Places and Spaces – II

Three years ago this month we arrived in McGregor.

We decided to move to McGregor in August 2011.  It was a cold, snowy weekend.


We did the sums on a scrap of paper:  what might we get for our home in Cape Town?  What bond could be we get and afford? What implications for work? Yadayadayada…  The decision to move to McGregor had long been taken, but doing it had been in the medium to long term plan…  It was another “if-not-now-we-may-never-be-able-to” moment.  On the advice of two locals, we sought one of the estate agents (now good friend) and started house hunting.

Last on his list was The Sandbag House.  It had the right number of bedrooms and of all the houses we saw on that cold but sunny day, it was the only house that didn’t have an icy feel about it.

The Sandbag House the day we decided it would be ours (top) and as it is three years later (bottom).

We moved to McGregor in December when it is generally hot and dry.  We already knew that there was a lot that needed to be done – inside and out.  Some of the garden work started straight way because there was little we could do to the interior until we took transfer.  We began by watering the parched garden and thinking about how we could best benefit from the potential shade of the trees already planted in the garden.

Because there was no garage or workshop space, building a garden shed and a car port was in the short term plans.  This also had an impact on what we could do in the garden – builders mess up gardens and I wasn’t going to let that happen.

OldDriveWayThese additions also required planning approval which took time;  a mixed blessing because between our arrival and discussions with the architect, we discovered that the conservancy tank had imploded and had to be replaced.  Dealing with effluent (I used much less polite language at the time) is not negotiable and gobbled the available budget.  The lei* water dam we had planned  went by the way side…And meant that our original garden plan had to be re-thought.  Our first two vegetable beds gave way to roses and the driveway grew grass and herbs.

So, reflecting on the last three years, we looked back at photographs that we and our estate agent had taken.  When one lives with something every day, one doesn’t really see the what one has achieved, and it seems never-ending.  We are astounded at the difference between then and now.

In this series you see our garden as it was when was when we moved in, and as it is now, three years later.

The front garden
The front garden

The tree aloe and most of the Agapanthus and Dietes came from our Cape Town garden – carefully split off and bagged and settled before being transported to McGregor.  The ground cover is peach pips, sourced locally.  They help to keep the dust down and save water because they don’t have to be watered.  We rarely water our lawns.  The grass mostly stays green because of seepage from the lei water that runs past our house as well as from the spillage from the other watering we do.

On the left, the
On the left, the “subsided” conservancy tank. On the right, and in the far corner, the new driveway and in the foreground, the herb and vegetable garden.

The driveway is bordered by alternating Strelizia and Agave plants.

The corner earmarked for the carport (left) and the new driveway, also covered with peach pips (right) once the carport had been built.
The debris associated with the
The debris associated with the “great unpack” and the veranda where we now spend so much of our time – summer and winter.

The steps were essential.  Tom built them;  Melon supervised and Rosie inspected.

We were very exposed to the main road. And we wanted to create a “utility” space. It’s still in the making…
What greeted our guests when they arrived in December 2011.  Now we have a lawn under shady trees for lunch and sundowners.  Not negotiable.
What greeted our guests when they arrived in December 2011 (left), and what greets them today(right).
Three years ago we couldn’t sit under a tree. Now we have a lawn and the trees now shade us (and Pearli).

Now we have a wonderful space for lunch, sun downers, summer suppers and just chilling in the garden….

A garden is a never-ending work in progress.  A year after we moved here, we bought the plot behind us.


And we have now connected the two properties and begun developing it – mostly with vegetables…


Gardens are wonderful, living spaces and the work doesn’t stop;  nor does the enjoyment of the garden, or of McGregor.


*lei – lead:  Lei water is the water that is lead through the irrigation channels to water people’s farms and gardens.

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