Random Harvest Newsletter Archive

Random Harvest Newsletter - January 2024

Posted On: Monday, January 1, 2024

Dear Indigenous Enthusiast,

2023 seems to have vanished in the blink of an eye.  

When I think back, we actually achieved a lot.  Not least of all was our solar system.

IN THE NURSERY

We are starting the new year with the addition of another row of solar panels which should make us even more independent of Eskom – what a pleasure.

A big mistake we made was to fill our sewage treatment filter before checking the liner which was second hand.  After filling with filter material, we found it was leaking.  My poor staff had to remove all the material so we could fix the leak.  This was a good lesson not to assume too much and rather check.  It would have saved a lot of really hard work.  

We had a good year and to keep up with the planting we have had to make mountains of potting soil and mixing compost.  I feel as if the TLB is finding a permanent home at Random Harvest.

My staff have been working so hard at replacing plants, even during the heatwave.  I am so grateful to them for their dedication.  This is the reason I love them so much – they are totally committed to Random Harvest.

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT WE ARE CLOSED ON MONDAY THE 1ST JANUARY 2024

FOOD PARCELS

When I think of the number of people we have helped and fed in 2023 I am astounded and really grateful for your generous help.  I think you have no idea of what a difference your contributions have made to the lives of the people who live on the edge with no safety net.  We have helped people who are hungry, disabled people with mobility aids and people who needed the basics such as blankets when their shacks burnt down.  You are the only reason we are able to assist so many.

I would be humbled and grateful if you could continue to support our initiative, and thereby allow us to feed and assist even more of these people in 2024.  The need out there seems to grow each year.

This month we distributed 150 parcels, and I couldn’t resist paying personally for gifts for the children.   Last year I was told by a child that it was the first time anyone had given him a gift.  This really touched my heart.

EVENTS

A once in a lifetime opportunity - We are so excited to host Prof. Wolfram Kircher from Anhalt University, Bernburg, Germany, who will be giving a talk on mixed perennial plantings.   

We will learn how to create beautiful, gardens which have low maintenance requirements.  Perennial plantings also create diverse habitat to encourage a high diversity of wildlife to the garden.  Even better he will explain how to do this without a drawn-up planting plan.

This is so in keeping with Random Harvests message of creating habitat in cities.

There is an enormous push worldwide for this type of planting.

Date 27th January 2024  Time:  9h00 for 9h30

Cost: R50.00 per person including coffee and biscuits on arrival.  If you could bring along some tinned goods for our Food Parcels it would be greatly appreciated.

Booking is essential: Please contact Ronald on [email protected] or call 066-587-3077

Early booking is advisable as space is limited.

KIDS ACTIVITY

Remember to bring the children along to do the Lizard walk.  As usual we have an activity to encourage the children to observe nature and learn environmental awareness.

The children will walk a short trail and collect stickers at various stations where they learn about these fascinating creatures and how to protect them.

When they are done, they will come back to reception to collect their Christmas Gift.   The children who have already visited have been thrilled with their gift.

The children love these activities, and we look forward to seeing them and teaching them about the environment.

This activity will be held from 13th December 2023 to 21st January 2024.  No booking required.  There is no cost, but I would really appreciate it If you would make a contribution of non-perishable food towards our food parcel drive.

BIRD WALKS

The last Bird Walk ticked an amazing 61 species.  An exciting bird sighting is the Orange Breasted Bush Shrike which has been calling in the garden.  What a wonderful sound!  Jeffrey followed the sound around and to our delight he saw a pair.  Here’s hoping they decide to breed here. 

Hopefully they will show themselves when the next bird walks take place.

Date: Saturday 20th January with Chris Hines

Time: 6h30 for 7h00

Date: Saturday 10th February also with Chris Hines

Cost: R185.00 per person, this includes a delicious breakfast buffet 

Booking is essential - please contact Ronald on [email protected] Tel. No. 082-553-0598

BIRDING WORKSHOP – SWALLOWS, SWIFTS AND MARTINS

Lance has kindly agreed to hold a workshop on how to identify these enigmatic birds and to share his vast knowledge on their feeding, breeding and habitat requirements.

Date: Saturday 3rd February 2024

The program as follows:

7h00 for 7h30 Welcoming coffee and biscuits
7h30 to 8h45 Walk to identify Birds
8h45 to 9h00 Cold Juice
9h00 to approximately11h00 Workshop and walk again

Savoury finger food buffet.

Cost: R500.00 per person fully inclusive of the course, welcome coffee and rusks, cold drinks and a finger food buffet.

COFFEE MORNINGS

Date: Wednesday 3rd January 2024 at 10h30 
Topic: Gardening questions and answers.
Bring your indigenous gardening questions and we’ll learn from each other’s experiences and challenges.

Date: Wednesday 7th February at 10h30
Topic: Psychoactive plant uses by Jean Franciose Soebecki

The people who attended the talk on this fascinating subject were enthralled.  These plants are traditionally used worldwide with very little known about it in South Africa.  Jean-Francoise set the author off on a journey to answer the question; are African traditional healers using visionary and other psychoactive plants in order to assist their spiritual and medical healing practices? 

Come along and learn how the author found over 300 species of African psychoactive plants and its far-reaching applications in medicine, holistic healing, psychology, and overall wellness. 

Not to be missed!

Coffee Morning Cost: R25.00 per person towards our food parcel drive and includes a cup of coffee.  No booking required (a donation of nonperishable food for our food parcel drive would be greatly appreciated.)

PRACTICAL GARDENER TRAINING BY LINDSAY GRAY

Lindsay restarts her courses in February.  

Date: 16 February 2024. Practical gardener training

This practical course is designed for new gardeners and domestic gardeners or to brush up on the knowledge of gardening.  Bring your gardener along to gain practical knowledge and confidence to benefit your garden.  Attendees receive a certificate of attendance for this course.

For more detailed information contact Lindsay Gray on 082-449-9237 or email [email protected]

WHOLESALE NURSERY

I would like to remind my wholesale customers that we are open every day and that includes the holiday season.  If you need assistance, we are always on hand to help wherever we can.

To keep up with the demand,I took a chance and bought our new truck and am happy to say we are delivering plants far and wide.  Please remember if you are in outlying areas, we can now offer a prompt delivery service for all your indigenous plant needs.

We have a huge variety for you to choose from.  If you need some inspiration on doing interesting plantings contact Jonathan or Jeffrey - they are always happy to help with inspiring planting ideas.  Jonathan’s number is 076 830 5242 and Jeffrey’s number is 082 927 3669.

For more inspiring ideas please see the talk by Prof. Wolfram Kircher mentioned above.

RETAIL NURSERY

The retail and farm are looking magnificent.  Why not spend some of your free time strolling among the beautiful indigenous plants and feel the serenity brought on by the wildlife that uses them.   This should inspire you to create your peaceful garden humming and buzzing with life.

An indigenous garden will also give you the satisfaction of knowing that you have created a safe refuge for the birds and other wildlife that have been displaced by rampant, thoughtless development. Driven by money there is no thought for the natural world that is so vital to our health and survival.

The buzzwords today seem to be “mental health” – an indigenous garden can help centre oneself in a healthy peaceful environment. We at Random Harvest are dedicated to helping you create your own indigenous island of peace in this frantic world.

A visit to the nursery will illustrate this feeling perfectly.

COTTAGES

Tourists exploring the South African countryside will find staying on a farm both enjoyable and economical. Our semi agri tourism Guest Farms offer an idyllic holiday retreat. Enjoy farm-life, warm hospitality, hearty country breakfasts and overnight accommodation with a self-catering option - ranging from prime stand-alone cottages to guest house set-up with 3 units in building. This type of getaway is particularly popular with families and solo travellers.  Imagine waking up just a stone throw away from a place where life first emerged about 3.8-billion years ago. A place where fossils of some of the earliest known life forms on Earth have been found.  Random Harvest farm accommodation is situated within the Cradle map with approximately 20 minutes country route travel time to the cradle and museum.

SHOP 

At long last we have our stock of interesting books on indigenous plants, including the ever popular ‘Gardening with Indigenous Plants’ to inspire you for your own garden.

Another fascinating book if you enjoy spending time in the bushveld is ‘Fungi and Lichens of the Limpopo Valley’.  A book to make your time in the bush even more interesting.

Remember birds love to bathe and drink from shallow water and a fibreglass grindstone is perfect for them.  The look is realistic, but it is light and easy to handle.

PLANTS LOOKING GOOD

Tricholaena monachne  - Blue Seed Grass (E); Blousaadgras (A)
A hardy, sparsely tufted, evergreen to semi-deciduous, small perennial grass.  The blue-grey, slender leaves give the grass a ‘smoky’ look.  The blue grey flower spikes are held erect with plump, purple blue seeds held in an open panicle.  They flower from Nov. to March.  An attractive garden subject that will encourage seed-eating birds to visit the garden.  A beautiful addition to a grassland garden, and because of its sparseness and size it can be interplanted with perennials, bulbs and small shrubs to create a beautiful show.  The seed heads are lovely in flower arrangements.  As with all grasses, it should be cut back once a year and raked to remove the thatch.  Plant in sun or semi-shade in moist soil or in a normally irrigated garden. Size: up to 50cm

Fingerhutia africana - Thimble Grass (E); Vingerhoedgras (A)
Hardy, delicate tufted grass with quite sparse thin leaves.  The flowering stems are held well above the tuft and carry attractive, dense heads of cream-coloured seeds from Sept. to May.  It is pretty planted in amongst flowering plants to add texture and movement or as an element of a grassland garden.  The seeds heads also look pretty in a vase. A useful grass for stabilising soil in eroded areas.  Plant in well-drained or gravelly soil.  As with all grasses, to keep it healthy, it should be cut back once a year and raked to remove the thatch.  Size: Flowering stem up to 90cm

Searsia nebulosa - Coastal Currant (E); Sand Taaibos (A)
Hardy sprawling shrub that grows to about one meter or if pruned as a single stemmed small tree of up to three meters.  It has pretty, glossy, trifoliate leaves.  It bears lax sprays of small yellowish flowers that are visited by pollinating insects.  They are followed by attractive, dense heads of red-brown seeds that are relished by birds.  Male and female flowers on separate plants therefore only the females bear seeds.  Plant in well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade.  It makes an attractive informal hedge or can be pruned into a small formal hedge. Size 1 to 3m S.A. No. 390.1

Nemesia Hybrids - Cape Snapdragon (E); Leeubekkie (A) 
Very hardy, pretty, soft perennial plant with bright green leaves.  Spikes of colourful flowers that resemble little snapdragons, with two lips, a spur and bright yellow protuberances in the throat, are borne above the leaves from spring through to autumn.  These beautiful blooms attract many insects like bees, butterflies and solitary bees.  These creatures play a crucial role in the garden ecosystems.  Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. A lovely addition to a grassland garden.  Interplant with small grasses and other grassland perennials such as Haplocarpha scaposa and Vigna vexillata to create a beautiful show. Size up to 30cm

Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Firesticks’ - Rubber Hedge (E); Kraalnaboom (A)
Hardy, evergreen, tough, drought-resistant, succulent shrub or small tree with rarely seen, tiny leaves that fall very early as this plant uses its green stems to photosynthesise.  In this form the tips of the branches turn yellow, red and orange, giving the impression that the tips of the plant are on fire.  Tiny, yellow flowers appear from Sept. to Dec. at the ends of the new growth.  These flowers attract masses of insects and butterflies.  The seed capsules that follow are prized by everything from ants to birds and even monkeys.  The dense branches make ideal nesting sites for birds.  Traditionally it is utilised as a living hedge to provide a nocturnal kraal for livestock.  The plant is reputedly an effective banisher of moles.  Although it is thornless, the dense, angular structure of the branchlets makes it fairly impenetrable, especially in older specimens.  In some areas it will grow into a tree.  As with most members of this genus, the sap is poisonous. Size: 3 to 5m

Sclerochiton kirkii
Hardy, upright, evergreen shrub with bright green, glossy foliage.  It bears clusters of beautiful large sky-blue flowers in summer and autumn.  The flowers are like little hands facing the sun.  Insects are drawn to the flowers    Plant in semi shade or shade in compost rich soil.  A beautiful shrub for smaller gardens and difficult areas under deciduous trees.  Remember they do require sunlight for at least 2 hours each day.  Prune regularly to encourage it to bush out.  It makes a beautiful container plant.  Size: 1 to 2m-  

PLANTS ON SPECIAL – Less 15%

Carissa edulis – Climbing numnum (E); Ranknoemnoem (A)
This hardy much-branched, evergreen, fast growing shrub or climber has glossy, leathery leaves, which are sometimes hairy and have red growing tips.  The hard, rigid spines are almost always single.  Masses of beautiful, white flowers tinged with pink appear from Sept. to Dec. are followed by edible fruit that turns purplish-black when ripe.  Because it is so sweet and juicy, it makes a good jam or jelly.  The fruits attract birds to the garden. This plant makes a good hedging plant.  It needs to be controlled in a smaller garden but can be allowed to grow wild if you have the space where it will scramble through the trees.  Can be grown in semi-shade but prefers full sun and flowers more profusely in the sun. Size: 1 to 3m

Heteropyxis natalensis - Lavender Tree (E); Laventelboom (A)
Hardy, slender, semi-deciduous, upright, narrow, tree with truly beautiful, pale-creamy bark that, with age, develops beautiful apricot-coloured patches on it.  The leaves are pale-green, shiny and waxy, and, when crushed, smell strongly of lavender.  In autumn, they turn red or purple and, depending on how cold it is, remain on the tree through winter and are dropped a few weeks before the tender, new green leaves appear.  From Sept. to March, it bears small clusters of yellowish, sweetly scented flowers, which attract butterflies and other insects.  The leaves can be used for herbal tea and potpourri and most parts of the tree are used medicinally. Ideal tree for small gardens. It is particularly beautiful planted in groves and also makes a good container plant.  Plant in sun or semi-shade in well-drained soil. Size: 4 to 8m   

Aloe tenuior ‘Yellow’
This hardy, pretty, dainty, rambling Aloe has long spikes of yellow flowers.  It has narrow, softly serrated, sheathing leaves, crowded in a loose rosette at the tip of the branches.  In cultivation, it flowers freely, for most of the year but mainly from May to Aug.  A good ‘bee plant’ that has many traditional uses.   It will form large bush clumps, making it a useful landscape plant.  This Aloe grows well in a normally irrigated garden that has well-drained soil and will grow in full sun or semi-shade.  Size: up to 3m

GARDENING TIP – GARDENING TIME IS FAMILY TIME

In this frantic world we live in there is very little time left for families to spend quality time together.

Gardening is a great activity for family togetherness and best of all it is in your own backyard which makes it easy to spend time without having to take into account travelling time with the children squabbling in the back of the car.

Indigenous Gardens foster even more shared enjoyment and experiences, as the variety of creatures that can be discovered in the garden, and lessons in the balance of nature are abundant wherever you look. 

In this technological age the younger generation is getting further and further away from connection with the miraculous planet they live on.   It will get them out of the house and into the sunshine and teach them to enjoy getting their hands dirty.   Planting, particularly indigenous plants, will bring everyone back to a connection with nature and the natural world.  

Everything starts with the soil.  The first thing is to start making compost, one should never let a bit of organic material leave their property.  

As the compost starts breaking down it will be habitat for all sorts of tiny insects.  One of the favourites with children are the fat white larvae of the dung beetles.  When we persuade children, it is perfectly OK to get their hands dirty they absolutely love scratching for these creatures. The bonus is that the birds will descend on the compost heap to scratch for these insects adding bird watching to the activities you can enjoy with your family.

Start planting seeds.  Vegetable seed in particular is easy to grow and will start shooting within days.  The excitement of seeing these tiny green shoots popping out is immeasurable.  When the seedlings are stronger teaching your children to gently transplant them into pots and care for them is satisfying.  If you have a big enough garden, you can start a vegetable patch or if you only have a balcony you can transplant into bigger pots.  Watch them grow and fruit.  Believe you me if children plant tomatoes they will eat tomatoes.  

Planting indigenous plants which in turn attracts birds, butterflies and other wildlife to the garden will bring learning opportunities on how the natural world works.  Plant a few butterfly host plants (remember butterflies are very choosy about which plant they lay their eggs on).  By planting the correct host plant, you can attract specific butterflies.  You will then add plants with nectar filled flowers for food for the beautiful adult butterflies flitting about in your garden.

It is a great opportunity to research the trees you may plant and discuss the many merits and what is correct thus learning about the importance of planting trees and how they enhance our lives and the lives of the wildlife in the garden.

When deciding what to plant where it engages the creative side of our brain and help us to visualise things which will hold your children in good stead in their lives as will their closeness to the peace of nature is concerned.

ON THE FARM

My goodness! What a difference a little rain makes.  Last month I was lamenting my poor grassland baking in the boiling hot sun and totally dry without a hint of rain.  

Thirty millimetres of rain and my word it is miraculous how quickly, within two days, the grassland changes and goes from sad to glad.

Even the Lapwings took advantage and bred late in the season for them.  We have a whole crop of new babies running around.

I overseeded a paddock where the cows graze with teff and Eragrostis seed hoping to improve the grazing.  I thought we were going to have problems with the birds feasting on the seed.  

To my surprise is wasn’t the birds I had to worry about but the ants.  

There were two colonies of ants of different species situated about 20cm apart and boy, were they busy collecting the seeds.  The grass seedlings were germinating much better around the ants rather than other areas.  Fascinating!

Jeffrey got this picture of the lovely Triple-Striped Peacock moth, Chiasmia subcurvaria (thank you Steve Woodhall for the ID).  Its host plants for the larvae are Acacia xanthophloea, Acacia karoo and Acacia abyssinica.

The Hamerkops nests have been taken over by owls.  How exciting is that?

The top one has Barn Owl nesting.  (sorry about the poor pic it is a bit difficult to get a good one but at least you can see the owl) 

In the nest outside my bedroom window there are a pair of Spotted Eagle Owl nesting.  At night they serenade me with their haunting calls.  How lucky am I?

I have been telling Jeff how fascinating the behaviour of wasps is when they paralyse a worm, and they bury them after they have laid their eggs on it.  This is to provide their offspring with fresh food.  Jeffrey was lucky enough to witness this event firsthand in the nursery. 

One of my favourite flowering trees is Peltophorm africanum (Weeping wattle).  They bear the most beautiful spikes of long lasting, golden flowers.  They virtually hum with the wildlife they attract, which is always fascinating to watch.

The Acacia gerrardii (Red Thorn) have been adorned with hugely abundant white flowers this season.  A beautiful sight and they are bursting with life.

It was a delight to see this baby terrapin in the dam.  We often see the female when she is digging her nest but have never seen the babies leaving.

Jeff managed to get a picture of the Pintailed Whydah displaying.  We have been trying to get a decent picture of this for a long time.

Indigenous gardens play a vital role in the conservation of urban wildlife.  

So, my wish for you is that you have a happy and peaceful new year and may all your plants be indigenous and your garden bursting with life.  

Sincerely

Linda

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