The weather has been blissfully cool and rainy for the last few days and as Simon rather ostentatiously pointed out to us “I can function properly in this weather, I have had my best day in two years today”. We are hoping that the porcini mushrooms in the pine plantations will finally get growing (we have not had any luck with our mushroom forays so far this season). The cloudy days have also led to us seeing some secretive residents in the area, they are a jackal, badger and two otters playing in the two dams that you drive past just before the workshop. Neighbours have also reported seeing hippo in the valley again, although we have not seen any tracks yet.
The day before Good Friday we discovered that Simon’s “female” rabbit Tabithy is in fact not female, this announced by the arrival of six little Easter bunnies. Tabithy has been renamed Timble and is now housed in his own hok!
Simon and Maru are on holiday and are very busy with their AttVos village (Attwood and Vos – Jody and Max who are their fellow property developers). The village consists of a complicated water system (running), pizza ovens, restaurants, houses, markets, stable, veggie gardens etc. Trade appears to take place with carefully bits of broken slate as the currency. Bits of papyrus are cut into brooms, bamboo makes pipe systems, coral tree petals become fish, mielies picked up from our neighbours fields are ground on the grind stone to make meal, miniature loaves are baked…. They are now raiding the workshops rag bin for bits of cloth to make bedspreads and carpets with.
The environmental evangelism continues to gain momentum… The solar geysers are up and running on the guest house (complete with a solar pump which is powered by a panel that looks like a conceptual art piece) and we await a quote for our micro-hydro scheme. We have found a local company that do installations in the Congo and Mozambique and they say that it is all possible. We now just have to get over the slowveld approach to business, after nearly six years here we still have to get used to this totally useless way of doing things down here, wish we could have some Joburg energy down here from time to time?
In terms of household temperature control; we got very excited when we bought some insulation “amaduvet” from Cash Build. It is made out of recycled pet bottles (from coke, water etc) and is easy to install and is also cheap. To heat things up in winter we are going to install three proper fireplaces in the house that will hopefully be efficient our current on is great on looks but is rather useless as a heater. This is part of an energy audit that we have been doing (checking out what gobbles up electricity in one’s home and working environment is quite surprising…. Kettles, irons and heaters are hectic. So we have shelved all the electric kettles and managed to find some “Russian” stainless steel camping kettles that are quite stylish for the gas. An Elna Press uses much less electricity than an iron and for heating we are going the wood route. It is also worth checking out the consumption of your fridge/freezer. Leshoka bought a large star rated fridge/freezer, turns out it uses half the electricity that the bar fridge in the studio does.... Load shedding (who comes up with these phrases??) has been hitting the Lowveld with boring regularity. We are thrilled! Energy efficiency and sustainable alternatives are now in the mainstream and no longer for us nuts on the edge.
We are also getting into buying local as much as we can, and where we can’t, buying stuff from within the borders of South Africa. This means butternuts, tomatoes and macadamia oil from neighbours in the valley and loads of local seasonal fruit (easy for us in the sub-tropics! Hah another reason to move here). We have even gone so far as to get a food drier so we are now making our own dried mango and tomatoes (much tastier than the shop versions and free of chemicals too). Mark is attempting to add Master Baker to his Master Printer status. Since December he has been baking bread for us. We got freaked out about what junk goes into supermarket bread…(that includes Woollies), trans fats, bulking agents and a hoard of yucky additives etc. After a few wobbles we are now eating totally delicious bread made with plain flour, oats, yeast and a touch of honey. Yes, we have been answering a lot of "What is Hippie?" type questions from the kids!
The workshop has also been hopping. In February we ran a monoprinting workshop and five artists participated. Tamar has been working on the website and has been updating images and the text, but there is still lots to do, please let me know if you notice any dodgy pics, dodgy text etc.
Andre Naude’s prints have been editioned and signed. Judith Mason, Colbert Mashile and Sam Nhlengethwa have collaborated with us so far this year, their work is looking stunning and we are getting to a point where our turn around time between collaboration and editioning is getting reasonably short. The South African magazine media has also been getting interested in the studio, we will let you know when the articles come out. Prints seem to finally be coming of age in this country!
Hoping that you are well and that your head is as crowded with as many thoughts environmental as ours are!
All the best
Mark and Tamar