Help build up small farm towards self-sufficiency near Cape Town, South Africa


South Africa

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 Min stay requested: at least 2 weeks

  • Description


    We moved onto a small 9ha (22 acre) farm in the Rondeberg/Philadelphia area close to Cape Town about two 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 one or two 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're converting 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.

    Most of the time it's just me (Kate) and Enison, the amazing Malawian with the huge shy smile who also lives and works here. My son flits in and out between Cape Town and here. Usually my parents come out on weekends, and they will be moving here soon, so there is a cottage to build for them, 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 people around, but also a lot of peace and quiet.

  • Type of help

    Type of help

    General Maintenance
    Help with Eco project
    Animal care

  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    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...)

  • Help


    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. Currently I'm keen to put up a shadecloth nursery for trees/seedlings, build a scratter and press to make cider (we have pears and apples falling off the trees right now), extend the irrigation to plant maize for animal feed, build proper rabbit housing, and repair the reservoir so we can store more water and irrigate more easily.

    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 watering and animal feeding/milking, and then break for breakfast and planning for the rest of the day at around 8. 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. You'll help yourself to lunch. We eat dinner, main meal of the day, quite late, around 9pm, but there is plenty to snack on throughout the day when 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.

  • Languages spoken

    Languages spoken

    English, Afrikaans (similar to Flemish), Chichewa

  • Accommodation


    You can 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), or if you would like a little more privacy and don't mind roughing it you are welcome to pitch a tent in the garden, or shack up in the shed or one of the stables. 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, so there is always beer and wine around. It's hard not to offer around.., if you enjoy a drink too then please bring your own, or buy the odd bottle or 6-pack every now and then to contribute.

    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. 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. 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.

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    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. Next door they farm alpacas (very strange and sweet creatures), that's worth a visit.

    We're 45 minutes from Cape Town (with a lift there and back available each day) - 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. 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, 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).

    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!

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?


  • ...

    Hours expected

    Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week

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Host ref number: 361136599758