Fire on the Mountain
In South Africa people rise early, so a call at 7 am is not necessarily worrying. Peters kids get up early to avoid the Johannesburg traffic and often call at that time for a chat. Anything earlier than that signals trouble, so when the phone started forth with ‘Gangnam Style’ (yes, that really is my ringtone) at 6.15 on Saturday morning I jumped out of bed to get it, knowing the news wasnt going to be good.
It was our neighbour and she was clearly concerned. A fire on the mountain, right by their house. We leaped into action – Peter quickly got dressed while I equally quickly manned the phone and made him a coffee to take with him. He’d call the local fire marshal, get down there, assess the situation, and they’d decide how much support was needed to get this under control quickly.
We have terrible fires here on the mountains, last year one burned all the way from Franschhoek to the N1, which must be over 20 kilometres. They go far further than that when they are out of control and the wind is high. But we’ve had a very wet winter and the past few days have brought the first southeaster of the season, a howling wind that comes with the dry spring weather and frays all our nerves.
We predicted this fire a few days ago. Another neighbour was burning in his lands and he didn’t seem to have taken care to put out the smoldering embers. “There’s going to be a fire” said Peter on Wednesday evening as we drove down the mountain on our way to dinner. Sure enough….
This was not a particularly dangerous fire. Frightening when it’s close to your house, but with the ground and the undergrowth still cold and wet, it was never going to be the frightening inferno we’d see later in the season. By mid-morning it was under control. Still, a good warning and we are very diligent about clearing potential fuel and firebreaks on the farm. In the season, January and February, we are on high alert.
Today was altogether calmer. I went for an early run with the dogs and then we had some friends who came to lunch and were very keen to see the flowers. As ever plenty of new sightings emerged. Rather frustratingly I am writing this on a plane (London this time) and have left my books behind. So here are some pictures of new flowers, taken in case they are no longer flowering when I get back and I will do the research when I get home in a few days time and repost with some names.
This beautiful flowering bulb is all over the farm. It must be common but I cannot find it in the books.
This kind of flower emerges in summer. Lots of fynbos have these short spikey stems covered in leaves and a single flower on the tip. We’ll see lots more and identify as many as we can.
Polygala is identified by the fluffy bits on the flowers and this creeping plants is everywhere at the moment.
I’ve never seen a wild Aloe on the moutain before and this is growing in the area along the river where we’ve cleared huge amounts of alien vegation.
Another of these flowers on the end of a prickley spike. Quite distinctive so I have hopes of identifying it.
This stunning Protea bud is almost architectural.
Tiny yellow stars appear everywhere.
These clusters are also found in several different areas. I had to use myself as a shadow to capture them in the bright sunlight.