Tag Archives: the fynbos blog

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.

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

 

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.

Gone with the Wind

So there I was only a couple of weeks ago feeling triumphant and even rather pleased with myself.  Then it struck me.  Not a brilliant idea; a tummy bug.  At first I hoped it was a 24 hour tummy bug but then I realised it didn’t have a time frame.  It took me a few days to realise I was actually really quite ill and by then I was already bored of it so I went to see the fabulous Dr Shelley and explained that I had to be on a plane to Plettenburg Bay in the morning.  “Have to?” says the Doc.  “Well, want to” says I.  She sharpens up her needles and gives me 5 injections, or was it 6?  I lost count.  “Now you’ll be able to travel if you want to,” says she “but if you do this will just go on for longer.”  She’s better at prediction than the weatherman; it took me another full week to be over it completely and back on the mountain again.

Everyone always says that the great thing about tummy bugs is that you lose weight, and while it’s true while you’ve got the bug, I always worry about compensating afterwards.  So I got back out on the mountain as soon as I could and after two or three runs I’m feeling pretty good out there.  I know I’ve missed some flowers though, which is always a bit sad – will have to wait until next year.  Fynbos bulbs can come and go in a day, but the shrubs are amazing – they will flower for months.  One example is the Lobostemon Fruticosus which is such a friend, I posted a photo of it in August and it is still flowering now.  On a bright hot day the flowers dim but a little grey and a dash of rain and they glow on the mountain.

It’s wonderful to recognise some special flowers that I identified last year and this is one of the them.  I notice them more this year, scattered all over the place and in partiular in one small shady area where a whole clump of them grow, but where the light didn’t lend itself to a good shot of the clump and we may try for a better photo of this charming Tritonia undulata the next time we are out.

Tritonia undulata

Tritonia undulata

A rather dark photo on a bright day – it’s almost impossible to get a good shot of a blue or white flower in bright sunlight.  I was glad I caught this Walhenbergia capensis on a run just before the flu hit, they are all gone now.

Wahlenbergia capensis

Wahlenbergia capensis

And isn’t this one absolutely gorgeous?  Another one that I captured on the run just before I had to stop and I’ve completely forgotten where I saw it and of course it has disappeared now.  I think it’s Geissorhiza exscapa.

Geissorhiza exscapa

Geissorhiza exscapa

I promised a better photo of the fabulously named lily, Wachendorfia paniculata.  This one grows along the drive and I was feeling so well on Sunday that at the end of our run the dogs and I trotted all the way down to find and photograph it while the light was dappled and it was still looking good.  Look how it glows against the yellow-grey sandy wall.

The flowers are amazing and really, that’s the point of the blog yet there are so many other special things, it’s just that flowers look great in pictures.  The grasses are absolutely gorgeous and I often try to capture their whimsical or even dramatic charm.  The iPhone doesn’t usually get it, but this one was a good attempt and I think these are Willdenovia incurvata.

As we bounced up the mountain the morning before I fell ill the wind was howling and I had decided not even to try and take a photo.  Then we came across this gorgeous Gladiolus angustus.  Luckily I decided that despite the wind I’d take a photo.  When I finally passed the same way 12 days later there was not the tiniest sign of it.

And finally – there is always a sunset.  I don’t capture them every day.  This one was special.

Sunset in the Western Cape

Sunset in the Western Cape

Aliens and Ericas

This storm was promised; the weather forecasting in this part of the world is so good that they predicted the first drops of rain almost to the minute.  And here it is, cold, wet, miserable weather so that when I look out of the window I can’t even see the dam, never mind the lights of Paarl in the valley below.  We are holed up in the study, watching 24 with Jemima Chew curled up before the fire snuffling and squeaking and hunting in her dreams.

I am getting carried away again and the point of tonight’s blog is to catch up with some flowers that I haven’t posted yet.  First of all two different Ericas.  I’m not sure which ones they are – both have tiny tiny flowers, several would fit on my little fingernail.

 

The next is the gorgeous Moraea tripetala.  These little Iris-like flowers grow on the driveway and are a joy to see when they emerge each year.  Typical bulbs, one day there is nothing and the next, stunning flowers emerge in their full glory.

Moraea tripetala

Moraea tripetala

After the floods of rain last week we went out on a dark damp evening for fresh air and an evening run.  After so much rain a lot of flowers were ravaged and new ones hadn’t yet emerged but this rain-soaked Protea nerifolia glowed a rich red-pink in the gloom.

Protea nerifolia

Protea nerifolia

The driveway is one of the most prolific areas on the farm, or at least the one that I see the most.  Another shrub in flower at the moment is this Felicia filifolia.

Aliens!

We spend a lot of time and money taking out aliens.  Some are pines from the forest next door and here is one in flower – they might be aliens but these are pretty flowers all the same.

Another is this elegant tree.  It is a type of wattle I think – but far prettier than most.  The leaves are silvery grey and in summer I use them in flower arrangements and to decorate the house at Christmas.  At the moment it is in full flower and makes an elegant flowering tree.

Finally I can’t resist posting this particularly splendid sunset from last week.

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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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The Magnificent Gladiolus maculatus – Flower of the Day once again

Although I posted a couple of pictures of Gladiolus maculate, the Brown Afrikaner, the other day, I was not sure I had done full justice to this exquisite and delicate flower, with its lovely flowers perched atop a long stem and somehow withstanding the most violent wind and rain.  And although I’ve only ever seen one I thought it might be worth exploring if there were not more in the same area.  So on Friday the dogs and I walked up in the evening light to see if we could find them.  And we did, one other, a little less bedraggled looking.  I don’t know if these are rare but they are special indeed.

Gladiolus maculata in the evening light

Gladiolus maculatus in the evening light

Gladiolus maculata, two flowers atop a long, fine stem

Gladiolus maculatus, two flowers atop a long, fine stem

The setting sun shines through the petals of the Gladiolus maculate, the brown afrikaner

The setting sun shines through the petals of the Gladiolus maculatus, the brown afrikaner

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