Tag Archives: paardeberg

Roaring waters

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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May Day, home, sunset and the warmth of the mountain

Peter and I both agree that although we both hate leaving the farm to travel, usually for work, the best part is coming home. I’ve been in Europe for a couple of days. One night and two days in London; two nights on planes. I arrived home this morning feeling pretty horrible.  This evening in anticipation of a gorgeous sunset, I took the dogs for a walk and the sky lit up with pink and orange out towards the Paaderberg as we walked on the most northern parts of the farm.

A painted sunset, 1 May 2014

A painted sunset, 1 May 2014

 

I took a different path from our running routes and the slower pace of a walk meant that I saw much more than I do on the morning run.  I must do these leisurely walk more often. Three separate daisy-like yellow flowers; always the most frustrating to identify, and a tiny little pelargonium, one of my favourite plants. The mountain was amazing tonight – the days are still warm, but the evenings cool and at dusk you can feel the mountain giving out the warmth it has absorbed during the day into the cool evening air, sending out blasts of heat that I walked through as I returned to the house. The dogs were joyous and Maebh’s pale coat glows in the evening light.

 

Seamus and Maebh in the fynbos

Seamus and Maebh in the fynbos

The Pelargoniums flower here all year round; different plants in different months. Identifying the subspecies is hopeless, but each one gives me great joy.

 

Autumn Pelargonium

Autumn Pelargonium

As for the yellow daisy-like flowers. There are three, all on the same road, within 100 metres of one another. The first is an Osteospermum spinosum I think.

Osteospermum spinosum?

Osteospermum spinosum?

The needle-like leaves could be telltale

The needle-like leaves could be telltale

 

The second has these splendid clustered flowerheads with gorgeous curly stamens on the tips, with a soft grey-green hairy leaf. You would think that would suffice to identify – but no.

 

Clustered yellow flowers

Clustered yellow flowers

 

Something about the flower makes me think Helichrysum but the leaf says not

Something about the flower makes me think Helichrysum but this thick hairy leaf says not

And the last is a perfect yellow daisy, with clustered spiny leaves. I love the way that these three plants tell me how far I’ve come on my fynbos journey. A year ago they would have looked the same to me; the way your friends’ two dogs both look the same to you, but are completely different to them. Now the differences jump out at me, yet I still can’t identify them. I love that too – that the fynbos journey is without end.  I’ll probably never be able to identify every single plant on the farm, a mere pinprick within the Cape Floral Kingdom. But I won’t stop trying.

 

A perfect daisy, but which perfect daisy?

A perfect daisy, but which perfect daisy?

It's a small shrub with little needly clustered leaves

It’s a small plant with little needly clustered leaves

Flowing Water and Fowers – 28 June 2013

Home.  The desert sands of Qatar behind me at last.  It was a shock to return to glorious green after the thick humid sandy air of Doha.  It seems it’s done nothing but rain since we left home three weeks ago and the farm has a rich sodden feel to it, with water roaring through the river and tumbling down the waterfall.  The roads are in need of maintenance, full of rivulets and potholes but the seeds I planted in the garden before we left have all sprouted into healthy young plants and the fynbos is settling into a winter burst of life.   Seamus, the senior wolfhound, is joyous at my return and cannot bear to leave my side.
The dogs and I went for an evening walk, inspecting some of our usual routes, the dogs looking for new smells, and me looking for new flowers.  We started down in the stream below the house that leads to the damn.  The banks are lined with Arum Lilies at this time of year.  Just as the luminous grasses have disappeared the lilies flower along the rivers and roads all winter and their beauty speaks for itself.  We have a few months of them ahead, and there will be a lot more pictures to come.
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Arum Lilies
The great thing about this blog is that it focuses the mind on home, on the magnificence of this land and the plants that grow here.  I’ve seen Chasmathe all over the Cape, they remind me of the Montbretia that grown wild in Ireland, another South African wild flower that grows all over Ireland’s verges and banks in the summer.  At first I thought it was the same flower but Montbretia doesn’t grow in this part of the world, it belongs further north in a summer rainfall area.  This Chasmanthe is lovely, another of the anchors of a certain time of year, this winter time, when growth is rich and lush and yet only a herald of things to come.
 
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Chasmanthe, most likely floribunda, but to be verified

When we moved to the farm eight years ago this little red creeper was one of the first flowers to awake my interest in fynbos. The flowers are tiny, smaller than my little fingernail and they appear suddenly in midwinter, winding around the stems of thicker fynbos. Despite their tiny size the jewel-like coral jumps out of the greenery and draws the eye. We will have them until mid-spring or later, all over the farm.

Microloma tenuifolium

Microloma tenuifolium

We could hear the waterfall long before we saw it – with the rainfall we’ve had in June the rivers on the farm are roaring and the land feels replenished.

The Waterfall

As we walked along the new road that leads to the waterfall this enchanting sight greeted us.  I don’t know what to say or even think about the
pelargoniums; though are stunning, charming, and endlessly delightful the sub-species seem impossible to identify.  Our new road is a pelargonium nursery and they thrive here all year round.  At least this one allowed me to take a good picture – gracefully gleaming in the evening light.
Pelargonium - subspecies unknown

Pelargonium – subspecies unknown

Pelargonium

Pelargonium

 

The books have a few pelargoniums but they don’t seem to flower at the right time of the year.  We have dozens and the best I can do is document them and find a real expert.  Some of those that I’ve transplanted to the garden are doing really well, perhaps that will help.  They are endlessly endearing.  My grandmother grew them, pelargoniums and geraniums, nursing them through the Irish winters.  She would have loved this place; not lush like Ireland with it’s dense choking green; more selective; intense; dramatic – she would most definitely have appreciated the drama.  It was her birthday on 22nd June, just after midsummer.   I was in Doha, so missed the shortest day of the year on the farm.  Today is the shortest day we will see this year, and this is the most north-westerly sunset, far over the Paarderberg.
Sunset over the Paaderberg  28 June 2013

By mid-summer this sun will set far to the South of Table Mountain.

My love of botany is definitely inspired by her, and by my stepgrandmother, both of whom were dedicated and knowledgable horticulturalists.  I thought of them both this evening as we descended in the gloom.  Two women, one Irish, one English, both Catholic, both of whom were born in one world war and raised their children through the next.   Gracious women, much loved, characters, who instilled in us both values and manners. They loved their gardens and gardening brought them together, unexpectedly and into a lifelong friendship.  They admired one another and both of them would like to know they are remembered and that they continue to inspire us.  

The Ericas are coming out all over the farm and I have not yet identified this one – a detailed book on Ericas as we as Pelargoniums is most definitely called for. The Erica family runs to 660 subspecies in the fynbos region, so we can’t expect to identify them all, but it will be fun to see how many we have on the farm and I will start a library page on them soon.

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Evening 4/5/2013

We went back out in the evening for a quick run because I wanted to try and capture the luminous grasses.  These grow all over the Cape and at this time of year they light up the sides of the roads, particularly at sunset.  For identification I’m borrowing a book on grasses.  These photos are taken in the dusk after sunset when it’s impossible to photograph anything else – these seem to be luminescent.
 Grasses at sunset
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Of course the advantage of an evening walk or run is not only happy dogs and beautiful light, but the glory of the Cape sunset.  At this time of year it sets West-NorthWest towards the Paaderburg Mountain range.  By midsummer it will have swung all the say to West South West to set south of Table Moutain.
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At the moment these clusters of white flowers are all over the farm – apparently they are much loved by gardeners, so I shall try to  one or two although Fynbos have notoriously fragile roots and can be difficult to transplant. Crassula Dejecta, though I’m not convinced
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Crassula.
Once the sun has gone down over the horizon at this time of year we only have about 30 minutes to get home before its very dark.  Running down the hill I smelt the distinct odour of animal – an antelope must have been crouching in the grass very near us.  Luckily the dogs, though hunting dogs, are sighthounds and they followed me down the mountain without reacting to the scent.  Having stopped to capture the luminous grasses, we were walking down the steep road behind the house when this last flash of yellow caught my eye.  I can find no reference to these yellow stars in my books but will keep trying.  They are growing out of the wall, and I had to use a flash to capture them – fearing that if I did not do it now, I might miss them altogether.  Ideas or names welcome.
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The yellow stars