Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A new era

2011 started off with a bang as we have finally been blessed by a visit from Sylvia, my delightful mother-in-law. This was her first visit to the farm since we left the hustle and bustle of Jozi more than 3 years ago. Daunted by our tales of dry toilets, baboons, solar power failures, bathing in buckets and Kevin’s exaggeration: “our entire house can fit into your kitchen” – she hardly slept a wink the night before her arrival, worrying about what she would encounter on Farm 119!

After much cajoling (and some Jewish guilt tripping), she finally acquiesced to a visit, so Kevin brought her back from Jo’burg where he had been visiting a mourning friend. Concerned about her comfort, I phoned home just after her arrival and learned that she already had a swim in the farm dam and was happily snoozing in a hammock! (I have yet to set foot in the murky waters of our dam; much preferring the heated indoor pool at the Pezula Spa.) Always ready for an adventure, with a fresh and inspiring approach to life, Syl explored the forest with the children, hiked with Kevin, attended Mila’s ballet class and discovered that the farm is actually quite luxurious and civilized - if you don’t mind peeing in a pot in lieu of an en suite bathroom!

What a delight to share our home with a mother again – not since my mom’s passing 2 years ago have we had the privilege. This visit will hopefully signal the first of many…


We’ve slipped comfortably into our new routine for the year, and I thought I’d share our daily comings and goings:

Monday mornings signal the start of the early rise routine for the week: my cell phone alarm rings at 6.15, after which we all snooze 3 times until 6.45. “We all” being myself, Kevin and the kids. Although the kids start off in Luke’s racing car bed in the evenings, they make their way to our bed during the night. We take turns snuggling each other with each snooze, then do the quick bathroom-dressing-toothbrush run and enjoy a healthy breakfast of oats and fruit smoothies prepared by our Minister of Nutrition (Kevin). Mila feeds the chickens, quails and rabbits (part of her chores-for-pocket money arrangement) and by 7.15 we’re off to town, picking our neighbour’s son up for a lift to school.

The 25 minute drive to school is a peaceful one (zero traffic, beautiful scenery, the occasional baboon/cow crossing the road) while we take turns deciding on the music: Luke’s favourites being Cat Stevens and Lenny Kravitz, Mila usually opts for Beyonce and has discovered Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, while Buddhas (the neighbour’s son) prefers Red Hot Chilli Peppers or Bob Marley. Sting is an all-round favourite, and I try to work in the odd Les Miserables or Ella Fitzgerald for a bit of cultural indoctrination! This morning it was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody - full blast and on repeat. Musically inspired, the kids are delivered at the Knysna Montessori School and (if I’m lucky) I’ll be on time for work at 8.00.

First task at the office is the preparation of coffee: 2 strong cups in my mom’s old plunger: one cup for me and one on her behalf. Thereafter, it’s me behind my computer, preparing financial statements, completing tax returns and auditing the accounts of a variety of businesses (hotels, sawmills, property holding companies, body corporates, estate agents, restaurants, etc). By 2pm (after 6 hours of work), the caffeine has worn off and it’s time for the afternoon shift.

On Mondays I go to a private Pilates class which leaves me so stiff that I’m generally immobilized on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s been more than 2 years that I’ve done any formal exercise, so my muscles have gone South and need some serious resurrection. With wobbly legs and shaky abdominal muscles, I drive to school to collect the children, where I am almost always greeted by: “what did you buy us, Mommy?” If they’re lucky, I’ll stop at the farm stall on the way home and buy them each a piece of droë wors. (We’ve become occasionally meat-eating vegetarians.)

We arrive back at the farm around 4 pm, after which we disperse into various activities: visiting the chickens and rabbits, watering plants, training dogs, playing computer games, swimming in the dam, weeding, scraping cow poo off the patio (the cows can be so rude!), trampolining, picking food, playing Lego (mostly Luke), unpacking the car (mostly me) or cleaning the house. We had a newly appointed cleaning angel coming twice a week: she arrived for the first week and has absconded since…

I start preparing dinner around 6 (something simple, quick and vegetarian) and we eat together as a family with each one getting a chance to discuss their day. Bedtime for the children is at 7.30 (theoretically), so we end up getting to bed at 8. Since Kevin’s birthday is on the 12th and mine on the 29th, we’ve allocated even days to him, while I take the odd days to read to the kids and put them to bed. On the nights that I don’t fall asleep with them, Kevin & I might watch a movie on the cinema size Apple screen with surround sound: a marvelous home theatre system devised by my clever, computer whiz of a husband.

Tuesday afternoons mark the first visit of the week to Knysna’s legendary bakery/ restaurant, Ile de Pain. I simply refer to it as: Heaven. Here I procure a masterfully, wood-fired bread and sip on the best cappuccino in town (if not the world), while reading my book. I’m currently enjoying my first Tom Robbins book, courtesy of the Bibby’s Hoek Book Club: a group of formidable women who get together once a month to support and inspire one another (we also discuss/share books in between drinking wine and eating decadent treats!). After an hour of me time, I’m off to collect Mila from Sidwell Roman’s School of Ballet: yes, he is a charming, coloured ballet teacher! Then, the home run while trying to avoid the droë wors.

I’ve managed to slot in an hour’s worth of writing on Wednesday afternoons at a dubious coffee shop at the old-jail-turned-art-studio, where I wait for Mila while she attends art lessons. This should translate into more correspondence from me in 2011!

Thursday afternoons see another ballet lesson and some grocery shopping, and on Fridays I head straight for Ile de Pain again to collect my fresh kitke (traditional Jewish Sabbath bread). If we’re not doing a Friday night dinner with friends at home, we support the evening market at the school, which is a delightful get-together of locals, live music and food stalls. The kids run around with their friends, beg for candy floss and spend their pocket money on cheap and nasty glow-in-the-dark toys from China!

Weekends see us pottering around the farm (building chicken cages, erecting shelves, gardening, painting, various domestic chores) interspersed with family outings to the beach/forest/local tourist attractions. For the past few months we’ve been visiting our friends Danny & Stacy & kids in Plettenberg Bay regularly, where they have decided to take a year’s sabbatical from their lives in Vancouver. We wade in their heated swimming pool, visit the beach or laze around reading books while the kids have their faces firmly stuck behind Danny’s iPad or one of the many Apple computer screens while playing Club Penguin (an on-line virtual reality game). In true South African form, they were burgled last week and are now without said Apple laptop and iPad…hopefully this won’t send them packing back to the North!

Seems pretty suburban for an off-the-grid family on the farm!


In the meantime, Kevin is off to Mozambique thid week to work his photographic magic on a new hotel development – a welcome change from the quiet life on the farm with nothing but the chewing cows for company. He has redesigned his website with some help from his “man in India” ( and is reading “The 4 Hour Work Week” while spending most days glued to his computer screen.

On the animal front, our dogs are responding well to some training advice we received from a dog psychologist (!), the neighbour’s cows are grazing happily and our new guinea pig (Mr Sox) has sided himself with Fuzzy the rabbit. We had to rescue our weakest quail (named Fernando Torres because of his running speed) from his brethren who continually peck him in a cruel “survival of the fittest” scenario. He’ll be spending the rest of his days with a colleague’s rabbits (hopefully in peace). Our chickens are growing at a rate of knots, but still no eggs….

We are expecting a string of female woofers from all over the world, with the first arriving at the end of this week. Our growing a tunnel sports a new door - thanks to our previous woofer, Idez from Belgium (a 30 year old artist and meditation enthusiast). Now that it is finally secure from the cows and hounds, we are looking forward to starting some serious growing. Whether the tunnel will hold up to being ripped apart by the beastly baboons, remains to be seen… 

No comments: