"There is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread," said Mother Teresa. A Laezonia family and their friends have undertaken to provide a small measure of that every few months to underprivileged children in Gauteng.
On 26 March 30 kids - half of them from the Abraham Kriel Children's Home in Langlaagte and the rest from a church group in Mamelodi - arrived with eager faces at Lekkekry, Riaan and Angelique Lotter's place in Laezonia. “We work in close cooperation with SOAPKidz*” says Riaan,“and the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy is an ideal area for introducing kids to nature. We're also fortunate in having generous donors and an enthusiastic team of local volunteers working with us.”
The Lotters have named the venture “Kruispaaie” (Crossroads). “On the old maps the greater Laezonia area was marked as Kruispaaie,” says Riaan. “For us it also symbolises the crossing of our paths with those of underprivileged kids and sharing the blessings we have.”
March 26, a lovely autumn day, was a kaleidoscope of activities and impressions for the kids. Climbing a local koppie and gingerly exploring some of the caves, enjoying fresh milk and yogurt at a local farm while warily eyeing the inquisitive cows who came to inspect the visitors. Then a ride on a horse for each kid - some tightly gripping the saddle, others sitting up straight like conquering heroes!
After lunch it was time to return to the Lotters' “Lekkekry” for swimming, slip'n'slide, a tractor-and-cart ride and a closer encounter with farm animals - feeding sheep and goats and cuddling bunnies. It was an eye-opener to watch some of the kids with the rabbits. Gently stroking the soft fur, they seemed to drift off into a world of their own. Maybe giving a bit of Mother Teresa's “love and appreciation” - which they never experienced - to the animals.
Cuddling the bunnies
*Sunrise on Africa's Peaks: A non-profit organisation which aims to create environmental awareness and promote nature conservation among underprivileged and abused children. www.soapkidz.org.
South Africa as a whole managed to save 350MW of electricity in just ONE hour during Earth Hour on 26 March. This nationwide effort shows that we can save energy if we try. Electricity supply in SA is again under increasing stress and it’s imperative that all of us - individuals, the commercial, industrial and residential sectors - contribute to energy saving efforts.
Did you switch off for Earth Hour? Several households in the Conservancy did and looking out over the distant hills there was a discernible reduction in the lights.
An explosion of colour, shapes and aromas is the only way one could describe the Five Pickled Petticoats' “Choux Pastry” launch on 2 April. Choux Pastry showcases the talents of the five “designing divas”: Michelle Panos, her sister-in-law Yvette Panos, sister Tracy Monzeglio, mother Estelle Carstens and friend, Linda Dean. They are all involved in the Pan Design Company which combines catering, art, design, pottery and hospitality.
Five Pickled Petticoats: Yvette, Tracy, Estelle, Michelle and Lynda
The setting was Michelle and Steve Panos' place in the Oori Game Reserve, Riverside Estates. Choux morphed into Shoe for the launch and footwear of all shapes, sizes, colours, models and materials appeared in the exuberant decorations - on the tables, hanging from the deck and lining the garden walks. Guests were taken on a bush walk to meet some of the Oori's game and treated to a delectable lunch.
“We scored an A+ from most of the food fundis amidst our guests,” said Michelle. “And we're delighted with the sales of our Choux Platters plus enquiries for a 21st party, a kiddies’ birthday and a small wedding. The launch was a resounding success!“ (See www.pandesign.co.za.)
Recently Michelle got the Oori community involved in creating soccer and netball fields for local kids on the nearby SOS Training Village property. “Our Choux/Shoe launch collected R525 from tips to help purchase much-needed takkies for the Oori sports teams. A friend promised to try and find a sponsor for proper soccer boots!”
The 5PPs' creativity comes in many forms, and using “junk” is another aspect. Michelle and Yvette collect barbed-wire game fencing and snares as well as discarded metal from general clean-ups of wilderness areas. Craftsmen then turn this junk into barbed-wire wall hangings, picture frames, plaques, cake stands and lights. Alien woods are also used for mirror and picture frames and screens. It's art and it's employment. “We're a throw-away society, killing our planet by discarding things that can be re-used,” says Michelle.
See Conservancy Calendar for more info and details of the next delectable Choux Pastry offerings.
When Fransa Cole of Riverside Estates recently resigned from her job as a business analyst at Investec, she was not entirely sure where life was going to take her. It did not take long for her varied interests and talents to dictate the road ahead (or multiple paths, rather): anything creative! Gardening, writing, making jewellery, designing labyrinths...
She is currently offering a series of jewellery courses at her home, Jakkalsdans. Set in a large rambling garden with views over the veld and the hills of the Oori Game Reserve, Jakkalsdans offers something for the soul and the eye as well as the hands.
Fransa Cole and Jay Barnard
“We're working with 'fold forming' at the moment,” explains Fransa. This is a new metalworking technique, recently invented by Charles Lewton-Brain - a first in thousands of years of metalworking. “The concept is to fold and crease metal, as you would paper (almost like origami), and then selectively forge, form, roll and unfold it to produce light, elegant shapes.
“In the workshop we make a bracelet, a pair of earrings and a star-shaped pendant, using the simplest of sawing and hammering techniques and working in copper. Silver is available on request, and at extra cost but not recommended for beginners who have no metalwork experience.”
Tools are simple: fingers, hands, hammers, mallets, anvils and rolling mills.
The cost of the workshop is R650 and includes all materials and tools, as well as notes and snacks. “It does not include the manicure you'll undoubtedly need afterwards, as metalwork is hard on the hands and nails!” quips Fransa.
Her creativity is teamed with practicalities. As vice-chair of the Conservancy, working on environmental issues is high on her list. She is spearheading local Pompom removal, having trained several jobless people to tackle this insidious alien. “In VeldTalk no 56 Hensopper lamented the spread of Pompom and the lack of action from authorities and private landowners,” she said. “It may cheer him/her up that a work team of five unemployed people cleared about 200 ha in the Oori Game Reserve. Ten more landowners tackled their own properties. The Pompom team cut and filled 200 black bags with Pompom heads. This was burnt to prevent further infestation. Now I'm just waiting for some outstanding payments!”
For info about the next jewellery workshop, see Conservancy Calendar.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool in the UK came up with an innovative idea to make more use of wind turbines and maybe quiet the claims of those who point out that the wind doesn’t blow all the time and wind turbines are thus not perfect. They placed solar panels on the blades.
What about the glare blinding pilots and passers by or setting the veld on fire? The researchers came up with a “tinted” solar panel that doesn’t reflect sun beams.
Kids have better eyes than most adults, but they're also closer to the ground for spotting spiders, their homes and the gossamer webs in the long grass! The annual Spider Walk in the Conservancy, led by Astri Leroy of the SA Spider Club, took place in March. As always, the walk also took in the variety of grasses, rock types, flowers, birds, trees and animal tracks - a rich experience indeed for those eager to explore and with eyes to see.
Long-legged anthropoid (Homo enthusiasticus) viewing an arachnid
One of the intriguing spiders found on the walk was the Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata).
These are fairly large spiders that create expansive webs above ground level that are mostly vertical, allowing them to trap flying insects. One easily recognised sign of this type of spider is a visible zigzag of silk in the centre of the web. These patterns are called stabilimenta and have been accredited with several possible functions. These include making the web more visible and so avoiding damage by passing animals or by reflecting ultraviolet light which attracts insects. This spider's venom is not dangerous to humans and might leave you with a mild swelling and itching.
“The Banded Garden Spider is one of my favourites!” said Astri. “I've even got one in my garden and it has laid three egg sacs so maybe next year I'll have lots!”
Working with Astri changes one's attitude to spiders, maybe not to instant adoration, but to an acceptance that they have a right to life as well. I found a large spider on the wall above our bed recently, the type that looks as if it could clear three metres in one jump. After much deliberation (and discussion as to who should do it), my husband gingerly approached it with a shoe box. The spider clambered in and we released it outside. QED. No arachnid murder committed.
Earlier this year the Spider Club of SA (www.spiderclub.co.za) and the National Council of SPCAs complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about an LG cellphone TV advert in which a young girl sprays shaving foam on a spider to calm down her hysterical parents. “The commercial perpetuates negative perceptions about spiders and promotes the unnecessary and cruel killing of living creatures. This would negatively influence children,” the SPCA stated.
The advert was withdrawn and LG said it “would not be broadcast in South Africa again”. (OK to kill spiders on TV in other countries then?)
Choux Pastry Easter Brunch - Saturday 23 April
Presented by the Five Pickled Petticoats. See Entrepreneurial Spirit for details!
Venue: Oori Game Reserve, RNC
Cost: R150 pp, half-price for kids. Limited numbers.
Also: Picnic baskets/sites: Three private sites available, R120 pp.
Choux Pastry Mother's Day Game Walk and Bush Picnic - 8 May
Venue: Oori Game Reserve, RNC
Early Bird Breakfast Basket and a hand-crafted gift for Mom
Cost: R120 pp, kids half price. Limited numbers.
Choux Pastry Mother's Day Lunch - 8 May
Venue: Oori Game Reserve, RNC
Cost: R230 pp, kids half price. Limited numbers.
Fun Run and Farmers Market - Saturday 21 May
10km and 5km run in aid of CAD (Christian Action for Dependency)
Time: 06:30 for 07:00
Cost: R35 and R20 pp
Starting point: “Netso Farm”, Gemstones Road, Roodekrans, RNC
Jewellery Course - Saturday 21 May
Jakkalsdans, Oori Game Reserve, RNC. See Bold and Beautiful for details.
Cost: R650 includes all materials, equipment, notes and snacks
Only five participants per workshop
Soiree in the Veld - Thursday, June 16
Guest artists: classical guitarist Tessa Ziegler and musician Mike Pilot
Jakkaldans, Oori Game Reserve, Riverside Estates, RNC
Cost: R100 pp (R80 for Conservancy members)
Bring a blanket/camping chair and a picnic basket
Astronomy evening - Saturday 9 July
Presented by the West Rand Astronomy Club at Bonathaba Farm, RNC
Ride the Rhenoster - 11 September
Mountain bike ride through the Rhenosterspruit Conservancy
Watch www.ridetherhenoster.co.za for details.
History Tour - 17 September
Tour of historical places in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy
Geology Walk, Scorpion Walk, Bat Talk, Horse Picnic, Bird Walk, Flower Walk
Good news for those entrepid souls who love fresh air, new places to explore and a good hike. The Klipkop Wildlife Reserve between Bronkhorstspruit and Bapsfontein has two hiking routes of 15 kms each. “One route is a Grade 5 and the other a Grade 3,” says organiser, Mary Lewis. “Numbers are limited to 10 per day at a cost of R100 per person with a minimum charge of R500.
“There is a rich variety of bird life on the reserve and a very good chance of seeing some of the game as well*,” adds Mary. “For those who want to sleep over there is accommodation, equipped with braai and cooking facilities. It's 'backpacker' style (dorm) and costs R80 per person per night.”
Klipkop is situated on the R25 between Bronkhorstspruit and Bapsfontein - approximately 40 kms from Pretoria and 60 kms from Johannesburg.
* Blue wildebeest, zebra, blesbok, eland, kudu, common reedbuck, waterbuck, giraffe, impala, springbok, warthog, jackal, duiker, steenbok, red hartebeest, ostrich. Rarely seen but around: mountain reedbuck, bushbuck, porcupine, mongoose (various), grey rhebok, bush pig.
“We are calling all sharp-eyed people to keep a look-out for a new pest: Euphorbia esula aka the Leafy Spurge,” says RNC committee member, Fransa Cole. She was contacted by SANBI (SA National Biodiversity Institute) after a possible sighting of the plant in the Hennops River area. “It has been nominated as among the top 100 of the 'World's Worst Invaders' and we don't need it here,” she declares.
SANBI's Early Detection and Rapid Response for Invasive Alien Plants Programme is dedicated to spotting invasive alien plants before they get out of control. “I accompanied the SANBI team for part of the day in March, combing the Hennops area and hoping we would not find any of these highly invasive plants," says Fransa. "So far, we haven't."
Thulisile Jaca, SANBI's taxonomist, says this species has the dubious distinction of being the USA’s most expensive invasive plant species in terms of money spent on research and eradication. The sooner an alien plant is spotted and dealt with, the less chance of it spreading, as the Pompom did with such ferocity, she says.
"All parts of the plant contain a toxic white milky sap. It reproduces readily by seeds that have a high germination rate and may remain viable in the soil for at least seven years," says Thulisile. "The seed capsules open explosively, dispersing seed up to five metres from the parent plant, and may be carried further by water and wildlife."
Leafy Spurge also spreads vegetatively from the root system, which is complex, reported to reach eight metres into the ground and five metres across. Because it can regenerate from small pieces of root, Leafy Spurge is extremely difficult to eradicate.
Beautiful but toxic
In a landmark case Stefan Frylinck, an environmental consultant representing Mpofu Environmental Solutions CC, was found guilty of providing incorrect or misleading information to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in a basic environmental impact assessment.
The charges against Frylinck and Mpofu originated from the planned construction of the Pan African Parliament in Midrand. In 2009, the DEA stopped the construction of the complex when it was discovered that construction was causing serious damage to a wetland on the site. Environmental Management Inspectors laid criminal charges against Frylinck, who compiled the basic environmental assessment on which the decision to allow building was based, for not pointing out the existence of a wetland to authorities.
Along with the recent launch of the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa (EAPASA) this conviction forever changes the world in which environmental consultants (EAPs) operate. Not only will they in future be held to account by their peers through EAPASA, but this case shows that they can now also be held criminally liable where their conduct violates the EIA regulations.
(From Centre for Environmental Rights – www.cer.org.)