Law of the Farm Number 14: “A cottage with a leaky roof is still a cottage.”

(10 February 2015)

We had friends around at the farm last night for a braai. It was really nice to be able to share the joy of the farm with people that are close to us. Hlubi and I have been talking so much about the farm, so it is useful that our friends have been able to see first-hand how beautiful the place is and how daunting the project is that we have taken on. Hlubi set up the cottage beautifully with the long table decked in a lovely white table cloth, flowers and crystal cut glasses. I prepared chicken, lamb and boerewors on the fire outside. We had plenty of fine wine and good conversation. It was really nice. All of this is spite of the fact that work on the old cottage is far from complete.

Friends – February 2015

A lot has been done in the past months, but it still has a lot of work needing done. The cottage I speak of is the one we found on the farm when we got there. In fact the old cottage was probably one of the more appealing features of the land. It really is quite hard to say how old it is, but the land was first surveyed in 1816, when the farm Goedmoedsfontein was granted to a Dutch settler, Johannes Kok. Oral history that has come to my ears, says that the little cottage where we had supper last night was the original farm house for the entire farm, which over the years has been slowly subdivided off to the point where the cottage now sits on 10 hectares of the original farm which would have been hundreds of hectares. It is quite likely that the first parts of the cottage would have been built in the first years after the Kok’s arrived there in 1816. What is clear to me from the bricks and other building materials that the house has been added onto continuously for the last 200 years or so? When we first came to the property, the cottage was in a process of collapse. A chain of events had set in where the corrugated iron roof had become rusted and leaky allowing water to rain in on the walls. The wall being made up of unfired bricks began to melt and dissolve, causing the roof to further collapse thus letting in even more water to melt the walls. Actually unfired bricks can stand for a very long time, as long as they are kept dry, but when they are exposed to water, the process of deterioration can be very rapid.

The cottage was on the verge of collapse when we found it

The crisis was so urgent that I began, even before taking transfer of the property, to rip off the old rusted corrugated Iron sheets and replace them with new ones keeping the walls from crumbling and saving Kok’s cottage from sure destruction. The work on the cottage over the last few months has moved slowly to install a new floor and replace and repair the old windows. We have also got electricity and water working, by collecting rainwater from the roof via rain tanks and electricity from the sun via photovoltaic panels. But even now, this morning if you stand in certain spots in the house you will feel the rain drops coming through. The roof has still not received its flashing against the gable ends. (Partly because the builder I paid to do this ran away with the flashing and the money that I paid him to install it) what will my friends think of me if they see the rain falling in though my broken roof”.  I have seen in my life that the trick is not to try to stop these thoughts, but just rather to become aware that they are running through my head. In this way I am able to engage with the small minded part of my sub conscious that generates these thoughts of inadequacy and to be able to consciously say “hang on a second. That’s a lot of bullshit! This cottage is perfectly OK for a dinner party with friends”  or “This 1983 Mazda 323 is perfectly Ok to get me from A to B”. or “This hairy, spotty overweight husband is perfectly OK to receive my love and caring” So law of the farm number 14: “A cottage with a leaky roof is still a cottage”, is not about making do with what we have. It’s about celebrating what we have. It’s about really enjoying what we have and releasing ourselves from the poisoned policeman of our sub-conscious fears of inadequacy.  Law of the farm number 14 is about the present.  It’s about the great joy I can experience today with what the things I already have and with the people who are in my life.

But in spite of its incompleteness and its imperfection we have been able to sleep thee some nights, we have been able to use it to store our equipment. We have been able to use it to rest from the weather when we are working there over weekends and holidays. And even, last night, we were able to have a very nice dinner party there. I love that spirit. I love that attitude and I can see how this spirit is very different to the kind of thinking that has become a widespread disease of our time. The disease of “fake it till you make it” and “Keeping up with the Kardashains”. The kind of disease that causes young people to rather walk the streets in the rain than be seen driving in a 1983 Mazda 323. The kind of disease that causes men and women of all ages to stay lonely and celibate rather than be seen in public with a partner that is pimply or too fat or too thin or too bald or too hairy. It is the kind of disease that causes husbands to think that their wives are no longer good enough for them to invest their love and attention in. It’s the kind of disease the causes wives to constantly work to “improve” their husbands. It’s a disease that sees us never satisfied with what we have. Always imagining a future, just around the corner where things will be better, things will be acceptable, things will measure up to some standard that we always find very difficult to express. I am sure there are those who will explain that this feeling of dis-contentedness is the result of some conspiracy on the part of the huge marketing machine that is our modern economy.  Always trying to sell us next year’s fashion, better houses, faster cars and more exotic vacations. It could be a conspiracy. Who knows? The important thing I think rather is for me to become conscious of the secret thoughts that are racing through my own head. The thought that says “

Author: buildingfreedomtoday

The World can be a better place.... But how? Taking the debate beyond the political, beyond the theoretical into the real economy, into the physical and spatial dimension where cities, landscapes and livelihoods take form.

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