Thursday 28 January 2021

Why I need to start a women's paddling group

 Yesterday evening, I joined the local canoe club, my new canoe club, for time trial on a private farm dam. 

I arrived early to test a new setup that I've done to my footrests for our rudder-pedal system. A husband-and-wife couple were already there in their car. As I don't know any of the local people, I have no idea who people are and at what level they're paddling.

On the dam, I saw them in a K2 looking very shakey on the water. Going around the top, I came up alongside them and asked if they were ok. They said it was their second time in the kayak.

Let's hold it right there and digest this.

  • Two brand-new paddlers in a K2 together. The Knysna Racing Thor is not a kayak that I know. It is listed as being "very popular for beginner paddlers. Big, stable and very comfortable. This legend is ideal for larger beginner crews who want to take on big water". From the look of it, I don't think that it is as stable as the Accord K2, my favourite. I'd need to get into it to see.
  • Him - significantly heavier - in the front, her - smaller than me - in the back. We usually put the heavier paddler in the back.
  • No PFDs (I was the only paddler there wearing a lifejacket; when Celliers has paddled he has been the only one too). If you capsize, you've got 6.5m kayak full of water to guide and swim to the bank.
I know what it is like to teaspoon around a dam, wiggling and trying not to capsize. It isn't nice. Worse with waves and a side wind. And it is exactly this that results in hundreds of people being lost to the sport of paddling each year. 

I offered to them that once they were done, they were welcome to give my Marimba sit-on-top a try.

It started drizzling and I saw them get off the water. I got off to chat to them.

The wife seemed keen to give my Marimba a shot but the husband was not (and he prevented her from having a go). He is of the "We'll get it right eventually" camp. The problem is, it could take them weeks and weeks. They are paddling once a week. It will take them even longer. During this time, they are developing bad posture, bad form and bad habits that will be a nightmare to get out of them (I did tell them this). They have no skill, no technique and no confidence. And, if they stick with it, they'll go from paddling one unstable kayak to the next, thinking that this is what paddling is all about. 

Celliers wrote an excellent article for The Paddle Mag on this point. In the article he says, "If a paddler can’t put 100% of their pulling power into a forward stroke because of the need to use some energy to maintain their balance, the paddler is in the wrong boat".

Just as a baby and then toddler first crawls, stands, walks and then runs, so too can new paddlers take a step-by-step approach. In paddling you need to learn technique first.

In this whole situation there are a bunch of issues. New, keen paddlers who have been welcomed and given access to a kayak sans hand-holding or instruction (and I totally understand limited club resources - it is usually a struggle for clubs). No PFDs. Him overruling her. Closed-mindedness to trying another kayak and accepting my offer of assistance. I don't take it personally - they don't know me either.

What to do?

My solution would be to paddle the kayak with one of them. It helps to have a more experienced paddler to stabilise. But, I don't think he is going to 'release' his wife to paddle with me. 

I've had it in mind to start a women's paddling group. My friend Nicola has a Monday morning women's group in Cape Town. It totally rocks.

I saw a couple of women at the time trial last week (the first that I've seen). Two in a double (I didn't see which double) were slower than I was in a single plastic. I didn't see the others on the water. I did pick-up that the one was learning to paddle - paddling a K1 from the club trailer - and seemed to be challenged and possibly taking swims. She said something about "trying again next week". That made me sad for her because it is unnecessary to be in that position.

A women's group would offer a more supportive (and fun) paddling environment. It also removes interference (psychological or otherwise) from the faster, more experienced male paddlers who may be their partners / husbands / brothers. I've found all the paddlers that I've met to be very friendly but this 'interference' is a real thing (even if totally unintentional and unconscious like giving the woman an unsuitable kayak to paddle) that can inhibit the women in their lives and prevent them from finding their paddling preference and confidence. 

There are already too few women in paddling. We don't need to lose more of the keen ones.

(I've been in George for three months and already I can't help myself from organising something!)

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Good chameleon karma

 Yesterday, while on a phone call, movement on the fence outside the window caught my eye. A chameleon.

I grabbed my camera and got a few shots of this determined fellow. Chameleons are super cool reptiles with their funny shape, colours, whacky eyes and jerky movements.

An internet search revealed this guy to be a Knysna Dwarf Chameleon. Its body  (nose to base of tail) was maybe 10-12cm long. 

That's my first chameleon sighting here and I hope to see many more.

Banting for dogs

  Despite being an active, trail-loving dog, my Rusty is on the heavier side of the scale.

On that first afternoon when she came into my life almost four years ago, we went to the vet for her vaccinations and deworming. The vet recommended dog food for her and guided me on her meal portion - to eat for the weight that she should be and not what she currently weighed. She gained weight.

She then went on to Hills weight loss programme. We did regular weigh-ins and she still ate for the weight that she should be and not that she was. She didn't lose more than 1kg and was always, always hungry. That must have been about 2.5 years on Hills.

Just over a year ago I changed to Orijen. It's a pricey, higher-protein food that is lower on the cereal side. I still fed her less than recommended for her weight, especially as she is not very active in the day - only when she comes out with me. She was definitely more satisfied but her weight just remained stable.

I then swopped to Acana and Montego Field & Forest. Also a good protein contribution but a bit less costly than Orijen. Same effect - better satisfied than on Hills but stable weight. It has just not been reasonable for me to drop her food amount even more. 

On the treat side (of course she gets treats!), she has 1-2 dog cookies a day (small size dog ones), half a rollie before bed and some training treats (they get broken in half). Her granny has had to be strictly addressed on not giving her too many treats.

We started dog school last week. The classes are obedience with some agility for fun. Rusty was a star.

Her teacher addressed her weight and recommended that she does a banting diet. For the next six weeks, Rusty is on a meat diet. There is chicken, ostrich, lamb, beef - it is meat and offal all ground up together (yuck!). I do lightly cook it because raw is just a bit too much for me to handle!

Rusty has had four days on it and for the first time in four years she is not an always-ravenous dog! She is totally satisfied for hours after her meals and does not seek food and treats during the day.

Her weight has always been a concern, especially as she is my outdoors companion and extra weight on joints (for people too!) is never good. Rusty is approaching 10 years so it is even more important that she goes into her senior years in the best condition possible.

Rusty does not have an hour-glass figure - yet.

Tuesday 12 January 2021

The books I read in 2020

2020 was one of my best reading years in a while. I always read. Every night before I go to sleep - even it is only a few pages at 2am. 

I did well this year with being back to listening to audio books. I enjoy listening while cooking or gardening or doing other tasks with my hands where I can concentrate on the story and still accomplish what I'm doing.

There were also a couple of books not featured here that I would have read 50-150 pages and then abandoned after deciding that I could live the rest of my life without knowing the outcome.

Educated is one of my top three from this year. Station Eleven, a book I bought for bookclub, was a bit prophetic. Written in 2014 and set 20 years after a virus has wiped out like 90% of the world's population. I read it in January. Haha haha

I love Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) and her 'Detective Comoran Strike' books. The narrator is phenomenal.

The Glass Castle, like Educated, is phenomenal (a movie is being made of it). I had read Bill Bryson's At Home before (hefty tome). I gave it a re-read and thoroughly enjoyed it again. 

What Alice Forgot was also good. Great theme. Alice takes a tumble during an aerobics class, bashes her head, wakes up and has completely forgotten the last 10 years. She re-enters her lie to discover she is getting divorced from her husband, isn’t speaking to her sister, has two children (she was pregnant with the first 10 years previously, which is where her mind is), she has all kinds of things in her life that she loathed 10 years previously and would never have ever seen herself doing (being a crazy involved school mom) etc. 

I liked the concept of the book. We move on from week to week, year to year, decade to decade. The past retreats. How would my 10-year younger self deal with the life I now live. And, would she like it? Would she wish it for me?

The element that most struck me was that the bashed-head, 10-years-younger version of Alice was not too impressed with the person she’d become. 

That’s maybe quite key. No matter what you do or where you go, to be the type of person that you your 10-year younger and 10-year older self will still like.

Entertaining mix. I can only remember The Year of Living Danishly. I have Danish friends so this aided my interest.

Tony Horwitz is one of my favourite-favourite travel-genre authors. I've had this book for years and this year I finally read it. Some of these others I found at the house where I was staying.

I think I nailed these last five all in December. Nothing earth shattering - just fun fiction reads. I am really, really enjoying Jane Harper. 

In 2019 I started a thing where I have a photo album on my phone for books. As I complete a book, I take a photo of the cover or save an image from online. Most of the time I don't remember what I've read so this is a great way to look back at the end of the year to see where my time went.

I look forward to bettering my tally - and adding more variety - in 2021.

Sunday 3 January 2021

Taking a while to settle

 I've been in George for TWO MONTHS already! It feels both longer and shorter. I'm not quite settled but am getting there.

I spent the first five weeks living in a magnificent, big house just outside of George - with an amazing view. It was fully furnished (a holiday home) and so all my stuff went into a storage garage. I spent the 6th week at a self-catering guesthouse and then moved into the house that I'm renting in mid December. I've been here for 2.5 weeks now.

While I moved in with all of my boxes from the storage garage, I borrowed a table and mattress from a friend in town to work at and sleep on. These, and other furniture items, arrive tomorrow. I got my couch a few days ago from the garage. I've got odds still in boxes (mostly office stuff) in my home garage and a few items, like gazebos, in the storage garage. I've felt like I've been camping.

The night I moved into this house, I was ready to move out. I discovered that the kitchen was infested with cockroaches, there was no shower door or curtain so water went all over the floor (it is not a 'wet bathroom' design), there are no towel rails, no toilet roll holders, the garden is mostly weeds and the lawn has been grown on top of building rubble, the back paving area was covered in mud that washes down from the retaining wall when it rains, spots of damp in some walls, loose toilet seats, garage door doesn't lock... For a house that really is beautifully done inside, they just didn't finish it off. 

I'm not the first tenant. A couple of guys lived here for about 18 months after it was built. I'm the second tenant.

The house won me over because it was the best of two I saw in November (in a market of limited availability), the kitchen is divine (gas hob in an island, open and lots of space), it had tiles throughout and its location is superb. 

I notified the estate agent of the issues on the Thursday morning. Within a few days I'd fumigated the kitchen and bought roach bait (they're still a problem but less so), the owner had put a seal on the roof and sanded the damp spots indoors to be painted and dealt with in January, I spent a night putting some veggie plants into the retaining wall, I'd started pulling out weeds and cutting invasive alien trees (bugweed) and the estate agent brought along a curtain rail and curtain for the shower (apparently there was one, that the guys must have taken). It took me over two hours of intensive sweeping to brush the mud/dirt off the back paving - removing around 50L of soil. Every time I stepped outside the kitchen, my shoes were filthy - it was driving me insane!

There is lots to be done here to gain some kind of 'control' over my environment. I find these niggles unsettling. I figure if I put in an hour here and there each evening, I'll get it done.

The moving truck arrives tomorrow so I'll have work ahead of me to get things in their place. 

I am delighted to have regular visits from peacocks, peahens and peachicks that live in the area. As a bonus, I have a peahen nesting in the garden. She is sitting on four eggs, which she barely moves from. Rusty keeps a protective eye on her.

The issues here are not insurmountable (there are a couple more that have come to light) and it seems like the owner is prepared to fix the problems.

Still, the kitchen is a dream (except for the cockroaches that I'm slowly getting the better of!) and the house's location is just perfect.

Rusty watching the peahen

Exposing the tree trunk goes a long way to making the tree look lovely and creating a space underneath to sit in the shade.

Left = before, Right = after - some vegetation trimming

Tidying up trees down the side. They are so the wrong type of trees to be planted here...

The start of making a dent in removing weeds from here. That's a pompon tree at the back, which I'll reveal. I'll also deal with this crazy tangle of ferns. I've done more work since I took these photos - and more clearing to the right of the photo.

Top is before, bottom is after. I planted these the second night I moved in. I needed something green to look at outside the kitchen window and to get some plants into this retaining wall. They have grown really well in two weeks. Tomatoes, green peppers, celery, basil, lettuce and spinach. A good start. I've put some succulents (I collect cuttings while out walking with Rusty) into other slots along the wall.

Work-in-progress in cutting down the bugweed tree -  a nasty fast-growing, alien invader. Loads of weeds below and around the tree. What I did discover underneath is a Cape Gooseberry, which I'll keep.

Exploring new trails

 One of the main reasons that I chose the house that I'm renting for the next year is its location. 

Location, location, location.

I'm a block up and a block across from the start of a trail, that leads up to more trails. Within 10-15 minutes walk, are entrances/exits for trails too. 

The weather here is weird. It can be crystal clear one day and the next is deeply overcast with misty drizzle. Or the morning can be overcast and wet with a completely clear afternoon and evening.

We usually head out around 5pm (or even 6pm) and have another two hours of light with these long days. We sometimes see other people (walkers, runners, mountain bikers). Sometimes not. Yes, I have my yawara stick in hand plus pepper spray in easy access. 

There are still so many trails to be explored that I can probably do a new one everyday for a month and still not cover them all!

I really, really like these flowers.

The path next to the railway line is our closest trail access - five minutes from home (walking).

A small, old dam on the mountain side. We visited it for the first time two days ago.

Some tracks are like this lower down. The higher you go, the trails are single track.

One of my close-to-home trails. This was our first time on this route and the flowers here were so pretty. They are past their prime now.

Rusty loves a view. We love the scent of pine in the forests around George Dam.

Walking with friends visiting the Garden Route for their year-end holiday.

Wilderness beach, before lockdown.

Groenvlei, in Sedgefield, is about a 30-minute drive. Nice trails around here - still a lot to be explored. My old running friend from Jo'burg, Rob, lives in Knysna now. This is a great meet-up location between our towns. 

Paddling with my doggy girl on George Dam, one of our favourite places.

Another pretty route.