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!