Monday, July 27, 2009

Lime Kiln at Yzerfontein

Before taking the R27 northwards along the West Coast, I crossed the road to inspect the lime kiln on the way to Yzerfontein. This one is a National Monument, well cared for by a caretaker whose cottage lies just behind it. Motorists may stop and enter the enclosure to see a close-up of one of the most important contributions to civilisation. I did not know this myself, but in Morgan’s Run by Colleen McCullough, (a book I have mentioned on this blog before), it is well explained: when a settlement starts, there are usually only wooden structures, and only if people could get hold of cement, could they start rising a town with proper buildings.

350 Years ago when the Dutch started the refreshment station at the Cape, they built these lime kilns to burn mussel shells to use as a binding material. It is built from limestone that can not crack and burst when heated and has a layer of mesh above the oven. Mussel shells, of which one can still collect by the ton full on Yzerfontein’s famous ‘sixteen-mile beach’, were layered with dry wood before the whole lot was fired. After some time the fine ash would fall through the grid. The enclosure where it was then mixed with water and left to dehydrate is also visible in my picture. The resultant stuff could be used for a binding material similar to cement. When mixed with salt, also found on the West Coast, and animal fat, it became thick pure white limewash to protect and embellish those lovely Cape Dutch and West Coast buildings.

The kiln was still used as late as 1976. There is also a one-third scale miniature replica of a lime kiln next to the Yzerfontein Tourism Buro building, the thatched building I painted in April and called A Rare Gem. I have loaded three paintings this morning. Be sure to read the other two stories below.

Lilies of the Field

I am leaving Darling now to start exploring the rest of the West Coast. After all, you must have started wondering about the abscence of the ocean and the boats!

After the recent heavy rains the fields and valleys between Darling and Yzerfontein are green, and great clumps of arum lilies have opened along both sides of the road, the pure white flowers peeping out behind large arrow-shaped leaves. The rainfall here is limited to winters so that between April and September we may have from 125mm to 350mm of rain. No wonder the West Coast area of roughly 4400 km sq is the habitat of 1200 species of flowering plants. The arum lilies, Zantedescia aethiopica, are the first to appear before the advent of spring. Whether the motorist takes the time to take a look or whether he ignores them, they will freely offer their beauty from now on until almost January.

Is there anything on earth more calming than observing flowers? There are lovely words in the Christian Bible that everyone, everywhere should write onto the front page of their diaries full of appointments, tasks, lists and budgets. In plain and poetic verse it reminds us that we need not worry so much “:........Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you......”

There is always a moment when one falls in love with a place, and my first memory of Darling goes back about 15 years, when I noticed lovely cows lying on top of a patch of these flowers. Darling, the town of milk and arums...............

Brownies, Anybody?

There are quite a number of homes in Darling with the traditional attic with an outside staircase. I knew I had to paint one of them for the blogspot and also hoped I could stumble upon a good ‘attic story’. The old South African farmhouses with attics were the stuff of legends, because the older Afrikaner people kept their coffins in the attic ready for their burial one day. Not to waste such a strong container, they would keep their surplus dried peaches in it, until the coffin was needed.

My husband readily agreed when I decided to paint Simoné’s Restaurant with their outside staircase. I know why: he is absolutely addicted to coffee-and-dessert at Simone’s! So once he was settled in with his coffee and a soft-centered double chocolate browny swimming in thick warm chocolate sauce, I walked up to Simoné and asked her to tell me something about the history of the attic, only to hear that there was nothing at all, the house was less than 10 years old!

“Marie,” she said, “the attic is not even in use”. I felt a tremor there and then! A beautiful new vacant attic above this excellent and popular restaurant would be the perfect venue for my exhibition! On the spot it was organised. So, starting on 28th August and going through September all the paintings on this blogspot so far, will be exhibited at Simoné’s on Darling’s main street.

This was one of the nicest buildings I had to paint so far and I had 5-year old granddaughter Morgan as my assistent. She loved doing the feathery strokes for clouds and then patting them with her little fingers. After that she was very keen to help painting the ‘curly-whurly S’, but I squeezed out some bright colours and let her practice letters in her own book!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Darling's Aunt

The passenger trains could drop you right into the heart of Darling in the old days. Today the station building has been transformed into an entertainment centre with theatre, restaurant, museum-with-a-difference and a shop with locally produced gifts for sale. The pink building is known as Evita se Perron (a multiple pun in the name) as this is where Darling's favourite aunt, Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout, holds court when not touring the world with satirical shows. Her tongue is smooth and sweet and sharp as a Samurai sword....(May I just mention here that although Afrikaans-sounding, perron, a synonym for platform, is a proper English word in the Oxford Dictionery)....

Evita is the alter-ego of Pieter-Dirk Uys, whom I have not met, but every local person I have ever asked attested to the fact that he has a deep social commitment and limitless kindness, always creating new projects to boost the community. The biggest of these projects is The Darling Trust that concerns itself with the youth and the building of a large community centre. The young people of Darling will never flounder in a sea of teenage boredom as projects of sport, drama, crafts and early education are launched.

As for this painting, it was the most difficult picture on the blog so far and I will give the next pink corrugated iron structure a wide berth! The shadows on pink paint appear a dirtyish grey! The green is supposed to be Heritage Green, sign of a national monument, but next to pink the colour turns into 'school blazer accidentally washed in bleach'! See you in my next blog when I will reveal where the first forty paintings will be exhibited.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Legend of Lelieblom Farm

(With apologies to Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm and Paulo Coelho)
“Once upon a time there was a large old shed.
The shed had saddles and bridles on its walls and crumbling paint which looked nicer than the most expensive paint techniques. But the shed was lonely.

Some walls went up, beloved and well-used antique furniture and carpets moved in and the shed became a homestead. But the shed- homestead was still lonely.

Tables laden with beautiful cloths, crockey and cutlery moved in. And from the kitchen came the sound of planning and cooking and the lovely flavours of food filled the atmosphere. Lots of people started to negotiate the dirt road between Darling and Moorreesburg and turned right at the Big Cross. They passed farm implements and parked very carefully because horses, a sow and her piglets and a large dog called Max were there to welcome them.The people entered the building and were overpowered by the friendliness and hospitality and wonderful aromas and happiness and they never wanted to leave again. The shed- house-restaurant hummed a happy and contented tune and wasn’t lonely anymore. The End”

I chose a little corner of the kitchen inglenook at Lelieblom Farm to paint. Everywhere you look, there is such a thrilling contrast of textures. At a Mother and Daughter Tea morning, my daughter Susan and I admired the charming show of dainty cakes and porcelain teacups laid out on a lovely worn Persian carpet. I recommend that you look at the Lelieblom website (just Google it) for photographs of the table settings and the unusual decor, menus brimful of hearty local food, and a listing of interesting future events.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

About Real and Ornamental Vines

South Africa's vineyards are mostly situated in the Western Cape. Yup, we have it all! What was previously known as Mamreweg Co-operative is now known as Darling Cellars, popular for their Shiraz and Merlot and some exotic blends. A very large complex is being planned on the grounds, but at the moment the visitors centre and tasting room can be found in this very charming and homely building.

The pergola is covered with the ornamental gravevine, Vitis Vinefera, which shows a burst of autumn colours throughout the year. Leaves will drop down continiously but because of the beauty of the plant this could never be considered a nuisance. The abundant colonies of birds would have made a tremendous mess if there were real grapes here! So enter the lovely semi-shaded area on a warmer winter's day, order a glassful "and fall apart in my back yard"!