Our garden is graced by big trees – most were here when we bought the property 20 years ago, some were lost in storms over the years and some were planted by Desmond from small cuttings and now stand proudly and tall. Desmond’s father was a forester and their 6 Benkenstein boys grew up on Forestry stations and learning about trees and forests from their dad.
Desmond’s brother Leon remembers life at the Jonkersberg plantation: “It was in the late fifties. Our nearest town was George, about 30 km away. Apart from life at the farm school we children had a fulfilling and busy life. Because of the remote location of the forestry station we were reliant on ourselves for entertainment. Television, computers and mobile phones only made their appearance more than 20 years later.
We had to help with chopping wood for the wood burning stove. The vegetable garden, in size more a large field, needed never ending upkeep in the form of weeding, planting and harvesting. Then we had to milk and care for Annie, our Jersey cow. And only then could the games begin. Our playing grounds covered the whole of the forestry station, the surrounding veld, pine plantations, indigenous forest, the river and the mountain. (Jonkersberg lies at the foot of the Outeniqua mountains)
In such an idyllic setting the sense of time disappeared and only dusk and hunger reminded you that it was time to go home.”
At the local George Museum an exhibition in the Timber Museum is entitled ‘The forests, our green heritage’ and well worth a visit.
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of Robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
– a poem by Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)