Fairview Homestead | Philda Benkenstein
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Because of the huge Australian Flowering Gum tree at the front of our property, the soil in those formal beds is dry and poor. That is why we have planted the hedges of Soutbos. We find that lavender can also cope with the soil and an added bonus is that it gives off the most amazing scent as you walk through the path toward the front door. There is such a lot to do with lavender flowers: I love making small posies using lavender and roses; I also tie small bunches on a ribbon and hang it in the wardrobes or I tie it around the bath taps and it gives off its perfume as the hot water runs over it. Ten sprigs of  lavender in about 500 gram of castor sugar gives you a delicious lavender sugar (I sprinkle it on French Toast which I then serve with bacon, garnished with a lavender flower) I also would like to share a recipe for Lavender Jelly:

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Twenty one years ago, just before we bought Fairview, we made an offer on another heritage property in George, but the owner  decided to withdraw Whispering Oaks  from the market. We were quite heartbroken, but then we found Fairview – and the rest is history…

I am happy to announce that our daughter Nelleke and her husband Michael just bought Whispering Oaks! This all happened very fast and with great  serendipity – at this stage I cannot direct you to the new website yet, but it should be up and running before 1 January 2016. In the meantime they are painting, furnishing, decorating – to hopefully open between Christmas and 1 January sometime.  Initially they will only have three rooms, but eventually there will be 5 rooms offered on B&B basis and 1 self-catering unit. Talking about breakfast – it will be good as Nelleke is a qualified chef and food stylist by profession.

Situated in Caledon Street, centrally located in George, all the Whispering Oaks bedrooms are en-suite, have flat screen televisions, DSTV, queen sized beds with good quality mattresses and white percale linen. The decor can be described as contemporary, Scandinavian style. Guests are within walking distance to many good restaurants, the Botanical Gardens and only a few minute’s drive to the beachfront in Victoria Bay.I think they are going to be my biggest competition in George…

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Some text obviously came from our website, but whoever wrote this definitely had to have stayed here – I wonder who?

Built in 1861, Fairview Historic Homestead has been sympathetically restored to its original Cape Georgian splendour, and invites guests to experience elegant accommodation in the heart of the Garden Route.

On arrival, the gardens make a spectacular first impression and are undoubtedly the showpiece of the property. Lovingly curated into a fairy-tale expanse of arches, flowerbeds, flowing lawns, water features and clipped hedges, this magnificent space will steal the hearts of all guests, whether they have an appreciation for gardening or not. The striking Georgian house fits beautifully into this pretty scene and has been furnished with a collection of antiques and artwork that, together with the high ceilings and wooden floors, perfectly capture the grace of old.

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This article, titled ‘Paul Ash plays lord of the manor’ appeared in the travel section of the Cape Times :

”I’m tired of boxy hotels, and I’ve had enough of drek little B&Bs owned by poxy, unhelpful pinch-faced landlords and stuffed with décor from hell. There, I’ve said it. Running a B&B should require a license, where applicants are subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny as those who wish to own automatic weapons. Sadly, that is not the case, which means I spend an inordinate amount of time sifting through the dross.

George, as you may well imagine, is overstocked with B&Bs. The town has more accommodation options than Jo’burg has Tuscan palazzos, so I was well pleased, on my very first troll of the web, to stumble across Fairview Homestead, a former farmhouse built some time after 1864 and sold to one Koos Stander in 1894. The family farmed apples and cattle until 1974, fending off the urban creep. Today, the homestead is an island of beauty in the middle of George’s spreading metropolis.

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In the Western Cape, we eat kerrievis during Easter. If you are not as lucky as I am to be married to a fisherman and to have two sons and a son-in-law not too shabby with a fishing rod either, then hake from your fishmonger will have to do. Over the years I have tried many traditional recipes, but I promise you that we have now honed it down to the best.

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Both Desmond and I grew up with mothers who made Ginger beer and Grenadilla cordial as a summer cool drink. The drink was only allowed to brew to make it fizzy and non-alcoholic (although I do remember becoming quite tipsy once because I scoffed down the delicious swollen raisins that I was supposed to discard!)

Desmond’s mother often made Grenadilla Cordial and looking at our harvest this year the guests will be treated to Grenadilla cordial in a big way:

For every 2 cups of Grenadilla pulp, you add the juice of 3 oranges and 1 lemon. Heat 3 cups of water and dissolve 2 cups of sugar to make a thin syrup. You then add the fruit to the syrup and bottle it. It is very good diluted with soda water and ice. And a shot of Vodka and a mint leave will turn it into a summer Cocktail!

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The grounds on which Fairview stands was first registered in 1864 in the names of Messrs. Swemmer and Meyer, directors of the first bank in George. When these two gentlemen found themselves in financial difficulty in 1894, they sold the farm to Koos and Miems Stander.

The Standers had sold their farm at Victoria Heights and bought Fairview so that their 8 children could go to school from home. In those days it was a big apple and cattle farm on the outskirts of George.

Two sons became attorneys, one son qualified in Scotland as a dentist and all 5 daughters qualified as teachers. To get to Wellington Teachers College the girls traveled by horse-drawn cart to Mossel Bay, from there by ship to Cape Town and then by train to Wellington! Koos Stander was Mayor of George from 1926 to 1932 and the house stayed in the Stander family from 1894 to 1974.

In those days it was a big apple and cattle farm on the outskirts of George; today it is centrally situated in the suburb of Bergsig and the grounds measure 3800m².

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In 1994 we moved back to South Africa after a 13 year stay in Namibia. We bought Fairview and took up the challenge to restore this historic George landmark – always bearing in mind that the challenge in restoring and maintaining any old building remains staying true to the authenticity of the structure. We therefore removed a garage that altered the square Georgian shape of the original building. Eight windows had to be replaced and were meticulously duplicated using the old frames as templates. The time consuming restoration was contracted out to a specialist team and took nine months to complete. Waterproofing of the clay walls proved to be a major challenge, as was the stripping of the many layers of paint to expose the lovely wood again. All the plumbing and electric wiring had to be redone, the 4 chimneys and fireplaces needed radical repairs, and most of the light fittings were removed and had to be replaced with antique ones again.

Below are two very old photo’s showing that the house originally had a pitch roof on the front section. There is no record of when the facade was changed to that of the typical flat-roofed Cape Georgian style. As not even the 82 year old Stander granddaughter could remember this pitched roof, it was decided not to replace during the 1996 restoration.

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In 2013 we embarked on yet another phase, this time renovation more than restoration. New garages were built for private use at the Smith Street entrance, a spiral staircase was added to the inner courtyard to give access to two upstairs guest rooms, the little storeroom below the swimming pool was restored and turned into a small guest room and 4 of the bedrooms were renovated and re-decorated.

The house is now fully restored to its long lost splendor and elegance and is listed with the National Monument’s Council as well as the local George Heritage Trust.

Desmond is passionate about his garden – work on the garden is an ongoing labor of love. The front garden is more formal in structure – in keeping with the formal Cape Georgian style of the house. The flowerbeds on the Eastern side of the house is more informal. At the back of the house we have fruit trees, a herb garden, vegetable garden and a small orchard. We also keep our own chickens to keep the kitchen in supply of fresh eggs.

 

… and no golden eggs. Yes, it’s that time of the year again…

You have to understand – as much as I hate the start of blaring ‘Jingle Bells, jingle bells,jingle bells’ rocking in my ears while I’m shopping for our daily bread, eggs, bacon, mushrooms… IN OCTOBER! As much, do I love the advent of Christmas? I light my 4 candles in anticipation of the last candle – one on each Sunday and the last candle we light on Christmas eve. I hang an advent wreath on our front door, I use my navy blue cloth napkins with the golden stars that my children helped me to stencil on when they were small. There is always a small Christmas tree – often one concocted with thorn tree branches. In Namibia ( where we lived for 13 years) this is quite a traditional Christmas tree – the thorns are perfect to hang the tree decorations from and I also find the thorn tree symbolic of the thorn wreath that was put on Christ’s head during the crucifixion.

Our friends in the northern hemisphere probably find it incomprehensible that we can have Christmas without snow, but yes that is our reality: Christmas day temperatures average about 25 degrees Celsius. Some people do the whole hot meal with turkey and gammon, others prefer to go the more sensible route of salads and cold meat or salads accompanied by meat grilled over the coals (a braai).

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It is countdown to the annual Garden Route Open Garden Festival this Saturday and Sunday. Desmond is gardening before work and I hardly get greeted before he is off into the garden again after work (he jokes that he actually goes to rest in his air conditioned medical practice during the day as the real work starts when he gets home!)All the hard work shows – our garden is looking spectacular. I am excited about a little collaboration with Of the Earth Catering  –  delicious French pastries and healthy lunches will be served at Fairview Historic Homestead’s Pop-up Tea Garden.

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Our garden is graced by big trees – most were here when we bought the property 20 years ago, some were lost in storms over the years and some were planted by Desmond from small cuttings and now stand proudly and tall. Desmond’s father was a forester and their 6 Benkenstein boys grew up on Forestry stations and learning about trees and forests from their dad.

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