A little while ago we shared about the Foundations for Farming course held at T’Niqua. These are a couple of pictures of the delicious results of our efforts.
The weekend of 21 – 23 February saw a successful Foundations for Farming course being held at T’Niqua. Led by Royden Fisher and microbiologist, Adré Kleynhans, around 20 delegates from all walks of life were taught the foundations for farming God’s way. Africa is hungry – for food and for knowledge on how to provide for its children. The aim of Foundations for Farming is to empower communities firstly to feed themselves, and secondly to generate income from surplus crops. It emphasises four principles:
1. On time
2. At standard
3. Without waste
4. With joy
Farmers need to be ready to plant in September. This involves planning in advance, preparing compost and planting to precise specifications. A good practice is to begin a new pile of compost every Monday (or a day that suits you to stick by weekly) and weed the planting area every day. All waste products are returned to the earth to prepare the soil for planting. Reaping the rewards of hard work and seeing the result of diligent farming should be a joyous process.
The course began on Friday evening with Royden opening in prayer and then the gathering being led by music-man, Stefan, in worship. Royden gave a brief introduction about Foundations for Farming acknowledging what God has given and restoring His order. Before handing over to Adré, Royden ended with a profound thought: “There is no escalator to success – you have to take the stairs, one step at a time.”
Adré had everyone go outside and stand in a circle. She held a ball of string and introduced herself, wrapping the string around her arm. Then she tossed the ball across the circle to someone else, who also needed to introduce themselves. As the ball went around and across the circle, the web of string became larger and more intricate. Adré explained that this is how we are bonded as a community when working together towards a common goal. Everyone sang together the old song “Bind us together Lord, Bind us together, with chords that cannot be broken…” The evening was rounded off with dinner of a scrumptious bobotie and friendly chatter around the fire in the boma.
Day 2 began with breakfast together on a sunny Saturday morning, followed by Royden opening in prayer and members taking turns to read passages from the bible. Adré then proceeded to explain Foundations for Farming and the essentials for compost-making.
The Foundations for Farming logo is representative of the elements needed for successful farming:
the droplet – water
the blue arch – oxygen
the orange arch – sunlight
green – vegetation
dark brown – soil
light brown – the blanket
The composition of soil is vitally important in the farming process. Did you know that in 1 gram of soil there are 1 billion bacteria, 5 to 10 meters of fungi, 2000 to 10000 amoebas, 200 to 500 cilliates and 5000 to 15000 flagellates? There are also two important food webs – the anaerobic chain in the bottom layers of soil which make nutrients and don’t need oxygen to survive; and the aerobic chain which needs oxygen and is found in the top layers where vegetables are planted. With this in mind, it was explained why ploughing the land is not conducive to preparing healthy soil as the anaerobic organisms in the deeper earth are brought to the surface and exposed to oxygen, which kills them; and the aerobic organisms in the top soil are turned under and starved of oxygen.
Compost should ideally have a Carbon-Nitrogen ratio of between 25:1 and 30:1. Nitrogen is produced by green products such as grass cuttings, weeds and vegetable peelings and provide sugar which converts into energy (heat) to encourage healthy bacteria. Carbon is produced by the brown products such as dead leaves and straw. Compost needs enough water for the amoebas and other organisms to move about and do their work.
Once the theory was covered everyone went out into the garden to put it all into practice. An area was measured into 1 metre square and then the green, brown and manure products were mixed with water and then layered – first brown, then green, then manure until the pile was complete. Heaps need to be turned once a week or when it is hot to release the heat and allow more oxygen to flow through. Adré also demonstrated preparing a patch for planting once compost is ready. Beginning with a blanket of straw and measuring out the area into 30cm lengths for correct spacing. A good tip is to use a matchbox for measuring depth with the matchbox height being equal to 1cm, the width being 3cm and the length being 5cm. An interesting snippet of information for organic farming is that healthy plants give off pheromones which act as a natural pesticide, while unhealthy plants also give off a different pheromone which attracts pests.
Lunch of lasagne and carrot cake dessert was followed by Royden wrapping up the day’s lessons and the connections that were being forged over the weekend were bound in planning the way forward to work together to take this concept out into the communities where it would have a larger impact. The weekend ended with a Sunday morning service before everyone said their goodbyes, taking their new-found knowledge and sense of purpose with them.
We were asked to bring our horse and carriage to participate in Wittedrift School’s sports day by one of the house teams for their parade heralding the start of their games. The first consideration was getting the horses and carriage to the school by 8am for the parade. Our horses have never been in a horse box, and it was a little questionable as to whether they would even fit into a horsebox made for regular-sized horses. We went to fetch a hired box and the morning before, we had a practice run with Mandla. It was clear that we could only fit one of the Percherons in the box – and, as we discovered when transporting him, the car would only be able to pull the weight of one up the hills leading out of Plettenberg Bay.
Mandla was an absolute star on his first box rehearsal. Looking rather regal in his purple sweat-blanket and leg bandages, and with his poll-guard secured to protect his head he was gently, and easily coaxed into the box with food. A short drive around the garden had us all at ease that he would be a calm passenger and we let him go back to his herd for the afternoon.
The morning began at 5:30 with plaiting and brushing Mandla to handsome perfection before loading him in the box for the drive to Wittedrift, with the carriage being towed by the other vehicle. We arrived to many students all preparing for their games, and the team participating with Mandla awaiting their carriage. With quadbikes and cars roaring, Mandla and carriage made their entrance with Kirsten calmly driving him onto the field to the sounds of Chariots of Fire, bearing his two passengers aptly dressed in Olympic Games attire.
We were all incredibly proud of Mandla as he kept his cool through all the blaring loudspeakers and music, offloading his passengers safely before leaving the field.
When I have seen horses bowing or performing complicated movements I have often thought that it must have taken hours of training to teach the horses, but today I saw it done in less than a minute. All it took was a carrot and I was amazed that it seemed the most natural thing for the horses. The groom who cares for the four horses has previously worked with polo ponies and racehorses and seems to know much about their care, and suggested these exercises to help strengthen the horses and keep their muscles supple for when they are pulling the carriage.
Beginning with Mandla – who LOVES carrots – the groom stood by his side, holding the carrot towards Mandla’s hindquarters where he curled his neck around in a good stretch to reach the carrot. This was repeated a few times on both sides. Next, the groom held a carrot just between Mandla’s front legs. Mandla effortlessly tucked his head down to reach it and then surprised me with an impressive bow as he took his carrot.
Weeky has had me giggling on previous occasions with his own free-willed stretching out in the field. He begins by placing his forelegs out in front of him, then splaying his hindquarters and leaning back into a gigantic stretch just like a dog would. He was also willing to learn to stretch for carrots but didn’t quite go into a full bow like Mandla.
Not to be outdone by his two friends, I’m not entirely sure if Troy loves carrots or attention more. Either way he was eager to give stretching a go too and had me spellbound with his agility, but then again he is still just a baby and should be more supple than his older companions.
Storm, with his trust issues wasn’t too eager to cooperate with the groom, and when I gave it a go with him at first he was more interested in his hay than the carrots. A little later when he was down to the last of his hay, I tried with him again and he sweetly did a few side arches and an attempt at stretching down for his hay. Baby steps with this sweet boy have him becoming more comfortable a little more each day.
So, while they aren’t yet bowing on command these gentle giants are off to a good start towards greater strength and flexibility.