Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Funk - Derived from the Flemish word 'fonck', meaning 'disturbed' or 'agitated'.

Well I'm coming out of mine today, despite having just flooded the kitchen with garden hose. (small curse to budgetary control/husband for not allowing me to install an outside tap)

Yesterday my MIL was finally diagnosed with dementia. It wasn't unexpected and having a label for what's wrong will help us get her the support she needs, but I can see how upset my SIL is.

I'm glad neither of my parents had to go through this illness, my mother died of cancer in her early 60s - different kind from mine - and my Dad sort of self-destructed over many years, although he was lucid right up until the end, though perhaps not sober!

A friend says we're now in the sandwich years, when you still have older children around and your parents' health starts to fail.

So maybe I'm luckier than some in that I appear to have an open sandwich - though I feel for my husband as he's facing up to having aging parents in two different parts of the country, which leaves him torn on many fronts.

I just hope his mother can enjoy a bit of time when her worries fall away before the down sides of the disease become too pronounced.

When I told N she joked that that's another silver lining of having a poor cancer prognosis, you don't have to worry about dementia!

It strikes me that life makes it hard to arrive and equally hard to depart, and it's what you do in between that's the important part.

The garden is doing well, pumpkins are starting to romp away, and the first flowers are on my tomatoes. Garden residents now include a blackbird with a lot of white feathers and the blind in one eye thrush. It seems I'm cultivating the bird equivalent of Ellis Island.

Yesterday I was researching Lady's Mantle, a favourite plant of mine and discovered that it's botanical name alchemilla means little magic one, from the Arab alkemelych (alchemy). I think this is just such a lovely name. The plant was/is used to help menstruation problems and stop other types of bleeding, and one German herbalist claims prolonged use could cut gynae ops by a third. The name Our Lady's Mantle was given to it in early Christian times.

It is also known as dewcup because of the way it collects rain. (The pic is a web sourced one.)

This is the scientific explaination of why the plant beads water so well:

"The leaf surfaces of lady's mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris L.) are covered with small hairs, in addition to a waxy coating. A droplet of water carefully placed onto a dry leaf will rest on the "fur" and have no apparent contact with the leaf surface—a contact angle of 180°. The SEM image above shows a 2 mm droplet resting on a leaf hair cluster.

This might seem to indicate that the leaf hairs are hydrophobic, not unlike the cuticular wax on nasturtium leaves. However, if a single leaf hair is inserted into a water droplet, the meniscus is found to be less than 60°, clearly indicating that the leaf hair is hydrophilic.

Droplets that condense onto a cooled leaf nucleate onto the waxy cuticula with a contact angle well above 90°. When the droplets make contact with the hairs, they are lifted from the cuticula onto the hydrophilic hairs. As more droplets form and coalesce, they cause the hairs to bend and form bundles.

Energy minimization calculations based on the elastic modulus of the hairs establish an optimum size and degree of bending for the hair bundles. In this manner, it is possible to establish an optimum distance between the leaf surface and the bottom of the water droplets.

Long before humans mastered such things as car wax and rain slickers, plants were building hydrophilic lifting devices and differentiating between dew and rain drops. It appears we still have a thing or two to learn."

We do indeed have a lot to learn.


Blogger Lucy said...

Sorry to hear about your MIL, and all the best and good courage to your family.
Having older parents, now dead, and no children, I suppose I am just the filling! Before perhaps a butter-side-down type of thing?
Your alchemilla leaf is lovely; I tried to eat them for a while for their gynae value, but it was difficult to introduce a meaningful amount into my diet!

9:20 pm  
Blogger Tall Girl said...

I love alchemilla with dew or rain on it.
We have a blackbird with white feathers round here too. Felt like an omen on first sighting.

9:31 am  
Blogger f:lux said...

Aren't the etymologies of words fascinating?

10:26 am  
Blogger apprentice said...

Hi Lucy thanks for your kind words.
i think you can get it in a pure form from a herbalist. You need to careful as like any drug it can have side effects

Hi tall girl, I hope it's a good omen. They're very territotial so an odd one must do well to hold its ground.

Yes f:lux I love the roots of words as well as plants

12:46 pm  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

I'm sorry about your MIL. That's a particularly sad way to lose a loved one, bit by bit.

The Lady's Mantle story is cool. The name sounds all Cadfaely. Plants are incredible. I don't get hw it distinguishes between the raindrop and the dew though.

2:25 am  
Blogger Jan said...

I was a late babe so I lost my folks earlyish; I was dealing with teenagers, frail oldies ( a spinster aunt,a father in hospital, a very confused mother) and working 4 days weekly.
All very hectic:I really DID feel like a flipping filling in a sarnie...not a very substantial one, either!!
But having said that, SOME of the most peaceful, lovely moments in that period, occurred as I sat with one of the Oldies, not talking, just murmuring...rather soothing , strangely enough...

9:32 am  
Blogger PI said...

My commiserations to your husband (and yourself). My parents died in their eighties and nineties - sharp as buttons to the end but my darling brother suffered for over ten long years with Alzheimers before his longed for death.
Now: some years back I had a problem watering the garden and nagged my husband to get a hose. In the end - after a struggle we got two hoses and two outside taps and life got so much easier so I hope your husband will see the sense of it and act. Anything that makes life easier pays dividends in the long run. Trust me!

9:51 am  
Blogger apprentice said...

Jan you did well to come through all of that, but I suppose you had little chioce. That's what I'm hoping for quiet time with my MIL. Although the paert of her brain that is presently affected is giving her aural hallicinations, which are frightening when not controlled by drugs and the drugs knock her off in other ways.

Pat I'm sorry about your brother, that must have been awful to watch and deal with.

10:32 am  
Blogger Cailleach said...

Sorry too, about your MIL. I read the info on Lady's Mantle with great interest - I love your posts, how they connect everything together and never dwell on self-pity or sorrow for long.

9:06 am  
Blogger apprentice said...

Thanks B. I see little point in dwelling on sad things for too long, other than to axknowledge annd accept them. There's a deserved period of grief/mourning your losses no-one can immediately "be possitive", but after that it seems to me that you're just giving the crap thing even more control over your life. What's done is done - cue Doris to sing lol!

10:17 am  
Blogger apprentice said...

Argh, my spelling there -sorry I must have been tired!!

11:53 am  

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