Tag Archives: Fynbos Blog

Back on the run

Just when all is going swimmingly, and I’m bouncing up the mountain with two in-laws who are both 20 years younger than me but not running any faster… then…. splat!  We went to a fabulous New Year’s Eve party and of course I can never resist wearing high heels at a party.  I’m not very tall, you see, which is a nuisance at parties.  And it was a farm party so I wore wedges which are comfortable on the gravel and in the grass.  Only you are not supposed to dance on unlevel fields in wedges.  The music started, a gorgeous if rather drunken German friend invited me to dance and off we went.  Then off I went, off the high wedge, over on my ankle and into the “ouch” zone.  Sprained ankles are the most common of atheletes injuries apparently, so I will just tell you that horrific though it was – incredibly painful, swollen and black and blue – I followed the rules: rest, ice, compression (ie bandaging) and ice.  And took the anti-inflamatories for the first couple of days when it was really sore.  And used a wonderful patch anti-inflamatory called “Transact”.  Finally I bought a tailor made magnetic bandage to wear at night to stimulate the healing further.

The splendid result of all that is that I’m back on the run only two weeks later, with an ankle that is almost completely back to normal.   AND, importantly, I danced with gusto at the wedding.  Ola, the new daughter-in-law was cross enough to lose her running companion; she’d never have forgiven me if I’d failed to dance at her wedding.

Meanwhile despite one lovely night of respite from the heat when it poured with rain for four or five hours the mountain is dry and not much thrives in the dry summer weather.  I can see the proteas preparing for the winter – new growth at the tips and the green buds of pinky white Protea Repens flowers already showing – they are the first to come through, before the rains.

Quite a few shrubs flower all year round and Erica abetiana is one that really seems to thrive when it gets properly hot.  This one lives on the driveway and gives us a glorious flash of coral red as we drive up.

Erica abietana

Erica abietana

Another perennial flower is the Salvia africana – the blue flowers are a delight all over the mountain and the flowering is prolific now. I keep posting it – I love Salvia’s and particularly this one that thrives in the heat and dust of the Cape summer.

Salvia africana

Salvia africana

We have migratory birds who visit the farm year after year and in particular one buzzard who likes to keep watch from the tall pine trees in front of the house.  He seems to tease the dogs when we run down the drive – as we pass his tree he drops of and flies down the valley along side us – calling in either outrage or amusement.  He is a magnificent bird and we always believed him to be a Steppe Buzzard.  We were having lunch after the wedding with Peter’s cousin, Yvonne, who is a devoted twitcher and when we pointed out a similar bird she said, “you know it could be a Honey buzzard, they are very special and I know they live around here.”  We go home and look it up – the Steppe buzzard hardly calls when he’s here, whereas our bird yells out all the time.  I play the call of the Honey buzzard and sure enough, that’s it.  I know Yvonne is good but how does she perfectly identify a bird she hasn’t even seen?  Birds are tricky when compared to Fynbos flowers. There are only about 800 to be seen in “Southern” Africa (and Yvonne has seen almost all of them) while there are 660 Fynbos subspecies of Erica alone.  Flowers however have one massive advantage; they don’t fly away just as you think you’ve got the salient features and might be able to identify them.

The dogs of course are thrilled to be back to running (and will equally be devastated when I get on a plane to Paris in a couple of days time).  Though the light was quite poor I cannot resist sharing this little gallery of Maebh on an evening hunt.  She is all power and muscle, a wonderfully fit and agile wolfhound.

Finally, appropriately, a sunset.  They are stunning at this time of year when fires rage in the Cape and the smoke diffuses the light in a wind-ravaged sky.

Fiery sunset

Fiery sunset

The result

Christmas, a wedding, and a little contemplation

Christmas and a house full of family and friends.  Running on the mountain continues with a bride (Peter’s son gets married on 8 Jan and they are staying with us) who is keen to keep her figure elegant through the Christmas indulgence so the running is serious and the opportunities to stop and take pictures infrequent at best.  We’ve been running through the pine forest that adjoins the farm; in the warm summer weather the stately silence of the trees and the dappled cool of the forest is a welcome break from the heat and the wind.  Because the dogs get protective I tend not to run in the forest except on Sunday mornings and at Christmas when the foresters take a break.

We did a farm run for a change this morning and saw this Tritoniopsis burchellii; the guests were good enough to wait while I snapped it.  I’ve been waiting for it to flower – I first saw it last year about this time.  They are an incredible shade of scarlet that seems almost surreal on this photo.

Tritoniopsis burchellii

Tritoniopsis burchellii

The Salvia africana is also in full bloom on the mountain – it flowers beautifully all year round and I can never resist taking a shot of it when the light is good.

After I posted the Gladiolus liliaceus before Christmas quite a few more came out above the waterfall and we went back up to take some photos of better flowers.  Peter came with me once again, the dogs followed.  We spent a happy half an hour finding the best flowers.  I took a shot of the same flower in the morning to show how remarkably they open up in the evening light.  The dogs of course take great delight in watching our antics.

Seamus and Maebh watching Peter as he inspects the fynbos flowers

Seamus and Maebh watching Peter as he inspects the fynbos flowers

It’s a funny time of year this.  We love it, there are great friends who come to stay and family as well.  The house is full of noise and this year, Peter’s first grandchild.  There is a tinge of sadness as well.  Most of the precious people I’ve lost have gone between the middle of December and the end of January.  It’s a well known phenomenon that people pass away at Christmas, for many reasons and all of them different.  So in the celebration and coming together there is also sadness, regret and reflective moments.  Loss.  These days are busy and full of treats and fun.  As we run on the mountain with the dogs bounding after Ola who bounces along ahead like the resident klipspringers, tiny antelopes with spongy feet that allow them to spring across the rocks, I follow and in the beauty of these mountains I think of those who have departed, and quietly remember them.  Not always sadly; there is pleasure in the memories, they are gone but they were wonderful and we were lucky to have known them.

Windy Mountain

Spring is turning into summer on the mountain and the wind is howling at night and most of the day.  There is an afternoon lull but already, at 7 o’clock in the evening, I can hear it picking up outside the office and later it will whip around the house and rattle the roof.

I spent the weekend in George, along the famous Garden Route at a Horse Trials, the Western Province Championships.  We had fun, didn’t win any big prizes, but spent the weekend with our friends and got to gallop fast over solid fences which is the most fun you can have on a horse.

On Friday morning I went for a run in the suburbs of George and enjoyed sightings of fynbos flowers that have adapted to the urban environment.  Here on the farm I know only of one place where the Gladiolus maculatus blooms and that’s in July.  Looking at the book I see they are winter flowering but I saw them, or something very similar, in a spot of suburban wasteland as I ran past.  Perhaps I should have taken a closer look.

When I don’t take them running often enough the dogs get bored and take themselves off for their own runs.  Sometimes they are gone for hours and we get increasingly worried about them until they come home, panting and joyful, terribly pleased with themselves and usually soaking wet as they’ve stopped for a cooldown in the dam on the way back to the house.  Several dogs have disappeared on the mountain that we know of and we worry and worry when they are gone, we go looking for them and calling them for hours and never see a sign.  Last time I checked there was no tracker available that would work here in South Africa but recently I heard of one, so I searched again and found it in Germany.  It arrived today and has now been attached to Maebh.  She and Jemima Chew often go for a quick hunt in the evening, and sometimes Maebh and Seamus go off together, but for some reason, never the three together.  If Maebh has a tracker, we’ll know where to find them.

I know better than to think I will get any photos in this wild wind, but I’ll see what’s there and where to go when the wind drops.  They say in Cape Town that if you don’t like the weather today, don’t worry because it will be different tomorrow and the change in weather is heralded by the wind dropping to that incredible stillness on the mountain that I’ve so often written about.  When that happens we will pick a moment of good light to catch the latest spring flowers. In the meantime there is much to catch up on.  Last year I failed to name this blue flower so I posted it on ispot.  The experts suggest it might be Aspalathus cephalotes subspecies obscuriflora.

Another pretty thing I couldn’t identify is this white “flower” which is tiny and turns out to be the seedhead of Ursinia anthemoides which I photographed in August but hadn’t posted, much more interesting to post the two together now.

I love these fluffy heads that must be Stilbe, I think vestita.

The other fluffy flowers that I photographed some time ago and never posted are the wild buchu plants that grow on the farm.  Our crop is buchu, Agathomsa crenulata and hybrids thereof, and Agathomsa betulina.  These are used medicinally and in the food flavouring and perfume industries because of the powerful essential oils that have an intense note of blackcurrant.  I occassionally post photos of the buchu we farm which is indigenous to the area.  This is a genuinely wild buchu, probably either Agathomsa imbricata or capensis.

As I was running down one of the roads I noticed that it was bordered by shrubs of Salvia africana all in flower and would make a wonderful photo.  Being in a hurry I put it off only to find when I returned that a spring wind had blown the flowers to shreds.  They are tough and they flower all year but the best display is in a wet spring.  They are stalwart friends on the mountain with an exceptional colour and fortunately enough remained for me to capture some of the flowers.

Summer is Helichrysum season and it begins with this Helichrysum patulum.  We have several subspecies of this wonderful and resilient plant on the farm and they deserve a page of their own.

Helichrysum patulum

Helichrysum patulum

Along the drive the Crassula fascicularis has come into flower.

Crassula fascicularis

Crassula fascicularis

Finally, one of my top favourite flowers has emerged, the lovely spikes of Aristea capitata, unmistakable and one of the first flowers I identified when we bought the farm and I started running here.  These are prolific in damp areas and I hope they will be spectacular this year after the wet winter.  We’ll have more photos of them over the next month.

The colour of home

 

What a welcome home.  We arrived back from a 10 day trip from Europe and for once it was a holiday and not work, so instead of feeling shattered and grumpy we arrived to a perfectly glorious spring day, full of joy and looking forward to getting home to the farm and the dogs.  This evening, at sunset, I put on the running shoes and went out onto the mountain with the dogs.  Since we left it has poured with rain; it must have been one of the wettest August’s ever which might be a bit miserable but produces perfect conditions for the fynbos to flower.  The mountain has exploded into life since we left and we are in for a bonanza season.  Any reader of The Fynbos Blog who would like to visit the farm and do a ‘flower safari’ is welcome to contact us and we will welcome you.  We are in Paarl, the best time of day is sunset in good weather, though mornings are also good if we have time.   You must like dogs.

Tonight the sky was glorious with colour and for once I’ve posted a sunset shot as the headline picture.  All the photos on this blog are taken with my iPhone 5 and I’m so impressed with what it can do.  This shot is a view of the lights of Paarl, with Table Mountain 60 kilometres away dominating the skyline in the orange light.

Peter had been up to the weir earlier today and he took the new road by the waterfall.  As we set off he told me it was covered with tiny white flowers and we ran up that way to find the road, and indeed much of the farm covered with Hespertha and Geissorhiza ovate, they can look quite similar in a photo but are quite different in real life.  Another common flowering bulb in the lands at the moment is the Grass lily, Chlorophytum – I’m not quite sure which subspecies this one is.  When the plants are strong it looks like a tiny tree growing from the lily-like leaves.  

There are so many flowers at this time of year that it can be a struggle to comment on each of them.  Being on the mountain is amazing; it is covered in flowers; I post only the new things I see, or if I get a particularly lovely shot of an old friend.  I’ll group all the flowering bulbs together, they are always particularly lovely, and shrubs, daisies and so on separately.  

This is today’s collection – not all of which I have identified yet.

 

And some shrubs and daisies

 

 

After the rain…

What a joy to be home, even though our trip was to lovely Ireland, home of many fans of The Fynbos Blog. On the evening we got back what a lovely sight greeted us in the grass just above the house – glittering with hundreds of snowy white stars of Gheissorhiza ovata. They are flowering in profusion after the rain. While I was in Ireland I got a new lens for my iphone camera that allows better close-ups and this is the first result.

Geissorhiza  ovata

Geissorhiza ovata

To get a better idea of the shape of this charming and profilic flowering bulb here is the whole plant.

Geissorhiza ovata

Geissorhiza ovata

This pelargonium grows by the road just above the house. We didn’t have to go far to find new things. As usual with Pelargonium I don’t know the subspecies though we love them and have sucessfully transplanted quite a few into the garden.

Pelargonium - subspecies unknown

Pelargonium – subspecies unknown

This small dam is known as James’s Lake – we created it in my father’s memory and it looked lovely in the evening light.

James's Lake

James’s Lake

Jemima Chew and Maebh went hunting in this field of buchu scattered with fynbos just behind James’s Lake. One of the joys of farming a fynbos plant like buchu is that it flourishes best when it grows with it’s fynbos friends and though we have to stop them from taking over the buchu, the lands are fully of wild plants as well as those we’ve cultivated.

Jemima Chew and Maebh hunting in the buchu lands

Jemima Chew and Maebh hunting in the buchu lands