my life in the land down under

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I’d rather be… writing?

Yesterday morning I came across an older post from someone whose blog I follow. It was written in response to a WordPress writing prompt, regarding what her ideal space for reading & writing would look like.

I haven’t thought about what mine might look like – but it did remind me I’m meant to be writing!

Two days ago – besides being Valentines Day – was a work day for me, and the date of my annual performance appraisal. I had spent quite a few hours over the last couple of weeks nutting out a self-review, to cover every indicator of every sub-category of the four main ‘competencies’ or standards that my work practices have to meet. So you can imagine my disappointment when my boss let me know I needed to write stories or ‘scenarios’ to back up my bullet-point statements of ‘I do this / I do that’. She gave some helpful suggestions but it wasn’t what I wanted to hear – and was followed by a particularly busy and difficult shift during which I had the role of co-ordinator.

To clarify – my boss has no problems with my performance, it’s just that the self-review needed to be written in a different way to pass the portfolio assessment (that’s a 3-yearly requirement).

Due to a bad habit of procrastination over things I don’t really want to do, and having already requested a three-month extension for my portfolio – which ends very soon (where did the last 2 1/2 months go?!) – I only have a few days to rewrite & re-present my self-review, in time for my boss to add her comments, so I can add the final touches to my portfolio and hand it in by 1st March.

So I’m meant to be writing stories for work today, but I’d rather be writing blog posts – or sewing that Made with Love quilt, which has gone on the back burner again. 😦

This weekend we have a photographic project on, which I expect to be fun but challenging, and that will involve a fair bit of post-processing and the creation of a slideshow. We were also planning to travel away for a few days from next weekend to visit John’s sister (who is also a quilter), and weather permitting explore some of the cycling tracks in her area. Plus I have several work days between now & then. So there’s not a lot of time…


Yesterday our 150th butterfly of the season emerged from ‘her’ chrysalis. Which also reminds me of John’s comment a few days ago that it would be great if we could withdraw from other commitments for a while, almost like going into a chrysalis, get some things sorted out, and emerge as something new at the end.  🙂

Butterfly #150

Monarch butterfly #150 (female)

Butterfly #150 Drying Wings

Butterfly #150 drying her wings

Butterfly #152

Butterfly #152 (male)

Anyway, back to work…





Some people are interested in numbers; some are not.

However, today’s date is 12/12/12. There won’t be another repetition of numbers like this until next century, when we return to 01/01/01 (2101). I’m not sure if any of us will be around to see that!

Today we also made it to a century, as our 100th monarch butterfly for the season emerged from its chrysalis (along with numbers 97, 98, 99, 101, 102 & 103).

Last night I played ‘guess the 100th’ and marked one – and then later looked at the chrysalises again and made a second choice – from the seven that were expected today. My second choice was the 100th (a female), the other the 101st (a male), which emerged about 20 minutes later.

The following images show how our century played out.


9.41.42 am


9.42.26 am


9.42.52 am


9.43.23 am


9.54.57 am


11.23.15 am


P.S. We are in the southern hemisphere, so the snow is courtesy of WordPress. 🙂



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! 🙂


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Slow and Steady (Wins the Race?)

Definitely slow, not sure about steady… and if there was a race I’m certainly not winning it! 😦

However I do have some progress to report. This month I have completed the appliqué and stitchery for Blocks 6, 7 & 8 of the Made With Love quilt, and have now put together Block 6.

The friend I did the class with said she found it easier to do all the appliqué at the same time so I thought I’d try this, at least with the next three blocks, and it seems to be working. I also cut all the strips for each of these blocks, and have the outside borders cut for all the rest. There was a bit of time involved in planning which colours to use for each individual block, but I have an overall plan of the order I want to put the blocks in for the finished quilt, and that really helped.

For the first time ever (I think), I sewed a block together and all the measurements were perfect (or so close it didn’t matter). Woohoo! 🙂

The original word stitched on Block 6 was ‘adore’; I’ve replaced this with ‘trust’. Its a challenge in any relationship to trust that the other has your best interests at heart as well as their own, and give them the benefit of the doubt when things don’t seem to be going well.

I especially liked the appliquéd butterflies on this block. They also reminded me of ‘trust’ – it’s something special to have a just-hatched monarch butterfly climb onto your finger! 🙂

Block #6 appliqué and  stitching

Appliquéd butterflies

Word for the day

Block #6 – central part completed

Block #6 with borders

Block #6 complete with squaring-up borders

The Quilt Project so far:

1 – Beginnings

2 – Quilting Lesson #1

3 – Attempts at Appliqué

4 – Words

5 – Quilting Lesson #2

6 – Words II – To The Bride & Groom

7 – Appliqué  Again

8 – Quilting Lesson #5 / Words III

9 – Quilting Lesson #6 / Words IV

10 – Out On My Own

11 – Quilt Project – Colour Choices

12 – The Next Step

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Life Cycle: Beginning

The monarch season has started.

We have had several butterflies laying eggs on our swan plants already, though it is barely spring, and the last monarch only hatched from its chrysalis inside in mid-August. I photographed two butterflies in early September (both faded and untagged) and John saw at least one other about a week before that (late August). So all going well we should have baby caterpillars in another week or two. I guess it depends on the temperatures – if cold they will take longer or maybe not hatch at all. Now we also have to be on the lookout for predators: ants will eat the eggs, and once we have caterpillars, wasps could be a problem again as they were last spring/ summer.

Some of the swan plants have grown very tall. We had intended to prune them back but waited too long (unless as John suggests, we go ahead but keep the cut pieces in a bucket of water inside until any caterpillars have emerged).

It was very windy yesterday, with some heavy showers of rain in between periods of sunshine – pretty typical spring weather I think. Earlier in the day I saw one butterfly clinging to the swan plant out the front: it was being blown every which way. As the rain was blowing directly into the front door at the time I retreated inside and left it. Later I had to rescue another large swan plant: the gusty winds had broken one branch right off and the  remainder was splitting down the middle. I think I did a good job of binding it up – time will tell.

Update: Today the weather is gorgeous with sunshine and blue sky, but we’re going through another cold snap with predicted overnight lows of between 1-4degC over the next few days.

Monarch laying eggs on swan plant

Monarch laying eggs in the spring sunshine – this one appears to have lost part of a wing