Dr Louis Clifford Thompson, Toban and Tamla McMahon’s great grandfather once made a suggestion about naming their farm, and three generations later, the family decided that it made sense to welcome in a new phase with branding which would include all the new aspects unfolding on the family farm. Already renowned as the home of Thomac Essential Oils, Otterholt Farm now also encompasses a venue for mushroom-foraging, live forest music experiences, a hiking trail, blacksmithing, botanical art and natural-building workshops.
Toban says, ‘Otterholt represents one potent brand and flagship for the whole farm and family.’ He explains the name choice saying, ‘a Holt is the term for an Otter's home. It is a tunnel system that is usually dug into an embankment or under various items such as reeds and branches, close to water. This goes well with the aesthetics of the farm. I sometimes feel like an Otter myself, living in my little holt - the name wonderfully explains the process I used to build my house.’ Toban offers Natural Building workshops to create unique, expressive homes which are a reflection of the inhabitants and the environment they live in. He says, ‘I am someone who expresses myself by creating with my hands, and natural building offers such freedom and creativity. I’m excited to show people what’s possible if we work with each other and Mother Earth.’
Tamla believes the renaming along with their motto ‘The way it should be’, represents the simplicity of life on the farm and our connection to nature. ‘We believe that finding joy in the simple things is where true meaning is found… a way to remember the things we have forgotten and find that knowledge again.’ The mushroom foraging workshops, where the mysteries of the wild edible mushrooms are explored and explained, are a perfect example of this philosophy. Toban says that ‘the workshops are a way of breaking down the barrier of fear and allowing people to better understand all the wonderful little things we share this planet with. I hope that the workshops will leave participants intrigued rather than apprehensive, armed with the knowledge of which mushrooms are edible and which are inedible, what they taste like and what dish would best showcase their flavours.’ Toban says the response to his workshops has been amazing and he loves sharing the knowledge he gained from foraging for edible mushrooms since he was young. The global movement towards foraging and learning more about the fascinating world of fungi has filtered through to ‘The Mountain’ and Toban is excited to be part of it.
Another opportunity for visitors to connect with nature is to walk the new Otterholt Meander, a wonderful 3 - 4 km trail that traverses all the different biomes on the farm including the piece of untouched Woodbush Granite Grassland at the heart of the farm as well as indigenous forests, Helichrysum thickets, rocky outcrops, wetlands and a beautiful little dam, The Nook, which looks like it comes straight from an impressionist canvas. Here you can observe the Ram pump, a pump that requires no fuel or electricity to operate and is the true beating heart of the farm. You can also learn about the indigenous, edible, and medicinal plants on the farm. There are many benches and picnic spots along the way where you can ponder life or do some bird watching. You may be lucky enough to spot the Little Five of Otterholt: The Field Mouse; Wingless Wasp; Darkling Beetle; Edible Frog and the Bark Spider in this little piece of Earth that every kind of creature calls home.
Tamla also offers an experience where people can come closer to nature, through her live music sessions in their indigenous forest. She explains that the idea formed ‘when we were sitting peacefully in the forest playing softly on acoustic guitars and birds started to gather in the trees nearby. I believe that music is very healing and, when used in the right environment, it can be a truly beautiful experience for those who need it most. I find these impromptu sessions to be my most honest music moments when I deliver the music truthfully. The forest allows for the right space for this truth and healing to come through in my music. Music allows me to portray what words cannot.’ Tamla explains that her music will always be grounded in her Gaelic roots, and when she lets it flow without forcing a specific direction, it changes with her understanding of herself.
In between her busy life as a Grade 2 Teacher at Haenertsburg Primary School, her duties with Otterholt, and when she is not making music, she is painting. She says, ‘I have always loved Botanical Art in all its forms - it's one of the ways I show my love and understanding for each plant I paint. I have always believed that life is reflected in art, and I am perpetually in search of ways to capture the beauty I see in this world.’ Apart from the art she creates for her portfolio, Little Bear Illustrations, Tamla offers workshops through Otterholt Farm. Her delicate paintings are complemented perfectly with the frames Toban makes for them. Over the years, as a Beekeeper, he saved all the pieces of beehives which had been vandalized by Honey Badgers and finally found the perfect way to recycle them - the frame for Tamla’s painting of Hypericum revolutum displayed at the Fox Art Gallery in Haenertsburg, boasts the bite mark from a badger. Toban says that the frames are always a topic of conversation because they have such a unique story behind them.
Toban is of the opinion that 2023 is the year of change and awareness so it couldn’t be better timing for what they are achieving on the farm. Tamla adds that they would love for Otterholt to bring people together and nurture a connection with themselves, each other, and the Earth.
We all have so much to offer this world so let’s work together.
Let’s shorten the distance.
One on one.
It’s the way it should be.
Connect with Otterholt on 064 773 1889
For THOMAC Tours: 076 418 1238 | www.thomac-oils.co.za