We are now well established on the family farm following a few successful seasons. Most of our longer term projects are set up and ticking over nicely.
Renovations to upgrade the barn to a rustic wedding/events venue catering for 48 people is half way. The deck is great, roof nearly done and doors to follow.
The small (and expanding) nursery continues to provide the local indigenous trees, shrubs, herbs and other plants we need to green the farm. Mulch, chop-and-drop, recycle, repurpose and multi-use are not words any more but part of life on the farm. Greens and herbs for the table comes from the gardens.
The cottages rented out for extra income is quite popular and we make friends from all over the world that way.
Our ongoing documentation of the indigenous fauna and flora is going progressing and we continue to add interesting creatures and plants to the list.
We keep some animals and try to integrate them into our longer term goals. The cattle graze on the small pastures around the house, keeping the grass short and thus maintaining a low fuel load fire break. They save us from mowing while looking pretty. Chickens, ducks and geese are used to feed in the orchard and garden, taking grubs, seedlings and greenery. They provide us with eggs and meat. The dogs, the undisputed stars of the farm, sleep in the sun, chase baboons, take visitors on walks, charm volunteers and scare chickens. All in one day.
I'm keen on expanding my language abilities.
Help with Eco Projects
DIY and building projects
Creating/ Cooking family meals
Help around the house
You will live on a fairly traditional farm in South Africa applying somewhat unusual soil caring techniques for the area. Traditional farming is still very strong and banana circles, permaculture and swales are quite foreign.
We visit friends and family often and usually try to take volunteers with. We also receive personal guests on the farm and there will be many opportunities to meet locals. It is safe to independently cycle the 7km to Swellendam and meet the local townspeople.
The farm borders the mountainous Marloth Nature Reserve and there are plenty opportunities to get out and explore.
While I understand that a short stay is attractive to fit more activities to your travel plan I would (somewhat selfishly) advise against it. Longer stays have the benefit of getting to know people and a community well. Short stays are fairly touristy. You will not be bored on the farm. Your level of participation is your own decision. We welcome enthusiasm.
We would need volunteers to help with general day to day activities, upkeep and maintenance. We expect sporadic projects of a building or gardening nature. We like to use the special skills people bring to the farm.
Routine tasks include:
Feeding of young animals if we have any
Cutting alien plants to chip for mulch in the garden
Planting perennial grasses in the paddocks to feed cattle
Planting trees, local indigenous for shade and windbreak, others for food, etc
Laying out of vegetable and other gardens, upkeep of current gardens
Cleaning the two cottages we rent out to tourists
Playing with the dogs and taking them on walks, or rather let them take you for walks
This host offers a language exchange
During my traveling years I tried to learn as much as I could. Over time I added a working knowledge of Hebrew and Spanish. I can count and greet in a few other languages ;-) Would love to get my German sorted.
Room/s in main house. Sometimes we move volunteers to the dormitory depending on our personal guests. The dorm has four single beds double stacked. Locker, etc. Two bathrooms, not en-suite. Full kitchen access. This accommodation is separate (a few steps away) from the main homestead where we live.
We provide food for all meals. Volunteers are encouraged to partake and serve up dishes that remind them of home or their chosen lifestyle. As the gardens are expanding our focus is shifting more to field-to-fork than shopping. We like to forage too and if you are lucky (and it is in season) we'll collect mushrooms (cepps) and berries (eg. brambles and goose berries) in the fields and plantation. We use meat, eggs, milk and other animal products. Some animals come from the farm, some for other places. We consider the industry practices specific to the animals in the context of South Africa when we do purchase. We welcome tasty alternatives. There is a lot to learn.
*smoking* We do not accept volunteers who smoke tobacco.
*️️️️️️️️dayzero*️️️️️️️️ The house and cottages rely on roof collected rain water for drinking and household use. This is a limited resource. We strongly encourage thoughtful use of water during the drier summer months.
*noise* We live on a farm. Being a normal farm we have sources of noise. Our neighbour, a dairy farmer rents some of our land for pasture. This brings cows (and flies) to the scenery :-) At times we have alien vegetation clearing teams that use chain saws. They are sources of noise. So, we're not a holiday farm and we're not a nature reserve but rather a normal working farm. If this sounds too busy for you we would suggest considering other hosts
* We do not have internet. Well, we do, but the expensive satellite connection is reserved for the online booking system.
* The Vodacom booster is now active. Expect good signal in the house. If you fly in from abroad we suggest getting a Vodacom SIM. This works well for mobile internet too.
* Mobile signal overall improved significantly with the removal of the pine plantation.
* The top of the hill behind the house has better signal. This is a good spot to see the sun set, get bitten by mosquitoes and chat with your friends back home.
* If you complain about the lack of internet you'll be put in charge of the relay tower construction on the highest hill for our Rain LTE connection. You did not come to Africa for the internet anyway, did you?
The local town, Swellendam, has recently been named a top ecofriendly destination and is 7km away. Is has a real sense of history and are a popular stop over between Cape Town and the Garden Route. As a result there are many restaurants and eateries catering to all tastes. Volunteers walk, cycle and taxi there and back. We often drive to town, so there is plenty opportunity to get to a small rural town (17000 people) that stock the basics that one need.
The cheese shop on the way to town is worth a visit. The berry farm where you can pick your own in season too. Off season they have liqueur tasting and a selection of frozen berries.
We are well located in the Western Cape: Two hours from Cape Town on the N2, an hour from the coast, and hour from Route 62 in the Klein Karoo and two hours from the Garden route. Several shuttle and bus services connects to towns and cities: Greyhound, Intercape, Langeberg Mini-bus, Potgieter Mini-bus, Bloukraan Shuttle, Citiliner, City to City and Translux busses. We like going on day trips around the area.
I'm a member of the Botancal Society of South Africa, the Cycad Society of South Africa, the Dendrological Society of Swellendam, the Friends of Marloth group, the Swellendam Ramblers group, an occasional visitor to the Swellendam Garden club and am a pilot member of the Swellendam Concervancy. I present an open garden at the farm from time to time to show people what gardening with local indigenous plants only is like. I do talks and outings with people in nature related subjects. I'm well connected with local environmental experts. We try to go on outings as often as we can. You might or might not be present when any of these happen. If you want you can experience and learn a lot. If you need more you need to find it yourself.
Beneke joined the Green Renaissance-family recently:
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
Quiet office available. LTE internet at own cost. Rain unlimited LTE due in the area soon.
We run a small campsite and have had happy campervan volunteers in the past.
Our dogs are well behaved and used to other dog visitors. Most of the time they match really well.
More than two
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week
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