We’re going to build a Nursery we said … what a wonderful idea … right …?
Little did we know…
First, we had to find a location for the Nursery within our project area but it also needed a house for me to live in. Yah right … I’d been looking for a place since January 2019.
Riversdale is your typical small town … in these small communities there is nothing more dangerous that an outsider! We are called “inkommers/ incomers” (and after 20 years of living here you will still be an “incomer”).
So finding a piece of land with a house to rent proved to be near impossible but after a year of searching, many disappointments and crazy frustration, things fell into place and on the 2nd of November 2019 we found the perfect location and a weird “house” aka a revamped stable.
The land was right next to one of the rivers that flow into the beautiful Broomvlei wetland and also close to the rehabilitation sites. The new site was rough and littered with all kinds of stuff. We had to get rid of huge Eucalyptus stumps which were left over from a previous clearing operation of the Landowner.
There was a bit of a conundrum … we will need strong enough plants to establish in the rehabilitation areas and we need them within the next year and a half but we are only just starting to build the Nursery.
Fortunately, I’ve been collecting seed all over the Upper Catchment since 2019 and I started sowing some of the species we will need the most of. My own nursery was small but we squeezed seed trays into every available space. And then we sowed again in February 2020. I had seed trays everywhere but the excitement was wonderful!
How would you design a Nursery’s structure if the farmers in the area have this nervous look on their faces when they say to you “yah the North-West wind is hectic” (as if they’re not quite sure how to prepare you)?
We needed a tunnel, an area covered with shade net, secure storage, work space under a roof and staff facilities. All of that was going to cost loads of money and a logistical nightmare to get it here and set up … so I thought why not put all of that into one structure and build it with poles … for the North-West wind …
The area was cleared and made more level. Finding a “capable” builder in our little town was the next challenge but we found a brave soul and we began the project at the beginning of February 2020.
Building started on the 10th of February 2020 and on the 11th of March 2020 the roof started appearing. By 25 March 2020 we had a completed roof. And then the COVID-19 lock-down happened … everything came to a stop and we had to wait it out.
Gary and his team played an integral role in the construction project. His enthusiasm is contagious and he always has a plan!
The First Storm – 27 June 2020
We were just getting back on track after the lock down ended when the Nursery had its first wind test … yah … it didn’t keep all its bits together …
The experts say it was because the shade net wasn’t put up yet to help keep the wind from getting underneath the IBR sheets but it was still heart breaking to see the roof sheets blowing away in the wind! Even the locals called it “a bad wind” but now I know where I needed to make improvements for future wind storms.
The Second Storm – 12 July 2020
Nothing like I’ve ever experienced before! There were gusts of 160km per hour … It was EPIC!
It started the Sunday afternoon and just got stronger and stronger. By around 10pm that night the Eskom power went out … as if it wasn’t enough that the roof sheets of my house were getting dangerously close to lifting off and the wind sounding like deranged screaming … flying tree branches hitting the roof … I had to have complete darkness around me to add to my hysterical nervous system too.
We had to continue with the construction project, time was running out and the growing season was approaching fast. So, we picked up the pieces (literally) and we made it stronger.
We used the damaged IBR sheets to clad the store room, making it more wind and water tight. I found second hand garage doors and got them fixed up to close up the entrances.
And then at last the shade net arrived … after waiting for the factory to get started again after lock down and then a strike which lead to a halt in production for a while.
The Goukou Rehabilitation Nursery – at last.
I cannot describe the feeling when I opened the irrigation to water the neatly packed plants for the first time!!!
8 months felt like 8 years … 2020 has been quite a challenge …
Compiled by Kezia Botes, Research & Rehabilitation Co-Ordinator and Nursery Manager, Goukou Resilient River Project
Photos courtesy of Kezia Botes