blemish land

The world is indeed shot through with imperfection, and it was the blemish that cumulatively and finally did Anton in as a farmer. The farm produced fruit abundantly, but in spite of the poisons, it was marked with rust, scale, fly and black spot, and although some of it was edible, very little of it bore the sleek perfection that meant it was marketable. Anton had to borrow from the Land Bank to pay for whatever the sales of the fruit would have covered, becoming a gambler staking his all on the future, hoping numbly for that perfect run of luck when the weather, the rain, the insects and the labourers would give him a break.

That imperfections in the fruit should so ramify back into the lives of the farmer and his family was an unexpected side-effect of insect activity. Perfect fruit could indeed be produced, but only in rare years of perfect conditions, and as such conditions were regionally shared, everybody but the sloppiest of farmers produced abundant perfect fruit, and there was a glut.

Before white people came, the land around White River was mostly grassy and treeless, except near koppies and rivers, as early settlers have attested, and not at all like the green and tree-lined valleys that I knew. The trees seemed natural to me, and it was with horror that I returned from SACS to see that entire orchards had been removed to allow for other crops. The bare soil, which seemed flayed as I viewed it from the top of the koppie, was soon covered with new growth, but the region’s repertoire of blemishes extended to these crops also – or the crops brought their own imperfections with them. My intermittent view of things, three weeks in winter and six in summer, gave the descent of the farm into loss, along with Lesley and Anton’s lives, a jerky, speeded-up quality.

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