Nineteen years ago, I moved to Dargle. I thought it was a temporary move to enable me to pay off a big chunk of my mortgage, but I have never left. The Cow and Chicken consumed the first years. Despite being vegetarian, I was determined that I was the chicken. When Carl and I began to grind our teeth as tourists drove up the hill, we closed the store and focused on other things instead. I created the Bugs, lived locally in Dargle, played in Mpophomeni, wrote some stuff.
While there are so many things that I adore about living in the countryside, I will focus on the very best for this blog. Of course, I should mention all the wildflowers and the wild animals and the wild people. The real food available so close by, the peace and quiet, the extremely nice neighbours.
To celebrate, I share my 19 absolute favourite and best things about living on Old Kilgobbin Farm:
Swimming in the dam at sunrise – often with a family of Egyptian Geese. I once made a little film abut an early dam excursion with Dizzy – you can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/86992519
Skinny dipping in the sun and basking on the raft – more swimming, of course. Being naked in the sunshine is a glorious thing. I am seldom surprised by a passer-by, but it is easy enough to swim to the middle and stay submerged. The raft is a marvellous thing, where wagtails nest and ducks sit. Once I had my birthday party on the raft.
Walking in the hills – It is real luxury to be entirely alone, with not a single structure in sight and to simply head out of my kitchen door for a micro-adventure at any moment. I have learned so much about the flowers of the Midlands just by exploring (and writing the Inspector Indigenous column in the Meander Chronicle). Sometimes in Spring, walks don’t go very far as I crouch and photograph a tiny treasure every couple of paces! My favourite walks are down to the Dargle River and across the hills towards Lidgetton.
The red flash of Turacos – These gorgeous green birds were called Knysna Loeries when I arrived, but are Turacos now. They glide between the trees in my garden, red wings aglow and then hop up and down branches making a great racket. I have nicknamed them turkeys.
Full moon rising behind the old Prunus africanus in front of my cottage – I have been ruined forever with an incredible eastern view. Among my group of howling friends, I am often the first to see her rise. The big tree is very special and quite rare. I am no good at photographing the moon, but here it is as the day breaks.
Lone Samango monkey feasting on figs – a magnificent creature, who in the past drought stricken year has decided that my kitchen is a good source of snacks and helps himself to fruit and eggs or whatever I have not hidden completely.
Night sounds – jackals barking and yowling, all three owl species – Wood, Spotted Eagle and Barn, tree dassies (their loud knocking and screeching terrifies first time guests!) and a gazillion frogs. I do love the frogs and feel very fortunate to sleep with my windows wide open to the sounds.
Morning moons sinking behind the hill. I often set off for morning walks while the full moon is still in the sky. It always feels special to watch her slow descent – often only moments before the sun is visible in the opposite sky.
Lying in long grass. The grass stalks frame the sky – all green in summer and gold in winter. It always seems like a secret place. A safe little nest.
The view of Inhlosane. This hill defines Dargle. You can see it from everywhere and I photograph it constantly in different moods – sometimes on fire, or covered in snow. I love to climb it too.
Mist rolling in and tumbling over the bottom half of my front door. Completely magic. We definitely are in the mist-belt. Often just down the hill the weather is completely different.
Stone walls – The beautiful dry stone walls that criss-cross the hills were built by Italian prisoners of war.
Star-filled winter skies – the cold clear air is ideal for stargazing. I like to wander about in the dark and marvel at the pinpricks of light.
Deep silence of Sundays – No brushcutters and lawnmowers and tractors and other noisy equipment that are a feature of keeping the countryside under control. Just quiet.
Farmyard sounds – The Zulu chatter and frequent laughter as farm staff gather for the day. Geese that pose as watchdogs squawking madly at strangers, donkeys that hee haw when they think someone should be bringing breakfast, and horses galloping freely (thundering actually) across the fields.
The forest – If I feel flustered, too busy or hot, I pop into the cool, calm forest for a moment to restore my equilibrium. The enormous Yellowwoods, Stinkwoods and Cape chestnuts are magnificent. Little lichens, orchids and mushrooms invite quiet contemplation. I like to follow the animal paths and sit beside tiny streams. I love the crunch of the leaf litter underfoot in winter, the patches of pink in the canopy during Spring and the filtered green shade in Summer.
Swimming at sunset (yes, swimming again!) with hadedas on the banks, a watchful fish eagle in a dead tree and swallows swooping low. I know swimming gets a lot of mentions in this list, but what is not to love about frolicking in deep water between the fields and the forest with dragonflies?
‘Die kudu blaffie in die lug’ in early February. It comes as bit of a surprise, the chill about one’s ankles. A gentle reminder that Autumn is on its way. The morning sun changes position and early walks require a scarf. I first heard of this lovely saying from John Bronner – I assume it means the time of year when the warm breath of the animals becomes visible in the cooler air.
My neighbour, Barend, installed a roadside bench a few years ago. I walk to it a couple of times a day, sometimes with a cup of tea, to linger over the view. It is wonderful at dawn (when Midmar turns pink) or in the late afternoon (when shafts of sun break up the clouds) or in the moonlight. I hardly ever come across anyone else sitting on the bench.
Only nineteen – so hard to choose, but I get to add another favourite to the list every year! Here’s to many more years of splashing in puddles, impromptu picnics, rural ramblings and waving to strangers on the road.