Dargle by Numbers

The Annual Game Count was resurrected in our valleys and hills in late June this year.  This time of year was recommended by Ezemvelo because much wildlife congregates on the pastures that farmers have planted (and perhaps irrigated) so they are easier to spot.  We didn’t realise that it would clash with a rugby match or that many people prefer to watch wild men on TV to wildlife on their farms!  Next year, we will host it on a Friday instead.

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Between 5pm and 7pm, Dargle, Lidgetton and Lion’s River residents wrapped up warmly and headed onto their properties to see who shares it.  Some sat quietly in the forest with a flask in hand, while others packed the kids in the car and drove along farm roads with eyes peeled. Afterwards, many people came down to the Lions River Club where EKZNW Honorary Officers, Alan Jack and Caroline Leslie were collating all the exciting sightings and Jeremy Barlow was serving scrummy soup and sherry.

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25 properties participated. Reedbuck, Bushbuck, Oribi, Duiker were the main sightings, with most people concluding that numbers were lower than usual.  Some lucky observers spotted a mongoose, a serval and a genet. Only 5 jackal, 4 porcupine, 2 rabbits and 11 bushpig were seen – we hope there are many more out there.

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At a presentation on Saturday morning, Neville van Lelyveld pointed out the three types of poaching that occur in our area Subsistence, Commercial and Syndicate and explained the differences.

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Brian Jones of SA CAN updated us on their work with anti-poaching and gave everyone who attended a free three month trial of SA CAN services.  Remember to call them with any incident of poaching – they cannot respond to all of them, however it is important to build up a record and if they observe a lot of activity in Dargle, they will focus their attention here.  083 799 1916.  You do not have to give your name.

The Stock Theft Unit of SAPS is now dealing with poaching and wildlife crime, so a really good idea to report to them as well: Warrant Officer DN Kay 083 778 0864.  Save these numbers in your phone now.

Later, on a chilly, moonless evening, Jenny Goddard was part of a small but intrepid group who joined Neville and Hayley van Leyleveld on a 2 hour guided game walk on the Sinclair farm.

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“Unfortunately the wildlife decided not to play ball, and other than hearing a group of reedbuck calling to each other in the dark, our only “sighting” was a stray cow that gave us a massive fright when she appeared in our midst from no-where!  Neville’s interesting anecdotes, the information he gave us on poaching, and his immense knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Dargle kept us intrigued during the walk. We certainly came away very much the wiser.”

On Sunday morning, Katie Robinson hosted a Track, Scat and Snare walk on Lemonwood.

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Due to recent logging activity there was not much animal movement so the group proceeded through the boundary fence onto Iain Sinclair’s property.  First we came across Jackal scat that contained scrub hare and vlei rat fur enabling us to see clearly its natural diet. To everyone’s excitement we found Great Spotted Genet tracks and scat and later, a print in the mud from a Marsh Mongoose – two creatures not often observed.  We also found Bushbuck, Reedbuck and Spurwing Goose tracks during our walk on a really lovely sunny day.

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Many thanks to Neville and Hayley van Lelyveld for their enthusiastic efforts to make our Game Count weekend a

 

 

 

Trashionistas Unite to Save the Planet

Recycling is not really going to save us from extinction,

but at least it demonstrates that one is conscious of the unnecessary waste we all produce.  Re-using rubbish may seem quaint now, but there is little doubt that with natural resources already over extracted, mining dumpsites will be the norm in future.  Midlands youngsters are already set to make the most of discarded treasure.

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Nearly 50 learners gathered for the Glam Green Occasion of the Season – the annual Dargle Trashion Show – last weekend.  There were coffee cup ball gowns and feed bag suits, plastic packet shorts,  and dog food frocks.   The creativity was nothing short of astounding and everyone had a fabulous time.

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Vice Prinipal, Antonia Mkhabela of Shea O’Connor Combined, was startled when she asked her learners to register for the Trashion Show and 63 put their names down!  This school has an impressive environmental ethic and we were thrilled to host the 28 learners whose outfits had impressed Antonia the most.

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Louis Bolton, Celebrity Photographer, had everyone pose before the show began – many of these photos are taken by him. Other photos by Lynne Garbutt and Nikki Brighton.

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Girls and boys strutted their stuff on the ramp, created from farmyard fencing and bunting made from discarded magazines, on the lawn of Lion’s River Club.

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Compere, Eidin Griffin drew attention the tiny details – the earrings, shoes, handbags and trims which may have gone unnoticed in the swirl of colour.

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Maningi Duma (Grade 1 and Kings Primary) stole the show with her exhuberant pasta packet hat and sunny personality.

Celebrity Judges Trayci Tompkins, Andrea Abbot and Caro Richter were entranced and created lots categories to ensure that everyone was rewarded for their ingenuity.

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There were The Dapper Lads, The Beautiful Babes and Junior Trash. Prizes were sponsored by Eyakho Green – who give new life to waste, turning advertising banners into bags and shoes and satchels.  Meriel Mitchell made lots of pencil cases and shopping bags from fabric scraps too.

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“What a wonderful event you created. I’m so glad I was there! I met wildly talented and just plain nice people and fell in  love all over again with the creative and inventive creatures scattered around the Midlands,” enthused Caro Richter of the Meander Chronicle.

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Mr Recycle, Spesihle Mchunu  (Grade 10 Shea O’Connor School), was their choice for a special prize of a solar lantern for his exceptional costume, topped off with some impromptu dancing!

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Ted Rayner and Sisi Mlalazi (Misty Meadows School) made a dashing couple.

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Principal of Misty Meadows, Cassie Janisch said “We had an absolute ball at the Dargle Trashion Show.  I think the effort made by all the participants was fantastic! We are already looking forward to next year… My boys have got some ideas for wire cars from watching the experts this morning.”

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Zandile Sihkahane who facilitates the Sustainable School Programme in Impendle (supported by Dargle Conservancy) was completely inspired. “I wish to do the same thing in Impendle. I have shown the children how to make many things, like wallets, from rubbish, but getting them all together for a competition is a very good idea. We will be here next year.”

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The joint Best Outfits in the Beautiful Babes category was worn by Ashley Nkosana (Grade 8) who had spent hours cutting old plastic bags into strips and weaving them into cloth, and Silindile Zigubu (Grade 11) who wore a tailored dress made of white sacks, decorated with fabric flowers retrieved from the rubbish bin, with bag and shoes to match.

Thandolethu Khanyile’s bottle top detail on her blouse and impressive hat earned her a couple of prizes in the accessories category.

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Sbongile Ndlovu (Grade 12 at Shea O’Connor) works part time in the local tuck shop so collect all the discarded chip packets to turn into her frothy frock.

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Akhona Mchunu had made a delicate parasol (that opened and closed) with discarded sticks and plastic. Really impressive.

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Thenjiwe Ngcobo, Principal of Corrie Lynn Primary,  said her children had enjoyed the gathering and had learnt a lot from seeing and hearing what the others had done. “Sharing ideas and skills encourages us all because everyone does things differently.”

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Maureen Mabizela, Principal of Dargle Primary “There was such excitement at school on Monday with everyone sharing their stories. Thank you for inviting us to be part of such an adventurous educational brain development activity!”.  One of the Dargle parents who attended, Thenjiwe Dangazela, said she was sorry that she had not participate before – we will certainly see her at the 2017 event!

Mr Dlamini a teacher at Shea O’Connor was delighted that his his kids were able to put classroom learning into action “The real way to learn!” he quipped. He couldn’t help doing an impromptu dance with little Thandolethu in Grade 3 in her winning outfit.

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Dargle pupil, Nhlanhla Zuma, was very striking in his yellow ensemble. He had made a wire car too which had the ‘best steering’- earning him two prizes!

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Winner of the most colourful AND fastest wire car was Kwandokuhle Ndlovu. Kwandokuhle was the uber cool designer behind many of the glamorous outfits too.

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Judges Barry Downard and Iain Meyer decided that Brandon Chatilsa’s car was the most powerful 4×4.  Jas and Lily Goodwin won the best economy class, Ayanda Mhlongo took the prize for the most technical and Lusanda Zuma got a special mention for his rear cooler box while Syamthanda Mkhize’s car had the best detail.

The Dargle Drag Race was a speedy affair! With Jesse Chantunya entering a Kings classmate, Wandisa’s, car as he couldn’t make it.

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An actual recycled husband was spotted in the audience!

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Iona and Luncinda Bate made masses of popcorn and oranges for all the participants to snack on. Iona commented “Huge congratulations, a huge success and such a great turn out. The outfits were amazing and it was gorgeous to see all the girls so proud in their dresses!” Pat Draper suggested to Shea O’Connor Principal, Nicholas Nxumalo, that he encourage everyone to wear Trashion to the Matric Dance rather than spending a fortune of buying an outfit.

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When Antonia Mkhabela got home, her phone kept ringing with parents calling to thank her for organising the excursion for their children who had arrived home with huge smiles and lovely prizes “The parents were so excited, saying they did not think that trash could make such a huge impact. They told me that this has changed their perception about rubbish.” she reported with a grin.

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Gerhard le Roux was pleased he had come along. “I my eyes they were all winners! They were really proud of their creations.It was great to see the excitement. What a fantastic project.”

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Stylish Trayci Tompkins had great fun participating as a judge “The Trashion Show sure is bringing out the creativity in all! Loved seeing the different interpretations and use of recycled ‘waste’.  This is an event that is growing into something quite special.”

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Andrea Abbott, who wrote the Country Life article about last years show and really got the kids inspired when they saw their pictures published, has the last say “I enjoy myself immensely. The children are  wonderful; so confident and creative yet not for a moment holding high opinions of themselves. I wonder if they have any notion of how good they are? To see their designs and talents is to be inspired. Looking forward to Trashion Show 2017!”

As much as 2700 litres of water is used to make a cotton t-shirt and  even more to grow and manufacture a pair of jeans. With water becoming a scarce commodity,  we should all be rethinking our wardrobes – before you toss a packet, cup, bag, roll, hanger or can.

 

 

Aloma’s Mushrooms

After spending 15 years in England, Aloma and Gordon Fleet settled in Dargle, built a solar powered home and looked around for a way of earning an income. “Our 12 hectares is a bit small for keeping cattle,” says Gordon, “So we were pleased to find a mushroom growing opportunity in the Midlands that fitted our farming needs neatly, although we didn’t have a clue about them to start.” All they had to do was build a wooden cabin to create the right humid environment, learn fast and get going.

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Racks hold hundreds of bags of straw inoculated with mycelium and the spores of oyster mushrooms.  After about a week they start to ‘pin’ (sprout). Although the temperature is controlled and humidifiers keep the room damp, the outside weather does affect their growth. When it is too hot they can dry quickly and are sprayed with extra water, or have frozen 2l bottles join them on the shelves to keep the air coming in cool and, when it is cloudy, rainy and misty (very common in Dargle) they grow like crazy.

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Aloma tends the needs of the mushrooms. “They are like art, just marvellous to observe. I really love it when they start pinning and the tiny mushrooms poke their heads through the slits in the plastic bags, looking like Mohawk hairdos!” Every morning, afternoon and evening she checks the racks and chooses the best clusters to pick, before they go wavy around the edges and begin to scatter their spores. Oyster mushrooms cannot be picked individually, or the cluster will die. Each cluster has 8 – 40 mushrooms, some of which ‘die’ off to give space to others. Each bag should produces up to 1kg of mushrooms over 10 weeks, which means she spends a lot of time in her grey gumboots, blue gloves and funky mask amongst the mushrooms. Once the inoculated bags have finished producing, the straw is tossed on the compost heap.

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The Fleet’s sell their organic mushrooms to a central distributor and are also regulars at the Dargle Local Market where their just picked and utterly delicious mushrooms are very popular.

Contact Aloma on 061 099 4037

Frack Free Midlands

The Lions River Club in Dargle was completely overwhelmed as 400 people arrived for the Rhino Oil & Gas Exploration Application Meeting on Tuesday 3 November. After only 11 people had come to their morning meeting in Taylor’s Halt, this was a bit of a shock!

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The visitors were greeted by a spectacular array of colourful posters and banners made by Midlands learners. Every inch inside and out of the building was covered. They were offered fresh delicious Dargle water (a precious resource) and homemade cordial. However, they had brought their own bottled water with them.

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As the crowd swelled, demonstrators shouted Angifuni fracking and Fracking No Way and toyi toyied in front of the building. Thandanani Luvuno and Nhlonipho Zondo performed a short energetic drama saying an unequivocal No to Fracking. Nicole Schafer and Jane Symes filmed the action and proceedings, interviewing students, farmers, activist and artists.

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At 2.30 they tried to start the meeting. They had no PA system, not enough chairs and hundreds of people could not even get near the windows, let alone into the room. “This is a shambles and disrespectful. Many of us have left our jobs and farms to attend the meeting and we can’t even hear what you are saying.”   The woman chairing the meeting, really battled to get any order and explain the objectives of the meeting: to share information and listen to objections and concerns. Shouts of ‘we don’t want to see your presentation, just go home’ were followed by ‘we reject the process unanimously.’

Bobby Peek of groundWork asked why there were no representatives of PASA, DWS, Dept of Agriculture present. Matthew Hemming of SLR told us they were invited, but he could not do anything if they did not come. Comments flew – including: “This is not a democratic process – we cannot endorse a meeting that is illegal, we do not consent. Our democracy has been outsourced to consultants! Fracking is a violent assault on all of us.” Someone shouted “Hands up if you do not agree to fracking” The entire hall and everyone outside, put hands up – 100% show of hands and lots of spontaneous clapping. Who wants fracking? No hands went up – THERE IS YOUR ANSWER.”

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There were high levels of frustration in the crowd – about not hearing what was being said and wanting to speak but not getting a chance. Some people were worried that if we walked out of the meeting in protest that we would lose our opportunity to be heard, others worried that if we stayed it meant we were supporting the whole fracking issue. Some people were very emotional and shouting, while others asked for quiet to be able to ask questions and have answers. Some people walked out. Quite a number of people arrived late, had a look, got annoyed about not being able to hear anything and left. Penz Malinga commented “I think the people from KZN, especially farmers and conservationist are going to stay firm on their NO to exploration and stop at nothing until they are heard. Some people didn’t hear a thing, standing outside. The consultants are going to have to find another way to listen to the concerns of the people.”

The Chairperson admitted that they had not expected so many people and that all meetings have been met with negative response. More shouting! “Stop the process now, stop wasting our time. Another meeting will waste more time. It is not a public participation process if we can’t hear.

Ben Goodwin pointed out that only a privileged few were present – those with access to the internet and information and the ability to take time off work to attend – were excluded. What about the small rural villages? Will they have any opportunity to defend their livelihoods? Why were the meeting notices were only in English mainstream newspapers? Malvina van Bremem asked where representatives of Ingonyama Trust were. One of the many school children present suggested that they hold their meeting in a school hall “It is our future, we are the next generation and this affects us most.”

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Robin Barnsley, who represented the 46 000 farmers who are members of Kwanalu, expressed deep concern that people were leaving in disappointment at not being able to participate. “Go away, prepare yourselves properly and come back.” Eventually they agreed that they would arrange another meeting at a bigger venue. Some serious questions were asked, but they were mostly overshadowed by the crowd who repeated relentlessly “We know that exploration will lead to fracking and we don’t want fracking. Have some manners and just leave us alone.” Barend Booysen pointed out “We are all active, concerned citizens around here and well informed on environmental matters, we have done our research. You came to present and to get a response, we all understand the process and outcomes. We have made our response clear – We are utterly against mining!”

Dave Pullin insisted, as did a few others, on knowing who Rhino Oil & Gas was – who are the shareholders? Phillip Steyn told us quietly that it was a privately owned company with two SA directors – himself and Patrick Mulligan. They took over a shell company and changed the directors. The parent company is Rhino Resources based in Dallas, Texas. He assured everyone that they had the finances and skills to complete this process. Comment from the crowd “If you handle fracking the way you handle meetings…we are all in for trouble.”

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Francois du Toit of ACT was firm “I have questions I do not want to be fobbed off or tick boxed. How did this procedure happen so fast? How does a young inexperienced COO get a licence to explore 18 million hectares? 90% of that land can’t be fracked due to the fracking regulations which prohibit drilling within 5 kilometres from the an existing municipal water well field and identified future well fields and sources, within 500 metres of borehole or the edge of a riparian area or within 1 kilometre of a wetland.” Bruce Haynes added “If less than 10% of the area can be mined, why are you wasting our time worrying about such huge area You are unnecessarily involving vast numbers of people and polarising them – this prohibits meaningful, calm debate from taking place. Extend your time frame! The gas has been there for millions of years, it is not going anywhere.”

The audience wondered how this had been sprung upon us so suddenly – where were the parliamentary debates? What about our Constitutional rights? Bobby Peek explained Operation Phakisa – a government plan to fast track mining as a development mechanism.  How do we show the government that we are not interesting in gas extraction? We were advised by SLR to write to the Ministers and to PASA. We managed to get PASA’s telephone number 021 938 3500, although not a contact person. Richard Kelland “This is not a silo issue. It is an issue of national importance involving not only the departments of Minerals, Energy, Water, Environment and Agriculture, but the entire cabinet, a full Parliamentary process, and the entire national community. We are the custodians of this land and its resources and environment for future generations. We have an obligation to mobilise on this issue. This is a national referendum issue if ever there was one, after thorough and exhaustive research and public participation.”

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The consultants noted that there was 100% objection to the process and agreed to send out the minutes of the meeting to everyone on the register. We didn’t observe anyone taking minutes, but perhaps they were recording.

Afterwards an exhausted and battered looking Philip Steyn was surrounded by people with questions. “You are an ordinary person, like us. You are young. What are you thinking? You know this could lead to something that we will never be able to undo.” He was urged to invest instead in renewables. UKZN hydrology student Asandile Mqulo said “You can see in his face, he has had enough, he feels awful.” Philip answered many comments with “No comment” and “That’s your perception” but didn’t really share any info.

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The early end to the meeting did mean we had an opportunity to buy the visitors a drink, and talk more calmly about the process as the sun set. Matthew Hemming was adamant that SLR would follow the process and if they found sound environmental reasons why it should not go ahead, that is what they would recommend. We couldn’t really understand why they had bothered to even start. Fossil Fuel Must Fall.

Bruce Haynes pointed out the paradoxical economy we live in – that we all drove cars to get to the anti-fossil fuels meeting. Charlie Mitchell “We need to convince the government to reduce energy consumption, to invest in renewable and sustainable energy at all costs, this will brighten the developing face of our country and prevent them from having to face the real wrath of the people who live here.”

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The next day they headed to Mooi River, where once again they were ill prepared and received a grilling from the farming community. It was pointed out that the venue was far too small and it was proposed that the meeting be reconvened at a larger more appropriate venue – Weston College offered the use of their facilities. Questions were asked why the meeting was so unrepresentative – there were only white people present – this was a major concern. It was pointed out that local black communities had been informed about the potential benefits that the gas industry could provide (Jobs and cheaper fuel) without being made aware of the risks involved. SLR responded that notices had gone out in Zulu as well as English.

Studies have shown that the area is under water stress (particularly the Mpofana system), so where is the water for fracking to come from? Rhino refused to respond. When asked how much water is tupically required per well in fracking operations, Rhino refused to answer. e 08 2

When asked if they understood the negative implications of fracking, they said they did, but they were involved in exploration, not fracking. SLR pointed out that they are paid whatever the outcome, so they had no vested interest in the outcome.

The view was expressed that the community did not want fracking or any process that would lead to it and that they may need to violently defend their lands if this project progresses.

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In Greytown, The SLR organisers once again totally under-estimated the local interest and had only 100 chairs. About 15 minutes before the meeting was due to begin, there was a large influx of attendees, so tables were removed and chairs shuffled forward to accommodate another 100 people. Still the walls were lined, with all standing only space occupied. SLR asked if everyone could hear? No, the people in the passageway, entrance rooms, verandah and street couldn’t hear. (At least another 300 people)

Vigorous consultation ensued between the members of SLR and some members of the community.  The suitability of the venue was highly questionable and declared unsafe for the numbers attending. A representative of SLR admitted this and said there were 2 options: The meeting could be held in 2 sessions, from 2.30 – 4.30p.m. and another from 4.30- 6.30p.m. OR the meeting be closed and a more suitable venue be located, with date and venue advised, in due course. SLR agreed that a second meeting be arranged, advertised with adequate notice, to allow the communities attendance.

An elderly lady spoke about the disrepsect the organisers had shown to the community. The whole exploration issue was centred around ‘money’ yet the organisers could not spend a little more for a more suitable venue. She was applauded by all present.

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Ms. Theresa Edwards (of the Greytown Municipality) invited the organisers to coffee and biscuits in her office to discuss a more suitable venue and date.

The meeting dispersed peacefully. It was a small Victory in what will be a long Battle.

Joy Alcock “It is my humble opinion that the ripples of understanding are slowly spreading out, to the furthest homesteads and rural communities. They are already experiencing the worst drought within living memory, their livestock are dying in droves.

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It was wonderful to see stern faced and serious farmers, (also facing extreme hardship), sitting alongside the young, bright-eyed (and unemployed) people of the Umvoti district. We are simply not prepared to risk the natural resources, our livelihoods and our children’s futures into the hands of people who cannot even organise a simple meeting.”

“An unequivocal success for our community. I think Rhino had no idea of the groundswell of opposition and will have to rethink at least their presentation techniques,” said Annie Waterhouse. They completely underestimated the depth of passion in the green hills of the Midlands.

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You are urged to send your comments on the Rhino Application to SLR Consulting before the deadline of 12 November. We must insist on a full Strategic Environmental Assessment for the ENTIRE AREA and mapping of all current and future water sources.  Send emails to: mhemming@slrconsulting.co.za . You can download the background information document here. While you are in activist mode Please sign the petition too.

 

FRACKFREE KZN

Big River Little River

We all know where the Dargle River begins – in the grassland slopes below the road to Fort Nottingham, of which Will Griffin is custodian.

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Where the Nile starts, is another story. Jethro Bronner is at the Nile right now, having driven his little blue Alfa Guilietta all the way from our Dargle River to the Longest River in the World.

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The Nile has two major tributaries, the White Nile and Blue Nile. The White Nile is considered to be the headwaters and primary stream of the Nile itself. The Blue Nile, however, is the source of most of the water and silt. The White Nile is longer and rises in the Great Lakes region of central Africa, with the most distant source still undetermined but located in either Rwanda or Burundi. It flows north through Tanzania, Lake Victoria, Uganda and South Sudan. The Blue Nile begins at Lake Tana in Ethiopia and flows into Sudan from the southeast. The two rivers meet near the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, where Jethro is.

The northern section of the river flows north almost entirely through the Sudanese desert to Egypt, then ends in a large delta and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Egyptian civilization and Sudanese kingdoms have depended on the river since ancient times. Most of the population and cities of Egypt lie along those parts of the Nile valley north of Aswan, and nearly all the cultural and historical sites of Ancient Egypt are found along riverbanks.

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The Dargle River was named by Irish settlers who arrived in the valley in 1840 and felt the area looked much like the Dargle, County Wicklow near Dublin.

Inhlosane taken by Jethro Bronner

Although some of its journey is through beautiful original grassland, much of the riparian zone is degraded – often with plants like wattle, bramble and bamboo, which transform the natural landscape and overrun riparian zone biodiversity. For grassland streams, like the Dargle, these invasives shade the water, change the temperature and the aquatic biodiversity, and prevent animals accessing the water. When this ecosystem is weakened water quality is affected. As the Dargle is a tributary of the uMngeni River, which provides 6 million people with water, this is cause for concern.

Jethro’s Journey supports our river bank rehabilitation programme.

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You too can help protect our water sources and ensure there is delicious Dargle water for all. Water is everywhere; in coffee, pizza, cabbages and strawberries.  Did you know that making just one pair of jeans uses of 10 000 litres of water?

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Six million people live downstream of the water catchment in Dargle, relying on correct management of this natural resource to provide their daily water. Water does not come from a tap – it comes from the hills and wetlands – the ‘water factories’ – of the Midlands.

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This campaign aims to protect our water sources by encouraging everyone to make a donation to restore the rivers flowing through Dargle (and eventually to Blue Lagoon in Durban). Dargle Conservancy has a programme to clear the riparian zone of the Dargle and uMngeni rivers. R100 clears a metre of the river and keeps it clear of invasive plants. How many metres would you like to protect? How many glasses of fresh, cold water will you drink this week?

There are two options to make donations:

  • SMS ‘DONATE DARGLE’ to 40580. SMS costs R20 per sms on all SA Networks – free minutes do not apply.
  • Or go to the Dargle Rivers webpage and you can make a quick, easy, more substantial  donation through GivenGain.

Invest in your water supplies by making a donation to restoring this ecosystem. Probably the most important thing you will ever do.  Giving generously to show your support for Jethro’s epic drive to the Dargle River in Ireland after which our Dargle is named would be pretty good too.  Follow his progress: www.dargletodargle.com  or http://www.facebook.com/jethro.bronner

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Chris Slater of Croft farm

When Chris moved from the city to a defunct chicken farm in Dargle he didn’t intend to become a farmer. However, there were barns, fields, staff and a processing room, so he thought he’d see what he could do with the resources at hand.  Within a few years he was producing such delicious chicken under the Croft Farm label that he won the coveted Best Producer in the Free Range category at the Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards.

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Now there are two week old bundles of fluff huddled under the heating lamps on a chilly day and a couple of hundred adult chicks pecking at the earth in the sunshine nearby.  Chris has learnt what works best by trial and error. “Lots of the big commercial producers laugh at me trying out new ideas – like growing mealworms, or letting the chickens roam freely.  I remember being told that chickens don’t like to go outside – that’s nonsense!  They are originally forest creatures, so dislike the blazing sun, preferring the shade of the barn on really hot days.”

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Chris is certain that a better life means there is less mortality (lost profit) and better tasting chicken too.  He mixes the feed himself and to cope with the congestion the birds sometimes get, puts Eucalyptus oil in their drinking water. When the inevitable slaughter day arrives, Chris prefers to use small scale abattoirs that use old school manual methods.

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“I’m an internet farmer, I learn and try new things all the time,” he says. This is an advantage in a rapidly changing world where methods passed down through generations don’t necessarily work anymore.  Chris was recently given some big spotted pigs – Duroc cross Hampshire – so he is giving pig farming a go.  “They are real escape artists, especially when the acorns are falling,” he laughs, so he is sturdily fencing four areas with a central shelter for them to live happily, grubbing about without disturbing the neighbours. He turned a couple into sausages recently, they were a real hit.

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He also produces delicious eggs under the Fresh Start label. While Chris enjoys spending time with his chicks, he is always eager to try new things and has begun brewing craft beer with a likeminded entrepreneurial friend, Pete Foulis, in a converted chicken shed!

If you get up with the birds, you can find Chris’ produce at the Karkloof Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. http://www.croftfarm.co.za

Dear Forest

Thank you for welcoming us.

We thought it was funny at first when we heard we were going to be visiting a home but we soon realised that a habitat is a home and just as we would never barge into someone’s home uninvited and behave badly, we should do the same here.  We did some deep breathing at the edge of the forest to become more aware of our surroundings. Then we entered the magic gate into your home!

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We enjoyed walking slowly through the trees – smelling, looking, feeling and discussing the changes in temperature, humidity, plant structure and the environment. There were tall ones and short ones. We thought we got lost and wondered which way to go, but quickly found our path again. The treasure hunt was so much fun! We had to find something young, something old, something dead, something growing, something affected by humans, something affected by animals – this gave us time to explore with all our senses and to look at things really closely.

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We found seeds, feathers, snail shells, interesting fungi and lichens. When we got to the stream we went habitat hunting finding places where spiders were nesting, interesting burrows in the stream banks and places were civet and mongoose had come to drink. We saw a yellow frog, a Knysna loerie, a beetle with black spots, a white butterfly and bees. Others found bush-pig tracks and porcupine quills and a tiny nest.

We headed further along the path gazing up at the huge trees and speaking quietly. Many of us had never been in a forest before and we realised how different a forest ecosystem is from the grassland ecosystem where our school is.  There were many different colours of green and some of the trees were so big. We noticed how good the soil is because of all the organic material falling and decomposing on the ground.  We saw that there is a lot of biodiversity in this place – something we had only heard about in class before. We remembered that it meant “lots of living things”, but seeing for ourselves really helped us understand the difference between ecosystems and what biodiversity really is. They are difficult English words!

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At the next big clearing we settled down and closed our eyes, listening to the forest. Sitting quietly on the forest floor we observed the secrets of the forest and wondered what was behind the bushes? We thought about the important part this forest played in our ancestor’s lives, providing trees to build houses. We heard our hearts beating, birds singing, Samango monkeys in the tree tops and felt so happy, safe and peaceful.

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On the way back, we returned all the treasures we had picked up to their home – the forest.  We did take just a few Cape Chestnut seeds to grow and promise to bring them back to plant one day. We discussed how protected areas such as this forest are needed for the wild animals to live and hide, breed and roam. We all agreed that it is very important.

We had a magical time exploring – discovering and experiencing the ancient forest for ourselves. The fresh, cold water from the spring tasted delicious.  We hope you heard us saying thank you when we emerged from the dark forest.

We also want to thank the Midlands Meander Education Project for taking us, the Dargle Conservancy and Midlands Conservancies Forum for raising the money from N3Toll Concession to make it possible. Thank you Katie Robinson and Barend Booysen for taking care of this special forest, we won’t forget our visit.

Love from the Grade 6 and 7 learners at Dargle Primary and Corrie Lynn School

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The Dargle Conservancy supports environmental education in our local schools through an annual grant to the Midlands Meander Education Project.  This project co-teaches creative and meaningful environmental lessons in schools across the Midlands. Encouraging independent thinking and positive action, wise resource use and creating a deeper connection with nature and each other.  

Dargle Primary visited Lemonwood forest on 27 May, and Corrie Lynn Primary visited Kilgobbin forest on 24 June 2015. This is a compilation of the accounts of both excursions. Thanks Shine Murphy and Gugu Zuma for facilitating the trips.

Dargle Trashion Show

July fever gripped Dargle last weekend. Eager boys lined up their wire cars for the inaugural running of the Dargle Drag Race, while local lovelies showed off their individually designed creations.

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Members of the Nxamalala Enviro Club, facilitated by Gugu Zuma and supported by Dargle Conservancy, have been finding new and creative ways to use waste.  Crisp packets litter the landscape of many Midlands villages, tetrapak is often burnt and plastic bottles bob in wetlands.  With no municipal collection out this way, the youngsters who are passionate about protecting their environment, came up with fun ways of using the resources that others throw away.

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Nhlanhla Zulu and Nkanyiso Zondi arrived early, their colourful car freshly polished and rearing to go.

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Wandiswa Ndlela of Corrie Lynn School posed in the Autumn light for the paparazzi before the crowds descended.

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Press, Celebrities and Trashionistas from across the Midlands arrived for the event of the season – from as far afield as Hillcrest and Mooi River.

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Stylish Percy Duma from Dargle School tested out the suspension on his shiny gold car along the Petrusstroom Road. Later in the day, he won the prize for Best Car (a wind up torch).

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Luyanda Madlala has always loved making wire cars, with scraps of wire, tops of tins and plastic tubs.  His articulated truck today featured two trailers – ideal for carting horses to the races! He lined up with the rest of the field waiting for their moment in the limelight.

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Nhlanhla Zulu polishes his shoes every morning before school and cleverly used the empty tins as wheels. He was Runner up in the Best Car category.

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Okuhle Zuma clearly really loved his car and received a special commendation for his creativity.

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Dargle locals were really impressed and thoroughly enjoyed their July morning in the sunshine (sans gin and tonic, unfortunately). “I am completely amazed at what these kids have created. Very impressive.”  said Brenda Grant.  “This was the most fun!” added Gilly Nelson, “I was determined not to miss this event.”

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Little Sphumelele Mpungase stole the show with her cool catwalk manner and bright blue wig.  Eidin Griffin, Master of Ceremonies couldn’t resist twirling with her!

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The details on Brandon Shateke’s outfit were gorgeous – sweet wrappers rolled into stars and spotted coffee cups as coat tails.  All foraged from the recycling bins at school apparently.  Brandon said afterwards “I feel really motivated by this event. The concepts of reduce, reuse, recycle make more sense now. It is our responsibility, not someone else’s, to clean up the planet.”

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Lyuanda Madlala from Nottingham Road won the prize for the best accessories – with a marvellous mask, waistcoat, fabulous hat and a splendid handbag.

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Lindokhuhle Skhosana was resplendent in white, cleverly accented with colour. Her outfit created from feed bags, plastic waste, bottle tops and danger tape.

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Lindokuhle was part of a creative team of eight from Shea O’Connor School in Nottingham Road who have been working late nights and over weekends to complete the stunning outfits.  Smartly dressed, Kwandokuhle Ndlovu, designer extraordinaire, was terribly excited to showcase his creations.

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Master of Ceremonies, Eidin Griffin chatted to him about his work. “Sometimes, I can’t sleep – my head is so full of ideas. My mom is so pleased to see that the effort I have put in is being appreciated and has earned me the Best Designer Award today.”

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Antonia Mkhabela, Life Science teacher at Shea O’Connor School, was full of praise for their efforts.  “I am so pleased to see them using their science and technology knowledge effectively and critically, also showing responsibility towards the environment and the health of others. These are exactly the sort of learners that the CAPS aims to produce – young people who can apply knowledge and skills in ways that are meaningful in their lives.”

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Gorgeous Wandisa Ndlela from Nxamalala was the overall winner in the Best Outfit category.  Her grandmother, Deli Zuma who had helped her stitch the costume, was thrilled.

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Then it was time for the Drag Race – the red flag dropped and off they dashed.

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The winner was the late entry blue car that had come up from far along the Petrusstroom road.  Young Nqobani Mpangase happily took home a wind up torch.

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For the celebratory feast afterwards, the Bate clan (Lucinda, Iona, Eunice and Emily) sliced fresh, bright oranges and popped plenty of popcorn, served in beautifully made newspaper cups.

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Principal of Corrie Lynn School, Thenjiwe Ngcobo, where the Trashion Show was staged had a lot of fun. “Next year it will be even more interesting” she promised. Plans are already being made for a gala event to coincide with the Dargle Local Market on 3 July 2016. Start planning your trashy outfit  right away!

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“What a splendid July celebration!”  said celebrity judge Brandon Powell before dashing off to watch a little Wimbledon and the actual Durban July on TV.

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Our Coffee Guy – Michael Goddard

Not many people would consider the space between the railway line and dusty trading store car park the ideal spot to set up a café. Michael Goddard, thought it a great find and actually, it is.

Michael is passionate about ‘garage coffee’ – “Everyone needs fuel, and coffee (human fuel) is available at most garages. Not always good coffee, often relatively terrible”, he smiles. Michael is part of the movement to reinvent ‘garage coffee’ land is setting a whole new standard, off the beaten track beside Thokan’s Store. Michael believes that Seattle Coffee is leading the charge in offering the highest standard in garage coffee at the moment.

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Steam Punk Café takes coffee seriously. “Importing good African coffee is one thing, making it properly is quite another.” To ensure that the taste is a good as it can be, he carts fresh, natural water to the Café each day from the farm where he lives in Dargle. Apparently, the salts and minerals bring out the savoury flavours. Water is heated to just the right temperature (73 degrees for cappuccino) which sweetens the lactose and means sugar is an unnecessary addition. Clearly very creative, Michael sees each cup as the chance to create something new – capturing the moment – then it is gone.

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Already, local coffee aficionados, including teachers, designers, chefs, cyclists, sculptors, farmers and hipsters are flocking for their daily fix. Michael Ndlovu who works up the road stops by each day. “This is the place to start the morning, with the best espresso ever to give you that voom!” he grins. Self-proclaimed coffee addict Sebastian Laccarino, agrees “You won’t get coffee this good at a petrol station for miles.” Neville Trickett pops in so often for four shots of espresso to get his day started, that there is a particular blend named after him. “I like people that think left of centre. Michael is living proof that if you do something from the heart and you do it well, people will come,” he says. Michael is thoroughly enjoying the interactions with his customers – describing them as real, gritty and authentic – convinced that coffee always attracts positivity.

r steam punk michaelSnacks to accompany your favourite brew are simple and stylish, with local ingredients showcased. Wood fired Love Bread from Lidgetton makes great toast, especially when topped with real cheese found on a foray to the Karkloof Farmers Market. On the weekends there are utterly irresistible Portuguese custard tarts too.  r nibbles steam punk 106

Michael is determined to keep things as green and local as possible. He dreams about using the coffee grounds to grow mushrooms, of opening up the back of the Café to take in the view of the tracks, of roasting his own coffee and sharing these skills with others and perhaps, creating a tiny deli filled with delectable local goodies…  Certainly this is a space to watch.

There seems to be an abundance of creative young foodies emerging from Dargle.  Head over to Lion’s River for a steamy interlude to add a little spice to your day, today.

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