The Dollas romance with farming started long before the majority of the workforce was born.
It started in, we believe to be the center of origin for near all Afrikaans Speaking South Africans, Volksrust. On a plaas called Nagenoeg. It was a small concern that left a big mark on our family.
Life happened though, and Ma Dolla moved away from Nagenoeg during her high school years.
She retained her love for organic produce.
The Dollas Household was never content to go through life unassumingly. Ma Dolla was always conscious about hormones and factory processed foods, msg, making sure to provide clean and organic food for her family.
Granted there were times the workforce was disappointed by the organic fare, we did not eat store-bought bread for eight years or so.
The focus of today’s article, however, is not Dollas Kitchen. Today we talk a bit about Dollas Plaas.
There are legendary stories about eggplants and green peppers and chickens, cultivated and quickly discarded due to the sheer volumes and lack of markets.
There is the story of the Sicilian Immigrants, the aristocratic offspring of the old country who was exiled by Mussolini himself, that came to South Africa and their children opened a bed and breakfast in the mountains outside Tzaneen who ended up trading bags full of macadamia nuts for black refuge bags full of Ma Dolla’s exceptional Basilico. Danielle made pesto for her guests with all the fresh herbs as part of the traditional fair.
Then, of course, the war stories, the campaigns, and invasions staged in our strawberry land, between corn stalks, armed with baby tomatoes and a desire to outwit and out throw the opposing side.
We have recollections of playdates that ended in carnage when our new favorite toy, a trio of exercise balls, wreaked havoc in our herb garden. The stevia and french tarragon that never survived because of trampolines etc.
There are memories of summers flavored with fig jam and fresh apricots. We would pass on these homemade jams to as many of our friends as possible because we could not bear to look at another bottle of jam. Ma Dolla bottles anything out of place in her kitchen.
We would all sit together and listen to Ma and Mister Dolla talk about growing up in a simpler world. Where everyone made their own jam, had their own fruit trees, from fig to pomegranates, and fresh vegetables served at Sunday lunches after church. Her mom made sweet potatoes that guests would fight for.
Together we would dream about a green future, Mister Dolla loved taking the annual pilgrimage back to Volksrust to watch the Comrades with great-granddad, still residing on his own farm at the time. He wanted to work for himself, on his own farm with all the fresh groceries available at hand.
Now we are finally here, and all the years of dreaming and planning and prepping for countless what-ifs and false starts we can give you a broad sketch.
In farming, you require good soil. It is a fact not all soil is good. Largely due to one simple reason.
People do not like bugs.
For good soil, you need living things.
Speaking as something of a specialist on phobias, especially about the multi-legged sort, this is okay. Bugs are gross and things that move on the ground are creepy, especially the things that come at night.
However, there are good bugs and bad bugs. A Parktown Prawn does not, under any circumstance, do anybody or anything any good. There are countless examples, but let us not dwell on that.
You must actually look into the ground. Earthworms are good, in some cases certain squishy looking things with horns and claws also.
You must lookout for an excess of any kind though, safe earthworms, plagues are not as glamorous or devastating as you would expect. They come quietly.
In addition to the bugs, if there are weeds, things will grow, just clear the weeds.
Also, be sure to rest your soil, we work on clear rules every seven years you rest the ground completely. No planting, no plowing.
Plants and Seeds
Here things get serious.
Seeds are sold with toxins embedded in their skin. Near all of them are so designed that they will not make seeds themselves.
Which is why we cooperate with small businesses that grow their own seeds.
We will not go into the discussion of GMO and hormones and toxins here, it is worth looking into, but we prefer to keep it organic.
Reach out to the small businesses, South Africa is blessed with an incredible wealth of agricultural knowledge about propagation.
We know lifelong career women who can turn avocado pits into plants. We know men who work magic in small gardens beside their engineering shops and survived eczema because of an organic diet.
Every plant has different needs. They need this sun, that amount of water and this drainage versus that. This information is usually on the package and definitely online. However, there are a few things you can only learn when you do it.
We had a lemon tree in our yard for years. It only carried fruit for one-third of the time. It was a sickly tree, citrus tends to attract a lot of bugs. We tried all kinds of natural solutions, until one day Ma Dolla said maybe we should remind him he is a lemon tree. So we put all our used lemon rinds and fruits around its roots and in no time we were harvesting our very own lemons.
The most dramatic part about fruit trees especially for us is the annual prune. The important thing here is to be thorough, when you step back it should look like you did something wrong. Mister Dolla does, which put him at odds with Ma Dolla, until the one year he was away working and we did it ourselves.
Your objective is to keep the tree manageable and within reach. Mister Dollas is six-feet-four, his reach is different from Ma Dolla’s reach, that is why we have ladders.
We also had an avocado tree that cast the whole house in shadow and left us in fear of avos falling on our heads.
There is a lot to farming, some plants have genders, they need pollinating. Some plants should not be put beside others, some help each other grow.
Farming is rewarding, it makes you feel human, and god-like at the same time. It is temperamental work, weather and seasons are your masters but you can manage that through experience.
Thankfully there are many tools at our disposal. We believe in responsible, sustainable methods and tools.
Farming is a commitment, it requires perseverance and dedication. Farming to us is a labor of love. With big dreams and bigger expectations, we start this journey.
May His blessing always be with us.