Thought-provoking art by Chinese artist

    The humble bike has inspired artists ever since Marcel Duchamp put a bicycle wheel on top of a stool in 1913. Even Picasso during the bleakest period of World War II used a pair of handlebars and a bike saddle to whimsically conjure the skull of a bull. The chinese artist Ai Weiwei continues this tradition in an exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan.

The exhibition aptly named "Ai Weiwei is Absent" due to China's ban on Ai travelling, has run for the past 3 months with 21 works on show. Ai has been unable to leave China since his release from arrest in June 2011. Ai's arrest in April 2011 and detention for over 2 months ignited an outcry from many Western governments about China's tightening grip on dissent that started in February last year, when dozens of rights activists and dissidents were detained and arrested. The artist was the most internationally well-known of those detained and his family repeatedly said he was targeted by authorities for his outspoken criticism of censorship and Communist Party controls.

As part of what the Taipei Fine Arts Museum bills as the first large-scale solo exhibition of the artist's work to be held in the Chinese world, Ai Weiwei's most recent work Forever Bicycles installs 1,200 bicycles (some hanging from the ceiling, some standing upright on the floor) one behind the other. The bikes have no handlebars and no seats and instead use parts of the frame to extend upward and outward to connect to other wheels and other frames, creating the illusion of a labyrinth-like space in a three-dimensional area.

Another of his artworks "Sunflower Seeds" made up of millions of small works was poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern's vast industrial space as part of The Unilever Series exhibition that ran from October 2010 to May 2011. The 100 million seeds, each apparently identical but actually unique, formed a single unique surface and a seemingly infinite landscape. However realistic they may have seemed, these life-sized sunflower seed husks were in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain. Each seed had been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen.

Porcelain is almost synonymous with China and, to make this work, Ai Weiwei had manipulated traditional methods of crafting of what has historically been one of China's most prized exports. Sunflower Seeds concept invites a closer look at the "Made in China" phenomenon and the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today. Each piece is a part of the whole, a commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses and posing challenging questions: What does it mean to be an individual in today's society? Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together? What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?"

Source: Tate Modern in UK and Reuters

Ai Weiwei is Absent

Biggest scientific breakthroughs for 2011

From law-violating subatomic particles, emotional honeybees to entirely new, earth-like worlds, 2011 was an incredible year for scientific discovery. In the past 12 months, scientific breakthroughs in fields ranging from archaeology to structural biochemistry have allowed humanity to rewrite history and enable us to open to brand new chapters in our development as a species.

The world's lowest density material

With a density of less than one milligram per cubic centimeter (about 1000 times less dense than water) this material is so light-weight it can rest on the seed head of a dandelion and is lighter than even the lowest-density aerogels. The secret to both its negligible weight and its resiliency, is the material's lattice-like structure similar to the Eiffel Tower.

"Feeling" objects with a brain implant

An international team of neuroengineers has developed a brain-machine interface that is bi-directional and that could allow a brain implant to control a virtual hand and to receive feedback tricking the brain into "feeling" the texture of a virtual object. Already demonstrated successfully in primates, the interface could soon allow humans to use next-generation prosthetic limbs (or even robotic exoskeletons) to actually feel objects in the real world.

NASA's Kepler Mission changes how we see ourselves in the Universe

2011 was a fantastic year for NASA's Kepler Mission, which is charged with discovering Earth-like planets in the so-called "habitable zone" of stars in the Milky Way. Kepler scientists announced the discovery of the first circumbinary planet ( a planet with two suns, just like Tatooine); located the first two known Earth-sized exoplanets; quadrupled the number of worlds known to exist beyond our solar system; and spied Kepler-22b, the most Earth-like planet we've yet encountered.

Heartbeat-powered nanogenerators could soon replace batteries

Back in March, scientists announced the world's first viable "nanogenerator" - a tiny computer chip that gets its power from body movements like snapping fingers or (eventually) your heartbeat. The researchers can already use the technology to power a liquid crystal display and an LED and claim that their technology could replace batteries for small devices like MP3 players and mobile phones within a few years.

Neuroscientists reconstruct the movies in your mind

In September 2011, UC Berkeley neuroscientists demonstrated their ability to use advanced brain-imaging techniques to turn activity in the visual cortex of the human brain into digital images. So far, the researchers are only able to reconstruct neural equivalents of things people have already seen, but they're confident that other applications like tapping into the mind of a coma patient, or watching a video recording of your own dreams are well within reach.

100,000-year-old art kit found in South Africa

Researchers investigating Blombos Cave in Cape Town, South Africa uncovered the oldest known evidence of painting by early humans. Archaeologists discovered two "kits," for mixing and forming ochre - a reddish pigment believed to be used as a dye. The find pushes back the date by which humans were practicing complex art approximately 40,000 years to around 100,000 years ago.

Epidemiologists have a scientific breakthrough on HIV and Herpes prevention

The African Academy of Sciences' awarded South African scientists Salim S. Abdool Karim, MD, PhD, and Quarraisha Abdool Karim, PhD, faculty members in the Mailman School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology the inaugural Olusegun Obasanjo Prize for their highly acclaimed work on the use of the microbicide, Tenofovir gel, to prevent HIV infection and genital herpes in women. They demonstrated that 1% Tenofovir gel reduced HIV acquisition by 39% overall and by 54% in women who used the gel consistently and that Tenofovir gel prevents incurable genital herpes that enhances the spread of HIV, by 51% in women.

For other scientific breakthroughs visit Wired Science, Science AAAS Mag, The Week

2011 Breakthroughs

Planting by the phases of the moon

Farmers centuries ago used to be in tune with the moons' phases and integrated the practice of harmoniously planting at specific times of the moon 's cycle into their farming methods. Planting by the moon phases is one aspect of biodynamic farming that is again gaining increasing popularity amongst both gardeners and farmers.

Modern day moon planting was reintroduced at the turn of the last century by Austrian philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1935) and was just one aspect of his theory of biodynamic farming. His theory, which is founded on a holistic and spiritual understanding of nature and man, also takes into account the cycles of the planets and the signs of the Zodiac.

The simple theory behind lunar planting in biodynamics takes into account the quantity of light from the sun reflected off the moon as well as the gravitational affect of the moon upon the water in the plants and soil.

The strength and direction of the reflected light and this gravitational pull varies according to which phase the Moon is in. At full moon and new moon, the period of the spring tides when both the Sun and the Moon are lined up with the earth, the gravitational effect of the moon is at its strongest and so the affect upon plants is at it greatest.

During the waxing moon, the period between new and full moons, the water in the soil is pulled up towards the surface and as this is a period of increasing moonlight it supports and encourages leaf growth. While on the other hand during the waning moon, the period between full and new moons, the water is pulled back down into the soil and the decreasing moonlight thus promotes root growth.

By planting with these effects in mind it is possible to increase a plants' growth rate, plant quality, speed up seed germination and create a greater yield at harvest. So popular has this moon planting science become that more and more organic farms are adopting it as part of their organic farming approach. Indeed biodynamic crops are gaining such a good reputation that they are attracting premium prices and encouraging other farms to follow a similar approach.

In addition to that, the intrinsic harmony between ourselves and our gardens enhances not only our mind/body relationship but also gives us deep insight into the emotional and spiritual wellbeing that comes with being connected to natural cycles.

View our South African 2012 lunar calendar.

Lunar planting

Grassy plains are the view from the high mountain ranges

If Cederberg is a location that you enjoy visiting on a regular occassion with your family, then Driehoek Guest Farm is definitely a good camp spot. It has grassy sites, a peaceful crystal clear river quietly running by, loads of shady trees and a swimming area right next to the camp site in a catchment area of the river. Rubber tubes, lilo's (or blown up camping mattresses if you forgot your lilo at home) are a delight for all ages in the cool refreshing waters on a typically hot Cederberg day.

Driehoeks' accommodation also includes fully equipped self-catering chalets (sleeps up to 12 persons) and wooden cabins within 30 meters of the river bank.

The area is well known for the easy hiking routes in and around the immediate area. A quick hike to a cave overhang with its hidden rock art paintings will delight any child.

If you are a little more adventurous and would like to experience more of the area, there are medium hikes to a waterfall and a cave where you can overnight on the circular route up the mountain and back down again.

If you are an avid hiker and are looking to get as far away from civilisation as possible, then the steep hiking routes to overnight in the Taleberg Cave or a 2 day hike to the Wolfberg Arch is a definite tick on the Bucket List. The rock formations on the upper escarpment of the mountain range are unique, unusual in shape and worth the hike. Water is not plentiful in peak summer time, so constant vigilance and skill is required to source water from wet reeded areas on your way to the Wolfberg Arch and Tafelberg Cave.

Driehoek is ideal as a base for hiking to other well-known landmarks such as Sneeuberg, the Maltese Cross and the Wolfberg Cracks. Their website hosts various hiking routes and contour maps, so it is easy to plan your hiking trip before you go, although their estimated time frames to get to specific locations need to be taken under consideration, depending on your level of fitness, walking speed and the weight of your hiking backpack.

Visit their website for more information and pictures.

Driehoek Camp site

Hot News

Lunar Calendar updated

Our 2012 lunar planting calendar has been updated on the website.

Moon Calendar

It shows what dates and times the moon is in a specific phase (for South Africa) and shows which veggies, bulbs, annuals and perennials can be planted at the appropriate phase of the moon.

Read our article on lunar planting or view the 2012 lunar calendar.

Featured Plant

Dietes Grandiflora

Dietes Grandiflora
(Wild Iris)

Family :


Description :

Indigenous plant to 1m with long thin leaves and white flower with purple stripes on long straight stem.

Flowering time :


Conditions :

  • Sun / semi shade
  • Average water
  • Evergreen
  • Wind resistant
  • Some frost sensitivity
  • Any soil

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

Wine of the month

Wine of the month

Petit Blanc 2011

Winery : Vondeling
Winemaker : Matthew Copeland

Description :

An unwooded white wine blend from the Voor Paardeberg wine region of the Western Cape.

Aroma : Subtle capsicum freshness is supported by an intense floral and tropical fruit bouquet with underlying minerality. The nose is complex and intriguing with multiple layers.

Palate : The abundance of fruit is matched by a creamy mid-palate with a fresh finish that lingers and lingers, setting the perfect background for the next sip.

Winemaking : The wines are all fermented in small stainless steel tanks and are 100% unwooded. This helps promote a refreshing, fruit-driven palate. After fermentation the wines are matured on the yeast lees for a further 7 months.

Food Pairing : Seared salmon on wasabi mash; crostini with a tomato, avocado and olive oil salsa; grilled camembert with cured meats and biscuits.

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:


  • Beans
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Sweetcorn
  • Swisschard
  • Turnips
  • Herbs

  • Basil
  • Coriander
  • Chives
  • Chamomile
  • Dill
  • Mustard
  • Oreganum
  • Parsley
  • Rocket
  • 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

    December's Teaser Answer :
    "Two peas in a pod"


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    Contact Cheral:

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