Janine von Zeuner, Doornrandje
Every year, when the big rains come, it breaks my heart to see literally hundreds of bullfrogs squashed on the roads by uncaring or unknowing drivers. The R511 past Diepsloot is a lethal area for bullfrogs coming out of the wetlands to the east of the road. I saw the Carte Blanche programme featuring the Noordhoek residents' efforts to protect their bullfrogs - we desperately need such an initiative here. I appeal to everyone to take more care during the few days when the bullfrogs are moving - keep a look-out and slow down.
Petro Lemmer, Pienaarspoort
I'd like to comment on the letter from Rita van Dyk of Hennops River in the September VeldTalk (No 53) about spotting vervet monkeys without hands or feet.
We also often see vervet monkeys sans hand or foot in the Pienaarspoort and Donkerhoek area. We called in the help of the Vervet Monkey Foundation, who inspected the carcass of such a monkey and in turn put us in touch with the WWF. Their verdict? The high tension wires running from the Eskom lines to the transformers. Trees standing close to transformers form part of the playground for especially young monkeys. When they jump and grab hold of these wires, their hands and sometimes feet become instantly charred and often break off. We have seen one such poor creature walking on its elbows and knees, plaintively crying and trying to keep up with the rest of the troop. Come on folks - cut down the trees around your transformer and save some vervet monkeys from terrible suffering.
For more info contact the Vervet Monkey Foundation: Tel 012 205 1206 or cell 082 458 6265.
Ivan Lätti, Hartebeestfontein Conservancy
Thanks for VeldTalk. It is a pleasure when it arrives. I was looking at the nature of lichen that is so common on our rocks and trees. It is not always only an algae that joins up with the fungus to form a new lichen, but sometimes cyanobacteria. And they have mated with 20% of the fungi species on earth to create 15 000 or so lichen species from very long ago. Indeed interesting little guys in the evolution of life on earth. A little of this is used on the site that I do - www.operationwildflower.org.za - in the Habitats Album.
Dorothea Pienaar, Nieu-Seeland
Wanneer die verlange na my hartsland te veel word, grawe ek my in die lekkerkry van VeldTalk. Ek hou elke liewe een wat ek kry!
Ek word volgende jaar hoof van 'n skooltjie vir kinders van Jaar 1 - 8. Dis 'n skooltjie met 'n spesiale karakter op 'n plaas, waar elke kind op sy eie tempo leer en waar ons ook organiese tuine het. Toe ek die nuutste VeldTalk kry, spring daar 'n idee in my kop. Hoekom organiseer ons nie tussen ons en julle 'n trippie na Suid-Afrika nie, na Rhenosterspruit - een propvol natuurervarings vir ons kinders? Ons kan praat oor hoe, en ek kan die ouers nader. Dit sal mos baie besonders wees!
(Red. Dit klink blink! Julle is meer as welkom.)
Elaine, Hills and Dales
We were picking up litter along the dirt road to our place and wondered why an “empty” colddrink tin seemed so heavy. With a bit of closer investigation we realized that there was something alive inside the tin. As my husband carefully prised it open a snake suddenly shot out of it. I was too slow to photograph it peeling out of the tin and only caught the tail-end disappearing into the grass. We found it close to the road - a slender snake, at least a metre long. How long had it been in the tin?! Was this its winter habitation? Maybe it was hibernating and grew too big to get out? I'm mystified.
Alison, Jukskei Park
I thought the VeldTalk readers may like this quote – I don't know who said it! “And so ...nature has presented us with a cataclysm, and we must respond with a dogaclysm -- a tsunami wave so doggone powerful that the agents of pillage, spillage and drillage will have no choice but to obey and sit ... stay ... and roll over!”
Rita van Dyk, Hennopsrivier
Ek het 'n foto probeer neem van 'n blou-apie wat nou die aand oor ons grasperk gedraf het. Dis die tweede een wat ons sien met 'n af-pootjie! Die eerste een se been was heeltemal af, tot teen die lyf, hierdie een was net halfpad af. Ek wonder of dit as gevolg van strikke is?
Nico Grobler, Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
Thanks for an excellent newsletter. Your conservancy is really setting the standard here in Gauteng. I’m passing it on to my colleagues as well.
John Wesson, Wildlife and Environment Society of SA
Please help! WESSA is raising funds to help curb the escalating illegal rhino hunting. We are encouraging people to make a donation through our SMS line. SMS “Rhino” to 40706. SMSs cost R20. Or go to our website, www.wessa.org.za to make a donation to WESSA with the reference “Rhino”.
Carolyn Allan, Rhenosterspruit
The Conservancy's hippo saga seems to continue! It is a somewhat "Loch Ness" scenario. I recall a story written in the Cradle News sometime ago regarding hippos in the Crocodile River near Toadbury Hall. Their footprints were clearly seen in and around the vegetable farm off Beyers Naude where it crosses the Crocodile River. Maybe these are the same ones working their way along the river until they find a safe place to reside - clearly the Conservancy is a safe haven!
Editor's note: The hippo (or more than one) has been spotted several times in the dams on Northern Farm. The owners of Aloe Ridge in the Cradle reckon it's their hippo, Houdini, who is living up to its name!
Sue Hatfield, Roodekrans
The May VeIdTalk was excellent. I was so surprised to see the VeldForum comment from Colin MacRae of De Tweedespruit Conservancy! My husband bought me Colin's book, "Life Etched In Stone", a few years ago for Christmas and it is the most beautiful, interesting book.
Janine von Zeuner, Doornrandje
My husband, Lee, saw a brown hyena at our gate early on the morning of 26 May. The dogs were going mad so he went to investigate and shone his torch straight into its face! I’d have thought hyenas would keep away from an area with houses.
Editor's note: Lee von Zeuner is involved with the Wilderness Leadership School so he's unlikely to confuse an hyena with a wandering goat!
Paul Smyth, Centurion
Thank you very much for the most interesting Scorpion Walk. I really enjoyed it immensely. It was my first visit to the Conservancy but I'll be back!
Niko Knigge, Doornrandje
Interest in the Conservancy is growing at a phenomenal rate. Even the hippos, leopards and hyena want to come and live here!
Colin McRae, De Tweedespruit Conservancy
Super newsletter. Good to see the enthusiasm regarding the geology of your conservancy. I am a geologist and palaeontologist - the author of Life Etched in Stone. You may find it enlightening to squizz through it sometime. I dealt extensively with the evidence of life in the dolomites (The Oxygen Pump). I also covered the human evolution - you have a lot of sites in your area.
Alex Delides, Riverside Estates
Our annual Climb-the-Rhenosterkop outing in May attracted two dozen enthusiastic climbers. Natalie from Johannesburg and her family all made it to the top and promised to be back next year. “We're your biggest fans!” she said. The views from the top of Rhenosterkop are something to behold!
"We made it!" On top of Rhenosterkop with the Witwatersberg and Magaliesberg in the background. Photo provided by Alex Delides
Lynette Loosen, Hills and Dales
We would love to join the next Scorpion Walk. The kids really enjoyed the Spider Walk. We were at the coast and on Saturday morning I heard the kids yelling from the lounge to say that they were on TV. We watched the whole Knock Knock Show - it was awesome!
Professor Pink, presenter of the Knock Knock science programme, and his team filmed the Spider Walk and will be covering the Scorpion Walk again on 2 May. The show is broadcast on SABC 3 on Wednesdays (14:00) and repeated on Saturdays (06:30). www.knockknock.bz. Ed.
Barry Downard, Dargle Conservancy, KZN.
Congratulations from the Dargle Conservancy in KZN. VeldTalk is always inspirational. Keep it up! It's a delight to see the commitment to do good, and you guys in the RNC really have the commitment. Just imagine what this world would be like if everyone had the same desire to look after our surroundings!
Our good news is that it looks like 2 500 ha of indigenous forest and endangered mistbelt grassland is about to get Nature Reserve status. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the respective landowners are finalizing the agreements right now.
(Congratulations! A vast amount of hard work must have gone into this venture. Ed.)
Trevor Toye, Chairman, Mnandi Monavoni Ratepayers Association, Knoppieslaagte wrote to the Tshwane City Manager on 11 March 2010:
Tshwane has not collected the refuse this week in Knoppieslaagte, which falls in Ward 48. Not only that, Council has removed the agricultural rebate on our rates and taxes. People in our area are getting nailed with R4 000 to R5 000 additional on their bills. This is in an area where we get power directly from Eskom, most of us rely entirely on boreholes for water and there is no sewerage provided by Council. Not only that, the roads don’t get maintained. So I ask, what are we paying rates and taxes for? We get to pay more and receive less.
Audrey Smith, Hills and Dales
Taking a walk with my dog along the banks of the Jukskei River, I am forced to navigate through rubbish at every twist and turn of the river. It is choked with discarded shoes, broken plastic furniture and bottles, computer parts, discarded food wrappers, toys, tins and clothing coming from informal settlements upstream. A friend of mine is a water resource specialist who has done developmental work throughout the SADC region. He confirms the opinion of other aid workers that really poor communities do not have a rubbish problem in these countries because everything is recycled and re-used. (Letter shortened)
Responses to Country Roads and Potholes (VeldTalk, February):
Pam Webster, Knoppieslaagte
And here I was wingeing about our roads! The rain damaged the roads so much I had to navigate my little Polo through lakes where I knew full well there were huge potholes, just not where. And R11 000 in unplanned car expenses in January. Ouch. But then I looked at your mud – oh my goodness, I should feel really happy.
Robin Jarman of Kyalami sent this pic and asked: “Have you counted the giraffe in the Conservancy lately?”
Ingo von Boetticher, Laezonia
This is the one e-mail where I don't mind killing a few trees and printing it! Thank you!
Pauline Sonley, Hyde Park
Re the bullfrogs at Lanseria (VeldTalk 46). What a sad story! I hope it gets front page press coverage. I am horrified at man’s insensitivity to the creatures of this planet. It really is disturbing. Are there people we can write to to complain – do you have email addresses? All these conferences are meaningless talk which lead to nothing. Thanks for your very interesting and informative newsletter.
Morwa Ntsoane, Chairman of the Gauteng Pompom Committee
Thanks to the RNC for the dedication, determination, passion and the will to get involved in contributing positively towards the control of Pompom. It would make a lot of sense if we start early (with eradication) as groups of dedicated government officials, civil society, conservancies, organised agriculture and landowners. The impact would be massive.
Note: The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) recently drew a team of 15 from their other reserves - Roodeplaat, Leeuwfontein and Abe Bailey – to tackle Pompom over three days on their properties in Doornrandje. This valuable Egoli Granite Grassland area is earmarked for eventual proclamation as a nature reserve.
Jann Acutt, Hills and Dales
Some of our tenants were fishing in the Jukskei in front of our house this weekend, throwing back what they'd caught. They showed us some of the barbel they caught - every barbel had inflamed gills and blood coming from its anus. We also saw dead carp floating down the river.
Is anyone aware of this? Where should this be reported? Who will take action? I'm feeling very depressed about this.
The contact details of a Department of Water Affairs official were forwarded to Jann. Ed
Dorothea Pienaar, New-Zealand
Ek geniet VeldTalk altyd baie. Dis heerlike lees wanneer ek moeg is en net wil ontspan....Dankie!
Mma-Ritha, Hennops River
We love watching the teeming wildlife around our place. For instance, we came across two dung beetles pushing the biggest dung ball I've seen. It was easily six centimetres across – see the pic below. We've also had a large tortoise in the garden and called it Koos (could have been Koosina) but he/she finally set off for other pastures. Then we found the cutest baby tortoise near the house. But, horrors! We then discovered a Croc in the Hennops River. Here is the proof...(middle pic)
Meryl Horn, Pretoria
While I was visiting my family in the Conservancy we spotted a thin brown snake making its way up the side of the sittingroom window. (On the outside wall, thank you!) The wall is face-brick and the snake slowly slid along the joints. On closer inspection we found a small bat clinging to the wall. The snake clearly had “lunch” in mind.
As we were contemplating interfering with nature – either saving the bat or leaving the snake to do what snakes do – it lunged and coiled around the bat in a flash. It then dropped behind a flower box and disappeared. It was likely a brown house snake which does not have venom and therefore does not bite. But what intrigued me most was the way it twisted itself around its prey - more like a constrictor. I'd like to find out more about this behaviour.
And a message all the way from across the Atlantic -
Jeanette Ibargoyen, Montevideo, Uruguay
I enjoyed very much this last issue of VeldTalk... It takes you from giraffes through would-be lions, down to owls and all the little guys... Fascinating! And the photos, too. Keep up the good work!!!
Annette Raaff, Hartebeestfontein Conservancy
VeldTalk is always a great read, but VeldTalk 45 was absolutely outstanding: (almost) lions, birds big and small, giraffes and hyena, a brilliant glass recycling idea and 'green building'. I was sorry to get to the end of the newsletter, so I read it again for the sheer enjoyment of it. Well done!
Jeanette Horn, Hills and Dales
My rain gauge has been cheating me of my rightful quota of rain. My neighbour, 100 metres to the south, and I decided to check our gauges after she consistently got more rain than I did, which I did not regard as fair. Taking our kitchen measuring cups we discovered that 50mm poured into her gauge showed 43mm and 37mm in mine! Next time I buy a rain gauge I'm taking a bottle of water and I'll test every single one in the shop until I find an honest one.
(Taking the missing millimetres into account, we certainly got “Borehole Rain” in the Conservancy this summer! As far as the roads are concerned, it's been “Mudhole Rain”. Ed.)
Carolyn Allan, Rhenosterspruit
Thank you for the informative newsletter, I so look forward to receiving this mail, as there is always something going on in our beautiful area. Great, informative and helpful tips always worth reading.
Niko Knigge, Doornrandje
There are many parallels between HIV and the Pompom/Verbena epidemics of the Gauteng grasslands. We cannot afford to ignore it; we cannot fight it alone; we are still mostly ignorant; where we are no longer ignorant, we're still in denial (as some of us were with HIV in the '90s). NGOs and activists are beginning to wake up but Government and politicians still do not show leadership in tackling the alien scourge. We will have to finally wake up to the scale of the problem, and respond sufficiently strongly to contain it, or we will never - not in our lifetimes - get rid of it.
Malcolm Sinclair, Chair: Lammermoor Conservancy
Thanks once again for a wonderful and most informative VeldTalk. I was so pleased to see the story on wild flowers. I've just finalised Lammermoor's newsletter and this is something that we're leading with as well. I took photos on 18th of October, amazed at the beautiful specimens out there. I haven't a clue of some of the botanical names so seeing some of the names with the photos helps greatly.
Jill Watson, Elandsvlei Conservancy
Thank you - as always a very informative, enlightening and fun read. Well done to all!
Now that the veld is green after all the fires one notices the stark white exteriors of many local houses contrasting with the green. I compare these dwellings with places that have been built and painted to merge with the surrounding veld. Having chosen to live in a rural area, I want to see veld, sky and clouds, not buildings demanding to be noticed. What do other readers feel?
VeldTalk is often passed along to me by people in our neighbourhood and it is such a lovely read – very informative! Please would you add me to your distribution list? I do the neighbourhood communications for our area which we informally call “The Valley”, in Knoppieslaagte.
(The reverse is also true - Pam's newsletter paints a colourful picture of the ups and downs of life in neigbouring Knoppieslaagte and surrounds. Ed.)
I love getting VeldTalk and catching up on what is happening in the Conservancy. On the article about a trip into the past, I was alarmed to see how many Karee trees had been chopped down on Koppie-Alleen when we were out there a while ago. There was also evidence of fires having been made on the top, so I am not sure if the trees were being used for that. I am not sure what can be done to stop this as the Koppie is so isolated.
Roodekrans will always be home to me and it is fantastic to go back there, especially to the Koppie where my brother and I spent most of our childhood.
Just a note to say how much we enjoyed the Botanical Society's flower/ nature walk in the Conservancy this month. It made a difference having experts on hand with quick, positive identification.
Thank you to VeldTalk for the wonderful article re the SOS children's sport progress. We have had such a fantastic response, even from far afield. I did not realize VeldTalk had such a reach! Gretchen Grenville from Grow Wild Nursery is donating the trees we need to plant for shade. Blue Saintclair in Doornrandje has offered us horse manure for compost. And Rene Robinson who lives near the Lion Park offered to run a fundraiser for us at her and her hubby's Indoor Cricket Arena in Midrand. She is also a life skills coach (writing her thesis) and is prepared to work with the kids to try and unlock their potential. Progress!
The first away soccer match takes place soon at Alpha Conference Centre.
Compost Mentis sent in this contribution:
We were sitting peacefully on Neighbour’s stoep, feet up, beer in hand, surveying the horizon. “I get so fed-up, driving out from here,” I said conversationally, “seeing the cans, bottles and plastic bags littering the roadside. Barbarians.” The Wife agreed: “No culture. No ‘feel’ for the environment. Can’t they get rid of rubbish in a responsible way?”
“How do you get rid of your rubbish?” asked Neighbour, handing me the chips. “Oh, we bury it,” I said. “A nice deep hole, so the dogs can’t get into it, or rather, out of it, once they’re in! And then we burn regularly. Makes a big stink, though, especially the plastic.”
“What about bottles and broken glass?” queried Neighbour. “Same place,” I said. “Eventually it’s all covered up. Maybe one day, after a few centuries, a bulldozer will unearth the gemors and then the archaeologists can have a grand time reconstructing our civilisation!”
“Glass stays sharp for centuries,” remarked Neighbour. “I remember nearly crippling myself on bottle shards which someone had smashed on a rock in the veld.”
“S’true,’ I said, gazing at the bottle in my hand. Quite lethal, actually. “What do you do with your rubbish? “Copy the Australians,” he said. “I worked there for a year. They have different rubbish bins for glass, paper, plastic, tins and so on, and everything is sorted into those.”
“No thanks,” I said. “Sounds too much like graft.” “I’ll do it,” added The Wife suddenly, catching me off guard. I could smell a domestic revolution coming. “What do you do once you’ve sorted it?” she wanted to know from Neighbour. He waved a hand over the lush garden. “The peels and stuff go into the compost, the glass we take to those big bottle banks, the plastic and tin and paper go to a depot like Remade.”
I was being outmanoeuvred here, I could sense. But I couldn’t simply capitulate, my macho image would suffer. I was prepared to support The Wife, however, as long as she did the sorting, that is. And carting away, of course.
Well, that was easy, wasn’t it? I could continue enjoying my beer and my gripe about the barbarians out there, messing up my countryside. What’s wrong with a big hole in the ground anyway…well…hmmm?
This VeldTalk features the frustration of dealing with rates, taxes and unresponsive officials. A Hills and Dales landowner was devastated when she got a bill for R21 000 from Tshwane Council early this year. This is her story.
“Die Wet van Transvaal” *
“We went to Tshwane Municipality to get clarity on our rates and taxes situation and were shunted to Credit Control, to Customer Care and back again, to no avail”, she says. “They claimed they’d billed us for R7 000 in 2005 but we never received that account nor any others until this year.
“They said they’ve been sending our bills to their Despatch Department since June 2005 to be posted to us at our correct address. Not one ever arrived, whilst they were adding on interest all the time. When I pointed out that it was surely impossible for approximately 43 accounts to go ‘missing’, they said it wasn’t their problem.
“So, for all those who haven’t received bills from the Tshwane Municipality, please check it out, because as I write interest is being accrued monthly. We bought this property on the understanding that there were no rates to pay because no services would be offered. I know people who have not yet been served with this tax. I hope they quickly sort it out before they get bankrupted like ourselves.
“By the way, thanks for VeldTalk - wonderful, informative and congrats on the hard work.”
*Ask any Afrikaner what that stands for.