Do you have to be warmhearted and friendly to live a farm life, or is it life on the farm that makes you such? After a weekend on a farm near the Boland town of Wolseley, I’m inclined to say that the surroundings can play a role on one’s frame of mind. Which would explain the good nature and spirits of hosts, Madri and Charles Ochse, the young couple and owners of Hoogwater.
On a Friday afternoon, after trawling through Cape Town’s traffic, it didn’t take much to switch into relaxation mode. The setting sun cast shades of pink on the imposing Mostertshoek Twins, while a verdant fig orchard sprawled close to the cottage. It was fig season, and the prospect of eating fresh fruit off the tree was tempting. Ripe, plump, and oozing with flavor, it was hard to practice restraint. Distracted by a sky ablaze at sunset, the figs were momentarily safe from being picked.
Saturdays during fig season are busy for Madri. Hoogwater welcomes the public to experience the satisfying and primordial act of picking figs from the orchards. Set beneath oaks, hay stacks decked with rustic wood serve as tables for guests to enjoy croissants and other delicacies and to stock up on some of her homemade preserves. Out in the field, the trees were being pillaged by families. Afraid of losing out on some of the best figs, we joined the fray. It wasn’t just humans – birds and insects were attracted to the bulging fruits, some dripping with juices. Charles not being concerned, called it nature’s share.
As heavenly as they are, eating too many figs can cause discomfort, as we had come to learn. After eating perhaps a dozen or more figs, don’t be alarmed about a burning sensation on your lips, and perhaps your fingers. The cause is the whitish latex that oozes from the broken tip, and is within the skin layer of the fig, particularly if the fig is not fully ripe. But the pleasure from breaking a fig in half to expose the pink or honey flesh and then scooping it into your mouth is worth it.
Back at the cottage, Madri ensures all the little touches are in place. Bottles of juice and milk are ready on arrival, as are marshmallows for the fire. Coffee beans are provided, and hand grinding them for breakfast is best enjoyed with the view of the orchards and mountains from the verandah. Boland summers can be stifling, so plans for a pool will be welcome. I won’t give too much away except that the pool will be perfect for winter evenings under the stars.
Until then though, Hoogwater is close to the scenic Bain’s Kloof Pass, where there are many rock pools in the Wittels River in which to cool off. Some are little known, just metres from the road side. There’s also Cape Nature’s Tweede Tol, which can get busy during season, but has all the amenities for a picnic.
Overnight guests at Hoogwater also have the opportunity of exploring the other vast orchards, which is great out of fig season. Peaches, nectarines and pears are commercially grown on the farm. Biting into a soft, juicy pear, sun ripened on the tree beats any store bought pear that are generally picked semi-ripe. With a bounty of fruits on their doorstep and a grand view of the mountains, it’s clear to see what gives Madri and Charles their energy and good nature.
(An entry for day visitors to Hoogwater and a punnet fee applies. The fig picking season for 2015 is over (7 February was the last). The next season will start sometime in January 2016.)