my life in the land down under

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Treasures from Around the World

More ‘charm squares’ for a future postage stamp quilt (PSQ) project have arrived in the post this month (see Treasures in the Post). These are the first two of the three newbie gifts I have the pleasure of receiving. 🙂

Firstly from Nina in Sweden:

Charm squares & stamps

Charm squares #2

I have collected stamps in the past, and my Mum still does, so I was excited to see these on the package. Thanks Nina!

Then from Astrid in Mauritius:

Charm squares #3

This one surprised me by arriving much more quickly than expected.

There are a great variety of colours & patterns, and both packages came with friendly notes enclosed. Thanks ladies for your generosity!




A Late Spring

Back in July I posted about the various trees on our section (Trees I Have Known), ending with a couple of photos of a flowering cherry – prunus amanogawa. At that time it was bare;  it flowered recently so I thought a follow-up post was in order.

Flowering cherry on a grey day a couple of weeks ago

Flowering cherry – a closer look

Cherry leaves (the tree is staked)

Blue skies and sunshine yesterday – no tuis so far



Left over Right…

Many, many years ago 😉 I was a Brownie (junior version of the Girl Guide, also known as Girl Scout). Among other things I learned to tie knots, although the only one I remember well is the reef knot: ‘left over right and under, right over left and under’.

We appear to be running a monarch butterfly nursery here at the moment (see my previous post here for the back story on how this came to be!). This has given me little time to update the blog recently. It has also involved tying lots of knots; I can’t claim they are reef knots, but they do the job anyhow.

We started off with a small stand for rescued chrysalises, last season or maybe the season before. As you can see, it accommodates eight.

First stand

This year we’ve had to upgrade several times.

Second stand – holds 16 chrysalises

Third stand – holds 36 chrysalises

We had a large plastic container that was not being used; John cut a hole in the lid and replaced it with a fine net material to let light and air into the container. We have housed up to 25 caterpillars at one time. The pieces of wooden dowelling were intended as places for them to chrysalis, however the first group seemed to prefer the container lid! The second group have divided themselves about equally between the dowelling and the roof.

Caterpillar container

Caterpillar container from the top

Caterpillar inside container

At last count we had 87 chrysalises and two J’s inside; there are a few more outside that we are letting be. It has been very time-consuming feeding the fat caterpillar babies and keeping the container relatively clean; its a relief when each day a few more successfully change into ‘J’s’ and then chrysalises. A very small minority have not made it for one reason or another – one made its chrysalis on the house wall the other day so has a flat side, another did the same in our big container. We thought there was only a slim chance of a healthy butterfly developing so have euthanised these. One new chrysalis was very close to the edge of the container and sadly got caught in the lid when we were replacing it. 😦 Today we had a caterpillar that started to change into a chrysalis then stopped, and appears to have died. Thankfully, these few are the exception to a large number of apparently perfectly-formed chrysalises.

Our one remaining swan plant outside is now taking a beating – many of the upper leaves have been stripped – but may be able to recover before the next round. We’ve had to release a trapped butterfly on two occasions; it had obviously found it’s way under the net to lay eggs. We’ve also rescued a few fat caterpillars that were at risk of being walked on, as they went marching off at high speed across the concrete to find a place to chrysalis. If they go for the neighboring yucca plant we leave them alone, as it seems a secure place – the leaves are strong and won’t blow around in rough weather. I’m sure there will be a few in other places and some we may never find!

Swan plant – compare foliage with photo in previous post

Rescuing a wandering caterpillar

Caterpillar on yucca plant

Chrysalises on yucca

The good news, that makes it all worth it, is the resulting butterflies. So far we have had two emerge, both males. There are several darkening chrysalises today; it looks as though we will have about four new butterflies tomorrow and more later in the week. It’s warm here at the moment, and they are taking just over two weeks from the time the chrysalis forms.

Chrysalis about to hatch – the rings around the top start to stretch downwards and the shape changes

First butterfly of the season (male)

John releasing first butterfly

First butterfly (male)

Monarch (male) on swan plant

Second butterfly newly emerged, wings still crumpled

Second butterfly (also male) with wings fully pumped up

We have found the nursery chores a bit overwhelming, and John is threatening to pull out the swan plants when the season is over! Meanwhile we feel we’re doing our bit for New Zealand’s monarch population. 🙂


Update (Wednesday morning): We have had two female butterflies emerge so far today. Have to get back to tying chrysalises – only about 30 to do! 🙂



Treasures in the Post

The first ‘charm squares’ aka ‘treasures’ arrived in the post yesterday…

Although I’d signed up for newbie gifts in the Postage Stamp Quilt Swap on The Curious Quilter last month, this package came from Marsha of Streaming Thoughts as a special prize for being observant. 🙂

Charm squares #1

Thanks heaps Marsha! There was a lovely combination of colours and patterns in this package. 🙂

Now it’s a case of waiting patiently for the others to arrive. I was surprised to receive emails from not one, but three other quilters who will be sending me 2 1/2″ squares of fabric. One is from the USA, one from Sweden and the third from Mauritius. I’ve been warned that one at least could take a few weeks to get here.

For those who, like me, had never heard of Postage Stamp Quilts before, an internet search will show up plenty of links.

I’m not sure yet what I will make (although am leaning towards a larger quilt). When I have completed my Made with Love quilt I’ll cut up some squares from the leftovers to add to the collection.  I’m hoping to have enough of a ‘stash’ to be promoted from ‘newbie’ to ‘swapper’ next year.


Monarch Update

First we had bees in our bonnet, then we had caterpillars coming out our ears… not literally of course!

Several weeks ago we had some very blustery windy weather, which gave our swan plants a hard time. After staking the largest one, then binding it when the main trunk split, finally we gave up and trimmed a group of them right back. They are just starting to sprout again now. We brought all the cut pieces inside and kept them in buckets of water in the garage, in case there were any monarch eggs. After a few weeks, we had so many caterpillars we had to start transferring the biggest ones back outside to our one remaining swan plant, as well as adopting some out to our friend Cos (the butterfly lady). We’ve seen a few wasps around, so John ‘netted’ our plant to prevent the saved caterpillars from being eaten. One of our neighbors told him the Monarch Butterfly society should give us a medal! 🙂 The net will also discourage butterflies from laying further eggs on the plant, and hopefully keep it from being stripped totally bare.

Netted swan plant

We have cleaned up the dying plants in the garage, and now have just two lidded containers with big caterpillars feeding & growing. It’s good to have the garage space back, as it will be needed for assembling kitchens again soon.

So far we have six chrysalises, and expect to have lots more within the next week, as there are some very fat caterpillars!

Fat caterpillar