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Bluegum battle

This blog covers the past three weeks. These days it rains on Wednesdays so we have been somewhat affected by the weather. The Reserve has a special ambiance when it is wet and misty so from that point we do not mind at all.

The Dell has been filled for quite a while now and, judging by the size, it has clearly benefited some of the plants around there.

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During the week we got all the necessary fittings for the new pipe so we could install one of the taps. The idea is to put a self-closing tap by the toilet but we nearly had a heart attack when we found out the price so in the meantime we just hope people will be responsible and not let it run.

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Working around the main picnic area and planting all those trees there has inspired us to cut some of the bluegums down as the ringbarking seems to have little effect.

The trees are quite large and our chainsaw can just about cope with it. We have made a fair heap of branches so far and hopefully it can be burnt soon because it all looks a bit untidy.

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We had to call for help on one occasion though when one of the trees threatened to fall on the toilet, luckily  with the help of the tractor we could avert disaster.

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We took the opportunity to also saw some seating logs for around the braai and general braaiwood, hopefully it is still there next week. The old stumps look a bit messy but there’s very little we can do about it.

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I’ve wanted to try my hand at making a bench from a log as well, it was quite a job to cut a log lengthwise.
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Of course I had to try it afterwards and it looks promising.

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Bartle had asked about the memorial along the River Walk and we had forgotten what the inscription says so we took a walk down there and this is it:

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On the way back we had a nasty surprise, right in the middle of a lovely stand of Protea was this nasty Hakea looking quite prosperous.

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We also voiced our concerns to Goodman about the lack of mowing and weeding lately and he explained about the lack of resources and assistance from the municipality. It is not a very good situation to be in but let us recognize that without the Friends of Van Stadens it would look a whole lot worse.

Not that Fovs is without issues as well, we have many people on our mailing list and on FaceBook but when it comes to work we are very thin on the ground. Best is to just ‘kyk noord en fok voort’ I guess.

Water to the trees

With all the trees we have been planting on the main picnic area to replace the bluegums who refuse to die we needed a water supply nearby. As our dear chairlady has been agitating for this for some time we thought that we could put the left over pipe to good use and fulfil her wishes.

Fortunately the weather was cool and the soil moist so conditions were ideal.


We located the main supply pipe and put a T-piece in.

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after that it was just hard work to dig the pipe in but with the four of us it was done in quick time
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and the lady was very pleased.

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While doing this Rob found one of the more interesting inhabitants of the Reserve.

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After lunch we still managed to fix the broken railing on one of the small bridges, pull up quite a few Bryophyllums in the arboretum and inspected where the previous weekend’s triathlon had entered the reserve.

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On the way out we still had a chat to Goodman and found out that one of their bakkies has been totalled going down the pass. Such joy.

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Another trailer load of Proteas bagged up and delivered. We moved two big pallets into the shade house and put the bags on top, there is still room for more.

The big worry was that there was no water at the nursery after our pipe fix, all was sorted when I discovered I had switched the stopcock in the arboretum off when the problems started, senior moment I suppose. After that the tanks started filling up and we had excellent pressure again, phew!

The cool, overcast weather was conducive to some hard work so we continued with the West Bank, digging in plastic, moving rocks and planting until teatime while Rob pulled out lots of Podalyria seedlings in the burnt patch and Cathy weeded in the shade house. Keith was a little lost without his broken chainsaw.

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Our varnished tables in the Fovs room look quite spiffy now.

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After tea I somehow convinced everyone that it was an ideal time to weed the Aloe koppie as the grass is taking over again and, after the rains, the soil is nice and soft. The five of us each found a patch and not long after it looked a lot better.

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Amazing that a year ago you couldn’t even see that the rockery existed, it was so overgrown.

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The Zantedescias at The Dell have suffered from a porcupine attack but further it looks very lush, the Bulbines are flowering and make a pretty sight.
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After lunch we still did some propagation of tree cuttings and fixed one of the two broken bridges across the gully opposite the Flower House.

West Bank and pipeline

Post Open Day drought as far as blogging is concerned, things are back to normal with not many interesting items to report on. The weeding, potting, planting etc. has been a bit neglected so it is catch up time as far as that is concerned. Riana has taken the greenhouse under her wing which is a big help and gives us more time to do work in the Reserve itself. We have planted some more trees on the picnic site and have turned our attention to finishing the entrance circle.

 

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Me, after planting a few Widdringtonias. We now put logs around the trees to protect them from marauding mowers. In the background a ringbarked bluegum which is showing signs of stress but refusing to die yet.

At the entrance circle we first put a plastic barrier between the rocks and the soil, hopefully that will keep some of the grass out and, slowly but surely, will be landscaping and planting.

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Keith cut down a few suffering coral trees to open up the view. The bare soil will soon be covered with some interesting plants. We have started planting some left-overs from the sale and continued to do so after the pipe work on Saturday. Soon it will look like here on the East Bank.

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Then, this past Saturday we cancelled the usual monthly meeting and instead tackled the issue of the leaking pipe I have been reporting on. Thankfully, this time it was no problem to gain access to the property. While Rob an I took care of the ill-fitting join on the lower slope the rest of the crew (Cathy, Ellie, Merika, Keith, Mark, Neil) found and dug up the join between the poly pipe and the cement pipe. There was a fair bit of earthmoving involved, many hands made light work. The rolling out of the coils of pipe is an interesting exercise to keep it from corkscrewing or kinking.

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Judging by the big lump of concrete we didn’t mess around when we installed it initially.

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After that we fed the new pipe through the old and crumbling cement pipe and managed to connect the whole lot up to the new stopcock on the other side of the railway line. Our whole pipeline is now good, new pipe so hopefully our water supply will be a bit more reliable.

It had been a cold and windy day so afterwards we treated ourselves to coffee and delicious chocolate cake in the Fovs room, a bit rushed for some who had places to go to but Ellie and I still had time to go to the arboretum to check on the water there and were very pleased to find that the water pressure was back to normal.

Open Day

No time for blogging lately, it has been heads down to get everything ready for the Open Day. With a full program of Trail Running, Mountain Biking, Plant Sale, Guided Walks and Stalls there was a lot to be organized. Poor Ellie had to answer stacks of phone calls after the newspaper notices and especially the article in Die Burger, the good thing is though that it brought a lot of new people to the event.

Thanks to a lot of teamwork the Nursery looked very good, moving the plants from the shade house and the greenhouse to the platform was a lot of wheelbarrowing (new word) but it makes for a much better display.

Amazing how many people in PE don’t know where the reserve is and need directions, thankfully, thanks to Neil’s work, we had spiffy new banners to put along the road so I don’t think anyone got lost.

The week before the Open Day the reserve was buzzing with activity (when it wasn’t raining), lots of mowing, some work on the Xhosa huts and marking the trails. It helped a lot this year that only the trails were mown and not the whole field or rows between Proteas as it was much easier for the runners and cyclists to follow the paths.

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Sheena giving directions to the 80-odd runners.

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First runner to run past Wesley’s bench.


The plant sale was supposed to start at 9:00 but as usual the eager people arrived early and it was impossible to keep them out without causing major unhappiness. It actually helped to keep a steady stream going so our helpers with the wheelbarrows delivering the plants to the cars did not get overloaded. Also, the colour coding of the plants worked very well as it was much quicker at the paypoint.
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Hive of activity in the the nursery

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At ten it was the turn of the mountain bikers to explore the reserve and to enjoy the paths winding through the fynbos, It was great to see them taking it easy (it wasn’t a race) and enjoy the many Proteas etc. in flower.

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It was also very rewarding to see so many kids out there as we laid out our tracks to be family oriented and leave the strenuous and technical routes to the other areas around us.

The official close of the day was at 1PM, unofficially there were still many people lingering on while we tidied up and still sold a few plants to some of the late-comers before winding down and looking back on a very successful day, now the job of replenishing the stock starts.

Getting ready

Due to three days of persistent rain we shifted our working day to Thursday and, oh boy, a working day it was.

First though a meeting in the Flower House with Goodman to make sure we have all our ducks in a row for the Open Day, good to see that the girls had a go at naming the specimens correctly. We are happy with the rain, just hope that it will be dry enough before the Open Day to grade the cycling tracks.

Keith and Rob went and staked the trees that were planted on the geocaching day last Wednesday while I had a go at mounting the flower poster on the side of the potting shed and Ellie and Cathy started to sort out the shade house and paint more dots.

For some reason everybody felt like early coffee and then we got stuck into moving bags and bags and bags from the shade house to the platform, I hope they’ll all get sold because I certainly don’t feel like moving them back. The result is very encouraging though.

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We kept it up till 3 o’clock and then went and admired Tony’s and his crew’s handiwork at the Xhosa huts and were most impressed with the progress, all the old thatching has been removed, the inside cleaned out and even the hedge around the kraal is being spruced up.

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The old thatching is used to burn the Strelizia stumps, excellent idea. With lots of imagination it looks like some modern sculpture with desperate arms reaching out for help against man’s destruction of the planet.

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We checked the trees and it looks like they have transplanted well.

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Now for Sunday to finish the preparation for the sale.

As far as the water supply is concerned we now have no more water from our pipe line coming in and the float in the water tank has disintegrated. Hopefully we can get to that soon after the Open Day on the 12th.

Geocache

About thirty geocaching enthusiasts descended on the Reserve today. The organizer, Brenton, had gone to a lot of trouble during the past few weeks to hide caches throughout the Reserve and to find suitable clues and tasks to help Fovs.

It was a fantastic group of people, so enthusiastic and, in spite of the rain, full of fun. Because of the weather we opened the conference room for them so at least they could get their instructions in dry circumstances. IMGP7425
Here Brent is explaining to one of the teams.

Part of the fun were so called roadblocks where a certain task had to be performed so we got them to remove aliens, plant twelve trees on the main picnic site to replace the bluegums and move rocks to the entrance circle for the new rockery.

Afterwards they made themselves at home in our new braai area while we, Ellie, Cathy, Sue, Keith. Rob and Rudi huddled in the Fovs room for well-deserved coffee and snacks.

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Very rewarding to see return for the effort of Friends of Van Stadens and people enjoying themselves.

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The area behind the braai was beautiful with the low hanging cloud and the misty conditions, now we must just get rid of the pines to improve the view.

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Miracles do happen! Tony has made a start with replacing the grass on the roof of the main Xhosa hut. It has only taken five years of gentle persuasion but now it is happening

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From looking very miserable a few weeks ago the Arboretum showed us now a few gems, from a blossoming Dombeya to a flowering Pelargonium to a blooming Dietes, all wonderful.

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When everybody had left it was time to drive around to the mountain to have  a look at ‘Neil se gat’ where Neil is installing the new stopcock for our water supply.

Getting close

The Open Day is getting close and there is still a fair amount of preparation to be done. Fortunately we had a good turnout of helpers today and Ellie, Cathy, Riana and newcomer Paul managed to colour-code almost all of the bags in the nursery so it will be easy to determine prices. We also had pictures of most of the plants in the nursery printed and we stuck that on an old board we had recovered from the aviary. PosterSmall

Now people will be able to see at a glance what the flowering plant looks like. Hopefully we didn’t make too many mistakes, we did the best we can.


After singing their praises last time I was not so happy with the staff this time around. They did not remove the old, unsightly shade cloth from the braai area, nor dig the hole to the water supply as promised and the cleaning up of the rubble left much to be desired. On a positive note though the cause of the cesspool was discovered and remedied by Goodman, all it took was to close a tap which had been left permanently open!

The “real men” were not so keen on painting dots on flower pots so we went and mowed the paths in the arboretum or, in Keith’s case, wielded the chainsaw to good effect on the Strelizia nicolai around the Xhosa huts.

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We have looked for years at these offending plants which do not belong in the Reserve and now in less than a day they have all been cut down, what an excellent job!

I had good intentions to install at least part of the shade cloth over the braai area in preparation for next weeks geocaching event but it proved to be quite a bigger job than I thought so I didn’t get further than cutting it to length.

We concluded the day by sprinkling some coffee grinds where the porcupines have been digging again. Don’t know how effective that is because they simply find another tree to munch the roots.

Contrary to popular belief we do take time out every now and then to sniff the flowers, these in particular are beautiful at the moment.

 

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Dots and more dots

So little time, so much to do as there is only a month left until the Open Day. It looks like the sign we put at the entrance has generated a good deal of interest as people have been asking at the office what plants will be for sale. Of course they had no idea so we gave them a printout of the database on our website. I had grand ideas to have a stocktake and put the quantities on the website but cannot find the resources so names only will have to do.

One of the decisions at last Sunday’s braai was not to put individual labels in every pot or bag but rather have a colour code indicating the price and have a notice board with names and pictures as this is a lot less work. To this end Cathy and Ellie wielded their brushes and went dotty.

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In the meantime I cleaned the old and blistering paint off the noticeboard we recovered from the scrapheap in the old aviary. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble with this beautiful design and I felt bad obliterating it but it will be very useful to stick our plant pictures on.

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Unfortunately Rob has been in a car accident and due to the feeble excuse of a few cracked bones in his right hand wasn’t able to do any work. Keith on the other hand wielded the chain saw and other implements to good effect to cut down Strelizias around the parking area.

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In the foreground you see some bad news, the toilets cannot handle the increased usage and quite a cesspool is developing behind the toilets, A solution needs to be quickly found and implemented.

Further it needs to be mentioned that the staff has potted up more Aloes to put on the sale and also has sown more Proteaceae to keep the cycle going for next year.

Inaugural Braai

We had our monthly meeting today with the best turnout to date. Our guest speaker. the well known raptor expert Arnold Slabbert must have been an excellent draw card.  He made it very clear to us that treating problem animals such as rodents with rat poison is a very bad practice and he showed us lots of pictures of the disastrous outcomes as far as raptors and especially owls are concerned. Hopefully the people present will now apply the much better alternatives he showed us.

At the end of the talk there were so many questions and anecdotes that Arnold had trouble to get away to his next appointment. It is good to see someone so dedicated to a better, healthier environment.

When all the visitors had left, hopefully to explore the Reserve a bit further, it was time to light the fire for the first braai in our new area. The area is far from ready for bigger groups so this was for committee members only to test it out.

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The consensus was that the area definitely needs more shade, the fireplace needs a bit more work, there should be some seating and perhaps some informative posters.

Various ideas were bandied about and we settled on Rest-io braaiplace so our local artist (moi) will have to come up with some design (suggestions welcome!).

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A pleasant time was had by all and I think this was the start of a good tradition.