WWOOF @ Simonskloof

Ever had the urge to hit the road for a Simonskloof pizza nightchange of scenery, needed a break from your everyday 8 to 5 job, do some hard work instead of sifting through 100’s of e-mails and endless Whatsup conversations a day? Wanted to actually eat healthy and breathe clean air? Drink water from a natural stream instead of a PET bottle. Be part of a trail building team and come home physically tried but happy. Sleep with seeing the stars above and shower with a scent of fynbos in the air not from an Airfresh can… Meet the chicken you just had an omelette from or water the herbs and veggies you’re about to have for lunch?
WWOOFers on veranda roof 2Than WWOOFing might just be what your doctor ordered, to get you back on track and experience life, how it was meant to be: Natural, sustainable and truly rewarding!

17 years, since mid-1999, We’ve been living off-grid out here in the mountains near Montagu. At first all by myself and two border collies, turning the old farm house into a guest house, serving guest mouth-watering trout, or beef fillet from an open fire, potbread and homemade jam from organic apricots and freshly ground coffee… Whenever the work load got too much, help came from friends and volunteering people, weeks and even months at a time. Then in 2004 we joint WWOOF Independent and opened up to more real life seeking humans from all over the world. We’ve been going strong ever since and enjoyed a great exchange of culture and ideas as well as valuable help and expertise.

Americans Iyla, Nick and me

But what is WWOOF for you may ask?

WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an international organisation – see also www.wwoof.org . The movement started in England the 70’s as Working Weekends On Organic Farms, giving organic farmer a much-needed helping hand to be competitive with conventional production. Today WWOOFing focuses more and more on cultural exchange while volunteering on farms with an organic approach to life and production. It’s an exchange of your help for Food and Accommodation. In short it’s about experiencing and taking part in everyday farm life, to its fullest and NOT just a HOLIDAY on a farm! Duration is around 1 month up to 6 month, all year round.

Fixing the catchment

What help is needed?

WWOOF work here at Simonskloof ranges from heavy stuff like: Fieldwork, building or renovation of a guest cottage, hiking trail maintenance and stacking wood, to light work as: Cleaning of guest cottages, helping in the kitchen and our permaculture garden. Where possible we all work together in a team, however WWOOFers should to be able to work on their own and be comfortable with the remoteness of the farm and the lack of connectivity. Working hours are 6 hours per day 5-6 days a week, so there’s time for you to meditate, read, study and explore the farm.

Are YOU suited?

Painter DJ Magdalena from Switzerland

YES, if you outdoorsy, willing to do physical work and are open minded – having practical experience is a bonus. Mostly we eat vegetarian meal these days, all help with the preparation and eat together. WWOOF accommodation is a caravan or the safari tent, depending on availability. We take between 1-4 WWOOFers at one time, so far they have come from all over the globe:

Ignathio from Spain working on the Gecko Trail

Australia, Scotland, UK, France, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, USA, also from South African, Taiwan and Liechtenstein. But please keep in mind, if you are looking for a job, cheap accommodation, or a holiday on a farm then WWOOFing is not for you!

What do I bring?

WWOOF caravan

Plenty of enthusiasm to work and learn! Standard backpacking gear e.g. Backpack (for working on the trails) Sleeping bag, hiking boots, some light shoes too, an overall or other working clothes, sun protection, cool and warm clothing. Temperatures in summer days can reach +42° and in winter nights drop down to -5°. And of course you’ll need a valid tourism visa if you are not from South Africa, appropriate travel and health insurance, as well as enough pocket money for your personal little luxuries.

So, what are you waiting for?
Like to see More Images? Please visit our picture gallery.
Like to WWOOF? Call us or e-mail us! Last minute help is always welcome!

A Frozen Tuesday

Winter is here! No doubt! It’s flipp’n FREEZING to say the least. The mercury two days ago has sunk to -2° and the water from the solar geyser was frozen solid…

…and that was the start of “just another” Tuesday here at Simonskloof.

First snow of 2014 on Saw Edge Peak

First snow of 2014 on Saw Edge Peak

Somewhere around 07:30 I managed to face the icy world out there and after a  thawing shower with the help of a good old gas geyser (hey, gotta have a back-up plan and so have all the cottages) my WWOOFers, a lovely couple from Taiwan this time, were already feeding the cat and dogs and had the kettle boiling. Breakfast of fresh made bread (yesterdays, OK…) butter, jam, some ham and cheese, coffee, tea and most of all a healthy portion of very interesting conversation around our cultural differences or more and more lack there off – a global village in every sense. Today in Taipei, tomorrow in Zurich and yesterday in Montagu, be it Kikkoman’s Soy sauce, or Steve’s IPhone and Montagu’s Apricots we all use and eat the same, some with more MSG, some with less GB of memory… Work ethics and number of working hours… well go figure! Minimum wage? They do earn more than us!? Hmmm interesting! No more sweat shops in China my China! But I still love the stars I see at night more, than illuminated billboards between thousands of skyscrapers. So back to my reality!

We all pile into the little bakkie for a quick drive out, past the gate to check the snowy scenery – it blows my mind every time and needless to say, it does remind me of Switzerland’s snow caped Alps. AWESOME!

Welcome Winter!

Welcome Winter!

Later the WWOOFers wash the dishes; I clean the floors – if dust would be money… Then feeding the chicken and collect the 2-3 eggs a day. Again no relation to the amount of grain and seeds they get… but hey nothing beats a still warm farm egg and an occasional Coq au vin!

Cleaning a cottage is also on the list for today; With a crate full of linen and cleaning material, a bag of fire wood, refill paraffin, an extra broom plus one of the Taiwanese and the rest of the dog mob all into the back of my Nissan 1400, the other WWOOFer in the passenger seat together with Matata my co-pilot, we are heading for Faraway cottage. It goes quick; we are a good team of three and the guest left the cottage pretty tidy.

11 o’clock back at the house it’s time for a coffee and then I’m off to Montagu with a load of recycle material, three empty gas bottles, one Cherri can and a long list to tick off. My volunteers get the better of the draws, its harvesting pecan nuts in the sunny afternoon and fitting some felt protectors on Orange cottage’s bedside tables, still before lunch.

A quick visit at the recycling depot, with what’s left after the gas lady grabbed half of my load, keen on the glass only. Then another stop at the Agrimark for a bale of toilet paper, yet no, Spar beats them today by one Rand a roll. At 48 roles per bale, that’s money for lunch! But before I stop at the best pizzeria in town (OK, it’s the Burgundy, as if you would not already know…) I put my head into the health pharmacy, but no Miswak tooth paste today, then Richard’s Jewelery shop across the road – a small art exhibition in itself and finally Niel’s stationary shop for some… besides the hardest handshake of Montagu and a quick chat of course… Stationary!

But now it’s time for a pizza on the go and by the time I reach Ashton, there’re only a few crumbs and a dirty serviette left in the box. I drop in at my firewood supplier, arrange for an 8 tonne truck load of 7000 pieces to be delivered at Simonskloof and reserve another 20 bags for late today.

Time is ticking, it’s 2 o’clock, I’m on the R60 heading for De Hoek outside Bonnievale, my folks farm on the Breede river. The greeting is predictable first Blacky the youngest of the Bordercollies, then his mom and then mine. We’ll chat about the latest news and head for the river where there is already a pile of Spanish reeds for Faraway’s veranda waiting for me. What a treat, last time we’ve sweated in the January heat cutting each one along the river bank. Today it’s fast, mom pulls out the best from the stack I measure and cut them to length. Little later dad joins and gives a hand but is more chatty than ever, had a meeting with his wine cellar about new EU import regulations…  We load the reeds on top of my 1400 while the clock is reaching 5 and I’m getting nervous. Still need to sort some computer problems for dad, but failed, lost in SARS’s user unfriendly e-filing…


Our Taiwanese WWOOFers fitting the new reed on Faraway's pergola

Our Taiwanese WWOOFers fitting the new reed on Faraway’s pergola

Now with AC/DC blasting from my sound system I’m back on the dusty “highway …to hell”. A second visit at my firewood man – luckily I reserved 20 bags, the rest are all gone. 10 to 6, back in Montagu, I quickly step into Spar to get the cheaper toilet paper and some groceries. Now slightly late but with a glass of chilled white wine in hand, my last tick on the list: The “Rethink the bag” meeting at Gerd’s Hotel. It’s a fantastic initiative which I spotted in The Green Times two month ago: The transition town Greyton is going OFF plastic bags! So I sent the info to the right people of Montagu and it took off like a bush fire, with Ronel from the local Rotary Club heading the challenge to eliminate the use of cheap plastic bags in our village and replacing them with funky looking and conveniently small stash-able, re-usable, yet very affordable shopping bags. Watch this space!!!

The funky Re-Think-Bag!

The funky Re-Think-Bag!

Somewhere around 11pm, after a lekka dinner at the Country hotel and more inspiring conversation with the Transition town and Rethink the bag ladies, I finally close my gate behind me and roll – OK, bumping the last 2 km back home. Very happy and tired I fall into my icy cold bed, another great day in the kloof just flew past…!

Newsletter October 2011

Note: get the image-rich version of this newsletter in PDF format here.

Spring Equinox has just passed our big old oak tree has begun to show its green leaves, the mountain tortoises are out en mass and mating like there’s no tomorrow (or no 2013?) And today we hit the upper thirties for the first time this season. So, do I need any more excuses for writing another newsletter?

One of our 42 Mountain tortoises on a beautiful spring day
One of our 42 Mountain tortoises on a beautiful spring day
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September 2009

Gee-Whiz guys, it’s been seventeen months since our last newsletter, what’s happening to time and space?

Jurgen and Mareletta

All is relative they say?! It better be – ‘cause it’s the only excuse I have for keeping so quiet here at the end of the Koo valley! Well no, there’s a better one: WE got married 🙂 🙂 on the 21st of June 2008 – Winter Solstice down here in sunny South Africa – what perfect day for a medieval style wedding! Not quite barefoot, but under the big old oak tree in a beautiful purple dress with a bouquet of white Arum Lilies in her arms just like Mareletta wanted it. Yet all quite simply and easy going, the spirit was high and food and laughter was a plenty.

The next day we were off on honeymoon to a “secret” place in the Knysna forest – where exactly I can’t tell you – it was so nice you might never want come to Simonskloof. 🙂 A week later, way too short a break, back at Simonskloof, duties called me again, whilst Mareletta headed to Cape Town for her “mid-weekly” work at Loud, her company: www.loudadvertising.co.za
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