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.

MEETINGS AND MORE

 

Home baked bread, part of lunch.

The meeting was great; there are only seven people here at the moment. The get together was sort of a very informal meeting around a meal, just discussing future plans.

 

 

Ole, Tim and Zanile at the meeting

The house needs paint, lots of it, or does it really? Green (not the color) paint is very expensive and I was telling you about the Bamboo we have, so why not cover the walls with Bamboo, it will look like a cabin on the inside and why not just plant Grinadellas along the outside wall and let them take over (obviously keeping the windows open) and no paint needed. Just some ideas Riaan and myself came up with, not sure how do-able these ideas are, we will have to do some research, maybe the treatment for bamboo is even more expensive than paint. Then there is the option of Lime, the problem with lime is that it does not last that long, but if you cook up some Aloe or any other Cactus type  plant and you add that to the lime, it makes it much more “flexible” and it goes onto the walls easier and stays  on much longer.

 

Grinadella flower

I though, when we left Vaalwater, we left the hunters behind. Not so, we heard the hunting dogs and we heard the gunshots today. It seems like you just cannot get away from these cavemen. It brought about a debate about when is it hunting and when is it poaching ? It seems like when you have big money and a big gun and you want to kill so that you can have the head of a dead animal on your wall, you are hunting, but when you hunt for food, you are generally seen as a poacher, but the line blurs,  because a lot of hunters claim they shoot primarily for the pot and some poachers (like Rhino poachers) does it for the money.

We will just have to create a save haven for the animals on this property, there was a Kudu amongst the cow’s the other day, obviously hiding from the hunters, clever chap. I have a feeling that hunting with dogs is actually illegal in this country, have to check up on that. That reminds me, Maxi must not chase the buck, she is chasing them back into hunter territory.

Seeing that it is Solstice and all, we are going to get together around the fire and Riaan is about to get his first Bongo drumming lesson, but he does not know this yet.

 

Drums

 

 

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

GREEN AND GOLD

 

 

Hornbill, one of the regular visitors

We went to East London yesterday, a city like any other. We realized once again how expensive it is to buy more natural products. Cheapest shampoo is R 60.00, why is that so? I guess demand and supply is one reason, but I do feel ripped off.  I guess I will start making my own cleaning materials, I saw some “recipes” for making your own on the Internet. Actually I have had it at the back of my mind to look at making my own and maybe producing an affordable range of green clean. We also bought General Purpose cleaner instead of Dish washing liquid, so this morning I was forced to make my own or go without. Bicarbonate of soda, soap flakes (from a soap bar I grated)  and lemon juice (from our trees) and a bit of water. I just mixed the lot, it kind of foams up when you add the lemon. It did a great job, but looks a bit weird, but I am working on that.

After having a further look at producing these products I realized that even the raw materials for making your own cleaning materials is rather expensive. I would also like to keep it cruelty free, Liquid Castile Soap (a vegetable based soap you can use as base for almost anything) is not available in South Africa, or let me rather say I have not been able to find any. The bars are available but cost about Zar 80.00 each!

Recycling, that is one of the reasons we went to EL. It was a bit of a disaster and we brought back most of it, but now we know better and we know exactly what they take etc.  Now we still have lots of soft plastic and some scrap metal and I am scratching my head here…. what to do with it.  Here are the options – Dig a whole and bury it, or burn it, or feed it into Haga Haga system (the local municipality removes rubbish from Haga Haga 3 times a week), if we drop 3 bags a time we will have the mess sorted soon, but what is the right thing to do?  Burning is not a good idea.  I am starting to realize that there isn’t always a right and a wrong, sometimes you just have to pick the lesser “evil”. The ultimate idea would be not to have these plastics etc. to deal with.

 

 

The recycle area was a bit of a nightmare

On the positive side, we found Inca Gold in the rubbish we returned ! Inca gold is actually seeds. One of the bags we brought back broke and all these seeds spilled out. Somebody that lived here just dumped lots and lots of seeds, nicely packed in those round little film containers.  I am sure some of them are old and dead, but a lot of it looks fine.

Seeing that we are low on greens, I have decided to grow sprouts. You have food in three days. I also found another way of growing them, instead of in jars, you put some soil on a flat tray, then you put the sprout seeds on top, keep it moist and in the dark (cover with another tray). I have realized that this method does not work so well, firstly your sprouts are full of soil and secondly it takes a full five days, while with the bottle method you have sprouts ready in three days. I still need some practice here before I start sharing ideas, I will keep on experimenting and tell you all about it a later period.

Madala Maduna is driving Riaan nuts today, he is building at his house/houses/huts, (an extended family lives together, but not all under one roof, individuals and smaller family groups have their own hut, very much a communal setup). He is busy building a new hut and  Riaan now have to take windows down the hill for him (in a vehicle) and every now and then he is back, looking for another tool he wants to borrow and it is hand signals and body language, because one speaks Xhosa only and the other does not understand Xhosa, very entertaining to watch.

It is extremely windy outside today, every now and then you hear a tree fall.

 

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 

 

 

 

FINDING 3 RD OPTIONS


 

Eye-flowered Mantis, a visitor to the garden

We go from extreme to extreme, from the yin to the yang, when will we stop, when will we evolve to the realization that we have the power to change things, not just repeat the same old same…

This is the next step in our evolution, stop repeating the norm, find the 3rd option and very important, stop blaming God for everything.

Are we close to breaking this circle and entering a next dimension of perception, this will tie in very well with all the 2012 predictions of “the end of the world – as we know it” theory.

Age of Aquarius, my summary of that – each one to their own and keep in mind the REAL message, which is Love and faith, the bottom line message with Christians, Muslims and Jews etc. Unfortunately more often than not the rules and regulations becomes more important than the actual message.

Is this paradise or paranoia, what is the difference, only perception.

I would like all to blend and create a work of art called heaven (whatever your picture of heaven is) What is your picture of heaven? Make sure it is a good one!

But why is your heaven “out there somewhere on a cloud” or wherever. What about the here and now, why not create heaven here. You are not dead yet and we have the power to create heaven on earth. Most people still does not realize this, do you realize this?

 

 

UNDER THE RAINBOW

All the rain is making me very philosophical. It is still raining outside, but there was a short moment in the late afternoon when the sun and a rainbow came out…..

 

Rainbow over Haga Haga

 

 

Double blessing

 

Under the rainbow, the Communal Hall

 

That pot of gold must be close…

In this case four pictures speak more than a thousand words.

 

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