We moved onto a small 9ha (22 acre) farm in the Rondeberg/Philadelphia area close to Cape Town about five years ago, and are working slowly (!) towards a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. We have a small orchard and veggie patch growing heirloom vegetables, a flock of ducks and chickens, some beehives, rabbits, two BEAUTIFUL cows, and a herd of goats for our daily milk. Also a very wolf-like dog and his crazy sidekick, a nomadic cat, an elusive wild buck in the fields, bats in the workshop and barn owls in the roof.
We drink harvested rainwater, and the rest of our water we pump from a borehole with a solar pump. We've converted our swimming pool into a natural pool, so you can swim amongst fish, dragon flies and water lillies (and only a tiny bit of algae... - if you would swim in a river you would swim in it, and we do.) We seem to spend most of our lives building and reinforcing fencing to keep the goats away from the olive trees and various other tasty places that they like to wander to. A big priority right now is to move towards being self-sufficient in animal food, so we are trying to plant trees, hedges and crops for that. My passion is planting trees, and we normally start from seed and care for hundreds of baby trees in our little nursery each year.
On the farm live me (Kate), my parents (in their own small cottage), and Enison, the amazing Malawian with the huge shy smile who also lives and works here. Then Fanuel also works here each day (but doesn't live), and on Fridays another guy called Lamos comes too (Fridays are the hard work day...). My son flits in and out between Cape Town and here, and my partner Dylan normally comes out on weekends. I work in Cape Town during the week, so go in and out each day. There is also a tenant who lives in a cottage on the farm (quite a character!). So there are always people around, but also a lot of peace and quiet.
Help with Eco Projects
DIY and building projects
This would really suit people who are interested in sustainable living, especially juggling that with a "normal" working life. If you want to see how its possible to make a life with one foot in a city and the real world :-) and the other on a farm, this is for you. It would be great to have people who are interested in permaculture or animal husbandry or growing things and alternative living. You'll learn to get to grips with some of the realities of life on a farm, and making practical decisions especially around available resources, including time and money. We also try hard not to waste (although we are still pretty wasteful! working on it), so things like switching off lights, not running taps straight down the drain and not throwing away usable food (do you cut the mould off the cheese or pick the worm out of the pepper and use the good part, or throw the whole thing away?) are high on our agenda (and sometimes pretty challenging for the volunteers that come here...)
Most of the people who have enjoyed their time here best, and who we have really enjoyed, have been here for a month at least. It takes time to get used to the various rhythms and routines on the farm, and if you are only here for a week we've just taught you how to milk goats and where all the water pipes are and you're gone again, and we're teaching someone else. I've listed the minimum stay as 2 weeks, but I'm much more likely to invite you if you are keen to stay for 3-4 weeks or more.
The biggest priorities each day are taking care of the animals, including milking. Next on the list is plants - watering especially now that it is summer. Once that's taken care of, then there could be planting, maintenance, building, harvesting, processing, fetching manure, sorting out the compost, cutting trees for goat feed, ground clearing, wood chopping, dish washing... the list of general chores goes on forever. If there is even more time, energy and money, then special projects come next.
But what are you interested in and good at? Suggest a project of your own. Build a composting toilet, deal with the tomato glut (chutney? pasta sauce? jam?), prune the fruit trees, set up a small solar system. build a rabbit tractor, scythe the fields, make a solar dryer or bread oven, teach us how to make cheese or salami or smoke food, figure out what to do with calamondins... If you have ideas and knowhow, or if you want to learn and experiment, we'll provide the materials and space. Let's negotiate what needs to be or could be done and where you'd like to fit in.
In summer we get up around 6:00 when it is light and still cool, do the morning animal feeding/milking, and then break for breakfast and planning for the rest of the day at around 8. Baby trees in the nursery then need to be watered (by hand) each day. The rest of the day is more chilled, could involve some special projects and depends on the heat and whether it's possible to work, and then there is another round of activity with the evening feedings.
In summer we have a 4-day watering rotation, where we water various areas of the farm for up to 8 hours during the morning/day, and then 3 hours in the veggie garden each evening. All of this is by pipes from our reservoir and drip irrigation, but the taps in each section need to be manually switched on and off, usually once an hour. This is normally one of the tasks given to the volunteers, so once each hour you'll need to go and turn on a tap somewhere, but in between you can either do other projects or relax.
Winter is our "hard work" time (it's too hot to do hectic work in summer), so from May to August is normally when we do things like putting in new fences, laying new water pipes, clearing new ground for crops, planting trees out onto the farm, major building projects. May is also when we seed our pastures. Baby goats are normally born between August and October each year (very sweet, awesome being here at this time of the year). We normally harvest honey in March, and plant most of our summer crops in September.
Fanuel cooks lunch each day (Malawian food, eat with your hands to impress him). We eat dinner, main meal of the day, quite late, around 9pm, but you can snack on bread and cheese throughout the day if you need to.
Just to mention that cleaning and cooking is not really the type of help that I am looking for. The farm and the outdoor work is our priority, and I would rather make space for people who are interested in that kind of activity.
Chichewa, Chewa, Nyanja: Fluent
You will stay in a guest bedroom in the main house, or in the lounge which also has a double bed in it and is usually used by Workawayers, with a shared bathroom (bath only, not shower) and toilet. We also have an outdoor shower (passive solar hot water), and a dry/composting toilet outside. We'll cook and eat together in the house. We do smoke, but only outside.
There is wi-fi, but I don't usually switch it on. Too many bad volunteer experiences :-) In South Africa bandwidth is expensive, we only have 5 gigs a month, and when one of the cows is sick and I need to look things up on the internet, we can't be out of bandwidth because a volunteer has been streaming movies! It will be better if you bring your own data, but the wi-fi is available for emergencies or very limited once a day email checking and so on.
We drink a fair amount, and it's hard not to offer around, but I've got pretty hardcore about this after much volunteer experience.., if you enjoy a drink too then please bring your own. There is a bottle store close by but it has very basic stuff - local beer and cheap wine in boxes, no fancy weird drinks (even cider would be a fancy weird drink there, as would a good bottle of wine).
Normally there is only one volunteer here at a time, but there have been up to 4 at the same time.
Remember - it's a farm! There is DIRT, bugs (many many flies, mozzies, fleas, spiders (webs!), ticks), mice, snakes, shongololos, all kinds of creepy crawlies. Animals produce manure (the heart of a good farm). You need to have a high tolerance for life in all its glorious forms. I do not have a lot of time to clean, tidy and make pretty, and I don't find it to be a high priority. If you are quite paranoid about germs and bacteria, this is not the place for you. Personally I think we'd be a lot healthier if we exposed ourselves to more of them. Animals do get injured and sick, and sometimes die. Plans don't always work out. Things break. Water supply (especially hot water) is erratic. You should have simple needs. There is no television!! (one person left because of that). Hopefully you don't have too romantic a picture of farm life! But, you will also get to experience the peace, joy and beauty that make it all worthwhile, and keep us picking up the pieces and trying again and learning over and over.
Note to vegetarians: we are a normal meat-eating household, and this is Africa :-). If you are the kind of vegetarian that sometimes eats meat, or is happy to pick the meat out of a stew and eat around it, great. But I have close to mutiny on my hands if I don't cook meat most nights, and I don't encourage volunteers cooking separate dinners for themselves, so you need to be able to fit into our lifestyle. We also do slaughter animals on this farm - if you don't want to be involved in that it is fine, but some people don't even want to go to a place where animals are raised for meat or slaughtered.
In your time off - lie in the sun, swim, read a book, write a book, play table tennis, listen to the fish eagles call, stare into the fire or at the stars... There are a lot of horses in the area, you could try befriending one of the neighbours if you like riding.
We're 45 minutes from Cape Town (with a lift there and back available three times a week) - for beaches, mountains, wine farms, big city lights and more. Closer to home there are some quirky farming villages, and the West Coast is a characterful place to explore - but you would likely only be able to get there with your own car. Public transport is only available about 12km away in Atlantis, but we can try to lift you to it in an emergency. There is no shop or settlement close by that you can walk to.
For days off, it is easier if you take them during the week, weekends are busy times here (we have not yet managed to train the animals not to eat or make milk on Sunday mornings!) and transport is also more of a challenge. (For the same reason it's also easier if you arrive on a weekday, so you can get a lift from Cape Town to the farm with me after I finish work).
It is very hot here in summer (Jan - Mar 30+ most days, can often be 40+). I cannot stress enough how hot it is in these months. I always warn people who are arriving in summer about this, and they assure me that they are used to heat (coming from Europe - rofl!), and then they get here and cannot function. Be mentally prepared, and swim and siesta to get through it, is my advice. Winter is the rainy season, although we don't get a lot of rain here. Winter in South Africa is quite reasonable, most days are actually quite warm and sunny! This is also the beautiful time, because everything is green for a few months with the rain - summer is hot, dry, brown and dusty!
Please bring hat (full brim, not cap), sunscreen, closed shoes or boots you can work in, clothes you can work in and don't mind getting dirty/maybe torn, raincoat, and in winter warmer clothes (winter evenings around 10 degrees or less, almost never goes below zero). Also your own alcohol and data if you need these. Own towel, but there will be bed linen here (don't need sleeping bag).
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week
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