The Storytellers The Storytellers Experience the Rocklands wilderness

In the Cederberg, as with many of the wild places, there is much that we can learn from the land.

The best way to truly experience the essence of a place is to immerse yourself. Meet the people, eat local food and partake of the knowledge held in the land.

We (The Storytellers) count the plants, the animals, the water, the rocks, the soil, the climate and the land's first people as our teachers. We have much to learn (many lifetimes' worth), but there is also much we can share and teach. Beyond ourselves as teachers are the residents of the local communities, with their knowledge. We are privileged to be able to facilitate their teaching too, by opening our space to (and helping to market) the classes and experiences they offer.

We offer a number of courses and experiences - some of them taking a few hours, others requiring a weekend or a week. We also welcome people who want to stay here longer, connecting with the land, working in the gardens, and immersing more deeply into what is being taught. The coursework is presented at verhaal.kraal, our landscape education centre. (Some taught by us, some by other local residents and teachers, occasionally by experts from further afield).

For those who'd rather simply relax and experience, we facilitate some cultural entertainment at verhaal.kraal. Guests may order and experience traditional meals with a modern, fynbos-infused twist, and occasionally, be entertained with storytelling, music and dance. These experiences are presented by residents of the local communities, although JP also likes to prepare and serve a meal every now and then.

What follows is a list of the courses on offer. Check back regularly, as we do add things.

Plant knowledge workshops

For the past eight years and counting, Tracy spends much of her free time learning about (and from) the plants around us. Her knowledge has been assimilated from an eclectic mix of books, peer-reviewed scientific journals, involvement in formal academic research, working with local experts from the resident communities, personal experimentation, feedback she receives in her Fynbos Apothecary, and time spent quietly learning from the plants themselves.

These are the kind of topics we cover:

  • Plant walk with broad introduction to some of the medicinal and edible plants growing around us.
  • Focus session at verhaal.kraal, covering more detail about specific plants.
  • Practical discussion and demonstration covering how to use specific plants and/or use them in food.
  • Workshop with hands-on experience, working with particular plants in food or personal care recipes.
  • Plant communication - learning directly from plants.
  • Nature experiences and drawing time for children.

We are also very fortunate to work with a group of local plant knowledge holders. We call our collective plant community the Fynbos Mengsels. Some members of the 'Mengsels group also offer their walks and lessons in plant knowledge (presented at and bookable through verhaal.kraal). Sometimes we all present lessons together.

If you are interested, keep an eye on our calendar for planned events, or contact us to plan a half-day, full day or weekend for your group.

Apothecary workshops

Nine years ago, we moved into our wooden cabin in the wild, from the suburbs of Johannesburg and realised that everything we put on our bodies or through our washing would go directly into our soil and onto our plants. It needed to be toxin free. But toxin free, purchased from the shops, is expensive and doesn't always keep its promises. So we started making things. Soaps, shampoo, bath products, face creams, conditioner, facial spritzers, detergent for dishes, laundry and surfaces, deodorant, make-up, children's face paint and yes, hand sanitiser. We even acquired our own alembic potstill, with which JP makes essential oil and botanical distillates from plants in our garden.

Becoming more interested in the medicinal plants, we started infusing them into these recipes for their health-giving properties. We discovered that many plants worked particularly well in balms, massage oils and creams. Soon we realised that they could be infused and added into food, thus opening up a world of experimentation and invention that includes brandies, vinegars, herbal salts, preserves, smoothie powders and beverage mixes.

Tracy and the Fynbos Mengsels also like to experiment with plants, making food dishes, preserves, salad oils, chutneys, vinegars and whatever else inspires them.

Workshops at verhaal.kraal can take the form of a demonstration, or a hands-on experience where you make something yourself. These are the classes offered:

  • Making balms and oils
  • Distilling essential oils and botanical waters
  • Making cold process and hot process soap
  • Making natural make-up, deodorant and face paint
  • Making moisturiser
  • Working with aromatic herbs in cooking - covers salts, beverage mixes, smoothie mixes, infusion into cooking, with ideas. This course is offered by Tracy as well as by a Fynbos Mengsels group.

Craft and Skills workshops

As former city kids, we have profound respect for the diversity of practical skills needed to thrive, independent of shops and service providers.

Some of the new skills we have acquired, we like to present as workshops. We also facilitate for other teachers of useful skills, giving them a place to teach at verhaal.kraal.

Some examples of topics covered:

  • Knife-making without expensive equipment (presented by JP)
  • Following animal track (presented by JP and community experts)
  • Mosaic (presented by Tracy)
  • Traditional breadmaking (presented by community experts)
  • Kids craft workshops using nature and upcycled elements

See our calendar for scheduled events or contact us to organise a workshop for your own group of two to eight.

Cultural experiences

For those on holiday who are not up for formal learning, but would love to see, hear and taste, we do facilitate community-led cultural experiences at verhaal.kraal. These events are run by Fynbos Mengsels members, as their own business.

  • Traditional meals with a modern, fynbos-infused twist. These are sometimes offered as pop-up, set menu restaurant experiences, but can also be done for your group of four to twenty people.
  • Riel-dance, music and storytelling - offered by the Fynbos Mengsels group as organised experiences - check the calendar for details.