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Plumbago, Summer solstice and kitten!

Plumbago is flowering at last!

We have had a very quiet holiday from a social aspect (reasons: #lockdown #covid) and almost no rain, so a daily watering has been necessary to keep the garden going. Very hot and windy, as can be expected at this time of year.

An absolute delight has been the flourishing of the sweet peas – it seems that they are happy in this poor soil. Have been able to enjoy their brilliant colours and scent in the house for many months now. What a joy! Will harvest the seeds in their little brown pods for sowing next spring.

The Cape honeysuckle has put on a spurt and the plumbago is finally looking like it may flourish.

The latest addition to the Ridge house family: miss Ping du Pree. What a character!
20 November: on my way to fetch Ping from the Vermaaklikheid village, the Duiwenhoks river was flooding over the causeway and I had to turn back. Luckily the next day, it was down again. Although we had a bit of local rain, most of this flood was by rain in the catchment area
Fiver loves his new toy
Isn’t this the cutest picture of a kitten falling asleep sitting up?

August is pink fynbos time

This everlasting Syncarpha canescens (aka pienksewejaartjie) adds extraordinary colour with these pink papery petals. Last year, this was only one little plant, but this year it has a few more growing along side.
The Afrikaans name (‘little seven-years’) is a reference to the long-lasting nature of the flowers. Would love to propagate this plant.
Almost all the flowers contained this additional glory – a little blue beetle.
It’s easy to see why this pretty Polygala, possibly P. umbellata, is commonly known as butterfly bush. It is currently flowering profusely. We have a lot of it growing all over, mostly in a low ground-cover like form. The little petals close once picked, unfortunately, so this is a plant to admire outdoors in the wild.
We have spotted a few specimens of this tiny beauty, Disperis capensis aka Witch orchid or Moederkappie. I love it’s deep hood, the mysterious centrepiece, and the way the side ‘wings’ (actually tepals) swoop backwards to meet the top tepal.
A side view of the little bonnet – looks like a little spider has been busy here too! The
Plenty of this little daisy flowering all over. Ursinia dentate has dark red on the underside of these bright yellow petals, which open only when the sun is shining.

Fruit trees!

We’ve added a raised bed for fruit trees, which are a bit hard to distinguish here. From left: a fig, then a nice grapefruit tree, then 2 orange trees and 2 pomegranate trees. Hope the bliksem porcupine leaves them alone. Still to be planted are 4 lemon trees which are temporarily living in pots until we can build decent beds for them.
Delighted to see that the pomegranate trees are already showing little signs of new life – welcome to Ridge House, darling babies! Please thrive. They have a reputation for being hardy – a must-have characteristic for life here.
The milkwood trees are surviving well enough, given the rather extreme weather occasionally thrown at them throughout this winter. One or two branches have broken off, but they are producing new leaves and plenty of green berries.

The ground around the milkwoods is developing a nice green covering, mostly self-seeded plants. Giving a good show here is thorny yellow Disseldoring, Berkheya coriacea. We have planted some aloes which are doing well too – with A. maculata producing beautiful orange inflorescences.

July 21: icy, fynbos and compost

The veld is bursting with flowers after our magnificent rains. Here is a typical combination of Pinky bos (Acmadenia alternifolia) in the top right, Indigofera hamulosa (middle right) and Erica arenaria (bottom). Pinky bos is a member of the buchu family and the leaves have a delicious citrus-y scent when gently crushed. Although pinky bos grows widely around here, it’s official status is endangered; while the pretty erica is officially threatened.
Ping still joins us on short walks, but only when she feels like it; she’s holding on to the famed cat independence. She semi-hides in the little besem riet and then fake-ambushes the dogs as they stroll past. It’s a lovely game, and we all feel a little happier after one of these rambles.

icy nights

Night time is bitterly cold, and we’re really grateful for abundant firewood and a big fireplace. Here ms Ping cuddles up to old Fiver to enjoy both the warm fire and retriever.

Snow on the Langeberg

The Langeberg in the distance were coated in snow last week – although it is not too easy to see here. The farmer’s fields are beautifully green for these weeks of winter; the renosterveld in the middle remains dun-coloured. Protea obtusifolia are also flowering abundantly; red, white and occasionally pink blooms glow in the wintery sun. Bees adore the nectar of these proteas – imagine how delicious the honey would be?

Using our own compost

We have been turning our kitchen scraps into compost in these large wheelie bins. R is filtering out the rougher stuff – mostly avo pips that have not yet completely broken down. We plan to use the wired circle behind the wheelbarrow to further decompose the rougher compost, and also to add our wood ash and rooikrans chippings. (Note to self: the rooikrans babies in the background need to be removed asap!)
Using the compost in the upgraded veggie bed. Ping loves gardening with us – also fascinated by the grubs we found in the compost. But I keep her out of the veg green house – sorry Ping, this beautiful bed is not for your convenience!

Milkwood seeds

Harvesting white milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme) seeds – it’s a sticky business! The latex from the pulp around the seed is quite a mission to remove. But then again, not much that’s really worthwhile is all easy, right? The seed within the pulpy mess in smooth, brown and a bit nut-like, almost like a unpopped popcorn kernel.

Milkwood trees are a protected species in South Africa, with several trees enjoying heritage status. For example, the Treaty Tree is a 500-year-old white milkwood tree in Woodstock, Cape Town.

‘Peace was made under the tree on 10 January 1806 after the Battle of Blaauwberg, thereby starting the second British occupation of the Cape and leading to the permanent establishment of the Cape Colony as a British possession. Until 1834 slaves were sold and convicts hanged under it.

Prior to the arrival of the Dutch, the tree was known to have been a feature of the local landscape.’

(thanks Wikipedia).
These are the precious seed. Knowing that these trees can live for many hundreds of years is a really satisfying thought. I collected these seeds from a small tree down at river camp. The trees seem to thrive in this area, so I am hoping they’ll germinate, and then thrive into actual proper trees.

Kalk Bay nostalgia

Finally, I had to include a picture of Kalk Bay – my old ‘hood. Used to have swimming classes in that pool back in the day. And in the centre of the picture is the legendary Brass Bell, the setting for many good times. I am so grateful that I got to be a teenager here back in the 70’s long before it was cool.

Milkwoods & rainy May

We were lucky enough to get Glen and his team of strong young men involved in a massive task – digging holes into this limestone rock slab to install 4 large white milkwoods (Sideroxylon inerme) in our front ‘garden’. The trees are 11 years old already – wishing for many more happy years of growth.

They’re definitely not the fastest growing trees, but their other qualities are mighty fine: fire-resistant, endemic and their berries are loved by birds. The species is commonly found in dune forests, almost always in coastal woodlands and also in littoral forests (forests along the sea shore).

We started digging the holes with a jack hammer but the rock easily won – the jack hammer was just not strong enough to make much of a dent. We resorted to angle grinding and levers and the muscles of these 3 men. We used gabions filled with rock to create a good foundation for the root ball.

We hope these beautiful endemic trees grow well on this site. Viva, milkwoods, viva!



May blessed us all with such wonderful rain – just after the trees were in (good timing!). We had about 120mls – more than double May 2020’s rain. The veld has responded magnificently (will show in my next post).

The coast line at the Duiwenhoks mouth was littered with storm debris – and some stunning driftwood pieces. What a journey these huge tree trunks must have had – tumbling down rivers and into the wild sea!

It’s cold enough for some unlikely snuggling – Luka and Ping seem perfectly at ease here.

Late afternoon winter sunshine – so golden! Heading home after a few days away is always such a delight – and a reminder of the beauty of this semi-wild place.

New babe! + kitten thrives

Our newest family member is the cutest baby that I’ve seen for many years, but I may be a bit biased. I am so delighted to be a grandy – great aunt to such an adorable babe.
Great grand mother P embraces the first baby since J was born in 1999. She’s brought such joy to us already, even if she lives in another city. We at least get to see her when she’s passing by. What a darling chilled baby!
And this is my own baby – who’s growing up to be quite a big cat. She’s not quite a year old and loves her daily sprints with us. She dives into the fynbos and lets us walk past before sprinting past us again, with her paws drumming out their urgent rhythm. On a hot day recently, she even panted like a wild cat afterwards, while lying regally with paws crossed.
She totally owns us and can take a nap anywhere she pleases.
Protea susannae is flowering beautifully right now. According to SANBI, it ‘hybridises freely and is the parent to numerous hybrids such as ‘Pink Ice’, ‘Special Pink Ice’, ‘Cardinal’, ‘Sylvia’ and ‘Susara’. Protea susannae is ideal for growing in sandy areas as a wind-resistant cover.’ This is great – we certainly have lots of wind around here!
Looking back at Ridge house from the neighbours land – lovely to see a different perspective. The house is barely visible – imo? but is just left of centre.
Delighted with my auction purchase of this beautiful kelim, which was a total bargain. It seems to be settling in to its new home very well.
A recent rainy Saturday found us cutting out the flags for some bunting with our dear friend M. Dear old Fiver naps

Autumn adventures: adders alive!

We’ve been loving the bath – yay for solar power! We’ve added a run off drip feed for the bath water to a lovely new bed. Patrick is a fantastic stone wall builder and we’re attending to some long overdue rock work in the turning circle in front of the house (pics to follow).

Mr Puff adder visiting Doornkraal on a hot day
Mr (or Mrs.?) Puff adder is very healthy and enjoying the summer heat. We’ve seen him on numerous occasions and hope that we always see him, well, at least in time to step away!
Fiver gets a cool bath on a hot day – good dog! This tub went to the sump upgrade almost straight after this (see below).
Sump upgrade! A week of hard work for 2 strong men. Works really well after endless hours spent researching self-maintaining designs. May still need a bit of tweaking, but the quality of the water entering our pipes is now infinitely improved. No more muddy brown water out of the taps at river camp – yippee!
2 little skulls found while excavating the sump – a dassie and a bokkie, maybe?
A trip to the mouth for a swim on a hot late summer’s day. Always refreshing. Usually deserted too. Fiver loves a swim too.
The autumn weather is here – with misty soft mornings. Usually blasting sun again by midday, but the cool mornings are very welcome.
Kitty is growing up fast. She loves to join me and the dogs on a ramble up to the compost bins but of course she doesn’t ramble – she sprints! And generally responds to being called – what a sweety! She’s been sterilised now – no babies for her. At least there’ll be no restless energy, looking for a mate?

February feats

We’ve been busy with various projects. Summer heat seems to be at a peak now with hot sunny days and warm nights. And so dry – there’s been only one bit of rain which was a little extreme (14 mls in 20 minutes).

R improves the floor of the hut with fresh cement

We’ve been upgrading our river camp with some much needed improvements to the hut. The old cement floor was breaking apart with each step on it. But mixing it and fixing the new to the old is back-breaking work. Also, big wonderful yay! for the amazing new physio in Heidelberg who has been doing magic in reducing R’s back pain. Also, a fabulous upgrade to the outdoor shower by cladding with timber.

a new project is to install a bath at Ridge house, on the bedroom deck. Solar geyser and plumbing still to come so for now we have a cool bath for hot days – bliss!
Guilty pleasures: sugar snaps ex Kenya (!!) and kittens on counters

A trip to Cape Town to support J while he has his wisdom teeth removed was also an opportunity to buy some luxuries for life back at the ridge. Oh my word, these sugar snaps were delicious! And the yellow new potatoes that were also part of the treat-shop were also yum. Our naughty little kitty jumped up to watch supper preparations and (for once) I let her stay. Will just have to imagine being able to grow my own veggies, although some of the herbs are doing well and the tomatoes are putting on some height.

our Grootrug neighbours are a bit shy
Simonstown’s Dido Valley – early on a hot and windy February morning.

I walked beside the sea while J had his procedure. I was feeling rather tense, but there was some solace in gazing at these gentle waves. The new mall with an attached surgery hospital has been built where there was once a margarine factory spewing stinky smoke into the fresh air. Although tbh, not entirely sure the mall is an upgrade 😐

Chapman’s Peak is a feast for the senses. Ancient granite boulders hint at the complex geology of the cape
The red disa is flowering in selected parts of Cape Town’s mountains – such a beauty!

peak summer swim & giant mesemb

Swimming in the cool Buffeljagsrivier in Suurbraak on a hot day
Ping and Luka chill together on the deck in the gloaming after sunset
This mesembryanthemum is owning this space – and it’s very welcome! aka ice plant (or brakslaai in Afrikaans) it is about 5m across. The flowers open at midday. As always, Fiver and Luka accompany me on garden duties.

Sump upgrade & mesembs

January 2021 Ridge house garden and water update

upgrading our water collection point (8 Jan)

After much research, we are now actually doing a much needed upgrade to the sump – the collection point of all our water. Now we have a lot of very fine silt which clogs up the whole system. Our tiny little spring is not much more than a mere trickle of water, but we are sooooo grateful! Without it, we would not survive on local rainfall.

Rooikranz and fynbos in the west on windy, warm and overcast Tuesday
The planted garden requires daily watering

The ‘star garden’ part is still mostly builder’s rubble. Most of the mulch we’ve laid down over the beds has been blown away by the gale force winds (hello! living on a ridge! what else?!).

Mesembs loving it here!

But there are some plants really using the daily water to good effect. Like the mesembs. ‘Mesembs are extremely diverse, particularly so in the Succulent Karoo Region, although they have a strong presence in the Fynbos‘ according to SANBI (reference here).

They also say: ‘Mesembs are the subjects of a huge trade in ‘curiosity plants’ among succulent collectors. They display features not seen elsewhere in the plant kingdom. The combination of minutism, mimicry and extreme succulence accounts for much of the variation in form and bizarre shapes that add to their appeal‘.

Collecting sweet pea seeds

The nasturtiums and sweet peas continue to deliver pops of insane colour. I’ve also been collecting some seeds.

I’ve staked up the tomatoes in the veggie garden as they are putting on some height.

But that’s enough for now. And I am encouraged by you, dear followers and like’rs! Thank you.

Black Harrier

Taking some pictures of the garden, I saw one of our resident Black Harriers peep around the front of the house. It’s that speck on the horizon

If you look really really close, and know where to focus your attention, you will see one of the most endangered South African bird of prey
From a certain angle, it looks quite lush in the late summer evening light
Sweet peas and fynbos decorate my scullery