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Van Stadens 2014.05.28

Weedeated fynbos path and more in arboretum, porcupine has munched all Babania bulbs. Ellie cleared all ericas around Dell with help from Goodman, big improvement. After tea Ellie continued with the help of Rob, digging out Dietes was hard work. I reconnected Misting House waterpipe with the main water supply, nobody knows where the water can be switched off so I did it under pressure. Of course I got soaked. I tried the timer and although the valve makes a clicking sound it does not open so must be taken apart next time. Went to help with the Dietes till lunchtime. Cathy did lots of potting in the greenhouse. After lunch watered succulents in greenhouse, filled in hole by Misting House and did some more Dietes removal before going to the arboretum to plant a whole lot of Dietes in the Gem. On the way out put the picnic table by the Xhosa huts in a new position and dug the poles in then weeded for half an hour on the east bank of the entrance circle. Finally tidied up in the nursery and gave one of the working for water a lift to town. Most of the fynbos in front of conference centre burnt, most likely cause a stompie from a car as fire started along N2.

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Van Stadens 2014.05.14

It seems it always rains on a Wednesday, fortunately most of it fell during the night and it started clearing on the way in. Rob was already there, pottering away in the greenhouse planting some seedlings he has grown at home and we offloaded some of the plants we had brought. The shade house is getting too small so we started moving things to the general nursery area.

A little while later Cathy and Keith arrived as well also bringing plants and they got roped into organizing the nursery. Ellie has made it her mission to group the various species together and it it really looking good already. We covered a bad section with new plastic ground cover to give us more space, dug in the edges and put plants down. We dug the tree stump up in the corner of the shade house as well and also put more plastic down so now the entire area can be and is used.

Meanwhile we got a visit from the nursery man from Settler’s Park, they want to revive the small nursery there and he came for some advice. He was most impressed and very knowledgeable so we will keep close contact.


Cathy and Keith left early because Keith had to go to work and Rob and Ellie carried on moving plants while I went and planted our last Cycad on the Aloe Koppie, did some public relations to some visitors with fancy cameras, potted up some more Haworthias and moved plants out of the greenhouse.

In the afternoon Rob went out into the Reserve to find a suitable spot for his new camera trap to capture wildlife pitures and we planted another tree on the main picnic area, inspected the arboretum (looking good but needs work), collected and planted some restios and planted a few more things in the circle.

On the way out we stopped at the entrance circle and were approached by one of the locals living across the road and were told how much the local community admires us for doing all the work for free. I’d rather have that they come and help us (yeah right) but still, nice to know we are appreciated. What we call the ‘East Bank’ is settling down nicely and most of the plants we have put in are doing very well.


The succulent section


The Pelargonium section


A flowering Euphorbia and a Pelargonium pulverulentum with variable leaves.


Near the entrance circle the Kniphofias are a sight to behold.

Finally, even though it was already past 4:30 Patrick was still hard at work cutting down the Keurbooms along the Fynbos Ramble, he is really making a big impact and I hope Goodman will keep him at the Reserve for a while longer.

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Van Stadens 2014.03.26

Got going early today because we needed to pick up Adrian Odgers. He is giving Jenny some advice on the inclusion of Proteas in the reprint of our tree booklet. As we arrived we just caught Goodman who was on his way to town with most of the staff and also at the same time Ruth, Cathy and Keith arrived so we had a full compliment today because Rob was already busy somewhere killing aliens.

Ellie and Ruth did an amazing job making the aloe koppie near the Dell visible again from under the grass and erica’s whilst Keith and myself went to the arboretum to cut down a dangerously leaning Widdringtonia with the sharpened chainsaw. Afterwards Keith attacked more S. nicolai, including the one on the island in the dam while I fixed the broken sign in front of the Flower House. Cathy, Jenny and Adrian drove around the reserve to photograph and identify the various Proteas, not the best time of the year as many are not flowering but at least they made a start.

After tea Ruth proceeded to weed in the nursery, Ellie continued with her koppie, Keith and Rob used the brush cutter to lay out the extended Fynbos Ramble and I installed the controller I refurbished in the misting house (I don’t know if we will ever use it again but it was fun figuring out the electronics).

Just before lunch we lost our helpers as Keith had to be back for afternoon shift and as we were going for lunch we met Rob of Working for Water and had great input on alien eradication and what their further plans are so we had a very late lunch.

What little was left of the afternoon we put to good use planting an Olea (kindly donated by Michelle Hatherley) on the main picnic site, planting bulbs donated by Adrian at various spots in the arboretum and entrance circle and planting a Cyclopia on the island out of fire harm’s way.

Finally we went down memory lane with Patrick who has worked at the Reserve for 30 years, he is doing a great job clearing in and around the main picnic area.

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Van Stadens 2014.03.12

Woke up to the sound of rain pelting on the roof and rain forecast for most of the morning. In spite of that we still went on our merry way to a wet and soggy Van Stadens.

Whilst Ellie went in to to see if Goodman was there I went for a quick look to see if the big branch by the Xhosa huts had been cleaned up and was amazed at the transformation of the picnic area. The staff has done extensive pruning and cutting of the smaller trees and it looks a lot more open and cleaner. The branch was still there so a good opportunity to replenish our firewood pile.

The staff also finally has got the message that something must be done about the S. nicolai and cut quite a few around the nursery. Something wrong with the tractor so nothing has been carted away yet. Goodman says the work schedule we put together for him is a big help.

First though to the nursery to offload some more plants, Rob was already there and had replaced the broken toilet flush handle but it was overflowing, had a look, bent the float and problem solved. Also had a look at the misting house and was surprised that there is still power to the control board so decided against dismantling it and be electrocuted.

Then we had to take shelter in the fovs room from a massive shower and as soon as it cleared Rob and Ellie went to plant Cyclopias and Leucodendrons by the dam while I played with the chainsaw. Got back close to lunchtime to enthusiastic report backs how beautiful the fynbos looks around the other dams and plans to extend the Fynbos ramble whilst doing some weeding in the shade house. If we do some weeding every week it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep weeds under control.

After lunch Rob went off to plant another tree and Ellie and I went back to the Xhosa hut, Ellie to plant some trees in the open patch by the arboretum and me to cut some big logs to be used for seats in the arboretum. Jenny visited to discuss extensions to the tree book and give some rocks to Ellie to paint plant names on for the circle.

With the soft soil conditions where ideal for weeding so we weeded in and around the Gem, planted some more in the circle, traced our new pipe challenge a bit further and that was that.

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Van Stadens 2014.02.26

Too much happened today to make it into a story so I’ll just list them.

We collected another ten bags of compost at St Albans, this will do for a while. on the way in we met Rob, Keith and Cathy all ready to attack some aliens while we delivered another 1000 planting bags to the Fovs room and some more plants to the shade house.

I proceeded to install another pipe in the greenhouse to water the seed trays on the bottom shelf whilst Ellie busied herself sorting and weeding in the shade house. We were interrupted first by Goodman and then by Tony. The year planner seems to be well received and to motivate them to get their backsides into gear. We already noticed it on arrival with the entrance circle and the verges mown and later I discovered that the fynbos ramble including and some of the cycling tracks were also done.

On top of that the wooden bridges and some of the ranch poles were painted today and in the afternoon one of the staff even cleared more bush by Wesley’s bench and made the path wider.

We also have commitment that the skottle area will be cleared and levelled and the Strelizias removed, hopefully by next week.

After lunch Rob at long last planted his tree. He dug a large hole and mixed the soil with lots of compost. He also ringbarked one of the pine trees and in doing so uncovered an old water pipe so we’ll have to see how difficult it would be to bring water to ‘his’ little forest.

Keith in the meantime cut down the strelizias in and around the traffic circle while Ellie, with some help from Cathy, completed her redesign and composting of the traffic circle.

At 4 o’clock a friend of Jenny’s arrived with her station wagon full of trees which we duly offloaded into the shade house. We had to make space by cutting down the dead trees and quickly installing some sprinklers there. No shade cloth above them so we will have to see on Sunday how they’ve adapted. She promised to bring some more plants from her farm so our stock is swelling. Also hopefully some people will lend a hand on Sunday to move plants from greenhouse to shade house and from shade house to general area.


Keith found this frog on one of the strelizias.

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Van Stadens 2014.01.29

At long last some respite from the drought and high temperatures that we have experienced the last few weeks. It rained throughout the night and it was still raining when we were on our way to the reserve. Fortunately as soon as we arrived it stopped and we could work in relatively cool and overcast conditions.

Rob and Ellie busied themselves arranging the shade house and carting plants from there to the general nursery area:



while I sorted out the leak in the irrigation system by cutting the broken piece off and gluing a stopper on:


I also took the opportunity to get Jackson to dig around the unnecessary sprinkler so I could remove that one to prevent future mowing accidents.

The nursery is starting to fill up nicely:


After that it was full steam ahead with replacing the roofing sheets on the greenhouse, working conditions were so much better. Ellie got Samantha into gear to pot up more plants in the greenhouse and then levelled the soil at the back so we could put the paving slabs down to create a place where we can keep potting soil. The access hatch is not quite finished yet at home. Rob escaped and went to attack some more aliens.

When all that was done and lunch was had the remainder of our desk tops got sanded and the first coat of varnish put on. It looks way too good for a working room but it was such a pity to see that beautiful wood so messed up.

Ellie was determined to do some more gardening in Jenny’s circle while I checked up on various things riding the bicycle and then we ended off with a leisurely walk through the arboretum and a good look at the entrance circle where the Pelargoniums are just amazing. We were pleased to see that Pottaman has delivered the first scoops of soil for the western arm so progress there too.

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Van Stadens 22.01.2014

Intended meeting was delayed as usual, Goodman not available and we had to wait for Tony.

In the meantime repaired the sprinkler riser which had been damaged by the mower, the staff had dug a hole to expose the pipe and I thought that just screwing in a stopper would do the trick. Unfortunately it turned out that the 50mm pipe is cracked and we need to shorten it and glue on a stopper. Job for next week. Turned out later Tony was the culprit.

Pottaman was back and asked him to deliver more potting soil by the potting shed and greenhouse and he also delivered an extra scoop at the back of the greenhouse to make a more convenient spot to keep the soil.

I put a batten along the side of the green house to keep the shade cloth in place before taking the first roofing sheet off.

Cathy and Keith arrived and started weeding in Jenny’s circle.

We then had the meeting with Tony and Ellie raised our point and hopefully it is the start of closer co-operation and more involvement from them. Rob is very happy he can go ahead and clear ‘Rob’s Roost where he wants to put a seat.

Installed the first roofing sheet, of course nothing without complications, the new sheets are longer and narrower, and after that 3 more sheets. Removal of the first sheet was a bit tricky due to the many nails, after that is plain sailing. Six more to go but it will only be enough for half the front roof. It makes a huge difference in light and also temperature and we think we should keep some of the old ones on and see how it goes.

Did some more sanding on the desk and Ellie gave first coat of varnish on the one section.

Fixed one of the stopcocks in the shade house where pipe had been pushed in too far and put plumbers tape on.

Checked why the water tanks do not drain equally, there is no blockage so it remains a mystery. Perhaps a flow issue with the fast outtake of the pump?

We kept the sprinkler going all day in the arboretum, using the bicycle regularly to go and move it on a particularly hot day with temp close to 40 degrees much to the delight of the birds.

Rob did a whole lot of potting in the greenhouse while Ellie weeded and sorted out the main nursery.

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Van Stadens 14.08.2013

There was lots of unfinished business today on the eve of our departure on a month holiday so we got cracking early.

Ellie had denuded our garden (not really) of plants for the entrance circle, mainly Pelargoniums for the Pelargonium patch and some crassula and we managed to plant them before Sheena and Sian O’Keeffe of Free Spirit Adventures arrived to discuss the trail run for our Open Day. They were very enthusiastic and it looks like it is a go. They will check it out on Sunday and let us know.

While we were planting Tony had come and inquired if we needed more soil and as the answer was yes he got Pottaman and his tractor to get us some more scoops and after our meeting we carried on shaping the horse shoe. In the meantime Neil had arrived and he also got stuck in and dug out some deep rooted strelizias to replant in a more appropriate place. Fortunately he shares our vision and comes up with some good suggestions.

This took us the rest of the morning and as we retired for lunch we were most surprised to learn that Sue had also arrived and, as she had promised, attacked a patch of Bryophyllum seedlings in the arboretum.

After lunch we loaded the leftover aloes into the trailer to be planted out in the arboretum in the cycad patch but we first wanted to finish our landscaping. While we were doing that Samantha and V (two of the students) also came to have a look and they got roped in to help with carrying the aloes to where we wanted to plant them. We were quite pleased with the result, it certainly enhances that part of the arboretum.

Lastly Ellie gave the one remaining picnic table a final coat of varnish while I made temporary repairs to the seat of the skedonk. We will need to buy a fair amount of timber to restore the two remaining tables to something a little more reasonable.

I was going to place some more signs for the biking trail, unfortunately we ran out of time and on the way home I realised I had forgotten to fix the faulty sprinkler in the nursery.


The Agapanthus Neil planted last week have taken well


A view of the Pelargonium mound. It does not look like much as yet but we’ll keep on planting. We need more succulents for the middle patch as well.

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Van Stadens 2013.08.07

Really too tired to be blogging but if I don’t it will lose its immediacy so here goes.

After the weekend’s hike up Ladyslipper with 17 people it was back to business today. It had rained during the night which made it impossible to start with varnishing the picnic tables so instead we started with the entrance circle. First we collected some more aloes in the nursery and proceeded to plant them on our ‘aloe heap’. Pottaman had brought more soil so we had plenty to work with and Ellie started on the Pellie patch extension while I did more rock work.

After tea we had a short interlude when we accompanied Jenny to the main picnic site to decide on locations for new trees. We noticed that the trees which were planted some years ago are not doing well at all so it will be important to prepare the holes correctly with lots of compost. The only trees that thrive are the bluegums. We chatted to a few visitors who were a bit over the top with their praise for our efforts, still nice to hear though.

Neil arrived and we returned to the entrance circle. It was a big help to have him planting more things and we made great progress.

After lunch the tables had dried out enough to go and give ‘Gwen’s’ table a final coat and the repaired table a second while I looked how to repair the seat on the ‘skedonk’ table. While Ellie was waving the brush I put up various cycling signs and we continued with that after she was finished until it was time for a short breather walk through the arboretum.

We were pleased to see a sunbird busy with its nest. Not easy to spot against the darkening sky.


It was also interesting to see an aphid farm near the nookie. First impulse is to spray it but of course we should let nature take its course.


Our last observation in the arboretum was that the veltheimas do a lot better there than in the rest of the reserve, reason to plant a lot more once they have died back in our garden.


Back to the Fovs room to collect some poles so I can plane a flat piece on them for signs and also to pick up a few more plants to dig into the entrance circle on our way out.

All in all another good day at the office.

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Van Stadens 01.08.2013

I need a bit of time to process it all, it was quite a topsy-turvy day. It started by Ellie being confused and getting out of bed an hour early and that gave us a head start. It was quite an interesting drive, when we left home it was 14 degrees and by the time we got to Van Stadens it had dropped to eight. The mist over Lake farm was quite a sight. Fortunately for us it warmed up quite rapidly after that.

There was a meeting planned at 8:30 and before that we quickly got to the arboretum to attach the piece of pipe to the Gem and try out the new stopcock. All went smoothly and the water came out at a good pressure until some hair roots got dislodged somewhere in the feed pipe and our outlet got clogged. By now we had run out of time and hurried to the meeting.

Goodman, Jenny, Rob, Neil and Tony were also there and the program for the open day got discussed so everybody is on the same wavelength. Rob got called away by working for water and ended up doing a five hour hike up the gorge to show them what needs to be done.

Neil got going with his brush cutter, Jenny with her greenhouse and we turned our attention to the picnic tables, first the fixed one on the main picnic area. I planed the inserted piece down by hand while Ellie fetched water and then we cleaned the algae of the table which was quite a job producing a thick sludge and one container of water was not enough to clean it properly. After that the final coat on the Mountain View picnic site, while Ellie was painting I erected the first cycle track sign:


Looks kinda cute I think but the pole is too short and will soon be obscured by the bush so I think the poles ex nursery will be better.

Lastly the main table at the Lookout got its second coat, starts looking ok.


We were hoping we could give the cleaned table a first coat but it was too wet still so we went for coffee instead and afterwards got back to the arboretum to sort the pipe out. Strange to think that after all this time it is actually all done, I can’t quite believe it. Later that was confirmed when Jenny told Ellie that it might be nice to have water on the main picnic site near the old water drum, yeah right!

During lunch Neil got called away for an interview so we had to tackle the entrance circle on our own. Pottaman had deliver a reasonable amount of soil so we could start with our landscaping. We managed to do some rock work, moved some soil and planted 5 aloes, hard work so I had enough at 3pm and we checked out our wet table which was now dry enough to paint, closed stopcocks in the arboretum and had a relaxing cuppa in the Fovs room.

On our way out we saw Goodman was still in the office and Ellie asked him if we could get more soil delivered and we ended up doing a site inspection of the entrance circle with lots of chatting so we got a bit more insight into the history of Van Stadens and Goodman’s plans.