An American on a South African Farm

When the group got word that we would be visiting a couple of farms outside of our programmed schedule, I had no idea what to expect. What I encountered was a truckload of fun, literally.

We arrived early in the morning to Adelaide, South Africa to load up in the back of two trucks, or “bakkies” as they are called here, to take us to the farms. As we drove through valleys and climbed mountains with the crisp, winter air slapping our faces to reach our destination, I began to reflect on how great and vast the world is with people, geography, and cultures and how much of it is still left for me to explore. We stopped at one point to snap photographs of Winterhoek Mountain, the third highest in the country.

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Winterhoek Mountain

We finally arrived at our first stop after 45 minutes of riding free through the bush. We were greeted with a full breakfast of sausages, ham, tomato, and cheese snackwiches, cereal, “archies”, hot tea and Winnie, a welcoming, sharp-tongued host. They were getting us full to put us to work to shear goats, or at least to watch them get sheared. Before we loaded up in the bakkies again, we fed an eland and spied kudu, springbok, turkeys, and sheep.

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Feeding the eland

We headed off to the goat shearing center and watched ten workers shear and comb through the collected wool while having the process explained to us. Many of the goats stumbled away bloodied after receiving their haircuts and the process started over again. It was interesting to see the herd of goats become scared and fractious when a human entered the pen to get the next one for shearing. The goats knew what was going to happen and even seemed to show some emotion about the process. Maybe animals are smarter and more intuitive than we give them credit for?

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Angora goat shearing in Winterberg, South Africa

After an hour at the shearing stop, we headed back to the farm house this time to find a buffet of desserts awaiting us. And it wasn’t even noon yet! Am I in fantasyland? Peppermint Custard. Lemon Meringue. Cake. Egg Custard. Fruit and Nut Custard. It was too much to handle – we all acted like five year olds in a candy store. As we collectively groaned for a nap, they ushered us back to the bakkies to make our way to the second farm. This time we were traversing hand built bridges as we sped past ostriches, springboks, and monkeys to our sheep shearing stop. We were greeted with a pack of murino sheep with one chosen one to be sheared by us. However the first thing I noticed is how familiar the sheep faces were to the sheep head we ate within the week. After I got over that, all bets were off! I was ready to shear.

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A murino sheep being sheared

There was no blood on these sheep. There was no team working to collect and comb the wool. It was just a man and his shears. As the group cycled through to shear him, I was deciding if I should give him a high-top fade or put a design in him. It was my turn. I began cutting with precision. The farmer said to me “Great job. Have you done this before?”. I keep cutting. I finish up. I notice blood all over my thumb. I inadvertently cut my thumb on the back edge of the shears. No animals were hurt in this process, only me.

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Shearing sheep

We left to head back to the second farm house, which looked like a home featured in Architectural Digest for an afternoon braai and wine tasting in the home bar.

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Pool, tennis court, and eland

As I sat out by the pool on the patio overlooking their tennis court and eland, I had to take the events of the day in. We finished our steak and potatoes and loaded up the bakkies with our reflections and ourselves to know that we just had a once in a lifetime experience.

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