Tag Archives: Maebh

Could try harder

The blog has suffered because I’ve gone back to school.  I’m doing a Masters in Philosophy in Coaching (MPhil means you do a significant research piece, that’s for next year).  Weeks like this one, spent at the business school, are intensive and in between there’s lots of study and lots of writing.  Along with launching my new business there’s just about time to run but not much time to write about it.

One of the subjects I was thinking about tonight on the run was the challenge of confidence and humility in business leaders, and specifically in myself as a leader and a coach.  I’d say I don’t have enough of either.  Confidence isn’t too hard to think about.  I don’t want to waffle on so in a nutshell, in many ways confidence is everything, it allows you to be grounded and forget yourself so that you can immerse yourself in the flow of whatever it is you are doing.  Lacking an edge of confidence might not be a bad thing though.  In my case it’s the endless “could try harder” I got as a child instead of positive reinforcement in the form of praise.  Yet it gives me an edge, makes me work a bit harder.  I’m a bit of an Avis type: I may not be No 1 but I try do harder.

Humility as a notion is altogether more difficult.  I’m trying to uncouple the notion from the famous role models like Mandela, Ghandi and Mother Teresa.  They may be shining examples of humility but it’s a public and political humility.  The kind I’m trying to understand is a humility that a great business leader or star sportsman or woman can epitomise.  Utterly genuine, held in a context of great work or great sporting success.  How can you develop and encompass that humility?  Indeed what is it?

These are the questions the study leads me to consider…

The evening was mild with heat from the warm day beating up into the cooling air and as we ran along the path at the very top of the farm we came across one of my favourite flowering bulbs, the gold and brown Gladiolus maculata.  Elegant and queenly, the flower heads arched into the path in front of us.

The Eriocephalus africanus is early this year compared to last – as are many flowers – the warm wet autumn must have a lot to do with it.

As we ran down the mountain Maebh paused and the last rays from the west caught the ghostly tips of her coat, illuminating her in the evening light.

image

I have so many other flowers to post, but this magical evening run deserved a blog to itself.

 

A spring morning

On Friday evening the neighbours came to dinner and arrived early for a flower safari. Wonderful to have neighbours who love the mountain as much as we do and who appreciate how special it is. I took them on the old doctors road to see the waterfall which is pounding in its winter splendor. There are hundreds of flowers at this time of year, the wildflower spring commences long before flowers come to the garden. We discovered the old doctor’s road when Peter cleared a veritable forest of wattles along the river; they had overgrown this road and below it, a small but spectacular waterfall. Now this place is a haven for the fynbos which grew back the instant the trees were cleared.

From there we walked up to the weir, a favourite spot and much photographed for this blog because of the magic of the magnificent, ancient, white trunked Ilex Mitis trees, and then on up, above the weir and close to the top of the farm. The sun was setting behind the Paarderberg mountain; a soft mist gathered in the valley below, the evening was completely still, silent, breathless.   The gentle warmth of a mild sunny winter’s day coming from the earth beneath our feet. As it grew darker the full dams in the valley gleamed the reflection of the evening sky into the stillness of the coming night. “It’s like a holy place” said Francois, “there’s something spiritual about it.”

Dinner was companionable, cheerful and as we are in wine tasting mode for Christopher’s wedding in January, a little too much drink was taken. Our guests left us late, very happy, as were we.

Perhaps a little less so the following morning when the full consequences of overindulgence emerged, but not enough to prevent me from donning the running clothes and setting off with the wolfhounds and Jemima Chew into the gloomy grey morning on a serious mission to photograph flowers for the blog. The first Babinia fragrens has appeared which is for me the harbinger of spring, and with it shrubs, little trees and tiny plants have burst into flower. I won’t post the Babinia, as there will be thousands more, I didn’t get a great photo and there is so much else to post. It rained heavily during the night, those very still evenings often indicate a change in weather and flowers were covered in raindrops. To my delight I’ve identified two new flowers that I don’t remember seeing last year and which turn out to be related.  The first is Hermannia saccifera and the second is Hermannia hyssopifolia, a pretty and sizeable shrub with an unusual flower that has a pin-hole throat and this urn shaped body, called a calyx.  Absolutely recognisable when I read the description, there is nothing quite like it.

The Hermannia hyssopifolio grows in an area that Peter cleared last year, cutting through old fynbos and finding a large flat area where we least expected it, evidence of terracing by a farmer long ago.  A stream runs through this area and shrubs and there is prolific growth along it’s banks, including this sprawling shrub with its sticky leaves and tar-like smell.  It’s known as the tar pea, Bolusafra biuminosa, and grows, appropriately enough, along mountain streams.

Bolusafra bitumenosa, the tar pea

Bolusafra bitumenosa, the tar pea

Another new identification also grows in this area, Phylica oleaefolia, with these pretty ranks of pale green, cupped flowers.  This is quite a tall elegant shrub.

Philyca oleaefolia

Philyca oleaefolia

We went down to an area where I haven’t been for a while and some of the yellow daisies are still flowering, the Athanasia trifurcata and the Osteospermum spinosum that I mentioned on a blog a couple of months ago.  I love when the flower matches the book’s comments perfectly, particularly as the photos don’t always.  The Athanasia trifucatum, says the book, has wedge shaped grey leaves, 3-5 toothed at the tips.  If you look closely at the leaves in this photo you can clearly see the three teeth.

In the same place grows a tiny pelargonium, one of my favourite flowers which grows all year round in different parts of the farm.  I think it’s Pelargonium myrrhifolium, var. myrrhifolium.

 

Along the road we walked on Friday night, which I call Erica Alley for the many varieties of Erica that make their home there, are several stunning varieties in flower.  Two beautiful examples of the common Erica plukenetii, showing the range of colour, from white with very pale pink, to coral.  And some with pretty pink bells in many shades, as well as this lovely white Erica where the bells grow in ranked series but which I have never identified.

Another pretty shrub which I have not managed to identify.  The flowers are green and tiny; so tiny that a single raindrop captures several of them.

And a small tree-like shrub flowering in several places on the farm with prolific drooping flower heads, but I can’t find it in the book.

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More familiar friends include Stachys aethiopica, also known as woundwort with it’s mint shaped leaves and pretty little pinky-white flowers.

Stachys aethiopica

Stachys aethiopica

All over the farm the buchu is in flower.  Agthomsa, mostly crenulata, or a crenulata hybrid, though we also grow lots of Agthomsa betulina.  Buchu, the common name, loves the sandy mountain soil and especially the north facing slopes on the farm.  The flowers are mostly white but sometimes pretty shades of pink and lilac.

 

I couldn’t resist capturing Protea burchellii looking stunning in the grey morning light as well as the Leucadendron tinctum.  These yellow flower heads will soon turn the most wonderful shade of coral – they are prolific on the mountain and grow in massed groups in certain areas.

All in all we had a wonderful time, the dogs and I.  As a run it wasn’t up to much but as a morning spent together on the mountain, it was the best of times.  Maebh has boundless energy and was particularly happy to find a mongoose to chase.  He is much much cleverer than she, there was never a chance of her catching him, but she was very pleased with her morning.

Maebh hunting in the olive groves, her coat dark from running in the soaking wet fynbos

Maebh hunting in the olive groves, her coat dark from running in the soaking wet fynbos

 

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

The Banting Wars

It’s been a busy time at work and most of the time I’ve been chugging back and forth to Europe instead of spending this marvellous month of May on the farm.  Last Saturday I took a day off and went with Liz to the Franschhoek Literary Festival where we saw a splendid debate between Prof Tim Noakes and Prof Lionel Opie, entertainly chaired by Dennis Davis.

South Africans will need no introduction to Prof Noakes but for the benefit of everyone else, he advocates a way of eating that is very low carb, medium protein and very high fat.  He’s written a couple of entertaining bestsellers; it is the hot topic here and the large hall was overflowing.   It was particularly fun to go with Liz as we sit firmly on opposite sits of the debate.  I don’t agree with that way of eating at all (a serial dieter I’ve been through all them all, Montingnac, Atkins, Dukan and many variations thereof) and none of them help me to lose weight.  I haven’t tried the “Banting” way, as Prof Noakes calls it, but as is the case with so many diets I don’t know anyone who has lost weight on it after the first couple of weeks or so.  Some people claim to feel marvellous on it though and it may be true that it is a good diet for people who are diabetic or pre-diabetic.   Perhaps also for people who eat seriously bad diets full of sugar and fast food in the first place.  Noakes is highly persuasive and passionate and Liz thought he won the debate.  I heard a lot of theories and a lot of conclusions but the facts didn’t seem to justify the conclusions.  Proof once more that you hear what you want to hear!  Noakes uses himself as an example all the time, so perhaps the only safe conclusion is that it may suit insulin resistance high performance atheletes like him.  Opie pointed out that the ONLY comparative research on the high fat approach that has been done was recently in Cambridge.  The conclusion was that a low-carb high-fat diet didn’t help the participants to lose weight, but in a group of talented Cambridge students, there was a noticable decrease in brain function, particularly memory.

So what has all this got to do with fynbos flowers?  Well the flowers and the run go together, and all that goes with a healthy lifestyle, hence our interest in the debate.  Liz and I followed all this talk of diet with a splendid lunch where she stuck to her Banting and I ate a smoked salmon rosti with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce.  And we shared a divine bottle of Chenin Blanc.

On the way home the light was amazing and I stopped on the dirt road to take this photo of the shining grasses in the autumn vines which are at their most beautiful at this time of year.  A golden highway in the winelands.

The shining grasses in May

The shining grasses in May

Back on the farm I took the dogs for a long walk on the mountain as the sun started to set.  Maebh and Jemima Chew set about hunting every last gerbil, full of glee and joy as they bounced around the place.

Jemima Chew and Maebh enjoying the evening hunt

Jemima Chew and Maebh enjoying the evening hunt

We are moving in to the serious season for fynbos now that we’ve had good rain.  One is another tiny lobelia – I didn’t have room to fit my fynbos book in my bag on this trip, but it is different from the one we posted a couple of weeks ago.

Lobelia

Lobelia

The Protea nerifolia is now in flower all over the farm and will continue to flower for months now.  Quite a hairy chap, it’s always particularly handsome when it catches the light, as in this photo in the very last rays of the sun.

Protea nerifolia

Protea nerifolia

I can be silly in my joy when my favourites emerge and I see them for the first time in the season.  One of these is Microloma tenuifolia which has emerged winding its tentacles around a protea.  This tiny flower is as smaller or smaller than the nail on my little finger, little flashes of pinky coral in the lush green fynbos.

Microloma tenuifolia

Microloma tenuifolia

Rupert Koopman from Kirstenbosch kindly sent a comment to let me know that this daisy that I posted last week is Anthanasia trifurcata – thank you!

Anthanasia trifurcata

Anthanasia trifurcata

 

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