Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sepia Saturday

My Father, Thomas Brian Meehan, aged 33yrs old in 1956 at` Patunga`, the sheep farm he eventually managed for ten years, on his trusty steed. At this stage we were living in the little cottage in the background, moving to the main homestead ( which deserves a post of it`s own) 2 yrs later.
The land is very steep in that part of the North Island of NZ, it once was covered in native forest which was milled, consequently when ever there was heavy rain alot of it slipped down into the valleys and creeks below ! It also took tons of super phosphate fertilizer to grow decent grass, with many farmers walking off their land in the early 1900`s before aerial topdressing was used. Dad had 2 horses he rode and a pack of working sheep dogs that went everywhere with him - both horses and dogs being his work mates and loyal companions. I never saw my Father mistreat an animal, he did swear at them which was the only times I ever hear him cuss, but it was not in his nature to be cruel.
With his tanned fit body, a long piece of supplejack and very sharp knife in a pouch at his side, he was ready for anything - my hero !

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Full Moon and Daisys. . ..

Full moon through kowhai leaves from my front door on Thursday night - I am always energized at full moon and my dreams are very vivid.
Daisy's on my lawn today, I like this simple little flower, snow white with egg yolk yellow centers - my bees were busy visiting all the flowers in my garden - a stunning spring day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Wee Swarm and Spring Blooms . .

I collected this small swarm from a friend`s place last Sunday, in the rain - poor wee bees were wrapped up tightly under the ferny branches of a weeping maple. It being only acouple of handfuls of bees I am wondering if it has a queen, it may have been a secondary swarm. They have busily started making comb from the top of the nuc box, I am giving them to a friend who has a new TopBar hive all waiting and ready. I have noticed over the last few years that swarms really get stuck into collecting pollen and nectar and making wax very quickly, they build up to a decent size hive in a short while - must be that urge to bring in food for the young and build a proper home !

I drove home, rain pouring down and thankful the bees were safe and dry - it is always an interesting trip with a box of bees on the back seat, not going to fast to have them fall off and break out, and not so slow you draw attention to yourself ! At least I didn`t have my bee suit on, that always gets some weird stares - I just wave . .

I don`t know if it is just me or not, but is this spring an especially beautiful one ?? I seem to be so much more aware of the new growth all around me. . Above is the bud of our native clematis, C.paniculata , it is deciduous and when in flower covers a fence or the top of trees with a brilliant white mass of flowers - in it`s native place, our NZ bush, it always heralds spring - I love it.

Above the flowers and new seeds on a Red Maple Acer rubra shine in the morning sun. Maple have small flowers often hard to find, when seen really close up they are intricate and beautiful. It is always the first maple to flower and leaf up around here. Acers are not native to NZ, we have very few deciduous native trees, NZ is a temperate country and doesn`t get cold enough in most places for plants to go into dormancy over winter.

New leaves on a not very tall Rhododendron - the leaves actually seem far to large for the tree. Once the leaves are older they droop down and make a distinctive skirt. The pale purple flowers are not much to write home about, but the leaves make up for that ! I must try and find out what its botanical name is as it could be grown in a city section.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sepia Saturday

Sepia Sat is a great chance to re-look at my favorite old photos, this one of my Dad, Thomas Brien Meehan and his little sister, Moira Waymouth (nee Meehan) taken in 1925, has to be one of my most loved pics. . .
Dad was born Sept 1923 and just over a year later in 1924 came his tiny dark haired sister Moira. This photo is such a wonderful pictorial description as Dad was a gentle, loving and kind son, brother, husband and father all through his life - I think he looks very protective of his tiny, tempestuous sister with the dark Irish eyes and curls - she was very like her Father in looks and Dad was the image of his Mother but with his Dad`s gentle personality - Moira was the feisty one and Dad always the peace maker !

I love the rocking horse, the pic being taken outside their mill house in Ongarue - this town been quite a bustling place back then when there still were acres of native bush to be cleared for farmland (sigh), it did turn out that the land wasn`t that great, and to produce decent grass had to have millions of tons of super phosphate dumped on it and then it still needed more every year. Many farmers were forced to walk off their land during the depression years as they could not make a living out of it. This was after they had worked so hard to clear and fence the steep hill sides of that part of NZ - the central plateau.

Both Dad and Moira have passed away now, both from cancer, after leading full and happy lives. Dad died 7 yrs ago, I still miss him like mad, he was a wonderful father and friend, we could talk for ages about anything, I miss him ..

Friday, October 15, 2010

Purple Passion Bee Food . .

One of the many reasons spring is such a joyous season for me - the deliciously scented Wisteria sinensis, Wisteria, with all her over the top purpleness ! The bees love this flower , the great carpet covering a pergola in the Hamilton Gardens, outside the Wintec Hort campus staff room, has many honey bees foraging even on a cool windy day. It was difficult, but I managed to keep the door open just to allow the scent to drift through . .

Wisteria grows well in our temperate climate, often the vines entwine and a great mangle of knotty wood happens. Out at a wonderful old home and garden called `Woodlands`, in the countryside not far from where I live, there is an ancient old wisteria that is over 100yrs old now and still flowering in spring. The scent alone is a reason to plant this vine, it is so divine. Soft green leaves follow the flowers making a dappled light effect over summer. Deciduous, the Wisteria vine will clamber over most things, I have seen it draped along a fence, up and over an old shed and very prettily arranged hanging down in racemes all the way along a veranda front - birds build nests in it - it is just an all round spring/summer delight ..

Always prune back reasonably hard after flowering, don`t leave it till later as the next years flowers are on the new growth and you don`t want to loose those ! There is a pretty white variety which is in flower along the front of the pavilion at the Hamilton Gardens, it never seems to be as flamboyant as the purple one . .

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sepia Saturday

My sepia Sat pic this week is of my paternal Grandfather, Michael Patrick Meehan, with his mates on a day out in Cairo, visiting the sphinx and pyramids on camels ! Mick is on the left riding the white camel, looking very pleased with himself ! He was a lovely man, spent his 20th birthday on board the boat taking him, other soldiers and their horses to fight in WW1 in 1915 with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles. It was the first time he had traveled out of NZ and reading his diary, you can get an idea of how exciting it all was for this group of naive, mostly young NZ men. It soon became obvious that it was no picnic !

My Grandfather came back from the war, married his lovely Rosa and settled down in the small King Country mill town of Ongarue, where my Father and his 4 siblings were born and raised. He was a gentle man, wiry build with a mop of black curls and a beautiful singing voice - he used to sing Irish lullabies to his children at night, being of Irish heritage was very important to him, even though he was born in NZ - my ancestors from Galway Bay in southern Ireland, arrived in NZ in 1842 - some of the earliest settlers.

Michael loved his wife and family, never spoke about his war years and never traveled overseas again. After Rosa died in 1974, he really just waited for his time to join her. Most days he would taxi up to the Taumarunui cemetery and sit by her grave until he joined her in 1981. I have very fond memories of Granddad Meehan, his lovely smile and twinkly eyes but mainly his gentleness. .

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Awakenings . . .

The view from my front door yesterday morning, the sun shining into my wee house, flickering off the yellow kowhai tree (click on pic to make bigger) with dappled light.

Down in the Maori garden, Te Parapara, in the Hamilton Gardens, the stunning native clematis is flowering. Clematis paniculata or Puawhananga is covered in these delightful pure white slightly scented flowers - I remember as a child the hillsides covered snow white, once picked, it does not live long . .
`Tuhoe Maori considered that Puawhananga was one of the three firstborn children of the stars Rehua (Rigel) and Puanga (Antares). The duty of these three children is to indicate by means of their blossoms the coming of the warmth of spring` - Elsdon Best 1908
Another NZ native plant flowering with great gusto is Brachyglottis repanda Rangiora, also known as Bushmans friend (handy loo paper ), has large light green papery leaves with white hairy undersides. The creamy white aromatic flowers signalled the fourth month of the Maori calendar (Sept), there is also a beautiful purple leafed variety.

Tui in the yellow flowering kowhai tree, we have quite afew of these big native birds hanging out in the Gardens now, such a joyful sound - pure bell-like to a mixture of clunks, chortles and creaky door sounds - this brilliant bird is a very clever mimic and tends to dominate, chasing other birds away !

Very sweet little dark red to black, strongly scented flowers of the Pittosporum tenuifolium, Kohuhu spread their scent at night, hopefully to catch the pollinating services of native moths. Many of our native plants have small, scented flowers to attract pollinators, honey bees were not native to this land and were not needed until NZ was colonized by westerners. We do have about 28 species of native solitary bees which also helped with pollination, birds were probably the main pollinators and spreaders of seed !

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sepia Saturday . . .

The little girl in this photo taken around 1910 is my much loved Grandmother on my maternal side. I love this photo, it is so relaxed and loving for the times when everyone posed stiff and unsmiling - you can feel the love between Phylis Gwendoline and her Daddy. . .

My Great Uncle Marcus, the baby in the pic, died last year at 99 yrs of age ! My Great Grandparents were both English, G Grandma, Dorothy Florence (nee Churchhouse), emigrated to NZ in the late 1880`s from Somerset. An Aunt of mine has been back to visit the area and see the house her Grandmother was brought up in, I will post a pic of that another day.
I don`t know much about G Grandad, except that he was a bit of a whiskey drinker and died quite young ! He looks a handsome devil I think . .

My Grandmother was born in 1908 in Auckland and died 1982, just a week before my 2nd daughter was born, hence my Pip has her g grandmothers name in hers ( she is Phillippa Claire Gwendoline) and I do believe my beloved Nana`s spirit lives on in my special daughter . . .

This little family lived in Greenhithe, a country area then just north of Auckland city. They had an orchard and there is still an `Andrews `Rd up there. My memories of G Grandma Andrews are of this tiny, feisty little lady with a huge presence, very strict and who spoke beautiful English, she died in 1975 the year my eldest daughter was born, it would have been lovely to have had a 5 generation photo taken . . .