The Millgate Diary

As Green turns to Gold

Summer draws to an end and our gardens are in full bloom. Less rain has seen local farm dams to be somewhat underwatered but a spate of late rains have brought the Midlands to life. I suppose we are still experiencing a prolonged green drought in the area, Midmar dam is full but on previous years it has been overflowing round about now. The fields surrounding Millgate are lush with fodder crops – mielies, rye grass etc and some of the local farmers have bumper crops of carrot, potato, pumpkin etc and these (and more) are readily available at our local farmers markets. Summers heat (and we had a hot humid one this year) is over but the evenings are still long, the Midland mists are back and an afternoon thunder storm is the norm – perfect for a break away from the grind of life. There have been numerous sightings of wild life in the area, the usual duiker, reed and bushbuck abound and we’ve many reports of caracal and serval sightings. Hare, guinea fowl and francolin often startle the unaware rambler as they roam the dusty farm roads that lead to our door, and our large groups of vervet monkeys are always found entertaining visitors. Some local plane trees are already putting on their cloaks of gold in preparation for the winter ahead, so make haste to join us as we see out summer.

Here’s summer!

After a very dry winter we’re seeing the rain return to the Midlands, washing off the dust and turning everything green again. Projects we have on the go at Millgate at the moment is one to eradicate, or at least reduce, the number of invader species around the property. The above pic shows our new vista from our Crafty Mole pub and we can see right across to Curry’s Post now that the overgrown section over the road has been cleared.

The forest slope
Lots of school desks from this lot, the older gum were up to 30 years old

The pictures above are before and after (or rather during) the clearing of our small forest of invasive, self seeded gum trees that have taken over the area. The project is being handled by the Working for Water project . Essentially a project by environmental Affairs to eradicate invasive species – ultimately using the timber for school furniture and other locally produced items. We will be planting indigenous trees and shrubs as well as fruit and other sustainable crops on the rehabilitated acre or so. We’ll also be building a picnic site with braai facilities, the views from up here are fantastic.

Winter comes.

As Summer winds down, the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands relaxes and comes into it’s own. Over is the frenetic holiday season of midsummer. The days mellow with plane tree leaves taking on the first yellow shades of autumn. The weather becomes calmer, the rainy days slowly receding to a cooling shower in the late afternoon, clearing the air for a still bright and pleasant evening. Up the road, Rawdon’s chestnut trees are fit to burst with bright spikey fruit, rewarding those, properly equipped with protection from the thorny cases, a feast of bulbous nuts roasted in the coals of the evening braai. Of course, that braai enhance with the product of some of the finest beers brewed here in the Midlands, by now, several craft brewers.

My favourite view across the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands towards The Kamberg and the Drakensburg beyond. Springfield Dam can be seen in the centre there, the view is from Happy Days Brewery at Netherwoods

Late summer rains have engorged the rivers and streams that tumble through the vales with the results of seeing the waters of Midmar Dam crest the wall and swelling Howick Falls. The fields and pastures that populate the surrounding hills show countless shades of green, or healthy, earthy brown where the first autumn crops have already been harvested. The veld is awash with lilies and other indigenous flora and many a home is surrounded with bountiful gardens of rose and dahlia.

Autumnal dawn over the fields surrounding Millgate Cottage taken by Stan, our next-door neighbor.

Best of all, we’re out of season, so the crowds are absent, the days still long, the weather perfect – all ingredients for a welcome break here at Millgate Cottage.