Today is Sunday, 22 January 2017. Weather forecast: “Blazing sunshine and very hot”, predicted temperature 39ºC, real-feel 40ºC. The week ahead promises “hot with plenty of sun” and temperatures in the high thirties. But wait a minute; this is what I want to see: “Cooler with spotty showers, 26ºC” – on Tuesday. Yay!
In our Mediterranean climate here in the Western Cape, hot summers are usual. Hot and dry. Although rain is not unheard of, humidity is very low if at all existent and this is good for healthy vines. Interestingly, after an incident of rain, there will usually be a good old blow from the notorious Cape Doctor, the Southeaster, clearing the air around the vines and helping prevent mildew and rot. We really do want our wine farmers to have a good crop – what would summer be without a delicious glass of crisp, cold white wine sipped slowly while you kiss a hot day goodbye?
As a want-to-be gardener, none of this suits me. I want the rain; I do not want the wind. More specifically, it is my garden that does and does not. Having rain and then wind is like giving with one hand and taking with the other.
All good things come at a price and living out here in this amazing wide open world with sweeping views towards the mountains has quite a steep price ticket: hard work and resilience. Having the heart of an ox will help too. When the south east wind passes over the plains at 80kms/hour and does not let up for three days, screaming and screeching and whistling through closed windows so that you must plug your ears to get to sleep at night, you have to bite on your teeth and carry on living, pretending to be unaware that all this while, plants, tender and otherwise, are being battered and burned alive.
When the wind finally subsides you run outside and administer first aid and water to everything with roots in soil. It breaks your heart to see tender new little leaves, having just burst forth from the stem of a plant, scorched to paper. How long will it be before another new little leaf might appear….? Baby fruit blown off and strewn; branches snapped and young stems bent or broken. Sometimes trees are wrenched from the ground.
This happens time and again and you have to just keep going. The first trees planted in our garden have been growing since 2002 and none are yet taller than 15 metres. It is not easy to grow skywards when it would seem the elements want to plunge you back to earth. A poor earth, at that. Soil here is hard and fairly barren….to change this requires work. And water. From November until March, we water half of our garden by hand, four times a week – pots are watered every day – this takes nearly half a day. The orchard and copse is watered every night via a drip system directly from the borehole. But this year, we drew the line when it came to watering the lawn. The whole country has had two years of drought and although we have a good supply of underground water, we’re not going to take it for granted. At first it was a tough call; a beautiful, gloriously green lawn is a winner in everybody’s book – who can resist its soothing effect? There is nothing quite as therapeutic as a thriving, luxurious garden bursting with succulent shades of green…and equally, little that is more exhausting than seeing a sad and struggling garden. Ah, but we are adjustable….
The landscape around us is dressed in its summer clothes: a creamy shade of yellow. And since we have not been watering our lawn, it has turned the same yellow. And how beautifully it merges with the world around us, “blending seamlessly”. Who wants a green lawn now, in the face of water restrictions and terrible drought?
No indeed, I am quite resolved: Yellow is the new Green.