𝘽𝙮 𝙈𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙢𝙤 𝙈𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙤𝙩𝙩𝙞
Our relationship started in September 2009, when myself, Claudio and Werner walked up an over-grown sand dune. At that stage, the dune was level with the top of the Milkwood, and the tree was a scraggly mess, its massive branches hanging and touching the ground, almost lethargic, in a posture of dismay, overgrown with Madeira Vine. The dune was strewn with broken bottles, needles and condoms and the only structure remaining from the original house called oggies, was a stone braai.
At that stage I was unaware of the importance of the Milkwoods in the Garden Route, or for that matter how invasive the Madeira Vine was and its destructive capability. Over the course of the next two years and countless meetings with environmental organisations our relationship grew. That is the Milkwood and I.
I cannot quite remember who contributed the most to this relationship – whether it was South African National Parks, CapeNature (I still call the small Milkwood to the left of the delivery entrance, Benjamin Bunny), Garden Route District Municipality, George Municipality, DAFF, or the Regional and National Department of Environmental Affairs – I apologise in advance if I have forgotten anybody, but it was over 10 years ago and the mental scars are starting to show. Best not forget my consultant who held my hand through this arduous process, from HilLand Environmental Associates – thank you Cathy. We would not be here today without your help: The Milkwood and I.
Two years later and with stern warnings about preserving this ancient tree that has witnessed people come and go, buildings erected and demolished with scant regard until I arrived, we broke ground. I was educated about the importance of not disturbing its root structure, hence the wooden deck running to the front door and no paved parking (thank you Cobri from DAFF and Maretha from SANPARKS). A Milkwood’s root structure is as large as its canopy and captures water within this web. I personally cordoned off the tree with danger tape and had a long discussion with our builder Harry about ensuring we do not damage it.
Within the first week, when we excavated the dune, we arranged to pull down the Madeira Vine and we filled a 6-ton truck. Dozens of calls later from everyone listed above and several personal visits from Benjamin Bunny, I was permitted to continue. No, I was not cutting down the Milkwood, I was trying to help protect it.
Within 6 months, its branches had lifted off the ground, released from its burden, and ten years plus later the gaps in its canopy that were occupied by its invader have been filled. It has grown into a majestic lady, fed by two down pipes from Salinas deck and roof. Every year it reminds us of its existence through its berries that will leave stains throughout the restaurant and its odour of strong blue cheese, but daily as I walk under its beauty and caress its branch above the wooden deck, I thank it.
I love trees, they talk to me, they have a soul – especially this tree. Some of you may not understand this, but if you have grown an indigenous tree from a seed, and I have grown many, you will.
We have developed a mutually beneficial relationship: myself, Salinas, and our majestic Milkwood. I draw energy as I walk under her daily. She protects Salinas from the noise of the N2, sucking in that disturbance, absorbing without complaining and Salinas supplies her with nutrients and protects her from the westerly storms and the wind shear.
They will outlive us all, Salinas and the Milkwood, and may they go from strength to strength.