Sunday, March 27, 2016

Three weeks at Kruistementvlei

We worked as volunteers on Kruistementvlei Farm on top of Piketberg Mountain (called Piket-Bo-Berg) for three weeks this March, and it was wonderful. We did all sorts of different jobs on the farm, from improving a hiking trail to picking almonds to website designing, and with our trusty project manager mom to keep it all together (and 'oom' Jeremy to shake up her plans now and then), our stay was satisfactory and fun. Thank you 'oom' Jeremy and 'tannie' Riette Bryant for your hospitality!

Our first task was to help with the Farmers Market held at Kruistementvlei Farm every month. With a live local band in the background, the setting is very relaxed and more about the 'kuier' than anything else. Mom had a stall for her books, I helped at tannie Riette's stall, and the boys very enthusiastically sold their own 'organic firelighters', made from 'slangbos' and kindling the previous day.

Happy girls are pretty girls.

The 'slangbos' contains a lot of oil, thus it makes a good fire starter. 

We improved a short hiking trail around their farm, designed a new map and made signposts for the different cottages and features around the farm.

Newly painted. 

Dad learned to rout (here he's making a sign for the 'Hog House', a quaint open plan cottage where we stayed most of the time).  

Varnishing the signboards. 

Some of the boards also had to be painted. 

I designed a new logo for the farm, which had to replace the current one on some boards. Here Maarten is putting the new logo up with the stapler gun.

We learned a lot from the Bryants, especially from oom Jeremy about soil and soil improvement. They not only walk their talk, but also involve visitors to the farm in the process. By using dry compost toilets, they make compost and return it to the soil instead of polluting their groundwater (which basically every other kind of toilet does, according to The Humanure Handbook, a very interesting read if you ever have time).

Words like 'permaculture', 'hugelkultur' and 'swales' feature here, and during our stay we even worked on artificial swales. We were made aware of movements like The Urban Farming Guys, and watched some very interesting documentaries such as The Man Who Stopped the Desert.

Oom Jeremy is also a big fan of mulching, and have multiple chippers (mulching machines) on the farm. The boys enjoyed it immensely.

Working on the swales. Swales are basically low tracts of land and are designed to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration. We layered it with cardboard (to soak up water), and then filled it up with wood and organic material. 

First time mulching with the small chipper. 

The big chipper in action. It's literally chewing up the whole branch. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Scouting the West Coast

What does Saldanha, Langebaan and Paternoster have in common? Besides being weird names, these three towns are all found in and close to Saldanha Bay, a natural harbor of the West Coast. We've recently had a day-long road trip with fellow German volunteer Dana on the farm, starting through Goedverwacht (good expectations) to the little town of Hopefield around to places like Langebaan, Saldanha, Paternoster, Stompneus Bay, St. Helena Bay, and Aurora (quite a mouthful).

Passing through an area called Sandveld, our first stop was at Kersefontein out of pure curiosity. A beautiful and old guest farm near Hopefield, Kersefontein dates back to 1770 and is still in working order.

Sandveld scenery.  It is literally sand. 

Kersefontein  has been in the possession of the Melck family for 8 generations, and is now a National Monument.

In Hopefield we stopped at a recommended weekly Market for a drink, and then checked out the Simply Bee Center next to the market. It proved rather interesting with a display of a living/working hive behind glass.

At the market everyone was friendly, as so typical of small towns where everybody knows everybody else (and usually what they're doing too).

Watching the bees at work behind the glass. Safe from stings, you learn a lot more this way. 

Big church tower in Hopefield. 

A very old 'hartebees huisie', a specific type of house the first settlers in this region built. 

Onwards to Langebaan, where it's common for people from Cape Town to have a holiday house. We took a short walk on the beach - it felt more like walking on the shore of a lake though, as there were almost no waves (because of the natural harbor shape of the bay).

Just before Saldanha (the town), we drove past the Saldanha Works Steel mine. As a result of the mine everything in the area is reddish (I didn't edit this picture). 

Further on, we had a light lunch in Paternoster, possibly the quaintest fisher's village in the area.

Maarten approved of this sign at the restaurant. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Swartland and Surroundings

Porterville is a little town in an area called Swartland, amidst rolling fields of wheat (and here and there vineyards) at the foot of the Groot Winterhoek Mountains. We've seen some interesting places in and around it, including 22 Waterfalls Farm, the Jan Danckaert Museum (named after an explorer in 1660), and some magnificent scenery in the Groot Winterhoek Nature Reserve.

After a cooldrink in Porterville itself, we checked out the Jan Danckaert Museum. The Museum is not very big, but we were quite impressed by the San (Bushmen) Rock Art exhibition. The mountains in this area contain a lot of well preserved San art, but because it is risky to expose these paintings to people, some good pictures were taken of the paintings and these are now exhibited in the Museum.

Drinks in Porterville. 

The San Art exhibition. 

"Bulldog" tractor, of course I had to take a picture. 

 Porterville also has a rather impressive church (for such a small town anyway). 

It has competition from its neighbouring town Piketberg though – some more dramatic religious architecture awaits.

On the 22 Waterfall Farm (which lie just outside Porterville) there runs a stream down a rather steep 'kloof' of the Olifants River Mountains. There are 22 waterfalls, big and small, up the 'kloof' and to see all of them is approximately a 9-hour hike. We only had an hour and so we saw just a few of them, but it was worth it - we even had a swim!

Some rock climbing in between the waterfalls. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

So Long, Somerset West

Our seven weeks of renting a garden flat in Somerset West came to an end last week, and it's been great. We've worked hard and our first school term is practically over. Here are a couple of photos taken during our stay.

We've been to the Strand's beach a couple of times, and got to know the neighborhood on our family walks.

Notice the way the wind is blowing the sand. 

The boys preferred to walk on the dry sand in order to collect 'treasures'. 

I prefer the wet sand (thanks for the picture, mom). 

Beach clouds. 

A delightful swing about halfway on our walking route. We stopped almost every time.

The palm tree where we stayed. Palm trees make really cool silhouettes. 

Weekends have been quite busy, and we've ticked a couple of activities and places off our bucket list (see some of the previous posts on these). Overall, it's been a necessary and productive two months. So long, Strand and Somerset!

My personal favorite picture from the Strand.