Lockdown Travels in the Garden

It’s a sunny autumn day and I’m sitting in the middle of the garden under the shade of our tree. Birds pick at the crumbs in the birdhouse that I bought to lure them from our neighbours tree, where they all have their nests. Bees flock to the hibiscus flowers in the corner and butterflies flutter around the lavender bush. The soft sounds of nursery rhymes float over the wall as our neighbour sings to her little toddler and birds sing to each other happily. I mute my crime podcast as I suddenly feel like the weirdo in this pretty scene.

We are on day 47 of the South African lockdown to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 virus. The days have largely merged and the only reason I know what day we are on is because my friend and blogger at 2Summers has been doing a lovely daily journal since the first day. I doubt I would remember off hand, the other day my mother asked what the date was. “Does it matter? Who knows?” I said

I love the outdoors and like many around the world I miss ‘outside’. Exploring new places, planning explorations and adventures. The only place that I can actually ‘go to’ now is my garden (I can obviously go to the shops but feels more like stressful Christmas eve shopping). I have been spending a lot of time in this garden. I write here, walk around, do my exercises here, I soak in the sun and hang out. It is in this small space that I explore the world again.

Butterflies in lavendar plant

When I moved to Cape Town, it was the height of the drought and all things Day Zero. This meant that we couldn’t water the garden due to strict water restrictions. The garden went from green grass to a mix of grass and weeds to just a storm of dust when mowing the lawn. Some of the trees died and had to be pulled out, others just fell over when the wind blew. It was a sad mess. We started apologising for the garden each time people came over. A friend visited us for lunch one day with her 2 year old daughter. The little girl ran onto the grass and froze. “Mommy,” she squealed. “This is owie grass!” That’s when we took a leaf out the neighbours book and installed fake grass. 

Yellow and pink Hibiscus flower
Bird and bee magnet: Yellow and pink Hibiscus flower

Everyone loves this garden except our rosemary bush which promptly jumped out the ground and the neighbours cat who called “ginger” until we heard his name was Thomas (isn’t that a human’s name). I suspect he was using out garden as a hunting and burial ground for birds. his visits are less frequent now. I think the birds are too noisy for him and he hates the fake grass – too difficult to dig holes, I suppose!

Ginger cay with light green eyes
‘Ginger’ the neighbour’s creepy cat. We are allergic to it.
It. Does. Not. Care.

My favourite part is now we have pretty visitors (other than our friends, of course). Birds, butterflies, bees come by each day and don’t need a permit. I have added a bird house and sweet fruit around the trees to lure some to hang out here. The camera is close and hand to capture them flapping around freely. And in this weird uncertain time with life basically titled “to be continued,” it’s nice to have a few moments of calmness, beauty and life going on.

Cape Weaver bird making it's nest
Cape Weaver skilfully weaving its nest. They can travel up to 20 km to collect suitable nest materials.

The weaver bird is the first bird name I learnt as a child. We lived in a house with two trees that the birds loved and they were always around. I’ve tried to entice them into building their homes in my tree but they prefer next door. I’ve watched them weaving away, a skill that they instinctively have from birth. They are, however, louder than I remember.

Cape Weaver bird
Cape Weaver bird apparently not impressed at us taking the photograph. Oops.
Cape White Eye in the garden
The Cape White Eye, a common bird in South Africa. This species is endemic to South Africa, meaning it only exists in this country.

The Cape White Eye and his friends are always in the garden and I’m sure I’ve seen them before. Now that I’m taking the time to see who’s coming over, they have really caught my eye. They are also appreciative of bird seeds I put out and that makes me happy. They are found all over South Africa and can only be found here.

The Cape White Eye with fruit in the forefront.
The Cape White Eye about to take off after a snack.
Southern Doubled Collared Sunbird

This colourful bird loves the garden but is so quick we can never get a photo of it. We thought it was a sugar bird but it turns out it’s a sunbird, a Southern Doubled Collared Sunbird (we’re almost 100% sure). We spent an inordinate amount of tie trying catch a picture of this bird. In fact, we are still at it. It loves nectar and fruit. We stay ready. It has turned out to be our lockdown hobby.

Back of Southern Doubled Collared Sunbird and flower
The back of a Southern Doubled Collared Sunbird loving some nectar.

And of course, who can resist a picnic in the garden with snacks and great wine. The lockdown brings out a bit dreariness and anxiety at times. So, I do my best to find some time for light heartedness, which sometimes means creating a good moment. On other days, I’m closing the patio door and windows because the birds are a little too cheery. It is what it is.

Life.

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