April 2012

Dear Shareholder and Friend of Mhlopeni,

A huge THANK- YOU to all the shareholders who have already paid their levies for this financial year. The New Year has presented a few “challenges” that required fairly rapid response and it was

so good to be in funds to take the necessary action.

Telkom dropped all landline services to rural areas in our part of the world, which meant no telephone calls, Internet messages or access to the Web for information and banking purposes. Their new

policy is to service towns only, which may make sense to them, but has severe adverse impacts on local businesses (and jobs) particularly as cell phone reception is patchy in this rugged terrain. As

first step, we innocently tried using an Internet café in Greytown to receive incoming mail messages, but landed up with a nasty ‘Recycler’ virus in our memory stick, which then invaded our computer

system and took lots of scrubbing with anti-virus measures to eradicate. Thanks Dave and Brad for all your expertise to get rid of that one. It was a bit like catching AIDS!

We then sought out the most appropriate Satellite service provider, to be completely independent of Telkom and made use of a cell phone to maintain rudimentary communications as an interim

measure. Richard took the dogs for a long walk each day in search of a cell phone signal reception area, to send and receive calls. Last week, the Skye-Max system crew arrived and installed all the

equipment necessary to link us to the wide and wonderful Outside World, via the New Dawn satellite.
Please take note of the new e-mail addresses for all future correspondence:

Joy is at joy@mhlopeni.co.za
Richard is at richard@mhlopeni.co.za
Andy is at andy@mhlopeni.co.za

It has been an expensive and mind-bending experience to go “fully digital” but what a pleasure to be able to communicate from the comfort of a desk again, without all those tiny little cell phone

buttons. We will ask Telkom to remove all their poles and cables from the entire property and that will end the era (over 80 years) of their service to this farmhouse. Once the satellite phone instrument

is finally installed, we will also be able to hear voice, over the ether, which will be truly magical. VIVA technology!

The weather is glorious at this time of year. There is an Autumn nip in the air, but days are generally warm and sunny; clear blue skies that make one glad to be alive and living in such a magnificent

landscape. You can feel the serene energy that flows from the mountains, the rocks, trees and the stream, like a blessing. Please take time to share with us, if you can get away from the city and all its


Rainfall was about a third lower than average, this past season. Late rains replenished the water table and freshened up vegetation. So we enter Winter, in confidence of a better season, next year. It is

simply a part of natural cycles, not a long-term trend.

Good news is that our small and scattered dassie colonies are definitely on the increase. There is a fair amount of territorial calling from the males, particularly on moonlight nights, that we hadn’t heard

for many years and indicates a more settled pattern of behaviour. A pair of Black eagles regularly patrols the valley but so far, there are no signs of any intended nesting activity. New arrivals are a pair

of Fish eagles: we aren’t sure if it is the same one that nests in the Blue gum trees of a neighbor’s farm, on the Mooi river, or a “new” pair seeking a nest site. We recently watched them perform an

elaborate and highly vocal aerial display. Does that mean they want to settle? We’ve never had Fish eagles before!

I have two share blocks to advertise for sale, first to existing shareholders, then to interested “Friends of Mhlopeni” in order to recover the outstanding levies that are several years in arrears and are

the last of the “cheap” share blocks available, on our books. One is from a deceased estate where the beneficiary is un-interested in continued membership; the other shareholder has simply gone

‘awol’ and failed to respond to all my efforts. Please indicate if you are interested, as we need this money for the serious development of Lot A: our Conservation effort for land rehabilitation and

environmental education. It is a good investment for the future of people and land.

Andrew is well advanced with the first structure for the reception site, which has been fully fenced to keep domestic livestock out. In a way, it will be like starting the original Mhlopeni project all over

again, on a smaller scale and although we will use re-cycled materials as far as possible, some things have to be bought new, plus there is local labour to be paid for. Andy is a master of improvisation

and will take up residence, on site, in a small tent, until the first roof is erected to provide more adequate shelter.

During May, he will be joined by a young volunteer from the Perm culture fraternity who will enlighten us on the mysteries of muck and manure, planting by the moon and “no till” technology etc., to

bring the arable land section into productivity. It is an ambitious plan, too long deferred and the time is right to make that “leap of faith” to bring it to fruition. It is extremely heartening to know there are

those of the next generation who are willing to pick up where we have been forced to leave off, to bend their backs, when ours grow weary: get hands dirty and shoulder to the wheel (as we did, in

our time) for the future is theirs. And all the responsibility of what happens to Mankind, this beautiful blue planet with so many environmental problems, will pass on to them in due course. We will be

making compost of a different kind!

Recommended reading: if you can track it down. NOW OR NEVER: Why We Must Act Now to End Climate Change and Create a Sustainable Future (2009) by Tim Flannery
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press, New York ISBN-13: 978-o-8021-898-1
Distributed by Publishers Group West www.groveatlantic.com

Yours in Conservation

Richard and Joy
+ All at Mhlopeni