THE BEGINNING


 

Cob house, built by Brian

There are now thousands of Sustainability conscious communities and Eco Villages all over the world.  In South Africa it is unfortunately still mostly seen as a Hippie Colony. This might be the case at some places, but is it the norm? 

 

I am going on a green journey, my partner (Riaan) and I. Join us for the ride. We are starting at Khula Dhamma, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

 

 

Garden (after lots of tender loving care)

 

I have always said that I want to go and live on an Island and eat Paw Paws and banana’s all day, be careful what you wish for. Do not get me wrong I am not complaining, I love this “island”. It is Sub Tropical, my kind of climate.

The main house is a beautiful old farm house; this is where we will be living, loving and learning.

All our power, including that of the workshop and the bole hole pump is supplied by wind and sun,  no electricity bill, ever!

 

The communal house is an old farm house

Justin at the door

 

There are various people living on the property, you will get to know them as things progress. There are also some amazing Cob buildings.

I must admit that I felt rather overwhelmed this morning, firstly by the beauty and serenity of KD and secondly by the task ahead.  There is a lot to do, but then again, I did complain because I was starting to get real bored sitting on top of a mountain, playing with my toes.

Everything needs work, but that is all good, that will give us the opportunity to bring in fresh energy.

There is a beautiful food forest, based on Permaculture/companion planting and like any other forest, you have to look, nothing is planted in rows, there are no rows in a forest, well not in a natural forest, in any case. We even have a Tea tree Tree, (like in tea tree oil).  I haven’t discovered much yet, but we had some really nice vegetable potjie (stew) today. This Stew was cooked on a solar cooker. Brian (the wolf man) with a Jewish surname, is busy doing carpentry at the retreat. He is also an old hand at community living and the skill required, he made the potjie (stew) and we completed lesson one; how to use a Solar cooker. Here is an article about the solar cooker – http://chasethegreendragon.blogspot.com/2011/09/twenty-five.html

 I will have to find out how to make marmalade; we have got lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges and do not forget the paw paws and bananas. 

It seems like we are on a fruit, herb and sweet potato’s diet for now. There are massive Basil bushes to the biggest Rosemary “tree” I have ever seen. There is also lots of lemon grass and Fennel galore.Then there are Nasturtiums everywhere. I am quite nervous about getting the firsts seedlings in the ground. It has been a while since my last expose and experience in this regard. About ten years ago I did spend three months in another community called Rustler’s Valley and I learned the absolute basics about Permaculture there.

 

Ole and Zanele’s house

 

We had lunch with Anne and Tim, who lives on the farm, in their own house on their own space, with their own garden, but they are very much part of the community.  Another thing I haven’t mentioned, the whole community is (at least) vegetarian and if you come for a visit, please leave your petrochemical cosmetics at home.

The idea is to live in harmony with nature. I always say that I do not want to feed the system anymore, but Tim said something very wise yesterday (he showed us the shortcut from their house to our house, after lunch) He said “I do not want the system to feed me anymore”. I guess it works both ways. 

I do not know the full history, but from reading between the lines, some tensions developed between some of the previous members and some people left, whatever their reasons for leaving, I wish them well and thank them for (by leaving) creating this opportunity for us.

The cherry on top – there was an eclipse last night!

MANDALA AND YOGI

 

Madala Meduna

Exhausted but happy, we made a big fire in the fireplace. The house has been empty for a while, so I have been quite busy cleaning and redecorating.

Madala Madula is a old Xhosa man that also lives on the farm, he is a fairly wealthy man, he has a lot of cows. He only speaks Xhosa and the little bit of Xhosa I did speak is very rusted, but we manage to communicate. He collects his cows (from all over the place) and since we arrived, he stops by for a “chat”. I managed to understand that he had toothache (and gave him some tea tree) and he understands that I would like to buy/barter some milk from him.  I said “mina ibisi” which translate to “me milk”, but he got the message, he told me his calf’s are drinking at the moment, but he will tell me when he has got, all done and well communicated via body language. I did find a Xhosa/English/Afrikaans Dictionary in the library, better start learning.

I am actually too exhausted to write much, but let me just finish by saying the our fire circle is getting a new look and a new life, thanks to Riaan doing a bit of physical work. It is like the heart of the place, but because the house was empty this also got neglected and looked very sad.

 

The fire Circle before the clean-up, disappearing in the long grass, but still a pretty picture

 

I have not even started on the garden yet, there is some veggies and lots of herbs, but again its all neglected. I have worked in permaculture gardens before, but I am no expert, I cannot even find the pathways, but this will be a great challenge and seeing that we have been invited to attend a Permaculture course in July (nice birthday present), things should be back on track very soon.
We are also allowed to take from the other gardens and this feels weird, because we are just so conditioned into trespassing and taking from somebody else will get you shot at and/or arrested. It feels like you are doing wrong, when you are not. Besides these other people the gardens belong to are not here at the moment, so if we do not take it, the monkeys will.

We also met Yogi today, Yogi is an acrobatic cow, which belongs to Madala, she is called yogi because she can wiggle herself through gates and spaces that other cows only dream of. She was in the back yard this evening (gave me a bit of a fright) chomping away on the grass, it sounded like somebody was digging in the garden.

Well, it is time for tea with honey and then bed.

 

BANANAS AND DONKEYS

We have a member get together at the house Tuesday night and I want the house to look great. Everybody that lives here (all over the place on the property) gets together for a meal and some song and dance or I am not actually sure what; will let you know when I know.

I just love this house

Riaan had to fix the donkey, no donkey, no hot water, that simple.  We were debating the whole donkey vs. solar geyser issue.  I mean, everything else is on solar (or wind). The fact is, we are burning wood, but the wood we are burning is that of non indigenous species, like Blue gum and Lantana etc. So we have stacks of wood to “get rid of”, so right now the donkey stays.
The donkey, in this case, is not an animal, but a big steel drum (200 odd liters), which is covered with (in this case) Cob, this is connected to the kitchen and bathroom plumbing and this supplies hot water to the house. The cob act as insulator so the water stays hot for much, much longer.
This was also our first experience in mixing and working with cob. It is like playing with mud, only go get more than just dirty hands and feet in the end. You basically mix sand, soil and hay or any other dead type of grass. There is a specific way of “folding” the mixture. I will elaborate more about this at some later stage, but the mixture and method also seem to differ from place to place, depending on climate and the types of soil you have.

 

Mixing the Cob, Tim, Kevan and Anne

 

Donkey before

Donkey after

Then there are the banana circles. You plant banana’s in a circle and in the center is a compost pit or grey water outlet. The banana’s love it and the composting process goes much faster and is hidden. This is an old established banana circle and they work very well in this area, but I hear that you can also use other thing, like Bamboo, it will all depend on the climate, if bananas does grow in your area, you will obviously look for something else to plant around your compost/kitchen waste or grey water. You can also see the companion plants in the picture below, Comfrey, which also makes an incredible liquid compost, so plants lots of them, everywhere. You just harvest the leaves and let it rot in water for about 2 weeks, feed that liquid to your plants and you can hear them grow!

The banana circle, with Comfrey as companions.

WHAT PETS AND PEOPLE DO

Still shifting and reshaping the interior, I am still having fun, but I will no longer bore you with the details and I have also decided not to publish to much photos of the inside of the communal or other houses, it feels like and invasion of privacy.

 

Communal space inside the house

Why do people to the things they do?  There is a guy (no names), he is building on the property, he uses one of the rooms in the house when he is here.  I made the room real nice, (it is not his room, he only uses it when he is here) he arrives here this morning, rips everything apart, until there is only a bare mattress and a table. Obviously this did hurt my feelings, but I got over that, because I do not think his intention was to hurt my feelings.  The question remains, was my act of creativity seen as a form of invasion of space, (that testosterone induced territorial thing only males understand) or does this person feel not worthy of something nice ? Still chewing on this one….

Part of the longer term plan is to create walking trails. Riaan undertook his first expedition today, he looked quite exhausted when he got back. Then he wanted to go and show me how beautiful it is and we got lost in the bushes, the problem is that you think you are following a path, but then you find out you are following a cow trail and they lead all over the place and nowhere at the same time.  We made it back just before dark.

Apparently we have a very big Bamboo bush. What to do with Bamboo, which is an alien species (I am being told the difference between alien and invasive is that the aliens does not take over that much, they are just alien, ie not indigenous to the area). We need lights outside, so here is the solution, Bamboo sticks, with solar lights inside and the Bamboo can also be used to line pathways. You can also build structures and furniture with it ….

 

 

A Bamboo hut, with Maxi in the front

Maxi, our Tomboyish female doggy, chased a Duiker (smallish buck) up a hill and down a hill and over a river. Wonder what Maxi will do if she actually catches one, they are way bigger than her. I am a bit worries they might kick her to a pulp, delete that thought.

 

 

Worsie

Worsie, which means Sausage is our “pet’ squirrel, he moved to KD with us, all the way from Limpopo. The most precious little creature. He does not live in a cage, he does his own thing and picks his own “room”, usually more than one somewhere in a nearby tree or under a roof and “furnish” it with toilet paper, all you have to do to find Worsie is to follow the toilet  paper trail or wait from him to come for breakfast. Unfortunately not long after we arrived Worsie disappeared and was later found dead in and old Silo (full of water), near the house. He did not drown, there were far too many floating objects in the water and he was a smart creature. I have my own theory about what happened, but I cannot proof a thing so I will not go there. I will miss you very much Worsie, it was a big honor to have you as a close friend.

CANDLES AND COMPUTERS

Candles and computers; what a combination. We had no sun and no wind today, this is rather strange, because normally when there is no sun there will be wind, so we have to be light on the lights and other electrical things. For this reason I am just going to place a few photos I took recently –

The communal hall, used for meeting, meditation, and other get togethers

 

Tigger, the KD cat

 Earth Hormony House, where Anne and Tim lives. Cob and Wattle structure, with a part of their garden in the front. Tim does  not have a thatch roof, which means he can catch his rainwater, see tank to left.

 

Painting inside the Communal house

MAKING A LIVING

The first ripe bananas and we made the most wonderful banana bread !

We had another meeting yesterday. I like these meetings, they are fun and informative and very necessary to keep everybody up to date with what is happening and what is planned for the week. We open and close with a bit of a meditation, close your eyes, order your thoughts and get back to present, it just puts everybody on the same vibe.

One of the subject under discussion was the making of Charcoal, from Black Wattle (Invasive species).  There are obviously lots of questions surrounding this and if you do make charcoal, do you just supply yourself or sell it and what is the impact/implications.  At first glance the making of Charcoal  sound like a contradiction to what we are trying to achieve and there are questions regarding the amount of pollution, but it can be a great job creator, it is a way of doing something use full with the Wattle, and it does sound like the two guys proposing the idea have done some serious research and there is a long term plan of restoring the land after the Wattle is gone. We will have to invite them over and go thought the whole story again.

 

Kiln for Charcoal making, you can also see the Black Wattle around it, there is nothing else that grows under these trees.

 

The wind is howling again, this is a bit annoying, because I want to go and potter around in the seedling house, but the wind keeps on blowing sand in my eyes !, but at least I get time to catch up here.

0ne of the people living here (Ole) is a Vipassana Meditation instructor. There was a group of people here on Sunday, just for a one day meditation retreat and there will be a 10 day retreat here over the New Year period.  I do not think I will survive just sitting for 10 days, but each one to his own. KD is also busy building a whole retreat area out of natural building materials and methods, they are hoping to have this finished before the Vipassana,

In the meantime we are also looking at ways of earning income, while living here. Riaan seems to be quite confident about his walking trails, I also think they can work wonderfully well, we just have to work out all the details and set the plan in action. There is also the possibility of training people from the area, to act as guides and get them registered to that they can operate independently.

I was looking at an Internet based business, but right now I am not even getting around to my blog, never mind other forms of networking, maybe I am just a bit tired of the computer at the moment and would rather be playing/working in the garden, but obviously not today, to windy.

We (Riaan and I) have set ourselves a target for end October, to have something up and running. This is really a wonderful and healthy way of life, but we still need income, this is all turning out to be quite a bit more expensive than we expected.

 

 

Niki at the Pema culture course

Niki seems to be quite keen on growing Oyster mushrooms, which is also something that will tie in nicely with the Charcoal making, because you have a lot of wood chip, which you can use to grow the mushrooms on.  The only problem with producing something here, is the fact that you have to get it to East London and to do that, you will have to drive there, so you support the Petro Chemical companies a lot and that can almost be counter productive to everything else you do and the roads are not good, especially the first 20 km, so there is also a lot of wear and tear on your car.

 

There is a library here that is quite amazing. I found some books (while cleaning and sorting, with Anne’s help). At the moment I am busy reading Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), next on my list is Keys of Enoch and another book I have been looking for, but forgot the name of the book and  the writer, it is called Slave Species of the God, by a South African writer, Michael Tellinger.  That is just to mention a few, obviously there is a lot of books about spiritual development, green gardening, building your own home, alternative energy,  natural medicine and much more…

 

Part of the library 

 

 

 

CONFLICT AND CONFUSION

One of the Cob houses here at KD 

People are people and wherever you throw a bunch of them together, you will have conflict at some stage.  Conflict can be good, in the sense that it clears the air, get it out of the system. The problems normally start when there is a repressed bunch of anger\conflict hiding under happy fairy faces. Denial is not the way to deal with conflict.

Fact is just because a group of people agree on a basic idea, in this case the fact that we as a species are heading down a one way, at high speed and at the end of this one way is a brick wall. This does not mean we all agree on the how, what and why to avert the situation. There can be fast differences in believes, ideas and ideals.

Conflict resolution is a part of community living. One of the methods used is the talking stick method.  Whoever holds the stick is the only one that is allowed to speak. This obviously gives each one a fair chance to get his point across. A session like this is then followed up by another session, where everybody comes with possible solutions for the perceived problem.  In other words, in the first session you get all the differences and disagreements into the open and at the second session, we search for and offer solutions.

People also have different truths, my truth is not necessary your truth, we can perceive the exact same thing or situation very differently.

I might not even mean to offend anybody, but my behavior might be seen as unacceptable by others. I might not see anything wrong with cooking meat for my dog in a vegetarian house, using the pots and pans, but the vegetarians living in the house might have a huge problem here. That is just an example.

 

Metallic Mushroom growing in a patch or cow dung

The fact is, where there is a will there is a way and the first thing is not to assume somebody did something with the intent of doing harm or offending, sometimes people just don’t think.  Open the communication channels when you feel the first signs of irritation, do not wait until you are ready to explode, the latter is just a note to self….

Then there was this little incident that was really confusion and upsetting. Niki went and told Kevan that we used his car while he was away. This is simply not the truth! She also told him that we (Riaan and I) are taking things from the other houses. There is a lot of petty theft in the area and thing have been disappearing from some of the houses, I spoke to Anne and with her permission I took some stuff from empty houses up to the Communal house, where we can use these item (which we do not have) and at the same time keep them save. When the truth came out, Niki burst into tear and ran off. I am still very confused about why she did this and it obviously means that she has been watching our every more.. a bit freaky!

SOLAR COOKING

SOLAR COOKING

 

 

 

Solar Cooker (no stick needed)

 

Solar cooker, first encounter

Well we have a lot of sun, why not use it. The one great advantage of the solar cooker is that you cannot burn your food or let’s rather say, I haven’t managed yet and that says a lot.

We bunch of bunny hugger eat a lot of beans and lentils and other stuff that sometimes takes a long time to cook. If it takes a long time to cook, it can use a lot of gas or electricity. Here is the solution, put it in a pot (not a silver one, somehow reflects back of something, but it does not work so well) with water and spices or herbs, put on solar cooker, face cooker to the sun and do as I do, forget about it until you get hungry. It does help if you occasionally move the cooker a bit so that it always faces the sun, but that is not absolutely necessary.

 

The Solar cooker makes an excellent potjie (just add stick)

We are also making our anti insect chili ala garlic concoction on the cooker. This is also a long slow process and it would have been a killer on the gas bill.  It can just stand there all day, free and all and cook away and tonight you strain and use.

That funny piece of wood you can see on the cooker (above) is not originally part of the cooker, a cow stepped on the cooker and now we need the wood otherwise the angle is all wrong, but it still works 100 %, just add stick…

On a more serious note, there are some major benefits to Solar cooking –

◊No need for wood! ◊ Saves money on gas/electricity ◊ long lasting (up to ten years)

◊ Easy of use ◊ Smoke free

 




 

PICTURE PERFECT

It is new moon, which is time for planting, so I am busy, so I will write some more soon, right now I would just like to share this photo with you –

 

Caroline’s Kitchen

 

Flower power

 

 

Just a nice photo, I think

 

 

One of the many rural villages in the area

 

Early morning landscape

Banana flower

 

Wind pump 

 

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