Monday, 16 April 2018

I rode my bike (on the Not-Forest-Run Run route)

I haven't been on my bike for ages! On Saturday afternoon Celliers and I hit the Vaal Eden Road for a zippy ride. Even though the seasons are changing, it is still stunning and green out there with wild grasses and flowers that make the fields and roadside look pretty. It was super to be out there on my bike with Celliers. Been too long!

The route we did is the one that I'll be using for this year's Not-Forest-Run Run. As I'm not hosting the actual Forest Run this year, I settled on a social and casual alternative that allows me to run too. It's a rock-up-and-run setup.

Starting and finishing from the Parys airfield, the route is 27km in distance. It is all on dirt road so the going is easy - except for the distance. You can zone out and enjoy the scenery without having to watch your footing.

Running out Parys parkrun at 08h00 is options.
Run starts from the Parys airfield at 09h00 for 09h30 start.

I'm really looking forward to it.

Here's the route map on Google Maps.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Blood donation - working my way to 50

Today was my 47th blood donation; by the end of the year I'll be on 50.

As always, my reminder to you that if you donate blood, please do so regularly. By this I mean that in order to maintain your 'regular donor' status, you need to donate at least three times a year (max 6 times).

The whole point of being a regular donor is so that your whole donation is used because you are a trusted donor whose blood has been tested each time and has been clear of HIV and hepatitis (and other infectious agents) each time. As a recipient, your mind would be at rest knowing that the blood you receive is from a trusted source.

Here's how the blood donation process works:

  • You donate blood for the first time (first time ever or first time in a long time - same thing) .
  • Your blood goes through the tests and then sits on ice.
  • You go in a second time a few months later. 
  • Your second donation goes through the tests and if it is clear, this donation goes on ice and the plasma from your first donation is used. 
  • You go in a third time WITHIN A YEAR. 
  • This donation goes through the tests and if it is clear, then it will be used, together with the plasma from the second donation. 
  • Thereafter you need to maintain your regular donor status - your whole blood from every donation will be used.
If SANBS defers you from donating, do not see this as a form of rejection. Their objective is to ensure that blood donation is safe for BOTH donor and recipient. This is why they will not let you donate if you have conditions like diabetes or blood pressure and heart issues, if you take certain medications, if you have recently been in a malaria area or if you have low iron levels (and various others). 

If you cannot donate for any reason, you can still be supportive of blood donation by encouraging able friends and relations to donate and by educating anyone and everyone about the importance of becoming a regular donor and maintaining your status by donating at least three times a year, every year. 

Monday, 2 April 2018

ARTdog Walk at Parys Arts Festival

The new Parys Arts Festival is underway. It started on Friday and runs for the next two weeks with a focus on activities over the weekends. On Saturday I toured a bunch of the galleries with my mom; we've got a number more to tick off in the remaining time. A number of the artists exhibited are local - there is a good dose of talent out here.

An event that we were really looking forward to was the ARTdog Walk, which we attended this morning with our dogs Rusty and Tansy.

I've never done a dog walk before. Rusty isn't always the most sociable as she is more a people dog and than a dog dog. Dogs like to run up to her to entice her to play - she doesn't really play and finds them intimidating. She'll usually tolerate them but is more likely to back away and ignore them.

Some of the many dogs and humans waiting for the start. Everyone kept a respectful distance from each other.
Before the start people were milling around with their dogs. Rusty was definitely wary but got into a bit of sniffing.

We were set off in small groups with an interval between groups. Along the way, dog treats were handed out (really nice dried-wors type dog treats), which Rusty loved. I had given her half of her breakfast. Many treats later she definitely did not need to get the rest of her breakfast at home!

My mom and Tansy.
The 'art' component of the dog walk consisted of three station with coloured paint in trays through which the dogs were to walk to paint the sidewalks and canvas sheets in paw prints. Most of the dogs were not very keen to go through the trays. I got Rusty to add her prints in different colours - and we added some warrior stripes to her face.

Tansy behind Rusty - wearing her rainbow ears 'wings'
The loop of the route was little more than 1km and was a lovely walk with a friendly vibe and happy people with their dogs.

At the finish the dogs were all chilled, sitting around and next to each other. No barking, no issues. It was really lovely to see.

There were prizes for the best dressed dogs and also a lucky draw. We won a dog blankie in the lucky draw. Rusty will enjoy snuggling up in it during winter.

A lovely event and one that we'll attend again next year.

This event was held to benefit our Parys SPCA. Like most SPCAs, they are often in dire need just to buy food for the animals in their care.

Lovely atmosphere at the ARTdog Walk.

Photos from the morning

My Rusty girl

My mom with Tansy

Photo by Deon Terblanche - beautifully captioned as "I love you mum..."

Rusty with a bit of colour - Photo by Deon Terblanche

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Tea paw-ty for Rusty's one-year adoptiversary

We had a tea party yesterday afternoon for Rusty's one-year adoptiversary. I've made this day her birthday too and so she is now six-years old.

Her friends from Otters Haunt, Rocksy and Skally came over. This was Skally's first visit to someone's house and it has been a long time since Rocksy came over. Rusty saw them coming in the gate from the front glass door and ran around to the back to greet her friends - it was very sweet. Rusty usually visits the girls at their house and seemed to enjoy having them visit her house.

We also had human friends visiting and it was nice to chill in the lovely afternoon enjoying iced tea, cake and scones with strawberry jam and cream. My dad came through to visit for the weekend too.

I designed an invitation for Rusty's party - a compilation of design ideas and elements found online. Zoom in on Rusty's face to check out her smile (pic of her was extracted from one taken at the river late last year after her first river swim). I thought her sneaky smile suited wearing a Mat Hatter's hat.

Good for a giggle.

Cheating at parkrun makes me see red

Yesterday I saw red at our local Parys parkrun. I was 'off-duty' yesterday and so I had the opportunity to run with Rusty. After the rains on Thursday, I was out on the route on Friday evening to check out the mud situation. Except for an overflowed drain and a patch of mud, the route was fine. It was even better by Saturday morning.

In briefing, the Run Director on duty told the participants to run around the drain overflow and to get back on the grass - this is a detour of maybe 10 metres onto the road and then back on to the grass.

Yet, a bunch of people decided to run on the road ALL THE WAY to the bottom of the route (around 650m) where they rejoined for the in-and-out turnaround and then they detoured back on to the road and up to the turnaround marshal.

There are a few issues with this:

  1. Running on the road is a shorter route in distance.
  2. Running on the road is an easier and faster surface - not that our route is technically challenging at all, but tar is always easier and faster than dirt and grass. Interestingly, my fast-running friend says that short tar detour around the drain probably scored him an extra 2 seconds compared to running on the grass.
  3. The road is NOT the route
  4. Other participants follow those that detour including first timers, visitors and children. We do not have clearance/permission for running on the road. It also presents a safety risk. And, this is PARKrun, not ROADrun.
  5. This is cheating.
The worst is that there is not much that we can do about it. I know who some of the people were and we could just delete their results; but we don't know who all the people were. One can't punish some and not the rest; that wouldn't be fair.

I called a number of people back down to the route. One of the guys was a visitor - he'd never been on our route. I invited him to follow me.

So, what we have to do now, which we do occasionally, is to put a marshal further along the route to police participants.

What makes me see red is that we should not have to do this. I know that other parkruns have similar issues; they shouldn't have to double barcode-scan participants and have dozens of marshals out either. But this is the reality.

When I got into the finish area I was really irritated and frustrated. Friends there were correct in saying that I was really the only one who was upset about this; and they were right. But what makes it OK for people to cheat and for this to now be acceptable?

Yes, parkrun is free. Yes, parkrun is for fun. Yes, people are only cheating themselves.

BUT, when things like this become acceptable, then more becomes acceptable.

Like low pass marks being adjusted to improve averages, making a low standard of education acceptable (and covering up fundamental flaws in the system).

Like one person in government putting their hands in the cookie jar and the next following suit because the first did it and then more and more follow until it is the norm...

Like taxis and people who drive in the emergency lane in peak traffic because they're in a hurry to get somewhere.

Like participating in an obstacle course race where someone skips an obstacle, running around it, and they finish ahead of you. 

Are these things ok? They're not to me.

I'm trying to take a deep breath. I know that something that is really insignificant in the big picture shouldn't stress me out so much. But it does. Mostly because I am disappointed in the people who took the easy road. 

I'll be RD again next week and I'll definitely have an extra marshal out on the route - but I am resentful of the fact that I need to do this.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Selfie with Rusty

We're days away from our one-year adopt-versary and this afternoon we headed to our favourite place, Otters Haunt, to hang out with our friends - both human and canine.

Young Skally in the front, then Rocksy, then me and my Rusty at the back. Photo by Karen.
Skally recently celebrated her first birthday.

Getting Rusty to sit for a selfie is like herding cats. We did good today.

What joy and love this dog has brought to my life. xxx

Hands-free dog running: my dog-running harness

I've been into hands-free dog running since I met my two husky friends a few years ago. Their dad had a dog running harness, which he'd bought through the husky sledding club. From the first, I was sold on the concept of wearing a hip-belt type harness to which the dog lead is attached. It enables you to control the dog with your body weight, not your biceps, and leaves your hands and arms free to run as usual and to grab the lead as needed.

Since then, I've always used something - whether the waist belt for my backpack, my climbing harness or a belt to walk/run dogs - for Rusty or other people's dogs.

For months now, I have needed to make my own running harness as nothing that I have works quite right.

My primary running harness requirement is that it sits around your hips - not your waist - so that the pull from the dog is centred and that it doesn't pull against the middle of your spine, which messes with your posture and biomechanics, even if subtly.

Waist belts from backpacks and any other belts ride up. Even if you adjust the width so that they sit around your hips, it will ride up in seconds to sit around your waist, especially at the back.

To keep any waist belt down - on your waist - you need straps connected between or around your legs and connected front to back.

There are a number of configurations - of which I've tried two.

For the first version, I made a waistband with a clip-in-buckle and I connected straps from the front, to the back, between my legs - left and right. It worked brilliantly but I had custom made it for myself and so it fitted me perfectly. It was not adjustable to fit different sized people. The straps between my legs were fine and did not irritate or rub; but not everyone would be comfortable with this setup, especially guys. I ran with this one every day for a few weeks and it worked a treat.

I had ideas for a Version 2, something that would be adjustable to fit people of different sizes.

I worked up Version 2 about two weeks ago and it has been working brilliantly. Today I made a slight upgrade on Version 2 for my friend Karen (let's call it Version 2.1).

This is a photo of me wearing my Version 2.0.

The design is based on the structure of my climbing harness, but it doesn't need to be strong enough to hold my weight - just the pull from a dog excited to go running.

Key features include:

  • A loop at the front to connect the lead - I use a small, light carabiner to connect Rusty's lead. Alternatively, just thread the lead through the loop. 
  • Clip-in-buckle to one side so that the pull from the lead is not on the buckle
  • Elastic inserts on the thigh bands - to accommodate thighs bigger (or smaller) than mine.
  • At the back, not visible, I have an elastic strap connected in an inverted 'V' shape. It loops around the hipbelt (it can slide left and right to fit different sized people - it should sit in the centre of your back) and then comes out to each thigh band and loops around the band (it can also slide).
The importance of the elastic at the back connecting the waist belt to the thigh bands is that the waist belt is prevented from riding up. Very important.

I'm chuffed with my dog-running harness. The moment Rusty sees this green, she starts bouncing. It is quick and easy-to-make and works perfectly. 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Volunteering makes you smarter

Being in Jo'burg overnight for a meeting, I had the pleasure of doing a different parkrun yesterday - the one at Ernest Ullmann Park and Recreation Centre in Wendywood. It is a two-lap course and for much of the course there is a two-directional flow of runners. On either end (near the start/finish and at the fartherest end) the route 'bulges' and the participants go around the bulge (one-directional) and then meet up again at the neck.

The route requires a good deal of marshals to prevent people from cheating. Yes, a lot of people will  cheat at parkrun when given the opportunity.

After finishing, I went to say hello to the Run Director and to introduce myself. Being the Event Director here in Parys, I enjoy it when other Event Directors and Run Directors come and say hello. Frank was standing at the start of the finish chute, directing runners in.

Within a minute or so there were two happenings that spurred me to write this post. I can't remember the first but I remember the second, a guy pushing a baby jogger pram. He wanted to go down the chute but did say that he hadn't done both laps. I told him to come around the side of me and not to go through the chute.

"But I want to go down here", was his response.

I told him that it confuses the finish marshals and timing so to please come around (a detour of about two metres!).

He was insistent. I was insistent. He went around.

What a stupid idiot!

Let me explain to you how parkrun works.

Everyone starts at the same time. 08h00. You then have to run, jog or walk the five-kilometre course. Some courses may be one big 5km route; others are out-and-back, some are two-lappers and others may have a repeat loop of a section somewhere along the course (our Parys parkrun is the latter layout).

When you finish, there will be a finish chute. The volunteers who do the timekeeping usually stand at the entrance to the chute. They clock your finish time. They may or may not call out your time. For the most part, they are focusing on making sure that the click the stopwatch button for every person entering the finish chute.

The next step is receiving a position token. For bigger parkruns, the volunteer will hand you a token. Here in Parys, we have the tokens on a wire, which a marshal at the finish manages (we no longer hand you the token).

You then progress down the finish chute, with your position token, to the volunteers doing the barcode scanning. They first scan your personal parkrun barcode, which you receive for free when you register online as a parkrun participant.

Anyone can participate in parkrun whether or not you have a personal barcode. The value of having one is that your results are logged on the parkrun system, which you can access through the parkrun website. A record is kept of how many parkruns you have done, where you have done them, the time recorded and how you placed overall, in your gender and in your age category. There are various parkrun milestones for 50, 100 and 250 parkruns completed and for each of these your receive a running tee from parkrun - free-of-charge with thanks to parkrun's sponsors.

Back to the finish...
The barcode scanning volunteers will first scan your personal barcode (if you have one) and then the position token.

When the results are processed by the designated volunteer, the clever parkrun system pairs the 'clicks' on the stopwatch with the position and personal barcode scans. And there you have the results.

Common issues we see are:

People who have not completed the full 5km distance going down the finish chute
We don't mind if you cannot yet complete the 5km distance - this is where routes with loops or two laps are very useful because they allow beginners to build up to completing 5km. It is not right for you to go down the finish chute - because you have not done the full 5km. We ask that you peel off before the finish. By coming down the chute, you get a time and result but you have not actually done the distance. This messes up age gradings, positions and placements for other participants who have actually done the full distance. Yes, this is cheating.

Marshals on the route try to look out for this and at the finish, especially with the faster times, we can spot offenders. It gets more difficult down the line.

We see this with children too. There have been instances where children will sit out a loop/lap and then they come through the finish with their parents. THIS IS CHEATING. I don't care whether you are 6 or 60, if you have not done the full 5km you should not go down the finish chute and you should not get a time.

Children in prams (or carried on a parent's shoulders) do not get results, even if they did walk 100m. Until a child does the full 5km on their own two feet, they do not get a result.

People finish and then go back to fetch a friend and then come through the chute again
You can only go through once. Yes, I know you want to run through with your friend, but all you have to do is to peel off at the entrance to the chute.

When you cross the timing volunteers, they click you. If you the duck under the tape to miss being scanned because "I've already finished", then you bugger up the timing.

Think about it. Let's say the timekeepers have logged 54 people (you for the second time included) and then you duck out of the finish chute, the token scanning will only be on 53. So the next person that comes through will be logged as 55 by the timekeepers and 54 by the scanners. This messes up the timing for the people that come after you. We do checks - between the timekeepers and the scanners - but it could take a number of people before we pick up the discrepancy.

People turnaround in the finish chute to walk back out the way they came in
One-directional flow here, friends. In one side, out the other. It isn't difficult. Don't turnaround once you've been scanned to walk out the way you came in against the flow of people coming into the finish. Really???

People without barcodes pass the timekeepers and then try to duck out of the finish chute 
This has the same effect as above in causing a mismatch between stopwatch clicks and positional tokens.

Even if you do not have a parkrun barcode, we still count your participation.


  • because you understand how things work
  • because you see all the stupid things that participants do and then you don't do the same stupid things
  • because you appreciate volunteers who, every Saturday morning, are there early to setup and to be out there so that you can enjoy a free, weekly, timed run.
When you go to parkrun, think. Use your brain and do what you are required to do (complete 5km and pass through the finish chute once).

And remember to volunteer. For parkrun and for anything else.

I learned so much in adventure racing from volunteering (as support crew or a marshal) and also when I was very involved in media because I got to observe all the stupid things that participants do (and all the really neat things). It made me a better racer because I saw first-hand what worked well and what didn't - I didn't need to make the mistakes myself.

Volunteering makes you a smarter and more considerate participant. Try it.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Expo-ing with my YOLOs

I'm back at my desk after last week spent at Homemakers Expo, my first time exhibiting our YOLO Compost Tumblers at this event. I was very fortunate to have my mom with me. She was at Decorex with me last year so she knows the ins and outs of expos and demonstrating compost tumbling.

We went through to JHB on the Tuesday afternoon, staying with friends in Fourways. We took our dogs with us; the were very well looked after by our friends during the day. In the mornings my mom would take Rusty and Tansy for walks within the estate and each evening when we got back from the show I would take Rusty for a good hard run. The estate has a lot of rabbits hopping around; Rusty was delighted. We would slowly walk up to the bunnies and got to within 20cm of them a number of times.

On the Wednesday morning, mom and I went through to setup. We had one compost tumbler unit of each size and a bunch of decorations. My new acquisition includes six block-mounted photographs of our customers' YOLO Compost Tumblers. My favourite 'decoration' was the window, which I made from insulation tape (I got the idea from a search on Pinterest).

This is a before-and-after of our stand.

This is the 25th year of Homemakers Expo and the 20th at the venue, The Dome in Northriding. The Thursday and Friday were quiet overall - not a lot of people milling in the corridors. Nonetheless, we had a reasonable flow of people coming to find out what our compost tumblers were all about.

The Saturday and Sunday saw the crowds coming in and there was a bigger volume of people at the venue. We had a number of direct sales during the event. With experience from Decorex, I know that sales and enquiries will continue over the weeks and months to come.

On Sunday, two of our factory workers came through to see the show. Joseph has worked on YOLO from the start and he has been primarily responsible for moulding, finishing, assembly and boxing. Stoney has worked with Celliers in the past and she has only recently joined us again. She is very good at finishing and assembly and has come on board to work with Joseph so that he can focus on the moulding. We're at that stage in our growth curve where we need more hands.

I was really glad that they got to see our YOLOs nicely presented on the stand. From a bucket of plastic powder to a finished product, Joseph and Stoney create each and every YOLO Compost Tumbler.

Liz, Stoney, Joseph and Lisa
Our overall experience was very positive and it echos our experience from Decorex last year. People are trying to do better with their waste. They're thinking about what they're throwing out, they're separating their trash and they're looking for options that are clean, tidy, efficient, effective and convenient. For organic waste, YOLO ticks all of the blocks.

We had great interactions with visitors, learned from the experience and we look forward to being at Decorex again in August 2018 at Gallagher Convention Centre.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Quarry swimmin'

For the past few weeks I've had the pleasure of running with my friend Karen and her dog/s Rocksy and Skally - and of course my Rusty - to a local spot where we get to enjoy a swim in a quarry. The water is cool, clean and clear.

The first time I took Rusty there, she got into the water without too much enticement and she swam towards me. She didn't go too far from the bank but seemed very comfortable. She got in and out three times, taking short swims each time.

Her friend Rocksy is a very good swimmer and she goes out a good distance with Karen. Rocksy's hips have been troubling her. She loves to play with the visitors at Karen's place, who gladly throw ball for her. At about 12 years old, all the running and playing takes its toll. So the swimming is really good for her hips and back legs.

The second time we went, I took my mom and our friend along too. When my mom called Marianne earlier that afternoon to ask, "Do you want to come swim in the quarry?", there was initially silence on the other end. Marianne took a deep breath, banished thoughts of monsters-of-the-deep from her mind and was at my mom's house two hours later with her towel.

Mom and Marianne on the trail.
Rusty only got in twice for short swims. She was too busy looking for dassies in the surrounding rocky cliffs.

Mom and Marianne in the foreground. Karen and Rocksy making ripples in the background.
On Saturday evening we went out with Karen and Skally - young-and-playful imp she is. Rusty got into the water ahead of me and she had four swims with me - one of them a bit further out than usual. She swims beautifully! Skally isn't very keen on water so she didn't get in. We're hoping that she will in time.

It really is a treat to break our run, in the current hot-and-humid conditions, with a refreshing swim. The dogs are full of beans for the run home. While the weather is still hot and the water temperature is blissful, we'll keep swimming every week.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

I'm postponing Forest Run 2018 (but you can still come run with me on 19 May)

I have decided not to present Forest Run in May this year. As you know, in March last year I started a new company YOLO Colours. Our main product is the fabulous YOLO Compost Tumbler. The first few months were slow (as expected) and then it picked up after Decorex in August. I’m thankful that January has been very busy. I’m doing Homemakers Expo in late Feb and so things should go up another notch. Plus, I’m involved with project #2, which has a tight deadline.
I am already sleeping too little and I just can’t see my way to having a week to cut and mark trails before the event much less the many, many hours of organising, coordinating and admin ahead of the event.
By this time next year my business will be more established and, I hope, will free me up to play in the hills of the Vredefort Dome. I had all kinds of plans for this year, like a new shorter 8-10km route, but I’m just not getting around to it.
I’ve had five consecutive years of Forest Run and so this break is actually well timed.
Even though I won’t be presenting Forest Run on 19 May 2018 as planned, I would like to invite you instead to join me on a dirt-road run just outside of Parys town on this same day.
We’ll start with our Parys parkrun (5km) at 08h00 (I’m the Event Director here) and then we’ll drive to the airfield (5km outside of town), park there and then run what we call the ‘Vaal Eden Road loop’ (25km). OR, start running from parkrun (about 35km for the loop).
(You don’t have to do parkrun and you can start running from town or from the airfield. I’ll send out a map.)
No charge. No entries. No RSVP. Just read my instructions and show up.
I’ll post details here and on the Forest Run FB page and website.
Bring your own hydration pack and snacks. You can run at your own pace (route is easy to follow, terrain is uncomplicated and scenery is great). Your friends/partners who don’t run are welcome to join on bicycles.
I hope to enjoy your company on 19 May 2018.

Monday, 29 January 2018

The best tomatoes e.v.e.r.

I've gone quite minimalist with my garden in that I have three 1mx1m raised beds, a few plants in a small section and a strip along the back wall. I decided to primarily grow edibles in the boxes. For pretty there are some flowers, all of which have actually self seeded.

In my boxes I have tomatoes (all but one of the four plants must have self seeded from last year's attempts), parsley, mint, basil (growing crazy), two chilli plants and three brinjal plants.

Along the back wall I have five cherry tomato plants, one full-size tomato plant (gifted to me by a friend), some grasses and a standard iceberg rose.

On Sunday morning I spent some time staking my tomatoes and marvelling at how amazing they are looking. Strong, healthy and with an abundance of tomatoes on each plant - both the cherry tomatoes and the full size ones. I've never had much luck with full-size tomatoes - these are magnificent. I'm also quite surprised about the plants that just came up. They could be from my attempt last year at growing some of my old seeds for some heirloom varieties - I'm not quite sure what I have there.

I've done some veggie gardening in years past and cherry tomatoes always faired from ok to good. These... they're my best e.v.e.r.

I totally put it down to my compost from my YOLO Compost Tumblers. For the first time I have an abundance of nutrient-rich compost on hand and every time a shell of compost matures, I toss it into the beds.

Without a laboratory analysis I know that my YOLO compost is better than bought compost because it has so much more added to it than grass and leaves. All of my veggie cuttings and trimmings go into it as well as things like egg shells (calcium rich), coffee grounds (from Celliers), tea leaves (from me) and odd bits of fruit. It comes out dark and rich and, evidently, tomatoes love it.

Take a lookie...

The marigold self-seeded too. It is one plant that is COVERED in flowers - like I have never had before.

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 and they're on Facebook ( 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 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.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Trippin' the Vaal again

When the sky is blue with not a cloud in sight and friends say, "Do you want to trip?" there is only one response, "Yes!". And so we tripped the river again on Sunday - I think our 4th for the week. This time I remembered to take along a camera.

The river has been at a really great level for about two days - not as rocky as it was on Friday. Ruben and Kyla both had a small swim each; no swimming for me. Celliers took the photos.

Celliers is out on the river again this afternoon. I skipped to snooze on the couch after being up since 05h30 to go parkrunning!

Saturday evening - taking my mom out for her first time on a sit-on-top whitewater kayak. We stuck to flat water to get the feel for the kayak.

Me and my mom.

Ruben showing us how it is done.

Kyla taking a good line.


Graeme Addison - even after decades of kayaking, rafting and expeditioning, he still loves rivers. If you visit Parys and want to go rafting, look no further than Riverman. Graeme also offers fabulous trips on the Orange River. 

Corran Addison and his 3-year old son Kailix in his Soul double kayak. Kailix has a neat splash screen. Mom Christine is in the background.
What a beautiful day! Ruben, Kyla and me with Karen and Cameron in the background (Celliers took all of the photos).

New Year's Day parkrun double

Our Parys parkrun was again part of a 'New Year's Day double' with Potchefstroom parkrun and the new Meyerton parkrun. Potch and Meyerton started at 07h00 to give participants enough time to run or walk their courses and to get through to Parys for our 09h00 start.

I set off for Potch at 6am with Louis and Karen, fellow Parys Run Directors, as well as Ruben, Celliers' son. Something started clicking for him a few months ago and he is really getting into his mountain biking, kayaking and parkrunning. Despite a late night, Ruben was keen to come through to Potch as he has only ever done our Parys parkrun. He unfortunately couldn't make the double as he needed to get through to his mom's house - they have all left for a few days away.

Before the Potch start we took a photo with a number of our Parys regulars. 

Ruben and I ran together. He enjoyed being at Potch parkrun and we decided that we need to get Celliers and Kyla to join us for a parkrun here.

It looked like Ruben was the only child participating at Potch parkrun this morning - he was very chuffed with this observation. With Potch completed, we headed back to Parys. I dropped off Ruben at home, said bye to the children and took Rusty and my camera to our parkrun. 

We had a record number of participants today - around 193! At the finish Louis even had to scratch in our parkrun box for the tokens from 150 on (we don't usually need to use them!). It was cooking hot out there but still the participants were full of smiles. Lots of parkrun Tourists as well as those doing the New Year's double bolstered our numbers. It was a colourful and friendly morning.

Going into 2018... I should reach my 100 parkrun milestone. As Rusty is on the mend after her toe injury I'll be getting her back up to fitness and aiming to get her faster than me. I look forward to setting a new PB with her. Two weeks ago I ran my fastest time for 2017 (without her). My actual PB was set on our old course, which was about 300m shorter. I'd like to better it.

Hip-hip-hooray to all of you.