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Random Harvest Newsletter - December 2021

Posted On: Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,

The farm is burgeoning with life, and it is a joy to be surprised by nature at every turn. The plants are blooming, the birds are singing, and the insects are buzzing –the natural world around us gives us immense joy and a sense of peace. To be part this is a privilege.

We have even added a new bird to our ever-growing list – the White-browed Scrub Robin – very exciting and he has a wonderful call.

IN THE NURSERY

As usual we have been busy in the nursery.

The birds are celebrating the coming of the holidays as we have put up the ‘Christmas tree for the birds’. It is amazing how quickly they find the tree, even the birds who don’t visit our usual feeding tree arrive to feast on the bounty of food we offer. The best part is that they just ignore people standing around the tree admiring them and carry on with their lives, much to the enjoyment of our visitors.

They are also very greedy as they are feasting on the seed bells we offer for sale in the shop. We are constantly having to change them.

I can’t seem to survive without a project. The first hot house my mom and I built about 45 years ago has fallen into disrepair. We are now busy upgrading it and hope to have it in working condition soon.

One of our wholesale customers wanted to encourage her staff to learn about indigenous plants and the birds and wildlife they attract. Jeff took them on a walk through the nursery and to the dam and grassland. They were thrilled and fascinated by what Jeff showed them and left with a new understanding of why they create indigenous gardens. They are now asking when next they can come for another learning experience.

FOOD PARCEL DONATIONS

Thanks, once again, to your generosity we managed to donat 1500 ‘Meal in a Bag’ this month, that is 9600 single meals. Fantastic! Thank you.

Please remember to purchase your food parcel donation voucher when in the nursery and be eligible to win a R1000.00 voucher to spend at Random Harvest.

I was so touched, recently it was my birthday and my staff gave me R1800.00 as a gift towards food parcels.

If you could possibly donate to this worthy cause the bank account number is.

Random Harvest Nursery, FNB 51441129818 Cheque account: code 25 07 41, Reference: Food Parcels.

As part of our efforts to spread a little Christmas cheer this month Random Harvest has paid for enough toys and sweets for 500 children’s gifts. (We have not used the donation money which is strictly for food parcels.)

CHRISTMAS FOR THE CHILDREN

As usual at Christmas we have a children’s activity.

This year we thought we would take the opportunity to create fun around learning about butterflies in the garden.

Each child will be given a drawing of the life cycle of the butterfly and a numbered list. They will have to find the plant with the number and collect a sticker of the butterfly that breeds on it. It should be fun and educational for them.

After they have collected their stickers, they will collect a Christmas present from reception.

This activity will take place during the December school holidays – 15 December 2021 to 12 January 2022

BIRD WALKS

As I mentioned earlier, we have a new addition to our bird list this month, the White Browed Scrub Robin. What a beautiful call he has! Hopefully you find him on this bird walk. Maybe you will also see the Purple Indigobird at the Christmas tree for the birds.

This will be a little different with Lance starting off the walk and Jeffrey, who knows the farm and the birds on the farm like the back of his hand, will continue after 8h30.

Saturday 11th December 2021 with Lance Robinson and Jeffrey Mapila
Start time: 6h30 for 6h45 sharp

BEE TALK

We had such an overwhelming response to the last bee talk and were, unfortunately, not able to accommodate everyone. Clem has graciously agreed to give this fascinating talk again for all those who missed out on the last one.

This hugely informative and entertaining talk on bees and honey will give you a new respect and love for these hard working, useful creatures.

Saturday, 18th December 2021
Start time: 9h30
Cost: R50.00 per person, this includes tea, coffee and fresh homemade scones

Bookings: (Essential) – Please contact Lindelani on telephone 067 889 0648 or 082 553 0598 or email [email protected]

Bee Island

For those who are interested in doing our best for the preservation and protection of nature) no matter how small it all helps) we found this amazing ‘Bee Island’. At a cost of just R250.00 you could be saving bees.

Below is an extract from their motivation for creating this wonderful product.

“One factor that is overlooked in the destruction of Bees are swimming pools. Hundreds of thousands of Bees die in swimming pools every year. There are 800 000 registered pools in South Africa and if 1 Bee dies in each pool every day, we would lose 10 - 12 whole colonies per day. Realistically we are losing anything between 10 to 20 Bees per pool per day.

One Bee has over 170 smell receptors and when it comes to swimming pools, Bees are highly attracted to the chemicals within this most abundant water source. Due to this fact bees will naturally make use of swimming pools as a source of water. Most do not make it as there is no safe mechanism for them to use to land on to drink water safely. ‘

COFFEE MORNING – Time 10h30

Date: Wednesday,1st December 2021
Topic: Indigenous Christmas Trees, Gifts for the garden, Gifts from the garden
I thought it would be nice to have a Christmas theme for this morning. I personally think a well thought out gift doesn’t have to cost the earth as it should be the thought that counts not the cost. Jonathan and I have a few ideas and it would be great if you also brought your suggestions / ideas that we can all benefit from.

Date: Wednesday 5th January 2022
Topic: Walk in the grassland
The grassland is magnificent at this time of the year and a walk through it is a special treat. We will have refreshment areas set out where you can relax a while during the walk and for those who are not so active we will take you along with the golf car.

SHOP

There are beautiful, beaded creations in stock. By purchasing one of these you will not only please the person who receives the gift but the birds as well. They will enjoy the bird feeders and you will be contributing to the success of the talented local craftsmen who create them.

Beaded Christmas trees R180.00
Christmas trees R185.00
Christmas wreath beaded R400.00
Christmas themed bird feeders from R50.00
Beaded Christmas decorations R37.00
Wooden Christmas decorations R32.50
Christmas cards from R15.00

I was excited to take delivery of these beautiful pots from Mpumalanga and I also promised to let you know when the new stock arrived as the original lot were so popular.
New pots from R35.00 up
Bird baths from R495.00
Grinding stone bird bath R225.00

COTTAGES

When it comes to the Christmas crowds, you get two types of people – the ones who can’t wait until the braai areas at campsites are full to the brim with happy, noisy families and friends enjoying the sunshine and having a good time and others who do their best to escape the crowds, the queues and the noise levels. If you fall in the second category, then Random Harvest Country Cottages is the best place for you.

Make the most of the season in comfortable, tastefully furnished, self-catering units, all perfectly positioned to offer privacy and peace in the tranquil surroundings of the farm. Although the units are self-catering, you can request meals if you’re having too much fun relaxing.

TEA GARDEN

One of our favourite times of year is the festive season! Christmas is a time to enjoy seeing friends and family and celebrate being together. Our tea, garden surrounded by the sounds of nature, is a wonderful place to enjoy each other’s company. Our garden-like setting is charming and our new boma tucked under the beautiful Acacia trees can be used as a perfect place to meet and to shelter if it decides to rain (I hope).

Frans baked the most delicious Christmas Mince Pies for me. They were so delicious I decided to put them on as a special for this festive season. We will serve 2 Fruit mince pies with fresh cream from our dairy.

PLANTS LOOKING GOOD

Gardenia thunbergia - Forest Gardenia
This dense evergreen shrub can be pruned to create a beautiful tree with silvery bark and wonderful branching patterns. The big, white tubular flowers have a wonderful, sweet scent that permeates the garden. The white flowers turn cream and fall off once they have been pollinated and the next morning in full flush with new blooms. The large knobbly seeds that persist on the tree are another attractive feature. If properly pruned, it makes a dense cool shade tree for a smaller garden.

Dianthus namaensis – Grass Carnation
This extremely hardy almost tufted evergreen perennial has narrow grey green leaves and masses of pale-yellow flowers. It has a long flowering season and is a sight to behold when in bloom. The flowers are carried well above the leaves and will nod in the slightest breeze. Use in a border, in amongst rocks or in containers. Plant in sun in well-drained soil.

Dioscorea dregeana – Wild Yam
This vigorous, deciduous climber has long angular stems. The beautiful large leaves are carried on slender stalks giving the plant a weeping habit. The male flowers are green, and the female flowers are white, each borne on separate plants. When the seed pods open, they reveal blue seeds. A decorative plant that is beautiful climbing up a trellis and also makes a decorative pot subject.

Harpochloa falx - African Caterpillar Grass
A wonderfully decorative grass that forms a tight grey-green clump. The flowers are carried on long stalks above the clump and resemble white caterpillars. As they age, the inflorescences they curl back on themselves to distribute the seeds. Plant in a grassland garden, as a border where they will delight with their seed heads waving gently in the breeze.

Hypoxis species ‘small’ is a clump forming evergreen bulbous species. The strap like glossy green leaves spread to about 30cm wide and reach 15cm high. This species does well in both sun or light shade and requires even watering throughout the year to ensure lush growth. Copious starry bright yellow flowers are presented above the foliage during the warmer months. Deadhead the plants regularly to encourage more buds to develop.
This plant makes a beautiful border plant. It grows well in a container and would be a lovely addition to a grassy rockery bed.

Ornithogalum sp. ‘Tiny Peddie
This dainty plant with its beautiful spikes of pure white, star-like flowers that are almost translucent make wonderful cut flowers. This has a tuft of glossy grass-like leaves and small bulbs that multiply freely. It makes a wonderful border plant where it will happily multiply. Use successfully in a rockery or containers as well although as it is a delicate plant its better planted in groups in sun or light shade areas.

PLANTS ON SPECIAL – LESS 15%

Tulbaghia violacea ‘White’ - Wild Garlic This white form of the ever-popular wild garlic is particularly beautiful with its umbels of white flowers borne on long stems. When sitting outside, whack some of the leaves on your table or chair and this will deter flies and mosquitoes. The flowers are edible and look beautiful in salads. The leaves and bulb can be used as a garlic substitute in cooking. Use in the garden as a companion plant, particularly to deter aphids. An ideal groundcover for difficult areas as it can thrive in very poor soils, although it is lush and flowers better in well-composted soil. Grows in full sun or semi-shade.

Cyperus textilis - Basket Grass This tall rigid sedge makes a beautiful form plant in a pond. Its tall green stems are topped with flat bracts that radiate like an umbrella. Delicate green flowers are carried above the bracts in summer. It attracts weavers, waders and other water birds. Ideal for wetlands and water edges as well as cleaning of grey water. Prune regularly to keep looking neat. Plant in sun or semi-shade.

Ehretia rigida - Puzzle Bush This hardy deciduous, drought-resistant shrub is a great attractor of wildlife from birds to bees and other insects. It has graceful downwards arching branches which give it its common name of Puzzle Bush. The sweetly scented white or lilac flowers are borne in profusion and are followed by orange berries that delight birds. This fast-growing plant is a great survivor and a decorative addition to any garden for sun or semi-shade positions.

Grewia flava Brandy Bush Hardy, medium-sized, drought-resistant deciduous shrub with blue green leaves. It bears masses of bright yellow, scented, star-shaped flowers with a tuft of long stamens. When in full flower it is a sight to behold. Insects hum around the flowers which are followed by 2 lobed edible fruits. A wonderful element for a sunny wildlife garden.

GARDENING TIP

I thought I would talk about Christmas Trees. We go out and choose a tree that is the right shape for a Christmas tree without further thoughts. After Christmas we have this tree and wonder what to do with it. Invariably we land up planting it in our gardens. We should beware of this as a large proportion of the trees we use grow into giants and will take over a garden in a short time.

Indigenous Christmas Trees

The tree in this picture is Podocarpus latifolius (Real Yellowwood) which will thrive for years in a big enough pot but when it is time to change it rather donate it to someone with a big garden or a park as it will eventually grow into a giant.

When choosing a Christmas tree bear in mind the size it will eventually grow if you are going to plant it in your garden. Smaller trees or large shrubs such as Gardenia thunbergia (Forest Gardenia) and Pavetta lanceolata (Brides Bush) or Searsia burchellii (Karroo Kuni-bush) are good decorative Christmas trees that can be planted out in smaller gardens at a later stage.

ON THE FARM

The farm is bustling with life. Not only are the humans busy with a million jobs, but wildlife is also on the go. Especially around the dam. After cleaning the dam and just when I was getting despondent that I had totally messed with the ecosystem, to my joy it is bursting with life once again.

This senecio species (I think S. inaequidans) is blooming on the bank of the dam. The number of insects that visit it is astounding.

The Three-banded Plover is becoming a regular visitor again and the Little Egret spent a few days with us.

The fish are also obviously thriving as the number of fish-eating birds visiting are so numerous, I thought the population would never survive, but they seem to be holding their own.

The Hamerkop have made Random Harvest their home. They spent the beginning of spring around the Lily ponds in the nursery, where they were feasting on the fish. If you chased them, they just moved a few feet away and came straight back.

Andre Marx told me that they can only eat the bigger fish but cannot catch the fry so are unable to decimate the fish population.

They have obviously finished the bigger fish in the ponds and have moved to the dam.

I am so pleased the Green-backed Heron has once again taken up residence.

The Red-knobbed Coot seems to be sussing out the dam as a territory. I hope he finds a mate and they breed.

So far there hasn’t been war with the Moorhens, which sometimes happens.

The Moorhens have 3 chicks, but we haven’t managed to get a decent picture yet. I have my staff working around the dam to protect the babies from the larger Herons. Maybe I am interfering with nature, but the system is small, and one heron will decimate the babies in one gulp.

Talking of chicks, the Lapwings have babies. They are so fragile I am surprised that any of them actually survive.

Click here if you would like to see a video of their first day after hatching.

The grassland is looking absolutely beautiful and bursting with life. No wonder it is Jeff and my refuge, where we commune with nature.

I love seeing the birds and other creatures in habitat. This Cape Longclaw is a grassland specialist.

The Hares have bred under the False Olives in the grassland, and we see them regularly.

I remember how happy I was when I saw our first Antheap. Now this seems to be another type of ant living underground. I must try and find out if they assist with the planting of seed in the grassland.

This beautiful Caterpillar was on a pod of an Acacia robusta (Splendid thorn)

The butterflies are loving the flowers of the Hilliardiella oligocephala (Vernonia). Jeff took this beautiful picture of an Eyed Pansy feasting on the nectar.

The grassland flowers are breath-taking and I thought I would just share a gallery of what is flowering in amongst the grasses. It is always worth a walk down there to share the wonder of the grassland with us.

Graderia subintegra

Pelargonium luridum

Acalypha angustata

Helichrysum species

Scabiosa columbaria

Erythrina zeyheri

I think grasses add another dimension of enjoyment both in your garden and in the veld. They will wave and nod in the slightest breeze adding movement and life to a landscape.

Jeff took such beautiful videis of the white Imperata cylindrica and brown Themeda triandra in the wind I just had to post them on youtube. Click here to go to Random Harvest Video Gallery.

Clem put up catch boxes for swarming bees so we can give them a hive. They keep on swarming into the Acacia polyacantha (White thorn). As you can see the Lesser Honeyguide is also hanging around for his share.

I am so lucky to live on a place where I can observe all these interactions of nature.

Jeff got this picture of the cute juvenile Cape Robin-chat.

Not only I am lucky to live here – this baby dove found a convenient perch on top of a figurine of a Lapwing.

Our new vegetable garden is starting to be very productive and giving nice fresh produce for the tea garden. John, who is amazing at looking after the veggie garden, harvested these Swiss Chard leaves with pride. They were on the way to the kitchen to make Spinach Lasagne.

I know I always go on about how grateful I feel to live here but I just had to share the view I have when I swim in the mornings and the sun is just rising. The sun shining on the branches of the Fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea) and on the flowers of the Cape Chestnut (Calodendrum capensis) – what a way to start the day with this beauty surrounding you.

I wish you all the best – lots of fun, friends and laughter during the holiday season.

Sincerely

Linda

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