The idea started this morning when I looked out the window to see this picture: as you might know my foreman and his wife, my housekeeper, mean more to me than I can ever pay them. What I can offer is the luxury, to a rural black family, of them living together as a family 7 days a week. The boys, who I will refer to here as Alpha and Beta, love the dogs and love to come along on a walk. They attend our local school and during term time I take them up to the tar road every morning to catch the school bus. With them on holiday at the moment there is extra opportunity and incentive for walks. But first this moment…
Beta (the younger) jumped up when he realised I had my camera out, but then joined me as I took more shots of the lovely wintery view down the main axis.
Which is when we spotted this fellow and brought him closer to photograph.
He’s a tiny fellow, the Drakensburg Dwarf Chameleon, and plentiful on Sequoia. Below you can see just how tiny as he sits on my hand.
There’s a reason he was sitting on my hand and not one of the boys’: many black people, even sophisticated westernised ones, have an irrational fear of chameleons similar to the more common fear of snakes. If they see one, they kill it. Over the years I have persuaded my staff to at least ignore them, if not appreciate them. Yesterday for the first time I got Alpha to hold another, larger specimen, but Beta had shied away from doing so. Luckily by the time we had finished studying this one, both boys had held it and lost their fear. Then we took it to the greenhouse were we released it into a warmer atmosphere than the great outdoors in winter…
We photographed him and then searched for yesterday’s fellow, who we had also released here.
And we found him! But we couldn’t find a third one, a very tiny fellow, whom Beta had spotted in the greenhouse when I was showing this one to them after taking it there yesterday.
When I was still living down at The House that Jack Built, chameleons moving in in the late winter afternoons to the warmth of the clematis that grows in under the roof at the front door was cause for daily excitement. One winter I counted five most nights! That is why I know that they seek out warmer spots in winter.
This afternoon’s walk started off as an inspection of the stocks and primulas planted in the Rosemary Border in the hope of having additional colour as visitors arrive during the Spring Fair at the end of September. A few plants show on the right. Alpha is examining a snail shell which lay hidden under the growth cut away in preparing for the annuals. Here it is on the wall.
We are incredibly lucky that these, the only snails we ever see here, are carnivorous. I’ve always feared accidentally bringing in the round snails I’ve seen chew up whole beds in London – and do only slightly less damage in Johannesburg.
Then the walk continued. Taubie is now 14 years old and although she is slow and for a large part of the day quite sedentary, she loves a walk and still eats well. But two years ago I would not have predicted that she would still be with us now…
Whilst in an elegiac mood – I took on today’s walk what might well be the last photo of the pine trees around The House that Jack Built. The sawmill is cutting in our forests and I’ve decided that these trees, now all 35 or more years old, must go. In a plantation they would be cut after 25 years. There will be some rethinking of the area around the cottage once they’ve gone.
From here we zig-zagged through the arboretum, the boys playing hide-and-seek amongst the tall azaleas, jumping on puff-balls and making the happy noise children make when they can run free.
One would think it was quite a long walk – but Mateczka decided otherwise. She started a game of running, tearing through the dried cannas, and got the boys as excited as she was. I kept swinging around with the camera, trying to achieve no more than having a dog, a boy, or both in the shot when I pressed the shutter…
Then eventually Mateczka stopped dead in the cannas, as if she knew how well camouflaged she was…
And when I looked again, Beta was jumping along the Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe, just as I imagined children would jump when I first conceived the garden two years ago… it really must be completed now!
By now we were making our way back up Alfred’s Arches and with the leaf canopy gone I could marvel at just how many bird-sown plants were growing in the dappled shade it provides – including a pair of willowy roses almost opposite each other. Could they have Rugosa blood?! With a bit of luck they will flower next year and I will learn more about them. To end off, a farewell to autumn shot: also growing here courtesy of the birds, and perhaps storm water, are many nandinas and several berberis. Here they make an impressive showing, even though the solstice has come and gone!