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Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Cow's Life

Each day, 6 days per week, my work morning begins leisurely at 8:00 am by bringing in each of the milking cows to feed and manually de-tick them.  Yes you read correctly, de-tick the cows.  At first the thought of removing ticks from each cow with my bare hands was slightly revolting; every morning each cow has acquired about 10-25 ticks since the previous day.  The revulsion continued when a tick accidentally squishes between one’s fingers.  BLEH!  The manual de-ticking occurs because the family farm ethos excludes any pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals on the animals or the land.  After two weeks? I got used to it, squish and all.
The family farm in the Byrne Valley
The family aims for a (mostly) self-sustainable lifestyle.  If they don’t grow It, harvest it, or raise it, they don’t eat it.  If it is not in season, then they’ll have to wait until next season to re-indulge.  Exceptions are made for personal hygiene items, flour, potatoes, peanut butter, and oatmeal, but not much else.

A few examples:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Farm Kid Strong!

In my quaint studio cottage, I have a small propane tank with an attached burner on top and an electric water kettle.  For the past year, I have been in love with having oatmeal for breakfast (NOT instant!), and was happy to find that this family had a similar routine.  Each morning for breakfast I cook a bowl of oatmeal on the gas and make a laid-yesterday hard-boiled egg in the kettle.

The farm family of 4 and Great Danes of 3
On my first Saturday morning here, 8-year-old daughter Femke asked me if I had breakfasted on oats.  “Yes (that is the only thing I have to prepare)…  Did you, too?”  “No!  I had corn flakes!”  She shared this with me half braggingly, half proud.  As a weekend treat, the kids are permitted an oatmeal deviation on Saturday and Sunday mornings only, and have a big bowl of plain corn flakes.  No added sugar, fruit, or jam, just corn flakes and fresh cow’s milk.  It is a total indulgence for them.  Oh man, I don’t envy being a farm kid.
Working on this farm with kids, I am beginning to understand the farm kid reputation for being strong as oxen and tossing cows single-handedly!  Last night Femke, the 8-year old girl, picked up a 40-pound sloshing bucket of milk and set it on the counter, nearly higher than her head.  A few drops dribbled down her front, but overall she was entirely successful.  She’s only 8!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Terrible Arsonist

I have moved on from the ill lack of security and trust of Johannesburg and have bussed it 6 hours to the tiny little town of Byrne in the Kwazulu-Natal region.  I am revisiting my New Zealand wwoofing adventures to learn more about South African culture.  Wwoofing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) is essentially work in exchange for room and board with an added desire of cultural exchange.  The traveler/person doing the work is the “wwoofer,” with an expected work contribution of 4-6 hours per day, on average.  No money is exchanged, only work, room, board, and conversation.  As a wwoofer, I’ve restored native vegetation, sold fruit and veg on the side of the road, general house and yardwork, weeded yards, milked cows, dug potatoes, prepared and planted gardens, and now, worked on a small (mostly) self-sustainable family farm.

Almost exclusively, wwoofing hosts, which may be families or large- or small-scale farms, are located far from modern day conveniences of civilization, and this family of four is no exception.  Mom, Dad, and two girls live on a farm as self-sustainably as possible which includes milking goats and cows, chickens (for eggs and broilers), growing dinner piglets, a small citrus orchard and other fruit trees, and a healthy-size vegetable garden.  For income, milk, yogurt and cheese is made/sold, as well as breeding rights/puppies from 3 Great Danes of whom are generously doted.