Vukusebenze Shelter

Some husbands get nervous when their wives go to Woolies…Toby starts twitching when I mention I’m going past the shelter. Last time I came home with a bakkie load of things which would have included 2 piglets if they were for sale! Besides being a completely humbling experience I always pick up some gems there – we’ve been searching online for black Victorian tiles that are no longer made, to fix our kitchen..couldn’t believe it when I saw 4 crates of them there at my last visit. Then there’s the 30 liter glass jar that I’ve no idea what to do with but it was awesome (and only 10 bucks)…and the old wooden door frames I’m going to put mirrors in and sell at the Farmers Market. And a colour Laser printer for my new office 😃.

The saying goes that you can judge a town by the way it treats the less fortunate…that is very true. The vibe at the shelter is warm, upbeat and friendly…the people look genuinely happy to work there and Gussie is an incredible woman, the driving force and life of the place.

NGO and BEE compliant,  Vukusebenze literally means “wake up and work” in Xhosa. It was established 7 years ago by Gussie Botha. Through community led workshops it was noted that there was a great need for a shelter for the large numbers of aged, disabled and jobless Cradock residents who went hungry.

The shelter was started with the generous purchase of its building by a local resident, Mr Stander. From its humble beginnings of one pot and a small gas stove, feeding 5 people on its first day, the shelter now feeds up to 120 people a day. On weekends the staff have a break and weekend groups are organized to prepare the meals. Schools such as St Andrews are regular volunteers. During school holidays this number increases as children who normally get their food from the school feeding schemes also come to Vukusebebze for meals. Gussie has recently started ‘Meals on Wheels’, a great initiative where companies sponsor meals for the aged that cannot get the shelter. R160 will sponsor one old age pensioners meals for a month. Currently they feed 20 old age pensioners.

The services they offer have expanded beyond meals to:

KITCHEN: Food distribution, making and selling of bread, cakes, scones, and curry bunnies

SECOND HAND SHOP: Clothes, blankets and other household items sold at exceptionally cheap prices and given to the poor for no cost.

LIBRARY: Sells magazines and books from public donations

COMPUTERS: 5 computers and provides training to underprivileged

NEEDLEWORK: they do repairs, make clothes and train ladies to do needlework and sewing. After completing the training the learners receive a sewing machine with which to start their own business.

WOODWORK: Restoration, training and selling garden furniture.

GARDEN: Produce their our own vegetables for meals provided

LAUNDRY PROJECT: Laundry service offered to the public and guesthouses, ironing press kindly donated by Die Tuishuise. This is very well supported by local businesses.

JOB CREATION: 14 staff members from all communities including people with disabilities. Initially they were all voluntary workers, but recently have been given a small weekly stipend

ACCOMODATION FACILTIES: 6 rooms (28 beds) were built by friends of Vukusebenza from the Netherlands. The bedding and towels were donated. After 7 years these sleeping facilities have become a big income generator. Some people do not have the means to pay, other such as church and other groups pay R30 per person per night and other individuals pay R50 per person per night. Cyclists and groups such as Nuogwaja make use of this accommodation every year.

Gussies philosophy on giving:

“Here we have a system where we say we have to work to eat. So all people who come to eat must have a ticket for a meal. This they get from people who sponsor a book at R50 for ten tickets where people beg for money or food they are given a ticket which they bring and hand in for a plate of food. These ticket books can be purchased from the ACVV and all the NG churches in Cradock. Others must pick up plastic or glass bottles which they hand in for food. We then sell it for an income recycling, simultaneously tidying up Cradock. We also use our discretion and at times will give food to someone who did not visit the shelter. We also have meals on wheels for pensioners who live alone with only old age grant. This is also sponsored by the public.”

This place is inspiring…pay them a visit and ask for a tour…I promise you will leave with a happy heart and a renewed faith in humanity.

If you would like to donate to this worthy cause, you can contact them here:

Vukusebenza Shelter,

5 Cawood Street, Cradock, 5881

Contact Person – Mrs AJ Botha

048 8815 177


Im very sad to relay the passing of both Gussie and her husband within days of each other (completely unrelated incidents). I still vist the shelter on a weekly basis and am happy to report it is going stronger than ever and is in the most capable hands. The staff that worked with Gussie have carried on her vision – I am sure she is smiling down at them!



Farmers Market on Orange Grove



     Our vision was to create a gathering place where people could get together, buy local products and enjoy awesome food. Toby and I have spent the past two weeks working on ‘The Top Shed’ as we call it. It’s a massive 90 square meter shed built initially by his parents to house chinchillas (traded for their pelts). The chinchillas have long since gone and we always wanted to do something with this beautiful building. 

The support from our local community was absolutely amazing, Cradock people are just something else! A big thanks to the super talented, green fingered Cathy Knox for coming all the way from Bedford. To see people enjoying themselves so much was so rewarding. The market will be a monthly event – the last Sunday of every month (besides next month which is the Food Festival

  Elani and Wentzel…true to form your stall was awesome!  Pieter the Coffee Barista from Milas.
  I remember this face from the Very first Karoo Food Festival..standing near pink cupcake
  Karoo Brew sold out within an hour or two!  
  Cathy Knox  

Certified Karoo Meat of Origin

imageimageimageimage  As cattle and game farmers we do not have sheep on our farm. What do we do when we need lamb? We phone a neighbour, select the animal, slaughter and process it ourselves. If you live in the Karoo that’s just how you do things…there’s no popping down to the local Woolies or ordering from a butcher. Some friends of mine are horrified at the thought of slaughtering an animal themselves. I think it’s a far more humane way of sourcing meat…I have seen feedlots and the stress and trauma those poor animals go through. Who knows where that meat came from? If you come to our Farmers Market in Cradock you will be assured of GENUINE Karoo Lamb on the spit!


Giant Earthworms of the Karoo – with Dr Danuta Plisko



Amazing things happen in the Karoo when it rains. The dry, burnt veld turns a chartreuse shade of green and the thirsty land breathes a sigh of relief. And then…the worms come out to play. These worms come to the surface for two reason; they run out of oxygen in saturated soil and they come up to reproduce.
150 Years ago the first specimen was recorded somewhere in the Cape (no accurate records can be found). Dr Danuta Plisko, 88 years young, has dedicated her life to studying these earthworms. She is one of a handful of world renown professionals studying in this field and a more passionate and dedicated woman you would be hard pressed to find. I asked her when and if she planned to retire and her response was “I have retired three times…at 60 they tried to get me out and again at 70. At 80 I wrote my best paper”. To meet this woman was incredible. At the KwaZulu-Natal Musuem she has made a staggering contribution of 6000 jars of specimens she has collected.
I made contact with her on Tuesday 8 March when we managed to collect 4 specimens and she drove through the night from KZN to arrive on our farm at 02h00 9 March. Interestingly these earthworms leave no visible casts on the surface…perhaps a new species Dr Plisko pondered. We eagerly await her paper towards the end of the year to find out!

South Africa has a particularly unique earthworm fauna which is yet to be fully documented. The identification of these specimens requires a particular skill set that is scarce in our country and there is an urgent need for training and funding for work on earthworm taxonomy. A better understanding will help us improve the way we use natural resources and provide insight into this important field.

It is essential that earthworms are properly prepared upon collection otherwise they are useless for taxonomic purposes.
We hope the small part that we have played in this research will shed some more light on this fascinating subject and make the public more aware of this unique species.


Pilgrimage to Schreiners Sarcophagus

  It was great to host the Rhodes Honor students on Orange Grove for their annual pilgrimage to Olive Schreiner’s sarcophagus. After a scrumptious breakfast they headed off…It was a strenuous hike to say the least…Toby led them up the mountain to the Sarcophagus site and then to view the fossil site.  
   Some history on Olive Schreiner…

The famous South African authoress, who, amongst many other literary works, wrote “Story of an African Farm”, lived in No. 9 Cross Street, Cradock, South Africa, in her youth. A pictorial display of her life can be seen in the house. 

Olive, her husband, Samuel Cron Cronwright, their baby and dog, were buried in a sarcophagus on top of Buffelskop Hill which lies between Orange Grove farm and Buffelshoek. 

From the top of Buffelskop Hill one gets a beautiful view across the Great Fish River Valley, the sight which so impressed Olive Schreiner herself, and the reason for her decision to be buried here. 
The walk up the mountain and visit to the gravesite is only recommended for those that are reasonably fit. A full half day is needed to complete this trip.

Story Of An African Farm

Toby and I have often spoken about hosting an artist retreat weekend. A getaway for artists and aspiring artists alike who need a little R & R and who wish to escape the stresses of everyday life. To enjoy the scenic beauty of the Great Karoo, the hospitality, the people and 5 star food and art in a relaxed environment. Our wish is for this to be more than just art classes… we would like people to leave inspired and to take a part of the Karoo back home with them.

By chance we came into contact with Theresa Hardman, a talented architect and artist living in Port Elizabeth currently working towards her PhD. Theresa has strong links with the Karoo as she spent two years researching the origin of Karoo farmhouses in the Cradock district for her Research Masters Degree in Architecture.

The programme of the weekend 8 – 10 April 2016

  • Friday meet and check in at ‘Die Tuishuise’ which will be the accommodation for 2 nights.
  • Friday Afternoon Art Class at Orange Grove Farm 14h00 – 17hoo. Drinks on the patio and dinner at 19h00.
  • Saturday Art Classes in the veld and lunch.  Dinner under the stars.
  • Sunday Morning Classes and lunch.




For more info contact Tracey Michau