The view outside my back door.

The first of the colloquially named ”Piet-my-vrou” (red chested) cuckoos arrived back yesterday. It always heralds spring in my mind. They stay with us, laying their eggs in the host’s nests until the autumn takes them to warmer climes. Their incessant calling can be heard on all our recordings of Nov and Dec retreats. Welcome rains a few weeks ago have brought a flush of green to the world and thankfully settled a lot of the winter dust. The nights are still cold but the daytime temperature has hit 40 degrees for the past 2 days.

Spring and the opening up of travel restrictions are slowly bringing in a trickle of casual visitors, some doing a personal retreat, and the first yoga retreat over heritage long weekend. It’s wonderful to welcome people back and hope more will feel inclined to replenish in our clean environment. Tanja Camacho will soon be joining the small on-site team to test the waters as the new centre manager. We all feel very positive about the input of much needed new energy and hope her trial period proves a success.

Elias and Bernard from Zimbabwe replaced the office roof.

Despite little activity on the main site, it has continued to be a busy time on the permaculture site, and with the endless renovation of buildings. The two stranded Zimbabwean skilled builders Elias and Bernard finally managed to depart on a repatriation bus after their unexpected six-month stay. We are grateful for all the renovation work done during this period. At the moment James continues with endless needed tasks and Toki is working on the renovation of an old farmhouse for future community needs.

Tikologo, now Rokpa Permaculture Learning Centre (RPLC) is being well maintained under the guidance of Thabo who was an apprentice with Coen and Megan for several years. He has been involved in some informal on-site training for 4 young people from Rietvaly and is keen to offer guided tours of the site to any interested parties. Michele Schiess and Thomas Linders are planning to be more involved in the future and we are still on the lookout for someone PDC trained with work experience wishing to take up the opportunity as the Permaculture manager. The position will be advertised soon.

Thabo explaining some permaculture principles to visitors.

Michele and Thomas with two colleagues Leon and Stan ran an inspiring workshop to begin the process of a site design for the development of the Tirisano crèche in Rietvaly. This involved Thabo, Soli, and myself on site, and a handful of involved and interested people from both Rietvaly and Groot Marico. The follow-up workshop is due before the end of the month, to consolidate plans for future development. This will hopefully lead to the construction and development of more solid and appropriate buildings, composting toilets, a designed playground, and a veggie garden.

The Tirisano creche has been closed since lockdown, but has opened for the children last week. Despite being closed for the children, there has been practical training on vegetable growing in raised beds and making compost, for the future veggie garden, for the Rietvaly community. Rietvaly has very challenging solid clay soil. Six impressive small raised veggie beds are doing well and some ‘marogo’ (African spinach) has been harvested for the crèche kitchen this week.

It is a struggle to abide by Covid restrictions with a crowd of over 30 enthusiastic children in very small tin huts but we try our best. We have issued masks ( which don’t stay on long), split the groups into indoor and outdoor times, are using sanitising spray, and plenty of soap and attempting distancing around meals. It’s difficult for the kids to understand restrictions when there have been very few in Rietvaly. Rebecca, one of the teachers recently had a baby daughter so will not return to work until next year. An enthusiastic young woman Martha will be standing in for her, supported by Keba, the other teacher, who has been there since the crèche opened and Anna the cook and support worker.

On the wider environment side, the Marico biosphere activities are slowly getting going again. Mmutlwa wa Noko, are back in action training up some less experienced staff from the Biosphere team. This is to assist them with trying to fend off more prospecting and mining applications in and around the biosphere. This is no easy task with the government’s economic recovery policy being to promote as much mining as possible.

We are keen to welcome casual visitors, people wanting space for a personal retreat, or people wanting to run retreats or workshops here.

October 2020