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Random Harvest Newsletter - April 2022

Posted On: Friday, April 1, 2022

Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,

Believe it or not the Autumn Equinox has come and gone. I notice it in the morning when I go for a swim at 5h30 (in a heated pool as I am not brave enough for the cold water) – now instead of birds flying around, it is the bats still flying around. They are so graceful and beautiful …. like little fairies fluttering over the pool. It always amazes me that people are afraid of these miraculous and useful little insect catching creatures.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

We are open every day except Good Friday (15 April) and look forward to welcoming you at Random Harvest.

IN THE NURSERY

It is the time of year when we start cutting and baling veld grass in the area. This is a huge job but very necessary to ensure we have enough compost for the future. It also helps people in the area by reducing the risk of huge veld fires, especially as the grass is very dense.

The very first hot house my mom and I built when we came to live at Random Harvest 54 years ago, finally collapsed. We are adding a new roof but, nostalgically, keeping the building which is not ideal but full of memories.

All these disgusting alien weeds on the roads around Random Harvest were driving me crazy. I sent my staff out to cut wherever we could along the roads. What a job? It took them a week just to cut the pavements nearby.

FOOD PARCELS

We have managed to do 150 full food parcels and 300 ‘Meal in a Bag’ this month – a big help to the communities who are very grateful for the donation.

If you would like to contribute towards this worthy cause it would be greatly appreciated. The banking details are Random Harvest Nursery, FNB 51441129818 Cheque account: code 25 07 41, Reference: Food Parcels.

DELIVERY SERVICE AND TELEPHONIC ORDERS

Gardening, whether you are a landscaper or an avid gardener, can sometimes present logistical challenges. We love to see your garden plans and projects come together, and by providing a delivery service we can help this happen. If you are unable to visit, we can discuss your needs telephonically, and send pictures of the particular plant you need and will deliver to your doorstep.

EVENTS

BIRD WALKS

Join us for an interesting and informative bird walk on these crisp autumn mornings. Our bird list now stands at 178 species identified here at Random Harvest.

Date: Sat 23 April with Andre Marx
Time: 07:00 for a 07:30 start

Date: Sat 14 May with Lance Robinson
Time: 07:00 for a 07:30 start

Cost: R175.00 per person, this includes a breakfast buffet – a great way to start the weekend

Booking is essential - please contact Lindelani on [email protected] Tel. No. 082-553-0598 or 066 587 3143

BIRD COURSE

2nd and 9th APRIL, 2022 by Lance Robinson

There are still a few places left for this fun and interesting course with Lance who will leave you with all the knowledge you need to carry you forward in this fascinating hobby. This is also a great course if you just need a little refresher.

Each theoretical session is approximately 90 minutes in duration and will be followed by a practical session on the farm.

Dates: Saturday 2nd April (session 1) and Saturday 9th April (session 2).
Time: 8h00 for 8h30
Cost: R400 per person for both days. This includes welcome tea and coffee and tea and coffee and scones before the practical session

COFFEE MORNING

Date: Wednesday 6th April 2022
Topic: Growing and using herbs and veggies
I think growing some of your own food is important and tastes a lot better than the produce you buy in the shop. Jonathan and I will give you some tips on how to grow, use and preserve them.

Date: Wednesday 4th May
Topic: Talking all things trees


Someone offered to do an interesting talk and for the life of me I cannot remember. So, if I can find where I wrote it down the topic may change, and we will then move trees on to the June coffee morning.

EASTER FOR THE CHILDREN

Bring the children along for an Easter Eco-clue Hunt from Friday 18th March to Sunday day 24th April. We have arranged an activity where they can go around the nursery to collect stickers and at the same time learn about creatures of the grasslands. When they have collected all their stickers, they can collect a little gift and an Easter Egg at reception.

PRACTICAL DOMESTIC GARDENERS TRAINING

Give your gardener the gift of knowledge and the ability to help you more efficiently in your garden this summer.

This course would also be perfect for anyone who would like to start the fascinating and rewarding hobby of gardening and doesn’t know where to begin. All the basics are covered and gives a person a good grounding.

Details for Lindsay Gray’s next courses are as follows:

DATES: Friday 10th June 2022 and Friday 22nd July 2022
TIME: 8h30 to 15h30

The cost of the course includes a set of notes for both the gardener and employer, tea/coffee and biscuits on arrival, breakfast and lunch and a certificate. Your gardener will be more excited and confident to help you create your own personal haven.

TO BOOK or for more info including cost of the course contact Lindsay Gray on 082-449-9237 or [email protected]

COTTAGES

Show Mom love and appreciation this Mother’s Day by gifting her with the peaceful and perfect getaway she deserves. This beautiful environment and our helpful and friendly staff to spoil her, will ensure she leaves relaxed, appreciated and happy. She will also receive a small gift from us to help her celebrate this special day. A perfect gift for your mother.

You could also gift your mother with a voucher for accommodation which she can then use when she needs it most.

TEA GARDEN

Easter weekend is a great time to plan a catered picnic at Random Harvest. You can either sit in the beautiful gardens or in the grassland to enjoy your picnic. Price: Adults R155.00 each; Children under 12 R80.00 each.

With Mother’s Day on the horizon book a High tea in the boma or garden and spend some quality time with mom and enjoy a delightful range of both sweet and savoury treats.

IN THE SHOP

I thought I would remind you of the beautiful, Hand-crafted Insect Hotels we have in stock. I would like to highlight some of the interesting products we have in the shop.

People’s plants is a fascinating book on the uses of plants, always interesting to know how important plants are in our lives. R390.00

Comfortable, soft Gardening Gloves R96.00

Gardeners hand cream for after you have done all the weeding that has been brought on by the rain. R94.50

Bee hotel activity kit for kids R315.00

Selection of beautiful greeting cards from R30.00

There is also a wonderful selection of creature figurines with which to embellish your indigenous garden. They are a reminder of why we should go out into nature and view live creatures in their natural habitat

PLANTS LOOKING GOOD

Kleinia fulgens- Coral Senecio
Brighten up a rockery or mixed flower bed with this hardy, attractive, evergreen succulent plant. Grey-green leaves with a purple margin contrast strikingly with the bright-orange or scarlet flowers that are carried on long, flowering stems (Jan. to Aug.). The flowers attract pollinating insects to the garden. Plant in well-drained soil in full sun or light shade. Size: 30cm to 60cm

Aloe ecklonis – Grass Aloe
A beautiful, summer flowering Aloe for in Amongst grasses in a grassland garden or as a lovely form plant in garden beds or containers. The rosettes of leaves alone are most attractive, and the flowers are carried on characteristically short flowering stems and can vary in colour from yellow or orange to salmon-pink and even rarely red. Plant in full sun or light semi-shade, and if not in moist soil, water well and regularly in summer. Size: up to 40cm

Stipa dregeana - Stipa Grass (E)
Attract seed-eating birds to the garden with this attractive, fast-growing tufted grass. The bright-green leaves stay green throughout the winter, and the long, finely-branched, flowering stems adorn this grass all year round. Lovely when grown near a pond or water garden, where it adds an ethereal feel with its slender stems swaying in the wind. It is the host plant to various butterfly species. Plant in sun, semi-shade or shade. Size 0,5 to 1,2m

Agathosma ovata – False Buchu
This very hardy, evergreen, small shrub bears profuse sprays of tiny pale pink to white flowers that almost obscure the leaves at their peak flowering time in winter, although they have a few flowers throughout the year. They attract a myriad of insects to the garden. Makes a good cut flower and container plant. The dainty leaves have a lovely citrus scent when crushed. Plant in sun to semi-shade in well-drained, compost-rich soil and responds well to pruning. Size: 50 to 60cm

Barleria elegans – White Bushveld Barleria
A lovely, evergreen small shrub that is hardy and adaptable and makes a good rockery subject and helps stabilise the soil on embankments. Due to its thorny nature, it can form an effective barrier. Flowers profusely in late summer and autumn with clusters of pure white trumpet-shaped flowers. The flowers attract butterflies to the garden Prune back after flowering to keep in shape and ensure mass flowering the following year.

PLANTS ON SPECIAL

Searsia [=Rhus] lancea
A tough, evergreen tree that thrives in clay soils and is fast-growing if watered regularly. Plant as a single specimen tree or create an attractive avenue. The flowers attract insects and are followed by bunches of edible fruit that attract birds (only female trees bear fruit).

Juncus effusus - Mat-Rush, Common Rush
A very hardy, evergreen tufted plant for well-watered, sunny areas that rewards with its beautiful texture and form in the garden. It is a useful addition to a wetland garden and to help filter water. The flowering stems are beautiful in a vase.

Diospyros lycioides - Bluebush
A wonderful addition to a wildlife garden, this very hardy, deciduous, large shrub or small tree attracts bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects to the flowers. The large, red, edible berries also attract birds. Twigs are traditionally used for toothbrushes and all parts are used medicinally. Makes a beautiful small tree when pruned as a standard. It grows well in rocky areas. Plant in sun or semi-shade, in well-drained soil.
soil.

GARDENING TIP

In continuation of talking about Alien Invaders. I have had two people working the whole month and their sole duty was to remove aliens on the farm and the surrounding roads. The Morning Glory has exploded this year with all the rain. Many people will see this as a pretty plant. A good number of alien invasives originated as garden escapees, where they were introduced by gardeners thinking they were pretty. They then rapidly spread and multiplied in the surrounding natural areas and became a pest.

Morning Glory (Ipomoea Indica)
This twining climbing plant grows quickly and will engulf your plants and smother them. The flowers are beautiful and can be purple, mauve or white but will destroy your garden. It is important that you remove at the first signs of the heart-shaped leaves starting to climb. They grow easily from seed so do take care to remove them at first sight, so they don’t have a chance to seed. If left to seed, they will leave a seed bank that will last for years and allow the plants to reinfest the area.

Bugweed (Solanum mauritanicum)
How many gardens do you see this large shrub with huge grey felted leaves gowing in? It always amazes me how people look after this dangerous alien in their gardens. Unfortunately, the birds love the fruits and spread it all over. The unripe fruits are poisonous. It invades some areas where it is so thick one can almost not walk through it. While they are small, use gloves, and pull them out. If allowed to get too big you may be forced to use a herbicide to kill them. Prevention is better than cure.

Cats Claw Creeper (Dolichandra unguis-cati)

This is probably one of the most difficult invaders to remove from your garden. Not only does it have claw-like tendrils, but it produces masses of seed and has vast quantities of tubers underground from which to regenerate. This is another plant that has beautiful flowers and was grown as an ornamental and now causes enormous environmental problems

If you see any sign of this plant, loosen the soil around it and remove carefully as if you damage the tubers even a small piece will grow again. If your property is infested with this plant, you will have to cut it back and once again be forced to paint it with a herbicide to get rid of it. This is an ongoing process and vigilance is of paramount importance.

ON THE FARM

This month it seems to be, that the most interesting sightings are all about insects. There were so many insects hatching in the grasslands that we were invaded by birds of all kinds to come for the feast. What amazed me is the insects were so tiny that we could only see the odd glimmer in the sunlight, but the birds hit their target every time. I took this video - birds hunting insects in the hopes of giving you an idea of how many birds there were.

Amazingly enough there were also sunbirds amongst the flock. Totally out of habitat, I never thought I would see them in the grassland.

The other observation that blew my mind was the number of spiderwebs in the grassland. When driving though it early in the morning with the slanting sunlight and dew adorning the grass and spiderwebs with dewdrops that glistened like diamonds you could see the number of tiny spiders that live in the grassland. I gave up counting after 1000.

I asked Astri Leroy to help me identify them. There were tiny Orb Web spiders. Most people know the huge yellow and black Orb Web spiders but there are many different species and sizes.

The other beautiful webs were created the tiny Hammock Web spiders or dwarf spiders.

Other little spiders stitched the leaves of the Wild Sweet Pea to make a tunnel for them to hide in and from which to pounce on prey.

I love that Astri calls spiders “natures natural pest control”. This is true so cherish our spiders.

I really bugged Astri this month asking for help identifying spiders.

I sent this picture Jeffrey took of what I thought was a spider, which it wasn’t. This is Astri’s reply

“One is the amazing Carpenter Bee Robber Fly (Hyperechia marshalli) which imitate poor old Carpenter Bees in colour, size and shape but prey on any bees and wasps. This one has caught a small paper wasp, probably Polistes fastidiotus. They wait near bee and wasp nests and pounce when one of the workers exits.”

Jeffrey took a lovely video of a Net Winged Beetle hanging on to a grass stem waving in the breeze. We have uploaded the video and do watch it to the end - as he takes off it is really beautiful.

I thought I would like to share these two lovely pictures of a Carpenter Bee and a Wasp on Crocosmia ‘Golden Fleece’ flowers.

Jeff then got a picture of the interesting pair of moths. After searching through books, I asked Steve Woodhall to help me and this was his reply “they are a mating pair of Obscure Lappet moths, Eutricha obscura, whose larvae are found in massive bivouacs on tree trunks but are 99,9% parasitised so the adults are rarely seen.” Exciting!

Steve also identified this worm as the Narrow Green-banded Swallowtail, (Papilio nireus lyaeus).

There is always something interesting going on here at Random Harvest. A customer who was staying in the cottages awoke to find a tiny little Dabchick huddled in the back of his bakkie. He brought the bird to the office and David placed him carefully amongst the reeds at the dam. He revived, stayed for a few days and left in a much better condition.

Jeffrey must have jumped out of the golf cart a hundred times trying to get a picture of the Guinea Fowl babies but with no luck. I think it is because the grass is so thick and tall after all the rain.

At last, he had some success and got this lovely picture of the Guinea Fowl family. You can see how big the babies had gotten before we had success. We have subsequently seen another group with smaller babies. It is amazing how they can be close to you but you still cannot see them in the grass.

Andre Marx is really jealous that each time the European Honey Buzzard, a rare and unusual bird , decides to visit us he is not around. Jeff and I were so excited we almost jumped out of our skins and of course Jeff took 100 pictures which I now have to sort through.

We were lucky enough to have two species of Kingfisher at the dam at the same time. The tiny Malachite Kingfisher perching on reed stems and diving from there into the water to catch a fish. It was a joy watching the Pied Kingfisher hovering above the water and plunging in from there to catch his prey.

The grassland is very exciting at the moment as there are twelve stems of the beautiful orchid, Habenaria nyikana. It only seems to pop up and flower when it is a wet area. Needless to say, Jeff and I have to go Orchid visiting every day.

We have a beautiful form of Gladiolus crassifolius in the grassland which is a dark pink and its blooms are also popping up above the grasses.

An interesting observation in the grassland is that the flowers of the Wild Sweet Pea (Vigna vexillata) have got darker as the season has progressed My personal assumption is that perhaps it is because as the grass grows taller they need to be more visible to their pollinators in amongst the grasses.

I was surprised to see the Vernonia oligocephala blooming at this time of year. They normally flower from early spring up to December. So seeing this fresh, beautiful flower was a real treat.

There are a few beautiful things we saw in the garden I would like to share with you. These are the flowers of Sansevieria aethiopica (Mother-in-laws Tongue). This tough versatile, plant is growing in deep shade in between the tree roots, which is always a difficult place to grow plants.

I loved this fairy ring of Toadstools growing in the LM lawn. The mushrooms have been prolific this season. As I have been learning about fungi they are truly miraculous plants.

The Heifers that were born this season are growing up. They are just gorgeous. The children that visit are always fascinated by the farm animals.

If you take the time to walk in the grassland when you visit, you can be sure to see lots of tiny birds. This little Neddicky hangs around in the bushclumps in the grassland.

The tiny birds that you see flitting around in the grassy areas are most likely to be Zitting Cisticola. A good name as his call is a Zit-zit. You can see from the picture just how tiny they are in relation to the grass stems it is perched on.

The Southern Red Bishops are also feasting on the grass seed and you are sure to see flocks of them flying up when you disturb them as you walk along.

The Paradise Flycatchers are busy feeding and fattening up as it is time for them to start their long journey back to the Equator. It seems incredible that such a tiny bird can make such a long journey. I miss their cheerful calls in winter and always look forward to their return.

The Paradise Flycatcher may be leaving but the Fairy Flycatcher is on his way back as he over winters here and leaves again in summer.

We are busy preparing the gifts for Mother’s Day and hope you decide to spoil your Mum with a visit to Random Harvest.

I thought I would finish off with a picture of the beautiful sky over the grassland at Random Harvest – my favourite place in the world.

I wish you all the best for the Easter season and hope to see you at Random Harvest.

Sincerely

Linda

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