Grandmother Goose of Murraysburg

murraysburg, western cape
The little Goose Whisperer of Murraysburg – Jelena Pienaar feeds her great-granny’s flock.

Text by Julienne du Toit

Photographs by Chris Marais

Did you know that if you want to pluck a goose without being painfully pecked, it’s best for everyone concerned to first pull a sock over its head?

I’m not saying that’s all we learnt from our recent visit to the Murraysburg district on the eastern edge of the Western Cape Karoo.

I’m saying that in the amazing array of people we met on this trip, one was a goose plucker and her great-granddaughter was a goose whisperer. And that’s something.

murraysburg, western cape
Tannie Dora Pienaar working on one of her fine goose-down duvets.

The Living Legend of Toorfontein

Tannie Dora Pienaar is in her mid-80s and lives on a farm called Toorfontein (Fountain of Enchantment).

The farmstead is so old you can still find the Bushman arrow marks on some of the outside walls.

“The fighting here between the Bushmen and the Boers was rather bitter,” she tells us on a walk-around of her place. “One of my ancestors lost an eye to a Bushman arrow.”

Her hot water is supplied by means of a cunning kind of ‘donkey’ called The Rocket, which seems to burn anything you feed it.

murraysburg, western cape
A granny, a great-granddaughter and a gaggle of geese.

Beloved Geese and a Beloved Great-granddaughter

Her son is Jaco Pienaar, the seventh generation on the farm, and the state veterinarian based in Beaufort West. He still farms there, and comes back every weekend.

Jaco does not love his mother’s geese.

“They tramp all over my lucerne with their big flat feet,” he huffs.

But Tannie Dora absolutely adores her geese, and they her. She calls them and they take wing, flying to get to her. Perhaps they love her because she’s not the one who plucks them every six weeks.

Tannie Dora rides around the place on a kiddies’ bike and fully dotes on a beautiful two-year-old sprite called Jelena.

Whenever she comes to visit from Beaufort West, Jelena darts off to find Granny and become her second shadow for the weekend. One of their big bonding exercises is to grab a bag of mealie pips and venture out to feed the 200-strong flock of rather strident geese.

Jelena has no fear of goose or gander. She orders them around like a little sergeant-major at parade, lining them up and doling out tiny handfuls of pips.

murraysburg, western cape
A hand-made duvet from Toorfontein Farm is a thing of winter magic.

Finest Duvets in the District

Tannie Dora doesn’t personally pluck her geese anymore, one of the Toorfontein staff does the sock trick and the feather harvesting for her. But she still makes some of the most sought-after goose-down duvets in this part of the Karoo – just check her waiting list of customers.

Tannie Dora (touch wood) never falls ill. She drinks her kankerbossie (Sutherlandia frutescens) tea every morning and darts about the farmstead like a 50-year-old. She has only one complaint about her life:

“I seem to be getting shorter by the day.”

More Murraysburg Info: CLICK HERE



One thought on “Grandmother Goose of Murraysburg

  1. Kleintjie Smalberger Strydom says:

    Ek is n Karoo kind, in Aberdeen grootgeword, later in Graaff-Reinet gewerk, woonagtig te Ermelo vanaf Feb. 1992. Murraysburg lyk na n mooi en skoon dorpie, sal graag daar wou woon, met my verlof wil ek in Murraysburg kom oornag en alles bekyk. Pragtige kerkie ook, eks baie beindruk.


    Kleintjie Strydom

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