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Things that fly

Hot air balloon, Serengeti

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Anything that flies is the inspiration for this post.

Butterfly, Queensland

Kite, Bondi Beach

Aircraft nose reflected in engine nacelle


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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.

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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.

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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

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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. 🙂

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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.