Just outside the Langeberg town of Robertson on the R60 lies the area of Klaasvoogds West. While lesser-known that its Robertson and McGregor counterparts, it’s no less charming; in fact, it’s more so for its reclusive feel. The olive- and wine-producing valley also hides Owl’s Rest, a working lavender and olive farm owned by Hedley and Patricia Manicom. Their boutique products include cordial, essential oil, soaps, hair products and linen spray, sold in small quantities from their farm and online. Here, Hedley gives us more on farm life…
What led to the divergence in careers?
Our dream to run an olive or herb farm began after visiting a herb farm in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands about 15 years ago. Then, when my corporate employer offered voluntary retrenchments to its executives, I made use of this opportunity to take a “sabbatical” and prepare myself for a new life chapter – it was never my desire to retire as a corporate executive.
Why the name Owl’s Rest?
Spotted eagle owls were nesting on the farm at the time the previous owners were looking for a name. We still see and hear the owls (although we don’t know where they are nesting at present).
Why is the area so suitable for your farm?
The valley has a Mediterranean climate, which is ideal for olives and lavender, and we were impressed at general fertility of the area. The koppies on either side of the farm also provide some shelter from the wind and the sun. Most plants do pretty well – unfortunately, this also includes the weeds!
How you go about extracting oil from your lavender?
Lavender essential oil is extracted by a process called hydro-distillation, which involves passing steam through the lavender flowers to lift the oil out, condensing this vapour and separating the oil off the top of the resulting liquid. There are some tricks to optimising the quality and yield of oil but this is where the fun lies for me.
Which are your more popular products?
Our green olive tapenade and our lavender and rose geranium cordials. The former has a unique balance and freshness due to the sun-dried tomatoes, caramelised onions and fresh herbs. The cordials are refreshing, not too sweet, and offer a nice break from soft drinks with synthetic flavours.
What do you love most about what you do?
Although there is a fair amount of hard work involved, much of what we do is fun. The creative side of growing the business, coupled with problem solving, optimisation and the learning side is where I derive most joy. I also really love the opportunity for physical, outdoor activity and chatting with customers.
For Patricia, with her landscaping background and her love and understanding of plants, the outdoor farm life is appealing. The packaging, presentation and marketing also offers the oppportunity for her to exercise her creative talents. Her natural, extroverted nature means she thrives on customer interactions.
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Words: Kirsty Wilkins | Images: Supplied