Tag Archives: Protea

Diet and Exercise – The Truth of the Matter

I reached a target today.  This weekend I’m riding in a competition and I really wanted to lose the extra couple of kilos before the show.  I weighed myself this morning.  Wow, I actually made my target!

And as I was out running this morning it occurred to me that I’ve never talked about diet.  Or, let’s call a spade a spade, dieting.  This blog is about the run and the flowers.  But why run at all?  I saw a brilliant ad once, for Reebok shoes called “Belly gonna get you!”  A man was chased around New York city by the fat belly he’d have if he didn’t run.  That’s why I run; I’m afraid that belly will get me.  I run away from the fat person I don’t want to be.  The trouble is, I like to eat.  Not in an unconsidered full fat sugar chocolate driven way, more a fine dining, excellent and delicious food kind of way.  And as Peter said when I mentioned that his daughter complains that we don’t keep treats in the house, “our treats come in bottles”.

Perhaps it’s time for a flower, captured on this morning’s run, before I continue this little dietary indulgence.

This is an absolute favourite, if only for its splendid name.  Not the best photos, they were captured early this morning and I was more focused on the run and my thoughts about weight and fat than flowers.  There will be a few of them to come all over the farm and I’ll capture a better shot of this lily named Wachendorfia paniculata.

Back to the diet.  All my life I have struggled.  My family, on both sides, survived the Irish Famine in the mid-19th century for a reason.  If we were horses we’d be called good doers.  We do terribly well on terribly little.  Most of my cousins have struggled as I have.  If you stop the struggle, woah, clothes sizes accumulate with terrifying speed.

So I run away from the fat person I don’t want to be.  And as I was running away down the drive this morning I couldn’t resist a shot of this Leucospermum lineare, the Vulnerable, from a baby plant on the drive.  This endangered and quite rare member of the protea family is thriving here on the farm.

Leucospermum lineare

Leucospermum lineare

Here in Cape Town everyone is Banting. This is the name a doctor called Tim Noakes has given his diet which is a kind of super-powered Atkins.  High fat, medium protein, very low carb.  I think it’s rather revolting but I do have to admit that people who stick to it, really stick to it, religiously stick to it, do lose weight.  Some of them have got quite thin.  But as he says in his book, if you don’t stick to it, you’ll balloon.  Now I’ve tried most diets; I really mean that, you name it I’ve done it; a lifetime of diets.  It’s been my constant, rather boring obsession.  But one thing I know is that if I’m required to cut out major food groups, I’m not happy.  I might lose weight, but I’m not happy.  I can tell you from experience that the best diet is abject misery, really proper, grieving kind of misery, like after a break up, or when someone you adore dies.  That’s no way to live but unfortunately being happy makes you fat.  I believe certain drugs can be fabulous, but again, not a way to live.  Smoking was marvellous, but… once again, not a great option for life and I gave it, and control over my weight up when I was 28.  I put on that stone that I’ve never really lost.  I’ve lost weight on Weightwatchers and on the Dukan diet, but not really on any other, until now.  Running is great for controlling weight, but not so much for losing it.  Every holiday, every time I travel on business, a sneaky kilo or two is gained and oh, the dread of getting it off.   Yet I’m not interested in never having another slice of bread, never baking a cake again, never eating an amazing dinner, all five courses, with absolute pleasure.  And I do like a vodka and soda with a splash of Campari after a long day as I make dinner, usually a very healthy dinner during the course of a normal week.  And a glass of wine, or two.

So I run.  Three times a week, pretty much every week.  Sometimes four times.  If I run at the weekend I’ll do 5K or 6K, but otherwise it’s 4K.  And I do Pilates twice a week.  Vainly hoping that I may have my cake and eat it too, with a glass of champagne.  Worrying about my weight has probably occupied more of my waking hours than any other single subject.  You’d think that all that worry would mean I’d take control and just eat less, but it doesn’t seem to work like that.  Those famine genes want feeding, but the famine’s over, so delicious things preferred, please.

In August 2013 I picked up a book, rather randomly, in an airport and read it on the plane.  A colleague I’d been working with in Qatar was looking fantastic and told me about this diet.  It is called 5:2 and I immediately knew it was for me.  The logic is divinely simple.  Two days a week you eat 500 calories, that’s 2000 kilojoules.  The rest of the time you eat normally.  And where before you might slightly overeat on a weekly basis and gradually gain weight, by cutting out 1500 – 2000 calories a week, every week, you gradually lose weight.  I’ve always found it easy not to eat for a day, it’s following dietary restrictions day after day after day that I struggle with, especially with a lifestyle where we travel a lot, socialise a good bit and love to eat out. Never mind the “treats in a bottle”.  The book also described huge health benefits that the diet provides – when your body doesn’t have to worry about digesting food, it finds all sorts of useful repair jobs to do instead.  Intermittent fasting turns out to be amazingly good for you.

Peter doesn’t do it with me and is kind enough to fend for himself on my “2” days.  He doesn’t love it, but he loves the result.  It works.  I haven’t become skinny but my average has come down.  It’s not a totally steady loss.  The closest way I can describe it is if you look at a one year chart of the FTSE, the London Stock Exchange.  Take out the big plunge this October and that’s been my dieting year.  In line with the FTSE, except we want the FTSE to go up and the weight to go down!  The point is, the peaks don’t go up and up and the control has been stable.  A trip, or a heavy social agenda, a kilo creeps on here and there.  With the regular “2” days, once normal eating and exercise are established, off it comes.  If I make a bit more effort, it comes off quite easily, never quickly, about 250g to 500g a week.  But off it does come.  And I don’t have to think about it.  Just do it.  It took me a while to get used to eating so little so little in a day, but now I enjoy it – I just don’t have to think about food.  As for being hungry, that’s ok, for a day.  Tomorrow I can have what I want.  It’s no longer a diet, it’s a way of life.

I’ve told all my friends about this wonderful diet and only one has really got it, loves it and does it as a habit as do I.  I don’t know why, everyone wants to lose, or at least control their weight, and this is the easiest, most pain free way I’ve ever found that achieves just that.

We went out one evening this week to run up the mountain and saw the glory of another sunset.  The light in the olive groves, the view of the sun setting behind Paarl Rock with Table Mountain in the background.  I may only be running away from my genes but at least I get to run here, on the mountain, with the wolfhounds, in the glory of the light.

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.

image

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

 

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.

image

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.

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

Wolfhounds slipstreaming in the wind and glorious early autumn sunsets

Two lovely runs this week.  One on a cool damp morning with the new growth of Leudadendron salignum glowing green in the grey light once again and bounding dogs enjoying the autumnal weather.  The house is full of guests and it’s lovely to get up early, go for a run and enjoy my own company and that of the dogs, returning to a social breakfast full of chat and laughter before we get on with the day.  Our guests are terrific, they know their way around the house and on Monday’s run I returned home to a delicious breakfast of poaches eggs with english muffins, avocado and olive oil, all prepared by Niall before he took himself off for a morning of work.

This morning was the perfect opposite in terms of weather, a typical hot dry windy morning with the heart monitor showing the heavy weather I was making of pushing up the mountain against the howling wind.  The wolfhounds love the wind and stand face on, enjoying the feel of it slipping through their shaggy coats.  As ever on a hot day, they enjoy a quick water break at Fox Pan as we run up the mountain and you can clearly see the wind ruffling their coats.

Seamus and Maebh enjoying water and wind

Seamus and Maebh enjoying water and wind

Although flowers are not prolific I can see the Cape cycle starting once again.  Having grown up in the Irish climate where winter is winter and spring gets off to a slow start, this Cape climate is always a little strange to me.  The slowest period is during the hot summer months of January and February.  As the weather cools and the rains arrive, the whole mountain bursts into life, the flowering season starts again, lasts all winter and reaches it’s apotheosis in the spring months of September, October and November.  Having been through the cycle once I am alert to the signs that the new flowering year is getting ready to launch.  Murlatia hysteria is a real stalwart, along with the Salvia africana it really does flower all year long without a break, but now in anticipation of the rains it seems to be showing more blooms than ever.  Here it is in the morning sunlight.

Muraltia heisteria

Muraltia heisteria

I cannot resist taking photos of the gorgeous Leucadendron salignum, particularly when it’s been raining which seems to set off the glowing green.  There will be many more photos of this gorgeous plant during the course of the winter.  It has begun its flowering season already.

Leucadendron salignum

Leucadendron salignum

One could do a whole blog just on grasses but as the are hard to photograph really well I tend to ignore most of them.  It’s a technical subject and I have a couple of books, but not the time to identify this one which has just come into flower all over the mountain, especially in high, rather damp places.

Grasses with yellow flower

Grasses with yellow flower

I’ve identified this as a member of the Helichrysum family.  I’m still not sure that’s right but I can’t find anything else that it resembles.  The flowers don’t seem very helichrysum-like to me, but I can’t find anything else that it resembles.  As I was taking this photo just above Fox Pan, I realised that the dogs were very interested in the plant and really getting in to have a good sniff around.  So I stopped and looked and you could clearly see that something had been lying up on top of it.  Makes perfect sense, this plant is growing in front of a large protea, so it’s protected from the back, sheltered overhead and looks over Fox Pan and the whole mountain so whatever lay up there obviously felt completely safe and its lucky I didn’t run past at the wrong moment with the dogs.  I presume it was a buck of some kind, we see lots of them and the dogs often put them up and give chase, but they are far far slower than any buck and don’t even try that hard.  It’s lovely to see evidence of the animals who share this farm with us, whether it’s picking up a porcupine quill on a road that I’d only run the day before and imagine him shuffling up there in the dark, or seeing a plant flattened by a buck contented after her drink at Fox Pan and enjoying a rest on the mountain.

Is it Helichrysum?

Is it Helichrysum?

We get the best sunsets at this time of year and I always try to capture and share the good ones.  This was over the weekend as we sat on the balcony enjoying the house cocktail, gin and tonic with Campari.

Another perfect sunset

Another perfect sunset

Helichrysum Days

I try to write this blog at least once a week, sometimes more, with the aim of staying  current with  the flowering cycle on the mountain.  For some reason the past 10 days have been particularly busy.  We had a series of guests, family and friends, which is wonderful although it puts paid to quiet nights when we can watch TV and write blogs.  Then horses and dogs have needed trips to the vet.  The magnificent Seamus has had a bad time.  He got a tummy bug, received treatment and then had a frightening adverse reaction to the treatment.  It is a well documented allergy, but so rare that our vet had never seen it.  Two days of worry later he is much better although his back legs are not working perfectly and we don’t know if he hurt himself, or if it’s a consequence of the neurological reaction he suffered from.  He’s not in pain; he would tell us if he was, but it will be at least a few more days before he’s allowed running on the mountain again.

The horses were just getting all their routine annual innoculations, check-ups, dentistry and so on. All of which needs doing but is rather time consuming along with work and the guests.  I must remember next year how busy this time of year can be and plan a little bit better.

Peter’s business has picked up and while we wouldn’t say orders are flooding in, the painful trickle has certainly become a steady trickle.  Which should be wonderful except that labour protests are growing in South Africa and he had a sit in strike at the factory today.  Fortunately it was resolved quite quickly.  How frustrating finally to have some business, so that we can potentially pay more and afford bigger bonuses and instead be dealing with strikes and knowing our overseas customers are watching this and wondering whether SA is the right place to do business.  That’s not to be negative, just realistic.  Peter is brilliant at managing these situations and he will sort it out.

To my delight there are all sorts of happenings on the mountain which make running a pleasure.  In particular several different Helicrysums are in flower.  Plants that flower at this time of year tend to have dry looking or tiny flowers that can cope with the potential heatwave as you can see from these pictures.

Helichrysum Flowers

Helichrysum Flowers

Helichrysum flowers - a different sub-species

Helichrysum flowers – a different sub-species

 

Yet another variety to be found here on the mountain: Helichrysum flowers

Yet another variety to be found here on the mountain: Helichrysum flowers

A cloud of Helichrysum in the morning light, this one situated in the heart of the olive groves; they grow all over the farm

A cloud of Helichrysum in the morning light, this one situated in the heart of the olive groves; they grow all over the farm

I started this blog last year in March when the first of the proteas came into bloom.  So it is exciting to witness the burgeoning of protea life as the shrubs of Protea repens are covered in buds and will flower in the next few weeks.  That, for me, is the start of our flowering year and I cannot wait.

The Protea repens is budding, a harbinger of summer's end.  The first flowers will emerge well before the autumn rains

The Protea repens is budding and heralds the end of summer. The first flowers will emerge well before the autumn rains

 

We have exceptional sunsets at this time of year.  Almost every night and it is a lovely time to walk around the farm.  With Seamus on the sick list we haven’t gone far and last night I took this picture of the farmhouse with the pink mountains behind us.

 

Pink sunset on the mountains

Pink sunset on the mountains

Sometimes we can get strange effects of the light as the sun goes down, like this photo of the sun just dropping behind Paarl mountain.  Taken a moment later than the one above there is a circular glow around the setting sun that was  distinctive and I was surprised it was captured so easily by the iPhone camera.   

Sunset over Paarl rock

Sunset over Paarl rock

The Morning Run

The unseasonal weather continued all last week with pours of rain thundering down for much of it.  Yesterday morning it was dry at last and we woke up early to go running.  At this time of year we are normally sweltering in the heat so it was a joy to be splashing through puddles and smelling the sweet damp morning air.  I was working in Johannesburg for much of the week, missing the rain, but also the dogs and the run, so they were full of joy as we bounded along.  Yes, I did say bounded.  Fewer flowers mean fewer photos so I’ve been running a bit harder and slowly getting fitter.  

I count my blessing every day that we spend on this farm.  We’ve been a bit slow about transforming the garden and today the fabulous Henk Scholz came to give us some advice.  He is incredible, one starts with an idea of course and he’s very kind so he takes it on board, but then comes up with his own idea that is so audacious and splendid it’s completely irresistible.  Peter then came up with a couple of stunning ideas which, if he really is prepared to do the work, will transform the place and make it even more beautiful.  I described the farm to someone the other day as the most beautiful farm in the Cape, which was stupid because there are many amazing farms here.  Ours is unusual and unexpected which gives it a special beauty.

Henk admired elements of the vegetable garden, principally the fact that I’ve managed to get anything to grow at all.  I may love plants and gardens but whatever shade my fingers are, it’s definitely not green.  He gently explained that the reason my plants are not fruiting is because they are completely smothered by weeds.  Oh I can make all the excuses I want, the rain, the fact that I fertilised everything before the rain, which of course the weeds love even more than the plants.  The time, or rather the lack of it that dominates my life.  In the end, after he left, with the earth still soft and yielding after all the rain I dug and weeded for hours and have cleared all those pesky monsters away.  Maebh loves it when I garden, she sniffs around and tries to help, then lies down and observes all the work with great interest.  Finally she curls up in the cool shadow of an orange tree and happily falls asleep. 

Back to the run.  As we bounded up the mountain I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this Protea repens.  What?  Now?  It’s far too early!  And indeed the season doesn’t really start until March.  This one clearly decided to get ahead.  It has just opened, perhaps the season starts much earlier than I’d realised and this is the first.  

An early flowering Protea repens

An early flowering Protea repens

One of the joys of the mountain is the magnificent Salvia africana-caerulea.  It flowers prolifically for eight months of the year and particularly seems to thrive at this time of year.  

Salvia africana-caerulea

Salvia africana-caerulea

Another flower that is glorious at this time of the year is this stunning Erica.  I’m pretty sure it’s Erica abietina, simply called Red heath which flowers all year round but seems to relish the dry most of all.  The coral flowers are stunning along the drive and although the strong midday sun was almost too much for this photo I couldn’t resist the way it reflects the flight and glows from within.

Erica abietina

Erica abietina

Despite the cooler weather Seamus still took a dip and a drink in Fox Pan as we climbed higher up the mountain.  Then, graciously deigning to wait for me, he stood and admired the view with the water cascading off his flanks and shining in the morning light.

Seamus after his dip admiring the view

Seamus after his dip admiring the view

I rushed to identify the last blog’s flowering bulb as Watsonia, possibly because it gave me a great title.  But I was a bit bothered by that and not entirely convinced.  The flowering season is wrong, and although that sometimes happens you have to be certain.  So back to the books I went and in fact it is Tritoniopsis, most likely triticea, although burchellii is almost identical and grows in the same places.  The brown leaves, which you can see in this photo, are distinctive and make me confident of this identification.

Tritoniopsis tritecea

Tritoniopsis tritecea

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