Museum Night Cape Town: Workshop on Hunter-Gatherer Food Culture

 

As part of Museum Night Cape Town the Iziko Museum invited to a Workshop: Hunter-gatherer food culture of the first humans on planet Earth.

 

Truida Prekel gave a talk on gathering from nature. Together with Sue Kingma she explained the indigenous foods on offer at the workshop:

 

This introduction to indigenous plants was very important, as all this food looked very exotic:

 

But of course, some basic survival skills are needed to make use of edible plants in nature. Dr Wallace Vosloo explains how to test if a plant is poisonous or not:

Dr Wallace Vosloo at the Museum Night Cape Town Workshop: Hunter-gatherer food culture of the first humans on planet Earth
Dr Wallace Vosloo at the Museum Night Cape Town Workshop: Hunter-gatherer food culture of the first humans on planet Earth

 

 

Then we were allowed to taste the plants we so easily walk by, not knowing how beneficial they are.

 

Dune Spinach:

 

Purslane:

 

Sour fig:

 

Jelly Melon or African Horned Cucumber:

 

Num-num:

 

Prickly Pear in different colours – red, orange and white:

 

With new strength from the snack break, attendees were invited to participate in survival activities.

 

Rope Making:

 

 

Fire Making:

 

 

A fun night out that has taught me to look at weeds around this country with different eyes.

 

Is concrete bad for your garden?

Building with concrete: What effect does it have on the surrounding soil?
Building with concrete: What effect does it have on the surrounding soil?

 

We’re building raised flower beds and fitting to the industrial raw look of our house we want to use concrete blocks.

Concrete blocks are flexible to use, inviting to play Giant Lego, so we might even turn some of the top row on the side, functioniong as additional planters.

 

Our garden is square, surrounded by boundary walls. The idea is for the flower beds to run along two of the walls, in an L-shape.

All we need to do for that is build a parallel smaller wall next to the two higher boundary walls. Doing a proper job, we need a concrete foundation for this wall.

 

So we have concrete blocks and a fresh concrete foundation holding up the raised flower beds in which we want to grow our vegetables. The question is:

 

Is concrete bad for your garden?

 

Concrete is the mixture of sand, gravel, cement and water.

 

Premanufactured concrete such as concrete blocks can contain fly ash, which is toxic.

 

Cement contains a variety of materials, such as limestone, shells, chalk, shale, clay, slate, blast furnace slag, silica sand, iron ore, some of which are harmful.

The main hazardous effect of cement is that it is highly alkaline. Wet cement is strongly corrosive (pH = 13.5) and can easily cause severe skin burns.

Even when the cement is dry, lime leaches into the soil which raises its pH levels. Plants usually like a slightly acidic to neutral soil, in the 6.0 to 7.0 pH range.

 

Protect soil from the effects of adjacent concrete

 

If you’re concerned unwanted substances might be leaching from concrete into soil, you can protect your soil:

–   Seal concrete blocks with concrete sealant and polymer paint.

–   Line the concrete blocks with plastic sheeting.

 

If you just want to deal with the altered pH level, you can treat your soil:

–   Use sulphur to lower the soil’s pH level.

–   Any acidic substance can help reduce the pH level, as long as it’s not too much acid for the plants. Funny enough, dog wee could be beneficial.

–   As a quick fix, water affected plants with a white vinegar solution.

–   Plant greens that prefer a more alkaline soil, for example Clematis, Asparagus, Ferns.

 

The bees are swarming

What a buzz!

Some new visitors decided to make a stop in our garden: Bees!

Bees are settling in our garden.
Bees are settling in our garden.

Every now and then a bee colony runs out of space. Part of the bees pack up and decide to find a new place: They swarm.

On their way they stopped in our garden. Unfortunately they didn’t stay. Maybe not yet enough plants around for them to make it an attractive spot.

But a nice inspiration for what could be: Some homemade honey sounds very appetising.

Maybe next time they’ll settle for good. 🙂

 

DIY Dog Digging Defence

DIY Dog Digging Defence: Our dogs are allowed do dig anywhere in the garden, except here.
DIY Dog Digging Defence: Our dogs are allowed do dig anywhere in the garden, except here.

 

We have clay soil in our garden and it’s super difficult to work:

When it’s dry it’s rock hard and requires a pick axe to be loosened up.

When it’s wet, it’s so dense, it’s waterproof and we have puddles in our garden.

 

In addition, we have a whole house buried in our backyard and any gardening work is interrupted by digging up rubble and rubbish and excavating the odd curious piece easily dating back several decades if not 100 years.

 

So I don’t mind our dogs digging. They’re doing us a great favour with this unmanageable soil and are inspiring in their determination to keep on digging.

However, out of all the places in our garden, the dogs choose the one corner they’re not allowed to dig: Where our paving meets the clay ground. – In order for the pavers to stay in place, we need the clay ground to stay put.

 

How to explain to dogs they’re allowed to dig over there, but not over here?

 

So I put up a DIY Dog Digging Defence:

Every time the dogs started digging too close to the pavers, I’d plonk down a concrete brick.

Needless to say: Our dogs would just start digging right beside it next time they got a chance.

So I’d plonk down another concrete brick.

Now we have a row of concrete bricks forming a small divider wall between pavers and clay ground.

 

Turns out this has additional benefits:

With the ground becoming loose in times of drought and Cape Town wind, we have dust everywhere. This small barrier helps keep the sand at bay.

It also works as a little jump in the obstacle course that our garden turns into when our dogs get the zoomies. They love any reason to jump, which seems to more than make up for the lost digging opportunity. 😉

 

Stuff I found in the garden: Vial

What a find: A sealed Heynes Mathew Ltd. vial. It even still got some liquid inside.
What a find: A sealed Heynes Mathew Ltd. vial. It even still got some liquid inside.

A lot of the items we excavate from our garden are puzzling: I have no idea what they are or what they were used for, nor how old or from where, and most importantly: why they are buried in our ground.

The more surprising when it’s still intact and traceable: I’m always amazed that it is still possible to excavate entirely intact bottles. After removing the garden soil with a digger back to ground level, hacking at the clay earth to loosen it up, and dogs digging up the rest:

How amazing that this vial didn’t break. And it’s sealed! With something inside! 😮

It is even possible to read the pressed imprint of the manufacturer’s signature: Heynes Mathew Ltd.

Now, there’s something to research! And it comes up with results, even with dates:

Extract from The Cape Town Guide (1897) p139:
“Heynes, Mathew & Co. – This firm so widely know throughout South Africa was established in Cape Town at the beginning of the century. Their operations increased so rapidly that they found it necessary a year or two ago to construct new premises, and these are now amongst the most attractive in Cape Town. Heynes Mathew & Co.’ Building is six stories high, and is situated at the corner of Adderly and Longmarket Streets. The first floor is let to various tenants, but the remainder of the building is devoted to the requirements of their large business. They manufacture numerous specialities for their trade, and are agents also for many remedies which have a world-wide reputation.”

Even though the Heynes, Mathew & Co. building has been demolished, it appears the company still exists: HEYNES MATHEW LTD – DIVISION OF SA DRUGGISTS

Maybe they can help me date the year when this vial was made. 😮

If you know more about The Broken Palace, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Playing giant lego in our backyard

 

Our new garden design: Chillout area with braai at the back.
Our new garden design: Chillout area with braai at the back.

 

Progress in our garden is slow: There’s still so much fixing going on around the house, that our backyard is mostly abused as a storage facility.

So when finally the east wall got done, we had some extra space freed up to move the concrete blocks.

And the rest was left to play:

Like tending to a zen garden, an empty space is quite inviting to be reflective and creative.

 

The first time the concrete blocks turned into an interactive group seating area:

 

Now the concrete blocks form a centre piece, as the garden work will continue along the garden wall. They cover quite a bit of ground, which will prevent dust being blown around. And they stretch out like a giant sofa, an outdoor lair, complete with backrest and bird bath. And of course, the braai at the back:

 

With water restrictions plans for our garden are changing, so let’s see what the next giant lego reshuffle will look like. 🙂

 

Gardening in Clay Soil

The whole soil is covered in water like a glass sheet.
The whole soil is covered in water like a glass sheet.

 

After some heavy rainfall our garden is completely under water.

That’s because we have clay and other things in our soil.

In times of water restrictions maybe a blessing in disguise: Clay, because of its density, retains moisture well.

Clay soil has very good fertility and needs less fertiliser than other soils. Simply adding organic material can maintain that fertility, improve drainage and lighten heavy soil.

A good idea is to build raised flower beds, where the water can freely drain off.

So it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but we’ll make the best out of our clay soil garden.

 

Is this sunflower sprouting buds on every leaf intersection?

How many flowers is this sunflower going to sprout?
How many flowers is this sunflower going to sprout?

 

Another sunflower from our rattie garden! 🙂

 

I don’t always know what type of seeds were left over from the pet rat food, so when I throw them in a flower pot to grow into a rattie garden, whatever comes out is a surprise!

 

Such as this sunflower, which appears to be growing a sunflower at each leaf intersection. Are we in for octuple luck of sunflower beauty? 😮

 

#MoopSwoop Find: Seed Packets

#MoopSwoop Find: Seed packets that flew into our courtyard. Thanks for that, this will grow nicely in our garden. :)
#MoopSwoop Find: Seed packets that flew into our courtyard. Thanks for that, this will grow nicely in our garden. 🙂

 

This was odd: I didn’t realise at first these seed packets were #MoopSwoop finds, because my husband had just been given some by his brother and I thought the Woodstock wind had somehow gotten hold of and dispersed them.

 

But when I showed my husband the salvaged seed packets, he said they were not his.

 

So, whoever lost or dumped these seed packets: They made it safe and sound into our courtyard and will surely be of good use in our urban garden.

 

And thanks to the Woodstock wind for bringing them to us. 🙂

 

Another beautiful sunflower from our rattie garden

This sunflower grew as a leftover seed from the rattie food.
This sunflower grew as a leftover seed from the rattie food.

 

Whenever my pet rats don’t finish their rattie food, I throw the leftover seeds into a flower pot.

Whatever grows in there I refer to as our rattie garden. 😉

The ratoots get to roam in their rattie garden and love nibbling on the wheat grass.

Every now and then however, a plant makes it, and breaks through amongst the other seedlings that end up as #RattieTreats.

This plant then gets a chance to grow to its full potential. Such as this sunflower! 😮

Which is doubly useful, as this sunflower in turn will produce seeds which again feed the ratties. 🙂

And of course, it’s also incredibly beautiful. So when the sunflower opens, it features a proper indoor flower pot plant in our kitchen.

Who would’ve thought that it’s all thanks to the ratties! 😀

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Ladle

One of the many 'excavations' from our garden: A ladle
One of the many ‘excavations’ from our garden: A ladle

 

This ladle is only one of the many kitchen utensils we excavated from our garden: Pots, pans, can openers, mugs, cutlery…

 

Now, did all these kitchen tools break and were dumped decades ago in what is now our garden?

 

Or are all these items part of the kitchenware from The Broken Palace? But shouldn’t they then have been packed up and moved before The Broken Palace was destroyed?

 

It feels so curious finding these long forgotten leftovers from a house that is shrouded in hearsay.

If you know what happened to The Broken Palace, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Balusters

Yup! We excavated these 4 balusters from our garden soil.
Yup! We excavated these 4 balusters from our garden soil.
Yup! We excavated these 4 balusters from our garden.

 

Yes, imagine digging out these babies! When all you wanted to do was planting some tomatoes…

At 63cm tall it really feels like unearthing a house. And it gives a better idea of “The Broken Palace” that once stood here:

 

The colours vary in layers of pink to yellow to babyblue, and leave a chalk-like imprint on everything they touch.

 

These concrete pillars look like Victorian style balusters:

Different styles of porch spindles.
Different styles of porch spindles

 

Just that they are like two opposing each other, similar to these symmetrical balusters:

Example of symmetrical balusters from a building in Italy
Example of symmetrical balusters in Italy

 

I’ve seen these on houses around the neighbourhood.

Do you know this particular baluster style?

Can you remember the Broken Palace being adorned with these balusters?

If so, kindly get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Stuff we found in our garden: Bottles

How can these bottles have stayed intact for decades?
How can these bottles have stayed intact for decades?

 

Our garden soil is littered with glass shards and I’m the one who MOOP swoops them.

But every now and then I get to feel like Indiana Jones, because lo and behold, I excavate fully intact bottles.

 

Interesting small bottles I dug up from our garden.
Interesting small bottles I dug up from our garden.

 

Quite delicate little flasks in shapes we are not even used to seeing anymore. How can it be that they didn’t break in all these decades? What were their contents, what were they made for?

If you can remember what these bottles were used for, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

Excavated bottles we found in our garden from the good old days.
Bottles we found in our garden from the good old days.

 

We have a house buried in our garden: The Broken Palace

The foundation of a house that previously stood here in our garden:
The foundation of a house that previously stood here in our garden: “The Broken Palace”

 

Renovating a heritage house in Woodstock comes with lots of surprises. Turns out our garden is full of them too!

Lots and lots of rubble we excavated from our garden.
Lots and lots of rubble we excavated from our garden, and this is only the work of one morning.

 

Loving urban gardening we can’t wait to grow our own herbs and veggies.

But the ground in our garden is not what the lush grass field might have indicated.

The original garden: What lies beneath is covered by heaps of lush grass.
The original garden: What lies beneath is covered by heaps of grass.

 

Instead of digging up rich soil, we have to tackle the solid surface with pick axes.

Loosening up the soil in our garden has to be done with a pick axe.
Loosening up the soil in our garden is real hard work.

 

Beneath lies one jaw-dropping curiosity after another:

From dishes and pots and pans, to tools and screws and metal plates, to clothing, in particular shoes, also lots and lots of buttons, to entire intact bottles and lots and lots of glass shards, many many stompies,

to tiles that can be puzzled together from the broken pieces, metal roof sheeting, wooden floors, to entire bricks and even four matching columns,

to old light bulbs, coins from the 1950s, to lots and lots of bones, teeth, hair clips, marbles and other toys,

we’ve probably dug up an entire house by now, together with its contents.

 

So what happened here?

Neighbours tell me there once stood a house called “The Broken Palace”.

One anecdote goes that, as the naughty boys ran away from the police, they’d take a shortcut into the alleyways behind The Broken Palace. A fishing net would catch the police, as only the boys knew where to slip through.

 

As we’re uncovering more objects from the depths of our garden, we can only imagine the stories that took place here.

 

Do you remember The Broken Palace? Does any of the items we found in our garden jog some memories? If so, please get in touch: TrulyJuly@web.de 🙂

 

How to deal with dog wee in your garden

Dog urine can leave lawn burns from overfertilisation.
Dog urine can leave lawn burns from overfertilisation.

 

Why is dog pee harmful to vegetation?

“There are three primary reasons why dog urine burns grass: alkaline urine pH, the concentration of the urine, and its nitrogen load.” – 3 Reasons Your Dog’s Urine Kills Your Grass

“One of the primary components in dog urine that affects shrubs and other plants is urea, a type of nitrogen waste that is produced as the body metabolizes protein. Because dogs have a large protein requirement in their diets, a significant amount of urea can be produced by a healthy dog. When a dog pees on your shrubs, the urea in the urine acts as a source of nitrogen for the plant and the surrounding soil.
Nitrogen is an essential element for plant development, and in small amounts the nitrogen provided by dog urine can actually benefit your shrubs.
While shrubs need nitrogen for proper growth and development, too much nitrogen can be detrimental; it can stunt or potentially even kill the shrub.” – Will Dog Pee Kill Shrubs?

 

How to prevent dog pee from damaging your plants

–  Protect your plants

While fencing your garden off is a bit of a harsh way to keep your dog out, raised flower beds are just as effective and have other practical benefits.

–  Train your dog not to pee on the grass

“Provide an area in your yard, away from your garden, consisting of sand and soil covered in mulch or pebbles, where your dog can urinate without harming any of your plants or lawn. Plant salt-resistant greenery and grasses near this potty spot, in case it has any accidents. These plants are typically found along the coast and are more urine-resistant than other flora.” – Does Dog Pee Hurt Plants?

–  Steer away from (distressed looking) plants and trees

“Of course, a dog’s gotta go when a dog’s gotta go. But when you have the option, steer Fido to a lamppost rather than a tree and a bark covered area rather than a stressed-looking lawn. You can spot stressed trees by bark that is discolored or even peeling off around the base. And trees that are under six inches in diameter or have thin bark are at higher risk.” – Why Does Dog Pee Kill Plants?

–  Keep the pH in balance

“For the health of both your dog and your lawn, you should strive to keep your pet’s urine pH right around 6.5, and no higher than 7.
I recommend buying pH strips from your vet or at the local drug store to check your pet’s urine pH at home so you know when it’s in or outside the desired range. In the morning prior to feeding your dog is when you should collect the urine sample. You can either hold the pH tape in the stream of urine while your dog is voiding, or you can catch a urine sample in a container and dip the tape into the sample to check the pH.” – 3 Reasons Your Dog’s Urine Kills Your Grass

 

How to help your plants recover from dog pee

–  Neutralise the soil

“You will need to neutralize the acid fairly quickly or your vegetables will not survive – my father’s trick was to use a few tablespoons of baking soda in a watering can and water the area.” –  Is Dog Urine Bad for My Vegetable Garden?

“Sprinkling lime or gypsum in the affected area speeds up the recovery of existing grass, or new growth if you’ve reseeded, by neutralizing the acidity of the affected area.” – Gardening 101: How to have your dog and keep your garden, too!

–  Dilute the urine

“After your dog urinates on any plants in your yard, douse the area with water from your garden hose. A thorough rinsing of the area within eight hours of urination dilutes the urine enough to prevent damage to the plant, according to VeterinaryPartner.com. Don’t wait more than 12 hours to rinse the plants because this could actually increase the damage to the plant. Provide your dog with plenty of water to drink, which dilutes the urine even before it winds up in your garden.” – Does Dog Pee Hurt Plants?

–  Treat dog urine as fertiliser

If you fertilise your lawn, take into account the overfertilisation your dog can provide and avoid fertilising these areas on top of it.

–  Consider plants that like dog wee

“Selecting plants that can survive getting drenched in dog urine is a good idea around your property perimeter. Violas, columbine, lilac, ornamental grasses and a host of other plants are virtually urine proof. Make sure the border plants are not poisonous to dogs.” – How to Stop Dogs From Urinating on Plants

“Clover is highly resistant to pet urine and helps maintain a uniformly green lawn.” – Benefits of a Clover Lawn

–  Grow a back-up lawn

“With a little planning, you can easily grow small “turf repair” pots in your back garden. All you need is a small plastic flower pot (3 inch is fine), fill it with some soil, either compost or garden soil, then sow a few grass seeds in the top. Give it a good water and leave it outside somewhere keeping it moist over the next week or so. When your dog has burnt a section of lawn, simply dig out the circle, drop your lawn repair pot grass into the hole and hey presto … fixed! You can set up a number of these pots next to your shed and the grass will sit happily in the pot until needed.” – Dog urine patches killing your lawn?

 

#UrbanGardening