By the six season calendar we’re now in “winter”, or Makuru to give it the indigenous name. On the seasonal wheels you see around the place it’s marked as being approximately June and July, but that’s a white person’s fiction. It often starts in May, and this year it started about mid-May, about two weeks ago.
I like Makuru, even though it means I have to take steps to manage seasonal depression (which will kick in around the end of the season if I’m not on the ball). I think of it as winter, but the other name it gets in English is “first rains”. One of the ways you know it’s arrived is that the rain comes – and stays. We get rain in the season before, Djeran/autumn, but it’s here and there with long dry patches between, the soil doesn’t really get wet, just starts to break down the hydrophobia. Makuru comes, the rainbelts have moved far enough north that they take all week to pass over, and the ground gets *wet*. Nice and deep. There are sunny days between, but very few of them, just enough to notice the winter flowers. Which are truly bright: the orange trumpet vine, the red poinsettia, the blue plumbago, the pink and purple and coral and so many imposing shades of bougainvillea. The fluorescent yellow of oxalis (soursob) will begin in this season too.
Makuru means a change in garden focus for me. I no longer need to water, apart from keeping an eye on the pot plants. Instead I need to weed and mow, at least once or twice a week. Everything *grows*, and it grows fast. Especially as the soil has cooled from summer but not yet become chilled when the rain first arrives, so the influx of constant water plus moderate soil temperature means every weed germinates. The soil is becoming chilled, and during this season it will get to its coldest. Because of that there are a lot of seeds I can’t try and plant – but it never gets too cold for, say, lettuce or carrot. The short days are more of a hindrance to starting new plants than the air and soil temps. I am still doing a little transplanting, mainly of the natives and drought-lovers which rely on the soil having moisture to get established, but it’s too cool for much root development so even that goes on a little hiatus until firstspring starts in August.
I notice Makuru in other ways. It’s not getting truly light til around 7 am, which means I need to be on the ball about getting the kids out of bed and ready for school on time, the light won’t wake them naturally. I also have to plan my laundry around the weather radar and forecasts. I can’t just wait until the laundry basket fills and then however long after it takes me to remember to do it. I need to do short loads regularly, that I know I can get dry during three rainless hours in the middle of the day on a day forecast as “showers clearing” or “showers developing”, and I have to keep an eye on them. Or hang them out on the undercover lines so that even while it’s showering here and there the winds can dry them.
Then there’s the cold – I change my shirt boxes around on the shelf so that the long-sleeved box is closest, because that’s what I wear on reflex. My husband starts turning the little heater on in the mornings when he starts work. I work out where I (or the kids) have hidden my ugg boots for the last eight months. My ankles start to lock up with the cold, and old injuries ache unexpectedly. The kids voluntarily put on dressing gowns in the morning when they get up, and start choosing to wear trackpants to school instead of shorts (though not every day, because they’re kids and shorts are awesome). I get requests for peppermint tea and hot chocolate for breakfast and supper. It’s not terribly cold on any global scale – there will only be one or two weeks where the temperatures hang around zero Celcius overnight, the two weeks after Midwinter’s Day where it’s possible you might even find ice on your car windscreen and if you do everyone will talk about it for days. But it’s as cold as it gets.