For five years we have driven past Org-de-Rac, and wondered, what does that mean? Organic from the shelf – explains the owner.
|Org de Rac - organic wine estate|
www.bwi.co.za Biodiversity in Wine Initiative grew out of the fact that our vineyards are often laid out where fynbos used to grow. Conserving endangered plants and animals and producing wine sustainably. Org de Rac is planting trees, returning game animals, and rehabilitating the farm land.
|Formal rose garden, mulched with straw from those distant wheat fields|
We came with the Garden Club. The landscaper at Org de Rac is Corne Pretorius from the Nursery in Riebeeck West. First they sold the palms to a golf course, so they could buy cycads. Then they removed lots of lawn. Gathered the roses into a huge formal garden. A wheel in four quadrants, with a rim of lavender. Lavender and rosemary planted in fields to harvest the organic oils.
Indigenous, with 5% exotic. A few palms were kept for history. Which trees used to grow here? Why is there a lonely oak or date palm as you travel across our countryside? The farmers coming thru with their cattle, would plant a date pit and an acorn. From far away the next farmer could see – Here Be Water! Jan van Riebeeck found forest at Swellendam, larger than the surviving indigenous remnant at Knysna. And at Piketberg too, there WAS forest.
The dream is that one day, this house will stand in a forest again. Wild plum Harpephyllum, milkwood, white stinkwood, white pear, pompom tree - Dais, wild olive, assegaaibos, waterberry Syzygium, Rhus/Searsia. And one for our own garden Wish List – forest elder Nuxia – supports caterpillars for the Cape Robins, when they have chicks to feed. The Gardener put in about three thousand trees. Summer, December-January-February in the Swartland, is brutal for a young tree that has not yet made its own shade and microclimate. So the Farmer still has about two thousand trees living around the house and along the valleys – where once were trees.
|Modern house with traditional Cape Dutch gable|
|In the distance Piketberg, from which our neighbouring town gets its name|
Up front the Nuxia I want
GREED, Greed and ignorance says the fynbos and renosterveld are hot, no shade, no trees, so they plant alien trees, and whine when nature conservation removes invasive aliens. How wonderful to see a farmer with the courage of his organic and biodiversity convictions going against the flow, and putting something back!
|A drift of Dietes|
And how comfortable to hear someone else singing my garden tune! Don’t dig, or hoe, or till. Leave the soil in peace. Mulch mulch mulch. Newspaper and/or straw. Beware of the glare off fresh straw in high summer intensifying the heat for young plants, which do not yet cast their own shade. Smother kikuyu (that is highly invasive lawn …) with newspaper and straw. No Roundup. Pull weeds by hand. Rain gardening on a grand/farm scale. Dry river bed and a holding pond for the winter when the heavens open. Lined with plastic, then packed with a layer of stones, so children, and dogs (and wildlife) can get out again.
|Dry river bed down to mid-distance holding pond|
Cycad fronds and the COLOUR is succulent vygies
But I also learnt – lavender. You know how we wail, I pruned my lavender and now it is vrek dead! Grey leaves don’t have much chlorophyll (you can see that …) so plants need all the leaves they have got. Prune half the bush, wait three weeks, then do the other half. If you have a hedge of lavender, cut the top, 3 weeks, then the first side, 3 weeks, finally the last side.
And I learnt to wait five years before you prune trees. Let the tree show you what it is going to look like. It is a baby. It NEEDS all its branches and leaves to grow, big and strong.
The earthworms. Red wrigglers come from Europe. One generation might survive in the ground here, then they are dead. Eggs will die. Different species which cannot interbreed with our wild worms. Got an old bathtub? Ideal for a worm farm, and to capture the verjuice! Compost is the worm casts. Verjuice just one teaspoon per grape vine every six months. The earthworms, like oysters with pearls, encapsulate the toxins in the soil so they are no longer water-soluble, not available to the plant’s roots.
|The earthworms who work for ...|
|... the vineyards of Org de Rac on the N7 from Cape Town to Piketberg|
Wine in stainless steel casks. To get that woody undertone. A mat of wooden strips. Or a ‘tea-bag’ filled with oak chips. I don’t drink wine, but I am amused to see a Google search – where can I buy Goats-Do-Roam-wine in Dallas? – coming back to my Fairview post!
Pictures and words by Diana of Elephant's Eye