In “The Odyssey” by Homer, there is a description of an orchard at the palace of Alcinous, the king of the Phaecians. In Book Seven, Odysseus is led to the palace of Alcinous by Athene. Whilst at the palace, Odysseus admires the orchard.
The description reads as follows; “Beyond the courtyard, near to the doors, lies a large four-acre orchard, surrounded by a hedge. Tall, heavily laden trees grow there, pear, pomegranate and apple, rich in glossy fruit, sweet figs and dense olives. The fruit never rots or fails, winter or summer. It lasts all year, and the West Wind’s breath quickens some to life, and ripens others, pear on pear, apple on apple, cluster on cluster of grapes, and fig on fig. There is Alcinous’ fertile vineyard too, with a warm patch of level ground in one part set aside for drying the grapes, while the labourers gather and tread others, as the foremost rows of unripe grapes shed their blossom, and others become tinged with purple. Beyond the furthest row again are neat beds with every kind of plant, flowering all year round, and there are two springs in the orchard, one flowing through the whole garden, while the other runs the opposite way, under the courtyard sill, near where the people of the city draw their water, towards the great house. Such were the gods’ glorious gifts to Alcinous’ home.”
I am not sure why the fruit in Alcinous’ garden “never rots or fails” but the orchard sounds glorious. The orchard described in this epic poem, probably written near the end of the 8th century BC, was inspired by one or many orchards that Homer must have seen.
I know that the orchard in the Oddyssey is based on mythology, but this year the orchard at Towerwater could have been described in a similar vein. I planned the planting in the orchard to ensure that we have fresh fruit all year round.
The seasons of fruit start with the early peaches followed by the apricots, nectarines, plums, figs, prunes, grapes, grenadillas, apples, pears, almonds, pomegranates, guavas, quinces, limes, lemons, kumquats, naartjies and ending with oranges, in sequence. The homemade compost provided a surprise addition by way of a pawpaw tree, as though to spontaneously add to the bounty of the garden.
For us, the reality of the Towerwater garden is the stuff of mythology. We still need to pinch ourselves occasionally to confirm that this magical place is not a slip of mythological imaginings. What adds to the pleasure is remembering the not so easily forgotten hard work that went in to realise this dream.
One can draw plans on paper and have all these ideas in one’s head, but after putting the basics in place the universe and nature takes over. Life plays out in a balance of delight and despair. The garden still demands constant attention. Diseases abound and the battle to save the fruit is paramount. To achieve this, the orchard requires a strict management plan.
On quiet mornings, I like to walk into the garden and marvel at the beauty of the trees laden with their fruit. Picking a Golden Delicious apple from the tree and biting into it is like biting into a golden orb of sunshine. It is an experience that is difficult to describe, even in mythological terms.
I admire the orchard, not as something that I own or possess, but as a gift of nature that I need to curate. When you make a dream cross the divide into reality, you become responsible for that dream. The reality of the dream alone will not sustain it. Your responsibility is to keep the dream alive by nurturing it constantly.
When I admire the orchard at Towerwater, it is with a sense of humility, fulfilment and awe.