2016 Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival


The 7th annual Schreiner Karoo Writers Festival took place 21 – 24 July. Lovers of literature and all things Karoo were treated to close encounters with well known authors and a chance to mingle with like-minded spirits. Here are some of the highlights Toby and I attended: 

Karoo INKspiration was an introduction workshop on painting with ink, bleach and water, using the landscapes, textures and buildings of the Karoo as inspiration. Theresa Hardman is a P.E.based artist and architect with a special place in her heart for the Karoo and particularly Cradock. The workshop was thoroughly enjoyed by all! 

 Mike Hardwich – Vet and conservationist enthralled a captive audience with the trials and tribulations of his career as a country vet. He has worked with wild and domesticated animals for over 39 years. All of his enjoyable tales are documented in his 3 books and proceeds go towards ‘Dr Mike Hardwich Foundation’ – to help animals of the less fortunate. Find more info here.

Liz De Wet – Archivist at the Cory Library for Humanities research presented a collection of Lidbetter photographs. Catherine Knox is a textile artist with a particular passion for stitch and natural fibre. Her work can be seen at The Studio, Donkin Street, Bedford. Her creative touch and impressive stall was much appreciated by all, one of the Festival organizers. Browsing through second hand books for sale at bargain prices. We came home with far too many books and not enough weekend! “In this wild and tender place may we ever hear the sound of truth, in the whispering of stars. In the turning of windmills, in the silence of the veld” – Antony Osler.

Poetry, politics, mindfulness, laughter, tears, and honesty were the order of the day as this enigmatic and inspirational man wove the story of his Buddha and Zen wisdom. He gave an enraptured crowd a fascinating glimpse into his books and encounters with human kind whilst simultaneously imprinting his playfulness, appreciation, insight and perception.

Thanks to the sponsors of the festival, the National English Literacy museum and all the organizers for a spectacular event! From one festivity to the next…don’t miss our monthly Farmers Market in Cradock on Orange Grove. An exciting new addition are 4 beautiful donkeys…see you there!


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  

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 orangegrovekaroo@gmail.com

Grow Your Own Oyster Mushrooms from Supermarket Bought Shrooms

  In our quest to become more self sufficient I’ve become mildly obsessed with growing our my own  vegetables. Another reason for my interest in gardening is that the selection of fresh produce on offer locally is miserably uninspiring…one of the downsides to living in a smal town. Browsing through the veg  department at Shoprite I  spotted some Oyster mushrooms. It’s the first time I’ve seen them in Cradock so I grabbed a punnet as I vaguely recalled reading somewhere online they could be grown from a stalk. Here is how I did it: 

  You’ll need to find a store that has fresh oyster mushrooms. What you’re looking for are mushrooms that have the white stuff (mycelium) near the base. That is where they grow from.

Next, I cut the stem pieces and put them in a container with used coffee grounds. Our local coffee shop saves all their used grinds for us, thanks True Living!
You could use a plastic bag (with holes cut for them to grow out from) but I used an old colander which had the holes already. I filled the colander with coffee grinds and scattered the mushroom butts near the top with a layer of grinds over them. The coffee grinds should be moist but not wet. To create the humidity necessary to grow mushrooms I put the colander into a sealed 25 litre plastic container. After a few weeks at room temperature the mycelium will have taken over the coffee grounds and at this point you add the mycelium to straw. After 14 days you’ll see that the mycelium has taken over the straw. At about day 19 you’ll see tiny mushrooms forming. You’ll be harvesting on about day 26! 

Fried with garlic, butter and parsley they’re ridiculously tasty. Seriously. Not only that, oyster mushrooms are extremely expensive when purchased from a supermarket – 250 bucks per kilo! So it really makes sense to grow your own. 

I think next I’ll try ordering some different kinds of mushroom spawn from Fun Guys Gourmet 

N.G.Kerk – Cradock Church


The N.G. Church in  Cradock is iconic. I couldn’t help wanting to know more about this majestic church that stands proudly in the middle of Cradock. A replica of St-Martins-In-The-Field it was build in 1968. 

The first Dutch Reformed congregation was established in 1824 and was the first church in Cradock. The well-known President of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger, was christened (by a Welsh pastor) in this church in 1826 and his name appears in the register. The congregation was too large for the old church and it was decided that a larger church was needed. Initially a building comitee and fund was started by a few members, whose total combined contribution was £600. The first comitee meeting took place25 April 1863. It was yet to be another 133 meetings before the first stone was laid!

They decided they would only go ahead once they had £5000 in their collection. The stone was sourced from the West side of the Fish River. Due to the size of the new church some if the graves had to be dug up and moved. John Goodman was the first tender to be awarded. After completing £5000 worth of work he was given an £80 advance that was the last they saw of him as he ran off to fight as a Captain in the Basutho war in the Free State. In March 1865 a new contract was signed with George Wallace and it was agreed that the church would be completed within three years at a cost of £16350. 

The last stone laid formed part of the tower and weighed 500 pounds.the stained glass windows were imported from England.  

 In July 1868 the committee advertised the imminent opening of the church. The official opening took place on a Thursday, 20 September 1868.

541 Wagons arrived, 2500 visitors and 15 Dominees!

George Wallace was apparently reluctant to hand over the keys due to a misunderstanding involving payment. This was settled and the grand opening took place. The church seats an incredible 1400 people.  Dominee De Beer conduct the opening sermon in Dutch and that evening Dominee Stegmann conducted the English sermon. 

Total cost £24500.

  First four photos courtesy of Hein Van Tonder

Born to Be Free 

“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened ” ~ Anatole France 

We planned to release the meerkats in Spring to give them the best chance of survival. Sid, however, had other ideas. 

They we born in December 2014 and the little family has since been kept in a 350 square metre (open air) enclosure. This was always a short term measure to ensure their survival and we had no intentions of keeping the little family longer than necessary. I noticed recently that Sid’s demeanor changed and she seemed to be frustrated and stressed at being kept in the enclosure. We took the decision to release them early on 11 June. We took them to the burrows and set them free. Sid’s reaction was priceless! She kept running back to me, jumping on my lap and nuzzling me like crazy. If an animal could say “thank you”… her actions said that and more. 

Just  two days later Toby and I were sitting at the fireside when Sid appeared. We always knew she would be back and most probably without her offspring…we just didn’t think it would be so soon. She was back to her old ways..lounging on the couch, mingling with the cats and old tricks. 

  I wanted to encourage her to leave as I was concerned about her pups being alone (although at 6.5 months they’re pretty much adults). Toby and I took a walk to the burrows where we left them. Sid followed, stopping every now and then to check out the scene. At the burrows (where we released them) there was no one around. We walked on a bit further to a part of the farm Sid had often hung around prior to having her pups. As soon as I called them I spotted three tails darting through the veld towards us from quite a way off. We really didn’t have any hope of seeing them and it was an incredible moment!   

 Sid crosses a busy dirt road  (the R 337)  to visit us. I’m tempted to put a “Meerkat Crossing” sign up…the neighboring farmers will probably think I’m nuts!              Since spotting them that day we have been back every day to check on them. Each time it is just as incredible and amazing when they come when we call them. I don’t think I will ever get tired of spending time with them and observing their funny habits as they go about their chores. It will be a sad day for us if they chose to move on. My hope is that the little family increases in numbers soon. 

After helping Sid raise her pups over the last six months my belief is even more entrenched – Meerkats belong in the wild and should never be pets. It has been a privilege to spend so much time with these amazing creatures and I hope we can continue helping other Meerkats like Sid.  

   From being the Carer to becoming the Vantage point!

 Thank you to our one and only donor, Fiona Ayerst! I hope you get the chance to see them one day!


Fracking in the Karoo

Admittedly I knew very little about this subject before moving to the Karoo. The people here are justifiably very vocal and emotional about the subject. It is the people living here that stand to lose everything. Hearing their questions and understanding their motives made it all clear to me. It’s pretty simple…the big guys extracting tons of cash, the government getting it’s slice of the pie and the little guys left to deal with the wrecked environment and their livelihoods .

I attended a meeting in Cradock held by “Bundu”, the S.A. subsidiary of the Australian company, Challenger Energy that are very quick to point out they are in fact a South African company. In truth they have found the most perfect “token appointed / headhunted 5% shareholder in the form of Donald Ncube. His credentials and achievements are impeccable. To me this just further arouses suspicion, a well thought out strategy by some guy on top.

The whole problem with this fracking issue is that nobody can precisely predict just how natures networks will evolve in the future. We all want assurances upfront from these companies that nothing during the harvesting of gas will damage our environment. They are the first to admit they cannot and furthermore that it is not their job to do this but it is up to the government. Are you joking?! The same guys that flicked the wrong switch resulting in a 7.5 BILLION rand loss to the economy??! Read about that here

Some interesting facts that came up:
– Landowners on whose property fracking will occur will enter into a “land use agreement”. Money will exchange hands, a contract signed and water results from testing underground will not have to be made public.

– The landowners were upset that full detail was not disclosed in the E.M.P. documents. Stakeholders needed more detailed information to be included in the consultative phase.

– Stakeholders have raised real concerns that have not been addressed which is a massive invasion of landowners rights. How can they decide when they don’t have the proper information?

One farmer quite rightly asked why compensation will only take place between these individuals and more importantly why they have a right to give the go ahead when the community as a whole stands to lose everything.

Ettienne summoned it up well. The gist of what he had to say was that the Karoo has a fragile ecology and this climate and environment is being challenged. Our water is precious and the reality is that it will be compromised. Generations to come will suffer from our greed and lack of foresight. How will these companies compensate for that? What will they do in an event of a major catastrophe? Bundu representative said that it is something that will have to be addressed by local law. His actual words were also “as a director of Bundu I can’t say I have an answer”. Does that not sum it up??? Why are we letting these overseas companies rape our land? Very concerning also is the fact that there are almost 300 farmers in the Cradock district. Fifteen people attended this meeting.