Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Being Volunteers on St. Ancothesa

Our December was packed with happenings, hard work, hard play, and an amazing farm experience. We did everything from meat processing and garden designing to cleaning and welding (my dad did, at least). This is going to be a long post about the farm activities, and what kept us busy most of the month. I hope you enjoy it!

The daily farm routine for 'oom' Jan, the workers, and my dad were mostly separate from what me, mom and the boys did, simply because we can’t physically help with the work they do. We were kept busy with a list of other projects and chores (which me and mom loved because we could “tick off” the items and feel very satisfied.)

Every morning at 6am, the men’s team have a prep talk and discuss the day’s work. The sheep and cattle are moved to whatever camps they have to go to, they are fed, alfalfa bales are loaded (this was a regular job which “ate” clothing, as my dad’s jeans have massive holes, despite him trying to fix it), and everyone is busy till lunch break. The boys only went with 2 or 3 times and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Checking onions. 


Watch how 700 sheep are moved from camp to camp:

Charles, the head supervisor ('voorman'), and the boys. Notice Maarten has his pajamas T-shirt on; he forgot to put proper clothes on.

Spot the moving object... (the bale)

Alfalfa was constantly cut, raked, left to dry, baled, and loaded, even though we didn’t see too much of it (usually they do the baling at night, because it needs to be cool for slight moisture to form on the leaves so as to keep it longer; wilted leaves produce poor quality bales). On New Year’s Eve, though, I got a few pictures of the baling machine in action. It really is a marvel of technology, despite breaking a couple of times during the month. Two “arms” constantly load in the dried and raked plants into the machine, where it is compressed, tied around with baling string, and popped out behind.

Checking if everything is all right. 

Fascinating technology. 

Next to our house there is a garage, as well as a couple of storerooms, butchery, and a cold room. The butchery and cold room didn’t have a roof when we arrived, due to recent wind damage, and it was fixed while we were here. My dad welded burglar bars for the windows, which he is very proud of (it was quite a challenge), and one of our projects was to sort the place out and give it a clean.

Our buffs were really handy for the dust (except for everyone looking like burglars). 

New roof!

Dad busy welding. 


It appears that another constant job on a farm like this is to maintain the roads, aka pruning the Thorn Trees. What a delicate job.... We were really thankful for our working gloves, even though the odd thorn or two poked through anyway.

Careful now...

We drove the branches to parts of the farm where erosion trenches has formed, and everything is dumped in there (so it can compact over time and fill up). 

A 5 minute break (it was really hot). 

Our daily chore was to feed the dogs, chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys and pigs at our hosts’ house, and it proved good exercise to walk there and back in the evenings.

Pigs love food. That is all I can say. 

Chasing geese.  The poultry politics were very interesting to observe; turkeys are horrible creatures (they flattened one of the goslings), geese will suddenly turn around and start biting one of their own, and ducks dislike other kinds of ducks; there are 7 runner ducks and 1 poor little mallard. One of the runners made friends with the lonely duck, so his pals threw him out and now both are being bullied!

Projects we did were things like cleaning up stuff lying around (on a farm there are always works in planning, works in progress, and works finished but not cleaned up), redesigning a corner of our hosts’ garden, getting a vegetable garden back up on its feet, processing meat (and cleaning up the kitchen afterwards... the butchery didn’t have a roof, remember), and organizing the farm’s workers’ Christmas party.
 Pruning trees.

 The boys made benches.

Cleaning up dried cement (phew). 

Getting grass into the 'graves' (boxes of sink in which the vegetable garden will be planted). It was a tricky business; the soil had been ripped with the tractor, which was great since it was soft enough to dig in, but  then the car slid, spun and made a lot of dust.

Meat cutting. 

The workers' Christmas party. 

We worked hard, and mom’s clever motivation (cookies and juice/coke/water) soon attracted other “volunteers”.... The workers’ children often helped us with the work, and their help proved invaluable, as jobs that could have turned out very discouraging went quickly (many hands make light work). The best part was the swim we had afterwards in a beautiful, clear dam every day.

Brendon, one of our helpers, with his handiwork. 

Theuns and Breyton at all the rocks they loaded and packed. 


More swimming...

There was rarely a dull moment; the first week we had to do washing by hand as the washing machine needed a new seal; the boys were promptly jumping around on our clothing in the bathtub, and wet clothes handed through the window to hang on the washing line. We also had an electricity crisis one night (the welding machine had upset something during the day), and all the light bulbs blew out. The next morning Jan had to fix it, and fix it he did (“Boer maak ‘n plan”).

Jumping back in time.

I have a lot of respect for farmers...they have to be nearly everything; a plumber, electrician, builder, mechanic, engineer, vet, and husband.

We caught giant spiders, watched the workers butcher sheep, had braais on our front porch (with our great view), and one Saturday had a day outing to Baviaanskloof, a nearby “kloof” where we saw beautiful 'wrinkled' mountains, and had a lunch of fantastic “roosterkoeke” at Vero’s Restaurant and Take Aways. Our signal is not very good at our house, so my dad often went to our hosts’ house for fast wifi (he bought data from them). It was rather funny when he sat on their lawn, geese and dogs curiously watching him, absorbed in his work.


Watching the butchering, it was not nearly as disturbing/stinky as chickens being slaughtered (which we experienced on the previous farm).

"Lekker gesellige vuurtjie.."


At Vero's; she had a beautiful little garden. 

Angora goats. 

Dad and company.

Here's some pictures of Ancothesa and surroundings we've taken. 

 The locals here have beautiful gardens.

 Lunch under the tree - notice the view.

Thanks for reading! 


  1. Dear Elna and Kruger Family, the blog is delightful and the writing is superb. We live on a campus in Twee Riviere, near the Langkloof's easternmost point. Is St Ancothesa near Noll? Good to see such wholehearted work being done together... Also see , where there is lots that bear a resemblace. I would not mind hearing your Dad's reasons for this family expedition. Greetings in Christ, Adriaan, Hazel and family

    1. Dear 'oom' Adriaan, thank you very much, we appreciate it! St. Ancothesa is 25km from Uniondale.
      We've already met the Esterhuizens from Lucerne Tree Farm and they mentioned you as good friends of theirs, we'd love to come and visit one day if we can!
      Greetings, The Krugers


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