Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year's End

Today was a quiet day. I spent a bit of it on the treadle machine, joining units for the current mystery quilt. Bonnie surprised me by adding another clue this morning, on top of yesterday's which I had only cut out but not sewn. Anyway, I am all up to date now. I wouldn't be surprised if there is another clue, possibly even the reveal, tomorrow.

Just as I finished sewing, one of our beehives swarmed. That was unexpected, as this hive has only been here since spring, after being captured in Geelong. They seemed happy last time they were looked at, and they had lots of space for growth and honey storage in their current hive.

Fortunately they settled quite low to the ground, in a small blackwood:

While a box was being prepared to catch them in, they moved to a young eucalypt a few metres away:
Still within reach, fortunately. If they had settled in one of our large trees we would have no hope of retrieving them.

New box:

Snip the branch the bees are hanging from, and drop them into the box:

Once they are all in, put the lid on, and wait to see if they will stay in.
In fact they don't seem to want to stay in that box.

Here's how they looked a couple of hours later:
Bees all over the outside of the box, rather than being inside setting up home. The second box on the right was to see if they might just prefer a different one. (The black and white thing in the top right is a magpie taking off).

It is now another 90 minutes or so later, and they are still on the outside of the box. But the sun is setting and it is too late to try anything more with them tonight. We'll see where they are in the morning.

Happy new year, everyone!

Friday, December 29, 2017


This is the 31st week of my temperature-based year quilt:

And here are the temperatures that determined the hexagon colour for each day:

29/12/2017    27.2    orange
28/12/2017    30.8    red
27/12/2017    33.6    red
26/12/2017    29.6    orange
25/12/2017    20.1    yellow
24/12/2017    20.3    yellow
23/12/2017    28.4    orange

Linked to Sarah's Weekly Weather Report.  Check out Sarah's beautiful snow photos.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Mystery Part Five

I was quite slow getting to this week's mystery units. But eventually I could spend some time with them. This week was more flying geese. I did them by the "no waste" four-at-a-time method, although I did waste a bit of fabric as I cut them a little large and trimmed them down.

Last night I got them to this stage:
And today I finished them off:

By my calculations we have now made about 72% of the total area of the quilt, so there is still a way to go.

Linked to the Week 5 link-up at Quiltville here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

More Seedlings

A few more of our TreeProject seedlings are growing. This is our seventeenth year as volunteer growers, raising plants from seed for re-vegetation projects around Victoria. You can read details about how the scheme works on the TreeProject website.

Grey Mallee, Eucalyptus socialis, sown on 5th December, first seedlings up on 24th:
Almost too tiny to see with the naked eye. Actually impossible to see without my glasses!

Moonah, Melaleuca lanceolata, sown 6th December, seedlings first noticeable 24th December:
Had quite possibly been up for a day or two before they were large enough to be seen, as the gravel was quite disturbed even though I couldn't see the plants.

Wallowa, Acacia calamifolia, sown 7th December, first seedling appeared 20th December:
But it was the only one, so I wondered if it was a stray seed that got mixed up in the wrong packet. But five days later more seedlings appeared, and they looked the same:
So it looks like that early-bird seed was in the right place after all.

Now there are only two species left to germinate.

Soup Bowl Cosy

This year the internet seems to be full of microwave bowl cosies. I succumbed and made a few as Christmas gifts.

I found when making my prototype that marking the dart on the cotton batting wasn't easy. So for my production run I made myself a little paper template:
It's hard to see but I drew my quilted lines on the template to aid in positioning it. It isn't pinned in place or anything, I just sewed along the edge.

Pairs ready to sew together:
I rounded off the corners a bit to make them easier to turn out once they are stitched together.

Some of the finished bowl cosies:
These are not easy things to wrap. I included instructions in each parcel. But as the parcels were opened, everyone put the cosy on their head as a hat!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Dog Toys

Today was the last of our Christmas get-togethers and family gatherings. Now we can relax a bit!

It is also Jack's 4th birthday. My son bought squeaky presents for both the dogs. They loved them, but it was really hard to get decent photos of them madly shaking and squeezing the toys to make them squeak:

Great fun!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Week Thirty

Our weather recently has been very nice, except perhaps for Tuesday, which was another magenta day:

22/12/2017    28.9    orange
21/12/2017    25.0    yellow
20/12/2017    22.2    yellow
19/12/2017    35.7    magenta
18/12/2017    33.3    red
17/12/2017    25.4    orange
16/12/2017    26.1    orange

Today was the summer solstice:
  • Summer Solstice Time = 03:27:29
  • Sunrise = 06:00:20
  • Sunset = 20:46:13
However, it wasn't the longest day as yesterday was exactly the same length:
  • Day Duration = 14 Hours 45 Mins 52 Secs
  • Previous Day Duration = 14 Hours 45 Mins 52 Secs
  • Next Day Duration = 14 Hours 45 Mins 49 Secs

And tomorrow will be only 2 seconds shorter, so I don't think we will notice!

Linked to Sarah's Weekly Weather Report, where the other participants are probably all celebrating their shortest day today.

Added later: The day length info is from here. I do not keep those sort of record myself! Also, did you notice the mistake in my maths above? Saturday was actually 3 seconds shorter, not 2.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Flowers and Night Birds

Daylily "Ginny Mitchell" which last flowered in 2011:

The roses are fantastic this year.
One of these roses is "Just Joey", and the other is "Brandy". I think Just Joey is above and Brandy is below. But I could be wrong!


Red hot poker looking amazing:

Spotted while out walking late in the day:
Two southern boobook owls, Ninox boobook. Their red eyes are from the camera flash. The place they roost during the day is above a road, so the droppings that accumulate underneath them are a bit of a give-away to their location. But they aren't easy to see, even when you know they are there.

Back at home, the two tawny frogmouths (Podargus strigoides) last seen across the road, spent the day sleeping on our block today:
I presume it is the same adult and baby, anyway.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Window Frogs

Last night as I was turning off the lights before going to bed, I was stunned to see this creature on the outside of a window at about eye-level:
And then I noticed this one at about knee level on the next window:
The frogs are apparently exploiting the attraction our lights have for insects at night. There are also large black spiders that live around the edges of all our windows for the same reason. But the frogs are much cuter!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

First Seedlings

Ten days after the seeds were sown, the first of our TreeProject seedlings popped up today:
These are Acacia montana, the mallee wattle. There are three seedlings poking out of the gravel in that photo, although it might be hard to see them because two still have their dark seed case covering part of their pinkish leaves. This morning there were none up, this evening there are seedlings showing in 11 of the 48 tubes of this species. These seeds had to be rubbed with sandpaper then soaked in boiling water before sowing, so seeing the first ones appear is good as it means the pre-treatment worked.

There are another 6 boxes (which are of 5 different species) still to show signs of life.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Quick Mystery Unit

Late yesterday I thought I really should make some sort of effort towards Christmas decorations, so here it is:
Wreath quilt on the wall, tree skirt on a table, and a mini fake tree. And lights!

Part four of Bonnie Hunter's mystery went live some time overnight. It was the first thing I looked at when I woke up. The unit has more triangles, but as I've been having triangle trouble the last couple of weeks, I wanted to avoid triangles if I could. I knew there was a "no triangles" method of making this unit, but couldn't remember what it was called. Once I found it, I also found that I used it a few years ago for a previous mystery.

First step, lots of cutting:
But no triangles.

Then some sewing,

some chocolate,

some pressing, and some more sewing, and some more pressing, and I had this:
Still no triangles (except the chocolate).

The next step to make this week's units would be to cut my rectangles something like this:
The pencil isn't at quite the right angle, but you get the general idea. However, I am not going to cut these units apart yet. Of course I don't know what Bonnie has planned for them, but it is quite possible they could turn into something like this:
And if so, it would be a lot easier to sew on the neutrals before cutting the rectangles apart. I will wait and see!

If you want to try this method, you can find instructions by searching for "Mary's Triangles" or "Shaded 4-Patch". Here's one blog post I found with good diagrams.

This clue was much quicker than the last one! Now I can do some of the other sewing I need to finish this week.

Here's Bonnie's link-up for this week. Check it out!

Friday, December 15, 2017


After lunch today I was gazing lazily out the window and noticed something moving along one of our pathways between the trees. I couldn't immediately tell what it was; I didn't have the right glasses on. But suddenly it hit me, and I grabbed my camera and phone and headed out to lodge another report with Echidna-CSI:
Of course it dug itself into the ground when it heard me approach. We've seen plenty of evidence of echidna activity around the block, but it is rare to see one wandering around. This may be the second one we've seen, but I think it is the first one I've photographed actually on our property.

This week has been quite a contrast to the previous one, temperature-wise:
Last week (week 28) on the left, this week (week 29) on the right. Here are this week's temperatures:

15/12/2017    27.2    orange
14/12/2017    25.1    orange
13/12/2017    36.2    magenta
12/12/2017    29.9    orange
11/12/2017    24.2    yellow
10/12/2017    23.5    yellow
9/12/2017      21.8    yellow

A lot warmer all week. Wednesday was the first hot day of summer. We skipped right over red to reach magenta! Magenta is for temperatures between 35.1 and 40 C. (95 to 104 F).

I took the above photograph outside, as the colours in the flash photos taken indoors never seem to be quite right. Below is an indoor picture of the whole 29 weeks so far:

I'll have to take the whole thing outside one of these weeks, and get a clearer picture.

Sarah has her internet problem sorted out, so I can link up to her Weekly Weather Report once again.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mystery Week Three

In between all the outings and yesterday's hot weather, I've been trying to master this week's mystery clue.

I've got some lovely coral and peach daylilies:

But I don't have lovely coral and neutral units! I worked out how to cut them, and chain-pieced them happily on my Singer 66 treadle:
I treated all those bias edges with extreme care, not pressing the units until both sides were stitched. BUT, when I came to measure the units, they were all over the place. The biggest problem seemed to be that the neutral fabric shifted slightly. The ones in this photo were mostly OK, but the ones that faced the opposite direction were a disaster. I sewed them with the neutral underneath, and nearly half of them came out badly:

In an attempt to solve that problem, I fixed up a few duds this way:
I unpicked the offending triangles and cut new ones from a strip a bit wider. I sewed them on with the same seam allowance but without attempting to line them up at either end. After this photo I trimmed them down to size. No more problems with slipping triangles! It is a little wasteful of fabric, but not as wasteful as sewing unit after unit that just don't work.

I've fixed all I could by unpicking and adding larger triangles. That gave me all I need of one type of these units. But I need to completely re-make about 15 of the other type. I'm really over this clue! I hope the next one gives me less hassle than I have been having up until now.

Linked up just in time to the week three collection at Quiltville.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Day Two at Sovereign Hill

On our free second day we saw a few more of the attractions.

We weren't really the only people there today, but it wasn't crowded. That's an advantage of being able to avoid the school holidays.

The beautiful clydesdales being harnessed up:

The Chinese temple in the diggings area:
I don't remember that being there on my previous visits. It seems the Chinese participation in the gold rush is treated more respectfully these days.

A giant gunnera in a garden I didn't notice yesterday:
We'd probably have room for one of those here somewhere... However it is weedy in some parts of the world so maybe not a good idea.

Wheel manufacture. The process of turning chunks of wood into wheels is fascinating. There is a steam-powered machine for just about every process. This amazing machine is turning round pilot holes (drilled by a different machine) into rectangular ones to hold the spokes:
A pair of chisels alternately drive down into the wooden hub, and move apart from each other as they enlarge the rectangular hole. It is incredibly fast, and the ingenuity of the inventor is astounding.

This machine shapes the outer ends of the spokes so the rim pieces can be attached:
It can do the whole wheel in about 45 seconds, but the operator only does a couple for each demonstration. I wasn't fast enough to get a photo of the shavings flying off either of them!
The finished wheels are ornamental, and are for sale for $500 each. But they do also make wheels for the carriages in use in the park.

Timber bending is not a regular attraction, but we were lucky that it was happening today. In less than a minute a big lump of wood (which had been steamed for some hours) was turned from flat:
 Sorry about all the people's heads - this was a popular attraction.
And the blurry photo - I'm obviously not an action photographer. And there's no second chances because it happens so fast.

Now it's a semi-circle!
 It will stay in the machine overnight to cool.

Over the course of the two days we did lots of other activities, including taking an underground mine tour, eating a Devonshire tea, watching the Redcoats firing muskets (very loud!) and visiting all the shops and schools. It was really nice to spread the activities over two days rather than feeling we had to rush around like crazy things to see everything. It was a fantastic couple of days!