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 –

 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!



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.


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!



Gathering at the Space of Love

The trip is behind us and we are now at Zuvuya farm.

We came up a few days earlier because zuvuya (Rainbow Homestead) is hosting a Space of Love gathering and I was curious about this. It was a soft landing, just a group of like minded people getting together and sharing feeling, thoughts and food. It is very much a family friendly affair and people bring their own musical instruments and we make our own noise.

Part of the plan of action is also to teach people some green skills, this weekend we ended up building a Rocket Stove with cob. The cob process is definitely different from area to area, it mostly depends on the type of soil and other materials that are available. In this case there is all this beautiful clay soil and all you need to add to that is some straw and you can built. The soil and straw mixture goes through a “rolling” process until it is nice and sticky and workable and then you built, let dry and use. You place the soil and straw on a plastic sheet and add water. You work this mixture with your feed and every now and then you fold the sheet and foll the mix over, then you step on it some more, repeat this process until the mix is nice and sticky.



Rocket stove and Shine

Making cob

This was the very first Space of Love gathering here as Rainbow Homestead. There is no entry fee and you do not pay to pitch your tent and the food is all communal meals, prepared by the group for the group. You bring what you have, you add and we all share. This makes so much more sense than each little group looking and cooking for themselves, it also creates a feeling of sharing and caring.

These gatherings are based on the ideas in the Ringing Cedars Series and I have to (shamefully) admit that I have not read these books, but I am aware of them, the whole series was at KD.  The way I see it, it is an introduction space for people seeking to get out of the rat race, a place to learn and a place to experience and to  use a compost toilet and make a donkey and built a stove, things like that. You also get to meet the people that live here and some very interesting people called volunteers, (basically people on working holidays, they are for people from all over the world).  It is a good place to start for those people that are looking for cleaner, more self sustainable ways to live and to practically experience it.



Talking and cooking

It is also a space where you can talk about your process, everybody is on some stage of realization or the other about what is really going on in this world. The unfairness and inequality of it all can make you angry, but I found that the people I met this weekend have stopped being angry about this gross obstruction of free will (capitalism) and are looking for solutions, a way out of the one way rat race.

These are people that stopped worrying about keeping up with the Jones’s for long enough to look up and see the brick wall at the end of the one way street we call Capitalism.

Obviously they want out, but as soon as you run against the main stream, you become a “problem”, you just don’t fit in anymore. There are suddenly “Comms” or Eco Communities and Sustainability centers popping up all over the country.  By attending a Space of Love gathering you can get a very good feel for the whole way of life and you will realize you are not alone.

As Sam puts it “There is no point in complaining, yet you support and benefit from a system you bitterly complain about”.

 We are planning the next Space of Love gathering for the Solstice weekend at the end of June. I am looking forward to that.

More about the farm and the homestead and the weather and the garden and all that next time, right now I am too cold to think.