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!

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?

 

 

THE PERMACULTURE COURSE

Where to start. It has been so busy around here lately I haven’t had much time to write.

  

Yellowwood forest in Morgan Bay

We finished the perma culture course on Sunday. We had a lady with an Agricultural Degree and a Landscaper on the course. That is very interesting, because it means the “mainstream” is starting to show interest, or maybe, as one lady said, her clients are asking about it and it makes so much sense, so we will soon have perma culture incorporated in suburban gardens in East London and even people in cities can actually know what they are eating i.e. vegetables and more from their own gardens. I think the interest will keep rising as the food prices rise.

 

Making a new banana circle

The perma team, minus the photographer, Riaan

 

We spend the whole first day of the course in a forest. In today’s monoculture systems (rows and rows of exactly the same crop and any other plant is seen as an enemy or a weed). We are depleting the soil and after ten years the soil can no longer yield any harvest and needs to rest, then we chop down more trees for more land to plant and destroy the soil again. The sad story is that one of our neighbour is doing exactly that right now. Big scrapers are just pushing every tree and plant flat and then they burn all the vegetation! It is like listening and looking at the earth being raped !

The idea of spending a day in a forest is so that we can see the difference between the way we destroy the soil and everything else and how a forest flourish and carries on forever and ever in complete synergy, providing live to very many plant and animal species on a long term scale, that is until we interfere and need more space for more mass production of food, then we destroy the perfect system and plant our plants in little rows, spray them with pesticides (witch also kills the microbes in the soil, giving you dead soil) then we add all sorts of chemicals to make the plants grow in dead soil. Most people call this farming, I call it slow suicide, for us and the planet.

What you basically do in perma culture, is to copy the perfect systems of nature. Certain plants actually help each other grow by enriching the soil, other plants keep insects away from food crops nearby and water is used in a much more effective way. You can do this on a small scale in your own garden, just to supply your own food or if you are lucky enough to have the space, you can create a complete food forest, which can provide food for years and years to come, without destroying the natural environment. I can write a book about the subject, but that has already been done and I need to get to my garden, so if you are interested you can read all about the basics of Perma culture here –

http://www.permaculture.net/about/brief_introduction.html

or if you would like to do the course, you can contact Tim Wigley – tim@keimouth.co.za

 

 

 

 

 

 

VOLUNTEERS AND WORMS

David and the biggest Sweet Potato I have ever seen

There are two types of people that normally visit an Eco community.  There are volunteers (they normally stay for free, but bring their own food) and in exchange, they help and learn about the community and the things we do.  Volunteers often visit a community with the intent of joining the/a community as some stage.

We currently have two young American volunteers, Melissa and David. They have been helping me a great deal with the garden. We are planting seedling and seeds, making cutting and generally just planting plants all over the garden, soon we will have enough food to cater for the other group of visitor, namely wwoofers.

 

 

Melissa (right) and David helping me make new mulch beds

Wwoofers (World wide opportunities on Organic farms) stay and eat for free, both groups come from all around the world (including South Africa, we would actually love to see more local people take an interest). They either have experience in alternative lifestyles or they want to learn more about it. The wwoofers obviously do more of the physical work, because they stay and eat for free. Wwoofer does not often join a community, their aim is more to work their way around the world. What a wonderful and affordable way to travel, see the world and learn new skills. If you want to know more about wwoofer or are interested in becoming one, here is a link to their website –  http://www.wwoof.org 

The worm farm, is actually not a whole farm full or worms (earth worms), just something the size of a bathtub, full of them. The reason for a worm farm is two fold. Firstly your catch the worm “tea”, which is like a concentrated liquid compost. Secondly you can also use some of the compost from inside the bath, but first you have to separate the worms from the compost. This process is real simple, you put a plastic sheet on the ground and empty the container on the sheet. The worms hates the sun and will move to the bottom of the pile and you just scoop from the top.

 

Riaan harvesting from the worms

Melissa got all creative and cooked lunch, time to go and eat..

FOOD AND THE FERRIE

I just dropped Melissa and David off on the N2, they are hiking their way through to Coffee Bay.  It has actually been quite a blessing having them here with the bore hole pump on strike. David studied Civil Engineering, so this was “engineering” 101 for him, but a big blessing for us.  One of the problems was the fact that there was no converter on the connection from the solar to the pump, big problem because you get fluctuating currencies, which can cause major headaches and broken pumps. Well, problem solved, thank you David. We also had a very American dish last night, called Chilli’s and corn bread, good stuff, we all ate too much.

 

Melissa and David cooking up a storm

Melissa seem to have a big interest on all sort of herbal teas and the remedies associated with them, we have had Oregano, Lemongrass, Geranium, Stinging Nettle, and a whole list of other teas being brewed, tested and tried.  Luckily there is a book here about the subject, so we managed not to poison ourselves.

I am busy developing a serious passion for gardening, maybe my nurturing instincts are finally kicking in, bit late. The fact is I love planting and caring for plants and it is quite special to see how they grow from a little seed into something totally different and something you can eat and all you really have to do is to stick it in the ground and give it a blanket of mulch and lots of love. We need a bird bath or a pond in the garden, but I not sure where yet, I am sure the birds will tell me soon.

 

Progress in the garden, Spinach is doing very well

I am all alone here today, Riaan went off with Tim to go and meet Tim’s cousin, regarding the walking trail. All the sudden quiet is quite strange, but at least I have some time to write again, but my head is not really here, it is in the garden, where there is 101 things I still want to do.

The cooking experiments are also in full swing, Riaan used to do most of the cooking, now I insist on having my fun.  Fennel root, quite nice stuff, I made a Fennel and Bean Stew, which came out great. You actually use the bulb (just above the ground) of the fennel plant. It is great fun to go into the garden, see what you have and go find a recipe for it or just create a new dish.

Although I have been vegetarian for about 12 years, you could still buy a lot of convenience products, like the Fry’s range (that has just become very pricey by the way, gram to gram, more expensive than meat). Now we make our own burger patties. Riaan is the patty King, we call them Riaans Nut Burgers. I will share some recipes later.

Also very interesting to note that it is just past the middle of winter and not a single soul that has been here, since we arrived, including ourselves, where sick (colds, flu, etc.), maybe that is because we are not reminded by TV ads that we are suppose to get sick and run off and buy medicine, or it could just be our diet or a combination of the two.

We went to Kei Mouth last weekend, we have been  here for three months now and this was our first opportunity the get away for a day. The only pond (ferrie) left in the country is at Kei Mouth, it used to link the old Transkei to South Africa, still does, but now it is all South Africa, although you can still see the difference, Kei Mouth looks like a typical small coastal resort town, but on the other side it is wild, even the sea that side seems to be wilder.  Got myself all muddies up trying to take some good photo, ended up in mud up to my knees.

 

 

The ferrie at Kei Mouth

 

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.

 

 

MULCHING AND WEEDING

 

Stinging Nettle, by many seen as a weed, but also a medicinal plant

I say thank you for the rain, I can smell it already…

I am thinking of starting a “green tip for the day”.   It is sometimes hard to come up with something decent to write every day. You settle into a sort of routine and you do not want to bore people with the same old same, so I think a tip for the day is a great way of always having something to write about.

Here are some tips on green gardening, just for a taster:

There is no such thing as a “weed”. You can tell the condition of your soil by looking at the weeds (or rather the root systems of the weeds) that grow there. The basic rule here is this – deep-rooted weeds thrive where soil is poor while shallow-rooted weeds prefer fertile soil.

Depleted soil will usually play host to nitrogen-fixing weeds like clover, while Stinging nettles, a common garden weed, is an indication of fertile, nutrient-rich soil. By the way, Stinging Nettle is also a medicinal plant, but more about that some other time. If you have to pull them because there is just too many and they are in competition with the plants you planted, beans and other legumes are also natural nutrient fixers.

 

 

The solution for the sting in the Stinging Nettle,  Bulbine

 

Actually, come to think of it, the very best thing to do is not to pull them, but to put sheet mulch on top of it all. That way you will kill the ”weeds”, but their roots and leaves will rot and become compost for the new plants you are going to plant there.

What is sheet mulching? Pick a piece of garden where there are lots of grass or “weeds” and instead of pulling it up, just cut it short (you cut the leaves, you cut the roots). Then you put a layer of cow/horse or chicken manure on top of this patch, a nice thick layer and wet it. Do not tilt the soil. Then you place newspaper of cardboard (I prefer newspaper) on top of the manure and wet it again.  Now you put mulch (any dry, dead and decomposing plant materials) on top of this and wet it again. The mulch will not blow away once it is wet and settled.  You can plant here immediately. Wherever you want to plant, you make little holes through the newspaper or cardboard. Plant the little plants or seeds in the whole and fill with potting soil and mulch.

 

 

Sheet Mulch

I am also learning something new every day, when it gets to companion planting, it is almost more important to know which plants do not like each other and the list is much sorter anyway. I try and memorize one every day. Today (and every other day) beets do not like beans.

There, I just wrote a whole page and it was easy.

 

 

 

 

BIRDS AND BEES


 

The Bird bath

I eventually found the right spot for the bird bath and I found the bath.  Kevan had this big cement pot type thing just lying around, he graciously donated it to the garden and the birds, but we had to carry it all the way from his house to the garden, uphill all the way – that was my exercise for the day!  We also found a beautiful old tree trunk for the base. It turns out that you can see the bird bath from the garden entrance, from the main gate and from the house. It was not exactly planned that way, as I said, I was waiting for the bird to tell me where to put it and they picked the perfect spot.

We have a lot of bees around and more and more seem to be moving here every day, love them, but sometimes they are just in a bad mood, like this morning, you cannot come near them.  Riaan was cleaning out some vegetation behind the house and he got stung on the forehead and Dharma (Niki’s dog) got stung on the backside.  Kevan says they are more aggressive when they have lots of honey to protect. I was a bit of a coward, I just stayed far away, will talk to them when they are calmer. Yes, I know you think I am a bit Looney, but I promise you I talk to birds and bees and they respond.

I think we are being “invaded” by bees because it is probably the only farm in the area that does not use pesticides.  I have also noticed a new hive in the big old Aloe Tree in the garden.

There are no volunteers here at the moment, so progress is slow, but it is all good. Anne and I sat down yesterday just to co-ordinate our Diaries, for arrivals and departures of guests, members and volunteers. In October we pick up steam and November and December are going to be two very busy months. So we will enjoy the peace and quiet while we can.

It also looks like we might be moving out of the main house and into one of the other houses/cottages on the property.  There is a family of six joining us in November and they will need the house much more than we do. The main house is also a bit like a train station, always a coming and a going, so we are quite happy to exchange space for privacy.

 

 

San (him and his family will be joining the community soon)

 

This, depending on where we move to, might mean that we will soon be doing a bit of building, with natural material naturally, more than likely Cob, it is such a lovely material to work with, you can get very creative. Wood and bamboo are also options we can look at.

One of the available cottages is really just a rather big round space, with a bedroom upstairs. We will have to build a kitchen and bathroom. This does mean that we will be roughing it for a while, but Riaan and I are both looking forward to learning to work with cob and other natural materials.  We are lucky in the sense that there are a lot of people around with a lot of experience in this regard.

I will obviously still be involved in the main garden.

 

 

Progress in the garden

SLUGS TO DEAL WITH


The cat the snail and the ball

I have slugs to deal with. Strange naked snails with eyes on sticks, they watch you, while chewing on your succulent lettuce. I wish they will just go eat the weeds, but the problem is that they like my veggies better.  Now I have to use scare tactics. I do not really want to kill them; I just want them to go away.

We made this chili concoction, pretty much chilli and garlic cooked on the solar cooker for the whole day, and then you strain and spray on and around plants. This really works, but it does seem to kill the poor buggers, must be a horrible way to go, death by chili…..

Then we decided to try and make slug traps with beer, from what I hear, they love the stuff. You take a plastic container, like a yogurt container and you cut openings near the top of the container. Dig a whole and plant the container so that the openings are level with the ground. Now you add some beer and put on the lid. You can even cover the lid with mulch and/or soil. The idea is that they come for the beer, fall in the container, and get very drunk very quickly (hopefully) pass out and “wake up dead”. I guess this beats the hell out of death by chili… or does it?

 

Tarantula, natural enemy to slugs, smelling the flowers

The long term solution will be to attract slug eating birds and insects to the garden, working on that, with the bird bath etc.

The chili also works on “aerial attack” insects. Mostly the smell just puts them off, but they seem to die if they actually make contact with the chili, but I guess the chili is the better option for now. There are a few casualties (on the side of the slugs), but at least it is not mass murder like with the beer. Fact is there are enough other plants for them to eat, not exactly like they are going to starve without my spinach.

Then there is “barb wire” for snails! You simply unravel your potting scourer and put it around the bed or plant and you fence them out, but what if you fence them in?

DO NOT FORGET TO WASH YOUR HAND after spraying with the chili…  And if you do forget, do not worry; you will not forget the second time….

We have a new volunteer, Jenna, she is American, but studies at UCT, busy with her masters in Sociology and Tim is putting her to work planting trees and harvesting soil from worms. She is engaged to a South African.

It is just the most perfect day outside, so I am off to the garden and maybe the beach later.

 

 

 

 

SNAKES AND SUMMER

Oliver and Max (Anne’s Grandchildren) befriending the House snakes

Lucky and Lua came to visit, (for some crazy reason I never took a photo of them) they lived here before moving to Congo, Lua is Congolese and after this visit they are heading back to Congo, where they are busy with EDE, (Eco community Design Education). This is seen as a solution for a lot of current problems regarding self reliance and self sustainability. Kind of re-inventing society. In a country like the Congo, where lives and communities have been completely destroyed by civil war, this is very necessary.

We are looking at hosting such a course here at KD in April of next year, obviously with Lua and Lucky.  The course lasts a whole month and the idea is that the attendees stay here and become part of this community for a month. We have got six months to plan it all, the question is, will I still be here next year April?

Then Ninette showed up, she also used to live here, but unfortunately or maybe fortunately she now lives and works in Cape Town and only comes for visits, the old story of having to make a living. We found three snakes in her Yurt.

Talking about snakes, they are everywhere right now.

 

 

The crazy Frency, as Riaan calls her – 

Caroline, she spends six months here and six months in France

Caroline also arrived a few days ago, she was cleaning her place and found four snakes, one of them a Boom slang (I do not know any other name for it, but it translate to tree snake and they are venomous), but the snakes are mostly harmless ones, like the Brown House snakes (the one with the kids), but then again, Riaan stumbles upon two Nights Adders busy mating and then another two Adders joined the party. They are all out from their winter snooze and rearing to date and mate, or whatever snakes do.

So now I start to wonder about the symbolism around snakes –

“Snakes represent change and intuition the combination of these characteristics will allow for great new developments in life and the proper instinct for deciding which changes will be effective and which should not be made. They represent openness to new experiences, and thus, opened horizons. It is a totem of power, renewal and transmutation.”  I guess I have to give credit to the blog I “stole’ that from, actually it is a rather interesting blog. http://shirleytwofeathers.blogspot.com/2008/05/seeing-snakes.html

Two Night Adders mating (photo taken by Riaan)

 

How to make capers.  The Nasturtiums (Kappertjies in Afrikaans) are taking over parts of the garden at the moment, but I do not mind it looks very colorful and you can make Capers from their seeds. I have always liked Capers, so I have harvested some and found a recipe and I will be making Capers this afternoon.

It is seriously hot outside, something like 30 C and it is just past 09H00, apparently heading for 38 C today. I love heat and so does the snakes.

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