Tag Archives: Leucadendron

Roaring waters

Miroloma tenufolia

We had some turbulent weather last week and I lay in bed morning after morning listening to the rain battering the roof and feeling no desire whatsoever to leave my warm, wolfhound laden bed to go running in the wet coldness outside. Thus is the road to perdition paved with good intentions. Night after night I go to bed and promise myself a morning run. Morning after morning I lie in the snug warmth and don’t go anywhere. Paths go untrodden, flowers unphotographed, dogs unexercised

On Saturday the rain stopped and in the evening we finally ran up the soaking wet mountain in poor light with little to see and charming only to us. We ran via the waterfall, roaring white in the dull evening light.

Today dawned grey once more, but no rain. We were taking the young horse to a show, so there was no chance of a morning run, but after a happy day of showjumping at Noordhoek, I came home to glorious sunshine and enthusiastic dogs. The only possible answer was to go out on the mountain. I’m not sure it could entirely be described as a run. I walked most of the uphill and we made several detours into wilder bits of fynbos to examine and inspect. The dogs were delirious with happiness, noses a-quiver and constantly dashing off into the bush after wild things, real or imaginary.

There was a lot to see: first the pounding waterfall, white with pounding roaring water.

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We stopped at the weir for a drink (for the dogs, not me) and I took a series of strangely beautiful photos of Seamus. The sun was shining through the trees and catching his coat, confusing the camera. He lay in front of the magnificent Ilex Mitus, the Cape Holly with its gleaming silvery green trunk.

 

Higher up the mountain we ran into fynbos as the light became ever more golden. The pink Protea burchellii and the first Protea nitida of the year. We had to bash through some bush to get to Protea nitida. This colony scatters an area of the mountain on top of the farm and they tend to flower quite late. This is the first of these graceful silver trees to flower.

 

We took a little detour to the stream that leads off our land to the forest and came across some Microloma tenufolia. Never easy to capture, it somehow works well against the lime green leaves of the Lucadendron salignum and you can see the tenuous climber’s twisted stem quite clearly. The colour is amazing, always pinker in a photo than its more coral reality.

 

The Buchu that we grow commercially on the farm is in full flower and on the way down the mountain we stopped and in the perfect light just after sunset caught this flower-spangled shrub by the road.

 

Agthomsa crenulata

Agthomsa crenulata

We had wonderful weather before the rains this week and there is a backlog of blog photos to post, along with splendid tales of the morning light as it hits the Simonsberg, the Paarderberg and Paarl Mountain and of the evening sun as it catches the water in the dams below us and they gleam golden, pink or red and orange. But those are tales for another day.

The Polecat and the Porcupine

We were having dinner with my stepdaughter Robyn in Johannesburg earlier this week and she said “we can always tell when you are busy, Sarah, because you don’t write your blog.”  She’s right, it’s been a busy few weeks.  The runs continue but the blog has been neglected as I’ve travelled all over the place, and now a ton of reports need writing and people, horses and dogs have taken priority over the calm pursuit of blog writing.  So this blog is a bit of a mixed one, with several runs and bits of farm life all mixed up.

We share the mountain with many creatures that we never see, none more nocturnal and furtive than the African Striped Polecat.  Sadly we met one the other day, sad because she was deceased, Peter found her on the road and brought him home for a respectable burial.  I didn’t have the heart to take a photo of her, so I have taken this one from google images, with apologies to the photographer for the lack of a credit.  Of interest is that of all mammals, this is the stinkiest, stinkier even than a skunk.  Perhaps it’s a good thing that they are secretive and nocturnal.

 

African Striped Polecat

African Striped Polecat

We saw evidence as we ran up the mountain a week or so ago of another, less rare, nocturnal resident:  a porcupine quill on the road.  We quite often see the quills, and very occassionally the porcupines themselves and we love to think of them, snuffling around in the dark, happily digging up fynbos bulbs, of which we have plenty on the mountain.  Apparently this is the biggest porcupine in the world.  The photo of the quill is mine, the one of the porcupine also downloaded from google images.

Cape Porcupine

Cape Porcupine

 

Porcupine Quill

Porcupine Quill found on our morning run

The weather has been all over the place in the last few weeks.  We’ve had a wet but mild winter so far and now, suddenly, the temperature has dropped.  The water has been magnificent – as you can see from this photo: the mountain in the background is the Paarderberg and the full dams and the Berg River gleam in the last light of the setting sun.

The sun sets behind the Paaderberg

The sun sets behind the Paaderberg

On the same evening I went deeper into the thick fynbos above the house to see if there was anything new or exciting flowering   There was but I need to do a bit of research before I post it.  Meanwhile I took this charming evening view of the farm buildings.

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Another evening found us higher up the moutain and Jemima Chew is clearly enjoying being out on the mountain.

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Runs have also been early in the day when the light is poor, or at sunset.  I love how the Leucodendrum salignum glows in the gloom, a yellow-lime green colour, they shine on the mountain when nothing else stands out.

Leucadendron salignum Male

Leucadendron salignum Male

Leucadendron salignum Female, shining in the gloomy morning

Leucadendron salignum Female, shining in the gloomy morning

And the magnificant King Protea, Protea cynaroides, is in flower at the moment.  This is the South African national flower.

Protea cynaroides, The King Protea

Protea cynaroides, The King Protea

At the top of the farm, close to where we found the Gladiolus watsonius, is a flowering white shrub.  It looks like a Selago, but not any of the ones I find in my book, so identification is uncertain.

Selago

Selago

Finally a morning shot – with the Leucodendron salignum luminescent in the foreground, Paarl Mountain with the morning sun on it in the mid-distance and the Paaderberg in the background, covered in cloud.  This is a magical time of year in this part of the world, the soaking rain promises a great spring flowering season and good crops for us on the farm.  The light is magnificant, the days are getting longer and spring is getting closer.

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Running in between the flying

When I got home from Nairobi last week little Jemima Chew was not looking her usual self. She’s what the South African’s call a ‘pavement special’, an SPCA rescue dog who arrived in our lives shortly after Seamus. Although quieter than the attention seeking wolfhounds, she’s a lovely dog and often ends up a favourite with guests. She also gets bullied by Maebh as a result of which she now sleeps on our bed at night while the hounds sleep in the kitchen.  A perfect outcome from her point of view.

Jemima Chew (named for the Jimmy Choo boots she very nearly destroyed as a puppy) is always alert, always ready for action and always hungry. So when she was down in the dumps, refusing food and clearly off colour we were quite worried. Especially when Peter told me she’d been that way for a couple of days. She didn’t have a temperature, but in our part of the world you worry about biliary and I found a couple of ticks on her. We rushed her to the vet and although she didn’t have biliary she did end up on a drip for 24 hours. Poor girl, she’s so tough that in six years its’s the first time she’s ever had to go to the vet. By Sunday she was home, feeling much better, wagging her tail and demanding dinner.

Here she is in the misty afternoon light a week later. It poured with rain all last weekend but stopped early enough on Sunday afternoon for us to go for a quick run before I had to leave for the airport. This blog is being written on a plane between London and Frankfurt.

Jemima Chew, fully recovered

Jemima Chew, fully recovered

The light was fantastic and made the grove of Ilex Mitis by the weir look like a scene from The Hobbit. Seamus and Maebh put on their best performances for this photo.

Scene from The Hobbit, starring Seamus and Maebh

Scene from The Hobbit, starring Seamus and Maebh

The waterfall, which I posted only a few days ago, is now white with pounding water – we must have had 30mm of rain at least and the farm is soaking wet.

Water!

Water!

One lovely result of a few days of rain is all the bird activity when it stops, especially as this is the mating season for most of our birds. We took a different route through the fynbos today and saw lots of Cape Sugarbirds having battles over the girls. The iphone which I used for all my flower photos is much less good at caputuring fauna but I did manage to get one image of the sugarbird inspecting his territory from the top of a Protea repens.

If you look closely you can see the Cape Sugarbird with his long tail

If you look closely you can see the Cape Sugarbird with his long tail

Not so many flowers on this run – the rain, followed by some sun, means there should be some new things to see next weekend when I get home. This is a new protea gleaming in the soft winter light.  I have promised myself I will be stricter on identity this year, but I’m not sure what this subspecies is.

Unidentified pink Protea

Unidentified pink Protea

No problem identifying Chasmanthe aethiopica which we have posted before.  This group grows higher on the mountain on a different part of the farm – a damp shady area just below the weir. Such a lovely flowering bulb and reliably reminds me of the damp sweet smelling Irish spring where it grows wild on the verges and in the hedgerows.

Chasmathe Aethiopica

Chasmathe aethiopica

Another shot of the graceful and beautifully coloured Chasmanthe Aetheopica

Another shot of the graceful and beautifully coloured Chasmanthe aetheopica

Sunny Days

With Peter away Anna, a Swedish friend, came to stay the night and we started the evening with a sunset walk on the mountain.  We finished the evening, needless to say, with far too much wine and lots of chat!  Anna is a proper walker and I wanted to capture some flowers I’d seen out running so we set off in the gorgeous evening light with a specific aim in mind.  As always the mountain was stunning in the evening the dogs were bounding with joy as we chatted and walked.

Metalasia densa is not particularly beautiful or charming but it is very common.  The book says it is winter flowering, but here it seems to like the summer’s heat, or maybe it’s because we’ve had a wet year.  In either case it is everywhere.  Like so many flowers that are not necessarily beautiful at a distance, it is rather lovely in close up.

Metalasia densa, a rather scruffy shrub

Metalasia densa, a rather scruffy shrub

Metalasia densa, the flower in close up

Metalasia densa, the flower in close up

To my great joy this gorgeous Erica has burst into flower at the top of the mountai.   This is Erica nudiflora, delighting us with a flash of pink as we crossed the road at the top of the farm.  Anna is great company, very chatty and interested in everything and she finds my enthusiasm for these floral finds quite entertaining.   She was very tolerant of having to interrupt both walk and chat while I try to photograph flowers in the fading light and the wind.

Erica nudiflora

Erica nudiflora

 

The flowers of Erica nudiflora in close up

The flowers of Erica nudiflora in close up

Of course proteas are the statement flowers on the mountain and the fabulous Protea nerifolia is coming into flower.  I am sure we’ll have many photos of these over the coming months, the flowering season is long and they are particularly beautiful, with their pink petals and shaggy beard.  This is the first of the year, taken at the lowest point of the farm.

Protea nerifolia

Protea nerifolia

 

Leucadendron salignum?

Leucadendron salignum?

This picture comes from an early morning run over the weekend; I couldn’t resist the morning light shining through the the new growth of this Leucadendron – most probably salignum.

And this last photo was taken yesterday evening, Sunday, as the sun set behind Paarl mountain and the valley was golden pink.  We’ve been having amazing weather since it stopped raining.

Sunset over the valley

Sunset over the valley

 

Wolfhounds slipstreaming in the wind and glorious early autumn sunsets

Two lovely runs this week.  One on a cool damp morning with the new growth of Leudadendron salignum glowing green in the grey light once again and bounding dogs enjoying the autumnal weather.  The house is full of guests and it’s lovely to get up early, go for a run and enjoy my own company and that of the dogs, returning to a social breakfast full of chat and laughter before we get on with the day.  Our guests are terrific, they know their way around the house and on Monday’s run I returned home to a delicious breakfast of poaches eggs with english muffins, avocado and olive oil, all prepared by Niall before he took himself off for a morning of work.

This morning was the perfect opposite in terms of weather, a typical hot dry windy morning with the heart monitor showing the heavy weather I was making of pushing up the mountain against the howling wind.  The wolfhounds love the wind and stand face on, enjoying the feel of it slipping through their shaggy coats.  As ever on a hot day, they enjoy a quick water break at Fox Pan as we run up the mountain and you can clearly see the wind ruffling their coats.

Seamus and Maebh enjoying water and wind

Seamus and Maebh enjoying water and wind

Although flowers are not prolific I can see the Cape cycle starting once again.  Having grown up in the Irish climate where winter is winter and spring gets off to a slow start, this Cape climate is always a little strange to me.  The slowest period is during the hot summer months of January and February.  As the weather cools and the rains arrive, the whole mountain bursts into life, the flowering season starts again, lasts all winter and reaches it’s apotheosis in the spring months of September, October and November.  Having been through the cycle once I am alert to the signs that the new flowering year is getting ready to launch.  Murlatia hysteria is a real stalwart, along with the Salvia africana it really does flower all year long without a break, but now in anticipation of the rains it seems to be showing more blooms than ever.  Here it is in the morning sunlight.

Muraltia heisteria

Muraltia heisteria

I cannot resist taking photos of the gorgeous Leucadendron salignum, particularly when it’s been raining which seems to set off the glowing green.  There will be many more photos of this gorgeous plant during the course of the winter.  It has begun its flowering season already.

Leucadendron salignum

Leucadendron salignum

One could do a whole blog just on grasses but as the are hard to photograph really well I tend to ignore most of them.  It’s a technical subject and I have a couple of books, but not the time to identify this one which has just come into flower all over the mountain, especially in high, rather damp places.

Grasses with yellow flower

Grasses with yellow flower

I’ve identified this as a member of the Helichrysum family.  I’m still not sure that’s right but I can’t find anything else that it resembles.  The flowers don’t seem very helichrysum-like to me, but I can’t find anything else that it resembles.  As I was taking this photo just above Fox Pan, I realised that the dogs were very interested in the plant and really getting in to have a good sniff around.  So I stopped and looked and you could clearly see that something had been lying up on top of it.  Makes perfect sense, this plant is growing in front of a large protea, so it’s protected from the back, sheltered overhead and looks over Fox Pan and the whole mountain so whatever lay up there obviously felt completely safe and its lucky I didn’t run past at the wrong moment with the dogs.  I presume it was a buck of some kind, we see lots of them and the dogs often put them up and give chase, but they are far far slower than any buck and don’t even try that hard.  It’s lovely to see evidence of the animals who share this farm with us, whether it’s picking up a porcupine quill on a road that I’d only run the day before and imagine him shuffling up there in the dark, or seeing a plant flattened by a buck contented after her drink at Fox Pan and enjoying a rest on the mountain.

Is it Helichrysum?

Is it Helichrysum?

We get the best sunsets at this time of year and I always try to capture and share the good ones.  This was over the weekend as we sat on the balcony enjoying the house cocktail, gin and tonic with Campari.

Another perfect sunset

Another perfect sunset

The Red Protea

While the blog and the running help to motivate one another, the profusion of flowers has taken over and I’ve been spending too much time taking photos of flowers and not nearly enough doing the actual running. So this week I’ve been determined to run harder and hoping to get out at another time of day for the flowers.

Next week I’ll focus more on the blog. In the meantime I did stop to capture this unusual flower, which has come out near the waterful. I’m not quite sure what it is – Protea? Leucadendron? I can’t find it in the book.

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The weather is vastly improved and spring has definitely arrived. The proof? The farm echoes with the call of the red chested cuckoo – known as the Piet-my-vrou, in reference to its distinctive call.  It’s a migratory bird and arrives with the heat in springtime.

I also couldn’t resist stopping on the drive to capture the Leucospermum linaere who’s graceful fronds have grown down the slope to eye-level. This plant has obviously enjoyed the quantities of rain – I’ve never seen so many flowers on it.

Leucospermum linaere or The Vulnerable

Leucospermum linaere or The Vulnerable

Glorious Sunday Fynbos Flowers

After a golden day on Saturday when we were out all day with no time to run on the farm, we finally set off late on Sunday morning, the dogs and I.  Just as we left the house a light drizzle began to fall and I went back, wisely as it turned out, for a rain jacket.  It was only drizzling as we ran down the drive and then started to climb, but by the time we got high on the farm the weather had closed in.  Somehow this line of pines with the dams below always seems a little Japanese to me – is that an odd thought here in the uplands of Paarl?  Perhaps it is.

The landscape Japaned by the mist and the light

The landscape Japaned by the mist and the light

Luckily the weather hadn’t deterred us and some flowers glow and seem to photograph even better in the rain.  Take this Cyphia volubilis, the delicate white creeper.  There is one on the drive that is climbing all the way up this unidentified and rather plain shrub.

Cyphia volubis

Cyphia volubis

A close up reveals the charm and beauty of this delicate flower, notice the tiny pink spots at the centre, and of course the drops of rain, proof of our damp run.

Cyphia volubilis - detail

Cyphia volubilis – detail

All over the farm these yellow shrubs are flowering profusely, it is Hermannia grossularifolia I believe; there are as many as 60 fynbos subspecies but this one looks right, it belongs on these sandstone slopes and is flowering at exactly the right time of year.

Hermannia grossularifolia

Hermannia grossularifolia

Another flowering shrub is this one that I’ve posted before, unidentified until a friend pointed out that it is the common Tickberry (thank you Gilly), which used to be called Chrysanthemoides monilifera but is now correctly identified as Osteospermum moniliferum.  This shrub, although included as fynbos, is not unique to the fynbos region but grows happily, wild and in gardens, all the way up to tropical Africa.

Osteospermum moniliferum

Osteospermum moniliferum

An oft-posted winter flower was the wild rosemary, Eriocephalus africanus and I though it would be interesting to post it now that it has gone to seed.  With so many seedheads one can understand why it is so prolific on the mountain.

Eriocephalus africana - gone to seed

Eriocephalus africana – gone to seed

The light lent itself perfectly to capturing the magnificent white Erica which I believe to be the plukenetii.  It could be the coccinea, but the book says that particular subspecies does not exist in white and this is most definitely white.  Magnificent with its protruding anthers.  This is a common Erica and occurs all over the farm in many colours.

Erica plukenetii (?)

Erica plukenetii (?)

At this time of year the lands are full of flowers among the buchu.  The overall effect can be hard to photograph although this field of senecio high up in the lands gives a good sense of the colour and effect even on a dark day.

The lands full of flowers, primarily Senecio

The lands full of flowers, primarily Senecio

Saving the best for last.  One of the loveliest sights on the farm occurs at this time of year when this particular Leucadendron turns coral coloured. One of the interesting things about the Leucadendron family is that although less flashy than the protea to which it is related, it tends to be highly localised, fussy and choosy about where any particular subspecies will grow.  This appears to be Leucadendron tinctum, the name giving away the remarkable change in colour at this time of year.  The shrubs are everywhere in the higher parts of the farm and the effect is magnificent, one of our all time favourites.

The magnificent Leucadendron tinctum

The magnificent Leucadendron tinctum

 

I hsd planned a long run covering most of the farm, but by the time we reached what we call the look out it was raining heavily, I was tired slow and a bit sore after a lot of travel and show jumping on Saturday. The dogs were soaked and had been very patient as I took photos on the way up, not that they care, they happily sniff and hunt although Seamus, who misses us when we are gone, never left my side. So we put away thoughts of fynbos and plodded a little wearily down the hill to lunch, a fire and an afternoon in front of the TV.

Magnificent Proteas, more water and some new finds

There is a lot to share so today’s blog is all flowers and less about the run.
Up until now I’ve been going by the flowering dates shown in my reference book but I’m now not so sure.  I know from the records I’ve kept over the years that the different weather can mean flowering even in the garden here can vary by a month or six weeks from year to year, so why not the fynbos.
Stachys aethiopica, for instance, is supposed to flower in August and September, in the early spring.  But we saw one in May and there are small groups of them in different areas at the moment.  They are unmistakeable with their flower reminiscent of a pelargonium and distinctive mint-like leaves.  Indeed they are a member of lamiaceae, the mint family
Stachys aethiopica

Stachys aethiopica

The red gladiolus has cropped up in a few places.  There was one by the road when I left in early May that was easily photographed.  The latest two are high on the bank above the drive, but worth sharing even if the photo isn’t great.  The nearest possibility is gladiolus priorii, though in that case the flowers should be dull red and these are a vibrant scarlet.  It should also have a distinctive and easily visible yellow throat and I can see no evidence of that in our flower. I will look again as the size, shape and flowering season fit.  I need to look a little closer if one appears in a more accessible area.  If not, we’ll have to wait until next year to be sure.
Gladiolus - unamed

Gladiolus – unamed

The dogs and I had a wonderful run today and we visited the weir to see how much water is flowing.  This is always a lovely place; the whitish trunks of the Ilex Mitis or Cape Holly, are magnificent and the permanent water flow makes it a favourite of the dogs.
An ancient Ilex Mitis with its feet in a permanent stream

An ancient Ilex Mitis with its feet in a permanent stream

Jemima Chew enjoying the water in the weir

Jemima Chew enjoying the water in the weir

While I’ve been away the magnificent protea trees have come into flower.  They are tall and have spikey white flowers and silver leaves.  I believe they are Protea nitida.
Protea - probably nitida

Protea – probably nitida

Near them stands this delicate pink protea.  It is probably a nerifolia, though the flowers are barely bearded and a paler pink than most of the nerifolio on this farm.
Protea nerifolia - a very pale pink specimen

Protea nerifolia – a very pale pink specimen

Flowers found in the forest that abutts the farm are included in our blogs as they are on our regular running route.  We’ve seen Ursinia paelacea before and there is lots of it along the forest roads.
Urisinia palaecea

Urisinia palaecea

Not everything is easily identified. This little clump of yellow daisy-like flowers is lovely and quite distinctive but I can find no record of them. Suggestions welcome.

A mystery flower - yellow daisy-like flowers are the hardest to identify

A mystery flower – yellow daisy-like flowers are the hardest to identify

 

As we ran into the forest the path is lined with Leucadendron salignum.  There are hundreds of these all over the farm.  At this time of year they glow in the dark, another plant that seems to absorb the sunlight and render it back to us on the darker days.  Today was bright and they gleam in the early winter sun.

 

 

Leudadendron gleaming in the winter sunlight

Leudadendron gleaming in the winter sunlight

Stormy Weather 4 June 2013

We have been having the most dreadful weather.  Day after day with torrents of rain and low cloud on the mountain, we can barely see a flower, never mind try to photograph one in the gloom.  This morning when I woke up there was silence.  No rain drumming on the zinc roof.  If I don’t run for a few days I feel horrible and miss it and worse, I know it will be harder when I do get out there.  It’s cold, there is probably snow on the mountain above us but the thought of fresh air and happy dogs was enough to get me up and into running things.  I took the precaution of wearing a rain jacket on top, in case the deluge came.  

In the gloom and the early light I didn’t expect to see much and it’s true that there is nothing new.  I suspect we need sunshine and a little warmth to encourage flowering.  One plant that has come out in profusion is the wild rosemary.  The tiny white flower is too delicate and subtle to capture in the half light of the early morning but they are everywhere and will be the subject of a future blog.  

Jumping out of the gloom are the lime green leucadendrons and Maebh the wolfhoud (pronounced “mave” as in “wave”) chose to position herself photogenically behind them.  I think she may be taking lessons in modeling, she’s certainly getting better at posing fetchingly for the camera.

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The leucadendron was particularly stunning in the morning light – a photo of the mountain shows the green shrubs glowing in the gloomy morning.

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Close ups give you an idea of this lovely wild, winter flowering shrub.

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The proteas start flowering even before the rains come, typically in late March and continue for months. They love the rain and the flowers gleam white while the buds can be bright pink.

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Protea Repens

Another pink protea is the nerifolia which flowers prolifically at this time of year. I went up this evening to see if the evening light would let me capture the waterfall and chanced on this one as the first rays of sunlight we’ve seen in days caught it.

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Protea Nerifolia

Peter told me that with all the rain the waterfall would be looking spectacular. There is a story to this – when we bought the farm this entire area was covered in alien vegetation. We started a programme of clearing those trees, hundreds of them, and revealed an old road, which must have lead up to the pass over the mountains, and this beautiful fall of water from a permanent stream. We’ve planted some indigenous trees, continue to do the clearing and we’ve seen the most amazing resurgence of fynbos in this area. The fall is hard to photograph as it sits in a crevasse that blocks the light, you can see the shadow – at this time of year the late flash of sunlight sneaks into the crevasse and nearly catches the water, so at leasst you can get a sense of it. There must be a moment when the light is at just the right angle and I’ll endeavour to be there when it does.

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It’s raining again now, but as I walked home in the last of the light the sky seemed to hold a promise of better things to come. After 10 days of almost constant rain and increasing cold we’ll welcome a little sunshine. This photo of the road that leads from the main farm down to the farmhouse wouldn’t win any prizes, but I like the gleam of wet on the road and the glimpse of blue in the sky. We need this rain in the winter, it keeps this land fertile and the more rain now, the better the spring flowers will be. The dogs and I hope for better things and brighter runs for the rest of this week.

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