Monday, 31 December 2007

The Last Post....for 2007

Some considerable time ago I cut a small piece from one of the magazines that come with the weekend papers. It caught my fancy at the time and has been pinned to a variety of notice boards ever since. As the end of the year approaches, and one makes resolutions for the next, it seems a good time to share it. Steve Jobs, the co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Apple Inc. said this to a group of Stanford University graduates, but I'm not sure when as there is no date on this scrap of paper.

" Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition."

Wishing you all the best for the coming year - health, happiness, and inspiration for unique work, what ever it is you like to create.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

January Journal Quilt - Seasons

I completed this last night, the first of the Journal Quilts for the Aust NZ Art Quilters 12 month challenge - the theme was "Seasons" and could be interpreted in anyway one liked. It has a hand painted background, machine and hand applique, machine quilting with plain and variegated thread and some embroidery. The silk flowers are attached only in the centres, so stand proud of the rest of the quilt.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Too darn hot!!

What a contrast to Christmas Day when it was cold enough to light the fire and wear a jumper. I hate the heat - I think the temperature here reached about 34 degrees, and I know there will have been much hotter places in the state, but it was way beyond my comfort zone. At least now there is a cool breeze, my doors are open, the ceiling fan going and hopefully the house will cool down by the time I go to bed.

I worked in the garden for a few hours from about 6.30 this morning, pulling weeds and cutting back the exuberant summer perennials that had been flattened by more than four inches of rain that fell in the storms of last week. We still need more rain as the garden is dry in patches and my trees look stressed. This was a shot of my 22,500 litre water tank overflowing in the rain - it was a shame to see it being wasted, but there is enough now to sparingly water the garden and save some in case of bush fires.

Benefits of the warmer weather? My raspberries continue to ripen and I have just picked a big bowl, frozen some and taken the rest to friends for their dinner. The big dog kept me company and ate any I dropped as well as gently picking those she could reach herself. So much for her being a raspberry guard dog!

The other good thing is that I have been working on the January Journal Quilt for the Aust - NZ Art Quilt group and am very happy with the way it is progressing. No photos yet, but it might be finished tonight and I shall photograph it tomorrow.

Delores the little baby chook is doing well. Her adopted Mother is now taking her out into the main hen run to show her how to scratch and find yummy stuff to eat, while protecting her with much clucking and ruffling of feathers, from the mean Gladys. It is very sweet to watch the chick stay so close, and the way in which the art of mothering has come so naturally to Dorothea and transformed her behaviour.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Christmas 2007

After weeks of hectic activity in the garden and house preparing for an influx of house guests and visitors, Christmas has come and gone, and things can get back to normal. It was a wonderful day with fourteen family members and friends sitting down to a lunch that ended after 6 pm. We all ate and drank our fill, shared great company and simple gifts, laughed at the contents of huge red crackers made by my daughter, and had a thoroughly splendid time. The cooking was shared between three of us, and two others were responsible for the special decorations which made my big room look like a dining room at the Windsor!

One of my gifts was this gorgeous little chicken, a Rhode Island Red cross, who came from Vic Market on Christmas Eve in a shoe box - constantly chirping its little heart out. Already named Delores by friends of my daughter, she was gently tucked under her new mother Dorothea, the broody chicken on the page below, at night, and seemed to know exactly what to do despite having been hatched in an incubator. The plaster egg and golf balls were removed from the nest, and by the next morning Dorothea was behaving like a proud and protective mother, clucking at her new baby and anyone else that comes near. They have had a couple of days in the nest box, but today ventured out into the main run. Most of the chickens are not interested, but one is a bit aggressive and might harm the little one. I have installed an upended wire crate a few inches off the ground as a haven for the chick, and have seen her rush under it if she is frightened, so fingers crossed that she will survive this new big and scary world. Mother chook is staying very close, shepherding her around the pen, showing her what to eat and ruffling her feathers if she feels the baby is threatened. I shall keep you posted on her progress...

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Pesky Birds

Imagine a scene from' The Bill' or 'CSI', where a squad of police are walking across a field in a line searching for clues at a murder scene. Now imagine the same scene with ducks instead of people – common Australian Wood Ducks - more than thirty of them waddling along, mumbling to each other as they raise insects ahead of them in their search for food and leaving copious quantities of dark green slimy poo where they have been. This is the time of year when families seem to gather together with their new offspring in large flocks and this morning they again visited me. Charming you think? Definitely not! Early this morning they traversed my vegetable patch, stripping young Broccoli plants to their stalks, removing the centres from the Sweet Corn and eating the lettuces. Secondly the Pink Dog loves to roll in their evil smelling green poo when I'm not looking, she did and she then needed a bath.

I have a 4 metre long row of Raspberry canes along a fence, and this year promises the best crop ever. Two days ago, noticing that a very few were beginning to colour, I immediately rushed to find the bird netting and quickly covered them thinking I had beaten the birds at last. Earlier today, my attention was drawn by the loud squawking of a young Currawong sitting on the fence, demanding attention. Its Mother was somehow getting Raspberries through the netting and had been feeding it for breakfast! I have since picked all the ripe ones and readjusted the netting. I'm thinking of tethering the big dog, who hates birds nearby to protect the rest of the crop.

Pathetic rather than pesky – Dorothea the Light Sussex chook has been broody for about three weeks, and is sitting with great determination on a plaster egg! She is looking poorly, missing feathers and very pale, leaving the nest box only to feed late in the day. Oddly the other chickens squeeze in beside her to lay their eggs and today I retrieved three from under her warm fluff. I know they were not all hers as some were white and she lays brown ones.

Pesky bird story #4. When my fruit trees were covered with blossom there was a series of heavy frosts and no fruit developed on the pears, plums, cherries, quince and most of the apples as a result. One old Granny Smith tree seemed lucky enough to escape the damage and was covered with small apples a few days ago. I mean hard, green bitter apples less than 2 cms in diameter. I thought it would soon be time to net it, but I am too late. They are all now lying on the ground beneath the tree, many untouched but most with a small bite out of one side. I blame the beautiful but very destructive Scarlet Rosellas that abound in the area.

The first one thousand....

One thousand hits on my Blog since I started in August - small numbers in comparison with some but very pleasing for this Blogger to know that people are reading my posts and coming back for more. It is a challenge to regularly write words that others might enjoy, or to post a photo of interest, and to try to make the Blog a bit more than just a chronicle of day to day life in the country. There are even a few subscribers who want to be notified when there is a new entry, so it must be working a little? The site meter tells me that many of the visitors are from Australia and NZ, but there have been others from places such as Hungary, Lithuania, Spain, France, Germany, Canada, the US and UK, who spend time reading pages and I wonder how they found the Blog in the first place!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Basket of goodies

Today has been cool and cloudy, we have had some good rain yesterday, the garden is looking refreshed and the grass is no doubt shooting up again. It would perhaps be a good day for working outside, but I felt the need to make something instead. This is the result.

These are birthday gifts for my Daughter-in-law who is just beginning to sew again. Some time back I gave her a treasured 20 year old Swiss made sewing machine as it had been superceeded by a newer version. When I last visited I saw zipped cushions she made with it and my son told me she is keen to do more for their home and perhaps herself now she has a reliable machine. Those that quilt or sew usually have all sorts of gadgets, numerous pairs of scissors for specific purposes, needle keepers, acres of fabric and haberdashery, work baskets and various storage systems - this lovely girl has none of that - so far.
I bought a simple 12 inch square cane shopping basket, lined it with cotton sateen curtain lining trimmed with a gorgeous black and floral Japanese quilting fabric that matches a pincushion and needle case. I hope she likes it and is encouraged to continue creating all sorts of splendid things in fabric. I also hope she does not read this blog before I can give it all to her!!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Once upon a time, a long time ago.....

Thirty-two years ago today, without telling family or friends, I married a man I had known for three years in a civil ceremony at the Registry Office, wearing a blue dress bought at the now defunct Georges and wonderful shoes with T-bar straps and three inch heels. He was so different from all those other blokes I had known, of European background, highly trained in a skilled profession, very tall, good looking, funny, clever, unconventional and a little eccentric. The good times lasted a few years and brought two children who became my life as the marriage failed and the man played away from home. It lasted a few more years and then we went our separate ways after each paying vast sums of money to the legal profession to sort out the nitty gritty of our times together. A sad, painful and difficult time which has left some marks, and from which it took another long time for all of us to mend and go forward. I hope I no longer bear any grudges - but no matter what, I know that without him I would not be the mother of two fine young people who are successfully making their own way in the world in their chosen professions and who give me great joy. One of them has a birthday tomorrow....... may it be a happy day.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

No idle hands for me....

As I browse my favourite textile and quilting Blogs it seems many creative people are reviewing the past year's achievements and planning, with great resolve, for the next - I'm finding interesting lists of things yet to be completed, projects planned and various tempting challenges issued for the coming year. I don't have much in the way of UFOs, except for the fussy cut and hand pieced hexagon quilt that has been underway for more years than I can remember, however that has never prevented me from starting exciting new or different stuff!

I have joined the Aust-NZ Art Quilters Journal Project as well as the Unique Stitching Art Quilt Challenge that will raise money for the NSW Cancer Council. I was too late discovering Sharon B's wonderful Take a Stitch Tuesday to participate, but will be doing her Take it Further Challenge and hopefully might be able to combine it with the Journal quilts. In addition, my niece has been promised a quilt for her January wedding and no doubt, other projects will pop up along the way, and then there is the garden .......2008 promises to be as busy and over committed as 2007, but would you want it any other way?

Today's photo is of Oriental Poppy seed heads - the poppies were self sown in my vegetable patch where I had planted peas. I did not get round to weeding them out so you can guess which plants won!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

The little frog is a tree frog called Litoria ewingii, quite common in NSW, Victoria and certainly around here. I often find them in the garden, under plants or sitting in the cool shady dampness of a pot plant. In the evening and particularly when is it wet the sounds of their calls from around the big dam are almost deafening.

More activity in the garden today - I harvested my brown onions and tried the emulate the plaited ropes of onions I can recall from my childhood - not sure they look quite the same, but these will now be stored in the garage where they will dry out a bit more, and last for many months. In their place are planted dwarf green beans, sweet corn and a couple more tomato plants. The tomatoes are varieties from seeds (legally) brought back from the US and Ireland some years ago. I did not think that they would still be viable, but was delighted when they germinated. I hope the growing season will be long enough in this cool area for them to fruit.

I also spent a couple of hours watering my trees - rain is likely and my water tank is already full, as I cannot bear to see it overflowing, I water before, or even during rain, to make more room in the tank! My nine new fruit trees are thriving as a result.
Finally, just because she is gorgeous for a such very short time, and only flowers once, a photo of the old rose "Albertine' that climbs through a flowering cherry tree and over the back gate.
The fragrance is strong and it is humming with bees.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Froggy and the Gov

This evening when I went to pick some rhubarb I found this tiny frog curled up tight in the centre of a giant rhubarb leaf - it looked very cosy and snug fitting into the concave space where the stem becomes the leaf and was not the slightest bit distressed by having my camera so up close and personal. I'm sure the scientist in the family will identify it for us.

I have not been doing much sewing or quilting recently, but spending every spare minute in the garden, trying to make it look less feral so that the Christmas guests will enjoy the view as well as their lunch on my large front veranda. The new pergola is part of this beautification, but I'm sorry to say the builder has not built it according to plan, so it will have to be dismantled and redone. Now we who sew know the importance of measuring, squaring up and getting angles correct or things do not fit...the builder may be able to build houses, and perhaps he felt a garden structure was less important, but he failed to align the posts correctly and so the cross beams were in the wrong place too. Tomorrow it comes down and will need to be done again - I hope it is correct second time around or else the timber will look like Swiss cheese!
I have made a couple of post cards for an online swap, and after the above comment perhaps I should not show them as they too are not totally correct. The central design is printed and not quite on the straight of the fabric, but I still like the effect and perhaps one could imagine viewing these with a bit too much Christmas cheer??

I had the pleasure of meeting the Governor of Victoria today, Professor Dr David Kretser, who was in our area at the invitation of the local Shire, and the guests at the afternoon tea were "those who had contributed" to the local community. He was a delightful man, friendly and unpretentious, there was little formality as he chatted with us all. We were talking about the water situation, and I asked if Government house had any rain water tanks. Apparently there are two ancient ones, not sure if they are in use, but this is one aspect of the property that has been recently reviewed and is to be addressed in the future. He did say that the majority of their rainfall goes into storm water and down to the lakes in the Botanical Gardens, so all is not lost.

Why was I in such esteemed company? I'm on a committee that looks after a very beautiful park in this small country town.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Oops! Sorry but.....

Recently I pulled down a series of tatty metal arches over which some equally tatty roses grew, in preparation for the construction of a much more solid timber pergola that will be more in keeping with the scale of this large block and garden. The sturdy upright posts need to be placed in concrete more than half a metre deep in the ground, so a mechanical digger was brought in to dig a series of neatly circular holes. This was to happen one day last week when I needed to be in Melbourne all day and I left the builders to get on with it, expecting on my return to see a sort of timber Stonehenge happening, and was somewhat puzzled that there was nothing to see except the holes, and a moonscaped area that looked as if wombats had been burrowing.

I needed to make a phone call on my return, but when there was no dial tone, I just thought it was due to was another power failure, water in the lines or any of a number of things that commonly happen in rural areas, and it was not until I had reported the problem to Telstra that the penny dropped. Sure enough when I inspected the holes in more closely this is what I found. The guys had severed both the water main and the telephone line with their very efficient digging machine. The water main had been fixed, but the telephone lines were flapping in the breeze.

Two and a half acres of garden, so what are the chances of hitting both water and telephone lines in the same hole? Should buy a lottery ticket?

Anyway - I have been without a telephone or Internet connection for five days, until half an hour ago when a lovely bloke from Telstra fixed it so I am once again in touch with the world!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Of to mow a meadow....

Today I spent more several hours using my big, powerful, bright orange Husqvarna………ride on mower! An almost weekly task at this time of the year, when the grass grows while you watch and the local area hums with the sound of mowers in the evenings. It is an almost meditative experience, as one sits, hat and ear muffs on, enjoying the warmth and slight breeze, oblivious of most other things, concentrating on following the line where you have previously cut, circling round trees before heading off again in straight and curvy lines until the whole two and a half acres are done – leaving the delicious fragance of cut grass, a smooth sward of green, marked by low rows of grass clippings, soft tyre tracks, and a great sense of satisfaction at a job well done.

Having now mown this block many times, and knowing the most efficientway to do it, as well as the areas where I need to take more care, I was also able to think of other things as I chugged along. My thoughts turned to how similar it was to echo quilting, carefully following the lines of previous stitching, and going round particular bits on a quilt, or doing a clever swirly bit, just because you can, or want to do something a bit different to break the monotony. Then I started designing a quilt in my head, to be a map of this lovely place, the long drive way, curving up through trees to the house, using the many natural shades of blue, green and brown, the wonderful reds of the fertile soil, the mixed colours showing in newly restored garden and vegetable beds, the lawns, and the muddy silver of the lake edged in reeds, with the dense darkness of the state forest behind. The ideas just kept coming, and I hoped for the opportunityto try to do it.... If only the garden did not call me so loudly these days....maybe when it is finished....and when will that be I think, as I know a garden is a constantly changing thing, and that grass just keeps growing!!

This piece was actually written two years ago, during my first Spring in this country abode - I am still to do a quilt to represent it all, though I have done a couple of postcards!! The grass still grows inches overnight, like magic, and it took 4 1/2 hours of mowing today, but golly it looks good for now.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Human or just plain stupid?

For a very long time my sewing consisted of making clothes – for myself, for my children when they were young, for their rather tall father, for friends and other family members. I made dresses, skirts, trousers, shirts, tailored jackets, knitwear and anything else anyone needed – I can boast that there was great attention to detail, the finish was excellent, so the garments fitted well and looked great. I ceased this useful sewing when my children wanted to wear jeans or trendy named gear, and I had an income that made it easier to purchase what was needed. Since then sewing has focussed on all forms of needlework and quilting – for fun and enjoyment.

Recently I have had the urge to sew for myself again, so yesterday cut out a shirt, thinking it would be quick and simple, a good place to practice my rusty skills before trying something a bit more complicated. After all, it must be like riding a bicycle, one never really forgets and all is fine after a little practice. Today, as it is cold and wet, and I ache from too much gardening earlier in the week, I began to sew. Intending to do it properly, I even unearthed and re-threaded the 25 year old overlocker which is tedious and fiddly because as usual, it had black spools on it, when I needed white.

I proceeded to sew, confident that it was going well, overlocked the internal seams before doing collar and sleeves and then happened to notice the shoulder pleats were going in the wrong direction and were in different places! No idea how that happened as I had carefully tailor tacked, marked and pinned before I began. Easy to fix I thought – just undo the seam and flip them over. Wrong! Not enough fabric because of the shape it had been in the first place, and then because it had been trimmed by the overlocker, there was even less. I could not see a way out of this mess, and feeling very cross with myself consigned the whole thing to the rubbish bin in time for tomorrow's collection. I'm just glad that the fabric was not the lovely Liberty my daughter found for me some time back.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Technology ****

Yesterday this computer was having increasingly determined hissy fits - not doing what it was told, internet connection dropping out when moving to another site, freezing when asked to shut down, key board not seeming to work, failure to register passwords, and finally the mouse seemed to have died as well. Having run a full check on the system and having been told all was well - I decided that it would mean a trip to the nearby computer shop to sort it all out, as it still did not work when I tried again this morning. So, after lunch when I was all set for the 44 km round trip to the computer doctor, I decided to check once more before I dismantled guessed it......everything was working! I guess the winds were blowing from the wrong direction yesterday.

Then later this afternoon, having decided it was just too hot to do anything outside and I would do something in the sewing room - there was a power failure and no electicity for a few of hours. So - today I have achieved very little except a successful riding lesson early this morning and the finishing of my current mystery novel. Perhaps tomorrow the technology gods will be in harmony and all will be well in my world again.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Working Girls

Photos taken this morning - a glorious day here with the Malus ioensis plena covered with lusciously fragrant pale pink double blossoms and bees - probably from my new hive.

The purple Lavandula stoechas is also full of honey bees - blue flowers seem to be particularly attractive.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Smoke gets in your eyes.....

There is the acrid smell of smoke in the air this evening, and the whole area has that familiar haze caused by distant blazes. It is past the deadline for burning off and I fear it may be the first bush fire of the season, early and somewhere to the West of here. Perhaps it is only the DSE doing a controlled (??) burn about 20 kms away, but I don't know. This will be my second full summer in residence in an area surrounded by forest that has not burned for many years. The timber industry once was active here, and the old loggers claim their regular clearing made it safer to live in this beautiful place - they may be right, the bush is dense and the understory overgrown and full of fallen trees as the result of storms and the drought. I have fire hoses, a full water tank with petrol driven pump, my property is as prepared as possible in that it is clear of any potential fuel, the grass is kept short and I have a fire plan - to stay and fight. I hope it never happens.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Joggles #5

Our task last week was to create a small quilt in the form of a shrine to something that had special meaning or something of which we wanted I really have two passions - my garden and my textile work and am forever torn between the two, so that which ever one I am doing, I tend to hanker after the other. So....I planned to make mine to do with all things connected to sewing. This is it. It ended up looking a bit 'country' or naive and I'm not sure what I really think of it.....

The good news is that there is a now flickr site with photos of pieces by the others in this online course with Jane LaFazio, so you can see how clever they are. Not everyone has posted all their work yet, but the last time I checked there were 22 quilts to admire. Click here.

Saturday, 10 November 2007


My bees arrived last night at about 10.45 pm after a two hour trip from Melbourne in the boot of my friend's car. Even then the tightly sealed hive was humming, felt warm to the touch and the car had a heavy smell of honey. The hive was taken to its place at the bottom of the garden by torchlight, then left until morning before being opened and the bees were able to explore their new surroundings . This morning I was given a basic lesson in Beekeeping and learnt about the boxes and bits that make up the actual hive, what is happening inside, the essential equipment I shall need, and generally how to care for fact at this time of year, one just lets them do their business. Harvesting the honey will happen in February and there may be as much as 40 lbs of honey to enjoy and share around. These bees are from my friend's hive that swarmed a couple of weeks ago and so have only been in this hive for that short time, but have become well established and already productive. When the lid was opened to check all was well and to add another box of flats, we could see that the Queen had been doing her job as there were eggs and pupae visible in the new cells, there were cells sealed and full of honey, and there was burr comb stuck to the inside of the lid that needed removal, plus thousands of bees! When the hive is in full production during the summer it is likely that there will be a population of about ten thousand of these fascinating insects.
When all was complete, we stood and watched for a while - bees congregating around the entrance, bees flying up an off in search of pollen, and later I saw bees returning to the hive with pollen baskets on their hind legs full of yellow pollen. My friend suggests that it may not be long before there is a seat nearby so I can sit with a cup of tea and watch their comings and goings!
There is a whole new language to learn as well as all the technical stuff - so my bedtime reading for the next little while is "Beekeeping for Dummies"

Thursday, 8 November 2007


About a week ago there were storms in this area - rain enough to float the ark and winds that brought down huge Eucalyptus trees across roads and powerlines. On Sunday night there was no electricity for eight hours, and I spent an evening in the gentle glow of candles and an antique Miller oil lamp. When inspecting the property the next morning, I was saddened to find my little greenhouse which had been a gift from my son and d-in-law, badly damaged. The winds had ripped the seams of its heavy duty plastic plastic cover apart and the whole things was hanging from a couple of remaining ties - I feared it had met its demise. For the last week this pile of metres of pathetic green plastic has been sitting on the floor of my living room until I had the time and courage to deal with it. This afternoon I moved my machine to a bigger table and spent a couple of hours wrestling with it all, with many expletives because it was so heavy and cumbersome. After resewing seams, reinforcing areas that were badly torn with cotton tape, replacing all the ties plus adding a few extra, sticking gaffer tape on places that had been damaged by friction it was fixed! I even managed to get it back on the frame by myself - so now I am having a celebratory glass of wine, and looking forward to an evening sewing the binding on my most recent piece for Joggles.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Not much new to report ........I spent today in a regional city doing some much needed clothes shopping. What with warmer weather and the silly season approaching there is a need to be less feral now that jeans and polar fleecy things are no longer an accepted necessity. A successful day was had, some damage to the credit card was incurred, but now I can appear at the forthcoming Christmas neighbourhood gatherings in garments a tad more stylish!

Now - my site meter tells me that my Blog has received more than 680 hits and visits - they can't all be my children, in fact my daughter tells me she reads the blog via another site, so she no longer counts, and I don't think my son checks all that often. I know a few of you who are reading it, but would love to know a few more or where you are from. I'm delighted that what I write might be of interest to others, so please, feel free to leave a comment when you visit.

Monday, 5 November 2007

White Things

This handsome white chook giving me the eye is Bodil. She is a pure bred Light Sussex, an old English breed - hence the dignified medieval name. Actually all the chooks have been very distressed by the storms and rain over the last two days, so we have had no eggs. I expect all will be well again tomorrow and I shall once more have more than I can manage - unless they are beginning to be broody??

Secondly - this gorgeous white Violet is popping up around the garden. I think it is Viola cornuta 'Alba' but I am not sure. It is different from ordinary violets in that it is deciduous and loses its leaves in wintertime, however drops numerous seeds before it shuts down in the cold. It arrived as a hitch-hiker in some Heleborus I purchased a year or so ago, and caused a little concern until it was identified by the nurseryman. I love it, so it has been carefully nurtured and encouraged in all sorts of damp and dull spots.
Talking of damp......there has been a lot of rain in this district over the last two days and it is great to get it, but I felt kind of silly in the pouring rain, in raincoat with brolly hosing water onto trees instead of watching the overflowing tank empty onto the gravel drive. I even had a sprinkler running at one time! Now I'm thinking of getting another tank - there is about a 6 month wait for them so I can try and fit it into the budget.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Birds and Bees

This is my Joggles #4 quilt. The theme was to incorporate a bird and so this is based on the Australian Eastern Spine Bill who is in fact black, orange/tan and white....but as I liked his shape he had a colour change. It is machine appliqued, machine and hand quilted and measures 8 x 11.5 inches - not the wonky shape in the photo. I must learn a way of taking shots without distortion!

Great excitement - I am being given a hive of bees. A friend keeps bees and when they swarmed recently the swarm was captured and dropped into a new hive. Next weekend, in the dark, this hive is being brought to my property and will be placed in my orchard at night time. The next morning these cosmopolitan bees will find they have had a tree change and are country dwellers surrounded by forest, fruit trees and other pollen laden plants. What yummy honey they will produce.

Another promised gift from a member of my walking group. Her husband has poultry and is currently has at least 60 eggs in the incubator. Some of them are from Araucanas, originally from Chile they lay blue/green eggs, and my friend has promised me a couple of hens when they are big enough. My chooks are already keeping friends and neighbours supplied with big brown and white eggs, so now I shall have green ones too!

Friday, 2 November 2007

Wet and Soggy

Last night we had the most wonderful rain - steady, heavy, refreshing, tank filling, soaking wet rain! About an inch or more. I fell asleep to the sound of rain falling on my tin roof and drips dropping through a leaky gutter outside my window. What a blissful soothing sound. My garden looks green and sparkly this morning and when I walked my dogs to the Post Office, my usually dusty road had puddles instead of potholes, and the local stream was flowing into the town lake. Fingers crossed we may even get some more over the weekend and I can see big grey clouds from my window as I type.

The mail today contained 12 ATCs received through an online swap with people in Australia and NZ - all different, all clever and all individual. A great addition to my collection, and with some techniques I did not recognise and shall have to learn. This shot also includes a couple from my friend Kate as well, just in case you think I can't count!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Free Rice

Try this if you have a few minutes to spare. It looks like a worthwhile thing to do, and it is fun to test one's vocab - you might even learn the meaning of a few new ones.

They donate ten grains of rice to the poor people of the world thoughUnited Nations for every word that you correctly match to itsmeaning. The better you are the harder the words though.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Chubby and Bess

Today I rode again for the first time in about six weeks - the owner of the horse I ride has been away, and in her absence her safe, sound and elderly horse called Chubby, had definitely become chubbier. A month of idleness in fields with new Spring grass and extra feed from a temporary and generous carer means that Chubbs is now on a strict regime of no extra feed and lots of exercise. She is a very patient but sometimes determined horse who puts up with her current novice riders with a definite look of resignation - however it was a joy to spend time on her wide back today, meandering quietly through the forest to the sounds of the local birds, scaring the occasional wallaby off into the bush as we went along. I confess that it felt more like Chubby was taking me for a ride, rather than me riding her as she picked her own path along tracks she knows so well, but none the less it was a great way to pass the morning.

I am about to begin this week's Joggles project - a quilt featuring a bird. I'm still not sure what I shall do, but have some ideas in my head and rough drawings in my work book. This is the finished painted one from last week - I did a second picture of my collie Bess in an attempt to make her colouring less realistic. After all it is supposed to be an Art Quilt! This one is just in shades of blue and silver - but to my mind she still looks almost real.

Friday, 26 October 2007


When driving home today along a main country road I saw the saddest sight. A Crimson Rosella had been hit by a car and was lying dead on the white line in the middle. It's mate was sitting beside it, oblivious to the cars speeding past on either side still devoted to the fluffy corpse. Much as I consider these birds a dreadful pest as they can strip a fruit tree in a couple of hours or do other untold damage in my garden, I felt sad for the remaining bird, as these gorgeous things mate for life.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

The Longest Day

No - not the classic 1962 movie about D-Day, but my adventures of yesterday when I went on a bus trip organised by the local Horticultural Society to the Dandenongs to visit unbelievably beautiful gardens in their spring glory. I left home at 7.30 am to meet the bus, which then went to Mount Macedon to collect another group and set off for the hills. The first garden was Beechmont at Olinda, ten acres of garden framed by towering Mountain Ash, Blackwood Wattles and mature native Myrtle Beeches. The garden exhibits an impressive collection of very colourful Rhododendrons (vireyas being a special feature), Camellias, Magnolias, Cornus, Daphnes and many unusual species providing year round interest. There were several examples of my all time favourite Virburnum plicatum 'Mariesii' which made me more determined to track one down for home. The garden was gorgeous, well cared for by the owners and protected by three friendly hounds.
Then we went to the National Rhododendron Gardens - again most spectacular and colourful,
the visit made easy by being able to cover the whole quite hilly area by mini bus so one did not miss much of the 100 acres. They also had a small nursery, so of course I now have a new addition to plant in my own small Rhododendron garden. The last shot is of the Azalea Bowl and these are Kurume Azaleas which are each about 5 feet tall. The colours were extraordinary.
Lunch was at Cloudehill, another specialist nursery and spectacular garden designed with long perennial borders and garden rooms. Lots of long vistas and arched gates inviting you to go further and explore the extensive gardens with old trees, wildflower meadows and walled areas. Well worth a visit.
A friend and I were planning to return home, change and go out again to a Zonta Dinner to which we had been invited, however it was too late to do this so we went directly there.
It certainly solved the problem of deciding what to wear, and we were the only ones there in virtual gardening clothes while all the other women were decidedly glitzy!! After a pleasant dinner and a fashion parade of what my daughter would call "Granny gear" I eventually made it home to fall into bed near midnight. I think today will be a little more restful.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Super Presents

Two of my lovely friends with whom I had such an enjoyable breakfast yesterday have just returned from an exotic holiday in Europe and Africa. They brought me these gorgeous buttons and nifty spotted spoon made from bone by the Maasai. The buttons are a bit more than an inch in diameter and not exactly round. Lucky me!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Catching up.....

I have had a busy but splendid last few days - it started on Friday when I went to Melbourne with a friend who needed to do a variety of chores. I was really just along for the ride, with no intention of doing any shopping but of course, managed to return with goodies - new threads and bits of fabric, essential cartridges for my computer printer and a couple of other small things one cannot get easily where I live. We had lunch with another friend in Port Melbourne, and painlessly browsed the shops in an area to which I rarely go.

Yesterday I attended a Quilt In run by Goldfields Quilters in Castlemaine, caught up with some quilters I have not seen since I moved to the country, saw some beautiful quilts, enjoyed the chat and laughter, ate too many delicious home made slices, and won a raffle. The prize? Five fat quarters of a new range of fabric, a printed panel and a pattern to use it all to make a child's cloth book. Don't think I shall be doing that, but the fabrics are lovely spotty ones, in good colours and will be put to good use in time.

Today I went out to breakfast and came home at! There was terrific company, in a wonderful setting overlooking a huge lake, delicious foods including muesli, berries, Moroccan stewed pears, apricots and figs, Greek yogurt, poached eggs with salmon and hollandaise sauce, fresh sourdough bread from our local specialist bakery, grilled bacon, cold meats, and fresh fruit - all washed down with champagne and orange juice! No dinner needed by this little piggy.

Finally, to complete the weekend, I have finished this week's Joggles project. This was to paint a picture of your family pet, or some other animal so it could be used as the basis for a small quilt. I baulked at this idea, I consider that I do not possess any of what I call a real artistic talent - My drawings look like the work of a self conscious child and I do not know how one uses various types of paint, though I have fiddled in an amateurish way with things over the years. This picture was based on a photo of a dog I used to have, not the collie I now have, but her predecessor Bess who in my family's legends was known as "the world's best dog." I would have to say though that now my children have their own dogs, they probably think otherwise ! Anyway - I was quite pleased with how she looks. I wonder if the kids will recognise her?

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Joggles piece # 2

This is my completed piece of work for this week's Joggles class - an applique piece done in felt and appliqued using blanket stitch and a few french knots. Not too big, the usual journal size but quite a lot of work to complete. Not sure what I shall do with it yet so it is not in fact a quilt as it only has one layer - no batting or additional quilting. I'm glad to have it finished so that when I receive tomorrow's lesson and project, I shall not feel I have left another UFO behind.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Vale the Local Pub

When one of my stitching friends heard that my Joggles class was going to result in one journal sized (8.5 x 11 inches) a week for six weeks, her comment was "that will keep you out of your car and off the streets!" She was right, I'm still going on the felt applique quilt, and I don't think I have done so much blanket stitch in such a short time for many years! My admiration for those who applique bed sized quilts in this way is huge! Hopefully I may be able to post a photo tomorrow....

On the local scene, not a pub with no beer, but I now live in a town with no pub! Sadly one of them closed following a fire some months back, another is in the process of being restored and will open again next year under it's original name, but now the last remaining legal place to get a drink in this town went into recievership this week. Perhaps it will reopen with new management, but in the meantime it means loss of jobs for all the staff, and no where for the local lads to quench their thirst, or local committees to hold their meetings over dinner. How bad is that??

Sunday, 14 October 2007


Stitching, stitching, stitching, just you wait and see..........

Saturday, 13 October 2007

The locals tell me we had snow here yesterday while my daughter and I were out having adventures, and it is still bitterly cold today. I have spent it in my sewing room making postcards featuring keys for an online swap. I scanned these keys and then printed the image onto fabric - it took several attempts and a lot of printer ink before I had something that might work. It was most frustrating as the new printer was having hissy fits at being asked to print on fabric and several attempts came out with half the image missing. Anyway, at last I have four cards to post on Monday to Turkey, France and the USA and Canada.
Now I shall turn my attention to this week's creation for my Joggles class - a geometric quilt of my own design, in made in felt with embroidered embellishments, similar to the Molas from Panama. Right now the mind is a blank!

Friday, 12 October 2007

Ain't life grand?

I have had the most enjoyable few days - no sewing or gardening but special times spent with very special people.

Firstly an old friend brought two of her sisters to stay and use my place as a base for exploring and shopping around the local area, they returned in the afternoon to show and tell what they had purchased or where they had been, and to share a meal together. My visitors are Irish, two have been here for some years and one is just visiting for a few weeks but the three of them had not been together other for several years. They come from a large and boisterous family of four boys and five girls, my friend was the eldest and the two others are at the younger end of the nine. It was truly great. They were funny and witty, the Irish lilt was a joy to my ears, we enjoyed good food and wine and all the Irish music I possess, there was much laughter, chat, reminiscing, teasing and tears as they caught up with each one's lives and compared notes about other family members. It was a privilege to be included and I have to admit to a little envy of their close sisterly relationship as I have only brothers.

No sooner had they left yesterday, I went to collect my gorgeous and clever daughter from the train from Melbourne. I waited on the platform as the train came in and left again, but oddly there was no daughter visible. Somewhat puzzled I returned to the car planning to ring her and find out why she had apparently missed the train, when she whizzed into the car park on a wonderful vintage Raleigh fold up bike. She had taken this new treasure on the train and vanished quickly on the other side of the track before I could see her, then ridden down the road to the car park with the biggest smile on her face possible. A gift from a generous friend, this bike was something she had hankered after for a while, for it means she can ride with her dog beside her more easily, and transport the bike in cars and trains with much less difficulty.

It also meant that this morning, bright and early and in the drizzle, the bike was unfolded and my ancient bike retrieved from the garage so we could both go for a ride down to the village for coffee and then a gentle trundle round the streets. For a senior citizen who has not been on her bike for a while, I think I did quite well! After this excursion we had a great day, visiting a specialist nursery, fossicking in Op shops, checking book shops, searching for appropriate work clothing for a new job, having coffee and lunch and then finally dropping her at the station to return to the big smoke.

It has not finished yet - friends have just rung to invite me for a celebratory drink as they have sold a property that has been on the market for several months. Ain't life grand??

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Little Landscape

I mentioned a couple of entries ago that I have started an online class with Joggles called Art Quilt Explorations with Jane La Fazio, a course that will be taking us through a variety of exercises, themes and techniques over six weeks, so we end up with six small quilts. It has been excellent as all the participants share a forum where photos of works in progress are posted so Jane can give suggestions and comment, and for others to see. The fact that we are from all over the US and a few from Australia makes no difference at all.
This is my first piece - a landscape, 8.5x 11 inches, fabrics layered and stitched, then embellished with lots of embroidery and hand quilting.

Monday, 8 October 2007


I do not expect to look out my kitchen window and see cows in the back yard - kangaroos, wallabies, foxes, the occasional bunny, but not cows. Today, when half awake and making my early morning mug of tea, I glanced through the window only to see two large brown Jersey cows munching grass outside my back gate. This pair belong to a woman who lives further down my road, and they are usually safely in their own paddock - but somehow they had escaped and wandered down my way.

I rang Robbie their owner immediately and offered to help her round them up and get them home. My offer was refused as she said it was easier to do it on a bike, and that she would get her neighbour Al to help. Now Al is legally blind, with tunnel vision - he does ride a bike around town, in straight lines on roads - but chasing cows through gardens? This I had to watch! By the time they arrived, the cows had moved next door to my neighbour's immaculate garden and I watched as Robbie and Al shepherded them over the grass and out the gate, then rode gently behind them as they ambled home - it was all quite simple and without further ado.

About an hour later, I recieved a phone call from my immediate neighbour with the immaculate garden, who had been out when all this was going on. His garden was immaculate no more - hoof prints through garden beds, bike tracks and cow pats on his grass, plus it seems the cows had unfortunately been loose for a while before I noticed them, and had trampled his vegetables and eaten his cabbages. He was not a happy fellow.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Big noise above small town!

The three churches in this small town behaved in a very ecumenical manner today when they held a combined fete on the local football oval and most of the residents attended. For a gold coin donation one could visit stalls selling various old or crafty stuff, excellent cakes, jams and marmalade, home grown pot plants and old books. There were snacks and a sausage sizzle, and one could chat to Police horses or listen to the Police Pipe Band - who by the way, were wearing kilts on this chilly morning. There was a wood chop competition for the lads and their dads, and the blessing of pets by the Priests in attendance. For some more dollars the brave could be strapped into a safety harness and then go for a ride in a basket to the top of an enormous crane and admire the view. I spotted some sheep on the back of a trailer, not sure what they were going to do, but was assured that they were not waiting for the barbecue. I bought a good looking jar of lemon marmalade, and as they were not with me, my dogs remain unblessed.

The best bit happened after I returned home - there was a loud noise on the horizon and then the RAAF Roulettes appeared overhead. As I'm only a kilometre or so from the oval, it was almost as if they were performing above my house. They flew back and forth in formation, and performed a few other special manouvers that I can't name, but it was most impressive. I imediately thought of my Father who was a pilot and flying instructor in the Royal Air Force and how much he might have enjoyed it.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Dirty knees

Today was a hands and knees day - that is how I spent most of it, on my hands and knees, bum in the air like my self portrait at the top of this Blog, weeding, weeding, weeding. I need to clear the garden beds of weeds in preparation for covering them all with a layer of mulch to retain moisture during the coming summer when water will again be scarce, if I want my garden to survive.

I cannot believe that our local water authority has lifted all water restrictions with the exception of those permanent ones which operate statewide for everyone, just because our local catchments are full. I do not understand how this can be, as several large reservoirs within a 10 km radius remain empty or very low. Someone clever needs to work out a way of water sharing/storage/transportation so that it is more equitable for all concerned.
Anyway, I was weeding under the flowering Cherry that graces my front lawn, above me a cloud of pale pink fluff and the loud and relentless hum of bees - it gave me time to think. I was thinking about being inside, working on some postcards that are due to be sent away, and itching to get started on the first task set in a class I am doing online with Joggles. I've never done anything like this before, but it is looking very promising and hopefully I shall learn a lot. As if I haven't enough to do already - but then, there is nothing like increasing the number of things I must do, and deadlines I must meet to prevent ever being bored!!

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Gateway to the Garden

Today I received my copy of Quilting Arts in the mail - I love this magazine - the presentation, ideas, information, colours, and projects are fascinating for someone who has been a traditional quilter for 25 years or more, but who is trying to do things a little differently at times. The magazine issued a challenge to readers in its April/May issue to use one of four possible doorway images to illustrate their "Doorway to Imagination" This issue shows some of the 200 pieces of work received.

I planned to submit a piece for this challenge, but sadly did not get it finished by the deadline required to send it to the United States because I became hooked doing more and more embroidery of the garden outside and inside the door. It was completed though and I shall probably enter it in my Quilt Guild's exhibition next year. I called it "Gateway to the Garden", and although these photos make the edges look a bit wonky, it is due to my poor photographic skills rather than uneven sides to the piece! It is A4 sized , made with painted fabric, applique, hand and machine embroidery, and is both hand and machine quilted.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Another day in Paradise

Today was a gorgeous one where I live - temperature about 16 degrees, blue skies and sunshine. We have had about 90 mls of rain in the last month so everything is growing - particularly the grass. I spent a couple of hours today mowing with both my big orange ride-on (for the first time this season) and my new push mower, so now the place looks very groomed and polished. The daffodils are finishing their golden display but are being replaced by other new growth - the silver birch are getting leaves, viburnums, camellias and japonica are in flower, I spotted the first cherry blossoms today, and my tulips are blooming in wonderful colours of dark red, scarlet, pink, white and soon to open mysterious 'Lady of the night', a very dark maroon.

A great time was spent with quilting friends this weekend in Castlemaine, and we even got some sewing done. I actually misjudged the amount of time we would be working, and ran out of things to do by Saturday night. There were eleven of us and we took over a small hotel that was built in the 1870's - a little bit shabby by today's standards but full of character and the occasional echo of Fawlty Towers. Mine host and his wife could not do enough for us so we were very comfortable. The breakfasts were extraordinary, one hardly needed to have anything else during the day - but of course, we did! We ate out a couple of times, did some shopping in the town and at the wonderful quilt shop there, nattered, sewed, laughted, exchanged ideas, admired each others work, ate cupcakes made by one of our number and generally had a splendid time. We plan to do it all again, next year if not before - in my opinion the best possible way of spending the AFL Grand Final day.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Today's tiny treasure and a bunch of gold

Anemone nemorosa. Another gorgeous tiny woodland perennial that is just beginning to flower. Three plants purchased two years ago have now spread to cover about a half metre square, they are only 15 cms tall and have the most beautiful feathery fern-like leaves that unfurl as the flowers begin to bloom.

A bunch of various daffodil varieties picked from my garden to be given to friends last night. The show this year has been spectacular and is now finishing - to be replaced by a gentle greening of the deciduous trees, frothy blossoms on the fruit trees and vigorous spring growth of perennials, roses and everything else. It is a constantly changing canvas - a joy to behold and a job forever!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

A second time coming

I decided that having reached a significant milestone in 2006, this year was going to be the Year of the Quilt for me, a self indulgence of all things quilty in the hope that I would do some good work and produce some wonderful quilts. I have not produced anything as spectacular as I hoped, but the year ain't over yet and I have committed to making a quilt as a wedding gift, so perhaps that will be the one. None the less there have been a couple of quilts and other smaller works as I tried new ideas or techniques, so it has been very full so far.

It began in February with four days at the Australian Quilt Convention where I did classes with international tutors, learnt a lot, viewed fabulous quilts, made some new friends, spent a few dollars on essential fabrics and supplies for my stash (of course they were!) and did a special deal on the purchase of a wonderful Bernina Aurora. In April I attended the Southern Cross Quilters Retreat in Bendigo having been on the planning committee for a couple of years. It was fantastic to see all our work come together in a weekend that seems to have gone down in history as one of the best retreats ever. Add to that monthly meetings with my quilt guild, regular attendance at a historic quilt study group where we can admire and gently handle vintage quilts, the establishment of a sit and sew friendshop group locally, and membership of two online textile groups. This coming weekend will bring a weekend away with the Committee from the Bendigo Retreat so you can see I have been trying hard to achieve my goals!

The best thing is that it looks as if I might be doing it all again next year. Previous delegates to the AQC ( ) recieve the program for 2008 a week earlier than everyone else, and have priority in bookings for classes. I recieved mine last Thursday and sent my registration the following morning for the full four days and for classes with Lessa Segal and Gloria Loughman - I just hope I get my first preferences. Watch this space.

Saturday, 22 September 2007


Today is a Elephant Appreciation Day! I had never heard of such an event until I joined an online group for textile artists, and we swapped fabric post cards with this theme. This was one of the ones I made, and the others were received in return from Jenni in Oz and Lily in New York. Aren't they great?

Wednesday, 19 September 2007


Today is my birthday - it is not a significant one with a zero and I was planning to spend it quietly at home in front of my sewing machine - playing. It was not to be.....firstly the phone rang hot for a couple of hours as children, brothers and friends rang in to offer birthday salutations. Then I checked emails and found several from people all over the place. Next a neighbour rang and said she was coming over but would only stay a minute - she delivered an enormous sponge flan covered with peaches. When I went to the Post Office there were birthday cards and a gorgeous textile postcard from France, and on the way home I passed some other really good friends on their way back from the village so stopped with them for coffee. A plot was hatched to go and visit the nearby town of Romsey to see a particular shop that interested them, lunch in a restaurant near it and then home via a very special garden belonging to other friends to photograph their daffodils.

This magical place is a farm that is over 100 years old, set in a hidden valley with old orchards, buildings and a beautiful creek running through it. The previous owners had lived there for two generations and one had been a renowned breeder of daffodils so at this time of year it is unbelievably beautiful, carpeted with many many varieties of narcissus and daffodils in all colours and forms, as well as bluebells and wood hyacinth - all set against a backdrop of lush green grass and mature deciduous, ornamental and fruit trees.

Much to my surprised delight, the present very generous owners had made me a birthday cake! This splendid day is not finished yet - I'm off to dinner tonight with today's companions and will take my neighbours cake to share. I feel very spoilt and privileged to live the life I do, and to have such wonderful new friends.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Blue Geese

One of my new friends in this town is a woman called Jenny, who is several years older than I, well past retirement age, but who still works occasionally as a District Nurse when her old centre needs to cover for those on leave. She describes herself as an old hippy and has many stories to tell of various adventures in her younger days that would confirm this. She has a very strong social conscience and has always worked for the benefit of others in her professional life and in many other community activies in her spare time. Jenny still volunteers time at the local hospital on an almost daily basis - on top of a heap of various activities and the chores of looking after two acres of land on her own, where she built an environmentally friendly home a couple of years ago.

I was telling her a while ago about quilts my guild regularly makes quilts for young people who are being cared for in a kid's home, as well as another person who works with female prisoners teaching them sewing skills and quilting. Jenny muttered that she had some old patchwork fabrics she had purchased years ago in the anticipation of one day having time to learn how to quilt herself, but that arthritis in her hands now prevented her from doing anything by the most basic of sewing repairs to her clothes, so that she would be happy to hand them over if they could be put to a good cause. I thanked her for her generosity and waited until she could unearth them from a shed, all the time thinking it would be just a few fat quarters or scraps of fabric. I was very wrong.

Jenny gave me a garbage bag full of fabrics, mostly in yard or metre lengths, mostly fine cottons of 70 - 80's vintage and mostly in shades of blue - a total of over 45 pieces. She told me that she would often walk past a certain large and well known discount shop in Richmond and would purchase bits of fabric that appealed to her, then put them away for future uses. While I knew that the groups to whom these would be given would appreciate the gift and make good use of it, I also felt that this woman's life-long generosity needed to be marked in some way. What better way than the quilt she would never make for herself, so I made her this. I barely made a dent in the big black garbage bag of fabrics.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

All in the line of business......

The lady at my small local Post office always shows great interest in my mail when it contains wonderful textile postcards received from members of an online group, or those being sent by me to far away places in return. She will have noted them as she sorts the mail and makes comments like a well informed art critic, or telling me which ones she prefers of those I am sending away. She loves to touch the fabrics and always asks about the theme or significance of what has been made and how it was achieved. I reckon there might be a potential quilter hidden inside her rather business like exterior! She certainly approved of this one that arrived this morning from Wanda in Canada.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Soggy Fanatics

Having been cold and sunny for the last few weeks, yesterday thirty keen gardeners came to see my garden in all it's Spring glory - in the rain! No one complained though, so desperate is the country for water we were all happy to see it. Despite the damp conditions and continuous gentle drizzle they tramped around the place in raincoats and under multicoloured umbrellas, admiring the bulbs in flower, asking heaps of questions, listening to my ideas for future developments and congratulating me on the transformations that have been going on for a couple of years. I was really pleased with their response and it made me feel that all the hard work over the last few weeks in preparation for this visit was worthwhile. They also kindly gave me this in appreciation for the visit, a splendid camellia called 'Debbie' - about a metre tall and covered in these luscious blooms. It should do well in this cool climate and I know just where it will go.