In 2018 I purchased an old farm school in the Rheenendal district of Knysna, located in the Eden District of the Garden Route, in the Southern Cape.
My intention was to restore this beautiful ± 90 year old building which had been left standing empty for more than a decade and in so doing attempt to breathe new life into it whilst still being respectful of the 'old ways'. I am renovating the building into a residence for myself with an entire section of the building to be developed into a recreational area where people can come and host their specific workshops with an emphasis on creative practices such as art, writing, concept development thus still keeping it as a place of learning and thinking. By providing a space to nurture artistic endeavours and physical health through nutrition and connection to nature, I feel it can be a catalyst for immense growth and healing.
Two of the cottages on the property are the oldest structures on the property and close to 100 years old. Both were built from the clay mud found right here, together with a mix of cow dung and straw. My builder specializes in and has a deep love for this form of mud adobe building. With most of our funds now fast running out we need help to restore these structures. This form of building only uses the materials found in the immediate area, that is mud, straw and dung and some wood for trussing. No concrete, no chemicals. As an extension of these structures and this way of thinking we would like to revive the surrounding grounds of the property via permacultural methods so as to achieve some self sufficiency by growing vegetables, herbs, fruit and egg laying chickens.Using this all-encompassing, holistic approach various initiatives have been born with the school in mind as a venue and place of learning. Combining artistic initiatives and providing a space to host exhibitions for local and visiting artists, with workshops across a broad spectrum of topics from foraging to cooking, floral design and wellness programmes, we feel we could offer individuals an incredible journey here at The School whether as a day visitor or a staying guest
We have completed most of the renovations without any outside investments. The residence plus X 2 rooms offering farm-style accommodation are complete as is the recreation room, offering a venue for a number of creative workshops. The land, which is just under a hectare, has been untouched and neglected for decades and further ravaged by the building process. As the pocket shrinks so our passion and desire to share and develop the land has grown. We require the support to help develop the grounds here and in so doing pass on the knowledge to the interested community. I am especially motivated towards the upliftment and empowerment of the women in the community. Rheenendal is located in the heart of the Garden route, one of the most beautiful areas in Southern Africa. 'Rheenendal’ is actually the name of the township here (also known as Keurhoek) and the contrast between this area and the surrounding area is stark and shocking. Green, cultivated lands and farms and forests suddenly cease and become a bleak landscape of brown rutted earth, sheet metal with not a dot of green to be seen. One of the initiatives could be the setting up of a tree propogating project that young women can initiate and in time introduce trees to their homes encouraging others to do the same. Likewise they could introduce backyard vegetable gardens assisting with their families’ wellbeing and sustenance and selling any surplus produce.
We are endeavouring to develop the property with a closed loops system thinking; harvesting rain water and utilising grey water in the gardens and growing food, herbs and plant medicines.
SO WE ASK FOR YOUR SUPPORT
We now need your donations for the garden’s layout, the building of beds, laying and making of compost, seed acquisition, planting and propogation. In addition, support for the completion of the two mud-brick cottages, All of these activities will be shared with the community in the fields and also in the form of future workshops held at the school. We have already passed on the skills of the traditional mud-brick / rammed earth building to a few of the local artisans who have helped on site, giving them the knowledge to get other work and to hopefully build their own houses in this manner - since all of the materials are available right here and will cost very little.
We’re very thankful for your support - every contribution counts!
Let’s do this together and see The School coming back to life again!