Summerhill is bursting prematurely with birdsong and the early blossoms of magnolias, camellias and daffodils. No doubt, the snow we’ve had on the farm has played their part in heralding a slightly early spring, yet there’s no certainty we won’t see a return of winter before the end of September. In fact, it’s almost bound to happen, but right now we’re experiencing the winds that accompany the almost Indian summer that so often characterizes August. The poplars and the may are already in leaf, and there are signs the willows are sprouting forth as well.
Seven years ago, we buried our foal watchman, uNkomiyaphi Mbanjwa, who had served time at Summerhill well in excess of 50 years. He was reputedly 102 at the time of his death, and worked well into his 90’s as the foal-watch. He held the distinction of never missing a foaling, and was greatly intolerant of his younger colleagues whom he claimed would fall asleep on the job at the first opportunity.
It was uNkomiyaphi’s habit to remind us every year with a prod of his walking stick on the ground and a beckoning in the direction of the emerging daffodils, that the foaling season was about to commence. As soon as he noticed the first buds on the wisteria and those of the flowering cherries, he would proclaim it time to start covering the mares.
Of course, we need to recall that in his time, there was no formal education for people like him, and the only signs he followed were those of nature. The Western calendar was alien to him, and the only day he recognised in it, was Christmas Day, because that was time off, and it meant a double cheque!