Work Exchange Life On A Guest Farm

June 4, 2012

I am currently doing work in exchange for food and board (via Workaway) on a guest farm in north-east South Africa, namely, Mpumalanga.  It’s pretty rural out here with a half hour drive into the nearest town which has the worst roads I’ve ever seen, definitely no government money being spared here!  I am at Lydenrust Guest Farm.

Once or twice a week we drive into town to collect horse, goat and other animal feed, wood shavings for the stables, hay bales for the horses and groceries for us.  No midnight runs to the corner shop to satisfy a craving here so chocolate has become a luxury!

There is always something up this tree! Either it’s goats or me trying to help our kitten out of it!

Daily tasks involve grudgingly climbing out of a very warm, three blanket bed, over a sleeping kitten and a dozing dog into my Jodhpurs and boots, layering on 2 jackets over a body warmer, gulping down a coffee and stepping bleary eyed into first light on my way up to the stables.  Horses have already been fed by the ground staff so its time to take off their blankets, put on their halters, groom them and take their temperatures before turning them out into their fields.  The mares in their own, no defunct peach tree field and the geldings in another field which has a stream fed dam which they like to swim in and drink from.

Brand new goats!

Early morning ride on our “limosine”, Scotty.

Whoops! Lost my stirrup on such a lovely big stride!

“My” dog and I, he has fallen asleep with his bum in my lap!

Tony and Lisa, so named after me (my middle name is Toni).

Then its time to ride!  So we tack up and off we go on an hour-long trek into the surrounding mountains for a trot and a gallop.

I would rather look at this view every day than live in a city!

Now its about 9.30am and time for breakfast and various other errands.  The past two weeks have involved welcoming four new baby goats into the world and tending to an injured goat and her kid who’s jaw seems to have gotten broken.

Every day there is something new to be done and as you can see we take A TON of photos!

Some days we have guests staying in the guest accommodation which comprises of a gorgeous two bedroom cottage overlooking the horse’s dam and one of the river’s that runs down from the mountains to the nearby lake; an 8 bed backpackers which has a pool table and barbecue area as well as a big fire pit and some small cabins for extra people and a one bedroom self-contained cabin which can sleep four and overlooks the horse schooling and jumping arena.

It is so incredibly peaceful and tranquil out here.  Apart from the crowing cockerels, bleating goats and occasional mooing of the cow, there is no sound but chirruping wild birds.

One of the reasons I came here is to get a clear head and remove all distractions.  We have limited satellite internet and a lot to do during the day which means I’m in bed by 9pm, sometimes earlier – so no TV watching, only perhaps a bit of book reading.  I’ve just finished reading a book called Old Wives Gardening Folklore which was an absolute delight!  Written in 1947 by two spinster sisters, it collects together fascinating tips on gardening that I have never heard of before.  Things like using the topsoil around pine trees to plant strawberries in and then mulching them with pine needles gives them an amazing taste.

One of my other jobs is to feed myself and the lady whose farm it is.  We are both vegetarian, I for health reasons and she for a deep love of animals, so I get to cook something sumptuous each night, our favourite is my new butternut squash soup recipe which I will post about later this week!  We usually have fruit for breakfast, tea and avocado on toast for lunch and something delicious for dinner which I rustle up from what I can pull together in the kitchen – my favourite way to cook!  We grow our own avocados as well as lemons so I made an amazing lemon meringue yesterday, now just trying to find something else to make with lemons, any suggestions?

We have so many animals on the farm!
1 cow, 1 ram, 1 pig, 7 dogs, 4 cats, 100s of pigeons (60 of which are racers), lots of chickens (and counting), 26 goats, 15 horses, 1 hand-reared reebok, 2 tortoises, 2 peacocks, 1 turkey and a blind hand-reared pigeon.  We will also be getting 5 sheep soon.

How many different animals can you spot? (There are 8 excluding me!)

I don’t know how long I will be here but I don’t plan on leaving any time soon and have been asked to stay for June and July.  I am of course loving it because it is just the lifestyle I dreamt of while in London.

So far, I havent had any epiphanies about myself or my life but I am learning to just ‘be’ here, the animals are masters at living in the moment and I am an eager pupil.  Each day the animals ask me for cuddles and I find myself sitting silently in the sunshine stroking a cat on my lap or a dog’s head or sitting in the dust picking off ticks from my favourite one-eyed dog.  At times, just watching the different animals interact with each other is a form of escapism not often enough experienced in our hectic lives.

One thing I do know, farm life is good for my soul, I’m so glad I came…

If you would like to read about my other work exchange adventure on an organic vineyard in Western Australia, click here.

You Might Also Like