Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Bathtub guy and the Leafblower Lady. Part 1

Anyway I realised that I never explained the whole leafblower-farmers wife thing. And that must be rectified! Unfortunately I have so many things to write about the people here that I will have to do it in smaller segments. Here is part one!

To start off, I’m living on a ‘farm’ inside a conservancy, which is basically a collection of little farms. Some of them are traditional farm-farms where they grow grapes or macadamia nuts or cows* and some of them are more game-farmesque. I’m on the East side of the Conservancy (it’s 30 000 hectares in total. That’s pretty big I think) which is mostly inhabited by old families that have been there for generations. They don’t like dividing the land between children so basically as soon as a son gets old enough to help run the farm and get married his wife moves in with the family and things carry on as normal. Some of the wealthier farmers even build houses right next to their homes for the eldest son and his wife.

It’s not unusual to find five generations living on the same farm. That’s the tricky part for me, because it’s very difficult to figure out who to talk to when I’m asking permission to trap lizards on their property. I’m very careful in these areas because there aren’t always fences and I can get very confused as to who owns what. And these guys are not against whipping out a shotgun at a supposed intruder (or so I’ve heard). The trick is to figure out who the oldest male family member is and ask him for permission before asking the younger guys who actually run the place. Just because Oom Piet is 94 and hasn’t got a clue about what’s going on, he’s still in charge. The easiest way to find the one ‘in charge’ is to phone the house at around 4pm, when they’d be bringing the cows in. That way you’ll be sure to get one of the wives on the line and they can be most helpful!

They are very kind people in general, although I don’t think that too much has changed in the last few centuries. Sure the veldskoen are replaced by crocs, but the two-tone khaki and kortbroek, comb-in sock sporting farmers make me feel like I’ve stepped into a Herman Charles Bosman novel sometimes. One day one of them will break out the peach brandy and pull out a pipe…

Unfortunately as charming as the old way of life may seem, there are nasty aspects. I’m fortunate in that I’m white and I speak Afrikaans which immediately makes me ‘fit in’ a little bit. I also don’t speak to any of them in formal Afrikaans, I use ‘jy’ rather than ‘u’ to put me on their level (and because I’m not very good at formal Afrikaans). Their farm workers still call them ‘Baas’ and wives obey husbands and so on. When they meet me they tend to get a bit confused. What is a 20-something girl doing driving a bakkie and running round after lizards. Shouldn’t I be married by now? They tend to get around it by deciding that I’m just a weird-looking guy. I get smacked on the back, shaken hands with, told about the rugby… and the wives look really confused.

We were told at one stage to avoid a certain farm because the people there weren’t nice. I’d already had to chat to the local butcher (who is also a horse farmer) and someone who was convinced that I was after his rather mangy bull (it looked at me and I freaked out a bit) so I was rather afraid of that place. They have a lot of dogs too which isn’t unusual around here, but they were all vicious-looking.

Anyway after much  discussion with Malcolm, my favourite pig-farmer and local gossip, it became apparent that the people were not all that bad. What had happened was that two of the mega (like 6-generations at once) farming families had spent generations peacefully ignoring each other, until the daughter of one of them married the son of the other family. They weren’t banished entirely, but sent to live on a distant corner of a farm and nobody would speak to them.

Towards the outskirts of the Eastern half of the conservancy is a creepy ramshackle house. We’re not quite sure if it belongs to the people who live there or to their grandparents who own a lot of the land in that area. They run a weird stall-type thing that sells water features made out of broken pots. The weird part: they make the pots, then break them strategically and us them to make water-features.

The only people I’ve ever seen in or around the house are three or four youngish guys. If you go in they put you on their duct-taped couch, offer you French Toast and say things like “There are GIRLS in the conservancy?” (True story, fortunately it didn’t happen to me). When they get bored they take their shirts of and take turns driving up and down the a stretch of the highway on a tractor.

No you didn’t misread that.

That’s all for today, I have to be up early tomorrow!


*you buy those cow-hoof things from Pick & Pay and start them off on your windowsill in some damp cottonwool


Kath Lockett said...

Lordy, I can't wait for the next instalment of this - it sounds like a South African version of 'Deliverance'.

And to think - you didn't snare yourself one of those guys! :)

sarah said...


i think the time has come for you to choose one of these lovely specimens to be your one and only true love

EEbEE said...

I had no idea there were stil people like this in SA.

And what may i ask is wrong with a wife obeying her husband?

Tamara said...

"you buy those cow-hoof things from Pick & Pay and start them off on your windowsill in some damp cottonwool"


Gonna go grow me some cows after work today. I hear they make good lawnmooers. If that fails, can you bring me an Afrikaans farm boy back?

Oh wait - I already have one of those. Thank goodness his hobby is not whipping off his shirt and riding a tractor up and down our street!

po said...

What a cool post! I was totally trying to figure out where the hell you were. It's weird, I truly thought those kinds of people and that kind of life was extinct. I wish I could see it in action.

Helen said...

Kath: You wouldn't be the first to say that - the girls at home keep sending me messages to ask about the local farmboy abundance...

Sarah: See above. And no. Thanks. I have plenty of lovely gentlemen at home willing to play mind-games with me thank you very much. And at least in Joburg I get to wear shoes. And speak English.

EEbEE: You'd be amazed by some of the stuff tht goes on one you're away from the big cities! And be careful, I may sic my inner feminist on you...

Tamara: Glad I made you laugh :)you could always get TSC a tractor for his birthday and see what he does with it?

Po: It's like stepping into a different universe! Sometimes i wonder how many of the myths that people overseas hear about us S'effricans are true here...

Susan said...

We've got kind of the same image going here except the thrill is getting as many alcholic beverages in during a horse parade, dressing up in frilly leather and then "pretending I don't look ridiculous while I try not to fall off."

Candice said...

My December mission is to grow a cow!! I wonder how often you have to water it?

Sounds like a really fascinating place though - even with the crocs and khaki!

Stay away from the peach brandy!