Making a living is not the same as making a life

I have always been a city slicker. Occasionally in life I would venture out of the city and go to a luxury establishment in Franschhoek or Stellenbosch to “get away from it all” and enjoy the country life – albeit it for only a weekend. However, as I entered my thirties, and my corporate job got so hectic that I hardly saw my wife and kids during the week (and often on weekends) the opportunity to go out to the country and run one of these luxury establishments that I used to frequent seemed like an opportunity made in heaven.

So in September 2011 we left the convenience of car hijackings and door to door sales people and moved our family from our gated community lifestyle to our 52 hectare piece of paradise in the quaint and Historic town of Stanford. We packed up our lives (including our small toddler and newly born infant) and bid farewell to Cape Town and everything we knew to start a new and marvellous adventure.

Now, our country lifestyle is rather different than your average farmer. Firstly, we don’t own a tractor, and only a small percentage of my wardrobe is two-tone khaki. My wife is also petrified of all creeping and crawling things as well as flying things as well as inanimate objects that once crawled, crept or flew. She would also prefer if the entire farm was lit up by a super mega-watt security light. Also most country noises and smells freak her out. My Afrikaans skills is baaie shoddy and I can’t really peel a potato let alone plant one. So, pretty rubbish farmers at best.

Natural disasters also seem to happen much more frequently out here in the country. In the first year of running Blue Gum we had experienced a devastating fire as well as 2 debilitating floods. The fire of February 2012 (we had only been here for 5 months) destroyed over 25000 hectares of land and fynbos and very nearly burnt our farmhouse down. I had to evacuate my wife and children to nearby Hermanus and stay on the farm to fight the blaze. Freedom, the gardener and I spent most of that night helping the local firefighters. At one stage, due to my exhaustion and adrenalin, I started shouting: “They can take our lives, but they can never take our FREEDOM!” He must have thought I was as crazy as Mel Gibson. Freedom is sadly no longer with us. Don’t worry – he has just gone back to Zimbabwe.

We then experienced flooding in August and October 2012. We were stuck on the farm for about a week. Fortunately the chef lives on site so we had gourmet tinned food every night.

Our little town has no stoplights and one main intersection. There are no malls, trendy fashion stops or cinemas – which my wife finds particularly difficult. Hermanus just recently opened a Woolworths. There was much celebration in our house… the next month’s credit card bill certainly did hurt though. Just running down to the local grocery store is an hour affair for us out here. No-one delivers pizza here

The internet here is ridiculously slow. It sometimes takes minutes for Google search page to load. The connection has been known to cause physical pain with symptoms including violent shuddering, white knuckles, loss of hair, foul language and shortage of breath. And ultimately, the death of an innocent computer.

However, the pros far outweigh the cons, and if I were to list them all most of you would stop reading after 10 pages or so. The perfect silence, the stars, the safety, the animals, the open spaces and the tranquillity are just a few.

My children are the ones that will really benefit from growing up in the country. They essentially have a 52 Hectare garden. I believe for them the memories of playing in a stream, climbing trees, hiking up to the top of their mountain, fishing, catching frogs and chasing Springbok and Guinea Fowl will never be traded for anything. The pure joy my kids experience when the neighbours cow wanders into our backyard is something to behold.

I often travel back to Cape Town for business meetings. Within a few hours I grow weary of the rat race and the road rage and as I depart the city and leave for home I feel the stress fall away and peace descend. We have found the country life to be simpler, but certainly not easier than living in the city. I believe in each place and experience we are taken through on this journey of life, we are meant to learn a lesson. To get up one more time than we fall, and persevere on.

So two years into our journey we are stronger, physically, than ever before. We are healthier…and happier. We look forward to sharing our small slice of paradise with you one day soon.

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