November is usually the time when the Cape Doctor arrives, and the dreaded 10-day southeaster pumps across the Peninsula, but a light southwesterly has prevailed so far, bringing a pleasant coolness to the air while the late Spring sunshine warms the earth. The odd rain shower has kept the streams running – filled beyond capacity by a particularly wet winter – and the mountains are lush with new fynbos spreading a patchwork of pinks, yellows and pale greens across the slopes. In places the slopes are scarred by stark orange gashes where the weight of the sodden earth could no longer be held back and trees and bushes ended up in a mangled heap where roads collapsed and were blocked for traffic for weeks. The weather patterns are not easy to predict any more, with extremes the order of the day, and the job of meteorologist becoming less desirable
Our gardens have flourished beyond all expectations, becoming jungle-like where thirty years of municipal watering made no difference to the growth of plants. The nitrogen-rich rainfall has shown who’s boss and I have to hack a path through the undergrowth just to reach the wash-line. My little chicks who had to be rescued in a flash flood when only a few weeks old have matured into happy, healthy young hens – 3 of the 8 turned out to be roosters, and magnificent they are, with iridescent tail feathers, regal stance and unfortunately early morning crowing. Cock-fights were a regular event out on the lawn and they chased the mother hen mercilessly, apparently unaware of their close relationship (does that even matter with chickens?) Getting them back into the chicken run after a few hours of free ranging tested our patience as they behaved like truant teenagers, scattering in all directions and sometimes going into the run and then dashing back out again. But it was fun. Aware of my civic duty to the neighbours regarding undisturbed sleep, I managed to relocate them to the smallholding from whence they came, so all ended well – not for the pot, but to join the 100 or so other lucky fowls – including ducks and a rather splendid turkey.
The remaining five hens are quiet and contented, clucking softly as they scratch my plants out of the containers, and peck at snails and bugs – there are downsides to the pleasure of eating an egg straight from the chicken – but I think they are appreciating not being terrorised by the feisty roosters and hopefully will start laying soon. The mother provides us with an egg a day, and who could ask for more?