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Farm Stories

The underneath of things

Farm work at Fynbos Estate in the Swartland

I often think about what people want when they leave home and come to the farm, and it seems more than anything they want the perfect and the surface and not at all the underneath of things. They don’t want to see the cleaning of houses or laundering of linens, the weeding of the garden…

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Fire on the Paardeberg

Fire on the Paardeberg

A few days ago across the back of Sonkop a plume of dark red smoke emerged. We know that kind of smoke very well: it spells fire much too close for comfort. Fortunately the South Wester was blowing the fire away from both us and our neighbour at Uitvlught, but wind easily changes direction. The…

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Building Houses

This was a painstaking albeit rewarding process that took many years. First we renovated the farmhouse – sanding and painting mostly and then leaving our own stuff in it as guest furniture. Our first bookings required that we secretly move out, which was rather hilarious. On one occasion we slept in the dusty attic tiptoeing…

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The Mountain Road

On our first visit to the farm old man Loubser took us up the road in his bakkie. We were beside ourselves with delight and I remember every twist and turn of the magical road as we flew past proteas and pincushions and birds and magnificent views.     We have remained very proud of…

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The move to Wine and Hospitality

Swartland Wine Making at Fynbos Estate

In an earlier post I talked about how Swartland Winery went bankrupt and with it went our means of income. This of course made us rather frantic, but under no circumstances could we contemplate losing the farm. So after gnashing our teeth and wailing a bit, we set about re-inventing ourselves by increasing our wine…

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Winter Vineyard Work

  The cold of deepest winter is the time for vineyard work, and this year the cold has obliged beautifully. What you don’t want is hot sunny days when the vines bot (bud) early, only to die off when a cold snap hits. The reason is that they have used up valuable energy to bud…

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Getting stuck in

As we’ve shown, the farm we bought was seriously dilapidated. Apart from anything else we had the workers’ medieval quarters to attend to, we had no front garden and no pool for dealing with the 38 degree temperatures. So we got stuck in. First thing we tackled was the workers’ houses. We built toilets, showers…

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The Animals – Continued From Wretched of the Earth

From the start, in every workers house was a starving, beaten, tied up dog – often left in the burning sun without water. Puppies with sores and malformed limbs rooted about for rubbish.  It was soon clear that no amount of talking would change anything, and it was also clear that the SPCA, with an…

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The Wretched of the Earth – Continued from What We Found

But by far the most difficult and distressing thing we had to deal with, was the staff we inherited.  We discovered that the all employees lived without electricity or running water and without toilets. Some people had never used a toilet in their lives. The men were paid R7 a day and the women R5…

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What we found: A rundown farm

In the last post we described how it came to be that we made the crazy move from Observatory to this farm in the Swartland. Today’s post deals with what we found when we arrived, and some of the immediate challenges that awaited us.   Settling into the house First off we had to arrange…

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