That Time We Agreed to ‘House Sit’ a Permaculture Farm

Remember how I told you we’d be spending October woofing on a sustainable permaculture farm in De Rust?

Well, it turns out we’re not so much woofing as we are house-sitting the place.

The first sign that all was not as we’d assumed was when Ross took us on a tour of their cob house and upon venturing into the main bedroom, announced, “This is where you’ll be sleeping.”

Sporty and I looked at one another quizzically but refrained from saying anything. Admittedly, the view from the stable door at the foot of the bed was distractingly breathtaking.

Somewhat less appealing was the throwaway comment that followed.

“We usually sleep with the door open. We only close the lower half in summer to keep the snakes out.”

Um, snakes? 

Sporty and I both nodded politely as if that were the most normal thing in the world. Later, we sat down in the lounge to have tea with Kathryn and iron out the details.

“Erm, I think there may have been a misunderstanding,” Sporty said tentatively, “We were under the impression we’d be woofing, not taking care of the place in your absence.”

“Yes,” smiled Kathryn, “we’re planning a trip overseas.”

Overseas? As in, not in the country?

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“What exactly would we be required to do while you’re away?” I asked, visibly sweating bullets by this point.

You must understand that for a born and bred city girl like me, wrapping my head around the idea of woofing in the middle of nowhere was feat enough. Coming to grips with the fact that we’d be left to our own devices?

Let’s just say it was going to take more than a cup of herbal tea to calm me down.

What it Takes To Look After a Permaculture Farm

Kathryn ran through our duties. Along with tending the food forest, watering the olive grove, feeding the chickens, scrubbing down the pool, and stoking the fire bath, there was the not-insignificant matter of taking care of the guest cottage, which, she added, was fully booked for the entire time we’d be there.

Helpfully, they have an amazing lady who comes in to clean and make up the cottage between stays. Unhelpfully, she’s not that reliable. This means that if she doesn’t pitch Sporty and I will be tasked with the responsibility.

We’re no strangers to housework and we’re certainly not prissy, so in theory, it didn’t seem like that big of an ask. But then Kathryn added a throwaway comment of her own. Apparently, it had taken them a year to get their Trip Advisor ratings back up to five stars following the previous house sitter’s botched attempt at taking care of things.

No pressure, mind you. 

We continued our conversation outside, while Kathryn showed us the nursery, fire bath, and outdoor laundry.

Wide view of the permaculture farm

“We’ve bombarded you with a bunch of questions, isn’t there anything you’d like to know about us?” I asked. “What about testimonials or character references?”

“We’ll just have to trust that you’re reliable,” she responded in what can only be described as a truly Zen-like fashion.

We left there with our heads reeling. On the one hand, it was a spectacular opportunity and we were both super keen to get out of the city for a while. On the other, the magnitude of the task was a tad daunting.

The first thing we did on arriving back at our friend Inky’s house (HQ for the meet ‘n greet road trip) was quaff a couple of glasses of wine in quick succession. By which point we were no longer sober enough to talk through the details of this ‘chance of a lifetime’ offer.

Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You – Like Look After A Permaculture Farm!

feel the fear and do it anyway

“You know how people are always saying you should do one thing every day that scares you?” I asked Sporty.


“I reckon if we do this we’ll probably get quadruple returns on our bravery investment! After all, this isn’t just common or garden take-a-cold-shower kind of scary. It’s waaaaayyyy bigger than that.”

“I’m not sure that’s how it works, but I like where you’re going with it,” said Sporty agreeably.

My life right now is about as safe and boring as one can get. Which, by default, means Sporty’s is similarly so. Although we did start going to Pilates classes recently…but I digress.

We need to get out of our comfort zone before we fall asleep or die of boredom.

We decided to make a pros and cons list before coming to a decision about the farm. We ended up with a long list of pros and a few concerning cons. For example: What if we burn the homestead down? What if we piss the guests off? What if we flood the olive grove or lose the chickens?

“Let’s sleep on it,” I suggested, pouring us another glass of organic Shiraz.

[Tweet “”Sometimes all you need is a big leap of faith.” —Sean Bean”]

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Still undecided, we met a friend for lunch a few days later. We explained our misgivings to her and received an indignant splutter in response.

“The Universe has dropped a gift in your lap! You absolutely have to do it!” she said, stabbing a dolmade to make her point.

She wasn’t wrong.

With literally no effort at all, we’d landed our first long-term house sit in Oudtshoorn. When we mentioned needing somewhere to stay in the interim, the opportunity to take care of Numbi Valley for the exact period we were sans accommodation presented itself.

What on earth were we even thinking? Hell yes, of course we’ll do it.