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2018 Overview

In January we harvested Sterculia seeds for the first time and managed to grow them.

We walked many times all over the reserve to see what had come up after the fire and to identify what we saw. Amongst them was a new Drimia, many Tritoniopsis, Heliophylla, Syncarpa etc. We concentrate more on the lesser known species now. We also kept an eye on the Ladyslipper and Vanstadensberg areas.

We gathered many partially burnt fence poles and electricity poles to build a platform for a new birdhide. There were some nice ones along the N2 but we had no success trying to get some volunteers to fetch them for us.

Electricity poles

Our water supply is still very vulnerable and required the occasional repair. Thank goodness we have not been requested to re-route the pipe across the farm (yet).

The main theme this year has been the construction of the bird hide. This took many hours at home to convert the old Wendy House into something a bit more suitable and also the construction of the platform in the water.



The Boulder Trail has proved to be very popular, among ourselves but also among visitors, especially since Speelman and Patrick have done the much needed clearing and repairs.

It took a major effort to control all the aliens which have sprung up after the fire and we spent many Wednesdays in the Bird Hide area cutting and poisoning rooikrans and other undesirables. Thankfully later in the year we got much needed help from Working for Fire. We also introduced a spraying program against the Podylarias which is not yet complete but so far looks very promising.

The efforts in the nursery paid off and we had a good selection of plants to offer at our Open Day. The event is now widely known and we had our best attendance ever.

Later in the year we revamped the greenhouse to make it possible to get a wheelbarrow in and to make the plants more accessible. So far it definitely is an improvement. We hope to replace some of the torn shade cloth in due course.

The irrigation of the nursery was vastly improved by Spillhaus fixing the pump and supply pipes to the tanks. We still rely on the staff to do regular watering for us but hopefully in the future we will be able to put all of that on a timer.

We continued our efforts in the Arboretum including the planting of some more trees. Unfortunately due to various reasons the turnout at our workparties has not been very high so we are spread rather thinly and manage to do only the things we see as priorities.

2018 was a good year for the Friends and we hope to carry this through to 2019 where we plan no major new projects but rather consolidate what we have.

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The Hide–Final touches

It was a special feeling today approaching the hide on a foggy morning and seeing it almost complete.

No doubt there will be remarks that there are few birds and, while the vegetation still recovers from the fire, that is probably true but we hope that the hide will provide a tranquil place just to sit for a while and gaze out at the mountain and the beauty around.


Without seats you can’t sit so we added some benches today, the usual rustic masterpieces made from burnt Widdringtonia trees from the Arboretum.


and it gave an immediate homely feeling, especially with the special pied crow handles on the sliding windows.


It is another feather in our chairman’s cap for being the inspiration and most capable assistant in this whole project. She has every reason to smile.


There are still a number of things to be done in due course to improve the stability and the approach to the walkway. In good time as there is much work in the nursery and elsewhere to be caught up with.

We hope the hide will be an asset to the Reserve for a good time to come and that we’ll see many positive remarks in our visitors book.

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The Hide–Assembly

Two more transports:

the side walls and roof ridge


and the most important bay window


As I had put out my back and Ellie was still limping we relied on our fellow Fovs members and it was great to have our small team respond and work so well together.

We first sent in the inspection team of Ellie and Tammy.


Everything was marked and it was relatively simple to screw front and sides together.


Soon the it was the turn of the roof sections


and before lunchtime it was all put together. The only thing we forgot was champagne to celebrate.


The locals didn’t seem to be too perturbed.


A great day, great teamwork, great effort.

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The Hide – Waterworks part 4

The initial plan was for Colin to help us to transport the hide from our house to Van Stadens. He couldn’t make it so we made a plan with our own trailer. Took the lid off and made a wooden platform. Our first load:


The floor and some roof sections with some other stuff inside. All went well driving slowly. Neil was waiting for us and we carried it to the platform. Check the safety boots.


We were so happy with this milestone it was time for a victory dance.


and some happy faces.


We left it nicely protected waiting for D-day.


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The Hide – Waterworks part 3

On the fateful day of 14 March 2018 Neil came to help us to put the front corner posts in. When we started it looked like this:


It all went very well, posts were put in and even some railings. Neil left and we prepared to put in the final front brace when the whole structure scissored in slow motion, Ellie fell off and hurt her leg and it was all a big mess.

Thankfully we could contact Neil, he returned and together we managed to get it back up somehow but our perfectly square platform was now diamond shaped. We did not know how to fix that and decided to sleep on it.

The next day we independently came up with the same solution:


This funny thing is constructed from kitchen drawer slides and meant to be put under the platform, jacked up and help us to reshape the diamond back to a square. Serious stuff as you can see.


It worked like a charm and in no time we has it all sorted using the trusted 3-4-5 method.


There was even time to put the support for the floor in…


… and put on some more badly needed steps…


and make sure that it was properly braced!


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The Hide – Waterworks part 2

One of the more difficult parts of the whole exercise was the transport of the poles from the shed to the site. As usual (we never learn) we tried to get the tractor but in the end we overloaded our trailer and transported them low range first gear to the parking and carried them from there ourselves.


To put the sections in place was not too difficult. We just floated them out and lifted them onto the supports. We also learned to wear shoes in the water as the mud was impossible to get from under toenails.


With the walkway structure in place it was now time to get an idea how to proceed with the platform.


It took some doing to get it all level and squared up. The scrap planks donated by Aberdare a while ago came in very handy as temporary supports. The front poles are also temporary until the corner poles go in.


Things were going well…

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The Hide – Waterworks part 1

We intended to use reclaimed fence poles and power line poles scorched and replaced after the fire. We even did try to retrieve some from along the N2 but in the end decided that with just the two of us it would take too long and our other work in the nursery and arboretum would suffer too much.

We did manage to use a few pieces though and, thanks to Rob, made most of the walkway with reclaimed poles split in half.


Neil kindly ordered us a bunch of poles and, after some hiccups with delivery, we got them safely in the shed at the nursery and we could figure out how on earth build a jetty.

We first had to determine what the highest water level could be so we took measurements all around the dam to check overflows etc. It was a bit primitive but it worked.


From that we could measure out where to start our walkway and where the supports should be. A lonely post some way out in the dam gave us height and distance.


We used some fence poles donated by Cecil as our template and soon our first support was done. It didn’t look very far from shore and we also realised that the view towards the mountain would be better if we turned the hide somewhat.


And so the kink was born.


In spare moments (were there any?) we also made the steps to go on the walkway by splitting useable sections of burnt fence poles with the chainsaw.

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January 2018

We had a good start to 2018, the reserve is recovering very well after the fire with many unusual plants and flowers to be discovered and admired.
There is now a spiffy new welcoming sign at the entrance circle and the ranch poles had a fresh coat of paint, looking great!
We asked for a long time to have the public toilets painted and, thanks to Mr. Speelman, they look as new, unbelievable.
The rest of the staff has taken extra care with the area between the two traffic circles, everything is mown and trimmed, well done.
We had three people coming in for a few hours during the holiday to give us a hand with weeding and hacking.
On Wednesday we marked the Link Trail again as it was getting very indistinct with the regrowth. The Wednesday after that we opened up a big section again that was rather overgrown, luckily it was drizzling so nice and cool to do that!

It was so good to meet up one weekend with a party of about 40 walkers who did the entire trail who were so appreciative of our efforts.
The Wednesday after that the “Wednesday walkers” which was another group of about 40 people did also the whole circle and enjoyed a braai afterwards at the braai place.
We have quite a task at hand to control all the wattle, rooikrans and other aliens that have come up. Rob, Cathy, Keith, Neil and Rudi have at different times been spraying various patches of aliens where they are like a big carpet. We also have been pulling out aliens at various areas but there is still so..o much to be done and they are growing faster than any other plant!!

In mean time we have had a donation of an old wendy house which Rudi has partly taken apart and is building a bird hide from adding a viewing section, window, different door, different roof etc. while Ellie is painting it.

We found electricity poles that were replaced as they were partly burned and we are looking at using them for a bridge as the bird hide is planned to go into the Lily pond.

In the Tilapia dam the Tilapia fish have been breeding so there is a good supply again for the birds.

Rob has reported a number of different duck on the lily pond which is great.

Our planted trees are looking good thanks to Jenny’s watering and us cleaning around them.

We had for the first time seeds on the Sterculia alexandri tree and have put them in seed trays. Also the Kigelia tree has a seed pod on for the first time.

The landslide in the forest needs to seen to as so many aliens have come up there as well as in the section of the reserve on the otherside of the river the alien plants are getting big…

Our water supply had two holes in on the neighbours property so they eventually reported it. With the drought we straight away went to fix it!

Growing of plants for the nursery and planting out is an ongoing job though the weeds are taking over after the holidays!!