Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaping Towards Autumn

Happy leap day! I spent the last day of summer dressed for autumn. This afternoon I made a second test pot-holder:
The previous one lets too much heat through in certain circumstances, so this time I've used one layer of Vilene Thermolam and one layer of cotton batting. The combination should give more protection from the heat, but it does make it quite puffy. Stay tuned for further test results.

Added later: I forgot to mention that this block is not my own design. It's "Stargazey Daisiez" by Jan Mullen, although the petals that don't line up are entirely my fault, because I didn't read her instructions carefully enough!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Identifying Photos

I smiled when I opened my letterbox today, because this was in it:
Why was I so happy to receive this issue of a serious scientific journal? Because one of the photographs on the front cover is mine! It's the one at the top right, which I took near La Trobe uni in April last year.

Professor Dick Vane-Wright, the author of a paper in this issue (about variation in the Meadow Argus, Junonia villida), found my photo and emailed me to ask if he could use it. I never expected a photo of mine to be useful to a real live scientist, but it shows you what can happen if you identify the wildlife in your photos.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Back Lane Beauties

While out walking the dogs in the evening, I came across these amazing plants in a back lane:
This staghorn (Platycerium bifurcatum) is looking a little scorched in places, which is not surprising given the heat of the last couple of days and the harsh environment it is growing in - surrounded by galvanised iron. But it is close to two metres from top to bottom.
Bird's nest fern (Asplenium of some variety) also looking a little scorched. Again, not surprising in the circumstances. But how many years do you think it has taken to develop that trunk?

Both of these plants have obviously been there for a very very long time. It doesn't look like an ideal place to grow tropical ferns, but whoever owns them obviously knows what they are doing.

And for anyone I've spoken to in the last week and told the story of the back lane, the bulbs, the neighbour and the webcam, this person obviously has nicer neighbours!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sitting Quietly

I stayed inside and did some quiet sewing, and let summer do its thing outside.

I'm still experimenting with the pentagon shape. Does this look spiral-like?
Now I'm wondering what background would work with this. Should I go with something light, dark, or what? I might make a few more before I decide; it will be summer again tomorrow.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pretty Weed

In a front yard near my tram-stop there are several standard plants covered with these attractive purple and white flowers:
The bees love them; as I'm going to work the shrubs are covered in bees feasting on nectar. The plant is Duranta erecta, a native of the tropical Americas, which is an invasive weed in Queensland and other places. Apparently the leaves and berries are toxic to at least some mammals (including humans), but according to the Weeds Australia page, bats spread the seed. So fruit bats presumably aren't affected by the toxin?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Town Hall Flowers

Met some quilting friends in the city for lunch and a bit of "stitch'n'bitch" (no bitching, really). Some of us were quite taken with the begonia towers outside the Town Hall.
We had to go and investigate how they worked. They are actually in giant tiered planters, and each of those towers is composed of many plants. As a quick unscientific estimate, I'd say there could be 100 plants in each one.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


This photo is to show a friend that this afternoon I finished what I told her this morning I was going to do:
Clear space in my sewing room, with the help of some organisational items both purchased (the pink rack in the background holding my rulers) and scavenged (the plastic drawers in the foreground which were assembled from two separate rubbish finds).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Are You A Robot?

If you have tried commenting on any Blogger blogs lately, (such as this one), you may have noticed they've changed the captcha. It now asks you to "Please prove you're not a robot", and presents two frequently unreadable words, often including some punctuation that you don't know if you are meant to type in or not. I have had to try at least twice to enter any comments on blogs with the new captcha. It is all very well having something that machines can't read, but if humans can't either what is the point? All it means is that people will stop leaving comments, which would be a shame because I like reading comments.

So I've turned off the captcha on this blog. If I get over-run with spam comments, I may have to reconsider, but for now it's gone.

Meanwhile the garden gets on with doing its thing without having to worry about whether people are human or robots. Loropetalum chinense (fringe flower) flowers mainly from late winter to early spring then sporadically through summer, but both mine have more flowers on them now than they did in spring.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Soldier Beetle

A solitary soldier beetle, (probably the plague soldier beetle, Chauliognathus lugubris) strolls across a pumpkin leaf.
Glad there was just one rather than a collection like those on the Museum Victoria site here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

More Seeds, More Babies

Today I planted the four remaining boxes of TreeProject seeds. They are all Eucalyptus viminalis - manna gums. So now I have the full set of seven boxes of 48 tubes; potentially 336 trees. Here's how the previous boxes are going less than two weeks after sowing.

About 14 of the swamp gum (Eucalyptus ovata) tubes have tiny plants now, all of which have come up since Thursday:
They really are tiny. That one is only about 1mm across.

The black wattles (Acacia mearnsii) are the most vigorous so far. At least 30 tubes now have little plants. Here's one showing the colour once they start growing - still a touch of red, but the leaves are not as red as the cotyledons:
The black wattle plants mainly come up with their seed covers still on, looking quite cute:

Lastly there are the wirildas (Acacia retinoides). Only 3 of these are up so far. I didn't get a clear picture of any of them, but I'm including this one just for comparison with the mearnsii. The wirilda starts life green:

Stay tuned for further updates as my little forest grows!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

First Babies

The first of the TreeProject seedlings are coming up already. About 25% of the Acacia mearnsii (black wattle) tubes have seedlings coming up:
Those that have popped out of their seed cases all have these reddish leaves. I haven't seen leaves this colour on any acacias I've grown in previous years, so it will be interesting to see how long they remain red.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Something From Nothing

Yesterday when I was sorting out a corner of my sewing room, I discovered that I had accumulated more batting off-cuts in the last 10 months than I had realised. I must have finished a few quilts! These were narrow strips trimmed from quilts before adding the binding. Most were about 7 to 10cms wide. So I dug out the magic strip basket, and started making some QAYG blocks.
I had enough batting off-cuts to make 13 blocks (one is hiding), which I completed today. All the fabric, including the backing, came out of the strip basket. Someone had donated a few larger pieces of fabric, which I was able to cut up and use for the backing with only a little piecing. They're not beautiful blocks, but when they get to Jan Mac, she will combine them with others to end up with useful quilts. Her final total last year was 543 quilts donated!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hunting the Hunter

This large wasp was buzzing around in my garden for a while this afternoon, looking for something:
Just taking a rest on a rose leaf before continuing the search.

It's a spider-hunting wasp, Heterodotonyx bicolor, and it was looking for a spider such as a huntsman. When it finds one, it will sting and paralyse it, lay an egg in it, then seal it in an underground burrow. When the egg hatches, the larva will feed on the (still alive) spider. Doesn't that sound like the plot of a very scary horror story?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Trip to Tyabb

It was a nice day for a trip out of town. Tyabb is apparently the "antiques capital of the Mornington Peninsula"(!) and there is lots to look at. The Packing House antique centre is huge, and there is another small antique place in the main street. A little to the west along Mornington-Tyabb Rd there is The Vintage Shed, with one building devoted to clothing and textiles. In Moorooduc on the same road is The Bottom Drawer. Tyabb's fish and chip shop, Fatties, sorry, Flatties, make very tasty food, but the park could do with some seats.

At the Vintage Shed I found (but didn't buy) this French magazine with an Elna Grasshopper on the front cover (I have one of these machines):
"Arts Ménagers" (could be translated as Home Economics) from February 1951.

The only thing I did buy was a length of batik:
It's stamped rather than hand-drawn, but the colours appealed to me. It is lovely soft fabric, and a big enough piece to actually make something with it.

Google Nightmare

Have you ever tried to open your blog and been told that it has been deleted?

Have you ever tried to open your email and been told that it has been locked due to suspicious activity?

It's not fun.

Here's something nicer:
Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) in my garden this week. This dark pink one flowers later than the others.

You can unlock your email account by providing a mobile number which has not been "used up".  Google will send you an unlocking code by SMS. Unfortunately my mobile was "used up" a few years ago when they added the mobile number requirement with no warning and I had a class full of students in the process of creating Gmail accounts and only one mobile in the room - mine. I haven't used Gmail for email classes since that Google nightmare.

Something else nice:
Scaevola flowering in my garden this week. Colour not quite as in real life - the usual purple problem.

You also have the option of having the unlocking code sent to a fixed-line phone. But Google didn't like the way I entered the number. No clues on how they wanted it formatted, just that I was formatting it incorrectly. Did they need the country code? Should I put the "0" in the area code or not? Google wasn't going to tell me.

Anyway, I'm back, and I have no idea what suspicious activity caused Google to lock my email and "delete" my blog. But I'm feeling a little nervous. And I just changed my default search engine to Bing.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pot-Holder Trial

Apparently the owl and koala oven mitts I made using the Saffron Craig fabric are too nice to use.
So this is a test pot-holder using one layer of Vilene Thermolam fleece. I'm not sure if one layer is enough, so this one will undergo some rigorous testing before I make replacements for the owl and the koala.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Three Boxes Sown

The wirilda (Acacia retinoides) and black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) seeds which soaked overnight are now in their boxes, along with some swamp gums (Eucalyptus ovata).
The remaining four boxes are manna gums, but they don't need to be sown for another 10 days or so.

I also spent a little time updating my fabric inventory, and I finally did the hem on a dress which has been hanging around since January.  Some January, anyway.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Preparing the Acacia Seeds

Acacia seeds need some treatment before they will germinate. In nature, a bushfire does the job. At home, you can pour boiling water on them then leave them to soak overnight:
Tomorrow they will be sown.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Runny Honey

Honey flows out of the extractor rapidly on days like this:
The lighter-coloured lumpy bits are pieces of wax that are strained out before the honey is bottled.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Here's proof I finished my dress yesterday - I wore it to work today!
Photo taken in bathroom mirror at work. Sorry about the grainy, out-of-focus nature of it, but if I'd used the flash you wouldn't have seen anything! Apologies too for the lack of a smile, but the shot where I remembered to smile was even more out of focus than this one!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

First Naked Lady

Got a bit of sewing done today, and also just about finished the computer re-install. Late in the day I discovered the first Amaryllis belladonna bulb has come up and opened before I even noticed.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blurry But Cute

In March last year I was given this succulent, which Dee from Dewdrops And Dragonflies helped me identify as a Cyanotus somaliensis. Once I knew what it was, I knew it would have cute flowers some time.
Here's its first flower. Very cute, and quite tiny, but not quite in focus (which I didn't realise until it was too late to take another picture).