Since way before I started this blog, I have been spiritually (read… emotionally) motivated to be where I find my heart to be. Growing up in a small town, spending my weekends and holidays on farms riding bikes, and shooting air-rifles (never at animals by the way, I preferred maiming GI Joe’s and limited edition coke cans) have conditioned my soul to want something in my life.
That was, to be in a place where everything works together to form a conglomeration of perfect. The free-state was a great place for a kid, and while I had friends on farms and smallholdings, the true magic was found when I rode my 125cc out of town, on a dirt road, and then just sit and wait for those storms on the horizon. I have always just appreciated peace, quiet and nature… often to the point where I tagged along with my father when he was called out to work. He worked for an electricity supply company, so late nights, in storms out in the remotest areas were common places to go to on call-outs. As I started working, for peanuts, it became clearer that holidays and weekends were spent in places where most humans don’t like to go, hot arid mountainous Cederberg campsites with the wifey, and random ‘farm’ accomodations.
The problem with ‘holiday farms’ are simply that you check into a house, that feels like a farm, with a busy pass 200 meters away and four city-slicker neighbours in the adjacent cottages. It didn’t work. Eventually we discovered a place called Keurkloof, which was amazing. You could pretend to live there, for a weekend, and not see anyone or anything, smack-bang in the middle of nothing (your interpretation of nothing). It’s an amazing place, it opened my eyes a lot more, and it gave me more ideas on what I wanted to do with my life. While the majority of the world is being trampled and concreted, I wanted to at least learn to grow, nurture, breed and conserve something for myself, and for the environment. It was a little bit different from the original plan, of buying land where no one can get to me, and then do _nothing_ with it. I decided I wanted to do something, and add value to my vicinity as well… as you might know from my photography, protect nature, down to the spiders 🙂
The initial idea of just buying land, and living there with my wife, was based on an idealistic notion I got from a guy, Paul. He bought a ‘farm’, it was some land, on a hill, in a very desolate part of the karoo. It had a cottage on it, no power, no water (I think he got to fill a water tank from a stream once a month, compliments of a neighbouring farmer). It seemed amazing, and actually it is, but it was a bit hard to achieve.
For one, banks are rubbish, they will approve lossy car finance and credit cards left right and centre, but they won’t touch land. The deposit requirements and rates were often way out of reach of a dreamer like myself. Secondly, information was scarcer than water in the Western Cape (too soon, sorry). Lastly, the utopian view of “being on a farm” is a bit boring, we wanted to work the ground a bit, grow things, eat them, feed them to an animal, hell, even if that animal was just a stray dog… water management is another thing i want to learn and do, I just love it! [I am currently working on some water saving, automation stuff in Arduino]
During our many weekends at Keurkloof, I had time to think. My significant-other started understanding the passion and drive for this too… and so we started trying to get things done. It was hard, people did not want to share information, and most current farmers all had negative things to say, as if they didn’t want us to do this. I appreciate that, I understand why, really, no hard feelings. We then started looking around at anything that was “for sale”… was a disaster. Then we decided to chat to someone that really seemed to not mind sharing information, and helping! Life took a turn!
Mr S invited us for a chat and we went over not knowing what to expect. It was a full day of chatting, getting real information, the ups and down and enjoying all of it over some wine. Not only that, but he said “let’s go for a drive”, which really changed things. He gave us an opportunity to get involved in farming for real, and in the best place in the world, the Karoo. His mindset was very much aligned with mine, to not simply live the life out of the area, but to have meaning while living there. Conserving animal, plant and water, while learning from the ground up to do everything. He recommended a book, which I recently obtained and started reading (that’s another mind blowing bit of info, for another article) and we started putting some time in already.
One can never claim to know everything, but we know nothing, we are at bottom level. The only data at hand, is that which I obtained slowly through my life, experiences at home (animals and plants) and what we are now experiencing. I am humbled, I am cancelling every plan I had, and now it is time to focus on one thing at a time. Essentialism at its finest. One bossie, one critter at a time. In the future, who knows where this will lead, but Mr S made it possible for us by taking us into a very specialised deal, with good intentions and hopefully a long friendship ahead. I can now say that there is a place I can sit down, enjoy my wine, look at the fruits of hard labour (almost literally?) while smelling the Karoo bos as the sun turns to a purply-orange at dusk.
We are just going to enjoy it, work hard, do our best and contribute where we can, and hopefully it will mean that it feeds back to the environment and him one day. It is very much worth its distance.
Humbled, and thankful for a chance.
The moral of this post is, I almost gave up on this, and then things happened. Being patient, and caring mixes well with putting in the time and effort to give a damn.