Wednesday 30 August 2017

Hike-and-picnic children's birthday parties

Ruben and Kyla's birthdays were at the beginning of August when they turned 9 and 12 respectively. Already earlier this year the children had said that they would be keen for outdoor parties. Ruben was keen on a bike-and-picnic with his friends; Kyla was keen for a hike-and-picnic with her friends.

Ruben was sick all of last week and spent four days off school and in bed with bronchitis. The poor thing had the most awful cough. Fortunately, he began taking a turn for the better about a day and a half before his party but as biking would have been too strenuous for him we opted for a walk-and-picnic instead.

Kyla had three friends for her hike-and-picnic at Rietpoort. We took them up on to the ridge to enjoy the view. Both the hike and the picnic were winners. Two of the girls slept over too and seem to have enjoyed their time with us.

Ruben had two friends with him. The boys loved clambouring over rocks and playing with the crazy, rock-chewing Jack Russell that lives on the farm (we've learned that the dog's name is Spookie). The boys also skipped rocks at the little dam.

These birthday outings suited me, Celliers and Rusty perfectly as we got to be outside too and it is a nice way to get to know the children's friends.

Outdoor scenes

Mari, Alex, Chamotè and Kyla
Scenes from the day

Rusty enjoying the picnic with the boys

A bit of photo editing fun with Ruben, Frederik, Pauli and Spookie the dog.

Celliers enjoying some stone skipping too. He showed the boys how it was done with a stone that made 8 skips!

My first YOLO video

I felt really silly standing in my garden talking to a video camera on a tripod... but that's how I managed to tick "Make a video for YOLO Compost Tumbler" off my to do list today.

Back in the day (from late 2002 into 2004 or so), I worked on Drifter Adventure Zone - a adventure racing / activity series on Supersport. I was a 'camerachick' and I also wrote scripts for the show and I sat in voice over and sound editing working with the voice-over artists and sound editors. I absolutely loved it. I learned so much about tv and content and editing and production. Since then, I haven't had a need to do any video work, despite the passion I had for my work there at the time.

Yesterday, I shot a bunch of clips in my garden for YOLO and last night I put them together in a 1:50 video that briefly explains how to use a YOLO Compost Tumbler.

I'm using the online video editing program WeVideo. My current (and previous) laptop doesn't have the capacity to run video editing software (I've got Adobe Premiere but I've never been able to load it!). I found WeVideo online and I worked through their tutorial a few weeks ago. I found it to be simple, efficient and user-friendly.Ba-boom! Video done.

I have a list of short and snappy videos that I'd like to make for YOLO over the next few weeks. Both my editing and presenting is sure to get better with practice! This first video is the start.

Even with my background experience in video, I've never felt the need to video blog or shoot footage of all and sundry. Writing is my chosen medium but now it is time to adapt. Woof-woof (old dog learning new tricks).

Here is my video...

Sunday 20 August 2017

Rietpoort scouting outing

We were out at Rietpoort today to scout trails for Ruben and Kyla's biking and hiking birthday outings next weekend. Ruben and his guy friends will be doing a mountain biking ride-and-picnic; Kyla and her girl friends will be doing a hike-and-picnic. I'm really delighted that the children chose - of their own accord - to do active 'parties' for their birthdays this year.

Rusty was delighted to come out here again - her 3rd time. She'll come with us for the birthday outings too next weekend - running along as we bike and hike.

Although the area is still so end-of-winter dry and brown, the aloe flowers are still out and the place is lovely in the way that winter highveld scenery can be.

Celliers with Ruben and Kyla. The children turned 9 and 12 respectively at the beginning of August. I first met the children around about now three years ago. Looking recently at old photos I saw how little they were and how much they have grown.

The swing is going to be a winner for the parties... Celliers shows us how it is done

Ruben and Kyla walking along together.

Ah... Kyla and Ruben

Kyla getting some air.

Ruben with a couple of feathers in his cap

"Higher papa, higher!"
I'm looking forward to having the children's friends with us next weekend. We know most of them and look forward to meeting the others and getting to know them.

Saturday 19 August 2017

Rusty's parkrun PBs

My doggy girl ran a new PB at parkrun this morning of 26:51. It was rather chilly, which is always good for running faster times. This is Rusty's 6th parkrun and her time has come down by five minutes since early May.

I was a bit surprised by today's result as I really thought that we were closer to our usual 29 minutes. There are a few spots where she loves to sniff so we lose time and neither of us were pushing nor tired. Her previous PB - from two weeks ago - was 27:52, a minute faster than her time before that.

When I first got Rusty - almost five months ago - she was quite unfit as she hadn't been running for at least 18 months. We've been building up steadily. Initially we would run-walk on our evening outings. Now we run all the way. I generally don't run her much further than 4 to 6km, which she handles very well.

I don't run her every day. I usually alternate with one day being a run and the next being a long, fast walk. Once a week we head out to my friend's place at Otters Haunt, where she runs off lead with her friend Rocksy (Otters is a great place to stay for the weekend - and they're dog friendly).

Karen recently received a surprise gift from her husband Graeme - a new border collie puppy, Skallywag (her name inspired by the SKA project about which Graeme is writing a book). Karen has two border collies, Shadow and Rocksy. Shadow is very aged, Rocksy is mature but still full of beans. Rusty and Rocksy are friends and young Skally has taken a shine to Rusty.

Playing with Skally while Rusty looks on. Photo by Graeme
This week Karen, my mom and I headed out with Rusty, Rocksy, Skally and Tansy - Graeme went riding his bike. He snapped this photo of us with the dogs (Skally only just visible behind Rocksy).

Photo by Graeme
This morning at parkrun there were FOUR border collies. A young boy runs with his black & white, Willem and Lelani (Lelani is Rusty's vet) have two rescues (brown & white and black & white) and Rusty was with me. Skally will start parkrunning when she is a little bit older.

Tomorrow Rusty will join us at Rietpoort. We're scouting the trails for next weekend. Kyla and Ruben celebrated their birthdays (12 and 9 respectively) earlier this month. We're having their birthday parties next week. Ruben wants to do a mountain bike ride for his birthday and has invited three friends. Kyla chose to do a hike and she has invited five friends. We'll do Kyla's party on the Saturday and Ruben's party on the Sunday. It will be a hike-picnic and bike-picnic affair with the children carrying the munchies for the picnic to the designated point. Should be good fun. Best of all, Rusty gets to come along too.

Rusty has been in my life for almost five months. She is a joy every day.

An experience at Decorex

The past two weeks have been full and energising. I spent last week in Jo'burg for the Decorex show, a home and design expo held at Gallagher Convention Centre. My mom came along to help on the stand. I'm so glad that she did because we were non-stop busy with visitors. She has her own YOLO Compost Tumbler so she knows how it works and by the end of the week she was a composting demonstration pro.

Me and Liz in our expo outfits - complete with gardening wellies.
We were located in Hall 4 - Outdoor Lifestyle, which suited us perfectly.

Over the five days of the expo we spoke to hundreds of people and demonstrated how to use our compost tumblers. We had all three of our sizes on the stand - small (left), medium (top right) and large (bottom right). We pulled the large out of the oven on the Monday night, just in time to take it to the show for setup the next morning! We're still busy with R&D on this unit to finalise the amount of plastic needed, the frame and other bits. It will be ready in a few weeks.

A photo wall with photos of our YOLO Compost Tumblers sent to us from customers.
Expo days are long and tiring but the experience was totally worth it. We had some on-the-day sales and have had other post-expo. I think these will trickle in steadily over the next few months. Many people that we met were about to move or in the process of building new homes.

For us the big benefit of the expo was in meeting and talking to people. We were astounded by how many people are separating their trash, recycling and trying to reduce the waste that comes into and out of their homes. In dealing with organic waste, our YOLO Compost Tumbler is an excellent solution, especially where you just don't have space for a heap or if you're just looking for a way to compost kitchen waste - like in an apartment (no garden) or townhouse (tiny to no garden).

Many people that we met are composting - to some degree. They're trying wormeries, bokashi, hot bins and the like. This is great because it shows that more and more people are giving value to composting as a means to deal with organic waste and they give value to the compost itself.

I've felt so despondent recently around waste and recycling. If there is one thing that is a big problem in my home town of Parys, it is litter. It really is a serious problem. In the week before Decorex, I was at Pick 'n Pay, packing my groceries into my reusable shopping bags. I looked down the row of checkouts and saw that I was the only person there not using - and buying every time - PNP's plastic shopping bags! (no, they didn't pull old bags out of their handbags to reuse, these were crisp and new)

Coming back from Decorex I'm far more optimistic that there is change happening. 

Nice way to see the size difference between the medium (2 x 100 litre shells) and large (2 x 200 litre shells).
As a result of being at Decorex, we have added two new colours to our range - grey and earth. We met a number of people in complexes and estates where they are restricted from having brightly-coloured items that do not go with the colour scheme of the place. Our new colours go well with each other and they also pair beautifully with our existing green, orange and yellow colours. I fetched plastic from our supplier on Thursday and we'll be moulding the first of the new colour units on Monday.

We also learned a bunch of other things from the visitors to our stand:

  • Many are not composting but they want to. They're currently tossing all of their kitchen waste and garden waste out with the trash. They want to do better.
  • People think that compost smells. A healthy compost should smell earthy. Good health is achieved by adding a mix of wet and dry materials and regular tumbling.
  • Different areas of Jo'burg have rat problems. The rats go for compost heaps and so people have stopped composting as a way to prevent rats coming to their gardens. Our YOLO Compost Tumbler is a closed unit with a lockable latch. Rats, mice, monkeys and dogs can't get into it.
A jar of 8-week old, unfinished compost from my small YOLO Compost Tumbler at home. The jar started off almost full and by the end of the expo it has reduced in volume by half - natural composting process. These jars of compost were really useful to show people what unfinished compost looks like, why it needs to mature (for the last-added contents to compost and catch up to the first-added contents) and for them to smell the mix ("not bad", "earthy", "amazing" were some comments).

A jar of finished compost from my YOLO Compost Tumbler at home. This mix is just kitchen waste with egg shells, torn up egg trays and dry leaves to balance the wet materials from the kitchen. Again people were amazed that it doesn't smell. Friends, compost shouldn't smell bad. The only time it smells bad is if it is too wet and it doesn't have enough oxygen. It's the anaerobic decomposition that makes it smell nasty. This tumbler shell that I emptied (and put some into a jar) was my 5th shell emptied since mid January, when I was using a prototype tumbler. I weighted the contents of the shell when I emptied it - 7.5kg! And mostly just kitchen waste that had composted. Amazing!
We're quite certain that 10 years ago - and even five years ago - our YOLO Compost Tumbler would be a harder sell. Times have changed and people are becoming more conscious and aware of the state of the environment and that we have to do our bit in our homes. Our timing is just right.

When you hear reports that there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050, scientists are not being alarmist. Just looking around me at the litter in my town, this statement is hardly surprising.

Over the past 18 months, since I moved to Parys, I've been making small changes to our household to reduce the waste coming into our home and what we put out on garbage day.

The most significant changes include filling up glass bottles with milk instead of buying two-litre plastic containers, composting all of our kitchen and garden waste and, recently, taking my own fabric bags to the store to buy loose items like bananas, ginger, garlic and rolls. As a result, we've downsized our trash bin twice and are now down to a waste paper bin for our weekly household trash. I'm sure we can do better too.

The road with our new company is still long. This experience at Decorex was immensely valuable for speaking to people and making new contacts. There are a number of exciting opportunities to come.