Tag Archives: butterflies

Is it Mess?

Right about now, over at the home of  Muse-ings , vsperry will be orchestrating order in an area of her garden which she describes as “A Fine Mess”. I would simply leave out the word “Mess” and call it “Fine”, or, as in the case of my own garden, refer to the “Mess” as  ” Channelling one’s inner  “Piet Oudolf” (with apologies to Piet 😉 ).

For the greater part of the summer and fall, this wilderness of mostly self-sown plantings was the scene from my bedroom window.

Wilderness plantings

Wilderness plantings

It was a sight that gave me much pleasure, for all the weeds, entangled foliage and seeming disorder.

Unruly pleasure

Disorder?

The garden bed was not carefully planned like one of Piet Oudolf’s masterpieces (OBVIOUSLY), but I did have a plan of sorts, which was to let the garden follow its own course and,

Unruly or following its own rules?

Following their own rules?  Lightly organised chaos?

thus, provide a dense and closely woven safe haven for the monarch caterpillars, and a well-stocked larder for the bees and their larger selves,  the humblebees.

A haven for a caterpillar?

A haven for a caterpillar?

My plan was a success buzz vis-a-vis buzz the bees, but a failure as far as the monarchs were concerned.  Not one of the many caterpillars made it to butterfly status. That was a disappointment, after my successful monarch season last year, where I helped raise at least twenty monarch butterflies. I don’t know what went wrong this time; perhaps we had too much rain; too little sun? Or, as  Russel Ray pointed out to me, my wilderness garden may have provided a haven for the social wasp, arch-enemy of the monarch.

So, with winter approaching and no longer any chance of monarchs, I embarked on a clean up of the little plot.  It now looks like this. Clean and tidy….and dull.  Not a “Mess” but also not “Fine”. Not yet, anyway. There’s good manure in the soil, and worms, and caterpillar plus bee frass,

so, in a few months, it may provide solace for my senses once again. And, later, much later, the monarchs may be tempted to return. I hope so. I know the bees will come.

Virginia, how is your clean up going? There is no danger that your garden will succumb to DULL. 🙂 It will be clean, tidy and finer than ever.

© silkannthreades

Praise Be

The  swan plant I ordered to replenish my monarch caterpillars’ food supply came yesterday, just in the nick of time. It has been planted,

Praise be for more food

Praise be for more food

and my remaining caterpillars are now busily chomping on their fresh greens. Hopefully, the caterpillars will  have enough food to take them through their fifth  instar and into their chrysalis stage.  Most of them look big enough to be close to their final and complete metamorphosis.

Is this the 5th instar?

Is this the 5th instar?

Whilst the caterpillars are nourishing their bodies in preparation for change, I thought we might do the same. Would you care to indulge?…..

in a taste of the last of summer in this delicious, spicy rhubarb cake

Spicy Rhubarb Cake

Spicy Rhubarb Cake

or, perhaps, in a little something that speaks of cooler mornings and the colder days to come; a gingerbread cake.

Joy of Baking; Gingerbread Cake

Joy of Baking; Gingerbread Cake

But, if you are wanting a lighter indulgence, may I suggest a serving of the apple, instead of the cake.  Again there are two choices; Cherry Gala apples lightly cooked with a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of sugar and a handful of rose petals;

or Royal Gala and Eve  apples , sautéed gently in a sliver of butter and a sprinkle of sugar.

Mmmmm…How was that? Delectable? Are you feeling suitably indulged and ever so glad that we are not limited to one food type like the monarch caterpillar; that we are able to experience so many taste sensations; that we have such variety in our menus.

Praise be to the  butterflies  and bees that make that possible.

~

At 12.51pm today we marked the  third anniversary of the  February 22nd earthquake. At the memorial service in the Botanic Gardens, the Mayor said “Let us unite as we did after the earthquakes. For those of us who have been able to move on, let us reach out to those who are still struggling. .. For those who cannot move on, please do not be afraid to ask for our help… We can get through this together.”

In caterpillar terms, ( because I have this essential life form so much on my mind 😉 ) most of us have made it through the first instar; some of us are almost ready to be butterflies; indeed, may already be  flying freely. Some of us, such as myself, are still  ambling along in the third instar. But there’s no rush. With nourishment and nurture, we will, eventually, be transformed.

( I think I will make a good  butterfly, don’t you?  🙂   Better keep my feet clean, though. Butterflies taste through their ‘feet’! )

© silkannthreades

Survival of the fittest… ?

Since the beginning of the week I have been watching the monarch caterpillars, outside my bedroom window, slugging it out over the few remaining swan plant leaves. They have been pushing and shoving and head butting in their fight to secure their place at the food table.

Everyone temporarily in harmony.

Everyone temporarily minding their manners.

I tried to help by providing some delicate cucumber slices, as suggested by those in the know .

Tasty?

Tasty? Cucumber minus the sandwich.

Some of the larger caterpillars tested the new menu but were not enthusiastic. They preferred to continue in their old familiar ways and went back to munching every last shred of the swan plants; some of which must have been seasoned by the eggs of what was supposed to be the next generation.

Inevitably, as the food supply has dwindled, so, too, have the caterpillar numbers. One by one the caterpillars have disappeared. Some may have gone to pupate in the dense foliage of the adjacent oregano; others have simply gone.  Where, I don’t know.  Have they moved to new feeding grounds, strengthened only by their will to survive? Or have they gone off to die? The ground is not littered with caterpillar corpses. If they have disappeared to meet their death elsewhere, it is in a manner reminiscent of that noble adventurer Captain Oates; a story beautifully retold by Valerie Davies in her latest post Very gallant gentlemen.

If they have died, I am glad I have been spared the sight of their demise. Watching the caterpillars squabbling over food was hard enough, not to mention the feeling of helplessness over being unable to supply them with more swan plants. ( New plants on order but not available till tomorrow 😦 )

Last year the first of my monarch butterflies emerged on March 1st, the official first day of autumn. (What a lot of firsts 🙂 ) Maybe, come March, this year, I will be surprised and delighted all over again by the birth of  new Royal Beauties but, so far, I have not seen a single chrysalis.

To be continued……

© silkannthreades

Preserving the sweetness of things

Our previous minister,  Rev. John Hunt, (now retired), would sometimes  offer the congregation ‘a sweetie for the sermon’. His sermons didn’t ever need any sweetening but he said a ‘sweetie for the sermon’ was an ancient Scottish tradition, and we, believers all, were more than happy to help preserve the ways of the old Kirk.  So the baskets of sweeties were passed from one pew to another and we, smiling and laughing like young ones at a birthday party, selected our sweetie and, then, spent the rest of the sermon, trying to dislodge sticky toffee from our gums and teeth. ( Perhaps we were not as young as our hearts imagined 🙂 ) Gummed up or not, they were sweet moments, and, although, I remember not a word of the sermons, I do remember feeling content and treasured and loved. Sugar it seems is a powerful  preservative of well-being.

In the spirit of ‘a sweetie for the sermon’, I  am spending time trying to capture and preserve  the sweetness of the current season. For there is much sweetness to savour.

There is the sweet fragrance and delicate tones of my dwarf sweet peas both outside

Sweetly fragrant Sweet Pea

Sweetly fragrant Sweet Pea

and indoors, mingled with scented rose.

Rose and Sweet Peas

Rose and Sweet Peas

Then there is the sweetness suspended in the flowers and leaves I  am drying for my home-made potpourri.

Summer Medley

Summer Medley with Tracy’s  butterflies

Potpourri translates as ‘rotten pot/stew’, which, hopefully, mine will not be, if I have dried everything sufficiently well.

Additional sweetness comes in a friend’s seasonal gift of  home-made  Christmas mince pies; so delicious they are impossible to preserve except on camera.

Stars of Wonder

Stars of Wonder

They are a scrumptious-sumptuous combination of melt-in-your-mouth sugary buttery pastry and ‘ barely there tartness’ of rich, fruity mince meat;   made, I am told, with the addition of apple and green tomato to the dried fruit.

So those are the sweeties. Now for the sermon. Sermon? What sermon?  My mouth is too full of goodness to speak.

© silkannthreades

Postal notes

In Christchurch, letter boxes are being ‘harvested’. Our Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) has given permission for a community group, the  Avon-Otakaro Network,  to gather  letter boxes from red-zoned residential properties where the houses have been demolished. The letter boxes, and the homes to which they belonged, had to be abandoned following the devastation of the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. The Avon-Otakaro Network, which has so far collected 200 letter boxes, plans to use them to create 10 sculptures to be placed by the lower Avon River. They will be reminders of  loved homes and communities that are no more. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/9305950/Harvesting-red-zone-letterboxes-for-art

Just as letter boxes are changing their form, so, too, is our Postal Service. Yesterday came the not unexpected announcement that New Zealand Post  will reduce “its work force by up to 2000 staff as part of a strategy to reshape the business over the next five years.” (http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/business/9352413/NZ-Post-job-losses-restructure-revealed )  Part of that strategic plan includes a move to a 3 day postal delivery service, beginning in mid 2015.  Like any good organisation, it must continually renegotiate its terms of existence in order to survive and thrive. New Zealand Post has been doing its vital work, in one form or another, for at least  170 years and  I expect it can continue to serve for another century, if appropriate innovative strategies are implemented.

In the meantime, whilst the Postal Service and the letter boxes are  being sorted out and re-arranged, some of us are doing our best to help keep the current postal structures in good heart.

Here are my  bookmark  gifts ready to fly away, par avion, to distant shores.

Fly away my pretty ones

Fly away my pretty ones

Can you guess which one is coming to a post box near you? One will find a home, in the US, and will soon be covered in  dog hair ; one will settle comfortably in London,  next to Danny, the teddy bear, and a cat called Thomas ; and the third will go to a dedicated reader of books, and my blog, and long time friend, who lives in  Auckland, New Zealand.

But real mail doesn’t only leave my home. It arrives as well. In my broken-down-earthquake-damaged-letter box, which no one would want to harvest, I found this…..midday yesterday…..

All pink and white and pretty

All pink and white and pretty

This pink and white parcel delight contains my first purchase from  Koru Knits’ Felt shop. (Felt is our New Zealand answer to Etsy)

I always love a parcel and the treats within. Here is my treat; beautiful ‘sapphire blue’ handwarmers, lovingly handmade by fellow blogger, Lynley.

Handmade by Lynley

Handmade by Lynley

Sapphire Blue Handwarmers

Sapphire Blue Handwarmers

Of course, they won’t be needed right now, as we head in to summer, but I like to be prepared!

Included in my parcel was a lovely, and generous, bonus (because I was Lynley’s first Felt customer) ; a pink, white and blue striped apron, ( you can see a little of it underneath the handwarmers), which is perfectly perfect for me, in both colour and size.  How did she guess?

What Lynley didn’t guess is that I would put ‘pinny’ and handwarmers on, straight away, and prance around the kitchen taking photos of myself!

And, if it had been morning time, I would have pranced right out the door and taken my new garments for a walk to my letter box, just for the sheer fun of it. And, perhaps, even given a friendly wave to the postie, if he or she had been cycling by at that very moment.

© silkannthreades

Favourite things still come in brown paper packages

My mail box doesn’t see a lot of activity these days, which, considering its earthquake battered state, isn’t such a bad thing.  It really wouldn’t take the strain of too much mail. However, I do receive enough real mail to make a daily check of the mail box worthwhile, even if, sometimes, the only occupants I  find are snails, attempting to establish a new residence. Yesterday was more worthwhile than usual, for what did I see but this…….a little package with a green customs sticker and….. no snails!…..and…….What's this?

exciting, exotic Singaporean stamps.Stamps of Singapore

I was pleased and surprised and amazed besides, because this could only be my order from Lizzie Rose Jewellery, posted a mere three days ago from far off Singapore. Postal services may be in decline worldwide but the Singapore postal service obviously hasn’t been told that. Such speed. It takes longer than 3 days for a letter to travel a few hundred kilometres within my own country.  But, back to the package, which I opened a little clumsily in my haste to see the contents. The haste was to no avail, as I discovered the contents were not meant to be revealed in a hurry.  This parcel was going to need  unwrapping with the same  consideration and care  with which it was put together. With hasty fingers subdued, I found, under a layer of thin cardboard, a small, impeccably neat, brown paper package, tied up with string, complete with bowBrown paper package

and a sweet, rosy label.Sweet  rosy label

String untied with ease, I delved, more gently this time, in to the brown paper package and discovered more delightful bows and ribbons. I began to feel as if I were playing that old-fashioned party pleaser/teaser, ‘Pass the Parcel’, but with more enjoyment than in my younger years because there was only one possible winner in this game; me!More pretty bows

Like every well-mannered party girl, I looked at the card and gift tag first (do you see the cute butterfly cut out that holds the ribbon?), so that I would know whom to thank at the end of the celebration.  And, as I looked at each detail before me, the ribbons, the string, the paper  and  the stickers wrapped and tied themselves around my store of wonderful memories of parcels past. In particular, I remember parcels from my grandfather and aunt, lovingly packaged in brown paper and tied with string and perfect, postal-approved knots.  Inside these parcels, there would be the excitement of kids’ magazines, jelly babies, and pretty stickers requiring stick, and, sometimes, real treasures such as exquisitely hand-made dolls clothes, or a hand-knitted hug me tight (shrug).  And these memories,in turn, fastened on to that tiny little prick of conscience I experienced earlier, when I tore into my mail, and reminded me of decades of diligently instilled old school traditions of thrift. So, when I returned to the present, I studied the pink tissue paper and delicate tape and shiny green ribbon and worked out how to open the pink tissue paper parcel without destroying the wrapping ……..Green and pink and gorgeousand, finally, there, before me, was my favourite thing;  jewellery, absolutely and perfectly made, just for me.Just for me

Thank you Cath of Lizzie Rose for adding colour and wonder to my day. It’s not my birthday till the end of the month but I feel like the party has already started :). Thanks, too, for making my shopping easy and stress free and for giving me confidence that real customer service truly does exist outside my memory bank.

Footnote: Here is the link to Cath’s lovely blog which I  enjoy for its creativity and its insight in to life in Singapore. It will also link you to her Etsy shop and her creative world.

http://lizzierosejewellery.com/

Anklenote: I also bought a beautiful anklet  from Lizzie Rose. I thought I was too old for such silliness but, I discover that one is never too old for some fun and frivolity. The anklet is light and comfortable and I am going to wear it till it’s time to put on my winter boots. Its tiny turquoise beads remind me of summer seas and skies.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/125679287/anklet-in-pale-turquoise-aqua-bronze

© silkannthreades

Waiting for you

PurpleStill on the theme of Waiting, this post is dedicated to my New Zealand born parents who, once upon a time, spent many happy hours at Mona Vale. They would have enjoyed being with us yesterday afternoon, were it not for the fact that they now live thousands of miles away in Queensland. Even though they live in Australia, they consider themselves more” Kiwi” than ever because, like New Zealand’s national bird, the Kiwi, they no longer fly.

Let’s start our stroll at the herbaceous border, near the car park.The Blues

More BlueStill blueWeird and white

Next we cross the bridge and look towards the railway line View to the railway and, then turn the other way, to follow the flow of the river.View to the walk bridge no longer walkable

Here is a seat waiting for youA seat for you

with blue flowers  like little satellite dishes, tuned towards you and the sun.Blue to you

And, if you get too hot, you can move to Hilda’s seat and test drive the perspective of a hundred year old lady.Another seat for you A bird in hand

As soon as you are seated, the birds will seek your company and your ducks will come looking for bread.Ducks will come to callThey are as eager as ever to be fed. There were a few white ducks today. I wonder if they are ever confused by their reflections. Their reflections confused me.Which side is up?

That’s all for now except for a brief stop to smell the roses. They are not at their best but the onesWish you were blue

that remain are harvesting the sunshine.

© silkannthreades

Playing the waiting game

In Christchurch, these days, we are learning to play the waiting game. We wait for insurance companies. We wait for repairs. We wait for phone calls, and on phone calls. We wait in traffic. We wait for businesses to reopen, for buildings to be restored or built. We wait for plumbers and carpenters.  We wait in lines of traffic and we wait for rain……..sometimes we play the game well and with patience; other times, not so much. Our health authorities, worried about the stress levels, particularly the ones generated in those “other times’, has launched a campaign called All Right? (http://www.cdhb.govt.nz/communications/media/2013/130225.htm) ( http://www.allright.co.nz/ )

Today, after almost a week at home waiting for workmen and assessors, and for the house to dry out, we finally decided it would be all right to venture out for some early autumn sunshine. No one was scheduled to visit the house after 3pm, so we were free to flee.

We went to a favourite spot; Mona Vale. Funny thing was that, when we were there, everywhere I looked, I seemed to be surrounded by signs and scenes of waiting. I was still involved in a waiting game.  Follow my photos and see what I mean.

Waiting to fall Waiting to fall

Waiting on a bridge for a breeze to a final destinationWaiting for a breeze

Waiting to fly Waiting for the moment to fly

Waiting for an audienceWaiting for the audience  Waiting for a meal; or a dusterWaiting for a meal

Waiting for Hilda; a special seat for someone’s special great-grandmother from CanadaWaiting for HildaHilda's place

Waiting for someone to remember where they left itNow where did I file it?

So how did you find that variation on the waiting game? Am I playing it well?   Am I doing all right?

© silkannthreades

The presents of this day

I don’t know the origin of this saying …… “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.”, but it is one of my favourites.  It always brings a smile to my heart.  It was especially apt for today because, it seems to me, that this present day was full of gifts….. or is it, this gift of today was full of presents? Either way, I have had so many presents since I  began my day  that it almost feels as though it should be my birthday.

Here are some samples from the gift list.

First and foremost, my laptop has been successfully repaired and is now back in its rightful  place, on my bench, and working like a dream.  I want to sing and dance and give a medal to the patient technician who carefully and lovingly restored my old machine to its former pristine glory.

Next, because I have my own laptop at my fingertips again, I was able to access Facebook easily and, there, I found a wonderful quote waiting for me. I have read this one before but it was good to be reminded of it : ” Joy is what makes life worth living, but ,for many, joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently from the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it. What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.”
– Henri Nouwen    I am not sure that I agree totally with these words but I do like the idea that we may have the option to choose joy.

After Facebook, I checked in to my favourite National Gallery website to see the Painting of the Month http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/painting-of-the-month/. And here I discovered the amazing Rachel Ruysch, and her Flowers in a Vase , painted about 1685.  There is such exquisiteness in this featured still life that I could spend all  day looking at it.

However, if I did that, I wouldn’t have time to share my other delights of the day which, of course, relate to my monarch butterflies. When I woke this morning, I peeked out the bedroom window to check the weather and I saw four butterflies trying to warm up under overcast skies.  What a wonderful sight to see first thing in the morning. Good Morning Sunshine

And I also saw this chrysalis which maybe the mystery waiting for its tomorrow.Tomorrow's mystery

Another  present was the present of laughter, given to me by the cat; naturally. She is so resourceful and an expert in cuteness.  She slipped inside this afternoon when my son came by and, a while later, she was discovered in a state of extreme purrtentment, on my daughter’s bed.  My daughter left home a couple of years ago, so we think Zoe Cat  was saying,” Well, if my sister is not here, I am not going to let a good bed go to waste.”  I am only surprised she hasn’t thought of this before now.

Here is the warm orange fluffball on a cloud of blue bliss. Purrtentment

My unexpected bonus gift of the day was the discovery that my michelia tree  is covered with  beautiful russet coloured buds with the texture of the richest and most luxurious velvet. How about that; a gift wrapped in velvet 🙂Wrapped in velvet

Question; do you notice a certain, orange-y autumnal theme in this post? I think there is but it wasn’t intended. It happened of its own accord.

© silkannthreades

No caterpillars, no computer, no butterflies, no earrings; just Swans!

My faithful five-year old laptop decided to have a tantrum last week, followed by a meltdown. Ditto for me when it happened. I am hapless and brainless without my technology. My son kindly agreed to lend me his laptop until mine is repaired ( hopefully it  is repairable ). It is  wonderful to have a laptop again but my son’s is so  much newer than mine that I hardly know what to do with it. It makes me feel as though I am back in school struggling with long division.

However, in the spirit of having a go, here is my first attempt at a post from a strange (to me) laptop.

The caterpillars on my swan plants are no more. They are all in their cocoon stage. One of the cocoons looks almost ready to be a butterfly  The others are still cogitating and storing up memories. The swan plants are putting out new leaves and, at the same time, they are producing the swans that give them their name.

Here are the swans; not sure if they get any more swan like  when the seed balloons open. Apparently the seeds have silky tufts.Little green swan

Closer swanSwan

The swans and the cocoons make me think of pretty earrings which is, perhaps, why I almost bought a pair of pearl drop earrings this afternoon.  Almost; they weren’t very expensive, for pearl earrings, but I thought, “No, that money will pay for a laptop assessment. Restrain your impulse shopping!” So, I came home, minus new earrings, to write this post.

All done; time for dinner 🙂

© silkannthreades