07 February 2010

Autumn crocuses for all seasons

I do mean to talk of weightier things – really I do! But somehow, my attention is always drawn back to my plants and garden, and the (to me) weighty enough things going on in my patch every day. Well, when it comes to 'weighty', how about a plant that contains a poison whose effects are as deadly as arsenic? That's what Wikipedia says, anyway, about the autumn crocus, Colchicum autumnale. The poison it contains is colchicine, an extract of which ('meadow saffron') was originally used to treat various rheumatic conditions!

My interest in the plant is purely aesthetic, though I believe colchicine is still used today in the treatment of gout, so as a long-time sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, I should bear this in mind. These little patches of starry bright whiteness pop up in various spots in my garden each year, but not usually this early. After all, it's still midsummer here and autumn is a good month away. But about ten days ago – about the time of Mum's death, as it happens – after we were drenched with a welcome 90 mm of rain in 48 hours, the little clutches of soft green grasslike foliage suddenly erupted in the white star-shaped flowers. These half-close at night to resemble miniature tulips, but reopen again the next morning. I'm hoping they will last until D's arrival in a few days.

The crocuses have flowered nonstop since they first appeared and more rain over the past few days resulted in an even showier display this morning. However, just as I was about to go out and take a new photo, we were suddenly drenched by another downpour, and though the rain didn't last long, the force of it has really knocked around the delicate blooms of each bunch. So I wonder if they'll last much longer. Still, while they're here, they're a delight. There's something about white flowers – the way they respond to the changing patterns of light, they way they shine out like little beacons as the evening comes on. And today, wet and droopy, beaten down by the force of a driving rain, they keep trying to lift up their little faces to the light. Not a bad act to emulate. Thank you, whoever!

02 February 2010

I have just taken a walk around our rainsoaked paddock, down to the pleasingly full dam at the bottom of our property. One week ago I could almost see the muddy bottom on three-quarters of this dam. And that white float you can see in the photo below – which holds up the intake valve, the point at which our pump at the top of the hill sucks water up from the dam for irrigation purposes – that was almost sitting on the bottom of a nearly empty dam until the recent rains. Now, after 90 mm of rain in two days, the dam has just about filled – thanks to Panomara Creek which flows into this southern end of the dam, and a steep earth bank on the western side (opposite, in this photo) which directs all the rainwater run-off from an acre or so of land there down into the dam. The great mystery is: where did all those water lilies come from? They were not evident when the dam was nearly empty. But now, just a few days later, there they are! Not flowering yet, but they will be very soon.

I saw several turtle heads bobbing up and down on the water's surface, too – each of these a good dinner plate in size – so I hope I won't find any more shells of dead turtles such as the two we found on the shoreline a few weeks ago. And a great big lizard – probably a monitor – dropped down into the water from an overhanging branch just as I approached. At this northern end of the dam, the outflow creek off to the right (see photo below), which was dry for many months, is again flowing downhill in a northerly direction, into the Lake Macdonald catchment area.

This area down at the bottom of our 1.3 acres of land has always been a magical place for me. There you can find our most impressive trees –great big gums that were no doubt here before local farmers turned this area into a vegetable farm of some sort (we're not sure exactly what was farmed here, but the dam is a relic of that long-ago period). It makes living here a matter of great good luck, as we have never yet run out of water in even the driest of winters (our dry season).

There's a wealth of wildlife, too: blue kingfishers skimming over the water's surface, black cockatoos whenever it's about to rain, families of wild duck and moorhens, freshwater crayfish who come far up into the paddock to burrow down into the clay soil, those monitor lizards, dozens of the large turtles, and also now and then: snakes of various sorts making their way down to the water through the lush paddock grass.

It would be so sensible to leave it all and move to a nice little unit somewhere. But oh how I would miss it. So I'll labour on for a while, fighting the elements in various ways (collapsed rainwater gutters, septic problems, rotten fascia boards,  all sorts of garden problems). It still seems worth it.

PS: Happy to report in March 2010 that gutters, septic blockage and fascia boards have all been fixed - thanks to numerous tradesmen and especially wonderful Nev (who also built the new balustrade and pergola). It takes so little to make me a happy woman these days!

01 February 2010

Those gorgeous 'Benoit' girls – and one guy!

Our mother, Hazel, with her five gorgeous granddaughters: Zoe (red cardigan), Anica (purple headband), and Letty, Raina and Ariel.

And here is the only pix I can find of Mum with we three daughters (Doreen, Carol and Nancy).


Does anyone have photos of Hazel with her great-granddaughters?

Here is the final photo taken of Hazel with Viola, the last of her six sisters still then living. The occasion was an afternoon tea at which the sisters enjoyed chocolates, cake and Aunty Vi's favourite Dunkin Donuts, just two days before Hazel's departure for Australia in March 2006. It was during Vi's visit that we received the special-delivery letter from the Australian Embassy, telling us that Hazel's one-year visa to Australia had been approved. Aunty Vi died while Mum was in Australia, so this was the last time the sisters saw each other. But it was a happy occasion, full of fun and laughter, only tinged with a bit of sadness during the last goodbye hugs. 

OK, I have to admit: there should be one guy in the picture – our brother, Paul. And here he is, with Doreen (far left), farewelling Mum and me as we leave for Australia in March 2006.

Mum had been very ill for some months previously, and she was still a bit weak-looking here. But she soon gained a bit of weight and some good colour in the Aussie sun. One of her favourite pastimes while with us was feeding meat scraps to a family of butcher birds every day.
These are just a few of my favourite photos from the final years of Mum's long life.

About me

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I started this blog in 2009 when I became a full-time caregiver. My husband had been diagnosed a few years earlier with primary progressive aphasia. Over the next four years until his death in 2013, we went on a journey of discovery about this rare condition. My blog is about what I learned, how we both coped and how the journey deepened our love and appreciation of each other. Allen’s journey is over, but mine goes on.