Saturday, 3 March 2018

Tribute to volunteers and assorted helpers at Fynbos

These last summer and harvest months have seen lots of volunteers here at Fynbos as well as various friends and friends of friends lending a hand.

Leon from Germany began in December joined soon by Leena from Switzerland. They hung out together and Leon did lots of varnishing and putting up of signs that Leena had most beautifully painted. We enjoyed their light and easy energy.

Leon and Leena

Leena's Painted Signs

Leon Busy With Woodwork

Leon and Doubt - Bar Duty Fynbos Weddings

Leena Hiking Paardeberg Mountain

Soon after they left came the harvest contingent which this year were all three Canadians. Alex with some wine making behind him, wanted to learn more about natural wine making, and Courtney and Tristan sort of landed here at winemaking time not realising quite what or how much it entailed. The three of them, wherever possible, took the Honda off wine tasting and adventuring around the Cape. Needless to say they all three worked exceedingly hard on bottling and labelling and processing the grapes as they came in.

Alex Looking Dapper in the Vineyard

Discussions in the Vineyards

The Canadian Team Labelling

Time for a Glass of Wine next to the Pool

Tristan Punching Down Ferments

Tristan and Courtney Labelling with Doubt

Courtney on the Bottling Line

Alex and Courtney with Priscilla

Apart from these `official’ volunteers so to speak, there were lots of other helpers here over the time. Our God daughter Sophie, a student of photographic design in New York, visited for 3 weeks and took wonderful pictures of the farm for marketing.  For some of this time she was joined by her boyfriend Nick, also Canadian, who found himself pressed into services of all kinds. He brought his drone which made for some great videos. Gosia, a family friend, visited making us laugh a lot, helping Johan in the kitchen, and then helping me with the drinking of Gin and Tonic.  And Gerry and Sven came and went helping especially with functions.

Sophie and Nick
Nick and Doubt Labelling

Sven & Gerry 
Gosia Sad to Leave

Gosia out with Diana

As is usual each year Andy and Becky were here for the harvest, no longer volunteers, but directing the winemaking volunteers, and of course joining in with the general hubbub and the late suppers and wine-drinking after the day was done.     

Andy and Becky
All in all it was a lively and rich time. Thanks to all of you who have helped us so much. You are much appreciated.

Monday, 5 February 2018


We have thoroughly enjoyed the versatility involved in hosting these two workshops over the last weeks


Cape Town based company OfferZen, which is a marketplace for the hiring of software developers, came to Fynbos to do their year’s planning and to team build. It was a delight to see so many young talented people excited and committed to what they are doing.

Of their company OfferZen says: We are changing the way developers find work in South Africa, and working hard to help improve the developer ecosystem along the way.  We flip the normal recruitment model around, so instead of developers applying for jobs, companies send them interview requests with upfront salary.  We find companies are looking for Frontend and Backend developers, Product owners, DevOps Engineers, Mobile Developers and QA/Test Engineers.  If you are interested in learning more, go to

And how did they like Fynbos for their event?Apart from numerous oohs! and aahs! from individual participants about the food and the wine, the gardens, the houses and the views, Bianca the coordinator of the event had this to say:Fynbos was an ideal place for our planning and teambuilding workshop. It is beautiful and peaceful with lots of space for the group to do what it needed and wanted to do. There was a large venue for us all and many breakaway spaces. The accommodation was comfortable in lovely houses, the food and wine were excellent and the hosts were very friendly and helpful.


Trusha Lakana came here from Durban once again to run yoga and cleansing retreat.  This is the third time this particular retreat has been here and it was great to witness from a distance the mediations and yoga and the lovely clear laughter that grew day by day as participants went through what was, it seemed, quite a challenging process. As always Vena cooked for the group and made good use of Johan’s HUGE pots to make delicious vegetarian food.

Art of Living is a widespread national and international organisation that offers all kinds of holistic events and retreats throughout the country. You can find out more about them on

As always people were so gracious and appreciative or our space and commented on the love and authenticity of Fynbos. This is music to our ears. Sabine who coordinated the retreat gave more formal feedback.

This is a special place and we all know it. The pavilion is a fantastic venue for this work and the views and gardens and pool are beautiful. The houses were excellent and the farmhouse kitchen and verandas wonderful for cooking and for eating. Diana and the fynbos team were accommodating and friendly. There is such a sense of peace here.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Our Paardeberg Black Eagle

We were delighted to receive these pics of a nesting Black Eagle and one in flight taken by Sue Goodman here on the Paardeberg. It’s not easy to catch these high flying birds on camera, but we see them often wheeling above the farm. Our latest house `Black Eagle’ is named for them because it’s from there, under the mountain that they are most often seen. A sighting of them up in the thermals is always thrilling

A bit about them 
Their proper name is the Verreaux's eagle and of course they are large African birds of prey. Their preferred habitat is hilly and mountainous terrain and they feed primarily on dassies (rock hyraxes) but also on small mammals, birds and reptiles.

Recognising a Verreaux’s Eagle
When perched or at rest adult Verreaux’s Eagles are entirely black in appearance, except for a white ‘V’ above the wings on the back and yellow feet/talons and cere (waxy layer covering the base of the upper beak). In flight, the unfolded wings expose a white rump and whitish panels on the outer wings. The wings have a distinctive shape that is broad in the middle and tapering at the tips. Sexes are similar, but females are slightly larger than males. Juveniles have a yellow-brown plumage and the head and back of the neck have a distinctive reddish-brown colour. The face and throat are black. Juveniles achieve adult plumage in 4 years.

Getting around
Verreaux’s Eagles are often found in pairs, perched on a prominent lookout or soaring and gliding around hilly and mountainous terrain. The shape of their wings facilitates gliding up drafts created when wind strikes mountain cliffs and this allows the birds to stay airborne for long periods or travel great distances. Unlike other birds, they are able to fly into strong winds and still maintain aerial control.

Sex and Life cycles
Verreaux’s Eagles breed with one partner for their entire life, and only replace a partner in the event of death. Often the pairs can be observed perching, preening and flying together in perfect unison.  Mating takes place all year round and egg-laying season is between April and July. Verreaux’s Eagles produce one to two eggs per clutch. Incubation lasts 38–41 days and is done by the female while the male provides food. In cases where two eggs are laid, the eggs usually hatch about four days apart. The older chick will normally attack and harass the younger chick until it dies. The surviving chick leaves the nest after 12 weeks and is forced out of the territory by the parents.

The species is locally persecuted in southern Africa where it coincides with livestock farms through poisoning and hunting. However because Verreaux’s Eagles only take live prey and not carrion, and they normally occur in rugged terrain that is not easily accessible, hunting and poisoning have had minimal impact on population numbers. In areas where hyraxes are hunted for food and skins, eagle populations have declined due to declining prey populations. Possible future threats include habitat overlap with wind farms that are likely to be placed windward of areas such as mountain ridges.

Enjoy these gorgeous and rare pics taken by Sue and thanks Judy New for alerting us to their existence Sue can be found on Facebook and her images can be Googled

Monday, 22 January 2018


This week we had the sad task of putting Sweet pi (also known as Pi and Peehee) to sleep. He was 16 years old, had cancer and was not having any quality of life any more.

Originally a township rescue Sweetpi was adopted by Sue and Mike who adored him and taught him the best of manners. They named him Peehee which we were told (though we may have got this wrong) was the Maori name for a crunchy vegetable.   After some 6 years Mike and Sue left to live in New Zealand and they were heartbroken to leave their darling boy behind.  But they blessed us with his presence and he has been a wonderful part of the farm ever since. He trotted about head high, did wild waggy laps around the lawns, loved children, played mother to many of our new dogs like Ziggy and Carlie and has been friends with our cats and the various dogs that we have fostered through the years. He had many an adventure – including running with the pack up the mountain, once losing his way and taking 3 weeks to find his way home. 

He was emaciated and we nearly lost him then. Once in a terrible storm he got stuck in crevice and he howled all night until in the early hours we mounted a rescue mission.  No one slept that night.

He was a wonderful smart boy with a big heart and a loving nature. In the last years he became especially close to Gail with whom he sat in the office every day. 

We hope he is cavorting about somewhere with his past friends and we thank you Pi for all that you have brought us.

Thursday, 11 January 2018


Johan and I, looking back over 2017, are delighted by an abundance of awesome happenings both for Fynbos and for Dragonridge wines. Such lovely people have stayed here, partied, married, come for wine tastings and feasts and run retreats and workshops. Our online write-ups and ratings are extremely high, not to mention all the positive comments written and told to us. The gist of the feedback is that this is a very special and unusual place- a gem, a jewel and such like.  What better could one hope for.

Our team

None of our success would be possible without our committed and good spirited team.  As always Charlie and Doubt make a great pair in the wine cellar and on the bar, and they generally look after the farm wonderfully, while the women Priscilla and Virginia have run housekeeping with commitment and lots of hard work. We have recently lost Eliot and Precious due to visa problems, but employed two new permanent members of staff - Arlington who can weld, work in wood and drive, and his wife Rose who helps with housekeeping.  Also new to the team is Romayne Midgely - helping part time with financials, and she comes along with her pooch Wobbles – now too a part time member of the farm. On the marketing front there is great excitement as Tharien Pieterse joins Lisa Du Plooy, Johann Human and I to get us much more out there. So watch this space and like/follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.  Andy and Becky were here early in the year making wine and are soon to return, and we have had lovely volunteers as always.  And of course Gail has managed all manner of things – including a host of successful events - with her usual potency and generosity.

Out and about

This last year we were much more out and about taking Dragonridge and Fynbos to the world. We provided wine for the SOLO art opening at Riebeek Kasteel, exhibited at the SIP show in Paternoster and the TOPS at SPAR show.  And in the UK Andy and Becky have been selling Dragonridge wine alongside their Kershaw wines made with Fynbos grapes. We now have 2 four star wines in Platter.

Natural Light Photography

On the farm

The farm has run like clockwork with tending the vines and the olives, though our bee keepers have been struggling to get honey from our hives.  We have started re-painting the farmhouse and done heaps of maintenance everywhere and our son Pete built us a jungle gym and swings for the kiddies. With the completion of Black Eagle we now have a lot of solar panels and are going greener and greener each year

Water and flowers

Water – yes of concern.  We are managing for the moment but are holding our breath that our underground water supply holds.  Like everyone else in the Western Cape we use buckets and divert grey water and entreat guests to be careful. Luckily our vines are never irrigated so while our yields are smaller, given they have long well adapted roots, they keep going.
Despite the lack of water this year’s display of spring flowers was absolutely gorgeous and the birds in the garden and up the mountain an absolute treat.  Except for the heron that is, who insists on preying on our goldfish who have sunk to the bottom of their pond in defence.

Animals and protection of the Paardeberg

On the animal front we have lost our darling Carlie to kidney disease at the young age of 5, but our aged Sweet Pi is still going along tail a-wag though half blind and half deaf. We rescued and fostered little Winston who has landed in a perfect new home  and the farmyard donks, goats and sheep continue to do well.  With regard to wild animals we are losing animals on the mountain to poaching and need to tackle that next year, and we on the Paardeberg still face sand mining problems. An organisation called Protect the Paardeberg has formed to deal with this. We have also tackled alien vegetation again this year with help from Working for Water and Cape Nature Conservation.


So things have been a-humming here at Fynbos as always.  We feel immensely privileged to run this wonderful place and be part of the great team that has grown here. As always the farm is a kind of alchemy. A mix of design and chance which is how Johan describes winemaking. We love this concept, as after all we can’t really control anything can we?  Well just a bit maybe….

With much gratitude we wish everyone who has been part of Fynbos in whatever way,  a wonderful 2018.   

Tuesday, 2 January 2018


We recently hosted an intimate event to celebrate the 8 decades of an extraordinary man. Alec Rowe, one time nuclear engineer at MIT, designer of amongst other things, cryogenic tanks and a soundless rock drill that has transformed the lives of thousands upon thousands of  underground miners. 

But what became clear from all the speeches, is that it is not just in the area of invention and general brilliance that this man has excelled, he has brought pleasure and goodwill to the lives of very many people around him - family and friends and employees. This is a special man worthy of salute.

It was such a marvellous event . The food  and wine were delicious and the hosting gracious and the setting perfect. Thank you
Marie Rowe