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Guy Fawkes-5th of November

Guy Fawkes-5th of November

Every year we celebrate Guy Fawkes on the 5th of November by making bonfires and lighting fireworks but what are we really celebrating?
What happened all those years ago?

It was the Jacobean era and under the rule of protestant and outwardly gay King James the 1st, William Shakespeare wrote some of his most prominent plays, the bible was edited to the authorised King James version, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei were bringing the Copernican revolution to a new development and Francis Bacon was helping modern science evolve using investigation. 

Some provincial English Catholics, decided to try and assassinate the king by placing 36 barrels of gunpowder under The House of Lords in order to put Princess Elizabeth on the throne as a catholic monarch. Guy Fawkes was to light the fuse to cause an explosion and escape by crossing the Thames river. He was caught, questioned, tortured and died just before his execution by falling off the very gallow he was to be hanged from. The people of London were encouraged to celebrate the king’s escape from the assassination by lighting bonfires.

Guy Fawkes has other controversial issues and research studies show that the loud sounds of fireworks have an adverse effect on wild animals as well as domestic animals. Compared to the  20 Hz – 23 KHz range that a human can hear, dogs can hear 60 Hz – 45 KH and cats can hear 45 Hz – 64 KHz.

To give you a practical example of this: 64 Hz (roughly the lowest note a dog can hear) is the pitch of the lowest key on a piano. For every doubling in Hz, the pitch goes up an octave. Cats, with the top range of 64 KHz vs 23 in humans, can thus hear sounds at least two and a half octaves higher than humans can! This is why dogs and cats respond to dog whistles. The sound is too high for us to hear, but still within their hearing range.

Cats and dogs also respond to a much lower intensity of sound than humans. Sound intensity is measured in decibels (dB). Dogs can hear five times more acutely than humans; and cats about twice as acutely as dogs. Like Hz, dB also increases exponentially, so 30 dB is ten times as loud as 20 dB, and 40 dB is 100 times as loud. A practical example is that a whisper weighs in at about 30 dB, and a dog can hear that from almost three times as far away as a human. Cats are even more sensitive than dogs to these soft sounds. This also explains why dogs and cats are so scared by the sound of fireworks which, to us, do not seem so loud. They are in fact at least 5 times louder to our pets! Dr M. E. de Vries (BVSc)

Loud noises inflict fear, stress and anxiety in animals and can cause them to flee into danger zones like roadways. Other documented effects include nesting birds and other small mammal parents abandoning their nests and leaving their defenseless babies behind. The panic can sometimes cause so much disorientation that wildlife parents cannot locate their nests and their babies die. Panic and disorientation from fireworks noise has also resulted in birds flying into windows and buildings, or too far out to sea to escape the noise. Animals can also become entangled in remnants of large fireworks, or ingest pieces, and scavenging animals (both birds and mammals) ingest debris, usually resulting in death.

Errant fireworks can also cause environmental damage though fires, and from the release of poisonous chemicals and particle-laden smoke, which is not just inhaled by wildlife, but contaminates the natural environment.

Please ensure your pets are safe and kept inside if fireworks are being let off close by.Make sure that windows and any other form of escape are closed. Prepare a ‘den’ for your pet where it can feel safe and comfortable – perhaps under a bed with some of your old clothes. They may like to hide there when the fireworks start. Let your pet pace around, whine, miaow and hide in a corner if they want to. Do not try to coax them out – it’s just trying to find safety, and should not be disturbed. Stay calm, act normally and give lots of praise for calm behaviour. It’s OK to cuddle and stroke your pet if it helps them relax, but if they prefer to hide under your bed, then let them do this instead.

Avoid leaving your pet alone during such potentially upsetting events. If you do have to leave the house, don’t get angry with your pet if you find they have been destructive or toileted after being left on his or her own. Shouting at a frightened pet will only make them more stressed. Don’t tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off, ie outside a shop while you pop inside, or leave them in the garden or in your car. Never take your dog to a fireworks display. Even if they don’t bark or whimper at the noise, it doesn’t mean they are happy. Excessive panting and yawning can indicate that your dog is stressed. Please be prepared for the 5th of November.

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COMMUNAL EFFORT

Communal effort or communal work is where the major goal is not personal but in the benefit of the community. The word Harambee appears in the Kenya coat of arms and translated this means ‘all pull together’ and there are many other translations for this word in many languanges and the importance of this concept is discussed.

The sum of what people can do together far outweighs what one can achieve individually and by embracing community effort, we can benefit individually too on many fronts.You acquire life skills and knowledge by engaging in community. Connecting and communicating with other individuals teaches us a lot about ourselves. We have an opportunity to grow from new experiences and we realise our strengths and weaknesses. We develop better interpersonal communication skills and learn how to share information in a more usable way. Being in different situations can help us discover hidden talents that may change our self worth. You may learn that you have good skills coping with a crisis or stressful situations. Perhaps you struggle to take charge and this experience helps develop skills in leadership, manage time better, work well with a team as well as finding solutions to real world problems with critical thinking.

Community work is a wonderful way to unite people from diverse backgrounds and be exposed to multiculturalism.  We also become aware of issues like social injustice and dispelling stereotypes and as we understand our community, we learn to foster more empathy and self efficacy. As we build bonds of trust and generate social weaves, we are also creating strong support networks with camaraderie and teamwork. We learn about functions and operation of government and local resources that are available to solve community needs. We also save resources by leaving more money to be available for local improvements. Volunteer work sometimes provides services to those who need it the most.

Volunteering is a great way to find work that suits you best because by working in different projects where team players have different roles, you get a better picture of where your interests lie. Volunteer work also looks good on a resume as this shows employers that you are a team player and that you have experience in work related skills. You may even be able to network with future employers and make contacts.

When people work together towards a common goal for the benefit of the community, self esteem improves and these people are more likely to get involved in current events and local affairs. The psychological effects are numerous. Volunteers experience overall life satisfaction and feel good about themselves  because of helping others. Community work decreases depression by interrupting usual tension-producing patterns and focusing on something other than oneself. Community is a strong support system for participants and often they can be physically healthy incorporating exercise like a beach or park cleanup.  Moods like optimism, joy & control over ones fate strengthen the immune system.  A human who tries to better himself and the planet earns the respect of those around.

,

Guerilla House

It’s time we value creative co-operations and collaboration. Let’s produce, promote and protect social networks and by being active members in your community, you will have a long lasting positive effect on society at large

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WHY GROWING YOUR OWN FOOD IS THE MOST NOBLE, SATISFYING, WORTHWHILE, DIVINE, MERITORIOUS THING YOU CAN DO

Growing food

That’s a mouthful but there are so many other words that could be easily slotted into this title. We will expand by explaining how growing your own food will shine your green halo so brilliantly, it will light the way for others to be inspired. I am not surprised that many religious texts and spiritual writings refer to planting and growing. One experiences a little piece of magic when you enjoy the fruits of your own labour from seed to plate.

I cannot think of a more meaningful workout than gardening. Not only does it exercise and build muscles but it is good for your brain and the rest of your body too. Planting greenery brings you out into the fresh air where vitamin D doesn’t need to be swallowed. It stimulates learning and a deeper connection with nature and it has bountiful therapeutic qualities.

The garden is a superb environment to reconnect with nature from the tiniest microscopic organism to the largest wildlife you can accommodate. It doesn’t matter whether you have a large piece of land or just a balcony or enclosed flat, you can still enjoy the healing properties. It relieves stress, it is often a meditative process improving concentration, increasing self awareness, happiness, acceptance and overcoming pain. With some care and attention, your efforts will also bless you with a sense of pride and gratification. It’s a marvellous creative outlet with endless ways to create beauty and self expression and it can also introduce new interests like botany, landscape architecture, nutrition, photography, naturalism and farmers markets to mention a few of many.

Add to the already impressive benefits above, it is purposeful way to spend quality time with loved ones and create a sense of community by connecting with others close by to bulk buy, share information, advice and accomplishments.

Home grown food tastes better and if you grow heirloom (non GMO/non hybrid) varieties in a biologically diverse environment in soil fed with nutrients, your food will be more nutritious.You will also be able to save some seeds from your crops to use for next year. Ta dah! When you save the seeds, you can also swap them for different varieties that you may not have. This is a very important aspect and a right to which we must cling on to for dear life. To read more about why – you can read our previous story about seed biodiversity here.

Growing your own food becomes cheaper and cheaper as you learn more and practice sustainable gardening. As explained above, you can save heirloom seeds for re-use or to swap or gift which means you buy less seeds as your collection grows. There is huge potential to be grow a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and legumes that your local grocery store has never stocked. There is no fresher vegetable than one that is still growing in the ground which means less fridge space and obtaining food is a walk through the garden. This act inspires us to take an interest in the origins of our food and make better choices about what we put on our plates which is a part of conscious eating. Eating more fruit and vegetables can only be a good thing when it concerns your health and the sense of security of knowing whose been near your delicate spinach leaves is invaluable.

The blooms of flowers that will turn into fruit are gorgeous to look at and one can enjoy the sweet  perfumes they emit. There is something very special when you are relaxing in your garden and nearby are hanging grapes or crisp cucumbers, striking red leaves of beetroot or even the flowers from potatoes reminding you of the treasures below. Imagine sitting in the shade of a fruit tree whilst reading a book or watching your loved ones play.

You have been showered with the benefits of gardening for you but let us take a closer look as growing your own food solves many other environmental concerns.

You cut out many carbon emissions by not supporting trade where food is transported to the grocery store by trucks and planes and the fuel you would use driving to the grocery store and driving back again.

By growing organically and maintaining biodiversity in your garden, you can combat soil erosion, cut out pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers. That means less air pollution, less water pollution, less body pollution and less pretty birds and other animals dying. You also create less of a demand for monoculture which is a monopoly of bad farming practices designed for maximum profit and not for the health of those consuming these products or for the giving soil that gives up it’s nutrients for these crops. The seeds these corporate giants use are usually genetically modified and their farming practices rely heavily on machinery, water, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and as a result reduce biodiversity and deplete the soil of nutrients. Geoff Lawton explains this process simply and visually in this informative video below this article

 

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MAKING YOUR OWN COMPOST HEAP

MAKING YOUR OWN COMPOST HEAP

In a natural system, living things die and their deaths allow life to be reborn. Plants and other living things die on forest floors and in meadows, and are broken down over time by water, microorganisms, sun and air.

Compost has two main functions. It improves the structure of the soil, which makes the soil easier to work, providing good aeration and water retention characteristics. It also makes the soil more resistant to erosion. Compost also recycles and provides nutrients for plant growth. In addition,  its organic acids make nutrients in the soil more available to plants. Carbon, nitrogen, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, potash and trace minerals maintain the biological cycles of life. Fewer nutrients leach out in soils with enough organic matter.

If soil only consisted of rock meal, it would be infertile. The fertility depends on the amount of organic matter or humus present in the soil as well as the effective micro-organisms and soil nutrients.

Healthy soil means healthy plants and healthy plants are more resistant to diseases and insect attacks. Ensuring you have fertile soil is a far better way to grow food than using poisons that kill beneficial soil life.

Composting is simply speeding up the processes that occurs in nature and it involves some fundamental principles. These principles are the provision of air, moisture and warmth in order to create an ideal environment for the fungi and bacteria that are responsible for the decomposition and breakdown of the raw materials.

There are many methods of making compost heaps and different recipes for layering your pile. Spring and Autumn are ideal times to make a compost heap as biological activity is high during these periods and it should not be too hot nor too cold for microbial life in the pile. We thought it would be a good idea to include this article to give you time to make before the onset of Spring.

Many households throw away things that can be turned into this black gold and this is why we are about to explain how to build a simple and effective compost heap.

You don’t need any fancy equipment or containers, however you may use them if you wish. It is also a good idea to build a compost pile on an unused growing bed so the next crop grown in that bed will pick up and utilize any nutrients that leached out from the pile and into the soil. When the next season comes, you can build a compost pile on another unused bed.

Here’s the process step by step:

1. Loosen the ground, where the pile will be, to about 30cm deep with a fork or hoe.

2. Lay down brush, woody materials and other roughage for air circulation.

3. Add about 5cm of mature material like dry weeds, leaves, straw, hay and old garden wastes. Water it thoroughly.

4. Add about 5cm of immature material like fresh weeds, grass clippings, hedge trimmings, green cover crops and kitchen wastes you have saved. Water well.

5. Cover lightly with  about 1 or 2cm of soil to prevent flies and odours.You will want to do this straight after adding the immature material. Moisten the soil.

6. Add new layers of mature vegetation, immature vegetation and soil. Water the pile regularly until it is ready for use. You can also cover your compost heap to protect it from too much rain or too much sun.

7. Let the pile cure for 3 – 6 months while you are building a new pile. Turn the pile once for faster decomposition. A 1.2 meter pile will reduce to 30 – 40 cm when it is ready to use.

When you turn the compost pile, make the base of the new pile smaller than the original base to give the turned pile more internal volume and less surface area.

If you are not ready to use your compost when it is fully cured, stop watering it and spread it out to dry.

Always be sure to add at least 3 different kinds of crops to your compost piles. Different microbes flourish in specific kinds of crops. The result of this crop diversity is microbe diversity in the soil, which ensures better soil and plant life.

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PROTECTING OUR SEED BIODIVERSITY

PROTECTING OUR SEED BIODIVERSITY

Seed diversity is essential to securing our own food, especially now when we are experiencing the onset of climate change. We need seeds with many traits (like early ripening and resistance to drought) to make them more adaptable to changes in the weather.

Small scale farmers provide 70 % of the seed of food grown in Sub-Saharan Africa. Some of their seeds have become drought resistant and seeds can be saved and used year after year.

When we plant seeds, we can produce our food for the coming year and use the seeds again to grow more crops. However, all of that is changing and we need to protect our heirloom seeds.

Seeds have been an open access, common resource for millennia, developed and improved through the efforts of countless generations of people.

In the 1980’s, there were thousands of independent seed companies across the world. A lot of these companies had history dating back to the 1800’s and early 1900’s which was linked with the history of the region they operated in. Sadly, most of these companies are no longer present. In less than 20 years, fewer than 10 multinational companies have engulfed hundreds of seed companies and the rights to grow most of the common staple foods that we eat. The top 10 companies now own 75% of the global seed market.

There are further acquisitions underway. The big players were Monsanto (owning 26% of all seeds), DuPont (19%), Syngenta (8%), Dow (4%), and Bayer (3%). Syngenta was bought by state-owned Chem-China for $43 billion and Monsanto accepted an offer by Bayer for $66 billion – the highest bid ever offered in the seed industry. This massive transaction still needs to be approved by the anti-trust authorities in several countries. (An anti-trust authority is an independent professional authority working to protect the public from harms to competition, for the good of the public.) Dow and DuPont have also merged. This was finalised on the 9th of June 2016.

These consolidations mean that these few companies can decide prices which affect our food prices. They can also determine the seed varieties on the market. When the seed company Seminis was purchased by Monsanto, it dropped more than one third of its seed catalogue (which included 2,500 fruit and vegetable varieties) as a cost-saving measure. They can also determine the conditions of growth for the seed varieties they collectively own – a dangerous situation.

These seed giants manage patents and intellectual property rights and they make agreements with governments and public institutions, having a strong influence on laws, regulations and treaties. Small scale farmers are being criminalised for propagating seeds, and are being forced to buy new seeds every year due to hybrid varieties and genetically modified seeds. A hybrid plant is created when different parent plants are crossed. In order to retain the special qualities of that hybrid plant, it must be cross-bred with original parent plants.

Philip Howard, who is an associate professor at the Michigan State University in the Department of Community Sustainability, explains that it is quite possible for 3 companies to eventually own 60% of all seeds. Whilst it may seem to the consumer that these companies are in competition with each other, they actually become like each other and in this scenario, it takes one company to signal an increase in prices and the other company/companies will follow suit. You can watch this interview here.

This monocultural business promotes monoculture farming. This means huge fields of one type of crop which deplete soil nutrients and require chemical fertilisers which kill the essential life forms in the soil. These monoculture farm fields also require pesticides. The large monocultural companies sell pesticides too, and also genetically modify seeds to tolerate harmful herbicides (like Roundup) which kill plants, weeds, and harm crucial insects needed to pollinate  plants.

South Africa had to import millions of metric tons of maize due to our drought, and food prices are continually on the rise. We, the consumers, have to live with the long-term negative health effects of chemical residues and pesticides. This type of farming is heavy on our water resources and bad for the environment.

Our farmers are in danger of being pushed out of the market and becoming obsolete. The government-run farmer subsidy programme supports hi-tech solutions such as mono-crops, fertilisers, pesticides and genetically modified seeds. The big companies get a secure market, but little is left over for sustainable farming and small-scale farmers are falling into debt.

The good news is that the legislative process in South Africa is still evolving and there are opportunities to protect the small seed farmer in new laws. Farmers are networking to promote agro-biodiversity and people are contributing toward The Submission on Plant Improvement and Plant Breeders’ Rights Bills.The deadline for contributing to this submission ends on the 12th of August so please contribute if you haven’t already done so. The African Centre for Biodiversity has conscientiously prepared a document for you  to make the submission quickly and easily. You can click here to add your voice and increase this movement’s strength.

To read and hear about some inspirational farmer’s stories in this difficult and challenging time, click here

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Collecting Rainwater

If you have a corrugated metal or tiled roof, you can harvest a great deal of water. To give you an example, a 100m2 roof can collect 450 litres of water in 5mm of rainfall. Cape Town receives on average about 788mm of rainfall a year. When we put that number into the calculator for our little 100m2 roof, that amounts to 70,920 litres of water. The numbers are huge – why miss out on such an opportunity? There are rainwater collection calculators on the web, one of which can be found here.

The first place to start, is to buy the tank or tanks.The bigger the better, but affordability and space should influence your decision as well as how much water you consume and what you will be using the rainwater for. You can buy cylindrical tanks, both thin or wide. Some go underground and some are rectangular and would fit snugly against a wall. We came across three easily available brands, Eco tanks, Jojo, and Nel. The prices and quality differ. We picked 2 x 2500 litre beige Eco upright tanks.

The next thing to consider when installing the tank, is where the downpipe leads from off the roof gutters. It will be easier to install if the tank can stand there safely and not obstruct anything. If it is not the ideal spot, you may want investigate the option of diverting the water down a new downpipe in a better position.

All you will need is piping to the tank. When the tank fills, it will become very heavy. A 2500 litre tank will weigh 2.5 tons when it is full, so making sure you have a proper foundation is necessary. We luckily had paving in our spot so we did not need to build a foundation. However, a foundation can be built easily enough with the right tools.

To make the foundation you will need to know the size of your tank. By sketching a diagram of your tank to scale, you will be able to determine the size of the square foundation beneath it by drawing a square or rectangle with the tank’s shape inside. This will lead you to the length of four wooden planks that must be bought to hold the cement mix you will make. Start by levelling and compacting the ground where the tank will be. Once complete, assemble the boards  to make a square or rectangle to contain your cement slab.You will need to get a bag of cement mix and sand, and mix it up and fill the slab container. Scrape it out evenly using a level and ensure that it is in fact level. The cement will dry and you can remove the boards or not. You can place your tank/s on the slab. Secure your tank by tying it to the ground with wire. Don’t make this too tight as the stability of your tank may be compromised. As big as tanks are, they can blow about in the wind. We have not tied ours down, we just make sure there is enough water inside to keep them from moving. Connect the downpipe to the tank. You may want to put a fitted filter at the opening or into a catchment pipe as shown in these pictures.

 

This picture has a fancy split which is not necessary. You could even use netted fabric and secure the fabric to the opening with elastic or rope. A filter will keep out leaves and other debris and also keep mosquitos from entering the tank and breeding in the water. Remember that installing a tank doesn’t have to be a fancy affair. If you are harvesting rainwater, you are doing it right. Look at the extras as frills.

Here is another picture to give you ideas.

The next thing you need is a tap or ball valve, some connections, plumber’s tape, and piping to divert the overflow to a place of your choice. You can divert the overflow either into the stormwater drain or even better, into another tank. We went to the hardware store and gave them the fitting size of the tank, and the store assistant helped us get all the fittings to connect to the ball valve we used and the fitting from the ball valve to the hosepipe. It’s all a bit like lego, finding what fits on what. You basically want the water outlet to also connect to a hosepipe. This picture will give you some dos and don’ts on how to assemble piping if you choose to use your water elsewhere, or put it in an irrigation system.

The system we installed, as explained above, is called the dry system, and water comes from the downpipes and straight into the tank. When the rain stops, the pipes will run dry.

There is also the wet system, which allows for the tank to be positioned further away from the roof gutters and uses the principle that water will always find a level.The pipes remain ‘charged’ so that when it rains, water will flow into the tank.

COLLECTING RAINWATER

If you have a corrugated metal or tiled roof, you can harvest a great deal of water. To give you an example, a 100m2 roof can collect 450 litres of water in 5mm of rainfall. Cape Town receives on average about 788mm of rainfall a year. When we put that number into the calculator for our little 100m2 roof, that amounts to 70,920 litres of water. The numbers are huge – why miss out on such an opportunity? There are rainwater collection calculators on the web, one of which can be found here.

The first place to start, is to buy the tank or tanks.The bigger the better, but affordability and space should influence your decision as well as how much water you consume and what you will be using the rainwater for. You can buy cylindrical tanks, both thin or wide. Some go underground and some are rectangular and would fit snugly against a wall. We came across three easily available brands, Eco tanks, Jojo, and Nel. The prices and quality differ. We picked 2 x 2500 litre beige Eco upright tanks.

The next thing to consider when installing the tank, is where the downpipe leads from off the roof gutters. It will be easier to install if the tank can stand there safely and not obstruct anything. If it is not the ideal spot, you may want investigate the option of diverting the water down a new downpipe in a better position.

All you will need is piping to the tank. When the tank fills, it will become very heavy. A 2500 litre tank will weigh 2.5 tons when it is full, so making sure you have a proper foundation is necessary. We luckily had paving in our spot so we did not need to build a foundation. However, a foundation can be built easily enough with the right tools.

To make the foundation you will need to know the size of your tank. By sketching a diagram of your tank to scale, you will be able to determine the size of the square foundation beneath it by drawing a square or rectangle with the tank’s shape inside. This will lead you to the length of four wooden planks that must be bought to hold the cement mix you will make. Start by levelling and compacting the ground where the tank will be. Once complete, assemble the boards  to make a square or rectangle to contain your cement slab.You will need to get a bag of cement mix and sand, and mix it up and fill the slab container. Scrape it out evenly using a level and ensure that it is in fact level. The cement will dry and you can remove the boards or not. You can place your tank/s on the slab. Secure your tank by tying it to the ground with wire. Don’t make this too tight as the stability of your tank may be compromised. As big as tanks are, they can blow about in the wind. We have not tied ours down, we just make sure there is enough water inside to keep them from moving. Connect the downpipe to the tank. You may want to put a fitted filter at the opening or into a catchment pipe as shown in these pictures.

This picture has a fancy split which is not necessary. You could even use netted fabric and secure the fabric to the opening with elastic or rope. A filter will keep out leaves and other debris and also keep mosquitos from entering the tank and breeding in the water. Remember that installing a tank doesn’t have to be a fancy affair. If you are harvesting rainwater, you are doing it right. Look at the extras as frills.

Here is another picture to give you ideas.

The next thing you need is a tap or ball valve, some connections, plumber’s tape, and piping to divert the overflow to a place of your choice. You can divert the overflow either into the stormwater drain or even better, into another tank. We went to the hardware store and gave them the fitting size of the tank, and the store assistant helped us get all the fittings to connect to the ball valve we used and the fitting from the ball valve to the hosepipe. It’s all a bit like lego, finding what fits on what. You basically want the water outlet to also connect to a hosepipe. This picture will give you some dos and don’ts on how to assemble piping if you choose to use your water elsewhere, or put it in an irrigation system.

The system we installed, as explained above, is called the dry system, and water comes from the downpipes and straight into the tank. When the rain stops, the pipes will run dry.

There is also the wet system, which allows for the tank to be positioned further away from the roof gutters and uses the principle that water will always find a level.The pipes remain ‘charged’ so that when it rains, water will flow into the tank.

There is also the transfer system where the tank can be situated anywhere on the property and uses a pump to pump water from an underground pit into the tank.

We hope we have given you some good ideas on how to collect your own rainwater. The dry system is really easy and you will be able to do it yourself.

Here are some other tips to remember when collecting rainwater:

Check your leaf eater or filter regularly and if you have tall trees close to the house, you may need to clean the roof gutters every now and then.

Ensure that the overflow is away from the base – you don’t want your foundation compromised.

Make sure that the opening is sealed or that you have a filter in place so bugs can’t get in.

To stop anything from growing inside, the tank should not allow any light inside.  Algae are little plants and with light, they will grow in your container.

Your rainwater system does not need to be expensive. You can even use old jacuzzis, water barrels, or any big container you can find. Don’t be put off by underground systems and cisterns etc. Make a start and if you really want the fancy frills, you can add them later. It is better to harvest cheaply than not to harvest rainwater at all.

Don’t choke the flow. It may be a better option to get a big ball valve rather than a small insipid tap. Trickling water can become annoying when you are trying to water the garden.

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Modern Morality

 

MODERN MORALITY

Morality is commonly understood to entail principles that help us to distinguish between right and wrong, or good and bad behaviour. It’s a fluid concept, vastly influenced by cultures and eras. We now live in an information age with information technology advancing exponentially. Computers and the internet have revolutionised communication, and information processes have become a driving force of social evolution. We are, in fact facing an information explosion, and as data availbility increases, so do data management challenges. Within this turbulent sea of knowledge, it’s easy for inaccurate data to masquerade as the truth. This is why information must be constantly checked for accuracy, and false information must be challenged.

Despite it’s daunting volumes, this information does put humans in a better position than ever before to make up their own minds about what is right and wrong. I’m not implying that your parents were wrong when they raised you. They probably told you things like stealing is bad and sharing is good. However, they mostly learnt these morals by what was taught to them by the society they lived in, and they did not have access to the kind of information we have today. Years ago, slavery was an acceptable norm and only when people started questioning whether it was right, did things change. It’s a hard fact to accept that not so long ago, women were not allowed to vote. The first country that allowed women to vote was New Zealand in 1893, and the most recent country was Kuwait in 2005. America allowed women to vote in 1920 and England granted women the vote in 1928. This gives you an idea of how slow positive change can happen – powerful and influential countries like America and Britain only changed this policy less than 100 years ago. We still have a long way to go.

We continue to question our daily living, and here we are in an age of capitalism where most of us know how to lead ethical lives. Yet we live in a society that has become so used to convenience – especially the middle and upper classes – that making the right choices require more effort. Not only does leading a good life require more effort, but it also exposes the individual to ridicule, slander and negative comments by those who are still in denial or who haven’t connected the dots between their daily life and what they perceive to be right.

Let me give you a detailed example. Let’s say someone sends you an e-mail about a petition to act against the palm oil industry because it’s causing massive virgin deforestation and orangutans, amongst many other forest inhabitants, are losing their habitat and being abused, or starving to death. Furthermore, locals of that area were being taken advantage of by the large corporations exploiting them. And so the list of atrocities goes on. For the ordinary person with an average amount of empathy, this is a no-brainer – they sign the petition.

But, for a lot of people, that’s where their concern ends. It’s different ball game if you really have to take action. You may receive another e-mail asking you to pledge to never buy products containing palm oil, or to check first whether the palm oil is certified sustainable. Easier said than done. For instance, you go to your local grocery store for the usual shopping routine. Let’s say you start at the bakery section. You buy your bread like you always do, except this time, you start checking the ingredients. As you read label after label, you realise that every single type of bread on the shelves has palm oil in it, and there is no indication that the companies who used the palm oil acquired it ethically.

Now what do you do? You could just resign yourself to the fact that doing the right thing in this case was too much of an effort and that government or the organisations fighting against the injustices of the palm oil industry must do something about it. You probably have children to feed, so you just buy the bread and maybe make a mental note to support palm oil-free bread if you ever come across it.

But, another option for those who don’t like to give up too easily, is to ask – at the risk of feeling humiliated or petty in front of other customers waiting for service at the bread counter – whether there is palm oil in the freshly baked bread. When the answer is ‘no’, you could feel a minor victory and so you buy the freshly baked bread, feeling content because you did your bit for the greater good. (That is, until you get home to make your lunch, realise the bread is not sliced, and end up eating sandwiches that look like doorstoppers at work the next day.)

This is not over yet, so bear with me here.

You may have signed many petitions or been alerted to some other unsavoury problems by social media, like beaches that are littered with washed-up plastic, or child slavery that is rife in the coffee and chocolate industry, or Nestlé being responsible for river dumping and a host of other unethical business practices. And so it goes on. You push your trolley onward to complete the list of things you need to buy and, as you pass the children’s toys, it suddenly occurs to you how much plastic there is there. Some of you may ask yourselves, where will this plastic end up when the child gets tired of the toy? Will it be recycled? Will it end up in a landfill? Will it get thrown out the car window on a vacation trip?

You need coffee. You look at the all the packaging and nothing indicates that no-one was treated unfairly during the process of getting the beans off the tree and to the grocery store you are now in. You want to buy rusks and notice that they all, too, contain palm oil, and at this stage you are getting tired of reading labels. This mission you have undertaken to do the right thing is impossible, and since you work long hours and barely have enough time to yourself, you realise that making this all from scratch at home would be torturous. And so you give up. It’s not your fault after all. It’s the government’s fault or it is the fault of the big company that made that product, and you can only hope that some organisation like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth will do something about it.

But let’s look at this more closely. We have become so used to the convenience of pushing our trolleys down the isles of grocery stores that it seems inconceivable to do our shopping another way. Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether other options are actually available and whether we have tried looking for them. Did you use a Google search? Did you join a relevant Facebook group and post a question to the right people? Did you write to the store or speak to the manager? If we all did one or some of these things, then surely there would be better options?

People have become so busy in their personal lives, trying to keep up with work, chores, administration, social media and finding relaxation time, that we do many things in autopilot mode, without slowing down and actually asking ourselves the question, “Is what I am doing, right?” Giving money to a company that tests on animals or steals land from tribes is not the right thing to do. You are using your purchasing power to make that company stronger.

Those companies that monopolise industry have currency in the millions to run ad campaigns to play on your emotions, give you the impression that you need their product, and that it’s as ethical as the mother’s love portrayed in the advert. It’s a big ask to get people to see through all that marketing propaganda and make the effort to support more ethical options.

We’re a product of a society that loves to tell us how to live, what kind of careers to choose, what to eat, how to behave, and when to get married and procreate. The average person accepts this path as the done thing without giving alternative options much thought. We are raised in a society where we get different people to do different jobs, and where we outsource just about everything. Someone else will always do the job that needs to get done.

The change, and real power to make a difference for the better, comes from those who think for themselves. Who evaluate actions from a new perspective, not from the habitual thoughts and acceptance of the old way of doing things. We can no longer leave the mess or injustices for others to clean up and challenge. We need to start with ourselves: being the only person with a higher sensitivity to moral implications can be a tiring task, but when more and more people start questioning and reasoning and taking some form of objection, then things will start tipping in the right direction.

We’ve ended up in the labour-enslaved, greedy and destructive mess that we are in by just following the norm and doing what we are told. Climate change is starting to rear it’s big ugly head, and people are already having to evacuate their homes. And this is only the beginning. If we continue to live in denial and avoid reality, we are in for a serious rollercoaster ride. If we don’t change, it may be too late to make a difference for our children. Always stop and think. Know that, although you feel very isolated in your quest to make the right choices, you are not alone; courtesy of this amazing information age we live in, we can find others like ourselves and be offered support on our journey to a well-lived life.

So where does one start? Here are some pointers:

Open up the boundaries of your respect – You don’t have to only respect the elderly and give them a seat on the bus; you can offer your consideration for so much more. Respect the person of another race, class or religion. Respect the wildlife, respect the environment, respect all the animals and do not objectify them.

Don’t stop learning – Keep reading, stay informed and question everything. As I said previously, with an information overload, there is inaccurate information out there. Study the basics of science and develop a filtering system. There are even books and websites to give you the skills to do this. Use them – they will empower you with the wonderful asset of not being easily fooled. A great and entertaining book to start off with, is Bad Science, written by Ben Goldacre. Be open to hard truths; it’s not always going to be a positive experience, but keep an open mind. If you are unsure, do research and ask questions. Don’t make assumptions. The foundations of your belief system may be compromised but it will make you a better person to decide for yourself, rationally, what is right and what is wrong.

Ask yourself whether you are doing your part to influence good over evil – I am not talking about carrying holy water around with you. Have you volunteered for an organisation that is fighting for positive change? Are you making an effort to buy ethically produced goods? Don’t leave the world’s problems to someone else to fix. Do your part and do it often, even if it is a small objection here and there.

Be truthful and use your voice – Be open to positive criticism. See and say things as they are. Find your truth and live it. Without it, you will most likely end up a miserable person.

Empower yourself by becoming independent – You may have a job, pay the rent, put food on the table ,and even have some money left over. But how independent are you really? Do you have an anxiety attack if your house runs out of power? I’m talking about not needing a government or the services of another. It’s impossible to be totally self-reliant; we will all need a doctor at some time, or advice or help of some sort. But the notion of trying to do things yourself will make you stronger. You are more capable than you think. When you can do many things on your own, you have the power to survive when things go south. This may take some time, but it will be rewarding and excellent for your self-confidence. Ultimately, when you are more independent, you’re in a better position to do things the right way without being told what to do.

 

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EACH ONE TEACH ONE

 

EACH ONE TEACH ONE

We often think about how to make the world a better place. In order to create more harmony, humans need to change. We try to change policies, demand justice, and spread ideas. Some people sign petitions, others volunteer their time to non-profit organisations or for things like a beach or river clean-up. Some donate money to worthy causes.

But one powerful tool to change the way people think, is to educate others.

Each One Teach One is an African-American proverb. It was during slavery in the United States, when Africans were denied education, that this phrase originated. Many slaves were kept in a state of ignorance about the their immediate circumstances and when one enslaved person learnt how to read, it was his or her duty to teach someone else. This is how the phrase came about.

Each One Teach One was used with political prisoners in the apartheid era and is one of the guiding principles in one of the largest events in South Africa, Afrikaburn.

The Each One Teach One principle is also a fantastic way to raise awareness of environmental issues. Recently, the Animal Planet channel on DSTV aired an interesting programme with the title Racing Extinction. It delivered a lot of information, but what was truly inspiring was how a team of people that included National Geographic photographers set out to educate people who were largely responsible for a mass decline in a certain species. They created a beautiful movie showing the beauty and grace of this particular animal with a simple message, and they shared this with the villagers and their children. They also showed how a few people could change the way a community supports itself. Instead of hunting a species for consumption, as was done previously, these fishing boats now take people out to see them in their natural habitat. “My goal is to make a film that doesn’t just create awareness, but inspires people to get motivated to change this insane path we’re on.”- Louie Pslhoyos – Photographer and documentary film director

We did some research and found some brilliant teaching tips:

DESIRE – INTEREST AND EXPLANATION
You can lose your audience’s attention if you begin the wrong way. When our interest in something is aroused, we enjoy applying our minds to it. Establish the relevance of the topic and construct explanations that enable others to understand what you are communicating. Explain how your topic will benefit your audience so that they can in some way own it and use it to make sense of the world around them. You will need to know what your audience knows already and build on that to convey your message.

EMPATHY
Help your audience feel that they can master the subject. A little bit of humility can go a long way in encouraging people to try something for themselves and succeeding.

ENHANCE THE SENSORY EXPERIENCE
Most people fall into three categories of learning: visual; audio and kinesthetic. The ideal learning environment is created when the audience sees, hears and feels the material themselves.

LEARN FROM YOUR AUDIENCE
A good communicator is open to change, constantly assessing the effects and modifying communication methods according to the evidence collected.

IT’S ALL IN THE DELIVERY
It’s not only about the content, but also how you deliver it. Being assertive from a position of power can put people off, and focusing on the positive is better than starting with doom and gloom.

We encourage you to go out and share your knowledge with others who can use it for the greater good. The media of today mainly focus on sensationalism and many environmental and other pertinent issues are ignored. We need to integrate and talk more. There are revolutions happening out there and you can join one or even start one. You are more powerful than you know.

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Level 4 Water Restrictions

If you are living in the Western Cape, you will know that the drought here is severe. In the spirit of a healthier environment, we all need to take water conservation more seriously and save even more water than we were saving before. The dam levels are at an all-time low and, while we are all waiting and wishing for rain, we must remember that even when it does start raining, it will take a long time for our dams to recover fully. We must continue to save water always, even when seeing the rain leads us to think that water is bountiful.

It doesn’t hurt to self-evaluate and see room for improvement. This is why we are pushing hard on water conservation. Every single drop that is being wasted or saved is making a difference to our dam levels, so let’s be as creative as possible to save water.

Level 4 restrictions will most probably be implemented on the 1st of June, and this is what they are:

ONLY 100 LITRES OF WATER WILL BE ALLOCATED PER PERSON PER DAY

This amounts to 4 large buckets that you will use for washing yourself, your clothes, drinking, cooking, washing your dishes and flushing your toilet. Say goodbye to bathing – it’s irresponsible to do that now. It is unwise to drink water from the tap now as it can cause you to get sick. People are turning to bottled water or boiling water for consumption.

ALL NON-ESSENTIAL USES OF MUNICIPAL WATER WILL BE BANNED

This means that you cannot use water to fill your swimming pool, wash your car, boat or other vehicles. You cannot water you garden and no new golf courses or sports fields may be built unless they are watered with non-potable water.
The level 3 restrictions allowed garden watering using a watering can for an hour on Tuesday and Saturday. However, if level 4 restrictions are passed, you will no longer be allowed this privilege. A city statement said to “use water only for drinking, cooking and essential washing”.

WE NEED TO LIMIT OURSELVES TO TWO-MINUTE SHOWERS

Showers use about 16 litres a minute. It’s time to speed up and streamline your washing routine. Not only will you save water, but also precious time for other therapeutic rituals. A great way to save water, is to shower the Navy way. Turn on the water, get wet, and turn the water off. Scrub down and then turn on the water to rinse.

OVERUSE OF MUNICIPAL WATER MAY RESULT IN FINES

The proposed fines for overuse must be approved by the council and Chief Magistrate, and they range between R1000 and R5000 for a spot fine.

SOME WATER SAVING TIPS

  • Collect grey water using a bucket from your washing machine, washing dishes, mopping the floor and showering in order to flush the toilet. Flush for faeces only or after a few urinations.
  • Divert your grey water into the garden and use biodegradable cleaning products. You can find an easy and effective way to do this in the May 2017 newsletter.
  • Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth and rinse your mouth and toothbrush in a small glass of water
  • Fix dripping taps
  • Turn off the water while lathering your hands
  • Always put full loads in the washing machine or dishwasher. It’s OK to wear clothes again. Wash what you really need to wash.
  • Collect rainwater: Collecting rainwater off your roof via the gutters can supply you with a large amount of water
  • Stop eating meat or reduce your intake
  • Showering for 2 minutes – We thought it would a great idea to give you a list of 2 minute songs to play while showering. When the song ends, your time is up. We suggest you make your own mixed CD to play while showering. Old songs tend to be shorter than more modern songs. By searching your music on your PC, select view by content and then sort them by length. It’s an easy way to find all the songs that are 2 minutes and shorter. You can listen to a new song each time you shower.
  • Blur – Song 2
  • Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues
  • Elvis Presley – All Shook Up
  • Randy Newman – You’ve got a friend in me (Toy Story version)
  • David Bowie – Breaking Glass
  • Shirley Bassey – Big Spender
  • The Box Tops – The Letter
  • Tom Jones – It’s Not Unusual
  • The Beatles – From me to You
  • The Beach Boys – Surfin Safari
  • Joey Dee & The Starliters – Peppermint Twist
  • Frank Sinatra – Don’t Take Your Love From Me/ When You’re Smiling/ It All Depends On You/ My Blue Heaven/Almost Like Being In Love
  • The Black Keys – Yearnin
  • Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever
  • Bo Diddley – Crackin Up
  • Bill Withers  – Aint No Sunshine When She’s Gone
  • Karen Zoid – Katherine Anne
  • Rodriguez – Forget It/HalfwayUp The Stairs
  • The Lumineers – Flowers In Your Hair
  • Buddy Holly – Dearest
  • Mumford & Sons – Babel
  • Bob Marley – No Water/Cheer Up/Soul Captive
  • Green Day – Brat
  • 30 Seconds To Mars – 100 Suns
  • Clutch – One Eye Dollar/Animal Farm
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Recycling Grey Water

 

With the drought heavily upon us in the Western Cape, alternative water sources are becoming more important than ever. Grey water is water collected after showering, bathing,  using basins, and washing dishes or clothes. (It does not include water from the toilet, which is called black water.)

If you grow your own food, this grey water could be used to water your fruit trees and vegetables.

Growing veggies using household grey water simply makes sense. It saves water in the long run and, with a bit of knowledge about composting, crop rotation, rainwater collection and other gardening topics, you could be well on your way to becoming self-sustainable. Apart from saving money, you’ll also avoid supporting monocrop farming which destroys arable landand and places a heavy burden on water resources.

Grey water contains nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, and plants can produce a higher yield if grey water is substituted for normal municipal water. Soapy water can also repel pests like aphids.

It is important to remember to use biodegradable products as many cleaning products can damage or kill your plants. Aside from containing harmful chemicals that can harm humans, animals and plants, many cleaning products on the shelves of supermarkets have also been tested on animals.  It makes sense to diversify our shopping habits and look into more sustainable solutions in the way we live our lives on a daily basis.

There are companies that install grey water systems and these can cost anything from R2 000 to R10 000. We have found that the most affordable and easiest option is to purchase a WaterWarrior for + – R110.  This is a fitting which connects your drain outlet pipe to a 25mm hosepipe.  You can then let the water run straight into your garden. Most drain outlet pipes are 50mm or 40mm in diameter. The WaterWarrior connects to a 50mm drain outlet pipe. However, a 40mm connector ring can be purchased for 40mm outlet pipes.

Things you will need to divert an outlet pipe to the garden:
  • WaterWarrior (and a connecting ring if you have 40mm outlet pipes)
  • Plumbing tape
  • 25mm garden hose or irrigation pipe
  • Clamp

For more instructions on how they are installed, you can watch this video

Important things to remember with grey water:
  • Use grey water within 24 hours. Pathogens can develop if it is stored too long
  • Use biodegradable, environmentally friendly cleaning products
  • Don’t use fabric softener, half a cup of vinegar is the best substitute .
  • Oily water is not good for soil so rinsing pots and pans in a little hot water first is  beneficial
  • Don’t use water from washing nappies or clothes soiled by faeces
  • Don’t use grey water if anyone in the house is suffering from an infectious disease

 

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