My garden has breathed a sigh of relief, following some impressive afternoon thunderstorms, so typical of Johannesburg at this time of the year. Many a seedling wilted and died last month, after weeks of unrelenting, frustratingly rain-less heat which rendered even the toughest of our garden plants (aloes and crassulas) gasping for relief. January 2019 has offered some rainy respite, bringing with it a sense of fresh renewal and the garden has responded accordingly. Not that we haven’t had some failures: seeds lovingly planted have mysteriously not produced (I have learnt to accept that this sometimes is just so), seedlings have shriveled and expired in the heat, and our lovely lettuce was set upon by some bug or worm with a very large appetite. In this case I have been determined not to use chemical insect repellents, and thankfully our preferred organic alternatives are slowly making an impact.
Please enjoy the pictures to follow. Each one snapped by me earlier today:
When I spied this poisonous Brown Button spider and her eggs clinging to the underside of a piece of garden furniture, I felt a strong pull of sympathy and fascination and less of the horror and alarm that some might expect. I even felt a bit guilty for not having noticed her when I initially pulled the chair away from it’s normal shady spot two days ago, and placed it on the lawn in the baking hot sun where it has been ever since. Waiting to be scrubbed clean along with some other pieces of garden equipment. (We will get round to that). I felt a distinct sense of kinship with this spider mother who was after all, just trying to give her kids a home and fighting chance in a harsh world, and here I come along and spoil the whole plan by exposing them, belly side up, to the blazing summer sun and the possibility of predators, such as certain birds.
I have come across venomous spiders before in Johannesburg gardens, and I knew by sight that this one was not severely venomous. It’s the Black Button (Widow) that you’ve really got to be careful of: typically a bite from one of those results in a hospital admission and having your vital signs measured for about 24 hours. A bite from the Brown Button is less severe and more localised, and symptoms in a healthy adult will normally clear up within a few days. Button Spiders will only attack if threatened; not exactly the vicious predators they are sometimes made out to be.
Well anyway, there we were: myself, the spider and her little brood of two, with me wondering what to do next. A nice photograph of the little family seemed appropriate, so I leaned in slowly with my phone and clicked. She immediately darted into her nest, which you can clearly see in the above pic: it’s the pocket shaped mass to the right of the photo, with her balancing at the mouth. Pleased with my nicely detailed close-up, and feeling somewhat bonded with this little trio, I felt inclined to offer them some shelter, so I lifted the chair (easy enough; its made of a light plastic) and moved the whole lot into a shady spot on the patio.
And that’s where we are now. But the harder part comes later, because clearly a decision will have to be made. We are encouraged to ‘get rid’ of poisonous creatures from our homes and gardens, and that can mean different things to different people. So when my husband gets home later from an undoubtedly long and hard day, we will still have a little date with Mother Nature to attend to.
I have stayed away from the shops today, and I will not be going online to look for Black Friday deals. Yesterday on a local radio station the guest for the morning was a representative from SADAG, Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. She invited listeners to go to the SADAG website and make a donation. “Do Something Memorable This Black Friday: Save A Life”, says their Welcome Page. I went ahead and made my online donation, pleased to know that my contribution is enough to cover their costs for telephone counselling for 10 people in need over the holiday period, or any other time.
Amongst its many services to thousands of South Africans in need, the group manages a crisis and referral call-in centre, managed by volunteers. One of the things she discussed was the rise in numbers of calls that they can expect over the upcoming holiday season. For many people, whether they live with mental illness or not, Christmas brings stress, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and a sense of being unable to cope.
And even amongst the luckiest of us, who doesn’t feel like skipping Christmas sometimes?! I consider myself fortunate to have friends and family to spend time with over Christmas, but it can feel like a lot of hard work and sometimes an ‘alternative’ Christmas, one that you can appreciate on your terms, sounds like the way to go. Like watching series for the day, on the couch, on your own, with just the dog and the cat for company. Or floating in the pool with a glass of bubbly or a cocktail (Southern Hemisphere Christmas has that kind of climate, so we have the advantage on this one 😉 ). Or just being able, guilt-free, to turn down that lunch invitation because you just don’t feel like it! How many of us get THAT one right? …. Or how about donating your time for the day to a good cause? Five years ago my husband and I spent the day helping prepare and serve a Christmas lunch for a special needs group. Thing is, there is always more than one way of spending our time and our hard earned money, whether its for Christmas or for Black Friday. So maybe spend a little on a good cause. Its worth the effort, and you will feel the better for it 🙂
As far back as the 1990’s I used to admire those goblet style wine glasses when they first became popular, made as they were from empty beer and wine bottles, often with the original branding kept in place, a definitive nod to the move towards recycling and re-purposing. I always wondered how they cut the bottles whilst keeping them in tact and then turning them into desirable and useful items. Re-purposing, or upcycling, may require a bit of creativity and technical skill and sometimes it’s just more convenient to leave such adventures to the experts, as per my previous post Here. If like me, you have a bit of ‘crafty inclination’ (I was a fine arts student and I also taught nursery school for many years, making fascinating things out of egg boxes and toilet roll inners), you might be tempted to try some of these things yourself.
Fast forward to more recent years and I started noticing a lot of information online about ‘quick, easy and foolproof’ ways to cut bottles at home with no special equipment. May I say at this point that trying to cut a glass bottle in half with twine, acetone and a box of matches is not advisable. Unless you have very good health and household insurance perhaps. I followed up my failed attempts with a bit of online research and I discoveredthis product and I haven’t looked back. It allows me to cut glass bottles with relative ease, (ok, you will need some patience and perseverance before you really get the hang of it) and also to glue sections together depending on what I am making. I haven’t gotten to the gluing stage yet: I am keeping it simple 😉
Here are the contents of the basic kit (2 pics):
What I love about Bottlecraft SA is that they are a truly South African business with a big heart. They operate from Grabouw near Cape Town within the Overberg Region in the Western Cape, South Africa. They have worked on projects in Rawsonville, Khayalitsha, Gugulethu, Port Elizabeth, Durban , Botswana, QwaQwa (Drakensburg), Namibia and Grabouw, where they focus on poverty alleviation, job creation and community upliftment. I ordered their Basic Kit online; it arrived in the post, and I was able to get going in no time. Read more on their About page.
If the thought of bottlecrafting doesn’t turn you on, (I was telling a friend about it on the phone, and she sighed and said that it sounds like a lot of work) here are a few links that might lead you to find your Thing:
We all need to feel appreciated and recognized for our efforts from time to time. We need feedback from others to know that our endeavours count for something, especially when we feel that the wheels are turning too slowly and that the things we want to achieve seem out of reach. Our family members, friends and those we consider our peers are often the mirrors which reflect back to us our place in this world, and while we should never let other’s opinions make or break us, there is no doubt that people matter, in the sense that we sometimes simply need to know that what we are trying to do is not going unnoticed. At TheFreeDictionary.com, ‘AFFIRMATION’ is described as ‘a statementintended to provideencouragement,emotionalsupport, ormotivation…‘
Our need for recognition and support is echoed in ‘No Man is an Island’, a well known proverbial expression coined by John Donne in the 17th Century. The phrase expresses the idea that human beings do badly when isolated from others and that we have a need to be part of a community in order to thrive.
All this was brought home to me whilst reading through the readers comments one of my recent postsand enjoying and appreciating the the positive feedback I received. One of the comments in particular, from hilaryhunterwriter, stood out for me. It ended with the simple statement: “Keep up the good work” and somehow this short sentence inspired me to just that. Suddenly I felt a unexpected pride at my efforts and in that moment it felt like what I had written was elevated to something more special than before. And perhaps that’s the critical issue: that it sometimes takes someone other than ourselves to recognize what we are doing and the impact that we have, because we often fail to see it at those times when we just can’t see the wood for the trees.
A few weeks ago I visited a close, slightly younger family member who has in a short space of time been through several operations including reconstruction surgery and has been on cancer treatment since. Despite having to deal with devastating emotional shock and invasive treatment, she has continued on her way towards physical and emotional recovery with astonishing energy, positivity and determination while the rest of us look on in awe. I decided to tell her once and for all that I think she has been amazing and that I admire her hugely for the way that she dealt with everything. This resulted in a long and rather tearful hug on both sides, as more words of love and appreciation tumbled out. I left with a feeling of lightness of spirit and somehow relieved that I had spoken from the heart in this way, even at the risk of becoming emotional. I think that this lightness and sense of relief came from knowing that what I had expressed had been ‘sitting’ with me, needing to be said, and that there is no time like the present, especially as Tomorrow is Promised to Nobody. But maybe that’s a subject for another post….
Nude Foods in Zonnebloem, Cape Town is a bulk wholefoods store, offering a plastic-free shopping experience. They sell high quality wholefoods, fresh organic produce, home and body products, minus any wasteful packaging . In their own words: “Our bulk wholefoods, health foods, and earth-friendly products are all non-GMO, plastic-free and sold by weight. Our goal is to make plastic-free shopping easy and accessible to the everyday shopper, whilst supporting local suppliers and other waste reducing initiatives”. The process is simple: scoop out from their bulk bins into your reusable container, weigh, and pay. As well as the self-service bin section, they have pantry items, household products and choose-your-own organic veg. In the war on waste that is gaining traction here and elsewhere in the world, shopping experiences like this one comes not a moment too soon.
In Johannesburg I frequently shop at Food Lover’s Market (FLM) for bulk buy fresh produce, olive oil, and some of my dry goods such as seeds, nuts and dried and spices, ground and whole. In the words of FLM Stoneridge: “Shopping is as much about the experience as it is about the things you buy. Food Lover’s Market have taken this principle to heart, re-creating the ambience of an old-fashioned marketplace in amodern theatre-of-food setting. Visiting the stores truly is an experience like no other.’
While both Nude Foods and FLM offer unpackaged ware in self-serve bulk bins, there are some clear differences between the two. Nude Foods is very specifically a plastic-free grocery store, offering non-GMO, healthy and affordable wholefoods and earth-friendly body and home products, all sold by weight. They are also relatively new:their Facebookpage was created on 5 September 2017. May they go from strength to strength! By contrast, FLM is a franchised, well established retail outlet with many branches, and it offers a huge variety of mainstream, conventionally packaged foods including the ‘big brands’ that one sees in all the well known stores. Also, importantly, they do not actively supply reusable packaging, other than the refillable glass bottles at the bulk buy area which supplies olive oil. Many people shop at FLM no doubt not particularly to avoid wasteful packaging, but simply because it’s convenient for them and they can find their familiar big brand items there. (I’m referring to the FLM outlets which I frequent here in Johannesburg… I would love to know what other people experience elsewhere in the country)
I frequently find myself in the minority when I shop at FLM, with my reusable cloth drawstring bags and my containers which I wash out after use and reuse each time I shop from their deli section or fish counter. I’m not bothered by this though. Rather, I’m grateful that these options are open to me, even if it requires the effort of constant rinsing and reusing and of course having to carry various bits of packaging around with me when I shop. And if I fall short sometimes, or don’t find what I need in unpackaged, then packaged it is. I have realised that driving my car up and down looking for perfect Zero Waste solutions is a waste of my valuable time, not to mention the carbon waste emissions thanks to all the added driving. I’ve given up feeling guilty about the compromises, knowing that I will continue to do my bit as far as possible.
There they were: lovely glass-packaged, tasty looking tidbits, all glossy and tempting in their see-through casing, just waiting to be opened up with that nice Pop which you hear when you first unscrew the metal top. I was unpleasantly surprised and slightly shocked to find a cheap looking piece of whitish plastic, all leggy and holey, looking a bit futuristic and not remotely related to food.
The jar of pickles was a gift from a thoughtful family member and I was very pleased to receive it. The very same company makes a delicious red pepper chutney which I buy often. I like the brand: made locally in South Africa, using nice simple packaging, and always in glass. Their products are available on many supermarket shelves, but they are not really one of the mainstream brands, retaining a bit of a ‘niche market’ feel. So I like to support them. The last thing I expected was to find this plastic gizmo thingy when I first unpopped the lid. It took me a few moments to realise what it was: a little mini-sieve that fits in the neck of the jar so that the brine or oil can be poured out, leaving the whole pickles behind. I fished the ungainly little thing out thinking, “well at least it may be recyclable”. But that’s not the point. I object because:
It adds nothing to my life: I have plenty of reusable metal sieves and strainers at home if I need help in separating solids from liquids. I appreciate that others might find this quite a handy little tool, but I do not. Especially not in plastic.
I should have been given the option as to whether to purchase this item or not. If the manufacturer had thought to include in their labeling, “For your convenience this item includes a plastic mini-sieve”, I could have made an informed decision. (OK, this situation was different in that it was a gift, which makes things a bit more tricky)
I am doing my best to reduce the amount of plastic that I bring home from the supermarket, and I do not appreciate unwelcome packaging surprises which now become my problem to dispose of.
But most of all, I am generally just tired of irresponsible food packaging. Surely the manufacturers could have done better in this case!!? …Could they not at least rather use a more sustainable source of material than plastic? What about a nice, once-off little metal sieve as a promotional item to offset and enhance their product? This could have gone a long way towards showcasing themselves as an environmentally and health conscious brand who are setting themselves apart from the plastic brigade. And especially for an extraneous, non-essential item like this one which a lot of people will end up throwing in the trash, intentionally or otherwise: rather create something more hard wearing and attractive, not just another cheap, forgettable piece of plastic.
It feels like high time for food companies to dig deep and really consider the environmental impact of what they are using to package and label their products. And at the end of the day to think about the impression that their choice of packaging may be creating of themselves as a brand. Hopefully in the near future we will see more legislation in place to rule out this kind of irresponsible food packaging. In the meantime, I’m off to enjoy a light lunch: cup of tea, tuna salad, and pickles 🙂
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t experience summer 24/7 here in South Africa! Some parts of the country such as Durban, a coastal city facing the Indian Ocean, is pretty warm year round, but here in Johannesburg, being inland and high lying, not so much. Just ask the thousands of visitors who arrived here without coats or jackets in June 2010 to experience the opening of the Soccer World Cup in Johannesburg! We are currently in the late stages of our Winter 2018 now. A touch of warmth in the afternoon breeze, the days becoming longer, and in the garden the winter loving Chinese Greens are beginning to flower and bolt in response to the warmer weather.
But not yet the time to pack away the winter woolies that I was folding up this morning as I started on an early Spring Clean. I have always loved knitwear, specifically in natural fabrics such as wool and cotton: cardigans and pullovers are a staple in my wardrobe, including for the summer when temperatures can drop quite a bit some evenings. For me there is nothing nicer than the soft warmth of a cosy pullover on a chilly day, or a light cardigan when the weather is cool, but not yet cold enough to go all out with scarves and coats.
I buy a lot of my clothing second hand (aka: pre-worn, pre-loved) and this is purely my preference from an eco-friendly standpoint and not because I can’t afford to buy new 😉 All the above (see pic) were purchased second hand within the last 3 or 4 years, from one of two Hospice shops which I frequent here in Johannesburg. All very affordable: from 5 ZAR up to about 60 ZAR. (On the Woolworths online website a new knit top for women can cost you several hundred ZAR, and even more for wool rich items.
Details of my Wooly Babies as pictured above, left to right (NOTE: some labels incomplete or missing):
Woolworths, made in SA, : lambswool, nylon, angora
News, made in SA, : polyester, nylon
Woolworths, made in SA, : wool, viscose, polyamide
100% Shetland wool
No details (no label)
Made in Cambodia, : cotton, acrylic
Smith & McGregor, : lambswool
Marks & Spencer, : made in China, : 100% wool
Lucy Siegle at theguardian.com explains it as follows: “Rewearing old clothes also displaces the need to make new virgin fibres – manufactured with oil-based petroleum or using cotton – both with hulking environmental impacts (also add in dyeing, finishing and the use of factories with dubious ethics). Buying pre-worn saves clothes from landfill and gives us an ethical way of satisfying a lust for new clothes without embracing fast-fashion culture”.
Environmental concerns aside, I also find that the quality of many second hand knitwear items is just of better quality, more unique and authentic (those one of a kind lucky finds are still out there), more likely to be natural rather than synthetic, and definitely less costly than buying new. And if I can apply just one or two of those points as a reason to buy, then purchasing second hand over new wins every time.
“….Everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”— May Sarton.
Autumn 2018 in the Southern Hemisphere will begin on Tuesday 20 March. I am in awe of the splendour of my garden as we reach the last few days of our glorious summer weather here in Johannesburg. I am grateful for the hail and rains that have fed my garden; the breathtaking lightning and thunderstorms so typical of our Highveld weather. I am grateful for the sunshine that has helped bring out the best of what the garden has to offer: herbs and veggies in abundance, flowers on their best display, insects, spiders, frogs and lizards, birds and birdsong. I am grateful for our hard work and patience (yes, we have had to help our garden along over time, helped it to recover from the years of neglect, built up the impoverished soil that we inherited when we took this property on just over four years ago). And nature is a marvel, because it will come back. The joy and abundance that I experience as I look out from my back door makes every moment of hard grind feel worth it.
I trust you enjoy the pictures below. Each one snapped by me today or yesterday 🙂