This is the Kamberg Valley this morning at sparrow’s fart.
This morning, on my way back to the house after visiting my hens, I came across a chameleon walking up our driveway. As I sat on the verge and watched it disappear into one of our liquidambar trees, I was quite overwhelmed by an incredible sense of privilege. I honestly cannot think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning than communing with my chickens (they love me, what more can I say) and enjoying the wildlife in my garden.
Since the wedding celebrations and Kiera’s departure for America, I have to confess that I have been a bit down in the dumps. I have languished in front of the telly, stuffing my face with all sorts of things that I know are not good for me and have not been paying attention, goddammit, to the world around me. But I think I am slowly coming right. And what helps me more than anything is this wonderful world that surrounds me.
What do you do when you have a glut of eggs and granadillas (passion fruit)? You phone a friend to come and help you make granadilla curd, that’s what. So when Judy arrived at the farm for the long weekend she knew, kind of, what she was in for. She even brought some lemons with her and her employer’s family recipe for lemon curd. What we didn’t anticipate was just how much of an egg fest the weekend would turn into. I finally mastered the art of poaching eggs properly; Peter, not to be outdone, produced a meal of delicious baked bean omelettes; we made luscious mayonnaise; and with the leftover egg whites, we rustled up some chewy-centred meringues. Neither Judy nor I have made curd or mayonnaise before and after tasting the real deal I don’t think I shall ever be tempted to buy shop-bought again.
Despite all this culinary activity, we still found time to watch a thought- provoking documentary called Queen of the Sun, which was showing at a film festival in Howick.
QUEEN OF THE SUN: What Are the Bees Telling Us? is a profound, alternative look at the global bee crisis from Taggart Siegel, director of THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN. Taking us on a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive, this engaging and ultimately uplifting film weaves an unusual and dramatic story of the heartfelt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world including Michael Pollan, Gunther Hauk and Vandana Shiva. Together they reveal both the problems and the solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature.
I noticed that one of the contributors to the movie was a Michael Pollan. I’m always tickled when I come across examples of names somehow suiting their owners. I’m not sure whether names can play a significant role in determining aspects of the occupation or character of a person (nominative determinism) or whether it is simply a coincidental aptronym. Whatever the reason I do find it interesting that one comes across this phenomenon quite often. My favourite is an article on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology written by A. J. Splatt and D. Weedon (Wikipedia).
But I digress.
After the movie, Judy commented on how well our garden flourishes with all the bees and other little critters that live in it. We have visited gardens here in Midlands that are beautifully maintained but actually quite sterile because of the use of pesticides and herbicides to control bugs and weeds. It seems that having a pristine garden can cost it its soul. A local nurseryman once showed me a hedge that he had planted in his garden using the indigenous Leucosidea sericea (umTshitshi in Zulu). Usually when we plant a hedge we tend to go for neater, exotic shrubs and shy away from the wilder indigenous plants. His hedge was alive with birds and bugs – a heaving, thriving and living entity. Living here in the country has taught me that gardening should be in balance with nature. Applying any form of poison harms the nunus, which in turn harms the birds and chameleons and skinks and frogs and so on.
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
John Muir (21 April 1838 – 24 December 1914) a Scottish born American environmentalist, naturalist, traveler, writer, and scientist.
I’ve accepted that my garden will never be immaculate – leaves will always be chewed, there will be dead flower heads, the roses will have black spot, every autumn the caterpillars of the acraea horta butterfly will decimate my halleria lucida hedge and wild plants will continue to pop up all over the show. And that’s the way I like it.
A glut of tomatoes this year didn’t go to waste – some were slow roasted with garlic, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make a delicious pasta sauce, some were given away and the green ones were turned into chutney.
False dandelions have sprung up all over the “cricket pitch”, the only section of our open field that was mowed regularly during summer – it looks rather lovely and we don’t have the heart to mow it now.
We have so many swallows flying around our house at the moment. The other day a baby swallow flew into the house and we could not get it to go out again. We could hear swallows calling from outside and there was a constant babbling going on, to and fro (they are very chatty birds). Suddenly two birds flew inside (the parents?) and the next minute they all flew out of the door that we had left open. Could they have been communicating with each other about how to get out? This swallow in the picture was taking a break from the rain on our veranda.
There are several conservancies here in the Midlands (Curry’s Post, Lion’s Bush, Balgowan and Dargle) that, as well as concerning themselves with the preservation of natural resources, organise walks, talks and social events. Last weekend we joined a group from the Dargle Conservancy doing a miniSASS on a section of the Dargle River, a tributary of the Umngeni River which supplies Durban with its water. “MiniSASS is a simple tool which can be used by anyone to monitor the health of a river. You collect a sample of macro invertebrates (small animals) from the water, and depending on which groups are found, you have a measure of the general river health and water quality in that river” (sass.orasecom.org).
We arrived at a farm in the Dargle to be greeted with a cup of tea, melt-in-the-mouth homemade scones and friendly people. We were given an interesting presentation by Penny Rees from Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) who had walked the length of the Dargle River to assess the water quality and establish contributing factors to poor water quality. The Dargle Conservancy encourages and assists landowners with river frontage to restore the health of the river by clearing invasives (mainly wattle and bugweed) and crops from the riparian zone (the interface between land and a river or stream), limiting cattle access to the water and not dumping rubbish in the water which restricts the flow of water. The farmer who was hosting the miniSASS had already cleared a lot of wattle away from the river banks (no mean feat as wattle is hard to eradicate) and his stretch of river turned out to be quite healthy. It was fun pottering about in the water collecting nunus and just enjoying the cool, flowing water.
I’ve always been seduced by rivers, just not however by KwaZulu-Natal’s big, sludgy waterways. I grew up in the Eastern Cape where the rivers of my childhood were clear and enticing. Sundays, Swartkops, Krom, Van Stadens and Nahoon – these are the rivers I can remember swimming in. You can keep your Mkomazi, Umngeni,Tugela and Pongola Rivers, thank you very much! Recently a friend posted some pictures on Facebook of the Baviaanskloof River and I could almost smell the water. For some reason my olfactory senses seem to be stronger in my memories. Many years ago, as we drove into my home town of Port Elizabeth en route to Cape Town I asked the kids to roll down their windows (before we got to the Carbon Black factory!) so that we could inhale the smell of the herbal fynbos because that is my recollection of the Eastern Cape.
I forgot to include in the previous post these photos of the cutting of the cake.
The delicious wedding cake was made by a local woman, Sharyn Breval. The layers of the small round sponge cake were iced with homemade lemon curd and butter cream and it was topped with a hydrangea flower from the garden. The red velvet cup cakes with cream cheese icing were decorated with the most beautiful little blue hydrangea flowers made by Sharyn – the red, white and blue being a nod to the American connection. All very yummy.
Also in reference to the South African / American union, one of the champagnes we toasted the married couple with was Graham Beck’s NV Brut. We discovered it when we went bubbly tasting in Franschhoek with Kiera and James on their last visit to S.A. We loved the story that Nelson Mandela toasted his inauguration with it in 1994 and Barack Obama ordered it for his toast the night he became president of the USA.
What I also forgot to add in the previous post was how much everyone contributed to making the day a very special one. Jody and Maggie (James’ mum and sister) decorated the tables, Susannah (James’ aunt) made the exquisite corsages, Louise (Kiera’s BFF) arranged the flowers, Claire Glancey travelled up from Durban to do Kiera’s hair, Mike (James’ uncle) officiated over the proceedings with aplomb and Njabulo kept everyone’s glasses full.
I would also like to mention Alex’s contribution. Weeks before the wedding I asked him to make a wedding mix. Every time we heard a song that I thought would be appropriate, I asked him to put it in the mix. However, when on the eve of the wedding still nothing seemed to be happening on the music front, I gave up. In true Alex style, on the morning of the wedding he got his arse into gear and produced a mix in the nick of time. During the course of the day I didn’t really pay attention to the music playing in the background, I was just relieved that it was there. A few weeks after the wedding, I sat down to listen to the wedding mix CDs and was gobsmacked. He had included favourites of Kiera’s when she was growing up, sweet love songs, songs that brought family memories flooding back and songs that I had forgotten that I had requested. I was completely overwhelmed that he had given it so much thought and created the most sublime wedding mix. I really ought to have more faith in the lad!
When Kiera and James got married in November 2011 at the Arlington County Court House, they did so without any of their family and friends present. For us, their family, it was a bittersweet day. For them, however, it was a day they both cherish. So when we pressed them to have a second wedding, there was a certain amount of reluctance on their part. They didn’t want to have another wedding ceremony (been there, done that) and they didn’t want to renew their vows after only having been married for 2 years. In fact, Kiera was not keen to have any kind of ceremony at all until I asked her to think of their first wedding as being for them and this wedding as being for us. And that kind of got the ball rolling and a wonderful ceremony evolved, one that not only celebrated love and union but also marriage as a social occasion that should be celebrated with loved ones.
The vows they exchanged were lovely. I especially enjoyed the promise they made to create a home together filled with loving affection, learning, laughter and compassion; a home wherein they would honour each other’s cherished family traditions and values. There was also a charming “warming of the rings” ceremony, which enabled all of us to be included in the proceedings. Their rings were placed in a small bag and past around. As each one of us received the rings, we were asked to take a moment to give them our blessings before passing them on to the next person. When the rings came back to them, they held our love and hope for them both.
Although I have always been fairly cynical when it comes to the institution of marriage (strange, I know, since I have been married forever!) and have never been particularly moved by wedding fandangos, what I have learned to appreciate is the value of family and true friendship in times when life choices are made. I now realise that it doesn’t matter how big or small the gathering is, what matters is that family and friends are there to support you; and I know that Kiera and James were deeply appreciative of the effort that everyone made to get here.
The heartache of having my daughter live so far away, is somewhat alleviated by the knowledge that she has married into a warm and caring family who I know love her as one of their own.
Most of the photos were taken by Luca Barausse, except for some taken by (Cousin) Bill Leazer which I have noted. I’m posting a lot here because Kiera and James have not seen the photos yet – hope you enjoy them.