Houtenrus is located on the 1 000ha farm Houtenbek, situated in Mpumalanga, close to the village of Tonteldoos, and has been home to six generations of the O’Grady family.
The farm, which offers guest accommodation in the Houtenrus cottage, has a rich history, says Yvette O’Grady.
Her husband, MJ, runs the farming side of the business, while O’Grady focuses on their agritourism business and takes care of the farm’s financials and administation.
According to O’Grady, Michael, one of her ancestors, purchased the land in January 1879 from Piet Steenkamp for £500.
A brief history
During the Second Anglo-Boer War, Michael supplied the Boers with fresh horses. When the British found out about this, the family homestead was burnt down in 1901. Remnants of the old house still remained, however. Michael is buried a stone’s throw away from the house in a small, private graveyard.
Today, farming activities, which constitute the main source of income for the business, include a dairy concern, a flock of South African Meat Merinos, and Eragrostis and oats, which are sold as feed. The mixed farming business also includes seed potato production and a feed-transporting business.
The O’Grady children are also involved in the activities on the farm. Ten-year-old Thomas says he loves interacting with the guests who visit Houtenrus, telling them all about life on the farm, while eight-year-old Michael and six-year-old Lika are budding conservationists who spend their free time setting up bird-feeding stations.
The Houtenrus self-catering, self-serviced cottage is small but comfortable, with a large, covered stoep, making it the ideal place to have meals, relax and take in all the farming activities.
The cottage is close to the main house and farmyard, but there are plenty of trees to provide complete privacy.
The main bedroom has a bathroom and a second bedroom leading from it. A double bed
in the main bedroom and a bunk bed for two in the adjacent room allow for four guests. A lounge, dining room and a fully equipped kitchen with refrigerator and microwave complete the set-up.
Visitors can expect to be welcomed and woken each day by farm sounds and smells. The tranquillity is punctuated with birdsong when activities in the yard calm down.
There is also the added benefit of a completely closed-off yard where visitors’ dogs, which are welcome on the farm, can roam around and enjoy some fresh air.
“Dogs are free to be unleashed in the yard around the cottage and out in the veld, but should a visit be made on a prior arrangement to the dairy or any other farm activities, they must be leashed,” says O’Grady.
Visitors can also look forward to early morning coffee on the stoep, or a braai in the evening while stargazing.
According to O’Grady, the farm offers athletic visitors the ideal training ground, with the farm at an elevation of above 1 900m. There are kilometres of farm tracks and roads in the area for joggers, MTB cyclists, hikers or recreational walkers.
There are two dams, one of which is ideal for rowing and the other for fishing for bass or carp. Rock pools offer an escape from the heat in summer.
The small town of Tonteldoos is less than 3km from the farm and offers several dining attractions: the Cat and the Cow provides vegan meal options, while the Highside Tavern is a good stop for a hamburger, and a favourite spot amongst dirt bike enthusiasts.
The Pear Cottage Coffee Shop at the Silver Kudu opened recently, and is already making a name for itself because of the Belgium beer it serves.
Dullstroom, a popular tourist town only 30 minutes’ drive from the farm, offers whisky tastings, trout burgers, second-hand bookshops, horse riding and trout fishing.
Fauna and flora
Adjacent to Houtenbek lies the Verloren Vallei Nature Reserve. Several scarce and rare bird species, including the blue crane, crowned crane and wattled crane, are listed here. The critically endangered white-winged flufftail has been spotted in these wetlands, and keen twitchers may be able to catch a glimpse of this bird.
“Duiker, oribi, steenbok and grey rhebok are often seen and sometimes wander right up to the fence of the cottage,” says O’Grady. Bushpig, warthog and jackal are also present.
The area is home to several endangered plant species, including the arum lily (Mapoch lily), Aloe reitzii, and the pineapple flower. The lily and aloe are also found on the farm.
For more information, visit houtenrus.co.za.