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!

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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.

 

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.

 

BIRTHDAY BLUES


 

Just a perfect day… Riaan in Haga Haga

 

So this is entry no. 11, and yesterday was my birthday. I am now 47 (4+7 = 11) in 2011… all just coincidence ?

We went down to Haga Haga, our nearest town. just Riaan and myself. It is such a beautiful little place and the weather was perfect. Riaan also gathered information for the walking trails he is planning.

The only damper on the day (the last few days actually) is a massive tooth ache. I mean massive. At first I was the brave one, I will fix it, it kind of worked, but kept on coming back.  I would wake up with no pain, but as the day went on it got worse and worse, until that point where you want to rip the tooth out with a pair of pliers or chop your own head of just to be rid of the pain and I am no sissy, or so I say… This carried on for almost a week and came to a full blown confrontation yesterday. The pain was just too much, I have to admit I lost the battle; I went to a Dentist this morning.  My poor ego is crushed, (now that I can feel that and not the tooth ache) I have always been quite proud of the fact that I do not get sick, not even colds and no allergies.

I am also not big van on Pharmaceutical products, but you know what, it is easy to talk.  When you are in serious pain and you have tried your best and nothing works, these pills suddenly does not look so bad, the side effect are suddenly not that important. I took a view Grandpa’s (very mild compared to some of the painkiller out there), which worked for a few days, but by yesterday they made no difference. Now what do you do, take stronger pills and then even stronger ones until you end up with an addictions problem and you still have a teeth problem (you are just not aware of it anymore) or do you get to the root (pardon the pun) of the problem, i.e. stop being so stubborn and go to a Dentist.

I also read somewhere, a while ago, about the amount of people walking around with constant tooth ache, simply because they cannot afford dental services.  I have a lot to be grateful for, but  I honestly think this is the worst pain I have ever experienced, but then again, as Riaan said “isn’t every tooth ache always the worst pain you have ever experienced?” I have to admit my teeth have always been a weak point, never been pretty, never been strong.

I also believe that there is very often a mind, body, spirit connection with pain and disease, maybe in this case it is some sort of retarded stress reaction to the whole uprooting and replanting my life just went through, not sure.

My timing is just really bad, because we are missing out on the 1st day of the Perma Culture course.  There is nothing I can do to change that now, we will just have to catch up one way or the other. I have been wanting to do this course or a similar type course in Pema Culture for a while, but nothing of this sort was happening in Limpopo.

I am very much looking forward to tomorrow…..

 

 

 

 

 

BRAINWASHED AND BOMBARDED


Butterfly

Our way of life (alternative, of the grid, trying to be self sustainable) is not necessary the right way, it is just a different way, at least we are trying, because the truth is that capitalism is bound to fail, it is a system based on a endless supply of resourced (which we do not have), you are expected to slave away, so that you can buy buy, throw away, buy buy some more , slave some more and so the vicious circle continues.  These resources we are wasting and polluting  are starting to run short already, even in the so called Western societies. What will happen when all the money in the world cannot buy you clean water, because there is no clean water…… So we either change this system or let it run into self destruct and we destroy ourselves, that simple.

The amazing part is that most people just do not see this, why is this?

Is it 12 years of indoctrination called schooling, followed up by live long brainwashing via TV and other media (The media does play a missive roll in sustaining the current system). We are being bullied, bombarded and brainwashed into supporting a system that works very well for very few, yet we strive to be like the few, we buy magazine and gloat over some movie star, because he/she is good looking, wealthy and famous (but famous for what exactly) we spend hours watching the Royal wedding, but I guess that is okay because you actually paid – via your tax money you sucker- for the wedding. We buy the most ridiculous products, (products that create waste) like under arm moisturizer, because the pretty (airbrushed) girl in the advertisement says you will be ugly and socially unacceptable if you don’t. We treat our slave master and torturers like kings and we aspire to be like them.

Sometimes I think we are so dumb we deserve to self destruct, but we are not really that dumb, it is just that our whole system is designed to keep us in a state of fear, fear of shortage, fear of alienation, fear of fear, for that matter.

Yet, every single messenger/master, like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, etc. all brought the same message –

 

All you need is love.

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..

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