Some kind of katydid

I pity the small insect those front legs snatch!

I would never have spotted this small green insect but I happened to see the flash of movement when it landed on the duranta tree on my balcony. It was two metres away and I had no hope of making out details but luckily my camera was just inside the door. Maximum zoom revealed it to be quite an elegant mantis-type bug. From what I could learn online, it’s a kind of katydid, of which there are about 1,000 species in Australia.

The overlapping wings create a lovely diamond pattern.

In search of protection.

Did you have to look closely to spot the katydid? Excellent camouflage.


Tomato Diary 11

15 Oct: Ripening very nicely, thank you!

The experiment: to grow tomatoes on my balcony during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato. (Although we’re well into spring now.)

There’s not much left to say about the experiment. I think we can all agree it was a success, albeit not a quick one. From seed planting in early May, it’s taken almost seven months for the tomatoes to reach the eating stage (I had five for lunch on Sunday!). So yes, seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato will germinate and the plants will grow in a Sydney winter, but they definitely prefer the spring with its overall warmer temperatures and longer days. (So do I, actually.)

22 Oct: Good enough to eat?

Remember in September, I started to water one pot with milk and to not use chemical fertiliser? That experiment was not a success. The milk didn’t seem to hydrate the plants as well as water, and the pot is significantly heavier. Some digging with a stick revealed that the bottom 3 or 4 inches of soil has turned into a type of semi-solid swamp that released quite an unpleasant smell as I dug around. The liquid oozing from the drainage holes was a sort of thick green. (It’s the pot on the left in the photo below.) My advice: don’t do it!

The powdery mildew problem has not been cured by spraying the leaves with diluted milk, even with the addition of baking soda to the mix (a suggestion from Jude). You can see in the group photo below that these plants have a lot of naked stems! If you’re wondering why they haven’t gained much in height, the answer is that I’m pinching off their tops when they get to the height of the stakes because the plants generally sit on the balcony’s raised bed (visible at left) and there isn’t much vertical room.

22 Oct: Not the healthiest looking tomato plants you’ll ever see! But there are 80-odd tomatoes, the largest the size of a golf ball or small plum.

Interestingly, the star performer of the five plants has been the runt that I retrieved from the rubbish because I felt sorry for it (the small black pot above). It was the first to flower and the first with ripening fruit, and is taller than two of what were apparently the four strongest ones.

I’m keeping a tally of harvested tomatoes, and when this is all over I’ll let you know how many I get.


Travel Memories: Mount Etna

Walking the snowy slopes of Mt Etna in glorious sunshine.

As part of my “get away from London at Christmas” travels, in 2005 I joined a Ramblers small group walking holiday in Sicily. It was a marvellous trip! We stayed at a small hotel in Francavilla and each day took a bus to our walk location. Mt Etna was visible from many locations, and the day of our walk on the slopes brought perfect conditions of clear skies and pleasant temperatures. You can tell by the clothing that it was cold up there, but not freezing. The peak of the mountain is visible with a plume of steam or smoke being blown left (better view in the top, cropped photo).

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.

click here for a larger version of the map below


Pride of Madeira (and bees!)

I love those pink/purple stamens sticking out.

On a visit to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney a couple of weeks ago, I came across a very large planting of Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans)*. The large flower spikes are at about eye level — and the bees absolutely loved them. I was very glad these were non-aggressive bees!

It’s interesting how the flowers appear in spirals.

Let me at that pollen!

The photo below is a crop of the one above, to zero in on the bee. That “pollen basket” (thanks to Jude for introducing me to that term) is so blue that it looks like an enamelled jewel adorning the bee’s leg.

This bee is kind of cute with its hairy front.

*Don’t be too impressed by my plant knowledge — being a botanic garden, everything has a label. 🙂


Tomato Diary 10

Time to eat one of these babies!

The experiment: to grow tomatoes on my balcony during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato. (Although we’re well into spring now.)

I wasn’t sure if this was ripe enough, but only one way to find out!

It was not quite ripe enough — slightly bitter, and not exactly full of flavour. There are 81 more on the plants, sized from marbles to small plums, so no doubt I’ll eventually get the timing right.

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 11.


What lurks inside

HP 23-q101a (Don’t be fooled by the Mac keyboard, if you recognise it — this is definitely a Windows PC. I simply prefer the Mac keyboard.)

This is my computer. Stylish, eh? This is the entire computer, by the way, not just the monitor; it’s an “all in one”. I’ve had it for about five years and am very pleased with it, apart from one thing — Photoshop runs slowly. So, in a burst of possibly misguided enthusiasm, I decided to double the amount of memory (RAM) from 8GB to 16GB. Myself.

HP 23-q101a – side view. How on earth to get into the thing??

I would never have considered this feat had I not found a marvellously helpful video on youtube in which a man walks you through every step, using a model almost identical to mine: removing the stand, separating the white back from the screen, removing bits of the innards (eek!), adding the extra RAM module, and closing everything up. The hardest part of the entire process was actually getting the back off, but I was reassured by the trouble the video man had, too.

Here it is, exposed to the world! Opened up like a clamshell, the white back is at the top and the working bits (plus the screen, which is face down) is at the bottom.

Feeling pretty proud of myself at this point!

The next step is to remove the metal cover that protects a staggering number of complex bits of stuff, including the RAM slots. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen the inside of a computer before. Wow.

Metal cover gone. What IS all that stuff??

I’ve put a red outline around the existing RAM module. The additional one goes in the slot outlined in yellow. The procedure needed more “jiggling” than I expected (video man made it look easy!), and I was terrified of touching something I shouldn’t, but the new module eventually did snap into place.

Re-assembly was much easier than dis-assembly, and soon the computer was back on its desk, plugged in. I was reluctant to turn it on though — what if I’d killed it? Was my bout of DIY computer upgrading going to result in $1,500 spent on a new computer?

After an unusually long start-up time (during which I paced nervously back and forth), my familiar splash screen appeared. Oh, the joy! The relief! And when I checked the specs — ta da! — 16GB of RAM, up from the previous 8GB.

But, of course, the point of all this was to speed up Photoshop. Did it? Sadly, no. The program does launch more quickly, and I’d say it does small tasks more quickly, but it still takes 5 seconds to open a jpg and 15 seconds to open a raw file. Those are the two tasks I’d hoped to improve, and their times did not change at all. Hmm, maybe it’s time to upgrade the processor? Swap the hard drive for a faster model? Now then, where did I put that screwdriver … 😉


Riverside Walk

Monday was a public holiday here, and the weather was marvellous for the long weekend! On Sunday I headed to Sydney’s northwest, to Lane Cove National Park (you can see the location in the last image, if you’re curious).

Off we go! Downhill, I approve of that.

A 5km walk follows the west bank of the Lane Cove River, and in some places you’re close enough to see the water.

Small flowers could be spotted beside the trail.

No danger of getting lost!

The temperature was about 30C, with barely a breeze, so the shady sections were welcome.

No shade here, but the ferns are pretty.

Messing about in boats!

At the end of the section of the walk that I did, I was puzzled by signs with numbers and names. They couldn’t be distances, surely. I finally realised that they were official picnic areas, and they were certainly popular on the day. They can be reserved in advance.

I’ve blurred the people’s name on this Reserved sign.

Once off the trail, it was no place for a pedestrian. You really are expected to drive or cycle to the trail. I often had to walk along the bush’s edge when a car came along.

Pedestrians beware!

And here’s the location of the park.


I’m also including this walk in Lens Artists ‘A Photo Walk‘ challenge