Thursday, May 31, 2012


With a little girl in the house who loves everything pink and frothy, pink is never far away. Pink skirts, pink boots, pink dresses, pink hair, pink fairy dresses, and pink dressing gowns.

It is not a colour I would choose to wear, but I do love it in the garden.  I am very enamoured with the pink Crowea whose flowers never cease, even better it is the perfect insect lure, hauling in the prettiest of bees (see my last post). Pink petunias, pink hollyhocks, pink native hibiscus, pink lillies, pink leek flowers, pink Naked Ladies, I am surprised by how much pink I grow in the garden.

Raspberries make a wondrously pink curd, and air dried clay turns an earthy terracotta pink.

Playing along with Evi from Sister Sun who has inspired me to dredge out all things pink from my archives. I could have filled a book.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Mystery Revealed, The Naming of Things

A mystery revealed.  We admired this bee all summer, it lingered through Autumn, and has only recently disappeared from our garden during the onset of colder weather.  We watched with curious delight as it sipped nectar from the Crowea, occasionally visiting other flowers but always returning to is favourite hot pink bloom. We actually bought a second Crowea to encourage its visits. I like to know the name of things. This little critter was dubbed native bee and it didn't seem right, especially as it now adorns my header.  Finally I got around to sending a picture off to the Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum, and the same day they had an answer for me, such an amazing service.

Dear Kirsty,

Thank you for sending your images into Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum.

The Curator has said that he believes your specimen is Megachile ferox, one of the leaf cutter bees.

Kind Regards, Simon.

Thankyou Simon. You have no idea how it pleases me to be able to give it a name. I have watched its daily flight, admired its fuzzy orange bottom and fluffy forehead, but without it's name it as if I have not truly known it. I am a huge fan of the author Ursula LeGuin, this is a quote from the Wizard of Earthsea as she describes the study of wizardry (well before Harry Potter):

"Ged sighed sometimes, but he did not complain.  He saw in this dusty and fathomless matter of learning the true name of each place, thing, and being, the power he wanted lay like a jewel at the bottom of a dry well.  For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing".

What a fine, grand sounding name, Megachiles ferox. I love Latin names, the lolloping way they roll off the tongue, and the truth they hold within them. Chiles comes from the Greek word cheilos, meaning lip or edge. Perhaps referring to its leaf cutting ways. Ferox is latin for fierce, wild. Fierce seems a strange description, as this has been a tame bee, never bothered by our watchful eyes, gloriously fluffy,  it apparently only has a mild sting if handled. I wondered what prompted the scientist who discovered it to use ferox.

The common name, Leaf Cutter Bee, is apt.  Look below to see what they can do to a leaf. I will now be hunting my garden for signs of these distinctive perfect semi circle cuts, and I can give their creator a name. Leaf Cutter Bees are solitary, the female uses these leaves to build a cigar like nest that she places a single egg inside. The nests are hidden inside rotting wood, crevices and hollow twigs and stems. Such different behaviour to that of the honey bee.

Leaf-cutter bees snip regular-shaped pieces from soft leaves and use them to make their nest cells. Oblong pieces are used to make the sides of a cell and round pieces are used to cap them.

The cigar-like nest of a leaf-cutter bee removed from in fold in a curtain. This nest is composed of several individual cells staked end on end.

Leaf cutter bees also have a reputation for being great pollinators and are used by farmers to increase yields of lucerne and alfalfa.

Now I know you a little more, I am even more enchanted, Megachiles ferox. I'm even tempted to build you a nest box.

Look how one is using this gum nut, shows the importance of being a bit messy in the garden, to leave nooks and crannies for all the critters.

Leafcutter Bee | Megachile sp photo

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wallace & Gromit at Scienceworks

We visited Scienceworks last week as part of a members opening to the Wallace and Gromit Exhibition. I am a fan of Wallace and Gromit, and their quirky dead pan humour, but you don't have to be a devotee to enjoy the exhibition.
I adored the 50s sets, how cool is that mirror, and the wallpaper.
There was heaps of hands on activities with the theme of invention, and the kids dived into them with the enthusiasm of mad scientists.  The exhibition was given an Australian flavour by pointing out some of the wonderful things Australians have invented, like the electric drill, and Internet WiFi. Here's a more extensive list if you are interested.

Other more global inventions on display included the telephone, and Wellington boots. I tried reading some Braille with the oldest Bowerbird, we were totally amazed at the skill in learning to read dots with your finger, and managed to decipher nothing of what was written. Below they are making wallpaper and designing a logo.

The Bowerbirds made their own clay models and enjoyed adding them to a communal scene. A great insight into the world of clay animation and the skill required to create it.

 My favourite bit, the vegie wonderland of course. Someone must have had a great time making those sets!

Wish there was a real Anti- pesto service, we could have done with their help last summer.

The kids favourite bit - when the power unexpectedly went out, especially the middle Bowerbird, who enjoyed the thrill of being inside a tunnel slide in the dark. 

Up there with my favourites of the museums exhibitions, we could easily visit it again. Somehow I missed the karaoke shower, that sounds like a must.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cauliflower Soup

I have a big call to make. The tastiest soup I've ever made... Very BIG call, we eat a lot of soup. Well, I might be a bit over the top with that rating but this soup was really good.  I made it with vegie stock, 2 onions, 3 very large garlic cloves and 3 medium sized cauliflowers fresh from our garden.  We just put the mustard in the middle of the table to add to taste, as I was pretty sure the kids wouldn't like it. This soup was velvety smooth and creamy delicious.  I cooked my cauliflower for a  long time (because I was busy) and I think that helped.
I based the soup on the following recipe -
A creamy, rich soup of sautéed cauliflower florets blended with a little cream, Dijon mustard and parmesan cheese.

Yes food bloogers, quite artistic I know. Unfortunately the photo was an afterthought, as you can see none was wasted. 

And because I have a fussy eater who refuses to eat any soup I made these Carrot and Zuchinni Muffins to have with it. Carrot from the garden and zuchinni from the freezer. I actually added the excess zuchinni juice to the soup, nothing wasted. We didn't have any dill, I added parsley instead. The recipe has sugar in it and I would definitely omit that as it was unnecessary and a little strange in a savoury muffin. 

The little Bowerbird observed us ooing over the mustard and declared she wanted to try some.  She was quite determined so we put a little on her plate.  Hilarious to see her face after a small bite, Dijon Mustard a little much for her three year old pallete.

There are more cauliflowers on the way, will be interesting to see if I can make the soup taste as good the second time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Morning People

Friday morning I dragged my sleepy head out of bed.  I had made a promise to bake a cake for a friend, and I hate to break promises. I also hate to get out of bed. How I envy those who wake with a twinkle in their eye and leap out of bed to embrace the day.

Look at what I'm missing out on! What a sunrise to behold, and at 7am it's really not that early. Such a burst of brilliance in all directions, I didn't know which way to look. Most days I cling to the doona, savouring the warmth and nesty feeling.  I'm especially bad in winter, like a hibernating bear, bleary eyed and unmoveable.

I've never been a morning person, always savouring the sleep in.  My mum would come into my room and vacuum around me as a teenager, and still I would not lift my head.  I love breakfast in bed with a newspaper, any excuse to linger longer!

A big part of my problem is I'm an owl. A creature of the night. Part marsupial. I love the wee hours of the morning before the sun rises, the dark, the silence,  the quiet uninterrupted time when you can here yourself think. Whilst I was at Uni I always did my best writing at night.

I have got myself into a bit of a bad pattern of staying up too late, given I have children I need to care for.  I have trained them to be pretty self sufficient in the morning and they do a good job, but I really do need to stop being such a possum. So hard to break a habit when you've started one but I'm sure I can do it.  I might challenge myself to see a week of sunrises.

I think we are bringing up fellow sleepy heads.  Our children are mostly hard to rouse from their slumber and will sleep in if they've been up too late. I wonder if its genetic or just what we model as parents. My parents certainly have none of my sleepy traits, by the time I'm up they've baked, been for walks, had breakfast, checked their emails and tidied the house. Oh for their energy.

Are you an early riser, waking with the birds or are you chirpier when the crickets begin their songs? Could you cope with observing a week of sunrises?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Whilst I Was Gardening

I was gardening at a good friends house today.  Kim always greets me with a lovely cup of tea and a chat, served from a fancy dressed teapot. Check out the amazing Roger Rampant tea cosy she recently made, he is kooky wonderful and I'm sure he will be loved. Gardening at Kim's is such good fun, I get thoroughly spoilt with her beautiful cooking - lunch was a caramelised onion and goats cheese tart, served with a pear and pine nut salad, and a glass of wine.  Doing it tough. And I haven't even got to afternoon tea.

Whilst I was away Mr Bowerbird was working on a project of his own.  The three little Bowerbirds joined in, drawing string lines, digging holes and erecting poles.

I'll leave what they are making as a mysterious "to be continued", as the project has just begun. You may be able to guess what they are up to without too much trouble.
There was eating the last of the Autumn raspberries and some photography by the biggest Bowerbird (all her photos).

I came home to a dinner of mushrooms with pasta. Not any old mushrooms, Saffron Milk Caps that the big Bowerbird had foraged. She had also been busy preserving apples for me, all chopped, dipped in lemon and placed in the food dehydrator.  She actually made a batch last weekend but they are already all gone, sweet tangy deliciousness.

Finally there was cake, courtesy of Kim and the generous wedge she sent home with us.  Giant smiles all round. "That was the best cake, the best", harked the middle Bowerbird, hoping there would be seconds. I will have to get that recipe from you Kim, very popular with everyone. Thankyou for all your spoiling and kind comments. It's going to be hard coming back to finish the job.
The picture doesn't do it justice, there wasn't much time before it was greedily devoured.