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.

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!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sovereign Hill

It is probably 20 years since I last visited Sovereign Hill.

I don't remember there being any gardens there last time:
But lots of the houses and cottages have ornamental and vegetable gardens.
I presume this iron work was made by the on-site blacksmith:
Herb garden behind one of the cottages:

A patchwork quilt in a cottage decorated by the CWA (Country Women's Association).
A sampler in the same cottage:
The only sewing machines I saw were in the harness-making workshop:

Some things don't change:

But this is definitely new:
Pouring a 3-kilo bar of gold:
Worth $160,000 at today's gold price. It is locked in a safe at the end of the show.

Interesting brick sculpture outside the Gold Museum:
 Terrestrial, 1985, by Peter Blizzard, celebrates 100 years of the Selkirk Brick Works.

The Gold Museum's current exhibition, Re-Awakening the Dragon, features antique artefacts from the Ballarat Chinese community, including the head of the third-oldest dragon remaining in the world (from the 1890s):

A 1-day entry ticket allows you to visit for two consecutive days, which means we didn't have to see everything today. We'll be back tomorrow!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Another Christmas Do

This is part of the surroundings of the venue for my latest Christmas break-up lunch:
Beautiful, isn't it?

It is the Warran Glen Garden Centre and Café, which apart from having a large gift shop, a large café, a large garden area, and plants for sale, has a bonus just beyond the Japanese maples:
Can you see what is inside? Quilt fabric!

Clair's Fabrics is an online fabric shop, which has been open as a corrugated iron (rather than bricks & mortar) store here for just 5 weeks. Clair has a fantastic range of fabrics, and made us very welcome. I think a fabric shop in a nursery is just about the perfect combination!

A happy band of quilters sat and sewed, purchased some fabric, ate scones with jam and cream, had some show and tell, and just generally had a great time.

One of our number also made the Gourmet Quilter "What's in the Box Mystery" this year, and this was our first chance to see the two versions together:
Mine on the left, Shirley's on the right.

I was very lucky with my lucky-dip prize:
A beautiful book of garden info and pictures.

It was a long day. This wonderful venue is about 150km from my place, so it's not somewhere I will be visiting frequently.  I broke up the homeward journey by visiting my son, but I was very tired (and happy) by the time I got home.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Aqua Returns

This week does not look like summer:

It didn't feel like summer, either! This is week 28 of my temperature-based year quilt. Here are the daily maximum temperatures at our place, which determine the colour of each day's hexagon:

8/12/2017    17.7    green
7/12/2017    19.8    green
6/12/2017    19.6    green
5/12/2017    17.0    green
4/12/2017    14.0    aqua/teal
3/12/2017    12.9    aqua/teal
2/12/2017    11.5    aqua/teal

Nothing very warm about that, was there? However, after this return to cool colours, the week ahead is likely to include yellow, orange, and red days.

Not linking to Sarah's Weekly Weather Report, as she unfortunately has internet problems this week.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Seeds, Flowers, and Dead Branches

This morning I finished sowing the last of the TreeProject seeds:
We have quite a mixed batch this time, with a eucalypt, two different acacias, a hakea, a melaleuca, and one I've never seen before, Calytrix tetragona, common fringe myrtle.

My first dahlia flower is opening:

But the most exciting thing this morning was this:
Do those dead tree branches look like they have eyes? Zoom in for a closer look:
Definitely eyes! Eyes that follow you around without appearing to move. They belong to an adult (on the right) and baby tawny frogmouth, Podargus strigoides. The adult is a perfect dead branch, but the baby is still a bit fluffy to be convincing.

They were in a tree across the road from our place. Their nest may have been somewhere within sight without us ever realising. The birds are nocturnal, and can be very hard to notice during the day because they blend into the forest so well.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Challenge Revealed

Tonight was the Ballaarat Quilters' Christmas do, where our annual challenge pieces were revealed. The challenge involved making something using only the colours of the birthstone and flower associated with the month of your birth. As my stone is emerald and my flower is lily of the valley, that gave me only green and white to work with.

I decided to be quite literal, and make a representation of an emerald. Using a free downloadable program called Quilt Assistant and starting with this picture:

I created a paper foundation pattern for an emerald-cut emerald. And then at the AQC in April I saw Kat Jones's Bling, a giant cushion-cut diamond done by paper foundation piecing. In that post I wrote, "No one will believe me now, but one of the challenge pieces I'm working on this year is somewhat similar in concept to this. But I really did start working on it before I had ever seen pictures of Bling." There is really no comparison between Kat's diamond which is over 2 metres square and my 40cm x 60cm emerald. But as paper-pieced representations of precious stones, they are similar in concept!

Here's my emerald:
I used nine different green solids, plus white.  Here's a photo taken during construction, which I posted in June:

I quilted the whole thing with a variegated green and white thread. It is all straight lines, about 12mm apart on the stone, and 2 or 3 mm apart in the background:
This photo previously appeared on my blog in August.

I tried adding a facing to the quilt to give it a modern look, but it just didn't work with the matchstick quilting. I couldn't get a sharp edge when I pressed the facing back. In the end I removed the facing and added the binding instead.

It was fun to see how other people tackled this challenge. No-one else was born in the same month as me, so there weren't any other green and white pieces to compare with. The winning piece was a gorgeous cushion-cover in orange and aqua hexagons, which more than one person told me they thought was mine. But that quilter was born in December so had turquoise and narcissus (daffodils) as her colour source.

The winner gets to choose the next challenge. It  will be interesting to see what she comes up with!