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Sad news

We got quite a shock earlier this week when we got a phone call from Jeanette in Blue Horizon with the news that Goodman’s son had died in a car accident. We have exchanged messages and obviously he finds it difficult to cope.

This is most likely my last post of the year. We had our agm with a presentation of all we have done this year and it is quite an impressive list. We tackled some major items such as the bird hide, new trails and signage and the overhaul of the shade house plus all the maintenance items in the nursery and elsewhere in the Reserve. Not to mention the cleaning up of blue gum and pine tree remains. No wonder that our small Wednesday group is rather tired and needs a break.

It is difficult for me to remain motivated when I see the powers that be show less and less commitment to the reserve, equipment such as the tractor being used in Settlers Park so the mowing program cannot be maintained, plants from Wesley’s garden been removed to who knows where, the house looking more and more like a ruin, visitors leaving a mess in the braai and so I can continue.

On the positive side I think that we have now done most of the things we needed and wanted to do and we can concentrate next year on the more enjoyable and less strenuous things. If traffic circles and picnic sites will be overgrown because of lack of weeding and mowing so be it.

This Wednesday we gave it a final push, hung up some curtains in the FOVS room to keep the sun out, levelled the soil in the Shade House annex, put down plastic and moved plants. Rob and Cathy did some Podalyria hacking while Ellie did some de-grassing of the entrance circle.

The tap by the greenhouse now has a soak-away which should be a little more hygienic and finally the misting house got a good hose down as algae started to grow on the walls and floor. We also collected some seed as the growing must continue even though another 80 plants got added to the nursery today, all grown by Fovs members at home.

Some work, some play

November has seen quite a mix of activities so let me run past them.

The Van Stadens Forum meeting took place on 4.10.15 with a visit to the Lottering Forest to look at the indigenous trees planted and to point out the bottlebrush infestations on the way to the Upper Dam. The river was flowing strongly which made for a spectacular waterfall: P1030265

Then on the 8th the monthly meeting was a walk to the Lower Van Stadens Dam and beyond. We had an excellent turnout and the weather was perfect. Good to see the positive effect the Working for Water teams are having on the indigenous vegetation.P1030274

We have kept an eye on the Brabejum tree by the Xhosa hut waiting for it to flower and finally it produced masses of beautiful flowers though advisable not too smell them.

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It has been planting and rooting season for some time now and we found that rooting in pine sawdust gives us good results. Plenty of that at the Otterford saw mill so we went to collect a trailer full. With a scoop like this it didn’t take much time at all to load!

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We have also made slow but steady progress revamping the shade house, the latest being the lowering of the irrigation pipes to take the load of the shade cloth. Working in it is a pain because there are plants everywhere.

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We collected a  large number of Yellow Woods on the farm Belmoral, bagged them, put them in the greenhouse and promptly the irrigation timer packed up. Fortunately we had a spare and it was a good opportunity to add a filter to stop the sprays being clogged.

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Next week the AGM is upon us, let’s hope it will be a good one.

All in a day’s work

Time to get back up to date, quite a few things have happened in the past three weeks.

We said goodbye to the three interns who left last Tuesday, it was touching that they phoned Ellie to thank Fovs for everything we have done and we hope that they will find work after the promised jobs at the municipality did not materialize.

Just to summarize, we still have good rains, sometimes a bit too much of a good thing but the water birds certainly enjoy the full dams.

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The log was placed there by Rob who seems to know what a bird likes.

The shade house remodelling continues, we are lowering the water pipes to take the load off the shade cloth using old electrical wire abandoned on top of the mountain.

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Still waiting for the soil, both potting soil and levelling soil so we fetched some ourselves with the trailer to keep us going.

The paths and beds in the arboretum got rather overgrown, even with the brush cutter it was quite a job to make it user friendly again. There are still plenty of opportunities to pretty it up further but alas there is only so much we can do.

We are making very good progress filling up the empty spaces left by the plant sale, lots of propagation, potting and bagging going on. We much appreciate the contributions by various people of seedlings, plants and cuttings such as these Bulbines from Dee and Strelizia regina from Mark. Ellie has collected lots of cones from Leucadendrons producing more than 1000 seeds, lots of potential plants!

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Conditions for hacking are rather trying, it either rains or is unbearably hot. Still Rob, Cathy and Keith persevere in a very difficult patch near the Van Stadens bridge. In a way it was quite amusing when they were seen by the surveillance camera and the police came to talk them out of jumping!

We have put some of the funds generated by the sale to good use by extending the irrigation in the greenhouse, buying a step ladder, petrol and oil, pots and bags and various odds and ends to keep us going.

Flora and fauna is doing very well at the moment as is shown by this watersnake having a snooze in the braai area and this very floriferous Pelargonium cucullatum in the entrance circle.

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On inspection of our water pipe we found that our new neighbour has ringbarked the blue gums along the stream. Very encouraging to see.

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With all this work going on we do not forget the botanical side of our mission, it was great to get a visit by Tony Dold after we reported the location of the Pelargonium elegans in the reserve. He was of the opinion though that we needed our heads checked for working in 36 degree heat Smile

To finish off, we are approaching 250 members on our Facebook page so obviously there is plenty of interest out there but there is very little interaction with them, how can we change that?

Back to normal

After the hectic weeks of preparing for the Open Day it was a nice change to be more or less back to our usual activities and keep ploughing our lonely furrow..

Granted, there was still plenty of cleaning up to do, get the Fovs room back in shape, put tables back, get chairs and folding table back to the Conference centre, move plants back from the platform to the nursery etc.

We already brought another 80 seedlings from home to replace what has been sold and found a place for them in the shade house. The shade house is still fairly full since we cannot use the annex until the soil is levelled which should happen soon. We also need to provide some extra shade for the Clivia seedlings, all in good time.

Never a better time to rearrange things as when stocks are low so we got stuck into the greenhouse, turfed out everything that wasn’t growing and move all trays ready to be potted out to the potting table. Now all depends on Sisanie to bring us soil which he promised to do by next Wednesday. We have also run out of pots so we need to get those as well.

It was a hot day and the hacking crew arrived at tea time rather exhausted but after a lengthy rest got chain ganged into helping to move the Proteas back. When that was done I decided it all could do with a good soak to the sprinklers were on for quite a while.

We needed to plant the Chinese lanterns we were given just before the sale and decided that the best place would be the pebble area as it is quite dry there so off we went after lunch with nine trees in total and in 33 degree heat managed to dig suitable holes and plant them.

The rest of the afternoon was still spent weeding in the shade house and sorting out the misting house and to really round it off on the way out to annihilate a patch of Bryophyllums which was growing right in front of the manager’s house!

Open Day

What can one say, what a brilliant Open Day. There was such a good vibe on the day with all the activities and we were overwhelmed by all the support, compliments and, of course, contributions.

Friday we still had to do a fair amount of preparation, not least the gathering and tying of the cut flowers.

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Looks like hard work. Last year we had too few bunches so we made more but it turned out still not enough. We even had some in the greenhouse as backup and they were soon gone as well.

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We were worried about the trail run as conditions were quite slippery underfoot, luckily everybody took it as part of the challenge and, also thanks to the excellent organisation of Sheena and co, everyone enjoyed it.

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Then it was time to open the nursery for the plant sale. As usual some people jumped the gun but we stuck to our 9 am opening time. There was a steady stream of customers all through the morning but thanks to all the expert helpers everything went off very smoothly.

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A new feature was the food and cooldrink stall ably manned by Tinus and crew. With some music and chairs set out this definitely added to the vibe and hopefully can be repeated.P1030131At ten it was the turn of the cyclist and the family ride. With still some big puddles on some of the tracks we thought it would be even more of a challenge than the runners but Paul was fantastic and made those puddles part of the fun for the youngsters and, judging by some of the tall stories afterwards, to great effect.

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Perhaps the best part of the day was afterwards just chilling for a while with our dedicated group of friends and reflecting on a splendid day and a job well done.

Thanks to all of you!

Mad dogs and Dutchmen

It really was a day to stay home, the forecast was rain the whole day and for once the forecast was right. The sensible people in out group let us know they weren’t coming but we still needed to take more plants to the reserve and there was still lots to prepare so we packed some dry clothes and off we went.

Goodman was back from leave so we popped in and had a chat, quite subdued, it seems that the recent organizational changes will take him some time to get used to.

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We offloaded the trailer in the pouring rain and Ellie reorganized the plants on the platform and brought some more from the nursery and the shade house while I got stuck into sorting our the Fovs room so we’ll have some space on Saturday. At least I had a roof over my head even though there are a few leaks.

Miraculously it cleared just enough after lunch to allow us to fix the tap on the main picnic site with hopefully a more vandal proof arrangement.

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When that was done I thought it was time to go home but first needed to find out why the toilet wasn’t flushing. Somehow someone had managed to crack a bracket in the cistern, hopefully we can fix that before Saturday.

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The forecast for the rest of the week is reasonable but I’m afraid that the tracks will be quite soggy for the runners and the cyclist and probably for the wheelbarrows as well. There seems to be a lot of interest though so we hope for a good day.

Geocaching day

The annual Geocaching event took place at the Reserve today in much better weather than the persistent rain last year. We got roped in to man what they call roadblocks but didn’t mind because at these roadblocks the six teams had to do some work for us.

Tree planting:

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Ellie in charge of the planting of twenty trees to replace the blue gums, by now we have planted quite a forest for our grandchildren’s children to enjoy.

Podalyria hacking:

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Cathy got them busy with pulling out many Podalyria seedlings, still many to go but we are making a difference.

Protea moving:

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Keith managed to get 750 bags with Proteacea moved from the nursery to the platform, no mean feat.

Strelizia hacking:

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I made good use of the muscle power provided to get rid of two massive Strelizia plants along the Lilly Pond so the source of seedlings is now greatly reduced. One more to go and we will be rid of the invader in that area.


After all the hard work it was time for relaxing which they did in style at the braai area.

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More preparations

Heads down today sorting out plants for the sale, no end to moving and sorting, from the greenhouse and shade house to the nursery, grouping like plants together, more dotting etc.

It is all coming together and with the new signs it looks rather professional, unfortunately too busy to take pics.

We also found out that one sprinkler is broken and the tap on the main picnic site has been broken off so a visit to the plumbing supplier is in order and somehow we have to make things even more vandal proof.

The staff is still at it, some serious weeding and cleaning up around the dell and some major cleanup around the manager’s house with the trees pruned and Strelizia nicolai cut right down.

I managed to level one small section in the shade house, the rest will have to wait till after the sale.

Lean to

Today’s main job was to put the shade cloth on the revamped shade house lean to. Apart from issues with the stapler it went well and we are happy with the result.P1030002

The floor is very uneven so I have asked Sisanie to bring some soil when it is a bit drier so I can level it.

Cathy and Ellie got busy with the paintbrush to color code the bags for the sale, quite a job.

December

No, not the month but the new interim manager. Goodman is on a month leave and in the meantime December has been seconded from Settlers Park to look after the Reserve and he is cracking the whip. All of the staff are weeding and trimming both traffic circles amongst other things. I have never seen them work so hard. Some of our precious plants are trampled in the process but still well worth it. We lost no time to impress on December that the Xhosa hut needs sorting out and that everything needs to look spic and span on the Open Day.

We mainly concentrated on the shade house and nursery and after tea put up the braai sign:

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Keith cut some more wood slices for the sale, we now have a whole heap and after lunch I took the brush cutter to prepare for the geocacher’s upcoming task of clearing a large Strelizia nicolai and also widened a section of the Nymph trail while Ellie took on her role as tourguide with the Redhouse Garden Club which was much appreciated.