Tag Archives: Rain

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

Stormy Weather 4 June 2013

We have been having the most dreadful weather.  Day after day with torrents of rain and low cloud on the mountain, we can barely see a flower, never mind try to photograph one in the gloom.  This morning when I woke up there was silence.  No rain drumming on the zinc roof.  If I don’t run for a few days I feel horrible and miss it and worse, I know it will be harder when I do get out there.  It’s cold, there is probably snow on the mountain above us but the thought of fresh air and happy dogs was enough to get me up and into running things.  I took the precaution of wearing a rain jacket on top, in case the deluge came.  

In the gloom and the early light I didn’t expect to see much and it’s true that there is nothing new.  I suspect we need sunshine and a little warmth to encourage flowering.  One plant that has come out in profusion is the wild rosemary.  The tiny white flower is too delicate and subtle to capture in the half light of the early morning but they are everywhere and will be the subject of a future blog.  

Jumping out of the gloom are the lime green leucadendrons and Maebh the wolfhoud (pronounced “mave” as in “wave”) chose to position herself photogenically behind them.  I think she may be taking lessons in modeling, she’s certainly getting better at posing fetchingly for the camera.

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The leucadendron was particularly stunning in the morning light – a photo of the mountain shows the green shrubs glowing in the gloomy morning.

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Close ups give you an idea of this lovely wild, winter flowering shrub.

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The proteas start flowering even before the rains come, typically in late March and continue for months. They love the rain and the flowers gleam white while the buds can be bright pink.

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Protea Repens

Another pink protea is the nerifolia which flowers prolifically at this time of year. I went up this evening to see if the evening light would let me capture the waterfall and chanced on this one as the first rays of sunlight we’ve seen in days caught it.

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Protea Nerifolia

Peter told me that with all the rain the waterfall would be looking spectacular. There is a story to this – when we bought the farm this entire area was covered in alien vegetation. We started a programme of clearing those trees, hundreds of them, and revealed an old road, which must have lead up to the pass over the mountains, and this beautiful fall of water from a permanent stream. We’ve planted some indigenous trees, continue to do the clearing and we’ve seen the most amazing resurgence of fynbos in this area. The fall is hard to photograph as it sits in a crevasse that blocks the light, you can see the shadow – at this time of year the late flash of sunlight sneaks into the crevasse and nearly catches the water, so at leasst you can get a sense of it. There must be a moment when the light is at just the right angle and I’ll endeavour to be there when it does.

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It’s raining again now, but as I walked home in the last of the light the sky seemed to hold a promise of better things to come. After 10 days of almost constant rain and increasing cold we’ll welcome a little sunshine. This photo of the road that leads from the main farm down to the farmhouse wouldn’t win any prizes, but I like the gleam of wet on the road and the glimpse of blue in the sky. We need this rain in the winter, it keeps this land fertile and the more rain now, the better the spring flowers will be. The dogs and I hope for better things and brighter runs for the rest of this week.

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Pink and Golden Morning 29th May 2013

A week ago we’d had only 10% of the average rainfall for May and I really worried that I’d be blogging about the dry winter and all the flowers we might be missing because of it.  That may still be the case, but probably not because of the lack of rainfall in May, and if the predictions for the first two days in June are accurate, June should be accounted for almost before it starts.
I am learning to be grateful for the rain in Africa, though it doesn’t come easily to an Irish woman. Good rain here comes in 7 – 10 day waves and after a few days a break and a glorious pink and gold morning is truely welcome.  This morning was such a one – blue sky with pink and gold tipped clouds, fresh air and dampness in the scent and on the ground.  Happy dogs released from the contraints of the wet (largely spent on my bed) cavorting in the early light.
On our way up the mountain I saw this lovely pelargonium.  It is quite distinctive though not one I can identify.  We’ll call it the May Pelargonium as date of flowering is very relevant to ID.  It is hard to convey the delicate charm of these flowering shrubs – they flower all winter, spring and summer and I have successfully transplanted a few to the garden.  The flowers tend to be tiny and hard to photograph, in situ they charm completely, epitomising all that is delicate, fragrant and fragile.
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The flowers on the mountain seem destined to confuse me and I have been worried about the Neirine I thought I’d seen.  The petals of the Nerine turn back on themselves and I couldn’t see that in the flowers I posted the other day.  As usual the flowers themselves came to my rescue.  At the top of the farm, beside a path we take almost every time we go out, the same coral petals greeted me this morning, waving in the dawn light and the gentle breeze.  Clearly, so very clearly, a member of the Gladiolus family, although this subspecies is not in my book.  What an amazing colour.  I’m glad it pops up in a couple of different places, it means there are probably a lot more of them on the farm, even if we don’t see them.
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In my attempt to confirm the sighting I tried to climb down this afternoon to get a closer look at the flower on the bank – but failed, the bank got too steep and my nerve failed me.   Heading up the farm in the afternoon light reminded me that at this time of year I miss a lot in the early mornings when these flowers are tightly furled, the colours invisible. During the day they unfurl and show themselves to the light.  The Oxalis stud the entire farm in yellow, white, pink and blue, like stars everwhere.  Their perfection is hard to photograph, the blues and pinks are easier than the white.
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There are friends that enchant every day, and in the increasingly gloomy afternoon light as more rain swept in across the Western Cape, this shining golden yellow Leucodendron with a wild rosemary behind it makes me think again that our wild garden could not be bettered by the work of the best landscape artists.  The shrubs find a harmony of their own.  It is fun to find new things of course, but often the best pleasure is in this greeting of old friends in a new light.
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The dogs gamely followed me down the slope as I tried to find our nerine/gladiolus and I was quite impressed at their tenancity.  Climbing up was easier than climbing down and as we climbed we came across this Erica.  It could be one of several tubular Ericas and I see that the need to acquire more detail reference books is becoming urgent.  This captures it perfectly – it is not the most lovely example of these fascinating flowers, but I like it’s fleshy abundance and they are prolific and will be everywhere soon.
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