Kitchen confidential

As far as the kitchen was concerned, there wasn’t one. For the first few years I cooked (Jo does not cook except under extreme duress) on a gas ring on a counter under one of the windows or braaied outside. In due course James and I built on a large kitchen/dining room. We used gum-poles cut down on the farm and raw pine, wet-off-saw, which was quite freely available in those days for about R900 a cubic meter. I made the doors and windows out of a combination of this pine and some reclaimed Meranti which came from a demolished deck in Nature’s Valley. The old yellow-wood doorframe has a beautiful fanlight above it and is a relic of my father’s birthplace – a house called The Poplars in Craddock. That house was destroyed about fifty years ago when the Fish River came down in flood but the front door-frame and fanlight were salvaged. My father spent a lot of his time renovating old cottages in Makhanda (Grahamstown in those days) and I think he planned to find a place for the frame in one of these but he never did and I think he would be happy that it is being used now.

None of the wood we used was treated so this structure is steadily biodegrading with the help of borer beetle. Every morning a fine sifting of sawdust from these creatures covers the surfaces of the table and counters. The floor slab is pretty thin and has cracked in places as the roots of the Cape Ash (Ekerbergia Capensis) which we planted nearby extend under it in search of sustenance. Because we used wet wood, subsequent shrinkage has left cracks between the boards so that the kitchen is an extremely well-ventilated space. In the winter we close it off from the rest of the house with curtains and this keeps out some of the draughts.