Writer: Jacques van Zyl Photographer: Dewald Kirsten
Paarl is still covered in the early morning fog when I drove round the mountain on my way to Wellington. I can but only hope that it will stay this cool. Next to the car a lot of silver streamers blow inexplicably in a vineyard full of young vines. They must keep the birds away, I think by myself. Half an hour later I turn into the neat, palm tree-lined driveway of Langkloof Roses and drive to park underneath a majestic oak tree in front of the homestead. I immediately start to relax. If it is because of the atmosphere on the farm or just because I finally arrived there, I do not know, but straight away I wind down the car’s window to make sure that the smell of roses is not only in my imagination.
FROM FLOWERS TO YEAST AND BACTERIA
Antoinette is busy working, but after a while we attract her attention and get her to one side. Before I can say the word “rose” the discussion turns to the fermentation festival held annually in March at Langkloof Roses. Visitors can learn how to make kimchi, kefir and kombucha, things Antoinette and her nine-year-old daughter Klara have been doing on the farm for a long time.
Health is a word that features regularly in the conversation – how we give away the healthiest things such as marrowbones and sour milk while our bodies cannot survive without the microbes, vitamins and micro-elements. In the background Klara is baking a kefir just to show us how it is done. Every now and then she asks for advice to make sure she is still doing it right. Don’t some people dislike it, I want to know. “Not at all, you make it taste nice for yourself. It should not be a punishment,” says Antionette.
Klara is already busy adding cream and honey to the kefir. Kefir and rose syrup could be nice, I think – a much healthier falooda. Before I can say what is on my mind, a glass is put in front of me. It tastes much better than anticipated.
“We take too little of this,” Antoinette continues. “Especially when you are ill – you return the healthy bacteria to your stomach. You will see, you will lose weight.”
In just about everything surrounding us, there are roses – from the handwritten menu and ornaments against the walls to the vinegar on the table and the jars with rose salt and jam on the shelves. But it is soon evident that the emphasis is on health – both a healthy body and a healthy spirit. With the eatables, the fermentation – and other workshops – all these aspects come together nicely. One is engulfed by the beauty and peacefulness of the farm while both your thoughts and your senses are taken on a tour.
There is a kombucha station in the tearoom and a kimchi station in the organic rose garden; one is also taught to make your own sour dough. Exactly on time Klara arrives with a bowl of light red sauerkraut she made herself.
Sy makes it in the food processor. “You only count to eight,” she explains with a wide smile. “Then you add salt to the cabbage and leave it outside on a shelf for six weeks to ferment. You can even add fennel. The kimchi tastes fresh and crunchy with a pleasant umami taste created by the fermentation process. Klara tells us about the kombucha’s scoby – or the “small animal” as she calls it. Antoinette tells us how to make kombucha with pieces of pineapple. “Honey sweet – it tastes as if it comes from heaven.” Maybe even ginger beer could work, she ponders. It is also fermented. Her enthusiasm is contagious.
“Imagine you make kimchi with fermented rose leaves,” says Antoinette while we start walking outside.
A RESORT FOR FARM WORKERS
For the nine years that Langkloof Roses have been in the possession of Antoinette Louw and her husband, it has been used as a distributor of antique cut roses and a wedding venue. There is a small, intimate chapel right next door to the office and tearoom. In the meantime, several self- catering bed-and-breakfast units have been added and the tearoom is used as breakfast room and a place for outside visitors to eat.
Dams were added, the farm was fenced-in with game proof fencing and some kudu and springbok were purchased. Unfortunately, game and rose gardens do not go together that well and the animals had to go. Today there are, apart from the Persian sheep, only one springbok remaining. As the activities were expanded, a vision started to materialise with Antoinette.
“Farming is the smallest of our income streams, “laughs Antionette when I ask her about it. “Langkloof Roses exists to provide work for our people – to empower people, not to make a profit.”
HEALING – ANTOINETTE’S DREAM
I ask Antoinette about her background. It seems that she provides home schooling for her daughter and son and earlier qualified as a fashion designer. “I am a housewife. Am I a housewife?” she asks herself smiling. The she laughs. “I wish I were a housewife.” How did the change come about? “People need to be healthy,” explains Antoinette. “They don’t just want to come and visit, people want something to do. My heart has always been behind healing. A few years ago, I put my vision at the feet of the Lord and just about forgot about it.”
In the meantime, Langkloof Roses was marketed as a health farm. A vegetable garden was added, and a distillery machine purchased for the rose geranium and a machine with which bio-resonance therapy could be undertaken.
Even the rose garden was redesigned. Even though there is a separate organic rose garden, they only use dishwasher to spray for plant lice and chilli powder for the boll-worms eating the flower buds. Jakoba manages the roses – also the rose route, the tea tasting and the rose foot bath.
A growing number of courses and activities are presented: 3 Day Healing Rose Retreat, Rose Anointing Workshop, Mother and Daughter Healing Workshop, as well as therapeutic morning painting classes presented by Antonia Bartlett, the already mentioned Live-Culture Fermenting Workshops, Clever Farm Kids & Family events, including s trip on which home school learners can learn to ride a horse, bake bread and how to make rose soap, the so-called Biblical Feasts, and a variety of smaller creative activities.
When people do the weekend breakaway sessions, they hike in the veld, dig out some clay and are massaged and treated with clay masks made from their own clay.
“People love the whole rose theme with all the healing characteristics of roses. Of all the flowers, roses resonate and vibrate the most, you can go and read about it,” Antoinette enthusiastically embroiders further, “that is why we redesigned the whole rose garden.” The insects, sheep and cattle unfortunately also love the roses, so we were told. But roses are not the only things on the farm. “We grind our own flour. A farmer from Malmesbury provides the grain, but we would very much like to grow our own.”
Individual inhabitants of the farm are responsible for various aspects. Hannelie has been working for the Louw family for 14 years, since their days in Namakwaland. She oversees orders, weddings, the bed-and-breakfast facilities and the rose wood and -potpourri. Mariska April cooks the rose jam and oversees all the baking – also tasty brownies with rose water and/or thyme. Jakoba looks after the roses and at present it is dry and hot in Wellington. It must be quite a job. Fortunately, there is a storage dam and boreholes, so we are told, and in the recent past the roses have been just about pest free, maybe also due to the covering layer of peach kernels. An agricultural extension officer said fertiliser exhausts the soil, so it was stopped and only in pruning time some manure is added.
“Roses need lots of water, but I learnt that roses like to suffer a bit,” explains Antoinette.
I suddenly realise how happy everyone looks. “All or staff made a mind shift. I must really say that things are going well,” she explains.
FOOD, TEA AND SPA TREATMENT AMONGST THE ROSES
While we sit with our feet in the rosewater, tea and snacks are served. Refreshed we taste the tea. The rose tea is actually green tea with rosebuds added, but very tasty and it is tasty enough to drink without sugar. The chocolate tea, made with blocks of dark chocolate, is even more aromatic and something I will also make.
The rose leaf jam, made with honey, rose leaves and aromatic geranium tea, has a special colour and taste exceptionally light and nice in comparison to the fruit jams, but on a scone with butter and cream it is out of this world. On the damp, nutty banana bread-scones it is as tasty. On a cheese platter, we believe, it tastes even better.
The rose cordial is refreshing, in complete balance and almost just as nice, with an inexplicable creaminess. The Moroccan Delight (tasty beef frikkadels on couscous) is more than just tasty. But is with the couscous with dried rose leaves, baked gem squash, tomato and red onions fried in organic farm butter from Riebeek Kasteel, where I linger. It tastes so marrow-like that I almost forget about the rose chutney. It is almost as if it was made with stock and is most probably the best couscous I have ever had.
As the late afternoon heat thickens in the air, we say our goodbyes. Unfortunately, we will not be able to see how the SPCA releases a group of tortoises. Antoinette is busy and still barefoot – apparently to stay earthed. “We try to educate the people – make them a little more health-conscious, “she explains. We have agreed in principle long ago.
Farm: Langkloof Roses| Owner: Antionette Louw | Location: Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa | Contact: +27 (0) 21 864 1014 /1820 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.langkloofroses.co.za