I don't know how you feel about bugs. Me? I like them fine, as long as they are not in my house and not where I can see them. They are welcome in my garden, but when I go out there, they should hide. Because I'm quite likely to squash them if they don't. But I want to introduce you to someone who thinks bugs are pretty darn cool. She even created a Cubit, just to show off her fondness for them. Here's Janet.....
Q. Hi, Janet! Nice to be able to chat with you today. I've seen your posts for years, but just never knew much about you. So I'd like to correct that, if I may. Please introduce yourself.
Janet: I am the 4th and youngest child of a dairy farmer, born in the post WW2 years and brought up in the hills south of Adelaide, in South Australia. My ancestors were in the last shipment of a five year settlement plan to colonize South Australia, landing there in 1840. Colonel William Light and his crew, which amounted to a whole seven people, set out the streets facing north-south, and east-west, with a mile square encompassing the main city center. Many settlers' houses are still in existence. My ancestor, his wife and six children had a house within these confines.
Q. I didn't realize you were from Australia. What was it like to grow up there?
Janet: My love of nature was nurtured there as a child. What better way to grow up in a Mediterranean climate than to run barefoot across the paddocks, pick wild blackberries, gaze in wonderment at the endless blue skies with big fluffy white clouds and masses of stars at night. I had always loved to see the wild orchids in the scrub. It was an eagerly awaited yearly outing to pick armfuls of Bulldogs, Spiders, Cockatoos, Belly Buttons, and Ladies Slippers. They have slowly disappeared due to indiscriminate clearing of the land. When I went back many years ago, the hills had been stripped to the tops. Orchids had usually grown at a certain level towards the bottoms of the hills.
Q. I can envision how wonderfully happy your childhood was from your beautiful description! I wish I could have been there! What happened next?
Janet: I had an artistic talent, but I also had a very mathematical mind so was torn between the two. I ended up working in a laboratory for the government, analyzing agricultural products. (Such as milk for protein content, pine needles for N P K, soils etc.) I hadn't been able to go to University so the pay was poor, although I was doing work equivalent to that of the analysts. It was also during the era when women didn't get equal pay, nor did we get full pay until 21 which irked me no end as I was always a harder worker than any of them. I ended up in the UK because of my marriage to someone who had emigrated, but returned to England after his two year obligatory period. The rest is history and I prefer to let that lie.
I went back to Australia for a brief period, taking two of my three children with me, but returned to England in order that they could finish their education. My son went to university and gained a 1st with distinction in Physics. Funnily, I had wanted to study Geology along with Physics myself! And, he actually went back to Australia!
Q. I know you endured a serious injury at one point in your life. If it isn't bringing back too many bad memories, would you care to share that story?
Janet: In 1993 I was in a road traffic accident. I came out fine, but got the usual neck and shoulder problems shortly after. The seat belt saved my life, but I was hit by a car which had bounced off a lorry then hit me semi-front on, and then swung around hitting the front on my car with the side of his. I was able to continue working for nearly two years after that, but the effects of scarring on the nerve tissue had caused nerve inflammation. It traveled down to my right hand first, after nearly a year, then to my right foot. Eventually it affected the other side too, but not to such an extent. It also affects some organs in my body if I push myself too far, which is what did happen. I had a problem adjusting to not being able to do what I had always been able to do.
Q. How awful! Life can suddenly take a wrong turn, and leave it's mark on someone for a long time, it seems. You even had to give up your job?
Janet: I had worked for a main Post Office for some time after divorcing, and so returned to it after coming back from Australia, but that was a very physical job and my body was giving up. After a period of rest and trying a less physical job on computers with a telephone company, my body once more complained so I had to stop. I wasn't going to give up that easily though.
My mind wanted to be kept busy, so as a new University was being built nearby I decided I would get myself a place there and eagerly set about studying Tourism. It sounded like a fun thing to do but it was actually a very complex course involving European History, Economics, Information Technology and International Studies. I enjoyed what I was doing. The work load was heavy as we had to find all our own information from the books in the Library or what had been entered on computers. This was in 1996 and the internet was relatively new then, so books were the main source of information. I was doing great, but after three months my body was seriously complaining once more, so I had to give it up. It took me a good six months to even start feeling like a human being again. It actually took me many years to adjust fully. It was the small jobs like putting my arms out to wash dishes, using circular motion to dry dishes, sideways motion such as ironing, which aggravated the nerve on the shoulder and caused so much ill health! The name given for such an injury is Right Horner's Syndrome, or damage to the right cervical sympathetic nerves. These nerves control blood flow to the limbs. That was another problem. I had to do things slowly or else the blood flow couldn't keep up.
The opportunity to move to my current house came in 1998. I was going to once more have my own garden where I could heal my soul and escape from the years of agony I had encountered. My life was now going to be mine and as I wanted it. I looked out the window at the top of the stairs and I could see the whole garden there, in my mind. And I have developed it just as it was in my mind, exactly.
Q. As you so accurately told me earlier, “We have to at some time come to my obsession with bugs!” This is the time. Tell me about that.
Janet: It really began with developing my garden organically. My first and main interest then was plants. Coming from a warmer climate, I had a passion for tropical looking plants, and I have proven that I can grow some plants which should not be able to survive the cold we get here.
It was fun taking pics of all the flowers I had grown, many from seed or small plants or cuttings. I started to take an interest in the insects which were now visiting my garden and I was happy that I had provided a place for them to come.
Imagine how exciting it was to get those butterflies on a digital camera, then be able to put them on a computer and share them with others. It wasn't only butterflies I was seeing though. I was seeing all sorts of bees too. Some I discovered were flies which looked like bees. I had grown some species, and dwarf Dahlia from seed. On one of the dwarf dahlias I noticed a lot of black aphids. I also noticed other insects and bugs coming to those aphids. There were ants (which feed on the aphids "honey dew"), tiny wasps (which parasitize the aphids) and other plant bugs. I watched with interest. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, discovering a whole new world. I had to know more. I took a keen interest in anything that moved, and had to take it's portrait. Then what was the good of having all these insect and bug pics if I didn't know what they were? I couldn't tell you how many thousands of hours I have spent researching to find out what I have. Likewise I couldn't tell you how many hours I have spent taking the pics, and editing them. On an average day in season, I often take around 150 pics or more. I usually keep around half of those!
Of course there came a time when I had to have a better camera, that meant getting a DSLR. I got my Nikon D40X in September 2007. My son bought it for me. I had a reasonable zoom, 50-200mm, which on this camera is equivalent to 50% more, up to 300mm. That gave me a good opportunity to learn how to use the camera, and if I wanted to take better pics I had to experiment. It was scary, oh no not another thing to have to get to grips with! Where there's a will there's a way, so I duly took up the challenge and studied the manual, and tried using the different programs.
There came a time when I noticed all those huge eyes that I was seeing others getting with their cameras. I had to be able to get those huge bug eyes! After hours of research and trawling the internet, I found I had to have a good Nikon micro or macro lens to use on my camera. Now I can not only get huge eyes, I can get insects as small as 0.5mm long or even less! There is a niggle in my mind that says I want to get even better pics of those very tiny insects, but I'm doing OK. :)
As you can see, my time is now full - full of bugs and lots of fun finding out what I have and how these interact in my garden. Nature has provided a wonderful cyclical food chain. It is under our noses all the time but we don't take much notice. I personally am amazed at how nature has it all down to a “T.” We don't need to listen to those advertisements which constantly try to sell us a fix, to fix what we have unfixed. All we really need to do is leave it to nature. Nature did it first and does it best! I feel privileged to be able to see what is happening under my nose.
Q. Some rapid fire Q&A now, Janet. What do you do with your time when you're not "bugging" in the garden?
Janet: My gosh, how do I have time for anything else? I am totally consumed by my interest. I don't travel well now, but I did once like to drive around Europe. I once drove to Rome! I dislike TV intensely now, but there may be an occasional interesting program I would watch if it was to do with nature, or astronomy.
Q. Do you like to cook?
Janet: I do cook, but as basically as needed. I'm vegetarian. I like fresh veggies and I grow a few of my own. I like my food to be of quality but simply prepared. Keep it simple is my motto. Peeling a fresh banana to eat when just turning ripe is perfect, and little work!
Q. Who would you like to meet (past or present) and why?
Janet: I have no real desire to meet anyone past or present, unless it's a new bug! :)) Hang on, you have me thinking now, long time no think. The one person coming to mind is a man called John Martin, an artist way ahead of his era in the art world. I saw some of his paintings many years ago in the Tate Gallery, I was spellbound by his works while other works did not inspire me at all.
Q. What likes and dislikes do you have.
Janet: I like my peace and solitude. I dislike politicians, too many cars on the road, nuisance neighbors and noise.
Q. What is it that makes you happy?
Janet: At the end of the day I am happy if we have had a reasonably warm, sunny day and I have had a good day's 'take'. Good weather here can disappear for a couple of years before we see it again.
Q. What would you do differently if you could do it over?
Janet: I wouldn't know what I would do different if I could do it over. I usually say I wouldn't like to have to go through all that stuff again. But I do jest that if I have my time again I would become Prime Minister and put all that's wrong to rights.
That is just what is needed, Janet, but I'm afraid it wouldn't allow you much time with your camera! I can't thank you enough for sharing this time with us. I hope it was as interesting for the readers as it was for me. I've decided I might even take a few "bug shots" myself!
Janet will be pleased to chat with our readers in the space below this article. Thanks so very much for visiting us today, and please do visit Janet's Cubit to see her incredible photos.