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January 2017

Our night time camera recently captured Cape Fox, African Wild Cat and Ratel (Honey Badger) all just next to the main house.

Have a look at the photographs on our FaceBook page (Cape Mountain Oils) - amazing wildlife in the Cederberg !




We recently put up a night time remote camera near the main house and were elated to capture the following pair of leopards:




Ratel Farming is redefining itself, rebranding its products as CAPE MOUNTAIN OILS, and focusing increasingly on Indigenous Fynbos Oils.  2014 has been a year of big decisions, the main being that we are no longer going to struggle with traditional geranium oils in our deprived sandy soils.  Our focus will increasingly be on indigenous fynbos oils - African Chamomile, buchu, Cape Snowbush, Blue Mountain Sage, Cape May and African Wormwood.  These amazing oils offer a real opportunity to Western Cape essential oil farmers to create a niche market for South Africa oils, instead of trying to compete with the international producers of mainstream oils.  We will still produce our favourites - the lavenders, Tea Tree and some limited geranium oils - but our focus will be to expand our production of the rosemary oils and indigenous oils.  We are also looking to establish a loose association of similar small indigenous producers, in order to increase the profile of indigenous oils and to ensure a more consistent supply of these oils.


We have introduced two health products in 2014. We are now making an Olive Leaf Extract from our organic Mission Olives: the extract is a 40% ethanol tincture and is sold in an attractive 50 ml blue bottle with a dropper.  Olive Leaf Extract has been regarded as an immune booster and health advance since the earliest of times. We are also now producing a dry skin and eczema cream: the cream is an aqueous-based cream which contains cetearyl alcohol, which is then blended with organic Tea Tree essential oil.  This really is a effective treatment for any skin dryness, eczema or rash.  I am experimenting with introducing other fragrances to the basic recipe, such as lavender and african chamomile.  The products will be sold off the farm but can be ordered from me directly via email.



Rockhaven has just installed a solar pumping system on the farm. Given the high cost of electricity, we decided that it was a worthwhile investment to install a solar-powered borehole pump and holding facility on the farm.  In summer we will be able to pump 30 000 litres a day from 60 metres underground and pump this water up another 40 metres into storage tanks higher up the mountain.  From there we get around 3 bar pressure into our mainline for irrigation.  So far the installation has been a great success - the sight of water pumping without Eskom enjoying a cent is a wonderful thing !  If you are interested, feel free to send me an email and I will let you have further details.




We have just completed a succesful Lavender harvest: the true lavenders (Vera and Mailette) in December and the lavandins (Abrialis and Grosso) in January.  Although flower production was lower than usual, probably due to the extreme heat over the preceding weeks, the oil yield remained constant.  Fortunately, the price of organic lavender oil has risen sharply, so the ultimate benefit has been good.  We have now also just finished out first Rose Geranium harvest for the year. The rest of the year will include harvesting Rosemary (February), Buchu (March), Tea Tree (April), Eriocephalus (June/July), Rose Geranium (September) and the remainder of the Tea Tree (October).  Interspersed amongst this will be harvests of Wormwood, Blue Mountain Sage and Peppermint Geranium - looks as if the steam-still will be busy in 2013 !

If you would like to come and observe a harvest and the stilling of oil, please contact us and we will be only too happy to make an arrangement.  We recently had a group of aromatherapists attend the lavender harvest, which they enjoyed immensely.



Country Life Magazine organised another succesful Essential Oils Workshop in October 2012.  This included two days of seminars and one day practical on Rockhaven Farm.  Jaap Moses, our manager, gave a talk on the traditional medicinal uses of indigenous plants in the Winterhoek Mountain, which was very well received.



'ie Winkel' is now open !


The shop serves guests who are staying on the farm and is not open to the general public.  We sell our range of essential oils, as well as a variety of soaps, bath salts and room sprays.  At the moment we also have honey. Stofelina sells rusks, fresh bread and free range eggs from the shop as well.


We had a successful harvest of in April 2010 with interesting results.  Firstly, this is a second harvest for the season, which is not the traditional approach for Tea Tree.  Secondly, it is the wrong time for harvest (which is usually in October).  However, the results were excellent, with a higher percentage yield than usual.  The quality of the oil also seems good.

The reason for the increase in yield, we think, is due to the fact that as a second harvest, it is mainly recent young growth that is being stilled.  This may also account for the good oil quality.  Either way, we are delighted with the results. 


There is an interesting article in the 18 February 2011 edition of Farmer's Weekly (page 28) on a new use for essential oils - by spraying a fine layer of lippia oil on harvested citrus fruit, research is showing a marked reduction of fungal growth thereby extending the lifetime of the fruit.  This would replace chemcial fungicides and allow organically certified fruit to retain their status.


We have been experimenting over the past year with new essential oils, with mixed results.  On the less successful front, we have extracted some oil from Pelargonium Crispum (a light, floral oil, but with a yield of around 0.02 % it is not viable) and an indigenous pelargonium (that we call 'bubble gum' because of its candy floss aroma, but with yields also below 0.05 it is also not viable), and have shown that certain other seemingly aromatic plants from the mountain do not in fact possess distillable oil.

We have however had success with Pelargonium Citrosum, Blou Blom Salie, Kooigoed and most recently with Clary Sage.  The Clary Sage has been particularly interesting, as the abundant flower smells (undeniably, unfortunately) of human sweat, but on being distilled, the oil has a strong floral note that is quite unique.


We have noticed an interesting occurrence on the farm recently - as the lavender has come into flower, so we have seen an increase in wildlife spending time in the field.  In particular, a family of Rhebuck have taken to spending at least an hour in the field every evening before they move off to sleep - they are not eating the lavender, and there is little to eat between the rows, but they seem content to sit in the field and soak up the good aromas !

buck 1


Ratel Farming was proud to be part of a very successful Essential Oils Workshop hosted by Country Life magazine in October 2010.  We presented our oils and several lectures on essential oil production.  Jaap and I co-presented a lecture on medicinal plants of the Winterhoek Mountains, which proved to be very entertaining.


We have recovered well from the serious fire that swept through the Winterhoek Mountains in March 2010. The fynbos has bounced back beautifully and the farm is looking green again.  We have replaced many of the hives that we lost, and are helping the olive and apricot trees with extra nutrition and irrigation during the dry summer months.  Some damage to essential oil plants occurred, but this has been limited and we are now back in production.  Rockhaven expresses its gratitude to those who have assisted us over this period.



MAY 2020

Since we farm organically, and are passionate about our bees, the next obvious synergy was organically farmed bee-friendly citrus. We are busy planting out Lisbon and Eureka lemons as a test run on the farm. Few people know it, but most seedless citrus is distinctly bee-unfriendly. To produce a seedless fruit, you need to make sure no pollination occurs. This involves either completely netting off your trees (expensive) or simply eradicating your pollinators (using pesticides - the common practice).  Rockhaven Farm hopes to produce distinctly 'seeded' lemons - and when you cut open a perfectly ripe juicy lemon and spot the row of seeds inside, you will know that our bees have enjoyed the flowers long before the fruit was formed.  Here's to a new challenge in the farming market !


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