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Slave driver

Keith’s shifts worked out for a change so we had a full Wednesday contingent today, all five of us! We happened to arrive at the same time, this means we were early and the hacking contingent disappeared to do some steep slope work. Ellie wanted to finish her varnishing so she first went and scrubbed the two tables that were left, funny enough the “Gwen Skinner” table at the lookout needed it the most.

I proceeded to put up the final irrigation pipe in the shade house which meant first the supporting cable and, thanks to some nifty leverage system, I could tighten it by myself. Ellie had taken the camera in the car so I could not take a pic. It all went quite smoothly even though the joints needed some nipple cream to make the pipe go in. Could not test it because Heunis was busy weeding in the nursery.

Chatting to Goodman he undertook that the staff will look after the weeding in the nursery proper while we will do the shade, green and misting house. I can live with that.

After tea everybody wanted to do some relaxing work but for a change I took the role of slave driver and herded everybody to the arboretum for some much needed maintenance as shown in the last post

Cathy, Keith and Ellie got busy in the Cycad patch, Rob found a lot more Bryphyllums than he expected and I cleared Ericas around Jenny’s tree patch after varnishing the arboretum sign. Neil also visited briefly to check up whether we were working.

After lunch Rob and I put up a protective cover for the watering valve and filter for the greenhouse, I put sprays in the new pipe, Ellie varnished the tables and then we worked some more in the arboretum. Before we knew it it was five o’clock and we had overstayed our welcome.

In search of Paranomus

Goodman told us recently that there is a population of Paranomus on the western Van Stadens mountain range just across the railway bridge, So off we went on a bright and hot Sunday morning to check out the lay of the land. Crossing the railway bridge is always fun and the river bed below with its pools looked more inviting than toiling through the fynbos.P1030563

We followed the track below the power lines for a while until we came to a fence and then headed up the slope where there were more Proteaceae.P1030581

We then turned back eastwards on a higher line admiring both the excellent views and the quite pristine fynbos. Definitely a place to explore a bit further, perhaps in spring with the Friends.

From a distance we could see that the development at Crossways is making steady progress.P1030589

Descending along the gorge we noticed that the alien invasion is creeping in from the edge of the gorge. We shall try at the next forum meeting to get something to be done about that.

Slightly hot and sweaty we got back to the car and the Reserve was beckoning for lunch and the bird hide proved to be the ideal place for that with a slight breeze cooling us down.

In the light of the upcoming planning meeting I nagged about putting some things on paper that we think should or could be done so we walked around and came to the list below. As far as I am concerned this should be done for the entire Reserve as a program for the year for The Friends of Van Stadens group as a whole so we can get other people to adopt certain responsibilities.

Cut down shrub blocking view from the bird hide


Varnish steps leading into bird hide


Sign for bird hide


Mow arboretum paths twice a year


Prepare proper planting hole(s) fro Jenny tree


Thin out Ericas in tree patch


Sort out dead and dangerous Widdringtonias


What to do to make Gem attractive


Weed and plant mounds


Tidy Cycad garden


Keep up the Bryophyllum eradication


Drip irrigation point bird bath


Lastly checked up on the nursery. It was hard to tell with the recent showers if it had been watered too much, the greenhouse was still too wet so I changed it to one cycle per day. We shall see on Wednesday if it made a difference.

Hot as hell

A while ago I muttered about all the rain we had, justified as it turns out as 2015 was the wettest in the past five years, but now it is time to complain about the lack of rain and the hot spell we are enduring.

Luckily most of the work we planned was either in the shade house or in the arboretum and not in the full sun unlike Rob who hacked merrily along the River Walk. Started off with Ellie sewing the seams of the shade cloth patch we did last week and me carrying on with the weeding. Just to weed the shade house turns out to be quite a job so we were most impressed and thankful when four of the staff turned up to do much needed weeding in the nursery proper.

After tea we turned our attention to the little pond in the arboretum which was losing water way too quickly and found that roots had penetrated the patches in the plastic so we sorted that out and remodelled it slightly. It took a little longer than expected so we had a late lunch.

In the afternoon Ellie finished the sewing while I made sure that the added space was taken up quickly by rearranging the pots and bags so once again the shade house is full.

Then, in the little time that was left, E collected some small Strelizia regina plants and seeds while I still busied myself in the “Gem” which has become quite overgrown.

Weeds, varnish,and more such things

The year is truly underway again and we are back to the Wednesday routine.

While the hacking team of Rob and Cathy did their pre-tea hakea and other nasties clearing and discussing the new alien which is not an alien, the Widdringtonia nodiflora, I got stuck into weeding the shade house while Ellie went to the braai area to give the log benches and table a good coat of clear varnish.

Though most of the plants in the shade house are doing well you couldn’t see them because the weeds were doing even better, especially the deep-rooted grasses. It looks like there has been an overdose of watering which makes it easier to pull out weeds but not so good for plants like Agapanthus and Clivia which rot quite easily.

Before tea there was still time for Ellie to scrub the picnic tables on the main picnic area, chop new growth off the blue gum stumps and pull out some seedlings.

After tea Ellie and Cathy got busy weeding the Aloe Koppie which was rather overgrown while Rob planed the door of the FOVS room before coming to help me with the weeding. We don’t really like to use poison but it looks like we have to do something to discourage some insects from chomping the leaves of our precious plants.

After lunch we felt like doing something different so we closed up the remaining open patch in the roof of the shade house with shade cloth and did some fiddling in the greenhouse.

After R&C had left Ellie varnished the picnic tables she had scrubbed while I continued weeding and finally replaced some putty around a window in the Fovs room.

With some some of the staff spending most of the day chatting in the planting shed and Working for Water team playing cricket even though Neil has been promised that dead trees would be cleared and pines along the River Walk be hacked one wonders about the way forward. Hopefully the tractor will be back next week and some mowing of trails and tracks can be done.

Start of the New Year.

Our first working Wednesday of the new year, first priority was of course to sort the sprinklers out so we won’t have any more dead “bodies” in the nursery due to lack of water in this heat wave we have at the moment.

Hugs and greetings on arrival, Speelman was so happy to see us and tell us about the happenings in the reserve while we were away. Sounds like there have been a lot of visitors which is good. The last remaining bakkie at his disposal has radiator problems so the transport situation is quite a problem. Two staff members will retire soon and not be replaced including Pottaman the tractor driver. Not quite what we like to hear.

After offloading the usual trailer full of plants we scrubbed and hosed down the furniture in the braai area, let it dry and then Ellie gave the table a new coat of varnish. Looking good but we need to get some clear varnish for the benches. Then off to the arboretum to put the hosepipe by the young trees to give them some much needed water. Last week Rob and Cathy watered all the newly planted trees on the picnic sites and the arboretum as well and it looks like they are doing quite well.

We also walked part of the Nymph trail to check whether the P. schizopetalum were flowering, unfortunately we have missed it as they had already finished, even the seed was gone already. The trail needs a walk with the brush cutter, hopefully a volunteer will step forward

Neil popped in at teatime and organized with WFW to cut down the remaining dead blue gums by next week and also helped Rob to devour Ellie’s peanut chocolates and biscuits. Good chinwag was held by all and then the broken and misaligned sprinklers got fixed, we couldn’t test them straight away because Ben came and collected plants he bought at the Open Day but when we did of course we got a good soaking in the process.

Weeds are thriving, especially in the pots and bags in the shade house so lots of work to be done there, Rob and I made a start whilst Cathy and Ellie gathered and potted up some more Ericas,

All through the day we interacted with visitors because there was no staff to help them. This gave us useful insight into what people are looking for and what we should be concentrating on.