Gorgeous Green House

The Renovation Journey of a 1940’s ‘Traditional’ to 2015 ‘Contemporary, Green & Gorgeous’

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Stop Nestlé Patenting the Fennel Flower

Nigella sativa — more commonly known as fennel flower — has been used as a cure-all remedy for over a thousand years. It treats everything from vomiting to fevers to skin diseases, and has been widely available in impoverished communities across the Middle East and Asia.

But now Nestlé is claiming to own it, and filing patent claims around the world to try and take control over the natural cure of the fennel flower and turn it into a costly private drug.

Tell Nestlé: Stop trying to patent a natural cure

In a paper published last year, Nestlé scientists claimed to “discover” what much of the world has known for millennia: that nigella sativa extract could be used for “nutritional interventions in humans with food allergy”.

But instead of creating an artificial substitute, or fighting to make sure the remedy was widely available, Nestlé is attempting to create a nigella sativa monopoly and gain the ability to sue anyone using it without Nestlé’s permission. Nestlé has filed patent applications — which are currently pending — around the world.

Prior to Nestlé’s outlandish patent claim, researchers in developing nations such as Egypt and Pakistan had already published studies on the same curative powers Nestlé is claiming as its own. And Nestlé has done this before — in 2011, it tried to claim credit for using cow’s milk as a laxative, despite the fact that such knowledge had been in Indian medical texts for a thousand years.

Don’t let Nestlé turn a traditional cure into a corporate cash cow.

We know Nestlé doesn’t care about ethics. After all, this is the corporation that poisoned its milk with melamine, purchases cocoa from plantations that use child slave labor, and launched a breast milk substitute campaign in the 1970s that contributed to the suffering and deaths of thousands of babies from poor communities.

But we also know that Nestlé is sensitive to public outcry, and that it’s been beaten at the patent game before. If we act fast, we can put enough pressure on Nestlé to get it to drop its patent plans before they harm anyone — but if we want any chance at affecting Nestlé’s decision, we have to speak out now!

Please go to this link to sign the petition:



Great News: Gorgeous Green House to be an Embedded Generator!

Every sector has its share of jargon and the renewable energy area can be very confusing.  Two years ago the title of this post would have been meaningless to me and now it’s cause for celebration!

Embedded generation is the term used for any electricity generating ‘plant’ that is connected to the regional electricity distribution networks. In other words our solar energy system will be designed and set up to feed into the ‘grid’.

So what?

Firstly, once the municipality has the infrastructure in place (and we’ve signed off on all the paperwork known as Power Purchase Agreements) we will be able to export our excess electricity for profit.  It also means that the set up cost of our system is substantially reduced as we don’t need to invest in batteries to the same extent (approximately $8 000.00 saving).  This is because we have now decided not to be ‘off-grid’ i.e. not totally independent but rather ‘grid-tied’ so we can also draw electricity if we have very protracted cloudy weather. In other words we are to be part of a bi-directional metering pilot project. We need only invest in batteries to tide us overnight (and a bit extra in case of outages).

The bigger picture, of course, is that significant growth in embedded generation (of all kinds; wind, bio-fuels etc.) will contribute to a reduction of our dependence on ‘dirty’ energy (ESKOM Coal in the case of South Africa) which is important for the environment. It will also reduce the cost of energy which is currently predicted to increase 16% annually in South Africa.

South Africa Lags Behind

Embedded generation is fairly mainstream in Europe, North America and Australia.  In South Africa the Western Cape is piloting 6 properties, Port Elizabeth a few more and currently, that is it!  We recently read in the press that 17 bidders have been selected by government to produce 1 500 megawatts of renewable energy and more will follow.  Good news but we have much catching up to do.

The time frame for Durban Municipality to come on line by July 2014 is ambitious if one studies the document ‘Creating an Enabling Environment for Small Scale Embedded Generators.’ Published at the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities (AMEU) convention that took place in October 2014.  It tells of a plethora of legislation that needs to be amended, technical requirements that are not standardised and the perception that local government is perceived as a blockage rather than and enabling agent.

Currently financial barriers are identified as the biggest barrier to investment.  In SA it is extremely expensive to set up one’s own system (see my post of October 2013, Solar Energy:  What does it Cost. How to Explore Feasibility).  Rebates for installing Solar Geysers (only) are about $1 000 on a $ 2 800 investment through the SHISA programme. It would help if additional incentives such as rebates, tax credits and financing mechanisms were provided to customers over and above the SHISA programme.  Offering our citizens a way to make money from excess energy generated is a logical way to mitigate the high initial outlay, will stimulate and demand and hopefully drive prices down.  Tariffs will need to be carefully considered.  It is unlikely that we will be remunerated at the same rate/s that we pay for electricity but if the differential is too great it will not be motivational.

Durban property owners who are interested in becoming Embedded Generators need to start by completing the application form which can be downloaded here.

Come on everyone!  The more of us that put up our hands and make our voices heard the more momentum this process will get.  It has to be part of our way forward in saving this beautiful planet. So if you have the means now, this can be a huge contribution you could make and with all things that are correct and true and have integrity, as the law of abundance teaches us; ‘What you put out will be returned’.


An example of the PPA can be found here.

You can learn more about the Shisa Solar programme here:  http://www.durban.gov.za/Resource_Centre/Current%20Projects%20and%20Programmes/energyoffice/Pages/Shisa-Solar.aspx


Photo Update

DSC00600The shuttering is off and a lot of the scaffolding is down. It’s really exciting to see the concrete in it’s ‘nearly finished’ state.  A light slurry and polish to come and it will be fabulous.  Very contemporary, very maintenance free, and although controversial in terms of being green, gets big points for it’s thermal properties  and longevity.

The column and portico entrance is looking a lot grander than expected!  I’m relieved that the outbuilding wall behind it is to become the vertical garden so all the harshness of the building will disappear into the green trees behind.

It’s wonderful to stand in the lounge/dinning area and seeDSC00594   how each section of windows presents a beautiful picture of lush shrubs and plants.  Come the humidity of Jan/Feb it will be an oasis of cool and peace. DSC00593

Check out the skylight in the middle of the lounge.  Above is the roof garden.  I’m planning to plant Aloe tenuoir around it so they can grow up the sides and be visible from below.

Aloe tenuoir


Plektranthus species, perfect for shady areas

While I’m on my favourite theme, part of the update must include the ever expanding nursery for the roof and vertical gardens.  After the plumbers vacuumed out my forest under-story in search of the sewage man-hole I’ve made the most of the bare soil to propogate five species of Plektranthus – one of the most valuable and beautiful shade loving species in this part of the world.

Plants for roof garden

Plants for roof garden

My current garden also has all available space filled with pots and containers. Look at this gorgeous yellow Arum Lilly, it will be an absolute joy on the roof garden.

Yellow Arum Lilly

Yellow Arum Lilly

I’ve linked up forest pathways.  Very satisfying to recycle the old slate and timber.

recycled slate path

recycled slate path

Thee roof beams are in with the roof to follow soon.  Very exciting to see the final shape of the building emerge!

Roof beams above master suite

Roof beams above master suite