December was our month to sadly say good-bye to Petra and Sammy and all our wonderful friends in Kenya and move down the continent to South Africa. Read below to see what each of us remembers and catch the slideshow at the end:
We had already confirmed that we would be helping out Paul and Shareen Duncan of Dovehouse Organics, an amazing family-run permaculture farm, shop, restaurant and training centre. It’s an hour north of Durban in a small town called Howick, in the Kwazulu Natal province. But we had a hard decision to make about our accommodation; either rent a granny flat from complete strangers who happened to have children the same age as ours and who happened to be on summer break, or find a B&B in the area that had Internet. Fortunately we made the right choice and traded reliable communication in return for a wonderful experience with the Santoro family, Di and Lucio and their children Oliver and Bianca, next-door neighbours of Dovehouse.
Everyone in the area had lost their landlines when the phone cables from Johannesburg had been pulled up and the copper stolen several months previous. To complicate things, there was very poor cell service in the valley where we were living. Welcome to South Africa! So if we needed to get online or make a phone call we had to drive to town – not a bad way of getting to meet the locals I must say. We split up our days between working the fields and pack-house at Dovehouse and socializing or going on excursions with the Santoros and had a blast.
My best memories are looking down the valley from the top of our driveway across misty, rolling, green hills dotted with dammed water ponds; waking up to a rooster’s cock-a-doodle-do (they really do say it) as it chased after the poor, beleaguered hen that lived in our yard, being greeted by five tail-wagging, smiling dogs; munching on crisp, green beans as I plucked them; listening to the chatter and laughs of my Zulu co-workers as we washed and packed veggies; catching the beautiful, orange sun rising on the way to Saturday market; picking up Thomas at the airport in time for Christmas!
As soon as we arrived Bianca and Di showed us around to the horses and the donkeys and the dam where we would swim almost every day. The next day it was hot and sunny out so Bianca and Oliver took us down to their neighbor’s dam. It had a rope with a handle on it so you would grab onto it. The first time I tried it felt like I was flying but only for a couple of seconds till I had to let it go and splashed into the water.
Then when I got out I saw an ATV coming down and it was the 2 kids who owned the dam coming to swim with their basset hound Goofy. When they got out we said hi. There was a boy, Craig, who was 11 and a girl who was 9, I think and her name was Nicki. We would push people in to the water or not let them come out. It was so fun. After we were done swimming we went up to their house. The boys played cricket and me, Bianca and Nicki went to go see their basset hound puppies – they were soooooooooo cute! After that Nicki grabbed some snacks for all of us and we each had turns driving the ATV. When we were back Bianca asked if I wanted to sing with her on her 2 microphones so she and I sang and she also played the guitar.
A couple nights later she and I had a sleepover because her parents went to something with Oliver so we were home alone with the dogs. We watched a vampire movie and there was a part where the guy scratched his nails on the door and right after that we heard scratching on the door. We opened it AND it was Ben the Great Dane wanting to come in. I really miss the Santoros and hope I can visit with them again or they can come to Canada!
Christmas in South Africa was great! We had the pleasure of Thomas my older brother joining us for Christmas. He came with news from his job and all the latest audio stuff making the pile under the tree a bit bigger. It was so much fun having Thomas there. We took TT to the Karkloof falls were we swam all day. We also took him to a candy store where we dipped chocolate and an archery range where he hit 3 bulls eyes!
On Christmas morning we all took our share from the pile of presents under our unique Christmas tree and opened them up. It was really funny seeing the reaction on everybody’s faces when they opened their gifts. But sadly after a while there were no more gifts to open and we’ll have to wait so long until next year but the Christmas dinner was great. We ate chickens that were raised on our farm. Earlier we had watched them get zapped, plucked, and packaged. And the toys, if you can call them toys, we got in our Christmas crackers included a nail kit, tweezers and nail clippers. I got a measuring tape.
After visiting us for 2 weeks Thomas had to go back to University. Our New Year’s Eve party was at a game reserve with a big dam. Two of the friends I met in South Africa and I fished most of the time. At dinner we were right beside the DJ and you could barely here yourself think! The other boys and I didn’t really want to dance while the girls were out there dancing like crazy! It was a lot of fun though and we still enjoyed ourselves. But sadly we had to leave South Africa and all of the good friends we made after the one-month we spent there.
After five months of travel I was looking forward to settling down for a month and celebrating Christmas. We had travelled about 16,000 km from Ireland to South Africa and along the way met some amazing people! I was excited about working at Dovehouse Organics and especially looking forward to seeing our second oldest son Thomas who was joining us via London where he had spent a few months working.
Our hosts, Di and Lucio and their two kids were a lot of fun and generously shared their holiday with us. We visited their game farm and spent a night at their friend’s cottage. In his spare time Lucio was busy rebuilding a bulldozer in the garage that he hopes will help level the roads at the game farm. One day I returned home to discover the garage empty and bulldozer tracks leading to one of their lower fields. There was Lucio playing with his impressive new toy. Man could that thing move dirt.
Dovehouse Organics is actually three businesses on one property: a busy permaculture farm and training facility, a well stocked organic shop and an innovative restaurant that serves healthy raw and organic food. The mastermind behind the farm was Paul, an enthusiastic champion of all things permaculture. I learned so much from him – much of it captured on video. Linda and I have lofty dreams of one day owning our own organic farm where we can practice and educate others about the best practices of permaculture. My month with Paul was filled with valuable lessons and insight – the perfect compliment to our introduction to permaculture in Ireland with Suzie and Mike Cahn.
You can’t truly appreciate the effort that goes into growing organic food until you taste it. I really enjoyed the time I spent hanging out with Greg, the chef at Dovehouse (now Green Valley Restaurant). His passion for preparing food matched Paul’s enthusiasm for growing it and I hope that one day we can set up some tables next to our fields and show our friends and family how good food can get!
Here’s a slideshow of our month in South Africa: