Tuesday, 16 January 2018

A beautiful tree identification app

Identifying things like birds, trees, plants and flowers has never been my strong point. I'm making an effort to improve my bird knowledge - my dad is a keen birder and my friend's 11-year old son is an avid spotter with 550 species on his list already! I love trees but I rarely know what they are.

A friend told me about a new smartphone app that helps you to identify trees. It is appropriately called 'TheTreeApp SA".
"There are full colour artworks of leaves, flowers and fruit, and black and white twig detail drawing, as well as in-depth textual data and specific distribution maps for each species. TheTreeApp has a superb Location function that in a split second reduces the 1 114 trees loaded, to the exact number that can be found at any selected spot in South Africa. This can be through specific map-spot selection, current location or by the name of any of the 1,400 Reserves/conserved areas that are mapped on the app. Included are 979 indigenous species and 135 aliens – mostly invasives."
The design, layout, drawings and images of this app look well thought out and have been created with people like me in mind - people who enjoy trees, are interested in them but who just don't have a clue.

My current phone is old and slow and barely handles making a phone call, much less running apps. When I replace it, this app will be on my list of useful apps to add.

TheTreeApp is available for R499.00 on The App Store for all Apple smart devices and on GooglePlay for Android devices. They have a website at www.thetreeapp.co.za and they're on Facebook (www.facebook.com/thetreeapp/) and Twitter (@TheTreeApp)


Monday, 15 January 2018

Visit from the Morrisons (taking friends paddling)

In the week between xmas and New Year, we had superb water on the Vaal and got out for a number of river trips. Since then, the water level has been incredibly low - at 12 to 15 cumec. It can be paddled but it is really, really rocky and the flat-water sections lie still.

I've been so excited about having my friend Garry and Barbara come visit with their two sons Connor and Cameron. I've known the boys since they were born and I've had the pleasure of seeing them grow. Being here in Parys for two years now, I don't see them very often - unlike in Jo'burg when I saw them (the boys as well as Garry and Barbara) regularly at orienteering events.

We were hoping to take the Morrisons rafting but with no water we went for an equally good Plan B: picnic next to the river and paddling sit-on-tops. The boys have never paddled and so it was a treat for me to be able to take them out - and that they took to it... like a duck to water.

We did a river crossing together, which was good fun. The water was even lower than last week. Rusty came across the whole way, swimming so beautifully. She also swam in current. I was more concerned than she was!

Barbara takes amazing photos. Here are some of her images from our special day together.

Me (green), Garry (pink), Cameron and Connor

With my swimming dog 

Rusty swimming. Cameron in the water with me. Celliers, Connor and Garry crossing the exposed rock.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Crossing the Vaal where the Voortrekkers once crossed

Our plan this afternoon was to practice skills at Gatsien but after we arrived and discovered that Ruben had forgotten to pack in our spray decks for the kayaks, Celliers and I decided to undertake an 'adventure' that I've wanted to try for many months.

Back in the day there was a Voortrekker encampment on our friend's farm (of course it wasn't their farm back then!). This was back when Mzilikatsi was on a rampage (around 1836). There are old graves on the farm.

But what is even more interesting, is that it is from the farm that the river can be pretty easily crossed. We paddle here often so we've seen the sheets of rocks. I even had New Year's Eve dinner on these rocks a year ago... The bottom of our kayaks bump across the rocks when the water is low.

Jeanne-Marie recalls crossing the river at really low water when she was young (the farm was owned by her parents before her). I've been keen to cross the river like a Voortrekker, which is exactly what we did.

The river level is low, but not as low as we've seen it. Maybe 20 cumec. Some rocks are visible on river right, but covered by water for the rest.

Off we went wearing our paddle shoes (gifts from Santa), wading into the water. Rusty came running around to find me. When we set off to cross the river (a different spot from where we'd been hanging out), Rusty had been down at the water seeing what Ruben and Kyla were up to. My mom, who was chilling next to the river, said that Rusty had all-of-a-sudden looked up, didn't see me and she (to quote my mom) "bloodhounded" me - following my scent to find me.

We stepped into the water and she followed. We were no deeper than up to our middles at this stage. I've only ever seen Rusty in water up to her elbows or belly (her previous people had not seen her swim before, also only venturing up to her elbows). She kept coming with me until she was swimming. She swims beautifully! We crossed a short piece to the next section of open and visible rock. Rusty came running along with us.

The next part was totally water covered by flowing water. We told Rusty to stay and Celliers and I went back into the water. The deepest we got was chest deep and this was only for about 2-5 metres. Some sections were only shin deep.

And then we were across - just like the Voortrekkers with their oxwagons and horses. The rock structure here is mostly big, wide flat sheets - the perfect place for river crossings.

Once on the other side we turned around and headed back to Rusty, who was patiently waiting on the rock. We took a slightly different route back to her to check the depth there. It was a little more shallow.

Back on the exposed rocks, Rusty was delighted to see us. We walked over to the final section and stepped into the water again. Rusty got in a few metres away from us, swimming confidently to the bank.

She was so pleased with herself - skittering and pronking on the sheet of rock. What a joy to see my doggy girl so happy. Celliers even smiled.

I intended to take a photo of the river crossing area to show you but my dog was looking so sweet and happy with herself that I took photos of her and forgot all about taking a picture of the river.

We got in on the other side of the reeds (left of photo). Blue shows water-covered rock. Yellow shows exposed rock. And then the exit (nice slab of rock) on the right of photo. Yes, that's a smile.

Yes, that's another smile xxx

My sweet girl Rusty.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

And with a bang the new year has begun

What a first week of 2018! I have not yet had a chance to reflect on 2017 as I'm deeply immersed in 2018 already.

I've had a really great week on the work side. Our YOLO Compost Tumblers were listed on Takealot.com on 15 December. Our timing was really late for the xmas shoppers as a result of a bunch of supplier-side delays for components and then time to build the needed stock... It happened and the process with Takealot has been superb from the start.

I thought that I'd get a notification when sales went through so that I'd be alerted to replace the stock. Come 1 Jan I thought that we had not had any sales, despite receiving a number of direct orders. I didn't think this unusual as it is the holidays and I suspected we'd only see sales in late January.

On Tuesday morning I checked my seller portal: 3 sales before 31 Dec and one that morning! I sent off two boxes on Wednesday and one on Thursday to replace stock. How very exciting!

At the same time my phone and email were pinging with direct orders. The boxes I sent on Wednesday were delivered on Thursday morning and the one was dispatched to a customer by Takealot by noon the same day!

The stock we built up before the start of the holidays is almost completely depleted and so we're moulding again. I've got two orders on standby for the one colour combination. Our plastic supplier opens on Monday and we're hoping that he has stock of the colour that we need. We stockpiled plastic before xmas but are out of just this one colour!

It seems that many New Year's Resolutions are waste / recycling / composting related. Nice!

Celliers' friend came to visit for a night this week. I took him with me to Otters Haunt to enjoy some river scenery. Rusty always loves it there.

Rusty loves visiting Otters Haunt, which we do at least once a week. Whether we walk on the island (as in this photo, on the section of winding trails or for a longer run in good company with our friends Karen, Rocksy and Skally (the latter two being border collies), she just loves every visit (I do too!). She appreciates the scenery too. Otters is the most divine, dog-friendly place to stay for a weekend getaway and only 5 mins from town.
It has been swelteringly hot so my running was been downscaled this week to longer walks with Rusty. She was a hot dog this morning at parkrun. She did the first kilometre to the turnaround marshal and a big tree. I was planning to just take her on one loop but she plonked down in the shade of the big tree and definitely didn't seem keen to continue. I lopped her lead around the post and the marshal, John, kept and eye on her. I ran the two loops (stopping to give her kisses after the first loop) and then we ran together for the one kilometre to the finish.



I haven't run with my morning group the past two weeks. I'm going to aim to join them for at least one morning a week at 6am. I'm back into my late-night working mode, which is not very useful for waking up early. One morning I can do.