Tuesday, October 21, 2014


The second one in the Walk on the wild side pictorial...
Birds and bees .. and other insects.

I have to explain that I am no bird or insect expert, so I take no responsibility for the correctness of the names of birds and insect species, sometimes I only know the Afrikaans name.

These are just photos taken in and around the organic garden at Makutsi Safari Springs.

Kingfisher on a wire

Some kind of bee "tasting" a Marigold

Another bee type creature playing in the Basil flowers

Citrus flutter-by

Loeries up a tree

It is for real, it is called a Fools gold beetle for obvious reasons. They love the leaves on the Sweet Potato plants and seeing that I do not want the leaves, only the Sweet Potatoes, they are most welcome.

Corn party!

Caught in the act! Shongololo. They mostly eat composting plant material, which makes them welcome in the garden, but every now and then one gets a bit ambitious or besides it needs a change in diet or something, they also seem to nibble on the peas every now and then, but the damage is never overwhelming. 

Birdy blue... comes for water and insects

Not exactly pretty but rather interesting creatures.

Yellow Billed Stalk

Last but not least, the clowns in the circus, the Hornbills. 

Next time a look at the actual veggies.....

Thursday, September 25, 2014


The garden project here at Makutsi has kept me so busy that I did not even get around to writing. The project is now nearing completion. 
I am going to place a few pictorial style articles, they say a picture speaks a thousand words.

The first in the "series" will be all about our wild visitors.

Barbarosa, our "resident" Giraffe, intimidating the staff, or maybe it is the other way around? He wonders in and out of the camp and you can easily recognize him by a long scar on his left hind leg.

The winters are long and dry and by the end of September green leafy things are rather rare, so the Nyala's starts visiting, we feed them old spinach and cabbage leaves and sometimes the greens from carrots we harvested.

Warthogs, such "badly designed" creatures, they have to stand on their knees to eat, the necks are to short and thick, but they make up with charm and snorts and the occasional fight with the Water buck over the mud puddle. 

Warthogs and Water buck

Water buck, such beautiful creatures, but you can smell them a mile away, not a very pleasant smell. In Afrikaans we call them Kringgat, which translates to "circle backside", it is a very descriptive name, I think.

Every more you make... I will be watching you...

Baboons! The problem with baboons is that they are intelligent creatures, not afraid of an electric fence and they work in teams and are experts at "hit and run".

Close encounter, crossing paths. At this point me and Mr. Cheetah was only about 20 meters (if that much)apart.

Another rather tense moment, with only a very flimsy little fence between me and Mr. Elephant, but all went well en he was just passing by...

Our paths crossed just about every morning, all Jackal acts as if they should be on medication, completely hyper active and always on the move and because of this, it is rather difficult to get one descent photo.

Bush buck, we see a lot of them, especially during winter months, they come and eat the green grass around the lodge. When you hear a dog barking out here, it is more than likely not a dog, but a Bush buck, they "bark" like a husky old dog.

Klipspringer, they are tiny little buck, this one is fully grown.

Duiker and Vervet monkeys. That "spike" on the Duiker's head is not a horn, it is hair that grows like that... 

Do not be fooled by that innocent little face, this is a little terror, found him inspecting the inside of my car once...

Members of the local Vervet clan

It just jump right in front of me...

Impala party

Easy does it...

and last but not least  ...

I dare you...

Nest time ... the birds and the bees (Insects)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

PROPHECIES AND PAP - So called food

Is it  just me or does this peace of pap look like a skeleton, maybe something prophetic about that...

Some of the staff sometimes eats their lunch in the garden. One of them threw a piece of left over pap (maize porridge) away about two weeks ago. All the maize in South Africa is now GMO. 

If you take into consideration that we have permanent baboon watch because, given half a chance, they steal all the corn and we have at least 3 different types of ants and a million other creatures crawling around looking for food. Nothing ate this pap! No other species even recognized it as food! It is also not rotting, like food should, it just seems to be getting harder and harder... 

What gets me very angry about the whole thing is that the people eating this “stuff” does not really have any idea what they are eating and even if they do, they do not have much of a choice, Africa runs on pap, it is inexpensive and available, problems is that this basic food source have been hijacked and turned into..... not sure what.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Beetroot and lettuce, the lettuce are not small, the beetroot is big...

The moya is just not bringing the bula and the ledjadji is very wafisa.

All I am trying to say is that the wind is just not bringing the rain and the son is very hot. My attempt at Pedi, it is getting better, but the spelling is probably completely wrong.

Suddenly there is a flurry of mulching going on. It is still very hot and very dry and you have to be blind not to see the difference. We have got lettuce in mulch beds, planted in direct sunlight and they are thriving and in the rows, the spinach is looking sad and droopy. Now mulch is being placed everywhere, there is hardly a plant left without it. We are in the progress of changing most of the rows into beds, but this is taking time.

Lettuce and more growing in full sun (30 C+) and thriving

The mulch just helps an enormous amount against evaporation of water. It is also a much lighter color than the soil (especially the areas where we placed manure), so it tends to reflex the son and not attract it.  If it was not for the mulch I am not sure if anything would still be alive.
Another benefit of mulching is that you have so much less of a problem with “weeds” (there is actually no such thing as a weed). There are sometimes plants that you did not plant that create a bit of competition for your plants and they have to go, but seriously, with the beds you have the weeds growing in the pathways and not in the beds, this happens because the mulch blocks their son so they cannot grow.

Then there is the whole issue of turning rows into beds, the easiest way is to simply “fill in” between rows. Obviously, the soil in these new beds are not the best, because it used to be pathways, so a nice thick layer of dry cow dung is a good start, wet the cow dung well and then lay down a nice thick layer of mulch and wet again. Keep this bed wet for about two weeks and it starts looking like soil you can plant in. Your first crop might not be the greatest, but by the second planting, you have fantastic soil and very happy plants.

 We use to make most of our seedlings in trays, but with Sabrina being reluctant to plant in beds and the trays taking such a lot of time and effort, we came up with the following solution. The old rows, which are now on the sides of the bed, are being used as “seedling trays”. In other words, instead of planting in trays we plant in the old rows and then simply spread the seedlings over the bed, once they are up. This seems to be working well and saving time, but there are certain things, like tomatoes and sunflowers, that stand no change against the invading forces, so they still have to be planted in trays until they are big enough to face the “big bad world”.

The 3 sisters, in this case, Marrows, Beans and Corn and them some Spinach in the mix

As I said, Sabrina is still finding it hard to let go of the notion of planting everything in rows, but at least I can get her as far as planting more than one thing in the same row, we are making progress!  She has now seen that the Corn planted with the Beans and Butternuts are all looking and doing well, the Beans get a bit of shade and use the corn as a climber, while the bean replaces what the Corn takes out of the soil. The Butternuts provide some ground cover and later natural mulch, while they also get some shade from the beans and corn. This is called the 3 sisters and it is apparently and old American Indian way of planting Corn. It does not always have to be exactly these three; it can be corn with peas and Watermelon, as long as one is a legume (beans, peas, fenugreek, etc.) and one a cucurbit (pumpkin, cucumber, melon etc). Basically, instead of rotating the three crops, you plant them all at the same time, in the same place. I do find it works best if you plant the Corn first and wait until they are up and looking healthy before you plant the beans, otherwise, the beans outgrow the corn and this just means the corn does not work so well as a climber.

Furthermore, the onslaught continues, but what can you expect, this is the only green spot for miles around. You can get all stressed about this, but it will just make you old before your time. I have come up with my own 3in1 Magic O (organic) Mix spray, it is a liquid fertilizer, a general insect deterrent, and an anti-Mildew, all in one.  Any plant that is healthy is less likely to be attacked by anything, hence the fertilizer (it is like you getting a vitamin shot and if you are strong and healthy, you are less likely to get sick). The liquid fertilizer I make by rotting Comfrey leaves in water. The general insect deterrent I make in a similar way, by rotting Marigolds (leaves) in water. I then mix the two (5lt/5lt) and add about half a cup of Bicarbonate of soda to the (10lt) mix. So far I have only tested this on some selected plants, but it really seems to work well and it saves a huge amount of time because you only spray once and you sort the whole lot.

Popcorn Party? Chafers in the Corn

Last but not least, by pure chance I discovered how to get the Chafers out of my Corn. I took some pineapple heads from the kitchen because I have started planting them. The first thing you do is to remove all the fruit. I threw this fruit in a bucket and the next thing this bucket was attacked by a force of Chafers, the poor guy/girls could not help themselves. Now I get all the old fruit leftovers from the kitchen and place them in bowls/buckets near the Corn and other plants, they definitely prefer the fruit. Now I just have to outsmart the baboons, a tricky one that, apart from having somebody, armed with a Paintball Gun, in the gardens from sunrise to sunset, nothing seems to work and they watch you, you leave the garden alone for 5 minutes and they are in there...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

WAR AND PEACE – The green version


Gardening within the area I do (on a nature reserve in the Lowveld region of South Africa) is like full scale war. You are dealing with aerial attacks, evasive tactics, invasive tactics, infiltration, intelligence, undercover agents, camouflage and Gorilla tactics.

First I have to explain that I hate killing anything, so I am probably the worst ever General in command of an “army”.  I look for peaceful solutions, while being bombed and bullied. Besides no matter how I try and look at this, I am the aggressor and the invader. This is their world and I am claiming a space for myself within their territory and obviously this is not a peaceful surrender.

This time of the year is also normally very dry with very little green to eat, the temptations is simply bigger that the risks, especially with a “hippy peace freak” type commander in charge of protecting the juicy green things.

Escape Artist!

The baboons are using the grab and run/ Gorilla tactics very effectively, they simply jump the fence, grabs a cauliflower and whatever else close by and retrieve back over the fence. They do not touch the fence, these “special forces” are not afraid of anything.

Our 1st line of defence is an electric fence right around the garden, (this obviously does not stop a hungry baboon), but it does work well to keep out the elephants, buck and lots of other critters and creatures,  like porcupines and other “undercover agents” I am sure I am not even aware of yet.

Old implements in front of the gate to keep the Elephants away

You also have to put old implement or anything big and very heavy in front of the gate, I have explained this somewhere before, but for the sake of clarity – there is an electric fence around the garden, but the gate is the weak point, if an elephant can get to the gate, it takes one good shake (from the elephants) and a small shock (to the elephant) and the gate is gone!

This normally happens in the evenings, a night invasion. Our night guard, Jeremiah, shoots them with a Paint ball gun, this does scare them off, for a while at least and often you see elephants with pink or yellow spots, to the big embarrassment of the rangers, who has to explain this to the guests. 

The porcupines are the infiltrators, looking for weak spots (rusty bits etc.) at the bottom of the fence and simply chew or dig their way through. This also allows access for the rest of the army!

This means the 2nd line of defence is to check the first line of defence (fence) daily.  

Still it is not the end, now we come to the aerial attackers, in this case flying things of all sorts of shapes, sizes and appetites. These are the grasshoppers, the bird, the vine borers and and and....but I must admit they are not all out to do harm, some are there to help. That is why I can never use Chemical poisons, because you also kill the good guys, like the bees and butterflies, amongst others. Besides who are we to say what is good and what is bad, these creatures are just doing what little creates do, Invade gardens.

I think I am winning against the foot soldiers an Infantry troops.... the snails and slugs and
other invaders. So far our 3rd line of defence, (a row of Marigolds right around the garden, just inside the fence) is very effective in keeping these out.

I am not quite sure where the Horn bills fit into the whole story; they are more like a “travelling circus” than an invasion. They are also friend and foe, they eat anything from insects to my lettuce. They seem to favour one specific type of lettuce, so I am simply not planting that lettuce any more.

Horn bills clowning around

Some of the peace proposals also seem to be working, like the sunflowers to keep ant and Aphids happy (see previous article). I have also not resorted to the chili a la garlic potion, because that actually kills them; that will be my last line of defence.

I have also made some great friend of the animal kind, the squirrels are super cheeky and not one bit scared of this softy. I outsmarted him (them) though, I simply do not plant Sunflower or Peanuts directly into the ground, I make seedling and plant those and then half these seedlings are eaten by grasshoppers and friends, so you simply have to plant a lot, otherwise the Ants and Aphids won’t be happy....

Nyala snackings

There is also the old one eyed Nyala that comes around in the afternoon and patiently waits for something green, his favourite is spinach and we have tons of Spinach.

Within this whole peaceful approach there is the important matter of actually producing food for humans, but then just looking at what we harvested today I have come to the conclusion that the only real solution is to plant ENOUGH, meaning enough for humans and animals alike, I do have enough space after all.

Too much to carry, our delivery to the kitchen today - 20 kg beetroot, 20 kg onions, 10 kg leeks, 5 kg carrots, 5 kg salad tomatoes and more...  it is all 100 % organic! (the kg's are measured by bucket, so it might not be totally correct)