I enjoyed being alone on the farm. Going to bed early and getting up even earlier. Preparing water for my morning-coffee on a gas stove in a kettle that whistles when the water boils. Reading books under shady trees and walking the dogs among old ruins. Seeing the goats return from the pasture at sunset to be reunited with their young ones and watching them drink – fresh, warm goat’s milk. Digging for veldkos.
I am no farmer, and will never be irrespective of how much bliss is to be found in this simple, slow-paced life. I am too impractical, non-technical and restless. Where others can match ewe with lamb, I see no distinction. Of nuts and bolts, I know nothing and when asked for a specific spanner, I first have to find my reading glasses and reach for an oil-stained manual. Useless!
A night’s soft penetrating rains bring only joy and expectations of a much-improved season. Thankfulness.
The drive back to the city was quiet, partly because it was the end of the quiet break, but also because the capital city was surrounded by ominous-looking thunderclouds.
Within a few minutes of arriving back home, I found myself standing in the pelting rain and hail, knee deep in icy water trying to force open a metal gate leading to the neighbour’s house to let stormy waters out. Behind me was a gushing river of more ice and water pouring in from the street, bringing with it precious pot plants and garden artifacts.
With the pressure, the gate did not want to open, but I kept banging at the lock with a shovel. Screams from somewhere in the house. Rising water. More ice. Flooded house. More futile screams and panic-driven expletives.
I manage to grab a single pot-plant from the stream of ice and debris that streamed past as the door opens. A blue dustbin. More pot-plants. Gone. Branches and leaves. Clusters of compressed hail. Gone.
The house and yard had become an icy-cold river.
Inside she stood with great disbelief. Ankle deep in water that covered what once was a floor.
“Jy gaan swart voet kry”, she said. I assumed she meant frost-bite; from where I looked my feet and legs looked only blue, but I could not be too sure, it was too dark.
Out of nowhere and in no time the neighbours arrived. With mops and towels and vacuum pumps, and lots of care and determination.
In no time we pumped 100 liters of water from the guest room alone, shoveled mud from the kitchen and living room, all whilst the cats witnessed the madness from the only dry spot in the house, the bed. When the rain stopped and most of the water and mud cleared, we retrieved our dustbin and plants from the neighbours’ yard and ordered pizza.
I am writing this from the very kind neighbour’s dry kitchen table. The same man who cleared the living room floor of mud, water and plant debris. His kindness has not stopped yet. For his compassion I am forever grateful and thankful, as I am for those who brought a hammer and the vacuum pump. Their integrity I have doubted many times before – but no more. I am deeply ashamed of myself, I can assure you.
With the cleaning-up in full swing, I have turned my thoughts to the most appropriate way to say “thank you”. Perhaps koeksisters is most appropriate. In our family it has been used as gifts for ages – something homemade, sweet and comforting. Making koeksisters from scratch takes time, but so does saying thank you and meaning it.
I have included Mrs. De Villier’s recipe here. It is traditional and it is good.
The key to a juicy koeksister (no one wants a piece of dry, fried dough) is to dunk a hot koeksister in cold syrup. That way the dough absorbs more syrup. I have made these many times with all kinds of different flavoured syrups: orange, naartjie, lime, and lemongrass-and-makrut lime. Use your imagination: make your koeksisters big or small. Twist them or plait them, but make them well and with love and care.
Carry no prejudice and show no anger to those around you.
They may care more than what you think.