It works best in Afrikaans, but translated, it means a farmer makes a plan. Basically it’s about improvising to solve problems and it’s been one of my guiding principles all my life. File picture: Reuters
There’s a well-used saying among farming folk: ’n boer maak 'n plan.

It works best in Afrikaans, but translated, it means a farmer makes a plan. Basically it’s about improvising to solve problems and it’s been one of my guiding principles all my life.

I was fortunate to grow up on a Karoo farm more than an hour’s drive over gravel roads from the nearest town.

This meant we couldn’t amble across to the local garage when we needed a tin of oil, or call in a plumber when we had a leaking pipe, or an electrician when the lights went out.

We had to “make a plan” and fix the problem ourselves. Strips of old motor tube replaced the springs on screen doors, tennis balls cut in half served as efficient stoppers for water troughs. (I once surprised the staff of The Friend newspaper in Bloemfontein by repairing a leaking rooftop water tank with an old tennis ball.

People in neighbouring buildings were quite surprised, too, to see a naked newspaper reporter cavorting about on the roof clutching half a tennis ball and then vanishing into a water tank. When the correct tool for the job is not available, you have to use the next best thing - and “maak ’n plan”. I sometimes think agricultural colleges could make money on the side by running special courses in self-sufficiency for city folk.

It could be called Survival for City Dummies and include lessons such as “A hundred uses for wire coat hangers” and “how to select the best shoe for hammering a nail”.

I suppose it would also have to include a course called: “Basic first aid for people who used the wrong shoe to hammer a nail”.

Most of the things around us can be used for purposes other than those for which they were designed. Farmers learn this soon. Maybe municipalities could learn this too.

When that cherry-picker lorry is not being used to replace street lights, it could earn the city a few useful rands being rented to home owners who need to paint their upstairs window frames, or even pick cherries. Once when an enthusiastic aunt from the city bent a farm motorbike by crashing it into a fence, we straightened the frame by using two tractors pulling in opposite directions. Maybe the municipality has idle tractors that could do profitable work for panel beaters.

Last Laugh

A farmer came into Cape Town to buy some tools, but when he got into the city he couldn’t find a parking place for his bakkie. Eventually he stopped in a quiet street and left the engine running. Before going into the hardware store he stopped a passer-by and asked: “Could you please watch my bakkie for a few minutes while I go into the shop.”

The man drew himself up importantly and snorted: “I am a cabinet minister.”

That’s okay,” said the farmer, “I’ll trust you anyway.”

* "Tavern of the Seas" is a daily column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs. Biggs can be contacted at [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus