Last year we restored two of the central tobacco kilns that are part of our main farm building to create a special tasting and events space. We have called it the Kiln Room. As we were nearing the end of this project, the builder asked me what sort of door handle we wanted for the main entrance.
There was talk of having something made in wrought iron, but pretty quickly I thought of my persimmon tree. Thirty-five years ago, I had to cut down some old trees to clear the way for a vineyard. There were some old cypresses and a really magnificent persimmon tree. It must have been 100 years old and I didn’t feel good about cutting it down. So, I kept the trunk and the thicker branches, hiding them away in a shed, knowing that one day I would use that beautiful, dense wood for something.
The next thirty-five years have been a game of cat and mouse with my sons. When Katrina and I leave the vineyard for a few days, they see a chance to ‘clean up.’ I always come home a little apprehensive and have to go and check the sheds to make sure that they haven’t found the persimmon or any of my other treasures, collected over the years for the perfect purpose that is yet to become apparent. Some people see potential, others have no bloody idea...
Even our staff love to tell stories of watching my sons loading ‘potential’ onto a flatbed, destined for the tip, with me, on the other side of the truck, unloading it and taking it off to hide in places they will never find. Everyone finds it hilarious, I’d say criminal is more like it.
It was a pleasure to work with Mark White, our builder for the tobacco kiln renovation. He shares my love of repurposing and reusing materials. It may not be the easiest way of doing things but it’s certainly the most beautiful, and a unique way to reflect the DNA of the building, the families that have worked in it and the endeavour of this region.
The floorboards in our new Kiln Room come from an old shed on a neighbouring farm that we purchased a while ago. We overhauled the shed to store wine, having put in a concrete floor we kept the floorboards for a rainy day. And the walls are made from salvaged timber from the now dismantled ammunitions factory at Swanpool, about 40kms from here.
But nothing tops the satisfaction of handing one of my persimmon branches over to Mark and watching him cut it and attach it to the new door to make the perfect door handle for our Kiln Room. Not that I’ll be able to leave home without worrying about all the other treasures I have stashed around the place.