Conversations about Farming

In the seventies my father and uncle bought a farm on the Klip River. I remember driving past the block houses along the road imagining the British holed up in the tall dark windowless towers with rifles protruding against the marauding Boers. I was always proud my mother’s family had fought against the English in the Anglo-Boer war.

There was a square farmhouse as you entered the farm. There was no veranda, just an extension of the roof at the front door. At the back door, from the kitchen, there was a small veranda that looked down onto the field and then to the curve in the river. There was a big tree in front, a jacaranda, I think, with red sand grooved by cars and tractors. On the south side of the house was an open square reservoir, about a metre deep and above ground. It had a plastered lining painted blue and the wall was of quartzite rock, roughly put together. On the river side stood a working windmill. I remember at some stage that my Uncle Terry, my mother’s youngest brother, spent few days at the farm and fixed it. In summer when the windmill pumped in thrusts it was cold and refreshing water that splashed your face as you lent over to drink at the spout.

Away from the river and along the driveway on the other side of the reservoir was a drip fridge. This was about 1, 5 metres cubed, and build of a brown brick laid in a way to have large gaps between the bricks. There was a slot in the wall lined with chicken mesh and filled with charcoal. The roof was a large zinc drip tray with holes drilled above the charcoal slot. The windmill water could fill this drip tray and as it drew through the charcoal and evaporated it would cool the contents.

I remember one function at the house. It must have been a Sunday, and the whole family and community descended on the farm for a day of leisure. Many of the people had shops that were open 24/7 till late, so some must have had young Greeks manning the stores. I think there was a sheep braai, but what I do remember is a cool watermelon coming out of the drip fridge. I remember sitting on the edge of the reservoir, watching people dive off the windmill ladder into the clear cool water, spitting seeds behind me into the red dust.

I seem to remember that Uncle Terry had had the grass cut in front of the house and afterwards we all played a game of cricket. It was incongruous, all these Greek expats playing cricket in their everyday clothes, making up rules as they went along to allow the game to flow.

The best part of the farm was the river, about 1 km away from the house, to the east. It was lined with willow trees and had banks of slippery black clay. As we got older we returned there for summer camps. What a privilege.

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