"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Local knowledge is priceless

I have discovered that there is a plant on the farm which I am allergic to.  After researching and walking - lots of walking (LOL), I have narrowed it down to this one.

From a distance it looks like what I call a bunnytail - a soft, fluffy dried plant, freely available in this country, and which can be dyed into various colours.

But, on closer inspection - both visual and physical - that is where the similarity ends.  Those little spiky things which protrude beyond the soft, fluffy-looking inner core are downright nasty!

And they caused the following reaction on my legs...
Tick bite down there, but thankfully
the tick wasn't infected :)
It doesn't itch, it doesn't hurt, but it just doesn't look so lekker (nice).
I'm always in crocs - summer
and winter...
RMan recalled our GP, Dr A, had mentioned that a friend, Alan, was getting a reaction to something on their smallholding, so I sent Dr A these three photo's.  He confirmed that the reaction is the same.  At least both Dr H and Alan both now know the cause.

I just don't know the name of the plant...  Teach, can you help? :)

Aside from providing work for locals, thus assisting them to remain in the rural areas, the beauty of employing, and communicating, with local inhabitants is that they have a wealth of knowledge which they freely share.  Such was the case with one such labourer, Dan the Man.

Before he moved to the nearest town, we employed him for a few days a year or so ago.  As we were leaving the farm after a long weekend visit, we requested that he remove as much of the renosterbos as he could in a given number of days.  He question to us was: "Moet ek alles uithaal?" ("Must I remove everything?")  When we looked puzzled, he then proceeded to tell us about the following plant.
Helichrysum species
This plant is called Kooigoed (bedding material) {thanks Diana :)} - it is from the Helichrysum species.  It has, to me, an aroma of camphor, and the leaves are soft.  

Kooigoed was used is days of yore as a bedding material - simply placed on the ground, or shoved inside a slip.  Naturally, as the branches are quite hard,  the bedding would probably have to be replaced quite frequently by us soft Westerners who are used to spring mattressesIt is reputed to keep insects and parasites at bay, and a tea made by soaking a couple of handfuls in a litre of boiling water overnight is said to lower blood pressure, and be beneficial to both the digestive tract and kidneys.  The leaves may also be used on wounds to prevent infection.  I reckon all round it s a very beneficial plant to have in one's garden :)
The last of the flowers on the Helichrysum
Finally, I have also read that tossing a few leaves on a fire and inhaling the smoke can supposedly relieve pain and insomnia.

I love finding out how such things were done in the days of yore.  Like how to protect pumpkins from getting stung by using straw.  I would love to write a book on all the old traditions that are in danger of being lost through the migration of rural inhabitants to urban areas.    Yes, initially, that knowledge will remain, but their children, and their children's children, wont be exposed to their ancestral plants / habits / methods and therefore that knowledge won't be passed on.  That will be such a sad day on this planet.

For such knowledge is infinitely more beneficial to this planet, but it can also free us from the pharmaceutical companies, from shopping malls, and from spending our hard-earned money. :)


  1. We have talked of this very thing. There are so many things that are being lost to the younger generation. Canning is one. Someday that may be a valuable asset, not that it isn't now. Another is just being able to live without amenities that we now enjoy. And as you stated, just knowing things about living off the land that were common knowledge a hundred years ago may become necessary for survival.

  2. Amen! Everytime I go to pull up a plant that I think is a weed, or maybe not in the right place, I worry that I'm getting rid of something important that I might want to use at some point. I love your last line, about knowledge freeing us from the drug companies and malls and such. It's truly an awesome thing to think that there is so much useful stuff just all around us.

    1. 1St Man - ... and there is still so much to (re)learn...

  3. I agree, so much old knowledge is getting lost to big pharmaceutical companies constant bombardment that their way is the only way. It is great someone has informed you on that plant, but not so good about the one that is giving you the rash. Yikes

  4. Jane - The rash doesn't bother me, and disappeared within a few days after leaving the farm. I reckon that the more we research / share and try (dunno about breathing in smoke though LOL) the less dependent we can become on the industrialists and the happier, free-er and healthier we may end up to be?

  5. From our botanist neighbour, my source of all knowledge when I am stumped: That’s not actually a grass. It’s Trifolium angustifolium, a legume (pea). It’s an alien invasive species, and very scratchy when dry.

    1. Teach - You a star - thank you :) Very, very scratchy LOL Now, how to get rid of it - 'scuse me while I Google...

  6. Local knowledge is so important, I love your idea of putting these plants into words so the knowledge is not lost forever. When you say that your pumpkins get "stung" what does that mean?

    1. Mr H - The pumpkins look like peaches - they get a small back pin prick, which seems to spread as a sort of bruise, and the pumpkin that is forming goes yellow, then black and dies. Very frustrating. All I want to grow is a few pumpkins, to see us through winter...

  7. Knowledge does not die... today, it becomes internet- a world body of knowledge and wisdom. Google,Bing, Wikipedia... its all there for the taking. Hooray for the new millenium. And I love living in the 21st century.

    1. TL - Welcome :)

      Yes, for those privileged to have access to Google, Bing, Wikipedia knowledge is, in most instances, a mouse click away. But for those who are not fortunate to have access to this source of information, only word of mouth from their elders can fill in that void.


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