When you turn off onto the dirt road that leads up to Suidster farm, the only signs of human settlement are two crisp white triangles gleaming from the hilltop.
The two chirpy chimneys offer the only hint of a building. The rest of the home disappears into the mountain that yielded the stones that now clad the walls.
Only once you’ve turned the very last corner, does the steep track reveal the gracious dwelling. A simple A-frame greenhouse, offers a surprising welcome. To the right, a sprawling veggie garden adds another friendly sign of refuge against the untamed, almost brutish landscape. In the background, the house sits like a heavy chameleon against the hillside.
Two west-highland terriers are the first to greet newcomers to this beautiful, off-the-grid home. After spending over a decade in London, owners Ruan and Cobus dreamt of a countryside hideaway that would offer them a calmer lifestyle. Away from the stresses of city life, with its hour long commutes and tight work schedules.
Here, in the mountainous, semi-desert Klein-Karoo region of Southern Africa, the couple built a refuge that would present a very different type of hard work. With the wind on their backs and the bright sun on their brow, their everyday doings now revolve around keeping the water tanks full and their seedlings happy and healthy.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO MOVE OUT TO THE COUNTRYSIDE?
“After many years working in very high-pressured jobs, focusing on saving for the future, building careers and enjoying everything the world had to offer, we looked forward to doing our own thing – living life at a slower pace. Shifting our balance to more time together and less time worrying about the world.”
HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE THE MOVE?
“Well, a lot more sunshine than we’re used to, after almost two decades in the United Kingdom! We now spend a lot more time worrying about the health of our plants than about traditional work… But we are building a future for ourselves here and between building projects, maintenance projects and making sure everything runs to plan, we keep ourselves busy. We also have a lot more time for our passions, including spinning and weaving! (Cobus just completed a beautiful blanket that he wove from yarn that he had dyed and spun by hand).”
HOW WOULD YOU INTERPRET THE CONCEPT OF BALANCE?
“I like the definition of ‘a situation in which different elements are in the correct proportions’. I think the point for me, is to live the life that works for you and works for you now. One person’s balance can be another person’s nightmare!”
IS IT EASIER OR HARDER TO MAINTAIN A WORK-LIFE BALANCE HERE?
“Categorically easier! There is always something to do, work never ends. But it’s very easy here to call it a day, open a lovely bottle of red wine from the vineyard down the road and enjoy the sunset, with nature all around you and your best friend by your side.”
YOUR GREENHOUSE AND VEGGIE GARDEN ARE LOVELY. I SUPPOSE HERE THE CONCEPT OF BALANCE ALSO PLAYS A BIG ROLE?
“Yes, I think one of the key things we’re trying to do, is rebalance our impact on the planet–by minimising our emissions, waste and ecological footprint. We are completely off-grid; power, water and sanitation-wise. Everything we have comes from the sun, our electricity, our heating, the water that gets pumped by the solar pump, and obviously, the veggies that grow in the garden, greenhouse and olive grove.”
HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE NATURAL ENVIROMENT CHANGED NOW THAT YO LIVE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE?
“Interesting question. The first thing that comes to mind, is just how big an impact nature has on you once you escape the city… In our previous lives, we were ruled by clocks; getting up at 4:45am every day to catch the train, the bus to get to work, etc. Now it’s a lot more fluid. In summer, you wake up naturally at 4:30am, because it’s sunny and summer. In winter, you get up at 6:30am, because it’s cold and dark… Then there’s the seasonal produce, the behaviour of the animals at certain times of the year… You just seem to notice and enjoy these things a lot more. There are no distractions, so you are able to see it all. It’s really special.”
YOUR FARM IS INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL. TELL US ABOUT YOUR PLANS TO SHARE THIS BEAUTY AND LIFESTYLE WITH OTHERS.
“Thank you! We’re currently working on finishing two small, self-catering, off-the-grid cottages, which we’re hoping to make available to the public soon. Each has their own secluded setting, with unspoilt views across the valley. It’s been hard work, and we’ve been putting in long hours to make sure they look great and still come in as close to budget as possible. We’re excited to share this beautiful landscape with its pristinely preserved Fynbos flora with other visitors to this region.”