Thursday, March 26, 2015

Creatures of Constantia

I searched  and searched the wild peach trees, but in the end I found just one Cape dwarf chameleon. If the chameleon whisperer had been with me, I am sure they would have shown themselves. I swear I heard breathy laughter from the branches.

In the muddy late summer stream pigs corgis waded.

And six legged beasts walked up the bridle path, exercising the March dust.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bloom first, ask questions later

A walk up the burned mountain started with an unexpected stand of March lilies - Amaryllis belladonna - seen by most Capetonians growing in parched freeway medians at this time of year, or after fire on mountain slopes. (They are not hard to cultivate - my mother has many in bloom in her garden right now; they respond to being ignored and unwatered all summer, when the flowers appear out of nowhere, before leaves, a phenomenon known as hysteranthy.)

Within a minute or two we were in the earliest part of the burn that began on March 1st.

Without its usual green camouflage [click the link to see the same spot, unburned], the sandy nature of the fynbos growing medium was exposed to a lunar degree.

Bracken had begun to appear.

And grass blades.

And green daggers - possibly a watsonia.

The path up, stepped steeply in Table Mountain sandstone, led us from a hot afternoon into the cloud, helped by a roaring and cold wind. Ears began to hurt, and heads were wrapped in sundry borrowed scarves. I hauled out a hooded rain jacket.  One walker headed down to warmer climes. (Remember to pack for this mountain, whose weather moods turn on a dime).

(The path down - same path - was...mad. I followed, kind of, the botanist and birder who charged down like klipspringers on energy drinks. I am now deeply aware of my quadriceps.)

Marijke spotted this bowl - the sandstone up here is beautifully and often weirdly sculpted.

And, at last, spied on an ashy slope:

The fire lilies we had hoped to find. 

So red.

Callan in the mist.

The wind and flying grit made photography a challenge, but the experience was exceptional.

Cyrtanthus ventricosus only blooms after fire. 

It will not be seen again unless it burns again. They were last observed here 15 years ago.

And then we turned back, and began that goat-like descent.

Finding the world below - almost - as we had left it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The delightful swee!

Swee waxbills (Coccopygia melanotis) - birds designed to soften a hard heart. 

When I heard their distinctive Swee! calls in the shrubs near my mother's tiny fountain, I went to fetch the camera: they were summoning up courage to gather and bathe.

(In the background is an indigenous peppermint pelargonium, wonderful for shady places, with velvet leaves and a piercing scent.)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Late summer lunch

For a Sunday lunch for three, under the tree, I made two salads to accompany my mom's pizzas. Fig and spinach leaf, above (EV olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper)...

...and a salad inspired by Gabrielle Langholtz's The New Greenmarket Cookbook, which I brought to Cape Town to give to my mom (the recipes are motivating and I love the essays about the farmers).

I have always loved savoury fruit salads, and the recipe here also called for purslane, a favourite of mine - and there is plenty in the garden. Peaches were specified but I subbed perfectly ripe nectarines. The onions are quick pickled, and the combination of flavours and textures was divine.

The bubbly did not hurt, either.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring in Harlem

A phone snap sent to me by the Frenchman. Happy spring, Northeast, and sorry.

The bamboo corral on the right is a mobile experiment. Inside are two room air conditioners, very well wrapped in plastic and very unsightly. Till now, they have lived first in a back corner of the terrace, then beside our terrace door (a section that receives sun in spring and summer, hence valuable for plants).

Their original spot was recently invaded by The Beast, the Jora composter, so they were ousted. We never used an air conditioner last year (one advantage of the freezing winter house is that summer is bearable), and are not sure what to do with them. I don't like the bamboo (it was the fence we used to prevent Estorbo from throwing himself at Pebbles, his love interest one floor below).

Apart from getting rid of them altogether, one option is to find a tabletop to rest on them - weathered wood, stone - I can always use a prep area for dinners or gardening, and to wrap the bottom in something less eye catching than the strident bamboo poles.

Ideas welcome.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Indigenous impatiens

A beautiful volunteer specimen of Impatiens hochstetteri. It was growing between some shaded stones at The Greenhouse at Montebello, in the cool green suburb of Newlands, which receives an alleged 6 feet of rain a year - beneath Table Mountains towering Fern Buttress. Clearly, it is happy with wet feet. In the garden at No. 9 it volunteers in shady, damp spots. I love its small graceful flowers and the way it fills difficult, shallow-soiled places.

This little impatiens is indigenous to the eastern parts of South Africa, all summer rainfall areas (unlike the Western Cape) and is also found north of South Africa, though I don't know the extent of its range. The Greenhouse sells it, and I hope more nurseries follow suit, as it is not easy to find.

And yes, you can buy the rabbit, too.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My favourite (fruit) things

Late summer fruit in Cape Town.

Julie Andrews can keep her bright copper kettles (I suppose if she'd liked figs then pigs would have come into it...).

I love figs. And pigs, too, actually. The figs come from Prince Albert, on the edge of the Karoo.

And I adore hanepoot. It's not every year I taste these. Muscat d'Alexandrie, harvested from Buitenverwachting wine estate and sold beside the road in Tokai. Grapes with character. The browner the better.

Nothing favourite rhymes with hanepoot.

Fewer for the song. More for me.
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