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!

MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION

 

300 Year old Aloe Tree on the edge of the garden

Some people spend considerable time in meditation, where you practice mindfulness. The fact is that this all means nothing if you cannot bring that mindfulness back to planet earth and everyday life.  Be in the moment, but so often we dwell on the past or worry about the future. Mindfulness becomes a habit, just like worry and living in the past.

The trick is to break those old habits and become mindful. Be in the present, be here now, but what to do if something severely disturbs this, what if you have thought of worry that will just not go away.  You cannot simply deny their existence and it keeps on disturbing your present.  Here is an example. We share a kitchen with various people, lately this has been costing us a fortune and my fear of “not having” kicked in.  I was feeling abused and I kept on going over and over this in my head and I was getting angry at people based on previous experience.  We packed most of our stuff into boxes, yet my fears remained, I was still fighting with people (in my head) about thing that haven’t even happened yet, attracting fear, knowing it, but seemingly impossible to stop myself.  This all probably sounds a bit crazy, but we have all been there.

Now my Chi is badly disturbed and I cannot be in the moment.  What to do.  Denial does not work, “just letting go” doesn’t work, “all you need is love”, does not work, besides what about love for myself and my well being? The solution was to face the situation and confront the other people involved, which according to me was expecting to share all evening meals, which (in my experience) means they bring a potato and I give the rest to feed 4 – 6 people.  I simply and calmly explained that I cannot afford this situation and that I do not want to and do not have to share every meal.  It is not what you say, but how you say it.

Yes, it took guts to confront the whole situation and the people involved, but it was the only way to get it out of my head.  Now I feel clean and in the moment again.  I guess my point is this – sometimes your fear can be very strong and denying their existence does not make it go away, it just keeps on eating and eating at you, you have to face them and deal with them, only then will you be able to remove them.  Not all the mindfulness in the world will do that for you, only your own actions, mind full actions.

 

 

HOW TO PLANT A TREE

I have to shamefully admit that I have been neglecting the garden a bit lately, all the rain had an influence, but there was also so many other things than needed attention. I need to get in there today, we need to replants some Keerboom trees, they are legumes (enrich the soil/nutrient fixer) and they make good windbreakers and they grow quite fast. They are also indigenous to this area.

 

 

Big old Aloe with the Wild fig at the back

There is this Wild fig tree right on the edge of the garden, right next to a 300 year old Aloe Tree. This created a big dilemma. It is a wonderful tree, with a very extensive root system and it was becoming competition for the Aloe Tree and for the garden.  Eventually somebody (not sure whom) got the courage together and ring braked the Fig tree. When you ring bark a tree it dies. It is a rather painful yet fascinating process to watch.  First the tree started dropping big branches, one after the other, in an effort to “cut the dead wood” and survive. This tree knew it is dying, the fruits where suddenly all ripe and ready and seeding, an attempt to replant before it dies. There is currently only the tree trunk and one very big branch left, this branch is already intertwined with the Aloe Tree and this is what is keeping it up.

 

 

Newly planted tree with companion plants (Marigolds) and mulch

I have only been telling you about the trees we took out, this one and the old Blue Gum. We have also planted at least 11 new indigenous trees in and around the retreat area. Here is some general advice on how to plant a tree.

·         Always plant trees at least 6 feet apart

·         Dig a square whole, not a round one, roughly 60 cm x 60 cm, but obviously take the size of the tree in consideration

·         Put some rusted nails or other iron in the whole, some plants absorb the iron, but will not if not needed

·         Plant the tree and fill in the whole.

·         What I use for compost is plain old fashioned cow dung, courtesy Meduna’s cows. You can also use Horse or chicken manure.

·         Add a small amount of Bone Meal to your compost

·         Put the compost around the tree, but not too close to the trunk, depending on what you use, it might be a bit too strong and burn the trunk.

·         Put some mulch in a circle, over the compost and around the tree, a fairly big circle.

·         Make another circle outside the tree circle, this is where you are going to plant your companion plants

COMPANIONS FOR TREES

Garlic, Marigolds, Nasturtiums and (Mustard especially for fruit trees) and never forget the Comfrey. The comfrey also forms a sort of barrier so that the grasses and “weeds” are kept at bay.

You can also make a fantastic liquid fertilizer, just soak the leafs in water for about 2 weeks and give this liquid to the plants.

 

Fever tree