April was the driest since 1952. And May won’t be far behind it, certainly the first half. I have always seen the month of May here on the mountain as a kind of mini-spring, an awakening of the land after the long dry crackling heat of the summer. Not this year. We have permanent streams on the farm, pouring out of the mountain above us in a flow that most often roars but that trickles now. The dams below us are emptying, a worrying sign; it will take the entire winter’s rains to replenish some of the biggest. There are flowers, there are always flowers here; the proteas I have already posted continue to flourish, impervious to the water requirements of other, lesser plants. And a few plants flower all year round, like the gorsey Mulraltia heisteria. At this time of year there should be thousands of Oxalis, of many different varieties littering every bank, every part of the lands, every flourishing spot. There are hardly any.
At last the drought has broken. For the first time we have had a dull cloudy week with actual rain. Not masses of rain, but light, steady, falling through the night, showering through the days. There is heavy rain forecast next week and every farmer in the province must be praying that this massed gathering of life-bearing cloud does not disappear off into the southern oceans but this time hits us fair and square. Those in Cape Nature whose task it is to clean up after the massive fires on Table Mountain will feel more ambiguously. They need the rain to help the fynbos recover, of course. But their biggest concern is the massive and almost inevitable landslides that will be the result of the dry, brittle, burnt soil with nothing to hold it to the mountain. Meanwhile our dogs love the damp misty weather. Maebh, caught in the early morning mist here looks like an impressionist painting.
Just before leaving for New York a couple of weeks ago I caught a glimpse of something pretty and pink high on the bank above the drive. It had almost finished flowering. I think it was a Nerine but it was too high and too far for me to confirm it.
This on the other hand is highly distinctive. Chironia baccifera,known as the Christmas berry it gives us the lovely mass of pink flowers that I posted in December and then these red berries in the autumn.
Running up the mountain in the mist I saw at last that the wild rosemary is coming into flower. The tiny white flowers are exquisite and will appear soon in this blog. It is worth waiting for the right light and the right shot. They are among the first shrubs to flower and then delight the eye for months during the winter, covering the lands in white confetti. I’m sure there will be some to blog about soon. The other little harbinger of hope that I saw was a few green leaves of Babinia that had broken through the hard, sun-battered earth of the road as I ran towards home. By now these are usually everywhere, little bulbs preparing to throw out their beautiful blue crocus-like flowers in late July and early August. Still, even one is a good sign.
In the meantime this is a place of spectacular beauty. The moon sets in the early morning behind Paarl Mountain. The sun sets behind the Paaderburg and the last splash of colour is reflected in the dwindling dams below us. This is a beautiful place, autumn replaces the winds of summer with a still calm that brings thoughts of cathedrals and holy places, here on the mountain.