Tag Archives: Oudrif

Oudrif: The blessings of rain

You could hear the earth sighing with relief and the river bursting with longing. It’s not often that you get to experience rain at Oudrif, even when you are regulars like us. Last weekend, we had a whole rainy day, but also sunshine and warmth and the glory of the flower season all around.

A different kind of light, of being.

We rested, read, went for walks, ate like royalty and returned home with a little bit of calm in our hearts and heads.

And then, there was Jack, one of the rescues from the last CLAWS project I had the privilege to assist with. When he was found, he was barely alive: skeleton and skin, sores all over, starving to death. Seeing him, I did not believe that he would make it. Yet … this weekend, not even a month later, we went for a walk together. His muscles are still learning how to do that – walk, run, play. He is three years old, but all he knew before Jeanine rescued him was a short rope around his neck and a small, merciless enclosure. Despite everything he has suffered through, Jack is full of love and trust, and when he is ready to be adopted after his convalescence in Oudrif, the humans of his forever home will be very lucky to have his beautiful presence in their lives.

If you would like to support Jeanine and CLAWS and at the same time stand a chance to experience the restorative magic of Oudrif for yourself, among other fabulous prizes, you can enter the CLAWS Raffle. Every R50 donated to CLAWS is an entry – it is also the potential to save an animal’s life.

Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society 

FNB ACCOUNT 629 2008 5504 | Branch 250655

Reference: raffle & email address or send POP to clanclaws AT gmail DOT com | WhatsApp: 083 381 0030

CLAWS: Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society

Love me!

The little boy did not know what was wrong with his listless puppy. But he knew who Jeanine Mitchell was and that she would help.


I met Jeanine at Oudrif. She and her husband Bill own and run the place I always return to. I think part of my soul never really leaves Oudrif, so I have to go there to feel whole. Each time I visit, I meet other fascinating guests, and animals. Jeanine fosters cats and dogs who can no longer be taken care of for whatever reason by their original families and she finds new homes for them. She is the project manager at CLAWS: Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society. Between 12 and 14 July, CLAWS, together with the remarkable Cape Town vet Dr Annelize Roos, organised another Pet Sterilisation Project in the greater Clanwilliam area.

The Pet Sterilisation Projects focus on the vaccination and sterilisation of disadvantaged dogs and cats to prevent more unwanted pets and feral colonies occurring in this sensitive environment. (The greatest threat to African Wild Cat is hybridisation with pet and feral cats.)

Jeanine and her team of volunteers pick up the animals from their homes or trap them if they are feral and take them to a building (neglected and grotesquely looted, but beggars can’t be choosers – that is the only place on offer to the Pet Sterilisation Projects at the moment) on the outskirts of Clanwilliam near the sports stadium. There, they are vaccinated or/and sterilised by Dr Roos and her team, and those who need to recover after an op are taken care of by more volunteers at the venue. Anyone who wants to have their pet(s) vaccinated or/and sterilised and can transport their animal(s) themselves, will also be assisted at the venue. People from the entire area arrive throughout the three days. Only those who can afford to are asked to pay the full fees for the services. Others make small donations, if they can. Everyone is assisted.

No electricity, no running water, no toilets, but everyone makes it all work no matter what the challenges (including the generator blowing up and damaging operating equipment, and threats of break-ins at night from the tik-addicts in the area). It’s brutal, but the community rallies around the Pet Sterilisation Projects and all you encounter are smiling faces wherever you look, even after everything goes wrong. Because in the end, nothing really does. Dedication and passion save the day every single time.

The Three Volunteers :)

In my small capacity, I have been supporting these Projects through all avenues of donation – and with books, Karavan Press’s and my own, which you can buy at Oudrif and all the money from the sales goes towards CLAWS – for as long as I have been visiting Oudrif. But, this year I decided to volunteer as well and went up to Clanwilliam for the three days to assist in whichever way I could.

For Jeanine, these three days mean 14 to 18 hours of work daily. It’s relentless. She has assistance only for part of the time. But she never loses her energy or her cool. Her patience and care – for the animals, their humans and the people she guides and works with – are astounding. She knows how to make a plan. I felt out of my depth most of the time and made many mistakes, but she gently taught me and all the others to step up and help to the best of our abilities. There is a gigantic responsibility involved, and life and death situations occur where the wrong decision or action can have dire consequences. Around 200 patients were attended to during the Project. Only one animal arrived too late to be saved. All others were helped, returned home or adopted. The listless puppy abandoned into Jeanine’s care by the helpless little boy could no longer stand properly on his little paws when we found the two, but with a little bit of food, the proper medication, a bath, and all the love around, within a day, the puppy was already going for a walk with me, barking to demand attention and wagging his tail with excitement. Jeanine will foster him at Oudrif where I am sure he will charm the pants off all the current visitors until he is fully recovered and ready to be adopted. He will have one more adult doggy companion getting treatment and healing at Oudrif after this Project.

All other abandoned animals who arrived at CLAWS’s doorstep this time found new homes already during the three days we were there.

Successful adoptions.

In the years that the Pet Sterilisation Projects have been up and running, the team has been able to vaccinate and sterilise thousands of animals. Singlehandedly, Jeanine has also saved many lives of animals who were sick and dying because of abandonment or lack of appropriate care. CLAWS is active throughout the year, helping people to deworm, vaccinate, sterilise and heal their animals. They use the opportunity to educate the general population about animal care issue. During a recent canine distemper virus outbreak, Jeanine and CLAWS were on the frontlines trying to assist (you can read the Daily Maverick article about the outbreak: “Virus has swept through Western Cape town of Clanwilliam, causing death and suffering to dozens of dogs”). She raises the funds to make this all happen from donations or out of her own pocket. At Oudrif, she makes compassion bracelets and handmade beauty products that are sold to raise funding and awareness, while Oudrif supplies logistical and financial support. In Cape Town, you can buy the beauty products at The Hoghouse. I love the liquid and solid soaps and the lotions, and my home is never without them, but there is so much more to choose from.

The most efficient way to support CLAWS is a direct donation:

Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society, FNB account 629 2008 5504, branch 250655.

They are a registered NPO.

I will be going to Oudrif again in August and will be taking cat/dog food, blankets, sheets, towels, cushions and hot water bottles (all needed during recovery) with me. If you can donate any of these things, please get in touch with me and I will pick them up from you (in Cape Town) and take it all with me. Everything helps! The next Pet Sterilisation Project will take place later this year. It makes a huge difference, to the animals and the communities they live in.

Please hug your Furry Family from me. The Cats send their purrs.

Operation Oysterhood: The Missing Days

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks

Oudrif. A long weekend of calm, at least on the outside. Once you lose your inner equilibrium, restoration requires patience and time. I am working on it. Returning to Oudrif with my love was part of the journey. Especially at a time like this.

There were friends – human, canine and feline – books, a flowing river after the rains, the soothing light, flowers galore, stories, walks, dreams, and the ultimate chocolate cake (from the fire).

One of those days was the 500th day of lockdown.

Today was a day of harsh and wonderful everyday realities. No matter what I do, I cannot escape the tired heaviness that follows me around. But I am in a warm bed with a loving furry family around me. And my brother has moved into his new flat in Salzburg. And Topolino has new shoes. And we are reprinting books. And people continue to be kind. There is so much to be grateful for.

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”


Operation Oysterhood: 20-23 May

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.

— @HaggardHawks


Balm for the heart and the soul. Oudrif. There is no better place to recuperate. Exactly what we needed after the ordeals of this month. We arrived just after the heavy rain and had one more day of drizzles and cloudy skies, but then the sun came out and with it the first tiny greens and flowers – another stunning flower season may lie ahead.

This is the place I always want to return to. Oudrif. Its calm, its beauty, and the simplicity of it all. Between the pale rose sunrises and molten sunsets, each day unfolds with gentleness, and with every passing moment you feel more and more restored to yourself. The people, the animals, the Doring River, the surrounding hills with their ancient rock art and their stories, the communal meals and walks, the evening fires – and laziness, and sleep, and enlightening conversations with friends and strangers alike. Oudrif.

The first night, I slept for ten hours. I even slept during the afternoons. I finally managed to finish reading a novel I had been reading for much too long (not because I struggled with the book, but with the lack of time to devote to it), and had time for a poetry collection and two manuscripts. I could sit in the sun to dry my hair and soak up vitamin D and massage my favourite moisturiser into my neglected skin. I could rest.

And then there was The Puppy, whom my love named Pippi because of her cast-longstocking. Jeanine of Oudrif is involved in a pet sterilisation project in the greater Clanwilliam area. The projects focus on sterilisation of disadvantaged dogs and cats in rural areas. When possible, Jeanine also nurses neglected pets back to health and finds homes for rescues. Pippi arrived with a broken hind leg, a million ticks and protruding ribs – after only a few days at Oudrif, she has transformed into the cutest, sweetest little dog who everyone present fell in love with. The Cats have forbidden me to adopt more animals, but I was very tempted, and I hope that the lovely Pippi with her gentle nature finds a home where she will be loved. She will make someone very happy. If you are reading this and thinking of adopting a puppy, please let me know …

While I was gallivanting with Pippi, The Cats and our home were in the care of a very dear friend. Her weekend was not as peaceful as ours … Just before we left, I noticed that the roof started leaking in two places, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I just asked my friend to ignore the dripping as much as possible … What she could not ignore (and what I had no clue about before leaving) was that the rains locked the front gate into place and damaged an alarm sensor. Luckily, she is a Superhero Friend and managed the disaster extremely well, even when it involved mopping up rain-drenched floors, climbing over a wall, being constantly on the phone with ADT, using the garage door to enter/leave the property and not giving in to Salieri screaming at her for different food (she is not impressed with her new thyroid diet). And at the end of it all, my friend did not say anything about “never again”. I am very grateful to have friends like her!

So now, with batteries recharged, I am tackling the new week and starting with ADT and the wretched gate (that I was promised would never give me trouble again after the traumatic installment of a new special gate frame a few years ago … traumatic because the man responsible for the job, in the process, cut off my water supply and my electricity, took weeks to fix everything, and nearly drove me insane – I won’t be calling him for help!).

Be kind. Wear a mask. Support local.

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”


Operation Oysterhood: 18 – 22 September

Oudrif: a state of mind. We took our time on the last part of the journey from Cape Town, stopping every few minutes on the dirt road to Oudrif to admire the serene landscape covered in the spring tapestry of colour. Arrived to a socially distanced but as warm and charming as ever welcome: friendly eyes, ice-cold beers and a catch-up chat. The moment you get there, all the stress of the everyday begins to drain away from your body and mind and rest sets in. There is no reception, nor internet, so the world cannot reach you. It is just you, Jeanine, Bill and their caring staff, the animals of Oudrif, the hills, the stars and the Doring river – flowing enthusiastically after the rains. The place always attracts the most fascinating people. This is where we met Natalie and James of The Hoghouse (when we picked up our takeaway breakfast for the road to Oudrif, Natalie included a gift for me: a packet of my chocolate chip cookies!) and Sue Greeff, the artist with whom I have subsequently collaborated on a literary project (her stunning artworks also grace my walls), among many others. This time, a young Dutch couple were there. They have made SA their home for over six years now: she works with community projects focused on regenerative farming, he with solar energy – it was amazing to listen to their stories. And we also met a local couple who travel around SA in their retirement and who also had wonderful tales to share around the braai under the Milky Way. Every day after breakfast, we went on the usual walks with either Jeanine or Bill – walking with them through this landscape is always enlightening and soothing and it makes you feel better about the world. We visited the sheep rock painting. We saw the flowers. Four nights later, life was just a better place to be in, as it always is when you can recharge your inner batteries at Oudrif.

Our next trip here is already booked. This is the place I always long to return to, like home. Oudrif. Oudrif. Oudrif.