Greentings from the Lowveld, News update August 2009

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The economy may have slowed down but things in the slowveld have been very busy (hence writing has been on the back burner). The beginning of August marked seven years for us being here, this has caught us by surprise.... Hopefully it will not take us another seven years to put a celebration party together! Perhaps the best way to celebrate is the fact that our micro hydro system is almost up and running. The garden has been churned up with a huge trench, unsightly blue pipes littered the view and huge boots have flattened the grass... The chaos is almost over though and the unusually early rain will hopefully mend the scars fairly briskly. We are now just waiting for the engineer (who said artists are unreliable???), the turbine was promised for the first week of July, we are still waiting.... The turbine will mean that we have closed one more environmental circle. Bruce, Mark's father is proudly telling his friends that his son is the owner of a power station.

We were lucky enough to attend a talk by Cormack Cullinan (if you don't know who he is do a google). He mentioned that one needs to look at systems in ones lives in terms of circles and that one should close as many of these as possible. The circles that we are lucky enough to have closed are: water (borehole/septic tanks and soaks), vegetable garden/nut trees/fruit trees-food-compost, chickens-eggs-food waste, heating (burn invasive trees from our land)-ash-compost, energy (solar and micro-hydro power). We have become somewhat obsessive to see what other circles we can close. The swimming pool is next on the list (be warned that Mark's conversation will now consist of reed bed systems, natural filters and algae). Simon and Maru are trying to out us as hippies, the next sentence may just do it! Circles echo the inter-connectedness of everything on this planet. Cormack also commented on how many company/political logos have been transformed into circles in recent years. Even more hippie: we have also tried our hand at sandbag building (with a small retaining wall in the parking area), copying Theuns Naude who has built a stunning center using this method, we filled orange packaging bags with soil from the site, a bit of brick force, a local gum pole or two and voila! The turbine house is next. Theuns also gave us his paint recipe (more sound than what you can buy and it is odorless) 3 parts parts water to one part plaster bond liquid, add to white cement and oxides ( a few spoons for colour), mix into a thick paste (stiffer than ordinary paint) and apply. We painted the outside of our house with this and it cost R 670 for the paint.

We have spent most of this year catching up with editioning and are happy to announce that we are now on top of things. This means that we have a stash of fantastic new prints to launch by Robert Hodgins, Colbert Mashile and Fiona Pole. Take a look at them, they make for a good welcome to Spring 2009. The photograph above is an indicator of how the print market is looking for us,the odd bend but steadily climbing!

The pic was taken at Lekgalemeetse reserve in Limpopo on a bizarre stretch of tar in the middle of the veld, sign posted as the Orrie Baragwaneth Pass, a remnant of the loopy homeland system. Limpopo has become our travel destination of choice, part of the reason for this is that it seems to not be the destination of choice for anyone else so we have the place to ourselves. In April we spent nine days in the Machabeng and the Blouberg. In the Machabeng we camped in the bush (no facilities, just pristine bush, brilliant) and spent the days exploring the rock art of the area as well as climbing Thabantlanyana (but only half way up, it is very steep and Simon has Tamar's total fear of heights so we wobbled out of a summit bid). Last summers rains turned the bush into the most spectacular display of colour and seed pods. We decided that this is where our retirement village will be (we walked past quite a few "fix-it-uppers" that we are sure will be snapped up once the property market revives). At the base of the Blouberg is a village called "My Darling", what else can one ask for! In the Machabeng we saw lots of kids riding around on big yellow mountain bikes. Government in Limpopo is delivering...and some of the delivery is green, it is a brilliant transport solution for kids who live in rural areas far from their schools. The department of transport has given kids identified by their teachers bikes and helmets so that they can get to school more easily. On returning home we were thrilled to see that our local farm school has also been given the bikes. Now we are holding thumbs that the Shova Kalula project goes national. At the beginning of winter we organised grey school jerseys for each of the pupils in the school, so seeing them warmly dressed and cycling to school gets the day off to a good start.

At the beginning of June we held our second monoprint workshop. Karin Daymond, Dominique Mayer, Jen Lewis and Ilona Petzer added their names to the group and Griet van der Meulen, Josie Grindrod and Erica Schoeman took part for the second time! It was intense and some beautiful prints were done. We will be running our third workshop in September as the demand has been insistent.

At the end of July we went off to the Bushfire Festival in Swaziland and had a total jol at House on Fire. Seeing Vusi Mahlasela, Dhobet Gnahore and Habib Koite among others sharing the stage was sublime. On the bushfire front we all spent a day fighting a neighbours fire break fire that got out of control. It is amazing seeing what a wind, dry grass and neglected blue gum plantations can combine into. We have taken advantage of the burning out of our veld by planting a bunch of new trees and papyrus and sedges into our little wetland. Being so close to the effects of weather has led us to discovering the most fantastic weather forecasting site. Our new oracle is Norway. The Norwegians are way ahead of the South African Weather Bureau (whose site has collapsed into a disco bunny confusion of advertising and web gimmicks). Norway has six (!!!!) weather stations around Nelspruit and they are very accurate. The address is: once on the site you do a search for your location.

All the best from Mark and Tamar

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