Thursday, 22 December 2016

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Gladiolus alatus

"Gladiolus alatus", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2016

There are about 250 species of Gladiolus in Africa and Madagascar and into Eurasia with about 160 species found within the borders of southern Africa. Gladiolus alatus, today’s featured species of Gladiolus, is commonly known as “Little Turkey” because its flower petals resemble the colourful wattle of a turkey. 

Gladiolus alatus is native to an area from southern Namibia south throughout the Cape Peninsula of South Africa. It is found growing on sandy slopes with sandstone and granite soils. 

It is a very brightly coloured plant with its showy, fragrant orange and yellowish-green winged flowers. The flowers are short-lived, lasting about a week. The leaves are firm, sickle-shaped and ribbed, usually in clusters of 5 or more. Gladiolus alatus flowers from August to October. 

The bright colours and sweetly scented flowers of Gladiolus alatus attract numerous pollinators, particularly the honey bee in search of nectar. 

Gladiolus in Latin means ‘small sword', referring to the sword-shaped leaves of this plant. Alatus (Latin for ‘winged') refers to the wing-shaped petals and seeds. 

At this time, Gladiolus alatus is not a threatened species.

Portions of the above text were taken from various Internet sites.


What can I say about Miss Suki except that she has been reasonably well behaved for another week. Perhaps she has been listening to the words of the Christmas song which says: 
Remember, Suki, Santa is watching!

You better watch out, You better not cry, You better not pout I'm telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town. 
He's making a list, He's checking it twice, He's gonna find out who's naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town. 
He sees you when you're sleeping, And he knows when you're awake, He knows if you've been bad or good, So be good for goodness sake. 

If this is the case, then I suppose I had better think about getting her some presents to open on Christmas morning! I do have a big bag of her favourite cat treats hidden in the cupboard and there is a catnip mouse which has never been out of the package. So, I had better get them wrapped and into her Christmas stocking! 

Well, we were supposed to have a big snowstorm here in Toronto this past Friday evening. Actually, I was hoping we would have a blizzard. I know that sounds crazy (and rather unkind to those people who have to shovel their sidewalks and driveways), but after a blizzard the most amazing thing happens in this City of about 3 million people – it goes quiet – all the cars, buses, streetcars, trains, trucks, subways, etc. suddenly stop. 

Info about Toronto's 1999 Snowstorm
I remember going out onto my balcony soon after the worst of the snow ended in the blizzard of 1999 and I was amazed and awed by the silence. There were no vehicles anywhere that first day, but, by the second day, the first of the snow plows arrived and began their noisy, smelly task of turning all that beautiful, white snow into grey slush. 

There was another occasion back in about 1968 – soon after my husband and I had moved to Toronto – when there was a major snowstorm that shut down the City for a day or two. This was our first big Toronto snowstorm experience. So, we had been carefully watching the storm from our cozy apartment throughout the day and when the snow finally ended about 11 p.m., we bundled up in our recently purchased Canadian army surplus store coats and boots. This meant that once we put on our toques and mittens we were reasonably comfortable even in the bitter cold. 

Thus protected, we set off for a late-night walk in the newly fallen snow. By now, the moon, almost full, was visible in the night sky. As the snow was still blowing, we tried to walk in the spots where the wind had blown most of the snow into huge drifts. In the light of the moon and the occasional street light, it looked as though the snow had been sprinkled with tiny, silver flakes and the air sparkled with them as the wind made the unpacked snow swirl and dance. 

The place where we were living at that time was only a few blocks north of Lake Ontario – a location known as the Scarborough Bluffs – sandy cliffs (quite high in some places) that led straight down to a narrow beach filled with driftwood and such. We made that our destination.  As we walked through those snowy, moonlit surroundings, it seemed to me that we were walking in a fairy land. The strangest part of all was that it was so quiet that I could hear the waves hitting the shore from two blocks away. 

We walked all the way to the edge of one of the highest cliffs. It had been very cold before it had started snowing the previous night and with the moon shining across the water, we could see chunks of ice floating in the waves of that dark, inland sea. This was perhaps the most magical walk I ever took in my life. Truly, it was an unforgettable experience.

Hope you didn't mind my reminiscing, but it keeps me from complaining about all my aches and pains!

Are you ready for Christmas?  


Fourth Sunday of Advent


Sunday, 11 December 2016

Protea witzenbergiana - Swan Sugarbush

"Protea witzenbergiana - Swan Sugarbush", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2016

Protea is both the botanical name and the English common name of a genus of South African flowering plants known commonly across the genus as sugar bushes (Afrikaans: suikerbos). 

The genus Protea was named in 1735 by Carl Linnaeus after the Greek god, Proteus, who could change his form at will, because this ancient family (Proteaceae) has such a wide variety of forms. In fact, Proteas’ ancestors were known to be growing in what is now the Cape area of South Africa 75 to 80 million years ago. 

Most Proteas (92%) occur only in what is known as the “Cape Floristic Region,” a narrow belt of mountainous coastal land located in the southwestern corner of South Africa. The extraordinary richness and diversity of species characteristic of the Cape Floristic Region is thought to be caused in part by the diverse landscape where populations can become isolated from each other and in time develop into separate species. 

Today’s featured drawing bears the name Protea witzenbergiana and is commonly known as the Swan Sugarbush. It is a perfect example of a specific plant which developed in a “diverse landscape where populations can become isolated from each other and in time develop into separate species”

The Swan Sugarbush, also known as “Creeping Mountain Rose”, is a sprawling shrub with grayish-green, needle-like leaves (they look similar to pine needles). The stems bear cup-shaped flower heads composed of red/reddish-brown bracts. They are found only in the area of Witzenberg Municipality, a local municipality located within the Cape Winelands District Municipality in the Western Cape province of South Africa (see map at,+6835,+South+Africa/@-33.39775,14.8228421,6z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x1dcd699073578c4b:0x392808e69c847c75!8m2!3d-33.4006883!4d19.295048).

Together, with the springbok antelope, the Protea had been treated as a sometimes controversial national symbol in South Africa both during and after apartheid. For example, today the South African national cricket team is known as "The Proteas". During apartheid, the team composed of white players was known as “The Springboks” while the so-called “coloured team” was known as “The Proteas”. 

Unfortunately, in spite of the greater awareness of Protea witzenbergiana and all the other Proteas, this plant, along with many of its relatives, is now on South Africa’s “Red List” of endangered plants.  So sad...I wonder sometimes if it is even possible for us to ever learn how to co-exist peacefully with the rest of time.

Portions of the above text were taken from various Internet sources.



Suki waiting impatiently for me
to come home

I am too tired today to say much of anything about either Suki or myself!

I will take the time to tell you that I left home at 8 a.m. yesterday and then travelled by car for about 55 minutes until I reached the home of "my boys".  I got there in time for a delicious breakfast cooked up expertly by their parents.  Afterwards, the parents and I tried to just sit and visit a bit over coffee; however, the boys were determined that they should be the centre of my attention and thus, effectively, kept us adults from anything close to a normal conversation.

The boys getting ready to tear
into their Christmas gifts from me.
After a while, we made our way to the front of the house where the Christmas tree is located and the boys got to open my gifts for them -- it was sort of an early Christmas for the boys and a celebration of my birthday. The gifts I had given the children kept them busy for a few minutes while we adults also exchanged a few small gifts.

By about noon, I was exhausted and the boys had to get ready to go to a party. So, soon I was on my way back home. An hour later, I opened the door to find Suki sitting there, meowing mournfully. It was an hour past her lunch time and so she was very hungry. As well, it was time for her medication.

After Suki had eaten her fill and I had gotten myself into comfortable clothes, I plugged in the kettle on so that I could make myself something to drink. Then we both collapsed into my recliner -- me sitting with my legs stretched out covered with a throw and Suki curled up on top.  We stayed this way for several hours before either of us moved again. Suki fell asleep almost immediately and although I was trying not to sleep (sleeping during the day tends to ruin my nighttime sleep), I am pretty certain that I fell asleep, briefly, a couple of times at least.

Now, although I did manage to get a decent night's sleep last night, I find that I remain very tired and all I was to do right now is get back to my recliner, my comfy throw and Suki!

Hope you all understand and I will try my best to provide you with a new story about Suki next week.



Third Sunday of Advent


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Leucospermum cordifolium -- Pincushion

"Leucospermum cordifolium -- Pincushion Protea", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2016

Leucospermum cordifolium, commonly known as “Pincushion”, belongs to the Protea family and is indigenous to South Africa. It is native to a fairly small area of the South Western Cape where it can be found growing in acidic, nutrient-poor soils. The bright orange "flowers" combined with abundant pale green leaves make it a very recognizable plant.  Other genera of the Protea family, which produce striking flowers, are Leucadendron and Protea

Cape Sugarbird
An added attraction during flowering time are the numerous birds found near the plants. In the early hours of the morning the abundant nectar flow attracts a variety of small insects, which in turn attract the Cape Sugar bird and three species of Sunbird. These insectivorous birds consume the small insects as well as the nectar, and in the process transfer pollen from one flower to the next. The flowers are not self-pollinating and depend on the birds and the small Scarab beetles for pollination. 

Leucospermum cordifolium is a rounded spreading shrub which can grow to about 2 m. in diameter and 1.5 m. high, with a single main stem and horizontally spreading stems with abundant, heart-shaped, green leaves. Leucospermums are brilliantly coloured in shades of red, orange and bright yellow with orange being predominant. The “blossoms” consist of a large number of small flowers. It is the stiff protruding styles of the flowers which are the source of the common name of "pincushion" for this genus. 

Only a few large, hard, white, nut-like seeds are produced by each “blossom”. In their natural environment the seeds are collected by ants, stored in the soil, and germinate only after a fire has killed the mature plants and returned the nutrients back to the soil. 

The genus name of Leucospermum, meaning “white seed”, is a combination of two Greek words: leuco meaning white and spermum meaning seed. The species name of cordifolium, meaning “heart-shaped leaf”, is a combination of two Latin words: cordi meaning heart and folium meaning leaf.

Portions of the above text were taken from various Internet sources.


For more than a few years now I have taken time on every Sunday morning to reflect on Suki's behaviour during the past week.

As you will be aware, if you are a regular reader of these postings, Suki often does some interesting, unexpected and, occasionally, comical things. However, every so often, she goes through a period of weeks where her behaviour is almost exemplary -- and, it would seem that we are going through such a period at present.

For the past several weeks, Suki has, indeed, been relatively well behaved. Not only has she refrained from nocturnal naughtiness while I am sleeping, but she has also allowed me to sleep (most days) until 6:30 or even 7 a.m.

As this is about the third week in a row during which her behaviour has been relatively decent, I am now beginning to get just a bit nervous.  It is like waiting for the other shoe to drop. You know something is going to happen and as you wait and wait, the tension and unease seem to grow with each passing day. 

Suki is one of the cleverest cats I have ever known so I'm sure it won't be much longer before she comes up with something new -- something that will make her life more pleasant and my life more difficult.  What a cat!

As for me, I continue to feel rather grumpy.  I have been feeling this way ever since my computer crash early last month.  I know I don't have any real cause to complain as I, prudently, had long ago installed an external hard drive which did an update every night at about 3 a.m.  This means that I didn't lose anything of importance. However, I still feel somewhat irritated as I try to find my way on this new machine with its updated software. Ah, well, I'm sure I will feel better about things in time.

Otherwise, my life remains reasonably quiet and not too uncomfortable.  I have no medical appointments scheduled but there are a number of visits planned in the weeks ahead as we approach my birthday and Christmas. One of the most exciting of these visits will occur next Saturday when I am scheduled to visit "my boys" and their parents for an early Christmas celebration. If all goes as planned, I will be able to tell you about it in next Sunday's posting.


Second Sunday of Advent