“I have such happy memories of living at Rietvlei where my garden was full of mielies, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, goats, chickens, dogs and a cow”. Mary now lives on a small property in kwaChief where free roaming livestock belonging to other people cause her a real headache. No doubt though that she will soon transform this plot into a tiny organic farm and inspire her neighbours to start their own gardens too.
“It is important to have chickens in a garden – to scratch, leave manure, eat nunus and make the soil soft” she says. Chickens can cause havoc with newly planted seedlings, so, roosters, hens and chicks live in a straw filled enclosure and take turns to spend time in the mobile chicken tractor working the soil. “When their work is done, it is best to prepare the bed right away, but if you have no time, you must mulch – that is very important.”
Mary is proud of her son, Lucas, who is as passionate about organic farming as she is, and her daughter, Mbali, who creates delicious, nutritious meals from simple ingredients. “Many young people don’t understand how important growing good food is. They want to be pilots and doctors, but you can’t get food from a plane or hospital” she says sadly. “Even if we don’t have much money, we have good food, we are healthy, we work hard and we tell each other don’t give up.”