Sadly at one point, the Department of Forestry planted Bluegum/Saligna trees on top of the mountain (off our property). The effects of their long tap roots were devastating at the time – practically removing all of the farm’s water supply. My Father was fervent in maintaining the farm and set about drilling boreholes to support the land. But this wasn’t enough…
Before our eyes, the beautiful landscapes of lush produce and green vegetation disappeared. The fields turned into waste-land and the bush started taking over. The once flourishing tomato fields were left to our memories. Nothing was working, so my father had to seek alternative employment in the nearby town. He left his beloved land during the day to provide for us all. We could all feel his sadness.
Luckily, however, we remained on the farm. Mostly we’d live off the small vegetable garden and the orchard. Occasionally we’d slaughter one of the cattle for meat (another story). Water was very scarce and we weren’t wealthy at all. But God’s provision was always there. My parents worked hard to support their three children. There were always ‘leftovers’ from the harvest and these were handed to friends in the village too. Everyone always shared.
But there was one most significant memory which I’ll keep forever…
Every day, when my Dad returned home after work, he’d shrug off his shoes and socks, put on his ‘farm clothes’ and go to sit under the Louquat tree on our front lawn. There he’d enjoy a special mug of ‘farm coffee’, made with creamy milk from his few cows.
Although the coffee was steaming hot, he’d wait for it to cool while putting the small sprinkler on the lawn. Then he’d sit down on the old garden chair and turn towards his beverage. As the coffee cooled, a thin film of cream would congeal on its surface. My father would turn his attention to it and carefully dispense a spoon of sugar in a small heap on top so that the film of cream. Slowly the film would delicately wrap itself around the sugar – in a small parcel. He concentrated hard as he carefully collected it up with his teaspoon. The expression on my Dad’s face as he brought the spoon to his mouth was one of sheer pleasure. He’d break into a wide smile and visibly relax into his garden chair as he savoured the sweet treat.
As Dad quietly sipped his coffee, he’d look towards the mountains which surrounded our homestead. The shadows of the trees from the dipping sun were lengthening and there were feral goats on the rocks. I watched his expression closely as he entered God’s rest…
“Isn’t this absolutely beautiful…?” my father sighed. “We are so blessed to live in this paradise. Do you hear the guinea fowl, Caryl? Look at the fire-finches visiting the bird-bath. Isn’t this beautiful?”
We’d sit there quietly and relish the sounds of the evening. A cool breeze would descend off the mountain – we could hear the rustling of the bushes. My mother too would join us. As the sun set, stars would emerge. We could see the Milky Way dotted across the sky and sometimes the moon rise too. The smell of the African potato bush would fill our nostrils as it settled into the valley. It was a special privilege to take in our Eden….slowly and gratefully.
I think this was one of my most significant lessons from Dad – how to enjoy God’s provision. Dad instilled a love of the landscape. His gratitude was palpable, despite the hardships we faced. He always expressed his love for God’s Creation and the small space we were privileged to occupy in this world. Despite the drought and the dried up crops, my Dad transferred his love for God’s gifts to us. This never wavered…and I am eternally grateful.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
With love, in Christ,