The fourth sibling

My younger sibling, I’m told, was conceived one night in late-1999 after too much whisky and Dad declaring that “nobody else has done it and the people could really benefit.” See, my younger sibling is this magazine. Eight years my junior, she has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. She barreled into our lives, clattering and spitting paper all over the floor, in January 2000 and since then has occupied space at the table (sometimes literally…but more on that later). She paid for three decent high school educations, a couple of degrees and countless tubs of Ultra Mel and other treats for her three (mostly) human siblings. My Dad ~ publisher, editor, writer, sales rep, designer, photographer, bookkeeper, printer, IT technician, driver, oh, and smallholder ~ has nurtured and grown this magazine as he has his three (mostly) human children.

The year 2000 was one filled with lots of new beginnings. It was a new millennium, I and my middle brother were starting at a new school, my eldest brother was starting high school and my Dad had decided he no longer wanted to be a consultant in the shipping industry, and chose to start his own magazine. The Gauteng Smallholder: How to make your plot profitable.

At the end of January 2000, Dad produced his first edition of what was to become our fourth sibling. In her infancy, she was thin and pale, with a handful of advertisers (some of which are still with us) who helped her hit milestones each month as her loyal fan-base of readers grew. Articles included a guide on how to build a plot fence, caring for your lawn and keeping geese. It will come as no surprise that at the time, the children of the house were coerced into building a fence, mowing the lawn and had not long before taken delivery of four geese.

As children growing up on a smallholding, we rode horses, grew our own vegetables, watched lambs being born, collected eggs, mucked-out stables, rebuilt tractor engines and made jam. All three of the human siblings learned to drive on Dad’s 1950s-vintage Ferguson Vaaljapie (named Cinderella in the family, and a regular feature in the magazine over the years).

We fought veld-fires, mended broken fences and fell off the neighbour’s donkey. A lot of these experiences, I realise now, were made possible by the magazine and at times were done in aid of the magazine. As any true smallholder knows, the best way to get something done is through trial and error ~ and the more kids (read free labour) you can get involved, the better!

As the magazine reached toddler age, she became the noisy force of a toddler who’s just learnt to walk and talk. She was printed at home in a converted double garage, on large loud machines that seemed to my child’s eyes to suck up heaps of paper and occupy a lot of my Dad’s attention. Her pages were placed on the dining room table, where women walked around collating the magazine by hand. For years, we did not eat at the dining room table because our youngest sibling had stubbornly taken up occupancy there.

As a young girl, I didn’t care much to learn how the machines worked. My eldest brother, however, got stuck in helping out, until on one Saturday night when manning the machines alone, he caught his arm in a gear ~ requiring a trip to the Casualty Dept of the local hospital, and 30 stitches. I learnt as a result that human flesh makes an excellent gear polish and lubricant. That gear shone like a new one, right up until Dad sold the press years later!

About ten years ago, as the magazine entered her teenage years, printing the magazine at home was taking longer and longer each month and it was becoming clear this wasn’t the route to long-term growth. Dad did the calculations and realised it was not actually cheaper to print the magazine at home and (finally) outsourced the job. She really hit her stride then, she came into her looks and we got our dining room table back. Dad started taking annual leave and he and our Mom were able to go on holiday for the first time in many years. And readers continued to sing the magazine’s praises.

Because at the core of this magazine, throughout her life, has always been plot-life. The Smallholder was created to benefit people living on plots, to give them a one-stop-shop of advice, news and local suppliers all with the aim of making living on a plot easier, successful and fulfilling. As she turns 20, the magazine has taken her rightful place as a member of the family. She is beloved by us all. And she is (and we are) thankful to you, the reader, for 20 years of support, and hopeful for 20 more.