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!

r entereing forest

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.

r Forest outing Dargle 27 May

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!

r hugging tree

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.

r quiet in forest

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

r Forest outing Dargle 27 May

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.

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.

r steam punk 121

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.

r steam punk 096

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.

r chairs steam punk 105

Quietly. Kindly. Respectfully.

“I was swinging on the vines, the flowers were lovely and the air was nice. I miss Papa Ben, I wish to go back.” Olwethu Nzimande

In the past couple of months, we have hosted a number of different groups in the Kilgobbin forest, over and above the monthly walks which Barend Booysen guides. Without exception, everyone has left refreshed, delighted and inspired.  We may get a little used to the wonders of wandering in our forests, but guests are always amazed.

thembilihle kid

The Thembelihle Junior Eco Club had a life changing experience.  Entering the forest the children were astonished at the variety of trees and plants. They rustled about searching for the distinctive black stinkwood trees leaves, ran their hands along the moss covered rocks and recognised yellowwoods (they had planted one at school before heading to the forest).

r yellowwood tree

Sitting quietly in the forest they breathed in the scents, listened for bird calls and drank the delicious water before having a storytelling session about ‘The Lorax’ by Dr. Seuss. On the way back through the forest some lucky learners spotted a green boomslang who soon slipped away into the trees. Rafiki (Barend’s Samango monkey friend) was lolling in the trees and the children were utterly transfixed by the monkey’s beautiful coat. One little boy  whispered ‘This is the best outing EVER’

10516774_690865444331471_6356562775543386229_n

Dargle Primary School Grade 6 and 7 classes were very excited about their trip to the Dargle Nature Reserve, but first decided on a few rules.

  • To be quiet in the forest
  • To be kind and helpful to each other
  • To respect the forest and its inhabitants.

Barend greeted the group warmly and explained how he and Helen look after the forest and why we need to leave only footprints. Eidin Griffin and Gugu Zuma of MMAEP report on the day:

barend and dargle kids

As we walked along the sun dappled paths, Barend pointed out interesting trees including wonderful yellowwoods in different stages of life from 20 years to 1000 years old and showed us how to differentiate between the various leaves. Everyone was thrilled to spot some Samango monkeys browsing on new leaves in the trees. We sat for some quiet time, breathing in and breathing out all our cares. Mlungisi was amazed at the old trees saying “Wow, you will never find a person that is 200 years old.”

r Mlungisi in forest

Barend had the children really intrigued when he took out his cellphone, played bird sounds and then the birds came to visit! The children recognised different bird sounds and were lucky enough to see two African Harrier Hawks skimming above the canopy.  They got to swing on a liana and investigate mosses and lichen.

r swinginging on liana forest

Eidin said “We had an utterly magic day.” Gugu added enthusiastically “We had so much fun and learnt so much. What a wonderful place. I would like to bring the kids from my Zenzane and Nxamalala Enviro Clubs here too.” The children LOVED their adventure in the forest with ‘Papa Ben’ and have started writing stories and drawing pictures about their experience. Thanks to Dargle Conservancy for giving these children such an incredible experience. Big hugs to Barend for his generosity of time and spirit – the children were especially impressed when he challenged them to catch him and raced off across the hayfields! It would not have been possible to get all the children back and forth without the help of Carl Bronner and Dennis Sokhela.

r kids top of kilgobbin hill

Eugene Moll lead a two day Forest Ecology  and Tree ID Course in October. Eugene, who lives in Cape Town now, loved spending time in the forests he remembers so fondly from his student days and relaxing on the veranda of Crowned Eagle Cottage listening to tree dassies call at night.

Participants were enchanted by his enthusiasm and knowledge and couldn’t believe their luck at having such an expert on hand for a few days.   One thing we all learned was to QUESTION things. To think about what makes a peach a peach, for instance. If we understand the basic characteristics of familiar plants we find in our gardens, we will have a much easier time trying to identify new trees. Everyone was keen to try our they plant id skills using the Keys in various Guide books. Just to confuse everyone Eugene included two samples of Kiggelaria Africana (Wild Peach) – one branch from a mature tree and a twig from a little sapling. They were COMPLETELY different and had everyone puzzled for ages.

r Brian Barend David

Most of the course we spent outdoors under the forest canopy. Each tree has a little space around it if viewed from the air, we learnt. The tree tops brush against one another and keep each tree separate. Eugene prefers to call Podocarpus (Yellowwoods), Afrocarpus, which he feels is a more accurate description. We hugged some really big ones and had heated discussions about ‘the twisted petiole’ of P. henkelii! He also feels pretty certain that none of the trees in the forest are over 500 years old.

r hugging tree

We learnt how specimens of Clausena anisata (perdepis) probably got mixed up with specimens of Hippobromus by the early collectors. The scientific name Hippobromus means ‘smell of horse’, but when the dried specimens were finally described, the smell had gone from the leaves, so there was no way of telling which was which! We felt the stickiness of Protamophila prehensilis and the velvety leaves of Quisqualis parviflora admired Briophytes and Epiphytes, tasted Asparagus stalks and smelt Lemonwood leaves. Naturally, we got down on our knees to find interesting things in the stream, including nematodes and damselfly larvae.

r barend and penz

Kathy Milford won’t forget the course in a hurry. “The most memorable thing for me was the crazy expert peering through his treasured old magnifying glass with a chipped frame, at a little leaf and his saying ‘this must be a Diosypyros whyteana, look at those orange hairs on the edge of the leaf’. That was a special moment, and when I looked through the magnifying glass there were the most beautiful little orange hairs that became larger than life. I felt like Alice in Wonderland! He showed us the most amazing little details on the leaves and trees which would normally have escaped my attention! Wonderful”

r moss

We learnt so many fascinating facts like: Insects are the biggest herbivores and that woody plants (C3) utilise higher levels of carbon dioxide. Eugene demonstrated how to make rope from the bark of Dais cotonifolia (Grewia occidentalis also used for the is purpose), and we learned the vines of Dalbergia obovata  are used to make fishing baskets.  Sarah Ellis “I found Eugene fascinating, with such a huge passion and depth of knowledge. How fortunate we are to have spent time with a man of this calibre. I also enjoyed meeting and chatting to some of the other like-minded people on the course.”

r looking up

Oriah and Kei Ellis used the opportunity for some outdoor learning.  “The tree ecology course was a great experience – learning about the different shapes of leaves, learning through the interactions with others, and how to simply identify trees.  I also enjoyed taking a walk through Barend’s forest, eating cookies and making new friends! ” said Oriah afterwards.

r kei oriah sam

Jenny Fly commented “I enjoyed every minute of it. Eugene is such a nice man, so knowledgable with his trees and so happy to help us mere mortals along the way. I certainly learnt a lot and need to get into the forest far more often to get really familiar with all of them.”

Julie and Richard Braby, who live in Underberg, enjoyed their time with other people as passionate about plants as they are. “We felt we were in another world for those two days and were sad to get home. The venue was fantastic. The talk and very good food at Tanglewood in the evening in the company of Dargle Conservancy members, was wonderful.”  Barend Booysen, who is custodian of the section of forest we spent time in, had a marvellous time. “I really thought I knew this forest backwards. I have been humbled by all the things I have never noticed before and my head is spinning with all the new information. I learnt so much. What a delightful man.”

r lets look that up

N3Toll Concession, who fund many projects in the Midlands, including in a number of Conservancies, have visited twice this Spring too.  First, we showed off some the Midlands treasures to a film crew and members of the media who visited our special part of the planet.  In the Cairn of Old Kilgobbin they enjoyed a country style lunch prepared by Nicky Farqhuarson of Tanglewood, and then a walk in the Kilgobbin forest.   There is nothing quite like drinking water straight from the stream, listening to Knysna Turacos call and watching Samango monkeys swish through the tree tops, when you usually spend your days dodging traffic in the city.

Anita Heyl commented: “Oh, my goodness what a special piece of paradise. If I was Winnie-the-Pooh this would most definitely have been my part of the forest.”

forest walk Penz

TV journalist Blain Herman captured the midlands magic in the short video that aired on SABC recently. Watch our 15 seconds of fame here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3yIKpWoRxs

forest walk Barend

Then, on a magical, misty day, shareholders of the N3TC Board arrived in anticipation of a picnic in the forest!  Con Roux Commercial Manager of N3TC said “The mist made it all the more special. We were fortunate that it wasn’t pouring with rain.”

N3TC Board forest walk 024

After an interesting stroll along the old logging path, we all returned to the Booysen’s verandah and fireside for lunch. We didn’t think that the urbanites would really enjoy sitting on a damp log with trees dripping all about them! Lunch was all handmade local Dargle produce and went own well.  Chantal Wood of Future Growth commented “I had such wonderful time and have been raving about your lunch. What a great bunch of people.” Bothwell Hlaba of PIC also had a good time “Many thanks for hosting us and showing us the great work that you are doing conserving our forests and the ecosystems. I really enjoyed the forest walk and the picnic.”

N3TC Board forest walk 100

Thanks to the N3TC for supporting these important environmental projects and the ecosystems on which humans rely, we hope you’ll be back to wander in the forest again soon.

In the great African tradition of auspicious rain for special occasions, the Midlands Summer Celebration in early November was suitably wet.  The Cairn of Old Kilgobbin Farm is right in the mist-belt, beside the forest, a wonderful venue whatever the weather. The drizzle did little to dampen the spirits of those who headed off on a forest walk. The rain hardly penetrates the canopy, so there was no rush to get back.

r IMG_3849

A gentle afternoon spent smelling Clausena anisata leaves, collecting yellowwood seeds, hugging the really big trees and puzzling over some species.  Dineo Dibakwane of SANBI commented: “I enjoyed the walk, Barend is the best! It was nice meeting other people who share the same objectives regarding conserving our planet.” Tshepiso Mafole, also from SANBI added  “It was great to be part of the inspiring and refreshing world of conservationists.” Tutu Zuma of Mpophomeni Conservation Group thought that the best part of the afternoon was the walk in the forest.

r dineo tutu tshisepo

Then they emerged through the mist, and were welcomed warmly.  The red wine went down particularly well, but there was also plenty of Notties beer and homemade lemon and mint cordial too.

r mcf celebration 2014 jiba

Many Midlands Conservancies were represented at the gathering and lots of local environmental organisations too.  Janet Snow of Environmental Learning and Teaching observed: “It was inspirational to see the projects conducted with such enthusiasm. It is a true indication of the community of practice in the area – something to be proud of.”  Caroline Leslie, Honorary Officer for Ezemvelo “Thank you so much for the lovely time shared by fellow enthusiasts.  The wine was splendid, the food was outstanding, the venue was breath taking but most of all was special times spent with special people.”

r mcf celebration 2014 eidin crystelle greg pam

Everyone tucked into yummy food that Jennifer Pretorius of The Farmer’s Daughter had made – split pea and asparagus salad, roasted sweet potatoes and butternut in balsamic reduction; and tomatoes, pesto and cream cheese.  There were hand made relishes, a selection of just baked breads, fresh organic greens, local cheeses and fruit too. Kevan, Karen and Hannah Zunckel thoroughly enjoyed themselves “What a wonderful afternoon with a lot of special people.”  

r food and crowd

Then Judy Bell, Chair of MCF thanked everyone for coming and especially, for all the work that volunteers do to protect the Midlands ‘water factories’ – the ecosystems on which we all rely.  Judy acknowledged Barend Booysen’s incredible contribution to inspiring, motivating and challenging so many people with his walks and insightful discussions along the way and presented him with a Mad About Chameleons certificate to thank him.

r mcf celebration 2014 judy eidin

Eidin Griffin of the MMAEP also thanked Barend for his kindness and generosity in leading school groups recently and introducing them to the Kilgobbin Forest magic, saying “The children  wrote about their experiences and all of them had an amazing and inspiring time.”  She read a few of the children’s delightful comments from the Eco-Schools portfolio they have compiled.

r mcf celebration 2014 barendJPG

Judy concluded “It was a wonderful opportunity to talk to people, to hear their tribulations and successes and, especially nice to be able to welcome the newly formed Rosetta Nottingham Road Conservancy. Everyone works so hard, so it is good to have an opportunity to just relax and celebrate our efforts. Thanks to Dargle Conservancy for sponsoring the food to go with our drinks and everyone for participating with such enthusiasm.”  Long may the Summer Rains last.

Dargle Conservancy thanks Barend Booysen for passionately sharing his time and knowledge to inspire others to care about our forests, and Carl Bronner for generously offering her gorgeous venue for all our functions.

World Food Day – Bishop Siwa Speaks

Today is World Food Day. In Dargle we are quite removed from the billion starving people and billion obese people on our planet, the food wars and land grabs that are accelerating due to Climate Change and greed.   Most of us are fortunate enough to pick peas for our lunch, unearth potatoes for supper and find fresh eggs for our breakfast, every day. Even if we don’t grow our own food, there is an abundance of great local produce all around us and often for sale at the Dargle Local Market.   While we mostly believe in good, clean, fair food, occasional reminders of the impact our eating habits have on the world are useful.

Compassion in World Farming published this article today, which you may enjoy. The pictures are all happy Dargle animals!

Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa appeals for a change of heart and mind – “a transformation of society at the level of culture itself”.

“I am writing this appeal as one of the followers of Jesus Christ who said in John 10:10 “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” I write as the faith leader on the eve of the World Food Day (16 October) and out of deep concern for the ecological crisis that threatens to bring us and the whole of creation to the brink of mass suffering and destruction. My appeal is that we pay special attention to this and request all people of faith to pause, reflect and act as stewards of all that God has created.

r spring oct 2014 tulbaghia

This crisis is human-induced, caused among other things by industrialised agriculture which depends on monocultures, pesticides and factory farming of animals, as well as our prevailing culture of consumerism. The challenge to overcome this crisis lies in the human heart. Combating Climate Change requires nothing less than a radical change of direction, a change of heart and mind, a transformation of our society at the level of culture itself.

We need to realise that we have been captured by the lure of consumerism to believe our happiness and success depends on what we eat, wear, own and use.

We are trapped in the logic of consumerism which emphasises what we lack downplaying what we already have. We are reminded daily of our unfulfilled needs, thus placing consumerism at the heart of culture. The over consumption of animal-derived products – meat, eggs, milk and so on – is part of this culture of consumerism and places an enormous burden on human health, as well as on the lives of animals which are crammed into factory farms in order to supply our demands, especially for cheap meat. Farmed animals eat grass and bushes by nature – food that we, as humans, cannot eat – and 67% of land in South Africa is available and suitable for grazing and browsing.

r spring dargle nguni cattle

Yet we take the animals off the land and cram them in large numbers into huge sheds, feeding them vast amounts of fish and grains in order to make more meat, more eggs, and more milk, cheaply.  The meat, eggs and milk from these animals is directed towards the Consumer Culture which then, in turn, struggles with obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, while  the oceans become depleted of fish and rural farmers lose their livelihoods because they are unable to compete with cheap supermarket products. As for the animals, they live and die without ever seeing a blade of grass or a ray of sunshine.

r chicken saying hello

The church has a moral and theological responsibility to set aside this stupidity and embrace its role of stewardship of our beautiful earth and all its creation. We need our congregations to become eco-congregations transforming culture to promote a healthy diet for all, sustainable livelihoods for rural farmers, as well as the well-being of the land and all its creatures. Only in this way can we ensure sustainability and establish justice for all.” Bishop Siwa is the presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and President of the South African Council of Churches.

Pictured below: Compassion in World Farming’s CEO Philip Lymbery met Bishop Siwa in his office in Johannesburg earlier this month. Here he gives the bishop a complimentary copy of his book ‘Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat’.

patrick and bishop

 

Our Farmer’s Daughter – Jen Pretorius

There is absolutely no doubt that Jennifer Pretorius has had a big impact in our community. Everyone loves her food and now we can get it everyday of the week (except Mondays) at her funky new restaurant along the road in Tweedie.  Jen doesn’t do ordinary – one doesn’t usually expect red velvet cupcakes to come decorated with a spotted gumboot – but this farmer’s daughter if full of surprises.

r farmers daughter cupcakes

She grew up in Dargle, wearing gumboots to splash in the streams and hang with the Herefords. “I’m Dargle bedonnered.” she says with a grin!

r farmers daughter memories

Since she was tiny, she was quite determined to be a chef. One of her first experiments (aged 4) in using local products was inspired by the original Dr Dolittle movie. “I collected lots of garden snails, mashed them with a little soil and leaves, picked my mom’s prettiest Tupperware and baked them in her new oven.” Oops, the resulting melted mess completely destroyed the oven and needless to say, no one offered to try her creation.  Nowadays, her pear tart has a lot more takers.

r farmers daughter pear tart

By the time she was six, she was starting to complain about her mother’s cooking. “That noodle pie was an abomination,” she recalls, so she whipped up a Neopolitana sauce with the abundant tomato harvest from the veggie patch and they served it with everything for days. Her spot as a champion of local produce was sealed.

r farmers daughter rules

“I remember being so disappointed that the mielies I picked in the fields absolutely refused to be turned into caramel popcorn.” Jen has since learnt (at chef school and various jobs in the catering world) that you can’t pop any old corn but is still adamant about celebrating our astonishing Midlands produce. She uses only her dad’s chicken, eggs and beef; cheese, yoghurt and milk from her neighbours; giant garlic grown just up the road, and many of the salad ingredients and other greens are picked outside her kitchen door.

r farmers daughter lettuce

Jen wants to feed everyone, so her restaurant in Tweedie – aptly called The Farmer’s Daughter – gives her an opportunity to do just that. Here she has created a truly happy place with gumboots on the garden steps, staff that grin incessantly,

r farmers daughter gumboots

where local ingredients are treated with respect and birds feast on the crumbs.

r farmers daughter wire table

There are couches for bored housewives to dream in,  cappuccinos to savour, and sweetie jars for the kids.

r farmers daughter sweets

While the veggie beds are flourishing already, Jen dreams of using only produce from a big garden filled with absolutely everything she needs – from figs and fennel to goats and granadillas. Like at the inspirational Babylonstoren.

Jennifer Pretorius - farmers daughter

After a long day of making many people smile, nothing beats sourdough toast topped with garlicky mushrooms and fresh rocket on the couch with her best friend/husband, Ryno, and precious pup Petal Piggy Jackson Pretorius. Not a bad supper for a boer and his dog to get out of the bakkie for.

Find The Farmer’s Daughter at Patchwood Elephant on the R103 between the Mandela Monument and the Everything Store.

 r farmers daughter team

Fierce Cucurbits in Macho Contest

Autumn is pumpkin time in the Midlands and every year the Dargle Local Market celebrates in style.
r autumn leaves pumpkin

Last Sunday’s Pumpkin Market was the usual riot of colour, high spirits and community which epitomises the monthly market.

pumpkin market may shoppers

Squashes come in so many colours, shapes and sizes, and taste quite different from one another too.  There were some magnificent specimens entered into the Annual Pumpkin Growing Competition.

pumpkin market pumpkin selection

Philippa Gordon editor of our favourite paper the Meander Chronicle was the Important Judge, ably assisted by Emma – who created a ‘cat pumpkin’ specially for the occasion.

pumpkin market emma gilly phil

Eidin Griffin won the prize for the biggest one, grown from heirloom Connecticut Field Pumpkin seed. Her favourite way of serving pumpkin is in a Thai style curry which is ideal to chase winter blues away! Chop up two big onions, fry them until translucent. Add a couple of fresh chili-peppers, one medium sized pumpkin (chopped up), five large potatoes, a handful of chopped carrots, salt and black pepper and fry for 5-10 minutes. Add enough water or stock to cover the veggies, bring to the boil, simmer for 20 minutes, add a can of coconut milk and pop in your hot-box for an hour. Garnish with fresh coriander.

pumpkin market eidin and emma

There were plenty of delicious pumpkin treats to eat at the market too. There was pasta with roast butternut, flash fried sage leaves and toasted sunflower seeds and delicious slow cooked pumpkin soup.  Lucinda’s freshly made carrot juice was a perfect pumpkin colour and jolly popular.

pumpkin market nikki

Fabulous freshly brewed coffee was served by a pumpkin coloured lady (who does delicious teas too).

pumpkin market malvina

Rose’s Pecan, Pumpkin and Ginger muffins went down a treat. Make some before pumpkin season is over:

1 1/2 cups flour, Pinch of salt, 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 cup pumpkin purée, 1/3 cup melted butter, 2 beaten eggs, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 cup chopped pecans, 1-2 Tbsp chopped preserved ginger.

Preheat oven to 180°C. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Mix the pumpkin, melted butter, eggs, water and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients. Do not over-mix. Fold in the preserved ginger and nuts. Spoon mixture into a prepared muffin tins and bake for 25-30 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

pumpkin market  pumpkin

At this friendly community affair, everyone shares recipes to deal with the abundance – Dennis Sokhela declared the best way to eat pumpkin is as isijingi – mashed with soft mielie meal (or polenta), Robin Fowler loves to roast slices of pumpkin in avocado oil and honey.

eidin griffin, robin fowler, dennis sokhela pumpkin market may 2014

As winter sets in, try Nikki’s favourite: Roast crescents of pumpkin in the oven until browned – sprinkle olive oil, salt, pepper, brown sugar and cinnamon first. Fry small peeled onions until golden, add whole peeled garlic cloves and pitted prunes and just enough water to cover. Simmer until water is absorbed, adding a little more as needed. The onions become soft and caramelised all the way through and the prunes start to disintegrate into the sauce – should take about 20 minutes. At the end add a handful of blanched almonds. Pour the sauce over the pumpkin pieces with lots of fresh parsley.

Seeds from many of the prizewinning pumpkins will be available at the Dargle Local Market come Spring, so you can grow your own Macho Squash!  Thank you il Postino, Midlands House of Healing, Sterlings Wrought Iron, Corrie Lynn & Co  and Meander Fine Wines for donating prizes.

pumpkin market Winners

Holiday Fun at Nxamalala

Dargle Conservancy organised a Holiday Club at Nxamalala village on the Petrusstroom Road.  Gugu Zuma ran it with enthusiasm and imagination!dargle holiday club nxamalala 011

The kids were so happy to be involved as it was the first time they had ever had a holiday club. Thobani Gumede said “It is the first holiday that I do something meaningful. Usually we just play soccer.”

Nxalalala kids gather for holiday fun

On Wednesday the focus was on Farming – comparing industrial and family farming and discussing the importance of healthy food. Everyone was surprised to learn that healthy food is that which you grow in your garden, rather than that you buy at the shop.

dargle holiday club nxamalala 015

Most commercial vegetables have been sprayed with chemicals that are not good for your body. Now everyone is keen to make an organic garden to keep their families healthy and pass this message onto their friends.

dargle holiday club nxamalala 014

On the second day we discussed the water cycle and water pollution before heading down the road to do a miniSASS test in the uMngeni River.

Nxamalala kids head to the wetland

We found some insects and worked out that the river was in Poor Condition which is not good for drinking. Mhloniswa Ncele was surprised “I always thought that moving water was clean.”

100_3055

We also explored the wetland. The kids knew a lot about wetlands from school lessons and have made a commitment to look after the wetland in Nxamalala. Sabelo Zuma found a frog “I always thought that frogs were dangerous, but now I am not afraid to touch and hold them.” Using candles and watercolours, everyone drew pictures of things they observed in the wetland.

100_3073

On Friday, we made mandalas using leaves and flowers that we picked around the houses.

100_3119

This was part of an Anger Management lesson. The basic principles being: expect the best, think before reacting, ask for a non-violent path, care for others and respect yourself. All these are transforming powers and I taught the children how to apply these in their own lives. We used these words when we created the mandala. The boys were so amazed to know that there was a way to solve a problem non-violently through good communication.

100_3090

This was our last lesson and everyone enjoyed it. Peni Hanbury, Jenny Fly and Nikki Brighton supplied sandwiches, juice and fruit each day. “They asked if we could please have a regular Enviro Club in Nxamalala.” concludes Gugu.

dargle holiday club nxamalala 001

Splashes & Stoneflies in the Dargle River

We think our river is pretty special and hope to encourage everyone alongside it to take care of it.  Earlier this month, members of the Conservancy and friends gathered for a Water Workshop. It was a glorious, sunny summer day. Penny Rees was delighted to be back one of her favourite places – the Dargle River on Howard Long’s farm Craigdarroch.

Water Workshop 017

This spot was chosen because it is one of the few parts of the Dargle River that is in good condition.

res Dargle River Workshop 093

After tea and scones made by Cheryl and Jennifer, I showed everyone a slide show on the Dargle river walk which took place in January this year. There was lots of discussion about how to clear invasive plants in the riparian zone and ideas and experiences were shared.

Dargle River Workshop 001

We then headed out to the river, passing large bulls getting ready to be shown at the Royal Show and hearing about the history of the farm.

Dargle River Workshop 017

We loved the old stone storage shed that had been built by the original Scottish settlers (the Sinclairs), apparently to double up as a fort if the need should arise.

stone fort 1

Above a cascade, Howard pointed out a large sheet of flat rock that was the ford (in the old days) – the only access to the farm! This must have been either terrifying or non-negotiable during heavy river flows!

Dargle River Workshop 025

Howard told us how they drank the water from this Dargle stream until about 10 years ago. He has been clearing wattles and other invasive plants along the tributary gullies which feed into the stream for many years.

res Dargle River Workshop 019

“Once you take out the wattles, the indigenous vegetation comes back. It is a 100 times better than it was, but obviously, each year you have to keep going back and clearing.”

Water Workshop 009

“This river is only 18kms long,” he added “Surely, if we work together we can restore it to it’s natural state?”  Wyndham Robartes shared his experience of successfully clearing the river banks on his property using goats rather than herbicide.

Dargle River Workshop 029

We crested a hill and there lay the Dargle River, clear bright water bubbling over rocks passing beautiful river banks with long waving veld grass that alternated with patches of forest.

res Dargle River Workshop 034

Penny explained how to do a miniSASS and armed with plastic containers, we were rearing to go.

Dargle River Workshop 067

Getting our feet wet was great fun as we hunted for the invertebrates in the river – we found stout crawlers, prongills, damselflies and plenty more.

Dargle River Workshop 068

Once again (as during the River Walk in January) we hit the jackpot – and found a Stonefly.

Water Workshop 015

The mini sass score was 7.1 indicating that the river was in good condition.

Dargle River Workshop 073

A lively discussion followed on the roles that the different invertebrates have in the river ecology – from the slow moving planaria that favour shaded quiet waters to the frenetic riffle beetles that rush around on the surface of the fast flowing water.

Water Workshop 019

Rose Downard found the morning really interesting. “Quite amazing what a difference it can make to the score to find a Stone Fly, yet every insect has a part to play, including the humble snail. I think it would be wonderful if the whole of the Dargle River could be cleared of alien vegetation and restored to a healthy river again. It is an important part of the Dargle and should be treated as such.”

Dargle River Workshop 069

Everyone had fun splashing in the river and learning about all the interesting creatures which inhabit it. The dogs had a ball! Thanks to Midlands Conservancies For

res Dargle River Workshop 028