTYou Tube: www.youtube.com/EWTSouthAfrica Did you know?Water makes up 60% of your body, 70% of your brain, 80% of your blood – your body can’t survive a single week without water.The same water that existed on earth billions of years ago still exists today. It covers most of the planet, but just 3% is fresh water (and most of that is ice). Less than 1% (0.007%) of all fresh water on earth is readily accessible for human use. Garden Tips Summer is here, and that means that your garden should burst with colour! Some tips on how to achieve this, while using water sparingly, follow below. An indigenous summer garden: Indigenous plants can survive on very little water. Nothing beats the impact of a yellow and blue border. The easiest way to achieve this is to combine blue agapanthus with yellow daisies (Euryops spp). A more adventurous idea would be to plant yellow red-hot pokers (Kniphofia spp) and gazanias (‘lemon shades’). Plant indigenous yellow and orange cat’s tail (Bulbine frutescens) or Barberton daisies (Gerbera Jamesonii) in dry spots.Your herb garden: Just like you, your herbs need a ‘haircut’ every now and then. By cutting out dry leaves and flowers regularly, you encourage lush, healthy plants that will grow faster. Fast growing plants should be pruned more regularly, as they absorb space and vitamins of other plants in the container or bed. Mint is one such a boisterous grower – plant it separately (Vrouekeur, March 2014).Bulbs: Like other bulbs, hardy irises should be watered for forty minutes every fourth day (Hadeco: www.hadeco.co.za).Attract birds to your garden: Diane Ward (Cooking for birds: Fun Recipes to Entice Birds into your Garden, Struik 2004) provides a nice recipe to keep our feathered friends happy. Many birds enjoy young, green sprouts or leaves. Fill egg shells, small pots or coconut halves with good potting soil. Pack egg shells in an egg box or put pots or shells next to each other on the kitchen window sill. Sow bird seed in these and water regularly till the seeds germinate. Put outside and let the birds enjoy the young, fresh shoots. Water regularly until all the seeds have germinated. Substitute the potting soil and repeat the process.In praise of Epsom Salts: Just as many people add a little salt to their food, we should be adding a little Epsom Salts to our garden. Completely one of a kind with a chemical structure unlike any other, Epsom Salts, or Magnesium Sulphate, is also a wonderful facilitator to your garden, helping it reach its fullest potential and creating a lush and vibrant outdoor space. Unlike common fertilisers, Epsom Salts does not build up in the soil over time, so it is very safe to use. Before planting, sprinkle some Epsom Salts and mix well into the soil. During the growing season, sprinkle about a tablespoon around the base of plants and water. Epsom Salts can be used with all fruits, vegetables and herbs, except for sage. It is a natural, pesticide-free remedy for slugs, and because it is non-toxic, it is also child-friendly (Gauteng Smallholder, April 2015). Our environment "Countries rise or fall on the state of their agriculture” (Iain Hulley, Nottingham Road). The world’s population, growing by more than 200 000 per day, will increase to nine billion by 2050. More than 50% of people now live in cities, compared to just 5% at the turn of the 20th century. These factors, combined with climate change and declining natural resources, are reshaping the world we live in. Global warming is the ultimate game changer, as even small increases in the average temperature will have a very significant effect on pest and disease populations. In addition to this, associated changes in climate such as rainfall patterns will affect ecosystems. One of the greatest emerging challenges is a threat to global food security. Real food security depends not only on a thriving farmer but also on a thriving consumer. You cannot have the one without the other. To adequately feed the world’s growing population, food production must double by 2050. And to achieve this, farmers will have to produce more with fewer resources. It is also crucial to improve worker productivity (Denene Erasmus, Farmer’s Weekly, 27 June 2014). South Africa has a total labour force of 13 million. The informal sector employs 3,6 million people (out of a population of more than 45 million) and contributes 8% to 10% to the GDP (Nan Smith, Farmer’s Weekly, 10 October 2014). Some comparisons:The US population is 318,9 million, and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 1,1%.The Indian population is 1,23 billion, and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 17,4%.The Vietnamese population is 93,4 million, and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 19,3%.The Rwandan population is 12,3 million, and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 13,9%.The Brazilian population is 202,7 million, and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 5,5%.The Philippine population is 107 million and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 11,2%. Food for thought.... Definitions by Rudy Francisco:“Envy is when someone walks around with a pocket full of “that shoud’ve been me”.“Truth is everything you tell yourself when you realise that no one is looking”.“Failure is when you talk yourself out of becoming something amazing”. “You’ll know the people who feed your soul... because you’ll feel good after spending time with them...” (Fb/Latika Teotia). A blind person asked St Anthony: “Is there anything worse than the loss of sight?” He replied: “Yes, losing perspective!” (Unknown). George Orwell once remarked: “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool”. “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” (Albert Einstein). “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness” (Seneca). “The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem” (Captain Jack Sparrow). “We are all a little weird, and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love” (Dr Seuss).      

October 2015

Newsletter #78 October 2015 Summer arrived quickly this year. This means that sinusitis and flu are hopefully something of the past. Many people in our area believe that it doesn’t normally rain before Oom Paul’s birthday (10 October), but we had lovely rain (and hopefully the last cold snap) during the second week of September, for which we are grateful. Unfortunately, summer brings the usual pests and diseases for us to endure, like spiders, moths, flies, and after the first rain, fleas, mozzies, ticks and midges (muggies). Then, “’n boer maak ‘n plan” with a “boereraat” or two (see below). Tip to get rid of mosquitos: Put a container with vinegar in your children’s rooms to prevent mosquito bites (Tanya de Vente-Bijker). Or crush some mint leaves, put it in a small bag and hang it in the bedroom. Mosquitos hate this smell. If you and your family do get bitten, rub some toothpaste on for quick relief. Why do mosquito bites itch? Mosquito saliva produces histamine, which makes the skin around the bite itch. With salt or white pepper: Sprinkle salt or white pepper in window sills and at doors or on ant paths to keep them away (www.thecountrychicottage.net). Fleas in your home? Sprinkle borax or salt on carpets, floors, along skirting boards, on your animals’ bedding, underneath beds, furniture and matrasses. Seal the vacuum cleaner properly or you’ll spread more fleas. If there are fleas on your lawn, spot spray some diatomite. Also plant Pennyroyals, gladioli and stinking weed (wurmkruid) in your garden. Cook without flies: Put a slice of bread on the lid when cooking cabbage to keep flies away (Maretha Coetzee, Britanniabaai). Comments on our previous newsletter: It seems that our members/readers found the articles on the fire season not being over yet, the trees of the year, Sylvester (the Karoo lion), and the Glyphosate debate interesting. Nice words from one of our readers, Tallies Taljaard: “The newsletter is like a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day – interesting, informative and well researched”. One of our readers, Lynne Harrison, of Clarens in the eastern Free State wrote via email on 30 August: “We have many parsley trees on our farm. They are hardy and also endemic to the area. Having been to the Karoo National Park earlier this year (just before Sylvester escaped), we followed his exploits keenly.   A balanced outlook on conservation? “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it is attached to the rest of the world” (John Muir).  Do we have a balanced outlook on protecting our natural resources in Hartebeestfontein – or not? When I see and hear how people react to events in our environment I often ask myself this question. Often, opinions are expressed that clearly indicate ignorance, assumptions and self-interest, with the latter mostly given preference. It is often said that humans will be responsible for their own downfall, and sometimes, one cannot but wholly agree with this and relate it to events in one’s own environment.   This past week, much was said about our country’s looming water crisis and that water consumption will be strictly regulated, similar to load shedding. Fact is that we do not have sufficient clean water, and that we cannot generate more water as with electricity, while the population is increasing at an unsustainable rate. Then there are people who tell me “This doesn’t concern me, I have lots of water, a strong borehole, and I’ll pump as much as I want and do what I want on my property, because I’m making good money”. They are oblivious of the fact that the water is not only on their property, not knowing where it comes from, or that their careless attitude can result in a water shortage for them and others, and that the plug may be pulled on their financial resources. They also don’t take into account that more people with more new boreholes use more water every year, and that available water resources have decreased alarmingly over the past two decades. They are also unaware of the fact that many boreholes that always had strong water have now dried up or are producing much less water. Furthermore, groundwater quality is decreasing as a result of salinisation and pollution, sometimes quite a distance from where it is pumped. This is probably indicative of the over utilisation of our water resources. Few people realize that the mountains, and in particular, the Magaliesberg, is a reservoir of clean water in our area. Nearly all our groundwater comes from the mountains where it is stored and protected by the vegetation on the mountains and their slopes. So, if we don’t protect our mountains, we won’t have water. Some say we should not destroy any indigenous bush and vegetation, while others are of the opinion that deforestation must take place in certain areas for fire breaks, as prescribed by Law. We will thus prevent those veld fires, which are difficult or impossible to control in the mountains. (See the photo of such a fire break that was recently made at the foot of the Magaliesberg). Admirers of vervet monkeys complain when bird lovers complain that the monkeys raid birds’ nests and fruit and vegetable farmers suffer huge losses and want to cull some of these monkeys. When a leopard is seen attacking baboons or monkeys in the mountain, some say leopards shouldn’t be there, and it also poses a threat to their livestock, while others are of the opinion that it is dangerous for hikers frequenting the various hiking routes on the mountain. If game is culled in order to protect the remaining game against starvation and death, there are numerous complaints. Although various measures to curb crime with an effective communication system, for those who are interested to make use of it, in place, and although crime prevention has been relatively successful, excessive measures are taken with impenetrable fences and lights, etc., keeping everything in or out in order to ward off the “onslaught”. Protecting the environment or its flora and fauna becomes unimportant when people develop a fear of crime. We can cite many examples, and each point of view will probably have merit from own conviction. I urgently request people to cultivate a balanced outlook in respect of protecting our natural resources and environment. Short-sightedness and self-interest in this regard will lead to your own downfall and that of many others. We cannot always point the finger at other people, while our own actions leave much to be desired. We should all do some soul searching and ask ourselves, what am I doing wrong, or what can I do to make a contribution in creating and maintaining a sustainable environment? This is not to say that one shouldn’t rebuild what has fallen into disrepair, but excessive revamping may just do more harm than good, especially if we keep on tugging at nature. Will we in Hartebeestfontein be able to keep our perspective and maintain a balanced approach in respect of protecting our natural resources? This will depend on everyone’s personal motivation and willingness to adapt and cooperate, as well as how we manage external influences that we’re all exposed to. Time will tell, and when we look back after some years, we’ll know whether we have succeeded or not. Deon Greyling Bird of the month: Cape Robin One of our members, Lourie Laatz, sent us a beautiful photo of a Cape Robin (Afr Gewone Janfrederik, or Cossypha caffra) that has come to fetch a worm from her every day, for a while now. This cute little fellow will therefore be our bird of the month. The colourful Cape Robin is greyish brown above, with an orange rump, conspicuous white eyebrow, black face and bill, brownish pink legs and feet, light orange breast and throat, greyish white belly and orange tail with black centre. When disturbed, they make a harsh 3-syllabled alarm note, WA-deda, and their call can be likened to someone reading off a shopping list – teeu teetoo, teeu tiddly-too, teeu teetoo teetoo. They are common throughout South Africa, except in much of the Northern Cape. Their favourite habitat is forest edges, wooded kloofs, riverine bush, gardens, parks, farmyards, wattle and Eucalyptus plantations. They like feeding on insects, spiders, worms, small frogs, lizards and fruit. The breeding season lasts from June to December, when they usually lay 2-3 pale pinkish or greenish, spotted eggs. Incubation and nestling usually takes about 18 days. (Source: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, sixth edition, 1993). Rose-ringed Parakeet Project The Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) is native to sub-Saharan Africa, but in SA they were introduced, where after they became naturalised as they spread to new areas. According to Wits researchers, Craig Symes and Elize Fourie (School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences), most of these populations are derived from escaped birds, and probably originate from aviculture.   This is an invasive parrot species, which inhabits urban areas of South Africa, and which is currently listed as a Category 2 invasive species in the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA). The impact of the species on local biodiversity and the environment is, however, not known. The Wits researchers are launching the Rose-ringed Parakeet Project to firstly, locate parakeet roosting/breeding sites and secondly, investigate the size and distribution range of the parakeet population in Gauteng. This will be complemented by parallel studies (in association with European researchers and ParrotNet), focused on the behaviour of these birds in Gauteng. It will improve understanding of the ecology and behaviour of the species in South African urban environments and ensure that informed decisions are made by policy makers regarding the status and management of this parrot. All birders, citizen scientists, outdoor enthusiasts, and members of the public are invited to assist with and collaborate on the project by submitting sightings of these parakeets to the project database. Particularly needed is information on the exact location of permanent roosting and breeding sites as well as the number of parakeets seen.To diarise: Spot-a-parakeet day, Saturday 22 August. Best time: 06:00 – 08:00 or 16:00 – 18:00. Please join the Facebook group (The Rose-ringed Parakeet Project) for more information and updates. If you have any photos of parakeets, or any questions or need further information please contact the Wits researchers and send photos to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Data can be submitted to the project in the following ways: 1. Using Google Forms. Please follow this link to the data form, fill it in, and submit. You may submit more than one form for the project. Please fill in all required fields as completely as possible: http://goo.gl/forms/E9giDg3hZh OR2. Via Birdlasser, the technological partner of this project. All data of Rose-ringed Parakeets logged on Birdlasser will be shared with the Wits researchers. This application is available for download on Apple and Android devices. More info at www.birdlasser.com. Birds; Bats; insects; load shedding On feathered friends: A young Secretary bird was recently found in the middle of Pietermaritzburg – definitely not normal habitat or a safe area either! The bird was emaciated when found, proving that it had been battling to find food. FreeMe in Gauteng reported similar incidents of these birds ending up in urban areas, their desperation for food forcing them closer to human habitation in an effort to find it (Raptor Rescue Newsletter, June 2015). To read the full newsletter, go to www.africanraptor.co.za Only 250 Bearded vultures (Afr Lammergier, or Gypaetus barbatus), are left in South Africa. This species has now been added to the ICUN Red Data List of critically endangered birds (Rapport, 12 June 2015). Interesting facts about insects From the Gauteng Smallholder (July 2015) and Huisgenoot (12 February 2015): Ladybirds (Afr. Liewenheersbesies) are a farmer’s best allies, as they eat scale insects and aphids that cause damage to crops. They act as a natural pest control and are far more effective than commercial pesticides. In its lifetime of three to six weeks, a ladybird can consume up to 5 000 aphids. Dragon flies have exceptional aerodynamic abilities. They can fly in reverse, change direction in flight and glide-hang at one spot for longer than a minute. The silverfish or silver moth is one of the most primitive species of wingless insects. Ctenolepisma longicaudata is the most common silverfish species in South Africa. There are about 370 silverfish species in the world. During the summer season, a queen bee can lay about 2 000 eggs per day – much more than her own body weight.  Bats: Bats play an important role in ecosystems: There are at least 19 species of bat in Gauteng, with 56 in total throughout South Africa. Of the 75 species found in the sub region of southern Africa, 20 insectivorous bats and two species of fruit-eating bats are listed as threatened in the IUCN Red Data List of threatened animals. Bat populations are decreasing nationwide. Human encroachment and chemicals used on the insects and plants they eat has led to loss of habitat. There are four species of fruit-eating bats that typically occur in South Africa, but only two of these species occur in Gauteng, namely the African straw-coloured fruit bat and Wahlberg’s epauletted bat (Gauteng Smallholder, July 2015).  River pollution: Tests found that the Hennops River contained more than one million units of E.coli per 100ml of water. The current level of E.coli puts the content in the same category as raw sewage.Each kilometre of the Jukskei River in Gauteng contains up to a 1 000 tons of garbage in areas such as Alexandra, and about 300 tons per kilometre elsewhere. Visit http://wet-africa.co.za to read about efforts to clean up the river (VeldTalk, no 76, July 2015). Load shedding: Load shedding has become part of our lives, like traffic jams, crime and heartburn. In many cases it is just an irritation, like when the food is half-cooked, and the soapy on TV remains without an ending, but when the milking machine stops working, the cooling system in the warehouse switches off, and the mixer in the feedlot comes to a standstill, it becomes a crisis. Then you should have your Plan B ready to roll. All of us want to be able to function without Eskom, but it is expensive to switch over, and the technology, especially with regard to storing energy in battery systems, has just not advanced as far as it should have yet (opinion expressed in ProAgri, no 184, June 2015). The Springboks have been playing load shedding rugby for a while now – one half on, one half off – Ed. Cholestrol and the sandwich generation World renowned heart surgeon, Dr Dwight Lundell, with 25 years’ experience (having performed 5 000 open-heart operations) and author of the book “The great cholesterol lie” says that diets to lower cholesterol and severely restrict fat intake are not helping to cure or stop heart disease. Inflammation in the artery walls is the real cause of heart disease. This discovery is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated in future. Mainstream diets are low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats and carbohydrates, thus causing repeated injury to blood vessels. This repeated injury creates chronic inflammation, leading to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and eventually even Alzheimer’s. Excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils, like soybean, corn and sunflower, found in many processed foods, causes an imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3. One should eat natural (unprocessed) food – more protein, fruit, vegetables, olive oil and butter made from grass-fed animal milk (received via email on 6 January 2015). The “sandwich generation” is people who are sandwiched between the demands – also financial demands – of their children on the one hand and their elderly parents on the other hand. About 40,5% of retired people find themselves in this difficult position. Grandchildren (44%), children (43,6%), extended family members (20,2%), parents (12,8%) and spouses (11,1%) have all become dependent on retired people. In the words of tax expert, Matthew Lester, “Don’t expect to inherit from your parents; you are going to inherit your parents” (Huisgenoot Leefstyl, 12 February 2015). Food for thought... “I’d rather look back at my life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that’ instead of saying ‘I wish I did that’” (Unknown). “Faith is doing what you love for a living and watching the bills pay themselves” (Rudy Francisco). “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things” (Leonardo da Vinci). And finally…These ten things will disappear in our lifetime!1. The Post Office: Worldwide, Post Offices are so deeply in financial trouble there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email and cell phone communication (immediate, direct communication) have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.2. The Cheque: Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with cheque by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process cheques. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the cheque. Cash? In Norway, only 5% of financial transactions use cash, and the country could be cash free by 2020.3. The Newspaper: The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.4. The Book: You say you will never give up the physical book you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes, but I quickly changed my mind when I discovered I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books.5. The Land Line Telephone: You don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for the extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.6. Music, as we know it: The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalogue items," meaning traditional music the public is familiar with, older established artists. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."7. Television: Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. Cable rates are skyrocketing, and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Highly irritating!8. The "Things" You Own: Many of the very possessions we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud" Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of this is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." It means when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider.9. Joined handwriting: Already gone in some schools who no longer teach "joined handwriting" because nearly everything is done now on computers or keyboards of some type.10. Privacy: If there ever was a concept we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. It's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure 24/7, "they" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. All we will have left with, and can't be changed, are "Memories" (email received on 8 June 2015).  

September 2015

Newsletter #78 Fire Season not over yet! We are now in the midst of the danger time for veld fires. Until good rain has fallen, we must therefore do everything in our power to prevent veld fires. Up to now, members of the Hartebeestfontein Fire Protection Association (FPA) have successfully kept fires out of the Hartebeestfontein area and have controlled a number of small fires before they could become runaway fires that could have caused much damage. Except for a few incidents where there is no control on government property or properties of landowners who don’t belong to the FPA, not much damage was caused. Two veld fires that burned out of control in the Steynshoop area occurred because landowners in that area are not members of either the Conservancy or the FPA, and there is therefore no communication between those landowners and the Hartebeestfontein community. In both instances, the fires were not reported by the community, and if FPA members had not noticed the fires and offered their assistance, the damage would probably have been much worse. It has to be emphasised once again that nobody should believe that he or she will be able to stop or control a veld fire burning out of control. Such a fire can only be stopped or controlled in an organised way, with the correct equipment, proper communication and control among land owners, the fire fighters and the control point. All involved have specific functions, and if these functions are not coordinated the damage may be much worse and people can suffer serious injuries or even be killed. In rural areas all should be aware that it will take emergency services (fire brigade, paramedics and ambulance) more than an hour before they’ll be able to render assistance. A strong wind can cause a fire to spread over kilometres in a few minutes. Thatched roofs that are up to 100m or further away from a fire can still catch fire from sparks blown by the wind. Such roofs should be kept wet in cases where veld fires are burning towards it. (Photographs are of the veld fire at Steynshoop on 5 August 2015). Deon Greyling   Arbor week The first week of September is Arbor week.  This year’s common tree of the year is the Forest bushwillow (Combretum krausii), which is common in all the northern provinces, Kwazulu-Natal, Swaziland and Mpumalanga, and the eastern parts of Gauteng, and the rather uncommon Parsley tree (Heteromorpha arborescens (trifoliata)), which occurs in the Free State northwards, large areas of Gauteng, as well as the eastern parts of the Karoo and the western Cape. The Forest bushwillow occurs in evergreen forest and in thick bushy habitats where rainfall is good or groundwater abundant. It is an upright tree of 6 – 8m, with a dense canopy, and much less deciduous than its relatives, the leafless period being only about a month. The changes in foliage colour are interesting. In spring, some or all of the new leaves are white, turning to pale green as the season advances. Mature leaves are dark green, interspersed with the occasional bright red leaf. Fruiting can be spectacular too, a fiery pink blush diffusing throughout the canopy in middle to late summer. This tree is a great success in the garden. Growth is rapid, about 80cm per year, and it can tolerate moderate frost. Young stems are pliable and are used in basket-making. Sawdust can cause skin irritation. (The photo was taken by JMK, on 7 June 2012, at Louwsburg, Kwazulu-Natal). Source: https://commons.wikimedia,org/wiki. The Parsley tree occurs in many habitats and climates, ranging from moist evergreen forest to hot dry woodland and montane grassland. It is a slender, multi-stemmed tree of about 7m with greenish yellow flowers. The bark is unique and most attractive, shiny and copper-coloured, regularly marked with horizontal bands. The tree has a variable deciduous period, its length depending on the severity of winter. It grows easily from seed, and the growth rate is rapid, often 2m and more per year initially. It tolerates considerable drought and can withstand severe frost. The leaves and roots, and the smoke from burning wood, are used medicinally. (The photo was taken by JMK, on 14 October 2012, at Schanskop, Pretoria). Source: https://commons.wikimedia,org/wiki. (Sources: Field guide to trees of Southern Africa by Braam & Piet van Wyk (1997) & Gardening with indigenous trees and shrubs, by David & Sally Johnson (1993). Trees, shrubs, perennials and creepers can all be given a dressing of fertilizer, followed by a thorough watering. Enrich the soil by digging in compost as deeply as possible. Increase watering to once a week. (JoburgWest Get-it, August 2015). Remember: Know, grow and protect SA’s indigenous flora! Vultures and aviation  Vultures evoke strong emotions from many different individuals and walks of life, including those of enthusiastic pilots from large fixed-wing aircrafts, helicopters to motorised and non-motorised gliders. Vultures are seen as the masters of the skies and have adapted to make use of hot air currents also known as thermals to soar and glide as they forage, commute and play in our blue skies. Pilots flying non-motorised gliders make use of thermals for flying as well and thus use vultures, if and where possible, to locate thermals for successful and enjoyable flights. Generally, this is not a problem, but it does become a massive problem when pilots over step their mark and fly too close to vulture breeding, roosting and feeding sites, causing disturbance, chick fatalities from chicks jumping too early and parents abandoning their nests, egg or chicks due to fear and anguish. The same happens for fixed-wing aircrafts and helicopters when flying too low and too close to these selected and very specific sites which are easy to avoid. There is ample space away from these selected sites, and therefore there is no excuse or need to fly in close proximity or even at these sites whatsoever. Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres) colonies are found scattered around SA on suitable cliff faces such as that of the Magaliesberg (e.g. at Rietfontein). South Africa is the stronghold for the species, and they also breed in Lesotho and Botswana. They are now extinct as a breeding species in Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. There are under 4 000 breeding pairs left globally, and the species has now been up-listed to regionally endangered and globally vulnerable. It is a battle to stabilize populations, and even one lost egg or chick is one too many. Breeding season is from May through to and including December. Each and every pilot should respect our vultures and their habitat, and appreciate these magnificent birds in flight by keeping them safe and around to continue being the masters in flight. (Received via email, 5 August 2015). For more information on breeding, roosting and feeding sites, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that these areas can be made no-fly zones. The magnificent photos were taken by Walter Neser.   The glyphosate debate Research findings indicate that Glyphosate 2, 4-D and Dicamba (active ingredients in Roundup and other herbicides) were found to affect bacteria in ways that could promote resistance to common antibiotics. This is one of the most pressing public health crises of our time. Pesticide-included antibiotic resistance could also affect honeybees, since many commercial hives are now being treated with antibiotics (Elizabeth Grossman, Our Fragile Planet, no 17, May 2015). The Glyphosate Carcinogenicity Report, published by the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer, is clearly written and provides a useful document in support of individuals and groups campaigning against glyphosate herbicide spraying. The report concluded that glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, is a Class 2A carcinogen. It causes cancer in animals and probably also in people. (Read the full report: monographs.iarc.fr) Because Roundup has long been described as the world’s safest pesticide, we decided to do some more research on the issue after having read the above quotations. It is used so widely that traces of it have been found in human breast milk and urine, as well as in bread and other food products. Following on the findings of experts of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that this pesticide was “probably” carcinogenic, an almighty row erupted involving multinational corporations, scientists, bakers, brewers and farmers – leaving consumers struggling to find out if they are in danger. Many countries have already banned or restricted the use of glyphosate. Amongst others, however, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (the EU’s leader in research about this issue) has reacted with scepticism to the IARC’s findings and warns that more than 30 studies had concluded there was “no validated or significant relationship” between glyphosate and cancer among humans. Dr Kurt Straif of the IARC also added that “it could not clearly be said that it (glyphosate) is causing cancer in humans.” There were, however “strong evidence” that glyphosate is ‘genotoxic’, meaning that it damages DNA. Independent regulatory and safety assessments of glyphosate conducted by scientists at organisations like the National Institute of Health, the German Agency for Risk Assessment and the Georgetown University School of Medicine have found no consistent effects of glyphosate exposure on reproductive health and developing offspring. A study by prof Michelle McGuire, a scientist of the Washington State University, also found that glyphosate does not accumulate in mothers’ breast milk. (Read more about the findings of this study: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/0723133120.htm). Other well -known ‘carcinogens’: Toast: Contains acrylamide, a genotoxic carcinogen produced as a result of cooking starch-rich food at high temperatures. Coffee: A by-product of roasting coffee beans is acrylamide. PVC-plastic: Emits a carcinogenic gas called vinyl chloride, better known as that not so lovely ‘new-car smell’. Broccoli, onions and strawberries: Natural foods containing acetalhedyde, a carcinogen. (Source: Glyphosate: Scientists urge caution over experts’ claims pesticide is ‘probably’ carcinogenic – www.independent.co.uk/news/science) Environmental snippets SA farmers’ nut export problems: About half of South Africa’s annual macadamia nut harvest (more than 22 000 tons) does not have any buyers. This comes after China has clamped down on importers who smuggled huge amounts of these nuts into their country. South Africa is the world’s largest producer of macadamia nuts, producing about 30% of the total stock. China is the biggest market for SA’s macadamia nuts, but up to now, Chinese buyers have avoided paying import tariffs. According to Derek Donkin, senior executive of the subtropical fruit growers’ association of South Africa, farmers who have worked with these Chinese traders will be forced to pay a 19% import tariff to China (Xolani Mbanjwa, Sake-Rapport, 26 July 2015). In addition, there are large quantities of almonds, walnuts and pecan nuts in transit from the US to Hong Kong, raising concerns that buyers may abandon these shipments at the port for fear of being caught (Mike Cordes, Farmer’s Weekly, 17 April 2015). In the opinion of Daniel Zedan (chairman of Nature’s Finest Foods in America), the international market for pecan nuts is growing strongly. However, the Chinese market will have to be studied carefully, as they are not consumer driven, but trade driven. If the Chinese traders don’t make a profit, they will stop buying pecan nuts. Currently, Chinese farmers don’t pose any threat, as their cultivation techniques are old fashioned and their yield low. They do, however, invest a lot of money in research (Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015). The statement that electricity supply to people excluded before 1994 is the reason for load shedding is not true. Granted, 4,5 million households have been added to the grid, and homes with electricity increased from 44% to 85%. But household use is low, and it added only 5 % in demand while capacity went up by 11% (Prof Christo Viljoen, retired professional engineer and ex-member of the Eskom board and Electricity Control Board – now Nersa). El Nino – another dry summer ahead? If current temperature developments in the southern Pacific Ocean persist, South Africans living on the Highveld can expect another dry summer at the end of this year, to follow on the already dry summer past. One should, however, be careful not to make a general rule for rainfall and temperature changes in El Nino years over southern Africa. The impact of El Nino is often reduced by the sufficient groundwater and soil moisture content carried over from previous seasons. This will, however, not be the case this year. The warm anomaly over the eastern equatorial Pacific – the typical indicator for an El Nino – has in recent weeks exceeded 1°C, and the sea temperature will probably continue increasing until December (Gauteng Smallholder, June 2015). Rhino poaching in perspective: The exact number of Namibian black rhinos has always been kept a secret so as to not draw unwanted attention to them. However, this tradition has contributed to on-going poaching activities going unnoticed for much too long. According to the Namibian government, 62 black rhinos have been poached in the Etosha Game Reserve the past six months. However, sources within the park are of the opinion that about 80 have been poached. More than 400 of this critically endangered species were poached since 2005, with 70% of this number having been poached since 2012. Compared to the large numbers of white rhinos poached in South Africa, these numbers may seem insignificant, but they are significant: Namibia’s remaining 1 800 black rhinos represent 40% of the world population of about 4 500. One and a half centuries ago, there were 850 000 black rhinos (John Grobler, Rapport Weekliks, 9 August 2015).   Biggest health problem, fungi and obesity Our oceans: Each and every day, 250 000 sharks are killed – mainly for making shark fin soup in the Far East.  Only 2% of the world’s oceans is protected by legislation (Rapport Weekliks, 26 July 2015). During the 24 days before Sylvester, the runaway Karoo lion, was eventually caught in the Nuweveld mountain range, he had killed 19 sheep, one donkey and a kudu. Although the lion had caused great consternation, there were considerably fewer livestock thieves in the area (Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015). Korea has the world’s most flowering cherry trees, also known as beotkkot namu. The trees don’t bear any fruit, and were planted purely for their annual, rather short-lived splendour of colour (Vrouekeur, 4 April 2014). Citrus represents about 50% of all perishable South African export products (Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015). According to experts, obesity will soon surpass HIV as South Africa’s biggest health problem, and it will eventually cause the collapse of the country’s rather shaky health system. During the past nine years, government has spent more R23 milliard on treating and preventing life style related diseases associated with obesity. About 7 million people suffer from hypertension, which increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks, while 3,5 million people suffer from diabetes. Obesity is linked to half of all cases of diabetes and hypertension, and statistics show that specific types of cancer can also be associated with obesity. In addition, this is becoming a major problem among young people - 5% of all boys and 25% of all girls in South Africa are overweight or obese. According to prof Andre Kengne, director of the research unit of the Medical Research Council (MRC), indications are that non-infectious diseases will surpass infectious diseases as the main cause of death in developing countries such as South Africa, in the coming decades (Rapport, 12 July 2015). Every year, more than a 1 000 South African mine workers are diagnosed with silicosis. This disease is caused by breathing in silica dust, thereby increasing mine workers’ vulnerability for contacting tuberculosis. In 2014, 1 063 cases of silicosis were reported by South African mines (Sake-Rapport, 28 June 2015). The number of discouraged job seekers (people who want to work, but who have stopped looking for a job) increased with 37 000 to 2,4 million during the second quarter of 2015 (Rapport, 2 August 2015). Fascinating fungi: More than a 100 000 different species of fungi have been identified worldwide. These include mushrooms, toadstools, mildew, ferment and mould. About 20% of people suffer from fungi infections, especially under their toe nails. A normal person’s skin is covered by fungi, which can be found on all parts of the skin. Most of these fungi don’t pose any threat at all, while some are necessary and valuable, and others can cause damage. Scientists of the National Research Institute for Human Genomes in Bethesda, Maryland, have found that about 80 different fungi species can be found on human heels, while about 60 different fungi species can be found under toe nails and 40 between the toes. Only about 10 fungi species can be found on a human’s head (Huisgenoot, 4 September 2014).   Laugh a little – Church ladies with typewriters The sentences below actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced at church services.   The Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals. Scouts are saving aluminium cans, bLaugh a little – Church ladies with typewriters The sentences below actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced at church services. The Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals. Scouts are saving aluminium cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children. Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands. Don’t let worry kill you off – let the church help. For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs. Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.  Bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children. Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands. Don’t let worry kill you off – let the church help. For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs. Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered. Food for thought... “You can only be who ‘you’ are. The moment you try to be something (or someone) you’re not, you lose your power” (Nicolas Schwartz). “Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out” (JoburgWest Get-it, August 2015). “In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek to teaching Remedial English in college” (Joseph Sobran). And finally...on stargazing On a clear, dark night far away from light and air pollution, the human naked eye can see up to 3 500 individual stars. I wonder – do we gaze at stars because we are human, or are we human because we gaze at stars? (Vincent Nettman, Maropeng local astronomer). “I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars” (Og Mandino).  

August 2015

  Newsletter #77 Editorial This year, we’re not experiencing an exceptionally cold winter. Because of the air being so dry, we have also had very little frost, which probably means that we’re going to have an outbreak of pests and diseases this coming spring and summer. We can still remember black frost on 27 August one year, though. Nevertheless, we have much to be thankful for, even if heaps of dry leaves and the blue, blue winter skies will still be with us for quite a while.The announcement about the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve was welcomed by our members and readers. We have received communication about nominations for a management committee, and we will keep you all posted about future events. However, not all of us are equally aware of the importance of protecting our beautiful environment.   A balanced outlook on conservation? “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it is attached to the rest of the world” (John Muir).  Do we have a balanced outlook on protecting our natural resources in Hartebeestfontein – or not? When I see and hear how people react to events in our environment I often ask myself this question. Often, opinions are expressed that clearly indicate ignorance, assumptions and self-interest, with the latter mostly given preference. It is often said that humans will be responsible for their own downfall, and sometimes, one cannot but wholly agree with this and relate it to events in one’s own environment. This past week, much was said about our country’s looming water crisis and that water consumption will be strictly regulated, similar to load shedding. Fact is that we do not have sufficient clean water, and that we cannot generate more water as with electricity, while the population is increasing at an unsustainable rate. Then there are people who tell me “This doesn’t concern me, I have lots of water, a strong borehole, and I’ll pump as much as I want and do what I want on my property, because I’m making good money”. They are oblivious of the fact that the water is not only on their property, not knowing where it comes from, or that their careless attitude can result in a water shortage for them and others, and that the plug may be pulled on their financial resources. They also don’t take into account that more people with more new boreholes use more water every year, and that available water resources have decreased alarmingly over the past two decades. They are also unaware of the fact that many boreholes that always had strong water have now dried up or are producing much less water. Furthermore, groundwater quality is decreasing as a result of salinisation and pollution, sometimes quite a distance from where it is pumped. This is probably indicative of the over utilisation of our water resources. Few people realize that the mountains, and in particular, the Magaliesberg, is a reservoir of clean water in our area. Nearly all our groundwater comes from the mountains where it is stored and protected by the vegetation on the mountains and their slopes. So, if we don’t protect our mountains, we won’t have water. Some say we should not destroy any indigenous bush and vegetation, while others are of the opinion that deforestation must take place in certain areas for fire breaks, as prescribed by Law. We will thus prevent those veld fires, which are difficult or impossible to control in the mountains. (See the photo of such a fire break that was recently made at the foot of the Magaliesberg). Admirers of vervet monkeys complain when bird lovers complain that the monkeys raid birds’ nests and fruit and vegetable farmers suffer huge losses and want to cull some of these monkeys. When a leopard is seen attacking baboons or monkeys in the mountain, some say leopards shouldn’t be there, and it also poses a threat to their livestock, while others are of the opinion that it is dangerous for hikers frequenting the various hiking routes on the mountain. If game is culled in order to protect the remaining game against starvation and death, there are numerous complaints. Although various measures to curb crime with an effective communication system, for those who are interested to make use of it, in place, and although crime prevention has been relatively successful, excessive measures are taken with impenetrable fences and lights, etc., keeping everything in or out in order to ward off the “onslaught”. Protecting the environment or its flora and fauna becomes unimportant when people develop a fear of crime. We can cite many examples, and each point of view will probably have merit from own conviction. I urgently request people to cultivate a balanced outlook in respect of protecting our natural resources and environment. Short-sightedness and self-interest in this regard will lead to your own downfall and that of many others. We cannot always point the finger at other people, while our own actions leave much to be desired. We should all do some soul searching and ask ourselves, what am I doing wrong, or what can I do to make a contribution in creating and maintaining a sustainable environment? This is not to say that one shouldn’t rebuild what has fallen into disrepair, but excessive revamping may just do more harm than good, especially if we keep on tugging at nature. Will we in Hartebeestfontein be able to keep our perspective and maintain a balanced approach in respect of protecting our natural resources? This will depend on everyone’s personal motivation and willingness to adapt and cooperate, as well as how we manage external influences that we’re all exposed to. Time will tell, and when we look back after some years, we’ll know whether we have succeeded or not. Deon Greyling   Bird of the month: Cape Robin One of our members, Lourie Laatz, sent us a beautiful photo of a Cape Robin (Afr Gewone Janfrederik, or Cossypha caffra) that has come to fetch a worm from her every day, for a while now. This cute little fellow will therefore be our bird of the month.   The colourful Cape Robin is greyish brown above, with an orange rump, conspicuous white eyebrow, black face and bill, brownish pink legs and feet, light orange breast and throat, greyish white belly and orange tail with black centre. When disturbed, they make a harsh 3-syllabled alarm note, WA-deda, and their call can be likened to someone reading off a shopping list – teeu teetoo, teeu tiddly-too, teeu teetoo teetoo. They are common throughout South Africa, except in much of the Northern Cape. Their favourite habitat is forest edges, wooded kloofs, riverine bush, gardens, parks, farmyards, wattle and Eucalyptus plantations. They like feeding on insects, spiders, worms, small frogs, lizards and fruit. The breeding season lasts from June to December, when they usually lay 2-3 pale pinkish or greenish, spotted eggs. Incubation and nestling usually takes about 18 days. (Source: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, sixth edition, 1993).   Rose-ringed Parakeet Project A male (black ring) and female (no black ring) Rose-ringed Parakeet inspecting a nest cavity. Dainfern, Johannesburg, photographed by Patrick Bell  The Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) is native to sub-Saharan Africa, but in SA they were introduced, where after they became naturalised as they spread to new areas. According to Wits researchers, Craig Symes and Elize Fourie (School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences), most of these populations are derived from escaped birds, and probably originate from aviculture. This is an invasive parrot species, which inhabits urban areas of South Africa, and which is currently listed as a Category 2 invasive species in the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA). The impact of the species on local biodiversity and the environment is, however, not known. The Wits researchers are launching the Rose-ringed Parakeet Project to firstly, locate parakeet roosting/breeding sites and secondly, investigate the size and distribution range of the parakeet population in Gauteng. This will be complemented by parallel studies (in association with European researchers and ParrotNet), focused on the behaviour of these birds in Gauteng. It will improve understanding of the ecology and behaviour of the species in South African urban environments and ensure that informed decisions are made by policy makers regarding the status and management of this parrot. All birders, citizen scientists, outdoor enthusiasts, and members of the public are invited to assist with and collaborate on the project by submitting sightings of these parakeets to the project database. Particularly needed is information on the exact location of permanent roosting and breeding sites as well as the number of parakeets seen.To diarise: Spot-a-parakeet day, Saturday 22 August. Best time: 06:00 – 08:00 or 16:00 – 18:00. Please join the Facebook group (The Rose-ringed Parakeet Project) for more information and updates. If you have any photos of parakeets, or any questions or need further information please contact the Wits researchers and send photos to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Data can be submitted to the project in the following ways:1. Using Google Forms. Please follow this link to the data form, fill it in, and submit. You may submit more than one form for the project. Please fill in all required fields as completely as possible: http://goo.gl/forms/E9giDg3hZh OR2. Via Birdlasser, the technological partner of this project. All data of Rose-ringed Parakeets logged on Birdlasser will be shared with the Wits researchers. This application is available for download on Apple and Android devices. More info at www.birdlasser.com.   Environmental snippets On feathered friends: Only 250 Bearded vultures (Afr Lammergier, or Gypaetus barbatus), are left in South Africa. This species has now been added to the ICUN Red Data List of critically endangered birds (Rapport, 12 June 2015).A young Secretary bird was recently found in the middle of Pietermaritzburg – definitely not normal habitat or a safe area either! The bird was emaciated when found, proving that it had been battling to find food. FreeMe in Gauteng reported similar incidents of these birds ending up in urban areas, their desperation for food forcing them closer to human habitation in an effort to find it (Raptor Rescue Newsletter, June 2015). To read the full newsletter, go to www.africanraptor.co.za.   Interesting facts about insects From the Gauteng Smallholder (July 2015) and Huisgenoot (12 February 2015): Ladybirds (Afr. Liewenheersbesies) are a farmer’s best allies, as they eat scale insects and aphids that cause damage to crops. They act as a natural pest control and are far more effective than commercial pesticides. In its lifetime of three to six weeks, a ladybird can consume up to 5 000 aphids. Dragon flies have exceptional aerodynamic abilities. They can fly in reverse, change direction in flight and glide-hang at one spot for longer than a minute. The silverfish or silver moth is one of the most primitive species of wingless insects. Ctenolepisma longicaudata is the most common silverfish species in South Africa. There are about 370 silverfish species in the world. During the summer season, a queen bee can lay about 2 000 eggs per day – much more than her own body weight.   Bats:   Bats play an important role in ecosystems: There are at least 19 species of bat in Gauteng, with 56 in total throughout South Africa. Of the 75 species found in the sub region of southern Africa, 20 insectivorous bats and two species of fruit-eating bats are listed as threatened in the IUCN Red Data List of threatened animals. Bat populations are decreasing nationwide. Human encroachment and chemicals used on the insects and plants they eat has led to loss of habitat. There are four species of fruit-eating bats that typically occur in South Africa, but only two of these species occur in Gauteng, namely the African straw-coloured fruit bat and Wahlberg’s epauletted bat (Gauteng Smallholder, July 2015).   River pollution:   Tests found that the Hennops River contained more than one million units of E.coli per 100ml of water. The current level of E.coli puts the content in the same category as raw sewage.Each kilometre of the Jukskei River in Gauteng contains up to a 1 000 tons of garbage in areas such as Alexandra, and about 300 tons per kilometre elsewhere. Visit http://wet-africa.co.za to read about efforts to clean up the river (VeldTalk, no 76, July 2015).   Load shedding: Load shedding has become part of our lives, like traffic jams, crime and heartburn. In many cases it is just an irritation, like when the food is half-cooked, and the soapy on TV remains without an ending, but when the milking machine stops working, the cooling system in the warehouse switches off, and the mixer in the feedlot comes to a standstill, it becomes a crisis. Then you should have your Plan B ready to roll. All of us want to be able to function without Eskom, but it is expensive to switch over, and the technology, especially with regard to storing energy in battery systems, has just not advanced as far as it should have yet (opinion expressed in ProAgri, no 184, June 2015). The Springboks have been playing load shedding rugby for a while now – one half on, one half off – Ed.   Did you know? World renowned heart surgeon, Dr Dwight Lundell, with 25 years’ experience (having performed 5 000 open-heart operations) and author of the book “The great cholesterol lie” says that diets to lower cholesterol and severely restrict fat intake are not helping to cure or stop heart disease. Inflammation in the artery walls is the real cause of heart disease. This discovery is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated in future. Mainstream diets are low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats and carbohydrates, thus causing repeated injury to blood vessels. This repeated injury creates chronic inflammation, leading to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and eventually even Alzheimer’s. Excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils, like soybean, corn and sunflower, found in many processed foods, causes an imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3. One should eat natural (unprocessed) food – more protein, fruit, vegetables, olive oil and butter made from grass-fed animal milk (received via email on 6 January 2015). The “sandwich generation” is people who are sandwiched between the demands – also financial demands – of their children on the one hand and their elderly parents on the other hand. About 40,5% of retired people find themselves in this difficult position. Grandchildren (44%), children (43,6%), extended family members (20,2%), parents (12,8%) and spouses (11,1%) have all become dependent on retired people. In the words of tax expert, Matthew Lester, “Don’t expect to inherit from your parents; you are going to inherit your parents” (Huisgenoot Leefstyl, 12 February 2015).   Food for thought... Food for thought...“I’d rather look back at my life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that’ instead of saying ‘I wish I did that’” (Unknown). “Faith is doing what you love for a living and watching the bills pay themselves” (Rudy Francisco). “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things” (Leonardo da Vinci). And finally…These ten things will disappear in our lifetime!1. The Post Office: Worldwide, Post Offices are so deeply in financial trouble there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email and cell phone communication (immediate, direct communication) have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.2. The Cheque: Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with cheque by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process cheques. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the cheque. Cash? In Norway, only 5% of financial transactions use cash, and the country could be cash free by 2020.3. The Newspaper: The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.4. The Book: You say you will never give up the physical book you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes, but I quickly changed my mind when I discovered I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books.5. The Land Line Telephone: You don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for the extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.6. Music, as we know it: The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalogue items," meaning traditional music the public is familiar with, older established artists. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."7. Television: Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. Cable rates are skyrocketing, and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Highly irritating!8. The "Things" You Own: Many of the very possessions we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud" Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of this is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." It means when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider.9. Joined handwriting: Already gone in some schools who no longer teach "joined handwriting" because nearly everything is done now on computers or keyboards of some type.10. Privacy: If there ever was a concept we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. It's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure 24/7, "they" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. All we will have left with, and can't be changed, are "Memories" (email received on 8 June 2015).      

July 2015

  Newsletter #76 Editorial With deep regret: One of our members and dear friend, Dawn Jack, passed away unexpectedly from complications after an operation on 24 June 2015. Our heartfelt condolences go to her husband, Ronnie, children, next of kin, family and friends. Once again, many thanks for all the positive comments on our previous newsletter. Our readers/members found the articles on our feathered friends and Sweden's recycling programme fascinating. Below are some of the emails in response to the articles.One of our members, Carol van der Linde wrote via email on 8 June: "What a coincidence, in your latest newsletter. We were sitting on our veranda on Saturday 6 June, at about midday, when we spotted a Secretary bird wandering about on our field. About a week before that we saw a Gymnogene in a Eucalyptus tree near to the house. We feel so privileged to have seen these birds".    Ernst Retief, Regional Conservation Manager of SA Birdlife: Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State, drew our attention to the fact that our Conservancy falls into the Magaliesberg Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA).    One of our readers, Gerrie Jacobs, forwarded an interesting article of Trevor Hardaker, wildlife enthusiast and photographer on 16 June: "Bird migration is a really fascinating subject and I am constantly amazed at the distances that some birds travel each year. A female European Honey Buzzard was fitted with a satellite tracking system in Finland recently and was of particular interest to locals because it spent the most recent austral summer around the town of Reitz in the Free State in South Africa. She left Reitz to start heading north on 20 April 2015 and, yesterday morning, 2 June, she finally reached Finland where she will probably spend the boreal summer before probably returning again next season to visit us here in South Africa. In just 42 days, she covered over 10 000km at an average of more than 230 km every single day! Isn't that just amazing?"   Pauline Kaufmann's (GCSA) point of view via email on 8 June: "Always an enjoyable and interesting read. Pity our government can't implement Sweden's recycling programme, or even better, why don't we send our garbage there?"   On 17 June 2015, two of our members, Mike & Cilla Crewe-Brown were honoured as this year's Food Heroes by the Johannesburg Slow Food Convivium for their contribution to the "development of rare breeds and education on sustainable food and farming". Congratulations! Breaking news about the Magaliesberg Biosphere On 9 June 2015, the International Coordinating Council of the Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB) announced in Paris that the Magaliesberg has been declared as a World Biosphere Reserve. This announcement is the culmination of a campaign to have this mountain, which is about a 100 times older than Mount Everest (about half the age of the earth), declared as a World Biosphere. The Magaliesberg is under severe pressure from urbanisation and has lacked the support of a strong regulatory framework to back its status as a protected area. The Reserve covers almost 358 000ha – 58 000ha making up the core area (in which our Conservancy falls), 110 000ha the buffer area and 190 000ha the transition area. Besides the area's unique biomes – Central Grassland Plateaux and the sub-Saharan savannah – it has a very rich biodiversity. The plant species, Aloe Peglerae and Frithia pulchra, are unique to the area, and it is also home to 443 bird species – almost half the total bird species of southern Africa. In a report of the International Advisory Committee for Biospheres it is noted that "The area is endowed with scenic beauty, unique natural features, rich cultural heritage value and archaeological interest with the Cradle of Humankind, which is part of the World Heritage Site, with four million years of history".The Magaliesberg now joins 631 biosphere reserves in 119 countries worldwide. There are now eight UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in South Africa, namely: Kogelberg (Western Cape), the Cape West Coast, Kruger to Canyons (Limpopo & Mpumalanga), the Waterberg (Limpopo), the Cape Wine Lands, Vhembe (Limpopo), the Gouritz cluster (Western and Eastern Cape), and the Magaliesberg. The Magaliesberg Biosphere will be formally registered by UNESCO and the Department of Environmental Affairs as a World Biosphere Reserve in October 2015.In the words of Vincent Carruthers, well-known author of the book, The Magaliesberg, "...the real challenge is to learn how to use and enjoy all that the mountain has to offer and allow that enjoyment to be sustained in perpetuity". Amendments to NEMBA AIS Regulations We have reported in detail on the NEMBA AIS Regulations, published in the Government Gazette of 1 August 2014 in previous newsletters. On 29 May 2015, amendments to these Regulations (Notice 493 of 2015) were posted for public comment. A few important highlights include: Invasive animals* Removal of corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus guttatus) from the invasive species lists;* Listing of Burmese Python (Python bivittatus) as a Category 2 invader;* Listing of ALL American red slider turtles (Trachemys species) as Category 3 invaders;* Listing of the European shore crab/Green crab (Carcinus maenas) as a Category 1b invader;* Removal of the Common Boa and Green Iguana from being listed as Category 2 invaders in Gauteng. Restrictions in other provinces remain.* Dispensation for the official parakeet and pigeon racing associations to issue Category 2 permits to their members; and* Detailed confirmation of the status of carp. Invasive plants * Confirmation of the sword fern (Nephrolepis) as a Category 1b invader in KwaZulu-Natal.* Detailed confirmation of the status of Pinus pinaster and Pinus radiata.   Visit www.invasives.org.za for more information.   The NEMBA Alien and Invasive Species regulations, published on 1 August 2014, list 8 species of pines as invasive, with provisions on where and how they are to be managed.  Image from www.invasives.org.za     Further training opportunities for Invasives Consultants:To date, 410 consultants have been trained (during April & May 2015). Further training workshops will be taking place during July. Contact Margie Vonk on 011 723 9000 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.   On dirt roads and cyclists Winter's dust and smoke is with us once again, which means that people suffering from sinusitis are doing good business with our local doctor and pharmacist. Local residents find it impossible to keep their homes clean and must dust and sweep constantly. As soon as the next vehicle speeds down the road, the whole process starts again. Not all residents in the area realise that by slowing down there will be much less dust to deal with.   Generally, visitors passing through our area drive too fast, not realising that braking and negotiating corners needs extra driving skills on gravel. They tend to hog the middle of the road and show little consideration for pedestrians, cyclists or other road users, forcing them to give way to what often resembles an approaching tornado. Heaven forbid if you have to stop next to the road for some or other reason! This is frustrating for farmers, as these drivers cover sheep, cattle and goats grazing in camps and hot houses next to the road in dust. If an oncoming car is spotted, slow down and move as far left as possible to ensure a wide enough gap between the vehicles. This reduces the risk of damage to windscreens and bodywork from flying stones and limits the clouds of dust kicked up behind you. One wonders about the health risk to groups of cyclists who frequent our dirt roads over weekends. In addition, these cyclists also have the same problem as many other South Africans who don't remove their route indicators, placed everywhere on the road and fastened to trees along the way. Long after elections, auctions and the like, advertising boards still appear along roads. Local residents must then clean up afterwards. Winter is, however, not just ugly and dusty. If you take time, you'll notice the most beautiful aloes in flower everywhere. Our members/readers are welcome to send us photos of flowering aloes. Winter is also soup time. Soup makes you warm and comforts you. So, chop up some veggies, and you'll have a tasty bowl of soup in two ticks. Get your grater, pour a glass of good wine and make your very own aromatic comfort food this winter! (Ed).   African Harrier Hawk Information for this article was kindly provided by Willie Froneman, birding expert of the Xanadu Nature Estate, and the beautiful photo of the bird in flight was taken by his son, well-known bird photographer, Albert Froneman.   On 23 June, Willie wrote via email: "The names of South African bird species were internationalised in 2004, when many of the old names disappeared. Gymnogene was one of these. The name comes from an old Hindu sect who wore very little or no clothes (nudists or Gymnosophists), therefore the Afrikaans name "Kaalwangvalk". This species falls under the group, Harrier Hawks, also including the "goshawks" (Singing falcons). The African Harrier Hawk (Polyboroides typus) is a large, broad-winged hawk with a small head, long legs, black bill and loose floppy flight action. It is grey above with large black spots on the wing coverts, finely barred black and white below, long bare yellow legs and feet. In flight, the broad floppy wings display a broad black trailing edge and tip. A distinctive feature is its fairly long black tail with a single central white bar, and narrow white tip. The neck feathers are elongated, and can be raised to form ruff. The feature that it shares with no other raptor is its un-feathered bright yellow face, that extends to around and beyond the eyes (or literally 'bare cheeks').The African Harrier Hawk is fairly widely distributed in South Africa, avoiding the dry western parts. They are common to scarce residents, favouring indigenous forests, riverine forest and open broad-leaved woodlands, also rocky hills and mountains. They are usually solitary, unobtrusive when perched, and are often seen flying fairly high. Their hunting technique is to fly from tree to tree, inspecting trunks and branches for prey, and their favourite feeding habit is robbing nests of weavers, swallows and swifts. They also often invade nesting colonies of water birds. Their call is a plaintive whistled "suuu-eeee-ooo". The favourite diet of these birds consists of birds, reptiles, mammals and frogs. In South Africa, the breeding season is from August to November, laying a clutch of two buff or cream, washed reddish, heavily blotched with mahogany red, eggs. Incubation is 35 days and nestling 55 days. The birds occur in many well-wooded towns and villages, and are often seen in and around Hartbeespoort. Environmental snippets Planetary boundaries: In a paper published in Science in January 2015, Johan Rockström argues that we've already screwed up with regards to the first four planetary boundaries, and we're cutting it fine with the other five. The nine planetary boundaries are:1. Climate change2. Lost biodiversity as species become extinct3. The addition of phosphorus, nitrogen (and other elements) to the world's crops and ecosystems4. Deforestation and other land use changes5. Emission of aerosols (microscopic particles) that affects climate and living organisms6. Stratospheric ozone depletion7. Ocean acidification8. Freshwater use9. Dumping of organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nano materials, micro-plastics and other novel man-made substances into the world's environments. (Our Fragile Planet, no 16, April 2015).   Salt cells store heat: Construction of the Saudi-Arabian water and energy developer, ACWA Power's new Bokpoort solar power installation at Bokpoort, near Groblershoop in the Northern Cape is nearing completion and will probably start providing power in the fourth quarter of this year. This technology is the only renewable power generating method that is able to continue providing power from 17:00 to 21:00, just when Eskom needs it most to avoid load shedding. A sea of concave mirrors encapsulates the sun's heat during the day, and this energy is then used to power steam turbines. The heat that is encapsulated during the day is stored in salt cells and can be used during the night to keep the steam turbines going. The specially purified salt that is used in the installation's tanks comes from the Atacama Desert in Chile. This industrial salt is essentially similar to table salt but not fit for human consumption. The salt cells are able to store about 1 300MWh energy, which is sufficient to keep the installation going for just over nine hours (Mari Blumenthal & Francois Williams, Sake-Rapport, 7 June 2015).   Stop freaking out – bugs are full of proteins: One's first response to finding crickets or grasshoppers in the home is to grab the Doom. However, before you kill them, take a moment to think about all the proteins you are destroying. At a recent "Pestaurant" in the Cresta Shopping Centre, one could see and taste dishes made from crickets, grasshoppers, meal worms, mopani worms and scorpions. The dried insects are disguised in popular food versions, such as brownies, canapés, wraps and lollies. At first, the dishes don't have any taste, but when you start chewing, they taste like wood, or like old Weet-Bix. According to Lemay Rogers, marketing manager of Rentokil, insects are very healthy. They contain lots of protein and iron and very little fat. People should stop thinking of insects as pests and realise that they are good for their bodies (Nuus-Rapport, 7 June 2015).   Did you know? International Ocean day was celebrated on 8 June 2015. About half of the world's oxygen comes from the oceans. South Africa's oceans are unique, because the warm and cool oceans that meet each other on our south coast create a rich biodiversity. South Africans don't do enough to protect our oceans, and up to 40% of our oceans are over exploited (RSG & DSTV Insig, 8 June 2015).   Recent research indicates that large-scale bribery among government officials who monitor fishing along the SA coast contributes to over exploitation of fishing resources. These incidents of bribery prevent implementation of the regulations that are intended to keep fishing at sustainable levels. Some of these officials act as informants and warn poachers against joint policing actions in advance, while others are also involved in illegal fishing activities (Anna-Karin Lundell, Our Fragile Planet, no 17, May 2015).   For the first time in history, in 2015, there were more people without jobs in the 20-24 age group than people who were actually employed. A huge 44% of the population has no income, including 5,5 million people without jobs still looking for employment and 2,4 million who have stopped looking for employment. A perfect storm is brewing (Herman Gillomee, Rapport Weekliks, 31 May & 7 June 2015).   What is LPG? Liquid petroleum gas (butane and propane) is a by-product in the oil refining process and in the process where natural gas (methane) is converted into fuel. It is heavier than air and has a higher energy content than natural gas (Sake-Rapport, 14 June 2015).   What is a 'leap' second (Afr skrikkelsekonde)? When sensitive time systems crashed in 1972, it was noticed that there was a 10 second deficit between earth rotation and time mechanisms (sun and watch time). From then on, a 'leap' second was added at intervals during specific years, just after midnight on 30 June. Six months ago, the international earth rotation service announced that a 'leap' second would be added on 30 June 2015, for the first time since 2012 (RSG, 30 June 2015).   Air pollution is linked to an increased risk of stroke, a large global study in the British Medical Journal suggests. (Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-32024727).   Although mampoer is synonymous with the Boere culture, it actually comes from the Pedis. It was named after the Pedi chief, Mampuru, who made punch with a 'kick' from peaches (Rondrits Rapport, 31 May 2015). More information: 012 736 2035/6.   According to Prof Salomé Kruger of the Faculty of Health Sciences at NWU (Rapport Beleef, 17 May 2015), one can cure one's sweet tooth by following a few simple steps: Gradually use less sugar in your coffee. If you normally use three teaspoons of sugar, decrease this to two teaspoons for two weeks, then one teaspoon for two weeks, and eventually none. Drink water when you become thirsty. Put cucumber pieces or mint leaves in your glass of water to give it a better taste, or have some flavoured tea – it has a sweet taste without you having to add sugar. Food for thought... "I am now in the land of olives, wine, oil and sunshine. What more can a man ask of heaven?" (Thomas Jefferson, In Aix-en-Provence 1787). "Common sense is not a gift, it's a punishment because you still have to deal with everyone who doesn't have it" (Anonymous). "The hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray" (Unknown). "When you remember a past event, you're actually remembering the last time you remembered it, not the event itself" (Unknown). "No matter how little money and how few possesions you own, having a dog makes you rich" (Louis Sabin).   And finally...   After Christmas, a teacher asked her young pupils how they spent their holiday away from school. One child wrote the following absolutely priceless piece:"We always used to spend the holidays with Grandma and Grandpa. They used to live in a big brick house but Grandpa got retarded and they moved to the sea where everyone lives in nice little houses, and so they don't have to mow the grass anymore! They ride around on their bicycles and scooters and wear name tags because they don't know who they are anymore. They go to a building called a wreck centre, but they must have got it fixed because it is all okay now. They do exercises there, but they don't do them very well. There is a swimming pool too, but they all jump up and down in it with hats on. At their gate, there is a doll house with a little old man sitting in it. He watches all day so nobody can escape. Sometimes they sneak out, and go cruising in their golf carts! Nobody there cooks, they just eat out, and they eat the same thing every night --- early birds. Some of the people can't get out past the man in the doll house. The ones who do get out, bring food back to the wrecked centre for pot luck. My Grandma says that Grandpa worked all his life to earn his retardment and that I should work hard so I can be retarded someday too. When I earn my retardment, I want to be the man in the doll house. Then I will let people out, so they can visit their grandchildren".    

June 2015

  Newsletter #75 Editorial We would like to express our heartfelt thanks for all the positive comments received for last month’s newsletter. It seems that our members/readers found the articles on the water crisis and termites most interesting. Fact is: Our population growth is alarmingly high. And these new people don’t substitute those who pass away – they are added! It also doesn’t concern only the birth rate – people live longer and enjoy living longer more than before. This means that not only are there more people consuming food, water and energy – each one is also consuming more than his/her predecessor. Worse – if governments really started caring for our earth, the whole political power balance will be derailed! Another fact: We can live without electricity but not without water. If our natural fresh water resources are depleted our water is finished. We can always make some other plan to generate more electricity, but we cannot make more water!A warmer than usual winter is forecast for the northern parts of our country and a wetter than usual winter for the Cape. Whatever the case, winter time is time for baked sago pudding. But what is sago? It is a carbohydrate that comes from the inside of the stem of the sago palm. It is then processed into small, round granules that we know as sago. Tapioca (with the bigger granules) can be used as a substitute for sago. Mouth-watering!Important:Please make a note of the new contact numbers for SAPS Hekpoort: 014 576 9108 or 014 576 9109.   Our heritage One of our committee members, Annette Raaff, read interesting information about Damhoek in the recent Heritage Portal newsletter and shares it with us.Castle Gorge and Damhoek Pass saw significant Boer and British activity during various periods of the Anglo-Boer War. The Damhoek Pass was an important route over the Magaliesberg, and for this reason, in August 1901, the British Army fortified the area with no less than seven "Rice Pattern" blockhouses [and] various other smaller fortifications. The remains of these structures can still be seen today. Castle Gorge was the probable site of several hidden Boer industries, including a grain mill powered by the stream, a blacksmith, and a shoemaker. Unfortunately, no physicial evidence of these Boer industries has yet been found. A hike of this area to explore its history and structures, and to admire the beautiful scenery will be taking place on 2 June 2015. This is a strenuous hike of about 10km, and is only suitable for the fit! For more information, visit http://www.heritageportal.co.za/event/hiking-tour-damhoek-and-castle. Won’t it be exciting if the participants find some of the hidden Boer industries? – Ed.Go to http://www.heritageportalc.za/article/corrugated-irony-short-history-tin-roof and read the section on Paul Kruger and “boer maak ‘n plan”. A porcupine in the pool! Our members/readers will remember that we reported on Werner Fiel and Esther Müller’s horse that had somehow landed in their pool and could not get out, towards the end of last year. It took a concerted effort from a number of people to get the horse out of the pool uninjured. The pool was so badly damaged that it had to be remade. Now the newly made pool has had an animal visitor once again – this time a porcupine! Fortunately, the pool was still empty. Thanks to Esther who sent us the photo.     On Secretary birds A recent press release of BirdLife, SA (16 April 2015) reports on their research project to study the Secretary bird, launched in 2011 – the same year that the threatened status of the Secretary bird was changed to vulnerable. The report describes the vast distances these birds travel after leaving the nest and the numerous threats they face. The movements of one specific Secretary bird, called Taemane (meaning ‘diamond’ in Setswane- and Sotho), were tracked. He was fitted with a tracking device on a farm near Warden in the Free State on 5 April 2013, when he was about 49 days old. Taemane remained in the area of the nest until he was about 114 days old and then visited various parts of the Free State before moving south to the Kwazulu-Natal south coast, then moving inland, and settled on a farm near Ixopo for a few months. From there he moved back to the Free State where he then continued to spend time in the grasslands south of Memel. For more information on this project, please contact Ernst Retief at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 072 223 2160.   Although Secretary birds (Sagittarius serpentarius) can be found across South Africa (therefore also in our area), we cannot remember when last we saw one of these birds, and I thought that I should write an article about them. It will be interesting to know if any of our members/readers have spotted any of the birds in our area. The photo of the Secretary bird was kindly provided by well-known bird photographer, Albert Froneman – Ed.At a distance, the peculiar shape and long legs render this bird to be confused with a crane. Its unusualness has captured public imagination, and it is incorporated into the South African coat of arms. The body of the Secretary bird is mainly pale grey, belly and upper legs black, tibial feathering, tail bands, rump and crest feathers black. The irises are hazel, bill and cere pale blue-grey, facial skin yellowish orange, legs and feet greyish pink. They are very conspicuous in semi desert, grassland, savannah, open woodland, farmland and on mountain slopes. Usually in pairs or solitary. They breed from August to December. The clutch is normally 2 white or pale bluish-green eggs. Incubation is 45 days and nestling 85 days. Most immature birds move long distances from their nest site and then return to their natal areas after a few months. Their food consists of insects (mainly grasshoppers), rodents, lizards, young birds, eggs, snakes and rabbits.Sources: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, Gordon Lindsay Maclean, sixth edition, 1993 and information provided by Willie Froneman, Xanadu Nature Estate. About birding Blue crane massacre The Blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus) is SA’s national bird as well as the 2015 bird of the year, classified as vulnerable under the IUCN Red List categories. Tests have confirmed that poison (Diazinon, widely used as blowfly remedy for wool-producing sheep in the Karoo) was responsible for the recent deaths of between 200 and 1 000 Blue cranes near Richmond in the Karoo, an incident described as “the worst of its kind to date” (‘Blue crane massacre’ by Norma Wildenboer. Source: IOL News and Diamond Fields Advertiser, Kimberley). Proposed wind farm on the Sneeuberg in the Karoo: A 93 000ha wind energy facility (WEF) has been planned for the Sneeuberg mountain range near Victoria West in the Karoo. According to Marina Beal of the Nama Karoo Foundation (NKF), this development will imperil the iconic endangered Blue crane, many bird species and the entire local ecosystem: “The project makes no provision for the long-term sustainability of the environment, nor has any lasting benefit for those living in the vicinity. The environmental harm of the proposed WEF is not restricted to birds flying into blades, or the ugliness of turbines in a wilderness setting” (Farmer’s Weekly, 19 September 2014).   Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project South Africa is home to a wealth of bird species and other unique biodiversity. The rapid spread of urbanisation, mining, pollution, agriculture and a host of other human-induced factors have caused the current precarious state of many of our birds and their habitats. Sadly, we could permanently lose a large portion of our natural heritage if we do not change the situation. The Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme seeks to protect habitats and sites identified as critical to the survival of the species found there. These IBAs are also of the utmost importance in securing our water and food production. The overall health of these ecosystems impacts our households directly. The majority of these habitats, and the birds and other biodiversity they house, are found outside of state-owned protected areas. It is therefore essential that private landowners are engaged to steward their land in such a way that our environmental health and the beauty of our country are preserved for the future.(For more information on the Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project, contact the Project Manager, Candice Stevens: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).   Note from a bird lover: “I do love the fact that the more you watch the birds in your garden going about their daily business, the more questions you can ponder and discuss with like-minded friends. I’m not a fan of cold weather, but the winter flowering aloes make it all worthwhile. I am slowly collecting different aloes and hope to soon have flowers throughout the year. Our water-short country makes succulents the obvious choice for a bird garden, and the nectar-lovers of the bird world would really appreciate this” (Sally Johnson).   Did you know? When migrating, birds fly thousands of kilometres, sometimes days on end, while crossing oceans. Scientists have found that birds survive these marathon flights by taking forty winks for new energy. These power naps usually last only about 9 seconds. Birds close one of their eyes, while keeping the other one open so that they can still keep their brain active and spot danger (Huisgenoot Nuus, 11 December 2014).   Make a note in your diary: Sasol Bird Fair, 5 & 6 September 2015, at the Walter Sizulu Botanical Garden, Ruimsig. For more info, contact Nikki McCartney, Events & Marketing Manager: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. World heritage sites Our members/readers will be aware that a previous attempt to have the Magaliesberg Biosphere registered as a world heritage site, was unsuccessful some years ago (we reported about this process in our newsletters). Currently, new attempts are being made to have this historical and biodiversity-rich area registered as a world heritage site. Like Table Mountain, the Magaliesberg (and its surrounding zones) is one of oldest mountain ranges in the world.South Africa has eight world heritage sites Robben Island: Jail for political apartheid inmates and home to 32 bird species and 23 mammal species. The Cradle of Humankind: Close to Krugersdorp, world renowned for about 500 fossil discoveries. Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo: Home of Africa’s most advanced tribes, since the time of the Iron Age (900 AD). Ais-Ais-Richtersveld Cross-border Park: In the Northern Cape, on the South African/Namibian border, home to the famous Elephant’s trunk (Afr. “halfmens”) trees, San paintings (dating back up to 10 000 years) and black dolomite. The Free State Vredefort Dome: Site where a giant meteorite hit the earth about 2 023 years ago and formed a crater of 300km in diameter. iSimangaliso Wetland Park in Kwazulu-Natal: The park covers 332 000 hectares, has many lakes and ecosystems and is home to South Africa’s largest river estuary, 526 bird species and 25 000 year old coastal dunes. Cape floral region: Stretches from Table Mountain to the Swartberge and Baviaanskloof, and is home to 20% of Africa’s flora. Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world at 360 million years. uKhahlamba- Drakensberg Park: The park covers 243 000 hectares and is home to many caves and rock paintings, some dating back about 4 000 years (Rapport Beleef, 10 May 2015). Environmental snippets Springbuck migrations Up to the late 1890s, herds of thousands of springbucks migrated through the Karoo, Namaqualand and the Kalahari in a quest to find grazing. In a Farmer’s Weekly of 1915 it was reported that a huge springbuck migration had taken place from Namaqualand, over the mountains, to the western coast. Thousands of buck drowned in the sea, and carcasses could be found along 48km of the coast line!According to the author, Lawrence Green, a typical hunter’s breakfast consisted of fried springbuck liver and kidneys, followed by leg of springbuck, cold bustard, hot coffee with goat milk, coarse meal cookies, springbuck biltong, wild honey, tomatoes and lettuce leaves – a whole buck mouthful!Game is usually flavoured with coriander, mace, pimento, cloves, nutmeg, pepper corns, salt, sugar and vinegar. The meat is versatile, healthy, tasty, and one can change any cut into a juicy, tender and tasty dish. It is a good alternative to red meat, contains little fat, cholesterol and kilojoules and loads of good proteins (Anél Potgieter, Rapport Beleef, 3 May 2015).   Biodiversity The International Day for Biological Diversity was celebrated on 22 May 2015. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), globally about one third of all known species are threatened with extinction. That includes 29% of all amphibians, 21% of all mammals and 12% of all birds. If we do not address the threats to biodiversity, we could be facing another mass extinction with dire consequences to the environment, economy, human health and our livelihoods.Despite the declining rate of our biodiversity, South Africa remains one of the countries with high levels of biodiversity. South Africa occupies only 2% of the world’s land surface area and yet is home to 10% of the world’s plant species and 7% of its reptile-, bird and mammal species. Our oceans are home to 10 000 life forms, representing 16% of the world’s marine wildlife. Our country ranks as one of the top birding destinations in the world and is a sanctuary to more than 9 000 plant species, and home to the magnificent Big Five (email, 22 May 2015).   Bokoni Region Recent archaeological and historical research on the terraced settlements of the Bokoni region on the Mpumalanga escarpment has for the first time shed light on the area’s unique pre-colonial agricultural system. A summary of research on Bokoni is available in Peter Delius, Tim Maggs and Alex Schoeman’s book Forgotten World: The stone-walled settlements of the Mpumalanga escarpment (Wits University Press, 2014).Visit the website https://farminginafrica.wordpress.com/bokoni/ for more information. Did you know? Fuel cell vehicles: According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), fuel cell vehicles have many more advantages than electrical or conventional petrol or diesel vehicles. Fuel cells generate direct power from natural gas, different to batteries that must be charged from an external source. With fuel cell vehicles you won’t have a fear of distance like with battery-powered electrical vehicles, as it will produce 650km on a tank, and a hydrogen tank can be filled in three minutes (Francois Williams, Sake-Rapport, 8 March 2015). Sweden is so good at recycling, it has run out of garbage and must now import garbage from Norway to fuel its energy programmes (email received during May 2015). About 17 000 trees are processed into toilet paper daily (Huisgenoot Nuus, 11 December 2014). International Whiskey day was celebrated on 16 May 2015. The first recipe for making whiskey dates back to 1497. How do you know you’re drinking real Scotch? If the bottle’s label says Whisky, it is the real thing. All other producers must spell whiskey with an ‘e’, i.e. Whiskey (RSG, 15 May 2015). The human brain can store about 100 terra bytes, or 93 000 giga bytes. This is equal to 100 000 movies. New test for cocaine abuse: A new drug test will be able to detect cocaine abuse by means of finger prints, according to a report in The Independent. Cocaine excretes chemicals, somewhat like sweat, and this test is more effective than blood tests or body fluids, as those can be exchanged with fake samples. And, of course, your finger print will also disclose your identity (Rapport Nuus, 17 May 2015). Payment for having a sweet tooth: According to a 2013 research report published by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, “Sugar: Consumption at a Cross-roads”, South Africans are 15th on the list of the most obese nations worldwide. The average South African consumes about 25 teaspoons of sugar daily, compared to the worldwide average sugar consumption of 17 teaspoons daily. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one should not consume more than the equivalent of ten teaspoons of sugar (40g) per day (4g of sugar is about one teaspoon). Sugar has all the criteria of potentially addictive substances (Rapport Beleef, 17 May 2015). Interesting words Have you ever come across these words/expressions?Trouvaille (n.) – something lovely discovered by chance; a windfall.Dérive (n.) lit. – “drift”; a spontaneous journey where the traveller leaves their life behind for a time to let the spirit of the landscape and architecture attract and move them.Scintilla (n.) – a tiny, brilliant flash or spark; a small thing, a barely visible trace.“Yes, English can be weird. It can be understood through tough thorough thought, though”(David Burge@iowahawkblog). Food for thought... “A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest – but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move” (Richard Luv – Last Child in the Woods). “Don’t fear the enemy that attacks you, but the fake friend that hugs you” (Payong Kalbigan fb). “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones” (Julius Ceasar). “Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here, we should dance” (Anonymous). “We have one of the largest and costliest governments in the world. Sadly, it is grossly ineffectual. In fact, it is a very expensive bunch of amateur firefighters trying to douse a multitude of flames” (Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota). And finally...“Don’t worry about what I’m doing, worry about why you’re worried about what I’m doing” (Anonymous).  Forward this e-mail to a friend Not interested any more? {unsubscribe}Unsubscribe{/unsubscribe}

May 2015

  Newsletter #74 Editorial Welcome: We would like to welcome Marlise Kurth as a new Conservancy member. May she experience much joy from her association with us.Important announcement: At the Hartebeestfontein Fire Protection Association’s (FPA) AGM on 9 May 2015, it was decided that the cut-off date for burning fire breaks will be 30 June 2015.   A looming water crisis and old beliefs about rain Since very long ago, water rights has resulted in all kinds of fights, even mini wars. There are still many remainders of storage and irrigation dams, irrigation ditches and weirs in the river, all examples of water management systems from long ago. One can just imagine how many family fights and general disagreement this had resulted in!It has always been a fact that neither human beings nor animals are able to survive without water, and that our country has a finite amount of arable land and fresh water. Lack of water has always been a major economic restraint in South Africa, and alarm bells are now ringing about future water shortages. According to Theo de Jager (deputy president of AgriSA), current problems of land reform and transformation experienced by the agricultural sector will pale in comparison with the looming problems of water scarcity and unreliable supply. There are 18 million hectares of potentially arable land in South Africa. Of this, 1,5 – 1,6 million hectares of land are under irrigation, and these account for 57% of the country’s fresh water consumption, giving agriculture the largest share of fresh water. Surface water supplies about 76% of the irrigated area’s needs, with groundwater supplying the remaining 24%. Land use planning and the stability of aquatic systems is strongly connected to the relationship between surface water and groundwater, with wetlands, rivers, run off and underground aquifers (such as the well-known Steenkoppies compartment near Magaliesburg) being important components of the system.South Africa could soon face a water crisis where demand outstrips supply, as 98% of its water resources are already allocated for consumption .Worldwide, demand will outstrip supply by 55% by 2050. A recently released report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has found that of the 223 river ecosystems in South Africa, 60% are threatened and 25% of these are critically endangered. The situation with the 792 wetland ecosystems is even worse. The degradation was attributed to acid mine drainage and other forms of pollution, as well as human activities within freshwater catchments. (Read the full ISS report on www.farmersweekly.co.za).The impact of mining in sensitive areas is irreversible: heritage sites, protected areas and water catchment areas are destroyed while we sell off our clean water, arable soil and biodiversity. Deteriorating and insufficient water storage and supply infrastructure, together with householders’ demand for water, were also cited as major problems. The average per capita water consumption in South Africa is currently 235 litres per day (much higher than that of other water-scarce countries), and the National Water Resource Strategy has calculated that non-revenue water losses in the irrigation sector were currently between 35% and 45. Water shortages could lead to widespread food shortages for livestock, among other challenges, while water pollution could lead to unprecedented health epidemics from water-borne diseases. At a Durban conference of the South African Agricultural Union 33 years ago (in 1981), concern was expressed about the effect pollution could have on agricultural resources. It was decided “…to urge government to announce a strategy for encouraging soil and environmental conservation” (Farmer’s Weekly, 10 October 2014).The looming water crisis deepens with the latest South Africa Survey by the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) which states that an additional 22,2 million South Africans gained access to piped water between 1996 and 2013. This brought the total number of people who had access to piped water to 47,5 million in 2013. The bad news is that there is evidence of gross neglect of the maintenance of water infrastructure. In addition, the Department of Water affairs is short on civil engineers – this time last year the department had a 70% vacancy rate, and there was little hope that the situation would improve.Climate change and its effect on rainfall patterns also threaten to deepen the water crisis dramatically. Droughts affect everyone, not only farmers. Agriculture is now in competition for water with urbanisation and industry. And in South Africa most staple foods, including red meat, depend solely on rainfall. From now on, bad droughts can be expected to upset the whole economy. Hope lies not in waiting for the development of drought-tolerant crops but in cutting wastage and pollution, recycling, groundwater recharge, and building a few more big dams. Whether the ecologists like it or not, it has just been announced that six new dams will be built in the next 10 years (RSG, 8 May 2015).An intriguing question: Will climate change affect indigenous rain forecasting methods in the same way it seems to be scrambling scientific metereological data? What worked in the past may not necessarily work tomorrow. Most districts have farmers who still believe in signs that indicate possible changes in the weather, even before the TV station reports these. They use home-grown information to help them make important farming decisions. Signs include alien cacti that flower profusely a day or two before rain, and mist lying lower down in mountain kloofs than usual. Insect, bird and animal behaviour are also indicators of coming weather change. For example, grunting pigs could mean low humidity and increased temperatures. Some birds become noisier when there is more wind in the air. Rain is expected by some when a month starts on a Sunday or the moon’s crescent faces down, getting into position to release rain within a few days. The best results are probably when these signs are in agreement with the weather station.It will be interesting to know if some of the older folk in our valley also still have some old beliefs of when it is going to rain. Maybe some of our readers/members still remember stories about fights over water rights that they would like to share with us – Ed.Information for the above article was gained from the opinions of various experts (Luyolo Mkentane, Roelof Bezuidenhout, Lloyd Phillips & Nan Smith) in the Farmer’s Weekly of 19 September 2014, 3 October 2014 & 17 April 2015. Nut-in-shell (NIS) theft At the moment, pecan nut farmers in the valley are harvesting. As was reported in our previous newsletter, these farmers suffer losses because of the large troops of Vervet monkeys that cause widespread damage. The annual harvesting season is also accompanied by large scale NIS theft, and you can be sure that those packets of nuts for sale along the roads, had been stolen somewhere. As Rudi Snyman reports in the article below, there has been a dramatic increase of NIS theft in other parts of our country over the past few years, mainly as a result of a demand from China.This rise in popularity has resulted in thieves operating for Chinese buyers infiltrating South African nut farms (mainly macadamias) and allegedly stealing NIS macadamias to sell to their clients in China. Walter Giuricich, a farmer who has been affected by this theft, says that as an industry, it affects the South African brand, as the nuts, after they are stolen, are not subjected to the correct curing, sorting and grading regimes. As a result, the product is marketed as South African, and as it will be poor quality, the whole South African brand, not just individual handlers and processors, is labelled as a poor quality product. According to the chairperson of the Southern African Macadamia Growers’ Association (SAMAC), Carl Henning, thieves make contact with employees who then steal the nuts, and collect them after hours. They then export the nuts in containers through regular export channels directly to clients in Asia, and China specifically. SAMAC has received many reports from disappointed Chinese customers regarding bad quality nuts arriving from our country. In some cases 30% to 40% of the kernel is not edible. What is also of concern is the safety of farmers and farm workers and their respective families. The alleged NIS syndicates are difficult to apprehend, as they are transient and often work out of the back of a bakkie. With farmers, and their produce, being a “soft target” for these criminals, there are fears that the theft of macadamias could spill over into violence (Farmer’s Weekly, 12 & 26 September 2014). Alien invasive species: What does the Law say? Invasive species are controlled by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA, Act 10 of 2014) and the Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) Regulations which became law on 1 October 2014. In short, this implies the following:“NEMBA (2004): Chapter 5, Part 2, page 60, 73 (2): A person who is the owner of land on which a listed invasive species occurs must notify any relevant competent authority in writing of the listed invasive species occurring on that land.NEMBA Alien and Invasive Species Regulations (2014): Chapter 7, Section 29, (1), (2), (3): The seller of any immovable property must, prior to the conclusion of the relevant sale agreement, notify the purchaser of that property in writing of the presence of listed invasive species on that property”.The AIS Regulations list four different categories of invasive species that must be managed, controlled or eradicated from areas where they may cause harm to the environment, or that are prohibited to be brought into South Africa. The number of individual invasive species must be recorded on a Declaration of Invasive Species Form, signed off by invasive plant experts, for properties smaller than 1 hectare (10 000 square metres) or estimated area invaded on properties larger than 1 hectare. (This information was communicated to our readers/members in Newsletter 72, with an attachment providing the contact details for submission of the forms, as well as all the different categories of invasives).The South African Green Industries Council (SAGIC) is currently conducting nationwide training programmes (Invasive Species Certification Training) for horticulturists, landscape architects, conservationists, invasive species professionals, botanists, zoologists and passionate gardeners with a superb knowledge and interest in flora and fauna. The names of all trained experts will be listed in the SAGIC database of invasive species consultants (www.sagic.co.za), and they will receive a certificate to indicate that they are SAGIC invasive species consultants. As such, they will be able to work with estate agents and sellers of properties and sign off on the Declaration of Invasive Species Form.   About termite mounds These mounds, often called 'ant hills', are one of the outstanding features of many of the African savannah areas. They occur around the world in warm areas and vary in size, up to several metres in height. In sandy regions, nutrients are leached out of the soil by water and carried down to levels out of reach of grass and other plants. The only things that can retrieve these nutrients to the surface are deep working termite mounds and deep rooted trees. Many of the early prospectors analysed the soil in large termite mounds to indicate the minerals deep down in the area.Termites – often referred to as 'white ants' – are not related to ants. They are more closely related to cockroaches and are one of the most primitive forms of animal life. Termites (Isoptera) are divided into various families. They each have differing methods of operation: large mounds, small mounds, 'workings' up trees and walls, 'workings' across the surface of the ground, 'nests' inside old logs and timber structures, and clipping of grass and other vegetation. Termites – excepting one family – are blind and vulnerable to desiccation and predation so they need to create a clay-covered environment – dark, humid tunnels and shelter along which to travel and within which to work.You will often observe a healthy tree growing out of a living termite mound where it has been used to help support the mound. It is important to understand that termites 'eat' only dead vegetation; they will not destroy living trees (although they may 'eat' dead bark), apart from one family, the Hodotermitidae, or 'harvester termites', which will clip grass and small vegetation that they bury underground as a food supply.There are only a few species of termites that are a real nuisance to wooden construction and need to be controlled. These are of the family Kalotermitidae –the 'dry wood' and 'house' termites. The 'dry wood' termites help recycle the nutrients locked up in old wood in the veld. The real threat comes from the imported, alien termite Cryptotermes, or 'house termite', which now occurs around the southern hemisphere and was accidentally brought in from the Caribbean. Like most aliens, they need eradication as they have few natural controls, but be sure you have the right culprit. In any case, be very careful when using residual poisons as you could easily kill all the birds and other animals that might feed on the dead termites. Plain diesel is a good non-toxic treatment, where practical.Each of the hundreds of species of termites has an important role to play in nature. They are a prime source of food to other animals; they all recycle nutrients that would otherwise remain locked up; and they create 'islands' of nutrients that support many other plants and animals that benefit from the fertile, moist conditions. Next time you consider destroying a termite mound for any reason remember that you are also destroying one of nature's valuable deep mineral pumps.The above article was written by Dave Rushworth. One of our committee members, Annette Raaff, read the article on the old web page of Ferdie Muller, an accredited field guide instructor (his web page has since changed).Arid or semi-arid savannahs and grasslands make up less than 40% of the earth’s land area but support more than 38% of the world’s population. Recent research on termites shows the potential of mound-building termites in Africa that aerate the soil, thereby helping to buffer grasslands from the regional effects of climate change (global warming). The landscape above the colonies could well serve as the centre of action for rebuilding vegetation following drought. By aerating the soil, rainwater is allowed to reach deep into the mounds. Termites change the soil’s texture, and are loading it with nutrients. This turns the mounds into hot spots for plant growth. (Article by Pete Spotts in Our Fragile Planet, no 16, April 2015).   Environmental snippets Sufficient winter forage for herbivores on game farms: Just like humans, herbivorous animals have food preferences; certain groups of plants and plant species are chosen before others. Browser game species, such as kudu and bushbuck feed mostly on leaves and shoots of trees and shrubs. Mixed feeders, such as impala, nyala and springbuck browse during winter and graze in summer, depending on the availability of grasses and forbs. Fallen leaf litter, especially of buffalo thorn, provide important winter forage reserves. According to Dr Beanélri Janecke, wildlife researcher at the University of the Free State, on a game ranch, animal numbers must match available browse during winter, not summer browse capacity. Browsing game species have such preference for certain plant species that some palatable trees may eventually be wiped out. Generally, this happens when stocking densities are too high, resulting in over-browsing (i.e. where all browse material has been removed up to a reachable height, and trees have taken on strange shapes). Animals are always searching for the best food items to meet their requirements, and deciduous trees usually form the main component in a browsing animal’s diet. This means that during winter, the browser’s main food source is leafless, and a period of browse shortage (usually form the end of July to mid-September) might occur if other food sources, such as palatable evergreen plants and semi-deciduous shrubs are not available. Other factors that influence availability of browse are: A tree’s growth form that results in certain parts of the canopy being out of reach; bush thickening and encroachment that renders the inside of such a dense stand of trees inaccessible to browsers; thorns that limit access to leaves and shoots; and competition between animals. A good rule of thumb is to stock fewer animals than the total browse capacity calculated for a ranch (Farmer’s Weekly, 19 September 2014). For more information, contact Dr Janecke on 051 401 9030 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Benefits of goat milk: In 2014, total global production of goat milk amounted to two billion litres, while the average annual production figures were 840 litres of milk per goat. According to Ward Watzeels, from the Dutch goat milk company, Bettinehoeve, goat milk is tasty, healthy, and thanks to small fat particles making it similar to breast milk, easy to digest. It is an alternative for people who are intolerant of cow’s milk, and is a source of magnesium, iron and vitamins A and D. Consumer demand is driven by taste, reported health benefits, a green image and an alternative protein source.Locally, quite a large range of goat milk beauty products are available, such as body butter, which the manufacturers claim to penetrate deeply into the skin, to maintain moisture, nourish and hydrate the skin. The story is also told that in ancient times, Egyptian princesses bathed in goat milk to boost longevity. Acacia karroo a boost for goat nutrition: Acacia karroo is included in the National Weed List and regarded as an invader of natural rangeland, competing for space, light, water and nutrients. Several methods have been devised to eradicate encroaching, with little or no success. If seen as a source of protein supplement for indigenous goats, especially in communal areas, this can assist in controlling encroachment. Goats supplemented with A. karroo leaf have higher growth rates and lower meat pH than non-supplemented groups. A. karroo supplementation also significantly affects meat tenderness and juiciness. Recent studies indicate that tannin-rich plants such as A. karroo might present a promising option to reduce nematode infections in small ruminants (David Brown, Farmer’s Weekly, 6 February 2015).   Did you know? Did you know?Neuro-morphological technology: These are computer chips that copy the human brain. Even the most advanced super computers are not yet as sophisticated as the human brain, and only move data in linear mode between memory discs and a central computer. In the brain, logic and memory are fully integrated, making the brain’s density a milliard times better than that of a modern computer. Neuro-morphological computer chips aim to process information in a completely different way than traditional computers, thereby copying the brain’s architecture. These chips will be much more energy effective and powerful than previous designs. In August 2014, IBM introduced a prototype TrueNorth chip that is hundreds of times more effective than a conventional central processor. This will enable computers to anticipate and to learn, rather than just reacting to pre-programmed commands (Francois Williams, Sake-Rapport, 8 March 2015). Johannesburg – Unlimited free Internet connectivity is now available in taxis across Johannesburg., enabling commuters to download digital content and earn points via a mobile app, which can be translated into data. The app is accessible on any Blackberry or Android device. It allows commuters to browse the Internet and download content onto their devices, such as music, articles and podcasts, without consuming any of their own data. Although Wi-Taxi has been offering 50MB per month free in taxis across the country since 2013, the new Moovah! WiFi offering is uncapped and operates at download speeds of approximately 100 megabytes per second (received via email on 23 April 2015). Answers to health questions:Does olive oil prevent heart disease? Yes. The health benefits of olive oil come from the presence of polyphenols, antioxidants that reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.Do cough syrups work? No. The majority of over-the-counter cough medicines typically contain doses of codeine and dextromethorphan that are too small to be effective.Does sugar cause hyperactivity? No. Sugar does not affect the behaviour or cognitive performance of children. Kids will, however, be more wound-up at birthday parties when sweet treats tend to flow freely.Do sugary drinks lead to diabetes? Yes. One or more sugary drinks per day increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by 83%.Does one need sunscreen with more than 30 SPF? No. Sunscreens with an SPF of 30 block out about 97% of ultraviolet rays, while those with a higher sunscreen block out 97% - 98%. South African trivia:The world’s biggest hospital is the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto.Pretoria has the second largest number of embassies in the world, after Washington, D.C.The University of South Africa (UNISA) is believed to be the largest correspondence university in the world with 250 000 students.South Africa has the largest hydro-electric tunnel system in the world at the Orange Fish River Tunnel.South African electricity costs are the second lowest in the world. The country also generates two thirds of Africa’s electricity. Eskom is the world’s fourth largest electricity utility in terms of both sales volume and normal capacity.Officially, the youngest language in the world is Afrikaans. The language celebrated its 90th birthday as an official language on 8 May 2015. It is the second most spoken language in South Africa. Zulu is the most spoken, the Zulu people being the largest ethnic group. Of those who speak Afrikaans as a home language, 50% are coloured, 40% white, 9% black and 1% Indian. Food for thought Clem Sunter (co-author of Mind of a Fox) on the changing world of work (March 2015):“Schools and universities are still preparing their students for the market that prevailed 50 years ago. They have not woken up to the changing reality of business and the concept of on-demand employment (where you are hired for a specific time to do a specific job), and the fact that technology has disrupted all of their cherished academic assumptions about what you should be taught to be a success in life. The only way to create 5 million SA jobs by 2020 and 11 million jobs by 2030 is to open the flood gates of entrepreneurship in this country” (received via email on 19 March 2015). “An education is at the heart of a civil society, and at the heart of a liberal education is the act of teaching” (Bartlett Giamatti).“Remain positive, believe in what you do, and always make a plan” (Marco Seefeldt, Namibia’s 2013 Young Farmer of the Year).“What really matters in life is not what you own or control but what you can do. Your skill (your ability to do something of value) is your safety net and is never lost” (Peter Hughes).“All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man – the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports” (Chief Seattle). And finally... Some anonymous aphorisms to ponder about: It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you place the blame.A fool and his money can throw one heck of a party.Money isn’t everything but it sure keeps the kids in touch.If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.The latest survey shows that three out of four people make up 75% of the population.The reason politicians try so hard to get re-elected is that they would hate to make a living under the laws they’ve passed.    

April 2015

  Newsletter #73 Editorial Our neighbouring Rhenosterspruit Conservancy (VeldTalk no 74 of March 2015) reports an increase of snake activity in their area during February. These were mostly very dangerous snakes, such as the Snouted cobra (Naja annulifera) and the Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica, Zulu M’fezi), as well as the mildly venomous Night adder (Causus rhombeatus). In our area, Mozambique spitting cobras and Boomslange (Disphollidus typus) were spotted by some of our members. Please let us know whether you also experienced an increase of snake activity on your property during February. Useful information available from www.snakebiteassist.co.za We welcome interesting photos and news of unusual creatures and plants spotted where you live. Send your pics and stories to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Huge problems with Vervet monkeys For quite a while, many of our landowners (especially along the Magalies River) have been experiencing problems with huge groups of Vervet monkeys (sometimes as many as 150 per group), causing much damage on their properties. During the past two years, the monkeys have multiplied alarmingly, mainly because they have no natural enemies any longer, and because they are protected animals. By night they sleep in huge gum trees, and when the sun comes up, they begin with their destruction. They love taking one bite from each pumpkin in a land (so that none can be marketed) or one bite from the tip of each cabbage (so they can’t continue growing), and they cause havoc in a maize field. One finds eaten off mealie stalks everywhere they’ve been. All of them also climb onto a single pecan nut or fruit tree’s branch, so the branches break. They bite all the pecan nuts in half and leave them under the trees. Bird populations have also declined extensively, because they take all the eggs from the nests. Many plans have been made to get rid of them, but they can outsmart you and your pack of dogs long before you’re able to put any chase into action.According to Stephan du Toit (Biodiversity Environment Inspector or Green Scorpion), there are a number of options to address the problem. (For more information or ways of getting rid of the monkeys, please contact Stephan on 083 306 3441 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Annual fly-in of classic aircraft   Over the weekend of the 21st March, we looked up to the sky and were mesmerised by the beautiful old classic airplanes flying around our valley. John Sayers held his annual private fly-in at Blue Mountain Valley Airfield in Hekpoort. Amongst the activities was a formation flight which included a Boeing Stearman, Whaco, Tigermoths, Harvard, a North American Navion, a Fairchild and De Haviland Chipmunks. Most of these aircraft were built in the early 1940s. (Photos kindly provided by Lourie Laatz). The highlight of the weekend was the display by the Mustang.     Disastrous veld fires State to crack down on invasive aliens – landowners could face legal claims: In the wake of the recent destructive fires in the Cape Peninsula, government is to crack down on landowners who have failed to clear invasive alien vegetation on their properties along the urban fringe. As reported in Newsletter 72, landowners are obliged to control or clear all four categories of alien invaders from their properties and to make proper firebreaks (National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004). Landowners could face legal claims if fires that started on their properties spread to and cause damage on other people’s property (Melanie Gosling, Cape Times, 19 March 2015).During the 2014 fire season in the eastern Free State, about 200 000ha grazing had been destroyed by August already, and the whole area had to be declared a disaster area. By September 2014, Free State livestock farmers had lost 285 000ha in 77 veld fires. As the rainy season only starts there in October, many farmers did not have sufficient grazing for their animals, while feed costs were soaring. Even if it rains well after such fires, the burnt areas sometimes need to rest for about two seasons before coming into production again. Whatever the cause of these fires, it becomes virtually impossible to fight them in wind speeds of 60 and 70km/h. Winds were even stronger in the wake of a number of cold fronts, which caused problems for helicopter fire fighting. According to Thinus Steenkamp, general manager of the Free State Umbrella Fire Association, damage to grazing was estimated at about R200 million, with fire fighting costs amounting to about R450 000. For the 2015 fire season, an additional 29 skid units and 73 trained fire fighters will be needed to meet the basic standards for disaster management in the area. (Farmer’s Weekly, 12, 19 & 26 September 2014).In our area we thankfully experienced very few veld fires during the 2014 fire season, and we should all strive to keep it like that and/or improve our fire fighting efforts.  The need for community organisations and communication Massive urbanisation is taking place all over South Africa, putting National Government, Provincial and Municipal structures under severe pressure to provide effective services in these areas. Rural populations have no choice but to manage the situation and fend for themselves. Community organisations with strong communication systems in place, and supported by the majority of landowners in rural areas, have become of utmost importance. We have to protect our natural resources and provide a safe and secure environment to live and work in. There has to be structure and guidelines for such organisations. In Hartebeestfontein we find this in the constitutions of the Hartebeestfontein Conservancy and Hartebeestfontein Fire Protection Association. In addition to these constitutions, we have numerous pieces of existing legislation to guide us. My personal opinion is that there is no need for an additional community organisation to represent the landowners in this area, provided these two non-profitable organisations are well supported by the community and properly managed. We have to continuously seek and maintain co-operation with all other community organisations outside our borders, without being dictated to.The Conservancy and Fire Protection Association, both officially registered non-profitable organisations, share the same boundaries, namely Hartebeestfontein 472JQ (Gauteng), Fouriesrus 474JQ, Quinlands 582JQ, and Hartebeestfontein 473JQ (Northwest Province). This area covers ± 7500 hectares with more or less 270 landowners. More than 80% of the area is actively farmed. Membership of both these organisations is voluntary, and the present annual membership fees are affordable to each and every landowner or resident.The Conservancy’s focus areas are the following:• Preventing unsustainable developments;• Improving and supporting farming practices;• Supporting sustainable tourist activities;• Controlling and preventing pollution in every form;• Sustainable water management; and• Protecting and managing the natural fauna and flora.Individual actions by members, realizing the objectives proclaimed in the Conservancy Constitution, are actively supported by Conservancy management. Actions which are in contradiction to these objectives are opposed collectively by the membership.The Fire Protection Association’s main objective is to prevent rather than fight veld fires. Membership of the FPA ensures assistance from fellow members when a veld fire does occur. The extensive veld fire prevention strategy adopted by the FPA during the 2014 veld fire season was very successful. (See table below)     2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Veld fires reported 31 27 13 23 20 12 9 Hectares burnt 1 687 1 119 443 1 791 880 731 37 Man hours lost 686 667 316 934 921 349 93 Estimated damage R250 000 R514 000 R76 500 R642 750 R360 100 R473 800 R55 000   It is common knowledge that crime levels in South Africa are alarmingly high. Over the years, the Conservancy and FPA have been active in advocating crime prevention in this area. We have managed to keep Hartebeestfontein free of violent crime for a number of years, but we now have to step up our efforts because of a definite increase in crime in the valley between Skeerpoort and Maanhaarrand. We took note of the call by Government for rural communities to become active in crime prevention. It is also clear that the SAPS is not able to institute effective crime prevention strategies in our area. Intervention by some landowners the past few months, as well as improved security on properties proved to be fairly successful in preventing crime. A cell phone security whats app. group was recently started, whereby landowners can report crime and take note of crime incidents. We receive no timely and accurate crime statistics for the area from the SAPS, and we therefore rely on and need this information from landowners and residents in order to plan crime prevention actions. For further information on this whats app. group, please contact Deon Greyling at 082 856 3183. The FPA also has a radio system in place mainly for veld fire prevention and fire fighting operational use but also for communication in crime prevention operations. The extensive use of technical equipment in crime prevention is currently under investigation. We have a close working relationship with Oostermoed Security Services in the area. Jointly, we strive for a crime-free Hartebeestfontein.Deon Greyling Environmental Snippets Roodekrans Black eagle project According to Gerald Draper, chairperson of this project, urbanisation has had a major influence on the survival of these eagles. Their diet consists mainly of rock rabbits (dassies), but as a result of declining dassie populations, they now mainly feast on guinea fowls. Because of housing developments in the area the eagles’ range for finding food has shrunk to such an extent that they have to fly vast distances to find food. Emoyeni, the female of the pair of eagles living on the cliffs of the waterfall at the Walter Sizulu Botanical Gardens, is already about 35 years of age, while research references estimate their average age at 30 years. In February each year, the eagles start tidying up their nests, and eggs are laid in April or May. Only two chicks hatch, of which only the strongest survives. The survival rate is only about 20% (Wes-Beeld, 13 March 2015).   Bats partnering your farming enterprise? Bats’ contribution to controlling insect infestations is largely underestimated. Studies have shown that they are able to control insect infestations much better than chemical substances. According to research, each bat eats between 6 000 and 8 000 insects per night. There is much ignorance about bats, mainly based on misconceptions and superstition. Few of us know how intelligent bats are, and that they are related to primates (baboons and monkeys). As with primates, their eye nerves cross over on the way to the brain, which is not the case with other mammals. They become up to 35 years old, and, for their size, live longer than any other mammal species. Some studies show that they are able to recognise and identify a specific person for up to 10 years. It is also interesting to know that many insects are frightened off by just the echo-placing-sounds of bats, and that, if nature would be allowed to come into balance in a natural way, these little animals could control insect populations very effectively, which would otherwise have cost pecan nut and other fruit farmers a packet. For more information on bats and putting up “Bat Bungalows”, contact 083 303 7762 or via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (SA Pecan, Summer/Autumn 2015, vol 70).   On the horns of a game dilemma The status of wild animals that leave their “owners” has been the subject of laws and rules since ancient times. In short, common law says that under such circumstances, the animals become creatures that belong to no one, and if they end up on your land, you could become their new owner as long as you intend to keep them and contain them so they can’t wander off somewhere else. It’s this part of the common law provincial officials want changed, so that wild animals are not regarded as owned by no one but as owned by an organ of the state – custodians fulfilling a public conservation function under the Constitution. Complicating the question is a relatively new law, the Game Theft Act of 1991. This provides that if you have a certificate issued by the provincial premier, saying your wild animals are properly contained you can claim them back even if they stray. Apart from ownership, there are related problems conservation authorities will surely have in mind. One major example would be the question of liability. If wild animals escape, damage property and are then reclaimed by their original owners, will those owners have to pay compensation for the damage? (Excerpts from comments on a court case between former Springbok centre, Hennie le Roux, owner of Crown River Safaris and the Thomas Baines Nature Reserve, managed by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (formerly the Provincial Parks Board). Source: The Star, 12 February 2015).   Phokeng platinum success story The Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) mines are one of only a few successful examples of mining that have been able to help a community flourish. The Bafokeng tribal community are beneficiaries of a trust that was carefully built up from the returns on mineral rights, hard fought over for decades. This enables them to excel in service delivery and poverty relief, and creating a better life for the people of Phokeng, who have been living on the arid plains, to the north west of Rustenburg, for centuries. The Bafokeng is known as the world’s richest tribe, but members of the tribe are not rich at all. About 47% of the 49 000 households earns less than R500 per month and only 4% earns more than R6 000 per month. There are about 300 000 tribal members, of which only half live in the tribal area, Phokeng, about 1 400 km² in size. In years gone by, money was earned by letting the young men of the tribe work on the diamond mines of Kimberley, and then using part of their earnings to purchase the land. During the past decade, the tribal authority has spent R7 milliard on education, health care and social development. The mandate for the projects is simply to go find the best in the world and bring it there. They do, however, experience the same challenges as the rest of South Africa, such as sanitation problems, a lack of pre-school education and nutritional problems. Project managers must report on budgets, delays and other issues at regular tribal meetings, when, so it is told, they speak without mincing matters... (Jan de Lange, Sake-Rapport, 8 March 2015).   Antibiotic-resistant bacteria may travel via feedlot dust Researchers at Texas Tech University are suggesting that airborne dust could be a pathway for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to travel from feedlots to human environments. The effect this has on human health is not yet fully understood. These research findings could help characterize how pathogens could travel long distances to places inhabited by humans.(Source: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/01antibiotic-resistance-travels-on-dust-from-feedlots/#VMb2xuF3PVN) Did you know? There are more than 800 species of dung beetles in South Africa (email, 19 March 2015). There are more than 800 species of dung beetles in South Africa (email, 19 March 2015).     In many US states the highway patrol carries at least two gallons of Coke in the trunk to remove blood from the highway after a car accident. The active ingredient in Coke is phosphoric acid (received via email on 8 March 2015). Legal use of marijuana? Uruguay and North Korea are the only countries in the world where possession, use and production of marijuana are legal. In Bangladesh, use of marijuana forms part of their culture, and people are not punished for smoking it, although this is technically illegal, according to the International Opium Treaty of 1925. The Netherlands are famous for its “coffee shops” where marijuana can be smoked, and in Prague in in the Czech Republic, one can purchase marijuana chocolates. Many countries don’t punish personal use of small quantities of marijuana. In Jamaica and some Australian federal states and cantons in Switzerland it is legal to grow small quantities of marijuana for personal use. Some federal states in America allow use of marijuana for medical purposes, while Washington and Colorado now also allow use of marijuana for recreation purposes (Sake-Rapport, 15 March 2015). Dr André Hugo (orthodontist) on health matters: Carbohydrates are addictive – they attach to the same receptors in the brain as cocaine and heroin. Like all addictions often the best way of recovering from them is to go “cold turkey’ – so no carbs at all while losing weight (except minor amounts in green, leafy vegetables, i.e. those growing above ground (received via email on 19 March 2015). Recyclable thermoset plastic: There are two types of plastic: thermo plastic (such as water bottles, children’s toys or toilet seats) can be reheated and remoulded and is recyclable, while thermoset plastic (found in cell phones, electric circuits and aircraft), can only be reheated and remoulded once. Most thermoset polymers therefore end up in landfills and cannot be recycled. In 2014, important progress was made to produce recyclable thermoset plastic. This can replace non-recyclable thermoset plastic completely and can even be used generally in newly manufactured products this year still (Sake-Rapport, 8 March 2015). Children in Tokyo to be seen as well as heard soon: After years of being silent, small children in Tokyo (according to a report in The Independent of 7 March 2015), will maybe be allowed to speak a little louder than usual. Noise pollution was so bad in this super strict Japan capital that authorities had to restrict its citizens to 45 decibels 15 years ago (about as loud as the chirping of a small bird). A proposal has now been tabled to exclude children’s voices from this noise restriction, especially in parks and on playgrounds. Not everybody approves of the efforts of the authorities to create a more “child-friendly” environment. It is felt that children should be taught to speak and sing at suitable noise levels, and that four-year olds are old enough to understand this (Rapport, 8 March 2015). Food for Thought “Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils” (Hector Berlioz)   “Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea” (Robert A Heinlein).   “I hate that awkward moment when I spell a word correctly, but it looks so wrong that I stare at it forever – questioning its existence” (Anonymous).   “I enjoy a glass of wine each night for its health benefits. The other glasses are for my witty comebacks and flawless dance moves” (Whisper).   And finally... (about dogs and people) “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person” (Andy Rooney). “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man” (Mark Twain). “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face” (Ben Williams). “Scratch a dog, and you’ll find a permanent job” (Franklin P Jones). “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful” (Ann Landers). “Properly trained, a man can be a dog’s best friend” (Corey Ford). “I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult” (Rita Rudner). “Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog” (Franklin P Jones). “The most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog” (Ambrose Pierce). “Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate” (Sigmund Freud).         

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