Creative blacksmithing

    Most people think of blacksmithing as something to do with horses and ancient armoury, but Conrad Hicks has taken the methods and the skills of the traditional craftsman and brought them creatively into modern day living.

Strongly influenced by the American, Albert Paley and by the decorative arts of the 1920's and 1930's, Conrad set up his first forge at Montebello Design Studio in 1991 and then moved out to premises in an old art-deco cinema, The Bijou in Observatory, Cape Town.

His forge - The Blacksmith Forge - is a place where one feels the soul of the earth and the rawness of working with undefined elements. It specialises in more artistic forge-work including gates, balustrades, balconies, sculptural work, fireplaces and furniture. (Conrad has undertaken some major public commissions including the gates at Kirstenbosch and railings and light fittings at the refurbished Gardens Centre).

Conrad feels that the invention of the arc welder has removed the artistic skill of forging two bits of metal together creatively and securely and has given rise to bad design with cheap steel. Mastering the manipulation of iron requires quick work and patience and the blacksmith has to understand and be intuitive with the steel and when working with a sculpture or art work, Conrad starts with the method of joining and creates his own shapes to join two parts of his art work together. This philosophy is evident in his sculptures where wraps, pins and other creative shapes replace the traditional rivets / bolts and define the shapes of the final work in a unique way.

True to the era we are living in, he has found more eco friendly ways to run his forge. For a blacksmith, heat is vital and without it, working with metal is impossible and as such, furnaces and forges traditionally use gas, charcoal or coal to produce heat. He bought a piece of land that was home to a large amount of 'rooikrans' (alien vegetation) and now combines the Rooikrans wood (which makes perfect natural charcoal) with regular coal in the forge. The result is cleaner fire which enables the steel to become hotter in less time, giving him the flexibility and time to work his magic as ancient craftsmen did.

View Conrad Hicks Website for more information on him or pictures of his artwork.

Conrad Hicks

Off the shelf blood vessels

As medical breakthroughs continue to occur and technology improves, the risk of complications that patients face in modern operating rooms will drastically be reduced.

UK research says that about 12 per cent of the British population are diagnosed with heart or circulatory disorders with more than 28 000 coronary bypass operations being carried out every year. About one in three deaths in Britain is caused by cardiovascular disease due to blood vessels narrowing or becoming blocked by fatty deposits.

This might not be an issue any more, as researchers from Cambridge University have reportedly managed to grow all three main types of cells in a laboratory that make up the walls of a blood vessel. Working over the past four years they have used patients' own skin cells to manufacture different types of vascular smooth muscle cells and claim that their technique would be suitable for producing blood vessels on an industrial scale.

Scientists could potentially create blood vessels in a laboratory environment for surgeons to use in transplant operations instead of undertaking riskier heart bypass treatments, they could help develop life-saving treatments for conditions such as heart attacks and strokes and 'test tube' blood vessels could also be used to treat kidney dialysis patients or trauma victims.

In June 2011, a Californian-based biotechnology firm grew whole blood vessels in a lab for the first time and implanted them into three kidney dialysis patients, but since one type of blood vessel is not suitable for everything, the Camridge team are focussing on engineering different types of blood vessels appropriate for each patient and ones which could have more medical uses.

Source : The Telegraph

Blood Vessels

Quinoa - a good choice for vegans and vegetarians

Quinoa (pronounced kinwah), a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium), is a grain-like pseudocereal rather than a true cereal or grain (wheat, oats, rice, sorghum etc) and is grown mainly for its edible seeds.

Initially originating in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru this pseudograin was grown and eaten primarily by the Inca's. The grain was so revered that the Inca emperor would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using golden implements. Interestingly, during the European conquest of South America, the Spanish colonists suppressed its cultivation due to its status within indigenous non-Christian ceremonies and the Inca's were forced to grow wheat instead, which has limited until recently, the wide cultivation and distribution of the quinoa product.

Recent scientific studies have confirmed that quinoa has remarkable nutritional properties: it is a good source of dietary fibre, with high protein content of around 15% and a great amino acid balance (it contains more lysine - an amino acid that is usually lacking in plant foods - than other cereals).

Quinoa also contains minerals (magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and iron) and vitamins (mainly a rich source of B vitamins, namely thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folate) and compounds (such as polyphenols, phytosterols and flavonoids which all have antioxidant and protective functions), making it a good choice for vegetarians and vegans.

Quinoa is also a rich source of carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (GI) of 18 and therefore will provide sustained energy for longer than most other grains. The carbohydrate in quinoa is gluten-free, which makes it an excellent choice for people with gluten allergies or coeliac disease. The total fat content of quinoa is low (4g per serving of 185g) and like all cereals and grains it does not contain any cholesterol.

Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture when cooked and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it a tasty alternative to white rice or couscous. It can also serve as a high-protein breakfast food - sold as a dry product similar to corn flakes - mixed with honey, almonds and/or berries. Quinoa milk and/or flour can be used in wheat-free and gluten-free baking.

Source : Wikipedia and Health 24


Oasis in the wild

The beautiful, fertile Biedouw Valley lies hemmed in by the Biedouw Mountains to the north and by the Tra-Tra Mountains to the south, just 32 kilometres from Clanwilliam in the Cederberg.

The essence of the Biedouw Valley is captured just after the rains, when it becomes endowed with an array of spring flowers that capture the imagination of many a visitor. Local farmers restrict their herds from grazing in the valley during the flower season to assist this glory. Yellow-and-white nemesias nestle alongside blue heliophilas, gazanias, mauve senecios and an array of succulent vygies that are enough to take your breath away. At any other time of the year the rooibos plant, Aspalathus linearis, indigenous to the Cedarberg Mountains and the area around Clanwilliam, dominates the valley.

A lovely location situated far from the main tourist tracks, within the unspoilt Biedouw Valley of the Cederberg mountains is Enjo Nature Farm, a relaxing accommodation next to the river with complete privacy and great views of the Paardeberg mountains. The farm offers different accommodation options, from camping to self-catering chalets boasting great views.

The Annex is a beautiful self-catering unit which is attached to the main farmhouse and features a private entrance, bathroom, kitchenette and an outside braai area. The Cabin is a small cottage with a bathroom, an inside fireplace, an outside kitchenette under a thatch roof and an outside braai area. Camping under shady trees, next to the river includes hot water ablutions, braai areas and electricity points.

There is also a wonderful hiking trail on the farm to the Enjo Amphitheatre and they offer the opportunity to choose between exploring the area by mountain bike, motorbike, horseback or to see the area from the skies in a small plane.

Close by you will find the Wupperthal Missionary Village with its hand-made shoe factory and rooibos tea shop, while a visit to the Sevilla rock art trail with its rock paintings and caves is a must.

Visit the Enjo Nature Farm website for more information.

Enjo Nature Farm

Hot News

Prince Albert Olive Festival

Two days of food & fun seasoned with a liberal helping of arts, crafts, history and culture at the Prince Albert Olive Festival in the Karoo on 27 & 28 April 2012.

Featured Plant

Elegia Tectorum

Elegia Tectorum
(Cape Thatching Reed)

Family :


Description :

Indigenous ornamental grass to 1.5m with tight seedlike flowers.

Flowering time :


Conditions :

  • Full Sun
  • Average water
  • Evergreen
  • Wind resistant
  • Frost resistant
  • Any soil

View more detailed information on this plant in our plant directory.

Wine of the month

Wine of the month

Nikela 2005

Winery : Grangehurst
Winemaker : Jeremy Walker

Description :

Red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Shiraz and Merlot from selected prime vineyard areas in Stellenbosch on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountains.

Aroma : Red berries with some mint, cedar and mocha aromas.

Palate : A full-bodied barrel matured red wine with smooth, ripe tannins. Recommended drinking 6 to 12 years from vintage.

Winemaking : The various component wines were matured separately in 225 litre barrels (90% French & 10% American) for 28 months.

Food Pairing : Enjoy this wine with fine cuisine such as yellow fin tuna ravioli, balsamic pan seared chicken livers, grilled kabeljou or slow-roasted lamb shanks.

If you want to purchase or require more information on this wine, or if you are interested in a private or corporate tasting, please email Karen or visit her website.

Planting Guide

Herb or Veggie

Seeds can be sown or plants can be planted for the following herbs and veggies this month:


  • Broad Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Leek
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Swisschard
  • Turnips
  • Herbs

  • Coriander
  • Chamomile
  • Mustard
  • Oreganum
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Watercress
  • View our full planting plan in our resources section of our website.

    Brain Teaser

    We all love a chance to test our own brain capacity with brain teasers. Try see if you can figure out this one...

    Brain Teaser

    March's Teaser Answer :
    "2 eggs over easy"


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    Contact Cheral:

    Cell: 082 82 509 82