jaydogblog

my life in the land down under


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Looking Back / Looking Ahead

Its that time again, when we tend to look back at what’s happened over the past year, and look forward to what the new year has in store for us.

I’ve appreciated reading other’s summaries of the high & low points of their year, so I thought I’d write a list of my own. Rather than letting the year fade into obscurity it would be good to remember and appreciate what 2012 held for me (or alternatively, be glad its over! though thankfully not too much of that). Some of these I’ve already written about in more detail, others may become blog posts in the future. Here follows a mix of good & bad:

Shared meals during the year with family, celebrating birthdays, Christmas and ‘just because’.

Missing other family members who live overseas, and appreciating the technology that enabled us to make a Skype call to some of them last week. It was a nice surprise for my parents, who didn’t know why we had invited them around!

The sad loss of my brother and sister-in-law’s baby at two days old (Elijah had Trisomy 18).

Extended family (and non-family) dramas and confrontations that I could have done without. Hoping 2013 is a year relatively free of stress in this area, though realistically we expect some of it will continue well into the New Year. I just need to learn how to deal with it more calmly!

The occasional coffee outings with a supportive friend; very necessary at times to keep my sanity. 🙂 Looking forward to more of these in 2013.

Injuries of various kinds, which made us appreciate parts of our body we would normally take for granted (e.g. shoulders, toes!).

The privilege of holding my nephew’s hand as he went under anaesthetic for surgery on a fractured toe this week. Even though I’ve worked in paediatrics for a long time and in operating theatre for a year (way back), it’s quite a different feeling when your own family is involved. All went well and he’s back home now.

The children’s ward where I work moved to a new environment mid-year; hopefully the last move for some time.

I joined a beginners’ quilting class back in May and started to make my first quilt, then attended a couple of quilt shows and had my eyes opened to the amazing creativity, variety of patterns and colour combinations out there. Later in the year I learned what a Postage Stamp Quilt was and participated in my first swap as a newbie – see Treasures in the Post and Treasures from Around the World. Progress on the Made with Love quilt has come to a standstill recently, but I plan to have a more positive report soon.

In May I also started this blog and have since ‘met’ other bloggers from around the world with shared interests. I have enjoyed their humour and been inspired and encouraged. Thanks to all who have read my posts over the year, liked, commented and followed. You are much appreciated!

We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary in September.

Around the same time I joined a Christian women’s book group and read ‘One Thousand Gifts’ by Anne Voskamp; although I missed a few of the meetings I did finish the book and highly recommend it. I look forward to seeing what’s on the agenda for the group this year.

Early in the year I changed from a PC to a Mac computer, and felt as though I was learning a new language for a few months!

I learned how to use the movie capability on my Nikon D7000, and the Mac programme ‘Fotomagico’ for the first time to put together a fusion audiovisual (digital photo slideshow with music and video incorporated). Christmas in July has some of the images I used in the AV and gives the background story.

Over the year we have photographed hair models and family portraits, and learned more about drawing out shy children in front of the camera.

In early November, I attended a photographic convention out-of-town with friends from camera club, which meant being away from home for four days without my ‘other half’. The convention was great, but I missed him!

A Garden & Art Festival was held here in mid-November. Thanks to friends I received a free ticket for one of the days; we visited some beautiful gardens to which I did not do justice with my camera.

I resigned from the position of webmaster for our camera club website, after 11 years; the End of an Era.

I also decided not to renew my subscription to a B&W photography magazine after almost as many years. This doesn’t mean I’ve lost interest in B&W photography, just that I have quite a number of unread magazines and it seemed silly to keep buying them when I wasn’t keeping up!

My darling (he suggested I call him this rather than the impersonal ‘other half’) recently introduced me to the brain training website ‘Lumosity’ as an attempt to keep us young and sharp. Challenging but great fun. 🙂

With some help from a friend, we survived a swarm of bees which made their home in the wall of our house; see Bees in my Bonnet and Fake Rain.

Last but not least, we successfully raised and released a grand total of 128 monarch butterflies from caterpillar stage in November / December. I celebrated the 100th with this post. Our swan plant is slowly recovering and the next batch of caterpillars are growing up, but we’ve shut down the ‘nursery’ for now. I love seeing butterflies flying around the garden. 🙂

***

So goodbye 2012, welcome 2013.

Happy New Year everyone!

What’s on your list? I’d love to know! 🙂

***


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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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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


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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


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Last of the Season

This was probably the last monarch we will see this season: it emerged from its chrysalis on 15th July and we released it from our back yard a couple of days later.

I say ‘probably’ because we still have one chrysalis inside, and one caterpillar outside on a swan plant. The chrysalis seems to be well-formed but is very small. The caterpillar is only medium-sized and doesn’t appear to be progressing – its not eating and has stayed pretty much in the same place for several days. We will wait to see how they do.

We have had some nice sunny days with low overnight temps recently, followed by some extremely wet weather. We were glad to wake up this morning and find the rain had stopped!

Monarch female

Monarch female, preparing for flight