Woke up to the valley blanketed in mist, the first of the autumn mists, Damp white and low cloud right across the fields and mountain slopes — I couldn’t see to the end of the back garden. And by 9am this solid white fog had burned off in the sun.
Spending time with someone who grows apricots, saffron pears, quinces and pomegranates in her back garden. She preserves and bottles them, following an old recipe for pickled peaches with vinegar, bay leaves, cloves and chilli that dates back to the French occupation of the Cape in 1803. Her family farmed near Ceres and came over the mountains in ox wagons in the 1920s to farm wheat on the rolling slopes around here. We sat talking on the sunlit porch or stoep under a trellis of reddened vines, drinking strong coffee while she told me family history. Her grandmother used to sit out in the same spot shelling peas into her starched white apron and smoking an old hand-carved calabash pipe, unusual in a woman then, but she was a skilled midwife and highly respected in the area. She smoked her own fish (snoek, kabbeljou, geelbek) caught down at the coast and hung up to dry with plaited strings of onions next to pegged washing, starchy Sunday-best suits and cotton frocks all suspended together in the tiled laundry room at the back of the house. White shirt fronts imbued with a whiff of smoky fish…
Shielding my eyes from the last of the summer sun, the sky overhead a dome of sheet-metal at noon. Today the eye is rested although still aching a little. There are luscious pink and white nerines coming up in all the gardens down this street, wild unhybridised nerines known locally as ‘March lilies’. A few retired homesteaders have white dovecotes standing tall in their orchards, so that white pigeons are wheeling over the oaks in perfect formation. And the oaks are now heavy with acorns, fodder for squirrels and pigs. All around the valley there will be wild eland and grysbokke come down from the mountains to graze on fallen fruit.
Meditations on country living. The pace of life is slow here and ‘nothing happens overnight’: back home the dogs are all asleep under the avocado tree and lizards are still basking on the back step, a small grey cat sleeping curled up under a berried viburnum bush. Too slow a life perhaps, but in truth I can’t imagine myself growing old in a city, away from seasons and tides and leaf fall..
An agitation of the air,