After our recent stay at Babylonstoren, I received Maranda Engelbrecht's glorious Babel cookbook as a gift. That night, I devoured it from cover to cover.
How heartening to read that in 2012, when the book was published, head gardener Liesl van der Walt says that she wants to learn to be a beekeeper, with the knowledge of that wish now being a reality.
For in this garden, things happen that are beyond the realm of reason. Incredibly, outré cucurbits start their lives as crumpled white flowers.
I had forgotten the smell of papaya blossoms and the taste of a ripe tamarillo. I crunched along peach pip pathways, sniffing crushed bay leaf on my fingertips, daydreaming.
We sat at a table in the conservatory one morning, talking to Liesl. Battered panama hat, worn leather pockets on a gardener's apron, strong hands. Wagtails swooped and fluttered overhead.
I asked her if it was unusual to be a female beekeeper in South Africa. She looked down, smiled and said:
Bye is meesal vrouens, jy weet.
"Bees are mostly women, you know."
I could tell that it was a love affair for her - this story with the bees. She spoke about the otherworldliness of it all - the vibration of wings, the sound of a happy hive. That waggle dance they do.
She called them wild animals. I liked that.
We walked to the hives.
The bees had clover blossoms on their minds.
The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.
- Henry David Thoreau