Newsletter 6: November 2022
To all our new customers, the longstanding ones, the patient ones, the frustrated ones – Thank you for being there.
After over a year of no newsletter I decided it was time to try my hand at another newsletter.
Well AT LAST we have the NEW WEBSITE………. after much trial and tribulation, frustration, and inconvenience to all… including you, our extremely supportive and patient clients.
We are hoping that it will prove more user friendly for the clients who know what they want as well as those who are novices. Each of us here have been doing test runs to iron out every “glitch” and problem as much as we can. Ordering, changing the order, using the different formats, different styles of payment…… and all this whilst dealing with our famous “Load-shedding”! (We have long periods where our electricity is off and unavailable to us. Seriously frustrating.)
“Loadshedding” is a new word in the South African language. This occurs when ESKOM, our power supplier turns off our electricity for 2 and a half hours at a time. Sometimes this can happen 4 times a day, depending on the excuse – coal is wet, power stations break down after no maintenance for 25 years.
The odd thing is that Namibia buys electricity from us, and they are not affected by loadshedding. I crossed the border at Alexander Bay and while in customs, on the SA side, the power went off and on the other side of the river in Oranjemund, the lights were burning brightly!
Thankfully Cape Town is shielded a bit from this as we have Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant as well as Steenbras Hydro Electric Plant which provides us with a buffer from the rest of the country. We have put some solar panels and batteries so Silverhill can now function seamlessly though the gaps in service.
I have started going on seed seeking and collecting trips. It is starting very slowly, but it has started. I am doing day trips round the Peninsula and going a bit further afield on other day trips.
Weekend or longer trips are also on the cards. This year I went to Namibia with Paddy.. He is always game for a road-trip, his wife not so, but it is wonderful to have his company, and we had a great week, long days, and much mileage. There was so much rain the last wet season and the grass was in some places mid-thigh high. When speaking to the locals we asked how the rain was and all they said was “look at the grass” The grass was certainly a sight.
I have also done some shorter trips to Niewoudtville, Tanqua karroo and surrounds both Wendy and Louise have been happy to come with me on various occasions. Both have a huge knowledge of indigenous plants, and it is wonderful to learn from them. I am slowly beginning to feel like I am learning, and names are sticking as I learn what the plants are looking like. I do still look at fruit/seed if there are any, it usually helps me with identifying plants.
For those customers who want to make use of these or other couriers. You will need a Phytosanitary Certificate and/or an Import Permit.
As soon as we send you your tracking information
…you can telephone or email the courier in question and ask if you can start the clearing process straight away.
Get the name or contact details of the imports team in your country and send them the waybill, commercial invoice, phytosanitary certificate and any other regulatory documents you need to import seeds in to your country.
This should speed up the delivery of your shipment.
PROTEA SEED COLLECTING AND CLEANING
Below is a short explanation that Anthony Hitchcock prepared for us in 2019 that we have not had a chance to publish yet. I do hope this gives you some insight into how Proteaceae is cleaned and when we say we need time to dry and sort seed, you have an idea of how long it might take before we can send your seeds to you.
It is important that our customers know about the seed we provide for them. The process of collecting, drying, cleaning, and storing the seed is intensive and time consuming. This is a short explanation of what is involved when processing Proteaceae (Protea, Leucospermums (pincushions), Leucadendrons (conebushes), Serruria and Mimetes seed for our customers.
Planning is very important as it involves travel, time and fuel which is costly. We try to access seeds of the species that are popular with our customers wherever possible. However, we need to collect legally within the permitting system in South Africa. This means that we can collect from private land with landowner permission.
Collecting from natural areas such as reserves is not permitted without a valid permit and permits will not be given by conservation authorities for commercial businesses such as ours. For Silverhill to get permits for these areas we would have to establish ‘Mutual Benefit and Sharing Agreements’ with each authority managing reserves and conservation areas for each species collected. These agreements would have to be signed by each customer for each species and records of every commercial sale be kept with a portion of the proceeds being returned to South Africa to be shared with the authority in charge of the land. The time to manage this, keeping such detailed records and following up is not worth the effort. It is doubtful that our customers would have the time either.
With our collecting permit we can collect from private landowners with their permission. Our collecting is therefore limited to flower farms, but this means that the rarer and unusual species are not available unless there are growers cultivating them.
Collecting Proteas is easier than Pincushions, Mimetes, Serruria and some Leucadendrons which are only seasonably available.
Collecting Proteas is intensive and never ending because there is good demand. We must be careful to only collect flower heads that have not been predated by grubs which burrow into the seed head (capitulum) ((see picture below) and destroy the seed from below. Flower heads with burrow holes in the base are discarded. Some species and some Protea stands may be infested which adds to the time taken to select the seed heads. Regina and Etina are our dedicated Protea seed cleaners and must carefully sort and select for viable seed. This requires lots of concentration and regular sampling of seed by cutting them open with secateurs to see that we are sorting properly.
We keep records of what we have in stock and what is drying so we know when to collect more seed. Drying can take up to a few weeks and cleaning is a slow process. Protea seed heads are laid out in crates that must be spread out to dry and packed away every night, a laborious process.
Predators: We must be very careful that the seed is not stolen by predators such as rodents or doves. The most destructive problem is the grey squirrel which will eat their way through a crate of pincushions in short time. The crates must be packed out where these animals do not have access or wire cages placed over the crates.
Collecting Leucospermum and Serruria and Mimetes
is intensively seasonal and requires careful monitoring to determine when the flower head is ready for plucking. This means numerous trips in a short period of about two months to collect at the right time. Too early the seed is still green and useless, too late and it has fallen,or been harvested by rodents or birds.
These Genera need to be spread out in crates and packed out and away daily to be aired and dried. If this is not done the moist flower heads will become covered with fungi. Daily monitoring is required.
Once all of this is done, we will then need 5 days to fumigate your seeds to make sure there are no insects when we send your seeds to you.
For South African Customers: Join a fynbos plant identification course.
Are you a fynbos fan who would like to be able to identify what you are looking at?
Wendy Hitchcock is a trained botanist with over 30 years of field and teaching experience and offers regular 4 day fynbos plant identification courses in Cape Town.
“I am not affiliated to any educational institution, and I have designed this fynbos plant identification course over the last 20 years in the best way there is: by learning alongside those who have attended the course and adapting the way the information is presented.”
Unfortunately Wendy is not ready yet to offer on-line courses, but maybe if enough requests come through…….. you never know.
Frustrated with plant names? Join a Fynbos ID course to help you know where to start and efficiently use plant guides – www.wendyhitchcock.co.za
FAREWELLS AND HELLOS
After 2 years with Silverhill decided it was time to move on. She will still be in contact with us but is busy working with U Turn ( https://homeless.org.za/) doing a fantastic job showing folk how to grow and create their own supply gardens. We are proud of her as she is really helping others who are in need to better themselves, we do see her now and then and she is still full of “bubbles”.
Jenny has also left us after 5 years of sterling work with us, retirement was calling. We thank her so VERY much and really hope she enjoys her happy little garden and having some time to do the things she would like to do. She will be missed, (especially her fantastic scones) and we wish her well.
My daughter is also working for Silverhill on a part time basis packing orders efficiently and checking every detail. This certainly, takes a load off us having to do it.
An introduction to a new staff member – Nina Dunbar-Curran, she is the youngest full time staff member. (I remember being the youngest in the office and bringing the average age down to about 73 at the time!) She joins us to help fill in the spaces left with our departures. Nina is married to Pat’s Son, and they have a little boy of nearly 3 Benjamin who keeps her on her toes. Nina has taken over doing the Phytosanitary Certificates she brings energy, youth and a fresh approach to our little business. She has taken up the reins very efficiently and seamlessly and is keen and eager to do any job asked of her and it is fantastic to have her energy in the office.
Has also joined us on a part time basis to help Regina clean our Protea seeds. We were running a bit behind and needed a helping hand.
Pat is still with us. Her daughter, son-in-law and grandson James have moved in with them. Being Granny is a full-time job and keeping her and Kenneth young. Kenneth had a bit of a health scare earlier this year, but he pulled through well and is still able to help us with computer issues as well as all the book photographs on the website.
Kirstin has relocated to a foreign clime, (Dubai) with her family. Dave (her husband, is based in the Middle East). Because of technology she can continue in her capacity of bookkeeper whilst helping her daughter negotiate a new school and setting up a new home. We get to wave at her over the computer now instead of seeing her personally, thankfully things are so much easier to do nowadays. Their furniture has not left SA yet, but hopefully will do so in the next week or so, so she has a couch for Christmas and a Christmas tree!
Dorothy is now processing orders and doing it efficiently and very well. She has also started learning how to use a computer, which will be a huge bonus for her and us. She still cleans seeds if the orders slow down a bit and is always there if Regina needs help. Anthony and Julia taught them very well. Dorothy also got married recently after a good many years of courting.
Regina is still working very hard and oversees all the seed cleaning. Which seeds need to be done first, which we need in a hurry and what we have that haven’t been cleaned yet. She has recently become a grandmother and there was much excitement when the birth happened. Regina also comes along when we collect Protea seed, a wonderful outing which blows the office cobwebs away.
The animals still grace us with their presence in the office. The dogs have beds in the office, and we enjoy having them around. The cats walk in and out. They seem to like Regina’s chair and as soon as she moves, they hop on and make themselves comfortable and she has to find a new chair.
Happy Growing until our next Newsletter
Ondine and all of us from Silverhill.