Cape Town - Searching for gifts to enhance meals, I visited De Rustica Olive Estate, near De Rust in the Klein Karoo, which owes its success to good soil, cold wet winters, dry summers, sunshine and pure mountain waters.
Established in 2005, with the first groves planted in 2006, by 2012 De Rustica had scooped the SA Olive Awards.
During my brief tour, I was told that, in addition to its own olives, the estate buys from local farmers. There are two options: charging a pressing fee or buying their product outright.
De Rustica produced 50 000 litres of olive oil in 2012, 100 000 litres in 2013 and hopes to build this up to 200 000 over the next five years. Though I was given a tour of the premises, the presses were silent, this being the wrong time of the year.
Next I popped into the Plaaswerf Lentemark, on the road between De Rust and Uniondale. Every year, over the last weekend in September, this well-attended market raises funds for cancer.
Martie van der Westhuizen, on whose farm it is staged, said this was the third such market. Four women, Martie among them, organise exhibitors from far and wide. “We find different ones every year,” she said, adding that many were located through Facebook.
I spent a couple of happy hours there, among the fabulous variety of goods, and came away armed with some unusual stuff. I also tucked into a superb cottage pie and salads. The atmosphere was great.
“One man told me he hates flea markets,” said Martie, “but this is nothing like a flea market.” That same man, she said, went away with R2 000 worth of goodies.
Next on the route-map was a visit to Willowmore where the local high school was commemorating its centenary. The town was pumping with former students and teachers, though the school itself looked somewhat sad and neglected.
Country folk sure know how to party. On the Friday night, the family with whom I was staying attended a spit braai in Willowmore (a 60km journey from their farm, about 15km of that on dirt road).
Old and young alike danced up a storm until the early hours, but emerged bouncy the next day… with no signs of a hangover. Maybe the country air swept away any symptoms of over-indulgence.
On the Saturday afternoon, it was again time to head for Willowmore, along with my hostess who was one of the co-ordinators of all the meals supplied over the weekend. Tables were decorated and food was prepared for the celebratory dinner that night. The Springboks were playing the Wallabies that afternoon, and the match was relayed on giant screens in one of the halls. Touchingly, when our team sang the national anthem, everyone in the hall leapt to their feet and joined in. When last did you see city folk do that?
The evening dinner, complete with the usual tedious speeches, had a fascinating slide show running in the background, showing life at the school over the years. So, even as a non-resident, I was swept up in memories of the past.
We arrived back on the farm at 1am, only to return the next morning for a special church service, followed by tea. In restaurants and at picnic sites, people were still reliving their youth before dispersing to towns across the country.
My hosts recently bought land surrounding the tiny hamlet of Miller, north of Willowmore, which has fallen into disrepair. They intend to restore the former workers’ houses, as well as the blacksmith’s forge, and plans for this were discussed as we walked around, soaking up some of Miller’s atmosphere.
Finally, Willowmore residents are eagerly looking forward to the staging of the World Show of South African Boerbokke (goats) in their town next year. In this way, country folk often take great pride in their inheritance and the unfolding of life. - Sunday Tribune
Martie van der Westhuizen: 082 421 3113; e-mail: [email protected]