Thursday, September 29, 2011

Visit From A Council Officer

This year I've met lots of people from my local council. I've been to see them about proposed development next door, I've participated in two quilting workshops for council staff, then put their quilt together for them. Then there were various calls and visits with the animal control officer when my dog was attacked.

Today I met the Environmental Health Technical Officer. She came to visit me because one of my neighbours was stung by a bee and complained to the council.

For "privacy reasons" she couldn't say who complained, or when they were stung, but I have an idea.

On Sunday evening a swarm of bees settled in a callistemon right at the back of my yard. After a lot of funny-in-hindsight antics, we caught the swarm, and it is currently living in this make-shift bee hive:
Each night this box is moved a metre or so back towards the original hive, which is behind the trellis fence in the background.

While all the hilarity was in progress, I could hear the neighbours over the back fence out in their yard. I don't know what they were doing, but they seemed a bit excited about something (bee-related maybe?). They also had a bright light shining on their back verandah, which really they should have turned off. Did you know that, like moths, bees are attracted to lights at night? They are normally tucked up safe asleep in their hive, but if you start disturbing a swarm, some of the bees will definitely fly towards any bright light in the vicinity. Just ask the person who was holding the torch (and not wearing a bee suit)...

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the council officer was very happy that all legislation, regulations and by-laws about bee-keeping are being complied with in my back yard. The neighbours have nothing to complain about.

And the bees look like they are settling in to the temporary box (despite the fact that it is not weather-proof, and we've had pouring rain for the last two days), so we may have to get a proper hive for them soon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Is This Block?

Recently I've seen these blocks on a few people's blogs. No-one credited a designer, or even said what the block was called, so I don't know where it came from, and I haven't yet worked out the correct search term to find out. Does anyone know where this design originated? I'd appreciate it if you could let me know in the comments, please.
Whatever it is called, I was intrigued and wanted to give it a go. That's four 36-patch blocks I made this afternoon.

Because I haven't seen any instructions for the block, I did it my own way, which took me about 40 minutes to make each block. That included only about 10 minutes of sewing:

And another 10 minutes or so of pressing:

Cutting those 36 squares took the first 20 minutes, and I was working with pre-cut strips. If you were starting from scratch I'd allow a bit more than that.

However, it was easy, mindless piecing, and a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. And I've still got plenty of strips left, so I'm sure I'll make some more of these blocks soon.

Thanks to your comments, and a little more focused googling, I found the original source of the blocks I'd seen on other people's blogs. It is Bonnie Hunter's Scrappy Trip Around The World. There is a major difference in the way she makes the block (compared with what I did) which reduces the time spent cutting considerably. After seeing hers, I revisited the blogs I'd seen to see if they had made their blocks Bonnie's way, and yes, they have. Funnily enough, as I was making it I wondered about doing it that way, and dismissed it. I should have looked more closely at the blog pictures that inspired me! If you can't see the difference, the main one is that my block uses 11 different fabrics, and Bonnie's uses only 6. But now I've started doing this the hard way, I'll probably keep going.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Opening the hive to check on how it is going since last week's swarm (and a secondary swarm last night which we hope we caught this time - more on that later).
That's a bunch of drones sitting on top of the queen-excluder. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you might be able to see the difference between the drones and the workers - there are a couple of workers in this picture. Drones have bigger eyes than worker bees, as well as bigger bodies. They don't have stingers, though.

No egg-laying is happening in this hive yet. Either there is a new queen who isn't mature enough yet, or there is no queen. Stay tuned for further updates as they come to hand!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Top Done

It's a long way from being a quilt, but late today I finished piecing the top.
It's squarer than it looks; there's a slight breeze moving it, and I hadn't ironed the last borders on the sides because the light was fading fast.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Steam Trip

Some pictures from a wonderful day out to take a ride on the Victorian Goldfields Railway:

Hanging Rock (no picnic today).

Gorgeous gazania at Maldon station.

Paulownia plantation in flower

Oh yes, and there was a train too.
It chugs between Maldon and Castlemaine slowly enough for you to enjoy the scenery and the wildflowers beside the track.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Knock Knock

This yellow admiral (Vanessa itea) butterfly looked stunning sitting in my jasmine, feeding from a flower. But by the time I pulled out my camera, it had fluttered off to the fly-wire door. Not such a pretty backdrop!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eighty Minutes

Last time it took 90 minutes to walk home, but I was a bit faster today.
Lovely white blossom on the street trees on the first part of the walk

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Good-Bye, Little Snowman

I didn't want it to be true, but it looks like another of my eucalypts has fallen victim to the saturated soil in my backyard.
This is Eucalyptus pauciflora "Little Snowman", which is supposed to have glossy leaves, not these bleached looking ones. There is no sign of the new shoots which one would expect in spring. The leaves on the lowest branches are definitely dead, these higher ones just look sick.

A few Gum-Leaf Skeletoniser caterpillars (Uraba lugens) are still finding some nutrition in the leaves:
I wonder if they will make it to pupae stage before the tree dries out?

I don't think there are any leaks anywhere on my property. The water must be coming from one of my neighbours, but I don't know how to work out where. I have one eucalypt left, which is looking a bit ragged, but which is about to flower. Only time will tell if that's a good thing, or if it is flowering as a last effort to reproduce before it too expires.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Not True Blue

Last week I helped a friend with a computer problem, and to thank me she presented me with a bunch of Dutch irises. At that stage none of the flowers were open; only a hint of their purple colour was visible. But now they are bursting open and looking fantastic:
Of course the camera doesn't like their colour, washing them out a bit and turning them blue instead of their true deep purple.  Imagine them more like this:                                         

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Change Of Plans

I had a few things I was going to do today, but this morning my bees swarmed.

I heard a yell that there was a swarm, so I grabbed my camera and ran outside, but by the time I got there they'd flown too far for me to see without my distance glasses on. Apparently it was pretty impressive.

So instead of going out anywhere, we had to open up the hive and see if there was a problem.
Lots of honey!

There are many busy bees still in the hive, and they've got some queen cells growing. As all the frames in the hive were full, an extra super was added, to give the bees room to expand.

All being well, one of the queen cells will become the new queen of my hive. But it will take a while for her to develop, so we won't know for sure if everything is OK for about a month.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Variegated Freesia

This variegated freesia is new this year in my garden. I didn't plant it, so I'm assuming it must be the result of a cross between some of my other freesias. It's very nice, so I hope it comes back again in future years.

In other news, I managed to get some of my triangle border sewn today, but it's not worth a photograph yet.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pretty Hot Pink

On my front verandah I have a succulent which came from a garage sale further down the street. It looks pretty raggedy; I think it had survived on nothing for the last few years. I'm not sure what it is, but it is a red-leaved ground-covering plant. Perhaps a kalanchoe of some variety?

Today I noticed it was looking redder, so went over to take a closer look, and discovered this:
Several attractive deep pink flowers, and lots of buds all over it. Very pretty!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Full Set

About lunch-time today I was surprised by a phone call to say my glasses were ready. Hooray!

Now I have the full set. From the bottom; close reading, computer/sewing machine, driving, and the ones I will wear all the rest of the time, non-prescription sunnies that make the world look all golden!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Triangle Try-Out

Took the hexagon quilt along to my quilting group to get opinions on completing the borders:
I need to cut some dark-grey and black triangles, but that will have to wait for now.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Attracting Birds to My Backyard

Some years ago, I demolished the garage which took up a third of my backyard, and planted native trees to attract native birds. I hoped that one day, rainbow lorikeets or crimson rosellas might stop in my yard for a feed instead of just flying over on their way to somewhere more attractive.

I also added a birdbath, which does get a lot of use. Although mainly from sparrows, blackbirds, starlings (all European) and even spotted doves (Asian).

I even have some blackbirds building a nest in my lemon tree (which looks like it needs a feed):

The grevilleas and eucalypts do attract native birds, but apparently there is now something in my backyard which attracts birds in a way I wasn't expecting. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a willy wagtail in the backyard for the first time ever. And I've seen it a few times since. Why is it suddenly visiting? And today, a red wattlebird spent a lot of time in the backyard, but it wasn't anywhere near the nectar-producing plants I planted for it. I'm sorry there are no pictures of this, but of course when I stood up from my weeding to go inside and get my camera, the wattlebird flew off and didn't return.

First the bird made several swooping flights across the yard, grabbing insects on the wing. Then it gradually realised where those insects were coming and going from; the beehive! So it just sat on the fence around the beehive and made short flights to grab bees right at the entrance to the hive. Much easier! It even sat on top of the hive watching the bees for a while.

I didn't even know that wattlebirds ate insects, did you?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dreaming Of Sewing

Today I bought this summery Burda magazine:
It has a few patterns in it that I'd like to make.

But that's just a dream for the moment.
I have to wait for the glasses that are designed for sewing; with these ones, the machine is a blur!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shopping Around

After several months of not being able to see clearly enough to sew, I had my eyes tested last week. But then I had to visit two other optometrist branches before I found frames that were comfortable. Today I picked up my reading glasses, and next week the ones I will use for sewing and computer work should be ready.  I'm looking forward to that!
Here they are sitting on some fabric I found at one nearby fabric shop, on a table marked $2 per metre. The saleslady told me that only meant "From $2 per metre", but I got her to scan it anyway. Yes, it really was only $2, so I bought the rest of the roll while the saleslady shook her head and muttered about bargains. I think she was wishing she had seen it first! The camera isn't representing the colours well.

In the other nearby fabric shop, I saw this:
Those large cutting mats sell for about $60 each, and are clearly labelled that they must be stored flat. Looks like several hundred dollars of ruined inventory!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


My freesias seem a bit later than some others in the neighbourhood this year, but this one surprised me by growing a flower stem about 50cm tall, and suddenly appearing amongst the branches of a crepe myrtle.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Enjoying The Warmth

Scruff relaxing after her first haircut of the warm season.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tree Planting Day

Remember the seedlings that were planted in February, started germinating only a week later, then grew and grew then left two weeks ago?

Here they are today, ready to be planted out:

And here's the very first one I planted:
The (unused) milk carton protects the seedling until it gets going. The empty pot gets collected at the end of the day, to be re-used next year. But you can just see a Eucalyptus viminalis peeking out of the top of the carton. And in the distance, you can see some TreeProject trees planted about six years ago.

Five of us worked for about two hours:

Until about 200 of the seedlings were in their permanent homes:

After lunch, we took some cows for a walk, and admired trees which have all grown from seedlings which the landholder started planting in 1998:
Much nicer to look at than the freeway, which is just to the left behind the trees!

So here is the seedlings' new home:

View Larger Map

Time to head back to the big smoke, but not before a stop in Kyneton to wander amongst the daffodils. There these tiles on a pub wall caught my eye:

Now it is time for a quiet evening, then I think I will sleep well tonight!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Happy Spring!

This morning was a bit cool and grey, but by lunchtime the sun came out, and it really did feel like the first day of spring.

Here's one of my bees about to make sure I get lots of blood-plums this year:
And here's some less welcome insects making a nice colour contrast with the new red leaves on my roses: