The Gardens of Chiconia 52: Another kind of snow

There has been great excitement on the news.

Snow in Queensland! Down in the Granite Belt they’ve had snow on the high ground, in Stanthorpe. In case you were thinking I might be feeling the cold, let me reassure you that it’s nearly 1,200km /750 miles away and well below the Tropic of Capricorn. The nearest we’ve come to snow is this:

It’s called, variously, Snow on the Mountain, Snows of Kilimanjaro, Snowflake and various other chilly names. It flowers in early winter in warm climates, is deliciously honey scented and is better known as Euphorbia leucocephala. Pretty, but poisonous, and the sap is a strong irritant. Showing you our tropical ‘snow’ made me realise that there were plenty of other winter-flowering plants in the Gardens of Chiconia. They all seem to be on the hotter end of the colour spectrum; Nature thumbing her nose at the idea of winter, maybe.

In case you were wondering, I haven’t retouched any of these photos in any way. What you see is how bright they really are.

We’re off tomorrow morning bright and early, heading north to Cairns and the wet tropics of Far North Queensland. 25°C/77°F during the day, 21°C/70°F at night. Showers are only forecast for a couple of days… So, well, Miz Lizzie the caravan is stocked with sewing, movies, food, drink, cosy quilts, brand new cushy mattresses for our bunks and clothes for all eventualities of weather. I am determined to enjoy myself, and I hope the usual suspects are bracing themselves, as we plan to hit the chocolate, coffee, cheese, clotted cream, exotic fruit, curry, fish & chips, ice cream and pie outlets hard 🙂

As always, I will post Miz Lizzie Adventures as they occur. Tomorrow night we will be in Townsville, the next night in Cardwell (home of the epic mud crab sandwich), and the next night in Cairns. Although we could make Cairns in one day at a push, we’re not rushing things. This is a holiday, and it’s also Miz Lizzie’s shakedown trip after her recent restorative surgery. She’s looking good, and I’m confident all will be well.

So, I’ll see y’all soon.

Advertisements

Looking back, looking forward

It’s traditional, isn’t it?

We bloggers tend to do a retrospective post at the end of the year, summarising what we’ve made or achieved in the past year. I tend not to do this so much any more; it began to feel like I was being a bit boastful, or a bit competitive. I didn’t want to feel disappointed with myself because I hadn’t made as many quilts, or garments, or… (fill in creative sewing activity here) as Blogger X. We all have different amounts of time, motivation, energy, money, fabric or space, and we each make according to our resources. Last year, I posted about how many metres of thread I’d used. That seemed like a fun and different thing to do, and didn’t create any direct comparison benchmarks.

This year, I kept my thread reels again. I’m purposely not looking at last year’s sum-up to see how much I used in 2017. Suffice to say that in 2018 I used 5km (3.1 miles) of thread. Is that a lot? I don’t know, but it’s a nice round figure 🙂

I want to thank everyone who’s participated in making quilts to benefit Ovarian Cancer Australia, everyone who’s joined in with ScrapHappy to make something lovely or useful from unpromising scraps, and everyone who’s joined in the Footsquare Freestyle (F²F) block swap collective to help friends create a beautiful quilt in their chosen colours. I want to thank friends and family who have given me an opportunity, a challenge and great motivation to make them a thing of beauty and a quilt to love, made especially for them. Thank you for coming along on my travels in the caravan and on the motorbike, for enjoying my weird, rampant and bug-ridden garden, and for listening when I indulged in a good rant about issues that set me alight. Let’s do it all again this year! I especially want to thank the Husband for enabling my creative habits, enjoying what I write and taking the trouble to find out what on earth I’m talking about when I speak Quilt.

Have a great 2019, y’all. Be kind to each other, and share pretty things. See you soon in Chiconia. 

Hugs,

Mend it, fix it, froggit

So, the coral top is done.

I’m pleased with how it came out, but the process was not without hiccups. Isn’t that always the way? You have a simple job to do, and then the blind animosity of inanimate objects gets in the way. I’ve written about this before, but effectively it’s Murphy’s law, made personal. This time, it was the overlocker (serger). I serged one of the seams, cut the thread, turned the garment over and started on the other side. Nothing. No overlocking. 45 minutes and a 20 minute perusal of the manual later, I had thread 4 back in its correct path through the bottom looper arm. I love my needle-nosed tweezers…. Anyway, I got the job done, stitched down the seam allowance with a decorative stitch, pressed it, and it looks perfectly acceptable.

As I sat editing the above photo, I glanced up and saw the stems of my lemongrass clump (now 12 feet high) waving through the window. There were strange lumps on the stems…. Was this some dreaded new tropical pest? Nope. It was an army of frogs. Apparently, ‘army’ is the collective noun for frogs, although these little chaps, at barely half an inch long, are not terribly intimidating. It’s a battalion of our little tropical tree frogs, and why they’re hanging out in the hot sun instead of in the shade is beyond me. Click on the image to enlarge. There’s at least a dozen of them…

The Gardens of Chiconia 51

And now for something a little bit fruity. Again.

The Ducasse banana is looking a little bleary eyed and weary. We had a heavy rain shower the other night and the next couple of rows of flowers copped a bit of a beating. The green ants are all over the bunch as well, so I guess it’s not really a surprise. However, the bananas that have developed are looking good, as you can see.

I had a bit of a revelation the other day. Beside our front gate there is a tree that was attractive but not terribly interesting apart from its pretty leaves. The tops are dark green and glossy, and the underside is golden-amber and slightly felty-feeling. Pretty, eh? For the four years that we’ve lived in this house, said tree did precisely nothing apart from grown half a metre a year.

This year?  It’s covered in bright green golf-ball sized fruit that look like miniature Granny Smith apples. I cut one open to discover a star shaped pattern of seeds inside, but not much else. It wasn’t till the neighbour hung over the fence and asked if I minded him helping himself to some ripe ‘star apples’ from the branches overhanging his side that I got an insight. The green jobs are unripe. When ripe, the skins go a glossy dark reddish purple, as does the flesh inside. It’s sweet, custard-textured and delicious. Of course, none of the fruit on our side is ripe yet, but I tried a bit from Brian’s side…. Anyway, the thing’s called Chrysophyllum cainito, it originated in the West Indies and now grows in tropical regions around the world. The fruit, bark and leaves are supposed to have health benefits, but personally, I’ll be sticking to the fruit.

Assuming Brian Next Door and the hungry birds leave me any, that is… 

The Gardens of Chiconia 50

Are you sick of bananas yet?

No? Good, because here’s another update. Can you see now how the stem develops?  Between each of those dark red bracts (the petal things) is a row of flower buds, and the bracts open in sequence. Each flower becomes a baby banana, and as they mature, they start to point upwards and flare away from the bracts, leaving space for the next row down to develop.

I watched this afternoon as a Blue-Faced Honey Eater, a Noisy Friarbird and a Yellow Honey Eater all fought for access to the flowers. I took a look at the stem later on, and I could see why: there’s so much nectar it’s dribbling out of the flowers and onto the bract below – you can see it in the photo above. The flowers are looking a bit battered after their attentions, too. The nectar has also brought the green ants in, attracted by the sugar. When the time comes I shall have to blast the fruit with the hose to prevent getting bitten as I cut a hand of bananas away – those ants are very aggressive and the bite is quite painful. I’ll also need to stop them building one of their huge nests in the flower. I won’t be using any chemicals; water will be enough to discourage them.

I’ll wait and see what interesting thing this thing does next!

The Gardens of Chiconia 49

Baby bananas!

The flower bud has started to open, revealing the first row of tiny bananas with flowers at their flower tips. If we’re going to go all technical about it, the whole caboodle is called an inflorescence and those red petal things are bracts. The whole thing opens up in tiers or ‘hands’, layer by layer, and all the hands hanging from the central stalk are called a ‘stem’. When you consider how many bananas there can be on a stem, it’s no surprise that banana plants often need to be propped upright.

Very soon now, I’ll need to put a bag over the whole flower to protect it from birds, possums and fruit bats.

Banana trees aren’t trees at all, they’re a herbaceous flowering plant, and the trunk is the tightly furled stem of all the leaves. Dwarf varieties grow to about 3m, but the really big boys have been known to reach 7m. They’re related remotely to the ginger family, and grow from a corm in a similar way.

But the most fabulous thing I’ve discovered about bananas is that they’re naturally very slightly radioactive! They contain an isotope called Potassium-40, and the baseline radioactivity of bananas is called the BED or Banana Equivalent Dose, which measures radioactivity compared with the dose received by eating one medium sized banana. So, for example, if you were worried by living in an area where the local rock was granite, also a natural radioactivity emitter, you might be told it was safe because you were receiving only as much radioactivity, or less, than a BED.

It certainly isn’t going to stop me eating these lovelies when they’re ripe.

Here endeth the botany lesson…

The Gardens of Chiconia 48

The banana tree has survived the cool snap. When I say “cool”, we went down to 6°C/43°F…

There’s no sign of cold nipping on the blossom, as you can see. This is how it was last time I showed you.

And this is now. It’s grown tremendously in a short time.

That bud is longer than my hand, it’s solid and sculptural, and with luck, there’ll be a good big hand of fruit. It has already begun to droop down to its final dangling position – I shall have to prop the tree, as the hand will be too heavy for the trunk to support. And of course, there’ll be the traditional bag cover, to keep off possums, fruit bats and birds. (I don’t worry about snakes in this particular tree, it’s too close to the house and where we park the car.) Most farmers use plastic now, but I’m going for cloth in the interests of reducing my plastic use.

The mango blossoms have also survived and have begun to set fruit. I wanted to show you have mangoes start off.

Those tiny round green ‘beads’ in the fading blossom are baby mangoes, and they won’t all survive (or we’d all be waist deep in the fruit). Later in the year, the ones that have held on will develop long stalks and start drooping down as they grow larger and heavier. I’ll keep up with what they’re up to and show you.

It’s going to be a bumper year even if only a fraction make it…