24 April 2011

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men ...

Gang aft agley, as our fav'rit poet says
and this morning proved him right yet again. The Alpha was poorly and stayed at home, and it was threatening to rain so we decided to modify our grand plans to walk to Maclears and just do Cecilia Ridge and back to Constantia Nek. So out we set, Sue, Paul, Pauline, the Food Lady and us two Scots, through the protea experimental garden at Kirstenbosch (on the dog path) and up onto the contour path. "O' foggage green!" The mist was rolling and billowing and the Food Lady thought it was smoke from a smouldering fire!

The view over Wynberg right back to Tygerberg Hills. The rainclouds were not very encouraging as far as photographing and walking was concerned.

There were lots of these pretty wild sweetpeas coming up on the path to Rooikat Ravine. It is Indigofera cytisoides.

One of those noisy sugarbirds.

We decided to not go up Cecilia Ridge as it started raining quite hard and didn't look like stopping. So we just went via Cecilia Waterfall and back to Constantia Nek where Sue and the FL had left the Land Rover. Sadly, it was too wet for tea, but so what. Tails up! We love this weather!

This is us in the dense, shady, wet, wild woods above Cecilia. And those shade-loving loons that are always shouting for shade say there are no trees and no shade in the fynbos! They should come up here.

And just to refresh your memory - here is the whole poem To a Mouse by Robbie Burns. (Apt at the moment because Dougal caught a wee timrous beastie in the kitchen last week - having nibbled all the Food Lady's Easter egg presents, some candles and all the fruit and veg it could find.)

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle! I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

19 April 2011

Up Elsie's Peak

All set for a walk! We met up with Alice, Phakamani, Paul and Pauline at Alice's house in Fish Hoek ...for a walk up Elsie's Peak. (Which actually should be Else's Peak but everyone calls it Elsie's Peak.) I always choose the road less travelled which gets me into trouble sometimes, like today when I got a bit lost and had to be put on the lead when they found me. Us and the Alpha looking over Glencairn and Simon's Town.And Phakamani looking over us. The Box Phylica (Phylica buxifolia) is also starting to flower - its sweet smell quite pervasive. Tea below the peak - Pauline, Dougal, Dawnie-dawg, Paul, me, Phakamani, The Alpha and Alice. I soon found a good spot to survey for baboons and dassies, while Dougal was only interested in mice.It is very dry at the moment but there were quite a few flowers out - like this unusual erica that the Food Lady thinks must be the Sticky Heath (Erica viscaria - the one that used to be Erica decora), and Tritoniopsis dodii,and an ultra pale version of Autumn Pipes (Gladiolus brevifolius). The white metalasias or Blombossies are flowering all over the mountains around here - probably Metalasia muricata. (Appropriately, the PlantZAfrica entry is written by Phakamani.) A sunny Fish Hoek below. Returning on the firebreak path ...down Ravine Steps and back to Alice's house and the Land Rover.
But, will you excuse me for now, even though I am quite tired, I have a house to keep watch over.

17 April 2011

and they all lived happily ever after

We were not invited, but we were at Lucy and Richard's wedding in spirit (and in the Alpha Male's scottie socks!). Josie wasn't invited either but Lucy's friends smuggled her in. I don't think I would have fallen asleep in church! Especially a church called St Bernards.

You may now kiss the bride. Lucky Josie! The reception was at Boulder's Beach and two penguins were snuggling up romantically when the guests started to arrive. Have they been studying Richard?

It was extremely windy by all reports, and the water was crashing around on the rocks. This was the view from Boulder's Beach House where the reception was held. I wish I had been there as I hear a bad cat was ambushing the guests through the roof of the tent!

All was blue - possibly because of Richard's penguin studies in the deep blue sea, but more likely because of Portsmouth - or should I say Pompey - football club. The bride and groom even arrived to the sound of the official Portsmouth song.

Lucy's mom, who I have met, and Richard's dad.

Richard emptying "penguins" all over the table.

Lots of Lucy and Richard's sisters and cousins and aunts were there too - here is William - an uncle - and Holly - a cousin (and Ross - who belongs to Sue) ...

and the Best Men. You can also see Richard's mom (elegant in red) and Lucy's dad. All the men were appropriately attired in penguin suits.

Sue showing them how to dance African style.

Dancing the night away ...

15 April 2011

Ever woken up in the wrong bed?

Sally Adam (she of lots of cats and dogs, sheep and chickens) sent this today. I often evict poor Dawnie from her bed when I feel like stretching out a bit, but she just moves to the concrete and doesn't dare snuggle up in the kennel with Dougal!

11 April 2011

Swifts and swimming

We decided not to do the planned walk as it was so hot, but rather to do a shorter walk with the option of a swim at the end. So us four and Pauline and Sue set off from the parking near Silvermine Dam and climbed up onto Steenberg Ridge - which is lovely now that all the pines have been felled. We then joined the amphitheatre path and it got hotter and hotter until we couldn't go a step more ... and luckily found a shady spot amongst a huge jumble of boulders looking down at the Silvermine Dam far, far below. Also in amongst the boulders there was a lovely old and gnarled Hottentot's Cherry tree (Maurocenia frangula) into whose shade we gratefully flopped. This tree is interesting in that it belongs to the afromontane forest tree group but has a limited range - like the Wild Almond (Brabejum stellatifoloum) - and is restricted to the Cape. It is thought that they are relics from an ancient period long before the Ice Ages when forests dominated the Cape.

Tea time in our rocky cavern in the shade of our ancient Hottentot's Cherry. The Alpha, Dawnie-dog, me, Sue, Dougal and Pauline.
The gloriously luscious fruit of the Hottentot's Cherry and its lichen-encrusted stems. There were some Red-winged Starlings eating the fruit, but not with much enthusiasm. Maybe they were just full up.
We got a bit alarmed when the Food Lady started saying the "swift" word (usually it is when we are bad and she threatens to give us a swift kick!) but there were lots of swift birds in the sky and although they were probably mostly the African Black Swift - there were some with white markings but as they had left the binocs at home and Richard wasn't there, and the swifts were just too swift for the FL to see any detail, we just hazarded a guess that they may have been White-rumped Swifts, Little Swifts or Alpine Swifts. Whatever, there were hundreds of them! You can just see one or two in this photo looking back to the Constantiaberg mast.
The Food Lady has just a little energy left to click the shutter on this Erica ferrea. (Or so she thinks in her heat-befuddled state.)
A weird serpent-horse-monster lunged out at us poor hot Scots, although Dougal didn't seem to mind as he was being a bit manic about hunting for mice.
Hurrying along to get to the dam for the swim that the Food L was promising us.
I was SO hot. Just not funny! And no-one agreed to carry me either. Its a dog's life.
This looks too terrible - look at me in the distance - hot and dry and dusty - but turn around and ...
... an oasis! Actually, Silvermine Dam.
We just flopped in - humans and all - even Dougal - but he couldn't go out as far as Dawnie-dog. The water was deliciously cool, clear, clean, sweet. fresh and restorative.

03 April 2011

April Fools

This morning Me, Dougal, the Alph and Food Lady, Alice and Pauline set out early to look for the April Fools in Spes Bona. Looking over False Bay - Kalk Bay immediately below. Is this an April Fool? A bright RED ant? It might be as we can't find anything in any book about it. We climbed up to Mimetes Valley where there are lovely rodent smells for us, and views for the humans and mimetes plants for Alice. You can just see Cape Point sticking out in the sun to the left of the Simon's Town mountains.

This is one of those strange fynbos endemics - the Grey Stilbe (Stilbe vestita) that only occurs in fynbos in the extreme southwestern Cape. The whole family is called Stilbaceae and it mostly occurs in the fynbos but apparently includes a few forest species too.
Can't wait to taste some of the eau-de-vie in Nellie's Pool.
A mean looking Spotted Blister Beetle (Ceroctis capensis) eating away at an Autumn Pipes (Gladiolus brevifolius).
Us waiting for the stragglers.
Me guarding the rusks at tea.
Tea overlooking False Bay. The Alpha Male, Pauline and Alice - with the Food Lady on the other side of the camera and Dougal and me running to see if she has a piece of rusk for us. (Dawnie already at her feet waiting ...)
Then we were passed by an interesting group of people.
Hey, they are calling me! I ZAPPED off to see but discovered that they also have a chocolate coloured lab called Coco - also after Coco Chanel! But she wasn't nearly such a cute little black number as me.
After tea we set off again up the mountain to Kalk Bay Peak - or known in our house as "Sam's Nemesis" because this is where the Food Lady once nearly walked our predecessor - Sam the lab - to an early death by dehydration! Luckily he survived to walk lots more and died peacefully a few years later. This is me looking down into Spes Bona Forest in the kloof far below.
Although she looks nearly dead too - Dawnie is actually a tough old duck!
And once over the top and into the forest - we saw lots and lots of April Fools (Haemanthus coccineus). I was not sure what to expect, but they were rather odd little flowers that looked like someone had plonked a few plastic flowers in the leaf litter - they are just stalks with flowers on top. The leaves come out later. Apparently the flowers bloom in autumn hoping to attract butterflies and sunbirds to pollinate them, and then the seeds mature quite quickly so that by the time it starts raining in winter, they are ready to germinate.
Me taking a botanical interest in these foolish flowers.
Dougal taking an interest in the rodents. (Lots of shouting from the Food Lady as she is scared he will disappear down into a cave.)
Then we came out of the forest and into the sun. There was a lot of bangs and explosions going on that rather unnerved us all but the Food Lady said it was all part of the SA Navy Birthday festivities in Simon's Town.
Looking back up the way we had just come. All the trees on the edge is Spes Bona Forest.
There were lots of this twining parasitic False Dodder (Cassytha ciliolata) which is, astonishingly, part of the Lauraceae family that includes stinkwoods and avocado trees. We saw that someone had been pulling it out of the fynbos and piling it in great piles on the path but it is not a weed but an indigenous plant that has just as much a right to live here as the prettier flowers!
A very bright and showy pink form of the Ninepin Heath (Erica mammosa).
There were lots of Common Starheath (Staavia radiata) which belong to the Bruniaceae - one of those families that almost only occur in the Cape fynbos.
We always seem to see this Flea Bush - actually "Vlieebos" or Cape Fellwort (Saltera sarcocolla) - when we are feeling a bit flea-bitten. This flower belongs to the Penaea family that is one of the four families (Penaea, Grubbia, Roridula and Geissoloma) that only occur in the fynbos and nowhere else. A fluffy little Bulbine flavosa.

We made our way back down the shady, craggy path that we had come up - and we all agreed it was nicer than the Mule Track. There were lots of fragrant flowers too - making it altogether too sweet-smelling for us although Dawn still smells rather good after her roll in unmentionable stuff in the Greenbelt yesterday. (Bath for her when we get home! Bad stinky dog!) Dougal didn't want to cross the busy road when we got back to Boyes Drive and instead made the Alpha cross and the Food Lady yell when he tried to slip out of his lead in the middle of the race track that Boyes Drive has turned into.

Route description here. (Although we came back a slightly different way.)