It is almost mid-winter and June is a ‘shut down on events’ month. This is to give staff time off and others to catch up on endless things to do. Today has been grey, cold and very windy followed by heavy night rains; unusual for June when it is usually cold at night, with magnificent night skies for those brave enough to be outdoors, with sunny days and clear blue spacious skies.

From June we have big fire risks as the grass is long and dry. In a high wind fires are almost unstoppable, but as I look out I feel more confident this year as the Tikologo team managed by Coen and his brother Marco have run a borrowed cattle controlled ‘cell grazing’ scheme. The cows are kept in a relatively small space in which they eat everything edible while fertilizing the ground. In this way fire needed breaks are being created around our immediate properties. Until witnessing this grazing I had not really comprehended what vast resources are utilised to supply the endless need for meat consumption. Fully grown cows eat and drink a phenomenal amount of food daily! The cell grazing scheme is currently manually moved and takes a lot of time and energy to manage. As the borrowed cows are getting a delay on the destined abattoir it is benefitting both parties. We are in the process of purchasing needed additional firefighting equipment.

Our on site team diminished at the end of last month when we bid farewell to volunteers Birgit, Burkhard and Jen. Birgit and Burkhard spent 6 months here. Birgit in the office and elsewhere including the woodwork space where she used her creative talents to making some lovely mirrors for use on site and for sale, while Burkhard, a highly skilled carpenter created furniture, text tables and helped out with much needed repairs and maintenance. Jen was a much appreciated volunteer from the UK with an interest in Permaculture who worked hard on the veggie garden and assisted with tree planting, helping Megan build a bug house and other activities. In May we were joined by a very welcome Jami to fill the ‘admin and book keeping’ slot and utilise her amazing skills in marketing.

We all gratefully receive endless ongoing support from the off site management committee members, particularly Lucy our committed chairperson who works tirelessly at trying to make sure TRC offers a rich variety of activities and courses. With Rob resting and recuperating in Johannesburg this has meant a juggling of our usual very popular Rob events in November and December .

Coen continues to use his multiple skills and great enthusiasm heading up Tikologo. He was joined by Marco, his energetic brother, with a useful background and skills in more conventional farming. Megan in her role of retreat and casual visitor management is creatively upgrading facilities as far as possible within our limited budget and resources. All regular visitors who return comment on the positive changes. Alan is a calm and compassionate presence, dedicated to supporting anyone wanting to do personal retreats in the Tara’s Valley blessed retreat House. Sadly this is a very under-utilised amenity. In his free time he willingly helps with endless needed maintenance. I am still around trying to withdraw. We need and welcome committed volunteers without whom we would really struggle.

A recent environmental building experiment has seen the emergence of a strange egg shape behind the straw bale house as you drive in to the car park. This is a water catchment egg or urn built using super adobe sand bag filled tubes. It was directed by Thomas Linders and construction carried out initially by his ‘compost group’ with most of us here helping. Three hard days by all saw the egg rise to about half way. A few weeks later Thomas returned to assist us to finish the shape. The plastering has been done by James with help.

Q. Thomas why an urn shape?
A. Because it was known by ancients and desert dwellers like the bushmen to be a good shape to keep water always fresh. This is because no water ever gets trapped in dead places. Water is very sensitive to temperature and even the slightest change causes needed movement. As with most of our eco-friendly building experiments it has its teething problems which we hope to be able to sort out.

On the ‘community support’ side we have slowed down a little on helping the ‘Modibate’ residents on our land to relocate, as the promise of a new RDP house within a year in Groot Marico does not seem to be materialising as soon as expected. Those who have staked their claims, a few of whom are now living there, will eventually get RDP houses but might have to wait longer than the initial promise. So often there is a huge flurry of activity pre-election followed by a massive slow down. Sadly this NW province has a bad record of service delivery. Thanks to all who have contributed to help us with this ongoing initiative.

Tirisano crèche is still in operation each morning with 8-15 children attending. It runs under the guidance of dedicated and committed Maria who is assisted by her daughter Keitumetsi and another young mother, Minkie. Thanks to those who offer needed funds to keep the service in operation.

On the bigger environmental scene the battle against mining continues. We are affiliated to Mmutlwa wa Noko run mainly by the voluntary, tireless and skilled energy of Jeannie and Brian who dedicate at least 8 hours daily to compiling and sending out, or hand delivering, legal and environmental documents to relevant authorities plus attending meetings. De Beers, now part of Anglo American are sadly likely to be issued prospecting rights to most of this area despite only minimally adhering to the required procedures.

Another organisation is Marico River Catchment Association (MRCA) who are persevering with trying to get the area declared a conservation area. It seems a sad reality that mining, driven by ever growing global consumer needs, is far more powerful than environmental conservation.

One of the late Akong Rinpoche’s first comments on his first visit to the TRC valley was on the clean air and good water, both of which he said will before too long become rare commodities in the world. In our small way we are doing the most we can around environmental protection and care.

We hope to welcome back old friends and newcomers to TRC either for needed quiet personal or family breaks or at some of our forthcoming events regularly updated on our TRC web page.