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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.

 

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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.

 

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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. 🙂

 

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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. 😉

 

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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 🙂

 

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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. 🙂

 

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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.

 

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