Over a year ago now I had the amazing perspicacity to appoint the fabulous and efficient Sarah as marketing and sales liaison at HomeAway… and that relief (and expansion!) enabled me quite literally to lift my head up and look over the wall next door. My neighbour, who had been widowed and was not coping, had decided to sell and, by a wonderful confluence of circumstances, I was able to scrape together the wherewithal to purchase.
The property had sadly fallen into neglect, but luckily I was able to contract the services of one Mr Godfrey Makohono to quickly renovate the outbuilding into a cottage (our 5th!). There being such a shortage of accommodation in Tulbagh, it was literally snapped up on a long-term lease – which in turn has carried the standard overheads and partially helped to fund the ongoing reclaim of the rest of the property.
The dreaded drought of summer 2015/16 taught us some harsh lessons, but one of the positives has been that we now know the way forward is water-wise & low maintenance gardening. My faithful part-time gardener Benjamin (the vegetarian Rastafarian) has steadily cleared the erf and prepared it to take on a new persona. At one stage we found a 2m Cape cobra – who was promptly relocated to much more convivial climes in the Waterval nature reserve by CapeNature! I also organised a weekly delivery of rocks (from an outlying smallholding which quite literally grows them!) and Benjy has now created rockeries everywhere of the local honeyed stone, reminiscent of the Cotswolds, interspersed with contrasting gravels. Another happiness was the acquisition of bakkie loads of peach pips from our local canning factory - and so our Zen garden is gradually coming into being.
We have cloned all our aloes, succulents and vygies from next door HomeAway and, it being the same micro-climate, the babies are thriving! A kind friend donated many agapanthus plants, and yet another lots of little spekboomplantjies for a hedge, so we are confident that the next growing season (Spring) will give the necessary boost to establish the garden firmly – especially since we are being blessed with a wet winter. Here in the country we live very close to and work with the seasons…
When tackling the main house, again I was blessed to find Handyman Mark and his appie Elias, whose practical hands are capable of literally anything. For over four months we have worked diligently and daily together, deciding how to unlock the potential of this potentially very comfortable home. Many gremlins were encountered along the way, but fortunately Mark was unfazed and always resourcefully made a plan. The long and the short of it is that the house has been opened up, completely retiled and repainted, and is looking so spic and span I can hardly believe it! The grotty old bathroom and separate loo has been renovated into two lovely modern ones, both with showers, there are generous cupboards everywhere and in short every convenience has been provided.
Throughout flow and light has been created, along with a wood-burning kaggel in the living room for those snowy wintry days we love so much here in Tullieland. Mark even recycled the old bath into a snazzy new seat! In addition the house now boasts a wonderful entertainment area, with the ubiquitous braai, and the old reservoir has been converted into a sit-in plunge pool, which will be operational for summer 2016/17. There are lovely views of the mountains and I know guests will really enjoy relaxing there.
As always, when fitting up the Comfort Zone I tried to buy as local as possible, and was delighted to find bright, bold colours available in homeware fashions. My friend Crispian (another whose hands are capable of so many things) has made much of the furniture out of upcycled pallet wood - the miracle being he is 81 years old! There is now a fresh, uncluttered ambience in this house, which lives very easy - perfect for a group of friends or a family. Do try it out!