Saturday, August 21, 2010

Almost Spring

Greetings from the forest where the sun is rising earlier to greet us in the mornings and the flowers are delighting us in their abundance.

I am happy to report that we are all in good health and spirits (not counting the occasional midlife crisis!). We are without a wwoofer for the first time since the start of the World Cup though, so we are once again making intimate acquaintance with the dirty dishes!
The reign of Rob (our American volunteer from Wyoming) ended with half a patio – which was completed by the next American (Eric from Illinois via Utah). Now we can have sundowners on the “stoep” like true South Africans! (Although my alcohol consumption is mostly reserved for book club.)

Both blokes were a real gift from the Universe (or as I like to believe: angels sent to us by my mother). They were a great hit with the kids: playing Monopoly, Clue & Lego like experts, while building/digging/planting/fixing during the day and tending to those all important dishes in the evening. Bless them both!

Our international experience did not end there: Kevin spent a week in London for his niece’s wedding (his sister Debbie’s daughter, Talya). It sounded like a fairy tale affair… he also managed to shoot some fantastic cityscapes.

He returned in time for Mila’s 7th birthday party: a “High School Musical” disco/sleepover party, complete with mirror ball and flashing lights (the office was converted into a dance hall). We had pitched a tent for the sleepover but the girls were too scared to sleep there and so we ended up camping in the tent for a few days as a family! Since moving to the farm and living the camping dream on a full time basis, we haven’t done much tent dwelling, so it was a great mini-holiday long weekend.

The long-weekend culminated in the much anticipated Women’s Day spa day at Pezula! Three wonderful friends and I spent the entire day being pampered, dipping in the heated indoor pool, lazing in the sauna, perspiring in the steam room and imagining that we’re the idle rich while sipping cappuccino’s. The decision was taken to make this an annual event and saving has already commenced…

Kevin’s birthday on the 12th was a quite sushi affair at home.
On a much sadder note, our dear friend and Kevin’s long-time biking partner, Louis Rothschild died in his home the following week – another crime statistic. He joins the growing list of loved ones who have passed on since we leftJohannesburg three short years ago: David Braun, Ananda, Melt vd Spuy & Trudy vd Spuy. We feel very blessed to have shared his birthday with him this year: he visited us on the farm with Aviva (the love of his life) and Levy (his son who turned 1 shortly before his passing). It was truly special to share in his happiness and new family and our thoughts and prayers are with them constantly.

Our 9 quails are surviving (although we’re still waiting for eggs) and they have been joined by our 2 baby rabbits (Coco and Fuzzy) who are just the most delightful little creatures. Although the quail/rabbit cage is now dog proof (thanks towwoofer Rob), they spend much of their time in Mila’s underwear drawer where they get fed carrots. No-one is more in love with them than me, though – having been a big rabbit lover since I first encountered them many moons ago!

Our neighbour discovered a dead puff adder outside our farm - road kill left behind by unknown speeding tourists in shining cars. With an audience of neighbourhood kids (and a few trepid adults, including myself) Kevin expertly dissected and skinned it, then proceeded to photograph it (what else!), with some interesting results. The skin has not yet found a final resting place, so I am regularly freaked out when I stumble upon it unexpectedly.

On the garden front I am excited to report that I no longer have to buy packaged lettuce at the Pick ‘n Pay! We’re able to eat garden greens and fresh sprouts every day! We also enjoyed our first cauliflower and multiple beetroots – I was amazed to discover how much stronger the taste of home grown veggies are. Mushroom (the dog) is doing a fine job of keeping the baboons at bay, although the cows have been eating my primulas….
We’re also enjoying the additional electricity from the extra solar panels. For the first time in three years, we can pretty much watch DVDs whenever we want and Mila can even play computer games (Super Mario brothers, Pacman and Asteroids), although getting her off is rather challenging! I do sometimes miss the “no sun, no TV” excuse, but thanks to the World Cup playing soccer with their dad is now also a favoured option.

Luke (4 ½) is unbelievable cute and at that age where we just want to freeze him before he turns into a fully fledged boy. Lego is his first love, although he also thinks that anything to do with the Army is super cool (much to our dismay, of course). He loves catching tadpoles and fish in the dam and can spend hours hitting a golf ball around the farm with his golf club (a present from his golf pro-oupa Sybie). He has quite a mean swing and I often find him aiming at the cars and the buildings!

Mila’s love for ballet is starting to wane as she is discovering the internet, but horse riding and shopping are still high on the agenda, together with a certain boy (who I have been sworn to secrecy about). She has hit that unavoidable age where homework finds a place in the daily routine and I have also had to come to terms with the fact that I have to be involved in it once again. She’s also quite an avid soccer player, playing in her first official soccer match against another school this week and she now sports her own email address:
Speaking of school, I am off to my 20 year matric reunion in Pretoria next month! How’s that for making one feel old….

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PS: This entry will soon be found on the blog site, together with all previous emails, photo’s, videos, etc:

Monday, June 28, 2010


We celebrate our abundance: with over 100mm of rain in the past few weeks, our new dam is the fullest it’s ever been. At 16,000 litres, we have more fresh water than we’ve ever had since moving to Knysna (almost 3 years ago) and with 14 solar panels we also have more domestic electricity since leaving the buzzing city life behind. So we were able to watch all Bafana’s games (except the disgraceful one when our DSTV gratefully did not want to work) and we were able to shower afterwards!

This abundance did not come without the necessary animal sacrifice however: I found our hounds chewing on a headless animal which I at first thought was a lamb, but which we now believe to be a newborn/miscarried calf. The fact that it had no head has led us to assume that it had initially been caught by a leopard (or maybe used for muti?)…life in wildest Africa…

Father’s day saw Kevin taking the kids on canoe rides on the dam and we collected our latest farm volunteer, Rob (from the US) the following day. A belated and ongoing father’s day present: someone to wash dishes, deal with compost, dig trenches, cut trees, build Lego, etc. Every man needs a wife and a “wwoofer”!

I’ve been collecting refuse bags of shredded paper from the office which we plan to use for isolation in the walls of our (still to be constructed) “wwoofing” bedroom. One of my colleagues assumed that it was for a dog house - not knowing that WWOOF is: Willing Workers on Organic Farms!

On the garden front – we have had some devastation caused by the cows (aptly named Koeitjie no 1 and Koetjie no 2) who managed to break in through the collapsing fence. Not much remains of our vegetables (no tomatoes, no peppers, no spinach, etc.) and many of our flowering plants have also been chowed….luckily Rob jumped in and secured the area.

I also celebrate the completion of a new slip cover for our much-loved couch. This may not sound like much, but the cover was constructed from the office curtains which at first became dribbled in varnish by an incompetent painter – at which time I had a complete nervous breakdown and wept like a baby (it was shortly after my mother died). Then, the day after moving into our new house, a baboon got into the office and defecated all over the curtains (floors, walls, desks, etc.). We had no water (due to the drought), no bath (we only have a shower) and the laundromat wanted to charge us R600 to wash them – so they were shoved into the container for 6 months, until they were finally transformed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Weekend on the Farm

The weekend started on a particularly exciting note: a “Knit-a-Thon” at the kids’ school! What a delight to knit with a crowd of about 50 moms (and one dad) while the school kids entertained us with music and dancing – all in aid of a Rotary project to make blankets for the needy. A signal that the hand crafts of the past are making a comeback? I hope so…

We also welcomed the arrival of our first American “WWOOFER” on Friday: Erin is a 32 year old writer from San Francisco who has spent the last 14 months travelling through Africa while writing a selection of short stories – we eagerly await reading about ourselves in the Farm 119 chapter! So far she has been painting window frames, washing dishes (yeah!) and playing Snakes & Ladders with the kids. It promises to be another wonderful encounter with one of our world wide community of like-minded souls.

The weekend weather was wonderful (albeit rain-less) and felt more like early summer than early winter. We attended back-to-back children’s parties on Saturday and the kids found vuvuzela’s as part of their treasure hunt at the second party – needless to say the neighbour has become a pretty noisy place (but at least we now have something yellow for the soccer world cup!)

Saturday afternoon saw Kevin riding his bicycle around the neighbourhood in an effort to find a rugby-watching-party: apparently there were 2 exciting games taking place…but to no avail. (Quite a sad sight!) I believe we won the first game as there was the distant sound of jubilation from the nearby coloured township, but of the second game we have yet to learn the score. (I have since heard that we won both…) Not that Kevin’s that much of a rugby fan – maybe he was just trying to run away from the vuvuzela’s!

On Sunday we had a delightful tea party with family and discovered guavas on our trees! The kids even went out in the dark with torches to go and pick guavas for their dinner (and of course Mila had to be rescued from the tree when she got stuck). We can be sure that the luscious fruit will attract our friends the baboons…

Saturday, May 22, 2010



Sunset at Farm 119...

Back Home

It’s been more than three weeks since our return from Jo’burg and only now do I find the time to report back
amidst the hurly burly pace of life on the farm! The big city experience was wonderfully exciting, filled with friends & family reunions, shopping,

3D movies, Playstation, electricity and hot baths – everything we had hoped for and more (and we didn’t have to wash dishes for 10 full days).

I was rather impressed by the pace of development and multitude of new shopping centres mushrooming all over Gauteng, although the hours spent in traffic reminded me of the reasons for seeking greener pastures… the billboards & media screaming for attention, making it difficult to complete a thought!

Urban discussions revolved around politics, traffic, municipal inefficiencies and - of course - the soccer world cup. An interesting change from the crime stories of the past and very different from our usual neighbourly discussions about baboons, vegetables and rain (or lack thereof).

In the rush before leaving for Jo’burg, I gave Kevin one of our usual #3 haircuts, but forgot to replace the comb on the shaver before tackling my own head…with disastrous results! I ended up with a shaven avenue along my head which needed 2 more #1 cuts over a period of a week in order to return to a homogenous state. Needless to say, I was having the aforementioned urban discussions wearing a variety of hats. The children initially had a lot of sympathy for my plight, but later found it amusing to pull my hat off in mid-sentence, point and laugh…oh, what joy to be the source of a child’s laughter!


Coming back to the forest feels more like returning home every time.

This time we returned to (a) winter, (b) a new maid and (c) a strapping young German “wwoofer”, Finn.

(a) My most beloved Morso fireplace is coming into its own – we’re even using it to boil water and cook food! It truly has been one of the best investments we’ve made and promises to keep us cosy over the next few months.


(b) It’s been quite a sigh of relief to welcome our new angel of cleaning (Sophie) once a week. Although Kevin & the wwoofers have been a great help with the housework, it’s amazing to have the whole house clean at once! We have experienced fortunes of personal growth in the areas of co-operation, bribery, meditative dishwashing, acceptance and surrender during this period of domestic independence, and I now have the most sincere appreciation for Sophie’s skills!

(c) Finn spent his 2 weeks digging, installing water tanks, landscaping, washing dishes, building Lego with Luke and playing Monopoly with Mila. He celebrated his 21st birthday with us but not before we “corrupted” him with the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Knysna Gay Parade (where his blonde hair & blue eyes managed to get quite a few “looks”…). Lucky for him, we didn’t all go in drag again this year! Our local community of fringe dwellers all pulled together to throw him a 21st birthday bash – I hadn’t been to one of those in years, and felt positively middle aged! I really appreciate the incredible sense of community out here in our epicentre of the new world.

On the home front I am still happily fixed in a D-I-Y dream (painting, mosaicing, decorating, gardening, planning never-ending projects). Kevin is finding the balance between solitude on the farm and frequent trips to the big cities and Mila and Luke are happily settled at school. They have recently discovered the internet and are currently in the throws of a Michael Jackson craze (much to their mother’s delight!). I am ashamed to admit that none of us own Bafana Bafana shirts and I can’t be sure whether Luke even knows the difference between soccer and rugby!

And on the garden front, we have a few peppers which are doing wonderfully and we’ve had our first crop of about 6 cherry tomatoes (after 2 years of trying). The butternut didn’t really go anywhere (the babies having been ravaged by all sorts of unseen beasts and insects) but the kids are getting much delight from the sweet Cape Honeysuckle. I’m also very excited about a new little landscaped garden outside the office – a welcome alternative to the sheets of cardboard which were spread all over the grass in a lazy eco-effort to kill off the grass and prepare the area for planting. The wildness of the farm is slowly making way for some semblance of civilised cultivation (whatever that might mean!).

I remember having a picnic on the farm last year for Mother’s Day and having to wash the dishes in a plastic tub with no hot water and no sanitation nearby. This year we have a cosy little home with hot running water and flushing toilet – a definite step in the right direction!

We have the French and Danish teams making their way to our little town in the next few weeks where they will be staying (and hopefully spending their Euros), so World Cup fever is certainly in the air….better get that DSTV hooked up and install a few more solar panels…

More images @

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

flowers, mothers and friends

I spent the long weekend in bed with the flu which afforded me time to reflect on this past year: Sunday was one year ago that my beloved mother passed on. Needless to say, it has been a year of longing and adjustment as our relationship shifted from the earthly realm to a more ethereal one.

I picked her a bunch of flowers from the garden and placed it under her tree: velvety wild sage blooms, wispy gaura and cat’s tail which she loved so much; a burgundy rose which reminded me of how she spoilt me before my wedding by surrounding my bath with multiple tubs of flowers. I felt deeply privileged by the fact that she was able to preside over our wedding as she was a marriage officer (an interesting legal possibility due to her ordination into the priesthood of an esoteric church in the States). I also picked her some heaven scented rose geranium, and remembered how we indulged in deluxe pedicures at the Pezula Spa when she came to Knysna 2 years ago.

Plumbago, Bougainvillea and Bulbinella blooms reminded me of the joyful years we spent living together in Pretoria (oscillating between family home, single parenthood, later as neighbours and house-mates). Thyme for the endless meals she prepared for me. I wept with joy at the sight of Luke’s little blue Felicia flowers as I recounted the blessing of having her present for the magnificent births of my 2 children.

And finally a Moonflower for her exquisiteness and the fact that she was “met die maan gepla” (bothered by the moon). A fellow Cancerian, deeply sensitive with an endless supply of love and compassion – a most marvellous mother (and grandmother), fellow traveller, teacher, companion and friend.

I emerge from this year of mourning with a renewed appreciation for life. Our spiritual connection has left me with a deep sense of knowing that there is no death, and having her on the “other side” means I am able to live with much less fear. It was a joy and privilege to share 35 years with Trudy in the physical and great to still be one with her!

Other news, is that we had 2 more interesting Woofers who came and went:
Wanda – a 27 year old Polish wanderer who speaks Polish, English, French, German, Japanese and Russian: quite a wonder! She was also the first person I met who was able to decipher my Japanese tattoos (and thankfully confirmed that they do indeed mean “love” and “gratitude”).
And there was Camilla – a 20 year old fine art student from Cambridge.
The jolly girls spent their time painting, gardening, cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, playing Monopoly with Mila & generally adding their lovely energy to Farm 119!

We miss our sweet rabbits and have taken up playing cricket in the deserted rabbit cage (at least that way the dogs can’t steal the balls). The children received their rapports at school and both are doing wonderfully. The Montessori way seems to really be working for them. Yet another blessing to be grateful for!

Rain is still a scarce occurrence. Lightening to the soul, however, is a field of wild flowers along the road which have sprung up from the ashes of the recently devastating forest fires. Here are some pictures of our completed bathroom mosaic (a joint family effort) and our very small butternuts; the baboons got to the previous lot…

We will be preparing for our trip to Johannesburg soon – I feel a bit daunted by the prospect, yet excited at the thought of seeing loved ones and the possibility of watching the new Alice in Wonderland movie in 3D…

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Balance and dead rabbits

I’ve really been enjoying some of John DeMartini’s concepts recently, especially the premise that this Divine dance of duality means that there are always equal amounts of darkness & light in any given moment of our lives (if we look hard enough). And that the way to transcend the duality is through gratitude into the infinite field of Love that surrounds as all at all times…

So the elements of darkness in my life - mad baboons hanging around daily, seeming to be more desperate and lethal in their destruction since the fires burned their habitat, are balanced by the ultimate blessing of 2 wonderful, beautiful, healthy children (who also have their dark moments).
The intense natural beauty – juxtaposed by the drought, eerily burnt landscape, low water tanks.
Wonderfully loving, dishwashing, considerate, supportive husband – vs being far away from many of our loved ones.
The childrens’ magnificent school and the safe, quaint town of Knysna where everybody knows your name – vs the lack of shopping choices and the fact that everybody knows your name!
Having no dealings with Eskom but matching our available solar power to our ubiquitous need for electricity.

Choosing this rural, off-the-grid life has had many positives but also has the same number of negatives – pretty much as it would be given any life we choose….
I find myself focusing on the negative, then find an equal positive and then redirect my thought to find the gratitude in the situation and feel the Love…it’s working for me.

The fact that I could walk home down a dirt road last night by the light of the moon beneath a star studded sky with my friends after our book club meeting is contrasted by the sad and tragic tale of our sweet little rabbits: Coco & Sarah, who we had for half a day. Our previous woofer Tommy, builder Chunky, myself and Kevin spent days building a fully enclosed rabbit cage (even hammering away in the rain). We finally fetched our bunnies from the Pezula Barnyard (posh rabbits, nogal!) and immersed ourselves in their utter sweetness for the afternoon only to find the chicken wire broken open by the dogs the next morning and the rabbits gone! We believed that the rabbits had gotten away and were living a short but joyful life in the forest, but made the grim discovery of a half-eaten bundle of black & white fur later in the afternoon.

The circle of life goes round and round.


“Van die os op die jas” as we say in Afrikaans (literally translated as “From the ox on the jacket”) meaning: and now for something completely different. Kevin has taken up Suduko to avert the loneliness and exercise his brain and we’re planning a family trip to Gauteng in April. The kids and I are very excited about the retail opportunities and the prospect of spending precious time with our loved ones of course.

Our friendly neighbour and fellow book club member recently reminded me of a phrase she found in “Eat, Pray, Love” which is very much applicable to us:

ANTEVASIN: A Sanskrit word meaning “one who lives at the border”. In ancient times this was a literal description. It indicated a person who had left the bustling centre of worldly life to go live at the edge of the forest where the spiritual masters dwelled. The antevasin was not one of the villagers anymore – not a householder with a conventional life. But neither was he a transcendent – not one of those sages who live deep in the unexplored woods, fully realised. The antevasin was an in-betweener. He was a border-dweller. He lived in sight of both worlds, but he looked toward the unknown. And he was a scholar.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Another Wwoofer arrives

Our next WWOOFer has arrived – Tommy, a horticulturalist from Brighton, England. A very agreeable chap who is occupying himself with weeding, building compost heaps and making more baboon-proof wormeries. (WWOOF actually stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – a way for young people to travel and work in exchange for food and accommodation). For us it’s a form of “free” labour, a way to meet interesting people, learn from others’ experience, have a sense of community and a means to get stuff done on the farm without the “slave/master”-energy connection…

Mila is happily settled in grade 1 and we are aiming to get her and Luke to sleep in their own beds this year. We have been following the “attachment parenting” route since birth (which has also involved them sleeping in our bed) but they are getting so big now, that we’re going to be focussing on a bit of “detachment” in 2010!

The baboons came back after their mass destruction and managed to get the remainder of the edible plants: peas, beans & squash, leaving only the herbs….The children’s joy and delight in eating peas and beans from the garden has given me such encouragement though, that we won’t be deterred by a few primates – Tommy will be planting lots more seeds next week…

Monday, January 4, 2010

Living the dream

News from the forest is that things are quietening down after quite a social festive season. One of the benefits of living where we do is that we get to see many of our loved ones when they come down for holidays – we catch them when they’re relaxed and get to spend quality time together. We end up squeezing a lot of social gatherings into a short holiday season, so December was not really a time of rest for us. It was utterly wonderful to share our new space with our dear friends and family.

It was also great to be officially on leave (a perk you miss when you’re self-employed). It was initially challenging without the busy-ness of the daily routine, but I did manage to do some painting, planting and domestic DIY, imagining myself as the subject of one of those reality shows on the Home Channel!

Christmas day was a strange one – the first Christmas without my mom’s physical presence (she was spiritually also rather busy with seasonal stuff). Being married to a Jew and having no family around on the day, I thought I would let it pass me by. Mila (now 6) had also figured out the Santa Claus scam a few weeks before and so the usual Christmas traditions had started to disintegrate.

We were having a pajama day, carting trash around the farm with the trailer until Mila called us inside at around 3 pm. She had decided that we should also have a Christmas lunch like all our neighbours and had set the table with fancy serviettes etc. She made a throne for herself at the head of the table, was dressed as the queen and so we ended up having Panatone cake for Christmas lunch, served by her highness….unusual but strangely good.

On the morning of the 31st, Kevin and Mila were (rather ungracefully) attempting to cut down 2 smallish wattle trees using a combination of blunt hand saws and axes, when our woodcutter neighbour heroically appeared wielding his chainsaw. He zapped the little trees in a flash in an act of good neighbourliness. We had intended on reciprocating with a bottle of wine and R50, but he asked whether I have a hair cutter. His brother (who used to cut his hair) died 2 years ago and he had no means of having a hair/beard trim and so I ended up giving him a hair cut and sending him proudly into 2010. A bizarre end to a rather challenging year!

The baboons have been circling the house on a daily basis over the past month. Mushroom and Fettucini (the dogs) have been doing a good job at keeping them at bay, assisted by us banging pots, shouting and shooting at them with Luke’s “kettie” (which recently broke). We’re contemplating a paint ball gun, but these tactics only help when we’re at home. A few days ago, the dogs were outwitted by an intrusion on a morning when there was no-one on the farm. The trespassing primate/s broke the kitchen window, ripped down the gutter and attempted to get into the kitchen (also breaking the liquidiser and a sprouting bottle) and ended up destroying the wormeries and numerous plants including ALL the lettuce, spinach and tomatoes. They also ran off with an ice cream container filled with a nasty concoction of whiskey, HOT chilli sauce and fruit/vegetable cuttings we left for them…take that! Another plan in process is the hanging of lion poo in onion bags all along the fence. “Where does one get lion poo from?” you might be asking yourself. Well, the Cango Zoo in Oudtshoorn sells them in jam jars at R20 a pop! And if that fails, we’ll have to figure out how and where to electrify.

Another fun (albeit less dramatic) project we’re undertaking this year is the establishment of chicken and rabbit accommodation…

Mila is off to Grade 1 next week (still at the marvellous Montesorri school with Luke) and we trust that 2010 will be a good one, filled with rainwater showers heated by the power of the sun! Living the dream…