Our amazing first holiday season!

We’ve done it! We have our first holiday season behind us. And what an amazing season! We were fully booked, and had the most wonderful guests staying in our cottages and The Homestead, and enjoying our farm! Can it be only four months since we opened our doors?! The Homestead, although only partially renovated when we started letting it in December, has proven a big hit for larger groups and families. And on request we are now busy renovating the last two rooms and bathroom, and would soon be able to accommodate 4 more people in The Homestead! We are so happy that our guests are taking full advantage of everything we have to offer and for the short time that they are here become a part of our daily farming activities. But read for yourself what our guests have to say and enjoy these photos of the views and children having fun!

And this is what some of our guests had to say:

If you are seeking peace and solitude, these delightful, tastefully decorated cottages deliver in every respect. Private and offering a true sense of remoteness on a beautiful farm, the owners could not have done more to make us feel truly welcome! Thank you for a perfect stay. (Amanda Francis-Pope, visited December 2013)

What a beautiful place and what fantastic lodging! We couldn’t have chosen a lovelier place for our big family holiday. We spread ourselves between the homestead and one of the enchanting cottages (both gorgeous, immaculately clean, charming and comfortable way above average). The set-up catered for all the varying ages, the kids loved the farm vibe, milking the goats, feeding the lambs and collecting the chicken eggs in the morning (with the delicious bonus of eating them), the teenagers enjoyed the wonderful dam swimming and paddle on the rowing boat. In the evening we all had fun playing board games around the outside porch braai area. The lovely owners were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge too. Highly recommend this place for big families in the homestead or romantic getaways in the cottages. (A Treppo, visited December 2013)

I do not give this little gem in the Overberg a 5-star rating without any thought. Everything on this beautiful farm, from the warm and inviting hostess (and her lovely husband), to the well-cared for sheep, the cheeky goats to the charming cottages, shouts, “5 stars!”. Everything has been thought of; hot water bottles, lavender bath salts, fresh flowers in the bathrooms and kitchen. It is so clear that Valerie has put her heart and soul into making sure that her guests have a wonderful stay. And we did! Valerie was generous with her time, and her enthusiasm for their farm is contagious. I had a chance to meet their Alpaca (who thinks he’s a sheep – get the full story from Valerie herself), check out the new born sheep, meet the ducks (not just any ducks… chocolate brown ducks, caramel ducks, and they are bringing in even more interesting breeds too), and of course milk the goats. (Well I didn’t milk her per say, but I drank fresh goat’s milk the whole weekend!). We went in winter, and when we weren’t lazily exploring the green expanse that is their farm, we cuddled with blankets by the crackling fireplace. I cannot wait to go in summer, and swim in one of their fabulous (and clean) dams. I could continue to rave on and on, especially about how tastefully the cottages are decorated, or how relaxed we were when we got home. Bottom line, book now. I’m already organizing our next visit. (Talya Kahan, visited September 2013)

I almost don’t want to tell anyone how amazing this cottage is, because we want to be able to return again and again, and when word gets out, I think there will be a long waiting list! Such a beautiful farm with exquisite attention to detail in the cottages. Waking up to the bleating of little lambs as they cavort and play all around the cottage. Coffee and rusks in the sun strewn dining room. A cozy and romantic fireplace to cuddle up to at night. A challenging run up the mountain on Sunday morning. Brilliant sunset and outdoor braai. Very comfy double bed (my personal grading criteria!). A short weekend away that felt like a two week holiday – such awesome restoring of the soul! (Linda Els, visited October 2013)

What a lovely few days we had. Our family really needed a break and we were so pleased with our choice. If you are looking for the beauty of nature and a very clean and well equipped cottage with very friendly and helpful hosts then this is the one. It was a wonderful farm experience. We can not wait for our next visit. (Jackie Richardson, visited September 2013)

The stay was amazing and then I got physically ill! Even then, Valerie (our host) literally nursed me whilst I was in bed trying to recover and kept an eye on the kids too. The view outside our cottage was idyllic and exactly what we needed to recoup. I will definitely recommend and visit Landmeterskop again and again. (Faatin Bux, visited October 2013)

I had an incredible time. The accommodation was exceptional and the farm itself is beautiful and peaceful. Furthermore, the hosts were extremely welcoming and I will most certainly return for another vacation. (Branden de Jager, visited August 2013)

A wonderful place to forget all you’re problems in the real world. The scenery is stunning and the hosts cater to your every need. Look forward to visiting many times in the future. (George Oberholzer, visited August 2013)

I wish we could give more than 5 stars for this gorgeous farm! Valerie has thought of absolutely everything, the amenities of a 5 star guest house with 2 star prices. I cannot praise this farmstay highly enough. The ‘Homestead” is beautifully furnished down to a cupboard full of brand new board-games (unlike the tatty collection you normally find). The dam with its tractor tyres, diving jetty and all the animals, what more could we want. (Micki Evans, visited January 2014)

We stayed at the Landmeterskop homestead with friends for four days over Christmas. We had a wonderful time. The homestead is beautifully decorated in a traditional farm style, and it is immaculately clean. The setting is absolute tranquility on a working sheep farm. I had forgotten how delicious a fresh free range egg and fresh goat’s milk can be. The owners were away whilst we were there, but the lady who had been left to take care of us, Tsala, was brilliant, her hospitality was 5-star, she is a beautiful lady and a credit to Landmeterskop, in fact all of the staff we met were great, they all made us feel at home. The farm is easily accessible from Cape Town, not far from Stanford, it is ideal for a weekend getaway. (Martin Connolly, visited December 2013)

Absolutely loved it! Our kids milked goats and drank the milk, hand-fed lambs and collected free-range eggs for breakfast. We had such a relaxed experience. The house is big and the perfect farmhouse, even a Miele fridge in the kichen so luxurious! It was quite hot but there are fans in all the bedrooms so we slept well. The staff were incredible, very friendly and went out of their way to make our stay enjoyable. We will definitely be back. (Linda Kemp, visited January 2014)

This place is fantastic! We took two families and 4 children from 2-7 yrs old and they all loved it. There are lots to do on the farm, feeding the animals and collecting the eggs was a daily highlight. The homestead is beautifully decorated and has everything you need, it’s so spacious and there is plenty of room for the kids to run around. The hosts are so friendly and you won’t want for anything. This is going to fast become a favourite and we can’t wait to go back. (Justine Huizinga, visited December 2013)

A little Thank You Letter from Renee Nel

Dear Valerie

On behalf of Michael and our good friends Frances and Martin, I would like to lodge a formal complaint about the totally fabulous, relaxing four days we spent at The Homestead.

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The Homestead – high ceilings and cool airy rooms, crisp white linen and little touches and conveniences that one can tell were carefully thought out to magnify the enjoyment of your stay.

The Homestead – complete with signature flock of contented sheep silently migrating back and forth, seemingly far and yet only a chew-sound away.

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This is a neat open plan spacious guesthouse with a fabulous social outdoor entertainment area – sheltered cleverly from any wind. We needn’t have brought along our binoculars, candles, fancy liquid hand soaps, creams, shower gels and whatnots. These were all catered for, and not your ordinary product either.

Upon our arrival, the lovely, very friendly Tsala welcomed us and saw to all our needs with great enthusiasm. She also took time out of her busy schedule to show us around and share some interesting farm facts.

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The farm is incredibly well organized. Everything is tidy and orderly and stacked away in its own special place. So much rich green manicured rolling lawn!

We visited the dams, enjoyed a glass of champagne in the rowboat with one eye on the setting sun and the other mindful of our discrete intrusion on mother nature. We collected eggs straight from the hatchery and milked the goats for our morning tea.

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Valerie, I thank you for the efforts you have gone into ensuring the comfort of your guests.  I hope future visitors will enjoy their stay as much as we did and that they will respect and appreciate all these things so that they remain there for all to enjoy… always.

Warm regards

Renee

1 January 2014

Meet Don Carlos – a Chilean noble now guarding sheep in the Overberg!

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Don Carlos, our resident herd guard Alpaca, was imported by SACOYO ALPACAS of South Africa from Chile (South America) for breeding purposes. His somewhat smaller than usual proportions unfortunately denied him that pleasure as taller males are prefered, but all was not lost. Theuns and Valerie, owners of Landmeterskop Farm, fell in love with this handsome guy, and today he guards their herd of Dormer sheep from small predators on this beautiful farm in the Cape Overberg!

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Although there are not many alpacas in the Overberg, they have been part of the farming community in South Africa since 2000. Today there are more than 50 registered breeders, and ± 5000 of these beautiful animals grazing on farms and small holdings all over the country. The worldwide population is estimated ± 4 million, with the highest concentration in Peru.

The Inca, high up in the Andes of South America, started domesticating the alpaca ± 6000 years ago. With its long neck and slender legs the alpaca (Vicugna pacos) resembles a small llama, and is a species of South American camelid. [Camelids are members of the biological family Camelidae, the only living family in the suborder Tylopoda (Latin for “padded foot”). Camelids do not have hooves, rather they have two-toed feet with toenails and soft foot pads. Extended family members are: dromedaries, Bactrian camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos. Camelids are even-toed ungulates classified in the order Artiodactyla, along with pigs, hippopotami, deer, giraffes, cattle, goats, antelope, and many others.] Alpacas and llamas can successfully cross-breed and the resulting offspring are called huarizo, which are valued for their unique fleece and gentle dispositions.

While the llama was mainly used to carry goods in the mountains, the alpaca was bred for its fibre. They were hailed by the Incas as a “gift from the gods” because of their exquisite fleece – so fine and silky that only royalty was afforded the luxury of wearing clothes made from it. Clothes from alpaca fibre were therefore a sign of great wealth. The ruling king had garments made from Vicunja, the finest and most valuable fleece of all.

There are two types of alpacas – the Huacaya (pronounced wa-ky-ya), like our Don Carlos,  and the Suri. 90% of alpacas are huacaya; they have a full, woolly fleece with its fibre growing vertically out of its skin in small bundles with a tight crimped wave which makes the fleece sit vertically off the skin giving it a ‘Teddy Bear’ look. Suri alpacas have a lustrous, silky fibre growing out of the skin in bundles/locks, much like dread locks, without any crimped wave.

A grown alpaca produces enough fleece each year to create several soft, warm scarves; the yield is between 2 to 4kg. They are shorn once a year, without causing injury to the animal. The fleece comes in about 22 basic colours with many hues / variations, i.e black, grey / rose grey, light / dark brown, a variety of fawn and white.

As alpacas are social herd animals that live in family groups consisting of a territorial alpha male, females and their young, they make excellent herd guards for sheep. Like all camelids alpacas are strictly herbivorous, eating hay or grasses, so they feed with the sheep and have similar requirements for supplementation, vaccination and de-worming. The alpaca is a modified ruminant with a three-compartment stomach and converts grass and hay to energy very efficiently, eating less than other farm animals of their size. The herd guard alpacas learn to adopt the sheep as their family and protect them instinctively. They warn the herd about intruders by making sharp, noisy inhalations that sound like a high-pitched bray and may attack smaller predators like jackal and rooikat with their front feet. They can also spit and kick. Sheep, on the other hand, normally would turn around and run away from predators thus making themselves even more vulnerable!

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Alpacas are gentle, inquisitive, intelligent and observant. They like having their own space and may not like an unfamiliar alpaca or human getting close, especially from behind. They do not like being grabbed. Some alpacas tolerate being stroked or petted anywhere on their bodies, although many do not like their feet, lower legs, and especially their abdomen touched or handled.

Alpacas make a variety of sounds. When they are in danger, they make a high-pitched, shrieking whine. Some breeds are known to make a “wark” noise when excited. Strange dogs – and even cats – can trigger this reaction. To signal friendly or submissive behavior, alpacas “cluck,” or “click” a sound possibly generated by suction on the soft palate, or possibly in the nasal cavity.

Individuals vary, but most alpacas generally make a humming sound. Hums are often comfort noises, letting the other alpacas know they are present and content. When males fight, they scream a warbling, bird-like cry, presumably intended to terrify the opponent.

Not all alpacas spit, but all are capable of doing so. “Spit” is somewhat euphemistic; occasionally the projectile contains only air and a little saliva, although alpacas commonly bring up acidic stomach contents (generally a green, grassy mix) and project it onto their chosen targets. Spitting is mostly reserved for other alpacas, but an alpaca will occasionally spit at a human.

For alpacas, spitting results in what is called “sour mouth”. Sour mouth is characterized by a loose-hanging lower lip and a gaping mouth. This is caused by the stomach acids and unpleasant taste of the contents as they pass out of the mouth.

An adult alpaca generally is between 81 and 99 cm in height at the withers. They usually weigh between 48 and 84 kg (106 and 185 lbs). Gestation is 11.5 months – one cria is born; twins are extremely rare. Their life-span is between 15 to 20+ years.

Alpacas have only a few dung piles in their pasture, thereby making it easy to clean the paddocks and controlling the spread of parasites. Their dung can be used for fertilisation; the South American Indians use the dung for fuel.

Alpaca meat was once considered a delicacy by Andean inhabitants. Because of the high price commanded by alpaca on the growing North American alpaca market, illegal alpaca smuggling has become a growing problem.

It was time for our sheep to get a haircut!

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Yes, cutting or shaving the wool off of a sheep (shearing) is very much like getting a haircut! However, shearing requires skill so that the sheep is shorn efficiently and quickly without causing cuts or injury to the sheep or shearer. These days most sheep are sheared with electric shears or shearing machines by professional teams of shearers and wool handlers going from farm to farm. There are however still farmers who prefer to do the job themselves and even use old-fashioned sheep shears.

Sheep shearing always feels like the start of a new year. Maybe because it happens in spring or maybe because we know lambing is coming up next!

It is also a bit of an anxious time. Especially with the extreme weather patterns these days. Not only is sheep without her fleece  pretty naked looking, and going from a full thick winter wool coat to almost no coat is a bit of stress anyway.

Sheep cannot be left to go without shearing. The wool continually grows and will become heavy, soiled and unhealthy if not sheared.

The amount of wool clip that comes off an animal and its quality depends on the breed and care of the animal. On average a wool clip from one of our sheep will be around 4kg.

The names of our cottages

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At present Landmeterskop farm grazes 1000 ewes – Dormer crossbreeds which we breed for stock production. In winter oats, rye grass & clovers are sown as pasture and in summer these cultivated pastures have to be irrigated. Our two cottages are named after the Dormer and Merino sheep breeds.

DORMER

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The Dormer was developed at the Elsenburg Research Station in the Western Cape by crossing Dorset Horn rams and German Merino ewes. Further development took place in co-operation with farmers in the Western Cape Province where winter pastures are used for slaughter lamb production. The first sale of Dormer rams was held at Elsenburg in 1947. A Dormer Breed Society was established in 1965 and the breed was recognised as a developing breed in 1970.

The dormer is a white-woolled mutton sheep with a sturdy frame – developed for the climatic and grazing conditions of the Western Cape. As a temperate climate breed, it is fairly widely distributed in the Free State and Gauteng Provinces.

Qualities

• An efficient producer of slaughter lambs off pastures

• high fertility

• excellent mothering ability

• long breeding season

• easy lambing

• multiple births – depending on the system of management

• quality mutton

Normal production environment

Natural and planted pastures in temperate climates.

Merino

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The SA Merino’s history can be traced back to 1789, when the Dutch Government donated two Spanish Merino rams and four Spanish Merino ewes to Col Jacob Gordon, the military commander at the Cape. Later introductions (1891 onwards) included American Vermont and the Australian Wanganella and Peppin merinos. It was soon clear that the Australian varieties were more suited to South African conditions and these formed the bulk of the merino imports in the early years. Selection for adaptive and functional traits over a period of 200 years led to the emergence of the South African (SA) Merino – a locally development breed that is on a par with the best of the world and that makes up over 50% (14 million) of the total number of sheep (25 million) in South Africa. The SA merino’s locally developed status is supported by the fact that it is the only sheep in the world that can produce 10-15% of its own live mass in clean wool.”

The SA Merino is found in the drier Northern Cape province, on the fertile lands of the winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape and in the Karooveld and Grassveld areas of the Eastern Cape and Free state. Wellknown Merino Breeders with large top quality flocks are also found in the East Griqualand of KwaZulu Natal and the most parts of Mpumalanga.

The merino is a unique dual-purpose breed, producing unequalled top quality medium to ultra-fine wool and marketable carcass from a wide spectrum of grazing/climatic conditions.

Normal production environment

Semi arid grassveld, The Karoo, Sour Grassland and semi intensive crop production areas, like the Overberg.

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Feeding time for some of the lambs on Landmeterskop!

KARAKUL

The largest of our three cottages is name after the Karakul sheep, a breed of domestic sheep which originated in Central Asia. Some archaeological evidence points to Karakul sheep being raised there continuously since 1400 BC. Karakul sheep are a multi-purpose breed, kept for milking, meat, pelts, and wool. As a fat-tailed breed, they have a distinctive meat. Many adult Karakul are double-coated; in this case, spinners separate the coarse guard hair from the undercoat. Karakul is a relatively coarse fiber used for outer garments, carpets and for felting.

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Activities on Landmeterskop Farm

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Landmeterskop lends itself to long, leisurely walks or bike rides along the farm trails; swimming in the farm dam, and picnics along the dams or the perennial stream running through the farm. The more adventurous might want to walk amongst the fynbos growing naturally on the sandstone slopes of the mountain – many species of the Watsonia and Protea families, Leucadendron, Mimetes, Serruria, Leucospermum, Vygies (Mesembryanthemums), Brunia, Staavia, Pelargonuim, Oxalis, Adenandra, Erica family, Dischisma ciliatum, Selago, Lobelia family, Syncarpha family, Metalasia Gladiolus family. There are more plant species in the Overberg region than in the entire United Kingdom (a total of 2 500, of which 300 are endemic). Some areas have a higher density of plant species than the Amazon.

Apart from the fynbos, Landmeterskop is also a bird-lover’s paradise! Many of the 350 bird species of the Overberg could be seen or heard here: African Fish Eagles (Haliaeetus vocifer), Secretary Birds (Sagittarius serpentarius), Blue Cranes (Anthropoides paradiseus), Burchell’s Coucal (Centropus burchellii), Malachite Sunbirds, tits (tinktinkies), guineafowl, various owl species, Fiscal Shrikes, Cape Robin-Chats (Cossypha caffra), Bokmakieries (Telophorus zeylonus), Cape Bulbuls, Karoo Prinias, Protea Seedeaters, Cape Siskins, Cape Sugarbirds, Orange-breasted Sunbirds, Southern Tchagras, Victorin’s Warblers and woodpeckers. More common species include Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Batis, Cape Grassbirds and Swee Waxbills. Also expect to find a good selection of birds of prey such as Verreaux’s Eagles, Lanner and Peregrine Falcons, Rock Kestrels and a variety of accipiters such as African Goshawks, African Harrier-Hawks and Black and Little Sparrowhawks.

Things to do & see & places to visit around Landmeterskop, in the Cape Overberg

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The Cape Overberg has a magic all its own and has much to offer visitors. Rolling wheatfields with Blue Cranes amongst grazing sheep, against a backdrop of mountains. Near L’Agulhas the two great oceans meet. All along the coastline are long white beaches and many rock pools to explore. Numerous ships have foundered on the treacherous rocks and a couple of wrecks can still be seen along the coast. Whales come here every year to mate and calve, and from Hermanus New Harbour and Kleinbaai Harbour whale watching, as well as shark cage diving boat trips are launched. Scuba-diving trips are also offered.

Or visit the “Drupkelder” cave at De Kelders, also a popular whale-watching spot, which borders on the Walker Bay Nature Reserve. At nearby Klipgat Cave evidence has been found of human habitation going back 2 000 years, part of the Overberg’s rich cultural Bushmen and Quena (Hottentots) history – the people who inhabited the area for ages before the Dutch settlers arrived in the 17th century, and was displaced by European farmers and missionaries. The oldest mission station in the country, Genadendal, is situated here, as well as the third oldest European town at the Cape – Swellendam. Elim, another mission village, was founded by the Moravian Church in 1824 on the Agulhas plain. After 1838 it became a haven for freed slaves, and a monument to them – the only one in South Africa – was erected here in 1938. The village still belongs to the church and has been declared a heritage site in its entirety. Geelkop Nature Reserve is located on a hill just outside the village.

The Overberg villages and towns there are museums and historical buildings, and also many quaint shops to browse – selling anything from serious antiques to collectible junk. There are award winning cheese makers, a micro brewery, numerous wine farms where excellent wines are produced. The region also boasts olive farms who produce their own olive oil. There are many craft shops selling local craft, art galleries, art routes and excellent restaurants, like Marianas, Stormsvlei and more. At Stanford various boat cruises are offered down the Kleinrivier. The river is also popular for canoeing. Die Plaat, a long white sandy beach in the Walker Bay Reserve, is popular amongst anglers (4×4 required).

Along the gravel road towards Gansbaai and Grootbos Nature Reserve, the most southerly indigenous afro-montane forests, notably at Platbos – one of the Overstrand´s best kept secrets, can be found. From the exterior, no inkling is given of the age-old trees found within the forest canopy.

Nearby Baardskeerdersbos (“Beard Shavers’ Bush”), is home to one of the best Boeremusiek bands in the country. For long it has been a forgotten corner, enshrouded in stories about the inhabitants. In the past few years it has attracted many “outsiders”, and now also hosts a popular Art Route featuring local artists and crafters.

Phillipskop Mountain Reserve is 246ha (608 acres) in size and occupies the southerly slopes of the Klein River Mountains just to the east of Stanford. They welcome day visitors, who are then free to explore the reserve which is bordered by streams to the east and west, and the ridge along the crest of the Klein River Mountains to the north. They offer discovery trails and personalised guided walks with owner Chris Whitehouse for those who would like to discover more about the fynbos or the natural history of the reserve. They have also now opened a heritage rock art site which has been recorded for the first time on the Cape Whale Coast at the reserve to visitors. Read more at http://www.phillipskop.co.za/news/rock-art-cape-whale-coast