A few years ago, when I was in my mid-forties I had a bit of a mid-life crisis. It all started with eggs. As an ageing woman I had none, you see. Or at least I was running out of them rapidly and I was shrivelling up inside, like a dried up lemon! Now before you get grossed out - the issue of eggs plays a pivotal role in a lot of young women's lives - especially if they want to conceive. Then, later, when your body starts being less productive, they become an issue again - suddenly the thought of not producing them becomes quite tragic. The way I dealt with this particular problem was by taking a trip out to a nearby egg-farm and purchasing some "point-of-lay" chickens. This was my "henopause"! It felt strangely therapeutic and satisfying that at least there was something in my life that was still producing eggs. And delicious ones at that. For a few months we relished in fresh eggs every day and somehow that helped ease the pain of my dying ovaries.
Another spin -off from the chickens was that everything in the garden started flourishing. A stand of spinach that was shrivelling up suddenly burst into glorious leaf and things started looking lush and green - poultry manure is a wonderful thing. Sadly, however, my three hens, Milly, Billy and Trilly (shortened from Million, Billion and Trillion) were not to last long in my patch. My son, who was in his Matric year finally put his foot down and said
"These darn hens have to go - they wake me up at 4 am. with their stupid clucking noises!" Alas,the stress of his exams was beginning to get to him. I succumbed, admitted defeat and donated them to a local Parish Priest who took them out to a Church retreat where I imagine they will cluck away to the end of their days.
Back in my garden, the lemon tree was flourishing, sprouting out hundreds of fragrant blossoms and a delightful supply of little green lemon buds.
Life had taken my chickens and my eggs, but had given me lemons instead. It had also given me a plentiful supply of Cape Gooseberries, which are tart little orange berries, the size of a macadamia nut or a robin's egg. I was flummoxed. I thought they were weeds at first and yanked their straggly green floppy stems out in frustration - they were growing in all the wrong places - in amongst my hydrangea bushes, making them look all untidy. How dare they! They also sprung up in amongst the fynbos I was trying so desperately to cultivate. Perhaps only another Capetonian will appreciate the value and rarity of fynbos. Cape Town is the only city in the world to boast more than 1500 species of this heather-like bush which is unique and indigenous to the area, so we are justifiably proud of this fact. Now the gooseberries were taking over the fynbos as well. When I tried to transplant them they just died - they just would not grow in a neat little line of their own where I had placed them.
A trip to my local grocery store made me see the Cape Gooseberry in a different light however. I discovered they were extremely rare on the shelves and when you did find them they were very expensive. I realised that I might be sitting on a little goldmine.
When I had brought the chickens into the garden I had turned my garden into an organic haven- we even attracted a hive of bees at one point. I imagined walls dripping with honey, fresh eggs for breakfast every day topped off with yoghurt and cape gooseberries.
Later, after a hard morning's blogging I would pour myself a wonderful cold glass of homemade lemonade freshly squeezed from my own hand-grown lemon tree.
During this transitional growth period in my life I realised that I had to stop fighting nature - my eggs would die. This was the natural way of things. I had to accept that. And I had to accept that the Cape Gooseberries would just spring up where they wanted to. If I wanted them in my garden I would have to let them be where they wanted to be. So I have. As a result I have gooseberries almost all year round. Lemons too. Like me, a little sour perhaps-life does that to you at times- but easily sweetened...with some honey..?
No eggs, but my husband has a cholesterol problem so its perhaps just as well the hens left. As for me, I turned to Art, painting lemons and whatever nature offers me, and I have never been more creative in my life...
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