For 10 days, Matt and I worked on a self-sustainable farm outside of East London, South Africa.
We found this farm on Workaway, and had the educational but chilled experience we were hoping for.
The owners, Vaughn and Pi, bought this hearty block of land after traveling the world and have been working hard to create and maintain an eco-friendly permaculture farm. In exchange for food and accommodation, Matt and I worked roughly 5 hours a day helping them with various tasks and jobs around the farm, like taking care of the chickens, fixing fences, tending to the garden, planting seedlings, and building feed boxes.
Vaughn is an East London local who studied economics and loves surfing and bird-watching. Pi, from Denmark, teaches yoga and loves trail-running, cooking and sewing. Together, these two have combined their knowledge, energy, and passion for the outdoors to establish themselves as a thriving farm and local business.
“Nduli” literally translates to “on the hill”, which is fitting because their farm is set on a steep hill overlooking the vast greenery of East London’s outskirts. They built their house themselves with some helping hands from friends and family, and lived in a tent at the bottom of the hill during that time.
That cozy tent now acts as a home for travelers who visit Vaughn and Pi on a work exchange. Sleeping in the tent, surrounded by wilderness, was a beautifully peaceful experience. We would fall asleep after seeing bright stars untouched by light pollution, and wake up to the sound of birds chirping and chickens clucking. We were disconnected from wifi and spent our time exploring nature, playing games, working hard, learning about permaculture and having deep conversations.
The farm’s main focus is their 150 chickens, whose eggs they sell to the local community. They built the functional chicken house themselves, and are soon upgrading to double the number of chickens. They move the chicken house every two days, to give the chickens new grass and so all the chicken poop can fertilize different parts of the land.
Nduli chickens are the definition of “free-range”; they are constantly wandering all over the property, roaming the garden and the bushes and pecking at everything in sight. One of them has taken to laying its eggs inside the tractor, another likes to lay them in the tall grasses next to the dam. But most of them lay inside their cozy home, which allows Pi and Vaughn to collect the eggs daily and generate an income. Whenever they find some weak or slightly broken eggs, they keep them for themselves. After eating a few of these organic, farm-fresh eggs I can confidently say they’re some of the best I’ve ever had.
Pi is a master in the kitchen, and she always collects fresh greens, herbs and edible flowers from the garden before cooking. She prepared amazing meals for us during our stay, including pumpkin and butternut soup, savory pancakes with bean chili, chickpea curry, spicy veggie burgers, and spaghetti with homemade tomato and beetroot sauce. She also taught us how to make sourdough bread and kombucha.
When we weren’t working on the farm or eating delicious food, we were accompanying Vaughn and Pi on their usual activities. Vaughn and Matt went surfing almost every morning, and I drove into town with Pi to drop off eggs and collect fresh raw milk from her neighbor. We had some nice breakfasts at the favorite local cafe called Lavender Blue, attended a few of Pi’s yoga classes and went to Vaughn’s family beach house near the beautiful and quiet Yellow’s Beach.
We also had our first classic South African Braai, which is basically a barbecue. The boys grilled up lots of local meat while Pi and I roasted some veggies and garlic bread, and we all feasted around the fire and finished with lots of tea and chocolate afterwards.
I can’t forget to mention the other members of the family: Carlos, the sweet, well-behaved but mysterious hunting dog they brought home from Nicaragua, Luna, the crazy and lovable rescue dog who got her name because she is a lunatic, and Blanket, the cat who wrestles with the dogs and goes exploring in the bush but is afraid to walk up the hill alone.
These adorable animals helped make our stay more entertaining. We loved listening to Carlos sing while Pi played the harmonica, and Luna loyally slept outside our tent every night. Blankie is a hilarious cat that will bravely show Luna who’s boss but will still spend hours playing with a paper bag like silly cats do.
This experience was so great because we got to see East London through a local’s perspective. East London isn’t the nicest city to visit as a tourist; it’s quite big and spread out, and definitely geared more towards locals. Living with Vaughn and Pi allowed us to spend lots of time in the forest and on the beach, which are the best parts of East London.
I am so grateful for the 10 days we spend here, and Vaughn and Pi were incredible hosts and friends. We learned a lot from them, and I’ll definitely use some of the knowledge I gained when I have my own garden and group of chickens one day.