We arrived in South Africa back on 1st December, escaping the grim English winter, with a rough plan of how we were to spend our 3 months here. Our first stop was Donkey Valley farm, where we were to spend our first 5 weeks. We contacted them through an organisation called WWOOF which puts volunteers in touch with farms who want help in exchange for board and lodgings.
The farm is run by a lovely South African couple, Hannes and Jeanne, along with her daughter Tara. It is in a beautiful setting amongst rolling green hills just outside a small town called Volksrust, about 3 hours drive east of Johannesburg. Hannes and Jeanne both work full time and employ 6 local workers to run the farm on a day to day basis but depend on their volunteer workforce for more project orientated stuff.
The farm is about 35 hectares and is incredibly diverse with dairy cows, horses, pigs, ducks, chickens, turkeys, geese, emu, pigeons, rabbits and an extensive vegetable and herb garden.
Our accommodation was perfect, a little tin roofed cottage on the edge of the lake. It was a simple affair with no electricity and an outside solar shower with compost loo but it suited us down to the ground.
We arrived at the same time as a couple of German girls with an American couple already in situ who could show us the ropes.
With 7 cows being milked on the farm the first major task to get our heads round was processing all the milk - about 30 litres a day to turn into cheese, yoghurt and butter - a constant battle to stay on top of!
Other jobs we took on included building a couple of new compost loos, and the bigger project of building a cold room on the side of the house for storing cheeses, cured meats and preserves.
There were also lots of other activities such as milking the cows, bottle feeding a little piglet whose mother had died, collecting eggs and endlessly patching fences that the pigs were breaking through.
The farm hasn't been all work, we have had the opportunity to get to know quite a few of the locals, including a memorable night playing poker till the early hours at Mark the Irishman's restaurant. We still have the shirts on our backs, but only just!:-)
Christmas and New Year were both fun and were all the better for being celebrated in the sun J
We finally left the farm on 9th January to head down to the Cape to meet up with Ralph's Dad and partner Liz. We have decided to come back to Donkey Valley at the beginning of February for another stint as our work there is not quite done!