What on Earth is that tree?
When we moved in, our new home in Henley on Klip had a few green trees, five charred and dead ones and several stumps. Lightning, our neighbours explained.
They also had a couple of skeletons. The doves loved them. We watched while a whole flock, 20 or more, perched on the dead branches like so many fluffy pine cones.
In a conference over the front gate and the ancient rustic wall that divided our properties, the two Men of the Houses decided that despite the doves it’s day was done. The wall also had to go; touch it and it quivered, kick it and it undulated like a Mexican wave. Worse, the two sets of dogs could smell each other and sang their greetings and the songs of their people – loudly and often.
Before we could collapse the wall, we had to collapse the trees.
Enter Mickey. We had heard about this woman tree-feller and were keen to encounter her.
We always applaud entrepreneurs. Our movers were the Pink Ladies from Sandton, all women except the driver. Smart, efficient and on time, they loaded and unloaded without soiling their pink T-shirts, bruising our treasures, or busting a nail.
Mickey was a surprise. Small, slim and petite, she must be made of leather and steel wires to do what she does. A feminine touch is her long, shapely nails coloured emerald green. She obviously doesn’t bust a nail easily either.
“I was told I was too small,” she explained, telling me how she got into the business. “I said, ‘don’t judge me by my looks, but by what I can do’.”
A “plaasvrou”, Mickey didn’t want an office job when divorce cost her the farm. “I wanted to work in the open air,” she said. “I watched a tree being cut down on the farm and I was fascinated.” She begged tree-man Ray Forrester to teach her.
He kept evading. She kept pleading, so finally he tested her on one of the tallest trees he could find. She passed.
Eight months of intensive training followed. She learnt to use cables and harnesses, to operate the equipment and machinery and how to “read” a tree. She found her arms weren’t strong enough to operate a chain saw at height. “Aha,” said Forrester. “I told you so.”
“The men can do the top, I’ll do the bottom,” she retorted. “I can fell the tree too, if necessary.”
For a while they worked in tandem, but when Forrester retired to Canada four years ago, Mickey took over.
“I love it,” she told me. Her team, both seasoned and young, wielded chainsaws like masters.
Our neighbour called in Mickey, but once his work was done, we grabbed her and her team to take out our dead trees and prune the others. She did a great job, even turning my (new) ancient pepper tree into a stately and seemly old matriarch fit to rule the garden for another season or two.
We called her for more work recently and she arrived to quote in 10 minutes. Admittedly, she was working close by. I think I’ve said this before, but in Henley on Klip everything is close by.
Thanks Mickey. My garden is taking off fast, even if most of my green trees are “gemors” in her terms. “Lots of people take them out,” she told me. There are certainly a lot of them around and I’ve got enough babies for an orchard. I’ve tried to identify them, but my beginner tree book drew a blank. I consulted Douglas and Anni at Little Austria Nursery, but they were also puzzled. It looks awfully like a moringa, the magical medicine tree, a wild variety, perhaps. Opinions, anyone?
Anyway, they’re pretty and green and they’re there; that’s enough for now.
Off the Rails: Henley’s haunted house
It was once a prefab hut for the British army, perhaps used for officers’ billets or a hospital annex, then, shipped to South Africa in 1904, it was one of Henley on Klip’s first family homes and a church.
If you can’t spell a street name, blame the Kents
Triumph and Disaster – The True Story of Horace Kent.