Random Harvest Newsletter - November 2014

Posted On: Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,

This has been a really eventful month and I have so much to tell you, I hope you will enjoy sharing all the beautiful and dramatic things that have been happening at Random Harvest with us.

Events

Bird Walk

Andre Marx will be taking another guided bird walk on the 15th November - time 6.30 for 7.00am.  An early start but remember the early bird catches the worm.

A new bird we have been able to add to our bird list is the Namaqua Dove – hopefully this will be a new sighting for you as well here at Random Harvest.

Please remember booking is essential.  Call David on 082-553-0598 and the cost including a hearty Sunrise breakfast is R100.00 per person.

Book LaunchA new book on Indigenous gardening ‘Indigenous Plant Palettes’ has been written by Marijke Honig.  It looks to be great and I can’t wait to get my copy.  Their promotional material reads as follows:

At last: a South African how-to with everything you need to know to create a dream indigenous garden.

Accomplished landscape designer and botanist Marijke Honig puts forward the fundamentals in this comprehensive reference that is at once inspirational, practical and easy to use.’

Random Harvest will be hosting a book launch for “Indigenous Plant Palettes” on Saturday, 13 December @ 12h00 High Tea will be served afterwards, and you will be able to chat to Marijke. 

You will be given a number on arrival, as there will be a lucky draw and 2 people will get a signed copy of this beautiful book as a prize.

The cost R95.00 per person including High Tea.  Booking is essential – please call David on 082-553-0598.(Max. 30 guests)

Urban Farm

We are busy building a food garden display at the nursery, including a veg garden, chickens, herbs and useful plants as well as a little recycling centre. 

Hopefully it will inspire you to grow some of your own veggies which are so much tastier and healthier.

The display will be ready to view from the 15th November.

New fertilisers

Hya-Grow

We have been given the distributorship of a new amazing organic fertiliser “Hya-grow”. 

This fertiliser is rich in trace elements and most importantly carbon and silica.  The silica in particular helps with frost resistance in the plants.

The thing I love most about this fertiliser is that it is made from Water Hyacinth - so not only is it helping with cleaning up our dams and watercourses of this dangerous invader, but producing an awesome fertiliser which I have tested with great results. 

An added benefit is that it does not stink but has a lovely earthy smell and your dogs won’t eat it.

Rock Dust

“Lava Grow” Basaltic Lava rock dust is another fertiliser that I am using in conjunction with Hya-Grow.  The difference in growth and the size of leaves and flowers when using this natural fertiliser which has 76 Trace Elements is nothing short of amazing. 

I am so pleased I found this supplier in the Eastern Cape who will be sending regular supplies up to us.

 

In the shop

Tea Garden

Frans has made a few yummy new flavours of fudge – chocolate and Hazelnut.

I also thought I would remind you that the tea garden is a perfect venue if you would like a peaceful, relaxing office year-end  or other function.

Wire Goodies

Clopas has made us some beautiful bead and wire Christmas trees and Christmas decorations.  Please think of him before buying cheap junky goodies.  Rather think of buying objects from our small, local craftsmen who are so talented and need the support.

We also have some new seed bell hangers in stock and some delightful creatures on a wire to decorate your container plants.

Handmade Pots

Shingi, another local craftsman, has made some beautiful terracotta pots and birdbaths. 

Maybe think of supporting him and surprising your loved ones with a beautiful handcrafted pot for their Christmas present.

Fibreglass Creatures

New stock of the beautiful fibreglass creatures has arrived.  The smaller creatures make great stocking fillers whilst the larger ones will adorn your garden and are so realistic that they will remind you of just how beautiful nature is.

Zandspruit Project

This is a picture of Frans and Yolam teaching the people from the project to cook as they are starting a small restaurant to help finance the project.

Christmas party for the Children of Zandspruit

We would love to have a Christmas Party for the poor children of Zandspruit  Squatter camp and I would like to ask for some help from you if you are in a position to do so.

This is a list of what we would like to collect.  As you can see it is a very basic list but when you think of what a huge difference these simple things would make to the enjoyment of the festive season by these children it can only make us grateful for the many blessings we have.

We do need to collect this before 4th december as we would like to have the party on the 6th December.

School stationery – colouring pencils, koki pens, pens, pencils, rulers, rubbers, notebooks, calculators, maths geometry set, flip file, glue and school bags (even 2nd hand ones would be great)

Food packets of instant soup, baked beans, chakalaka, powdered milk, coffee, tea, Sweeto, Tang or Koolaid, pilchards, sachets of custard, jam, and biscuits.

 

Plants that are looking great at the moment

 

I love Cassinopsis ilicifolia (Lemon Thorn).

This is one of our most versatile shrubs.

It is a big shrub with beautiful glossy, evergreen leaves that bears lovely orange berries that not only look beautiful but are relished by birds.

This shrub can be pruned to keep almost any shape you want from a tiny hedge of just 30cm high to a hedge of 1m tall.

Use it as a security barrier or just prune to keep to any size you want.

The flowers of Clerodendrum myricoides (Blue Cat’s Whiskers) are irresistible and look like butterflies in the bush. This medium sized shrub can take half day shade and should be lightly pruned on a regular basis to keep it dense and in shape. 

Not only does it make a great garden plant, but is also well-suited to growing in a container.

The flowers are visited by the fat Carpenter Bees and it is always great to take a few seconds and watch them buzzing from flower to flower. The black berries are relished by birds

There is a selection of Fynbos plants which when planted together, give a different atmosphere to the garden. 

If you have a sunny well-drained area select the Fynbos plants for leaf colour and texture. 

The bonus is the beautiful flowers of the Protea and Leucospermums.

Delosperma lydenburgensis (Klipvygie) has to be one of the most rewarding plants with its glistening pink flowers that adorn this groundcover for most of the year, attracting a whole host of insects and birds to the garden

Grewia occidentalis (Crossberry) is one of the great plants for attracting fruit eating birds to the garden. 

It makes a lovely garden plant with its beautiful flowers and glossy leaves. 

The four joined fruits are edible and if you have the patience to remove the tiny bits of flesh from the seeds it makes a delicious jam.

Gladiolus crassifolius is a local bulb from our grasslands.  This pretty Gladiolus is rarely offered in cultivation.  We were lucky to get some bulbs and are able to offer them to you.   They are not blooming at the moment but if planted in a grassland garden will bloom and give you and the insects that visit them a lot of joy.

Crossandra greenstocki (Bushveld crossandra) has the most beautiful glistening dark apricot coloured flowers. 

It is found in rocky grassland in the bushveld. 

A really decorative garden plant.

The indigenous Poppy (Papaver aculeata) is in full flower.  As you can see these delicate flowers are a big attraction for bees intent on collecting pollen. 

This grassland species which just volunteered in our grassland are now in production. 

A delicate flowered beauty - this is my kind of plant.

I realise that Dais cotinifolia (Pompon Tree) is commonly available but it is so gorgeous covered in pink pompoms at this time of year I just had to share this picture with you. 

People are always asking for the Flowering Peach and Cherry at this time of year but, in my opinion, they can’t hold a candle to the Pompon tree and the flowers last a lot longer than on the flowering fruit trees.

On the farm

Every year I wait to hear my first Paradise Flycatcher and every year I begin to panic around the 10th of October when I haven’t heard them and every year they arrive about the 15th October. 

I defy anyone to feel miserable when they hear the call of this diminutive bird.  It is so cheerful it can’ help but make you smile.

The Plovers have all sectioned off their territories and either have babies or are sitting on eggs.  Jeffrey was lucky enough to get a picture of these cheeky baby Blacksmith Plovers.   Aren’t they well camouflaged?

We now have the greatest rat catcher stalking around the garden.  Jeffrey saw this Black Headed Heron catch a huge rat in the garden.  A lot more environmentally friendly that a cat.

The Bokmakierie is in full cry on the farm at the moment.  I battle just to get a glimpse of them and Jeffrey manages to get this amazing photograph of him calling.

The Ficus sur (Broom Cluster Fig) is in full and amazing fruit.  I have never seen so many figs on the tree.  My mom and I tried to eat one of the figs as they look pretty free of insects.  I must tell you that they were absolutely delicious.

The beautiful big forest tree Milettia stuhlmanii (Pangapanga) which I planted years ago is in full flower for the second year running.  Their beautiful spikes of pale and dark lilac flowers smell just like Fanta Grape.

I planted last year’s seeds and am happy to report that I now have healthy looking seedlings.  Hopefully in a few years’ time I will be able to offer this gorgeous plant for sale.

There has been a lot of drama going on, on the farm. 

It started off with this Spotted Eagle Owl discovering the baby geese. 

He calmly went ahead and decapitated four babies and only ate one – much to my mother’s disgust.  

Be this as it may it was really exciting to see him going about his business in the nursery taking absolutely no notice of us.

Owls and their habitat are under such threat all over the place that I find this encouraging and also a validation that I must be doing something right on Random Harvest to have this type of resident.

In my wisdom I decided to allow the dam at the bottom of the farm to dry out so I could clean it as it had silted up and was full of Carp. 

The variety of birds visiting had also dropped.

I can tell you this was a huge task I set myself and my staff.  In the middle of cleaning the dam (on the day we had the sandstorm) by a pure accident my compost heaps caught fire in that high wind. 

Talk about drama.  I have never seen anything like the compost and bales burning – they were incandescent. 

I called the fire department who sent out a unit who landed up staying here for 12 hours. 

With the compost you think you have put the fire out only for it to flare up in another place. 

We just had to keep fighting as it would have been a huge financial loss if we had lost it all.

The fire department left at about 11.00pm and the compost flared up again at about 11.30pm.  My security, Jonathan and the few people who live on the farm fought the fire all night.  Next morning I got a TLB to come and open up the heaps. 

He spent the day opening up the heaps and we just put out the fire wherever it flared up.  What a disaster but very exciting at the same time.  We managed to finally put out the fire at 3.00 pm the following day..

Needless to say I checked the heaps every hour for the next week but luckily enough we were able to finally extinguish the fire.

I can tell you my staff were nothing short of phenomenal and I am really grateful to them for all their hard work.

Back to cleaning the dam after all the drama. 

Luckily my staff decided the Carp were a bounty to harvest.  I would really have hated to catch the Carp and just throw them away. 

At least by providing some meals they were not totally wasted. 

They do a lot of environmental damage, churn the dam up and dirty it, and so I had to take the decision to remove them for the health of the dam.

As you can see from the picture the carp were really huge so you can tell how many years of soul searching I did before deciding to get rid of them.

Removing the sludge was really back breaking work as we took about forty cubic meters of sludge out of the dam with wheelbarrows.

I am not sure what I have done to deserve such great staff who go about really lousy jobs with a great spirit and lots of humour.

I thought while I was about it I would take the bull by the horns and remove the dead Papyrus, which is great habitat for the Moorhen but reasoned that as I was messing up the habitat I may as well do a good job.

In restoring the habitat I was lucky that Heather reminded me how important mud banks were to the ecology of the dam. We built some mud flats which were immediately visited by the Three Banded Plover.

I replanted the waterlilies and planted some Vallisneria in the dam.  We also added heaps of twiggy branches to create a place for the fish to hide from predatory birds.

I then started filling the dam.  After messing so much with the habitat I waited with bated breath to see what would happen.

The first visitor back was this Black Headed Heron – and that only took him 2 days.

Much to my delight it took only 10 days for the Moorhen to return. 

In the last week we have seen Egyptian goose, various Plover species, Pied Kingfisher, Reed Cormorant and lots of small seed eaters like the Red Bishop.

So as you can see it has been an eventful month for us here at Random Harvest.

We now have a new look website on which we will be featuring many snippets and news items. The new website works equally well on a mobile device and we have combined all our business areas into one easy-to-navigate website.

We'll be publishing everything on the website from now on and this will update our social media pages. If you like us on Facebook you will automatically get all the latest news. 

We would love get your feedback on what you think of the new Random Harvest website.

After this long-winded newsletter I thought I would bring you back to thinking about the children of Zandspruit.  Sorry for being a pest.

Sincerely

Linda

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