Category Archives: Reflection

A hidden geography

The longer I live alone here, off-grid in Suurbraak, managing my son (Matt) and daughter-in-law’s (Sasha) small Niche Unity farming operation, the more absorbed I become in what I call a hidden geography, captured also in a short film by Green Renaissance:

 

Ostensibly, the film is a creation of Justine du Toit (producer), Michael Raimondo (director), Warren Smart (cinematographer), and Jackie Viviers (editor) all of Green Renaissance.

Back left clockwise: Jackie Viviers (editor), Michael Raimondo (director), Justine du Toit (producer) and Warren Smart (cinematographer)

My sense, however, is of deeper processes at work. Let me try to explain.

Seeing

For me the film was uncanny, as I had been looking for both pairs of my glasses up until minutes before Justine and Michael’s arrival to show me the rough cut of their movie. While searching, the question popped into my mind: ‘Hendrik, what aren’t you seeing?’, and then as if to reinforce the question halfway through their movie hanging in the barn were my glasses.

Déjà vu

For me seeing my glasses hanging in the barn evoked a sense of déjà vu, but what of the viewer?

The film opens in darkness, with nothing to see, just the sound of milking: ‘whoosh, whoosh’, cut to (narrative text is indicated in italics): And there’s nothing else, just you in this goat world, cut to Daisy’s eyes looking over the gate at the three of us inside the barn (Daisy is the matriarch) followed by the piano score and movie title, What actually IS superimposed over a close-up of a rather sinister image of one of the goat’s eyes (see the screen grab below),

What aren’t we seeing?

perhaps reminding us that goats are intimately associated with the occult – as in that which is hidden.

My sense is that the tension set up by the goats’ eyes juxtaposed with the glasses hanging in the barn lie at the heart of this little movie.

Loss

So if the movie is about seeing, what should we be seeing?
Is it a case of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get): photogenic goats, an old man sounding off, footage of the luscious Suurbraak valley or is what we should be seeing invisible: as in that from which the visible emerges (the surrounding darkness out of which the goat’s eye peers, comes to mind)?

Certainly it’s not WYSIWYG, as the tight edits, narrative and voice-overs signal: It’s deep, deep stuff (Kashkha looking back into the camera). Humans have lost respect for animals (Daisy looking into the barn). Batteries and feedlots… If we don’t look after our animals and we just turn them into food factories … (aforementioned glasses, fade to antique Chinese urn, fade to transgenerational photographic image of Matthew glass raised as if toasting his father, fade to steaming clay and ash espresso cup from the Camino, referencing Sasha, born French, fade to barometer indicating stormy).

For me the movie reaches into what is below the surface and has been lost.

Hidden geography

So what has been lost?

I spend most of my day caring for and thinking about the needs of all the animals on the farm. They, in turn, are continuously conscious of my presence.

Each provides a gateway to other, or what might traditionally be described as God. I provide the animals with a sense of security, governance and routine. They put me in touch with that which is primordial (William Blake’s The Tyger comes to mind). This mutuality is the hidden geography.

This self-same geography Justine most likely sensed when she interjected: “If only we had had a camera here to capture your saying that.” Michael’s searching interview questions that evoked my responses helped articulate it. Warren’s saturated, pregnant footage conveyed it. Justine and Michael’s brief to Jackie must have spoken to it. Jackie’s uncanny, David Lynchian edits framed it.

All mentioned above, as also the goats, sensing something important was happening, helped us see: if we don’t respect them …the animals are lost, and their loss is our loss.

There’s rustic and there’s rustic

“Rustic is in,” Lianne assured me. “You must see the rustic bed made from pallets and lights in Pinterest” (see below)

The rustic bed that Lianne loved in Pinterest
The rustic bed that Lianne loved in Pinterest

Continue reading There’s rustic and there’s rustic

Portent

I manage a small agroecology farming operation in Suurbraak on behalf of my son (Matt) and daughter-in-law (Sasha). On my return Japie Present reported that when he had tried to secure the ducks and chickens for the night he wasn’t able to find the fourth duck.

Continue reading Portent

Seven black wattles


Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savour it. This makes it hard to plan the day. But if we forget to savour the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, savouring must come first (E.B. White)


“But Louis,” I remonstrated, “Look behind you. There’s a forest of black wattles.”

Continue reading Seven black wattles

Malthusian juncture in the history of our planet

Kavin Senapathy in Forbes Magazine: Note To Neil Young: Monsanto Isn’t Evil, And GMOs Are Harmless. My reply (edited):


Ms Senapathy … I wonder whether you have listened to ‘The Monsanto Years’ appropriately. In other words, not only in your head.

Continue reading Malthusian juncture in the history of our planet

Factory farming

You should be prepared to pay up to twice the going price for the cheese I make from Daisy’s milk so that it’s not necessary for me to be cruel to her – or go without,

Factory farming is farming that has moved from the land to the factory/barn/cage/sow stall (Free Ranger)

Some days ago, I participated in a conversation on Twitter about factory farming between Free Ranger, GrassConsumerAction and The Farmer’s Weekly; which I afterwards shared with Patsy when she delivered a basket of organic vegetables from her garden, and who also asked what factory farming is? I repeated Free Ranger’s definition quoted above

Continue reading Factory farming

Our responsibility towards the animals we farm

The message I glean from our goats: is it necessary also to disrespect us?

Early morning I looked at Daisy (matriarch of a herd of four adult and six baby goats) standing at the entrance to the enclosure, and asked her please to let Kashka through, whose turn it was to be milked. Daisy stepped aside, and Kashka slipped in.

Surprised, I gratefully responded, “Thank you mama. Thank you.”

Daisy looked back at me with those clear, yellow glass eyes of hers and flashed, “No problem”, turned aside to meditate in the sun.

Continue reading Our responsibility towards the animals we farm

On Eating Meat

“Dad, there’s never a good time,” Matt explained, “because they trust you right to the end.”

I am looking after my son and daughter-in-law’s small, off-grid farming operation in Suurbraak. Since taking over the operation, their 3 mother goats have each given birth to 2 kids. The other day Sasha (my daughter-in-law) returned for a few days. On one of these she slaughtered one of the male kids.

Continue reading On Eating Meat

What happens after trust is lost?

I noticed a hard cyst on Pegasus the goat (see above and the footnote). I was staying on Matt and Sasha’s plot in Suurbraak (footnote). The following day the cyst was oozing. Sasha explained via email how to treat it (footnote).

Continue reading What happens after trust is lost?

Camus, on the heart

I have spent ten years winning something which I find priceless: a heart free of bitterness

(Albert Camus quoted in ‘The Heart of Albert Camus’ in Watson, Steven (2012:174). The Music in the Ice. Penguin, Cape Town